Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I'm going to climb me a mountain...or two

Tuesday, July 17. Cimarron, NM to Taos NM. 61 miles of riding in 4:25 hrs.

Have to say that despite the pavement, today was just a stellar piece of riding. Our campground last night was meager at best, and honestly, I don’t know what the fascination is with the town of Cimarron. It’s just kind of a little “tweener” kind of place that people stop at on they’re way to other places. The campground was filled with full-timers – people who live there most of the summer. And it’s really pretty boring around there to hang out all summer long. Anyway, we were the only passer’s through for the evening. Started out that I got a site with electricity, but then I came to find that the plugs were all for 220, and the owners didn’t have a changeover plug for me to borrow. Next gaff was the owner came out and asked us to repark because there was a change one of the lifers would pull his truck in from the rear – our site area right where our van was parked. So I moved the van into some dirt and off the precious gravel. And finally I went to empty some trash and on the way back the owner kind of chastised me for not emptying all the contents out of the bags because the bears may get into the dumpster and drag bags a garbage out. In her defense there were signs on the dumpster asking such, but shit, I was in a hurry to dump garbage and didn’t even read the signs. I guess that was my bad, but by that point I’d about had it with this place. And the final topper was that our site was like right on top of Rt 64 – like 10 yards away.
         Judy cooked some dinner and we sipped on beer and wine for a bit and then hit the hay. Just nothing to do. I had no electricity so we had no music or computer. Got in an incredible night’s sleep to say the least what with going to bed at 8 PM. Got up at 6, made coffee on the gas stove and I knocked down some cold spaghetti and we got the hell out of there. Made it on the road at 7:30 – way too late for my tastes for a starting time. Now I knew that I’d be climbing today and do at least one pass. And the was definitely the case from the start as Rt 64 just did this gradual climb out of Cimarron and up into Cimarron Canyon. Within 20 min I was in the mts and surrounded by pine forest and rock cliffs. As I said in the intro, despite the pavement this was just a stellar climb on a bike. It wasn’t so steep that you’re killing yourself out of the saddle just trying to keep the bike upright. It’s nice and gradual where I could ride the middle ring comfortably at about 10-11 mph.
         Now I took this route to get us into some nicer country, despite the fact that I was looking at zero opportunity to ride on gravel. The gravel route would have been to stick with I-25 and ride on parallel frontage and country roads to the jcn with I-40, and then do the same there. But I really thought about it and wanted both Judy and I to enjoy some of the more famous places in NM, rather than just bang it out next to the interstate. I figured that taking a alternative route through Taos would be the ticket. And I was right – Judy commented at our first support stop how Cimarron Canyon was the most scenic thing we’d passed through yet on the trip. It’s just fantastic terrain and scenery.
         So the climb up Cimarron Canyon was a solid 20 miles, where the road would just kind of wind its way up and up and up. Came to one spot, the Palisades, where vertical columns of rock rose some 3-400 feet off of the roadway. The final 2 miles of the climb really pitched up, to the point to where it was little cookie time for me. This was a switchbacky section that really ramped up to Cimarron Pass, some 7800 feet high. So my climb from Cimarron to the pass with about 1600 feet of gain in round about 20 miles – not too awful bad a gradient! Jude was at the top where I did an extended support stop. Grabbed an ice cold coke, two sandwiches and some water. Also put on my long sleeved jersey and Jude’s insulated long sleeve jersey for the descent down into the town of Eagle Nest. Up there at the pass the temp was 61 degrees.
         The descent was really short – about 2-3 miles -  and by the time I was at the so-called bottom I was still on top of this massive plateau that was at an altitude of 7200 feet. Eagle Nest is situated on the edge of this plateau. Stripped off the two jerseys and went back to short sleeve for my ride along the plateau. Cool area, surrounded completely by mts with a lake right next to the town of Eagle Nest. So the plateau ride was a good 8-9 miles and then when 68 split off I could see that I had another major climb coming – turned out to be Palo Flechldo Pass at 9100 feet. Now this pup was definitely way more challenging than climbing up Cimarron Canyon. This guy was switchbacks every step of the way for 4 miles. Now I did manage NOT to go little cookie on this guy and just mix in and out of the saddle riding, where I’d go out of the saddle when the switchback got tight and steep, and then go in the saddle when the road straightened out a bit.
         That was a worker! Met Judy at the top of the pass and got one great support surprise – fresh cut, nice and cold cantaloupe. Damn, ripped through that in no time, then downed some ice water and prepared for the descent all the way down to Taos. Put the insulated jersey back on and got it rolling for the 18 miles down the mts. This guys was pretty mellow, and by that I mean that it wasn’t this roller-coaster that just careened down like a witch. This was kind of like a step-type descent, where you’d have some steepness and then it would flatten out or even bump up just a tad. So the mph’s were on the low side – 18-24. The descent, called Taos Canyon, was not near as spectacular as Cimarron Canyon. Nice, but not close. So my picture taking kind of ended for that stretch.
         Rolled into Taos in just under an hour. Very nice place to shop for art! Judy is in heaven and I’m just sitting here in the car working on the computer. I’m definitely NOT a window shopper and never will be. We ended up getting a little motel so we could check the town out this afternoon. I ended up getting here Way faster than I had thought – like just over 4 hrs. So we have a nice long day to enjoy the area. I’ve been raving to Judy about authentic Mexican food, so we’re going to find a place around here that may fit the bill. 

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