Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 30: Pie Town to Beaverhead Work Center

 Journal Entry: A great day of riding through gorgeous country. My butt was sore and I was tired and hungry.

After packing and unpacking my gear no less than 58 times over the previous four weeks, I think it is safe to say it was becoming second nature. First I would cram my 15° down sleeping bag into its stuff sack, then force it into a yellow dry bag. My cooking kit with the cooking pot and bowls went in after the sleeping bag and the remaining space was filled with whatever I wanted to stay absolutely dry, usually clothes. I would then turn my attention to my seatbag where I would put my sleeping pad, down jacket, stove fuel canisters, and food. The rest of my food and a 3 liter Camelbak bladder for water went into the frame bag along with maps, a stove, and my titanium mug and spork. This daily ritual was done quickly and with an efficiency that could be acquired only with experience. My packing completed, I filled up the water bottles mounted on my bike’s fork legs, the two smaller bottles in my backpack, partially filled the water bladder in my frame pack, and double checked to make sure I would have enough food for the next two days it would take to make it to Silver City.

 Joseph and I finished packing before Dan and Michelle so we left without them, figuring they would catch up with us later when we took a break. The day had started out warm so I knew that it would only get hotter by the end of the day. There was a cattle tank with a spigot after only 17 miles so we decided to top off our water and eat a snack. While we were almost done filling our half empty bottles, Dan and Michelle rolled up. We chatted together for a few minutes about how far we planned to get today and where the water sources were, but I knew that every minute we spent talking was another minute we would have to spend in the sun and wind so we once again set off on the dusty and wash boarded road.

Don't worry we drank water that came from the pipe, not directly from the tank.

  After a few miles I was feeling good so I began to pull away from Joseph unintentionally. I had yet to ride by myself since morning so I kept up the pace until he disappeared around a bend behind me. As I navigated the rock-strewn road I began to think forward to the end of my ride. It had been around four weeks since my journey had begun and I could hardly believe it would be only two more full days until I reached the Mexico border. I finally stopped to take some pictures of an old church and decided to wait for a few minutes since I still had not seen Joseph. Five or so minutes later he showed up with pictures that proved he had seen a horned toad!  We began slowly climbing through scrub pine forest until we crossed the Divide for at least the 23rd time. I reveled in the cool wind that rewarded me for the previous hour of climbing through stifling heat because I knew that the road was sure to turn uphill once again. The road never got quite as bad as it was coming into Cuba but it still was one of the rougher stretches I had seen so far in the trip. Sharp rocks poked up from a rock hard dirt surface that looked like the lethal combination for any bike tire. With every rotation of my tires I prayed that I would not get a flat and my prayers were answered. 

 New Mexico roads

After miles of horrible New Mexico roads my rear end thanked me when I turned off of dirt onto the smoothly paved Route 12. After less than a mile Joseph and I turned off the road to once again replenish our water supplies. Although there was no official water source here, Dan had told us that there was a church which had an outdoor faucet that many Divide racers made use of. I unchained the gate, rolled past a nearby house, and pulled up beside the church. The church was actually two buildings connected by a covered walkway instead of a single building. I leaned my bike up against the walkway and flung my aching body down on one of the benches. Now that I was not moving the stifling heat washed up on me and started to sweat even harder than before. It was nearly lunchtime so Joseph and I decided to take a long break to eat lunch and to prepare ourselves for an afternoon which promised to suck every drop of energy out of your body. After replacing the lukewarm water in my water bottles with cool, clear water from the faucet I dug out my lunch. I had almost polished off my pack of sardines when Dan and Michelle once again caught up with us and parked their respective bikes near the church.

