Stay Off the Mesas

It was a downhill slide to the town of Chama after our big day getting to Platoro over Indiana and Stunner Passes. Also a dramatic change in scenery. The big tree forests have become mesquite and lots of erosion. Stunning colors. Long vistas broken up by buttes and flat topped rock mesas.

We camped along the river in Chama. We were early arriving with very little climbing and a good road. Dodging a storm along the way, it caught up to us just after getting our tents up. Hail pounded my tent while I lay inside, happy to be warm and dry. The hailstorm we were experiencing was simultaneously hitting the Italians on the route to Platoro. They took shelter with workers on a reservoir project as they were freezing cold. Strange being cold in New Mexico at this time of year.

Chama to Abiquiú is a beautiful ride. Echo Amphitheater and the adjacent rock formations are quite amazing. Georgia O’Keefe had a home in Abiquiú. There is now a Center there devoted to her work. We camped in a funky little place along the river just before Abiquiú. The owner had told us to watch for a big red mailbox with crows attached to it, then follow the crows along a driveway to the river. There it was and we followed around a bend and through a horse gate to her eclectic little group of buildings where we set up our tents under some very big shady cottonwoods. Jackie had rooms in her home, little cabins that had started out as storage sheds, a teepee, and a hammock for guests. There was also a solar hot tub and sauna, outdoor shower, and a compost outhouse in the compound. An outdoor kitchen made the facilities complete. She said that she just couldn’t seem to stop creating little buildings. It was a very comfortable and quiet place to relax. That night the coyotes gave us a great little concert.

The ride to Cuba started out perfect – a great road with nice grades and rugged scenery belied what was to come. The dirt road turned to the west. We could see the cut in the mountains ahead. What followed was our longest and worst biking day of the trip. The road took us up on a Mesa that seemed to last forever. The Jeep trail consisted of rock whose surface soil had been scraped off and replaced with sand between the rock. We climbed and we toiled and we slid but mostly we got pounded by the rough rocky surface. Bone jarring downhills and uphills with no apparent route around and through the uneven rocky mess. This went on for hours. We started that morning at 8 am. We didn’t get to Cuba until 6:40 that evening. Only took a 15 minute rest at lunch. Very tired boys who had biked 78 miles with 7500 ft of climbing and almost 11 hours in the saddle.

Some angel had let 2 gallons of water about halfway on the route. Very remote country.

In Cuba we ran into the Italians again. They had taken the highway bypassing Abiquiú and the Mesa route that had brutalized us on our way to Cuba. We had dinner with them that night. The Czech woman Jana was here as well with a woman from Colorado named Stacy. Jana had cut her tire on a rock. She repaired it with duct tape. I dug around in my bike bags and found her a boot for the tire. She was grateful and took it but decided to leave the tape on till it failed.

A 45 mile ride brought us to the Chaco Trading Post and Laundromat. It is the only facility between Cuba and Grants, a stretch of 120 miles. They allowed us to put our tents up behind the place. We spent our day hanging out in the Laundromat. I got to talk to a few Navajo elders who were doing their laundry. Easy to talk with and great storytellers, they talk in their native Navajo language when not speaking with this white guy from Minnesota.

Next up is Grants, our resupply box at the Post Office and six more days of cycling.

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