Las Vegas to Albuquerque

 

Fall 2015

 

Denis Kertz, ©2015

 

Day 21: Sat, Sep 26, 2015 - Monument Valley, UT to Bluff, UT [53.3, 5:57:45, 8.9 mph, 2,451']

I got up at 6:45 am which sounds later than normal but Utah is on daylight savings time so it was actually slightly earlier than usual.  The sun was starting to come alive and campers were out to try to catch the morning sun with their cameras.  I caught some of it and it helped that the blob of rock on my left was blocking the sun to keep it from overloading my camera.

I rode to the restaurant for breakfast, hoping they might have a buffet on the weekend but no such luck.  However, I did get 3 large, fluffy pancakes and a thick slab of ham and it was probably the best breakfast short of the two breakfast buffets of the trip.

Leaving Monument Valley, there was an initial 5 mile moderate climb until the last mile which was fairly steep.  The buttes which seemed so near were near the top of the climb.  After this climb there was a descent of 1500 feet except for one major climb.  This descent was through more scenic areas with some long road stretches into the distance.  Some of the best scenes after the initial climb were looking back.

One stretch had a long descent of straight road followed by a fairly steep climb.  It was a great scene to look back down the road and then up the hill to the buttes.  Some folks were parking and getting out into the middle of the road to capture this great scenery.  I suspected they secretly were pretending to capture this scenery when they were really taking pictures of me climbing up the road.

After this there was a 6 mile descent, some fairly steep, into the town of Mexican Hat where I stopped around 11:30 for my second breakfast.  It was great to have cold milk with my cereal instead of warm water and powdered milk.  I also had a cold drink after my cereal since the next cold drink would be at the end of the day in Bluff.

I spent a little more than 30 minutes on this break and then headed out.  There was a big hump in front of me according to my elevation profile and I would have to reclaim about 1100 feet of altitude. 

Just outside town was the town's namesake rock – Mexican Hat Rock.  After that there was a lot more red rock scenery as I appeared to be in a bowl surrounded by red rock that I would have to climb out of.  When I reached the top of the hump, all the red rock suddenly disappeared as if I had been transported to a plateau where red was prohibited.

That lasted for a couple miles and then I started another steep descent of about 700 feet.  It would have been really fast but the road was a little bumpy so I wasn't willing to turn the bike loose.

The descent ended at the San Juan River where the Comb Ridge blocked the way to both the left and right.  Fortunately, someone had blasted an alley through this ridge where a steep, short climb got me above the ridge.  The Mormons had also encountered this ridge but weren't so fortunate with having an alley blown through the ridge.  They had to wander about 4 miles further south to find a place where they could cross and eventually settle in Bluff.

The rest of the way was mostly descending to Bluff.  I stopped at a food mart for a cold drink and then continued on to the visitor center at the historic Bluff Fort.  I had visited this fort on a previous visit so I only wanted to check in at the visitor center.  Back in the first week of this tour, Gilbert, the motorcyclist, had recommended a route to Cortez that he said had been recently paved.  I didn't think much of it at the time but after I thought about it I thought it might be a better route to Durango than the one I originally had planned.  So I wanted to confirm this paved road and a guide at the visitor center was able to confirm it.

I got a tent site at the Cadillac Ranch RV Park for $20 and then rode up the road a short ways to the Twin Rock Cafe for a bite to eat.  Then I returned “home” to clean up and research tomorrow's route.  However, I couldn't get connected to the WiFi at the park.  I kept getting network out of range, like the signal wasn't strong enough.  I checked at the office and was advised to reboot and to keep trying.  Nothing worked so the receptionist said she was going to get her boyfriend to see if he could help.  Of course, as soon as he showed up I got connected.  I think what happened is on one of the last a retries I typed a bad password and I got a complaint about that.  Then when I gave it a good password it worked.  It looks like the bad password triggered something to get it to work.

It was really important for me to get access because I was looking to change my route.  Originally I was going to Shiprock which was 78 miles and 3600 feet of climbing, a very hard day, and it looked like I would have to go another 5 miles south of Shiprock to get to a campground.  During the first week of this tour when I met Gilbert, the motorcyclist, he had suggested riding to Cortez on a recently paved county road.  I didn't think much of it at the time but started thinking that might be a better route.  So when I was able to confirm at the visitor center that this route was paved I wanted to check further on the Internet.  It looks like this route is 66 miles and 3240 feet of climbing, an improvement over the Shiprock route.  In addition it looks like there are a couple of reasonable motel options in Cortez.  So I was relieved to finally get the WiFi connection to study this route more carefully.

