Wednesday, July 18. Taos NM to Chama, NM. 94 miles of riding in 7:03 hrs.
Just smoked from the ride today!! Let’s digress to yesterday and catch back up to today.
Judy had a blast in Taos for sure. I did the walk-about with her in the late afternoon. Now this is a pretty cool place from an outdooring standpoint, but in my opinion it’s a grade-A tourist trap, just like Sedona, AZ and North Conway, NH. I mean there’s just a gazillion art shops and gift shops and antique shops and shops and shops and shops. The architecture is very cool and the general setting of the city what with the mts surrounding it is also awesome. But make no mistake, it’s a giant tourist trap. If you just go there and do the mt biking or hiking or backpacking or whatever, it’s a great destination. So anyway, we walked around the city checking the place out and it seemed that every 4 out of 5 shops is involved with art of some sort. Enough already. On the way back we stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant and had a pretty good meal at a great price. And that was pretty much our stop in Taos. No museums, no tours, that was it. And we both are on that tract.
Got up at 5 AM for another day in the saddle and was on the road at 6:30. Ok, so we did another pow-wow on the route and decided to change it yet again. This, so we can get Judy to the Grand Canyon. We’ve been to Flagstaff, AZ at least 3x together, and each time she got vetoed on our group going to the Canyon. So I definitely owe this one to her for all the bloody driving and supporting she’s done for me. So I 86’d the idea of going south to Santa Fe, and then west along I-40 looking for parallel gravel roads in leu of going all the way across NM on Rt 64, past Shiprock and into far Northern AZ to ride down past the Grand Canyon. Now the thing that kind got me thinking this way was when we ran into some college kids who were riding from the Georgia coast to the California coast, and they were telling us in Taos that they were heading all the way west on Rt 64 so they could go by the Grand Canyon. Got my trusty maps out and confirmed that this would be a good way to catch the canyon. As far as hitting dirt or gravel, chances are pretty slim. But had we gone the I-40 parallel route, that would have been pieces parts of dirt and gravel. Worst part of that route – paralleling the freeway – would have been negotiating around Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Gallup, not to mention having to ride stretches on I-40 where there were no roads at all. So I think we made a good choice on the fly here.
Ok, Judy hung back in Taos to do a run and work while I put 20-30 miles in before our first support stop. Rode out of town on Rt 64 and then to the northwest across the Rio Grande Canyon. Up here in Northern NM the Rio Grande, though in this impressive little gorge, is a tiny river – no, more of a big creek! Took some shots on the ped-walkway over the gorge and then rode on. And this is where the day got tough, first with the road trending in a northerly direction for 4-6 miles into a northerly headwind and up this false flat onto a plateau. And then to add insult to injury, once the road trended back in a northwesterly direction it was just this 15-mile series of false flat rollers that kept stepping me up higher and higher ever so gradually. Now at first glance it looks flat, but get on a bike and ride the pup – it is NOT flat. A later asked Judy what it looked like from the car and she confirmed that it rose up ever so slightly with each roller.
By the time we did our first support stop in Tres Piedras at about 32 miles in, I felt pretty wiped out from doing those false flats. But I was cool with the fact that I had completed half the ride for the day – that based on the mileage that I got off of my phone yesterday on the maps app. So I downed a couple sandwiches, a coke and ice water and got the ball rolling again, knowing that I’d soon be climbing across a small mt range. Couldn’t have been more than like a half mile down the road where Rt 64 jcn with Rt 285 and there was a mileage sign that said: Chama 62 miles. Damn!!!!! My heart sank. My map app on the phone was a whopping 30 miles off target. I had nearly 2.5 hrs in. I was pretty hurting and tire, and I still had 62 miles to make our destination for the day. And really, there was nothing in between. That was kind of a gut check. So within a few miles I got it in my head that I was going to crank out nearly a century for the day, no matter how long, how I felt, how the weather would go, I had to go 90+ miles.
Hit my first small pass not too long thereafter. It was tame by yesterday’s standards, but it was tough nonetheless due to my legs feeling like cement from the previous two days of climbing and headwinds. Made it over the top on onto this kind of high mountain plateau, which was fairly flat and fast. I’d say at that point the altitude was a good 7K. This was a really fun stretch with wide open mountain meadows surrounded by the higher mountains. At that point I had entered Carson National Forest. So this plateau section was a good 10 miles and I signaled Judy to just drive another 10 down due to the fact that I had a lot of ground to cover today and didn’t want to doddle around too much with stops.
After that the plateau kind of stopped and turned back into this major climb, stepping up and up and up for miles on end. And again, I signaled Judy to drive another 10 miles, hoping that within that amount of mileage that I’d hit the pass and then descend. But within 10 more miles it still kept climbing, so I HAD to stop this time and reload on water and Powerade. Made it super brief and got rolling again, but not more than 2 miles down the road the weather just turned to shit, with rain and hail hammering down harder and harder. Thankfully Judy had the foresight to NOT drive the full 10 miles, but instead keep an eye out on the weather. She came flying down the road towards me not more than 5 minutes after the rain and hail started. I quickly loaded the bike and hopped in as she pulled in a little gravel rest area to wait it out. I was so freaking tired that I fell asleep 15 minutes in the passenger seat with my helmet on. I mean I was just spent.
Jude woke me up, telling me that the storm had passed, so like a damn robot I remounted and continued the long series of climbs on this ride up the pass. And then about 3 miles down the road the rain and hail started yet again. And Jude to the rescue for the second time. Waited another 10 min for the cloud-burst to pass and then back on the road again. This time I was able to actually finish the climb and begin the descent, which was a wild 9-mile ride down mt. This descent was a real treat where I was able to get into the 30+ mph range. My hope was that I’d make up some time from all the climbing that I’d done such that I could get the ride in at around 7-7.5 hrs of riding. But be damned if the rain and hail didn’t start again as I finished the real steep descending and then kind of hit a gradual descent that kept rolling to the north. It was just this massive grey cloud that was sputtering at first and then downpouring several min later. And for the third time Jude came racing back towards me for shelter.
This happened one more time and I was getting pretty frustrated in that I just wanted to get the damned ride over and down with. Finally, I just got it going in the drizzle and rode it out of the rain cloud after about 5 miles. Did the final northerly stretch of Rt 64 to Chama with these massive black storms damned near surrounding me. I was just waiting for this one off to the north, the same direction I was riding, to unload to kind of nix me for the umpteenth time. But I made it to Chama without another deluge. Tell you what, when I loaded that bike into the van I was running on fumes. I had Judy get a motel, ANY motel so I could just relax. Camping was not looking good what with all the storms around us. Got a little place in town and here we sit. Matter of fact about not more than 15 min after unloading our gear at the motel the heavens opened up for another deluge. There are severe thunderstorm warnings in our area until 11 PM, so I’m pretty good with having a motel room tonight.Well, I’m just too tired to type anymore, so I’ll end it here….pete