I got to thinking the other day: Cycling, Touring… and Trains.

For years I had been reading about how the forthcoming New Mexico Rail Runner included the accommodation for bicycles. I had never ridden the train let alone tried to bring a bicycle on board until this year. Earlier, I had joined the New Mexico Touring Society on a club ride to Belen which included a return trip via the Rail Runner and then once more recently during a ride to Santa Fe including another return trip via the Rail Runner. Each Rail Runner train car includes a couple of different locations for the placement of bicycles. As passengers and cyclist board, bicycles may be leaned against an area of wall space allocated for such things. Subsequent bicycles are stacked until approximately five or six bikes can be accommodated.

Many years had passed since I had last visited the Pecos Wilderness. I used to backpack there a lot. A quick check of distances using MapMyRide.com showed the distance from Santa Fe, NM to the Jack’s Creek Campground to be approximately 50 miles. A very doable distance for me on my new touring bike.

My tour actually began with my typical commuting ride to work on Friday morning, but with a fully loaded Sweet Escape III touring machine! As I arrived, it was clear that there was no way SE3 was going to fit in my little bike boxes at work. So I parked her just inside the smoking area for the rest of the day.

At 4pm I was out the door and caught the 4:35 pm train headed to Santa Fe. I must have read the schedule wrong because it didn’t arrive in Santa Fe until 6 pm. After the mandatory bicycle untangling period, I stood bewildered on the Santa Fe Depot platform waiting for my eTrex Legend GPS to reacquaint itself with the grid of invisible satellites overhead. Not that I wasn’t confident that I could figure it out, it was just my stubborn commitment to paperless touring.

Santa Fe, being one of the oldest and most popular destination cities in the US had never been subjected to much in the way of road planning, but I was pleasantly surprised to find navigating via GPS to be quiet easy and pleasant. Using the Track-Back feature on the Garmin Etrex Legend allowed me to follow a simple arrow making turn by turn moves through very light traffic and finally dumping me on the Old Las Vegas Highway north east of town.

I hadn’t created a track for the remainder of my trip and wasn’t exactly sure how much additional riding would be necessasry to get to my camp for the evening, so I mistakenly skipped any dinner stops and any convenience store stops along the way in favor of time. Mistake. Finally at 7:30, I rolled into the Rancheros de Santa Fe Campground… setting up my tent just in time for dark to fall. Luckily I carry “emergency” food and snack sin my gear and ate a dinner of what seemed compatible with a short SW airline flight: Nuts, fig newtons and Gatoraid.

It didn’t take long to get setup, showered and out of my riding clothes.  I took the unloaded SE3 for a ride around the property and back down the highway for a last glympse of the sunset over Santa Fe to the west.

Saturday had me up at 5 am with the singing birds and ready to roll by 7:15am.  My pre-breakfast Pop Tarts would get me the 20 or so miles into Pecos for a real meal.

Unfortunately, or fortunately in this case, I was forced to ride on Interstate 25 for a few miles as I climbed the 7500 foot summit toward Glorieta Pass.  I came across some sort of a roadside memorial slash museum in honor of the fallen during the battle of Apache Canyon in 1862.  Many interesting artifacts and journal copies describing the battle that day.

The climb, up and over Glorieta Pass was quite easy once I was able to filter out the interstate traffic.  Although I now proceeded without a shoulder to protect me, the highway leading to the village of Pecos cut its way through dense Ponderosa Pine forest including buildings old and new.

Before long I reached Pecos and luckily happened upon a man posting a yard sale sign who directed me to a local favorite restaurant:  Frankie’s.  I spent most of my time exploring the many artifacts covering the walls while I waited for my benchmark New Mexico breakfast:  Huevos Rancheros.

By mid morning, I had made good progress and decided to take a little break at the fish hatchery.  Disappointing that my rod and reel wouldn’t fit through the chainlink fence.

Most of my journey north from Pecos had me following the Pecos River itself.  There were many access points to the water with flyfishers and families enjoying the cool, clear running water.

As I moved higher in altitude the dense, narrow canyon walls pulled back to expose acre after acre of beautiful ranchland winding through open meadows covered in grass and flowers.

Terrero General Store is the last opportunity for supplies north into the wilderness and I stopped for a bit of rest and snack replenishing.  The hummers realized their last opportunity also with several hanging jugs of clear sweet fluid for their beating wings.

The slow, methodical pedalling northward allowed me the opportunity to see many things that I would otherwise overlook, including the most passive Longhorn cow/steer/bull/beef that I had ever seen.

North of Terrero and just before Cowles, every square inch of available camping space included some form of temporary camping shelter as well as the associated humans.  I stopped many times to photograph scenes which required little in the form of intentional composition or thought.

I carried my camera up front in a handlebar bag and enjoyed taking plenty of scenery pictures with a perfect sprinkling of clouds to highlite the background.

Upon arrival, the campground host informed me that I had lucked out as a site had just become available.  I shifted in high gear and got my tent setup just in time for a two hour downpour that cooled the area off nicely while I napped.

Morning broke against a clear sky with cool temperatures and I packed while wearing all my available layers until the sun decided to spread across the ground around me.  I knew the dropping from 9000 feet on a 14% grade was going to be fun and I wasn’t disappointed.  Most of my early morning journey along the Pecos valley was in the shadow of the canyon walls and I shared the cool morning with a few early risers.

By 10 am, the sun was heating things nicely and I stripped down to one cycling layer for the remainder of the trip.

Coming down from an early morning temperature of 50 degrees at 9000 feet meant that temperatures rose quickly and before I knew it, I was cycling in 95 degree weather.  Luckily most of the return trip was downhill and included a cool break for lunch at The Pecos Trail Cafe and although it didn’t pass my parking lot test, the chicken stuffed sopaipilla with green chile was EXCELLENT!

I dragged my feet as much as possible, not looking forward to sitting in the heat of the Santa Fe Rail Runner station waiting for the 3:20 train, but took advantage of an open table overlooking my bike from the nearby Flying Star restaurant.

Upon boarding, I isolated my-JustRidden60MilesIn95Degree-self away from all else in the comfortable air conditioned cabin of the Rail Runner and napped for the hour long, 9 dollar journey back to Albuquerque.

The final torturous 8 miles didn’t come easy and I rolled back into the driveway just after 5pm to enjoy an ice cold beer while I unpacked.

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