Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Road Biking Around Canyon de Chelly

Antelope House Pullout 
This past weekend, for my Birthday, I went out for a pretty good ride, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  The weather has been nice - in the mid 50's but just for a small window of time during the day.  Even though it's a bit cold up at The College - and still some snow left melting away - there seems to be this invisible snow-line when the temperature is like 15 degrees warmer - suddenly the hills don't feel so big and bad after all!.  I'm 52 now and think that this is the time to do things head-on.  For instance, if the opportunity arises to put in some miles (good weather, clear roads, etc) well then mes amis - let's go!

I've ridden down to the first pullouts on Hwy 64, which runs North-South along the boundary of the Monument - those were Mummy Cave and Massacre Cave.  There and back to The College is just at 30 miles.  For a Birthday Jones, I wanted to ride down to the next pullout, which would be Antelope House, roughly 7 more miles down from those first pullouts.

Like the other pullouts, you go it about a mile or so, then you're in the Park.  There are fast rollers but as always, be careful for cattle, horses, and donkeys.   Maybe when it gets warmer they'll be more slow driving tourists - which I don't mind, but back at Saguaro Nat'l Park in Tucson, sometimes a visitor would be standing in the middle of the road with a camera - to get that perfect shot - then suddenly you're zipping around a curve and you just miss hitting them!  Be careful, mes amis!

I made it to Antelope House, but just the parking lot.  To go see the view, you have to walk about a quarter of a mile on a path.  I might do it sometime when I drive down - just too hard to walk in the bike shoes.  But there was on old Navajo Woman with her hand-made jewelry spread out on the hood of her car there waiting for tourists.  I should have stopped and got me something for my Birthday - I waved at Grandma and she laughed and waved back - I was on my way home.  I would have some climbing to do, and the weather changes quickly.

Chuska Mountains and a Friend
I tend to stop and look while I ride, if the mood strikes me - certainly now since a lot of this is new scenery.  I'd probably have a better average speed, but I need to slow down a bit and get out the camera.  Click to see a bigger image of this if you want, but it's the Chuska Mtn Range up where I live.  To the right is Tsaile Peak and about eight miles Northeast of The College.

I've just pulled out of the Park and now I'm here at Hwy 64.  It was a very pleasant ride down, and landmarks help me find the Antelope House Pullout because the sign going down South is missing.  I told the Park Ranger at the Visitor's Center a few weeks ago and they were like "Again?"

Anyway, I liked how the cloud and the mountain seem to be having a lazy afternoon together.  So much snow up here, and then temps in the 50's!  Up in higher elevation, the road had been plowed, so the snow was melted and the road, and the shoulder very clean!

Even though the Sun is bright and warm, I still need to dress in some layers.  If you keep moving you're okay, but if you stop, you'll get cold quickly.

Tsaile Peak and the Invisible Line
At some point, what some people have told me is "The Invisible Line" the temp, the light, the plants, and the air change - and then there's snow.  I will discover for us, Gentle Reader of This Blog, the exact location!  But I have to say, I enjoy the route and the traffic is low.  There is a silence that is big here - mostly the clouds start to move in - and most importantly - I get a boost from an awesome tailwind!  The best thing about this ride is going home - a tailwind that makes most of the ride effortless!

There is a long straight-away, probably about two miles, where I'm up in the High Country for sure.  Snow blankets the landscape.  Around here I am pretty sure it was an Elk that came out of the trees, stopped in the middle of the road - took a bewildered look at me - them gracefully bound up into the trees on the other side.  I say Elk because it was big - was black - and I have seen lots of deer in my time and this was not built like those.  It had no rack so maybe a female?  

As always with deer, or Elk (I don't know about Elk) you wait for the rest to follow - but just this one is all I saw. I told some people about it, and they asked where - they say it could have been an Elk but was probably a big deer.  A long-time Dine College friend told me they introduced a herd of Elk up around The College, "Years ago," which means before I was born maybe.  "Yeah, could have seen an Elk on your bike... Probably not though...  But it's happened..."

Tsaile below, The College just off to the right.
From here I'll have a very fast descent down to The College Trailer Park, which is great to have at the end of a long ride.  Of course, coming up this pass, first thing out the door, is a killer, mes amis.  When I look at my Garmin download right here is where my heart-rate hits the max!  Going home is okay and really I'm ready to just take it easy.  The descent is one of those where you quickly gain a lot of speed, and then you have two very sharp turns that are blind.  

The Mighty Trek
About 40 miles, and they were good ones.  I was dressed right, but maybe could have had more water. I noticed that I quickly used up two bottle this time out.  I should probably have a third in the back of the jersey when I'm out for a longer ride. 

I feel that I can easily now ride all the way down to The Visitor's Center - 30 miles - and back with not so much trouble.  That will be a good goal.  Then I'll not bore you with the little details of this road so much, and concentrate on getting the ride done at a good pace, and then try to continually improve.

Probably what I will do is ride down to The Visitor's Center, and then stop in at the Lodge for breakfast!  That is a blog post I'm looking forward too!

Cheers!  Bruce


Dan Trued said...

Beautiful country out there, Bruce. Summer will probably be interesting don't you think? Saw David at Saguaro East last weekend, should have taken a pic of him. He never remembers me, until I say "from the brevets", it's funny.


Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Hi Dan! Yeah Dave Glasgow is the fixture there - he's slowed down some now that he's 78 years old... I don't hear from him that often so good to know he's still around! Take care, Cheers! Bruce