Denver to Chicago

 

Fall 2006

 

Denis Kertz, ©2006

 

Day 12: Thu, Sep 14, 2006 - Fruita, CO to Moab, UT [81.8, 7:13:52, 11.3 mph]

At some point in the night I felt a few rain drops through the open vestibule.  That motivated me to get up and get my hanging laundry inside.  Later it rained some more.

 

In the morning the weather looked uncertain but I decided to head out for Moab.  I stopped at a food mart for real milk for my cereal and then I stopped at a grocery store for more food.

 

I left just after 8:30 on Highway 6.  Moab was about 100 miles from Fruita.  I could take 6 only about 10 miles to Mack and then I had to get on the Interstate for 30 miles unless I wanted to ride a gravel road.  While on 6 it started to drizzle so I put on my rain jacket for a few minutes.

 

At Mack I got on I70.  There were some long climbs and descents but no excessive grades.  Traffic was reasonably light so the noise pollution wasn’t too bad.  It also helped that the scenery was pretty good.  When I made it into Utah there was even a view area exit.

 

After 30 miles on I70 I took the Disco exit where a sign warned of no services for 54 miles.  The road was good but uneven pavement that made for a somewhat jarring ride.  Then I turned on 128, sometimes called the Colorado River road, - the road to Moab and it was a good road.

 

It was hard to tell where 128 was heading because of the uneven terrain.  Eventually it led to some cottonwood trees and the appearance of the Colorado River.  In a few more miles it lead to Dewey Bridge where I experienced that mushy, sinking feeling as my rear tire went flat.  The bridge itself was wide with concrete sides to lean the bike against so I did the repair on the bridge.  It is a little more involved with a Rohloff hub to remove the rear wheel but I managed.  I also found the culprit, a short sliver that I felt inside the tire and removed.

 

As I completed the fix it started to drizzle.  I rode up the road 100 yards to a campground and waited under an information board overhang to see what would develop.  The drizzle pretty much quit after 15 minutes and I took off and encountered a dramatic change in scenery.  The road passed through a red, steep walled canyon just wide enough for the river and the road.  After a few miles the canyon opened up to more red hills and the road moved away from the river.

 

\About 10 miles from the campground it started to rain again.  I took refuge under a tree at a ranch entrance for 10 minutes until the rain abated.  Then the red walls moved in again as the river meandered through a canyon.  Around a long bend there were 4 campgrounds and I stopped at the Oak Grove Campground.  It was a little expensive at $10 with only a table, fire grate, and pit toilet but it did have a view of the river.  It also didn’t have any water so it was good I carried extra water in a 2 liter waterbag.


Day 13: Fri, Sep 15, 2006 - Moab, UT [15.5, 1:57:00, 9.5 mph]

It rained several times during the night and hard at times but I was comfortable in my tent.  In the morning it was cloudy but not raining so I packed up my wet tent and took off for Moab, 8 miles away.  The scenery along the Colorado River continued as it ended yesterday, threading its way through a red rock canyon.

 

When I reached Moab it was evident this was a tourist town with most places a campground, motel, restaurant, bike shop, or adventure travel shop.  I rode just past Center Street where I spied the Moab Diner which my friend Dave had raved about.  I got there around 8:30 for breakfast and there was a wait list.  That was surprising because half of the diner was closed to seating for some reason.  I waited about 15 minutes.  Shortly after I was seated they opened the other half and the wait line disappeared.  Strange.  I had their 2+2+2 which was good and pretty reasonable for a tourist place - $7.  By the time I was done the place was filled.

 

I planned this day for a rest day and the weather made that a good decision.  It rained off and on and the wind was strong.  Since I planned several day rides in the area the next order of business after food was lodging.  The Colorado couple I met south of Rangely suggested the Lazy Lizard Hostel, a mile south of town.  In addition to the normal dorm rooms they had private rooms and small cabins, which was my interest.  There were no cabins available for 3 nights so a private room was the choice.  It was a good choice at $22/night and had room for my bike so I was happy.

 

After settling in I made my way to the nice library where the Internet was down for some undetermined time.  And it wasn’t just the library but some network that apparently severed a large part of Utah.  On my way back to the hostel I did some food shopping.  Just as I was about to ride the mile back to the hostel it poured rain for a few minutes so I waited it out.  Then it poured again so I waited some more.  Finally, it was clear enough and I made it back to the hostel where I set up my tent to let it dry and washed off the ground cloth.  I also cleaned and lubed my bike chain and lubed other parts of my bike.

 

I called the library and their Internet was still down.  I was told a fiber optic cable was damaged by the weather last night and it might be a couple of days before it was repaired.  I rode to a small pizza place later and their Internet connection had just come online so I checked email.  I had a 7 inch personal pizza and a Deadhorse Ale – both very good.

 

Back at the hostel I got ready for the Arches National Park ride.  The weather was projected to be dry but windy and cool.

Day 14: Sat, Sep 16, 2006 - Moab, UT [53.7, 5:44:57, 9.3 mph]

I left about 7:30 and stopped at the Moab Diner for breakfast.  Unlike yesterday they already had both dining sections opened so I guess they figured it would fill on a Saturday.  I had the same breakfast except I had buck wheat pancakes.

 

I headed out to Arches National Park near 8:30, about 5 miles north of Moab.  I paid $5 to enter and the attendant warned me to watch out for busses.  However, I only saw a couple busses.  What I did see was a pretty steady stream of other vehicles which were pretty well behaved.

 

The route to Devils Garden, the farthest point, included an initial steep climb followed by 2 long climbs and descents on the way out and the reverse on the way back for a total of about 4,200 feet climbing.  With all the traffic I had a decided advantage on the bike.  The popular stops had full parking lots but I just rode up on my bike to wherever I wanted to be.

 

There was a variety of great scenery – red rock fins, arches, and sculpted rocks.  I did a few short hikes, to the Windows Section for views through a couple of arches and to Landscape Arch, one of the largest arches in the world at 300 feet long.  On the way out I was disappointed with the hazy view in the far distance but by late afternoon the haze had cleared and I had great views of the La Sal Mountains and the Moab Valley.

 

It took me until 2:00 to reach the farthest point and another hour for my hike to Landscape Arch.  So I started back at 3:00 and saw another loaded cyclist pulling in.  It looked like he had a Bike Friday with front panniers and rear trunk bag.  I presumed he was intending to camp at the only campground in the park.  As I was riding to Arches in the morning I had thought about whether camping would have worked better but the entrance station had a campground FULL sign and you had to pay for camping at the entrance.  Because I wasn’t camping I used only a single rear pannier and felt like I was riding unloaded and that made the climbs easier.

 

I got back to Moab just after 5:00 and stopped at Subway for dinner.  Then I picked up some groceries and returned to the hostel.

Day 15: Sun, Sep 17, 2006 - Moab, UT [107.9, 9:15:03, 11.7 mph]

This turned out to be a longer and harder day than I expected on a ride to Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park.  I started differently with breakfast at the Pancake Haus – enticed by an ad for banana walnut pancakes.  The pancakes were good but skimpy on the walnuts – they were hard to find.  But they didn’t skimp on the price - $11.30 with coffee.  This was quite a bit more than the Moab Diner which was a much better value.

