A farewell to New Mexico

10/9/21

Today was another beautiful travel day. I’m writing from Flagstaff, where the train dropped me off at about 10 pm. (About an hour and a half late, but my Servas host was kind enough to pick me up, which I very much appreciated since the temperature was 45, and I wasn’t really dressed for that.)

This morning I set out from my Santa Fe Warmshowers host’s place. I swung by the Saturday farmers’ market on the way out of town, hoping to find some breakfast or maybe a treat to take with me on the train. Unfortunately there wasn’t much prepared food on offer, but I was impressed by the large and bustling market, full of farmers and vendors of preserves, hot sauces, and such. On my way in, a woman was leafleting about an upcoming bike-lane advocacy event. I was sorry to tell her I was on my way out of town; that would have been a worthwhile event to have attended.

Shortly after I left the market, I came upon a lovely little memorial rose garden, with a fountain and some benches, so I took the opportunity to rest and eat a Clif bar. Right when I did, the friend I’ll be staying with in Mt. Shasta later this month messaged me, so we had a brief conversation as I enjoyed the peaceful plaza.

The rest of the ride to the train station in Lamy was beautiful, although not without challenges. It was funny, because just last night as we pedaled home from the food cart, my host Matt and I had been talking about Google Maps’ bike directions, and how usually they are great, but sometimes they may send you on a bit of a wild goose chase by finding “shortcuts” that may be very rough or difficult-to-access-or-navigate roads or paths.

Sure enough, as I followed the directions today, when I was about ¾ of the way to Lamy, the app told me to take a left from Hwy 285 onto Ranch Road. After about half a mile, it directed me to turn right onto Cattle Drive, which would then apparently turn into “Loose Caboose Lane”(!) and then into one other short street, depositing me at the train station.

Cattle Drive turned out to be a gravel road, and I really prefer to avoid gravel roads. I’m always afraid a sharp stone might puncture or damage a tire, not to mention that the loose gravel can be dangerous to navigate because of skidding, especially on downhills. Finally, those roads can be dusty, and I prefer not to kick up too much dust onto the underside of my trailer if I can help it.

But, this was Google’s direction, and as I glanced at the larger map, there didn’t appear to be an easy alternative. So I set out on Cattle Drive.

I was moving slowly, staying in my lowest gear to be safe. But I could feel how much extra effort was required to ride on the gravel, versus smooth pavement. I could feel the extra exertion in my body. But I knew I was near my destination, so I assured myself that I could do it.

After maybe half a mile, I grew dubious about the route, as I seemed to near a dead end. There were dirt paths going in a few directions, but they didn’t seem like real roads, and the app was directing me forward, through a gate. Was this a private residence…? Ugh, this felt awkward.

Just then, I received a notification text from Amtrak that my train was delayed nearly an hour. Well, OK, that was a relief, if I was stuck out here and would need to backtrack…

I proceeded through the gate to see if perhaps there was a road ahead beyond my field of vision. I did find two possible paths, but one was a steep downhill on gravel, and looked like a dead end, and the other just appeared to be a dirt path. The third option appeared to be a private driveway.

I stood there stymied for a moment, thankful at least to know that I had plenty of time, and the weather was pleasant, and I didn’t need a restroom or water refill.

I could figure this out.

Miraculously, just then a car began coming out the driveway. I flagged it down, and a very kind woman named Julie got out and did her best to help me. She confirmed that yes, I was on private property (hers, I assume, though she didn’t say so explicitly) and that the two paths I had been skeptically considering were indeed dead ends.

She pointed at another path, just outside her gate, that she said she had heard rumored to lead all the way to the train station.

Wow, OK! Maybe I could take that path after all, although it didn’t appear to be exactly where Google Maps was directing me.

She wanted to make sure, though, so she went back to her car for her phone and called a neighbor to confirm. The neighbor told her that this path was not a good idea; it was very bumpy and nearly impassable in places.

Wow. Glad she checked.

She said my best bet would be to retrace my steps back out the gravel road, and get back on 285 until Hwy 33, then take that to the station. I looked on the map. It was definitely a less direct route, and I was less than thrilled at the prospect of having to backtrack over all that gravel again, which apparently I had traversed for naught.

But I saw no alternative, so I prepared to do so.

She then offered to give me and my rig a ride out to the pavement, which was extra generous of her because she had grabbed a mask when she first came over to me, explaining that she was vaccinated but immune-compromised. I had immediately donned my own mask when she said that—and assured her that I was also vaccinated—but I thought it was especially kind of her to offer to drive me, given her health status.

I declined. I knew I had time, and I wanted to challenge myself to do it under my own power.

She also offered me water or an energy bar, but I was well stocked, so I thanked her but said I was OK.

She drove off—carefully, so as not to kick up dust in my direction—and I followed. I was still feeling disappointed about having to traverse the gravel, but reminded myself that this would by no means be my last gravel traveling on this journey, so I might as well get in some practice.

And just as I had this thought, I looked up and saw some solar panels on the property to my right.

I took this as a sign that I was on the right track, and smiled to myself as I made my way out to the paved road.

The extra few miles on Hwy 285 and 33 were beautiful, so I was ultimately glad for the opportunity to bike them.

Just as the pavement ended, the tiny train station came into view.

The train continued to be delayed a few more times, but I had some good conversation with the station agent and a few other passengers, two of whom were a mother and daughter traveling from Boston and also heading to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.

I ate my co-op sushi lunch, and finished it off with the pistachio-chocolate treat I had bought at the Santa Fe chocolatier yesterday.

The train ride was about six hours, and I finally got to have a nice conversation with a fellow passenger in the lounge for an hour or so. I sipped my tea-and-vodka cocktail and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, which before long turned into a stunning sunset.

Now, I’m excited to be here in Flagstaff, and looking forward to the Grand Canyon tomorrow!

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