“Better days” was probably an understatement for Cuba, NM, but for me the towns are often about the people. Cuba was no exception, and it was the people that drew me in for another zero day.
I had gotten into town late the night I arrived, ate dinner, and made it to my motel room around 10PM. No chores had been done, and I just wanted to sleep, passing out immediately (after removing the questionable comforter from the bed). The next day was a lot of walking – the PO, grocery store, hardware store, numerous restaurants, etc. It felt like a full day of my favorite activity – road walking.
I was stiff when I rolled out of bed the next morning, grabbing my pack and hurrying to meet Mr. K in the parking lot. I never saw Mr. K on the trail, but he was always in town when I arrived. Spotless and dapper as always, he was one of my favorite hikers. He was an older man and very polite, a southern gentleman with an easy demeanor that I enjoyed.
After breakfast, at a local cafe, I told Mr. K to head on without me. A ranger the day before had told me that she had pushed through snow up to her waist in the San Pedro's. My body needed one day off before tackling this next section.
I was about 100 yards down the road when a man driving in the other direction yelled out his window “You must be a thru-hiker!” I just smiled. “Stay there he said.” He pulled into a driveway a few yards past me, and jumped out of his truck. He walked towards me with a smile on his face, followed by a young Wilderness Ranger. David Allen was the Forest Service Manager for the area.
We talked for over an hour, and towards the end of that hour I glanced across the street to see a police officer chasing a car down the road. I watched as the car pulled over, rolled down his window, and chatted with the policeman. The officer then walked back up the road and began clocking cars again.
At this point I had stopped talking to watch, and David turned to see what had drawn my attention. If the driver was speeding, the officer would yell at them to STOP as they passed, and then chase after them on foot. I watched this happen two or three times, and every time the car pulled over and stopped. I don't recall seeing a ticket written, but there was a chat each time.
A few minutes later the Sheriff (he ended up being the town Sheriff) spotted us watching him and walked over. He was a friend of David's, and they greeted each other as the Sheriff approached. I told him that I was not only impressed by his methods, but even more so by the fact that every car actually pulled over. He shrugged and said “People know when they do wrong.”
Somehow, life seemed a little less complex in Chama, NM
It was close to lunch time, and I told David and Joel I was headed back into town for lunch, and to drop my things off. David asked me where I was eating, and then said they had a couple of things to do and would meet me for lunch. I called Ms. Yang to see if my room was still available, and she said she would come pick me up.
Ms. Yang was the owner of the Del Prado motel, and she was awesome. She had not blinked an eye when I had checked in looking like a dirty soaked rat, a night earlier. She had driven me to a restaurant, washed my clothes, and given me her laptop to use for as long as I needed it.
The Del Prado was not a high end motel, and my room had shag carpet, a worn polyester bedspread, and ancient western prints on the wood paneled walls. But – the room was big, clean, warm, and the shower was hot. I had no complaints. Most hikers were staying there. Ms. Yang was super nice and definitely the draw – along with the cheap rates.
Bruno's in Chama
Bruno's had GREAT southwestern food, and I spent two hours chatting with David and Joel. The topics were across the board – trail, culture, town – everything I needed to know about the area.
I generally hike solo, and these kinds of connections on my hikes are not all that uncommon. I assume it is probably because I hike alone, and that makes me more approachable. Sometimes that can also work against me, but most often I meet some great people and have had good experiences.