            After resting and replenishing our dehydrated bodies with liquid and calories, we rolled out the lane and headed across the Plains of San Agustin. While reading my maps the night before I saw that the Plains hosted a feature that I had often heard about, the VLA or Very Large Array. The Very Large Array radio telescope is composed of 27 antennas that are independently movable and are placed in the shape of a Y with each of the arms being 13 miles in length. Each of the individual telescopes work together to form a virtual antenna dish that is miles across rather than simply hundreds of feet. The VLA was placed in the Plains of San Agustin because of the lack of radio interference from man-made sources. Although we were too far away to see the VLA it was still thrilling to be so close to the largest radio telescope in the world. For the next hour we skirted around the side of the plains, fighting the inevitable winds that seem to come whenever the terrain flattened out. The surroundings were desolate but I was still surrounded by transcendent beauty. Although we were hemmed in by mountains it was at least fifty crystal clear miles across the plains to the other side and all we could see from one side to the other was the occasional cow or windmill pumping water into stock tanks. The ditches on each side of the road were filled with gorgeous wildflowers that were being blown back and forth in the warm breeze as we drafted behind each other to hide from the wind.

            After crossing the plains we finally entered the Gila National Forest, or The Gila (hee la) as it is called by everyone on the Divide. When The Gila is mentioned fear strikes the heart of every Divide rider. Here the water sources are scarce, the heat is suffocating, and the climbs are short but impossibly steep with a loose road surface that makes it hard to keep your rubber side down. If I would be able to make it through The Gila all that would remain to our ride would be the 125 or so miles of mostly pavement from Silver City to the border. I had the rest of the day to dread the climbs because for the next couple hours we continued to slowly climb until we crossed our Divide crossings #24, 25, and 26. Our legs were grateful as we now turned downhill and followed a winding river on an impossibly rutted road for ten miles. Shortly after passing a ranch house Joseph and I startled a herd of forty elk who ran frantically toward a nearby stand of pine trees and disappeared into its shelter. As the sun began to near the horizon we turned right and struggled toward the top of a short climb where we could survey what we had been riding through for the last several hours. Golden light bathed the arid landscape, casting our long shadows to the east as our tires struggled for traction in the loose dirt and gravel of the road. The wind began to slacken and the blistering heat of the noon sun had moderated to a gentle warmth. The road slowly headed to the east, and with the sun to our backs we coasted down a gentle gradient toward a campsite we hope would lie a few miles further on.

            With the wind and sun now to our backs Joseph and I were finally able to sit up and relax. The road wove back and forth between sandy colored rock formations while slowly heading downhill. I still had some water left but I was so tired of drinking warm, plastic-flavored water that I was finding it hard to stay hydrated. It often isn’t until you go without something you usually take for granted that you realize how blessed you are to have it. During this trip I had begun to see water as more than something you take a few swallows of at a drinking fountain, it had become life itself. When I roll into camp at night all I want is two quarts of cool clear water that I don’t have to filter out of a stagnant pond. When you are away from the comforts of civilization life is distilled down to its bare essence. All that matters is food, drink, and shelter; and these thing consume your every waking thought. You are always looking at what resources you have and weighing them against how long it will be till you can resupply. When I reach a town my first thought is not calling home or getting a shower to rinse off the past five days of accumulated crud, it is to get something cold to drink. With an urgent thirst beginning to make itself known I was starting to worry that we might not be able to find a good water source for camp that evening.

            It was getting late and we still had not found a water source or a place to camp so I breathed a sigh of relief when the sign for the Beaverhead Work Center came into sight. Out by the road I saw an outbuilding with some bathrooms nearby so Joseph and I decided to use them and prayed that we could find some water nearby. As I downshifted to make it up the steep lane leading to the work center I saw a small concrete pad with a spigot, a run-down phone booth, and of all things, a vending machine! The water forgotten, Joseph and I threw our bikes against the nearby trees and raced over to the vending machine with money in hand as fast as our sore legs would take us. I reached into my wallet and with trembling fingers franticly inserted coins into the slot. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever imagined this but I could already feel the cold, sweet liquid flowing down my dusty throat. After inserting the last coin I made my selection (Pepsi, what else?!), and pressed the appropriate button. Disaster!! Instead of hearing the familiar clunking noise as an aluminum can fell toward my waiting hands I heard nothing. I pressed the button again, but still nothing. Only moments before I had felt like a desert traveler happening upon an oasis, but now my dreams collapsed around me as dry as the roads we had ridden all day.

