Alaska Adventure Machine!

Alaska Adventure Machine!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Forty Years of Cycling

My alarm went off at 5am, my final day and the home stretch! After a quick shower, I ate breakfast and browsed the map. It was about 90 miles from Socorro to my in-laws in Albuquerque. I’d be pedaling through very familiar territory now. As a youth I had bicycle trained and raced along these very roads. Forty years later I has feeling fit and in good form. If I got rolling early I’d be there by noon. I had my goal, and the spark of a challenge to make my ride fun, as I left the quiet rural roads for the congestion of Albuquerque.


The frontage road kept the Interstate in sight, though wandering in some hills. Up and down like a roller coaster. In a car one might even float a bit on the crests, the frequency tuned for 60 mph mayhem.
Then coming over one crest, in the arroyo bottom below, I saw several roadside crosses from an accident. A sadly familiar sight in the Hispanic influenced areas of the Southwest. Gringos get buried in the graveyard and their spirits’ haunted dying moments’ places are forgotten. Not so with the Hispanics, every NM highway has tearful monuments where the breath of life left this earth. Respectfully, I got off my bike and quietly looked closer. Young photographs, candles, toys for a lost child, Catholic icons and saints; a bench to reflect from and a mat to kneel on for heaven-sent prayers. One could feel the pain and loss here. A chaotic crash scene, multiple victims thrown widely, as evidenced by the distances between the crosses.
Was it drinking, drugs or just a fun ride on the hilly road a bit too fast? It didn’t matter ‘how’, the living were stuck with the ‘why’. I had lost a friend the same way during a high school prom night date. He was driving too fast and rolled his sports car coming down from the Sandia Peak Tramway after dinner at the Peak. His was date thrown through the sunroof and lived, the car rolled several times and he was crushed. His parents asked me to go to the police impound lot and go through the smashed car for any of his items, maybe provide them with clues. I remember their desperation, and we all still ask ‘why’?

The frontage road crossed back onto the eastern side of I-25. Now I was back in the fertile areas of the Rio Grande. Lots of nice farms coming into Los Lunas. Soon I was even in Belen. My cycling ‘career’ had begun here at the age of 14. In the 1970s, cycling was becoming a bit of a rage here in the USA. Finally, North America had finally heard of the Tour de France (70 years after it’s inception). Like the start of the running craze, hiking’s birth and the new Earth Day ethos, cycling was on the scene and challenging the V-8 engine. A new cycling concept, called the ‘Century Ride” (100 miles), was propelling the public into fitness training and commuting on bikes. One Saturday evening my father and I were watching the 10 o’clock news on TV (yeah, only 3 channels back then) and the sports commentator was doing his segment on this century ride tomorrow called The Tour of the Rio Grande Valley. Several possible loops, 25 miles, 50 miles, 75 miles and even 100 miles were possible. “Come on down to the University of New Mexico by 7am to register and pedal one of your choice.” I had no interest in any of that, in spite of having just trading in my heavy Schwinn Continental for a lightweight French bike just two weeks earlier. Besides, I didn’t even know how to fix the european style tubular tires, the casing being sewn together with the tube inside and the whole thing glued onto the rims. I didn’t even have a spare tire. Off to bed I went at 10:30pm not even dreaming about cycling.

At 6am my father dragged me out of bed and after a quick bowl of cereal took me down to the University to register. He said for me to just ride what I could and he’d pick me up somewhere along the way. His plan was to have a long breakfast at a downtown cafe, and read the newspaper, picking me up later. Well, he was a news junkie, so that probably meant he’d come after reading the Albuquerque Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post!!

So off I pedaled, joining the mass of several hundred cyclists (who had most likely trained at least one day, unlike me). In tennis shoes, Levi blue jeans, one water bottle, no helmet and no spare tire I pedaled south along the Rio Grande valley. Well, the hours went by, I was having fun and just kept following other cyclists, I had no clue to which distance loop I was on or how far I was going. I just kept pedaling until my dad was going to pick me up.

My father finished his usual mega news reading session (thank God CNN hadn’t been invented yet) and he started driving his jeep on the 25 mile loop to find me. No luck, so he proudly thought I’d be on the 50 mile loop. I wasn’t there either. Worriedly, he sped up, and drove the 75 mile loop. Where was that kid?! 100 mile loop, impossible! Dad found me still pedaling along nearly 80 miles into the 100 mile loop. I was tired and running on empty as the aid stations didn’t really have much beyond oranges, apples and water. Dad drove to a convenience store to get me a few food items and I kept pedaling. My crotch was raw from wearing cotton underwear and ill-fitting blue jeans, and even the bottom of my feet hurt from the pedal pressure on the soft midsoles of my running shoes. In seven hours and 10 minutes I tiredly climbed the last grade to UNM. I was beat, but I was also hooked!

