What a difference a day and a half makes. I hit the road today with the strongest, freshest legs I've felt under me while riding. After a couple miles of spinning to warm up, I soon decided to light it. Head down, I geared up and just cranked uphill for 17 miles. At one point, the road switched back on itself revealing 200-300 of elevation gain in just one pass. Gears will always fascinate me.
The backside of that mountain provided one of the most exhilarating downhills of my life, darting around a truck as I awkwardly wrapped my body around the frame like those freaks on the tour. The road spilled out into a vast valley where winds gusting to 50 mph appeared reticent to let me be on my way.
However, once that was clear, and after a short but steep climb, it was off to the races again with a narrow, winding downhill pushing 45 mph most of the way. The single lane road had no shoulder and its sides were so close that the Fall branches created a cozy canopy enveloping the road. Through the trees shone glimpses of the palisades lining the canyon as the rustle of loose leaves gently punctuated the Doppler whir of my passing freewheel.
The landscape opened up revealing an endless plain dotted with sagebrush. A tumbleweed direct from central casting, crossed my path and I couldn't help but laugh at the Western exemplar my riding experience had become. No sooner than I made that realization and a huge bull elk leaps out in front and me and bounds across the road. I was within 40 feet and my heart stopped at the sight of such a massive beast. Just as soon as I caught my breath, another elk of the same size followed his buddy across the road, heaving his weight with unforgettable force.
It is hard to appreciate the power and beauty of such creatures until proximity to them inevitably reminds you of whose house you are in. And so, as the road continued for tens of miles straight to my destination I delighted in views of pronghorn antelope, deer, and a few herd of bison on the fabled range.
The 93 mile day wound up just a few hours after it started and I flopped into my motel bed in Raton, NM for an afternoon nap. Chicken fried chicken awaited me for dinner and I didn't want to dive in to such a treat while groggy. You know?