Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I am madly in love with New Mexico. I hope today's pictures do it justice - it is incredibly beautiful. We left Hatch this morning at 6:40 after a so-so breakfast at a food mart (it's Sunday and nothing else opened until 8 am). We were dismayed by the wind which was blowing fiercely from the direction we would be heading. Maybe it'll die down when the sun comes up, we thought, but no, it was a good, stiff head wind all morning. It was chilly, too - 48 degrees by the first thermometer we saw, but the wind made it feel colder. We had 25 miles of relatively flat ground to cover before we hit the hills. We thought it would be the easy part of the day, but it turned out to be the hardest. We were amazed at all the birds that were out this morning, despite the wind. We saw several large flocks of them, and heard several more chattering in the trees and bushes we passed. It was one of the nicer things about the morning. We went through a few small towns, about 5-10 miles apart - Salem, Garfield, Derry, and Arrey. They were all quite small and had nothing open and not much to see, except for Arrey. As we went through Arrey, we noticed one building with a lot of cars in front which turned out to be a cafe. We went inside to warm up and have a little snack - it was about 10 am and the place was packed! We just had coffee (me), orange juice (Pat) and a couple of sweet rolls, but it was just what we needed to keep going after 17 discouraging miles. A number of folks in the restaurant sympathized with our having to deal with the gale that morning. After 25 miles, we turned west onto Hwy. 152 and the going was a bit easier. We had a side or tail wind for a while, and the wind eventually died down to almost nothing. We certainly couldn't have coped with the hills we had to climb today if we had to deal with that wind in our face all day.
We did see several interesting things along the way to our turn onto 152. First of all, we saw where all the chile peppers Hatch was selling came from. We passed several chile farms, none of them had any visible plants in the ground, but it must have been early in the season. Many fields were neatly furrowed and probably planted. We also saw a field with hundreds of strange little igloos. It turned out that they were little calf sheds, many of them with calves standing outside eating from buckets. Just before our turn, we came to the Caballo Lake State Park, with a huge reservoir and just crammed with RV parks, boat storage units, and vacation homes. Our first sight of the reservoir was at the end of a very dry Percha Creek, which we would see later in the day.
Our next stretch, on Rt. 152 between Caballo Lake and Hillsboro, was less hilly than we expected, with a few notable exceptions. The landscape was mostly dry scrub brush, similar to what we'd seen in Texas, with some rounded hills, and steeper hills on the horizon. We made better progress now that the wind wasn't blowing straight at us. It was very pretty and was a nice, peaceful ride. We saw our first jack-rabbit, hopping off in the brush; they're supposed to be plentiful in these parts. As we approached Hillsboro, we had a long climb that was fairly steep and curvy - very pretty - and then a nice descent into town. Hillsboro was a very interesting town with some very old houses and some very pretty houses. There were a number of little shops and cafes in the center and we had a delicious lunch at a place called the Barbershop Cafe (maybe the building used to be a barbershop?). They also sold many beautiful artifacts from local artists and craftspeople. We headed out of Hillsboro about 2:30, happily stuffed, with just 9 miles to go to our final destination in Kingston.
This is when the scenery went from beautiful to absolutely gorgeous. It was quite hilly and the road wound up, down, and around stunning canyons, valleys, and gorges. The views were spectacular. We passed the Percha Creek again, this time a nice little stream, soon after Hillsboro at the bottom of a canyon. It turned up several more times as it wound around the hills. Every turn we made opened up another gorgeous scene. The climb was very slow but not so steep as to be exhausting., and it gave all the more time to enjoy all the awesome sights around us. It was definitely heaven on earth. We got to our turn off of 152 and went down a tiny road lined with rustic houses. We soon came to the Black Range Lodge (named after the mountain range it was in), a lovely old lodge from the 1800's when there was a gold rush in the area. The owners of the lodge, Kathryn and Peter, are a wonderful couple who made us feel right at home. They were hosting a couple of singer/songwriters who had just put on a concert in Hillsboro (they had seen us on the road earlier), and had a few other interesting guests in the lodge as well, including a couple of other bike riders, a father and son who had biked down the California coast from Vancouver and over from San Diego. We finished the day at 51.5 miles in almost 6-1/2 hours of bike time - our slowest average to date, but one of our most enjoyable.