New Mexico – Staying in a Navajo Indian Chapter House – Silver City the End of the Ride – Cycling the Great Divide

Our delight at finally crossing the state line into New Mexico was short lived
Our gravel track turned to rough stone and boulders, it got a lot steeper and our map directions said “push up unrideable section”
At times, as my back wheel caught in the holes and loose boulders, I found I could not push the bike up the hill.
Just before we had crossed into New Mexico we had had the opposite problem of deep sand that was equally unrideable and our heavy bikes sank down 4 inches
but with the rain clouds gathering we knew this would become impassable very quickly.
We eventually made 30 miles to this idyllic campsite,
which would get the early morning sun, so hopefully would not be too cold. The only issue was that we were now really low on water and all the rivers were dry.

In New Mexico the land was very dry so finding water became a problem. Luckily we met up with some engineers rebuilding a bridge the next day and begged some water off them. There were some cattle who were about to be rounded up by a group of ranchers on horseback who were struggling to find them as they had been wandering around up here all summer. We chatted to some of the ranchers who told us the stocking levels on this parched ground is between 1 cow for every 20 acres to 1 for every 100 acres, which is why much of the land looks empty.

We had decided that with the state of the tracks and the variable weather it was probably safer to go back on to tarmac for a while. This meant that we passed some small convenience stores, although these are a bit different around here.

Here Bernie is searching for a possible source of water along the old creek bed. We didn’t find any.
We should have followed the cattle as they always find the water.
We were just about to descend into the valley you can see in the distance, which was about 25 miles down, just great
A typical grocery store! As well as packets of crisps and biscuits you can buy a rifle or a bison head!
We were also able to visit some tourist sites such as the Echo Amphitheatre in these rocks
One of the main features of this part of New Mexico are the rock formations rising out of the flat plains
The colours of the rock formations as amazing.
Most of the houses in this area are very isolated and mobile. They do a good trade in portacabins.
As we were cycling across one area of the plains we came across a sign that said “Beware Possible Zero Visibility from Dust Storms”. As we were just passing an old uranium mine and a current coal  mine this was more than a little worrying.
One of the things that there were millions of all over the roads were grasshoppers. 

There were almost no places to stay over the next 100 miles as there were no towns and all the farmland was fenced. So when we passed the Navajo Indian village we asked if we could camp and they sent us up to their Chapter House for the night. We were allowed to shower in the main building, then we were sent up to the Seniors Centre (appropriately!), where a smiling lady said we could stay inside and sleep on the couches. She was about to leave for the day so they let two strangers who they knew nothing about stay in their building alone. It was a lovely gesture  and thank you very much.

The Chapter Houses are communal meeting places for the people of the Navajo Nation which act as a forum for them to express their opinion to their council. They were set up around 1922 by John G. Hunter to bolster Navajo self determination and local governance. There are now around 110 of them in the 27,000 square miles that makes up the Navajo Nation. One of the buildings on this site was an indoor and outdoor sporting facility for the youngsters as well as a meeting hall. The building where we stayed, for the elders, had large kitchens where they produced regular meals for the large dining room and also for elders who could not come to the centre. They also had professionals working as  volunteers giving financial, legal and language advice and help. It seemed a wonderful asset for a very rural community.

Navajo Nation village Chapter House were we spent the night
Inside the Senior Citizens Chapter House on the Navajo Nation Reservation.
Our next strange accommodation was on a Alpaca farm where we stayed in what they called a bunk house but in fact was a nice bungalow
We spent a short time on the famous Route 66 which was really grim and we were glad to turn off it.
On our last cycling day we came across this old store run by an old Vietnam veteran and although it did not really have anything to eat in it
It did have this original stagecoach that had been renovated by the Amish in Mexico. It is the only one in the area not in a museum.
The weather on our last two days was wet, with a strong head wind, so we started early in the morning to get 30 or 40 miles in before the wind got up.
We were really struggling against the wind on the last day when Cameron, a much younger rider from the US, caught us up and helped us get into Silver City.
We had a great welcome into Silver City with a band playing and dancers, they weren’t really for us but it seemed like it after such a hard day.
There was an arts festival going on, we opted out from the throwing the beer keg competition as we had just cycled for over 6 hours and were more than a little tired.

We had finally finished our cycle trip from Calgary in Canada to Silver City in New Mexico.  Since the end of July we had cycled 2605 miles (4190 kms), climbed 127,000 feet (38,723 m) and ridden for 268 hours. During this time I had also broken my thumb, had concussion and 6 stitches in my arm. As my left hand could not really grip the handlbar I had also only been able to use one brake while cycling the whole length of the USA and the Rockies which made some of the steep, wet, rocky sections a bit tricky.  We had also met a lot of wonderful, kind and generous people, seen some incredible scenery, and had a great adventure. We had cycled through some of small town America and it had been totally unlike any stereotype we had expected. It is difficult to say where our favourite place was as it changed so much as we headed south, so that each state was special in its own way.

We hired a car in Silver City and drove back to Denver visiting the Gila Cliff Dwellings, the petrified forest, the painted dessert and the Grand Canyon on the way. As we drove back into Colorado we found the mountains already covered in snow, so we had only just got through in time.

One of the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico
Inside a Gila Cliff Dwelling that was occupied by the Mogollon Culture between 1280 – 1300
A surprise hail storm in the Gila Wilderness, New Mexico left cars sliding all over the road
A tree in the petrified forest
The painted desert
The painted desert
Elk at the Grand Canyon
Arriving in Denver, ready to fly home
Snow already lying on the Colorado hills we had cycled through
Incredible features in the Moab Desert
We cycled along the rim of the Grand Canyon
This is our route that we finally cycled – 2605 miles (4190 kms), climbed 127,000 feet (38,723 m)

5 thoughts on “New Mexico – Staying in a Navajo Indian Chapter House – Silver City the End of the Ride – Cycling the Great Divide

  1. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! What an amazing achievement and wonderful experience. We will definitely make a donation to your cause.

    Love Julia etc

  2. Hey Bernie and Sarah! Hope you made it back home safe and sound! Thank you for sharing that stretch of road with me and even more so the stories you had! I hope to see you in the UK someday. And if you are ever in Idaho let me know!

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