I started getting my GPS tracks for this organized a few weeks ago. I remember loading the new track from RWGPS that had the points of interest on it and thinking it might have too many points for my eTrex, but it seemed to come up ok. And then I saw the track on bikepacking.com and just threw it on the eTrex also. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
Sarah mentioned this event to me while I was walking PACC dogs and I said sure, why not? It was filled up and then she got in after being on a waitlist and then I emailed Matt the organizer and he said "sure come on over". So on Friday morning we loaded bikes on her car and away to Las Cruces we went.
Pretty straightforward drive from Tucson, we found our hotel rooms and headed downtown. Scored a green chile burger at the little festival in downtown Cruces and then met up with the other riders doing Dangerbird which is a big group depart riding the Monumental Loop, a 250 mile loop through Organ Mountains National Monument. They passed out these big baguettes of bread and a cool bandanna wrapped around it to each rider, and then we went back to the hotel to organize.
Up the next morning, park the car at NMSU and rode to the start point with a couple from Duluth. Scored a couple of breakfast burrito's for the day, I managed to catch Grace who was rolling backwards and then we all started out with Grace leading the pack as we rode around Klein Park and then really started.
|Sarah at the start in Cruces|
Hit the bike path and passed where we parked the car and I started noticing that all I had were the POI flags on the eTrex and I didn't have the line I am used to following. Was puzzled by this and someplace as we worked our way through some suburbia before a single track trailhead I loaded up the last years track and I was back in business.
|A break on the single track|
Great singletrack at the beginning as we headed east and climbed. Couple of rough places down in drainages, but most of the group I was riding with was doing the same pace as me, sorta at the rear of the train. A few hours of this and it was beginning to get tiring and then I think we crossed into Texas and hit pavement. A quick downhill, a sketchy I-25 access rounder and I met Sarah who was ahead and had scored tacos at a roadside truck. I got some as she headed for the DG and then caught up with her at the DG. We then rode back into New Mexico and headed south along the Rio Grande's west bank. I think about 10 miles or so and we were at Vinton Texas and another DG.
First disappointment of the day, we heard the little Mexican restaurant was closing at 5 and we had missed it by a few minutes! Bummer. Well, the day was getting on and we headed west back into NM and trying to make the Kilbourne Hole Crater as our stop for the night.
As I rode along my bike made some really weird noises. First issue was the shifting was messed up and I figured out that was due to the rear wheel's axle being quite loose. Easy fix. Shifting was now good, but I had this ridiculous rattle that couldn't place. Was it in the shock? I tightened bags and looked for loose crap in my frame bag and etc and couldn't figure it out.
The sun went down and about 4 of us rode into the dark. Twilight, then really dark. Finally turned on my light ... that Fenix BC22 works really well! On past 7 and then 8 and I'm getting tired. Sarah and I are about 2 miles from the Hole and we decide to bag it for the night .. I was sooooo glad to stop.
Heated some water for soup and the broth was great. Took a while for my system to take the noodles but I got the chicken noodle ramen down and went to sleep. Beautiful stars out and no wind to speak of. And it got cold!
Up at sunrise and packed and I rode out first in the cold ... hands hurt because I forgot to bring my gloves and I got the 2 miles in and got to the Crater. The SAG folks at the Crater were awesome ... all the water one could want, sodas, coffee, some bananas and cookies and I scored an apple for later! And then I discovered the cause of the rattle ... my brake caliper assembly was about to fall off the frame because the two bolts had worked themselves loose! Easy fix, and I dodged a bullet on that one.
|SAG folks at Kilbourne|
|No Country for old men|
|Loved this section|
|Cattle tank where we missed a turn|
|Almost back to town|
Sarah rolled up and refueled herself and then we rode out. Lots of riders were still there and they were packing up. Sarah and I rode north and at one point we were supposed to take a ziz zag through a cattle tank and we missed that and rode about a mile off route. Glad she saw it, I thought we were close to the route and just seeing a GPS error.
