Emory Pass was a surprise to me. On the Southern Tier my focus was so much on being a tour leader and the group dynamics that I wasn’t spending much time thinking about my own cycling. But the days on the saddle were my treats. I got to focus on me and my bike and making the two work together to get me down the road. Emory Pass in New Mexico was one of the biggest treats of all.
In the morning we cycled away from Mountain Springs RV Park. I had pulled the van and trailer into the RV park and thus gotten to know the hosts better than I would otherwise. I chuckle thinking how they gave me the rules but then told me “you don’t have to follow the rules either.” They had an office rec room that we all used that afternoon and evening, the only place of the trip where came into serious contact with national news of what was happening in the new Trump presidency. Matt and Steve set themselves up on the couch in their and did a mixture of reading, writing, and watching Senate confirmation hearings for several hours. On most trips I take, I buy a pair of earrings. My earrings from this trip were from the display case of jewelry that the RV host makes herself.
In the morning, everyone took off on their bikes for the day’s ride up Emory Pass. The husband host telling me that it would be cold in the shade as I climbed up so I made sure to put on layers before I took off, a good twenty to thirty minutes after the last rider left camp. There were always last-minute chores that needed to be done to get all my stuff and then the group stuff ready to go for the day.
The climb that day was breathtaking. I was on my own and turned on some music for the long climb. I would eventually catch up with someone. The climb took a good two-to-three hours to get to the top of the pass. I passed through the various state campgrounds that would have been possibilities for camping if they had not been still closed for the season. By all of them, there were signs warning of flash foods, the kind of signs we saw regularly through our travels in the southwest and until Austin. I had started making little videos as I road, thinking about how my 90-year old mother would love to watch them. She is my biggest fan when it comes to my travels and seeing my photos. She can no longer travel the world as she used to and so relishes the the worlds I bring to her through my adventures. In those videos, my delight in this long climb is evident. Long climbs, in contrast to rolling hills, end in a culmination, the top of the climb — the view it brings and the satisfaction of accomplishing the ascent and then the reward of the descent. Watching those Emory Pass videos now bring me right back into the heavy breathing and mindset of my long climb.
Up on the top, I expected there to a crowd of my fellow riders. I still did not really understood that they were not riding like I did on the Northern Tier. They were sticking to being road riders, keen on making the distance for the day. They were not soaking up the ride itself, taking long breaks for picnics, meeting locals along the route, and reading the historical markers. I was looking forward to a long stop on the top of Emory Pass with time to eat my lunch and take in the views. I was pleased to find Sue and Annie up there at the top next to the sign recounting how Lt. W.H. Emory traveled through the area on an exploration expedition for the U.S. Army. We shared the excitement of the reaching the summit. For a tandem to do that climb was an even greater feat than for the rest of us. We snapped each other’s photos and then they were off. No long stop and lunch for them. That left Fuat sitting on a rock on a little incline eating his lunch. He was just finishing up so he gave me his rock to sit on while I ate. I was learning by then that it would always be Fuat at the end, simply because he was the only one cycling like I did across the Northern Tier, willing and wanting to soak it all in, to “smell the roses” and in his case listen to and watch the birds.
He and I finally took off, with me speeding down the mountain side and then stopping to take photos. He took the downhills more cautiously but we both then reached the bottom together. You kind of feel like the day should be over after such a long climb but there was still more of the day and I had a tour leader mission to accomplish as well. I needed to cancel our Las Cruces hotel reservation so that we would not be charged well over $1000 for a night’s stay. Instead we would be staying at a KOA campground instead. We had used up our allotted hotel budget for this part of the trip back in Tempe and at the Apache Casino motel. But there had not been a cell signal when I needed it for the last day and a half. I stopped again and again checking to see if I had the bars to make the call.
In Hillsboro, we met an older gentlemen in his workshop making leather chaps. He headed me toward a rise out of town where I might be able to get a signal, but it wasn’t until Fuat and I made reached the last ascent to the top of the mesa that I found a strong signal. Up there though, the wind was blowing hard, at least 20 mph, and I needed Fuat to hold my reservation confirmation sheets while I finally got through to a hotel.com support person in the Philippines and cancelled those rooms one by one. What a funny site that was, that long conversation to Southeast Asia from the top of a mesa in New Mexico.
We still had a descent to the Caballo Lake reservoir and then seven miles south into a head wind but we finally made it to camp just as dinner was served. This was probably one of the days that was marked down in the black notebook someone was keeping on me as a day I arrived late to camp, but we did save over $1000 and I did have a beautiful day of riding.
A few more photos and then a short video on my climb up and then one on the descent.