Best part of the day: Two special NM DOT workers
Worst part of the day: Overcast, cold, windy
Distance: 63 miles Riding Time: 6hrs 35min
Bed count: 15 Sleeping Bag count: 15
Last night the winds picked up something fierce! We thought our tent was going to blow away. Woke up to overcast, super windy and cold. We decided to pack up quickly and head to the first of two truck stops early on our route for breakfast. We ordered a Subway breakfast sandwich and coffee, too.
Got back on the road around 8:30ish and really wasn’t looking forward to the day. From looking at the weather before leaving, we knew the winds were not going to be in our favor all day. Crossing under I-40, we turned onto State Route 156 and immediately saw what was ahead of us, a mile-long, 300’ climb! That would surely get us warmed up, right? Well, not quite. (That fun, first climb of the morning!)
Gray clouds were all around us, 360 degrees. Nothing too threatening, but, with the light north wind, we really didn’t warm up.
This was a very quiet road with rollers and where only 2 cars passed us all morning. You could see for miles and miles, acres and acres of open fields and couple of herds of cattle. Not a sole in sight and just a nice smooth road. Strangely, as we passed a herd of cows, they all perked up and watched us, not moving from their spots! But, when we approached the steers, they all took a quick look at us and turned tail running away to a safer distance! Go figure!
Along SR156, we saw that a elk had somehow gotten onto the roadway and was trying its hardest to get back to the other side of the barbed wire fence to the open grazing land. For about 2 miles we could see him ahead of us going back and forth across the road trying to find an opening. We were afraid he was going to get hit. Coming over a rise, we happened to see that it make it back over the fence. Getting closer to it, Rob stopped to take a picture when he saw why this elk was urgently trying to get over the fencing. Its partner had been waiting for it on the other side! The two of them scurried away happy to be reunited!(Sorry, the picture is kind of blurry, but, you can kind of make out the elk in the middle.)
Then we turned onto Cuervo Road (if you want to call it a road) for about 5 miles. Cracked, bumpy pavement for the first couple of miles and then when we thought it couldn’t get worse, hard-packed dirt and gravel for a couple more miles! Lots of pot holes, a really rough road. Your whole body got a workout from all that jarring.(Part of the ugly Ceurvo Road. But, the scenery behind was nice.)
We stopped at the little town of Newkirk where it had a gas station and small convenience store. By that time, we had gone 2 ½ hours and only ridden 29 miles due to rough roads and crazy crosswinds. We bought some egg croissant sandwiches and ate inside the store where it was definitely warmer. It was nice to talk to the owner as he was curious about our route and ride. At first he was kind of a grump then later he warmed up to us.
It was so nice to be on the Frontage Road pretty much for the rest of the day which paralleled I-40. Maybe we saw 2 or 3 cars the whole time on that road and it was still in good condition. (Passed this very old cemetary after our Newkirk stop. As you can see, the skies cleared up nicely.)
Along the interstate’s shoulder, we could see a New Mexico State highway maintenace truck with its 2 workers periodically stopping to pick up large debris on the shoulder: tire pieces and other trash. Finally after about 30 miles on the frontage road criss-crossing I-40, we entered the highway for the last 8 or so miles to the town of Tucumcari. We managed to catch up to these two DOT workers at one of their stops and we were able to visit with them for a short while. One guy was from Pasadena and said that he loves it here. He was able to buy 2 houses for $37,000 each while working for the state! They wished us a safe ride. We wound up play leap frog with them on the highway: as they stopped, we’d pass them, they’d pass us and stop again, etc., etc.
Approaching our highway exit towards Tucumcari, they were at the off-ramp where one of them ran over to our shoulder, whipped out a white handkerchief and waved it madly like at a NASCAR race signaling “last lap”!! We all got a big laugh out of that.
It was about 2½ miles to the town’s business center, but, along the way we saw the effects of I-40: an abandoned Shell Gas Truck Stop and restaurant next door, other motels, small gas stations and eateries all falling apart. Really quite sad.(At the western end of Tucumcari.)
Stopped off at the only grocery store in town for a few items. Ran into a couple from Paris there at the store who were travelling around the US for a few months! The husband spoke very little English, the wife was a bit better at it. With the women inside the store, Rob did his best at trying to remember the French he’d taken decades ago to converse with the husband. Didn’t do too bad. They were riding foldable bikes from the RV Park at which they were staying (which happened to be the same one at where we planned to camp!!).
Rolling into the Blaze-In-Saddle RV Park, the owners (and brothers), Mike and John, showed us where the tents sites were (a nice grassy area in plain view of the main road!). It was inexpensive ($15) and had a shower. They bought this place about a year ago and are still improving it. Unfortunately, the shower was also the bathroom and there was only one of it for the entire RV Park!!
Got set up, showered and headed off to Del’s for dinner (at the recommendation of one of the 2 DOT guys) about a mile back into town as we made this an early birthday dinner for Rob. Got back to the campground before dark. Didn’t hit the sack until around 8:30.
Tomorrow, we leave New Mexico for Texas about another 63 or so mile day. We lose another hour crossing into Texas, wonderful!
Until our next post….