Day 22: Sun, Sep 27, 2015 - Bluff, UT to Cortez, CO [67.9, 7:41:49, 8.8 mph, 3,723']

I rode the short distance to the Twin Rocks Cafe where I ate last night and had a good breakfast of whole wheat pancakes and ham.

When I left it was 8:30 and I immediately took UT162 east to Montezuma Creek and Aneth.  Today was projected to be a long day of 66 miles and 3500 feet climbing to get to Cortez.

Leaving Bluff, the road followed along some sandstone bluffs for a while until they receded.  The road had some significant ups and downs, descending to a wash and then climbing out of the wash.  It was nice scenery but not the “oh my god” scenery of the last two days.

When I got to Montezuma Creek I chose to push on because Aneth was just 8 miles further.  Like leaving Bluff, leaving Montezuma Creek the road followed along some crumbling rocks for a while.  The stretch to Aneth was somewhat rolling but nothing like the earlier road.

As I approached Aneth I could see the road just outside town that would lead me to Cortez the back way via a county road.  I also crossed the McElmo Creek where I had camped the last time I passed through here.  I stopped at the food mart in town for my second breakfast.  I bought a quart of milk and augmented that with a 20oz Gatorade.  Since there would be nothing until Cortez, I wanted to hydrate as well as I could.  I used my GPS to verify the side road was the Ismay Trading Post Road that I needed to take.

Finally, I headed out just before noon on what I expected would be a 5-6 hour ride to Cortez.  There was some significant initial climbing with good views of the open landscape.  Later the road passed through a valley where irrigated fields produced hay and where a lot of places were advertising their hay for sale.  Often water could be seen or heard gushing through the channels near the road to carry the irrigation water where it needed to go.

After miles passing through this valley of irrigated fields the valley closed off and there was some hard climbing for a couple of miles.  All along the way I sipped water occasionally to keep hydrated.  With about 10 miles to go I had emptied my large and regular water bottles and had to resort to my auxiliary water – the two large water bottles I carried in my two rear panniers.

Finally, near 5 pm I made it into town but still had to climb a couple of miles on US491 to get to the main part of town.  Google maps showed a couple of reasonable motels so I kept an eye out for them.  Finally, one of them advertised $39.95 for a single, an even lower price than Google showed so I took it.  It turned out to be a great deal.  A reasonably priced, sizeable room, and good WiFi plus a good location.

I walked to a Pizza Hut for a medium pizza where I ate 6 of the 8 slices and took the remaining two slices to the motel for dessert.  Then I started researching possibilities for the upcoming days.  Mesa Verde National Park is only 8 miles away and on the way to Durango so it is a logical stop for tomorrow.  Today was a pretty hard day and Cortez to Durango is a similar difficulty.  Visiting Mesa Verde should help with a little recovery.

Day 23: Mon, Sep 28, 2015 - Cortez, CO to Mesa Verde, CO [16.1, 2:41:05, 6.0 mph, 1,768']

I had breakfast at a restaurant next door to my motel.  Since I was planning to only ride to Mesa Verde today, 8 miles away, I wasn't sure I should have a big breakfast but I had 3 large pancakes and ham and it was a good thing.

I left at 8:30 riding to Mesa Verde and there was more climbing than I anticipated.  When I got to Mesa Verde I first made a quick stop at the Visitor Center.  Then I rode on to the campground which was a nearly 1000 foot climb over a little less than 4 miles that required several switchbacks.

I got a campsite for $15 with my 50% off senior rate.  It was a good deal.  The place has WiFi and free showers, not the norm in a national park.  Only downside was you couldn't keep food in your tent.  Fortunately, there was a food locker in the tent only part of the campground and I was able to use that but one food locker for many tents was realistic only if most folks had vehicles.

I had been to Mesa Verde some 30 years ago so I had already seen the dwellings.  That's good because the dwellings were at the south end of the park, 24 miles away.  It would have taken a full day on the bike to get there and back and I didn't get set up in the campground until almost 1 pm.

