It all seemed straightforward, ride from Tucson over Redington Pass to Benson ( which I had done ), and then from Benson over MiddleMarch ( also done ) and then into the Chiricahua Mountains, Portal and through New Mexico to El Paso and then north to Cruces. Why not ? Signed up and ready to go.
Day 1 - Tucson to Benson
Got up on Friday morning and it was raining just a little bit so I got my rain layer out ( which I was thinking about leaving at home ). I rode to Blue Dog and waited for the others to show up, coffee'd up at Starbucks and around 7:15 we began to ride out. Like most of these big group rides, everyone was all excited and we made great time getting to the Circle K on Tanque Verde, the last stop before Benson. I got a Coke and a Fanta there and left pretty quickly. Nate, who organized the ride, passed me a couple of minutes later and then we started up Redington road.
|Nate presiding over the festivities|
Redington is a nice climb, and Nate was waiting at the top. Matthew was up there also and we chatted for seconds before rolling along. I looked down and there were 3 riders abreast perhaps 4 or 5 switchbacks downhill. Kept on going, maybe a bit slower than I've done the ride over to the San Pedro before, but it went well. When I got to the river, I was going to take that little shortcut past the ranch houses and the fields, but the river was running strong because of the rain that had fallen, I put one wheel in and it sunk and I said "no way" and beat a quick retreat. You could see all of the rain off on the San Pedro road, and back behind me up in the mountains .. lots of thunder and booming.
|Get out of the road little guy|
|Dark and Stormy|
|Ponies at the Circle K|
San Pedro road had some mud, but was starting to dry out. I got a turtle out of the road so he didn't get ran over, not that much traffic out there, but good for him to be someplace else. Near Cascabel, I stopped for a couple of minutes and it was totally quiet and then I heard the crunching of gravel and here comes Ian. He had a flat tire right in the parking lot before the group left, had taken maybe a half hour or more to get it fixed and had caught up. He quickly rode out of sight and that was the last rider I saw on the course. After a while I got to Pomerene, and I was pretty dehydrated ... had plenty of water, but hadn't drank enough because it was cloudy and such up in the mountains and I got into a deficit situation. Sure could have used a little store or gas station, but there is nothing except a Post Office in Pomerene. So I rode on into Benson and stopped at the first Circle K. A Big Gulp hit the spot as I sat and drank it. Few minutes later, I headed for the Horseshoe Cafe which was really busy, I wasn't ready to eat, so got a grilled ham and cheese to go, and went outside. Turned on my rear light and it was dead ... must've left the thing on all day. This meant I was going to have to ride down AZ 80 toward St David with no taillight. As I pondered that, I rode past a little motel and decided it was time to bag it for the night, recharge myself and my batteries and hit it in the morning. $40 for a room worked out just fine.
Day 2 - Benson to Chiricahua Mtns
Early up, rolling just before sunrise. Ate that ham and cheese sandwich in my room, swung by the food mart and then went south. St David was quiet, and the ride down 80 to Clifford Ranch road went well, but it is a LOT easier going the other way like I did during the Cochise Classic. At Clifford Ranch road, there is a big windmill and you take the road east towards MiddleMarch road. It rode well, till a little section that was overgrown with cat claw. I thought it was fun, I pushed a little bit to get around most of the cat claw, got to the top of a rise, took some pictures, and then I saw a badger run out in front of me. He ran for maybe 20 or 30 feet and then bailed back into the brush. Cool !
|Catclaw and barbed wire on the crossover|
|Middlemarch ( you can see the sheeps head )|
|Survived the Climb|
MiddleMarch road is just a wide, pretty well graded pain, getting hot, sweaty. I passed Slavin Gulch road, stopped for a second, and got to the top and met Tyler, who was running the Salsa Cycles aid station. He cooked up a brat and had some bacon already cooked and it was soooo good ! He had a couple of ice cold sodas, and I could have sat there and BS'd all afternoon, but made myself get up and start downhill towards Pearce. There is nothing in Pearce, in spite of Google saying that TJ's is there ! ( I did remember that ). On to Sunizona and I stopped at Sandy's, got another grilled ham and cheese and took half of it to go. They were really wonderful people there, highly recommend it.
