I shuffled myself awake after a couple of snooze button hits on the alarm. I sat at the edge of my bed in the rental airstream wondering how the hell I was going to do it all again. It was 3 a.m. and I didn’t feel like I could ride 5 miles, much less 150. Relentless Forward Progress, I thought–but it almost seemed sarcastic as I stood there and brushed my teeth in the camper sink. I decided I would just quit worrying about it, get dressed (I slept in my rain pants and base layer shirt), and do my best. Mornings, in general, were the worst, and I knew it would get better.
Ryan got up as I was getting ready, and we both packed our things in the airstream. I walked outside to check the temperature and provided my weather report: “It’s pretty cold”.
On my advice, we both put on our cold layers and ventured out onto the road. It wasn’t long before I realized I was wrong about it being really cold. We had the heater blasting in the airstream, and the contrast from our warm camper to the outdoors made it seem colder. It wasn’t long before I was burning up in my down jacket.
The first 20 miles were quite easy with a general downhill grade on a smooth road. We rode through the town of Horca, and then started up the paved La Manga Pass, as the first rays of daylight hit the ground. Ryan passed me, as usual. He hammered his single speed up the hill, and I cruised up the climb in my easy spinning gears. I actually felt quite strong. Compared to when I woke up, I felt like a superhero. The early morning and the views on the ride up the pass made for some wonderful riding. Just a couple hours ago, I felt like I belonged more in a doctors office than on a bike. Now I felt amazing, like I could ride all day again. I’ll give some credit to the cinnamon roll and fruit pie I brought with me from the Skyline lodge.
At the beginning of the race I would feel all the feelings in a day, but now I could feel all the feelings in just a couple of hours.
At the top, I caught back up to Ryan and we chatted about our bikes and geeked out on components, wheels, etc.. It was a great way to pass the time as we approached closer and closer to New Mexico.After over 2000 miles and two weeks of riding, I finally crossed into the final state.
Around 8a.m., we hit the New Mexico border in the Carson National Forest. It was a huge mental boost. It was the final state. I couldn’t believe I was actually in New Mexico. I started this bike ride in Canada!
There was some discussion of stopping to take a picture at the sign, but instead I just snapped a quick one on the bike and we moved forward. There was too much riding to do.
Up next was the infamous Brazos Ridge. It’s infamous because its dirt roads are totally unrideable after a good rain. I had heard stories of a number of riders who’ve had to push their bikes for hours upon hours through miles of mud.
Today, however, the sky was blue, the roads were dry, and Brazos Ridge was beautiful. The dry, deep, tire ruts I danced around were a constant reminder of just how lucky I was to ride these roads in optimal conditions.Brazos Ridge, I thank you for your kindness.
Ryan and I cycled the rolling hills, leap frogging one another. It was a beautiful landscape with no towns or people for miles. This wasn’t the New Mexico that you imagine in your mind. We were riding the ridge at nearly 11,000′ elevation, surrounded by wildflowers and evergreens. We descended the ridge and settled in for a long afternoon of riding. There were still nearly 60 miles until the next potential resupply in Canõn Plaza, NM. We had already ridden over 40 miles on the morning.
Hour after hour, I ticked off miles. Sometimes riding and talking with Ryan, sometimes listening to music and gazing at the scenery, and most of the time thinking about eating food and drinking sodas in Canõn Plaza. If it seems like I was almost always thinking about eating and drinking, it’s because I was. The Tour Divide was essentially an eating contest whilst riding your bike. I was eating and drinking over 8,000 calories daily, and I could still feel my bibs getting looser.
Finally after some 12 hours of riding, I hit the first resupply of the day at the Canõn Plaza summer store. It’s run by a nice woman named Silvia, who tracks the race and opens it up for riders as they come through. Her kids started it years ago, selling drinks and candy bars to riders. Eventually, they built a small shed near the road after the tree they used to sell under got struck by lightning. Silvia kept it going after her kids grew up.