When we doubled back we ran into some of the other riders. I headed out fast and got to the railroad tracks as they caught up with me. We crossed the tracks and found the road on the other side and headed back towards town. Some good fast riding. I stopped with some of the guys across from the shooting range where the local yokels were wasting ammo and then back down the hill to the river.
|A dry Rio Grande at the Mesilla Dam|
I texted Sarah that I was heading into Mesilla to find some food. I found a little cafe where I could watch my bike and ordered some pulled pork tacos, because that was all they had! They were pretty good. Found out that Sara had missed my message because her phone was in airplane mode and she had gone further north and across Cruces, so I did a diagonal and caught up with her as we checked into a Motel 6 along the route. She needed to dry her sleeping bag that got wet due to condensation last night, and I was happy with a hotel stay and a good meal.
We walked to a restaurant, got fed, had a beer and back to the hotel.
Up early, had coffee on Halloween morning, and rolled for Dona Ana, riding along the "ditches", a bunch of mostly abandoned irrigation canals. Went well and we saw a Mexican restaurant and stopped for breakfast. Chachi's was great!! Huevos rancheros to start the day, and we scored some burritos also.
|Sarah rolling on the ditches|
|Happy with huevos rancheros on board|
Finished breakfast, then under I-25 and then uphill to the Dona Ana trailhead and more singletrack. Great riding, one little area with some walking where there was a jeep road and Raul another rider we ran across was down in a drainage and Sarah and I were on top of a hill and we weren't sure which was the real route but it worked out!
Back across I-25 and more canal riding and then bank riding on the Rio Grande. We got to the Blue Moon and it was closed for the day. We had decided to ride pavement to Hatch and away we went, with me thinking about a burger and shake at Sparky's!
Alas .. it was Monday and Sparky's was closed and I settled for ok tacos at a little burrito place, but the chilie was great on the rice and beans. Sarah rode up the river on that part and I met her at the Circle K and then away we went out of town up highway 26.
Made my turn near the dairy farm and then managed to go up the wrong road for a couple hundred yards. Recovered from that, Raul caught up and went ahead and Sarah caught up. One rocky, bumpy little road. Walked some, rode some, walked some more. The grade wasn't bad at all, but crazy rocky and hard to ride on. We got to the cattle tank with the old ranch house, took a couple of photos. Back up the mountain into the Uvas. Couple of switchbacks to do some serious climbing and I was out of gas, with a real struggle to get to the top as the sun was completely setting. I was beat, could barely stand.
|Old ranch house headed toward White Gap|
|Top of White Gap - Exhausted|
|Headed down the mountain|
|Up before sunrise|
Took Sarah and I together to get the cattle gate open and reshut and we started walking down in darkness. Then I discovered that my front tire was flat. Was looking for a flat place to camp with none to be had and now had to fix a flat. Added a bottle of sealant to it, spun the thing and then refilled with a CO2 cartridge and off into the dark. We got to the cattle tank and I was now fried and we stopped.
Heated up a can of chunky soup and felt much better and Sarah had a little bottle of Jim Bean! Perfect!
A good nights sleep for Halloween evening..
Sunrise the next morning and we had about 2 miles to get to the next SAG stop. Think it took me a bit over 30 miles to do it. Mark and his pup Cookie were there and Raul from the previous day had camped there. A soft drink, some coffee and a bunch of Oreo's made me feel better. Petted Cookie a little bit and talked to Mark and Sarah came up and refueled and we rode out.
|Cookie the SAG Dog|
What a beautiful downhill! A paved road with zero car traffic on it. Great views, riding along with a raven over my head talking to me and we stamped out some miles.
So I knew a turn was coming up and I was in front by quite a bit. I made my turn and then started waiting for Sarah. Turns out she was waiting for me a little further back. She was on her track and I was on my track. So we each ended up running with what we had. Turns out this was the difference between last year's route and this years and I was on last years because of the POI thing that I ran into on day 1.
|I was supposed to take the green track|
My route went well, Sarah's had some sandy stuff and some mud I think. I got to highway 70 and made a turn south thinking we were going back through Mesilla to get to where the car was. I waited for Sarah but she thought I was already at the car, so she got to the car first, changed and then picked me up at a little park near the river.
Loaded up and drove back to Tucson. Was a great 4 days of riding and we had fun, no major issues although I may have caught a cold from sleeping on the ground the first night when it got so cold. We did the whole route except for the hills west of Radium Springs. Matt and the folks who set this route up did a great job. I think everyone had fun regardless of how much of the route they did.