Day 47 – The route might be flat, but it ain’t Kansas

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Thursday, June 28, 1984
Aspen Glade USFS Campground, Colo., to Taos, N.M.
78 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

We’ve covered almost 3,000 miles on our cross-country bike ride so far, and I don’t remember any place as unique as this. I almost feel like I’m in a different country. Much of the area sits on a plateau, so it’s flat like Kansas. But it’s arid, so there’s only dry brush around.

Bis on bridge spanning Rio Grande Gorge

We were back on the road at 6:30 a.m. No ranger hassled us. We had a free night camping.

We continued on the same road all the way to Antonito, about 15 miles away. We steadily dropped from the woodsy environment to a scrubby sagebrush plain. The small towns we passed, Mogote and Las Mesitas, had many adobe houses.

We ate breakfast at a restaurant at the junction of routes 17 and 285. There was an old locomotive in a field near a station adjacent to the restaurant. This was the terminus of the Cumbres-Toltec Railroad.

From 10 miles away, a lone mountain stood as the only feature on the plateau. It peaked at 10,900 feet, about 2,000 feet above the rest of the area. We rode toward it for at least an hour. It’s San Antonio Mountain. I saw an antelope on the way there. It was mostly downhill afterward, and we had tailwinds to the crossroads at Tres Piedras where we had lunch.

Only some truck traffic to interrupt the solitude. Also many birds. Mostly crows and vultures. Twenty-seven miles between Antonito and Tres Piedres, and nothing in between.

We turned east toward Taos, on the edge of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Here, the road continued its downward slope and the wind stayed at our backs. The farther we went, the more arid the land and the hotter the temperature. Even so, we remained between 7,000 and 8,000 feet.

Flat table land all the way to Taos, except for the Rio Grande Gorge, a sudden cut in the landscape. We really didn’t see it until we were right on it. It’s just like an invisible scar through the Earth. A bridge passed 660 feet above the river, (that’s me on the bridge, above). In one view, we could see the bottom of the canyon to the snow-covered peaks.

Taos was busy and tourist-oriented. The plaza was small and picturesque. We had a few Tecate in the sun atop a hotel. We were extremely grubby, but the beers were cold and we just didn’t care. Our table overlooked the plaza.

Got a room at the Adobe Wall Motel. The manager was outside and said we could come inside to register. Because the office was closed, he had to go in the back door and Bruce followed him right in, bicycle and all, into the family kitchen. The guy then explained we’d have to go around front and meet him in the office. Had a good laugh over this.

Ate a good dinner at La Dona de Taos, named for a woman who once entertained trappers, writers, etc.

We didn’t bother to see the D.H. Lawrence collection of erotic art at the La Fonda Hotel, nor did we go out for a visit to the Taos Pueblo.

Bruce went to a poetry reading, and I called Becky from a pay phone. The streets are pleasant at night. Also passed the Kit Carson home. Most everything in town is adobe.

Headline: June 28, 1984
New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro says she’d allow her name
to be added as a vice presidential candidate,
but not to challenge any candidate
chosen by Walter Mondale …
(Mondale did ask her to be his running mate)

Bruce’s Journal

Our coldest morning yet, I think. Probably 40 degrees maximum. We wore most of our clothing, plus it was incredibly damp there–like it had rained, but it hadn’t. Our bikes were wet (seats and panniers) even though they had been covered by the tarp.

We made a hasty exit from the Glade to avoid the ranger, since we opted against the $6 fee on the suggestion of the camp “host,” an old fellow who drove by as we were coming in and told us the ranger came around at 7:30 in the morning, if we knew what he meant.

We did.

We crossed back into New Mexico that morning, leaving Colorado once and for all, but the scenery in the “land of enchantment” was still gorgeous. The Rockies to our left were so far away they appeared to us only as various contrasting shades of hazy blue. They are magnificent from any vantage point.

Most of our ride to Taos was downhill and pleasant. The highlight was the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a steel span crossing the Rio Grande some 650 feet above the river. The gorge itself was maybe a quarter-mile from side to side and it appears right smack in a flat patch of scrub desert. You just come on it all at once having no idea it’s there. What must the first settlers thought? Again, magnificent.

And then Taos, haven for writers and artists, made famous by D.H. Lawrence (whose private erotic art is on private display at the La Fonda Hotel) and the site of filming for “Easy Rider.” Hence, the La Fonda Hotel.

Taos marked the beginning of adobe dwellings and real Mexican influence. We got drunk sitting on the balcony patio at Oglives (sp?), which overlooks the town square and park. We then got a room at the Adobe Motel, showered and returned to town for dinner. Most of the shops, especially the galleries, were closed. But we will see more of that in Santa Fe. While Bis called Becky, I went to an adobe courtyard coffeehouse and heard a reading by “Klein” and Jonathan Slater. They were good readers, Slater having the great British accent, and some of their originals weren’t bad. I don’t think they will survive alongside the masters, however. But it was fun, and somehow it seemed an appropriate diversion in Taos.

The only drawback was a really splitting headache I had acquired from the afternoon beers that put a definite damper on the rest of the evening. I was out like a light as soon as my head hit the pillow.

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