Most of the day, I felt that I was no longer cycling through the US, but had slipped south of the border. The Hispanic culture here, mixed with the Native American, is very strong.
For instance, after Penasco, we followed a road that reminded me of cycling in the Alleghenies because it rose and fell like a rollercoaster. We passed through some towns, such as Las Trampas, that had a mission older than most of the colonial buildings in historic Annapolis.
We saw many adobe homes, which were generally square with a corner bit out — that was the porch. The porch was blue, the rest brown. More often than not, a bunch of dried red peppers hung at the porch. The oldest adobe has pieces of straw sticking out of it; some roofs actually have grass growing from them.
We stopped for a snack at Truchas, which sits at the edge of a mesa. English is the second language here. All the signs are in Spanish. Many homes have beehive stoves (also called hornos) in the back yard for baking bread. Also, there are beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
Our day started at a McDonald’s in Taos, but we soon found ourselves immersed in the Hispanic culture in Placitas. Oddly enough, while climbing a mountain, we met a couple of women from Dallas who were walking along the road. Their father studied ancient Native America archaeology for the Southern Methodist University and they had been working at Chaco Canyon.
After Chimayo, Bruce and I got scared off the road by an insane amount of Friday evening traffic. We pulled into a Pizza Hut for dinner and iced tea, and we studied our maps. We were below 6,000-foot elevation for the first time in 10 days, but we were to climb back up to over 7,000 on the 33 miles we had to ride to Santa Fe.
We rode close together along a wide shoulder heading into Santa Fe, as the sky was darkening. We watched the lights twinkle on as we passed Bishops Lodge, and it was pitch dark by the time we hit Santa Fe. (With no intention of cycling after dark, we never outfitted our bikes with lights.) We finally found the Youth Hostel, and Bruce fell in a three foot deep hole in the back yard trying to find a place to stow his bike.
This was the busiest hostel we’d visited. Men and women tourists coming and going. Dormitory style rooms. A sign on the bathroom door that did not have a lock: “If you want privacy, motel bathrooms have locks.”
New York Times movie review: June 29, 1984 —
It’s neither a man nor a bird
but it could be a moose wearing a sweatband.
Actually, it’s large- jawed, Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger
in the title role of ”Conan the Destroyer” … (Schwarzenegger elected Governator of California on Oct. 7, 2003.)
After breakfast at McDonald’s (our second stop there in a week!) we made our way out of Taos on “the high road to Santa Fe.” Lots of climbing in the foothills. We could have been just as easily in Mexico, judging by the people, the adobe and the scenery. People here even speak Spanish as much as English. We made slow time, but that was OK.
The climbing has actually gotten fun now that we are in good shape. Still, it is hard. But the sights are worth it. Again this morning and afternoon, many pictures were taken.
In a small town, we passed an 18th century adobe church which was in remarkably good shape. We made Santa Cruz by 4 p.m., but the 15 miles downhill to there were treacherous–some kind of factory must have let out because the narrow roads were jammed with cars and there was gravel and running water over the road. What topped it all off was a German Shepherd who chased us. What a road.
When we got to the bottom and our turn, the rush-hour traffic was so bad that we stopped and had dinner at a Pizza Hut (great salad bars there, we discovered) before continuing to Santa Fe. We got started just before 6 p.m., and the traffic was bad, but it had slackened. There was a good shoulder (at least at the start), but there was broken glass everywhere. Toward the end, there was little or no shoulder and it was getting close to dark.
I was trying very hard to concentrate, to stay as far right of the road as I could, and to avoid the glass. But as luck would have it, my front tire went flat just about 9 miles outside of Santa Fe. I pumped it up and continued to our turn [off the main road] on Route 22, thinking I could make it into town.
Darkness was getting to be a factor, so I didn’t want to waste time trying to repair the leak. And besides, I just didn’t feel like fooling with it. Of course, every mile or two I had to stop and pump some air in the tire. It was just barely rideable.
Nevertheless, coming into Santa Fe as the sun was setting was beautiful. We passed a small artists’ community and many well-appointed adobe dwellings. When we got to the center of town it was dark. We located the hostel [our maps had informed us about] and after stopping at McDonald’s for two cheeseburgers and two chocolate shakes, we arrived.
The end of a long, difficult day.
But wait. While trying to store our bikes in a backyard shed, I fell in a large hole [more like a fox hole, bike and all], called the “bear trap,” as the hostel proprietor, Press, said.
Was I mad. The bearded, hippie-esque Press had neglected to tell us, as we were walking there in the dark, that his backyard was an obstacle course.
Finally, we got a shower and into a top bunk in the men’s dormitory. It was just after 11 p.m. We had covered 80 miles and survived a grueling day. Thank goodness.