Friday, December 14, 2007
Well, I know that it’s sort of presumptuous of me to start blogging months after we finish the trip, but I also know how busy Keith has been and that this story needs to get told. So, for those of you wondering, The Porch in Pie Town is on the front of the house that Nita used to live in and where her daughter, Autumn, grew up. The house is called the Toaster House, because the front gate and most of the house are literally covered in toasters. They had moved outside of town about a year ago, and now the Toaster House exists solely to give cyclists and through-hikers a place to stay, relax, and converse as they came through town. The hospitality that we encountered there was like nothing that I had ever imagined. For example, we were almost out of bread and were asking where we could buy some more, but Nita told us that there wasn’t any type of store for at least a 45 min drive. We figured we’d just have to make do with what we had, but then she pulled some frozen bread and rolls out of the freezer and gave them to us. Not to mention the homemade pizza, salad, casserole, mango, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and pie that she also fed us right then and there. All in all, Pie Town was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the trip.
The next day, we woke up and knew we were going to have to make some serious miles, since we had only ridden for less than half of the day before. Unfortunately, it had absolutely poured the night before, and the dirt roads we were riding on had turned to clay.
We slogged on for a few hours and then realized that – when we hit an intersection that wasn’t on the map – we had no idea where we were. After randomly choosing one road to follow, we continued on hoping only to be heading in the right general direction. Before too long (although having to stop every 10 minutes to clear the mud from our gears, chains, shoes, and fenders made it seem much longer), we saw a pickup truck headed our way. They stopped when we waved them down, and told us that if we kept going we’d hit a main road in a handful of miles and we’d be able to figure it out from there. So, with a new rainstorm forming over our head, we booked it down the road, and back onto pavement. Luck also smiled on us that day when we stopped for lunch at a closed gas station and found that they had a little lean-to type shelter, just as the rain hit, so we were able to stay dry.
After eating and cleaning off the bikes (and Keith rebuilding his wheel for the last time) we found the road we were supposed to be on, and headed towards our last primitive campsite. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful, as we camped next to the dirt road with only a windmill and some fencing for as far as the eye can see. When the sun came up over the horizon the next morning, Keith took some pictures that could grace the cover of National Geographic.
It was a beautiful start to another long, grinding day. Even though we had managed to get back on route after getting lost the day before, we hadn’t made as many miles as we were planning on, so we were looking at around 70 miles for each of the next two days. Our goal for the day was to make it to Silver City, the last big city of the trip.
One thing that is pretty scarce in New Mexico is water. On this particular morning, the only option for water was to filter it out of an animal trough. Bicycle touring is not for the faint at heart as you have to beg, borrow, or pump water from any source that presents itself.
Our normal routine when we pulled into a big town was to wake up the next day and hit up the grocery story and the library to post on the blog and check our email, but Silver City was a little different. While we did keep the tradition of testing out some local beer (for scientific purposes only, of course) the night that we pulled in, we woke up the next day and decided to push on right away. It could have been the big mileage facing us for the day, or just the fact that we were down to our last two days of riding, but we wasted no time that morning before heading out for Hachita.
Leaving Silver City, we had about 20 miles on a paved road, and what the map showed as a gently downward slope, but it turned out to actually be 20 miles of climbing and then dropping, climbing and then dropping, before we hit the last dirt road of the summer.
This road didn’t want to ruin the reputation that New Mexico had been creating for us, so of course it was completely washed out in spots…but at least we avoided flat tires! We crossed the Divide for the 29th and second-to-last time and even rode through an ostrich ranch, but were not lucky enough to spot (or race!) any of the giant birds. We were also looking forward to hitting a store at around the 40 mile mark, so we put our heads down and got there for lunch. I was looking forward to it for some cold Gatorade, but Keith was mostly excited about loading up on fireworks, since in New Mexico just about any kind of firework is legal. When we finished lunch we got ready ride again, only to discover that both of us had flat tires. Keith patched his, but mine seemed like a slow leak, so I tried to ride it out.
