Mission to Mars

October 13, 2012 at 8:45 am

Between Cuba and Grants there was to be more of all good things: desert, volcanic rocks, thorns, sandy roads, cacti, weird outcroppings… you name it. Click “Read More”…

It was October now, and we were greeted by blue skies and a burning sun. The first few miles were to be pavement, and then we would hit the sand again. And ditches. Lots of ditches. While we didn’t notice a lot of New Mexicans playing in them, we did notice them being used as dumps. Couches, laundry machines, cars, you name it… These people should take better care of their state, it’s beautiful.

Into the sands…

And that’s where we came from, 11 miles of boring pavement.

A ditch!

Sand. It was a smooth ride, but you have to stay focused all the time or the bike will wash out and you will be on the ground, crying for your mother.

The vegetation became markedly different and… prickly.

Ben the Canadian, being groped by a cactus in all the wrong places.

I’d hate to do these roads in wet conditions (i.e. two or three weeks ago).

Now this starts to properly look like another planet. The landscape was dotted with volcanic plugs and stranger rocks.

Whose house would this be?

I name this picture “O Kickstand, How My Heart Belongs To Thee”. It looks like Mat & Ben’s bikes got their asses kicked by mine!

View towards Cabezon Peak, which dominated the landscape for many miles.

The landscape looked like it could change overnight. The erosion made for fascinating views.

I liked this dead tree, looking like the proverbial parched man in the desert, stretching out his hand… “water! water!”

After an exhausting but utterly fascinating ride, we pulled over at “designated hunter’s campsite”. Amazingly, during dinner we were eaten alive by mosquito’s. Mosquito’s? In October? In dry country? Apparently, yes. Bah!
While we were finishing up, another cyclist turned up… Lo and behold, it was Colin who we had met before in Wyoming! We were surprised to see him, because he was much faster than us. However, he had had his share of adventures… a detour into Santa Fe, where his bike got stolen, where he got on the news with that story, where he got his bike retrieved by some vigilante biker who pulled over his truck when he saw the stolen bike, ready to kick the thief’s ass with some friends… awesome story. So now three had turned to four!
We built another huge campfire, just for funsies and to keep the mosquitoes away. It was another beautiful, clear night. The moon was very bright (looking almost red while it was rising). I really like these nights in the wilderness.

Fire.

Moonrise.

A feeble attempt at capturing the starry sky. Max. shutter speed was 4 seconds, unfortunately. I might as well have sprinkled some sugar on some black paper and pictured that!

The next day would be tougher. Added into the mix were arroyo’s: dried-up river beds (prone to flash floods during monsoonal season). The road dips down into them and then up again. Sometimes they are very deep, and always very steep. There was no negotiating with these arroyo’s, they were out to make us sweat bigtime. I didn’t feel too good, it was like having jelly in my lags. We were determined to make it to the city of Grants however. Nearly two-thirds into the day there was an opportunity to take the pavement towards Grants instead of doing the last climb. I took it gladly, I just wanted to get some rest. I was having some stomach problems and generally feeling pretty weak.
Colin, Ben and Mat were going to do the climb and continuing on the rest day, whereas I was going to stay in Grants and recover. I’d meet them up later in Pie Town, which would take them two days — and I would do the Grants to Pie Town stretch in one.

Despite feeling not too well, it was great fun to ride in this roller-coaster landscape.

Mat dropping off (not for the first time ;-)) while dipping into an arroyo.

Colin…

Mat…

… and Ben!

The joke’s probably on me, right?

Sounds ominous. Brrrr….

So, in Grants I hopped into the Southwestern Motel, ready for some recovery. I quickly got rid of the cause of my stomach problems in the bathroom and had some beers & tortilla chips, the dinner of champions. My layover day was spent looking for a sports shop. A google query listed four of them. The first one was a private home. The second one was an empty lot, hired out to Vietnam veterans. The third one was boarded up. And the fourth one actually was a trailer park!

The supposed location of one of the four sports stores in Grants.

So, despite having 10.000 people and being the largest town in a radius of about 40 miles, there wasn’t a single sports store in Grants. Oh well. I had a good day riding around, rehydrating, eating some good food (the Mexican food at La Ventana restaurant was excellent) and I was ready to ride to Pie Town and meet my buddies again.

Day 55 (October 1st): Frontier’s Hotel, Cuba – Designated Hunter’s Campsite, nowhere
Riding time: 4:21:05
Distance: 74,63 km
Amount climbed: 524 m

Day 56 (October 2nd): Designated Hunter’s Campsite, nowhere – Southwest Motel, Grants
Riding time: 7:17:58
Distance: 111,48 km
Amount climbed: 912 m

Day 57 (October 3rd): Southwest Motel, Grants
Rest day!