Tucumcari attracts all kinds (of travelers, that is)

By Ryn Gargulinski: Quay County Sun

Not everyone who rambles across the country along Route 66 does so in their car. Sure, there are always several motorcycles out there — but two men in recent days went one step further, one of them literally. Here are their stories:

Bicycle man
Eric High was coming from Durango, Colo., on his way to the other side of Dallas.

“My friend talked me into this,” High said of his bicycle ride that would cross three states and amass an eventual 900 miles. He said his friend, however, had left him in Taos, where he decided to turn around and let High rough it solo the rest of the way.

The first time he has ever attempted such a journey, High estimated he had 400 miles behind him by the time he got to Tucumcari on Thursday.

“It scared me,” he said of Tucumcari when he came in through.

“I could have stayed in another town but I pushed it to make it here before the rain came,” he said, “and I thought I rode into a ghost town.”

Instead, however, High, who brings his own food along for the ride, went to a local mission, which helped him arrange a motel room for the night. When asked why he traveled by bike, High said: “Hitchhiking is too dangerous and I don’t drive.”

Walking man
One could say Leonard Johnson is the type of guy who gets literal about the phrase: “Take a hike.”

Johnson, who passed through Tucumcari on July 28, was on a 3,000-mile mission from California’s Venice Beach to New York’s Coney Island. Calling it a walk of faith, this 74-year-old artist said he finances his journey with his Social Security payments and money he makes selling sketches of people he meets along the way.

“Everyone so far has been wonderful and responsive,” Johnson said of the slew of folks he’s been meeting and greeting — not to mention sketching and snapping their photos.

His photo log as well as experiences on the journey can be accessed at a Web site he set up before he began his March 11 trek at: www.lejonarts.com

Already on his third pair of shoes at what he estimates to be one-third of the way to Coney Island, he hopes to arrive in Brooklyn, N.Y., by March of next year.