"The world is not flat", Christopher Columbus, circa 1492. "He was right", me, 2006.
Sep 20 Day off in Del Norte
After such an enjoyable night at Cristi's in Del Norte, we spent the morning interneting at her Huckleberry's Cybercafé and eating homemade pastries. A look at the weather for the next town told us it was to be 38 degrees and rain/snow mix in the mountains. We could see the storm front coming in, so we decided to spend the day goofing off. Del Norte is a nice little town. We wandered through some little shops downtown and met some nice people. A relaxing day.
Sep 21 45 miles to LaJara, CO (garage of city hall)
The weather looked no better for today. Our route for the next two days was to take us up and over our highest pass yet...almost 12,000 feet and climb of 4000 feet over 23 miles, on gravel. This would have been a major undertaking, but also the highest we'd ever been on a bicycle. However, they were expecting over a foot of snow, and we would have to camp at least one night over 10,000 feet. Common sense told us we would be smart to take an alternate route. It wasn't too bad a ride through the San Luis valley to La Jara. We saw a number of cars that had come down from the mountains with snow on them. I guess we are glad we took the alternate. We rode through an Amish community, where they were raking hay with horses. There were four rakes with teams of two horses each. We are starting to see more and more Spanish influence in town names (La, Del) and architecture. The last ten miles, a headwind picked up and made riding very difficult. I liken it to a bird trying to fly into the wind and not going anywhere. We limped into LaJara, hoping to find a place to stay or camp. There were winter storm warnings for the valley tonight, so we hoped for an inside place. Finding no motel, we went to the police station/town hall. We have had luck before getting space in a church, fire station or community center. The city manager, Bill, was very helpful. He told us we could camp in the adjacent, park, but because of the weather predicted, he said he'd ask the city trustees if we could sleep in the garage. Later, when he had secured permission, we moved into the garage with the lawn mowers and tools and other storage items. It was not your usual place to sleep, but we threw our ground cloth on the floor and laid our sleeping bags on it. We were fairly cozy, and out of the wind, rain and snow. The dogs didn't care. As long as they were with us, they were happy. In fact, the garage offered some new smells for their delicate noses. I guess if Jesus could be born in a stable, we can sleep in a barn.
We appreciate the effort of Bill and the trustees in letting us stay there.
Sep 22 16 miles to Antonito (motel)
It didn't snow last night, but it was rainy and blustery, and supposed to be all day. We decided we couldn't stay another day in the garage of the town hall, so we suited up and rode to the nearest town, Antonito, and got a motel. Stopped at Conejos and saw the oldest church in Colorado, Our Lady of Guadelupe, founded in 1858, although the building itself has been rebuilt due to fire.
Sep 23 Day off in Antonito (steam train ride)
Someday we'll have to get back to biking. Antonito, CO and Chama, NM are linked by the highest (elevation) narrow gauge steam train in the US, and today, they have rebuilt it and take passenger tours from one end to another. It goes over Cumbres Pass (10,022 ft), which we are supposed to ride to get back on the trail. However, they have 12 inches of snow, and we were doubtful whether we could ride it. So we thought we could at least see it by train. It was a beautiful day...sunny and clear. The snow on the pass was gorgeous from the warmth of the train. The train was once the only way to get between the two cities, and hauled livestock, lumber, oil, coal and passengers. Today, just the latter. Although the snow was deep in the woods and valleys and coated the trees like a Christmas card, the roads were clear, and we decided that with this sun, would be ride able in a couple days.
We met a woman at the visitor's center in Antonito who offered to take our dogs while we were riding the train (they would have loved to go with us, but unfortunately, not allowed). So thank you, Lorraine, for being so nice. In fact, we found Antonito to be a very friendly little town.
Sept 24 24.5 miles to Horca,CO (private campground)
It was a short day just to the base of a LaManga Pass. The pass is 10,230 ft, and climbs at 7 percent grade for 5 miles. We didn't want to tackle it late in the day. Early next morning we will get up and over it. It gets cold early up at high elevations, so we climbed in the tent at 6:30 to stay warm. Spent some time journaling and looking over the maps.
Sept 25 27.9 miles to Chama, NM (motel)
It was very cold this morning, with a heavy frost and the sun doesn't come over the mountains till 9 AM, so we slept in till 7:30. Our campground neighbors, Tommy and Judy from west Texas invited us over for bacon and eggs in their 5th Wheel. I hope I can pass on all these random acts of kindness we have been receiving someday. After some good food and visiting in their warm camper, we got on the road and headed up the hill. Although LaManga Pass was slow going, it didn't seem as bad as we had imagined. We got to the top in 2 hours. There was still snow there, maybe 6 inches, so we let the dogs play in it. They had a ball. Then we gently bounced up and down through snow country until we crested Cumbres Pass, which we had done on the train. We followed the train tracks much of the day, but missed seeing the train.
We are expecting about 3 more weeks on the road, if all goes as planned. We have about 3 more days in the mountains, and then it will be much flatter, although still at 7000-8000 ft elevation. The last major towns we will be going through, if you want to look them up, are Cuba, Grants and Silver City, NM. About this time, we start thinking of the first thing we want to do when we get home (besides unload the van, of course). I want to put on some jeans and a sweatshirt..3 months is a long time to go without wearing jeans... and cook a full course turkey dinner. I don't care what season it is. A turkey dinner represents the ultimate in home and family. Jon says he wants to listen to some good music.