What interested me was Point Lookout which was at 8427 feet of elevation.  There was a trail from the campground that was a 2 mile roundtrip that climbed 400 feet.  At the top there were sweeping views of Montezuma Valley to the west and Mancos Valley to the east.  The east view included the San Juan Mountains and the Mancos Mountains.  These superb views were about 1500 feet above the valley floors.

When I got back from the hike I took a shower and got something to eat at the store.  I was initially excited that the adjoining cafe offered an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast but I learned that stopped on Labor Day.  The cafe was also closed which I presume also closed on Labor Day.

Then I adjourned to the Laundromat where there were electrical outlets that I could use for my Internet browsing.

I had looked at this day as an easy/rest day but it certainly wasn't that.  Hopefully I got enough rest to make tomorrow's 39 mile 2400 feet climb to Durango easier.


 

Day 24: Tue, Sep 29, 2015 - Mesa Verde, CO to Durango, CO [41.9, 4:20:14, 9.7 mph, 2,235']

The campground store didn't open until 8 am so I took my time getting packed.  I bought a quart of milk, the smallest size they had, and a cinnamon roll.  Then I was on my way at 8:30.

Initially, I had a half mile climb and then it was downhill all the way to the park entrance and a little further down the road on US160 towards Durango.  After that it was significant climbing until the last 10 miles to Durango.

On the biggest climb there was a sign about road work and a warning to cyclists that there was no shoulder.  I continued on to see whether I could get through or would have to hitch a ride.  For some reason they closed off the rightmost lane of a passing lane area with cones so I just rode to the right of the cones.  Then the passing lane naturally ended and it was a mystery why they blocked off the passing lane that closed all by itself.

Then on a descent there was a one-lane road through a construction area and they let me through as I came up on the end of the cars going through.  I don't know what they would have done if I had been going the other direction up hill but I did pretty well going downhill and didn't delay the other direction very long.  There was some more road work but nothing that affected my riding.

After 30 miles I came to Hesperus and stopped for a quick bite and a drink.  There was just a little more climbing and then it was all downhill to Durango.  I hadn't realized how steep the downhill was but I hit 45 mph on the steepest part and the rest of the way was easy too.

It was 1:30 pm when I got to Durango and I immediately rode to the Durango-Silverton train station to get a ticket for the train ride to Silverton in the morning.  I paid $90 for a roundtrip ride at 8:45 am that didn't get me back until 6 pm.  There was also an 8:00 train but that would have required me to get to the station by 7:30.  I didn't want to ride my bike downtown in the morning and leave it locked up all day so I figured I would walk a little over a mile to the station and 8:45 gave me a little more time for the walk.  There was also an option to take a bus back from Silverton that would save some time but it was more expensive and it would save only about an hour and a half.  And by riding the train in both directions I would get to see the view from both sides since I had the same assigned seat both ways.

With that out of the way I rode up main street looking for a motel I saw on Google maps.  It was more expensive than Google maps showed - $69 – but not out of line in a tourist town.  I signed up for 2 nights although I thought I might stay another night as well.

After getting situated in my room, I headed out on my bike to a bike shop about 5 blocks away.  My bike had been shimmying a bit at about 15 mph and faster and it also had a little thump like there was a bump in the wheel.  It didn't cause any problem on my 45 mph descent but I was hoping to identify the issue before it became a problem.  Unfortunately, the bike mechanic couldn't find anything wrong which was both encouraging and discouraging.  There didn't seem to be anything to do other than hope the problem never became serious.

Back at the motel I cleaned my bicycle chain and then cleaned myself.  I walked about a mile towards downtown on main street looking for a pizza place.  I found one and had a small pizza rather than the usual pig out larger pizza.  On my walk back I checked out a couple of outdoor shops and found a couple of water bladders that looked better than what I currently had, particularly the one I had with a leaky cap.  In the end I decided to stick with what I had since I probably didn't need to carry extra water the rest of the trip and I still had a good water bladder if I needed to.

Then I got organized for the train ride tomorrow so I would be ready in the morning to hike down to the train station for what would be a fairly long day.

Day 25: Wed, Sep 30, 2015 - Durango, CO

I got up early so I would have plenty of time to walk downtown for my 8:45 am train ride to Silverton on the narrow gauge train.  I had a bagel breakfast sandwich at a bagel place next door to the train station.