            I was very disappointed but we did have a water spigot and a flat place to pitch a tent so I was tried to be thankful for what we had and began to unpack my gear to fix supper. I had hardly begun to unpack when a man in his upper twenties or lower thirties came around the corner of the building. He must have seen us struggling with the vending machine because he apologized and told us it had been acting up lately. He offered to get us a refund for our quarters but I told him I had only lost fifty cents so it wasn’t worth it. We talked for a little and I found out that the Beaverhead Work Center was a base for wild land fire fighters to train and it was also used as a base of operations for nearby fires in the Gila.  Joseph and I must have looked really dehydrated because he asked us if we would like some Gatorades. Joseph and I quickly accepted his offer and a few minutes later were given two 32 oz. Gatorades each. After thanking him profusely I walked over to the nearby picnic table and collapsed on it before draining at least half of the first bottle in one long gulp. Using all my restraint I was able to save one bottle to drink with supper. Our supper was Kraft mac and cheese but since we didn’t have any milk or butter it turned out pretty bland. It was starting to get dark so Joseph and I zipped ourselves into our sleeping bags and tried to get some sleep. Just as I was drifting off to sleep I heard a noise that sounded like bike tires on gravel and soon after I saw lights on our tent fly. Once I heard their voices I was able to quickly determine that it was Dan and Michelle, who we hadn’t seen since lunchtime. I closed my eyes again and finally fell asleep. I was waken in the middle of the night by a call of nature so I extricated myself from my bag and unzipped the tent fly. As I stepped out of the tent I looked up and was awestruck by what I saw. A broad band of brilliant stars blazed across the sky from one horizon to the other in a Milky Way I had never seen before. If it is clear back home in the Shenandoah Valley you might be able to see a faint band of stars, but here, far from artificial light sources, the brightest lights were those in the heavens. I gazed up at the vast blanket of stars above me and it almost seemed as if they were so close I could reach up and touch them. There in the wilderness of New Mexico, thousands of miles from my family and friends, I knew I was not alone.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 29: Grants to Pie Town

Journal Entry: Got a late start. Had a flat tire. Met up with Dan and Michelle, some racers. Rode with them till the last 30 miles into Pie Town. Ate at the Daily Pie Café. Got fried cod and some mixed berry pie. We are staying at a quirky hostel called the Toaster House.

There were two options that we could use to get to Pie Town, one was mostly off pavement, and the other was mostly pavement. After riding 125 miles the previous day, Joseph and I decided to take the shorter and easier route. We knew we only needed to ride 70 miles to get to Pie Town so we didn’t get started as early as we maybe should have. We stopped at a fast food place for some food and grabbed some breakfast sandwiches.

As we sat outside munching on our food and draining our orange juices, a man approached me. He looked like he was either fully Indian or at least half-blooded. He said that he didn’t have any money and that he needed money for food. Since I live in the Shenandoah Valley where begging is fairly uncommon, I was a little taken aback. After evaluating the condition of the man and his clothing, it looked like it was entirely possible that he really did need some food. Since we were literally right beside a restaurant I offered to buy him whatever he wanted on the menu. It was soon apparent that that was not what he wanted. Because he spoke in a very heavy accent it was almost impossible to ascertain what he wanted, but it seemed that he liked the food better at some other restaurant and he just wanted some money. By this time my antenna were going up. If he really was hungry he would be happy for a breakfast sandwich or a burger. I realized that he doesn't really want food, he probably just wants some money to buy some drugs or alcohol. I was tempted to flat out refuse him any money, but at that moment the words of Matthew 25 went through my mind, “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.” I still was convinced that he wanted money more than food but I decided to buy him something anyway. He and I went inside the restaurant where he ordered some chili and crackers which he took outside to eat. I paid the bill, went back outside to where Joseph was sitting, and finished my own breakfast. After finishing my food and putting my refuse in the trash can, I looked over to where the man I bought food for was sitting. He had just finished but had failed to throw away his trash. Somewhat miffed at this blatant lack of common decency, I walked over to clear off his now vacant table. When I got there I was astonished to find that his container of chili was only half empty, and not only that, he had smeared some all over the table. It was now obvious that he never wanted food, he just wanted to beg a few bucks off of some naïve passersby. My first reaction was anger, but that soon faded as I realized that after I gave him food it was out of my hands. If he was actually trying to deceive me to get money for drugs, the responsibility for that lay with him and I just hoped I had done what I could.

