September 29, 2010

Day 12: Silver City to Hatch

Started: Sep 29, 2010 7:28:30
Ride Time: 8:24:54
Stopped Time: 2:15:29
Distance: 106.94 miles
Average: 12.71 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 149.86 miles/h
Climb: 6303 feet
Calories: 4602

Today is the day I made gravity my bitch and crossed Emory Pass. The climbing was about as challenging as the climb from Three Way to the New Mexico state line, but it had better scenery and I was better prepared mentally.

Much of the climb was inside the Gila National Forest, which is beautiful. At one point I was on a horseshoe bend, with a cliff face on one side of me, a declivity, creek, and another cliff face on the other. The road seemed to disappear, obscured by the rock faces. Trees and cacti were growing right out of the rocks. Minutes would pass without a car driving by, and as I glided slowly along, I felt like I had the place to myself, and that I was seeing it from a perspective few others have. I almost wept.

I realized that while the climbing so far was tough, it wasn’t as tough as I knew it was going to get, and wondered when that would change. There were three tent sites shown on my map: as soon as I hit the first one, the climbing got really hard. Down into my lowest gear, taking frequent short breaks to let my heart rate drop 10-20 bpm.

Eventually I reached the pass. I had been riding on very new chipseal the whole way. At the top I saw the gravel spreader parked in what I’m guessing was the overlook. The first few miles of the downside was reduced to one lane, as the other had an unfinished bed of gravel. I had to wait with several cars until a pilot car led us down to the point where the road was no long under construction. It was hairpins all the way down, and I mostly kept pace with motor traffic.

When I got to the bottom, and exited the forest, I was overcome with emotion.

I made it quickly into the tiny town of Hillsboro and had lunch at the first place advertising “food,” Lynn Nusom’s Kitchen, which served me a huge and good breakfast burrito. I chatted with a couple who passed me on the climb in their RV—they’re on their way to Tucson to work on a balloonist’s crew for the balloon festival. The husband rides a recumbent, so we geeked out on bikes for a while. Very pleasant.

It was just after 3:00 when I got up from lunch. I felt inexplicably strong after 60 miles of mostly hard climbing. I knew it was pretty much downhill all the way to El Paso, so I decided to push on to Hatch.

It was 43 miles beyond Hillsboro, and I made it in just over three hours, tearing along over mostly flat land. When I got here, I received the rude surprise of learning that the one hotel in town was out of business. Has been for over a year apparently. There’s an RV park nearby. Not really set up to accommodate bike tourists—no communal toilet or shower. I cleaned up as best I could at a water hookup, pitched my tent, and had a sumptuous repast at the nearby gas station/Subway. Apparently the only restaurant open past 6:00.

It’s funny that Hatch is so well known for its peppers, but the town itself really doesn’t have much going on. It’s clearly not capitalizing on its reputation, and it’s not set up to.