It was a great ride up to Silverton.  The first hour of the 3.5 hour ride was through the Animas River Valley where there were residences scattered around.  Then the route went up the side of the mountains and through a picturesque gorge.  That was followed by riding amongst the high mountains of the San Juan Mountains.  Some places it was hard to look up high enough with the mountains in close and very steep.  It was also prime fall time with a lot of the Aspens showing their colors.

In Silverton we had a two hour layover before the return trip.  That was plenty of time to get something to eat and to check out the downtown area with its variety of restaurants, gift shops, and bars.  All of the famous bordellos were long closed.

In the morning I had checked the weather forecasts and generally they were for good weather except one mentioned a possibility of rain.  So I played it safe and brought my rain gear.  That turned out to be a good move.  It drizzled some while we were in Silverton and then some on the way back.

There was some excitement on the way back.  First, the other train that left before us had some mechanical troubles so they took our locomotive.  Then they brought out a diesel locomotive for our trip.  That delayed us about a half hour.  At first it looked like this might turn out to be a good thing since the diesel was supposedly faster and we wouldn’t have to deal with any coal particles floating in the air.  Unfortunately, the speed never materialized and we got in a half hour late.  Then we had a lot of problems with diesel fumes.  At first everything was fine and then the wind must have shifted because we were breathing diesel fumes a lot.  That wasn't the most pleasant experience.

The good experience started badly and turned out well.  One guy traveling with his wife must have decided he needed his windbreaker when it started drizzling in Silverton only to discover he couldn't find it on the train.  Eventually he and his wife decided he must have left it in Silverton.  That wouldn't have been any real problem except he had his rental car keys along with drivers license and some credit cards in the jacket.  He knew about where he must have left it so they worked with the conductor to see if someone in town could search for it but cell service was spotty to nonexistent at that point.  Eventually they got through to someone in Silverton and the jacket was found.  Better yet, the owner of one of the restaurants was planning to come to Durango that evening anyway so he was going to bring the jacket along.  What could have been a painful experience turned out well.

We got back in town at 6:30 pm, a half hour late.  I walked back to my motel and stopped at a Wendy's close to my motel for a bite to eat.  Then I researched various possibilities for getting to Albuquerque without setting climbing records.  The preferred route would have been something like Durango to Farmington to Cuba to Albuquerque.  However, the Farmington to Cuba route didn't work because there was too much climbing for the distance involved.  At one time there was a small motel half way between that would have been perfect but it was closed now.

So the route was Durango to Pagosa Springs to Chama to Cuba to Albuquerque but there is still a lot of climbing involved in these routes so it remains to be seen how well this works.

Day 26: Thu, Oct 01, 2015 - Durango, CO to Ignacio, CO [28.8, 3:04:28, 9.4 mph, 1,096']

It kept gnawing at me that I was going to head east to Pagosa Springs and then come back via Chama and Cuba.  So I did some last minute googling in the morning and discovered there was a convenience store, conveniently located, at Nageezi which is south of Bloomfield.  That gave me something halfway between 90 mile stretch between Bloomfield and Cuba.  I would at least be able to get some drink/food there and hopefully I would be able to throw up a tent some place close by.  I don't know why I didn't see the convenience store in Google maps before but it is located at the junction to head west to the Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

I was also timing my arrival in Albuquerque for Wednesday when one of my golfing partners was going to be in Albuquerque visiting his wife's brother.  This is convenient since this was during the balloon festival week when motel prices are prohibitive.  So I was in no hurry to make it to Albuquerque.

I headed to the Durango Diner downtown for breakfast.  This was a classic diner that was only about 20 feet wide with a long counter and just a couple of tables.  I had a good breakfast of 2 big pancakes and ham.  This looked like the place where locals go for breakfast and it was a good choice.

Next I intended to mail a bunch of maps and brochures home that I had collected on the trip.  Somehow I didn't get them securely fastened in one of my panniers and when I got to the post office I discovered most of the package had slipped out some where along the way.  I have no idea how I could have missed that since they were in my front right pannier.

I backtracked a bit near the breakfast place to see if they were around but there was no sign and I wasn't going to backtrack all the way to the motel.  Instead I rode a couple more blocks to a grocery store and did some food shopping.

It was 10:15 by the time I left town but that wasn't any problem since I planned a short day on my way to Navajo Lake State Park which I planned to reach tomorrow.  It was almost like riding the Interstate out of town with high speed traffic and a wide shoulder on US160/550.  The only difference is there were some traffic lights.  The shoulder, although wide, was also a pain at times.  Frequently there was some small gravel in the shoulder which was annoying to ride over.

