Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 31: Beaverhead Work Center to Silver City

Journal Entry
Beaverhead Work Center to Silver City 84 miles
Lots of steep hills today! Butt is really sore but legs feel decent. Ate a good lunch at a café at Lake Roberts then rode on to Silver City

Over the course of riding the Divide I went through many different emotions. When I first started in Montana, it seemed surreal that I was finally doing what I had dreamed about for years, and I almost had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. After crossing the halfway point near the Wyoming-Colorado border, I knew that barring any accidents I would be able to finish, and I began to push myself to ride faster and longer each day to get it over with. With the end only a few days away I became conflicted. I wanted to go home to see my friends and family again, but somehow over the past four weeks I had been infected with the desire to just keep pedaling till the money ran out. Riding my bike every day and sleeping in a tent had become the new normal for me, and I had reached the place where I would rather face exhaustion and dehydration than the humdrum world of “normal” life. It was with these conflicting emotions that I began my second to last day on the Divide.

Knowing that we would be facing heat and lots of climbing, Joseph had set his alarm so that we could break camp and be on the road before the sun came up. As we rode through the chilly pre-dawn air, Joseph and I talked about completing our trip. It was something that we had both eagerly anticipated since the beginning of our ride, but I had a feeling that I wasn’t the only one that did not want this journey to end.

Chilly morning

Only minutes after starting out we began the first of many relatively short but very steep climbs. Joseph and I would climb for one to two miles on loose switchbacked roads, then descend at hair-raising speeds down the other side, our tires scrabbling for grip till we reached the bottom, only to do it all over again. I had not eaten as much food as I probably should have that morning and the combination of steep hills and lack of energy was beginning to take its toll. Reaching the bottom of yet another hill, I stopped to take a swig of warm water and gag down another granola bar my body was rejecting, but knowing I needed the calories I ate anyway. Pedaling in my lowest gear, me and my 50 lb. bicycle began to climb another hill in what was becoming oppressive heat. My legs were rebelling but I forced them to submit and keep pedaling. My head hung down with sweat drenching my jersey and dripping off the end of my nose. A half hour later I had gained the top and was rewarded with a cooling downhill that ended all too soon. Much of the enjoyment of letting gravity take over was squelched by the fact that many of the switchback, of which there were many, had loose gravel in the corners that constantly tried to drag me down to join it in the dirt. After 45-50 miles of constant climbing and descending on dirt roads we finally reached Highway 35 and turned right toward Lake Roberts.

After mile upon mile of dusty, rocky roads, my behind almost sighed with relief at the smooth pavement. The road was almost completely flat and if anything slightly downhill so we made good time. After more than 100 miles in the Gila my food supplies were getting low so I was looking forward to a hot meal at one of the restaurants around Lake Roberts and maybe a resupply at a store. My hopes were crushed, however, when I passed a restaurant that had boarded up windows and a For Sale sign out front. After following Sapillo Creek for ten miles we climbed up and around Lake Robert. Just on the other side of the Lake we discovered a small store with some candy bars and cold sodas, also known as cyclist nirvana! While we were talking to the proprietor he mentioned that there was a restaurant just a few miles down the road. With visions of burgers dancing in my head I quickly got back on my bike and pedaled like a mad man toward my lunch.

It was around 2 pm when Joseph and I pulled into the parking lot of a nice-looking restaurant. We walked in the door and were directed upstairs to the dining room. With our dirty and sweaty biker garb on I felt a bit conspicuous in a restaurant filled with cool, clean, and deodorized patrons, but at this point I just wanted some calories and something cold to drink. We ordered our food, I got a burger, and just set there soaking up the AC and our sodas. After quickly dispatching all the food put before us, we paid our bills and walked back out into the heat. I refilled my water bottles at a garden hose, then looked at the map. We still had twenty-five hilly miles to get to Silver City, but with it being only mid-afternoon, we weren't worried.

Yet Another Climb

Pinos Altos

About a mile after the restaurant I turned onto Route 15 and began to climb up a road that reminded me of what I had ridden that morning, but lucky for me it was paved this time. Over the course of the next few miles we climbed back up to over 7000 feet. After a few mile downhill and another steep uphill to the almost ghost town of Pinos Altos we crossed the Divide and began the long paved descent into Silver City, the last real town before the end of our ride.

A sign I love to see

We rolled into town and our first stop was (no surprise!) a restaurant. We walked into a Taco Bell and as we were waiting for our orders, a rather thin and sunburnt man in cargo shorts walked up to us and started talking. He had seen our bikes outside and immediately knew we were riding the Divide because he had just finished it himself! He was one of the racers doing the Tour Divide and he had finished a few days before. After getting the obligatory Divide rider chit chat out of the way, we starting talking about what it took to get back from the border. The border crossing of Antelope Wells could hardly be more in the middle of nowhere. The nearest community, Hachita NM, was 45 miles away from the border, and it was at least another 40 miles to the first decent sized town. It was something that had weighed on my mind from even the very earliest stages of planning this trip. In Pie Town Joseph had seen an advertisement from a man that lived in Hachita called Sam Hughes who ferried CDT hikers and Divide riders to and from the border. Since we had had no cell service during the last two days we had not been able to call. We finished our meal pedaled the few blocks to the local Motel 6 and rented a room for the night. Joseph had earlier gotten a message that his cousin, Sherman, was buying a truck in Texas and would possibly be able to pick us up. After calling Sam and getting our ride from the border set up, Joseph then called Sherman and confirmed that he would be able to pick us up in El Paso in two days. This left us one day to ride to the border, then one day to get to El Paso. For the last couple weeks I had been praying each night that we would find a solution to our problem of getting home, and it seemed that things were working out even better than I had ever imagined! 

As Joseph and I were celebrating the fact that we had a ride home from the border, a woman walked into the motel and we soon found out that she was Dan's girlfriend. She was sure that he and Michelle would have been into town by now but they still had not shown up. After looking online at Dan and Michelle's GPS trackers we saw they they were still moving and were still a few miles outside of town. After chatting for a few minutes I headed back to our room to get some sleep.

Dan's girlfriend and the Divide racer
As I was cutting off the light I started thinking about the next day and I could hardly believe what I was about to accomplish. My dream of completing the Divide was only a day's ride away, and not only that, it seemed like everything was falling into place for the last leg of our journey. With my mind at peace it was not long until I drifted off to sleep.

Til next time,

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