Saturday, October 13, 2007
The Dream Time
Sun and sky, wind and distance, the constant churning of my legs to carry me onward--my life is simple but often difficult. A single day carries me across the range of emotions. In the morning, I am strong, upbeat, ready for anything. By late afternoon, my energies fading, I struggle for the next mile and lament the wind that punishes my progress. It could not be otherwise, nor would I change it. The range of experience is the point. Still, some tailwinds would be nice, eh?
I left Salida on a chilly 35 deg. F. morning, the valley still in the shadows thrown by the ring of alpine peaks. My feet went numb quickly, but the rest of my person was happy in the newly acquired cold weather gear. Trey, his dad, Mike, and mom, Eloise, were great folks. Thanks for everything! But I could not stay, as much as I would have liked to set up house in that enchanted valley. My first work was about 1,800 feet of climbing to Ponchas Pass at 9,010 ft., my high point for the entire tour. I'll cross the Continental Divide down in Pie Town, NM, at a much lower point. The climb was a steady, methodical affair that went in a little over an hour. Then it was down into the unbelievable San Luis Valley, bordered on the east by the soaring wall of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. They take their name, legend has it, from a Conquistador of Old, an unfortunate bloke who found himself skewered by a goodly number of arrows cast by some disgruntled natives. In his last throes he cried, "Sangre de Cristo!" and expired, his own blood sanctifying the soil. Tough life when you come to take over the hood.
For over 100 miles, the road ran arrow straight and nearly level. Though I contested a slight headwind, I was a cycling god, just eating up the miles. The mountains and the stark plains gave me strength. I cranked up some scorching flamenco to ignite my cadence and burn the miles. Slashing guitars pushed me against the wind and the vanishing point of the horizon--eighty miles to the river town of Alamosa where I camped beside the Rio Grande.
Up the next morning, geese overhead and heavy fish breaking the dark, silent water, I packed and braced for the last miles of the valley. Most of the day I worked towards a dome hanging at the bottom of the southern sky like an island. Hours turned and slowly I reeled it in--Mt. San Antonio, a volcanic bulge of the earth, its creases and folds choked with aspen giving the mountain a hot yellow flow of living lava to remind us of its vulcan past. The winds picked up, first from the west, then head on from the south. The enormous land opened up and swallowed me whole, whisking away any sense of self importance, of ego. I didn't matter here. Stay humble, mate. You've got no choice anyway. Keep your head to the task. The miles will come.
Near the end, after fighting the good fight for 15 miles, I was strung out and needing to stop. I paused at one point and just hung my head over the top tube of the bike, gasping. Job on a bike. At Tres Piedras, my hoped-for resupply point, the store was closed. No problem. I always carry too much food anyway. I tanked up on water and headed east, towards Taos, and began my search for a camp. In just a mile I saw a rough track dropping off the main road. What's this? A disused dirt road that was once the principle line that led down to an abandoned bridge, rusted steel and exposed rebar, but stout enough for one recumbent cyclist and his load. At the far end, I found a flat spot and called it camp. During the night, coyotes howled, one barked outside my tent, and I heard its gallop as it raced across the bridge. A familiar? An avatar? The pulse of this narrow New Mexican arroyo.
Now I'm in Taos and a bit worried about where I'll spend the night. As a tourist area, options are limited and expensive, so I'll just have to head out of town and get into national forest land. So it goes. The mountains are alight with glowing aspens. The winds are cool, these mountain nights frosty. It's a good time to be on a bike.
Signing off for now. I'll have more time to expand when I have a layover in Santa Fe. The recumbent adventurer bids you farewell!
The Valley of Salida:
The climb to Ponchas Pass:
Gas station at the end of the universe:
Coffee house at the end of the universe:
This isn't Kansas, nope:
The big open and Mt. San Antonio:
Self-portrait while grunting:
My camp outside Taos:
An "Earthship" in a community of such places outside Taos:
A burley denizen of the road:
I keep everyone interested:
On the bridge across the Rio Grand Gorge: