Day 46 – Back and forth over the “Divide”

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Wednesday, June 27, 1984
Pagosa Springs to Aspen Glade USFS Campground, Colo.
83 miles

Locator map

I’m reprinting the day-to-day journal entries of a cross-country bike tour my friend and I took in 1984. More about the TransAmerica Tour 1984

Bis’ Journal

This is rough terrain. We crossed back over the Continental Divide and bicycled in and out of New Mexico today. We’re still making progress to the Pacific, though it doesn’t seem so.

Bruce at the border

We said our goodbyes to Gunter and Elsa (they said they didn’t want to hold us back, although I doubt this because they set a torrid pace), and pedaled south on Route 84 to Chromo. Nothing much going on here except a second breakfast. After leaving the mountains, we’re in some high plains here. A landmark, Chromo Mountain, we watched approach for more than 10 miles. We passed it on our right, and continued over the New Mexico border.

At the Continental Divide, we met some folks from Annapolis and crossed back over to the Atlantic side. Our next stop was Chama, a touristy town and home of the Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railroad. Bruce ate in a restaurant here but I was happy with my usual peanut butter and honey sandwich.

We could see the Cumbres Pass area as we left town. The wind picked up and stuff blew in our faces. We slowed to a crawl. I measured a 9:30-minute mile against the roadside markers. As we ground our way uphill into the headwind we approached a rail crossing. People parked to get a picture of the steam locomotive chugging uphill.

Train station at Cumbres Pass

We stayed with the tracks and followed the S-curves up to Cumbres Pass at 10,022 feet — nearly as high as Monarch and Red Mountain passes although it didn’t seem so. We stopped at a train station/gift shop at the summit, which had a great view of the mountains. We talked for a while with the proprietor, and he followed us out the door with a can of insect repellent. He warned us about the mosquitoes and started spraying me head to toe. Bruce jumped on his bike and got away before he could be assaulted, but he had a good laugh at me.

We coasted downhill for a while then started another climb to La Manga Pass at 10,230 feet. This one took its toll as it came at the end of a long day.

Going down the 7% grade after the summit on this narrrow road challenged my brakes, as I didn’t want to let it rip with so many blind curves. We finally stopped at a campground on the Conejos River, but the owner wouldn’t let us stay there. We would have been the only tent — it was all Winnebagoes. I have come to hate Winnebagoes more than ever.

That really upset me. Being in a foul mood when we got to the Aspen Glade USFS campground, I started complaining about the $6 fee. A camper who I was complaining to said the ranger checked the “honor box” at 7:30 every morning. Bruce, of course, caught his drift before I did. We’d be gone by 7:30 in the morning.

We camped on a hillside with the river rushing below. Lots of mosquitoes — I had sweated off the repellant by now. We ate and I crawled into the tent as the sky got dark.

Headline: June 26, 1984
Democrats Walter Mondale and Gary Hart agree to put
differences aside and defeat incumbent Ronald Reagan.
(In November, Reagan carried every state but Minnesota,
Mondale’s home state.)

Bruce’s Journal

Had breakfast with Gunter and Elsa and then said goodbye. Although they, too, were going the same direction as us, we out-paced them. We said perhaps we would meet at Chama, New Mexico, but as it turned out, we pushed on from there to a National Forest campground just outside of Antonito.

From Chama, where another narrow gauge train runs, we had two 10,000-foot passes to climb, and as we prepared to go, the wind changed direction and began blowing hard, bringing black storm clouds right for us. In town,  the wind blew so hard that you had to cover your eyes to keep the dust from Main Street from irritating them.

There was no doubt it would storm, but we pushed on. Both of us wanted to go. It was uphill from the start and the wind was gusting in our faces. It took us about nine minutes to pedal one mile! And the dark clouds were moving right for us.

It took us about three hours to climb the 14 or 15 miles to Cumbres Pass. Meanwhile, we had gone from Colorado into New Mexico and back to Colorado, and it was getting cold up there in the high plains.

At Cumbres Pass we stopped at the rail depot, where they took tourists on the narrow gauge, and the conductor and his wife were an odd pair. When we remarked that going so slowly uphill the mosquitos attacked with impunity, the conductor got out some bug spray aerosol and started spraying Bisbee indiscriminately. Bis started dancing around to get out of the line of fire. It looked like some odd religious ritual the two were taking part in.

We finally made our second 10,000-foot pass and headed downhill. We tried to camp at the “Ponderosa,” an RV park and campground beautifully situated right along the Conejos River. The woman proprietor, however, said she had no place for “tenters.”

So, after 70 miles, many of them arduous, we pushed on. It was cold, now that the sun was down (or at least obscured by the mountains). It was after 7 p.m. when we reached Aspen Glade, a campground in the Carson National Forest. With darkness and mosquitos threatening, we had the Cutters on, the tent up and dinner cooked in no time at all. Dinner was tuna casserole, wheat bread, coffee, chocolate chip cookies (our Kahlua supply needs to be replenished).

The campground had only an out-house. There was no sink or shower. We were in bed just as night was falling. The river flowed peacefully below us; above us the stars shone crystal clear. We were 8,000 feet above sea level, and very tired.


Day 47: Flat near Taos, but not Kansas anymore

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