Toby and the Tank
Taken on the San Antonio to Austin leg of my trek.
My Touring Tunes
In the weeks leading up my trek, I asked my friends to contribute to a playlist of touring tunes that I could listen to while on the road. They came through with a great set of tunes that got me through quite a few lonely stretches. I didn’t look at the list of tracks prior to the trip so every song would be a complete surprise. A few of my favorites: Sahib Teri Bandi by the Derek Trucks Band, Wheels on the Bus by Dora the Explorer and Sweep a Road by The Stone Foxes. You can see the playlist below.
The Mississippi Delta to the Etowah River
From New Orleans, I travelled north on Amtrak to Jackson, Mississippi. Daryl, a good friend of the family, met me at the station and we drove into the Mississippi Delta to the small town of Leland. Daryl is a retired US History teacher that collaborated with a history teacher from Madera, CA to study the diary of my great great uncle. Daryl was a great host and took me on a historical tour of the Delta, from the Mississippi River just west of Greenville to the BB King Museum in Indianola. I also learned a lot about my family’s history in the Delta and their trip west to start a new life in what is now known as Madera, California. After a busy day exploring the Delta, Daryl dropped me off at my friend Meg’s apartment in Cleveland, MS. Meg taught right down the road in Indianola from 2010–2012 as a Teach for America corp member. She was back in the Delta for the summer to train the incoming class of TFA teachers after taking a position teaching 5th grade writing in New Orleans for the 2012–2013 school year.
- 1 fighter jet (the Navy’s TOPGUN training program is based in Fallon)
- 3 flat tires (on the first day)
- 1 12 oz New York Steak
- 1 Nevada rancher and his 18-year-old son who were one week away from moving to Bryansk, Russia to work 5,000 head of cattle. The contract is for three years. (Austin)
- 1 local Aussie who spent the last 3 days searching the backcountry for an old mining claim. Still hadn’t found it. (Middlegate)
- 1 local Nevadan who grew up in Whittier, CA and worked in canaries in Alaska and mines all over Nevada. Now he is the handyman at Middlegate.
After getting dropped off at the San Antonio station around 11pm, I pulled together two benches in the main room and hunkered down for the night. Departure was set for 6am. Toby and I were separated again for the 15-hour ride to New Orleans but we both made it in one piece.
Tucson to Austin to New Orleans
My plan for the next leg of my journey was to take Amtrak from Tucson to San Antonio, Texas. My Amtrak rewards membership has been accruing points through college, so I splurged and spent every last point to book a sleeper room for the 24 hour ride. Debbie and I headed to the station about 45 minutes before departure, naively thinking that would be enough time to pack up and check Toby (Amtrak requires all bikes be transported as checked baggage). The Sunset Limited train had already arrived and all of the station staff were out of the main office unloading baggage. This meant I couldn’t buy the bike box needed to pack up Toby until about 7:50am, 25 minutes before the 8:15am departure. All checked baggage needed to be onboard 8am, leaving just 10 minutes to pack Toby. What followed was a mad scramble to slide Toby into a narrow box and tape him up. To make matters worse, I wanted to take my time to make sure he wouldn’t get damaged since I had never packed him in a box before. In the end, I just barely had enough time to shove him in and run back to station lugging this huge box. Luckily, Toby made it into the baggage car! I said a hasty goodbye to Debbie and got onboard.
Arizona — Flagstaff to Tucson
The train from Gallup arrived in Flagstaff around 11pm so I arranged for my first couchsurfing stay of the trip. I biked up to Ron’s house (my host) and let myself in since he had already gone to bed. The next morning, Ron took me out to breakfast and let me do laundry at his house while he was at work. It was an amazing first couchsurfing experience. I rolled out from Flagstaff around 4pm for a mostly downhill 30 mile ride to the town of Sedona. After a series of switchbacks, Hwy 89A entered Oak Creek Canyon and paralleled Oak Creek all the way to Sedona. Soon, I was surrounded by dense forests and gorgeous red sandstone formations. It wasn’t the Arizona I had expected! I squatted down for the night at a group campground just south of Sedona that was closed on weekdays. It was easy enough to squeeze around the gate with Toby and find a spot to pitch my tent on the far side of the campground from the camp host’s trailer.
Caving at El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico
My good friend Tammer is training in Albuquerque to become an Air Force Pararescue Jumper (PJ) and I wanted to visit him, somehow, somewhere. He is required to stay within a two hour radius of Kirtland Air Force Base. I couldn’t make the trek out that far on Toby and still get to Tucson by June 14th so Amtrak was my only option.