The ride from TorC to our next overnight was meant to be a big day with a mix of a long road section followed by pretty gnarly offroad riding, in fact as it work out it was mostly a big road day from the start, flat and straight with a nice tail wind followed by mellow but gradual gravel climbing. In this part of NM the roads are mostly straight and passing cars are rare, which made for pretty fun "middle of the highway" riding courtesy of the endless views down the highway in both directions. The nearly complete lack of traffic was amazing for us east coasters. The tail wind fueled tarmac blasting came to a dramtic end with a huuuuge 2000ft road climb over the Sierra Cuchillo ridgeline. We were climbing for what felt like hours. The reward was an amazing view from the top and a ripping 30mph+ road descent into Winston. We stopped at the Winston General Store for lunch and resupply where Ton and Kev took inspiration from Andy and picked up hankies to shield our necks from the sub.
Interactions with the people of NM turned out to be uniformly positive. People were generally curious and sometimes outright flabbergasted we were doing this on our bikes - but always helpful and friendly. The best line of the day came to us from a fella gassing up his truck in Winston: "did y'all ride those bikes over the mountain?" "yes." we said. "remind me not to tussle with y'all in a dark alley." Classic.
At this point we called an audible and decided to skip the Gila loop. the Gila loop is reported to be pretty amazing with petroglyphs and a ghost town but the ride directions from Bikepacking.com had identified this as a section best ridden coming from the opposite direction. Instead of picking our way up steep technical climbs we dedicated ourselves to a big day of distance riding witht he goal of overshooting out planned mileage and getting to national forest land before dark. As it turned out we knocked out a total of 70 miles and 7k of climbing to get to the edge of the national forest. We finished the route with some fun gravel sections and then a lot of climbing. As the sun set we pitched our tents, to find out later we were 100 feet short of a real campsite.
Day 4 low point - miles 60-70 involved a lot of climbing on washboard. no one enjoys this.
Day 4 high point - Amazing views at the top of the Cuchillo pass.