When Ryan and I got there it was closed. We eventually found a little door bell, rang it, and after a couple of anxious minutes, Silvia rode down on a 4-wheeler with her dog to unlock the shed. Inside was a refrigerator stocked with ice cold sodas, water, and Gatorades. We sat down in the shed on fold out chairs and talked and relaxed for a few minutes. I wanted to stay for much longer, sitting there petting her dog, but Silvia gave us some trail beta. She told us most of the stores would probably be closed as we past through the next town and that, if we hurried we could still make it to Abiquiu, NM and the Abiquiu Inn before 9 p.m. –which is when the kitchen closed. It was the only opportunity left for resupply until 7 O’clock tomorrow morning. There was no choice, we had to make there. We said thanks, got some snacks and drinks to go and headed out quickly.
We took off down the road and our paces separated us within a couple miles. 5 miles from the summer store, I rode alone through the town of Vallecitos, NM. This town had no services, save for a post office. The “town” was one little street with one abandoned house after another. Little dogs barked continuously, as I rode down the street in awe. Two kids laughed and I watched them amble out onto the street playing with crutches. The house they came out of had broken windows. It was unlike anything I’d seen in America before. After just a couple of minutes I was through Vallecitos, but I didn’t stop thinking about it. It made me realize how privileged I was to be riding my fancy bike across the Rocky Mountains. No matter how hard this got, I chose to do this. Vallecitos is in rough shape.
Eventually, the route took me back onto a dirt road that climbed up switch-backs for a bit before beginning a big descent. As I flew downhill on the smooth dirt, I could hear cracks of lightning and thunder behind me. Weather was certainly moving in, but I took it as a challenge. I raced the storm, in a huge effort to stay out front of it. Powered by the fig newtons I bought at Silvia’s summer store, I did it. The storm never caught up. I cruised generally downhill for the next few miles through the town of El Rito, NM. Any minimal services it had were already closed. I flew through the little town without stopping. After El Rito, I got onto a highway road and pedaled slightly downhill for 10 miles. I was going anywhere from 20 to 30 miles an hour. It was some of the easiest miles of the race and it felt amazing! A bad picture of the highway into Abiquiu at sunset.
Very few miles come easy on the Divide, so you had to cherish them when they came. I did so by yelling aloud in happiness, and playing air drums to my music as I cruised down the road.
Sometime around 8:30 p.m., I pulled into the Abiquiu Inn. Unexpectedly, It was actually a nice hotel and cafe. It was a place you would actually want to stay. I saw Ryan outside, and we got a table at the cafe.
We each ordered two meals and drank an unhealthy amount of sodas. My tongue hurt so bad with every spicy bite of my enchiladas. Even my other meal, a more mild taco salad, was painful. Each bite had to be followed by water and Coke to be bearable. Eventually, I asked the waiter for a side of sour cream. I would take a bite of the enchilada, chase it with water, chase that with Coke, and then kill any residual burn with a spoonful of sour cream. It was a bit ridiculous, but it enabled me to eat without crying. I really just wanted to order some cold pudding and ice cream and just stick my tongue in it for a while. I didn’t, but it really did burn that bad.
I had thoughts of carrying on further that night, into the desert, but it was a really long stretch without resupply, and I didn’t have enough on the bike food or electrolyte drinks to push through–or so I convinced myself. The general store in Abiquiu would open at 7 a.m.. Ultimately, we decided we’d get a hotel room and be waiting at the general store before it opened. I felt guilty for stopping so early again today, but at this point in the race, it was so easy to cave at the prospect of an actual bed and a shower. To be fair to myself, I had already ridden for some 15-16 hours. We pushed our bikes down to the far end of the Abiquiu Inn property and went inside the room. I was absolutely ecstatic to find it had a coffee maker…and a nice shower!
I laid in bed replying to texts and Facebook posts and actually enjoyed a few moments of “normalcy”. I thought about how, in just a few days, this whole crazy thing could be over. A pang of sadness actually went through me at the thought. I liked the dirtbag lifestyle I was getting to live out, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for it to be over. Before long, however, my sleep deprived brain took over and I fell asleep, still replying to a text. I dropped my phone on my face. I decided it was time to actually sleep. I rolled over and reminded myself: I still had hundreds of New Mexican miles to ride and I was still in a race. To those thoughts, I fell asleep hard. Only 500 miles left.
Daily stats: 141 miles and 9200′ elevation gain
Ride time: 16 hours
Total route mileage: 2153 miles
Race elapsed time: 14 days, 22 hours