Our delight at finally crossing the state line into New Mexico was short livedas our gravel track turned to rough stone and boulders, it got a lot steeper and our map directions said “push up unrideable section”. It was probably the most exhausting day of the trip. At times, as my back wheel caught in the holes and loose boulders, I found I could not push the bike up the hill, and it took two of us per bike to make it move. Just before we had crossed into New Mexico we had had the opposite problem of deep sand that was equally unrideable and as our heavy bikes sank down 4 or 5 inches Bernie was dreaming of the fat tyre bike he had tested in Fernie which would have sailed over this with no problems. We had occasional sections of smooth dried mud but with the rain clouds gathering we knew this would become impassible very quickly.We eventually made 30 miles to an 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.Here Bernie is searching for a possible source of water along the old creek bed. We didn’t find any, but luckily we met up with some engineers rebuilding a bridge the next day and begged some water off them.We should have followed the cattle as they always find the water. This lot were about to be rounded up by a group of ranchers on horseback, who were trying to find all their cattle who 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 emptyWe were just about to decend into the valley you can see in the distance, which was about 25 miles down, just great. 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.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 rocksOne 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 formatations 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. Here we were welcomed and 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.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 itIt 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.
ShelterBox – We have been cycling the Great Divide to raise money for the humanitarian charity ShelterBox. Currently ShelterBox are on standby to help after typhoon Koppu in the Philippines. They are also going to the roots of the refugee trail having sent a deployment to Iraq Kurdistan on the Syrian border, after having provided respite on the Greek island of Lesbos where they were improving conditions in transit camps that were becoming overwhelmed by refugees arriving from the Turkish coast.