 

I left at 8:30 and rode 9 miles north of Moab for the 313 turnoff.  I took a bike path part of the way and stayed on it after it changed into an old road even when a fence appeared.  Fortunately, the fence was down in one spot and I moved over to the road.

 

It was 16 miles on 313 to the junction with the Dead Horse turnoff.  This was a 1,700 foot gradual climb through some nice scenery.  Along the way it dawned on me that there wasn’t going to be a lot of sight seeing time if I insisted on visiting both parks.

 

I went to Canyonlands first ($5 entry fee) and made it to the Visitor Center by 12:30, a little earlier than I had projected.  I celebrated by taking a 20 minute break and throwing some calories down my throat.

 

This part of Canyonlands was called Island in the Sky.  It was a mesa that sat between 2 huge canyons that the Colorado and Green rivers flowed through on each side of the mesa.  Right next to the Visitor Center was an awesome view of the Colorado River side of the canyon.

 

From the Visitor Center it was 12 miles to the Grand View point at the end of the road.  I figured I had 2 hours, until 2:30, to do that section which didn’t give much time.  For a good part the canyons were not in view from the road.  Towards the end there were a couple of astounding views of the Green River canyon.  At Grand View there was a huge panoramic view.

 

On the return trip I got lucky and saw 3 Desert Big Horn sheep not too far off the road.  I made it back to the Visitor Center a little after my 2:30 target.  Then I had to retreat 5 miles mostly uphill to the Dead Horse turnoff.  I made that close to 3:30, compared to my 3:00 target.

 

It was mostly downhill with some tailwind on the 8 miles to Dead Horse State Park ($4 entry fee).  The end was the “neck” that had another astounding view of the canyon with the Colorado River visible in a horseshoe bend.  I managed to spend about 30 minutes admiring the scenery before I had to leave.  The return was harder because it was mostly uphill and into some headwind back to the turnoff but I made it around 5:00.

 

At that point I was in good shape with about 26 miles to go.  The first leg back to 191 was mostly downhill as it lost 1,7000 feet.  Along the way I surprised several deer near the road and they bounded off.

 

Back at the main road it was 9 miles back to town.  After a mile or so, it became a gradual downhill and easy pedaling.  The sun was also setting and displayed its magic on the red cliffs of Arches, as the shade line was creeping up the rocks.

 

I made it to town in the waning daylight and stopped for pizza at Isabelle’s Pizza again.  Only this time I ordered a 12 inch rather than 7 inch pizza and finished it all along with a Dead Horse Ale.   I had to return to the hostel in darkness but I had my rear blinkie so that wasn’t a problem.

 

This was a much longer day than I had anticipated and resulted in my first century of the trip.  In retrospect, there wasn’t nearly enough time to really enjoy the 2 parks.  It would have been much better if I could have camped at Dead Horse State Park and broken the day up into 2 days.  However, Dead Horse was a very popular campsite and required advanced reservations.  There were a couple of campsites along the road to the parks but they had the limitation of no water.  Water was only available at the Canyonlands Visitor Center for purchase or at the Dead Horse campground and it was available at Dead Horse only because they trucked it in.

Day 16: Mon, Sep 18, 2006 - Moab, UT [68.7, 6:38:43, 8.8 mph]

I went back to the Moab Diner for my standard 2+2+2 breakfast.  With coffee it came to $7, almost half the cost of the Pancake Haus banana walnut pancakes.

 

Today’s finale of the 3 rides was the La Sal Mountain Loop of 62 miles.  It required about 4,200 feet of climbing.  I picked up the Spanish Valley Drive that paralleled 191 for about 8 miles.  It didn’t climb much but I could tell it was gaining elevation as I was only moving at 8 mph.  I saw a different part of Moab, passing along ranches and a couple housing developments.  Then the road turned east toward the La Sals.  After some reasonable climbing the climb entered the Big Nasty Climb, a 7 mile climb gaining 2,400 feet that I covered mostly at 3.5-4.5 mph.  It was good I had my very low gear and only one pannier.  I could see a lot of folks having trouble with this climb, mostly due to inadequate gearing.  I suspect a lot of folks did some pushing.

 

When I reached the 8,000 foot level there was some up and down riding with nice views of the La Sals and some changing colors in the hillsides.  Just after starting the descent there was an awesome view of the Castle Valley and a couple famous rock pinnacles called the Priest & the Nuns and Castle Rock.

 

The descent could have been a screamer but the road was too rough to turn the bike loose.  The other problem was my computer started acting up again.  The computer would stop recording sporadically, losing about 10 miles overall.  When the road dead ended I turned northwest on to Castle Valley Road.  This road was much better and it was smooth sailing in the 20s mph.

 

When this road ended, I headed toward Moab on the Colorado River Road, which I had ridden in on my initial approach to Moab.  The weather was better with only blue sky but the view was familiar.  I rode the familiar 22 miles back to town and stopped at a fast food place that advertised Teriyaki Bowls.  I had the hot’n’spicy chicken with rice and vegetables – a good choice.

 

Back at the hostel I cleaned up and did a load of laundry.  Then I rode to the Moab Brewery, a very popular place, for a couple of beers and wrote my notes.


Day 17: Tue, Sep 19, 2006 - Moab, UT [10.6, 1:06:38, 9.5 mph]

I was in no rush on my rest day but I still got up at my usual time.  I rode to the Slickrock Café just after 7:30 but it wasn’t open and no sign showed the hours.  I chose this place because it had sourdough pancakes and I wanted to try them.  I figured they would open at 8:00 so I wandered around the main block in town to kill time.

 

At 8:00 they still weren’t open and others came along peering inside, also wondering when this mysterious place opened.  Unlike me most of them wandered off.  Finally, at about 8:20 I saw someone enter but I thought that might be a worker.  When someone else entered I checked and it was open.  I picked a nice corner table with sunshine.  Service was slow but I eventually ordered a full stack of pancakes, $5.50 for 3, or so I thought.  When they came I didn’t realize right away that there were only 2.  So I queried my waitress when she showed up again, saying I had never heard of a full stack being less than 3.  She answered that it was only 2 and I wasn’t thrilled.  Then she came back and said she was having another pancake made at no extra charge.  Then when she brought the check she noted she had filled the order for a short stack, which was why I only got 2 pancakes.  She said to just pay for the short stack, $4.75, and not worry.

 

From this I surmised that the incremental cost of a 3rd pancake was $0.75.  At that rate I might have ordered a couple more.  I wasn’t exactly sure about the waitress but the place appeared to be short-handed and she seemed to have difficulty with the situation whereas a good waitress can usually handle this with aplomb.

 

When I pad the bill, I asked the manager and he said they open at 8:00 but the cook was late.  I also suggested posted hours would be useful.  He agreed but said the owner didn’t want to post hours because they changed through the year, as if it was not possible to change the posted hours accordingly.  Fortunately, I was in no rush today and this was all somewhat comical.

