Chama to Pagosa Springs

Update: the banana bread is gone and for a while today, so was my positive attitude.

We planned for our ride from Chama to Pagosa Springs to be 50 miles. However, because of some gambles we made on exploring dirt roads – in hopes of avoiding the main highway – we ended up with almost 80 miles in our pockets.

Bike tour breakfast. And crispy hash browns!

We hoped that one of the county roads near Lumberton – a 10-mile jaunt off the main road to Pagosa – would set the foundation for a better ride. After yesterday, a less traveled route seemed just the ticket, and the locals said the gravel was maintained and could be passable.

US 64 to Lumberton

But we are riding 35mm tires, and the gravel was too rough for our tandem to comfortably take. Maybe the road would have become smoother if we had kept riding, but it might also have deteriorated. And so 10 miles back to the main road we went.

For several miles I was pretty crestfallen, bummed we had wasted so many miles seeking out that road. But given that the whole purpose of our tour is exploring, I think we did the right thing and no miles were really wasted.

We knew we had a short day. and the additional miles were manageable. Aren’t we randonneurs, after all? And if we had not meandered over to see the road I would always have wondered about it.

Bumping up and down the gravel

I drove many of these roads last year during a work trip to New Mexico. At that time I was curious what they would feel like to ride. I didn’t anticipate returning so soon to find out, but I must say that a scenic drive is definitely a poor second to a completely open and non-motorized experience.

Colors leap out. The air tastes fresher. You smell everything, from the sagebrush to decomposing wildlife. The chirps of birds and rustle of ground critters are well within earshot.

See? You don’t get this in a car

Highway 84, the road between the turn to Lumberton/Dulce and Pagosa Springs, ended up being a fine ride. We lost our shoulder for a time, but the traffic was light and it was a holiday so no one seemed to be rushing.

Cars and trucks gave us plenty of space when they passed. Good thing, as this 30-mile segment was full of spikey rollers, requiring us to drop in and out of both the granny ring and our saddles.

Outside Pagosa Springs

For the last three days I’ve had an altitude headache and that faded as the day went on and my thirst ramped up. So. Very. Thirsty!

I’m not sweating much, but I know it’s evaporating off my body as we ride. I’ve been carrying bananas and apples to help fight the dehydration, but I still celebrated our arrival in Pagosa with a delicious porter at the Riff-Raff Brewery.

We toured through Pagosa in the opposite direction a few years ago. Since then, this town has popped! A great bike shop – Pagosa Mountain Sports- and cute restaurants and breweries. I’m used to seeing this type of development in different neighborhoods of a city, but it’s exciting to see a small city like this with renewed vibrance.

Crossing the Continental Divide outside Chama

Our hotel is a bit removed from the town center so we will not be catching the fireworks. That’s okay. I will enjoy the quiet and the freedom to bike tour this beautiful country. Happy Fourth of July, all.


  1. Glad the day turned around for you and that you found a nice spot to conclude your day. I noticed the altitude and dryness when we were there recently, so I know your efforts on the bike are even more right now (even the smaller hills made me out of breath!) Here’s to a good day today!


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