Day 50: Mimbres to Silver City - 32 miles

I had a very rude awakening in the morning; it transpired that my impromptu campsite was directly across the road from a quarry and rock crushing plant. They started promptly at 07:00 to that put paid to any chance of a sleep in.

As has been the case of late, the morning was cold. In fact, there was ice on my bike helmet where condensation from the tent had collected and frozen. I was in no hurry to emerge until the sun took the chill out of the air so I had breakfast in my sleeping bag and caught up with the latest happenings in the world on the BBC. It's quite ironic that I couldn't find any local stations on AM/FM but could clearly pick up London. I must admit that in my books the BBC are streets ahead of any other broadcaster so I've really appreciated being able to get them on my radio throughout most of the trip.

Eventually it was safe to emerge without risk of frosbite so I packed up and headed out about 09:00. I cycled 5 miles down to the town of Mimbres where there was a shop and petrol station. I got a drink and a danish. Most of the latter ended up in the trash; I don't know how anyone could regularly eat such rubbish.

Some hunters drove up towing a trailer with 6 horses in it. I commented that they seemed to be confident of success and they responded 'that is never in doubt'. After they filled their tyres from the air pump I put in some extra air to my rear tyre that I changed yesterday. The bike drove much better. I had replaced the tyre in Salida and the new tyre has a much weaker sidewall than my previous tyre and I really notice when it is low on air; the bike seems to 'weave' its way down the road.

I was now ready to hit the hills and head over to Silver City. I backtracked a short distance and turned onto Georgetown Road. Not only was it fairly steep, but as the photo below shows, the surface left a bit to be desired. That was to be the case for the next 8+ miles.


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The road went up into the hills and was very winding. It probably dates back from a stage coach route. As I climbed from the Mimbres river valley it was amazing how quickly the flora changed. Gone were the trees and grasses, replaced by desert scrub and lots of cactus. The latter came in several different shapes and sizes, as shown in the photos below.


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The road alternated between a good surface and one that was barely rideable. The culpret was often creeks which crossed the road. Rather than have a culvert or a ford they have just been allowed to flow across the pavement, usually cutting it and almost invariably leaving deposits of angular rocks of all shapes and sizes. Just the type that bicycle tyres love ...

I was surprised to pass someone walking down the road. There were no houses or any sign of development so what he was doing there was beyond me. He didn't have a pack or anything, seemed to just out for a stroll. He asked how it was going and as I was crossing through another debris field while going uphill I said "it's hard work". He replied that at least I wasn't walking to which I responded "true ... but look at my load". He laughed and we parted.

I was surprised to find a cemetery at the top of a hill so I stopped. The sign said that it was 'Georgetown Cememtary' and I went in for a look. It was very well kept. From the tombstones it was obvious that it dated from about 1870, but as I wandered about I noticed that some had been buried there in the last 10 years in what where obviously family plots. The strange thing was that there was no town, houses or any sign of civilisation around; just this cemetery plonked down in the middle of nowhere. I later found out that Georgetown was once a thriving mining town but when the ore ran out the town vanished -- except for the cemetary.


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I found it interesting to note how many of those buried there where children, some as young as a few days old. Life was tough in those times. There was one poignant inscription 'to my much beloved wife' who was aged only 15 years old! Unlike many other old cemeteries I've visied elsewhere, the inscriptions were all quite legible. This is probably due to the dry climate wherein they are no subjected to the 'waterblasting' away of the inscriptions.

The downhill run to Highway 152 was one of navigating around more debris on the road so it was not as much fun as it should have been. As I approached the bottom I saw in the distance the Santia Rita mine. This is a copper mine where copper was taken as early as 1800 for minting coins in Mexico City.  The mine tailings looked above the horizon.


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The route passed by the mine's recreational facilities which were overgrown and obviously no longer in use. Perhaps they dated back to when minining was more of a labour intensive activity, or it may be that it was from a closed mining company. The disused baseball field had the poignent sign on it 'Field of Dreams'. One wonders what happened to all the dreams of the workers and their families.

I turned onto the highway and it was nice to be back on pavement again. There was a very wide shoulder which was great, even if it had a lot of debris on it (the perennial Budwiser beer bottles and cans). It was quite hilly and at the top of one hill they had a sign for the lookout to the Santa Clara Pit Mine. I was impressed by the size of the hole they have dug; the photo below doesn't really do it justice.


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The hole is a real blight on the landscape but since we all enjoy the benefits of mining how can one criticise or complain?

The road seemed to cross a lot of hills so it was not flat, but having crossed so many mountains so far I didn't find the cycling particularly difficult; just a bit tiresome. The good news was that while I would have a lot of hills ahead of me for the next few days, I was done with the mountains. At the top of one hill I could see the desert stretching away from me towards Mexico.


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After lots of ups and downs I reached Santa Clara and turned towards my destination Silver City. The road was lined with billboards so I knew that it was 8 miles to McDonalds; 5.5 miles to Kentucky Fried Chicken; 5 miles to Subway, etc. The countdown was on. After a week of roughing it I was looking forward to a hot shower, clean clothes and food that wasn't from my limited larder.

As I approached the top of a hill before town I saw a sign that the next mile had the garbage cleared by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That was great news since it was Friday and I could attend church the following day. Unfortunately, they hadn't been doing their job clearing the roadside rubbish; it was one of the most rubbish strewn stretches I had seen on my trip.

The road continued in roller-coaster fashion and just over the top of another hill I came across a Wal-Mart store. I was quite hungry and looked pretty rough, but I needed food for the next 5 days and wasn't keen in cycling back up again once I got a motel so I went in. In a forelorn attempt at making myself presentable I went to the restroom and washed up a bit. It was a shock to look in the mirror for the first time in a week. Definitly time for a shower and shave.

I bought a few supplies as well as a Newsweek magazine to catch up on what's been happening. After a snack sitting in the sun I loaded my food into my paniers and set off to find a motel.

The first one I came to was an Econo Lodge. That would do. Lis and I enjoyed the one we stayed at in Salida and I knew I would be able to get my e-mails. When I went to the desk they told me they were full! How depressing since this could mean that I would have problems elsewhere as well. I asked the manager if she could suggest somewhere else as I was cycling and quite wacked. She looked me over, took pity and said that I could have their disabled room as she didn't expect the person to come. While the price was more than I wanted to pay I accepted gratefully and soon moved all my gear into the room.

It was wonderful to have a hot shower and a shave. I felt human again. I then did some laundry while answering my 50+ e-mails that had accumulated in the last week. Normally there are a lot more but my wife Lis is screening them and forwarding only the ones that she and my manager Paul can't handle.

As the day was getting on I decided to cycle into town and get dinner. When I was at Beaverhead Work Centre the woman moving from Washington D.C. advised me to go to the Pinon Cafe in Silver City as it had an excellent cook from New York. I cycled into town and found the cafe in the old business district.

It was wonderful to be in a real restaurant with lots of vegetarian food to choose from. I made a guts of myself but so what. I had earned it. My waiter had a chuckle at how much I put away but when I told him I had cycled 300+ miles through the mountains in the last week he understood. I finished off with an ice cream at Dairy Queen before returning to my room to call Lis.

Having reached Silver City I am now on the last segment of my maps. It's a good feeling. As I enjoyed the luxury of sleeping in a real bed, clean and with clean clothes to wear, I was pleased that this adventure would be over in a week. However, at the same time I was regretting that my simple and uncomplicated life was soon to end and I would be coming back to reality with normal responsibilities and expectations.a

On to the next day ...

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