Rather than a celebratory cigar our perfect reward for having reached Cuba (New Mexico, just if you were in doubt..) is a cold shower in a dubious looking but clean road side Motel and some cold beer from the liquor store down the road. ‘You chose the hottest day of the year.’ The man in the (only one of two) convenience store(s) 40 miles into today’s ride told us..
But back to Day 7 and rolling out of Pie Town feeling better than ever on this trip so far…well, at least for the first half of the day. After such a good rest at Nita’s Toaster House getting up at 5.00am was easy and with the wind behind us and the first 30 off road miles of the day being on relatively smooth terrain and pretty flat we were flying!
Looking at the map the night before and with the upcoming section being described as one of the driest of the entire route with water hard to come by for miles on end we decided to opt for the paved alternative to Grants – the El Maplais Alternate. ‘Road’ may sound boring but this section certainly wasn’t, winding through breathtaking Canyons and volcanic, otherworldly landscapes.
Grants however felt eerie. A former Uranium mining town, it appeared like nothing more than a ghost town today which simply services travellers with cheap motel rooms and fast food. As we failed to find anything more inspiring (and were starving at that point) we ended up having lunch in Pizza Hut, ate enormous pizzas and enjoyed never ending Pepsi refills.
We studied the map as we ate and soon came to realise that the next few days would be punishing in terms of distance and lack of services too. Eventually we decided to continue on road yet again, this time via the Chaco Alternate. This wasn’t about avoiding off road but more about aiming to get to Cuba in two rather than three days. We did cut out some considerable climbs but the road – the 509 and the 197 State Highway – wasn’t much less punishing..
We continued for about 20 miles out of Grants on Day 7 with the aim to cut the mileage of the day ahead to under 100 miles. We also learned not to take the service symbols on the Adventure Cycling Association maps too seriously as the ‘bar’ plus informal camping was shut (and looked like it had been for years) and we definitely didn’t feel inspired to put out tent up in the trailer park. So we pushed on but at mile 102 (and just after Rich suffered another thorn-induced puncture) we just had enough for the day. Camping next to the road and with all surrounding land fenced off however was another challenge. The locals have been lovely and welcoming so far but in a country where Walmart has a rifle counter and every second road sign is bullet-pierced, we definitely didn’t want up upset anyone.
There’s actually not much to say about today’s ride apart from more monotonous straight roads as far as we could see, although this time they resembled a real-life roller coaster, but at 5mph uphill not quite as fun!
We are certainly glad to have made it to Cuba and looking at the surrounding landscape it seems that ‘the only way is up’ from tomorrow, soon to reach the Great Divide’s highest pass in southern Colorado at almost 4000 metres.
But now for some dinner…El Bruno’s in Cuba is supposed to offer the best Mexican food on the entire route. Let’s check it out…