P1030567-0.JPGLAVERDA

By Friday morning Mary was ready to give it another try (she had threatened to quit on Thursday.) Having seen quite enough of rugged terrain over the last few weeks, we agreed to take the paved Chaco Alternate to Grants. The Chaco runs through Navajo land for 120 miles encountering no towns.

The going was relatively easy for the first fifty miles. Until noon we encountered no hills and rode through calm air. Mary made a point of saying that she was enjoying the easy riding for a change. Around noon a brisk breeze from the southwest came up but since we were riding in a northwesterly direction, it actually gave us a slight boost.

By 2 PM we reached Pueblo Pintado which is nothing more than a school. Here the road turned sharply to the southwest and the innocuous wind of morning became a headwind – a stiff headwind. Our speed dropped considerably. To add to our plight the road climbed through a long series of canyons which slowed us down even more. The canyon walls, I noticed, were of sandstone and erosion had carved them into infinitely varying shapes but the exertion required to make headway left us little energy to appreciate our surroundings.

With Mary setting the pace, I was very much aware that her ebullience of the morning had drained away shortly after we turned into the wind. As the afternoon wore on our progress slackened progressively until it seemed to me that we might never make it to White Horse, our destination for the evening. Mary complained of nausea and exhaustion. We considered camping before White Horse but the thick grass and brush of the landscape provided little opportunity for a campsite.

When at last we reached White Horse we found it to be nothing more than a scattering of cabins. Our map promised a “good well” but we found no evidence of that. It looked like we would be making a dry camp (no bathing.)

With White Horse such a disappointment, we spied a tall tower some distance up the road and out of desperation, decided to investigate. Near the tower was a building that, on closer inspection, proved to be the White Horse Lake Senior Center. As we rode into the parking area, I joked to Mary that “Well, we’re seniors, maybe they’ll take us.”

The building was locked up and no one except a flock of grass-nibbling sheep seemed to be around. I peered in the windows and walked around the building to no avail. I suggested to Mary that at least the building provided good shelter from the wind that had been plaguing us all afternoon – no small consideration. Mary was clearly exhausted and not in a very good mood by then. Before she could agree to my suggestion, however, the building’s front door opened and out stepped a woman.

Half expecting to be asked to leave, I launched into an explanation of our plight – that we were bicycle travelers looking for a place to camp and that we hoped we might pitch our tent in the lee of the senior center.

“Oh, you don’t have to camp” she said. “You can sleep inside.”

She went on to explain that we could shower, do our laundry, and cook in the kitchen if we liked. Mary and I looked at each other in disbelief. It seemed too good to be true.

The woman’s name was Laverda. She was the director of the senior center. After giving us a tour of her very nice facility she went home and left us alone to enjoy our very own senior center for the evening – which we did. We are still flabbergasted by that woman’s kindness and trusting nature.

P1030570.JPGWHITE HORSE LAKE SENIOR CENTER

Much refreshed by morning, we spent the day again fighting a headwind riding to the city of Grants which abuts Interstate 40. With a population of over 8000, we expected to find a full array of services in Grants. What we found was eight miles of abandoned businesses along Old Highway 66 paralleling I-40. The place looked like a movie scene from after a nuclear war. The only functioning part of the city of Grants is a group of motels and a Walmart that have sprung up around one freeway exit. Luckily, that was all the services we require.

Our situation now is that the next 260 miles to Silver City has no resupply opportunity so we must cary supplies for five days. In addition, the weather forecast is predicting a high probability of thundershowers. Our guide book tells us that some of the roads ahead get quite mucky when wet and may be impassable. We are now considering finding a paved route to Silver City but I have been unable to find a highway map of New Mexico despite scouring Walmart, Walgreens, Dollar Store, two gas stations and the hotel front desk!

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