The railroad, barbwire, the Colt Peacemaker, the 1873 Winchester repeater. Just a few things that had a dramatic impact on the West. Once we went down these roads we never turned back and their impact can still be felt today, and in some cases, in their near-original form.
Yesterday morning I was suffering from a rib hangover. I have a friend who slow-cooks ribs and I volunteered to purchase the flesh if he volunteered to prepare them. What was two soon became eight. The Great Rib Train of 2019 was underway, and perhaps this is why the pull of the morning led me southeast toward Lamy, one of the original train stops going back to the beginnings of the railroad and a stop that is still active today.
I love this place. I really do. The history here is worn on the sleeve, like most places in New Mexico. The road to Lamy can be paved or gravel. I took paved on the way out and gravel on the way back. Leaving US285 I dropped down on the tiny two-lane that descends directly into Lamy where it turns to dirt or mud in today’s case. Thick, deep, tacky mud that quickly glazed over my beloved Schwalbes.
Summer means perfect riding. The spring winds are gone and the afternoon monsoons can be watched and circumvented if you are lucky. This section of the Earth has a unique history and cutting sign was a large part of being able to stay alive. All of us cut sign these days but it takes the form of pavement, street lights, posted speed limits and Google Maps. The romance is gone but underneath the Earth still remains and will remain long after our charade of progress comes to a violent end. And it will. How do I know? Because I can cut sign.
Moving on a bicycle is an oddly unique experience rooted in something simple yet profound; exposure. You can move quickly but not too quickly. You can navigate around obstacles but you are still exposed, unlike car, air or train travel. The senses are heightened, naturally, as your instinct and reaction time are critical to survival. Attention to detail is key. A seam in the road, a dusting of gravel on the tarmac, a dog that lowers its head or a Cummins with a redneck behind the wheel are the signs that require cutting.
Cutting sign also forces you to reflect inward. A constant assessment of fuel, energy, distance, elevation, and time. An ongoing equation that reminds us of how feeble we actually are. Subtract a single ingredient and you just might have a problem on your hands.