The town of Abiquiu continued to impress with its friendly vibe and fantastic light levels. At first light, I stuffed down a breakfast burrito at Bode's and rolled back up into the hills along a steep canyon.
A brief flat section in a lush basin
linked up to miles of creeping upwards along this lava slab highway. New Mexico delivers up some fire roads that haven't been touched in a long, long time.
An aspen grove for a stretch felt a touch out of place after a morning surrounded by piñon pines and sage but a welcome reminder of Colorado.
The late afternoon skies built
up all around and did their thing
before I descended down a bone rattling stretch and shut it down for the night just above Cuba. The days stretch encompassed a variety of New Mexico's finest: sandy double track; gravely goodness; rocky lava flows; and New England cow pasture trails.... with vegetation that varied from New England to New Mexico.
Cuban Cafe - automatic second breakfast. After bumping into Larry before he and the rest of his crew finished up their summer tour, I chased a wi-fi hot spot to McDonald's and set up shop to catch up on the world at hand. Sitting next to local John Savada, we chatted over coffee about his time on Treasure Island in the Navy and his memories of SF.
If you ever pass through Cuba, El Bruno's is a must.
Out of Cuba, I took a right into no-man's land along a beautifully remote stretch with nothing but sage, piñon pines, a few distant buttes and little in the way of water or people.
Cabezon Peak loomed in the distance for much of the morning. At just under 8,000 ft., it is a neck of hardened lava that filled the conduit of a volcano from the Tertiary geologic period before the volcano eroded and left just the lava innards.
Racing against the afternoon rains, I managed to sneak around the corner, escape into dry blue skies, and settle into a rhythm
carving in and out of arroyo's.
The dreaded goat head puncture sixty miles from civilization with only one sighting of a rancher all day will make you feel real vulnerable, alone, and wishing you had a tubeless set up. It's moments like this while scanning the horizon that the evil side of my brain chimes in with "this is what you asked for buddy..."
Stormy skies finally encircled me as I reached my spot for the night - a fenced in watering hole for wildlife. In other words, deer and elk can jump a fence while cows can only jump over the moon. Poking around a bush, my friend the rattler let me know he was guarding the water hole from the likes of me. I weighed the consequences of testing his resolve but decided a thirsty night was in order - RHIP (Rank Has Its Privileges).
A beautiful morning sky full of wispy clouds
promised a good stretch of morning riding.
Some fencing and a few
left over attempts to beat the harshness of this stretch east of the San Mateo Mountains are the only remains of a hardscrabble way of life.
Grants, NM welcomed me back into civilization. Once a thriving section along Route 66, Grants is suffering from the development of I-40 and the actual Route 66 section has a string of boarded up motels and shops servicing a time gone by. I caught Todd and Charlotte and we enjoyed a fun meal together catching up since we'd last parted in Steamboat, a few beers, and the ins-and-outs of Slime - the cheap version of a tubeless set-up that Walmart just happened to carry.
All slimed up and ready to go, I headed out and turned onto the paved alternate given the morning's weather report of doom and gloom for the afternoon. About a mile down the alternate, I pulled over, let each side of my brain duke it out for a while and finally decided to run the weather gauntlet and turned around and headed up the fantastic gravel section of Zuni Canyon Road along the main route.
Running the weather gauntlet in NM is not about getting wet. If wet, the roads turn into such a nasty concoction of clay muck that it can force you to camp in the mud and hope everything dries out in the morning.
With spotty skies, I pressed on into the El Malpais National Conservation Area. Alternating between hardback mud and rocky lava sections the Chain of Craters Backcountry Byway is a beautiful stretch that reminded me of areas of the Australian Outback.
If you can see the bottom of the tank, that's gold, pure water gold...
Just before exiting back onto the road, I ran into Benjamin coming down from Colorado with his two horses. On the Divide, one tends to think in terms of short mileage markers: how far to the top of the next climb; how far until a potential water source. Benjamin had an incredibly macro appreciation of the land he was moving through. He spoke of heading towards ranges way off in the distance. With water, he could stay out fifty days at a time. Great guy who had clearly spent his life off-grid around horses and ranches while joking that he was still carrying a map book.
Pie Town serves as a significant marker along the Divide; on everyone's mind the minute they push off from Banff. Pie Town has a wonderful community of people who all share in making sure the town caters to the tourists coming through. If one place is closed, another place is open. Gotta make sure pie is had.
With the Pie-o-neer closed Monday-Wednesday, I rolled down main street a few hundred yards and chatted up Cyndi Fowler at The Pie Source over a cup of coffee and a piece of her yummy Key Lime pie. She's set up shop in an old homestead cabin full of local area antiques donated from the ranching community.
Pie Town is also home to the Toaster House - a cyclist and CDT thru-hiker only cabin run by Nita. She raised a family of five in this cabin welcoming in thru-hikers on the CDT and Divider's alike until she moved up the road a bit into a new house. She continues to keep the door open at the Toaster House with a fridge stocked full of pizza and beer. The guest book and memorabilia on the walls carry a long history of nomadic memories.
Fun to also walk through the door at the Pie Town Cafe on the other end of town and see the smiley faces in John and Cathy finishing up their breakfast and looking out the window at the darkening skies. Not having seen them since Montana, we caught up and they decided another night at the Toaster House was in order.
The only thing I didn't do in Pie Town was eat enough pie...