MIMBRES, N.M. — Short route or long route? Packs or no packs? Narrow, twisting road through high mountains or a relatively straight route with a good shoulder and moderate climbs?
Those were the choices Tuesday morning as we set out from Silver City, N.M., to Mimbres, a distance of only 26.64 miles along U.S. 180 and New Mexico 152 and 35.
God gave me a brain and I try to use it occasionally. Tuesday was one of those occasions. I chose to ride the shorter route, get into camp early and rest up for Wednesday’s climb over Emory Pass, which, at 8,228 feet, is the literal high point of our cross-country journey.
We also had the option on Tuesday of riding with panniers — about 50 pounds of gear — or riding light with no gear.
That fortuitous choice was made possible because our Adventure Cycling Association leader, Dave Cox, rented a van on Monday — a rest day in Silver City — for an excursion into the Gila Wilderness to visit cliff dwellings built by the Mogollon people more than 700 years ago.
He kept the van on Tuesday to haul groceries from Silver City to Mimbres, which has very limited services. He offered to carry panniers for anyone who wanted to ride without a load. Again, a no-brainer!
We had traveled the scenic route on Monday on the way to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. In some places the road was barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass. I had no desire to do it again — this time on a bicycle. And it wouldn’t have gotten me any closer to St. Augustine, Fla., where we’re scheduled to end our trip on Nov. 21.
The short route to Mimbres passes one of the largest manmade holes in the world — the Santa Rita Copper Mine along New Mexico 152.
The mine, owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., operates around the clock 365 days a year. It’s the oldest active mine in the Southwest and one of the world’s largest open pit mines.
Since pit mining began at Santa Rita in 1910, more than 2 billion tons of material have been removed, according to information boards at a visitors’ site overlooking the gigantic hole.
Today, the mine is more than a mile across and more than 1,600 feet deep.