I’d been dreading the heat of New Mexico. I should have been more concerned with the rain and wind. Monsoon season.
We left the friendly but maybe a little strange confines of the Chaco Trading Post around nine am heading for Grants NM. Something about the lights in a laundromat are a little eerie.
The clouds have been gathering every afternoon into black thunderheads that roll by in several directions. This day was no different. As the road wound around different elevations we kept either ahead or behind trouble. However when we finally approached Grants and our resupply box at the Post Office a huge black mass covered the sky. Pressure lowered and lightning followed the booms. We had to find cover. With our box and new map in hand, we rode hard for the nearest motel.
Grants is a dying town. More businesses seemed to be closed than open. Once a uranium mining town, now the only thing keeping it going are the prisons constructed throughout the community.
Fifteen minutes after getting into our room, the sky let loose with a deluge of wind and rain. So happy to be indoors, warm and dry. We busied ourselves with internet and phone calls.
A couple of hours later with the storm subsided, the four Italians arrived. They too were looking for the nearest motel. They weren’t as lucky as we had been. The storm had found them.
We headed for Pie Town the next morning with 30 miles of highway then another 30 miles of gravel to get there. Sometime just before we found the gravel a club cab pick up came flying by with 4 Italians waving and yelling out the windows. They had hired a pickup to take them to Pie Town. Crazy Italians!
Rain was chasing us as we arrived so we looked for the odd little hostel named Toaster House that we had heard about rather than camp. We stopped in the local cafe to find out how to get there. Hunger got the best of us so lunch and then pie was the first order of the day. Then Simona came walking in the cafe. “The Toaster House is just down the hill.” We were off.
The Italians had taken the upstairs rooms. We grabbed a downstairs bedroom. Simona and Silvia left to go grocery shopping, Linda was busy writing the Italian’s blog while Ramona worked on their video. In the meantime Jana the Czech and her friend Stacie showed up. They put their sleeping bags in the living room.
The Toaster House is the former home of a Pie Town woman who raised her kids here. When they were gone and she had built a new home, she decided to allow hikers and bikers to stay at the house on the honor system. Put a donation in the jar and leave it better than you found it. That was years ago. The place smells a little funky, grass is wild outside, and there is an odd collection of items parked in various places around the yard. Definitely deteriorating. But there is a ton of dried food in tubs and cupboards in the kitchen, the shower facilities work great, and we were going to be dry despite the storm tonight.
There is a beautiful new bicycle repair stand in the yard here. Complete with tools and high pressure pump it is a wonderful addition to the Toaster House.
JD Pauls, a Canadian with little bike experience had decided to ride the Divide Trail in 2012. He bought a Walmart bike, got a few provisions and was off. He also wrote a blog during the trip which was widely read. The Walmart bike lasted less than two weeks. He decided to try again next year. In the meantime, word of his first attempt spread. He found himself with a new donated bike. New equipment kept appearing at his door. Off he went in 2013. When he got to Pie Town, a broken seat post looked to end his ride. A local stepped to the plate and repaired the post. JD finished the Divide with that seat post. Sadly, Paul’s died of cancer a couple years later. He requested that a bike repair stand be installed at the Toaster House in appreciation of the help he got in Pie Town.
The ladies returned with their larder plus some beer for Brian and a bottle of red that I shared. They proceeded to make pasta. Making pasta for an Italian is an art. Great food is a must in their culture. Try as she may. Linda could not overcome the poor quality of the pasta from the store. We thought it was great.
Jana and Stacie joined in. Beer and wine consumed, Jana regaled us all with great stories of her time in Banff as a tourist guide around Lake Louise. She is an archeologist by trade but also holds a biology degree and has dealt with more than a few encounters with the grizzlies while having tourists in tow.
It rained very hard all night. The gravel roads turn into an unrideable mess here when wet. Our discussions that morning centered around taking the gravel anyway or riding down the pavement to Silver City. We all wanted to stay on the gravel trail. Brian and I have experienced what can happen and didn’t want to be pushing our bikes for miles through the mud and sand. We opted to take the highway.
Brian and I will be in Silver City tomorrow. We have gained another day so will be taking a day off there. It is our second day off on this 3000 mile trip.