Day Forty-Two

Roswell, NM to Capitan, NM

I finally got out of Roswell. This was an incredible day with the most beautiful scenery yet. As a lifelong flatlander, I am always awed by mountains.

The day got off to a bad start when I didn't get my 7:00 wake-up call. I woke up at 6:30 and figured I could go back to bed for half an hour, but I didn't wake up until 7:45. Nonetheless, I got an earlier start than usual. US 70/380 west from Roswell was a divided four-lane with huge shoulders that was marked occasionally as a bike route. I felt sluggish, and I kept looking down to see if I had a flat tire. About ten miles west of town, there was construction but it didn't bother me too much. They were widening the road from two lanes to four, and  they were only working on the new lanes, not the old ones. I had to drop into my lowest gears for a couple of hills. Curiously, an " End Bike Route" sign appeared abruptly  in the middle of nowhere--there was no change in the pavement, no intersection with another road or any other discernable reason for ending the route. Near the end of the construction area, half a house went past me on a flatbed truck. A few minutes later, I saw that truck sitting crooked at the top of a hill. It had blown some right-side tires. I'm just glad it didn't happen while he was going past me. I doubt if I would have been hurt, but it sure would have scared me!

After the construction ended, I rode through a pass and down a big hill. Great, I thought, all that climbing was for nothing. However, when I reached the Rio Hondo bridge, a sign gave the elevation as 4,975 feet, about 1,400 feet higher than Roswell. No wonder I had felt sluggish--in truth, I was climbing a shallow grade the whole way. This news made me very happy because I was halfway to Capitan elevation-wise, despite going down that hill.

In Tinnie, I stopped at a general store/barbecue joint for lunch. My beef brisket sandwich was decent, but dessert was fantastic--banana pudding. It tasted just like Mom's. The people were very friendly--a woman even came running out of the store  after I went to my bike just to wish me good luck.

I stopped to fill up my water bottles at a Conoco in Hondo. I think it was the first gas station since Roswell. There were a couple of little kids staring at me from their cars while their parents filled up. It was neat to see the wide-eyed looks on their faces. I imagined them thinking, " Wow, I didn't know you could carry all that stuff on a bike like that. Maybe I'll try that someday..."

Just past Hondo, I followed US 380 to the right while US 70 went left toward Ruidoso and Alamogordo. I was happy to see that the majority of the traffic, especially the trucks, stayed on US 70. A sign said Capitan was 22 miles away, and it was only 2:15 so I had plenty of time. That was a good thing because I was gawking at the mountains all day. I took 100 pictures today, surely a record. Every mile was more breath-taking than the last.

After another hour of riding, I came to Lincoln. I photographed the hotel where Robert Ollinger ate lunch before being killed by Billy the Kid, but I didn't go inside for a tour. There wasn't much in the town except historical markers and tourist-oriented businesses. In retrospect, I should have spent some time learning about the Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid, someone I had heard of (of course) but knew virtually nothing about. However, I was anxious to get to my destination and didn't linger. The last dozen miles to Capitan were filled with hills. As I struggled to the top of one, a pick-up truck pulled alongside me. There were two men inside. " Hey, are you doing okay? You need any water or anything?" I said that I was fine and had plenty of water. After they passed, my first thought was that people out here are so darn friendly. My second thought was, maybe I looked terrible going up that hill and they thought I really needed help!

East of Capitan, I stopped at the Smokey Bear Vista. There were plaques about Smokey, who was a real bear. He was found as a cub hugging a tree, badly burned in a forest fire started accidentally. He was nursed to health and flown to the National Zoo in Washington, DC. The tale really wrenched at my heart, especially looking out at the beautiful place he had called home. He may have had a good life at the National Zoo, but it couldn't have compared with life in the fantastic Capitan Mountains.

In Capitan, I stayed at the Smokey Bear Motel. My room was uniquely furnished with a rocking chair, nightstand, desk and chair handmade by a craftsman in Hondo. It was a nice rustic touch. There were a few problems, though. Most frustrating was the phone system. It did not recognize 877 as a toll-free area code, so I couldn't use my long distance provider. More comical was the bathroom door that swelled shut from the steam of the shower. I pulled so hard on the knob to get the door open that I was afraid it would come off in my hand like on a TV sitcom, leaving me trapped there. The last problem didn't manifest itself until bedtime--I could hear the guy next door snoring. He sounded like a dying duck.

I had dinner at the adjacent  Smokey Bear Restaurant: a " forest ranger burger" and tater tots. When a group with a dozen kids and a couple adults, some sort of sports team, came in five minutes before closing, the waitress was visibly annoyed. After this big day I was tired, but I had a short day coming up--it was either ride 20 miles to Carrizozo or 95 miles to Socorro. Easy choice.

Totals for the day: 69.09 miles in 6:08:17 for an 11.2 mph average.

Click here to see today's photos.

Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.