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A Different Perspective

The Monumental North Loop February 9th, 2024

I was given the wonderful opportunity to do the North Monumental loop with a super cool organization known as Trail Warriors.  So naturally I was quite excited with anticipation and had been for quite some time having participated in last year’s ride.  Being from Michigan we don’t get to ride outside as much without fat tire bikes and bar mittens in the wintertime.  My company flies into the Houston, Texas area so it's pretty easy to hop on a free flight and join this wonderful organization. 

After driving 10 hours across the great state of Texas I picked up my buddy Jeff from the airport in El Paso Thursday night and proceeded to meet Odis and the team at the Comfort Inn in El Paso.  Certainly, it was good to reconnect with some old friends.  Awesome to see Odis and Joe, the godfathers of Trail Warriors who I got to know quite well last year.  These gentlemen are a boatload of fun and made the trip that much more enjoyable. Odis hooked us up with our gear then we tucked into bed eager for an adventure in the morning. 


Day 1 – Las Cruces to Leasburg Dam State Park

Day 1 started a bit chilly, but we all warmed up quickly with most of us wearing shorts for the entire ride.  My buddy Jeff (later to be known as old Jeff) and I (young Jeff) rode most of the Day 1 with a few cool guys from the Woodlands, Texas named Brian and Mike.  These guys were cool and had quite a bit of experience with Ironman’s and cycling so we hit it off well immediately having done some of the same races.  The group quickly got split into two as we would rally together and various checkpoints which seemed to work very well.  Started by following the river on awesome canal roads followed by some awesome flowy single track.  Day 1 was the best weather, topping our near 60 degrees which made this ride very enjoyable.  Some of the views in the mountains were epic, nothing I would ever see back home in Michigan.  At the end of day 1 all 7 of us rallied at this cool campground at the Leasburg State Park.  This campground had cool pavilions to block the wind and a handful of friendly campers.  We told lots of stories around the campfire. Day 1 in the books was a success.  I do remember waking up to some coyotes howling.  The first night was around 40 to 42 degrees, which worked out quite well. 


Day 2 – Leasburg State Park around the Organ Mountains

Day 2 started off well around 9am with some stronger headwinds. These are my favorite as I can feel my legs getting stronger with every pedal stroke.  Brian, Mike, Jeff, and I quickly splintered from the rest of the group into the hilly terrain and headwinds.  We had one thing on our mind which was to stop at Hatch, New Mexico to Sparky’s for world famous chili burgers.  We had some impending rain\snow that we were hoping to dodge our way around up towards Hatch.  The closer we got to Hatch the stronger the winds became.  We didn’t avoid all the rain but seemed to skirt around it pretty well all things considered.  The goal for the four of us was to just pedal through it with very limited short stops until we got to Hatch.  We rolled into Hatch, New Mexico and stopped to refuel at a gas station as soon as we had completed that we perfectly timed meeting up with Joe, Joe, and Odis at Sparky’s for one of the most epic burgers I have ever had.  Sparky’s was a cool little place with amazing burgers and shakes.  We left Sparky’s and made our way up some big hills with a 20+ mph headwind.  The temperature dropped down low making this a tough stretch of miles.  We turned off the main road out of Hatch and ventured down a rocky dirt road towards the base of the Organ Mountains where we had planned to stay for the night.  At this point in time, we started to get pretty cold as snow pounded us. I felt like I was back home riding in Michigan.  The temperatures began to drop into the low 30s quickly as we started looking for a place to camp.  We were fortunate to go behind the gate where we originally intended to camp around 3pm.  The snow was coming down pretty good at this point as I ventured up the road, I stumbled upon an old, abandoned house.  I knew immediately this was where we would stay.  I rallied with the others as we started looking around the house.  Two of the rooms had the floorboards destroyed and two were in pretty good condition despite no windows.  We quickly set up our tents inside the rooms out of the wind and snow.  The goal was to get into the sleeping bags as quickly as possible to warm up.  This is where I started to hear radio calls from Odis.  I really had hoped Odis, Joe, and Joe would make it to us as surely, they had bad conditions as well.  I heard Odis but was not able to get through to him.  The four of us felt pretty good about our situation as we had floorboards that could be burned allowing for a 6-hour fire that night.  This helped us dry out our clothes and stay very warm. 


Day 3 – Climbing a huge mountain pass at 6000 feet with 3 to 6 inches of snow. 

We woke up the third morning thankful for our abandoned house as it had snowed about 3 or 4 inches outside that night and dropped to about 25 degrees.  Had we camped outside we would have been in rough shape.  Even being from Michigan this made life super challenging.  Luckily, we packed up our gear with trips to the fire to stay warm.  Day 3 was a super challenging ride with about 3 to 5 miles of hiking and lots of slow rocky snowy soft pedaling.  The sun did start to come out which warmed things up a little.  I just remember seeing the beauty of all the peaks and valleys of all the mountains.  This made all the cold we had experienced the night before worth it.  I tore a path through the snow and rocks with the hopes that the other guys could have life just a bit easier.  I really love doing hard things. It makes me feel normal.  The four of us pushed through a giant mountain pass with spots that had to be upwards of 20% grade covered with huge rocks and up to six inches of snow.  By about 1pm we made our way to a paved road which we knew was the end of all the climbing and descending.  The last 30 miles were rolling hills with a bunch of fun descents.  We rallied up with the Odis, Joe, and Joe for the last few miles. What a pleasant surprise to see those guys.  We shared some stories and quickly put our gear in the trailer so we could enjoy the Super Bowl which had just started.  What an amazing group of guys and a great organization. I'm grateful to be part of this group and enjoy the epic adventures.  Looking forward to joining them again, hopefully in Big Bend national park.  This organization does so much for me mentally as it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and disconnect from technology.  Highly recommend this group to anyone looking for a fun adventure.  


Jeff VanDusen

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