Continental Divide; its all downhill from here!

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Rode from Gallup to Grants

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A tough day even if relatively short at 68 miles.  It was cold anyway and the wind chill was considerable (equivalent to 34F / 2C).  A day to keep moving.  One of our fellow riders said it was "the most miserable day he had ever spent on a bike".  Being from the UK we don't think it was that bad but, as well as the cold, there were strong, gusty winds that turned first to the side and then into the front quarter and he had hit his chin on the stem while down over the bars and at speed when he found an unexpected bump (ouch!).  He also rode on his own whereas a 'pelaton' was the way to go today to relieve the constant headwind for at least part of the time.

Chris rode with his mate Dana and they pressed on strongly averaging 18.8 mph and have the muscle aches to prove it. 

To compound the problems for the slower riders, it started to rain at 14:00.  The last 15 miles were particularly unpleasant pedaling on the flat into a strong wind across a barren landscape.  Not what we had expected from the New Mexico Desert in May - even snow is forecast for Saturday!  By then we should (inshalla) be in Santa Fe on the other side of a range of mountains.

About halfway through the ride we crossed the Continental Divide at 7,250ft  So it is 'all downhill from here' even if only slightly.  The drop down from the Divide was the best part of the ride being predominantly downhill, down wind and, thankfully, not on I-40E but a quiet state road that might actually be, as claimed by marker posts, Route 66.  This claim is probably correct but it is Route 66 as it really was, not the bright, glitzy version that the tourist towns proclaim.  At intervals there were abandoned farms, small rundown hamlets, tatty clusters of trailers and occasionally a tidy ranch.  We were clipping along at over 30 mph for around 10 miles on this section before the road leveled and turned into the wind.

Now we can see why the trains have so many locomotives; the rail road runs over the Divide at the same points as the road.  Hence these huge trains are being hauled up a significant slope; it takes considerable mechanical muscle to pull a mile of coal trucks over the summit.  Dana and I made 'pulling the whistle' signal to the trains from our bikes and occasionally the engineer would respond by sending the classic American train whistle sound booming across the plains.  Very evocative and fitting to the scene.


Penny and Chris
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Sarah on

loved the whistle bit :)

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