With Joseph and I done eating, and having finished cleaning off the table as best I could, I walked over to my bike and groaned, the back tire was flat! It had slowly went down while we were eating so it must have been a very slow leak. I didn’t feel like patching the tube only to fix it again in another day so I decided to find a service station so I could convert my tire back to tubeless. I pumped up the tire as best I could and rode in the direction of our route, hoping to find a place with compressed air before my tire went flat again. Luckily, only a mile or so later we saw a car repair shop right beside the road so we quickly wheeled in and asked a man of the Hispanic persuasion if we could use some of their compressed air. He seemed only too happy to oblige. Before we knew it a couple of the workers at the shop had gathered around us and were firing questions at us. I don’t always work the best with an audience but I was soon able to take out the tube, screw in a replacement valve stem, dump in some tubeless sealant, put the tire back on the rim, and inflate the tire after a couple tries. After thanking the friendly employees of the service station and waving goodbye, Joseph and I went on our way.

With my faith in humanity restored, I pedaled down a highway bordered by broken down motels and faded signs. We finally left the city and began to parallel Interstate 40. After a few miles we stopped at a gas station where I fueled up with chocolate milk and sweet pastries before crossing the interstate into. After riding though one of the biggest towns on our whole trip it was nice to get back on the road but it was soon apparent why we should have started earlier, it was getting blisteringly hot. After entering the El Malpais National Conservation Area, a region of lava flows and sandstone formation, we took a short break at the ranger station to use the bathroom and top off our already lukewarm water bottles. Just as we were getting ready to leave Dan and Michelle wheeled up, they had evidently had the same idea. After chatting for a while about Divide related matters, we decided to ride together for a while.

If you look closely you can see a natural arch
It was refreshing to ride and talk with other people that had encountered the same struggles and hardships over the last three weeks as we had. We talked about everything from our bike setups to our favorite parts of the trip so far, and the time passed quickly. We made a short stop along the road for a snack break, I choked down a dry and crumbled Moon Pie then washed it down with some more lukewarm water. As we were riding Joseph and I realized that our riding speeds were very different than Dan and Michelle’s and we wanted to get to Pie Town before too late, so we eventually upped the paced and left them behind. We turned left onto a dusty dirt road which didn’t have any large climbs but was almost totally rolling hills that never let up. The ever-present wind and the heat wrung every drop of moisture out of us and soon we needed more water. Dan had told us about a CDT water source that was not on our maps so when we saw the small sign along the road we pulled off and filled up at someone’s outdoor faucet. Feeling refreshed after getting some cool water inside us, we continued along the road that never seemed to end.

After thirty or so miles of dirt road we finally hit pavement but now the wind was right in our faces. There was nothing to do but to put your head down and turn the pedals over, hoping, just hoping, that the wind would slacken or the road would turn, it didn’t. When we finally got to Route 60, just down the road from the Daily Pie Café, I had been dreaming about a cold drink and some food for so long that to do anything other than to go straight to the restaurant seemed like insanity. However, Joseph pointed out that we needed supplies to make it the 180 or so miles to Silver City over the next two days and that we should ride downhill a couple miles to a small store for supplies first. The stress of the day and dehydration had frayed our nerves to the point that our disagreement became rather heated. I knew that he was right and that we needed to get our supplies before the store closed, but I had been thinking of a cold drink for so long that I found it hard to go along with what he was saying. I eventually gave in and we got our supplies. Those 5 miles of backtracking to and from the store felt like an eternity but we did make it to the restaurant a little later.

While Joseph and I were ordering Dan and Michelle rolled up to the restaurant and parked their bikes outside and then joined us. After my delicious meal of fish and chips, which was not nearly large enough for a starving biker, I surveyed the world’s only true pie chart which serves as the Daily Pie Café’s pie menu. It is a tradition that if you are riding the Divide, you must eat a piece of pie in Pie Town and I was more than happy to not break tradition. I looked at all of the different option, but quickly decided on their mixed berry. A few minutes later a plate was plunked in front of me bearing a mammoth slice oozing mixed berry goodness. I cut off a small bite with my fork and conveyed it to my waiting mouth. After contemplatively chewing for a few seconds, I deemed it edible and dove in. With utter abandon Joseph and I soon finished our respective pieces with relish. I don’t know if it actually was that good or if it was just the setting, but it was one of the best meals I have ever had.

