Gallup, NM to Grants, NM
Breakfast with the Colonel (Barry) was a great way to start today. We chatted while loading up on carbs, coffee and anything else you think might fuel you for each day. The morning was beautiful and with only 65 miles to do today we all looked forward to quite a relaxing ride. It makes me laugh now when we call a 65 mile ride an easy day. How far away now are the days when 25 miles made me wince.
The early group left and I decided today to leave with the stronger riders around 30 minutes later today. I seem to have been given the freedom to decide what I want to do each day by the team. That is great because for me each day brings different challenges for my riding experience and health about which I think I know best how to manage. The second group rolled out of the hotel parking lot at about 7:30 and set off into the sun with a beautiful cool light breeze making you feel fresh. I led us out of town again and thankfully I chose the correct roads as I heard the odd comment from behind “is this the right road?’ Today we had a larger pace line and I was driving us along at a nice 16 mph along Route 66 and out of Gallup. The line paced along and Mike smoothly took over for a stint at the front. I love the look of a good pace line it is like a train chugging along a single track. After a a while I felt good and went forward to do another stint at the front. We were now around 10 miles into the ride chugging alongside the railroad tracks and mountains to our left. Another mile went by quickly with me the driver and then it happened. Bathroom. NO NO NO not now. Yes now, bathroom. No matter how much I tried to think of anything other than liquid I knew I was going to have to go and study a tree for a while. I pulled out and let the train move forward, knowing I would not be able to re-board it again today.
Having studied the tree for a minute or two, I took off my jacket and rode off following a real freight train on my left. The carriages passed by one by one for some time as we both headed east together. After another mile or two I joined the Interstate for today’s stint on I-40. The shoulder on this stretch wasn’t that good but the traffic was light and it wasn’t too hard to find a decent path through the debris and blown tires. Our exit was 11 miles further down the road so Irma and I just paced along happy to be out on such a beautiful morning.
Exit 47 Continental Divide was the sign I was looking for and my cue to leave the freeway for the day. I am not sure what I expected to see here but was slightly disappointed that it was actually a gas station, a gift shop and few bits of Americana to mark ‘The Great Divide’. I took a few photos, refilled my bottles and then it was time to move on. I suppose I could have walked around pouring Gatorade on the ground to see which way it flowed (east or west) but decided we were heading East and that’s the way I went. Just before leaving we were told to be careful as about five miles out there appeared to be two black dogs who were angry and chasing cyclists. This was going to be fun! Irma and I set off ready to take on the dogs in the hills of New Mexico. After around 5 miles sure enough a couple of black dogs came tearing down a drive and out onto the road. Irma and I smiled and either we were way to quick for them, or the two dogs were tired today after chasing an usually large number of bikes for a Wednesday in May.
By now the wind was getting strong. Unfortunately it was a head wind today. Again I simply thought that it didn’t matter as it was still a beautiful day and now we only had 37 miles more to ride. The road we were riding on after our SAG stop was great – smooth, quiet and slightly descending this stretch of Route 66 took us all the way into Grants and our hotel. Battling the wind for a long time again is more a mental test for me. Granted it is quite physical to ride hard and only be doing around 12 mph but it is easy to get mentally tired of giving a lot of effort for little reward. Luckily I have done most of my rides along the Florida coastline, with at least half of all rides always into some sort of winds coming off the sea.
To take my mind off the slow mileage I watched the many never ending trains that ran up and down alongside me for miles. I also remembered my Grandfather and Uncle because I smelled saw dust. They owned a woodworkers company back in Britain and I spent many holidays playing in and around the wood yard. I have always loved the smell of sawdust and today was no different as we passed at least four lumber yards along the way. It always amazes me how powerful smells and music are connected to our memories for a whole lifetime.
Then in front I saw another pace line and went forward to check it out. About 7 of our riders had formed a line to try and take on the wind together. Adam was driving and doing a great job. I knew I could ride at this pace without much problem so I went to the head and gave Adam a rest by doing a stint on the front. Again I was on a different train to Grants. Miles passed and our target got closer gradually until Adam told me he was taking a break at 55 miles for a drink. As the train slowed for a stop I waved and headed off for the final 10 miles not wanting to slow Irma as she was steadily purring along towards home for the night. With around 4 miles to go the Colonel and Mike came alongside and Barry told me to get on his wheel and ride home with them. Barry had a flat a few miles back so had to stop and change it leaving them behind me until now. I tagged onto the wheel in front and took a tow for about half a mile until we reached a bridge. Barry and Mike can keep a similar speed going up inclines as they do on the flat, I can’t. Again with only a couple of miles left I didn’t mind thanking them for the tow and waving them goodbye again.
Cycling through Grants you can see plenty of Route 66 signs and murals all around. It looks slightly more vibrant a place than say Gallup, but to be honest I just a glimpse of it as I headed through. Just before the hotel I came to a bridge that had a slow moving train coming out from beneath it. I stopped on top of the bridge to take an artsy photograph of the train below and was joined by Adam and crew still chugging along together. As I caught Adam a few moments later he pointed towards the Subway store and headed in followed by us all. With literally yards to go to the hotel we were finished for the day and could enjoy our Subway lunch together.
So I guess today was a day of trains for me. Long freight trains to entertain me, a few cycling trains to carry me forward into the winds and trains of thought stirred by smells of the past. I enjoyed today even though it tested us again. Tomorrow we head to Albuquerque, NM which if nothing else would be an incredible scoring word in scrabble. Ill let you know if it is a 31 point value city or not tomorrow.