An update & some banter

October 3, 2012 at 11:28 pm

So, to everyone reading this blog, it is much appreciated — but as you can see I haven’t been able to update the blog for two weeks. Part of the reason for this is that it’s hard to find a good place & time to update. I would need the following things for that:

– a PC of decent speed
– with available USB ports
– and Internet
– and some image processing software (Windows Picture Manager, Picasa, that sort of thing)

And I would need that for a bunch of hours because usually there’s lots of photo’s to go through. Also, it takes time to tell my story in a comprehensive way instead of rambling on. At least, I like to think it’s comprehensive.

So, right now, I left you hanging in Salida, Colorado whereas I am in fact typing this up in Grants, New Mexico. I have got about 40 minutes left on this PC so I am not even going to attempt to process pictures. It’ll be just text and I’ll type up decent stories later.

Part of this is to provide some detail on what I did, part of this is just for myself, to make sure I’ll remember everything later on when I’m back home! Click on “Read More” to get an update on what happened…

So much has happened since leaving Salida. The passes of Colorado were huge but with gentle grades. Billowing oceans of green, gold and red aspen provided sights I will never forget (I sure wonder how those pictures will turn out on a big screen). My cycling buddy Mat’s rear rack broke that day, but it is amazing how much you can fix with duct tape and tie wraps. He ordered a new one at Old Man Mountain, to be delivered at our next town stop: Del Norte, Colorado. We braved our coldest night en route to Del Norte: 24 Fahrenheit or about minus 5 degrees Celcius.

More happened en route to Del Norte: we ran into a gathering of a big group of friends (the Sideway crowd, they style themselves) who had their yearly “party weekend” at the campsite we were planning to camp at. Elk brisket, green chili, mashed spicy potatoes, marinated chicken & fajita’s, salad, chocolate pie, cake, beers etc. etc. were our share. Wow! We also had an encounter with a very cute bear cub and got a good sight of him (no pictures, sadly).

Del Norte was a strange place. Part hillbilly, part hippie. We had our worst hotel, the Country Family Inn. We decided to take a rest day, waiting for Mat’s rack. The second night we had one of the best hotels: the Windsor hotel. Partially to flush away the depressing feeling the Country Family Inn left us with… The next day, no rack, so I left for Indiana Pass (turns out the rack arrived a few hours later). Indiana Pass was the biggest & highest pass of the entire route (topping out at 11.910 feet or 3.630 m above sea level).

On top of Indiana Pass, horrible weather rolled in: a snow/hailstorm. The trail went up and down between about 3.300 meter and 3.500 meter above sea level all the time. Every time I rounded a corner the wind whipped mercilessly at my cold-weather gear & waterproofs. Still I was having fun in a masochistic sort of way, because I noticed my fingers and toes not falling off, being quite amazed by that. I made it to a cabin in Platoro where I hung my cycle shorts on the heater to dry, promptly roasting them. Now I was left with one pair. Typical me…

I had enough of the cold weather and the constant threat of rain. I decided to hit the pavement towards Abiquiu instead of another mountain ridge. I made it to Chama in one day, got sick there (probably a cold from the snowstorm?) so stayed over a day and rode to Abiquiu. There, I met Mat again and another companion, Ben. Three’s company! Oh, and this was in New Mexico, too, the final state (with still about 700 miles of riding in it).

From Abiquiu we went to Cuba. New Mexico is a weird hybrid of Mexico & the USA. For the first time everything feels truly exotic. The roads are very rough and sandy, I’d hate to them in muddy conditions. Fortunately they dried out. Sometimes it’s like riding on the moon.

I nearly had an intimate tryst with a big rattlesnake crossing the road. That snake sure was angry… it was about a yard from me, rattling its rattles and flicking its tongue like it’s nobody’s business. I lucked out there. So now, added to bearanoia there’s snake-a-noia and I’m watching the road surface closely all the time.

In Cuba we had the most amazing dinner at El Bruno’s. The closer you get to Mexico, the better the food gets. Another thing is that they serve Margarita in bathtub-sized glasses. Just the thing after miles and miles of dusty riding. After Cuba we crossed over to Grants. At our campsite we met Colin again (whom we met earlier in Wyoming). We’d expected him to be at the border right now, but he had his share of adventures too. Making a detour into Santa Fe, his bicycle got stolen, got on the news, got retrieved by a vigilante biker dude, all in all pretty incredible. So three riders now became four!

The next day was a beautiful ride in a landscape dotted with volcanic plugs, layered mesa’s, heavily eroded arroyo’s (river beds) and all sorts of weird cacti. It was also very tough and I felt quite weak. I do not know what it is. Near the tiny town of San Mateo there was an opportunity to hit the pavement towards Grants. I didn’t save many miles by taking that option, but I avoided the last climb of the day. I’m glad I did so; my riding buddies did the climb, but there was nothing to see because it was dark. They arrived at about ten in the evening, while I did at half past seven. I decided to take a layover day in Grants and make it to Pie Town tomorrow in one day.

So that is where I am right now. Ben, Mat and Colin had a very late start and will probably camp somewhere between here and Pie Town. I hope to meet them there.

Words cannot describe the other-worldliness of the landscape in New Mexico. Especially when the moon rises, it is truly a sight to behold. I hope to have the opportunity to upload some pictures when I am in Silver City. That will probably be four or five days riding from now.

Despite the beauty of New Mexico, I also feel a bit of a mental fatigue. I have been on the road for two months now. I have had so many new impressions, it is all a jumble in my head. I’d like to have some time to sort it all out, but there isn’t any — there’s always another ride waiting. I suppose this teaches me something about the best way (for me) to do a long bike tour.
I start to understand the idea of “taking a vacation off your bike”. Every time I arrive in a town there is so much to do: getting a shower, doing laundry, updating my food stores, updating the blog, performing bike maintenance, etc. And that is during a “rest day”. The next day it’s off on the bike again. Despite the fact that I’ve been here for two months already, I am just scratching the surface of this country. I feel a little bit like having eaten too much in a very good restaurant and looking at the dessert menu, which is full of MORE delicious things…

I have about 380 miles of Great Divide Mountain Bike Route left to ride. Still I can’t even imagine that. I can’t imagine having ridden over 2.000 miles, either. It all feels like a dream.
I am entertaining the idea of getting a train to Las Vegas and riding from there, through Death Valley, to Los Angeles. Another idea is getting the train to Flagstaff and visiting Grand Canyon first. Who knows. One thing is certain: I’m going to get the biggest milkshake I have ever had, right now.