 

After eating I had an Internet session at the library but could not do email there.  So I went to Isabella’s Pizza where they had 2 PCs.  After I took care of email I went outside to unlock my bike and noticed a Vaseline Lip Therapy lying on the ground by the bike rack, just like the one I lost the day before.  And right next to it was a rubber band just like I carry for holding my maps on my aero bars.  It was pretty obvious I had dropped both of these the other night when I stopped for pizza and they were still laying untouched after more than a day.

 

The other important business was checking the batteries for my bike computer to better understand what was causing the sporadic computer behavior.  I stopped at a Radio Shack to use a voltmeter.  As I suspected the main unit battery was low and I replaced it.  But I tested a couple batteries that I had replaced and a couple of them were fine.  So the mystery was remained.

 

Then things got stranger.  The computer didn’t work at all with the new battery for about 10 minutes.  Then it wouldn’t stop.  It started recording distances at a furious pace, even when I stopped the bike and then when I removed the battery from the transmitter.  At that point I started checking the local bike shops, which I was planning to do anyway.  The first one, Poison Spider, carried the VDO brand but hadn’t had/heard of problems.  My model was a C3DS and they had the C4DS, the next higher model.  It cost $90 so I was faced with laying out some significant cash even though my unit was under a 5-year warranty and less than a year old.

 

First thing I did was remove and re-insert the battery and that basically restored the unit’s sanity.  Possibly the software went nuts and had to be rebooted.  Still, I had a couple short intermittent hiccups during the day but I was loath to spend $90 as a backup in the event my unit failed completely.  There was a possibility my unit was draining its battery excessively but I knew I could buy a number of CR2032s at about $3 per battery and still beat the $90.  Further checking revealed that none of the other shops carried the VDO line.

 

One good thing did happen – I found a used book store.  I had only a 100 pages left in Bloodlines so I knew I would need another paperback by the weekend.  So I found Antarctica, a novel of about 600 pages for $2.50 - too good a deal to pass up.

 

I ate at Subway on the way home and picked up some food at the grocery store.  Later, as I was packing my bike I had my door open and Luban, another touring cyclist of Bulgarian descent, poked his head in and asked to see my bike.  So we got to talking about touring and bicycles and we eventually realized he was the touring cyclist I saw pushing his bike up Colorado National Monument while I was zooming down.  He started in Grand Junction, taking a train from New Jersey, and planned to end up in Albuquerque.  He had an older bike with some wheel problems.  His low gear was a 42/36 which explained why he was pushing up the Monument.  I gave him my route maps for the 3 day rides I had done that I was about to recycle.  An interesting conversation.

 

A reasonable day off except for the computer hassles.

Day 18: Wed, Sep 20, 2006 - Moab, UT to Monticello, UT [56.0, 7:37:26, 7.3 mph]

I checked out of the hostel and headed to the Moab Diner for the last time and my usual 2+2+2.  After breakfast I wanted to mail a postcard but was told I would have to go to the post office since there were no drop boxes.  Unwilling to do that, I headed south on 191.  I stopped again at the hostel figuring they could handle my postcard but they said they couldn’t.  Strange.

 

It was 54 miles to Monticello and it was mostly uphill climbing, almost 3,000 feet.  So it was slow going and the healthy headwind didn’t help.  There was also a lot of traffic including large trucks which made it a noisy ride but safe with a wide shoulder.

 

After about 15 miles I stopped at the Hole N” The Rock attraction, a house carved in a rock, because it had a small store.  This was likely the only place for a drink until Monticello so I took advantage.  As I left it looked like rain and I felt a few drops.  Before long I put on my rain gear to protect against the light rain and cool weather.  It didn’t rain that long but I kept my rain gear on because of the cool weather and wind.

 

After the La Sal Junction, road construction forced a one lane road section.  This was good because it bundled the traffic together so I only had to deal with traffic in my lane every 15-20 minutes.

 

I took a 20 minute break around 1:30 with the weather looking good.  But as the afternoon wore on the clouds moved in and it looked certain I would get wet again.  I seemed to maneuver around rain areas but the clouds finally closed in and I got more light rain.  I had one last big climb and then I got hit with a strong west wind that was occasionally gusting and trying to blow me into the traffic lane.  There was little traffic but I had to be vigilant and the last 4-5 miles into town were not fun.

 

In town I made it to the visitor center at 5:00 and was surprised it was open until 7:00.  I got good help/information there, both for town and also for the route down to the New Mexico border.  The weather prediction was for strong winds and more rain through the night so I opted for a motel and stayed at the National 9 for $35.  It was a very good value with a nice size room.

 

I immediately headed out to a pizza place where I got a small pizza and drink for $10.  It wasn’t gourmet pizza but it was decent, filling, and another good value.  Walking back to the motel I stopped at the library which was open until 9:00 (1:30-9:00) so I took advantage of the Internet access.  Then I retired to the motel.

 

A fairly hard day due to the climbing and not helped by the weather.

Day 19: Thu, Sep 21, 2006 - Monticello, UT to Aneth, UT [74.7, 6:49:29, 10.9 mph]

The Weather Channel reported 40F at Blanding so I knew it was at least that cold in Monticello since it was 800 feet higher.  TWC also forecasted 15-25 mph west winds which didn’t thrill me.

 

I rode to the Lamplighter Inn at the north end of town because the pizza place said that was the only place serving breakfast.  They served breakfast but it was a continental breakfast for their customers.  I rode back to the 191/666 intersection and just east on 666 was a breakfast place.  The waitress was a one-speed ambler who had a throw wrapped around her neck as if it was a fashion statement.  Apparently she thought it was cold in the warm room but removed it later.

 

The menu was very basic so I ordered the wheat pancakes with ham but was told only buttermilk was available.  Later the waitress came back and said ham wasn’t available either so I had bacon.  The pancakes were sizeable and plump although a little burnt but it was a filling breakfast.

 

The route to Bluff was 48 miles, almost all descending as it lost 3,000 feet so it look like a short, easy day.  Heading out I saw another breakfast place and then a bunch of signs warning of deer crossings.

 

After 7 miles there was a significant climb followed by a more significant descent.  There was another fair climb and then I approached Blanding after 24 miles.  I saw a billboard advertising $25 rooms at the Sunset Inn, where I had stayed in 2002 when I stayed in Blanding on my ride across southern Utah.

 

I stopped at a food mart for milk and had a 2nd breakfast of cereal.  I stopped at a grocery store to replenish my cereal and continued on to Bluff, another 24 miles mostly downhill.  It turned out to be a good weather day with sunshine and the forecasted strong west wind never materialized.

 

I reached Bluff at 1:30, a town of 380 with several motels and restaurants and a couple RV Parks.  Given that, I expected Bluff might be an interesting place but it had nothing else.  Rather than kill most of an afternoon doing nothing I elected to head east on 262 to get a head start on Shiprock, tomorrow’s destination.  Montezuma Creek and Aneth were 14 and 23 miles down the road but I didn’t really know what they had to offer in the way of services.

 

It was an interesting ride, the most scenic part of the day.  The road twisted on a roller coaster through reddish sandy land with dry ravines and mountains in the distance as it roughly followed the San Juan River.  Montezuma Creek was a small town of 500 with a high school but no accommodations – indoors or outdoors.  I asked a local about Aneth and he said to expect the same.  So I decided to put another 8 miles behind me and continued on.

