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Riding Route 66: Uphill all the way

Interesting character

Leroy Gonzalez, who says he is the mayor of Golden, demonstrates his fountain in front of his gold mine and cantina. Photo by David Freeze

Leroy Gonzalez, who says he is the mayor of Golden, demonstrates his fountain in front of his gold mine and cantina. Photo by David Freeze

Editor’s note: Rowan County resident David Freeze is off on his latest summertime cycling adventure. This time, he’s riding the famed Route 66 from California to Chicago.

I don’t remember this ever happening before. I was told at the bike shop yesterday afternoon that the farther I went on Route 66, the more uphill it would get. I wondered if that was really true but could see off my elevation maps that today would be a serious climbing day, and for sure it was. Several days ago, the highest point that I have found on Route 66 has topped out at 7,350 feet. I kept a picture of that elevation sign, thinking it would be something special. Not so much, because I topped 7,000 feet again today after starting out at about 5,000 feet in Albuquerque.

Not to dwell on the point too much, but as soon as I started riding from last night’s motel, it was lower gear pull, and Sandia Mountain was getting closer. The Adventure Cycling map and one of the Post readers, along with at least a couple more contacts, said, “You must ride the Turquoise Trail!” I chose to go that way to reach Santa Fe.

On the way to the first town of Tijeras, there was music coming from the side of the road and a couple of signs about it. I only heard it briefly, but it was definitely there. There were no houses or other people close by, but my guidebook said to be prepared to hear it. That was really cool because by that time I was climbing for all I was worth, making about five miles an hour. I read later that the music is America the Beautiful.

On through Cedar Chest and into San Antonito on Route 14, I stopped at a convenience store looking for egg biscuits because I needed a boost. What I found was a nice Hispanic lady making burritos right in front of people. I asked for one with eggs, potatoes and cheese. She couldn’t believe I wanted it without meat. Anyway, I don’t know if I have ever had such a good breakfast sandwich.

Next on the Turquoise Trail and Route 14 was La Madera and then Golden. I don’t yet know the history of Golden, but I know that it has one unusual character by the name of Leroy Gonzalez. He was out waving at everybody who drove by, and his place was so unusual that I just had to stop. Some of you might remember Mountain Man from my cross-country ride, who I have always counted as the most unusual character I have ever met. Leroy will push him pretty good for the top spot. He has two gold mines on his property, an Indian teepee, a huge dirt dog and cat and a fantastic bottle collection. That is just a drop in the bucket. He had a philosophy on everything including my running and bike riding, saying that I was wearing my body out quicker that way. I meant to stay for five minutes, but that became 20. He has a huge collection of photos and notes from people that have stopped over the years.

About halfway through my 67 miles for the day, I came upon Madrid. I was amazed at the place. It was a coal mining town that played out just after World War ll and then has been revived by a ton of some amazing artisans who could have kept my attention for a day. It is a must stop on the next time through.

Next, I kept my head down and pedaled for Santa Fe, finally arriving at just after 3 p.m. their time. But once again, I had to ride all the way to the other side of town to find my motel, the King’s Rest Court Inn. This Route 66 motel was built in the late 1930s and is as cool as can be. To begin with, Route 66 had a very early alignment that came to Santa Fe and a good many of those motels remain. But this is the oldest. The commode is in a very small room by itself, the ceiling is made out of logs and boards, and the room is huge. It is very clean and everything seems to work. I anticipate a good night’s sleep after I get some planning done for tomorrow’s long ride, hopefully to Santa Rosa.

Back briefly to the Turquoise Trail. It is about 45 miles long and takes the traveler through turquoise and coal mining country. Madrid, Golden and Cerillos are all revived ghost towns. Plus the view is spectacular of the valley below. I saw a kind of cactus that was rather unusual with its red and yellow flowers.

I didn’t get to see much of Albuquerque except Central Avenue which was the main drag for Route 66. Vivian Vance, better know as Ethel Mertz, was born there. I spent the night on trendy Nob Hill and got plenty of ice cream.

Enough about today. I am wearing out my shoes and building thigh muscles, yet still feeling pretty good. Tomorrow is going to be a challenge for sure because of limited overnight options. Time to start planning. I hope you are enjoying the ride as much as I am!

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