Cycling the Great Divide, Day Twenty: Canon Plaza, New Mexico to a Meadow Off Forest Road 133, New Mexico

June 20th, 2016: 30 miles. Total so far: 658 miles.

We slept well, and were up early. But not too early.

As we were getting everything ready to go, the two dogs belonging to the owners of the Summer Store came over to visit. The skinnier of the dogs squeezed through the fence, while the larger dog, who Joy called “his fat friend”, whined outside, then briefly got stuck in the fence. He was happy after we wheeled the bikes outside the yard and he could greet us properly.

Also up was Nellie, one of those spoiled horses who sidle up to you, as if to inquire if you have an apple in your pocket. Yesterday evening when we were moving in, she immediately located the pannier on Joy’s bike that contained some snacks, and probably would have figured out to open it up if Joe hadn’t chastised her.

We got on the bikes and immediately started climbing. It was green at this elevation, and I wondered if the open range cattle, who moved freely through the trees and meadows up here, enjoyed their lives more than the cattle that we saw down in the desert.

Forest Road 91-B was an especially nice road — narrow, apparently untraveled (except by us and a few other cyclists, judging by some bike tracks), and smooth, hard-packed dirt.

In the early afternoon we stopped, sat in the shade, and reviewed our schedule: We were behind. We discussed lightening the load on the bikes by sending stuff home, but I don’t think we arrived at any firm conclusions. The heaviest thing we’re carrying is an eight pound, four-person tent, which is ridiculous, of course, but is the tent that I picked out, as Joy likes to remind me.

Later we stopped at Hopewell Campground, where we sat in the shade and talked with Sarah, the nice campground host, for a while. The big news in the campground was that a child had wandered away the night before, resulting in a massive all-night search. The little kid had somehow walked seven miles away before being found by a motorist near the highway and returned safely. The campground host was very hoarse today; apparently one of the things that occurs during a search like this is everyone screaming as loud as they can for the missing child. I’m extremely glad I wasn’t in that campground during the night of screaming.

The campground was officially out of water because of a pump failure, but Sarah had held back water for cyclists and hikers, so we were able to fill our bottles. She also gave us bananas, which is definitely going above and beyond the duties of a U.S. Forest Service campground host. Especially since we were just visiting, and not camping there.

After leaving the campground we had an unpleasant five mile descent on pavement. (It was unpleasant for me, not Joy, because my heavily loaded bike shimmies violently on pavement once I reach 18 mph or so. It hasn’t been worth figuring out why it happens, because we so rarely ride on pavement on this trip.)

Then it was back on dirt. It was the hottest part of the day as we began to climb up to an open area called Cisneros Park. Joy, who practices a kind of amateur meteorology on this trip, had been noncommittal about the chances of precipitation, despite my frequently asking “Do you think it will rain?”

It started to sprinkle, and then thunder, so we pulled off the road into a meadow and quickly set up the tent. The presence of a couple of tent stakes buried deeply in the ground indicated that someone had camped there before. Joy snorted: “Some MAN pounded his tent stakes into the ground so hard he couldn’t get them out!”

We had climbed 4,000 feet in 30 miles or riding today, and I had unfortunately become “hangry”, so Joy made mashed potatoes in a bag, this time innovating by adding the crumbs from a can of tortilla-flavored Pringles. It was really, really good.

The fat friend.
Photo credit: Joy Santee.
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