Friday, April 27, 2012

Licks and kicks

Day 13. During the night the wind shifted. Today it was our friend the entire day. OK, to be completely accurate it was in our faces for .3 miles. But that was not the wind's fault.

In a group of 4 riders traveling 22 mph pushed by a strong tailwind, it's tough to see anything. The  crossroads are invisible if you blink. Reading the route sheet is downright dangerous. We blasted right by the first turn.

Thus it became necessary to backtrack .3 miles in a howling cold headwind to the original turn. It was an excellent reminder of how the day could have gone, just by pointing in the other direction. Also, yesterday was not so long ago. Humility is important because a tailwind can make you feel like a racer on the European cycling circuit. Immortal.

The turn took us to the town of Anzac. At least that's what the sign said; at 20+ mph I couldn't tell you if there was a town. There definitely was a sinewy gorgeous road that follows the contour of the land. After that we tried to stay on route. It is the route and a way to not be lost. Also, Lon designed it to show all the good stuff.

One of the highlights was in Laguna NM. A small detour took us to this whitewashed church that was built ~300 years ago. Photos inside are not allowed, but it was simple and sincere and beautiful. A packed dirt floor. Handpainted Pueblo motifs on the walls. An altar that was elaborately festooned with folk art and color.

Next we turned into Owl Canyon, which reminded Hans very much of the scenery in the movie Cars. Another road that seemed designed for the enjoyment of the traveler. I find myself stopping for any old reason on roads like this. No hurry to get to Albuquerque.

Route 66 in Owl Canyon.
The next treat was an old part of Route 66 that bent south a few miles from the freeway. There's  washboarding and some sand. Where there's pavement it is bumpy and scaly. It was a small price to pay for a break from the through traffic. Seeing and hearing it all day really takes a toll. Riding this section solo, it was easy to imagine being the only human for miles around.

Looking south.
Not sure why these rocks are here, but they look cool.

Today for the first time we are parting ways with the train tracks. The train line goes north to Santa Fe. Many of us look forward to watching the trains pass, usually parallel to Route 66. They run day and night. We've seen an unbelievable number of containers and liquid/gas cars and hopper cars with coal moving across the country. But Albuquerque is really a car town.

A train passes just a few feet underneath. Its powerful momentum is comforting somehow.

I was not the only human around. Team Awesome had spent the night in Laguna and was taking a snack break! There's so much stuff on their bikes that they were asking us what our average speed was. Of course it's different each day. Today we are fast...because of the wind!

Getting on the freeway after this, we got no fewer than four friendly honks in 10 minutes. Two from truckers. Well, things are really looking up. Good things seem to compound: a little fence-jumping to reach a frontage road, an excellent burger at the DQ, and then the tailwind up what is supposed to be a hill. A long downhill run into ABQ.

The magic had to stop somewhere ;-)

Riding in Albuquerque is not my thing.
Hans gazes at the river.


  1. When we've driven in NM we noticed many colorfully-decorated roadside memorials--fatal accidents, drunk drivers, etc. Mostly on the highway between Albuquerque and Taos. Lots of narrow roads with no bike paths or shoulders. Hope you didn't experience that. The scenery looks (is otherwise) gorgeous...

  2. Hi Mary, there are roadside memorials along many roads here (elsewhere too). On the nearly deserted road to Peach Springs I noticed a white cross, decorated with red and yellow flowers, facing a beautiful mesa. The only place there is a consistent shoulder is the interstate.

    There are a lot of cyclists in New Mexico but I've heard it ranks 46th out of 50 states for safe cycling.

    These folks are trying to improve conditions for cycling in NM: