Friday, July 21, 2017

Great Divide Mountain Bike Ride: Grants to Antelope Wells

(Pictures in almost no particular order and not corresponding to the text.)

The weather doesn’t like us as much anymore.  After learning the hard way that the roads are not passable in the rain, we are paying more attention to the weather forecast for our route, and it is not great.  Afternoon rains, almost every day.

To deal with that, we set an alarm (for the first time this trip) and got up before dawn in Grants.  A short walk in the dark got us to Denny’s where we were served breakfast by what may have been a vampire, after which we were on the trail earlier than ever before.

Seventy surprisingly tiring miles got us to Pie Town, NM.  We stopped in a cafe for a late lunch and pie, then off to the local hostel.  The rain started as we parked the bikes.  It’s great when a plan works.

We slept in a bit in the hostel.  Easy to do as we were the only ones there; no noise.

But we were still up at 6:30, packed the bikes, and headed down the road to breakfast.  Good thing we did: it would be two and a half days to the next opportunity to sit down and eat.

At first the ride south from Pie Town didn’t seem that tough.  Rolling hills and trees and ranches.  But no towns or restaurants, and no gas stations to resupply at.

And eventually the rain caught up.  We made it to the edge of a national forest and set up tents.  Not quite the miles we’d hope to cover but it rained for a while and when it finally stopped, neither of us felt like riding more.  

Some of the passes felt like a real accomplishment.  

We spent the night there and hit the road in the morning with eyes on Silver City, NM.  Alas, it was a long way, with many ups and a several downs.  By the end of the day, we’d pedaled up over 5700 feet and made it to a campground just before sunset, about 40 miles short of town.  

That was yet another adventure.  We found the campground, picked a spot, and set up our tents in fading light.  After a small meal of the last of our dehydrated food mixed with instant potatoes, we collected all our trash and took a walk in the dark to a dumpster.

As we walked, a pickup pulling a fifth-wheel trailer motored in to the campground and after driving a full lap parked near where we’d set up tents.

Turns out it was very near, as in the same site.  When we got back to camp, I knocked on the door but no one was home.  It seemed to have been abandoned except for a dog that was checking out our tents while dragging a long piece of rope behind it.  We re-attached the dog to the truck and turned in, not knowing what else to do.  

Before long, there where headlights and the noise of a large truck maneuvering nearby.  I stuck my head out to see the owner of the truck had returned and was trying vainly to back his rig out of our campsite, hindered by the many trees and total darkness.   I approached and told him to not bother.  We didn’t mind sharing and it was too dangerous to back up in the darkness.  We’d be leaving early in the morning and he could have the spot alone after that.   It seemed like the best option.  

In the morning we headed off, riding paved roads all the way to Silver City.  It’s one of my favorite towns, and I would have spent a day off there, but the end of the ride was a mere 120 miles of nearly flat terrain.  And as much as we’d been enjoying our ride, it had been 6 weeks on the road for Paul and 3 months on the bicycle for me.  We were ready to be done, ready for more than one change of clothing.  Ready to not be in a tent at night, ready to eat real food.

An abandon cabin provided shelter during a heavy rain one afternoon.

So off we went, enjoying what might have been the easiest day of the ride.  After 76 miles of paved and dirt roads, we arrived in the town of Hachita.  We asked about a place to camp and where shown to the community center.  It was a big building with a bathroom and kitchen and a lot of empty space.  And though it was a bit stuffy, we slept on the floor and were happy for it.

The next morning we had a mere 45 miles to ride to the finish in Antelope Wells.  Don’t be fooled by the name of the town, because it is really just a border crossing at the end of a road.   There is absolutely nothing else there and no one lives there.  We sat on the ground in the meager bit of shade provided by the sign that says Antelope Wells and waited a short time for our ride.  

Fancy hotel, dirty bikes.

Trail Angels provided water in New Mexico.

Pouring rain outside.  

Another nice campsite.

Not far to go.

And that’s it.  A few hours later I was reunited with my van.  A couple days later I dropped Paul off at the airport.  And a couple days after that I’ll be hitting the road.  From here I’ll be heading north, not a real direct route, not a real specific destination.  Blog updates will go back to my normal sporadic rate, and the adventures will be a little less epic.  

End of the line.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Great Divide Mountain bike ride, Cuba to Grant, New Mexico

We hit the road from Cuba enthusiastic for the ride.  There are so few miles to go we can almost see the border from here (not really, it's still over 350 miles).   Well, it seems closer than it's been this entire trip.  

The ride started with ten miles of pavement and then we turned onto a pretty nice dirt road.  We hoped to cover about 70 miles, but around mile 58, it became obvious that it was going to rain.  

Funny thing about those dirt roads: when they are dry, it's hard like cement with occasional soft sandy bits.  When they're wet, it's like snot with glue.  

We tried to make it two extra miles to what the map called a campground but it became apparent that movement was out of the question.  I put my tent up as fast as I could, right next to the road.  Once it was up, I spent a few minutes bailing water from the floor and then sat and watched it rain.  Paul was up the road a quarter of a mile doing the same thing.  