Joseph feeling much better after some food
After talking to a few of the locals about lodging in the area we heard about a nearby hostel called the Toaster House. It caters mainly to CDT hikers but since the advent of the GDMBR many cyclists have started to stay there as well. Dan. Michelle, Joseph, and I rode the half mile or so to the hostel and parked our loaded bikes on the wrap around porch. A note on the kitchen table told us to leave a donation for the use of the house and that we were free to eat whatever was in the fridge. I quickly found a fruit pie in the fridge and started my second supper. Shortly after, a lady who Dan and Michelle had talked to the restaurant, showed up with a box full of food. She had heard that they needed supplies to get through the next couple days and had decided to bring them some of the groceries out of her own pantry. After Dan and Michelle had picked through what they wanted, they offered what was left to Joseph and I.

Dan and Michelle getting some free food from a local lady

Just relaxing after a hard day in the saddle
After putting away our newly gained food, we rested our aching bodies and talked about our experiences on the Divide. It is so easy to be cynical; but over the last few days we had experienced some of the best of mankind. From the helpful employees at the car shop to strangers in Pie Town opening their homes and pantries to us, we could feel the love of others, and had been truly blessed. I don’t know if any of the people we had met were Christians or not; but they were certainly carrying out the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The people I had met during this trip had challenged me to ask myself, “Do I actually love my neighbor as myself to the point that I am willing to sacrifice my own comfort to help them, or do I just love myself?” Christ calls us to help others and to give of our goods until it hurts. Do we as relatively wealthy Americans fulfill this command or do we make excuses so we don’t have to? What we often forget is that what we have, our homes, our cars, the money we make from our jobs, even our time on this earth, are not actually ours. They are blessings given to us from God, and as a result they are His. We are simply the stewards of these blessings and they are to be used to further His kingdom and to help those that are hurting on this earth. How are you using the blessings God has given you?

Till next time,

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Day 28: Cuba to Grants

The alarm clock started blaring at 5:00 AM. Joseph and I achingly unfolded our sore bodies from under the sheets and started our morning ritual of packing up the detritus that had spilled from bike bags the evening before. After we finished packing we rolled out of the parking lot of the motel toward the nearby McDonalds. The air was cool enough I had to put on almost all my warm clothes; but I knew I would be shedding almost all my layers when the New Mexico sun started blazing in only a few hours. We got to the McDonalds before it opened so we had to wait until the friendly manager unlocked the door for us. I ordered my food, then set down on one of the cold plastic booths to gorge myself with bacon, cheese, and egg sandwiches. As I set there chewing away, another customer came up and asked us where we were riding to. I replied that we were heading for the Mexican border but that we hoped to make it to Grants by that evening.

            "You do know that Grants is about three hours by car from here don't you!" he exclaimed. I told him I did know, but that it was mostly flat between Cuba and Grants and that it should be doable to ride 120 miles by dark. He walked away looking a little incredulous that it was even possible for two cyclists could ride 120 miles of hot, wind-swept desert in only 8-10 hours.

            This conversation made me think about how it is so easy for us to compare ourselves to others. We think that everyone should have the same goals in life as us, and if they don't there is something "wrong" with them. If we see someone who is trying to accomplish something we think is impossible it is too easy to immediately assume they must be crazy. When I reflect on how it is difficult to see where other people are coming from, I always think about one of my favorite quotes from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” We have no idea what motivates a person or what they feel is important to accomplish in the short life we have on this earth. Just because we cannot identify with that they are doing does not mean that it is automatically wrong or "stupid." When I told my friends and family that I was planning on biking across America from Canada to Mexico, people at home were generally supportive. However, I could tell that behind everything they thought I was a little off my rocker. I don't really fault them for this because they just couldn't identify with why someone would want to leave the many comforts of their home community to face the immense expanses of the West on nothing but two wheels. What they didn't understand was that this is exactly why I wanted to do it. To spend all day pedaling my bike across vast stretches of awe inspiring wilderness with nothing to do the next day but to do it again. Collapsing on the ground from exhaustion to fix my supper of ramen noodles over a hissing camp stove while listening to the sounds of a nearby murmuring stream. Waking up while it is still dark to fix breakfast and be sipping steaming hot coffee as the sun peeks over the horizon. Fantasizing about drinking a can of Pepsi for hours and at long last popping open that cold can dripping with condensation. Riding 60 miles by lunch just so you can eat a massive burrito in Salida CO. Falling asleep dry and cozy in your goose down sleeping bag as rain pelts on the fly of your tent. To me it made perfect sense to ride my bike 2,500 miles. In fact it would have been crazy for me not to do at least one thing like this in my life!

