After 55 miles we camped adjacent to the Rio Grande in Bernalillo, and to a Casino that sits on a Native American reservation. How convenient - we showered, and then made straight to the dinner buffet. It was a welcome sight to these starved eyes. And didn't I make the most of it. Three mains courses followed by two desserts, all washed down by two large Sprites. I'm sure they wished they had charged me double. All along they had been warned about my brother's appetite (sorry Matty) - I'm sure I even saw my brother's photo there, just underneath the words WARNING: NO ENTRY TO THIS MAN.
I'll skip our time in Albuquerque, exceopt to mention the annual Balloon Festival, which we were lucky to see (we lucked out getting a third floor room that overlooked the valley - see the picture taken from the front of our room). We ended up staying in Albuquerque for 11 nights, interspersed with our wedding in Las Vegas, where we spent another five nights. We really enjoyed the break, and we both needed it. As did our bikes, which needed $200 worth of work at REI (thanks Chris!). I needed a new cassette, chain, and two new chainrings, new brake pads and a new cable and housing (for my gears)...Alia just needed a new chain. I seem to be riding quite hard compared to Alia. Really hard. Weird. Maybe it's my extra weight, both me plus the extra food I carry. Who knows. Or maybe Alia just caresses her gears and pedals while I hammer them.
We eventually set off from Albuquerque on Saturday Oct 16, and we cycled down along the Rio Grande valley. Albuquerque is blessed with many a bike path, both on and off-road, and for the vast majority of our trip out of the city we were on one or another bikeway (just for the record, we followed the North Diversion route to Indian Way, turned left onto Edith, and then made for Isleta Blvd, which is also highway 314). The cars gradually faded from view after we went through Belen, which sits 35 miles south of Albuquerque; a bit south of this city we pretty much had the road to ourselves, a well surfaced pavement gently rolling along the valley through majestic stands of cottonwood trees and small-scale pastures. It reminded me a tad of the Nile River valley, as once you were more than a 1km or so from the river you were back into arid and dry lands.
We were also travelling along El Camino Real, or the Royal Route, along which colonists from Mexico (as far south as Mexico City) came up into present day New Mexico and further, starting from 1598.
That night, after 55 miles, we camped at Bernardo, at a small RV park. We were basically adjacent to highway 25, although whilst the traffic could be loud at times we were that tired we slept easily through it all. Seemed weird being back in a tent again. I kept looking for the TV and refrigerator. And where was the bed? The next day we travelled along highway 25 into Socorro, the oldest Spanish settlement in New Mexico. We originally planned another 50-odd mile day but after learning a large part of the final 28 miles would be uphill, we erred on the side of caution (and entertainment - it was NFL Sunday after all) and pulled into a motel for the night, run by an Indian (i.e. south Asian) man who was amazed with the size of my calf muscles. Mmmmm. Better dead-bolt the door tonight Mrs Parker. (note - he was actually a lovely man, and he even upgraded us to a bigger bed so that we could have a proper rest)
Sure enough, the ride up to our present location of Magdalena, on highway 60, was fairly tough. We're glad we took the extra day to rest up, as we are finding it harder after such a long break. Magdalena is a small town of less than 1000 people, set against the backdrop of the Magdalena Mountains (well, what else would you name it?!?) and Cibola National Forest. On our way up (we ascended from 4850ft to 6500ft) we also crossed the Magdalena Fault. Magdalena, Magdalena, Magdalena - it's all about Magdalena (Lady Magdalene sits atop a nearby peak, looking down upon the town, according to the local Chamber of Commerce website). Once known as 'Trails End', it was where stock was brought along a corridor that stretched into Arizona in order to get them onto the spur rail line that once ran into Socorro.
From Magdalena we'll head west along highways 60 and 12; highway 12 runs into highway 180, which will take us south to Silver City, NM, and eventually Deming. From there it's a two-day ride into El Paso, Texas, from where we'll technically end our trail at the Mexican border. We then pick up a train to Austin, Texas, on Nov 4. We are off the Great Divide trail now, although we will cross the trail at least twice in the next week, the first time just near Horse Springs, and the second at Silver City. Rain is predicted, and we have no appetite for the rough and rugged New Mexican dirt/gravel roads. It's the pavement for us now. Until next time.