New Mexico Epic Road Trip Part 1: Wyoming to Alien Run

ALIENS!!  *motions hands like the guy on History Channel*

Seriously, aliens are awesome.  Mountain bike trails built around alien crash sites are even awesome-r!

Anyways, I’ll start from the beginning… since racing didn’t begin until Sunday, we were not in a rush to get out of town on Friday, as much as vacation was calling to us.  I enjoyed a non-frantic pace of packing up the last of what we needed and headed to the Bicycle Station for last minute tubes and to get my TT bike’s aero bars fixed since I decided to yank them out of whack trying to shift into my big chain ring (lession learned:  pulling harder won’t make it shift.  nothing will make it shift, stay in the big ring and deal with it).  Car loaded up, goodbye kisses for Sammie, and we hit the road about 11:15am

Mr. Fozzy is a bike carrying machine!

Luckily I found a route that could forgo the interstate highway system once we arrived in Denver.  Nothing against I-25, but I had no interest in driving through boring southern Colorado on it!  We cut off onto Highway 285, which wound us up through the mountains, dumping us in the high Rocky Mountain valleys.  Absolutely gorgeous!  We oddly enough found ourselves in South Park, which we eagerly checked into on Foursquare. Soon we were in Buena Vista, surrounded by 14ers, and I giddly pointed out all the road signs that marked all the different peaks.  It reminded me that Matt and I really need to try to summit a 14er sometime this summer… life can’t always be about the bike!

14ers in the Sawatch range

A few more mountain passes later, and we were by the Great Sand Dunes National Park, heading towards Durango on 160.  We goofed off at a rest area for a little while, stretching out our legs from the long drive.  Once again we were back in the mountains, climbing up over Wolf Creek Pass, which tops out at 11,000 feet.  Matt had an empty 2-liter Mountain Dew bottle, which he opened and then sealed at the peak so we could see how crunched down it would get as we dropped in elevation.  Sometimes it’s the simplest things in life, eh?

Mr. Fozzy enjoying a break at the rest area

After stumbling upon “Canada Laughs” on Sirius XM (a Canadian comedy station), we rolled into Durango and jumped on the 550 that would take us into Farmington, NM, which would be our home for 5 nights.  Hotel prices were just a wee bit too insane in Durango for the weekend, and we’re partial to La Quinta anyway, so New Mexico it would be!  Upon rolling through Aztec I noticed the small diner that I ate at probably 20 years ago, where a little boy went around and stole all the salt and pepper shakers off the tables.  The damnest things I remember, right?

We found our La Quinta, and hauled the bikes and luggage into the room just about sunset, so it was indeed about a 9 hour drive with stops.  475 miles according to the google map print out I had.  Yeesh, sorry Mr. Fozzy.

Cozy quarters for 2 adults, 4 bikes, and all our gear…

Since it was Matt’s birthday weekend, I agreed to Red Lobster for dinner.  Ya’ll, I do NOT like seafood, fish, anything from water… so this was quite the compromised!  I found a half decent chicken breast and alfredo on the menu, so I can’t really complain.  Matt happily dug into his shrimp combo plate .

The next morning we slept in slightly and enjoyed our free breakfast at the hotel.  Our big plans was riding the Alien Run trails, and then sightseeing at the Aztec ruins and Four Corners.

Alien Run outside of Aztec, NM… a kickass trail system!

Alien Run.  AMAZING.  Sometimes it can take a lot to impress me when it comes to trails, since I live in such an epic trail-heavy area of the west.  Needless to say, Alien Run did not disappoint and I rank it up there with some of the best stuff I have ridden!  We easily found the trailhead using the hand drawn map off the website, and enjoyed the fact it was not crowded with cars like Gowdy is on summer weekends.  What’s super awesome is that the Aztec Library commissioned mountain bikers to make this trail so they could hold a fundraiser race on it, and therefore it’s the only trail I’ve been on that cyclists have the right of way and do not have to yield for hikers.  Not that I still wouldn’t yield, I just enjoyed this sort of signage.  Made me feel important 😛

So about the aliens… supposedly in the late 1940s an alien spacecraft crashed here with humanoid bodies inside.  The US Government came in disguised as oil field workers and removed the debris.  What’s left now is a plaque marking the area (that we managed to ride right past and not see…) and higher than normal levels of radiation (supposedly… I did not test this out with a Gieger counter, LOL).  How cool, right?  The trail builders really play up the alien theme with the signage, and even on the slickrock the way is marked with little green alien heads.

We took off on the one way trail that runs counterclockwise, unsure of if we would do the 10 mile or 19 mile loop.  I had my reservations about high miles since we raced the next day.  I was soon smiling and swooping through the desert terrain, and it took only about two minutes before I declared this one of the best trails we have ridden.  The singletrack winds through the trees and sage, and there are no long, sustained climbs.  There are slick rock portions.  I found everything to be easily rideable except a narrow drop off part with exposure.  The only negative is that the trail was quite sandy in portions, which slows your speed and if you’re me, makes you do a flying belly flop into sage.

Loving the slickrock!

Beautiful desert scenery of Hart Canyon

Matt posing with Swarles Barkley on the slickrock

There is a well marked 5 mile cutoff loop, which we passed by and continued up the trail.  There is 9 miles of newer built singletrack called the Outer Limits that comprises the 19 mile loop, which we started up.  I wasn’t too happy, as it was loose rocks and nothing really amazing.  After a few miles we turned around and returned to the main Alien Run trail to finish it out.  This is when I took my impress flying belly flop into sage, landing flat on my belly with arms outstretch, face in the sand.  Whoops!  I somehow cut up my right butt cheek while doing this, which I noticed after I saw the blood on my kit.

We weren’t ready to call it quits after 10 miles, so we started down the trail again, this time cutting off at the 5 mile loop marker.

Very well marked trail system!

I have read reviews where people complain that you can’t enjoy the trail or scenery due to all the noise and sights from fracking rigs that dot the landscape.  I beg to differ on this.  Sure, when you’re right next to the rig, which happens only once or twice, it’s loud.  But otherwise I do not think they ruined my experience at all!  I’ve never been around fracking rigs before, so it’s not like I’m “use” to them or anything as well.  Just don’t let them discourage you from checking out these trails, as it’s really not that big of a deal!

There is a slick rock playground called the Black Hole that we didn’t get to try out.  The trail system is ranked intermediate to expert.  I consider myself intermediate, and I had no issue riding this trail at all!  The drops were good enough that I was willing to ride them, if that says anything at all, and there’s only about 2 major ones I can recall, all occurring in the slick rock sections.

We made our way back to the car to find the parking lot empty except for two guys from Wyoming.  Go figure!  It was back to the hotel for a shower, and then on for the rest of our adventures, which I will write about very soon!

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