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Day 15: Alamogordo, NM to Cloudcroft, NM

22 Miles - Hard Climb, 4,000+ Foot Vertical Gain, Nice Day In Mountains of Cloudcroft - March 6, 2011

IHOP Breakfast I woke up earlier than usual and had breakfast at a nearby IHOP. Good eating! :)

To be honest, I struggled this morning. I didn't feel like going. I thought about some of my friends who had been with me so far: Brian in California, all my friends in Phoenix and Tom and his Racing For Cancer SAG wagon. Maybe these previous blessings made me spoiled, because I wanted more of that ... right now.

Instead I felt lonely and disheartened. Morale was low. Of course, quitting wasn't an option, and I knew there'd be hard moments like this. Somehow, I sucked it up and went.

Alamogordo, New Mexico I biked north through Alamogordo, then turned east on Highway 82 in a neighboring town named La Luz, NM.

Interestingly, Highway 82 begins here and travels all the way to the Georgia coast. This road has some sentimental value to me, for on my first ride, I biked on Highway 82 from Gainesville, Texas to the Atlantic Ocean. This time, I'd only take Highway 82 for a few days before going on my own in eastern New Mexico.

The intensity of the climb began here. 16 miles might not seem like much, but get ready ...

Cloudcroft Bicycle Climb The climb steepened for miles. Agony!
Roadside Memorial

I stopped frequently to rest. Near a curve in the road, I spotted this memorial. Often these caught my interest, but I rarely stopped. Well, that wasn't the case here. With my body hurting so much, I had another great reason to rest.

Written on the horizontal part of the cross was her name, Kristen. A card with a handwritten message from a family member was touching to read. I felt sad. Surely death awaits us all, and an untimely tragic end can happen to any of us.

I remembered when Tom dedicated his Safford to Lordsburg ride to my late father, and what that meant to me. Surely it's better to give than receive. And so, for the remainder of this ride, I dedicated my ride to Kristen and her family. It was the least I could do.

Second Photo: My bike against a stake as I stood at the memorial.

Soon, I had ascended high enough to take in this view of Alamogordo, White Sands National Monument and mountains beyond.


The Tunnel

And then I reached the tunnel.

Let me say up front: This is a tunnel for cyclists to be prepared for! I strongly recommend bicycle lights while in the tunnel, especially if you don't have the protection of a SAG wagon or friendly vehicle following directly behind you. In retrospect, I didn't have lights. The length of the tunnel was about 0.2 miles, and I rode fast enough that I didn't have an encounter of a car trying to pass me. But if traffic is heavy, this would be a dangerous section for cyclists.

Admission: Before I went through the tunnel, I rested one last time at an overlook with markers about the region's geology. Tourists had parked about the same time and went hiking on a trail. I passively hoped we would have struck up a conversation, for I might have asked them to be my protection vehicle through the tunnel, but it wasn't in the cards.

Adjacent are two photos, with the second taken as I looked back at the tunnel.

High Rolls, New Mexico

High Rolls, New Mexico

And then the topography gods had mercy on me, at least for a few tenths of mile in High Rolls, New Mexico.

High Rolls General Store, NM

High Rolls General Store, NM

Breakfast Burrito

I had to stop at the general store.

By the way, don't be intimidated by this man's tattoos, piercings and overall largeness. This gentleman is the owner and one friendly guy! From the interactions with him and another customer, it became clear the culture had changed from desert to mountains. People in the Sacramento Mountains are laid-back and have a deep love of their mountains. As a Coloradan, these people were my kin. :)

I ate a breakfast burrito in front of the store and wasted some time, but I knew I needed to get back to today's task. This was only halftime. I had much more climbing to do on Highway 82.

Cloudcroft, NM Climb The ascent continued.
Bicycle Speedometer Often I was in the 3-5 mph range. Eeesh!

