Time

We arrive in Abiquiu knowing there’s time: time to slow down, time to do a few less miles each day. There hasn’t been a frost in ages and the nights are warm. For the moment, we have outrun winter.

On the recommendation of a friend, we check out Ghost Ranch. On arrival, there’s chaos. A movie is being filmed. Since it’s a Western, there are horses and cows running around everywhere. Oh, and side by sides, too. It’s almost like the National Forests. We continue on. The gardener waves us down, and soon, we’re being given armloads of fresh produce with an invitation to come back for more. I can handle this.

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We find The Best Campsite Ever, and then go explore. It turns out to be a great place to stay for awhile.

Vegetables, a 24 hour library full of old, obscure books about wind energy and Permaculture that are still relevant, hiking trails.

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Reluctantly, we leave, aiming for Taos. Roadside fruit stands pass by, and then we ride along the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge.

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A short detour takes us to the Earthships, and then to town. A mediocre bike shop and lots of traffic has me wondering why we came, but we’re here now, so go off to explore.

From Taos, the High Road takes us to Santa Fe. We pass art galleries and vinyards with espeliered apple and pear trees.

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Once in Santa Fe, the traffic slows and we take a breath. Warmshowers hosts Dennis and Patty welcome us into their home, and we make plans to eat our way through Santa Fe.

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I have never been to New Mexico before

Wind buffets the tent in the night. A few fat rain drops plop down now and then. The morning light shows dark storm clouds whipping by overhead. I have seen enough photos of drive trains clogged with New Mexico mud to be wary.

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But, the clouds aren’t consistent and the rain is intermittent. We decide to go for it and pack up. 20 minutes later I gaze at the sky again and all my confidence goes out the window. The sky is a consistent dark metal gray.

What to do. Go back to the safety of pavement, or go forward and gamble with the dirt.

We go forward, and New Mexico rewards us. Enchanted forests of evergreens, groves of aspen. Tyndall finds mushrooms that look like inky caps, but without a local expert or guidebook, we leave them behind.

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The rain finally catches us just as we turn onto paved Highway 64. We road climb as fancy, expensive cars whiz by in the other direction. Amanda catches up and we find a picnic shelter to regroup in. Instead of a campsite, we find camp host Sarah. She offers us water, beer, edibles and a spot on her sofa inside her trailer. We pass the rest of the afternoon laughing and talking. As the sun sinks and the rain clouds pass, we return to the picnic shelter for food and sleep. One beer on an empty stomach has us all a bit giggly.

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It doesn’t rain all night, so we figure the roads are dry enough to make a go for Abiquiu. Only a couple small ascents stand between us and a real meal. Ready, set, go.

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New Mexico is rugged, but it rewards.

Out of Colorado

We met Jane, Joan and Nora on the Divide in Canada, and later in Montana. We hear from Adam that Jane lives in Salida, and that she has invited us to stay with her. The invite comes complete with an offer of lasagna. We’re in.

After two nights, we pull ourselves away and head for Marshall Pass. The sun is out and sweat drips down into my eyes. This seems to be a recurring problem for me.

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Marshall Pass is another old railroad grade, and so is “gentle”. From the top, we coast down towards Sargents. There’s not much to see here, except an army convoy filling up on gas.

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Sleeping near Carnero Pass, the only thing that wakes me are coyotes. They must have found something good. There’s no moon and the stars are bright.

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Before dropping into Del Norte, the trail winds through what the map calls Elephant Rocks. People are living off the grid out here in school buses with cisterns and solar panels.

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Del Norte is quiet on a Saturday, but we use the gas station wifi to plan our time in New Mexico. A quart of OJ and a six pack of beer replenish calories lost. Dehydrated mole spices things up.  Amanda camps with us at the town park. In the morning we all head for Indiana Pass.

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Eventually we reach the top.

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In my excitement to bomb down, I loose sunscreen, then chapstick, then mouthwash out of my bag. It’s a yardsale.

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Platoro has baked goods and we stock up before heading on.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

We manage to time our ride right, and see an old steam engine chugging by on the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad.

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After that, we exit Colorado for New Mexico, curious to see what the trail has in store for us.