Sure enough, about 10 miles later (when we hit the paved road that would take us to the border), I had had enough of stopping to pump every 30 minutes, so we stopped again and I patched my tire for – dare I say it – the last time of the trip. Keith enjoyed himself while I patched it though, by setting off some of his new fireworks in the middle of the road. Our destination for the day was a little town called Hachita that is about 45 miles north of the border. A man named Sam lives there, and for years he has been shuttling hikers and bikers back-and-forth to the border. He had some great stories to tell about dropping hikers off, and then 3 days later they would come staggering up to his house, covered in blisters, and get a ride to the airport to head home. We had arranged to have him drive us to Deming (where we were going to catch the Greyhound home) after we finished, but still did not have a plan to get from the border back to his house. While we had been having huge mileage days for the past few days, looking at 90 miles on the last day did not seem agreeable to either Keith or I. But we didn’t want to spend the money to have him pick us up, so we decided to figure it out when we got to Mexico. That night, as we were camped in Sam’s yard, drinking some beers he had given us, we lay down in the grass and watched a meteor shower take over the absurdly clear sky.
When we woke up the next morning, it was an almost unreal feeling to know that only 45 miles stood between Keith and I and the Mexican border. After trying not to think about how much further we had for the entire summer, finally we had a manageable distance to look at…and all on pavement too! Even though it was a pretty flat ride down a paved road, for significantly less mileage than we had been doing for the past few weeks, and carrying only what we needed for the day in a single trailer, I think our bodies knew that it was the last day of riding because those 45 miles were some of the most painful of the trip. Counting down the mile-markers didn’t necessarily help either, but somehow we dragged ourselves to the border.
We did have some excitement along the way though, as we saw a number of rattlesnakes hanging out on the road. They were the first ones we’d seen, and the middle of the road was a good place for time since it gave us plenty of warning and room to get around. Keith has some great pictures of one getting riled up at the sight of us.
When the border station came into view, though, we got a burst of adrenaline and shot up the first signs and started high-fiveing and snapping pictures. The guard came over and let us know that the actual border was about 25 feet past where we were, and if we didn’t ride up to it, he’d tell everyone we had cheated. After joking with him for a few minutes and getting him to take a picture of us in front of the building, he offered us some hamburgers, potato salad, and ice cream. Then he told us that there were a number of shuttles that brought workers over from Mexico (or something like that) and that they’d probably give us a ride back to Hachita.
Sure enough, the second one that came along had enough room for our gear and us, and hauled us back to Hachita…and then told us not to worry about paying since it was on their way anyway. Once again, good luck had been on our side.
As soon as we got back to Hachita, we decided we’d rather get right over to Deming and get a hotel instead of waiting another night. So we let Sam know, packed up our stuff, and headed over (about 45 minutes) to where we’d leave our trip behind for good. We were lucky enough to find a really cheap motel room and got some cardboard boxes from Wal-Mart (they’re good for something I guess) to pack our bikes and trailers in. While it was a hassle getting everything ready to be shipped back (and transporting it all around town with having the bikes to haul stuff), the bus ride back was even worse. But that’s a story for another time and place.
As Keith has said before, thank you all so much for giving us your attention, support, encouragement, and king-size Snickers bars, as well as a place to tell the story of the best summer that I’ve ever had. My goal when we started was to simply make it to Montana, but once I got a taste of what it was going to be like hitting the road everyday, I knew I wasn’t going home until it was done. Also, my thanks to everyone who sponsored us with their products (Nuun, EMS, Katadyn, etc) and to Keith for all the work he did to get us enough stuff to even make such an adventure possible. Much love to everyone and keep the rubber side down.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Pie Town....long overdue but to the best of my recollection, this is the story.
Nat and I pulled onto the main road and it was nothing like I had imagined it. In fact, it was almost nothing besides two pie cafes and a post office.