That crazy introduction to cycling gave this teenager a focus and purpose. For the next several years I would train before dawn, ride after school and barely hang onto the adult dominated peloton on Sunday group rides. I soon began to race, and as my body matured and grew stronger, I did better and better. Even as a junior racer (16 years), I broke the New Mexico State Hill Climb Championship time record for Senior Men. I made cycling friends and even got my first job as a teenager at a bike shop. Then I had a major growth spurt and everything fell apart as I struggled with severe knee pain. I had to stop cycling for several years, which broke my heart. I watched from the sidelines as my close friend and training partner win the USA National Road Championships and also become an Olympian. I forgot cycling, and like a first love, that ache will always be fresh.


Today I powered across the Rio Grande for the final time, I driving my pedals downward, round and round, quickly climbing up Gibson Avenue. Now I was a late-50’s man. My cycling racing career had been cut short during those Albuquerque times, but dammit, I was feeling fit now. Steadily I climbed towards Tramway Blvd. Now I was on Central Avenue in heavy Saturday shopping traffic. I had a goal, my in-laws by noon. I pushed hard, but all the traffic lights worked against me. Ten minutes after noon I reached my in-laws. A nice 90 mile day, the last day, capped off with a good climb from the river valley below and I was done.


In two nice tours I had ridden 758 miles from northern Colorado to the Mexican border. Tours which had given me good early season training goals to motivate me during the cold winter days. I had visited with family and friends, even done a wedding.  Cycling hours filled with good reminiscing about youthful times growing up in the Southwest. Now I was done. It felt good, but not totally complete. Somehow I still needed to connect my Alaska ride to Colorado...that’s 3,400 miles in the middle to work on next. Back to the saddle for me!

Jornada del Muerto


As planned, I was on my bike at dawn. This was the only portion of the ride with no towns for resupply along the way. I faced 78 miles of rolling desert hills and arroyos. Other than a quick hop onto the interstate to bypass a gorge, I would be pedaling the original ‘Camino Real’, appropriately numbered State Highway #1. In one stretch of 56 miles I had only one car pass me. I had packed four water bottles for this day.

This hilly road gave me a chance to use some different muscles; often I rose out of my saddle and cranked up the hills furiously against phantom competitors. I was certainly chasing Don Juan’s tilting windmills out here, a bit bored at times, my mind wandering. There was some internal clutter that the expansive western vista helped me throw away. The pavement was rough at times, not being a priority for the cash strapped NM highway department. Yet this road was an enjoyable route worthy of my two wheel explorations.

The early Spanish settlers faced a major stretch without water here. Wikipedia describes it, "The name Journey of the Dead Man probably originated with a German man who died there while fleeing the Inquisition in the later 17th century, although due to the complete lack of water, grazing or firewood the route through this area already had a negative reputation. Although quite flat, the Jornada del Muerto took several days to a week to cross and presented great difficulties to the earliest Spanish travelers who were on foot with carts or wagons pulled by oxen. Bishop Tamaron traveling north on his visitation to New Mexico in 1760. Leaving the Paraje de Robledo traveling 5 leagues:
"On this day, the twelfth of the month and the sixth of the journey, we came to the Jornada del Muerto. To prepare for it, a detour is made to seek the river at a place called San Diego. The night is spent there. Everything necessary is made ready. It is about half a league from the river. Barrels are brought for the purpose. These are filled with water for the people. On the morning of the thirteenth the horses were taken to the river to drink. Somewhat later all the food for the journey was prepared, and at half past seven we left that post with considerable speed, stopping only to change horses. During this interval we ate what there was, and we traveled in this fashion until eight-thirty at night, when we halted opposite the Sierra of Fray Cristobal."
"On the fourteenth day of May, the eighth day of our journey, we made an early start. We reached the river at eleven‑thirty. The livestock were so thirsty that they ran to reach the water. After this fashion were the thirty leagues of this difficult stage traveled."

