It was freezing this morning in Raton, New Mexico. Both, figuratively and literally. I bundled up and broke out my winter tights and full-fingered gloves. But, it seemed nothing was enough to take the bite out of the air. Dawn broke only on the hilltops surrounding town while I shivered in the valley on the front end of a 91 mile stretch.
Yet, the first 17 miles out of town brought a consistent uphill culminating in a couple miles of 7-9% grade. Normally, that is enough to warm one up. However, when that same climb is taking you over 7500 feet into 25 mph winds, fat chance.
Thus, the morning was a grind and I found it hard to establish any rhythm. Nevertheless, the mesa across which I pedaled was hallmarked by a startling abundance of deer, antelope, and turkeys all of which were the impetus for frost-defying smiles.
The towns through which I have ridden so far almost all bear the scars of economic misfortune and systemic shift away from agriculture. Downtowns are chronically vacant and dilapidated and the houses project tales of unarguably hard times.
Most of you who read this site come form the coasts of the US or from the UK. Each of us has been impacted by the madness of the last couple years in our own ways, and we all have our individual struggles. Nevertheless, it pains me to see entire communities at risk of extinction throughout this part of the American West.
I often find myself stopping my ride in the midst of this silent despair, and pausing to envision the brighter days for these towns. It isn't hard to imagine their parades and football games, their parks full of families, their theaters letting out entertained patrons, and their cafes bubbling with chatter. Yet, now these places are empty. Boarded up. Abandoned.
In the shadow of the contemplative morning, the 40 miles remaining boasted a 25-30 mph tailwind. Oh, how good it felt to finally have my Irish ancestry deliver on its proverb about the road rising to meet me and the wind at my back. I turned on the afterburners and powered in so fast that I once again ran out of gearing at around 35 mph so just hovered there for an hour. Nothing like a little boost from nature to leave you feeling strong.
And, so it is with a heavy heart and fresh legs that I post tonight from Clayton, New Mexico, a one stoplight outpost near the Oklahoma border.