I passed a teenager and his friends who were looking under the hood of their disabled vehicle. I was biking so slowly - not much faster than the pace of someone walking - and I think one of the teens laughed at me. Pity bicyclists who toil up this road! :p)

Cloudcroft, NM Climb It had been hours since I started my ride in Alamogordo.

Up on the right, I noticed a cut in the road. Will I be ascending up there? Yes.

I passed a guy who was putting a spare tire on his vehicle.

"It looks like you're doing okay, right?" I asked tenderly. He nodded.

Cloudcroft, New Mexico Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Cloudcroft, New Mexico

The sign says it all. A 4,315 foot elevation gain!

If there was ever a time to brag or boast, it would be here. I was so proud of myself. Friend, if you've ever biked from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft, you've got my respect. In fact, we should have an exclusive club for those of us who've done it! ;)

Update: In 2013, I created a Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/544677142231777.

Cloudcroft, NM If there were people in cars glaring at me as I snapped this picture, I didn't care. In fact, I wanted them to see me. Damn right, I biked up here people! :)

Cloudcroft, New Mexico
Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Cloudcroft, New Mexico is a high elevation mountain town. With much cooler temperatures, this is a popular vacation destination for those seeking relief from the sweltering desert heat in the summer. I also learned many Texans and others on the plains gravitate to the mountains for the scenery, skiing and many outdoor recreation opportunites.

It was early afternoon when I arrived in Cloudcroft. Surely I could have gone farther, but today was an example of how placement of lodging played a factor. Beyond Cloudcroft, there was only lodging in Mayhill (16 miles) and Artesia (90 miles). I knew I had some extra riding in me, and in fact, everything would be downhill from here. But I didn't feel good about the one place in Mayhill that called itself a "hotel" and Artesia was too far.

As I meandered on my bike in Cloudcroft, it felt like home. It looked like a relaxed Colorado town - like what Woodland Park probably was 50 years ago before it became a bustling bedroom community of Colorado Springs. I saw quaint shops. Buildings made of logs. Even patches of snow and ice in the forest. It felt right to stay in Cloudcroft.

Texas Pit BBQ

I had an excellent lunch at Texas Pit Barbeque. The restaurant had a western feel with quirky decorations.

I asked the waitress for a recommendation on a decent and affordable motel in Cloudcroft, and she suggested ...

Texas Pit BBQ

Texas Pit BBQ Texas Pit BBQ

Alta Vista Motel

Ahhh this was a great lodging choice. I rested most of the day, and made only one more walk to Cloudcroft.

Glowing from my tough ride today, I snapped this self-portrait in front of my motel room. Happiness!

Alta Vista Motel New Mexico
By now, I was becoming an expert in rating hotels and motels, and the Alta Vista Motel impressed me: The nice bedspread, the fireplace (that I was encouraged to use!), the stringed lights around parts of the wall and the western decorations.

A vast difference from the no-frills motels I mainly stayed at, it looked like the owner put effort into decorating this room. It felt like I was staying in someone's spare guest room in their cozy Cloudcroft mountain home.

Alta Vista Motel New Mexico Alta Vista Motel New Mexico
... And there was also this cowboy-themed couch. Love it!

As for the remainder of the day, I mainly laid in bed and watched TV. I watched Forrest Gump and got very inspired to take on the rest of my cross-country tour. And no, it had nothing to do with Forrest running back and forth across America. I will say the movie got me teary-eyed, only the first of two times that I would cry on this grand journey.

Want your own inspiration? Maybe the theme song will help get you started. :)

Alta Vista Motel New Mexico

More good stuff about the motel: In the bathroom, a sign explained it was a two-handle shower. Often, I would be in a motel shower and would have no idea which knob was for hot water and would tinker with it in frustration as the water ran. And then sometimes it would take a long time for the hot water to kick on in the first place. None of that nonsense here.

I know I sound like a commercial, but if you stay in Cloudcroft, I recommend this place. I hope your stay is as good as mine. Their website is www.altavistamotelcloudcroft.com.

Two Handle Shower

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