After about 5 miles US550 split off and headed south and I continued on US160 climbing about 500 feet over 3 miles.  Then I took CO172 to Ignacio which was my destination for the day.  CO172 was somewhat quieter with less traffic but there was a fair amount of large truck traffic.  It passed through ranch land with irrigated fields.  There was some climbing and descending but nothing particularly difficult.

I reached Ignacio about 12:30 pm and stopped for a bit to eat at the first food mart.  Ignacio is on the Southern Ute Reservation and its main attraction is a large casino which I rode by.  In town I had to do a little searching to find the fairgrounds that also serves as a campground.  I got a tent site for $15 that included free showers but didn't have a picnic table.  It also didn't have WiFi but the town had a nice library with open WiFi that I took advantage of.

After my library venture I ate at a Subway on my way back to my tent site.


 

Day 27: Fri, Oct 02, 2015 - Ignacio, CO to Navajo Lake, NM [36.5, 4:25:53, 8.2 mph, 2,449']

I rode back into town looking for breakfast.  I found a place yesterday but it was really a coffee shop with a very limited menu.  So I did a run through town just in case I missed something but not expecting anything.  Just when I reached the north end of town and was about to turn around I saw two guys at a window and then I noticed they were in a cafe.  So I stopped and had breakfast.  They didn't have any pancakes so I just had an omelette.  There were only a couple people in the place when I arrived but by the time I left at 9 am the place was filled with a just a couple spots open at the counter.

Leaving town I had a short climb and then descended the rest of the way to the New Mexico state line.  The only real traffic was these large earth mover trucks and they were pretty frequent.  Just before entering New Mexico I saw one turnoff and another enter the highway at the turnoff to La Boca Gravel Pit.  The one coming on the highway looked like it had coal in it but it must have been gravel.

I was glad to leave Colorado and leave these trucks behind but New Mexico had a welcome for me – a steep 3.5 mile climb of 800 feet.  This was followed by a 400 foot descent.  Several smaller versions of this climb/descent followed.  On my elevation profile they looked like the jagged teeth of a saw.

Around 11:30 I stopped along the road with some rocks for sitting and had my second breakfast.  Then it was a few miles more of mostly descending and I caught my first sight of Navajo Lake.  I was worried that the lake might be like Lake Mead where I never really saw the lake from the west side, just the bay areas.  However, here I saw a good part of the lake but the complete lake extended some 35 miles north.  A little further was the turnoff to the marina/campground but I continued on to the dam, an earthen dam on the San Juan River.  The dam is 402 feet high and 3648 feet long.

Earlier when I got near the lake the wind really picked up and was also gusting.  That would be the case for the rest of the day.  This Pine Section of the Navajo Lake State Park had 4 campground areas but only the main one was now open, the others open only until September 15.  I picked a decent walk-in, tent only, site without electricity that cost $10.  However, this site was pretty open and the wind blew sand into the tent.  Had I known this would be a problem I might have picked a more protected site.

After setting up camp I rode back to the marina which had a store and a small restaurant but the restaurant was closed for the season.  So I had a cold drink and a bite to eat at the store.  Then I settled in for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

This was a fairly short day mileage wise but still required almost 2500 feet of climbing.


 

Day 28: Sat, Oct 03, 2015 - Navajo Lake, NM to Bloomfield, NM [32.2, 3:22:33, 9.5 mph, 1,188']

Yesterday the wind started blowing around noon and continued into the night.  Around 7:30 pm a really strong gust of wind came up while I was in my tent and the tent collapsed on me.  I was sure something was broken but the tent bounced back.  However, the back third of the tent was hanging loose and I was sure something was broke.  As it turned out, a clip that clipped to the main pole of the tent had come loose and all I had to do was re-clip it.

After that there was some thunder and lightning and it rained for a couple of minutes but the wind subsided and it was an uneventful night.

In the morning I had my cereal breakfast in camp.  I could have gone to the marina store but that would have involved some climbing when leaving the store so I chose to not bother with the store.

When I packed up I had to empty my tent of all the sand that had gotten blown into the tent from the wind yesterday.

I left around 8 am and descended to the dam.  Then it was a steep descent from the top of the dam to the bottom where the San Juan River continued on its way.  This river was prime trout fishing territory with some special rules for fishing.

