Grants, NM to Albuquerque, NM
The day again started as most days do now. I wake up just before the alarm at 5:30 am and wonder why its always not long enough to go back to sleep but to early to get up. Pack my two duffle bags back up after I had unpacked them the night before. After washing and getting my Lycra clothes for the day set out, I Lycra up and head down for breakfast with my bags. Breakfast is usually a mixture of oats, fruit, hard boiled eggs, juice, muffins and plenty of coffee. Back to the room to fill water bottles, put freshly charged lights onto Irma and attach my Garmin. Grab the helmet, sunglasses and anything else I am going to carry and then head downstairs with Irma for another day.
Today was no different. At 7:00 am the first group have a quick chat about the route and they all head off. At 7:3o am the second group of stronger riders does the same. In theory this will tighten up the distance between the first and last riders during the day. I decided to try something different today. I went out for the route instructions with the early group at 7:00 am and then let them head out. At around 7:15 am I set out a few minutes behind Terry. It was such a beautiful morning and we had a tailwind early along a freshly tarmaced Route 66. It was easy to glide along at 20+ mph under bright blue skies and low early morning sunshine. The rocks either side of the winding road gradually warmed up and became a richer red, It was perfect cycling for me with the added bonus of little to no cars. This first part of what I had thought to be a three part ride was 31 miles and they passed by before I knew it.
At the first SAG I met a decent sized group of our riders eating, drinking and generally chatting. As I have said before and will probably mention again a few times over this trip, I cant stay too long at SAG stops. Firstly I hate the feeling you get in your thighs for a while once you start off again after a stop, I can’t describe it but take it from me its uncomfortable. Secondly I have done all of my training with never more than a 5 minute break to change my bottles around. I eat and drink on the move so am not going to change all that now. The final advantage for me I think is that I get the ride over sooner and therefore get more rest before the next day. So today was no different and after a couple of minutes to use the restroom and fill my bottles I was off again, now out in front of all but a couple of riders.
The second and middle stretch for today was back onto I-40 for a 26 mile stretch. So prepared for the worst I rode up the ramp and onto the Interstate. Low and behold the shoulder was smooth, clean and wide and my spirits lightened again. Still with a little help from the wind, which had turned to more of a crosswind , I wound up Irma as I watched the traffic start to cue up on the other side due to a lane closeure to re-tarmac the surface to match the one I was now riding. Sailing along again over 20 mph life was great and about to get better as I started a long downhill stretch in front of me for what looked like a mile or two. Why does Irma feel a little bit wobbly? NO NO NO. NOT NOW, NOT AGAIN, NO. Yes my beautiful day was interrupted by my 6th flat tire. I slowed and then stopped as far right as I could and got off my lame steed. I flipped Irma over and waited for Mike Wilson in the SRAM car to arrive. Obviously that was going to be a once in a lifetime occurrence and I was left to change the tire myself.
A few minutes later I was back on the road heading along the freeway. Now we started to get a little headwind but luckily for me (you will find if you follow me all the way to Boston – I tend to be lucky. Always have) up came Robert one of the tour crew who was riding today. Robert was moving strongly along into the wind with Rod tagged on tightly to his wheel. Spotting my chance I got in behind Rod and let these two locomotives drag me down the freeway. Unfortunately for Rod and myself one of the other riders (I think it was Texas Terry) was by the side of the road working on a puncture. Robert signaled he was going to stop to help and we lost one of the engines. Rod and I worked together for a while until the hills slowed me down and I watched Rod dance off. Luckily I was now not too far from the second SAG stop so I just glided down a long hill stretch and entered the parking lot of a casino here. With not much effort and what seemed to be quick time I had now come just over 57 miles.
Time to refill bottles, eat some fresh fruit, put some gel blocks and sports beans into my pocket and head out again. Just as I was signing out of the SAG ‘The Colonel’ Barry came smoothly in. I saluted for obvious fun and true respect and asked how things were going. Like almost all riders today Barry had had a flat which took a while to fix. I left the SAG now leaving everyone behind me. Back on a stretch of Route 66 Irma and I found a 4-5 mile climb stretching out in a straight line before us. It was almost harder than the switchbacks from the other day because you could see the whole climb in front of you and it never seemed to get any closer as you pedaled on. First the climb was a steady 3%, then 4% and finally for the last quarter of a mile it ramped up to 7%. Slow torture for a flat lander like me. Anyway we made it in pretty good shape and without having to get to the granny gear until right at the end. Once I crested the hill it was time to recover and freewheel a little down a slight decline. Time for a drink, a gel block and let my breath return. As I got closer to our next turn at 70 miles up pops Barry alongside me with his usual big smile. When we got to the junction we turned left. Luckily a shout from back at the junction was heard. It was Ken shouting to tell us we should have gone right (told you I am usually lucky). Barry and I about turned and headed off after Ken. The road suddenly became a wide, straight, quite steep decent. Ken was ahead freewheeling quite quickly, I think he was surprised when Barry and I passed him doing 40 mph on his left. At the next lights we all joined up and rode the final miles in a paceline through town to the hotel. We did cross the Rio Grande which to be honest was disappointing here, I didn’t even stop for a photograph. I am guessing we are too far north to get the full effect of this mighty river. It just looked like a largish muddy river like many others I have seen before.
So another ride completed and now time to eat lunch, rest and then eat dinner (a bit like cruising). Tonight we had a dinner and we lose Lawrence and David who finish there ride here in Albuquerque. It is now sad to lose people because we have spent enough time to start really getting to know most on the trip.
So my friends the high scoring scrabble town of Albuquerque is probably worth most if not all of the 31 points it scores. The Route 66 murals, signs and markers on the way into town are well kept and give you a feel of great times in the past. The town looked clean and well maintained as we rode through, unlike a lot of the ghost towns we have seen over the first two weeks of our adventure. The bridge over the Rio Grande might not be what I had expected yet its such a great name for a river it will always sound impressive to me.
My three separate rides in one today had all together and made a really enjoyable, relatively easy journey of 78 miles. I still feel well and can not believe that early next week we will have covered one third of this journey!