The Great Divide: Day 42 (Part 2) – The End

Day 42 (8/23): Del Norte to Platoro
Part 2

After feeling like we were watching a scene from a cowboy movie we got up and started weaving down into a valley. The whole time storm clouds are right next to us. We start moving faster to outrun them but we fail miserably. We start to get drenched and I get shivering cold. We are in a hurry and start to get sloppy while descending. Ed has a baby crash but everything is fine. At that point I mention that in 12 miles we hit Platoro where there is lodging. It will be 10 miles short of our goal but I am freezing and wet. Thank god Ed agrees. It is the prettiest area we had been to in days but it’s hard to appreciate that when you can’t stop thinking about how cold you are.

We start going up a second much smaller pass then the sun starts to come out. Sure now that we are going uphill the sun comes out. All the leaves are glistening with these multi colored mountains in the background. We still plan on checking out the lodging because once you get in the “treat yourself” mindset it’s real hard to get out of it.

We get in to Platoro, bike up to the lodge, and see Tracey and Karen’s bikes along an airstream. They come out and greet us and we are totally excited to stop. We tell ourselves we will gain the 10 miles we are short tomorrow. They have another airstream right next door that is available. It’s totally redone inside with real beds and only $60. Growing up we had an airstream and I am super excited. Hell yeah total score!!!

We go in to get dinner inside the lodge. We look at the menu and there is a food challenge. Ah crap. The food challenge was if you ate a basket of fries and a 5 patty burger in 30 minutes you get it for free. Fun fact about my travel partner: not long earlier he had trained pretty heavily for a competitive eating contest. Only one person had had succeeded previously. So OF COURSE Ed signed up for it. The food was brought out and the amount was intimidating. There was a worker there who had to time Ed and make sure he wasn’t cheating. I will admit that when Ed ordered it I was pretty (eyeroll) but once he started I was super into it. After awhile he was definitely making grimacing faces but he kept shoveling it in. He was totally powering through pain to hit a goal. I wanted my friend to succeed and became totally “You can do it. Your doing great!” Everyone in the restaurant, ok only like 5 people were there, but those 5 were all cheering him on. The waitresses kept saying “I didn’t think I would ever see anyone actually do it.” Ed totally smashed that contest with a minute to spare. He killed it. I was weirdly really proud. Course he couldn’t move for a half an hour and was incredibly uncomfortable for another hour but he won.

The rest of the night was probably one of my favorites, just hanging out in the airstream. We were both in goofball moods. He was I am sure stoked on winning and impressing all the cute ladies that worked there with his skill and determination. I was excited about entering New Mexico the next day and regaled him with my entering New Mexico dance. Having time just to fart around in a dry clean place is such a luxury especially somewhere as cute as this one.

Still, screw him for drinking all the chocolate milk.

 

Day 43 (8/24): Platoro to Somewhere on the trail.

We all start off with breakfast at the lodge. There is also a food challenge breakfast but Ed does not order that. Phew.

It’s a lower elevation rolling hills ride for a long time. We pass by some very very small towns. