Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day 5 - El Malpais to Pueblo Pintado

The first epic day of the tour! These were Matt's words in describing Friday's route. He called in the morning from a town just past Grants, the first "big city" he had gone through on this tour. He had just gone through a motorcycle rally called Fire & Ice. I was hoping that the motorcyclists would ride alongside him in a convoy à la Peewee's Big Adventure.

Matt nixed the idea of heading along I-40 (note that he would've been riding on a frontage road, not on the actual interstate as I said in the last entry) and decided to head up into the unknown lands near Chaco Canyon.

Always stylish, Matt even sports bling on his bike.

It was a 91 mile day, most of it over brutal rollers that seemed to climb very high, but never descend enough to get a downhill. And he was riding through uranium mining territory, so instead of the mostly traffic-free roads he had been enjoying since his tour began, he was passed by a semi every few minutes.

Luckily a ranger at El Malpais had told him about the oasis town of Pueblo Pintado, because it was not even on Matt's AAA map. Several of the towns that were named on his map never appeared in real life, so checking with a local for information really paid off. The area around Pueblo Pintado is populated mostly by Native Americans, and Matt said that everyone was very friendly to him when he inquired at a small market.

There was a chapter house with a shower nearby, but it had closed for the day. Matt was told that he was welcome to camp anywhere in the area, but the call of a shower was strong. Fortunately, there were more showers at a laundromat 5 miles further up the road, so he was most likely going to head there.

His bird count for the day was low, but he was very happy to pick up a rock dove in town.

Day 5 – 92 miles, 6:28, 14.3 AVG

Finally an epic day!

So, I wasn’t alone last night after all. An RV came in and generated for a long while, and then two separate campers came in and camped right next to me even though the rest of the campground was completely empty! Oh well, I don’t mind the company right now.

Malpais camp in pinyon/juniper

Back at the visitors center, another ranger gave me the lowdown on Pueblo Pintado, the only “town” that had any services on my route today (but wasn’t even on my map!).

Hit Grants, the largest city I’ve gone through so far, and it turns out the big “Fire and Ice” motorcycle rally is going on this weekend. Too bad I’m the wrong kind of biker. A band was warming up with some Judas Priest, and the burgers were smelling good.

I would never give my bike away! Grants biker rally

I got out of there real fast, as the “big” city was wearing on me. Heading out into the middle of nowhere I noticed the clouds were building early, and sure enough, the rain came and chased me along for most of the day. Also, noticed an awful lot of semi trucks passing me in both directions, and then remembered the ranger had told me that this was a major uranium mining region. There were a lot of trucks, and it was getting very annoying.

Middle of nowhere, HWY 605

After about 35 miles, I finally passed the last mining area and suddenly the road was all mine! I was traversing some awesome terrain that was very challenging to ride. Very long rolling hills were wearing me down as the trend seemed to be mostly up hill. But the beautiful mesas, cliffs and red rock were the perfect eye candy to keep my mind off the work at hand.

Lunch spot on HWY 509

Canyon outside of Pueblo Pintado

Toward P. Pintado I dropped lower into very desolate and dry rangeland, and I really felt like I was lost in the desert. One very steep but short climb dropped me into a more lush canyon surrounded on all sides by amazing red rock cliffs. This canyon led right to P.P. and the very nice people at the market/gas station. I’m not on any reservation here, but the majority of the people are Native American. Many Divide mountain bikers pass through here too, and the people at the market were well versed in laying out the nearby camping options. I find out that there are showers at a laundromat, the Chaco Wash, about five miles up the road, and I can camp there too. With a tailwind, I couldn’t refuse this offer!

So, now I’m camped behind a laundromat in the middle of nowhere with the Disney Channel on inside and a pack of dogs outside. I’ve got an awesome view of rain squalls moving in at sunset.

Rock Pigeon - Killdeer - White-winged Dove

Desolation before...

Lush canyon

Sunset at the Chaco Wash

Today's epic route:

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1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    I actually live here at Pintado and it's definitely the rez! Im glad you enjoyed your stay here:)