Arizona and New Mexico along Highway 60 is some beautiful riding but the services are few and far between and the climbs are difficult. The roads for the most part have shoulders, but the condition of the pavement varies from decrepit, narrow and gravelly to brand new. In New Mexico, 117 and 36 are virtually deserted and although the shoulders are decent, one can often just ride in the middle of the road. From 117 we took Interstate 40 to Albuquerque which has a wonderful 15 foot shoulder albeit traffic is traveling upwards of 80mph. It is relatively unclear weather cyclists are allowed on this section of highway as signs on the on ramps say different things at different points, however no one stopped us.
Most of this mid-eastern portion of Arizona is forest, not what you expect when you hear Arizona. There are thousand foot climbs and descents but you stay above 5,000 feet for the most part which keeps the ride relatively cool. Fifty miles west of the New Mexico border the trees become more sparse and the land opens up to rolling hills of yellow grass. And 50 miles east of the border in New Mexico, at the town of Quemado, we headed north and small ponderosas started popping up again. Here the 117 is a scenic byway and passes some craggy black lava fields to the west and some colorful sandstone cliffs to the east. Heading East again on I-40, you pass again some lava fields before the landscape opens into a vast desert littered with table-top hills.
We camped off road a few times in the high forests of Arizona. In Springerville, while looking for a fire station or church to sleep at due to the open grassy landscape, we passed three young men barbecuing outside a hotel who offered us one of their rooms. They were working for a company doing testing at a local coal power plant and offered to double up so we could have our own space! North of Quemado, where there were few people and many unlocked cattle gates, we slipped through one and camped in a pasture out of sight of the road. These are our favorite nights, when we are alone in the wilderness. On 117 there is a free campground called Joe Skeen Campground where we spent a night. You have to get water from the ranger station 2 miles down the road, but each site has a covered concrete pad and picnic table. You can’t beat a free campground! There were no camping options along the 40 until Albuquerque. We ended up staying in a Casino RV lot after the camp host had left for the night. A neighbor kept an eye out for us and left us some water and granola bars outside our tent which we found the next morning. In Albuquerque we are once again in the land of Warmshowers.org hosts and stayed with a nice couple, Dave and Steph our first night. Dave is a welder and makes his own bicycles among other things.
Eating on this cross country trip has been difficult. We don’t often have access to fruits and vegetables, let along organic produce. That said, many regional gas stations will carry some iceburg lettuce, tomatos, onions and sometimes a green bell pepper and we will hastily purchase these with some cheese and black beans and make salads for dinner. The heat prohibits us from carrying perishables but if we eat this stuff right away, it works! For protein we buy and boil eggs a lot, sprout mung beans in our water bottles and cook quinoa, lentils and other legumes when we get the chance. Fruit is an awesome roadside snack and whenever we can we stock up on apples, oranges, grapefruit, pear and apricots for long rides.
- The real highlight of this section of the trip was the El Mapais National Conservation Area which included some ominous lava fields and enchanting sandstone cliffs. See pictures below.
- Meeting this man who we interviewed for 45 minutes for our documentary and who gave us some wonderful inspiration to continue our journey and continue our documentary project on ‘the journey’. His name is Anthony Gangi. We hope to post some footage of our interview with him by September when we can process it.
Making a Documentary
Rasham and I recently bought a Gopro and along with our other videocamera we are collecting footage to someday make a documentary. The subject is slowly narrowing with the help of speaking with many people, but in an effort to understand our own adventure as well as others we hope to explore the process of the pilgrim and what it means to conduct a pilgrimage in modern society. This concept of traveling in search of oneself or one’s purpose has an innate spiritual value, recognized throughout the ages and we intend to explore it through our own journey and through interviews with others who are doing the same. But along the way we intend to also produce many short clips of our journey for our followers, the first of which is below.
This was outside a casino on Interstate 40 in the middle of nowhere. A sad place for any furry companion to show up.