Jim Bradbury

Writer, Cycler, Strummer

Day 11: Grants, NM to Albuquerque, NM

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Distance: 78 miles
Climbing: 5,000 feet

Lon's Favorite Stretch

For more photos, be sure to check Flickr.

I woke up at 4:00 this morning thinking, “Did I charge the bike computer?” I had no choice but to get up and see if I had.

I hadn’t. What’s worse, it wouldn’t turn on. It had been acting up during the previous day – shutting off at random – but I’d been able to re-start it each time. Now it wouldn’t do anything.

This irked me. You see, this was an extravagantly expensive (by my standards) GPS-based bike computer that purports to tell me (based on satellite data) how fast I’m going (not very, is usually a good guess), how far I’ve gone, what direction I’m heading, my current altitude, time of day, elapsed time, and calories burned. This last would be more useful if it simply displayed in milkshake units.

Anyway, it wasn’t displaying anything. I blamed myself for letting a sexy technology seduce me away from the keep-it-simple ethos of the true randonneur. Who am I to mock those with busted aero wheels and broken STI shifters, when I have this satellite thingie on my handlebars?

Then I looked in one of my water bottles, and that upset me as well. Yuk! And I don’t have any brushes with me to clean them or my CamelBak, which is also starting to look a bit dodgy in the tube.

And my knees were very sore yesterday after our ride and were still a bit sore when I woke up this morning.

As I was telling Anurang how all this stuff conspired to keep me awake after I woke up at 4:00 this morning, and how it put me completely out of sorts, he laughed. “This is the Jim I love!” he said. “It’s just like you are before a double.” OK, I’m glad someone finds panicked Jim lovable at least.

And yet, I had a great day. After breakfast at the Grant’s Café (not bad, but I probably didn’t order enough; just French toast and cream of wheat), I hurried back to my room to call Garmin tech support to see if they could miraculously bring my computer back to life once they came online at 8 Central time. After half an hour on hold, during which I somehow managed to finish getting ready to go, I was connected to a tech support guy who gave me the magic reset button combination.

Voila: working bike computer. It had even charged a bit while it was seemingly dead. The tech guy had suggested that I download newer software to correct possible “anomalies,” but of course I have a Mac, and they don’t support Macs yet (later this year). And I don’t have a USB cable for the bike computer. Then it occurred to me: What about that cable that Anurang had bought at Radio Shack in Barstow that actually didn’t fit his camera (we were guessing)? Turns out it’s the right size for the bike computer, and he has a Windows laptop. So, sometime in the next few days we will try to do an upgrade.

I asked Lon about spare water bottles, which he had, but decided to go with just my own good one and the CamelBak for now. I can mail order some cleaning stuff tonight.

As for my knees, I did ice them some last night, and I’ve been taking my anti-inflammatory twice a day. I even did some yoga stretching this morning. I also resolved to stay out of the big chain ring as much as possible today – to just ride easy and give myself a rest if at all possible.

When we rolled out at 8:00, there was a bit of wind, but it was light enough not to make life miserable, and although it did pick up a little bit later in the day, it was pretty steady from the south, and we were heading east. So that helped.

It also helped that took us through some of the most scenic parts of the trip. Almost immediately after leaving Grants, we were passing more black lava fields – this time dotted with Chula cacti in bloom. The temperature was perfect and the skies blue with just a few puffy clouds here and there (this will probably change soon from what I gather).

I had left with Anurang, Franz, and our Scottish friends (this was the last day they’d be riding with us for a while, if not forever, as they’re not doing our northern detour toward Santa Fe and expect to be two days ahead of us at least as far as Amarillo). Lon pretty quickly caught up to us.

We were on quiet country roads without much traffic. This was Indian country for the most part. We stopped to look at a Whiting Brothers gas station, at an old steel bridge from 1941, and at Santa Maria Mission. I remembered a lot of this from our trip five years ago, although the order of things had become jumbled in my mind.

As was the case five years ago, the stone and wood carver named Frederico was not in his workshop when we passed, which I think disappointed Lon. You could tell even from the outside of his property that it must be a pretty amazing place.

After a stop in New Laguna Pueblo for water and food, we proceeded on what Lon says is one of his favorite parts of the old road. It really was lovely and, yes, Owl Rock does look like an owl, although it could have as easily been called Ewok Rock.

At Mesita, we started an “Explorer’s Option” that was fabulous. Ten miles of riding the old road with just one pickup truck along the way. We saw more old bridges, an unidentified snake, and a weird assemblage of two broken children’s bicycles and the skull and spine of a horse. This was one of the strangest things I’d ever seen on a bike ride, but I later found out it was the work of Leon and not some Indian shaman.

Horse with No Mane

Lon was encouraged to see that several bicycles tracks were visible in the sand that occasionally covered the pavement. He’s concerned that some people are skipping the sightseeing and exploring aspects of this trip and treating it like a regular Pac Tour where you just concentrate on getting to the next motel as quickly as possible. “All these hammerheads…” he grumbled. “We don’t hammer, Lon,” said Anurang. “Just mallet.”

This part of the road was actually much more ridable than any of us remembered from five years previous. There had been much more sand then; it was almost as though someone had swept the road clear.

When we finally emerged from the optional route, the sag truck was waiting for us with food and water, along with Gavin and Rhona towing their trailers. Now came a long series of rolling climbs first on I-40 and then (after a bit of fence hopping) on a frontage road to get us to our lunch stop at mile 62.5. This was at a giant truck stop/Indian casino, the name of which escapes me now, but I think you can catch Howie Mandel or The Fabulous Thunderbirds there.

At the Roadrunner Café, a modern 50’s themed restaurant, they even let me plug in my bike computer to get the battery charged up enough to last the rest of the ride.

After lunch, one long, shallow climb on both I-40 and a frontage road (no hopping required this time), which Lon, Anurang, Franz, Gavin and Rhona and I all did pretty much together.

That was followed by a quick, straight descent down Central Avenue right into Albuquerque. Both Anurang and I got up to about 40 miles an hour briefly. “First time this trip, dude!”

Traffic was hellacious in the city, but we fortunately didn’t have too far to go before crossing the Rio Grande and finding our motel.

I felt the best I have physically for some time; my knees certainly feel better than last night. Let’s hope the trend continues.


Written by Jim Bradbury

April 26, 2006 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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