Nice ride towards the mountains, but the wind changed and it was getting tiring. At someplace I saw a cell tower, checked my phone, and nope ... still no service ! ( must've been another carrier ). Into the Chiricahua's near sundown and started looking for a camping spot and as it was getting dark, passed from private property into the forest, found a little road that turned near a windmill and I stopped.
Put the bike down and saw something running and it was a little skunk leaving the area. I camped, cooked a stroganoff thing I had bought ( not that good ), and went to bed. Before getting into the bivy, heard a rustling and there was another skunk .. he left when I shined my light on him. The stars were spectacular, and the old windmill groaned in the wind.
Day 3 - Chiricahua Mtns to Hachita
Sunday morning. Tried to ride before dawn and didn't really get the sun on me until the top of Onion Saddle. It was a nice climb, dark and cool in the shadows, and beautiful views. At the top you can see forever, I think it's about 7400 feet. A fast downhill pretty much all the way to Portal, passing the Southwest Research station, and seeing a lot of deer along the road near the campgrounds down there.
The Portal Lodge's breakfast was delicious and got me recharged for the later morning. Leaving Portal had a nice downhill, but a strong south wind, when I turned north I was flying ! The ride to Animas went well but it was sure good to find the Bootheel grocery open as you leave Animas. Such a little town, out in the middle of nowhere.
More riding, heading east on NM 9. Stopped at the only tree to drink some and rest for a couple of minutes before the Playas training center.
|almost to Hachita|
Day 4 - Hachita to El Paso
|New Mexico sunrises rock|
|Basin and Range|
Up, made coffee, rolled out. Lots of Border Patrol on this road ... like every mile or so it seemed. Passed the BP Ramsey station, and just kept going. Not that much to say or comment about as it was just flattish, more Basin and Range country with easy climbs. I stopped at a place called Hermanos which was a cattle collection point. Took a couple of pictures and felt something funny and realized my leg was covered in mosquitoes. Time to leave !
Finally got to Columbus and hit the little restaurant. She fixed me a steak and scrambled egg plate with beans and tortillas ... it tasted so good !! Seriously, food is such a treat when you have been riding for a while, but this was good even if you weren't starving !
I called Susan from the little park there, where the old guys were sitting around. You know in some ways, I am one of those old guys, was thinking I could just sit there a complain about the kids or something. But it's getting warm and I need to get to El Paso.
That part was hot. There was a bag of ice I should have bought in Columbus, and as the miles ticked on I really regretted not buying it, and filling up all of my bottles. My water got hot and there was little shade. Got pass all of the interesting terrain stuff and then wind was changing blowing right at me. The last few miles before Santa Theresa were hard and slow. Finally, I got there and turned and immediately I was zooming along the Decominici highway at 20 something mph. There was dirt blowing all over the place, I was over on the newly build highway skirting all of the traffic. As I crossed into Texas it began to rain. Stopped at a Subway and the guy asked me where I came from and said "Hachita" ... he hadn't heard of it.
So it was getting dark and I wasn't sure about camping along the bike path and really wanted something besides Subway, so I found a hotel for the night and figured I could start early and get to Las Cruces and back to El Paso to make a 1:30 Amtrak back to Tucson.
Day 5 - El Paso to Las Cruces
Pretty ride. Light rain at the start, you ride on some concrete bike path, and then along the levee system on either side of the river. Crossed the Rio Grande several times, and then there was an easy street ride into Las Cruces, past the University and suddenly we are done.
|Urban bike path|
El Paso Amtrak station is a beautiful building constructed in 1904. The train was supposed to arrive at 1:30 but kept getting pushed back and finally got there at 5:45. Lots of clouds and it all made for a beautiful sunset as we rolled towards Tucson. Got into Tucson at about 11:30, put the bike together and rode home and it was done.
|Trizzle, trazzle, trozzle, trone .. time for this one to go home|
Was really nice to see my blue dot "bounce" when I got to Las Cruces, especially after bailing on ATR two years in a row. This was a fun ride, and hats off to Blue Dog Bicycles, Overland Adventures and Salsa Bikes for setting this up and supporting it. Next up is doing the Mount Lemmon Gravel Grinder on Oct 26.