I’d been on the road for about a week when I made a beeline for Silver City, NM.  I had planned to stop in the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, but the six-foot diameter tumbleweeds convinced me otherwise.  I was itching to get a bike ride in–besides Guadalupe Monument National Park’s Butterfield Stage Route, a rocky, four-wheel drive road–there had been no viable mountain biking.  And the wind had prevented me from even trying that Route.  Next time, I promised myself.

I rolled into Silver City a few days before New Year’s, hoping some trails were dry.  I stopped by Twin Sisters bike shop to inquire about trails because recent snows had blanketed the Gila National Forest, and I wanted the scoop on dry trails.  The owner, whom I had met a few years earlier, indifferently pointed me to the trails out by Arenas, east of town.  Those would definitely be dry, she yawned, but she had no maps to sell me.  Perhaps I should try the rock shop up the street.

Instead, I headed down to the competition, Gila Hike and Bike.  The guys who run this shop are friendly and do not possess that condescending attitude of so many bike mechanics and bike shop owners.  The mechanic/owner, a young man in his fifties, stopped his tinkering to hand me a free map and talk to me about open trails.  Little Walnut and Signal Peak would be snowy and (worse) muddy this time of year.  He recommended either Arenas or Boston Hill, which was right in town.

The other owner then piped in to tell me about an epic ride a bunch of locals would be braving the next day.  Nicknamed the Enduro Burro, it’s barely ridable except right after heavy rains or snow, where the tractionless sand trail becomes packed down.  It was a four-plus hour investment, but he promised a good time.  He hooked me up with the organizers of the ride, and I headed out to ride Boston Hill.

Boston Hill

This park is nestled towards the west and south ends of town on the way to Lordsburg.  Its tight singletrack is flanked by desert flora, the likes of which I had just seen in the Guadalupes–yucca and high desert grasses, withered brown and yellow but silently and patiently waiting until spring.

Singletrack, singletrack, singletrack!  The trails resembled those of other urban parks–short, rollercoaster trails with tight turns and negligible ascending and descending.  Still, there was grind to be had and for an hour and a half I skirted in and out of abandoned mines, avoided local prickly fauna, and deeply inhaled the scenery.

The views were spectacular.  New Mexico has what I would call a volcanic landscape–extinct volcanoes can be seen from hundreds of miles away, with high desert and sparse flora in-between (think a Wile E. Coyote landscape).  At night this landscape is filled with vibrant colors–vast swashes of violet, orange, and deep red are interrupted only the irregularly shaped cones of million year-old volcanoes, whose presence is marked by a forboding silhouette.  The nighttime sky here is eerie and calming all at once.

The highlight of the day, though, happened during what I would call a Disney Moment.  I coined this term years ago after I started noticing that animals encountered on mountain biking trails often stayed with me rather than scurrying away at the first sound of metal grinding on metal.  (The animals of Disney Moments rarely help me get dressed for the ball, but I haven’t given up hope yet.) 

This Disney moment involved a roadrunner.  Now, if you’ve never seen a live roadrunner forget what the cartoon tells you.  Roadrunners are not tall and thin–they’re stout.  Plus, they’re a lot more rugged than the wavy lines that Warner Brothers uses to represent its Roadrunner.  It looks as if a cat has spent time licking their backs–their hair seems spiked along the top of their bodies.  Skinny legs do jut out from the underside, but this bird hopped jerkily–it possesses none of the blithe movements of the sassy blue bird from my childhood.

The Disney Moment went like this:  the roadrunner hopped onto the trail about 40 feet in front of me.  Spurred by the possibility of seeing a roadrunner up close, I cranked, closing the gap between us–just like Wile E.  Then, he popped into some hardy bushes never to be seen again.  But I have raced a roadrunner…

Have you?

Stay tuned for Part II–Enduro Burro.  How I rode (ok pushed) my bike up and over a mountain in the middle of winter with a bunch of strangers.

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