Climbing Sand, Rock and Lava

Day 32: Abiquiu to Cuba, 79.1 miles, 7,871 feet

One of the ‘easier’ rocky sections. Unfortunately no images of the worst. Was most of what I could do to focus on riding.

It’s always an adjustment to get going again after a day off the bike, but this segment ended up being one of the most challenging of the trip. Starting the day solo was also a new reality, trying to process any other planning and contingency considerations and wondering if I’d see any other cyclists along the way.

After the hour drive from Santa Fe to Abiquiu, I got going a little later than I had hoped around 9am, and started the climb up from the paved road. The first section was a gradual climb, nothing to different from what we had already encountered, but as it got going, the surface deteriorated into a combination of sand, rock slabs, large loose rocks, and chunks of rough lava. Soon into the climb, I met the face of Ross from Australia, who we had seen few days back in Colorado and who had a tire issue that required a bike shop off route to fix. We rode and talked together for a little while before I pushed ahead, worried that I wouldn’t make it to Cuba by sunset unless I went a bit faster.

After pushing hard and trying to maintain focus on my track on the ground to get to the top, I realized that after 28 miles I had climbed about 4800’, probably the longest sustained climb fo the trip and with one of the worst combinations of trail surface. Thankfully after this, the route flattened up a bit more and I was able to make better time, adding another 3,000′ over the next 50 miles. The latter half of the route flowed better as a dirt road rollercoaster on a better surface, which kept my tired mind and body more distractedly engaged.

I met two more cyclists Bill & Chris towards the end, who both seemed exhausted from the route, and very ready to be in Cuba, even it if was at midnight. Thunderstorms were in the forecast, and I could see the sky darkening as the afternoon progressed. With relief, I finally reached the paved road and downhill to Cuba and watched the lightning and thunder roll out in the distance, striking left and right across the desert valley floor. One mile from reaching the hotel in Cuba and almost at sunset, it caught me in a torrential downpour with high winds. I was soaked and shot from a really challenging day.