Friday, July 31, 2015


The last few days since leaving Grants has been a period of high expectations only to be derailed or disappointed. No worries, my attitude is still great and things are rolling along, but to say that everything went as expected or planned would simply be lying.

Monday, July 27: Grants to Pie Town, 70.1 miles

I opted for the El Malpais Alternate this morning and not because it was nearly 18 miles shorter than the main route. I wanted to ride it because it was paved and after the issues with mud in the desert and the rain that fell in Grants, I wanted a smooth ride. I got one. It was scenic and low traffic. There were a few large trucks, but they gave me plenty of room. A guy in a pickup even stopped and asked if I wanted a lift. I was 4 miles from the turn off to Pie Town and he was headed in a different direction, so I passed.

I made pretty good time to Pie Town. I was pretty excited because Pie Town is somewhat legendary in Great Divide circles. Well, I was bummed when I got there. I arrived just before 4:00 and everything was closed. The Pie-O-Neer was only open on Thursday-Sunday and the other cafe closed at 3:00. I also had a package from Buck Tanner at the post office, but small community post offices often close at noon or 1:00. Everything I was looking forward to was closed, it was indeed a let down. The only place open was a little shop run by Janet, who sells her own art and items from other local artists. She also sells some sodas and light food items, so I ate and talked to her for a while. She also pointed me to the Toaster House.

The Toaster House is definitely one of the highlights of Pie Town and the Great Divide. Nita, the owner, apparently raised a family there. Now, it is unoccupied except for the riders and hikers that are allowed to overnight there along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. And all the toasters that decorate the fence outside. It is donation driven, you just leave some money in a box inside. The house is kept stocked with food; there were fresh potatoes and onions on the counter, sodas, lots of packaged snacks, a pantry full of non-perishable food and even a whole watermelon. The back had a refrigerator full of frozen pizza and pot pies and filled with beer. It was one of the neatest things I've experienced. I ate some of the pizza, had some soda, a Rolling Rock and some ramen.

About 8:30, a four wheeler pulled up and behind it was Chad. He couldn't find the Toaster House, so a local showed him the way. I went out and said Hi. When I told the young man who brought Chad my name, he said, "Is that Cambodian?" I was impressed. He said he was in the Navy and had a Cambodian friend.

Tuesday, July 28: Pie Town to Middle of Nowhere, 64.6 miles

I was up early with no where to go because the post office didn't open until 8:00. Ate some food and made coffee at the Toaster House. Left my donation to the Toaster House. Rode to the post office and got my care package. Thanks Tanners. Went next door to Janet's again and had some coffee and a croissant. She, Chad and I talked for a while. We decided to stay until 9:30 when the cafe opened. You can't leave Pie Town without having pie!

The wait was worth it. I had the New Mexico Apple ala mode. Connor, who is doing an Individual Time Trial (ITT), joined us. He had already covered 30 miles that morning. He started on July 5 and was caught up with me already, averaging well over 100 miles per day. The three of us swapped stories and gorged. It meant a late start, after 10:30, but the terrain was set up for lots of fast miles.

When I started rolling, I was making good time. I was hoping to get close to Beaverhead Work Center, 99 miles away. Covered 30 miles quickly and then it started raining. Conner and I waited out the rain for nearly an hour. Then we were riding again. Covered another 25 miles pretty well, though it would rain lightly off and on. The grades were gentle and Beaverhead was looking good. Then I hit a section of clay. The clay clumps, so as you roll it clogs the clearance between your tires and frame locking up your wheels. You'd clean off as much as you could, roll 3 feet and then it's all clogged again. I was two inches taller because it would clump to the bottom of my shoes.

Conner said he was going to push on, he was more determined and has a lighter set up than me. I pushed about 3/4 mile and camped. Beaverhead was not going to happen. I was still 30 miles away. It was frustration, mixed with disappointment. The rain was crushing my momentum.

Wednesday, July 29: Middle of Nowhere to Rocky Canyon Campground, 66.3 miles

Again, I was up at 6:30 but took my time getting packed in the morning. It had rained again and I wasn't going very far fast. When I did get moving, I made the strategic decision of not riding in the road. I rode in the grass beside the road as much as I could. Pushed where I had to. I was really thankful for the big tires this morning. Biked about 2.5 miles before the road met another road. The surface, while still dirt, improved immediately. I was so elated to be able to pedal. I was going to make up for lost time. Lake Roberts, 85 miles away, was my goal!

Like the day before, I was making great time. The Beaverhead Work Center houses Hot Shot Fire Crews that go in and fight wildfires. A firefighter named Anthony rode down to the water station and asked if I needed anything. He told me they have men all around-- in California, British Columbia and other places fighting fires right now. He had tweaked his knee, so he was recovering. I told him I was good, I'd probably grab a cold drink from the vending machine. He said it was broken, but he'd be back. A few minutes he returns with a tall cup of Pepsi and a bowl of fresh fruit mixed in yogurt. I wasn't expecting that! This day kept getting better. I was definitely going to make Lake Roberts.