Coasting through Colorado

We pass three days in the Silverthorne area. Tyndall’s brother and his family are in the area, on vacation from Oklahoma. We hang out with the nephews and play foose ball – it’s a good change of pace. On the last day, we visit the market. Peaches from the Grand Junction area are on sale and I fill my frame bag.

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Under a sky heavy with rain we climb Boreas Pass, leaving the hubbub of Breckenridge behind. It’s a railroad grade all the way, this is easy I think. At the top, the landscape opens up and we drop down through red rocks and aspen, towards South Park.

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Como is only 20 miles down the trail, but there are no multi million dollar houses here – only cabins with no running water. We camp between an abandoned swing set and an old school house.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

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Across the open expanse of South Park we go, stopping at the fire station for water, and in Hartsel for lunch. We ride a bit of paved road, and it’s heavy with holiday weekend traffic.

The road winds up towards the Watershed Divide. We camp at the top and listen to elk bugle in the night.

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In the morning we coast into Salida, riding some singletrack on the way. Everything is sharp and prickly here. I try not to fall.

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Repairs on the Road

Have you had any issues? How are the bikes? We hear this a lot on the road. Below are a few items we have dealt with since leaving Alaska.

Front Hub – 500 miles into the trip my front hub started to make noise.  Another 100 miles later it began to wobble. We were in northern Alaska (Chicken) with no bike shops nearby so we orchestrated the delivery of a new hub (under warranty) to a bike shop in Whitehorse. This meant riding another 500 miles on the bad hub, wobble and all. Since then, I’ve put 3000 miles on the new hub without any issues.

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Heat – Has been unbearable at times. Only solution is to find shade and a cold drink. Ride early.

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Barrel Adjuster – These are used to adjust derailer tension. They can also be frustrating when a load is strapped to the handle bars causing the barrel adjusters to rub against each other. I’ve had one fully tension itself and strip its threads from moving the handle bars while riding.  The immediate solution is to wrap them in electrical tape so they can’t move anymore. Long term, I’ll probably get rid of them and find other ways to adjust the derailer.  

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Water Filter – We ended up tossing a MSR filter I’ve had for years. I put a new cartridge in it when we left Anchorage and it had performed well. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find another replacement cartridge on the road so it got tossed for the Katadyn Hiker.

Water Filter Part Two – The Katadyn filter clogged after 7 days of use and the check valve on the filter body broke. Katadyn sent a new body for us to pick up in Rawlins, WY but I would have preferred getting my money back. We are now using a Steripen Ultra.  The Steripen uses ultraviolet light to sterilize water for drinking. It’s also rechargeable and micro USB. This means we can charge it while riding. So far so good.

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Photo by Elizabeth Ellis

Chain Rings – The chain rings on the Fargo are to large for the riding we are doing forcing us to mash the pedals and often walk up steep sections. We swapped out the 28 tooth chain ring for a 26 tooth in Pinedale. We may go even smaller in the future.

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Tires – We haven’t had any issues with our tires. I hope I don’t jinx any future riding but I’m a true believer in riding tubeless. Each bike has nearly 4000 miles with no flats. We ride on.

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Photo by Elizabeth Ellis

Finding the trees through the Forest

We skeedaddle out of Rawlins in favor of Saratoga. Saratoga is not on the Divide route, but we have friends to meet.

We spend a day in Saratoga, soaking in hot springs and eating ice cream. Rain storms roll through all day, cooling things off and adding a little moisture to the air.

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From Saratoga, our wheels point south, aiming for Colorado.

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We head for the Rawahs, riding through pine forests, spending a night at 9,500′. Creeks run along side the road. It’s cool and damp once again. 

Tyndall and I met here eight years ago. At that time, he was wrangling horses and I was wrangling guests, doing seasonal work at the Rawah Guest Ranch. Friends Kevin and Karen still spend time in the Valley, and we meet them there.

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We pass the time around the campfire, telling lies stories under a full moon. Trek the dog and horses Rio and Brasso can’t resist the heat of the fire, either.

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After a couple days, Tyndall and I tear ourselves away. We are sad to leave.

We ride along the headwaters of the Colorado River near Hot Sulfur Springs, and continue south over Ute Pass. The pass climbs up through national forest, but I’ve never seen so many No Trespassing Industrial Area signs. Near the top is a huge mine and tailing pond. 

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Some sturdy wildflowers still cling on , but yellow leaves dot the mountainsides. Fall is coming.

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