Monday, May 23, 2011

Ride to Santa Fe, NM

My trip began Saturday morning, after a leisurely breakfast, house- and cat-check.  I was on the road at 8:30 AM, heading for the Beltway to go west and then north toward 290.  I met friend Keith at La Madeleine for a brief croissant and coffee break, and then we got onto 290 to head northwest to Brenham and onto 36 northbound. 

We couldn't have asked for more perfect riding weather!  The giant windmills along this route in central Texas were working overtime in the brisk winds.  Miles and miles of them, lined up like soldiers in the plowed cotton fields in these small towns that line the highway between Temple and Abilene. The fields themselves appeared freshly plowed and furrowed, perhaps seeded, but I was uncertain of this.  It's been so dry everywhere in Texas.  Would the farmers plant the fields in the face of a severe drought?  Remnants of past crops dotted the fields.  Cotton bolls were snagged in the roadside brush and weeds, and the occasional "volunteer" cotton plant could be seen here and there in the fields and along the perimeter.

I had carefully mapped out our route, including our gas stops and our lunch break.  My Google Satellite research found a neat restaurant in Gatesville called the Rancher Steak & Grill.  When we got there it was about 1:15, a little after the lunch hour and the parking lot was nearly empty.  The restaurant itself was a big barn of a place, with booths lining the walls and dozens of tables in the center of the room.  A salad bar lined one wall.   I ordered a cheeseburger, Keith a sausage sandwich.  There were a number of sandwiches to choose from, but the main page of the menu was filled with hearty dinner choices such as large steaks, chops, chicken.    We shared a slice of chocolate cream pie and then we were back on the road by 2:15 PM with nothing between us and Sweetwater but one more gas stop and a slip around the eastern edge of Abilene to I-20 west.

By the time we passed through Abilene, the temperature was 95 degrees, and we were feeling it.   The sight of Sweetwater exit signs on I-20 were a welcome site.  The Best Western in Sweetwater was new and nice, and had a number of dinner choices within easy walking distance.     Subway won our business that night.

We were eager to get back on the road the next morning and to get further north where the temps would be cooler at higher altitudes.  We departed the hotel at 7:30 AM which, in fact, is 6:30 AM in New Mexico where we are heading.    The morning temps were very nice and, if anything, it became cooler in places along our route.

We climbed through 4,000 feet elevation and into the 5,000's, and then the 6,000's.  As we passed through the tiny town of Sudan I noticed smoke coming from in front of the town fire station.  A quick look in that direction and I could see two huge smokers in use, a small group of folks out front.  Looks like a fundraiser BBQ about to happen!  Too bad it was only 10:30 in the morning or I would have pulled over and had lunch!  But...much too soon!  I had Clovis in mind as a good lunch stop destination.  There wouldn't be much beyond that point until we got to Santa Rosa interchange at I-40.  This is a scheduled gas stop but it would be close to 1:30 before we'd pass through there. 

We got to Clovis at around 11:30 CDT and stopped at a McDonald's.  When we got inside to the counter, I thought, "What's going on?  They're still showing the breakfast menu!"  Then it dawned on me:  We'd crossed over into New Mexico and into Mountain time zone.  It was only 10:30 AM.  Keith ordered breakfast and I waited about 5 minutes for them to change the menu over so that I could order lunch.  They had some little picnic tables out front and we had a nice outdoor meal in the pleasant shade.  It was hard to get moving again, the weather was so glorious!

We continued 60 miles west beyond Clovis to Fort Sumner then headed straight north to I-40 and our last gas stop before reaching Santa Fe.  I-40 west to US 285 was a long, straight, windy ride into the sun.  On the other hand, US 285 was pleasant and became surprisingly interesting the further north we got. 

Finally we reached I-25, went south to Santa Fe and then took our exit onto St. Francis heading north toward our home for the next 5 days.

Tomorrow we'll explore the town on foot, and then Tuesday we'll head out for some national parks and some NPT stamping.

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