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
Monday, August 6, 2007
Leaving Del Norte, CO, we faced our biggest challenge of the trip (in my option). It came in the form of a 11,910ft pass called Indiana. We started in Del Norte (elevation 7500ft) and spent the entire morning (23 miles) getting to the summit of this monster of a climb. It really felt good to conquer such a beast after having such troubles with Marshall Pass. We topped out around 1pm and took some fun pictures to take the stress off of such a hard climb. We knew the rest of the day wouldn't be much easier as we still had to cruise through an EPA Superfund site and find somewhere to camp.
After lunch we cruised down the hill to Summitville which was declared an EPA Superfund in the 1980's. It was quite a sight as half of the mountain is completely missing. The water around the site was not even safe to drink after filtering it which made it difficult to find a spot to camp. Finally we could not push on anymore and pulled into a spot that seemed to have a few other people camping around it. We asked them where we could get some water for the night and a couple of folks graciously gave us some water so that we could make it through the night. Without them, I am not sure what we would have done.
In the morning we headed to the up Stunner Pass and over to Platoro, CO for some canned soda and snacks. It was a tiny little town and luckily some fellow riders of the divide heading North had warned us that the water there was not safe to drink, hence buying gallon jugs of water and soda. It saved us an ER visit which we are grateful for! While in there, the owner warned us of a mudslide about 12 miles down the road that had happened the night before. We thought "Oh No! A repeat of Marshall!", but luckily it was easily crossed by bicycle (but not by Jeep as we witnessed first hand!).
Bombing down the other side, I looked at my altimeter to see we were losing 171ft/minute. Not really sure how fast we were going but it was fast. We were going so fast, we almost missed the signs telling us we were entering New Mexico, the last state of our trip! We had decided to sleep in a little canyon at the border as it seemed to be the only running stream around for a while.
Well I guess that is it for now, I am being kicked off the computer here at the library. Hopefully I can finish this update in a couple of days in Grant. I will also be able to e-mail all the people back home at that point. Have a good one guys!
-Keith and Nat