Last year while regaling someone with tales of my exploits all over the United States and parts of England and France, I counted up the number of states (I have pins on a map of all the places I've ridden). It came to thirty-seven. Then I realized I'd not ridden in any of the states that border Texas. Truly, I don't mind not cycling in Rhode Island, Connecticut, or Florida but omitting New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana seems like a lot of good cycling going to waste. Those states have now become my focus, and the first one to get a pin was New Mexico.
In a previous post I extolled the virtues of Velo View Bike Tours and they conveniently have an annual tour out of Santa Fe and Taos. I signed up early since this tour fills quickly. My eight hundred mile May helped in my preparation, although cycling in the mountains really requires practice in the mountains.
Velo View's modus operandi is a three-day long weekend tour, with an optional ride if you arrive early on Thursday. I saw no reason to drive that far for three days, so stopped overnight in Lubbock and was at the very nice Inn and Spa at Loretto in Santa Fe by 11:00am, plenty of time before our afternoon ride. The plan was drive up to the starting parking lot then ride eight miles up to the Santa Fe Ski Basin followed by a thrilling descent back to the van.
Interestingly enough, I had met all of my companions previously. Six of us piled into the van for the short drive to our start. While the others prepared to depart, I removed my 12-32 cassette because for some reason (since remedied) it didn't fit properly and replaced it with my 11-28 (brought along for just this reason). Therefore, they all had a headstart. Anyhow, wanting to get started, I got on the bike and began pedaling. For about two seconds. This was an all-incline climb, about 4% at this juncture. I forgot to move the chain out of the 53-12. Stop, adjust to proper gear, get moving.
One basic maxim when cycling at altitude is never go into the red, because recovery becomes practically impossible. My heart-rate was pretty high from the start. I managed three miles or so before pulling the plug. In all likelihood, I could have rested five minutes and chugged on, but I opted to coast back (like hitting speeds in the mid-30's and braking a lot) to the van. After sitting around awhile, I got back on the bike and did about twenty quarter-mile loops up and down the road.
About that time Sherri came back, having received a disturbing email about her dad (her story not mine; but she left the next morning). Eventually, the others returned, regaling us with the thrilling descent.
We returned to the inn, cleaned up, had a beer by the pool, and walked downtown to Pasquals for dinner. The chef and waitress at Pasquals teamed up to keep me on my plant-based diet with an excellent meal. I was impressed.
Friday we loaded the van for a drive to the Santuario de Chimayo, about a half an hour north of Santa Fe. After a brief visit, with drove some more to begin our forty-mile ride to Taos. One of the things Shannon does is repeat himself many times with our instructions for the day. This is necessary because people invariably forget or don't hear him or whatever and will not stay on script. I mention this because I heard the instructions quite clearly, at the top of the monster ascent we will meet up then descend into Taos. Well, I focused on the term "monster ascent" and when arriving at an overlook, got off and took pictures, then got back on and started cycling. The ride profile showed a dip and a climb, so I figured the monster ascent was right after the short downhill. Well, by the time I realized that the overlook was the top, I was in full descent speed. Ooops! In retrospect, I could have screeched to a halt and turned around for some bonus climbing. I didn't. About eight miles later, I pulled over to await the van and the others. We still had more miles on a sketchy back road to our destination: El Monte Sagrado Resort & Spa. This place is quite impressive. We had a late lunch, and I was able to get a vegan entree.
Saturday was the big, fifty-nine mile, two pass, endeavor on the "Enchanted Circle." In our case, it was a semi-circle. Between the passes would be a lunch break in Eagle Nest. Once again I didn't really need the 32 tooth gear and motored steadily up the first climb, Bobcat Pass (9,820').
Meanwhile, the afternoon wind had come up, straight in my face. I geared down and was making a steady 11mph on the flat road. As I got closer to the next pass, I could see the precipitation. I had anticipated some rain and had my rain jacket in my pocket. A quick stop allowed me to put it on and continue. Just two miles from the climb, the rain/sleet increased, the temperature dropped like a stone, and the wind continued to buffet my face. After a few minutes of this, the Velo View van (mountain bikers) came by and I gave the signal I'd had enough. They were kind enough (Rick from Bicycle Sport Shop and David Boone who had just completed a 24 hour ride) to give me shelter until the other van came.
The weather wasn't so bad that I couldn't have carried on. I just didn't. It goes back to energy. Energy is different from strength. It is connected to, but not the same as, will power. I'm convinced that had I had the energy from the first half of the ride, I would have continued on. But the long break cost me. Once over the pass, the wind subsided or was now at the riders backs, and the rain disappeared. I missed an exciting downhill. I wasn't the only rider to sag in. Once back at the hotel we discussed that perhaps the best solution for Eagle Nest might be a box lunch that could be consumed quickly.
We walked to another fine dinner (the name escapes me). Tapas. Tapas is more difficult on a plant-based diet. With so many great items from which to choose, hardly anyone wants what I was eating (Gary, the other vegan, had the same plate), blue corn vegan tortillas. Shannon broke down and had half a tortilla (he is such a good host!). I also had artichokes, but had to scrape off the cheese. The restaurant also had live music, quite good. We sat outside, quite pleasant.
We began Saturday in the van, driving through the Rio Grande Gorge. Truly, I don't understand how this river became "grande." But watching the slash in the ground (I had to look it up, the river actually follows a tectonic chasm formed when the North American and Pacific plates scraped against each other) as it snaked its way across the landscape had me mesmorized.
The day included a short, twenty-nine mile ride, and lunch and time at Ojo Caliente Spa. When I look at the ride profile, I don't really count the downhill miles. Therefore I counted a sixteen mile ride, and thirteen miles of downhill. As it turned out, the mileage was twenty-five and included one really nice, several-mile downhill.
As regular readers know, I don't "do" water. But, I brought my bathing suit and prepared to relax in the warm mineral pools. Also, many cyclists end their rides with a refreshing malted beverage. I had several with lunch. The pool temperature exceeded warm. It didn't take long before the combination had me feeling as though my blood pressure was dropping, so I made my way out and back to our chairs. Returning to normal, I sought out a different, cooler pool and found a space along the wall to relax. Hey, I don't really relax in water. All too soon, I was back in the chair and actually relaxing. I did notice Joe with an arm-lock on an older gentleman gently guiding him from pool-side to inside. The thought ran through my mind, it could have been me had I stayed in the pool much longer.
Well, a cycling tour doesn't have to be perfect to be successful. While I didn't get in all the riding I came for, I got in sufficient. Scenery was great. I really like that Shannon restricts the number of riders to eight and that each rider is individually catered to. We shall see what I can squeeze into my already fast filling calendar for 2017. And I think Crater Lake is on tap for 2018.
If you read this on Tuesday, come back again later, as I will add more pictures from my GoPro.