Ride The Divide 1
TFTD: Moon-shadow, moon-shadow
Adventure number 4 begins! After waking-up at 4:00 AM, and getting picked-up by our airport transporter at 4:45, we flew from Sacramento to Las Vegas... and, then, to El Paso, Texas. We were picked-up there, with our paniers, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc, etc, by Jeffrey Sharp. He lives in Tucson, AZ, but has a “Bike Ranch” in Hachita, NM where he lets people who are biking the Continental Divide stay.
Jeffrey drove us to Crazy Cat Cyclery, where our tandem mountain bike had been shipped from Tour of Nevada City. Andy talked with Moe and Coco, who work at Crazy Cat, and after a few adjustments we were able to strap the bike in the trailer attached to Jeffrey’s Volvo V70 wagon, and off we drove (for 3 hours) from El Paso to Hachita.
As we were driving, we talked about starting part of Chapter 1 today, and decided to give it a try. We dropped all of the gear at the Bike Ranch, put on bike clothes, filled a few water bottles, and then Jeffrey drove us down to Antelope Wells. We passed a few Boarder Control pickups along the way, and arrived right at the gate. Because they close the crossing at 4:00 PM there was no traffic or activity and Jeffrey took this picture before he headed back to the Ranch.
We started pedaling about 6:00 PM, with Jeffery ready to drive back and retrieve us when it was dark. After about 10 miles of headwind, we turned a corner and got a bit of tailwind – a terrific improvement. We saw quite a bit of lightning on the distant horizon, which, fortunately was not moving closer to us.
As it started getting dark, we turned on the headlight (aka flashlight) on the front of the tandem, and were very glad for the cloudless sky and full moon, hence the TFTD (Thought For The Day), since we could see our shadows on the road, in the dark. Jeffrey came back about 8:30 to check on us, and we told him try to be back to his place by 9:30. After a few more miles, we did get to see some free-range, black cattle, which was a bit of a shock – mostly to the cattle – but there were no crashes.
We made it to Jeffrey’s place about 9:15, and he had some food (aka dinner) ready for us, we got showers, and he showed us the Ride the Divide movie from about 2011. As soon as it was over, we went, very quickly, to sleep, with some “wake-ups” due to wind, thunder, and very heavy rain.
TFTD: Rain, rain go away!
We woke, gratefully, to sunny sky at about 7:30, had some yummy breakfast egg-scramble, made by Jeffery. After lots of packing, and getting the bike setup, we realized that the front fender was left at Crazy Cat. Not a disaster, and Jeffrey said he’d check with them about it.
We started pedaling about 11:30, with our destination being Separ, NM – “only” 28 miles away. Unfortunately, there was a strong headwind of 25+ mph, so our speed was, more than, cut in half from last night, from 15 mph to 6 mph. At about 12:30 we got rained on for about 30 minutes, too. Thank goodness we had our Showers Pass jackets, which kept us kinda dry.
We arrived at Separ at about 3:30 at the Bowlin’s Continental Divide Souvenir Shop, right on the Continental Divide. They had a few food options, so we heated burritos in their microwave. We had planned to sleep in the teepee on their property, which they’d told us we could do during our pre-trip planning, but it turned out not to be not that great. It was made of wood, which had some sections missing and didn’t go all the way to the ground, so the wind was blowing in. We even tried setting up our tent inside, but it was too windy and very loud.
So we asked we could camp in the shop’s entryway instead, and were told no, but we could move to the front porch, which we did since it blocked most of the wind. The shop was about 100 yards from I-10, a huge interstate with lots and lots and lots of trucks driving by every minute. Hope we sleep, at least a little…
Well, it was a very, very, very loud night. Truck drivers all night. Yes, really. It was good to be out of the wind, but we wondered if the wind noise in the teepee would have “cancelled” the truck noise. We “woke-up” (aka got out of the tent) about 6:30, and started packing everything so wouldn’t be in the way of the store’s first customers of the day. Then, we became the first customers – buying a pack of granola, which we divided in two cups and poured Starbuck’s Vanilla Frappuccino over the top. It turned out to be pretty yummy!
