Catron County, New Mexico has about 400 miles of paved road, and we're planning to walk every mile of it ... eventually ...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

K-Mart Sucks

It seems to be true that you learn more from things that are broken than from things that work perfectly. For instance, a few more things go wrong with my bike and I'll be able to throw out a shingle that says "Bike Repairs While You Wait." Actually, it's not my bike - my bike was purchased at Target, and has worked perfectly for 12 years, and I traded it to my daughter for hers which was purchased in a moment of insanity from Kmart, and has always had one thing or another wrong with it.

I now know how to remove the back wheel, replace a tire, adjust the brakes, adjust the front derailleur, adjust the rear derailleur, remove the entire crappy plastic index shifting system, and jury rig an 18-speed bike to operate as a 6-speed while I wait for the new Shimano REVO 3x6 shifters to arrive by UPS so that I can install them. To those for whom this would be as easy as pie, let me just say that until this year, my bike know-how was limited to putting air in the tires.

What does this have to do with walking Catron County? I'm not going to walk the rest of the county. I'm going to do it by bicycle. I'm going to remove the spiders from my helmet and paint it hunter orange, and I'll wear my orange hunter safety vest, and buy a silly orange flag to put on the back of my bike, and a little repair kit covered in reflector tape, and I'll quite possibly look ridiculous - no, most definitely look ridiculous. But if I break down, I'll at least know the name and purpose of the broken part, which will comfort me as I sit in an orange heap by the side of the road waiting for help to arrive.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Speaking of gas prices...

It seems weird to be talking about the price of gas on a blog about walking, but you have to remember, I'm walking country highways, not city streets. The next road on our list is Highway 60, which runs from the Arizona border to the Very Large Array. This mean driving 75 miles just to start walking - if we walk approximately 10 miles each time, that means eight or nine roundtrips, driving, of an average of 150 miles roundtrip each time - that means in order to walk 85 miles, we have to drive 1200-1350 miles. That's a lot of gas. I never bothered to do the math before - when you live out in the middle of nowhere, you get used to having to drive a long ways to get anywhere, and when I started this project, gas wasn't so expensive, and we were walking closer to home.

I found out yesterday that alot of the cars being sold in the US today are Flexible Fuel Vehicles, and will run on anything from straight unleaded gasoline to 15% gas and 85% ethanol. If you can find it, E85 fuel is under $2/gallon. To find out if your car is an FFV, you can go to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition and check their list. Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Nissan and Mazda all make FFVs. I drive a Dodge "mommy van" so I was hopeful, but when I checked the VIN I found out that my particular minivan isn't an FFV, although most of the newer ones are - if you drive a Dodge Caravan, and the 8th character of your VIN is 'G' or '3', you've got an FFV.

I'm hearing a lot about biofuel made from vegetable oil - to run your car on that stuff, you need a conversion kit, and you drive around smelling like french fries. If you already own an FFV, you're ahead of the game, and if the big carmakers are already making cars that run on E85, they've probably got a good reason. I'm sure that as soon as oil stops being grotesquely profitable, they'll gear up the ethanol plants and switch us all over.

In the meantime, I'm going to have to postpone finishing the paved roads in the county, and start walking dirt roads closer to home, or else figure out how to fix the derailleur system on my crappy KMart bicycle and bike the last 115 miles - that would cut the car miles way way down.

Even if gas prices suddenly came down, it'd still feel wasteful to go on the way I started.