It is hard to believe we have already ridden across most of New Mexico. We seem to have left the bumpy roads that plagued Texas and traded them for the smooth wide shoulders of New Mexico. Eastern New Mexico’s vast nothingness boggles my mind every time I cross it. During one stretch we didn’t make a single turn for over sixty miles. Brown prairie grass as far as the eye can see in every direction contrasted the blue skies only interrupted by an occasional lone tree. The mornings have been wonderful, cool and still. By noon the winds start to pick up as if trying to blow the heat away. It never works and in fact seems to make matters much worse by causing an open oven like effect.
The road west through the desolate eastern New Mexico landscape.
For the most part we are still without any major incident however the minor issues are starting to stack up. Our 109-mile ride into Willard began racing the numerous trains that roll across this wide-open space. As a slower train passed by I flipped old Tex into a low gear and accelerated up to 32 mph. I rode neck and neck with the train for a good mile before I hit a downhill and sped up to 41 mph. My victory was short-lived and my endurance no match for the strong and steady locomotive. Out there in the wide open we did come across one of the more strange sightings thus far on the trip. An older man pushing a lady in a wheel chair across the prairie, one suitcase rested on the lady’s lap and the other stuck out from under the chair. They wore normal street clothes and declined any kind of snack, water or help. They were heading to Arkansas. I have a strange feeling we will see them again on tail end of our loop. The long miles concluded with lighting bolts flashing around us over the open prairie and a driving rain that flew with the strong head wind. We had lost Breckinridge for the last 70 miles or so and were happy to see him at the Willard café fresh of his gutter shower.
As we slowly rode through town following the support crew we realized that the town was only slightly bigger and somewhat more populated then a ghost town. The passing storm cooled the hot earth and we were now thankful for the wind that we had been fighting all day. The church was down a gravel road only a few blocks from the main drag. A couple of goats trotted down the sidewalk ripping up the weeds that squeezed through the cracked cement. I could barley make out the words of the weathered church sign. We got to the small two-room church and knocked on the side door, it was empty. Joel found the front door open and took out the two by four, that acted as a lock for the side door, to let us all in. The building didn’t look like it had been used as a church or anything else in some time however it was home sweet home for the night and exceeded our low standards.
The Sandia Mountains rose in front of us like an impassable fortress wall. In Tiwa, the Pueblo Indians native language, the mountains are called posu gai hoo-oo, meaning, “ where water slides down arroyo”. The range peaks out at only 10,678 feet which is not all that big in comparison to some of the other mountain ranges but after riding through nothing but flat rolling hill for hundreds of miles day after day, it was an intimidating sight.
the road to Cuba New Mexico, beautiful sweeping landscapes
The day’s only incident was probability caused by me, as a staple lodged into my tire my tube went flat. I told Troves who was riding next to me and he slowed to help check it out. Neither of us bothered to tell Breckinridge who was behind us. As he passed me he stared at my back wheel and asked, “is everything was okay?” The next moment he was riding over the unaware Troves and his bike. Thankfully the bikes were all okay and they both walked away from the crash with out too much bodily damage. Troves did scrape up his hands a bit but all in all it wasn’t too bad.
A rest stop in the plains, one of the many trains rolls across the empty in the background
The climbs and head wind made the short 64-mile day a challenge and we are all excited to make it to Foothills Church. The sight of a tradition I had never heard of before. Every year the youth group makes ice cream Sunday’s, the catch is that your scoop of ice cream and toppings are coming from the top of a two story building at speeds unknown. We had the privilege of serving the ice cream. Although some people were able to catch a good amount of ice cream and toppings in their bowls their hair and faces caught a vast majority as well. The sweeping view of Albuquerque valley and the setting sun was amazing from the rooftop; it was a fun end to the random day. We were later able to share are mission with the group and hang out for a while after.
A quick stop at the continental divide to strip the cold weather gear off.
In the morning we set out with Ruth Ann, who would be joining us on the 83-mile ride to Cuba New Mexico. The ride turned out to be my favorite day so far. The elevation kept the weather a bit cooler and the wind was not as prevalent as days past. Although Cuba is 1000 feet higher in elevation than Albuquerque the ride seemed to be all down hill. As we rode from Foothills Church around the edge of Albuquerque the road sloped off the side of the mountain and peddling was quite unnecessary for the next five miles. The red and tan striped plateaus and sweeping canyon views all made the day pass quickly. It was fun to meet Ruth Ann who is an ultra marathoner first and foremost so it was fun to trade ultra stories with her as the miles passed. We stayed in the cafeteria next to a catholic church/school. Ruth Ann took us out to eat at El Bruno’s before she left. I tried the a green chili cheese burger. Green Chili is very popular in New Mexico and it seems to make its way into most of the dishes. They even had a local Green Chili wine.
The sun shining over the distant hills on a rare NM creek
We wrapped up our riding week with another 100-mile stretch to Farmington that crossed the Continental Divide. On my run across America last year I came through these parts from the West. You know you have been through the west before when giant rock formations and mountain ranges help with your sense of direction and geographic location. I spotted Ship rock in the distance, which lies west of Farmington. Our biggest climb of the trip to date came in the last ten miles. When we crested the Plato and turn back to look over what we just rode, the view was massive. The road looked like it dropped off the edge of the earth and you could see the last thirty miles that we had just ridden far below. The descent back down the other side into Farmington was steep and winding. To be honest it was a four-mile adrenalin rush that ended in a parking lot where Chad meet us. We loaded up our bikes and drove North towards Durango Colorado where to stay in his hand-made adobe style home for the weekend. Two weeks of riding has brought us 955 miles from our start and 955 miles closer to our ultimate destination.
An old wall with the word "water" written on it. An unexpected scenic stop.