Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 17- Conejos Campground to 8,278’: 103 miles

I set off just as it was getting light, planning to get to the store/café for breakfast in Horca. But, it was Sunday, so of course it didn’t open till later. I sat a liitle despondent trying to work out what to do- I was running out of food (again) but the only way to finish this thing was to get to Mexico.

I was a little sick of riding, and the climb up to La Manga Pass didn’t help. 5 miles long and paved, but a liitle steeper than I expected, added to the fact that my mind and body had not warmed up meant that it took me and hour and a half to climb the thing. I was feeling better after stretching out in the sun at the top, knowing that I could get some food at a restaurant a few miles away. As I descended, I noticed how southern Colorado is a lot greener than more northern areas I had passed through. I pulled into the restaurant/bar, but Hey! Sunday, so it didn’t open until late afternoon. I ate from my dwindling supply of foodstock and managed to get some water from the nearby snowmobile rental place and set out not sure about where I could get food from over the next 95 miles. Waiting for the place to open did enter my mind, and I may have considered it if I had had only a few hours sleep the night before, but I had slept 7-8 hours so I had to continue on.

I lost 20 minutes on the dirt trail just before the border, dropping my map and walking back uphill to find it. I didn’t think my day could get any worse, food was probably out of reach 90 miles away in El Rito. I was wrong. The first 10 miles to the top of Brazos Ridge is a lot of the time unrideable: the trail is edge to edge covered in fist sized rocks, with large ruts and steep inclines and declines. With the realisation that this would put me way behind schedule, I got pretty pissed off: I needed to vent, so I threw the bike down. I felt a little better and continued to trudge up. Over the summit, the trail improved, and I stopped to give directions to a woman in a ute. Apparently, I didn’t know where I was, but after driving in the opposite direction to my instructions, she passed me (going the right way) 20 minutes later.

Slow going on the steep rocky trails of New Mexico

Several hours on and I was moving well, the sealed climb on I-64 proved harder (longer) than I anticipated (hoped for), but I rewarded myself with a feed at Hopewell Lake. Resting against the toilet block, I noticed a number of campers. So far, New Mexico seemed to be a lot more popular with campers than southern Colorado- there were numerous people along what I considered remote, difficult to reach places.

After an easy short climb over Burned Mountain there was a long descent with some short climbs through some amazing country. Coming down Canada del Oso into Canon Plaza was especially spectactular, and I saw my third bear (or his arse as he was running away) for the trip. I didn’t see the mother, and didn’t want to stop on the road, potentially between them, so I continued on. I stopped at a little white shack on the edge of Canon Plaza, one that is familiar with most GD racers and riders. I was planning to get into El Rito late and plead for something to eat from a motel manager, but this little shack saved me. I waited as Paula? came over, she opened up the shack, gave me a book with comments from previous racers and riders (including M.Lee and JP several days previously) and went off to get me some soup. I sat and talked with her, trying to think of something to write before buying supplies and heading off in the dark. I lost an hour and a half, but I got a feed so making El Rito was now not essential. After rediscovering how much night riding sucked, I pushed up and over 8,278’ so that the next day would begin with 30 miles of descending. I pulled off the road after I was sure I had passed the summit (nothing worse than waking up in the morning to still have to climb), found a flat patch, ate some chocolate and other gear I picked up at Paula’s shack and had a half descent sleep.

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