All Things Must El Paso... Days 44-46

To be fair, I was going to say I'd had a snooze error, but I think I half deliberately turned the alarm off properly and 40 minutes later I woke up of natural guilt. Combined with some excellent delaying tactics blaming everything apart from myself, I let the day in about 9am and rolled downhill to our breakfast rendez-vous, just outside a Border Control Inspection point. They weren't interested in anyone heading west fortunately and our only engagement with officialdom was watching a dog handler try to examine his over-exuberant charge's perianal area, with little success. This was followed by a slog uphill through an area named Desert Haven, which was pretty unremarkable. I think I'm going to rename my neighbourhood “Urban Wonderland” and see what people think of that. The rest area we stopped at 5 miles westwards just inside El Paso county, was a bit more remarkable for a few reasons, not withstanding the faint whiff of urine that maybe nervous drivers needed to expel after passing the Border Patrol area. First of all, the mountain behind us looked like Jabba the Hutt, as realised by Nads and secondly, we had two vaqueros (cowboys!) pass us on horseback. I returned the favour once I got going again, about two miles downhill. At the bottom of this hill, more signs of civilisation started to appear, including street lights, houses, industrial areas and this all gave way to the major road leading to El Paso, the most westerly city in Texas. This is part of a larger urban sprawl, contiguous, yet divided from Ciudad Juarez, by the US-Mexican border. These towns formed in the gap between the Franklin Mountain range on the US side and the Sierra Madre On the Mexican side and as the name El Paso suggests, was a major route of passage, rather than the slog over the mountains. For this I was glad. Great foresight, guys!

As I got into the outskirts proper of El Paso (All American cities seem to be so spread out!) I caught sight of the two vaqueros who had once again passed us, this time at lunch, where they waved a hello through the window of the RV. Mutual road warrior respect, I reckon. This time I introduced myself and met with “Lalo” Eduardo Rocha and his fine chestnut steed, Chiquita Jones and his compadre Martín on Tamara. They had ridden 60 miles that day, putting me to shame a bit, though were equally impressed by my efforts. I was more impressed by their names. Spanish names always sound cool, like American place names (probably why the latter feature in so many songs). For example, there's a place in New Mexico, where Virgin Galactic are based, incidentally, that is called “Truth of Consequences”. Amazing. Alf Williamson from Cleethorpes just doesn't have that...oomph, does it? A big old trek through the south east of El Paso, included an actual “fruity”, shall I say, drive-in where “Couples are Welcome”. I bet. There is an ace post-hardcore band from El Paso called “At The Drive In”. I wonder if they've ever been? I couldn't linger, however and the road eventually took me to Mission RV Park, our final staging post before two nights in a hotel, but the luxury began, surprisingly here, with a hot tub, great facilities and great guys running the place – I met Willy and Alex, his son and we took the opportunity to get the camera phones out and I think meeting each other improved both of our days a little bit. It's great to have an enthusiastic response at the end of a day, when emotions can be a bit fragile and often can set the tone for the next day. The key is to try and not let the bad ends linger…

Start: Rest area 20 miles west of Cornudas on Highway 62/180. Finish: Mission RV Park. 36.1 miles

A solid day yesterday meant only 24 miles today and I was wanting to get these done quickly, so we could enjoy Halloween in El Paso. As I focused my gaze on the gap between the two mountain ranges, which are at the tail end of the Rockies, there was an obvious dust cloud hanging over and appearing to smother the two cities, as if it was a tiny Western village and a storm had rolled in. Maybe it was a cross border scrap in the middle of the night that was just calming down. Against general advice I decided to run along the border for a bit as I generally find most written warnings are overblown and have always figured I could talk myself out of trouble, especially with a Scouse/English/Australian accent. Probably. Anyways, unsurprisingly, the trouble never cam, despite me running the wrong way down a busy road in front of a border guard and under the bridge that seemed to be taking a huge number of lorries from the Mexican side to the US with not much going the other way. There may not be the much vaunted “wall”, but the security is pretty tight, on either side of the Rio Grande, which forms the border in this area, with high fences, barbed wire and search lights. It made me a feel a bit uncomfortable to be honest. I finished my 15 mile run (I know, against medical and well-versed running friend's advice) at the office of the El Paso Times, where Victor Martinez, crack reporter, had agreed to postpone his lunch to talk about the run. He wrote a fantastic article which you can find here:

I had a bit of a delay as I had forgotten to charge my Polar M400 and I refuse to run unless it's taking score. Fortunately the guys at the front desk allowed me to charge it there and headed out for a quick muffin and a huge Dr Pepper at the local Greyhound station. Whilst this was an excellent idea in terms of providing a good calorie balance for the upcoming run, I could tell it wasn't sitting right and as I began a brutal climb up N. Mesa towards our hotel, I could feel it getting up to mischief. On the route, coincidentally was Up and Running, El Paso's specialist running shop. I mused a mile or so before I arrived that it should be called Up and Up and Up and Running, but I guess sign writers charge by the letter. I wanted to introduce myself as I was coming for a run with their regulars the next evening and they'd also kindly agreed to let me have some stuff posted there. Chris, the owner, was a dead ringer for Richard Branson, a huge sports and Dallas Cowboys fan and had the foresight to open his store next to two bars and a brewery, so I knew we'd get on well. My first encounter however was with Henry Veloz – The Soleman, who was fitting insoles for a lovely lady called Veronica who was trying to get back into running after a big ordeal in the past with shin splints. Henry was very interested in the run – so much in fact he noted the same imbalance, that James the chiropractor had (and corrected) in Austin, had returned. He checked out my shoes and while he was happy with them, he though I might need a little alteration and pledged to make me some insoles for free when I returned the next day. Some more of that Southern hospitality!

