We broke camp and drove into Abiquiu to have breakfast and meet up with Susan who had been tied up with a radio broadcast and missed the feast. By coincidence, the manager of the store where we had breakfast (Bode’s General Store) had completed the Continental Divide ride the year before on a motorcycle. He forewarned us of what was to come. As it turns out, his name is Dennis Liddy, a graduate of Gilmore and has his 50th reunion next year.
We left the Thorntons and headed up into the mountains for what was to be a rather harrowing experience.
Rainey, Susan, Elizabeth and Jonathon Thornton see us off
It was raining slightly and snowing ever so slightly high in the mountains. We reached a final altitude of 11,000 feet and traveled several passes over 10,000 feet. There were three challenges that presented themselves throughout the day.
The first was a deep snow drift covering the road on the most difficult pass. We had run into small patches of snow along the way that presented no barrier but this time we had to go around. We ended up riding through Alpine meadows which are not as smooth as they look – they were sprinkled with rocks up to eight inches in diameter. Thank goodness for skid plates and high clearance.
The second challenge was the mud. It had been raining along the New Mexico-Colorado border for several days and there were deep mud puddles. It was very slippery with virtually no traction and most of us found ourselves on the ground several times. Gerry, who has off road experience, explained that finding a path through the mud was crucial and provided a quick seminar on the correct approach.
The third challenge was the rutted roads. In many places that was only about a foot of area that you needed to keep your tire on – with deep ditches on either side. The key was not to be timid and to stand up so that you could shift the bike easily. The disadvantage of these big bikes is that they are hard to pick up – the advantage is, if their going fast enough they can go through almost anything!
We are far behind our set schedule so we decided to detour around the next section to get a wireless connection and a warm bed. When we arrived at the hotel we were all exhausted, covered with black and blues but feeling extremely exhilarated about the terrific ride we had.
We left the hotel in Grants and proceeded up through a variety of ecosystems. We were mostly in high altitudes where there were desert plants and lush trees. At two points during the day we could not locate the Continental Divide trail. We had been using small Garmin units to which we had downloaded “breadcrumbs” – the path along the Divide. This electronic trail was provided to us by a group that had traveled the trail before.
The trail at times is clear and easy to see but at other points there is just a rutted road that is barely discernable – you have to take a leap of faith and perhaps after a mile or so you will see if you have taken the right path.
Which way - the breadcrumbs will tell!
As we proceeded up in altitude there were fewer trees and at one point off in the distance we saw a huge drag line with perhaps a 30 yard bucket swinging as it was either mining coal or stripping the overburden from a coal vein.
Part of this ride was particularly strenuous because of the deep sand we encountered. The trick with sand is to stand up on the pegs, put as much weight back as possible and keep the power on so the front wheel does not sink down into the sand. I have still not mastered this technique. The going was slow and we were going to have trouble rendezvousing with the Thorntons who were set to prepare an elaborate barbecue. With the route we had planned we realized this would not be possible.
Skipping lunch, Roger Hansen and I left for Abiquiu by road, leaving the rest of the group working on a lavish meal at Cuba, New Mexico’s fanciest Mexican restaurant.
When we arrived in Abiquiu we inquired about primitive camping areas from the Post Office and the General Store manager both of whom had no knowledge of such areas but recommended some B&B’s. There was no wireless signal in Abiquiu so we traveled to the highest area to try to get a signal – but no luck. Using the Sat phone I called everyone I could who might know how to get in touch with Jonathon Thornton and who drives up but Jonathon and Elizabeth and we hooked up with them at the side of the road.
We drove down by Abiquiu Dam (perhaps 15 miles from the town itself) into this magical canyon with a river running through it – it was the classic New Mexico multi-colored mesas and interesting geological features found in the Midwest. We found a nice camp area and the one party that was near us left when they saw the number of people and guessed it was not going to be a quiet evening.
A little before dark, the other riders arrived – they had no cell phone connection but had somehow gotten word of how to find this strange place down deep in the woods. We were unsure that they would make it and it was great to see them – exhausted but well.
Jonathon cooked the most elaborate meal I have seen at an impromptu barbecue. He began by putting 5 chickens in a hole with hooks, built an enormous charcoal fire and roasted the chickens combined with the application of strange exotic seasonings.
Rainy was chopping potatoes which they added to a Dutch oven with bacon, garlic and onions. They put the top on and covered it with charcoal – and the baking begins.
A third culinary extravaganza was the pineapple upside-down cake (also made in a Dutch oven) where the contents where poured into the container, the top replaced and then covered with charcoal.
Upside-down cake successfully flipped!
Accompanying this feast were margaritas, wine, assorted cheeses and followed of course by cigars and tall stories. Johnny was both a phenomenal host and a fantastic cook.
The party assembled!