Finally, I left the desert and nearing Socorro I joined the Rio Grande river where It widens at Bosque del Apache Preserve. Thousands of migrating birds make this their winter home. One of the amazing sights to see are the sandhill cranes, thousands of them overwintering every year. I made a short stop at the visitors center and filled a water bottle. Looking at a USA nature preserve map, I marveled at how many preserves were in Alaska, places I had already been. I was like the migrating birds, north for summer work and returning south to winter. However their commute’s carbon footprint was much more ecological than mine. Alaska Airlines were my wings.

I was looking forward to reaching Socorro by noon. After a long ride along the typical industrial frontage road, I entered town. Perfect timing, lunch time, and a New Mexican burger chain ‘Blakes Lotaburger' was in sight. "A burger and a cool strawberry shake for me please!"



Soon the burger was eaten and the empty shake’s cup were tossed in the bin. I pedaled over to my hotel. A bit of a ‘dive’ at $58.00 per night, I thought. The decor was old but the room clean and on the quiet side of the building at least. The wifi worked and so did the A/C. Good enough for a touring cyclist. The attached restaurant was conveniently located for an early dinner.

I walked over to Walmart to get some fruit, yogurt, milk and cereal for tomorrow’s breakfast. I took several photos of the old Hammel Historical Society building nearby. I loved the old stonework. At least something remained of settlers past in town.

Then a bit of TV, a stretch and I fell asleep to the humming of the A/C unit.

"Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting!"

At 7am I rolled northwards on Highway 185, leaving Las Cruces, NM behind. As my legs were warming up, with an easy spin, I said a quick prayer for my buddy who was going under anesthesia right then for his hernia operation. Too bad we couldn’t share some cycling together during this visit, but life’s timing was a bit off. Hopefully my visit would inspire his recovery and not depress him more with the forced layoff and rehab.


The massive pecan orchards shaded the road. In the old days these fields were planted with chilies, more appropriate for desert conditions. But a sort of false market condition was created through easy access to both irrigation and ground water pumping. These farmers were making money hand over fist with the combination of water and southwestern sunshine. In fact, often NM’s pecan production was #1 in the nation, mostly shipping the pecans to China. Georgia often tied NM’s production, but evidently the NM pecans were of higher quality and thus more desirable and profitable pound for pound. The easy access to water though was under serious threat by a lawsuit with Texas. Texas claims the extreme pumping of groundwater was actually sucking more surface water from the Rio Grande (that would have to eventually recharge the groundwater table below) than was allowed by treaty. Texas seems to have the winning argument and a looming collapse the NM pecan industry was worry-some.

I was not worried about the future of pecans as I enjoyed the tree shaded ride and coolness of the inefficiently and wastefully flooded orchards. With the cool of the morning, and this artificial air conditioning effect, I was clipping along quite nicely.


The historic Fort Sheldon came into views, a few slumping adobe walls visible. I decided to take a quick break and wheeled over to the visitors center to take a look. I was there too early to enter the grounds, the gates being locked. However, the grounds were quit lovely, being planted with a wide variety of native plants, many of them blooming. I enjoy taking a few photos before continuing northwards.



I was enjoying this quiet rural road tracing the Rio Grande. Water is life in the desert and I, like the conquistadors on the ‘Camino Real’, kept close to the river. It always surprises me how a river can carve through the arid desert and there is no further greening of the land beyond a few yards of the river. The Green River and Colorado River are the same way. Only dust, rocks and cactus beyond the river banks, weird!



My daydreaming was suddenly interrupted when three dogs sprinted out of a farm driveway in hot pursuit of me. Two of them were Great Danes and one really looked serious. I tried to accelerate but he had the jump on me and cut in front. As I yelled at him to stop, I clumsily reached behind my back for some pepper spray in my jersey pocket. As he closed within a few feet of me, snarling and barking, I somehow, quite desperately, thought to yell “Sit” to him. And it worked! He stopped and sat looking confusedly as me,  just long enough for me to stand on the pedals and make my escape. That universal command used by every dog owner had done it’s charm. Whew, I’ll remember that trick again! I also relocated the pepper spray to my front side, now clipped onto the chest sternum strap of my Camel Back pack. I was now ready for a quick draw if need be.

The pecans fields finally gave way to the chili fields near the outskirts of Hatch, NM. Hatch has a long prideful tradition of chili production. As green chilis gained popularity nationally, autumn chili stands and roadside roasters had even made their way to Denver. Now Hatch was in competition with Pueblo’s chilis, and the ‘buy local’ movement was diminishing Hatch’s distribution into Colorado and beyond. I was sure looking forward to a ‘real chili’ meal in Hatch, but I was making too much early morning progress.

