Day Forty-Eight

Quemado, NM to Springerville, AZ

After yesterday's debacle, I really needed an easy day today. I didn't get it.

Judging from the bone-dry parking lot of the Alegre Motel, the thunderstorms didn't made it to Quemado last night. As I was leaving, a man called out to me. He turned out to be the owner of the motel. He said that they get a lot of cross-country groups that come through and rent out every room. Wouldn't that have been something if there was no vacancy because of a touring group, I thought (although I'll bet I could have found a cyclist who would have let me crash on the floor).

I didn't really want a meal, but I knew that I had to since I hadn't eaten much yesterday. I went across the street to the Largo Cafe (named for nearby Largo Canyon) for breakfast. I cracked up when a little girl and her mother got up to leave and the girl said, " C'mon, let's rock-and-roll!" Considering that I didn't feel like eating, breakfast turned out to be all right. My omelette had a little too much cheese and not quite enough ham, but it tasted good, and I got to drown my biscuits in honey.

Outside, I took pictures of the cafe as a couple of kids rode by, watching me. Come to think of it, I have felt like everyone was watching me in New Mexico, unlike any other state I've been through so far. I could dismiss it as paranoia from being alone on the road for too long, but it seemed like every time I glanced at someone, they were already staring at me. I enjoyed the state in spite of that.  Anyway, next I went across the street to a grocery store and bought a gallon of water. After all, there would be no services between here and Springerville, nearly 50 miles away. I told the clerk how I'd been burned in Datil by the closed motel, an ironic choice of words since " Quemado" means " burned" in Spanish. He said that his store also used to be closed on Sundays because it was hard to find someone to work that day. However, he continued, Sunday had become one of his best days, even though the store was only open for limited hours.

I went outside, filled three water bottles from the gallon jug and chugged the rest. There wasn't a garbage can outside, so I went back in to throw away the bottle. " Did you just drink that whole gallon of water?" a customer asked. I laughed--just the thought of drinking the whole bottle made me feel bloated.

On the way out of town, I stopped to take another picture. I saw those two kids on bikes again. The younger one asked me, " Why do you take all those pictures?" No one had ever asked me that question before. " I see a lot of stuff, and I don't want to forget it," I replied almost without thinking. On reflection, that was a pretty good answer. As I rode out of town, the kids tried to keep up with me. The older one, perhaps ten or twelve, was  riding a mountain bike. He kept up for a few hundred feet and I thought about how lame I would feel to have this kid beat me, and how it would surely make his day. I need not have worried because he fell behind pretty quickly, although I was only going 10 mph into the wind.

Quemado was situated at 6,890 feet, but the road went much higher west of town. I climbed and climbed, wondering when I would reach the top. Finally, I saw a radio relay tower. I hoped that it meant that this was the highest point for some distance, and it was. However, finishing the climb was a mixed blessing  because the wind on the backside of the hill was stifling. After pedaling down a few hills and barely managing 10 mph, I found myself on high plains much like the Plains of San Augustin but not quite as flat. There the wind buffeted me unmercifully. A check online later confirmed that the winds were blowing steadily at 30+ mph with gusts as high as 50 mph. Although it wasn't usually a full-on headwind, it pushed me back considerably, and my whole body was tired from struggling to keep the bike headed straight. US 60 had a full shoulder, and I used all of it as I wobbled in the wind. The terrain was more-or-less flat for about 20 miles, 2-1/2 hours of cursing the wind.  After passing through the two-building town known as Red Hill, I started a steep climb into the wind. When a strong gust hit me halfway up, I had to resort to my lowest gear for the first time ever. The road leveled out somewhat, but  I continued to climb to the Arizona border.

In Arizona, I encountered a series of high hills and deep valleys. There were four of them, all about equally tiring. The scenery, however, was beautiful. That was good since I had a lot of time to admire it as I struggled up each hill. At the top of each one,  the wind hit me full force. That got old fast, but it was a little easier to take because I knew I was close to Springerville. I finally ran out of hills and rode onto a plain. Soon I saw homes in the valley to the south, then US 60 plunged down into that valley. Even after that descent, I was at 6,968 feet in Springerville. It was a little higher than Quemado, but in the end, all that climbing washed out to nothing. I rode to the Super 8 at the west end of town and checked in. I was already planning an extended stay in Springerville, especially if the wind didn't let up.

I usually ride centuries (100 miles) faster than I rode half that distance today. When I downloaded my e-mail, there was a message from Mike, the cyclotourist I met in Monroe, Louisiana. He wrote, " Remember: The Wind Doesn't Blow, It Sucks." He couldn't have known how fitting that was for today!

Totals for the day: 49.86 miles in 6:33:52 for a 7.5 mph average.

Click here to see today's photos.

Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.