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,

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