Soon after leaving Beaverhead, you pass little Wall Lake. There it started raining again. I waited 30 minutes before riding on. The rain let up and things were going well. I topped out on two climbs. On the descent to Black Canyon, I hit the clay again. I was literally stuck. I would push 3-4 feet, wheels lock up and I'd spend 2-3 minutes cleaning. I decided the best technique would be to drag the bike sideways. I would do this for 4-5 feet, rest and do it again. I did this for about 300 meters before I was too tired. 80 pound bike, pulling it uphill, was tiring. Lake Roberts wasn't going to happen. I cursed and fumed and laughed and cursed some more. Things were going so well...

Had someone driven by in a pickup I would have asked for a ride out of there, but alas, I would see no one on that road.

I ended up ditching the bike and walking nearly a quarter mile to see where the road improved. Then I made two trips, one carrying my panniers and the other carrying, pushing, dragging the bike. One more cleaning and I could ride. My drivetrain was gunked and gravel grinding, but I could pedal. Maybe I would make Lake Roberts.

About 6:30, the skies opened up again. Evening thunderstorm. Of course. I rode on since I was already wet. Made it to Rocky Canyon, which is not the developed campground I was hoping for. And it was still 20 miles short of Lake Roberts. But the rain had stopped and I set up camp. I cleaned off my dirty stuff in the rising creek next to the campground. When I was settled, I got in the tent to rest and eat. And then it rained again. At least I was dry.

Thursday, July 30: Rocky Canyon Campground to Silver City, 50.3 miles

When I woke, I did a lot of things that I were no fun. I packed a soaking wet tent. I put on wet clothes. Wet jersey and shorts, wet socks and shoes. The rain the day before and overnight had caused the water to rise in the creeks draining into the valley. Lots of fording of creeks that had flooded the road.

But the sun came out! Thursday would be the first day I did not get rained on in New Mexico. I rode into Lake Roberts finally! At the motel/store there, I asked if there was a place I could get breakfast. The lady said no, nothing was opened. She had some burritos made, but sent them away to a worksite. She offered me hers, but I didn't want to take that. More disappointment! But then the truck that had picked up the burritos came back for something and she grabbed one for me, so things worked out.

It was a big 10 mile climb out of the Lake Roberts and the climb didn't feel bad at all. There was no rain, the sun was out and I was going to make Silver City. It's really unfortunate about all the rain, because the Gila National Forest was one of the prettiest places that I rode through on the Great Divide. I just couldn't appreciate it at the time because I was frustrated and slowed down.

Roll into Silver City and stop at Gila Hike and Bike. For the last 4 days, I was wondering if my rear tire would make it to Silver City, much less the border. I would occasionally hear or feel leaks that the sealant would close. But I could tell that a good amount of air had left the tires and the tires were getting close to being worn through. I was going to either get them to put a bunch of sealant in the tire and take a chance on the border or maybe get them to rotate the tires. Against my expectations, they had a 29x3 Surly Knard in the shop. I was going to have to buy a new tire when I got home anyway, so I went ahead and bought it and had them install it. Finally, something working my way! And now, I knew I wouldn't be stranded 4 miles from the border with a giant hole in the tire.

Staying at the Bike Haus. Found Conner (below) there too! He's going to bike 120 miles to the border on Friday. It's an interesting place. About 5-6 guys live there and they open their house to the random cyclists who need a place to crash. It is definitely a bachelor set up, I would not call it the Marriott. The people living there are an interesting, eclectic group who range from a college professor to people who just arrived in Silver City and looking to get established. Not my first choice, but it's cheap and that works for me right now.

Im two days to the border. Brian, who I met over a week ago in northern New Mexico, has agreed to come get me at the border on Sunday and house me in El Paso and take me to catch the Monday train east. It's really neat how things indeed do work out. I was planning on biking two days from the border to El Paso and this random dude I meet offers to come get me (though he said I was welcome to bike it if I wanted). My plan is to take the train home, tickets run me $279. That's versus $600-700 to fly and ship bike, so it's worth it to me. A bike box is only $10 on Amtrak, $150 on most airlines.

The homestretch is near. Thanks for reading and following. Thanks for the prayers, encouragement and support.


J Smilanic said...

Of all places who would have thought New Mexico would give you so much rain? Sounded rough there for a while. Good luck on the rest of your journey!

Lisa Dobbins said...

I have loved reading about your trip and am kind of sad to see it end, as it gave me a really nice escape from the daily grind! Best blessings for the rest of the journey and look forward to hopefully seeing some follow-up blog posts!

Lisa Dobbins