The road to Broomfield lost altitude but the road wasn't flat.  It was 25 miles to Broomfield.  After 15 miles NM511 ended and I took US64 west to Broomfield.  US64 had a wide shoulder but it had wide rumbles that negated much of the shoulder width.  The shoulder also frequently had some sand and small gravel that made riding less pleasant than it could have been.  On the good side, the rumble strips were modest ones that could be ridden without too much jarring.

Around 11:30 I arrived in Broomfield.  After my obligatory stop at a food mart I started scouting for motels.  It was quickly obviously which motel was the cheapest as the other 2 motels were a Super 8 and a Best Western.  Unfortunately the Broomfield Motel didn't have any single room available so I was advised to come back later.

I killed some time with some grocery shopping and studying the NM map and the route to Albuquerque.  I went back to the motel just after 1:30 and a room still wasn't ready.  Earlier I had talked with the wife of the owner who quoted me a price of $50.  This time I talked with the owner and he quoted me a price of $60.  He was rather peeved as folks had made reservations for 2 days and then started canceling them, leaving him with available rooms yesterday because he was holding them for reservations.  Turns out both Farmington and Shiprock had events going on and motel customers were overflowing to Broomfield.  Earlier I had checked prices at the Super 8 and was quoted $79 but told there was nothing available.

Once I got in my room I was happy to see it had good WiFi access.  Then I was unhappy when I checked prices for Amtrak to Chicago on Thursday – there was nothing available.  I was shocked since I had never run into this problem with Amtrak, even getting a ticket just a couple days in advance.  Perhaps this was due to Albuquerque's Balloon Festival for Oct 3-11.  However, I found I could get reasonable tickets for either Wednesday or Friday.  When checking for Wednesday I found I could get a ticket for $119 but the website said there were only 4 left so I grabbed one.

This meant that I would miss meeting up with my golfing partner in Albuquerque.  He was due in town on Wednesday and I had arranged my tour to be in Albuquerque on Wednesday.  Now I would be leaving the day he was expected to arrive.

Then to complicate things I checked the weather forecast and the forecast was for rain the next several days.  It was unclear how bad the rain would be but it looked like the last day would be the worst.

Day 29: Sun, Oct 04, 2015 - Bloomfield, NM to Cuba, NM [43.3, 5:46:30, 7.5 mph, 3,322']

The nearby restaurant didn't open for breakfast until 8 so I made breakfast at the next door food mart.  They had a deli and had just made some breakfast sandwiches so I had a ham & cheese burrito, a cinnamon roll, and milk and that was filling.

I left at 8 am and on my way out of town found there was another restaurant that was open for breakfast but it was too late.  The goal for the day was to make Cuba but that wasn't going to happen just by cycling.  It was 92 miles to Cuba with around 5,000 feet of climbing.  With 10 hours of daylight I would have to average 9 mph and that just wasn't going to happen, particularly when a head wind was expected.

Shortly I started a fairly steep, long 8 mile climb.  After that the climbing continued but not quite so steep.  After 11 miles I was surprised to find a food mart, not expecting anything until Nageezi.  So I had my second breakfast.

When I continued life was better.  It had been fairly cool with some headwind.  Now it was a little warmer and the head wind shifted to a less strong cross wind.  There was still gradual climbing and occasionally some descending.  It was warm enough that I was able to remove my jacket.

Around 11:30 I could see some showers in the distance and it wasn't long before I could feel them too.  Initially, I thought I might not need my rain gear but then it started to rain fairly hard with some small hail and I had to put on my rain gear.  However, this rain only lasted 10-15 minutes.

By 2 pm I arrived at the food mart near Nageezi.  This food mart was positioned for the traffic turning to the Chaco Canyon.  I had a bite to eat and then focused on getting a ride to Cuba since there was no way I could come close to making Cuba before dark.  At first I thought it would be best to approach people who stopped for gas but this didn't look like it was going to work.  There was one guy in a pickup truck which looked promising but there were a couple of teenagers who were looking for a ride.  They were either very intoxicated or drugged out as they could barely walk.  They ended up getting “my” ride and, to be sure, they needed it more than I did.

I finally decided to move out on to the road to thumb a ride and almost immediately a woman, Jeannette, left the food mart and stopped with her station wagon.  I didn’t think that was going to work but she moved some stuff around and I removed the panniers and everything fit with the rear seat folder down.  Then it was a quick ride to Cuba.