 

The road followed the river with bushes lining the river basin.  When I reached Aneth I noted it had real houses whereas Montezuma Creek had mobile homes.  Aneth also had a food mart where I nuked a burrito for some food.

 

Since I figured there was a good chance I would have to just pull off the road somewhere and throw up my tent, I had scouted possibilities on the way into town.  The river basin with its green bushes looked perfect for this.  So I rode back to a creek and rode just off the road into the bushes, within earshot of the road but out of sight.  I threw up my tent and retired for the night.

Day 20: Fri, Sep 22, 2006 - Aneth, UT to Shiprock, NM [65.6, 6:39:28, 9.8 mph]

Sometime after midnight there were some smattering of raindrops and some wind.  I hoped the wind would keep the tent reasonably dry.

 

In the morning the weather hadn’t changed so I packed up and the tent wasn’t too wet.  Then when I started to roll out I discovered my rear tire was flat.  I removed the tire but couldn’t find the leak nor could I find anything in the tire.  So I put in a new tube and hoped there wasn’t anything in the tire.

 

I rode the quarter mile back to the food mart for coffee and milk for my cereal and a pastry.  It looked like the weather would stay drizzly all day so I was in no hurry to leave and didn’t get off until almost 9:00.  I had put on my rain gear when I got up and it looked like I would be wearing it all day.  I started off in light drizzle and it stayed that way for about 45 minutes and then stopped.  After 8 miles I crossed into Colorado and 262 changed to 41.  When I did I gave up the nice shoulder but got nice, smooth pavement rather than the rougher chip seal I had been riding on.

 

As I neared the end of 41 I could feel my rear tire going soft.  At the intersection with 100 I pumped up the tire and continued the 5 miles southwest to Four Corners.  I paid my $3 entry fee and noted my rear tire was flat.  This wasn’t a bad place to have a flat because there were some unused merchandise stalls with an overhang that I used to unload my bike in the light drizzle.  I found the flat and patched it.  I also patched the old tube, using a mud puddle to identify the slow leak.  The tubes had flats in different areas but the tire had slid around so I really couldn’t compare them.  I did, however, locate a small piece of wire in the tire and removed it but I had no way of knowing for sure whether it caused either flats or just the last one.

 

I put the bike back together and as I was rolling it away the rear tire started grabbing.  As I was checking the wheel to find the cause there was a loud BOOM as my rear tire exploded.  This got me some attention from the folks around.  So I removed the rear wheel again and used the old, newly patched tube.  When I pumped it up I was extra careful to watch the seating of the tire, which I presume I hadn’t seated properly before.  One thing I disliked about my new Marathon tires is that they were very loose, making bad seating more likely.  I think this was helped by my Velocity rim being slightly small as well.

 

Finally, I got to wander over to the monument and stand in all 4 states – Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.  I probably spent an hour at the place.  One good thing was the drizzle had stopped and there appeared to be some clearing in the distance.

 

I left the monument and left New Mexico and entered Arizona which did not make me happy.  The nice wide shoulder was ruined by a deep rumble strip almost in the middle of the shoulder.  I had to pay the most attention to avoid the rumbles rather than the scenery.

 

At Teec Nos Pos, I nuked a burrito and continued east on 491 to Shiprock.  Amazingly, the sky was clearing and I started getting sunshine, which I would have bet against at the start of the day.  And just as well I left Arizona in a few miles and lost the rumbles.  New Mexico didn’t have as well paved a shoulder but it was much preferable to the rumbles.

 

The scenery got pretty interesting as I rode to Shiprock.  And in the distance was an isolated rock jutting up that I eventually figured was the namesake for the town.

 

I had thought Shiprock was a small town but I saw a flyer at Teec Nos Pos that advertised its hosting of the NCAA regional rodeo finals this weekend.  I presumed that meant accommodations would be hard to come by.  As I neared Shiprock it looked like a sizeable town and it was with a population of 8,000.  Where I entered there were a bunch of fast food places and a large grocery store but no accommodations.  So I rode northeast and northwest looking for the main town and found nothing.  An inquiry revealed that there were no motels in town and not even a Subway.  Shiprock was in the Navajo Indian Reservation, which covers about 27,000 square miles of land, occupying all of northeastern Arizona and extending into Utah and New Mexico.  I imagined the lack of motels was a reflection of the Navajo culture where folks stayed with friends and family and had no need for motels.

 

I ate at a Tacotime, deciding it was the best option.  Then I headed to an RV park by the San Juan River.  I paid $8 for a tent site and then learned that the nice looking restroom was under construction and there were no showers.  The place was just wide open and I picked a spot.  At least there was water and I took my sponge bath.  So I guess water was the difference between last night’s no cost campground and this one but I had enough water anyway so the campground was hardly worth $8.

 

A trying day that turned out pretty well in the afternoon except for a crappy campground with no shower.


Day 21: Sat, Sep 23, 2006 - Shiprock, NM to Gallup, NM [95.7, 8:13:51, 11.6 mph]

It was chilly in the morning and I had frost on my tent.  I packed up and rode to the grocery store.  It was 93 miles to Gallup and no real place to stay in between so I picked up a few things to tide me over if I didn‘t make Gallup.  I also picked up some milk for my cereal breakfast.

 

While I was packing my food a guy approached and generously offered 2 bottles of water.  I had already filled my 2L waterbag so I politely declined saying I didn’t need any more weight.  I rode to a nearby café for a real breakfast but it was closed.  It was also next to a Subway that I didn’t know about.

 

The 93 miles to Gallup were a gradual uphill, gaining 1,800 feet before dropping a couple hundred in the last few miles.  That meant each mile gained about an average of 20 feet so the route was pretty flat despite the elevation gain.

 

The road, 491, initially climbed out of Shiprock on a 4-lane road with a shoulder as wide as a traffic lane.  The 4-lane changed to 2 lanes but the wide shoulder remained.  After the initial climb the road felt fairly flat until the last 10 miles.  I originally thought it might take a 10 hour ride to make Gallup, which I wasn’t necessarily determined to make but wanted to keep the option open since there wasn’t any place else to stay short of pulling off the road and camping.

 

The scenery was reasonably interesting, riding through open desert grassland with mountains along the west side.  I made good time aided by some tailwind.  That caused me to revise my ride time as I was rolling along at 12-14 mph.  I had forgotten how much difference a relatively flat route made.

 

Then after about 20 miles I could feel my ride was getting soft.  I stopped and thumbed the rear time and could feel it had lost air.  When I started to ride again my bike fell over and that’s when I noticed my front tire was flat.  When I removed my front tire I couldn’t find a leak.  I had to add some water to my large cereal cup and push parts of the tire in the cup before I finally found the small leak.  I also found what appeared to be a thorn just sticking through my tire, possibly a goathead.  I patched the front tire and then chose to just pump up the rear.  It had lost quite a bit of air so I hoped I could get by periodically pumping it up or the leak would become more significant and I could find and fix it.  I never dreamed the rear tire would maintain its inflation the rest of the day.