I set off with the plan of popping in to the bar we were all meeting up after the run tomorrow to say hi, but this plan was ended pretty quickly by blinding, bent double double cramps, with a couple of little sicks thrown in. 5 miles, 3 of them uphill, in the hot sun, checking my watch every 100m to see if that was a mile yet. Many, many checks later, I got to the hotel, where a concerned Nads was waiting for me. Unfortunately my recovery was too slow to allow us to get across the city to the Halloween Parade that was taking place, but we did head in later for a little nose around the centre, which seemed very quiet, though it was quite weird (to a Brit), that lots of trick or treating was going on in shops. Talk about “Give my kids sweets, or you'll never see me back” ransom demands! There's no hiding behind the couch with the curtains closed here, people! We planned to go to a Halloween late night Art Gallery night at a local former saloon, which is rumoured to be haunted, but decided to check out a local veggie friendly craft beer place called the Craft and Social. If this was a Google review, it'd be a five star one. Great food, great beer and even better chat with Corey #1 – bartender extraordinaire and Corey #2 – an eccentric, talkative new-age thinker who was travelling around the US on the equivalent of Greyhound airmiles and was heading to a retreat in New Mexico where all would hopefully reveal itself. He once had David Bowie slam the door in his face whilst doing door-to-door canvassing. He admitted he wasn't very good. I think New Mexico will be more his alley. I feel we'll see him again and I'd definitely go back to the C+S to see Corey #1 and his wares if I was back this way. Oh yeah, the Art Gallery was closed two hours early when we went back. Sad face.

Start: Mission RV Park. Finish: Days Inn West, El Paso. 24.02 miles

The best thing about staying in hotels is the fact that you get breakfast, which sort of gives an excuse for a bit of a lie-in, even though it's usually available from 6am. Today it didn't matter anyway as we were only planning on doing about 11 miles as we were off running with the Up and Running Crew later, so Being near the Rio Grande in this area of El Paso meant being very near the New Mexico border too and there it was. The Land of Enchantment lay before me. The scheduled brass band and civic ceremony that I'm sure was arranged to commemorate my crossing of Texas must have been a bit late, so I made do with a fella selling chillies and watermelons, which was more my style anyway. I carried on to the next meeting point via an industrial estate, up a big old hill and met Nads coming in a direction she shouldn't have been coming from. “Road's closed.” “Nah. It'll be fine for me, I'll just give it a go.” Despite Nads expressing strong doubts to that fact I progressed onto a gravel, then dirt road for a few miles until I found a sign that made it clear here was no advancement beyond this point. I backtracked and found the next road blocked with barbed wire, but crucially no verbal explanation as to its presence, so rolled under it like a sweaty, short Daniel Craig and ran on the conclusion, climbing over a gate at the end that declared my presence on the other side may not be to some peoples' liking. Hey ho. Nads was waiting with a stern look as many police cars had eyed Jenny suspiciously on passing and the road that was due to take us to Deming looked like gravel all the way, which is not an RV's friend. A reroute was required and this was not on our list of things to do today. I planned to muse on this in the pool...but it was cold. I'm getting soft. With this latest first world problem, we got ready to head downhill to Up and Running and on a bus, too! There we would open our early Christmas presents of a huge number of Nakd bars (1 of your 5 a day and all vegan, so whenever I eat one, it makes me a better person.) from the same guys behind Trek bars (which are similarly karma boosting) and a goodie pack from Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, for some of the promotional work we'd done for the Gary Sinise Foundation and because I'd run a whole heap o' miles! I liked it so much I'd ran 'em for free. There was a good group of about 25 -30 people, including John, a new guy who was just trying to get back into shape as well as the regulars and of course Chris and Henry. Shawn, who'd put us in touch with Chris had also come down to say hi, even though she was shying off running that night! Two of the group, Martin and Maria had seen me running about 60 miles short of El Paso, as they were returning from a race at the weekend and had been completely confused as to where I'd come from and where I was going to – which is how I like it. We had a gentle jog around the El Paso western slopes and then a group of us went to Ode brewing for a couple of beers brewed on site, with us sneaking in some ace tacos from Mark's - another haunt of Chris'! We even got bought a couple of beers by a serving soldier who'd had the favour paid to him a couple of weeks back! We finished the evening at the Hoppy Monk with Chris and Henry leading the comedy banter, with David, another regular, pledging his unwavering support for any plight we may find ourselves in, wherever it may be (including Montana!). He completely meant it and had only two beers so the sincerity was really impressive. We then received a welcome lift home off Richard Br...I mean Chris. We promised to stay in touch and this might not be the last we see of Chris on this adventure. I hope not. Feeling buoyed by a great evening I decided now was the chance to do a late night musical video shoot. I can't wait to share it...whenever we get some decent internet. This did mean a finish close to 0100am and with an early start planned, my fatigue was a worry. My head hit the pillow and I was already dreaming of Texas shaped waffles

Start: Day Inn West El Paso. Finish: Corner of County Road A017 and Industrial Road. Miles: 14.7 including run with Up and Running Crew

Total: 1323.99 miles