Bayfield to Dolores - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

June 24, 2014

Bayfield to Dolores

A real American train, complete with cowcatcher
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All aboard!
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THE TRAIN was in when we got to Durango. I love old steam trains, don't you? They have one here that runs on a narrow track to Silverton, through high country and past snowy peaks. I'd thought about it for a long time but, first, it didn't look as though we could take bikes and travel one way; second, it didn't look as though Karen-the-master-planner was taking us through Silverton anyway; and, finally, Dave and Belinda in Dolores said we should ride to their house instead.

Now, that's an awful lot to take in with just one breath, so let's begin at the beginning. The first thing you need to know is that I lost our bread. Karen and I have this deal that she will cook in the evening in return for my delivering morning coffee to her tent. Coffee implies breakfast but the bread wasn't there. I have a knack, developed these past few days, for buying food, unfastening my panniers, forgetting to add what I bought, resealing the bags and riding off.

It is confirmation, if ever needed, that I am growing old and ga-ga.

So, sticky buns and coffee at a gas station, then jousting with rush-hour traffic to the edge of Durango, and then a winding bike path beside the river to the centre of town. On the way: visitor centre.

As ever, the usual question: "Where are you from?"

"From France."

Usually that provokes a wow! and nothing more. My friend Jan remembers wow being the staple of American small-talk:

"Where did you start?"

"Los Angeles."

"Wow! And where are you going?"

"New York."

"Wow! And where do you come from?"

"Poland."

"Wow!"

But nothing this time. Charlotte in the tourist office just smiled and said: "Ah, bon? Moi, j'ai passé un an à Dijon."

She directed us to the train station, the deepo, where a huge black steamer with a cow-catcher guarded a rake of yellow passenger coaches. Happy tourists and little boys who never grew up clicked and whirred and a bearded volunteer stood with a flag to save passing cars from the irresisitible force of that cow-catcher.

I knew it was a narrow-gauge railway, the rails closer than normal, but I hadn't taken in that a full-scale loco and carriages ran on it. And I immediately joined the small boys who never grew up.

The pioneers of Durango remembered. We were just approaching it when another loaded cyclist passed it, heading east. We shouted but he didn't hear
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Bygone America
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Dave and Belinda live in Dolores, which is separated from Durango by a noticeable hill. A hill that goes on for 15km, to be exact, and which starts within smell of the steam train. In a chain of chance encounters, they stayed with us in France four years ago. Dave is a world authority on lettuce and Belinda is an entymologist with a passion for Amerindian culture. Would we, they ask, allow them to drive us to Monument Valley?

We naturally accepted. And we set off on the long climb, much used by local bikies on lightweights, only one of whom - a tiny woman who passed us halfway up - bothering to return our waves.

Pollution or no pollution? The oil company says no, the owner of the land disagrees
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The wind blew us past dusty fields and rare houses and past a farm gate far from anywhere where I had a wee despite a warning that I was being video-taped. And on past a gas station, closed, gates locked, topped by a red banner bearing a skull and crossbones and warning of a massive petrol spill. Later we found the gas station owners had found no evidence of pollution but that the land-owner insisted there was and wanted money.

And so to Cortez in a flurry of shops selling knives, guns and camouflage clothing, past the raceground, abandoned for the moment, and then the long, steady and sunburned rise to Dave and Belinda's. And a welcome. And a shower. And clean cothes. And soft beds.

Oh, bliss...

Open skies, happy heart
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Today's ride: 117 km (73 miles)
Total: 4,245 km (2,636 miles)

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