We left our gracious hosts in Silver City today at 7 a.m. to go have breakfast at Vicki’s for the second day in a row, where we had the same waitress and actually struck up a conversation this time. We also revealed our true identities, Two Idiots Trying To Ride Bicycles Across America. When she dropped off the check, she asked if we had split it yesterday. I said no, and she said, Oh, two other guys came in yesterday and ordered an enormous amount of food and split their check; I must have mixed you up with them. I said, was one guy wearing a black cowboy hat? She said, I think so. I figure that was our pals Adam and Dwight.
Today was our biggest climbing day of the trip, and my goal was basically not to cry, or walk my bicycle. My mother trained me for this at an early age by bicycling with me up Cherry Street in Red Oak, Iowa, with me on the way home from little league practice. The hill to our house might as well have been Pikes Peak, to a kid on a Huffy Thunder 50 BMX bike. I’m sure my mom’s bike probably had the same amount of gears (one). I’m not sure if she didn’t allow me to stop and walk my bike; I just remember my quads burning like hell about halfway up, and she’d get me to ride circles around one intersection until we could continue the misery all the way to the house. Builds character, I guess. Hey Mom, I made it up Emory Pass without crying or walking my bike today. And my bike felt like that Huffy for most of the day.
We left the high desert and climbed all the way into a mountain environment, with snow, and then dropped down the other side 4,000 feet to another high desert on the other side of the Black Range. Somewhere about 7,500 feet on the way up to Emory Pass, I was pedaling through a stand of Ponderosa pine and douglas fir trees, and I wasn’t looking up at them all that often, but I could smell them, and hear the creek running the opposite direction of my bike about 50 feet downhill from where I was. For about one second, when I inhaled through my nose, I was home, back in Colorado, hiking somewhere with Steph, or my friend Lee, or Chris, with a backpack full of climbing gear and butterflies in my stomach. That got me through a couple miles. Then I went back to staring up the road and trying to remember what it felt like to pedal fewer than 20 times to go forward a foot.
It took us about 2 1/2 hours to climb all the way up to the pass from a starting point of about 5,700 feet, over just over 15 miles. And it just kept getting steeper all the way to the top. Our total elevation gain for the day, with all the ups and downs, was over 5,600 feet. I was in my lowest gear for almost the entire climb to Emory Pass, and for long periods I would weave back and forth in the right-hand lane to deal with the uphill. I can’t imagine the conversation Tony was having in his head, with his two chainrings.
We planned to stop in Hillsboro, NM, for the night, but since Hillsboro had nothing in the way of a store, campground, hotel or restaurant, we pushed on 17 miles of almost all downhill to Caballo, NM, where we’re camping at an RV park for the night. Short day tomorrow to Las Cruces, NM.