Thursday, July 19, 2012

Farewell to the mountains

Thursday, July 19. Chama, NM to a few miles west of Blanco, NM. 92 miles of riding in 5:55 hrs.

Quite a contrast compared to yesterday. I feel pretty good having done just about the same amount of miles.
         I missed my usual wake-up, ending up flying out of the bed to make coffee at 5:30 AM. Wanted to get another early start in order to make a long ride again today. So we cranked through the usual eat-and-load-up-the-van deal and I was out the door and on the bike at 6:30 on the button. Another cool morning where I was wearing my long sleeved jersey – which just feels so good. I think the morning temp was around 57-58 degrees. Perfect! Headed west on Rt 64 for the first support stop in the town of Dulce. As yesterday, the road was pretty devoid of traffic and the berm alternated from pretty nice at 3-4 feet wide to zero, zip, zam, zowie.
Great morning to ride, with nary a cloud in the sky and a wind just ever so slightly out of the northeast. With the spectacular sights and sounds of Northwestern NM, this section just flew by, and I was making awesome time…until a construction stop.  Now I’ve been let through many a time at some of these construction stops because I can just ride on the berm, but not at this one. Nope, had to wait for the freaking pilot car to come back from the other side. So as I stood there for 22 min – and I counted every bloody one of them – I chatted with the gal who was flagging traffic. She was an Indian lady, Apache, who lived in Dulce. She was asking me a ton of question about our trip, specifically me cycling across the country. And I was pretty cool about answering everything despite the fact that I was really getting a bit miffed about waiting so long. I had a 90-100 mile ride staring me in the face today, and what with the monsoonal weather pattern lately, I was getting impatient to keep the ball rolling.
She even kind of invited Judy and I to stay in town for a big Pow-Wow that is taking place this weekend, actually starting today in the late afternoon. It actually sounded like fun, but I told her we just had to keep the train rolling down the road.
         So the pilot car finally arrived, and then instead of getting our caravan of cars and trucks moving, this chick gets out of the pick-up and proceeded to wipe off all the windows of the truck, very nonchalantly really. And I’m like “honey, some of us here have things to do today. How about getting us through this shit!” Well, we rolled through about 3 miles of gravel road and dust, and I was just bumming that I lost so much time on a long day’s ride. So I hooked up with Judy in Dolce and told her to just keep going due to my loosing time on the traffic stop. So she pulled out and got going to meet ten miles down the road. And within a mile I feel the back tire getting mushy. SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTTTT. I mean this thing was going fast, not even a chance to ride it out a bit. My biggest fear was that we’d have zero cell service and I’d have to walk for a bit until Judy realized that something was wrong. So I nervously got the phone out, dialed Judy, and thankfully she answered. Now, we’re really out in the middle of nowhere, so I was pretty surprised here. She headed back to meet me while I pulled the rear wheel and hunted for the problem. Turned out to be this 2 inch piece of what looked like rusty fence wire.
         So we got that changed and I just rolled on again, now having about 40 min of downtime on the clock. I must of rode by Judy two more times, just telling her I had to keep going to make up time. So each time she’d drive another ten miles down the road. So the best that I can figure was that I was riding on a plateau region. There were mts on all sides of me, but nothing really high, and believe if or not I had crossed the Continental Divide back before Dolce and didn’t even realize it. No big climb, no pass, no signs. Just rode over it with no bells and whistles. This was definitely one of the reasons that I made such good time today – no passes to climb over. Rode into and through the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation right up to about the entrance to another section of Carson National Forest before I did a support stop. So I had just about 50 in up to the first real support. Did two sandwiches, an ice cold coke, ice water and then slammed it again.
         By the time I got into the National forest I could really see a difference in the terrain – it was becoming less mountainous and more resembling the canyonlands & mesas you see in Southern UT and CO. Had to be riding somewhat of a false descent because I was just able to crush the pedals most of the way. I’d do these series of stair-step descents occasionally to where I’d get it rolling pretty fast. And as I lost altitude I could feel the temp getting hotter and hotter. The gal at the traffic stop had told me that I’d do no more passes, just a couple of long hill climbs, and she was right. But more than anything I was descending way more than climbing. Once through Carson Nat. Forest it was a whole different world from what we’d been through in the last two day. This was definitely Desert Southwest terrain and topography – and temperatures.
         About the time we got through the Nat Forest I began to notice the telltale gas and oil trucks and the gas and oil fields what with the wells and pumping stations. Nearly all the traffic at that point was pick-up trucks that went from well to well. They all had these long poles with flags mounted in the back bed of the truck. Never had an issue with the guys and they all, from pick-up to tanker, gave me plenty of room to ride. No bad attitudes. No pissed off people honking the horn. This gas and oil thing was the story for the rest of the ride. Went past several massive complexes that were mini gas-oil cities. About 12 miles east of Blanco I did the second and final support stop. Hammered a Powerade and a quart of ice water and got it rolling again.
Did a series of long, long descents down the to Blanco where the temp was just really cranking at high 80’s to low 90’s. This will now be my fate for at least another 5 days of riding. Definitely in a different place now. No more mts, they’re essentially gone for a good long bit. We’re in the semi-arid lands now where the sun just beats down on you incessantly. Stopped riding just west of Blanco and we headed to Bloomfield for a motel for the night. And as usual the clouds were building up for another gully washer by the 1:15 time that I got off the bike. Ended up with a great ride of 90-some miles in under 6 hours. Not too bad on a 26 in mountain bike!
         Got situated and then went next door for dinner. This looked like some kind of mom and pop restaurant and I was really apprehensive about going there. But the receptionist at the motel told us the place served great Southwester cuisine. I’ve been raving to Judy that she has to try real Mexican food. She’d never been a big fan of that kind of food, so I’m doing my best to show her that Mexican food is not the Chi Chi shit we get back in Ohio. And we had a great, really good meal! Even tried some stuff I’ve never heard of – these Mexican stuffed meat pies with a green chili sauce over top – awesome!
         Well, that’s going to do it for today. Tomorrow I hope to make the AZ border………Pete

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