The scenery in the morning was basically a flat landscape with dessert shrubs and some irrigated fields.  Now the scenery became very interesting with some badland type scenery and later some mountains.  This is just the type of scenery that is best seen on a bicycle.  It would have been better to hitch a ride to the food mart and ride the rest of the way.

Jeannette dropped me off at the Frontier Motel in Cuba.  No one was there initially so I rode through town and back, checking out the services, and someone was at the motel by then.  I got a room for $50 which included a $5 senior discount.  The room was fine except it didn't have a grounded plug outlet by the desk in the room so I couldn't plug in my laptop.  The motel attendant couldn't find any adapter so I ended up having to move a small table to a different part of the room that had a grounded outlet.  Then the WiFi turned out to be abysmal.  I needed to pay some bills via my Chase account and it must have taken 30 minutes or more.  Too bad I didn’t remember needing to pay my bills yesterday when I had good WiFi.

I did get a good meal.  Both Jeannette and the motel attendant had recommended El Bruno, a Mexican restaurant, and it was very good.  I had a margarita, burrito, chips, and sopaipillas, Mexican fry bread.  The fry bread was much better than the Navajo fry bread I had near Kayenta, which I didn't find very exciting.  By the time I was done I was more than full.

Tomorrow I expect I will stay another day in Cuba.  The weather forecast is not great and I'm not expected in Albuquerque until Tuesday.

Day 30: Mon, Oct 05, 2015 - Cuba, NM

I was planning to eat breakfast at the cafe next door which supposedly opened at 8 am but apparently it decided not to open at all today.  So I walked across the street for breakfast at a food mart.

The weather forecast looked better for today than it had yesterday but I still decided to stay in Cuba another day, mainly because I wasn't expected in Albuquerque until Tuesday.  If there had been a place to stay part way I would have ridden on but there was nothing between Cuba and Albuquerque.  As it turned out it was an okay day to ride other than for a 10-15 mph head wind.

After breakfast I took advantage of the Laundromat next door to do a load of laundry.  This was a large Laundromat with side loading washers.  In fact, they had 3 sizes of washers – double load, maxi, and mega.  I only needed a half load washer but had to use a double load washer that cost $3.50.  The other two cost $5 and $6.50.

Later, I decided to walk to the library which was towards the other end of town.  However, I forgot to check the exact location.  I thought it would be near the police/fire station but I saw no sign of it.  As I was walking back I asked a couple of guys and they said it was by the police station.  So I turned around and, sure enough, by walking a little further down the side street I saw it.  It was interesting that there was no library sign.  Towns usually have a library sign along the main road.

Earlier when I was walking back I saw two touring cyclists heading south.  When I got to the library they were there.  They were cycling the Great Divide Route on 29” mountain bikes using a big handlebar bag and a large seat bag to carry their equipment.

Unfortunately, we both had bad timing as the library was closed from 11:45 to 1 pm.   A sign said this was the case all week but it wasn't clear if that meant just this week or every week.  Anyway I walked back to the main street for a bite to eat at a food mart and to kill time.  Then I spent a couple of hours at the library.  One good thing was I realized it would be helpful to have a street map of where I was expected in Corrales as well as a street map for how to get to the Amtrak Station.  I was able to use a library PC to print a couple of maps from Google maps.

Throughout the day I continued to be frustrated by the poor WiFi at the motel.  At times it was just slow and other times I lost the connection.  This was easily the worst WiFi of any motel or RV Park for the trip.

The weather forecast didn’t look too bad with a 20% forecast of rain with isolated showers and thunderstorms and a head wind of 5-10 mph.  Then the forecast looked much worse for Tuesday night and Wednesday with a 50-60% chance of rain.

Day 31: Tue, Oct 06, 2015 - Cuba, NM to Corrales, NM [74.1, 6:23:07, 11.6 mph, 1,283']

The Cuban Cafe reportedly opened at 6 am so I was there at 7 am and had a good breakfast of pancakes, ham, and eggs.  When I left town it was almost 8 am and there wasn't a cloud in the sky although it was a bit cool at 50F.

I expected a relatively easy day.  It was about 70 miles to Corrales but it was almost all downhill with just a couple of modest hills.

