Charley’s ride across America 29. More wind, cool places and my electrical expertise


Day 58 march 26. 26 miles, 5 hrs, saving legs for pass tomorrow, cold and gained 2500 ft and headwinds, end in Kingston NM

Total miles 2296

Dear friends and family,

After I fired up our butane stove for coffee and oats, we left our small cabin in the dark, riding with headlights. Was cold, at 33 degrees, fingers and toes tingling. As the sun rose behind us it gave us the heat we needed. Yes, we were up before the wind awoke, sneaking our way slowly upwards towards Hillsboro. Not a cloud in the wide open New Mexico rangeland sky.

We arrived in Hillsboro, a very small town. Other cyclists told us about the General Store breakfasts, so as to not disappoint them, we stopped for breakfast about 1030.It really was an old general store from the 1880’s silver mining era, and still was set up similarly, but with chairs and tables for eating. A big stack of blueberry pancakes for me and a beef and chile peppers special for Gregg. Mmm, carbs and wonderfullness. It appeared that this was the local hangout for the artists, writers and musicians living here.

Kind of a tiny outpost of of quiet and beauty.

As we ate, I could see the flag outside start to first flutter in the growing wind and then flap stronger. Once we were back on our saddles, that headwind was awake and ready for us. We had another 1500 feet or so of altitude to gain still, after the 1000 feet before breakfast.

We knew that the next day was our big challenge, with Emory pass of 8200 feet awaiting us, so the strategy was to preserve leg muscles for that. 

How? By pedaling slowly in low gears, using high stroke rates instead of power. Also, we even started walking the bikes up the steeper hills. We knew we had time and not much distance to go, so preserve it was.

A woman in an SUV passed us while we were pushing our bikes, only about a mile from the Lodge. She stopped in the road and then backed down the highway ( hardly any cars because of the closure) to ask if we needed anything. We told her we were fine and had enough water so all good.

Fifteen minutes later a black pickup truck approached from ahead with its flashers on. The driver, a young guy named  Dan said that he was visiting the lodge and some woman there asked if the pickup in the lot was his. He said it was and then she asked if he’d go get two cyclists just down the road, who looked like they were suffering.

So, with only about a mile to go, we put the bikes in the pickup bed and headed to the lodge. We called Dan an angel, and when he told us he was visiting from Texas, we called him a Texas angel.

As Dan’s  truck was pulling  out with the bikes a car with an older couple pulled over.  The wife, in the passenger side rolled down her window and asked “Do you know why the road is closed up ahead?”

Dan said “ I was just up there and heard that someone recently bought land and put up the gate”

The look on her face was precious as she wrinkled her brow with concern.

“But that’s a major highway” she gushed.

“That’s what I heard” Dan replied, as he pulled out.

Turns out that Dan had two road closures mixed up. The highway was closed due to road sloughing and a local access road on private property had been recently gated. In fact, a sheriff went roaring by us at about ninety with lights flashing earlier. He appeared to be “holding court” with the new gate owner and a few neighbors as we could see from our lodge. Somebody said something about a shooting.

When we met the SUV driver later at the lodge, she said “ you both said you were okay, but sure didn’t look okay. That’s why I found a ride for you”

Imagine if she saw us yesterday after  eleven and a half hours on the bike. She would have sent a hearse instead- but that’s another story. ( next posting)

Catherine, the owner of the Black Range Lodge, invited us in and showed us around. She and her husband Gary had purchased the place in the mid eighties and have been renovating it and adding other buildings since. They’ve taught themselves straw bale construction enough that she wrote a book on it called THE NEW STRAW BALE HOME.

This lodge was constructed during the silver boom as a rooming house for miners as Kingston thrived. When silver was no longer the backing of currency, the price plummeted and the town went almost ghost. Now Catherine and Gary host music festivals and groups of musicians for sharing as well as those traveling through and those who opt to stay, as they offer work trades.

The lodge was filled with memorabilia from that silver age, as well as books and pictures. She upgraded us to the suite, which gave us each a private bedroom.

The big commercial kitchen was open for guest use. On offer was banana bread, homemade wheat bread, fruit, coffee, tea- anything we wanted. They offered a gourmet breakfast, but we had to opt out as we planned a departure at first light to get over the pass.

I was a bit nervous with anticipation of our big climb over the pass tomorrow. How would altitude affect me? Could I haul this heavy bike that high and far?

We had heard that the route to the pass was closed to vehicles due to a sloughing of the road, BUT bicycles were allowed through. No traffic- that should help. With that concern gone, I went to bed quite early.

As we toured the lodge Catherine mentioned problems of old houses, especially electrical and plumbing.

Reminds me of old home I owned in Port Townsend.

Former wife Nancy and I decided to sell it ourselves. When we bought it in 1991, we were excited to hear that even though it was built around 1900, it had complete new electrical and plumbing.

The buyers had an inspection contingency to satisfy before closing. One surprising find was the knob and tube electrical in the attic. Oh shit, a potential deal killer. And closing was in two days.

With the potential buyers looking on, I climbed my stepladder into the small attic space.

With the buyers looking on, I got on my stepladder and opened  the attic, crawled up there and started ripping out those old useless knob and tube wires while saying” see,  this was just left from the new wiring” and then throwing the whole bundle of wire and knobs into a heap down below with an almost audible “Harrumph!”.

As evening came on  Nancy said “ did you notice the front porch light is out ?”

I quickly got a spare bulb and tried it with no success. Oh well, one little socket’s not a big deal. I thought.

As later on , we settled onto the couch and clicked on the TV. Or tried to. Now that didn’t work either.

A hurried investigation showed the front half of the house to be without power. Live wires? Dumb ass?

I made a call to Scott, a friend and licensed electrician early the next day.

“Sure, I can help. I think I have time in four days”

“Closing is tomorrow and this needs to be solved by then or the deal might not go” I begged.

“If you help pull wires, I can come by later in the afternoon and we can see how much we can get done” he reluctantly answered.

Scott worked mostly under the house and I pulled wires up from below. Under a 110 year old house that housed mice, rats, and recently a raccoon family was no fun. The lot was on an incline and the crawl space was only about a foot high under the electrical panel. Yuck. 

But work he did with my help. By midnight all the lights and switches were newly wired and to code. Success!

Scott took my cash, bottles  of wine and dear thanks.

He mentioned that he would never ever crawl beneath that house again. Away he drove with his soon to be thrown away coveralls.

Closing went well.

Sending love,


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