Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 32: Silver City to Antelope Wells

Journal Entry: A pretty uneventful day. Just lots of riding! We had Sam Hughes pick us up at the border. He is quite a character! We are camping in his yard in Hachita, which is pretty much a ghost town. I have mixed feelings about the end of this journey. I am very ready to get home, but at the same time I have become used to the life and would like to continue on if I could. I am just glad God gave me the ability, resources, and support so I could see His amazing creation. God be praised for all I have experienced over the past 32 days!!!!

On the morning of our 32nd day on the Great Divide Joseph and I awoke early, just as so many other mornings since Montana. However something was different this time, today was the end of the journey I had dreamed about and had spent much time and effort to accomplish. As I was putting on my biking clothes for the last time in the tiny bathroom of our motel room, I looked at the mirror and almost didn’t recognize the worn, gaunt, and sunburned person looking back at me. Even though I had stuffed myself at every opportunity over the past month, I could tell I had visibly lost weight. All of the extra flesh accumulated from years of eating delicious but heavy Mennonite cuisine had fallen away until my body had become a finely tuned machine with one purpose, to cover many miles over terrain that many people would hesitate to tackle with four wheels and a motor.

In many ways I had changed more mentally than physically. Obstacles that would have looked insurmountable back home, now looked like a joke in comparison to what I had faced over the last month. Whether it had been wind in Montana, dehydration in Wyoming, mountains and hail in Colorado, or mud in New Mexico, I had encountered each challenge and had come out the other side much stronger. This is not to say that I had not suffered or had moments where I doubted whether I could finish. Instead when I was faced with moments of doubt or physical weakness, I knew that I had no choice but to forge ahead by sheer force of will. It is in these moments of physical and mental anguish that you discover what really dwells inside of you. When you face adversity, the facade of triviality and cliché comes off and the pure essence of your character is revealed. Every flaw and inadequacy is revealed, and often what you see is not comforting. I would hesitate to say that through these hardships I had become a better person, but I had received a greater insight into who I was. Now that I had seen the grimy reality of my soul I could no longer fool myself.

As my mind was mulling over the past few weeks, I packed up my gear for the last time and rolled my bike out the door of our room. It was encrusted with the dirt of several states but still was rolling along with only a few squeaks here and there. Joseph and I crossed the parking lot of motel, checked out, and then hit up the local McDonalds. We wolfed down our food and were soon whirring down the empty, pre-dawn streets of Silver City. The first 18 miles were on a four lane highway so we got as far to the right as we could and pedaled as hard as we could. The miles passed quickly, and after a stop at a convenience store for some food and drink, we turned left onto a dirt road that ran through the sandy desert. The road danced in and out of dry creek bed so I had to be careful not to let the sand suck my tires down as I crossed it. After an initial downhill, the route climbed up and over another Divide crossing. There were not any big climbs, but each one we encountered was made harder by the fact that the sandy road kept holding us back. After cresting the Divide the route steadily descended into Separ. We crossed the railroad tracks, rode under Interstate 10, and rolled up to a tourist trap called the “Historic” Divide Trading Post. I parked my bike outside and hoped they would have some food.

They trading post was chock full of tacky Indian memorabilia, and I had almost given up on some food until I saw a small kiosk in the back. There was a small assortment of microwavable burritos and a cooler full of drinks and prepackaged sandwiches. I wasn’t sure how long the food had been sitting there but I was hungry so I really didn’t care. I bought a tuna salad sandwich, a drink, and some other food for the seventy or so miles remaining. After eating our food, we set off on a gravel road which paralleled the interstate for about eight miles. The gravel road ended and we curved right onto a paved road. Shortly after hitting blacktop we saw a sign which filled us with joy, “65 miles to Antelope Wells.” It now hit home that, barring any mechanical mishaps, we would be at the end of our journey in only a few hours.

Away from the roar of the interstate traffic, I could now look around and appreciate the scenery. All around were cacti and scrubby brush that looked as if they were barely surviving in the parched Chihuahuan Desert. We were on a flat road that stretched straight in front of us a far as we could see. For the next ten or so miles we gradually climbed until we passed our final Divide crossing. A couple miles later we entered the town of Hachita, where Sam Hughes lived. He must have been looking out for us because as we pedaled through the tiny community he pulled besides us in his Toyota truck. We introduced ourselves and told him that we would probably be at the border by around four o clock. We waved goodbye and prepared ourselves for another forty-five miles of heat and wind.

The desert was beginning to really heat up but luckily it wasn’t as hot as our second day in New Mexico. Just like the past 31 days we pedaled and pedaled on a ribbon of smooth asphalt that never seemed to end. All the while I squirmed around on my saddle trying to get comfortable on a rear end that was still suffering from chronic saddle sores. Every half hour or so we were being passed by a Border Patrol vehicle. Antelope Wells is one of the least traveled border crossings in the US but it looked as if the government was not taking any chances on illegals getting across the border.

After an hour of mostly easy riding we were hit with a pretty stiff headwind. Our average speed quickly dropped from the mid to high teens to barely 11-12 mph. I had hoped to get to the border before it closed at 4 pm, but it soon looked as if that was not going to happen. Far in the distance it looked as if some thunderheads were forming which were probably the source of the headwind. We were heading directly toward clouds which were now spearing the ground with frequent and powerful lightning. The headwind picked up until our progress slowed to a crawl, then shortly after we began to get hit by some heavy sprinkles of rain. Not knowing if the rain would soon end or intensify, I pulled off the side of the road and put on my rain jacket. After a few miles of battling wind and rain the road bent toward the east, and finally our headwind lessened a bit. The black storm clouds still grumbled and rumbled to the west but it looked as if we would be able to miss getting struck by lightning within sight of the end of our ride. After stowing our rain gear Joseph and I called on our tired legs to pedal for just a little longer.

Ever since we had hit pavement near Separ we had been watching the mileage markers by the side of the road. It seemed as if the closer we got to the border the further apart they were. Each time I passed a marker that showed we had five fewer miles to go the fact that our trip was almost over began to sink in. Finally the 15 mile marker came and went, then the 10 mile. With only a handful of miles left to go, Joseph ran out of water. Luckily a Border Patrol truck stopped and gave him enough water to make it the rest of the way.

Although I was beginning to think I would never see it, we finally passed the 5 miles to go marker. This sign that the end was near lent speed to my legs that I didn’t know I had left after 2,500 miles of mountains and wind. The last few miles sped by as Joseph and I averaged close to 20 mph. At the 1 mile marker Joseph got out his IPhone to film the last mile.

With the tailwind helping us along I pedaled and coasted the last mile, all the while trying to wrap my head around the fact that my journey would soon be over. I wasn’t sure what to do or say. I was glad that the ride was over, and I wasn’t. I was dog tired, and I felt great. I couldn’t wait to get home, and I wanted to turn around and start riding north. As this storm of emotions stormed around inside of me, we curved around some of the buildings at the border, crossed a cattle guard, and rolled up to a black and yellow gate marking the end of our journey. I smiled at the camera and flashed a thumbs up, I had finished riding the Divide. 

1 comment:

Ruthie said...

Hey Jim, I just discovered your blog this morning! Not sure where I've been... Anyhow, you really need to get this all in a book! The pictures are amazing and I like your writing style. Ruthie