 

With the distaste of another flat and the likelihood of another to come I pushed on.  In a few miles I came to a place appropriately named Littlewater and stopped at a food mart for a drink.  After that it was mostly a matter of grinding out the miles.  At times some sections of the wide shoulder deteriorated but mostly the shoulder was a good buffer from the fair amount of traffic.  I also kept an eye out for camping opportunities but the wide open space left no place to just pull over and throw up a tent.

 

With 25 miles to go I stopped at another food mart and found a mini pizza that gave me a boost.  From there there were several fairly steep but short hills to climb and then the final 4 miles descended to Gallup and I arrived around 6:00.

 

There were plenty of fast food places but I had to ask about cheap motels.  Turned out I had to keep going over the Interstate and railway to find a bunch of them along historic 66 and they were cheap motels.  I saw one for $17.95 but it looked a little decrepit so I upgraded to one for $19.95 and it was fine, only needing a remote control for the TV to be complete.

 

On my way through town I spotted a Golden Corral all-you-can-eat buffet.  I felt I had earned that for the day’s ride, my first buffet of the trip.

Day 22: Sun, Sep 24, 2006 - Gallup, NM

Gallup was a reasonable place so I decided to take a day off.  Gallup is a city of 20,000 at 6,515 feet elevation.  A big part of Gallup is its Native American Heritage.  It is estimated that 80% of all Native American silver jewelry passes through the city.  It is located on the I40/Historic Route 66 just 16 miles from the Arizona border.

 

In the morning I decided to walk downtown to check on a bike shop, the library, and to find breakfast.  Downtown was vacant on a Sunday morning.  The only bike shop listed in the Yellow Pages was in arrears and apparently closed due to some legal issues.  The library was closed both Sunday and Monday.  And I struck out trying to find a breakfast place.

 

So I walked back to the Golden Corral for its weekend breakfast buffet that didn’t cost much more than a regular breakfast.  Then I walked to a Wal-Mart to see what bike supplies it had, specifically a tire tube and patch kit.  I like to carry 2 spare tubes so I needed to replace the blown tube.  I started with 2 patch kits but had used some of the patches on previous trips so I needed to augment my patches.  Wal-Mart had a 27 inch tube that would have worked except it had the wrong valve type.  They also had a patch kit but it had glueless patches that are reputed to be unreliable, which I didn’t need.  So I struck out again.

 

Back at the motel I debated what to do with my rear tire which was still holding its air.  I decided this was the best time to check it out so I removed the tire and tube.  Using the wash basin with water, I eventually located a very slow leak, one that leaked a bubble of air every few seconds, and patched it.  I spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching football.

Day 23: Mon, Sep 25, 2006 - Gallup, NM to 36/117, NM [82.3, 7:43:38, 10.6 mph]

I ate breakfast at the small café a couple doors away.  This was obviously a local spot and not one likely to attract the passer by based on the outside appearance.  But I got a good breakfast of 2+2+2 with ham.  There was a food mart next door and I intended to get some milk for cereal but it didn’t have anything less than a quart.  I walked to another food mart and it didn’t have any milk at all.  I took that as a sign I should postpone my cereal.

 

I left just before 8:30 under sunny skies and headed south on 602 towards Quemado which was the next town, 103 miles away.  I didn’t plan to make Quemado because the route was anything but flat.  There were a couple of good climbs but mostly it was a roller coaster with an overall elevation gain of 1,000 feet at the high point.

 

602 had a fair amount of traffic but also a wide shoulder.  The shoulder was actually a tri-level where the repavements didn’t extend all the way to the shoulder edge.  Consequently, 2 repavements left 2 new levels near the edge but they weren’t a problem.  There was also a rumble strip but it was mild and not a problem because of the wide shoulder.

 

On my way south I debated stopping a couple times for milk but deferred until 602 ended at 53 where I was sure there would be something.  But I out smarted myself since there was nothing and I had to live with powdered milk.

 

After 602 ended a short jog brought me to 36 to continue south.  Interestingly, just before 602 ended there was a turnoff to Zuni Pueblo.  After that the traffic disappeared and so did most of the shoulder but with only a vehicle every 10-15 minutes a shoulder wasn’t necessary.  Along the way a guy in a pickup slowed down as he neared me.  He seemed to be looking at me as if he thought I would want a hitch.

 

Initially, the scenery was rolling hills covered with evergreens.  Later, some of the evergreens cleared out and made way for brown grassland.  As I neared Fence Lake some houses also started to appear.  I wasn’t sure I would find anything at Fence Lake but I got lucky and there was a small general store with some locals gathered outside, the obvious social gathering point.  I got a cold drink and filled my water bottle.  I was also advised that a place called Ponderosa, 18 miles down the road, was a possible camp site.  Fence Lake also was but after 63 miles I was not prepared to call it quits.

 

So I rode on not knowing what Ponderosa was.  18 miles later I discovered it was a small store with a deli and its hours were 9-5.  I pulled in at 5:00 just after it closed, disappointed not to be able to get anything to eat or drink.  Had I known, I could have pushed the pace a bit to beat the 5:00 close.  As it was I was lucky to catch the owner just as she was leaving the store and I was able to get permission to throw my tent up behind the store and to avail myself of the outside water tap if needed.  This woman was so gracious that I was disappointed I couldn’t throw a few dollars her way on food and drink.

 

So I set up behind the store and locked my bike to the back of the store where it couldn’t be seen from the road.  Another sponge bath and I was set for the night.  The only problem I had with this location was it was awfully tempting to be so close to a place with food and drink inside.  If ever I was tempted to break and enter this was it.

Day 24: Tue, Sep 26, 2006 - 36/117, NM to Datil, NM [69.4, 5:39:44, 12.3 mph]

I got going earlier than usual because I happened to wake up a little earlier and I wanted to cover the 22 miles to Quemado quick enough to make breakfast.  I had some cereal and a banana and was gone by 7:30.

 

There was some descending and then ascending before a final descent to Quemado, a small town with several motels and cafes.  I made it in about 2 hours which means I could have made town last night although I would have been a tired puppy.  However, I consciously didn’t want to make town yesterday.  If I had today’s natural destination would have been Magdalena, 93 miles and another long day.  This way the natural destination was Datil, 65 miles, and a fairly easy ride.

 

I had a good breakfast of 4 pancakes and some hash browns but I was disappointed the town didn’t have a public library and Internet access.  I had eaten most of my food last night so I replenished some of it at the local small grocery store which had limited selections.

 

I left about 11:00, with only 43 miles ahead of me.  The first 30 miles were a gradual uphill to the continental divide through wide open brown grassland with evergreen covered hills in the distance.  There wasn’t much traffic and the road had a mostly good shoulder.  However, short sections of the shoulder were often rubble and I rode in the traffic lane then.

