I broke camp and headed down to the bathrooms. I had slept in that morning and simply let the sun wake me up.
I wasn’t alone at the site. A couple from Austria had gotten to the campgrounds late that night. I stopped by and spoke to them a little while. Their names were Harry and Karina. Harry had a cool fanny pack. Very European. He was on his 6 week holiday. I told him about the typical 2 weeks vacation time for Americans. He frowned and shook his head. I said my goodbyes, and they wished me luck on the trip. The goodbye was full of happiness and good luck giving. Very thorough.
I knew it would happen. I headed down to the bathroom to clean up. Shit. Here they come down to the bathroom. All that and I would see them again. Do I say hello again? Do I just smile and nod? That compounded with the fact that they’re European and speak broken English only amplified the awkwardness.
“So,” Harry said. He smiled and went into the bathroom. What does that mean? I don’t understand. I laughed nervously, nodding my head. He started shaving and bathing in the bathroom. He wouldn’t stop grunting and moaning. What was going on in there? I didn’t want to go inside. It would mean another interaction. But I had to go to the bathroom. I decided to wait it out, but that meant I would see him on his exit.
He came back out and grabbed something from his car. He passed me again.
“So,” he said. He did it again. I stood there, dumb-founded.
More groans and moans. Meanwhile, his wife was taking a shower. She came out of the bathroom and changed next to the car. What? Why didn’t she change in the shower? My back was to the car the whole time. To my back, a nude Austrian woman. To my front, a grunting Austrian man.
I said my final goodbye and left the awkward environment.
ghost ranch education
10 miles into the wind and I was already tired. Beautiful scenery though.
It was around 10 AM, so I had time to kill. I stopped by a small museum that I had seen listed on my New Mexico map. It was a very small place funded by private donations. The people inside were touched that I stopped by that morning. They offered me some coffee and spoke to me about the local geography and fauna.
I walked around and got my education on. The rattlesnake I had seen earlier that morning crawling across the road was in the museum.
Abiquiu was evidently a big trading post between several of the Indian tribes, such as the Navajo and the Pueblo. It was also home to one of the earliest dinosaur finds in the United States. Frank, the guy who manned the museum, informed me that the red rock was very unique to that area, and I would see an abrupt change in scenery within the next few miles.
I drank my free coffee and got a few pictures of the surrounding scenery while I still could.
A few miles down the road was the Echo Ampitheater. Tommy and his dog Petey were manning this national parks site. Tommy and Petey. It was something out of a children’s book. Tommy had tatoos and a beard. I felt uncomfortable calling him Tommy. Really boyish name for such a man.
Tommy and Petey stared at the Echo Ampitheater all day. What could they have been thinking about? I know what I was thinking about. Cute girls.
After cycling only a few miles up a long incline, the scenery quickly changed. Grass, conifers, and a landscape full of snow-capped mountains. What could go wrong today? The landscape was amazing.
I started cycling up another long incline. A truck was pulling out of a house with two dogs following it. It was about a quarter of a mile ahead of me. The car just sat at the front of the drive, with the two dogs hanging around it. “Please go. Please go,” I thought. I had a bad feeling. There was a pit bull and german shepherd. No good.
I couldn’t gain speed to pass the idling truck because it was on such a steep incline. The dogs were salivating at the chance to attack an ugly cyclist. The truck had two old people in it. What were they doing? Were they awe-struck by my bicycle? Go you idiots! Go! I could see their faces. Blank.
I was getting close to their truck when the pit bull came at me. Oh God. I pedaled faster. I looked in the truck at their still blank faces. Were they filming this? Was this going to end up on YouTube??? The dog started growling. I was scared. I unhooked my shoe from my pedal so I could get it out of biting range. The bad thing about this maneuver was that I couldn’t pedal. It went after my shoe, but I kicked it in the head. I knew what that damn dog was going to do, but I was still scared.
I looked behind me and motioned with my hands “what the hell” to the old people in the vehicle. They just sat there, watching this unfold before their eyes. Are these people dead? Are they mannequins? The dog kept biting my shoe. I kept kicking. I started yelling at the stupid dog. It didn’t work. I cycled away from the pit bull with my rear wheel in between it and my body. Now I was cycling in a circle on a two-lane highway. The people were still sitting in their truck. It continued to bite, putting a hole in my shoe. I gave one last kick and holler. It walked away, content with giving me a hole in my shoe. The old lady in the passenger side finally got out and threw a rock at the dog. The dog had already walked away. Thanks you stupid lady. They didn’t even pull up to me and ask if I was OK. They just pulled out of the driveway and passed me. Behind their cold, blank faces, I knew they were laughing hysterically.
The rest of the day was spent cycling up steep inclines thinking about the dog attack. What a good story.
stealth camping at a wildnerness reserve
I had spoken to the Chama Forestry Service about camping in Chama. They said I could probably camp at Sargeant’s, a wilderness reserve to the north of town. They didn’t have the ‘authority’ to give me camping permission since it belonged to the Fish and Wildlife Division, but they said I shouldn’t have any problems.
I cycled up a few more steep inclines to get to the reserve. It was gorgeous. Huge grassy plains surrounded by the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. I was awe-struck. Camping was going to be great. I just had to find a spot that was out of sight from anyone that would patrol the area that evening.
I cooked up two cans of baked beans and devoured a can of Pringles. I had only cycled 55 miles that day, but it was a day full of steep inclines. I packed up all my bags and practiced the triangle rule. Food preparation in one area. Food storage in another. Sleeping in another. If I was going to see a bear or mountain lion, this was the place. It was remote.
Stealth camping gives you a sense of paranoia. You are always wondering who is driving near you and if they’re going to see you. A vehicle was patrolling the area. My tent was set up in a small grove of trees and brush, and I was still paranoid. Every nearby car perked my ears.
The previous night was cold, but this night was by far the coldest of my tour. My water bottles froze, and I was getting cold in my sleeping bag. I fully enclosed myself, including my head, within the sleeping bag, trying to avoid the sharp cold air. Peeing was terrible. I didn’t want to do it, but it had to be done. Again, I’d just pee out the front of my tent without setting foot on the ground. Meanwhile, I would look up at the stars. Beautiful.