We pulled past the first cafe on our right, The Pie Town Daily. Nat asked me if we were stopping there and I replied, "We will go there next." We continued up the hill with Nat puzzled on why I didn't want to stop at the first pie place we saw. Ever since I started planning the trip I had heard about the wonderful hospitality towards cyclist and hikers at the Pie-O-Neer cafe and I knew that would have to be the place that we got our first slice of pie in Pie Town. We pulled up to the front of the building that looked similar to an old saloon and took off our helmets. There was a biker (not the pedal kind) standing on the porch and asked us where we were going. We told him and he mentioned he was heading across country on his Harley and checking out the small towns along the way. He told us that he has hiked the Appalachian Trail when he was in his mid-twenties and that he knew how we felt. I had to chuckle because he had hiked right through NH and when I told him that is where we were from, he pulled up his sleeve to reveal a "Live Free or Die" tattoo. We thought that was pretty cool as we parted ways and headed inside.
Inside was similar to the saloon we had visited in Polebridge Montana. There was a huge cast iron wood stove set in the middle of the tiny cafe was several booths and tables in front of a counter.
We had arrived there around 10:45am and sat down to order some lunch. We knew we were making good time and could sit down to a burger and some fries. We both ordered up Mountain Dew as caffenine was quite scarce when you are in the middle of the desert. As soon as the waitress had taken our order, a lady walked over and introduced herself as Kathy. She was the owner of the Pie-O-Neer and told us that Nita, the trail angel in town, would be right in. She brought over a guest book for us to sign and that not to worry, we would be taken care of well we were in Pie Town. We thanked her and within minutes, we were chowing down some fresh cooked hamburgers. They weren't 1lber's but they tasted great and really filled our stomachs. As soon as we were finished our waitress, Autumn, asked us what kind of pie were wanted to start with. I ordered up some apple as Nat ordered a slice of pecan-oatmeal. The pie was still warm as we started in and it was everything I dreamed it would be, delicious! As we were eating our pie, a woman approached us and introduced herself as Nita. She invited us to spend the night at the "Porch" and asked us how long we planned to stay in town. We hadn't planned to stick around and this caught us a little off guard. We finished our pie and as Autumn came to gather our plates she asked, "So you guys spending the night?" Turns out that Autumn was Nita's daughter and that they had been having hikers and cyclist stay with them since 1976. We thought about it for a moment as we ate another slice of pie and without any further hesitation, accepted the invitation.
We walked out and sat on the porch of the cafe for a few minutes and re-figured out how many days it would take us to finish and if we would still be able to catch our bus out of Deming on the 16th. We figured we would have some longer days, but was definetley possible. I quickly changed out of my bike shorts and put my feet up and waited for Nita to take us to "the porch". As she walked out she asked us the usual questions about where we were from and how long we had been out. She then asked if we had heard about the VLA (Very Large Array). We told her we had and that it sounded pretty fasinating. She offered to drive us to a "secret" sateilit that is located down some dirt roads. We took her up on the offer and rode in our first car in over a month. Desite it's size, the sateillet was well hidden and quite a marvel of engineering.
part 2: to be continued...
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
So upon reaching Grants, we called around looking for a cheap place to stay. Cities haven't been to friendly to us camping wise as they usually only contain overpriced KOA's and RV-parks (that usually look more like trailer parks). We called around and luckily a small RV-park had a small patch of grass they said we could camp on for $12. We headed over there as the thunder clouds rolled in and get the camp all setup. It was weird as this was one of the first nights where it thundered like crazy but didn't rain. It almost doesn't seem as scary that way. After the storm passed we were able to take showers and call home for one of the last times (getting a signal is like finding a gold nugget in New Mexico). We then both did a shot and headed in for the night.
The next morning found us rising early again to a hot and humid day. For those that say there is only dry heat in New Mexico, you are wrong. It was very dry and arid in the desert sections but in the northern section, there was a lot of humidity. We got everything packed and realized we needed only a little supplies (Ramen, hot sauce, oatmeal, caffeine) to finish. With all the awesome care packages, everything else had been pretty much taken care of. We headed to Wal-Mart (only the second one we had to go to on the trip, Grants had no grocery stores) and picked up our supplies. As we started down the road (Route 66), we passed a cyclist going the other way. This was a rare thing for us in New Mexico as it seemed that everyone had a truck. He waved to us as he passed and we continued down the road. All of a sudden on the horizon, there was a group of 3 cyclist. They waved as they passed and we felt like we had just seen the 4 cyclist in all of New Mexico! But no, more passed us and we thought maybe there was a race or a group tour. We turned a corner and saw something that excites all cyclist, a checkpoint/food tent! Heading over to check it out, people immediately greeted us and asked us where we were heading. They then offered us fresh fruit and energy gel! We stayed around the tent for a half hour or so. It was great to be able to talk to people that were so excited about cycling and that were on a tour themselves.