The scenery was great for the day and I rode at 13-15 mph on the way to San Ysidro.  I got to San Ysidro at 11:30 after 42 miles and would have made it sooner if I hadn't stopped to take so many photos along the way.  I had my second breakfast and then was on the way again by noon.

The scenery wasn't as great the rest of the way but still okay.  The sky had clouded up some and it appeared to be raining in the Sandia Mountains ahead.  I reached the turnoff to NM528 around 2 pm and had some time to kill since I told my host not to expect me before 4 pm.  So I stopped at a food mart and hung around there for a while.  This was a good place to hang out since a shower passed through that lasted 10-15 minutes.

Then I continued on to the turnoff to Corrales Road, NM448.  From there I picked up Loma Larga Road until I reached Hollywood Blvd.  Chris, my host, warned me that Hollywood was gravelly and sandy and offered to pick me up but it didn't look so bad and I rode the little over a mile to their place.  I ignored the barking dogs along the way and a couple of chickens.

I arrived at my hosts beautiful house a little after 4 pm.  They were on a hill and had a great view of the Sandia Mountains.  I had a great dinner of spaghetti, sausage, salad, and wine.  We spent a lot of time discussing my trip and places we all had been like Monument Valley and Zion NP.  It was just unfortunate that my golfing partner, Jim, and I were going to miss each other by a day.

Day 32: Wed, Oct 07, 2015 - Albuquerque, NM

It was partly cloudy in the morning with the clouds mainly over the Sandia Mountains.  This didn't stop the launching of the balloons which get launched in waves.  I made my own breakfast using my cereal which was going to get thrown out at the train station if I didn't use it.  Chris made some coffee and we spent some time watching the balloons.

Chris had offered to drive me to the Amtrak station in his old pickup track.  I really wanted to ride and it was only 17 miles away but the weather was a little iffy.  In the end I rationalized that this would let me see more of the balloons since I would have had to leave around 8 am.  It would also save me having to clean up at the station after riding for a couple of hours.

Jackie went off to her teaching position at UNM and a little later Chris drove me to the Amtrak Station.  Checking in went pretty well.  I paid $15 for a bicycle box and $10 to take the bike on the train.  It took almost an hour to pack up the bike and then pack the rest of my stuff into my two rear panniers and a duffel bag and pack all of my sensitive items and necessities in a front pannier.

The train was scheduled to leave at 12:10 and it got in an hour early so I boarded an hour early.  After that it was a typical train ride.  I spent the afternoon and early evening in the observation car until we climbed the Raton Pass and descended to Trinidad.  At that point I returned to my seat only to discover I had a seat mate.  In my four previous train rides I never had a seat mate and that made sleeping easier since I could sprawl across both seats so this was disappointing.  It was also disappointing that the car just ahead of us had almost nobody in the car.  It was a shame to waste all those empty seats.

Day 33: Thu, Oct 08, 2015 - Naperville, IL

I never sleep very well on the train and last night was a little worse than usual because I had a seat mate and was constrained to my seat.  Nevertheless I got an adequate amount of rest.

After breakfast I spent most of the rest of the train ride in the observation car.  The best part was talking with another guy who was from New Zealand.  He was headed to Chicago because his son was running in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.  We got to discuss sights in NZ, Australia, and the US as well as other topics like sports.

The train was due in Chicago at 3:15 pm but it was about 90 minutes late.  Since I live in Naperville I have the option of getting off the train when it stops in Naperville while my bicycle continues on to Chicago.  The problem is the train gets in too late to ride back to Naperville.  So if I get off at Naperville I have to get myself and my panniers home and then ride the Marta train downtown later or the next morning to retrieve my bicycle from baggage service.  I can take my bicycle on the Marta train back to Naperville but bicycles aren't allowed on the train during the rush hours.  The only time I took my bicycle on the train I couldn't get it on until after 9 pm.  Or I could pick up my bicycle in the morning and ride it back to Naperville.

This time, since the train was so late, I decided it would be easier to just continue on to Chicago and bring my bicycle back to Naperville on the Marta train.  Unlike my other experience, this time after I got my bicycle unpacked and packed with my panniers I found I could get it on the train after 7 pm and there was a 7:40 train to Naperville.  I had time to get something to eat and then have an uneventful train ride to Naperville where I live 1.5 miles from the train station.  I got home around 9 pm, ending another successful trip.

 


 

Copyright Denis Kertz, 2015. All rights reserved.