Day 6 (Thursday, July 29): Alamogordo to Mayhill, NM: A challenging day—Climbing, climbing and more climbing—Have to get up this Hill!

Looking over the Edge near Cloudcroft, NM

Although a short day in terms of miles, only about 50, it was a massive uphill climb to >8700 feet for the first half. The weather started out being very biking-friendly in Alamogordo (around 4600 feet), but as the climb progressed, things deteriorated. At around 6500 feet it began to rain, and it did not stop for the rest of the day. At the top, the temperature at noon was 55°F, so we were not just lightheaded from the altitude but also very cold! It turned into a cold and very wet day. Up and over the peak at Cloudcroft, New Mexico, we then descended to Mayhill—a very small town, with a hotel/café, a grocery store called “We Be, Groceries and Stuff,” and a gas station right off the main road. We went shopping in We Be, Groceries and Stuff and bought a lot of things we did not need. The few people in town were really friendly, especially the employee at We Be who was very curious about our bike ride. We are staying at the Mayhill Café & Hotel and are looking forward to a good old-fashioned breakfast in the morning.

Climbing in the Rain near Cloudcroft

My colleague in the Department of Physics, Professor Umesh Garg, started us off today with this saying in an early morning email:

“The mountains bow before high spirits fueled by a good cause.”

All day today, we kept thinking about these words during the long climb. I am not sure if the mountains bowed to us today, but they certainly kept us very cool. The scenery was just spectacular. According to the local weather forecast, the rainfall is well above normal, and the temperatures are below normal, so it was very, very green. We did not anticipate being cold on this trip, but today at the summit it certainly felt like a cold and wet November day in South Bend. The only direction to go from here is down—tomorrow we will be cycling >70 miles, all downhill back to the desert. Although our trip thus far has been marked with rain and colder-than-normal temperatures, probably good for us, we do expect higher desert temperatures in the coming week as we move towards—and through—Texas. We have several more days—and several long days—in Texas, before we meet with the Dallas-Fort Worth alumni club on August 4th.

I am not sure why I was reflecting on preparing students for medical professions on the climb today, perhaps I thought I might need a doctor at the top. The other night with the El Paso club, there were a couple of physicians present and also Notre Dame students who wish to become doctors. In fact, El Paso just opened a new medical school. There was therefore much conversation around medical schools and preparing Notre Dame students for medical school. I thought a lot about this topic climbing today. We train a lot of future doctors in the College of Science, and I am often asked how our program is evolving to address the needs of future doctors and the future of healthcare. The short answer is: Our strong pre-professional program. Our Center for Health Sciences Advising, under the leadership of Father James Foster, places our graduates at many of the top medical schools around the country. In order to better train our students for medical school and advancement in allied health care professions, we are developing and launching a new program focused on interdisciplinary science. The program maintains the flexibility of the pre-professional degree but incorporates a contemporary look at interdisciplinary science in the context of biomedical research, as well as a required research experience. A new seminar-style class will be required, including topics such as rare diseases, which will add a modern component to the curriculum. We are also building a new center—the Ruth M. Hillebrand Center for Compassionate Care, which will focus on caring science, where students can learn more about the human aspect of medicine and how it integrates with basic science. We are very excited about the center and the impact it will have on our students.

2 Comments so far

  1.    margot fassler on August 2nd, 2010

    You guys were the subject of the homily at the Basilica yesterday! Just wanted you to know that we are all cheering you on and praying for you too.

  2.    Dean Greg Crawford on August 2nd, 2010

    Thank you for your prayers and support, Margot.