After the awesome experience with all the bike tour folks, we continued our adventure. Soon after we hit the entrance to El Malpais National Monument. The surroundings went from the houses and pueblos of grant to beautiful landscape as far as the eye could see. El Malpais means the "bad lands" so we were not sure what to expect. It turns out that it is because this a volcanic area and years ago when it was being explored, it was very hard to pass through here. With a nice paved road some years later, it was not tough at all for us to pass through.
We did the tourist thing and stopped to look at La Ventana ("the window") which was a very cool natural arch. We also went through the narrows which is where the old lava flow comes very close to the road. It was funny to think we had just left Grants 30 or so miles ago and now we were in such a remote and beautiful place.
I realized that we haven't shown any pictures of us eating lunch of the traditional PB&J. There were many variations along the way including granola, granola bars, pepperoni, dried fruit, candy bars, energy gel and so on. Just ways to tweak it a little bit so that it didn't taste like PB&J. With the addition of homemade cookies and granola bars in Grants, we were able to make some pretty delicious sandwiches! And on this occasion we had a picnic table which was even more rare!
We sat in the shade for a bit longer before taking off to the road again. The road wasn't very busy at all so we were able to talk a bit about post-trip all the things we missed and wanted to do. A big one for me was to get back and do some single track around New England. Being able to check the e-mail about once a week, I was able to catch bits and pieces about the riding group back home going to some of my favorite riding areas. I couldn't wait to not have a trailer pulling me around. In Nat's case, he wants to explore the US (in a car this time!) and check out all the cool places that are West of the Mississippi (go west young man!). Before long it was time to pull onto the dirt road towards Pie Town (yep that's the official name of the town). As we hit the dirt, we could see a dust cloud in the distance. As it got closer we saw that it was a brand new Ford Mustang convertible. We couldn't really believe our eyes as these roads were horrible. The car pulled up to us and the driver asked us where the nearest paved road was. We pointed and said about a mile that way. He then reached behind his seat and produced 4 water bottles. "Here you go", he said as he tossed us the water. He drove off and Nat and I just looked at each other. "Did that really just happen?", I asked. It was a weird experience as we continued on down the road to our campsite for the night.
The thing about New Mexico that we found was that the roads were in horrible shape but you were always greeted with a BEAUTIFUL camping site. There is a lot of private land but there is also a fair amount of public land in which to camp. This night was no different and the sky treated us to a color show that would rival the Fourth of July.
The next morning we woke up and something was special about today. Ever since we started we had heard of Pie Town, New Mexico. People had been telling us that we had to go to the Pie-O-Neer Cafe for a slice of pie after lunch. With that on our minds, we ate our oatmeal and a king size Snickers (thanks Toby!) and packed up. The morning light show was just as good as the previous evening so we sat and watched the sun rise as we ate.
Well as we walked over to the bikes, I noticed my front tire was flat. I quickly changed it out and we headed down the road. The skyline was awesome and it seemed like once we reached the mountains and mesas that we saw in the distance, we would be there. The ride was fast and before we could look up, we were at another divide crossing. We took a quick picture and then headed towards the junction that would bring us to Pie Town. We hit the stop sign and had a smile a little bit. The road we were turning on was route 603 which is the NH area code.
We rode down 603 for about 5 miles and we were there, Pie Town.
Well at this time I am going to stop because Pie Town is going to get it's own post. It was such an awesome experience that it deserves it. I didn't have my camera for most of the time but hopefully I will be able to recall all the cool stories. Until next time, take care and keep the rubber side down!
