Monday, 21 October 2013

Day 16 - I refuse to break.....

Last night I had to phone a friend for a favour.... my shorts have given up before me and lets just say, the only thing keeping me modest is the fact that I am wearing cycle shorts underneath! Thankfully she is kindly going to get me some for when we meet up, so thankyou Louize!
This morning when I woke... for some reason I had a huge bout of homesickness. Wether it was reading email and posts from family or friends or just because I had been physically and emotionally depleted yesterday, the fact was that i spent most of the morning thinking about different people at home and wishing they were here to see this place with me.

Anyway, after breakfast, I set off early, determined a) not to finish in the dark b) to catch up the lost miles and c) to get past albuquerqe before lunch... that place will haunt my dreams I swear. The morning was crisp and cold but looked like it was going to be sunny and although I hadnt dared to believe the weather channel, the wind was light to non existant! Bonus... but I wasnt going to take any chances... weather can change in the blink of an eye... so I set off with purpose. The climb out of Moriarty hurt as my legs hadnt warmed up and although gradual, I was steadily gaining a good amount of height.
It at least kept me warm and I had left off my long fingered gloves and waterproof jacket. I got to the top of the climb in a good time and started the descent...
It was long, winding, and dropped down a magnificent mountain pass and I thought that this was reward for getting up there.

My fingers hovered over the brakes as it was pretty steep in places and didnt want to take any chances.
I rounded a bend to find flashing lights so jammed on the brakes and slowly freewheeled past a lorry on its side, which had overturned and then slid along the barrier, so that the cab was in a ditch. This shook me up quite a bit. I have a particular dislike of lorries anyway due to being hit by one in a car on the m25, but this accident was pretty recent and it made me think that if I had been at that spot at the wrong time, I would have had no chance.  It reminded me that no matter how careful I am being, shit luck could always happen! I didnt really enjoy the rest of the descent, partly cos of the lorry but also i was bloody cold. I didnt stop to take pics, which was a shame, but just wanted to get the hell outta there, and to a nice warm cafe.

I eventually got to the bottom and pulled off at the first exit, found a macdonalds and got a hot coffee which made me feel better. I set off pretty quickly as wasnt yet at albuquerqe (which I need to put behind me and then can stop having to spell it).
When I did get to that place, I didnt hear any fanfare as I felt would gave been fitting. I have been trying to get here for three days, and I was sick of the place before I had even seen it.

As it was it had one main street running through it... the 'famous route66 nob hill' but apart from a bike lane and downhill to the centre, had nothing really worth stopping for. Paid in spades for the downhill on the way out but was so pleased to be leaving albuquerqe (last time of spelling that!), that it didnt matter. And once again, the view from the top, as well as the 'you are now leaving' sign made it worth it. 
On leaving, the scenery changed. Before there were scrub bushes and grassland but now this became sandy and fewer green shrubs.. more desert like and in the distance and to the sides rose escarpments of red rock, signalling the passage towards Arizona and canyonlands.
The road was up and down from here on in but in contrast to the preceeding 2 days, I was getting just reward for the uphill toil, downhill at speeds of 25mph and upwards, where the legs and arse got a bit of a break.  Once again I became lost in the view and thoughts of home. As i said in my earlier fb post, I am enjoying the adventure, but miss family and friends and feel lucky to have that to miss.
It was also at this point that I regret using up the superlatives too early in my descriptions as New Mexico is breathtakingly stunning. Everywhere I looked, there was a mountain in the distance, rising up from the desert like floor to a perfect blue sky. It was at this point that I managed a flag photo, because I felt that this was a place for a fitting tribute to the names on the flags.

I was in good spirits, it felt like the big part of the day was done, yet I still had 70 miles to go for plan A to work. The trouble was that I kept stopping to take photos wanting to imprint this place on my mind, the way I felt it had imprinted on my soul. Some places are like that... if you are lucky maybe more than one... in my case Switzerland and Poland and now New Mexico. All share a ruggedness in their beauty which I could appreciate.

Eventually I reached what I thought was my plan B point, but the time was good so decided to eat, only to discover that it was the next casino/hotel that was my plan B, and actually I was still 25 miles from plan A. Considering I had been motoring on the flat and downhill sections, this was a slight disappointment so i set myself a time limit to be back on the road. I reasoned that barring incident, I could easily do that in 2 hours which would be half 6 arrival. I sought local knowledge as to the gradient of the road.  The reply... well theres a big hill in about 4 miles but once that it done you should be fine!

When I set off again, I should have realised that when a car driver says big hill, a cyclist would have added the word very! However I set a good pace up it as it wound round the edge of one of the hills. Then downhill all the way... errr nope. Again a car drivers view very different, but gradually I saw the miles count down on roadsigns. At about 11 miles to go I was hit by a slight headwind and the sun was starting to fall.
I was also battling with 2 things... aside from the usual road debris I was also dodging what initially looked like scorpions but on closer, slower inspection turned out to be massive locusts/crickets. Then whilst trying not to squash them my left eye started stinging... suncream in the eye is not fun and for several miles I went along with one eye shut or blinking furiously to try and clear it. Amusing maybe, but not when you are on your last legs, and lorries are passing close, and the glare from the sun means the road is not easily seen! I was reluctant to stop but did so, cleared my eye and readied myself for the final push... Easier said than done after 103 miles of up and down. So it was more of a crawling pace that saw me into Grants and to the motel 8 that was waiting with beckoning doors.

Once settled in, I had a lovely phone call from work, which made me smile and cut through my weariness so thanks for that guys!

So I am now, for today at least, back on schedule and spending the night where I was supposed to. It was a mammoth day but today I have refused to break and been rewarded but end the day as I began, slightly homesick and feeling lucky!