We started pedaling just before 8:00 AM, on the dirt, headed North. It was slow day with lots of climbing, in “No-where-ville”. We saw only a couple of trucks, plenty of free-range cattle, and climbed, climbed and climbed. The highlight, for Kim, was ALL of the beautiful rocks along the journey. So many colors, and sparkles, and cool shapes! She was “allowed” to collect two small rocks, and now wants to rent a car and drive back for the rest of her collection.
This was the most “No-where-ville” we’ve ever pedaled in. View of totally empty ranges with mountains far away. No houses, no towns, no cars… nothing. When we made one stop, trying to be in the shade, we saw a really interesting creature. It looked like a rock, with spikes all over. It didn’t move much, but watched us carefully. We took a few pictures, and are trying to figure out what the name is. (Later we learned it was a Horned Toad, aka Horned Lizard or Horny Toad)
After miles and miles of climbing in the dirt, we finally arrived at highway 90 at White Signal, NM – back on a paved road with a nice, wide shoulder. There were also more than a few serious climbs. It was a long, long pedal, but we finally made it to Silver City, NM (yes, there is a huge silver mine there).
With the bike making some odd noises, and the back panier rack damaged via shipping, we stopped at Gila Bike Shop. They helped replace the rack and fix the noise. And, they recommended that we stop at Diane’s restaurant for diner, which turned out to be a great suggestion in the active area of town.
While we were dining, a couple came in to talk to us about our ride, after noticing our bike outside. Brandy Blade is going to compete in Ride the Divide this year. She and her friend had just ridden south from Pie Town, NM, where we hope to arrive around 4/22. She lives in Salida, CO and will let people on bikes stay with her – including showers! So, we my do that in Chapter 2. After dining, we road to our last motel for a few days, Comfort Inn, took showers, washed bike clothes, and tried to prep for camping. Yep, really…
TFTD: Climb, climb and climb…
After a night in the hotel, we were up early and getting ready to pedal. We enjoyed our free breakfast, loaded the bike and headed out. We planned to ride on Highway 15, and did so anyway, in spite of multiple miles of construction. The drivers were very friendly, patient, and kind, which seems to be the New Mexico standard. Much appreciated, since we got to stay on paved roads for almost all of the day – all the way to Lake Roberts, where we got sodas!
We stopped at the Lake Roberts motel, since the store at the Lake Roberts Cabins was closed. The owners were very kind, have a lovely spot – and, if you’re interested they’re getting ready to sell it and retire. After we rested there for about 30 minutes, we started pedaling again. And, about 30 minutes after that, the owners slowed down, said “hi, and pedal well” on their way home.
With about 20 miles to go, we turned onto a dirt road with lots, and lots, and lots of rocks and bumps. We had to do two panier repairs, both of which were successful. Thank goodness! There was lots and lots of climbing along the Continental Divide, which we’ve already crossed several times. And, there were quite a few very steep climbs.
The finale was a coast down to Black Canyon, were we camped in a small campground. It was us and three other sites: First – a dad and son who each had their own spiffy camper, and who fed us delicious rhubarb pie; Second – a solo guy who hiked and biked in the past, but now has a cool tent-trailer and a pickup truck, and who gave us bottles and bottles of water to refill our water-bottles; Third – a young couple from North Carolina and Florida who are hiking the Divide together. They’ve done many other hikes, and the young guy has hiked almost as many miles as we’ve pedaled (about 10,000)!
TFTD: Climb, climb and climb… Again
We woke-up pretty early, after the hikers’ phone alarm went off and woke them up. They were packed quickly, and the solo guy drove them to their next hiking start. We got everything packed and loaded pretty quickly – not bad for our third camp-out night – and, started pedaling out of the steep canyon.