-Keith and Nat
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
So from where we left off in Cuba. That night there was a pretty heavy duty storm and we were very very thankful to be under cover. The next day brought blue skies again and we headed to the Cuban Cafe for some home cooked breakfast and to talk about the days plans. Basically we wanted to condense a 120 mile, 3 day ride into a day and a half. It wasn't going to be easy but we knew that we had the willpower to push through and do it. We got a late start out of Cuba and before we knew it, we were on our way to Pueblo Pintado.
We headed back into the wide-open desert and since we were on pavement, got a pretty good pace going. Stopping for a quick Powerade about 25 miles into the day, we looked back and could already see the storm clouds forming. Luckily they were behind us which meant we could outrun them for a while before they caught up to us. All around us, the sky seemed to go on forever. As we rode we started to notice horses and cows were congregating in the road. This was strange to us but to the passing motorist, it didn't seem like to big a deal. We would find out later that we were on Navajo reservation land which allows open range ranches (basically your cows and livestock just wander).
The storm seemed to be catching up with us as we rode. We looked for a good spot to camp on the side of the road but it seemed there were barbed wire fences and smashed bottles in all the nice flat spots. We spotted a convenience store in the distance and pedaled for it as the wind really began to pickup. We asked if we could camp behind the store next to a huge propane tank and the clerk agreed to let us. Grabbing the tent and trying to get it setup with high winds was giving me quite a challenge and that is when Dennis pulled up. He introduced himself as the owner of the store and we figured was going to tell us to move. Instead he invited us to come into his home that was nearby. I took one look at Nat and we packed everything up and quickly made our way over to his front door. It was not a second to soon as the rain started and the lightning intensified. (Sorry I don't have any good pictures of this event but as you can imagine, we were in a rush)
It felt good to be under cover for another of these daily New Mexico monsoons and we quickly got our stuff into the entry way. Dennis invited us to sit down and introduced us to his wife Brenda, who made us some tea. They talked with us for an hour or so before making us a wonderful dinner. After dinner they invited us to spend the night and we happily agreed to that! They brought us into a guest room that had a king size water bed and satellite TV. We felt spoiled having TV and a bed for a second night in a row. We were able to catch some highlights from a Sox loss before resting up for a long day of riding.
The next morning Dennis was up and greeted us as we packed up. We thanked him and Brenda for the hospitality and then headed over to the store to get some junk food for breakfast. After breakfast we started riding and seeing more of the awesome landscape along the Chaco Canyon area which we were in. It was awesome to see all the ways the weather had transformed this desert into such a thing of beauty! We didn't have much time to lounge around as we wanted to make it to Grants in time to check out the library and post office.
One thing I haven't talked much about is dogs. Since we arrived in New Mexico, it seems that dogs have been mistreated more then anywhere else we have been. It also seems that they are more vicious because of the mistreatment and they tend to be very intimidated by the bikes and trailers. We have been chased almost daily by some very aggressive pups to the point where we thought we were going to have to use the bear spray to fend them off. Often times it is very scary as you are unsure what the dog will do. Well as we rode to Grants, I noticed something off in the distance. It looked like a rabbit or ground squirrel which are both very common out here. As we got closer though it started to bound towards us and we noticed it was a very tiny puppy. In talking with Dennis we found out that most people won't bother to get their dogs fixed so when it has puppies, they tend to be left on the side of the road. The puppy chased us for a little bit but it was something we didn't want to get attached to. We fed it some granola bars and rode away before it could steal our hearts.
The journey continued past more cool rock formations and another EPA Superfund site before leading us down the long hill to Grants. This was the first time in a while we noticed no rain clouds and the weather actually seemed to be holding out. We were pumped about that and headed to the post office to get some packages we knew were coming our way. We we super excited to find that in addition to a HUGE one from Kelley, we also got one from our buddy Toby. They both contained lots of necessities that helped us refill the food bags.
I will have to leave you on edge from there as my time is almost up at the library. Once I get back home it will be much easier to post and get pictures up. I love all you guys and really appreciate you staying with us through such a fun journey. I look forward to telling you all the other cool stories that happened to us in the past couple of weeks!
-Keith and Nat
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
And before my time runs out, I want to extend a HUGE THANKS to a few of my friends for sending us a bunch of goodies! Kelley, Ed and Toby have sent us care packages in the past couple of days and our food bags went from only containing peanut butter, Ramen, and oatmeal to Snickers, cookies, Pop Tarts, granola bars, beef jerky, Clif Bars, and most importantly liquor!
