As a through-and-through New Englander, I can’t say I know much about New Mexico.
From what I’ve gathered from AMC’s hit series, Breaking Bad, I was expecting rolling hills of sand, incredibly hot temperatures, and agitated 20-year-olds vying for the approval of their high school chemistry teachers.
TV lied to us — shocking, I know. And, while I’m not sure how I’ll overcome this breach of trust, I can tell you that northern New Mexico is a lot different than what you see on TV. There are tall trees, giant mountains, and hail storms that hit you in the face while you’re biking.
Day 45 - Final Boss Level
Approximately 12 miles into today’s ride, Apollo and I crossed into New Mexico, the final state on the Great Divide route. (Please ignore the water I clearly didn’t see on my face)
This moment came with mixed emotions. For one, I was thrilled to finally be here. Thinking back to my first days in Canada, as I struggled up the Goat Pass trail, my confidence was through the roof realizing how far I had come.
But, the journey isn’t over, yet. And, New Mexico has a reputation for being a tough section to tackle. Steep hills, rocky terrain, and miles of waterless desert make the next few hundred miles more than a formidable ending to this trip.
New Mexico is like Master Hand from N64’s Smash Bros. (the original, of course). You’re going to take some damage, you might lose a life or two, and it’s going to be a long fight.
Within the next 30 miles, I was hailed on (yes, hail... in New Mexico), carried Apollo over miles of rock-filled road, and climbed to 11K ft — clearly, we got some more work to do before this thing is over.
There was, however, this teepee at the top of the hill, which was pretty sweet.
Day 46 - By the Book
While I did expect New Mexico to be a challenge, I didn’t expect it would look so much like home — New Hampshire. The trees are similar, there’s fall foliage taking shape, and the roads remind me of some of the trails I might hike in the White Mountains.
Running this thought through my head (after contemplating future dog names), I felt a bit homesick. Of course, I’m excited to complete my journey but I can’t say I don’t miss home. I also can’t say I don’t miss running water, a roof over my head, and not biking 7 hours a day, but that’s beside the point.
Fortunately, I didn’t have too much time to pity myself as the smooth dirt road suddenly turned into scattered boulders, then into mud. I had enough to keep my mind occupied until I got to camp and then had the pleasure of staring at the lake as the sun set over the trees. New Mexico does have its perks.
Day 47 - Goldie’s Retreat on the River
My homesickness didn’t stick for too long because about 20 miles into today’s ride, we took a left turn straight into New Mexico, New Mexico. Tall trees colored with green and yellow foliage were replaced with shrubs that sprouted from dry, sandy dirt. The dirt road itself was no longer an earthy brown, but now a very light tan with small red rocks littered about. Shade — virtually nonexistent. This was more like the New Mexico I was envisioning.
As I rolled into Abiquiu (Ab-a-queue), I stopped at the “famous” Bodes convenience store — famous for its burritos which I happily sampled. Abiquiu is another one-road town with Bodes being the center of attention. It seems like if you’re coming or going through Abiquiu, it is a stop you’re making one way or another.
Since it was “peak Georgia O’Keefe season” (I had questions, too) hotel prices were through the roof. So, I pitched my tent at Goldie’s Retreat By the River, which is a camping community hosted by none other than Goldie herself.
Here I met John, who is working on his screenplay, Anne, a Continental Divide hiker, as well as a few other Great Dividers who were passing through for the night.
The group I met traveling the Great Divide had some handy advice. They did their research and called the local forest service to scout out the next few days on the trail. Turns out, the next few miles were nearly impassable due to fires and flooding and they were strongly recommended to reroute.
With this material change, looks like we’ll be getting to Cuba (New Mexico) a day earlier than expected. While I would love to stay at Goldie’s for another day, I think I’m just a few conversations from starring in John’s screenplay and it would be a tough role to turn down.