Forest past Pietown – Somewhere in the Gila Wilderness, NM ; 196km distance, 2,175m climbing, 12hrs 25mins moving time.
I’d never intended to be hear on day 20. I should be finished, relaxing with my wife, doing holiday recovery things. Perhaps showering. Maybe eating some real food. Either way, I’m not, I’m rolling along a rode after relieving myself in a hole on the side of the road with nothing for miles around me. I can’t help but not be sorry about my situation. Another day , maybe two on the Divide… I can live with that, yeah, definitely.
I roll out a little behind Rick, I prefer to ride the first few hours of my day alone, it’s without a doubt my favourite part of the day. The world slowly comes alive around me and I feel the same with the world. I can never push hard in the morning, unlike the evening when I can bury myself much deeper in pain, but what I can do is cover ground continually with little regard for food or water. Weeks of early morning rides to work through the winter, spring and summer taught me to not worry about food early in the day, I don’t need it just yet. I ride along staring at my shadow, thinking we’ll only be company for another sunrise more.
The Gila is beautiful. So open, quiet, but full of hidden life and lives once lived. It’s possibly one of the most inspiring parts of the route. Once you start into it you get no water until Beaverhead Work station – you may be able to get water at The Church if you know where it is – but there was no water flowing when I tried. It’s a huge piece of land and I took more photos there than I expected. With such massive vistas it’s hard to describe what it is like to pass through there by bike. It makes me feel small. Safe in the knowledge that there is not much out here bar us.
I catch and ride with Rick for a while. The weather rotates between warm, windy, raining, and we make good progress – we manage to avoid all of the adobe mud sections somehow and we’re making good time with a slight tailwind. We buddy up on the way to Beaverhead and stop for a while. The soda machine is working, we sit, chat with two people touring the route and then spend time in the shade with one of the seasonal firefighters who mountainbikes – a job I learned a lot about and have immense respect for these people and the dangers they put themselves in.
We have to push on again and we’re warned that it’s going to be hot tomorrow, upwards of 44 degrees Celsius. We nod and smile, the heat is OK now, there is not much more left – and I’m pretty sure my heat blisters can’t develop blisters on top of themselves. The next section is brutal, big steep climbs and hard deeply wash-boarded descents. My brakes are overheating and a slightly bent rotor causes them to surge repeatedly. I ride to close to the edge too often and come close to a few crashes. It’s like the descent into Radium all over again, but this time I’m OK with it. I don’t really have an option.
Darkness comes on fast again. I stop to eat the last bit of “real” Subaway food I have and find my headlights. The next section on the North Star Mesa Road is renowned as being brutal with climbs in and out of deep valleys. I roll on looking at frogs and rabbits that run along beside me. Across the valley I can ocasionally spot the lights of Rick. I pull out the map and spy a few campsites in a row – I opt to ride to one that looks like it should be far enough on that it will set me up for a cruise into Silver City tomorrow. By the time I stop I’m nearly falling asleep on the bike. The constant awareness of descending has worn me down and I hammer my wheel into rather than over several rocks denting my rim. I need to stop. I’ll get up early and ride. Now, I sleep.