I had hoped to have lunch at Sparky’s restaurant in Hatch, which is a real institution with southern NM residents. Funky decor and killer green chili dishes. Sparky’s was closed, so instead I found a non-descript small local diner to enjoy my green chili fix. Foregoing high tech goo packets, I stuffed my gut with authentic Huevos Ranchos slathered in green chili sauce. Yummy!

With all my blood supply being seemingly shunted to my digestive tract instead of my legs, I wobbly and light-headedly rode out of Hatch. I had definitely overdone my meal and the desert heat was building. Like a sweating Sumo wrestler I worked my way northwards, the Rio Grande off in the distance, laughing at me.

Finally, I reached Truth or Consequences, NM by 1pm. The town’s weird name was from a 1950’s game show, having no relevance now. “T or C” is what New Mexicans call it. The town sits in a good position on the Rio Grande and even has natural hot springs, a real draw. But I was hot already and I needed was a cold shower, pronto! I found a quaint motel, reminiscent of Route 66 architecture, and checked-in. The owner’s sleepy dog had chosen my shaded doorway to rest, not budging at all when I lifted my bike over him. He was having a real siesta.

After a cool shower, a nap and stretching session, I washed my cycling clothes in the room’s hand basin; a routine all long distance cyclist share.
 I walked down to a real local’s favorite restaurant, the Pacific Grill. It was quite busy with families and snowbird retirees. I too enjoyed my meal. Afterwards I found a mexican restaurant to buy a take-away burrito dinner, not for now, but the morning.


With the desert heat rising into the upper 80’s, I was determined to be already cycling as soon as the sun cracks the horizon in the morning (6:12am). It wasn’t possible to find any restaurant open early enough for that plan. So I had a good Plan B in place now. It had been a good day’s ride and I was already looking forward to tomorrow.


Pedaling the "Camino Real de Tierra Adentro"

Arriving late morning in El Paso, the bus pulled into the station. A quick glance about showed it was fairly quiet, maybe a dozen folks waiting, and much cleaner and safer perhaps than the Denver bus station. No vagrants loitering about. I quickly reassembled my bike and tossed the cardboard box into a nearby dumpster.
I was ready to follow the “Camino Real de Tierra Adentro” (Spanish for Royal Road to the Interior Land) route north. This was originally a 1,600 miles trade route from Mexico City  to San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico. The Spanish conquistadors (1511) preceded the European pilgrims (1620) into North America by more than 109 years! A fact overlooked in our northern european-centric migration myth building. With the current Trump “Build the Wall” mania and immigration debates, a simple look at our nation’s map will bear out the far earlier explorations and settlement from the southern direction. Spanish words naming our states: California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Montana, Florida. Major cities named in Spanish: Los Angeles, San Bernadino, San Clemente, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Pueblo, El Paso, Amarillo, Loredo, etc. Spanish and Mexican heritage is the foundation story of much the of the western United States, with strong connections continuing today.


Entering the heavy traffic on South Mesa Street, I biked with my guard up, not sure how bike-aware they might be. It took about 30 minutes to gain my way out of the heavy, seemingly rollerball, traffic of the inner city. I felt some relief as I worked northwards into more industrial areas and the start of agricultural fields. Here were wide highway shoulders, tho often gravelly from vehicles making the many turns on and off the highway from the graveled business driveways. The riding certainly wasn’t postcard worthy, but it felt good to be finally pedaling on my journey.


The distance from El Paso, TX to my friends home in northern Las Cruces, NM was 49 miles. A good Day 1 intro for the muscles and butt. I’d be there mid-afternoon and already the temperature was in the low 80’s. My inner-thermostat was still calibrated for Colorado snows, and I really felt the heat. A kind landscape worker refilled my water bottle from his garden hose as I slathered on more suntan lotion. I was looking forward to some A/C soon! I crossed the Texas-New Mexico border and felt the joy of quick progress.


At the southern end of Las Cruces I pulled over at a Mom and Pop convenience store for something cool to drink. The wife didn’t speak english and got her husband to help me out at the register. Enjoying the store’s cool A/C, I lingered a bit and chatted with him. They had just been up to the Denver for the Gem and Mineral show and had an interest in rocks. He said many cyclists crossing the USA, via the southern route of Florida-California, pass by their store. They had even hosted cyclists for the night via the website WarmShowers.com, although were not currently listed on it. I would have never guessed that a tiny little shop like theirs would have a cycling connection. Travel is funny that way, often expanding one’s assumptions or even opinions of folks.

