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IMG_2387All work and no play is no fun at all, so we decided it was high time we took a break from the daily grind which was beginning to feel like it was grinding us up into lifeless pulp. We needed time to unplug and refresh our outlooks with some sunshine and fresh air.

We considered camping and hiking in the desert canyon BLM lands southwest of Moab, Utah, but since we’ve been there and done that many times, Clay and I agreed on riding our bikes through a portion of southwest New Mexico where we’d never been before. We invested in a couple of New Mexico maps and planned a 507-mile circular route beginning in Truth or Consequences (known also as T or C). The name of our starting point should have been a clue of things to come.

Day 1 – T or C to Hillsboro via Hwy. 152. Not 15 miles out of the gate, I had mechanical issues. My IMG_1155chain got sucked up into the front derailleur twice. I was really disappointed as I had my bike tuned up at my preferred Fort Collins bike shop before leaving. I may rethink my preference.

Hwy. 152 happens to be part of the route cyclists ride when traveling cross country from California to Florida and we met our first through riders on this leg. We shared a bottle of wine at Hillsboro’s Black Range Vineyards with a 60-something couple from Switzerland who were traversing the U.S. from Florida to California. Really impressive! I will note that by the time we arrived in Hillsboro, the winery was the only establishment “sort of” open where we could get some food; we ate all they had. We enjoyed cheese, crackers (they even had a gluten-free rice variety), some amazing homemade chutney, IMG_1163and chips and salsa. We also enjoyed the company of Brian O’Dell, the owner, and his newly rescued dog, Cali. After our feast we walked around town up to the old court house and jail site. While doing so, we met a young man from North Carolina making a solo west-to-east bike trek. He rode a Surly bike like Clay and towed a really cool trailer complete with a full-sized tire pump and Crazy Creek folding chair. He was going to camp in the town’s park that night with only peanut butter and bread for dinner. Since Clay and I provisioned in T or C, we gave him some of our food so he could enjoy a tastier meal (which you’ll soon read didn’t serve us well, but we’re so accustomed to feeding hungry kids that it seemed the natural thing to do). That night we stayed in Hillsboro’s only motel which was right next door to the winery. It was decorated in a 50s-something sort of way (the TV had a rabbit ears antenna), but was clean which made it great in our IMG_1179book. Note: Hillsboro’s  community park is open to public tent camping and the locals are used to bicyclists staying there, but we didn’t learn this till after paying for our motel room.

Day 2 – Hillsboro to San Lorenzo (still on Hwy. 152). We fueled up with breakfast at the Hillsboro General Store Cafe. It’s a very clean establishment with tasty fare. The first town we came to outside of Hillsboro was Kingston…if you can call it a town. Regardless, it was the beginning of our nine-mile ascent of Emory Pass. Between Hillsboro and the summit, we gained about 3,000 feet of elevation, from 5,250 to 8,230 feet. The ride reminded me very much of grinding up our local Rist Canyon (Colorado). Even though I downed two granola bars and a bag of peanut M&M’s up the hill plus plenty of water, I arrived at the summit depleted and feeling queasy as I do after strenuous IMG_1181activities like running marathons. Clay arrived a few minutes later and said his legs were “spent.” We both thought the downhill would offer a break, but were sorely disappointed when we encountered 30-35 mph head winds on the back side of the pass. I also encountered more derailleur troubles and had to manually shift gears on my front chain ring. Clay and I tried making a few adjustments, but failed to get it right.

So, remember the young man we fed? We thought of him here because we would have found a camp site on the west side of the pass if we hadn’t given him our food suitable for a dinnertime meal. Rather, we pushed on through the gales to San Lorenzo.

By the time we arrived in San Lorenzo, we both felt wind battered and I was really disgusted with my bike’s performance. Thankfully, we IMG_1183found a restaurant/gas station/general store combo run by a friendly German couple. Their restaurant had fresh food and booth seats which made for a perfect respite from the wind. We considered pitching our tent in the town’s Methodist church yard that night rather than riding to Silver City (our planned destination). After all, the church’s sign read, “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” What would they do? Kick us out? But we accepted a ride for the remaining 24 miles to Silver City from the nice couple sitting in the booth behind us who were going that way. They dropped us off at a Rodeway Inn, which was NOT up to my standards, but seemed our only option without riding further west into the relentless wind.