The rain only lasted 30 minutes or so, and it was only mid-day.  The road was dry by the time I had my tent repacked.  I joined Paul and as he packed his tent, a local pulled up on an ATV.  He had water and even better: come by the ranch, he said.  Just 6 miles, he said.   

Twelve miles later we rolled onto his half-mile-long driveway.  He did have a ranch, or rather, was caretaker to his nephew's ranch.  But the nephew stayed in town, and we were given free run of the main house.  Our host stayed in the guest house at night. 

So the three of us sat on the porch of the main house on this 10,000 acre ranch.  And as we sat there, Paul, the caretaker (nameless for reasons), and myself, we all wondered what would make someone want to stay in town instead.  Utterly peaceful, watching lightning so far away that we couldn't hear it.  Occasionally,  coyotes off in the distance chased rabbits, and cigar smoke drifted lazily around us.  No traffic, no other people.  Even airplanes passed quietly, too polite to disturb the silence.  I could have sat there for a long time.  Maybe I will do that next.   But not now.  

Instead we left in the morning.  Pretty fast riding got us to Milan/Grant in time for lunch.  That had been our goal for the entire day, but we're getting fast, apparently.  

Options were discussed, weather and maps were checked.  In the end, we called it an early day.  It was either that or ride in the rain and then have a short day tomorrow.  But who really wants to ride a bicycle in the rain?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Great Divide: Frisco to Cuba

Leaving Frisco after expensive parts and repairs and lodging and meals, we took a bike path all the way to Breckenridge, which is probably a nice place to stop if you have a large amount of disposable money. We carried on. 

A paved road turned to a dirt road and went over Boreas Pass, 11,482 feet above sea level.  The road dropped in to the town of Como were we hopped to have a meal, but the only restaurant had shut down months if not years before (my maps are from 2014).  The only other business in town was an art hall with cool desert art and free water.  

We continued on a dusty road to Hartsel and dined at every/only restaurant in town.  Camping that night was at a nearby lodge, they let us sleep in the barn for $10 each. It was a nice barn though, cement floor, bar, lights.  Besides housing smelly cyclists they use it for parties, though sadly not at the same time.  

We were joined for dinner and camping by Mark, a recently retired U.S. Army Warrant who was doing a 4,228 mile east-west Trans America ride.  That sounded like too much suffering to me. Good guy though.  

From Hartsel, another dry dusty road got us to Salida.  We tried camping (none) and a hostel (full) and ended up in a motel. 

Just one night though, then back in the trail, over Marshall Pass (10,482 feet), and down to Doyleville were we ate lunch at every/only restaurant in town.  We sat with two Divide racers (no sense stinking up the entire restaurant), a guy named Bobby and a cool woman named Jill who was so sleepy she probably doesn't remember lunch. 

We camped next to a reservoir that night, with several racers passing by, one camping with us, one sleeping in an outhouse nearby.  Really. 

We'd see them and more racers the next day in Del Norte but loose touch with them as we took a day off and they pressed on.  For some people it's hurry up and vacation, for others it's great to be retired.  

After a day off we headed out of town.  The paved road went up hill gradually but when the pavement ended it went up with vigor. Twenty the miles from town we'd gained over 4000 feet in elevation and none of it easy.  Indiana Pass, 11,910 feet. 

Down the other side to the town of Summitville (population: people 0, superfund sites 1) and down to Platoro where we camped in the yard of the only restaurant.  

From there to Horca (the only restaurant was closed) then up over La Manga Pass (a mere 10,230 feet), back onto a dirt road and then we quietly crossed into New Mexico, our final state. 

Later we camped at the Upper Lagunitas campground, spending the night above 10,000 feet and battling mosquitoes the entire time.  No snow though, so that was good.  

On our way down we came to a detour due to a forest fire.  It wasn't marked but we'd been warned that the forest service wouldn't be happy to see us in the area so we detoured to Tres Piedras.  The only restaurant in town was open and thrilled to see us.  We were thrilled to be there.  

After lunch it was back on the roads, till we got to El Rito.  The map suggested we would find a restaurant, bar, and lodging.  We did not.  Instead there was a church.  The new-to-the-church priest was willing to let us camp in their front yard and even brought us a pizza when we asked for hot water.  

The next morning we headed down the road for breakfast and water in Abiquiu. 

After that the trail would be hot, dusty, uphill, and technical.  I walked a lot of it with a gallon and a half of water weighing me down.  We got to camp near the top of the hill, a nice spot, and then ride down to the town of Cuba.  

I ran out of water along the way, finally finding a creek to filter water from.  The creek was so shallow that the suction end of my pump would barely stay under but there were few options.  

It got me down the road and later we found a deeper stream to get more water from. 

In Cuba we took another day off.  I really needed it.  That first night I drank 3 quarts of Gatorade and another of water before the cramping in my hands and legs went away.  

Good times.