Sunday, July 26, 2009

He's Arrived!

Bike Travelogue: the 22nd (and final) day, Santa Fe to Albuquerque NM 73 Miles

by Bob Eberlein

July 25, Santa Fe, NM – It is cool, but not cold this morning. I consider putting on a sweatshirt but am quite confident that being a little bit cold for a little while will be a nice contrast to the rest of the day. The road starts out as a big urban street – lots more motels go by so I was just at the beginning of that. The road is downhill, and I can cruise along. The stop lights are a little bit annoying but there is not too much traffic so I make good time. Once I pass Interstate 25 route 15 turns into a normal and relatively pleasant road with a generous shoulder and very little traffic.

It is still downhill, and I am making great time. I wonder if I can just coast to Albuquerque. The road ahead is perfectly straight and downhill, but header toward mountains. I begin to doubt that I will simply be able to coast. The road is going south, but I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what it will do when it hits the hills. Perhaps I am losing my touch, but I do enjoy a road that presents a mystery. I am heading south.

Eventually the mystery begins to resolve as I head into the hills and turn a little bit to the west. I will be going over these mountains; I guess it could be a challenge. But it starts as relatively short ups and downs, with some interesting vistas and one really great rock formation. I am definitely in a dry area that used to have an active river.

cool rock formations

After a time a come to the town of Madrid and it seems like a good time for second breakfast. Unfortunately I don’t see anything that looks like a store. There is a little café, but the people around make me a little uncomfortable. On reflection that is pretty strange, but this was like being blown back to the early 70s. I felt like a kid again surrounded by adults who had chosen a different lifestyle from that normally pursued. Madrid seems to be an odd artists Mecca. Perhaps it will turn into another Taos.

As it happens, it does have a hill climb that is pretty similar to what Taos boasts on either the High Road to Taos or the pass to Cimarron. Unfortunately the climb starts too low, and does not get high enough to make it a delightful mountain ride. Still, there is significant elevation gain and this does help to keep the temperature down, so the ride it not too uncomfortable. I pass a few cyclists going in the other direction – no packs just day riders.

the climb ahead

Having missed my second breakfast in Madrid I stop to down a little bit of water and a few cookies to keep up my strength, or perhaps spirits, on the grinding climb. It is daunting, partly because so much of it is visible from the bottom. But, like any climb, it eventually ends. At the top I try my cell phone on a whim and it actually has a signal. Amazed I call Xujun to tell her I am at the top of the hill. Unfortunately, or fortunately since I am just standing in the sun, I did not charge my battery last night and it is twirping out. Actually, this explains the odd noise I kept hearing which I thought was a strange bird.

There is a short steep descent, but for the most part the road continues along a high ridge roughly level. I just keep going until I get to a really spread out set of housing developments below what is clearly a ski resort. I don’t know if these are ski condos or just houses but there is no town, just the development. It is all kind of strange to me.

The road starts to climb slowly, but a big tail wind has kicked up so instead of going really slow, I simply go slow. I just plug along, feeling pretty hungry and hoping something like a store will appear. The road gets bigger and more cyclists appear. They seem very little interested in me, oh well. Eventually I do find a gas station store combo and buy a quart of chocolate milk. It tastes wonderful. The store is really busy, I guess it is the only thing around. Lots more cyclists ride by in both directions.

From there the road gets bigger and bigger. Usually there is a decent shoulder, so the riding is not bad, but the whole thing feels a little bit yuppie surreal. There are lots of cyclists, but this is not really the nice part of the road to be riding on. A couple pass me and say hello, but are only mildly curious about what I am up to.

Route 14 finally ends and this is where I am pretty sure there is a road that follows I-40 even though it does not show up on my map. It turns out to be NM 335 and is also marked bicycle route 66, which eventually becomes historic US 66. This road is basically downhill into Albuquerque, but now a big headwind has kicked up so I only make a moderate pace. More cyclists pass me in both directions.

The road is not really very interesting, and I reflect how much more fun it is to ride around the Boston area than it would be to ride around here. There are, however, probably lots more riding days here. Which one works better? Boston seems clear to me. These roads are too big with too much traffic. Plus it is a desert.

Eventually this road turns into historic US 66 which is an incredibly straight road that runs downhill about 10 miles from the outskirts of Albuquerque to the center of town. I stop at a Carl’s Junior for my final on the road fast food and all the root beer I can drink meal. It is a little bit too soon after my Chocolate milk and I have trouble finishing my hamburger. Still, it is a nice cap to the trip.

From there it is just down the long straight hill. Lots of traffic, stop lights, entering cars and similar obstacles. There are three lanes in my direction with no shoulder so I ride in the middle of the right lane. I decide to stop the stupid drivers, of which there seems to be no shortage, from passing too close. It works, and nobody seems to get mad at me so while they may be bad drivers, they are nice bad drivers.

The road is lined with miles of motels. The going rate seems to be 29.95 per day, though that may require a weekly rental. I am amused by all of this and also by the destruction of the Economy Motel on the left of the street. Still, for all its run down appearance there are not that many places that seem to be out of business. It just looks like business has never been that good.

I finally reach Rio Grande Blvd and call ahead so that Roberta and Robin can get a picture of me as I ride up to the hotel. There they are, a final photo op.

I started on July 4, the same day as the Tour de France, but they still have a day to go, and still will not go as far as I have. I look at the times and have to laugh – 81 hours, I can do way better than that, why I must have at least 200 under my belt by now. Gosh, I’m as good as a whole team. Still I will follow the end – it looks like Lance Armstrong has been a good team player and will help Alberto Contador to victory.

I am off the road, and into real life mode again. Or maybe not, I am writing this in a Laundromat as I wait for my clothes to dry. Who knows what tomorrow holds.

Total Distance 2425 miles. Average daily 110, riding daily 116.


Anonymous said...

an incredible journey! your blog posts felt more personal as you kept writing them, they were great to read

Xujun Eberlein said...

Thanks for reading and for the nice comment. This blog is indeed a hybrid of personal and public stuff, mostly China related.