 

After 21 miles I rode into Pie Town, which you could guess is famous for pie.  Pie Town is an old mining camp that earned its name by becoming famous for its fine desserts.  However, it was pieless for a number of years until Kathy Knapp, now known as the pie lady, visited Pie Town as she notes in a letter to the Smithsonian Magazine in response to a February 2005 article on Pie Town (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/issues/2005/february/pietown.php?page=1):

 

    “My family visited Pie Town, New Mexico, in 1995, hungry for pies ("Savoring Pie Town"). To our dismay, there were none. "It's just wrong," grumbled my mother, Mary Munden, so we purchased the old Thunderbird Trading Post on Highway 60. With rolling pin in hand, my mother put the pie back into Pie Town. Using her mother's recipes, she proved that "if you bake it, they will come." My entire family has contributed to the success of our restaurant, the Pie-O-Neer, going on its tenth year. We feel honored to be in this special place that photographer Russell Lee captured so well during the Depression.”  --  Kathy Knapp

 

Although Pie Town now has 2 places offering pies, the Pie-O-Neer Café is known to cyclists and hikers as THE pie place so naturally a touring cyclist has to stop there.  Unfortunately, however, Pie-O-Neer is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and this was a Tuesday.  However, as I stared glumly at the CLOSED sign, Kathy Knapp, the pie lady, magically appeared from around the corner and introduced herself.  She was just getting ready to leave for her weekly food shopping trip to Albuquerque, 150 miles away.  Kathy was a one-time resident of Chicago (and Los Angeles and Dallas) but apparently had made enough money in her previous life and chucked the rat race.  She has been in Pie Town for 12 years now and loved meeting the hikers and bikers who passed through.  The Continental Divide Trail passes right by Pie Town and is known as an oasis for those folks who were food deprived.  However, I was surprised that Kathy said east/west cyclists passed through frequently as well and I was one of those.

 

Kathy was genuinely disappointed that she couldn’t stay and chat (“doggone it”) and so was I.  I tested her resolve by mentioning I would have to go to her competition for my pie and I could see she was torn.  Obviously she had an important commitment, even more important than chatting with me, and took off and I resigned myself to the other pie café in this one horse town – Daily Pie.  Sigh…  I suspect chatting with Kathy about her experiences in Pie Town would have been at least as good as her pie.

 

Anyway, I had a piece of pecan pie which is normally way too many calories for me and a cold drink.  While I was at my 2nd choice café, I warmed up to the place when I saw a picture of George Bush and a couple of captions:

-          Never underestimate the power of a sick mind

-          “Yee-Ha_ is not a foreign policy

 

So Pie Town was a good experience even though Pie-O-Neer was closed. When I left I had 20 miles to Datil and I expected to be looking for a camping place for the night somewhere off the road.  However, I had seen a sign earlier that noted a campground 27 miles ahead which was just before Datil.

 

I had some more modest climbing and then about 10 miles before Datil the hills and trees moved in along the road for a nice change of scenery.  Most of this was coasting or easy pedaling so it was an enjoyable ride.

 

About 3 miles outside of town I saw a notice for the Baldwin Cabin Public Library.  It was strange to have a library outside of town.  I stopped by just off the road and it was a small cabin and only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays and I’m guessing it didn’t have Internet access.

 

The campground turnoff was only a mile outside town so I rode straight into town first.  My breakfast waitress when I asked said Datil was similar to Quemado but a little smaller.  That was an understatement as it had a combined motel/café/general store unit only.  I had a cold drink and read a current newspaper I found in the café.

 

Afterwards I rode a mile back to the campground turnoff and a quarter mile on the gravel road to a BLM campground, the Datil Well Campground.  In the late 1800s, Magdalena, the next town was the end of the railway and folks drove their cattle to Magdalena for railway shipping.  To support those cattle drives a number of wells were dug along the route from the Arizona border and this campground was one of those wells.  This campground was a good deal at $5 with only one other camper and a host.  Later I met the host who was originally from Rockford, IL, and he said he and his wife didn’t miss the winters and only wish they had moved sooner.

Day 25: Wed, Sep 27, 2006 - Datil, NM to Socorro, NM [77.6, 5:29:11, 14.1 mph]

I was up early again and rode into Datil for breakfast a little after 7:00, a little surprised the café was open with one other breakfast patron.  I had 2 pancakes and oatmeal.  The pancakes were good but I should have skipped the mediocre oatmeal.

 

The day’s little over 60 miles to Socorro promised to be relatively easy since it was mostly downhill losing about 2,500 feet.  Shortly after I left Datil the road settled into a flat route of over 20 miles on a windy open brown grassland plain, the Plains of San Augustin, with low lying mountains in the distance.

 

After a few miles I spotted an antelope about 100 yards from the road staring at me.  In order not to spook him, I rode a little past before I stopped and he obliged me with a photo.  Just a little further on I saw another on my right and then one on my left.  In another mile or so I spotted a herd of a dozen and then another herd of 8 on the right and later some singles scattered around.

 

Then I spotted an animal of an entirely different type – 27 radio antennas in a Y pattern that were part of VLA – Very Large Array.  These radio antennas were configurable on 3 different rails corresponding to a Y with each rail 13 miles long.  By moving the antennas in or out they functioned somewhat like a camera’s zoom lens, enabling focusing on more detail or a wider scope.  This arrangement of antennas allowed much greater resolution that would require an impossibly large single antenna otherwise.  However, these were radio antennas as opposed to optical telescopes.  They monitored the presence of radio waves emitted by heavenly bodies outside the scope of human vision.

 

The VLA had a visitor center that required taking a side road 2 miles east of the VLA, heading 2 miles south and then another 2 miles west.  It was a nice display of the VLA and worth the 8.5 mile roundtrip.  This VLA required the huge, flat expanse of the Plains of San Augustin to accommodate the 13 mile rail for each “limb” of the Y configuration.

 

After the VLA the road continued straight for a few more miles and then hit a minor hill.  It was another 20 easy miles to Magdalena, a town of 900.  The approach to Magdalena was a nice downhill with a mountain in the background.  Magdalena’s claim to fame was Trails End, so called because sheep and cattle drives in the later 1800s and early 1900s from outlying areas ended at the railway terminal in town.  Riding through town I spotted a library sign and found a public library where I got an hour of Internet access, spending a significant amount of time cleaning out email spam.

 

Afterwards I had a real honest to goodness burrito at a food mart, one that was freshly made and didn’t have to be nuked.  On my way out of town I stopped at a hardware store and found they were out of bike patch kits.

 

I left at 2:00 with the remaining little over 20 miles to Socorro easy pedaling as the route lost about 1,600 feet.  The road had a variable shoulder which became more important as the traffic picked up and it was high speed.  It was a scenic route with surrounding low lying mountains peppered with evergreens.

 

There was a final significant descent into Socorro with a background of low mountains in the distance.  Socorro was a town of 8,900 in the Rio Grande Valley and I rode its main drag to scope it out.  There were a couple of $30 motels and a query led me to a bike shop, the Spoke’N’Word.  Unfortunately it was closed for the week while its owners attended a bike show.  While I was there another cyclist came along and I told him I was looking for a patch kit.  I checked across the street at a hardware store and found a large kit although I wasn’t sure it was tailored for bikes.