Day 3 – Silver City to Buckhorn. First thing in the morning, we pedaled into town to find what seemed like THE bike shop where I could have Thelma (my bike) looked at–Gila Hike & Bike. Bill, the mechanic, expertly adjusted her derailleur, which made a big improvement. It still wasn’t perfect, but much better. Then it was off to breakfast at Nancy’s Silver Cafe (so-so) and re-provisioning at the Silver City Food Co-op, conveniently located right next door. We exited Silver City via the appropriately locally named “Snake Hill.” It was a good warm up for the day’s 40-mile, headwind-IMG_1187riddled ride. This day’s miles were scenic and uneventful except for the one inconsiderate driver who buzzed us both with a diesel fog and barking dog in his truck bed. It amazes me that anyone would think giving cyclists only one to two feet of space at 60 mph is a good idea. If either of us needed to make one little swerve to avoid a rock, crack or glass in the road while he was passing by, we could have been killed.

We crossed the Continental Divide at 6,230 feet and proceeded on to camp in the RV park behind Buckhorn’s post office for only $10/person. We had the tent-site area to ourselves, including the site’s bathroom, shower and laundry house. There is a general store about 1/2 mile to the west of the post office. We made our way there for a bottle of merlot. The store also sells pizza and subs, but we preferred to make our Annies’ gluten-free white cheddar mac and cheese with fresh spinach IMG_1194and salsa added for fiber and a kick. We were thanking our sons, Kyle, for letting us borrow his MSR propane stove  (vs. our white gas MSR) and Blake, for giving us a kick-butt titanium cook set, perfect for just two of us.

Day 4 – Buckhorn to about eight miles west of Alma. It was another head windy day. We ate lunch at the Glenwood Trading Post. The owner, Wendy, insisted we use her microwave to make quesadillas and gave us some locally made lip balm and 30 spf salve to soothe our wind-burned parts. A Bible and Tibetan prayer flags adorned the store’s cash register area which made it a very spiritual feeling stopover. We pedaled on into BLM desert land just above Alma and the San Francisco River. We felt right at home making camp in there. Clay added some comic relief by packing his “Sam’s good-deal, 24-to-a-box” Greek yogurt covered General Mills granola bars everywhere, including the tent bag and his IMG_1196spares shoes. While lying prostrate in the tent, he also told me “there are easier ways to kill me” and “I just know tomorrow will be a Gold Bond day.” I laughed so hard I cried.

Day 5 – We traveled from our high-desert campsite just above the San Francisco River through Reserve to the Apache Creek Campground. Feeling the need to ration water, we decided not to use any for morning coffee, so breakfast was a Kind bar washed down with cold water. We went over Saliz Pass first thing in the morning and predictably worked up a good appetite. I was happy to see a sign advertising “cafe, bakery, espresso…6 miles” but then was totally frustrated when Thelma’s rear tire went flat not two miles later slowly my progress to the promised noshery. We stopped and pumped up the tire hoping that would allow me to make it the remaining four miles; I made it about 400 feet. We stopped again and IMG_1199patched the tube, but couldn’t get the tire to seat correctly on the wheel.  This is what happens when tires aren’t well matched with wheels. So I thump-bumped to the “cafe” to find it closed for the season. Not even the garden spigot worked. Between feeling “hangry” and like I was riding an old jalopy, I almost cried, knowing I had to ride to the next town of Reserve, the county seat of Canton County, population about 400 give or take a few. Thankfully, Reserve had not one, but two restaurants from which to choose for our mid-day feast. We ate at Ella’s and I was grateful to find many gluten-free options. Who knew? After stuffing ourselves to the gills, we moseyed down the main street to Jesse’s Tire Shop in search of an air compressor so we could properly inflate Thelma’s rear tube. It took Chris, who works with Jesse, Clay and I about 30 minutes to get the tire seated mostly right. So off Clay and I went back down the street to the IMG_2411little grocery store to stock up on water and food. Clay was able to make space for some of the groceries we purchased by giving away those nasty granola bars he’d been carrying to some unsuspecting passerby. Poor sucker. So he was rid of the disgusting bars, but we had another issue. My tire was flat again. So it was back to Jesse’s to completely change the tube and then re-seat the tire. It took at least another 30 minutes to get it right so I wouldn’t be riding on a lopsided tire. We finally made our way out of town waving to all the friends we made who were probably beginning to think we’d take up residence there. Our slow progress brought to mind the sentiment printed on a card given to me by my friend Ruth Lytle-Barnaby; it reads “Slow the pace. Enjoy the journey.” This became my mantra to ward off impatience.

In another 12 miles along Hwy. 12, we arrived at Apache Creek Campground in the Gila National Forest. It didn’t offer water so we were glad we’d stocked up. This campsite was the coldest we encountered. We were down in a frost pocket IMG_2413and learned that when the temps drop to below freezing, our Big Agnus zero-degree bags which zip together work best as solo mummy bags. If you camp here, choose a site as far to the west as possible to take advantage of the morning sun.

