Cycling the Great Divide, Day Five: Silver City, New Mexico to Lake Roberts, New Mexico
June 5th, 2016: 30 miles. Total so far: 155 miles.
Today was going to be the most difficult day yet, in terms of climbing, so we were up early and ready to go. I continued to save valuable time in the morning by eschewing shaving. The beard is coming in even whiter than the last time I tried growing one three years ago, however. Disturbing.
Yesterday James, the night manager of the historic Murray Hotel, had offered to set up the continental breakfast an hour early for us, which was helpful; the temperatures seem to rise rapidly in the morning in this part of New Mexico, and we wanted to get on the road while it was still cool. After breakfast, as we were ready to roll out, he requested that we reenact an old photo that hangs in the hotel lobby: It’s a picture of a woman on a horse — the woman and the horse were actually in the lobby of the hotel, for reasons that are not clear — while a man with a cowboy hat holds the reins of the horse.
We gave it our best shot:
We rode out of town on a busy highway, but it was only for a mile or so, and the traffic was very light, early on this Sunday morning. Then we turned onto an emptier state highway, where we would remain much of the day, and which would takes us up and over a mountain (or two). Yesterday we had calculated that we would probably gain 3,000 feet of elevation in about 30 miles of riding on this road. So, it would be a fairly strenuous ride, especially on loaded bikes. (Also, we were carrying a lot of water, and water is surprisingly heavy. Who knew?!)
It was, in fact, a stiff climb from Silver City to the next, small town of Pinos Altos (population 198.) We spent a little time looking at some of the old buildings, then continued on State Route 15, which became narrower as we descended from the town, then started climbing again. This was a very, very scenic ride, and we were excited to see tall pines after the last few days in the desert where the tallest things we saw were Yucca plants.
While we were riding up the first big hill, we encountered two friendly couples who were out on a day ride, and had an enjoyable conversation with them — that was nice.
Even though we haven’t been doing especially long days on this tour, I’ve been hungry during the day, and the usual snacks haven’t seemed to satisfy. Today, however, I enjoyed an innovative creation of Joy’s: Sliced pepperoni and a cheese stick, wrapped in a flour tortilla, and kept cool by its proximity to a frozen Gatorade bottle. Genius!
Another idea of Joy’s I was initially dubious about, or at least not super-excited about: The two fold-up camp chairs that I’m carrying on the back of my bike. So much nicer than sitting on the ground or on hard rocks. Why did I never try this the last ten years, and thousands of miles, of bike touring?
Back to the ride: It continued to be very hilly. At some point a large swarm of flies discovered us, and stuck with us for miles, even on some of the fast descents. Fortunately they were not kinds of flies that bite.
In another fly-related incident, during one of our extended sitting-on-the-side-of-the-road-in-our-camp-chair times, I swallowed a fly, but could not decide whether to spit it back up, or concede defeat and swallow it. I chose the latter, and couldn’t help but feel that perhaps my riding partner was just a little too amused by the incident.
After a white-knuckle descent to 6,000 feet, where it was very hot (too hot for the flies, apparently, who abandoned us), we rode a few miles on a quiet paved road, and checked into a nice mom-and-pop motel in the middle of nowhere, the last indoor accommodations that will be available for the next five days, as we ride on dirt roads through virtually uninhabited country.