Sent: Friday, 9/12/03
To: Friends and Family
Subject: Albuquerque to Valle Tio Vences Campground
September 10 - Albuquerque to The Narrows (no biking)
Jim's brother, Mark, arrived in Albuquerque this morning. After a frenzy of loading the motorhome with clean clothes, groceries and Mark's gear, we set out to rejoin our route. We had hoped to ride from Grants to The Narrows. When we arrived in Grants, we received an unfriendly welcome with rain, lightning and high winds. We stopped at a Ranger Station to get an update on road conditions along our route and were disappointed to hear we could encounter more wheel-sucking mud on many of the dirt roads between here and the Mexican border. After getting the motorhome stuck in the mud yesterday and having it towed out by a bulldozer, none of this was good news.
The campsite at The Narrows was nestled between rock cliffs and ancient lava flows. In between these two harsh surfaces, colorful wildflowers flourished. A brief patch of blue sky gave us the false hope that we would be able to ride after we pitched our tents. As soon as the tents were up, another storm sent us running for cover.
Stud pile or stud? No, these aren't the famous stud piles of Wyoming (stacks of manure as high as 5 feet left by wild horses marking their territory); it's a cairn of lava to mark the trail to the lava craters at Lava Falls. And the guy -- that's Mark, Jim's brother.
While I never expected or desired to ride every mile of the Great Divide Trail on my bike, I did have two informal mileage goals. First, I figured I would do about 90% of the trail, which would be 2223 miles. Second, I wanted a preliminary celebration in honor of Lance Armstrong's fifth Tour de France victory by riding the same number of miles he did in the Tour plus one for a victory lap. This year's Tour was 2,126 miles. Between Cuba and Grants, we skipped 148 miles due to rain and mud. The realization that even if I ride every mile for the remainder of the trip, I'll still be about 160 miles short of 90% and about 60 miles short of my tribute to Lance has depressed me on this dreary day.
September 11 - The Narrows to Pie Town (46 miles, 2250 feet)
For the first time in several days, we awoke to see blue skies above us. We were eager to start riding. Mark, Jim and I took a short detour to see Lava Falls south of The Narrows. On foot, we explored acres of interesting lava flows.
Today's terrain was covered with ponderosa pines, scrub oak and very few homes. We were on high-quality dirt roads most of the way. Marvelous fields of lavender asters and unidentified yellow flowers lined the roads. It was an easy ride, one that Mark may have found to be boring on his first day.
Pie Town is a wide spot in the road (population 60), but according to its most famous resident (at least among hikers and bikers), it's "the center of the universe." Nita, a happy, generous woman, lives at one of the few spots where the Continental Divide Trail (for hikers) and the Great Divide Trail (for bikers) converge. For years she has been welcoming tired travelers; some of them have stayed for days. She invited us to camp in her yard and offered to let us take showers and do our laundry. Janeen and Evan took her up on the shower and laundry offer.
With the Pie Town Pie Festival just a day away, the women in town were busy making pies. Nita and another woman made 60 pies, and baked many of them in her wood-burning stove. About 150 pies will be sold to raise money for the town.
After our ride, we stopped at the Daily Pie Cafe. The food was great, and the pie was outstanding. For the first time since January 3, I had a dessert with sugar and wheat. In my weak mind, I rationalized that if I had cherry pie (cherries are good for arthritis) along with the sugar and wheat (bad for my arthritis), it shouldn't hurt too much. We'll see.
September 12 - Pie Town to Valle Tio Vences Campground (32 miles, 2180 feet)
I spent a little time this morning -- not nearly enough -- talking to Nita. She has a fascinating knowledge of medicinal plants. She identified one of the yellow flowers I saw yesterday as snakeweed, which is good for arthritis. I took a bag of them with me. Even though I would have rather spent the day with Nita, I rode out on my bike with Jim and left Nita to attend to last-minute Pie Festival details.
Even though today's mileage was short, it was a hard ride for me. My knees hurt, especially on the uphill sections, where I would get shooting pains in my knees. My hands are also feeling the wear and tear of the ride. Maybe that cherry pie yesterday wasn't such a good idea after all.
My mom and dad seem to be adjusting quite well to life in the motorhome. Dad is doing a fine job driving the motorhome. Mom is enjoying herself and told me, "Every day is a new adventure!" Since we will be several days between hookups to fill up the water tank and dump the wastewater, they are doing their part to conserve water by showering every other day. This is a lot harder on mom than dad, but she's being a good sport.
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