Day 6 – Apache Creek to Datil. This was a 54-mile day with a very welcome tail wind and a lot of downhill. We crossed the Continental Divide again about midway. Once in Datil, we found that the Eagle Ranch Resort had it all–a store, restaurant, bar, motel and RV park. We decided to get a room for the night and were really pleased to find it was meticulously clean with tiled floors and simple, but adequate furnishings. Dinner that night included a T-bone steak for Clay, cheese enchiladas for me and fresh margs. We enjoyed it so much we decided to lay over another day in this little IMG_1209hamlet.

Day 7 – Rest day in Datil allowed Clay to sleep a bit and rest his sore bum. I did a load of laundry in the motel’s laundry room, thanks to the hospitality of Ellen its housekeeper. She saved me from doing laundry in the bathroom sink and hanging it outdoors on a line I would have strung up between two trees. I was very appreciative. We took advantage of the restaurant, Wi-Fi and warm showers.

Day 8 – Sunday in Datil means the restaurant is closed and the store doesn’t open till 9am. Since we had 60+miles to travel to Socorro, we wanted to get an early start. Rather then unpack our MSR stove and heat up water for our Starbucks instant coffee (the motel room didn’t have a coffee maker), we used hot tap water and the cellophane-IMG_1210wrapped plastic cups that the room did contain. At that point we knew it was going to be an interesting day. Our hunch proved right as Hwy. 60 is one of the straightest ribbon of road we’ve ever seen and this particular morning there was a layer of haze with the sun rising up through it that gave the horizon a mystical look.  Riding east, we came upon the VLA (Very Large Array), or “…the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, consist[ing] of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin 50 miles west of Socorro,” according to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The super-sized satellite dishes made the area look like a set out of a sci-fi movie. It was a little eerie.

A consistent cross wind kept our pace rather slow despite that it was supposed to be “all down hill” to Socorro. I’ve IMG_2419decided that people who only travel by motor vehicle have a whole different perspective of what a hill is.

By lunch we made it to Magdalena which, according to the rack card we picked up at a visitor’s center, had “it all!” I think the card was printed prior to the drought and hard times which basically made Magdalena not too unlike the rest of the nearly ghost towns we encountered all along our journey. Thankfully, one restaurant was open, the Bear Mountain Coffee House and Gallery. We enjoyed a good meal and friendly chat with its owner before continuing down the road.

About five miles outside of Socorro we found the hill everyone must have been telling us about! They also told us we’d encounter a speed trap there. As we sailed down into town we did pass a couple of police cars, but the officers clearly weren’t handing IMG_1202out speeding tickets (not that we’d get one). Rather they had a guy in a straight jacket! This should have been our first clue. The further we rode into town, the more we felt like we were in the heart of the realities of city life we went on vacation to escape.

We weighed our options: stay at a motel that looked like it might rent rooms by the hour or pay to “camp” in the back lot of another less-than-safe-looking establishment. Either way we’d be in for another two days and 80 or so miles of riding on a road that parallels I-25 and we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to find legal camping along the way. To Socorro’s defense, a left turn in the wrong direction would have yielded more choices for lodging and eateries. Considering the possibilities of  80 plus miles along frontage roads with no services, we decided that we should hitch a ride back to T or C.

We rode into one gas station and surveyed the patrons with large trucks that could accommodate our bikes and  looked like they might be heading south. There were only a couple possibilities and when Clay said, “both those guys look like they could kill and eat us both” we moved on to the next gas station where we observed an older couple pull in driving a new Toyota Tundra hauling an empty low-sided, flat-bed trailer. Clay poured on his most charming smile when he asked them if they happened to be going toward T or C. They were going exactly there. Perfect! Now to convince them we were harmless. They reluctantly agreed to let us ride in the bed of the truck and put our bikes on the trailer. We were saved.IMG_2435

By the time we checked into the Pelican Spa motel in T or C and enjoyed a soothing hot springs bath in one of their private tubs fed by mineral water, we knew we’d made the right decision to skip the last 80 miles. Our room, complete with a kitchenette and living room, reminded us of the places where we stayed while in Santorini, Greece, a few years back. It had the same cozy, earthy feel to it, but was decorated in a much more eclectic style. At $50/night, which included all the mineral baths we could soak up, we ended up staying two nights. One of those nights, we ate at Cafe BellaLuca which specializes in Italian and seafood entrees. The second night we shopped at Bullock’s grocery store for dinner and dined in our room on a lavish spread of veggies, cheese, hummus, grapes, wine and beer.IMG_1214

Day 9 – Our adventures continued. We drove south to Las Cruces to have lunch at Andele’s Dog House with Stewart Brenegar, one of our oldest sons’ former college roommates. The food and company were both great. From there we drove east past the Organ Moutains to the White Sands National Monument, because Stewie thought we’d like it; he was right. What an amazing landscape of miles of land-locked beach. It felt great to walk barefoot in the warm sand. What felt weird was knowing we were in the valley where the U.S. Government detonated the first atomic bomb in 1945. Both were a bit surreal.

