A war that happened and one that didn’t

Contrary to yesterday, we headed out with a cowboy breakfast in our bellies. The route was long (over 70 miles) but all downhill, or so we thought. We had a hard time getting very far for several reasons. First, treed mountains swept up on either side of the canyon we descended, making for some stunning scenery that demanded stops for photographs. Second, up that canyon blew a wind, yes, another headwind. Rather than coasting from Capitan to Roswell, we found ourselves having to pedal pretty hard downhill. And third, there was finally an “attraction” on the route.

Connie has been noting that there have been few places to stop for coffee or history. Today there were two. The first, just 12 miles from the start, was the town of Lincoln, famous for jailing Billy the Kid until he busted out. It was the site of a local five day battle in 1878 between two conflicting economic powers of the time, in which one of the two sides enlisted Billy the Kid’s participation.

The battle and the war it was part of are considered important enough locally to warrant an entire museum with tickets to buy to explain it all. To be fair, the museum also painted a pretty good picture of the conflicting inhabitants of the area. The spectacular land was earliest home to Mescalero Apaches, going back 600 years. The name was given to them by Anglos who observed how they collected the root of mescal and roasted it ceremoniously. The Anglos also ultimately stole the Apache homeland from them.

Fifty miles into the ride, an historical marker noted the former location of Atlas Missile Silos. The inscription reads, “During the Cold War (1946-1989), this area became home for twelve Atlas missile silo sites — America’s first operational Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system. They protected the Strategic Air Command facilities at Walker Air Force Base south of Roswell. Due to problems with the Atlas missile, these sites were deactivated in 1965 shortly before the closure of Walker AFB. The abandoned silos are now privately owned.” I’d add that cattle graze in peace here, right next to the concrete cylinders of the former missile silos, from which a war was not launched.

Between the war that happened and the one that didn’t, there was a “bump.” Using some criteria, probably a combination of length and pitch, the Garmin bike computer notes climbs. In real life, it feels like there are plenty more climbs than the Garmin calls out and, occasionally, it designates as a climb something that turns out not to be that hard. Today’s bump was hard. I got through it on a combination of meth and crack. When the climb came into sight, I popped my climbing “vitamin,” Clif Bloks, into my mouth. My bike shop, Green Lizard, doesn’t sell them because of some ingredient they contain. Dave says it must be meth. (I think it’s caffeine.) Then as I combined measured breathing with slow steady pedal strokes, I proceed crack by pavement crack until I find myself at the top. On our worst climbs on this trip, Connie has found a place to park to greet us, and spotting her armed with a camera, encouraging words, and goodies to reward us helps, too.

The ride landed us in Roswell, rumored to be the site of a UFO incident in 1948. All over town there are nods to this story — murals of aliens, a McDonald’s shaped like a flying saucer, and street lamps topped with green alien heads.

Ride statistics

Start: Capitan, NM

Finish: Roswell, NM

Miles: 71.5

Elevation gain: 1109 feet, but there was way more loss of elevation than gain, over half a mile of altitude. We slipped down from stunning forested mountains to desert desolation that looked like a moonscape. The descent also took us from winter to early summer temperature-wise.

Strava track: https://www.strava.com/activities/5220394990

©2021 Lynnea C Salvo

4 thoughts on “A war that happened and one that didn’t

  1. Thank you for your beautiful bicycling pictures that you and your team are seeing as you each work hard through weather and wind and heights and flatness.


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