Denver to Chicago
Denis Kertz, ©2006
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
I left just after 8:30 on Highway 6.
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
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
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
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.
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
When I reached
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
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
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
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
The route to
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
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
This turned out to be a longer and harder day than I
expected on a ride to
I left at 8:30 and rode 9 miles north of
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
This part of Canyonlands was called
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
It was mostly downhill with some tailwind on the 8 miles to
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
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
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
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
When this road ended, I headed toward
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.
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
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
A reasonable day off except for the computer hassles.
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
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
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
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.
The Weather Channel reported 40F at Blanding so I knew it
was at least that cold in
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Finally, I got to wander over to the monument and stand in
all 4 states –
I left the monument and left
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
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
I ate at a Tacotime, deciding it was the best option. Then I headed to an RV park by the
A trying day that turned out pretty well in the afternoon except for a crappy campground with no shower.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
“My family visited
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
After clearing up I tried to write my notes outside on the picnic table but the mosquitoes chased me inside my tent.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
The first part of the route followed the Rio Ruidoso,
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
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
I found the public library but there was a wait for Internet
access so I passed but I did make some copies of
Since the Bears were playing
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
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
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.