Somewhere in Santa Fe National Forest – Grants New Mexico ; 235km distance, 1,650m climbing, 11hrs 20mins moving time.
Uggh, I feel like crap when I wake up. My feet hurt, my back hurts, everything is sticky and I have a banging headache. I eat the last non sugar based food I have, drink half of what little water I have left and cram my bivi and sleeping bag in my front roll. I shiver in the early morning inversion and start to look at my rear mech. The epoxy appears to have cured – time to see if I can actually pedal it. I roll along the first flat pedalling softly until the gradient kicks up – I give a tentative shift and hold my breath. It skips a little before settling down, looks like this may work. I have 6 stable gears I can use, so I still end up walking quite a bit. But less than last night, this is at least something.
I continue the walk, coast, pedal routine for most of the next two hours. I’m not 100% certain how far into the forest I am, and how far it will be until I start to descend. All I know is that it will come eventually. So for now, I’ll just keep on doing this. At around 8am the trail starts to make a distinct turn for the down – I employ every bit of skill I have from years off singlespeeding to keep my speed up – brakes are left untouched unless I really need them – I tuck and stay as small as possible to try and reduce the drag – I work as hard as I can to conserve momentum until my GPS chirps to say it’s the descent. Mostly all downhill to Cuba now. I shake my head and let it go, drink and eat, soon you’ll have food and you can figure out how to get out of here.
I take the long road descent to Cuba at full gas. Before I hit the town limits I turn my phone on for the first time in days, I get a signal and I ring Pauline while on the move. She’d arrived in the USA two days previously and I suspected she’d be worried at how my dot wasn’t moving too fast. I leave a message along the lines of “Had a mechanical, my race is over” I send a text message with the same details and head on down to Cuba. All I care about now is food and fluid. I’m wavering over and back on the road and I am dizzy. Not good, need food. OK…well a McD’s is sort of like food I suppose.
I park up and ditch the bike, it’s about 9:30am and I’ve not eaten much in the past 18 hours. I stumble to the counter and order the biggest breakfast they have, with extra sides and the largest coke they have. I sit and put my phone on to charge while trying to access the snail paced WiFi. It takes 30mins or so but I get messages out to a few friends explaining what happened, telling them I’m done. My phone goes apeshit and I ignore it a bit, I just want to get in touch with Pauline but here phone keeps rejecting messages and I’ve no idea what’s going on. Then Dan walks in.
I’d not seen Dan since Richmond Peak two weeks ago. To say he was confused to see me was an understatement. As he walked into the McDs to say hi he spotted my face, asked what was wrong, then wandered off to order food. I suspect my reply of “I’ve screwed my bike and scratched” was not perhaps the most…eloquently put. When he came back with food I appologies and asked him to eat with me, frankly I could do with talking to someone. We spent the next two hours – Dan had to charge everything as his Dyno system had died on day 2 (Sinewave IIRC) – chatting about what I could do. It was agreed that I was an idiot to stop here, so with a bodged bike I agreed to a 200km road section leaving at 11:30am. This was…not my best choice… but it was going to happen.
200km in the height of the day through a reservation located in a desert in New Mexico is not something I want to do again. I stopped for 15 minutes at the only point of shade on the route and at food in the middle of a open faced coal mine. I don’t want to do it again. The highlights of this trip were:
- Watching a driver roll his pickup off the road – stumble out – then run away across the fields from the cops.
- Have a pair of dogs set on me by a group of locals.
- Have a glass bottle thrown at me from a passing car
To say the inhabitants of the reservation made me welcome would be a lie. Still, I’m sure it could have been worse…somehow.
Eventually I got to Milan and rolled into the Loves truckstop just ahead of a massive storm that was brewing between the mesas. I filled my two feed bags with fried chicken while talking to some lovely native American females who I told about my experience cycling through their land. They told me about some of the other not great things that go on there, I did realise I maybe got treated lightly. I found it hard to understand how the situation in these reservations can be so bad – we’ve nothing like it in Northern Europe. Not yet anyway.
Riding down to Grants eating chicken I was getting ready to call my Tour Divide over. With less than 400 miles to go. I enjoyed the tail wind and laughed at locals who tried to chase me down on foot while hurling abuse at me. Not going to happen folks. Mmm chicken. Arriving in Grants, a quaint old Route 66 town, I got pulled over by Dan into a motel he’d found. We chatted, I sort of laughed, we went to Walmart where I’d hoped to maybe get a rear mech so I could limp a bit better to Silver City – no joy, so I bought some beer and a load of food.
I assumed race over – but when I got back to the motel and checked my phone, well, it turned out it was going to be an interesting night. Pauline, my wife, was about 30mins away. Between herself and others they’d figured out how she could drive 7 hrs from where she was to come find me. A bike shop in Albuquerque was a long shot for the specifics I needed – but it looks like it was game on. Bed, my first shower in 7 days, and the possibility of not canning this. Interesting.