From Cuba our scheduled route was suppose to head south along Highway 550 for several miles before turning off-road on some of New Mexico’s endless dirt roads. Fully loaded with food (and water, since we’re now in the desert) for the next few days we departed from McDonalds (and Cuba) on our intended route. Shortly after turning off Highway 550 however we came to a grinding stop with our bikes mired in some of New Mexico’s infamous wet clay.
As a result of the “night of rain” from yesterday, the usually hard-packed dirt road was turned into soft, sticky clay capable of stopping our bikes in less than a single wheel’s turn. Within seconds our bike’s tires accumulated several pounds of clay, and the mud clogged every moveable part. Down the road a short ways we spotted an RV, who also appeared to be stuck. We freed our bikes from the quicksand-like muck and walked over to the RV get some info on the conditions ahead. The driver told us he had come in 3 days ago, made it about a 1/2 mile down the road before turning around and getting stuck in his current position. Realizing this was the end of the road for us we returned to our bikes, cleaned off as much mud as possible and biked back to the main road.
Back on 550 we backtracked to Cuba, where we cleaned our bikes at the car wash, then headed to McDonald’s for our 3rd time in less than 24 hours. Over a meal including no less than 7 meat patties, we decided on an alternate route that avoided the pig-pen like dirt roads.
Though slightly less scenic, our new route stayed entirely on paved roads (but is a sanctioned Great Divide Route alternate). From Cuba we headed due west, along Route 197, and through the Navajo Nation region. Covering approximately 26,000 square miles, the Navajo Nation is the largest land area assigned to a Native American jurisdiction. Having lost most the day on our failed, first attempt to escape Cuba, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves under a quickly setting sun with no place to go. With no viable options (like a hotel, campground, hidden campsite, or any legal place to camp) we were forced to take more, uhh, sneaky maneuvers. When the opportunity presented itself we quickly ducked off the highway and onto a small side road. We pushed our bikes through the low sage and into a small depression which was, more or less, not visible from the main road. Technically we were trespassing at this point, so we made every effort to avoid being seen by anyone. Under the light of the moon (no headlamps) we set up camp and bedded down under the stars.