Denis Kertz, ©2015
I got up at 6:45 am which sounds later than normal but
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
It was 1:30 pm when I got to
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.
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
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
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
So the route was
It kept gnawing at me that I was going to head east to
Pagosa Springs and then come back via Chama and
I was also timing my arrival in
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
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.
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
I was glad to leave
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
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
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.
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
The road to
Around 11:30 I arrived in
I killed some time with some grocery shopping and studying
the NM map and the route to
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
This meant that I would miss meeting up with my golfing
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Then I continued on to the turnoff to
I arrived at my hosts beautiful house a little after 4
pm. They were on a hill and had a great
view of the
It was partly cloudy in the morning with the clouds mainly
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
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
The train was due in
This time, since the train was so late, I decided it would
be easier to just continue on to
Copyright Denis Kertz, 2015. All rights reserved.