Day 10 – We traveled north to Santa Fe and stumbled upon a historic bed and breakfast. Pueblo Bonito, built in the classic Santa Fe adobe style, had been the home of a circuit judge at IMG_2439the turn of the century. We walked about three or four blocks to the Old Town Plaza and window shopped. We found ate dinner at The Shed, a Santa Fe favorite and a second dinner at the Pink Adobe (we actually were looking for dessert, but the entrees looked so good, we shared one rather than some sweets.)

Day 11 - We meandered our way back north to Colorado reflecting on our trip and day dreaming about our future exploits on Sundown and the bike tours that she will bring us to in other lands.

 

 

 

detile8We’ve been accomplishing much work, both in the boat as well as in our community. Boat work includes a new, hinged refrigeration compartment lid; galley sink fixtures, remaining marble tile counters and teak counter edging installed; companionway stairs are being remodeled; shower tile is being removed; shower pump is installed; aft and forward water tanks are plumbed; and interior woodwork is being stripped and prepared for new varnish. You can check out much of this work in the Photo Galley. Continue Reading »

It’s winter time in the Rocky Mountains. A Siberian cold front has settled over Colorado and temperatures have been cold! That hasn’t stopped Clay from working inside our sailboat, Sundown, however. With a propane heater blasting, he’s been rebuilding the former icebox compartment, making it more accessible with a hinged top. We plan to add a refrigeration system to it, too. Check out the photos of his handiwork  I added to the Photo Gallery.

I’ve been busy knitting Christmas gifts, but I can’t display them publicly yet. Doing so would ruin some surprises. I also have been working a lot, including shooting a fun TV show about how to maintain healthy habits throughout the holidays. It was taped on location at The Cupboard, a wonderful kitchen and foodie store in Old Town Fort Collins. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed hosting it.

Late last night, I posted this on Facebook:

Wow! Exciting night, but not what I planned. Dark, cold solitude. An angel disguised as a CSU freshman boy. A tow truck that never showed up. A son who did. Another tow truck that finally showed up. Home now. Just ate. Going to sleep.

This morning, I thought it needed an explanation, but once I started writing, it became apparent my explanation would make a better blog post than a Facebook post. Here’s what happened:

Last night, I was stranded on Colorado State Highway 287 between mile markers 383 and 384 or between Virginia Dale, Colorado, and the Wyoming border in my son’s broken down 4-Runner. Blake was on his way to meet Clay and Kyle at hunting camp when his truck’s engine seized or something. He called me to help him. So I delayed my plans to meet my friend, Maddie, for a glass of wine, drove the 60+ miles in Kyle’s car to meet Blake, gave it to him to continue on to camp and said I’d wait with the 4-Runner until the tow truck came, which was only supposed to be about an hour. I had knitting with me, so wouldn’t be bored.

Lesson 1: One must always carry yarn in case of emergencies.

About a half-hour into my wait a couple of different guys stopped to ask if I needed help. Without rolling down my window, I told them a tow was on its way; I was fine, thank you very much. An hour came and went and then another 30 minutes and another. I was praying a lot at this point, asking God to send help. And I took inventory of the potential self-defense weapons I had on hand, which consisted of a mini Leatherman tool complete with a two-inch blade and a couple of knitting needles. Either might inflict a serious flesh wound, but in all reality, I’d likely only rouse the ire of my imagined assailant and create a necessity to test my running speed. Given that speed is moderate at best, I began making contingency plans.

The plans included donning all of the reflective, flashy bike-commuting gear I carry in my messenger bag and walking up the highway in search of cell coverage (oh, did I mention I didn’t have cell coverage?). But leaving the 4-Runner, the last place anyone (Blake) saw me alive, didn’t seem like a good idea. I tried to rationalize that at some point, someone would notice I hadn’t made it back to Fort Collins and would send the State Patrol to search for me. I also was trying to come to terms with spending the night in the truck and wishing my knitting project was much larger than a six-inch swatch.

As I was ruminating, one of the guys who had stopped by earlier came back (which made me really nervous) and said through the still-closed window, “Ma’am, I’ve been to Laramie, had dinner and am on my way back to Fort Collins and you’re still here. I promise I won’t hurt you. Can I help?” Understanding my options were limited by this time, I threw all caution to the wind, opened the door and asked if he had cell coverage. Thankfully, he did.

