Day 13: Santa Fe, NM to Las Vegas, NM
Distance: 70 miles
Climbing: 4,400 feet
For more photos, be sure to check Flickr.
What can I say about today? We had all the ingredients for a classic PAC Tour experience: bountiful headwind, hard rain, and a seemingly endless series of rolling hills. But it wasn’t all good.
We got out of Santa Fe fairly quickly and after a few miles got onto I-25, which would take us all the way up and over Glorieta Pass. This was all climbing, but it wasn’t too steep until the last couple of miles. The scenery was beautiful and, although there were plenty of clouds in the sky, we had relatively nice weather, for which I was grateful. I heard later that it snowed at the pass after we went through.
The top of the pass was at mile 18, after which we descended gradually toward the town of Pecos. I say “we,” but I lost track of Anurang early during the climbing. This descent was one of the most pleasant parts of the day’s riding — not that there was a lot of competition for that distinction.
There was a rest stop near the Pecos Monument Ruins, which jogged my memory from five years ago. This time, though, our rest stop was across the street from the visitor’s center.
After this rest stop came a series of gradual climbs for 19 miles or so until we got to the turnoff for the village of San Jose. There was another rest stop here as well as an “explorer” option to go one mile down a gravel road to see an abandoned original Route 66 bridge. When I got there, several guys were standing around wondering whether this really was the right turn for the bridge. The rollers and the wind (now coming from the east) were slowing folks down enough that they were reluctant to gamble on going one extra mile down the road. This seemed crazy to me, so I went down the road, (which has apparently been paved sometime in the past five years), dodged two big black barking dogs who chased me, found the bridge, and took some pictures of it as well as of the local church.
Eventually other riders, including Lon and Anurang, showed up. I left the rest stop with Lon and some others (Anurang was still messing around in San Jose), and started on what would prove to be the hardest section of the ride, most of which I ended up riding by myself.
The clouds had been getting more threatening, and soon after leaving the rest stop I started to feel some sprinkles. So, I put on my rain jacket. I road a little farther and decided to put on my rain pants, booties, and long gloves. Now the rain started to come down in earnest, so I was glad I had all this stuff. And, as Franz had observed, it was starting to “chill off” (must be a Canadian expression). Staying warm was never a problem, though. Sometime during all of this wardrobe adjusting I got behind Lon and never saw him again.
After a while, the rain stopped and I took off my rain jacket but left on the pants and booties since they’re harder to take on and off and I didn’t seem to be in any danger of overheating. Now, I concentrated on just getting up the hills. These were especially awful because as soon as you got to the top of one long series of them, you would see the next series waiting for you. “What have I done to deserve this?” went through my mind more than once. Making matters worse, it was now well past lunch time and I hadn’t been eating or drinking enough (a common occurrence when the weather’s bad). I made myself slow down and eat a couple of PowerBars, which eventually perked me up a bit.
Finally, after about 64 miles, I came to a gas station mini-mart, which also marked the turn to Las Vegas. It seemed like it was starting to rain again, so I decided to pull in and get some more food and put the rain jacket back on. I had an egg salad sandwich, some water, and a Hershey bar. When it went out to get ready to leave (now it was getting really cold, Anurang pulled up in great spirits and announced: “I’m going to have a hot dog!”
By now it was raining hard. I left Anurang to his hot dog and started on the last six miles of the ride, some of which, at least, were downhill. The rain was bouncing off the pavement; I think it might have been semi-hail. When a drop would catch me on the lower lip, it hurt like heck, so I tried to keep my head down and just concentrate on getting into town.
I was really, really, really glad when I finally found the Santa Fe Inn. And they have an excellent free wireless connection. Anurang rolled in after I’d showered, followed shortly by Bruce Fields and then a smiling Susan Rosenblatt, who gets my nomination for gutsiest rider. Leon told me how he nearly froze while fixing a flat tire. Because he’s faster, he managed to ride in the rain for a couple of hours at least.
Anurang and I went to dinner with Lon and the crew at an excellent restaurant that I think is associated with the hotel a little after five o’clock. Not long after we got our entrees, though, the power went out.
In fact, the power is still out. I’m sitting in my room in the dark typing this on battery power. Wireless? Gone. The phone doesn’t work either. And it’s still raining.
The good news is that once this storm peters out sometime tomorrow morning, we’re forecast to have a tailwind to push us south to Santa Rosa. And the forecast for Sunday is even nicer, with sunny skies and a west wind that could get us to Tucumcari. Let’s just hope the power comes on before tomorrow morning….