A midwinter night’s dream

20120317-085859.jpg

Of open roads, calloused hands and dusty ankles; tires worn threadbare and the last thousand miles of use in a pair of brake pads. Cook some coffee, like a cowboy, and mend a strap on your bag– it’s still a long way to Silver City. Spoonfuls of peanut butter and handfuls of raisins are a delicacy in a diet of lentils and rice and oats and water and salt, but it doesn’t actually get any better than this, and raisins have never been more delicious. A taste of monasticism on the road affords a lot of good living. Get strong, feel happy, eat a lot but not too much, sleep well, write home every once in a while, and meet some people. That’s it. Ride.20120317-090135.jpg

20120317-090156.jpg

20120317-090241.jpg

20120317-090259.jpg

20120317-090321.jpg

20120317-090342.jpg

Thanks to Greg for these images. For several weeks, Greg, Lael and I traveled the Divide from Como, CO to Taos, NM. These photos are all from a late-summer spell of great weather in early October, on the road from Hartsel to Salida, and further south toward Del Norte. Greg recently built a Surly Cross-Check, disguised as a Raleigh Superbe, for an upcoming trip to Italy.

20120317-091503.jpg

Over the hill

20111024-103912.jpgAs we trekked deeper along the snowy road, the tracks of spinning truck tires gave way to ATV tracks, Danner boots, and finally, black bear paws. Eventually, only tiny trails tracing rodent superhighways marked the snowscape that clearly, and thus not completely, clouded our route. Clear, only because the graded, winding ribbon of snow was obviously our route. It’s hard to hide a Forest Service road with snow.

I must have mentioned Indiana Pass a few times. It is the highest point on the Great Divide Route, one of the greatest single climbs along the way, and is usually impassible this time of year.

With a bit of lifting, huffing, and grunting– we passed. There was no marker to indicate the height or name of the pass; rather, there was a massive Superfund site– an old mine– and several miles of snow covered roadway.

It’s really nothing to write home about, as we had a full day, full of sun, to get us through the snow. Climbing is always an effort, and rocky descents can be taxing in an unexpected way, making mountain passes such as Indiana anti-climactic; but for almost five miles, we labored like railroadmen and pioneering gold-seekers, carrying and pushing our loads through knee-deep snow. For a minute, we were living the high adventure that everyone suspects. And then we were back on solid ground, with wet feet. Life after high adventure is a bit dull.

Over the hill, a lucky thing happened. Upon reaching Platoro, the end of the fourth map section of the Divide, we noticed that we (I) had lost the next map section. Maddened, for but a moment; we all instantly began planning our futures. Greg is going to the Virgin Islands. Lael and I are going somewhere– all of us are “going” by way of Taos and Santa Fe. Full of adventure once again, we are no longer committed to the daily toil of the Great Divide.

Backroad BLM tracks whisk us toward Taos, in relative heat– a long way from snowdrifts.
20111024-104102.jpg20111024-104122.jpg20111024-104240.jpg20111024-104445.jpg20111024-104522.jpg20111024-104712.jpg

20111024-110633.jpg

20111024-110650.jpg

Sleeping in teepee(s)

20111021-110449.jpg

There is warmshowers.org, and strangers randomly arise to help or host; and then there are those that spend 14 hours a day cooking in a diner in Sargents (barely a town) and at the end of the day, manage to help a trio of weary, but well-fed cyclists.

“Where y’all camping?”

We point, “over there”, which means we know there is some legally habitable property– BLM land, we think– but nothing more to invite us away from the warm diner we are about to exit.

She thinks, remarking that the gully or gulch we must be referring to is real nice. “You’ll have to unlatch the barbed-wire gate. It’s for the cattle.”

She warns us of the expected temperatures in the night– colder than we expected, by a few degrees. A little colder than cold, sounds like.

Twelve degrees will be fine.

She follows us outside to lock the door, is surprised at our bikes (riding them, that is) and immediately offers us the teepee. “The teepee?”

By the creek. The diner is also a gas station and a gift shop and an RV park; and a single teepee, with a propane stove modeled like a campfire, with three cots.

We’ve experiencing a string of hospitality, aside from the teepee, in La Garita and Del Norte. Gary and Patti Blakely are those platinum-level hosts that welcome dozens of cyclists a season; remembering names and bike models, culminating in a panoramic landscape of Divide riders for the season, year after year. This year: the race, without Matthew; Jay’s solo TT, Greg and Sadie from Duluth and homemade bags, lots of Trolls, three Fargos (or more); and our crew, the last of the season.

Probably only one High Sierra. Trivial, but proud.

Indiana Pass today, 11,910 ft. New Mexico tomorrow.20111021-110546.jpg20111021-110646.jpg20111021-110711.jpg

20111021-110905.jpg

20111021-110936.jpg