So we woke up in Apache Canyon the next morning just on the south side of the CO/NM border. It was a beautiful morning but unfortunately we were so far down that we didn't get any sunlight until we began riding. The first day of riding in New Mexico was not quite what I expected. I had anticipated cactus and lizards to line the road and to see tumble weeds bouncing by. Instead the scenery was much like Colorado but with the worst roads we have seen so far.
Today's ride brought us up and over the Cruces Wilderness and through the rolling hills of southern New Mexico. We were rolling to a crest for lunch when we heard a strange sound. It was one that was familiar to me but not really to Nat. I looked at his BOB tire to reveal our first flat, bummer. We pulled the tube out to reveal a small hole most likely caused by a thorn or the rough road we had been riding all morning. A quick patch job, delicious PB&J, and we were heading up the road to Hopewell Lake. It was nice to pull in just as the rain started.
The next morning started with a short climb followed by a nice, long descent. We lost about 2000 ft in a matter of 8-9 miles and when we got out of the woods, there lay the New Mexico I was picturing. The sky seemed to go on forever and there were cactus and canyons all around us. Before long we were in El Rito and it was lunch time. I was hoping they had a store so that I could get a bag of chips and some ice tea. What we found though was ten times better. It was a little hole in the wall restaurant called El Farolitos. They had $4 burritos and trophys everywhere claiming the best green chile in the state. We both sat down and ordered immediately. The thought of a day without PB&J was enough for me to order two burritos while Nat tried the quesadilla and a burrito. They were of course phenomenal and left of full as we left for the night's destination of Abiquiu.
I would like to forget the experience we had in Abiquiu but it basically involved camping at a camp area without bathrooms and very very unpleasant hostesses. Also Nat getting a thorn in his front tire in the first 5 minutes of riding. So the next day we got up and climbed what we thought was going to be a very difficult climb. Our guide booked warned to take the whole day to go the 23 miles to the top of the climb. Well it ended up taking us all day but mostly because of the weather. The climb itself was quite pain-free (in comparison) and we made it into a little camp spot in the woods by about 3pm. We got setup just as the rain stopped and had an early dinner before making a little campfire and heading to bed. It rained hard that night and made the roads pretty messy for us the next morning.
We again began the day the climbing to finish the last 5 miles of the climb from the previous night. Our goal was Cuba, NM which was only about 50 miles down the road and we knew we could easily make once the roads dried up. By about lunch the roads were dry enough to get some good speed up and really push to get over the climb. As always there were some cows to greet us at the peak and as we are finding to be true about NM, horrible roads to head down to get to Cuba.
Right outside of Cuba, I got my first taste of the flat tire blues. I had a staple sticking through the tire and into the tube. The problem with this is that we were being chased by a nasty storm cloud so I rode it flat the last two miles until I could get under some cover. To make matters worse, Nat was striking out everywhere he was calling to find us a place to camp. He then tried to call some motels to see what prices looked like in town. The thunder was starting to rumble and as I finished patching my tube, I heard his voice sound a little more upbeat. He had found a room for $38 that had a shower (we were going on a week at this point without one) and HBO. It couldn't be beat! We quickly rode over and checked in as the rain really began to fall. I was finally able to call some people back home and as I walked back in the room, saw that the Sox had won their afternoon games. Maybe things were looking up.
We walked next door to try and find some nachos and margaritas. We ended up going back margarita-less but some good nachos in our tummys. Not a worry though as there was a convenience store on the other side of us and we were able to get a 6-pack of Fat Tire Ale. As we sat down to a nice cold beer, I turned on HBO to see what was on. To my joy, Little Miss Sunshine was just starting (one of my favorite movies). The day that seemed like it was going to turn out another disaster turned out to be perfect.
Well time is running out here so that is it for now. We are hoping to be done in a little more then a week and hopefully can give you guys a couple more updates! Thanks for the comments as always and look forward to reading more at the next stop!
-Keith and Nat