Southern Tier: Silver City, NM to El Paso, TX

It’s election day in the States. Not that it matters; just an observation.

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Before leaving Silver City, I ride to the downtown area to see it in morning light. There is hardly anyone on the streets in cool bright morning. After a delicious coffee in “Diane’s” bakery and a quick grocery shopping, I check out from the motel and head east.

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According to the “main” route, I am supposed to visit the “Gila Cliff Dwellings”. I’m sure it’s beautiful and interesting, but that’s a 70-mile detour, and the weather does not seem appealing to go up north, so I take the alternate; highway 152 East. On the way, I come across the oldest copper mine in the States, the Santa Rita Copper Mine. It’s working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, since 1910. A mile across and 1,600 ft deep. All this is done to extract %0.6 copper from raw dirt.

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My plans to cross the Emory Pass the same day is crushed by the fierce headwinds. To my dismay, storm clouds hug the peaks, too. I do not want to go to the other side only to be welcomed by rain; I camp at the Upper Gallinas CG. A deer hunter and a woman from “Truth or Consequences” (yes that’s the town’s name) pass by.

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Another four miles later and a bit of remaining headwind, I am at the Emory Pass next morning. The view from the pass is impressive. When Lt. W.H. Emory passed through this region in 1846 with the “Army of the West”, it still belonged to Mexico. It’s 8 miles of steep descent into Rio Grande basin from here.

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At the bottom of the descent there are a couple of small towns, then a reservoir named Caballo Lake. It happens to have decent facilities, including showers, but I want to take advantage of the northern tailwind today.

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Towns of Arrey, Derry, Garfield, Salem and Hatch all seem to deal with chillies. Red pepper fields paint the horizon, people drying peppers on the ground, dried chillies hung with strings in shops for sale. The air smells peppery.

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The sunset catches me again before I reach that day’s camp site, Leasburg Dam at Radium Springs. When I reach the site around 6pm in total darkness, a couple of westbound British cyclists greet me and we exchange stories, but I am tired; I just want to make some dinner and sleep.

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After an uninteresting Las Cruces lies a touristy town, Mesilla. Adobe houses painted in desert colours abound. I meet a group of cyclists having coffee and join for another cup.

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Beyond Mesilla, Rio Grande is no more, just a dried stream. Granted, it’s a very shallow and wide river and I guess all it takes to fill it up is an afternoon rain in the mountains nearby. It has changed it’s course so wildly in the past that choosing it as a border line between Texas and Mexico proved to be a mistake.

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If you are wondering where all the world’s pecans come from, it must be from towns San Miguel, La Mesa and Chamberino. Two dog chases later I go into a bike path along the river bed and follow it until I hit a dirt road. Suddenly I’m in Texas, riding behind a school bus with screaming kids in an El Paso suburb. I throw away the rocks I was carrying as dog deterrent in my pocket and join the car traffic in Mesa Street reaching Gardner Hostel before the sun sets once again.

16 days, 920 miles.

st2View the full route

Date Destination Miles Duration
2014-11-04 Upper Gallinas CG (USFS), NM 34 04:22
2014-11-05 Leasburg Dam SP, NM 88 07:30
2014-11-06 Gardner Hostel, El Paso, TX 70 06:32