 

Then I rode just outside of town to check out the RV Park.  It provided tent sites for $13 but the whole complex was gravel based and wide open except for a fence closure around it.  I decided motel and while riding back into town I encountered the cyclist I had met earlier.  He had found a mechanic for the bike shop and had gotten me a patch kit, saying I had to pay for it the next time I passed through town.  What was interesting was this guy just started riding around town looking for me to deliver the patch kit.  He even checked a couple of the motels to see if I had checked in.

 

After I checked in the motel I had a good meal at a Chinese buffet for $8.  I did some food shopping and retired to my motel.

Day 26: Thu, Sep 28, 2006 - Socorro, NM to Valley of Fires, NM [70.6, 6:25:21, 10.2 mph]

I ate a bowl of cereal in my motel room and then had 3 pancakes and ham at a restaurant for a decidedly unimpressive breakfast.

 

I left town at 8:30 on Highway 1 that paralleled I25 as it passed along farms.  After 10 miles I reached San Antonio, the home of Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels and turned east on 380.  From this point it was mostly climbing for nearly 40 miles, gaining a little over 2,000 feet.

 

After crossing the Rio Grande the road passed through wide open yellow grasslands, which were a contrast with the previous day’s brown grasslands.  Along the way I spotted a herd of antelopes and stopped for a photo.  Afterwards my camera refused to retract its lens and gave me a lens error message.  I tried changing batteries and jiggling the lens but nothing worked.  I was forced to switch to my old Minolta F100 digital camera that I had brought along as a backup.

 

It was a fairly warm day so as I neared Bingham I hoped it was more than just a dot on the map.  There were 2 buildings and I stopped at the first one thinking it might be a small store.  Instead it was the publishing house for Free American (http://freeamerican.com/).  There was a soda machine outside and the owner, a trim wiry fellow, came out and opened the front of the machine to allow me to pick a can for $1.  We chatted for a while outside on the porch, mostly about living alone.  I wasn’t exactly sure what Free American’s politics were so I didn’t venture there.  Besides, I wasn’t armed for debate.  He had a big hunting knife strapped to his right hip and a small gun of some type in a holster on the front right, presumably for a left hand draw.  The gun looked like it could be a derringer but looked a little big for a derringer.  Nevertheless, I didn’t feel threatened and it was an interesting chat.  Just down the road was a rock shop also with an outside soda machine but I doubt it would have been as interesting a chat.

 

Pushing on started a long 10 mile climb to get over some mountains.  I took a break at a rest area since I hadn’t eaten much food and then pushed on over the climb.  That was followed by a nice 10 mile descent, hitting the 30s mph a couple times but mostly in the comfortable 20s.

 

After the easy descent there was one more significant climb of about 4 miles that had me moving at 4 mph for the last part.  This climb was rewarded with an awesome view of a huge valley with a couple mountains and the Valley of Fires, some lava flow that looked like someone took a huge tiller and tore up the land.

 

Unfortunately, as I started the descent into the valley on the approach to Carrizozo, my bike computer stopped recording.  Earlier I had seen it stop momentarily but now it stopped for good.  I was pretty sure it was a battery issue.

 

When I was a few miles from town I saw a turnoff for the Valley of Fires BLM campground and decided to stay there.  It was a good choice.  It had a great view of the valley, the mountains, and Carrizozo.  A tent site cost only $7 and that included a shower as well as water.  The only problem was I got there just after 5:00 which only left a couple hours of daylight.

 

After clearing up I tried to write my notes outside on the picnic table but the mosquitoes chased me inside my tent.


Day 27: Fri, Sep 29, 2006 - Valley of Fires, NM to Ruidoso, NM [35.0, 0:00:00, 0.0 mph]

I packed up and left for town, 5 miles away, by 7:30.  Unfortunately, putting a new battery in my main unit didn’t help.  I also changed the battery in the transmitter and that didn’t work either.  So I resigned myself to doing without my bike computer for the day.

 

Carrizozo was a small town of 1,000.  At the intersection of 380 and 54 there were several motels and a restaurant where I stopped for breakfast.  I had 3 pancakes with pecans added.  They were good size and the pecans added a little extra.

 

With finagling with my bike computer I didn’t really hit the road until just after 9:00.  It was 30 miles to Ruidoso which would have indicated a short ride.  However, there was some significant climbing, on the order of 2,000 feet.

 

After about 4 miles of gradual climbing I turned on to 37, the route to Ruidoso.  Another few more miles brought me to the small town of Nogal (no services) and I could see the big climb ahead winding its way up the hill.  I needed my lowest gear and it was still a grind.  Half way up I took advantage of a viewpoint of the valley below and Mt Carrizozo to take a breather.  After that the climb eased off a bit for the 3 mile climb.

 

This hard climbing was followed by a nice descent and then some roller coaster riding on top of the hills.  The there was a steep descent that flattened out as 37 ended at 48.  When I joined 48 it was another 2-3 mile steep climb like the previous climb but it must have been a slightly lesser grade since I managed the climb without stopping.

 

There were 2 more humps to get over, stopping at a food mart after the first one for a cold drink, and then it was a steep descent into Ruidoso where I’m sure I hit at least 40 mph.

 

Ruidoso is a resort town of 7,700 that reputedly is a haunt for rich Texans wishing to escape their Texas heat.  At 6,900 feet, Ruidoso enjoys a reasonable summer climate and is noted for its winter skiing on 12,000 foot Sierra Blanco.  As befitting a resort town I saw a LOT of real estate related businesses – realties, mortgages, and lawyers.

 

On my way through town I took the turn off to the public library for Internet access.  I looked up the location of the only bike shop and continued riding as it was along the way.  I found the bike shop had some bike computers and it had a spare tube of the right size.  I learned from the bike shop that there was a Radio Shack just down the road.  I stopped there to check my batteries.  There I was encouraged when I found 3 of the 4 batteries I checked were low and the 4th was possibly marginal.  Encouraged I bought 2 new batteries but was disappointed when they made no difference in my bike computer.

 

Next I stopped at the Visitor Center.  I learned that low $50s was probably the cheapest I would find for motels.  So I decided to check out an RV Park at the intersection of 70.  This was on a steep hill and required a short, steep climb.  I checked out the 3 tent sites and discovered they were nothing but bare patches of ground without even a picnic table.  Even though the price was only $10 I decided to pass. I should have guessed this place wouldn’t be good since it was once a KOA.

 

So I headed back to town to check out some motels.  The first motel I stopped at was the Apache Motel.  The proprietor offered a rate of $45 including taxes.  When I asked about a 2nd night he offered both nights for $80 including tax.  That was much better than I thought I could do and I accepted.  It was a very basic motel with vinyl flooring but it had a bed, a shower, and a TV.  Of course this room would have cost 50% less in Gallup.

 

I dumped everything in my room and rode back to town where earlier my eagle eyes had spotted a Mexican buffet.  That turned out to be a lie but I had spotted a Chinese buffet on the way so I rode back to it.  It was fine but a buffet seemed out of place since hardly anyone was there.

 

Finally, I rode back to the motel as it was getting dark and settled in for the night.

