Part 11 Lon's Cross Country 1981
I was starting to feel better with the daily routine of riding 250 miles per day. My low point had been in Kansas and the previous night near Clines Corners, New Mexico. Reaching Albuquerque, New Mexico was a symbolic landmark in the Double Transcontinental. I felt that I had reached the old west I remembered from cowboy movies. The dramatic landscape and tall sky had a vastness unlike the terrain of the midwest. Albuquerque was 280 years old and it had a feeling of old and new as I rode across town on old Route 66. There was a mixture of tan adobe building scattered between the rows of glass strip malls. Central Avenue is 17 miles from end to end and claims to be the Longest Main Street in America. As I reached the west side of town I climbed up the ridge on Nine Mile Hill. The straight highway grade started at 2 %, then to 5% and then tilted to 7% near the top. From the west side you can look back over 25 miles of sprawling city to Tijeras Canyon on the east side where I had been two hours earlier.
By the time I left Albuquerque it was mid morning. I was back on I-40 again with the chip seal shoulder. The interstate rolled into the distance with shallow grades. Near the white chapel at Old Laguna I stopped at a highway rest area for a snack. There was an outdoor pit toilet there. I went in the toilet and noticed the pit was filled with dried crap all the way to the brim of the toilet. I lost my appetite and my desire to use the bathroom. I remarked to the crew that the New Mexico Highway Department just builds and new rest area when they need one instead of cleaning the toilets.
As I headed toward the town of Grants my support car warned me that a house was catching me. There were no police escorts or warning vehicles. Behind us taking up both lanes of the interstate was a building on a flat bed truck that resembled a classic train depot. It had truck wheels on all corners and was moving about 35 mph and catching us. My support car and I pulled into the ditch as the house passed by. About 50 vehicles and trucks were behind waiting to get past the house. After passing us the house then drove into the median at about 20 mph to allow everyone to pass. I thought the whole structure was going to tip over and fall off the wheels as it coasted to a stop. We proceeded on again and kept a watch behind us. The house never caught us again.
When I rode through Grants I noticed that I-40 bypassed downtown. The road through town was Old Rt. 66 and the green interstate sign was called Bus. 1-40. Just then a Greyhound bus past me. I saw several more buses downtown. I must be on the bus route I thought. The signs for Bus. I-40 must mean that is the way buses should go. It took me several more towns before I understood Bus. I-40 stood for Business Loop I-40. My knowledge of the American road system was growing.
Between Grants and Gallup, New Mexico is the Continental Divide. The grade is a shallow 3% - 4% most of the way. The headwind is more of a factor than the climb. As I reached the summit at about 7,250’ I expected to look out and see the shores of the Pacific Ocean. At the top of each rolling hill I kept waiting to see the distant coastline. I didn’t really have a good perspective on how much further I had to go to reach Los Angeles. In my mind I had forgot about the State of Arizona. I had about 600 miles to go to the ocean. I had been on the road for 10 days. I was counting down the miles before I reached the turn around and had to start do it all again. Only next time it had to be faster.