Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kingston to Las Cruces 88 miles 3/20/10

After a breakfast of eggs, bacon, home fries, french toast made with home made nut bread, we said good bye to our B&B hosts and their dog, Charlie, to begin our ride to Las Cruces.  We descended more than 2,000 feet over eighty-eight miles.

The ride today started at 28 degrees.  There was frost on the windshield of the vehicles, and it took several hours for it to warm up enough for those who had plastic water bottles had a hard time squeezing water out!

We went downhill the rest of the way, somewhat of a repeat of yesterday.   We passed throught rugged canyons, dotted with cedar, pine, pinon, and jujniper pines.  We cycled alongside the clear waters of Percha Creek, lined with willows and cottonwood trees; even the air smelled sweeter here.  Who knew New Mexico was like this?

The Rio Grande River begins in the mountains of Colorado, and flows south through all of New Mexico before turning southeast to form the international border.  We crossed the river three times in the course of the day.

We stopped in the town of Hatch, and ate a wonderful Mexican lunch in the Valley Cafe there.  This part of New Mexico grows chile peppers of all kinds, and we could smell it in the air!  Colorful chains of dried red chiles hang by the dozens outside many of the town's stores.

After leaving Hatch and its chiles, we entered the world of pecans.  Mile after mile, we biked past pecan trees on both side of the road.  Their branches are bare this time of year, but they are planted in perfectly pruned rows as far as we could see!

The high today was 52 degrees, so it did warm up, but when you get that chilled, it is hard to warm up.  The wind was from the west, which would have been great, except we were on winding roads going north, so we had mostly side and head winds.  The gusts were so strong that Shelley Hatcher was blown off the road into the sand and gravel and fell.  She was lucky to escape with a scraped knee.

The last 15 miles was delightful because the road turned east and straightened, which meant we had a great tail wind.  We sailed into the city of Las Cruces on smooth roads, so the rest of our struggles on the 88 miles were forgotten!  Several of us stopped at the Custard Freeze a mile from the motel.  It was our reward for the day's ride!

Silver City to Kingston, NM 48 challenging, uphill miles! 3/19/10

We all enjoyed our day off yesterday, but today we are facing the challenge of climbing the Southern Rockies of New Mexico!

As we fuel up with scrambled eggs and sausages in the motel breakfast area, the topic of the day is the cold weather to start the day, and the potential of hills and wind. After pumping up tires and gathering favorite snacks set out by Linda, our chef, Mike, Alayna and I took off. We try to get out as early as possible each day.

  The temperature was a balmy 28 degrees, and it had rained during the night.

 The pavement was dry, but there were metal cattle crossings that were frosted with ice, so we had to be very careful.

We started out our day biking uphill out of Silver City. It is difficult to make those hills without a warm up, but it didn’t take long.

As we headed toward the mountains, we left the main road for Hwy 152, the Black Range Highway, and it is obvious we are in for a change of scenery. Before the wilderness area, we came upon the Santa Rita open pit copper mine.

We are headed for the peak, Emory Pass, elevation 8,840 ft. The roads seem to be either steep uphill or sort of uphill. Occasionally there is a welcome downhill, but we know we are going to “pay” for those respites with more uphill!

We stopped at the look out at the "Kneeling Nun" monument.  The stone formation in the distance kind of looks like a kneeling nun.

We get into a zone of cadence and gear as we plod upwards. The road surface was excellent. I started to notice the sights and sounds of wind in the tall pines, the rushing of the snow melt streams, the smell of the pines, and hawks sailing on the updrafts.  I happened to look up the high wall of rock, and noticed this: 

The wind is not as strong as we feared, but the direction did not matter. There were so many switch backs on the roads, we had wind coming from every direction at one time or another. At some clearings we could see forever, and we could see rain coming down off in the distance.

We finally reached Emory Pass, and I have to admit the cheers of those who arrived ahead, plus the trailer with Carol and Linda combined with the effort it took to get there, brought me to tears of relief!

Karen, Mike and I walked up to the look out of Emory Pass, and we had to admit it was worth the climb.

As we left Emory Pass, Carol and Linda both warned us (again!) to take it easy going downhill the 8 miles into Kingston. It took us all day to get up there, and the ride down was full of switchbacks coming at us much faster than when we were grinding uphill to get there. The three of us left, and were breaking every five seconds to slow our decent. I had to make sure my pedals were up in the direction of the turns. There is no shoulder on this two lane road, but the traffic was very considerate to us. By the time we arrived at the turn for the lodge, our hands were sore from braking so much!


(Can you find the bikers? left side)

(Those at the end of the pack were caught by rain and snow. Carol and Linda had waited at Emory Pass for the last riders, but had no idea the change in the weather just a few miles down! Even when they arrived, some of them refused to be “bumped” down to the lodge. They made it just fine…tired, very cold, but happy.)

The Black Mountain Ranch Lodge is an amazing place. It is very old – parts of it dates back to 1880 – and it is filled with many small, eclectic bedrooms. Several of us were assigned to the house across the street, and I enjoyed a room to myself. The lodge owners made a wonderful turkey dinner for us.

Carol, Linda and others played pool, and Amy taught others “Apples to Apples” game.

At our nightly cue sheet meeting before dinner, it was announced we climbed over 4,115 ft in 48 miles today!

Tomorrow is 88 miles to Las Cruces, New Mexico.