Grants – Forest past Pietown, New Mexico ; 135km distance, 900m climbing, 7hrs 00mins moving time.
INTERLUDE – crappy elevator music
We hop in the car for the two hour drive to Albuquerque. It feels odd to move so far so fast with no effort on my part. I refuse to get out of race mode, wearing my jersey, keeping eating, thinking fast and doing everything with purpose, I cannot and will not relax – to relax is to quit. Not now, not yet, not if I can get this fixed.
We pull up to the bike shop half an hour before they are due to open. I ping my SPOT so people know I’m off route. I wait patiently in the shade. I know what it is like to turn up for work and find someone waiting for you to help them. I won’t approach the people going to work. I’ll let them get coffee, get them selves sorted, then deal with me when they are ready. They let me in early, figure out what we need to do, then get to making it right. I spend time with the owner of Two Wheel Drive chatting about the industry, bikes, the race – I’m not pushy, I enjoy spending time with my fellow cyclists – there is no real need to rush any more. I play with the shop dogs. They strip parts off a shelf stock bike for me to use – allow me access to a workstand and tools – let me fix my bike. We get shown where the best burritos in town are.
I am deeply in debt to the folks at the shop – I can’t express how good it was to receive such help. If I’m ever back there I’ll pop past, say thanks, and buy you all some beers.
We make the drive back to Grants with a fixed bike in the car. Another two hours moving too fast. I eat, drink, and get my bike back into race mode. At 1:30pm I roll out from the carpark – it’s nearly 48 hours since I had my mechanical but now I’m fed, watered, and oddly relaxed again. I intend to enjoy my last few days on the Divide as best I can.
Road again. Fast out of Grants. Took the wrong road. Reverse. Pay attention you idiot. It’s warm. Pedal harder, your legs have “recovered”. On it goes, road and more road, through beautiful land, past quiet homesteads, finally on roads with little traffic that is trying to kill you. This is how I remember New Mexico from years past. Let’s hope it stays like this.
The day goes on and on. Mostly road until 60km short of Pietown where I turn left onto the rollers. I knew it was coming and it’s reputation. I’m quite happy it’s not raining or windy. It’s hard enough with fresh legs. Soft gravel, bad washboard, I am tired by happy to be done by the time I cross the road into Pietown. I get pulled over by a pickup and asked if I’m going to the Toaster House – I reply saying it’s my plan…turns out it was Nita who runs the place! I’m told to hang on and she will come and say hello and show me around. Can’t say no to that, so I ride over, and spot a familiar yellow jersey as I roll up. It’s Rick, I’ve not seen him for weeks and he does a double take when he sees me. It’s great to see him again and we chill out and wait for Nita to turn up.
It’s dark, being far down south now it falls in a matter of minutes as we chat with Nita. I fill up waterbottles, drink a few cans of Coke, and microwave some burritos. I’m eager to hear all about the Toaster House so I stay and chat for an hour more than I should. Rick has ridden off but I catch up to him and ride with him for a while. We push on until 10:30 and find a really nice bivi site just off the road, outside of the ranch land. I fall asleep while listening to a few coyotes howl and staring at the stars above my head. I’m stunned that I’m back out here and going to have a shot at finishing this. I’d pretty much written it off, anything from this point is a bonus.
As I drop off I make myself one promise. I’m going to enjoy the rest of this ride. I’ll stop and talk with people, hang out if they want to, push on where it’s fun. Mostly, I am not going to care about how long this takes now. Just enjoy the last 48hours you’re going to have on this thing.