            As we left the restaurant we met the Tour Divide racers we had seen the day before. We chatted for a while but we knew we needed to get going so we left after wishing each other well. I turned off the main road just outside of town and paralleled it for a mile or so. Not long after we turned toward the west and started a series of short climbs and descents that went on for miles. We were now entering the Navajo Indian Reservation. Every mile or so we would go by a ramshackle hut or trailer sitting off the road. 

Each house seemed to have at least one mongrel dog whose only entertainment was to see if they could gnaw on the skinny legs of passing cyclists. Soon Joseph and I would start speeding up when we saw a house even if we did not see any dogs. They were sure to be there somewhere! The junky houses with dogs was not the only thing we had to deal with, the side of the road was covered in junk which was mostly shattered glass liquor bottles and fast food containers. We would be miles from any major town yet the roadside still had at least one alcohol bottle every ten feet or so. I am by no means a tree hugger but it was shocking to see so much trash lying around. We had been warned in Cuba that the Navajos were not very kind to outsiders; and between the slavering wolves and liquor bottles everywhere I was starting to get a little worried.

            As we were flying down a slight downhill on an arrow straight road I felt something wet spraying against my leg. I soon realized that it was sealant spraying out of my rear tire. We stopped and I turned the wheel until the hole was pointing down where the sealant did its job and quickly plugged the leak. I can only surmise that one of the many pieces of glass laying on the shoulder of the road had gashed it open. The tire was a little softer than before but it still had enough air so we soldiered on through the wind and increasing heat. A few miles later we stopped at a gas station/grocery store at a small community. I went inside and bought some food and drinks. Then I went outside to get some food down before we set off on the last 70-80 miles of the day. By now it was getting much hotter so I picked a place to sit where I could lean up against the wall while still being in the shade. As Joseph and I were sitting there eating snacks and downing Gatorades, we had a couple natives come up and talk to us. They seemed genuinely interested in what our trip and even wished us well before they left. So much for the Navajos being unfriendly!

            I threw my leg over my bike’s top tube and we set off. We turned toward the south and began to lose the benefit of the tailwind we had had for most of the morning. Instead of flat scrub we started to ride through the Chaco Mesa region with sandstone cliffs on both sides of the road. 

Chaco Mesa rock formations

Since the rest of the day was pavement I decided I should pump up my tires which had lost some air 30 miles before. I stopped, and using my mini pump, started to pump up my tire. I had only been pumping for a few strokes when the valves stem, which was made of brittle aluminum, broke off inside my pump. All the air rushed out so I had to take off my tire, move my valve stem, and install a tube. This took about 10-15 minutes and the whole time we were there by the road the sun was beating down and reflecting off the rocks around us. Finally I fixed my tire and we pedaled as hard as we could trying to get some more wind moving to cool us down.

            After that the road became rather monotonous. It was really easy to just space out when you were listening to the hum of knobby tires on pavement with nothing new to see for mile after mile. We crossed a slight rise to the Continental Divide and just kept pedaling. The one distinguishing thing we saw all day was a mine. Before we got to it we were passed by a guide truck and then by two low boy trailers which were hauling one half of dump truck bed each. Our mouths gaped open as the trucks whooshed by us.