Refreshed for the last few miles through Las Cruces, I competed with the cars as there was no bike lane. Heavy road work meant detours and finally I entered the quiet rural outskirts of the northern end of town and my journey for the day was complete. I spent a pleasant evening catching up with my old high school buddy and his father, daughter and new son-in-law. His daughter’s wedding had been the impetus for my ride south from Colorado to Albuquerque last May; it was fun to continue the southern route by seeing them again, without all the wedding hoopla going on. Many stories were shared and it was a great evening with all.

Southwestern Connection

Winter snows capped the Rockies and memories of last year’s bike tour to New Mexico were still strong, nearly twelve months later. It had been a great ride, albeit under stormy skies and hampered by my cycling partner’s illness. The driving force for that ride had been to attend an old friend’s daughter’s wedding in New Mexico. Logistics and the wedding location had meant a southern end point at Albuquerque (458 miles). A few more cycling days would have allowed me to push then all the way to the Mexican border at El Paso, TX. Now a year later I wanted to complete that southern leg of my ride.

Commitments this year meant an early May ride and a shortened preparation timeline. It seems like the specter of early or late season weather is a common element of my bike tours. I was sure hoping this would not mean a tough ride. This desert Southwest ride could be too warm, too cold and/or windy in early May. Having lived and cycled in NM for years, I dreaded the thought of sideways winds whipping up tumbleweeds and sandblasting grit in my eyes and gears. One Tour of the Rio Grande Valley century ride (100 miles) I had planned on finishing in close to four hours, but took nearly seven under horrific sandstorm winds. With this memory still vivid after 40 years, I packed four water bottles for long days in the saddle and three spare tubes for the inevitable goathead thorns. In a way, I dreaded this desert homecoming.

Usually one just flies from home to the start of one’s trip. However, it seemed one logical way might be to take the Greyhound Bus from Denver to El Paso, squeezing in an overnight with friends in Albuquerque southward. For only $70 fare and $20 bike box fee it was a deal compared with $173 airfare and $150 oversize bike fee charged American Airlines. By reversing my ride to be from El Paso to ABQ, I could be picked up by my wife at her parents at the ride’s conclusion in ABQ. Thus she would visit them and I could mix a family and cycling vacation. With this plan in place, I would leave at 6am in Denver, arriving ABQ 5PM. Then continuing at 5AM the next morning, I would arrive El Paso 9:50AM. It seemed like a pretty straight forward plan.

After leaving the frankly dismal and depressing Denver bus station (lots of homeless people crashing out there), the bus quickly made it’s way south on I-25. After a short Colorado Springs stop, I soon began a conversation with an 70-ish passenger from Poland. An interesting fellow, who was globe trotting in his senior years. His wife did not like to fly, but that wasn’t stopping him. He was on a three week bus tour here, his second trip now to the USA. As a civil engineer he had worked in Libya for two years, Saudi Arabia for a year and Finland for a year. His personal travels had taken him to the summit of Kilimanjaro, Cape Town, Australia, Asia and all over Europe. We had many places traveled in common, marveling we had both even been to Nordkapp, Norway, too. The time and miles flew by, and soon we arrived in ABQ. Marek planned to spend a day in ABQ, so I gave him advice on the sights to see and we parted ways.

After an enjoyable evening with friends and fitful rest in ABQ, I was soon rolling again southwards to El Paso. The bus ride from ABQ to El Paso is pretty boring on I-25; sage and cactus covered sandy plains, and seemingly waterless hills and mountains in the simmering distance. “Well, some rides you do to fill a blank spot on a map and calendar” I thought to myself. I hoped my journey by bike may find some new vistas (maybe only internal ones) along the banks of the Rio Grande river as it paralleled the highway. While in the 1500s, the Spanish conquistadors arduously trekked ‘al Norte’ along the Rio Grande, in hot heavy armor, I instead would be zipping along in lycra from air-conditioned motel to air-conditioned motel.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Homecoming

It was another rainy morning. The forecast was for nearly 2" of rain along the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains, roughly 80 miles away. It had rained all night here in Espanola, NM. Clad once again in wool socks, neoprene booties and full rain gear,  I turned on my flashing rear tail light and joined the 6:30 AM commuter traffic bound for Santa Fe, NM. After a few hectic miles of pedaling alongside the highway traffic, I found a peaceful frontage road to ride on. I climbed steadily out of the Espanola valley. I passed Camel Rock, which I remembered from my youth. I wondered if this frontage road had once been the main highway, now bypassed by the multi-lane highway nearby. Taking a couple photos here felt nostalgic.