 

The curious event of the day was a guy who yelled something to me as I passed through Ruidoso.  A little later down the road I saw the same guy saying something so I stopped.  He asked about where I got my tights, which seemed like a strange question.  Then he went into some story apparently about some guy propositioning him in Portland.  I eventually came to the conclusion that this guy was propositioning me.  I guess that shouldn’t have been a surprise since I cut quite a figure in my tights.  And no doubt my tights were even more enticing as I rode away.

Day 28: Sat, Sep 30, 2006 - Ruidoso, NM

I ate pecan pancakes at the diner next door.  Then I rode back to town to the library for Internet access and paid some bills.  It was a nice library right next to a golf course.

 

I rode back to the bike store.  I was pretty sure my computer’s transmitter was not working.  It has a little green light that is supposed to blink when it is operating and it was a continuous green light.  I met Craig, one of the two store owners.  He offered me a basic computer that sold for $27 for $20 when he learned about my tour.  I also bought another tube so I would have 2 good spare tubes.

 

Craig was particularly interested in my touring because he plans to sell the bike shop in a couple of months and then ride up the Pacific Coast next spring starting from Carmel and possibly continuing up to Alaska.

 

After taking care of my bike needs, I wandered the streets for a while and had a beer and slice of pizza.  Then I rode back to the motel and installed my new bike computer.  It worked fine but was a real hassle to figure out how to setup the wheel size, odometer, and time.  It made me realize how much I liked the simple menu system of my VDO computer.

 

Finally I chilled out and watched some college football and ate at a little Mexican restaurant later.

Day 29: Sun, Oct 01, 2006 - Ruidoso, NM to Roswell, NM [89.6, 6:33:51, 13.6 mph]

I had a bowl of cereal in my room and then another dose of pecan pancakes next door.  I left just before 8:30 and rode the short distance to the junction with 70 which I took northeast on its way to Roswell, a little over 70 miles away.  The route promised to be easy as it lost some 3,000 feet on a constant downhill with only one significant climb.

 

The first part of the route followed the Rio Ruidoso, Spanish for Noisy River, 24 miles through a scenic valley.  This route was part of the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway loop and it deserved its scenic designation.  The narrow valley was home to farms and ranches with an emphasis on horses.  Several of the ranches had practice loops.  The road was a 4-lane with wide shoulder but the shoulder had a fair amount of debris so I rode the white line most of the time.  The river was visible only occasionally and it was just a stream this time of the year.

 

All too soon I reached the junction with 380 and turned east.  I stopped at a food mart in Hondo for a cold drink, not sure another chance would avail itself until Roswell.  In Hondo I passed the high school where the Spanish influence was obvious.  The high school mascot was Fiesta Dancers.  The road continued its easy downgrade as the land gradually changed to lower, more rounded treeless hills.

 

But all was not easy.  I heard a noise that sounded like it came from my front wheel.  When I stopped I discovered my rear tire had gone flat.  Unlike the usual simple hole this one had a crescent shape cut.  It was a little hard to find since the tube wouldn’t hold any air.  Once I located it I also could see the same cut in the tire.  I presumed this came from a sharp piece of glass.

 

After I fixed the tire, I could feel a click as I was pedaling but I could not figure what was causing it.  A few miles later this concern got diverted when I felt my rear tire go soft.  This was a simple puncture and I fixed it quickly with all of my practice.  When I resumed I no longer had a click to worry about but I was a little concerned that my pump seemed to have trouble putting out more than 70 psi although that was adequate.

 

After about 40 miles the road climbed out of the valley to the top of a rolling prairie.  Then it wasn’t particularly scenic and a matter of cranking out the miles with one stop at a road side rest area.

 

After about 65 miles it was obvious I was approaching Roswell, the giveaway a bunch of green trees in the otherwise brown prairie.  When I rolled into town I stopped for a cold drink.  It was about 90F and quite warm.  Roswell is, of course, known for its UFOs but I was surprised to see it billed as the “Dairy Capital of the Southwest.”

 

I found the public library but there was a wait for Internet access so I passed but I did make some copies of Texas and Louisiana maps for the rest of the trip.  It was still early afternoon so I just pedaled around town.  I found an RV Park just a mile east of town that looked promising and ate at a Subway.  I ended up at the RV Park for $15 which had real grass for my tent.

 

Since the Bears were playing Seattle on Sunday night football I decided that would be worth watching but it was too far to walk to the closest bar from camp.  So after a shower I rode back to town in the waning daylight with lights for the return trip.  I found a bar with peanuts and watched the game, wrote my notes, drank beer, and ate peanuts.

Day 30: Mon, Oct 02, 2006 - Roswell, NM to Plains, TX [106.7, 8:41:23, 12.3 mph]

As I expected my front tire was flat in the morning.  I found a slow leak and fixed it.  At 7:30 I headed a half mile back to town and ate at the Cowboy Café.  I had a 2+2+2 with coffee that came to $5 total including tax and tip – the best value of the trip.  Still I needed more so I stopped at a food mart for milk and a cereal breakfast.

 

I finally left around 8:30.  I didn’t have an elevation profile since I expected flat or gradually descending terrain.  It was 73 miles to Tatum, the next town and another 30 miles to Plains, the first town in Texas.

 

Initially the road was flat and then farmland for 8 miles.  Then it was a good half mile climb followed by what seemed to be a gradual uphill.  With the hill the farm land was left behind and replaced by prairie.  After 20 miles I crested a small rise and saw the flat prairie I expected.

 

The road was fine with a good shoulder so I cranked out the miles.  At 40 miles there was a nice rest stop that I took advantage of but it didn’t have any drinking water.  I had plenty of water but it was all warm.

 

When I left it was only a few miles to Caprock but I didn’t know if there was anything there.  Shortly, Caprock revealed its presence with a few trees.  My bike, like a thirst cow herd, sensed a cold drink and stampeded the last couple of miles.  There was a very small store/café where I had 2 cans of cold soda and filled my 2 water bottles.

 

At this point in early afternoon I removed my tights for the first time of the trip.  It was another 30 miles to Tatum and the land changed to brownish yellow grassland in all directions.  It was just after 3:00 when I rolled into Tatum, a town of 700.  I had two 32 oz fountain drinks and a muffin on a half hour break.  With time available, I rode on to Plains.  In 15 miles I crossed into Texas.  The shoulder was not quite as nice but still okay.

 

I rolled into Plains at 6:00, a town of 1,450.  Since Plains was a larger town than Tatum I expected more services but that wasn’t the case.  Plains had only a single motel.  I thought it would be cheap based on its appearance but there were no singles left and the remaining room was $40 so I passed.  There was a café with all-you-can-eat steak night so I ate there.  I was pretty famished and it was a good meal with a nice hunk of steak but I didn’t opt for more steak as it was already dark and I wanted to get set up in camp.  I cleaned up in the restroom and took off for the town park.

 

When I passed the Dairy Queen I saw a police car and stopped to verify that it was OK to camp in the park.  After setting up I walked to the Dairy Queen to write my notes but it had just closed at 9:00.  So I walked to the Laundromat next door and wrote my notes.

 

 


 

Copyright Denis Kertz, 2006. All rights reserved.