 Not long after the trucks passed us we started to ride past the mine. This area had been called “the uranium capital of the world”, so I don’t know if it was a uranium mine, I just know it was huge. Several miles later we turned right into the worst headwind of the day. Joseph and I took turns drafting behind each other as we slowly churned against the wind. After 100+ miles of riding my legs were shot and my backside was hurting so bad I could hardly sit down; but unfortunately the wind had obviously not gotten the memo that it should take it easy on the two salt-incrusted bikers heading into Grants.

A horse trying to race us

            We rolled into Grants at around 4:00 PM. We had covered 120-125 miles in about ten hours.  I was hungry, partially dehydrated, and sun burnt. Joseph was as shot as I was, if not more, so for the second night in a row we decided to get a motel room. After taking showers we ordered in pizza and talked about the next few days. Except for Pie Town, about 70 miles further south, there was no place to resupply until we reached Silver City which was 250 miles away. I knew that because of a dry spring and summer the surface water between Pie Town and Silver City would be limited so I was starting to become a little worried. There was nothing I could fix by worrying so I clicked off the light and dropped into a deep slumber.

Til next time,

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day 27: Middle of Nowhere to Cuba NM

I woke up already thirsty. We had rationed water the night before while cooking, and I had just over one water bottle left. Joseph was slightly better off but not by much. We ate a few bites of breakfast, which we washed down with a few swallows of precious liquid, then started climbing yet again. I was hoping we would have a short climb to the top of the mesa, then a gradual downhill to Cuba, but my hopes were not to be realized. By now I was starting to get a little tired of the horrible New Mexico roads. 

At one point the road disintegrated into a surface that was more football sized rocks than dirt. After slowly bouncing down the very steep road from one rock to another, I finally reached the bottom where sat an exercise bicycle in the middle of the road! I hadn’t seen Joseph for quite a while so I decided I had better wait for him. Ten or so minutes later he showed up, short a water bottle. One of the water bottles on his fork legs had bounced out from the rough road and he had spent some time trying to find it. He wasn’t ready to give up the search so he got off his bike and hiked back up the rock field to see if he could spot his bottle on foot. To kill some time while he searched, I made use of the exercise bike to improve my cardio. 

After another ten to fifteen minutes he showed up, still without his water bottle. We then made our way over the next 40 or so miles of rollercoaster terrain. We would have a short downhill of a half mile or so, only to hit a climb of similar length. I ran out of water at around 10:30 so I began looking around for a water source. The map said there were several cattle tanks around but after looking at a couple which were either dry or filled with abominable looking water, I decided maybe I could wait for just a little longer. After what seemed like hours upon hours of riding (it was), we came upon a road that was only was paved but even had yellow painted lines on it. Soaking in the luxury of a smooth road, we flew down a very steep downhill into the little town of Cuba.

            The first thing on our agenda was some food and drink. We found a little pizza place, ordered our pizza and drinks, and slouched wearily into our chairs waiting for our food while drinking soda after ice cold soda. After gorging ourselves on calorie laden pizza, we gathered up the leftovers, and went looking for a grocery store. After finding one we restocked our supplies for the next day or so. After leaving the store we decided we would get a motel room. It was 120 miles to the next town and we did not feel like riding all night after going for hours with no water. We went to the nearest motel, which turned out to be surprisingly affordable at a cost of only $45. While we were getting our room I happened to look down the street and saw some other riders only a few hundred yards away. We got our room key then pedaled over to them. It turns out that the tire tracks we had been following for the last three days belonged to them. They were riding in the Tour Divide, the race that takes place each year on the GDMBR. We started riding in Montana just over a week after the race started in Banff Alberta, and we were now catching up with some of the racers! They were in almost last place but it still gave us an ego boost. We chatted for a while about the rest of the route and what our plans were for the next few days, then rode back to our motel room.

After taking some showers and relaxing in the air conditioning for a few hours we walked down the street to a restaurant where I had some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had. This stands to reason in a state that was settled by the Spanish several hundred years before Americans started moving in. While we were inside it started raining so hard I was afraid the roof would cave in! It stopped soon after and we walked back to our motel bathed in the aromatic scent of sagebrush and wet pavement.

The next day we had 120 miles to Grants so we set our alarms for around 5:00. With our bellies full we collapsed on the soft beds and mentally prepared ourselves for the distance and heat we were sure the next day would bring.

Til next time,