Day 17 - June 23rd
20.7 miles (7 slacker miles)
Total: 674.6 miles
We slept hard last night. We were exhausted. Those miles were behind us, or so we thought.
It sprinkled off and on through the night, so the route had no chance to dry. I figured that once we got moving it would be dry. We slept later than usual, and the sun had started to burn off the clouds, finally hitting the road to turn the soft clay into a hard packed dirt.
Nope, the route had other plans for us. Within half a mile my back tire seized up. I flipped the bike over and went to work clearing the mud out. For whatever reason, the mud seems to gather between my tire and fender but not Apricots' tire and fender. She can't ride in the mud, but her tire doesn't lock up like mine. I think it is a combination of my heavier load, and slightly different installation of the fender.
For roughly four miles we pushed our bikes over the grassy meadows to avoid the mud trap road. It was so inviting, looking all smooth and easy pedaling, but one minute on the road would lead to ten minutes of clearing mud off the wheel and fender.
Eventually we dropped far enough in elevation that soil composition with rocks and less rain made the road a manageable ride, or maybe the sun had finally baked the clay. Miles began to disappear as we rolled downhill.
Just before leaving New Mexico, the state threw one more climb at us, as if to say "I am still trying to kill you." Our energy was low from high altitude, hard work, and next to no food left, but we pushed through the climb and crossed a cattle guard from New Mexico into Colorado.
Happy dance was had by all two of us, and the last of our food was consumed as a snack, before we rolled on into Colorado. The trail was beautiful and green.
We rode our way to a rail crossing, energized by the sound of a train whistle. We waited at the rail for the train to come, but never saw it. I believe we had barely missed the opportunity to see the classic black steam locamotive of the Cumbres and Toltec scenic rail line, a 64 mile path at the border of New Mexico and Colorado that regularly draws onlookers as it pushes its way through the mountains at 10,000 feet.
Since Apricots and I both heard the train, twice, but never saw it, I am convinced there is a person with a train whistle/horn that watches for cyclists passing by. He blares the whistle/horn to tease us, and places bets on how long we linger before moving on. We lingered 15 minutes. We never found the train station we were hoping to get a snack at.
Half a mile later, we were on paved road. Two miles later, our destination for brunch was closed and for sale. Our chains were grimy from mud, so we stopped to clean and grease the chains to make the ride easier. We still had to climb back up to 10,230 to cross over Manga Pass.
Depleted of energy, we churned slowly past the closed restaurant and up to the pass. At least we would be to Horca in a couple hours for lunch. We hit the high point and had an amazing ride down a very quiet highway. Dropping close to 2000 feet over five miles, we glided with happiness towards Horca.
It almost erased all of our hard memories of the last couple days.
When we arrived in Horca, the restaurant and convenience store were both closed (permanently). All we had for food on us was a half empty bottle of Tapatio, and a liter of water.
I flagged a car and asked where the nearest food was. He talked of places 15 to 20 miles away, and I sank a little. Then he mentioned a small store down the road seven miles at a ranch. I caved, and asked if we could throw our bikes in the truck for a ride up to the store.
We hopped in the truck, and made our way to the store. Drained of energy, we caved to the idea of renting a cabin so we could shower and rest for our next leg. The shower was cold, and the grocery options were abysmal and overpriced. On the bright side, we feel refreshed, revitalized and ready to tackle the highest point on the trail in a couple days.
Also we gave our bikes a shower. They were covered in an inch of mud/cow crap almost everywhere.
Time for dinner, and then bed. Early morning climb tomorrow.
Live life at a slower place.