Highway 89 was shade-covered by tall cottonwood trees. "A pretty spot" I thought as I cycled through Tesuque Pueblo.  After a few miles I dropped into Santa Fe. I was still in rush hour morning traffic there. I was making good time, though wary of the dark rain-laden clouds. I stopped at a gas station and bought a sandwich, as I still hadn't had any breakfast due to my early start.
After battling through the construction zones on Cerrillos Road, I sped South out of Santa Fe. I began to lose elevation rapidly. That was not good, as I'd face lots of steep hills to regain elevation on the backside of Sandia Peak. I passed some fanciful wind vane bicycle art outside of Santa Fe.
Up and down I went, passing through the mining district of old Madrid. I was enjoying the distinctive southwestern landscape in spite of all the climbing involved.
All alone in my world, suddenly another cyclist appeared. Wow, another touring soul! I pulled over and we had a chat. His name was Greg, a college student from Tempe, AZ. He was headed to Colorado Springs to work as a camp counselor for the summer. He was camping out along the way, although often grabbing a couch for the night he'd located through a cycling site www.warmshowers.org. His ride was to be 750 miles long and he had 75 days to do it. Not exactly a rocket pace, but he was also killing time until the job started. He was quite the cycling novice and had no idea about clip-in pedals or even toe clips for his feet. His bike was a heavy steel steed. But he had spunk and youth on his side. I was sure he'd make a great youth counselor, already creating a good role model for the youth he'd soon meet. Fancy bike equipment was not needed, his 'can do' attitude surely would propel him the rest of the way!
I was making good time as I reached the eastern side of Sandia Peak. Albuquerque was just 15 miles away. It was chilly out, scud clouds hanging low. I treated myself to a coffee and pastry at a Cedar Crest bakery. I phoned home to have my wife forewarn my in-laws of my impending arrival. With a warm belly I raced down Tijeras Canyon, a fortuitous tailwind whisking me into Albuquerque, the "Duke City". Still wearing winter cycling tights, neoprene booties and rain jacket, I knocked on my in-law's door. In seven hours I had quickly ridden 90 miles and over 5,000' of steep hill climbing. My fifth day, and my last ride of the 458 miles, had been done in good form. An amazing route through central Colorado and northern New Mexico had been ridden. I was back in my old stomping grounds. It was time to visit family and friends and even dress up for a wedding! The tour had exceeded my expectations. A "Credit Card" type of speed touring using motels and cafes versus the full camping and remote Alaskan ride of last September. It was fun to go light and fast for a change. "What would be next ride" was already in the back of my mind!


Steaming South

The morning dawned bright and clear. The cobalt blue skies of the American West lifted my spirits as I clipped into my pedals. I had a quick goodbye with Dan as he rolled over to sleep in (finally!) and await his car ride home. On the edge of Antonito, NM is the northern terminus of the Chama Toltec Scenic Railroad. This coal-fired steam train first began running in 1880. Now it is a popular tourist ride of 64 miles, chugging it's way through sage hills and alpine aspen groves. Although not officially running for the season yet, I was fortunate to be there as they were moving the steam engine around the switch yard. A big black coal plume bellowed skyward, pumping steam power to the big wheels. And a long toot of the whistle...magic!
video

With the whistle ringing in my ear, and New Mexico a few minutes ride away, I enjoyed the cool morning air. I reflected a bit more, with some melancholy, about Dan's dropping out. It sure had been a good time with him. We'd figure out some future adventure fun someday. Yeah for sure! I took photos at the NM border and pedaled into the home state of my youth. It felt good to be returning this way, by bike.
The miles passed quickly. The grass lands of the San Luis Valley gave way to rolling juniper and pinon pine covered hills. Alpine mountains were in the distance. A very quiet highway, perfect for cycling. After 64 miles I passed through Ojo Caliente, NM. Meaning "hot water" literally in Spanish. This is the bi-lingual "Land of Enchantment". No stopping at the hot springs for me; the upscale spa there would have been a wonderful respite. But I had miles to ride and a friend's wedding date to arrive by! I dropped into drier country now.


 I finished my day's ride at Espanola, NM. I had ridden 87 miles. I called Dan up check in. He was still in Antonito, CO awaiting his ride. He was pretty bummed to not be riding; even a bit more so at not having left Colorado yet, and I was done pedaling for the day. We said our goodbyes and hung up. I celebrated my progress by having a large pizza delivered to my motel room.