Today was all dirt roads with very little traffic. We did get to say hi to the hikers’ transporter as he was heading back to the camp site while we were climbing out of the canyon. When we reached the top, we were in nowhere! No towns, no stops, just fields and fields with lots of free-range cattle – sometimes on the dirt road with us.
We climbed and climbed and climbed – over 11,000 feet in total. Yep, lots of work! We stopped at the Beaverhead work center – a forest service base – but it was deserted (probably since it was Saturday). The soda machine they had outside their office didn’t work, but we found a place to refill all our water bottles.
We’d intended to ride about 50 miles to a campground, but it wasn’t open, so we kept pedaling, and actually went 68 miles. Then we decided to just setup our tent off the road, in a cow pasture, with nice trees to protect us from the wind. It wasn’t as cold as last night, and worked out well. Our dinner was freeze-dried food. Super EASY…. Just add 2 cups of hot water, wait 10 minutes, then dine!
TFTD: Cows, cows, and more cows
We woke with the sunrise, packed our gear, and left the cow pasture. We were on the wide-flats with a “house-ranch” every 10-ish miles. One had a metal bucket at their driveway with a cache of water and snacks for cyclists (printed sign on top of the bucket). We loaded-up and left a donation.
At about 2:00 we climbed up to the Divide, again, and enjoyed a tremendous downhill on the other side. It was filled with all types of mesas, rock-formations, and old, crumbling, stone ranch houses. We saw a few white-tail deer running in the distance.
Thank goodness for GPS! Most of the roads don’t have signs, and a couple of times today our Garmin told us we were “off course”, so we could turn around and take the correct turn. More ups and downs over wide-open scrub ranchland. Then, it finally came into view – Pie Town! It has the first asphalt and diners we’ve seen in 200 miles. We went to the Gathering Place and quickly ordered two Root Beers, while we decided on our dinner. Andy went for the BBQ pork sandwich, and Kim went for the cheesy casserole. We wolfed those down and followed-up with coconut buttermilk pie. Delicious!
From there, we went back to the “Toaster House”, a hostel for hikers and bikers, so named because of all the electric toasters as “yard art”. We met Mercury, Mary Poppins, Big Red, So Sorry, and Lousiana – the hikers’ trail names. We sat around with them and talked geopolitics, religion, and hiking gear – pretty much in that order. Luckily, we scored our own room, and had a good night’s sleep.
TFTD: Awesome rocks!
We were up at 6:30, along with Mary Poppins and Lucky. We loaded the bike, and after some quick good-byes, we were northbound (aka NOBO) along with hiker, Mary Poppins – who “earned” that hiker-name due to is really cool umbrella. The other hikers were headed for more pie at Pie-O-Neer PIES restaurant in Pie Town. We left Mary Poppins in the dust, and headed off an incredibly firmly-packed dirt road, which, apparently, turns into impossible mud when it rains.
After about 17 miles, we reached the TLC ranch, and decided to see what it was about, since that’s where the hikers said they were headed today. It’s a “ranch” run by a couple in their late 50’s that welcomes hikers and bikers – and lets them stay overnight in a building on their property. They immediately offered us breakfast, but we had a long day ahead of us, so they gave us bananas and muffins (in Ziploc bags) “to go”.
After pedaling a while longer, we stopped for a break, and Andy knocked, what he thought was a rock, off of the front tire, but… it was a big thorn. Thank goodness for self-sealing tires! All went well, and we kept pedaling.
Just before the asphalt, we saw two hikers having a picnic in the middle of a huge ranch – aka nowhere. It turned out that it was a mom and son, from Australia. We chatted for a bit, then pedaled on. The last 40 miles for today was on pavement, which was a nice respite for the bike and our fannies – smooth roads are excellent!
We expected rather boring scenery, but instead we entered the Malpais National Monument. Wow, wow, and wow! The road runs right along the bottom of 500 – 1000 foot sandstone cliffs, with every imaginable shape, size, and arches. Jaw-dropping beauty, backed by the deep-blue, clear New Mexico sky. Breath-taking. The really unique thing is that there a lava fields as far as we could see on the other side of the road. So, flat-side black lava to the left, and red, orange, brown and tan sandstones to the right. This went on for about five miles.
