Alaska Adventure Machine!

Alaska Adventure Machine!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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.

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