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