Then, it ended, and the headwind started. Breathtaking, but for a different reason! We endured that for a couple of miles, and then were greeted by I-40, and a huge left turn. That gave us a tailwind that pushed us 6 miles to the hotel – a great way to finish. Still a long day – about 8.5 hours on the road.
We found an incredible Mexican food place next to the hotel: Taco Bell. The food comes out in about 2.5 minutes (2 if you order at the kiosk). Andy didn’t really recognize any of the ingredients in his “Burrito Supreme” but it was, according to him, by far the best Mexican food he’s had in some time (at least 6 days!). He can tell you, from experience, that it was far superior to the frozen “Grandito” at the souvenir shop in Separ – no matter how many times he microwaved the Grandito.
On our way to dinner #2 at Denny’s (around the corner from the hotel) we saw two CDT hikers. It was the mom and son from Australia! They got rained on, and decided to call it a day, so they hitch-hiked to the Holiday Inn, and would also dine at Denny’s. We enjoyed our time together, learning about their adventures.
TFTD: Bottles, and bottles, and cans… Oh my!!
Today was a long day, on asphalt, with low traffic and perfect weather. We made three Continental Divide crossings, but none too steep – thank goodness! We wore leg-warmers, arm-warmers, and vests all day today since it was pretty chilly. We left the Holiday Inn at about 8 AM, and rolled down Route 66 through the town of Grants. There were several old businesses, in various states of decay. Apparently “leftovers” from the Route 66 heyday. It did look like the town was struggling to keep some identity – nice parks, live music, and pubic art – while the world zoomed by on I-40. Still, it looked like the main businesses are pawn shops.
Once we cleared the town, without pawning anything, we were back in the great wide open. The panoramas from the top of the Divide were humbling – a lot of 270’ – 330’ views to forever. And, more sandstone of all different shapes and colors. Unfortunately, there were gazillions of bottles and cans and other trash along the road. Never seen so much!
For the last six miles we had a nice tailwind, and arrived at the Chaco Trading Center at about 4:30. Half was a mini-mart and the other half was a huge laundromat. Really huge. There were at least 20 washers and 20 dryers. We got to sit in the “kids’ area” which had chairs and a TV that was playing Tom & Jerry cartoons and Donald Duck cartoons on infinite repeat. There was also free Wi-Fi so we got to do some actual communication, for the first time in days.
As it got dark, Andy setup the tent outside, near a railroad car in the dirt, with two other bikers who were pedaling from north to south, a week at a time, and had started this portion in Abiquiu, NM, where we’re going to end Chapter 1.
TFTD: Bottles, and bottles, and cans, again!… Oh my!!
We kept warm and slept pretty well, and woke-up about 6:30 AM, and had breakfast at the Trading Center – with free hot chocolate – which was very kind of the check-out person! After packing up the gear and talking with the other bikers, we were on the road, again, by about 7:45.
It was a wonderfully beautiful day, with very little wind. Yippee! The landscape was more barren, but still beautiful views from the Continental Divide, as far as we could see. After about 15 miles, we decided to take a break. Then, just was we were getting ready to get back on the bike, Kim saw a tiny puppy in the shrubbery nearby. She looked around and saw a driveway about 50 yards down the road. So, she picked-up the puppy, who seemed very happy to be held, and started walking towards the driveway. After some steps, a pick-up truck was coming along our side of the road, so Kim waived at him to stop, which he did. She asked if he might know the puppy’s owners. Obviously a local, he said that the people who lived where Kim was walking had very mean and aggressive dogs. He told Kim to put the puppy on his passenger seat and that he would check with the driveway-people. And, if the puppy wasn’t theirs, he’d find her a home. Wow, best waive ever!
