First nine days: Touring to train
We’ve finished our first nine days on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Nine days. 410 miles. One shower. Zero laundry. Just enough food. Tent and stove wearing out, sleeping pads with slow leaks (as usual). And blissfully happy to be on the road, living the simple and rewarding life of bike touring.
We began the trip with a van ride from the El Paso airport to Columbus, New Mexico, on Wednesday, May 22. We stayed with old but worthy habits and visited their library. John had a great conversation with Gordon, longtime library volunteer. Spent the night at the Los Milagros, a wonderful place with two adorable and well-dressed dogs, Minnie and Bonbon. Headed south the next morning to begin our trip at the Mexico/US border.
We hit gravel road on the second day of cycling. Only one car passed us for 45 miles. Desert wildflowers in bloom, temps in the 70s. Headwinds but not as bad as some we’ve encountered. Third day, as we were leaving Silver City and I was engrossed in a podcast while riding my bike, a rattlesnake crossing the road in front of me had the common sense to stop, rear up, and make some noise in order to get my attention. And she did get my attention. Thought process when encountering rattlesnake: oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, should I go back and take a photo, no, snake is probably already gone, don’t want photo, go, go, go.
On days three, four, and five, we rode through the Gila National Forest. Beautiful mountainous scenery with many steep and long climbs. Many times pushing bikes up gravelly roads. But that’s why it’s called “bikepacking.” Many times you are carrying or pushing your bike. And no one can shame me when I push my bike, I know my limits. 55 year-old woman with asthma riding the GDMBR. Doing it.
But at the end of these days my legs just quit. They told me when they were done. I knew I had to stop and was grateful for the many opportunities to wild camp. Beautiful spots all to ourselves and at no cost. We had groceries, water, stove and fuel, camp chairs (worth every ounce), tent, sleeping bags, and enflatable pads and pillows (leaky but nice). I also have my phone with Netflix and Prime downloads, ebooks, music, and podcasts. This is the good life.
Another thing that added to our happiness on the road were the trail angels. Anthony Hawkins, NFS firefighter, gave us cold Gatorade on day five and warned us of upcoming strong headwinds. Helped us get through the three hours of 25mph northerly winds. And one house that provided free water and food for GDMBR riders. Because of their generosity we were able to dump the green water we had collected from a cattle tank and resupply with potable water. And their cookies, peanuts, and apple sauce got us through to Pie Town. We learned a valuable lesson about grocery shopping in remote areas—count the calories in the food. Simple math: we each need at least 4,000 calories a day. Multiply by number of days. KIND bars don’t cut it.
PIE TOWN!! A magical place. The vision of Pie Town kept me going during lean and steep times. We arrived Wednesday, May 29, around 2pm. Headed straight to the Gathering Place restaurant and ordered a cherry pie with ice cream, coffee, and coke. Continued with chicken enchiladas, beans & cornbread. Finished with root beer floats. Went back the next morning for breakfast and coffee. These calories go a heck of a lot further than instant oatmeal and pop tarts. Zoom!!! Feel the power in your legs.
And today, after two relatively easy days of cycling through beautiful scenery, including the El Malpais National Mounument, we are in a hotel for two (TWO) nights in Grants, NM. Bathed. Laundry done. Food in the fridge. My birthday present to myself. Blissed out due to good clean living.
Why hit yourself in the head with a hammer? Because it feels so good when you stop.
We've been in Kansas for the past ten days, recovering from selling our house and getting rid of stuff. We spent a lot of time tromping around eight acres of Kansas farm land we plan to buy and hanging out with family. We begin the Great Divide Mountain Bike Ride Thursday, planning on taking 70 days to complete the route. After we finish the GDMBR in July, we'll be bicycle touring Yellowstone with friends and hanging out with Emma in Chelan, WA.