Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Riding the Divide - Baby Tracks (second leg)


On the road again after a good recharge with good memories to ponder, vast scenery to look at, and the sound of dirt flying out from underneath my tires, I felt good.

We stopped for lunch about 16 miles down the road at the Thomas Mountain Ranch.

There is a fence on the side where you can bike around, get clean water, and relax on a swing or a reclining lawn chair under shade trees for lunch.  Truly an oasis in the middle of high dessert.

We sat back, relaxed and enjoyed a tuna sandwich with sweet peppers and a garden salad with grape tomatoes and cucumbers.

I swear, I'm on this trip too!

Knock, knock...

Who's there?

Curious Burro.

Curious burro who?

Can I curi-us burros off some of your food?

We had a burro couple join us for lunch.  The male had no concept of personal boundaries and kept putting his face right against mine, sniffing our recent smorgasbord.  Neva was extremely excited, and the burros were very docile, so they made friends quickly. 

We turned to take one last glimpse of where we had just been, then pedaled off towards unknown adventure.


After leaving Pie Town, it's 30 miles off-road until you hit the paved 117.  From there you can stick to the main GDT off-road route, or ride pavement on the alternate route all the way to Grants via 117.  We opted to take the alternate so we could arrive in a more timely manner, plus supplies are extremely scarce for the distance we can do in a day.  The shoulder of the 117 road is narrow and the road is windy, but it's not heavily trafficked and has a lot of nice scenery to look at.  As I would soon find out, this entire area is a geological haven.

The La Ventana Arch

We stayed at the Southwest Motel in Grants.  It's owned by a nice Chinese couple, the rooms are extremely clean, and it was only $36.00. In the morning, we biked down to the ice caves and lava tubes which are a short 25 mile bike ride away.  We took the paved road 53 to the Bandera Ice Caves and then the 49 gravel road GDT route back to Grants (it just happened to be down hill that way).

The caves never get above 31 degrees Fahrenheit.  That's a solid sheet of ice on the floor, ice speckles at the top of the cave, and neon green colored cold-weather lichen line the perimeter of the cave.

Less than a mile walk to the other side of the park is a volcano where you can hike up and see an impressive lava cone.

Or in Neva's case, run...

Leaving Grants, we decided to take the alternate route again to stay on schedule.  This meant more pavement, but a long stretch of not much.  You leave town via the historic Route 66.

Neva and I had stopped for lunch and ended up getting a ride the remainder of the way to Cuba, New Mexico.  We were ready to be out of the plains area and back in the trees.  The gentleman Glen, that was kind enough to give us a ride, told us about the surrounding area ailments caused by uranium mining and the toll it's taken on the locals, his father included.  He regaled multiple tragic stories from lung cancer to a tainted water supply as we went under a Peabody Coal underpass and through a cloud of smoke.

The desolate, windy, dust bowl style conditions bring multiple dirt devils across our path.  New Mexico is in desperate need of rain!


The answer is no.  There is no way to bike to Cuba, the country.  There is an attainable land route, however, to Cuba, New Mexico.  It's a cute little town with lots of outdoor opportunities, trees, and a local community supporting healthy foods and lifestyles.  With a population of 1300 people, the variety of reasonable lodging and vegetarian foods is quite good.

We ended up staying at the Circle A Ranch RV Park since the Circle A Ranch Hostel was full and not accepting campers.  We were the only tenters, but had a nice spot with grass, and wind protecting trees. 

Neva and I having fun in the tent.  She stays cozy in her 20 degree sleeping bag.

It was a good thing that we slept in, got a good nights rest and took the time to pack up on good quality food and supplies because we were in for one of the most difficult parts of the divide once we left Cuba.  Massive elevation climbs, washboard, gravel, sand, lava rock, you name it.  It was remote and beautiful though, and my favorite part of the trip (when you ask me about it now).

Truly, the calm before the storm...

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