Sunday, October 26, 2008

Part 20 Lon's First Cross Country in 1981

Part 20
Our crew woke up in the dark at 4:00 AM. We were going to try to ride across Albuquerque before the traffic got busy this morning. We had to ride 35 miles to the outskirts of the city. There are several big rolling climbs of three miles each on the west side of Albuquerque. Most of them I could climb in the big chainring and coast down at 30 mph. Once I got off Interstate 40 the route across Albuquerque was on Old Route 66 which is also called Central Avenue. It is considered the longest main street of any town in America. The final decent into town was down what the locals called Nine Mile Hill. The steepest part is about two miles long and it was possible to coast at 50 mph. (for comparison in 1986 Susan Notorangelo and I reached 62 mph during our tandem transcontinental record).

Central Avenue goes for 17 miles until it merges with I-40 again on the east side of town. My dad had arranged another police escort across the city. It had been my first escort since I had been in Albuquerque on my way west a week earlier. The two police cars leap frogged and closed the intersections as I rode across the city. The escorts are always exciting and I maintained a steady 20 mph pace. When I got back on the interstate I began the steady climb up Tijeras Canyon. The trill of the escort was over and now it was time for the long grade up to Clines Corners.

After the first 15 mile grade out of Albuquerque the terrain opens up to the wide plains near Moriarty. The winds were favorable and the climbs were manageable in the big chainring. The biggest annoyance in New Mexico was the chip seal shoulder on the interstate. I-40 had been converted from two lane Route 66 to Interstate ten years earlier. The new lanes were made to temporary standards without the good pavement that is common on interstates today. The four lane interstate was more like two parallel country roads with rough shoulders.

As I headed east it was encouraging to see familiar landmarks from my trip west the week before. The gift shop at Clines Corners still had billboards every three miles advertising moccasins and rattlesnake tail jewelry. The billboards with the fatman’s face were still promoting the Club Cafe in Santa Rosa. The yellow Stukeys Restaurant signs tempted travels with the nutritious breakfast of one egg, toast and jelly of ninety-nine cents. I just kept riding. Our crew was in auto drive now. Everything was going smooth without any bike of vehicle troubles.

I reached Tucumcari, New Mexico before sundown and turned left on Route 54. It was good to finally get off the interstate. The noise of passing trucks was getting old. I would be on Route 54 now for the next five states until the middle of Illinois. Navigation was easy but this highway still had its share of trucks who liked to drive fast. We learned to anticipate when two trucks were about to meet near us and we would get off the road onto the grass shoulder.

Sundown came a little earlier because we had moved further east. We stopped to sleep near Logan, New Mexico. I had traveled 270 miles today which was a little better than average. I was hoping the same winds that I had battled by riding at 11 mph on my way west would be helping me tomorrow.



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