Camp ground somewhere in Carson National Forest Nm. – Somewhere in Santa Fe National Forest ; 162km distance, 2,820m climbing, 11hrs 30mins moving time.
Next time – I sleep here ^^ . Turns out US postal offices in the middle of nowhere leave their doors open at night. Where it doesn’t rain on you. And you don’t get sniffed by horses. Hopefully.
By the time I woke the next morning it’d had rained a bit more, but the wind had picked up and dried the road out mostly. I was out and moving by 5am and while not fast, I was making ok time into the second half of the forest. Climbing over the first pass of the day I looked at my watch and figured it was Sunday and I was probably going to be too early for the Snack Shack to be open. Which was a pity as I didn’t have a huge amount of food. I rode on past and headed towards the next town, Vallecitos.
I’m going to be blunt. It’s a shithole. I know there is not much money, work or anything in this area – but it’s no reason to have your dogs so poorly trained that they attack anything that goes past. Three sets of dogs within 500m chased me, two nips on my shoes, and one that I had to kick in the face. I’m not sorry – if you let your dog behave this way, this is what will happen to it. I got out of town, a few miles down the road and pulled off and started crying. I don’t like having to be aggressive. I don’t like having a fight or flight response. But it just kicked in. I spent the next few hours sullen and depressed. Looking at empty can after can of Bud Light in the ditches and smashed bottles of Costcos finest vodka. The two cars I saw all morning tried to run me over, one saw me for miles and came past within inches of my bars – from behind. The other, with 4 jeering locals in the back just refused to share the road. Assholes.
By the time I got to the rode to Bodes Truck Stop in Abique I was ready to be done with this race. Checking my bag for final bit of food 10km or so out, a local pulled over to give me info on how far it was, I pratically growled at him I was so far out of it with hunger and lack of water. “Only 6 miles you say? Well that’s just fucking great, thanks.” I rode off without even bothering to say sorry. I was not in a good place at this stage.
At the truck stop I decided to stop for an hour maximum. I did a first round to get my normal food and fluid then sat away from any other humans until I’d eaten it all, avoiding all eye contact, not wanting to have to deal with anyone until I had calories in me. My second trip around the store was for nice things – 3 breakfast burritos, coffee (shit) and some ice-cream. It was already into the high 30s and I figured I should drink more than my share so my third trip was all about fluid – Gatorade and Redbull. I leaked from the seams as I rolled out of town up the hill, to where my notes had said there were more dogs. Sure enough, more fucking dogs.
I’d been warned about this next section by two other UK based riders – Ponderosa Mesa, don’t underestimate it. They were right, but not for the climb – 18miles of lava flow – not for the heat – it was low 40s again. But for the thunderstorm at over 3,000m, lighting striking all around, and me the stupid sap that I am riding on giggling to myself – how much fun was this? I’m probably going to die! It’s a long, open and brutal section of the race and I loved it. Somewhere up the climb I met a 4*4 rider who chatted with me and informed me that we’d left Europe – I apologize for the tirade of abuse that I hurled out of my mouth, so angry, use it, smash the climb.
Over the top and onto the plateau I stopped for a pee with some cows and to enjoy the view in the steaming pools of water (and pee). I ate some more and realised that the day was ok, I’d got through the bit of NM that was worrying for me and I’d be in Cuba in a few hours and onto the road alternate early the next morning. I’d always planned today to be a 250km day and was aiming to get through the 200km road alternate tomorrow early, then push on to Pie town – a 380km day, but with over 300km of road forming most of it. Sadly, it was not to be.
This is when my bike broke. I’m still not sure exactly what happened but it’s best described as so: I got on to pedal, went to freewheel, my rear hub decided it wanted to be a fixed gear, i tried to coast, my mech/hanger/cassette/chain/spokes all got fucked up within 5 seconds. Game over. You don’t have much water or food. You are not making Cuba tonight.
I sat at the side of the trail and cried for the second time in a day. Not for long as I knew this was something I could deal with. Let’s science the shit out of this. I found most of my rear mech – it had quite literally exploded under tension. I rebuilt it as best I could with cable ties, and some Sugru (epoxy resin ish). I straightened my chain – aka bashed it between two very large rocks a lot – I finished on this chain (SRAM). I left the cassette knowing I could not use the lowest two gears. I fitted my spare mech hanger.
I then started walking.
I knew the Sugru would take time to cure so I couldn’t put the mech under strain yet. I pushed every up, scooted on the flats, coasted the downs. It was 5pm, I did this until 11pm when I was too tired to walk in a straight line, to hungry to think, too thirsty to bother doing anything. I don’t think I’d peed since about 4pm, I needed to save water for what I knew could be another 6-8 hours walking tomorrow if the mech didn’t work. Bed – no dreams – just sore feet.