After about 5 more miles down the road, we came to our first “actual” mini-mart on this trip. It looked pretty shabby outside, but when we entered, we both said WOW! It was large, with lovely tile flooring, and plenty of food options – almost more of a small grocery store than a mini-mart. And, it was spotless, bright, and clean. We stayed there a while to eat our very early lunch, and then started pedaling again.
We came across a number of free-range horses, grazing along the highway, which was rather odd – definitely not something we see in California. About 7 miles from our destination we noticed where the Continental Divide hiking trail joined the bike route, and where our Toaster House buddies will be hiking soon. The whole day we were pedaling by soooooooo many bottles and cans that had been thrown on the dirt – piles and piles and piles. Yuck!
We cruised into our home for today, Cuba, NM, and stopped at a McDonalds for our late lunch, and ended up sitting next to a young guy, whose trail name was Mangus, a Continental Divide hiker. As we talked with him, we learned that he lived in Nevada City for a year, when he was in second grade. Small world!
After dining, we checked out two different motels, and chose one over the other. We moved in, did some maintenance on the bike, took showers, and then walked to decide which restaurant would be best for dinner. We ended up selecting El Bruno, which had a nice atmosphere and decent food. Then it was back to the motel for sleep before our last day of pedaling in Chapter 1.
TFTD: And, Chapter 1 is done!
We woke-up about 6:30, had our breakfast in the room – trail mix with Muscle Milk, which had been frozen solid in the “fridge” overnight. We had to thaw it out by leaving the bottles in the sink, covered with hot water until they thawed. Delicious!
After our dining, we packed-up the bike and headed out for our final day of pedaling. We used (or, tried to use…) Google map directions, since we were taking a different route. First Google told us to turn onto Old Gallina Road, which turned out to be a deeply rutted dried mud road. After about a mile there was a cable across the road, which we were able to navigate under, and about a ½ mile later there was a closed gate, that really stopped us. So we turned around after our 1.5 mile mistake.
The town of Coyote would have been a nice place to have lunch, but no! All the restaurants were closed. The Great Divide is like that: some incredible surprises, both good and bad.
It was a bit chilly in the morning, but warmed to the mid 60’s by about 10. Jackets came off by the third rest break, and the rest of the day we were very comfortable with just leg-warmers and arm-warmers. After about 15 miles, we stopped at the mini-mart / post office, and came close to shipping some gear home, just because it was so convenient.
A couple of miles later… Google, again told us to make a turn. Instead, we regrouped from the strain of the ill-advised short-cut, and stayed on the same road, heading East next to some giant slabs of rock and soil that had been pushed up at about a 45 degree angle – beautiful. Plus, we now had a 10-15 mph tailwind, even more beautiful!
We followed a river-valley, at about 7,500 feet of elevation, which had several pastures back-dropped by 1,000+ feet tall “layer cakes” of rocks. We saw several “balancing rocks” that looked like they were ready to topple at any moment, but none did.
As we pedaled into the afternoon, we noticed some HUGE thunder clouds closing in on us from the West and North. We had about 5 miles to go to reach Highway 84, where we would turn South and to Abiquiu, our stop for today, and this chapter. We reached the highway, grabbed the tailwind, and coasted down a big hill. Flying down the hill, we rounded a turn, and were smashed by severe cross-winds. Very glad there was no traffic since we were buffeted down the hill.
With the tailwind, finally, behaving itself, we cruised into Abiquiu, and were greeted by a sign for the Frosty Cow with “frozen treats”. Yippee! Our kind of place, except it was…Closed. A mini Divide heartbreak, until we went into the mini-mart next door and snapped-up a mango popsicle and coconut popsicle, and a couple of cookies. There was a nice bench out front, so our dining went well. A great way to end Chapter 1 of Ride the Divide.
We could see the thunderstorm approaching, so we decided to get to our hotel, about ½ mile down the road, before all heck broke loose. We arrived at the Abiquiu Inn, a wonderful place to relax and decompress after 560 miles through deserts, mountains, and towns. New Mexico = Beautiful!