Lesson 2: Verizon has better coverage than AT&T.

I called the towing company and talked to a nasty woman who was mad because I wasn’t where I said I was and that I wouldn’t answer my phone. In my excited, half-frozen state of mind, I told her I was exactly where I said I was–in the middle of nowhere in the dark and cold with no cell coverage, so of course I couldn’t answer the phone. She shouted back that I was not at mile marker 323. She was right; I wasn’t. The insurance company’s road-side assistance clerk I spoke with on the phone entered the wrong mile marker into the system. The towing company was looking for me in Laporte! Once I made that clear to the nasty woman, I asked if the tow truck would come get me where I actually was. She said “no, the tow’s been cancelled. You’ll have to call your insurance company again,” at which point I’m sure I loudly guffawed in disbelief. THEN she told me not to throw an attitude at her. She had no idea that my attitude wasn’t even close to warmed up yet. What a fine example of customer service. NOT! I hung up with the nasty woman and called the insurance company back to schedule another tow. Of course, it wouldn’t be there for at least another hour.

Lesson 3: Always have the road-side assistance clerk repeat back to you exactly where she thinks you are.

Phoning Chad was next on my to-do list; I wanted him to relieve Ryan, the nice CSU boy that stopped to help me and who was adamant that he wasn’t’ leaving me until Chad or the tow truck arrived. So I hung out with Ryan for about 45 minutes and was very thankful for the heat in his big Dodge truck. (I’m going to contact him today so I can give him some money and reimburse him for all the diesel fuel he used idling with the heater running.)

In the midst of our conversation, Ryan said it was weird how he even came across me. Apparently, he had had a rough week at school so decided to go small game hunting up the Poudre Canyon to get some fresh air and exercise. On his way back to town, he suddenly thought of a friend of his who attends school in Laramie and decided to go visit him. He was on his up there when he stopped the first time. He almost stayed in Laramie for the night, but felt he shouldn’t for some reason. He was on his way back to Fort Collins when he drove by me again. (Hmmm. I can hear God saying, “How much help to I need to send? And how many times do I need to send it?”)

Once Chad arrived on scene, Ryan left. In a short while, the tow truck finally came–from Laramie, not Fort Collins–and took the 4-Runner to Houska Automotive where it’s awaiting an analysis of the problem. Just before midnight, Chad and I made it home safe and sound.

This morning I opened the Bible passage website from which I try to gather perspective each morning and this is what I read: But you are a chosen people…God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9.

Lesson 4: God answers prayers in the coolest ways, but sometimes we have to step outside of our comfort zone to realize them.

One of this summer’s big projects was repainting Sundown’s bottom. It was quite the job, but the results are so gratifying because the progress is visible.

bottompaintcrop

Most of the steps are documented in the Photo Gallery. They included: Continue Reading »

oceansideCO

This about sums it up. We are experiencing surreal flooding here. I checked on Sundown earlier this morning to make sure she’s still securely resting on her jackstands and she is. I’ve battened down the hatches here at home and will keep watch throughout the weekend as the forecast is calling for continued rain.

IMG_0854

That’s right! After experimenting with a 3M product meant to chemically remove paint from the bottom of Sundown, we decided that the results weren’t satisfactory and we’d spend a lot of money only to have to go back over her bottom side with scraping tools. So we sharpened the chisels, sucked it up and went to work. We spent about 10 hours total scraping off all the old bottom paint. (Check out our Photo Galley for several photos of the job.)

It made us feel a bit blue (again, check out our Photo Gallery to see what I’m talking about) and the work did a number on my shoulders. I had a knot in my left one the size of the Rock of Gibraltar and limited range of motion. When I mentioned this to my acupuncturist, Inger Giffin, she suggested a Chinese massage method call Gua Sha, which literally means skin scraping. It stimulates blood flow and restores health to affected areas. After a few minutes of less-than-comfortable treatment, my shoulder and neck felt much better (I recommend it and Inger!).

During the procedure, the thought came to me that Sundown underwent a similar procedure as we scraped and scraped to remove the stagnant layers of paint so we can apply new paint and restore her original beauty. That said, we have a decision before us. What color should we paint Sundown’s bottom side and the boot stripe just above it? Obviously, her original bottom color was a medium blue with a darker blue boot stripe. We’re thinking she needs a change, though, so why don’t you help us decide which color combination to choose?

If you want to suggest other color combinations, just comment on this post. We’ll be ordering paint soon, so don’t delay!

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