September 19, 2001

9/19/01 Santa Cruz Lake

61.4 / 7985 miles

Because it wasn't crowded, they let me store my bike in the dorm room. The only problem with that is trying to pack up in the morning without waking anyone up.

Took some time to try and call work back in Kansas City. Had to make several attempts, but got through. Ann says the hospital census is still real low and that might jeopardize my returning to work when this trip is finished. Nothing I can do about it right now, so I gave a message for Deb, my boss, that I'd start back to work just before Thanksgiving. After that I talked to Christel. I'm to stay with her mother in Santa Fe tomorrow and feel a little uncomfortable. I sure hope Mrs. Johnson doesn't feel roped into this just because I'm a friend of her daughters.

Finally got on the road just in time for rush-hour traffic into Taos. Grabbed a quick breakfast and stuff from the store. I was taking what they call the 'high road to Taos' and traffic dropped off immediately once I made the turn.

And 'high road' it was. The first climb lasted about fifteen miles and I would continue to descend and climb at least a dozen more times, especially when approaching a town. But the guys at the bike shop were right, it was beautiful up here with only trees for company. At the first summit, found a fox passing through an open field. The other thing that kept grabbing my attention were the roadside wildflowers. Most were either yellow or lavender. Just amazing colors and hard to capture in all on film.

In Las Trampas, I saw what is reported to be one of the finest examples of 18th century adobe churches still standing. San Jose de Gracia was built in 1760 but was originally called Santo Tomás. The church looked like it could stand another 250 years. Adobe seems like such an aesthetic kind of architecture, surely one closest to blending with the natural surroundings. But already you could see cheap and fast housing was beginning to outnumber the long lasting adobe.

San Jose de Gracia

I've always thought it would be hard for me to be tied to a home and property. It's not the home but the concept of owning the land which seems 'unnatural' to me. A home, even a well built adobe house, has a pretty finite life-span when compared to the landscape. To me, owning the land is like owning the air we breath and the star filled sky overhead. But I guess even these are being considered for purchase.

Stopped for a cold drink at a gas station in Penasco and for the first time since Kentucky, I felt uncomfortable. People treated me ok, but I still felt like a minority. Everyone spoke Spanish and the businesses looked like they only wanted locals to drop in.

On the edge of town though, I found Victor's Drive-In. "I like your flag," Victor's wife told me. In the last few days since the tragedies in New York and D.C., my flag has taken on a new meaning, joining a nation trying to band together. People hoot and hawler when I ride by, giving me a thumbs-up. And for a few who honk, I'll just assume they're patriotic too.

After a quick lunch, there were more climbs. But when I finally reached Truchas, the mother of all down-hills was before me. It followed a ridgeline so I had a great view, but it also left sharp drop-offs just beyond the pavement. Because I already knew the tires and wheels were hot because of the temperature, I tried to avoid using the brakes too much. Even so, it was a scary descent all the way to Chimayo. Top speed: 45MPH.

45mph ahead of me as I near Chimayo

After stopping for directions, I realized that I had passed my exit and had to ride a few miles back uphill. But the road to Santa Cruz Lake was still even a sharper climb. Eventually I got off the bike and pushed. I had two choices for campgrounds. The first required less climbing but was frequented by kids looking for a place to party I was told. The second was at the bottom of the canyon, was lakeside and would have more people camping.

Well, I have a hell of a climb to get out of this canyon in the morning. And yeah, the place is deserted. Not one, single camper besides myself. Not sure if that makes me feel safe or not.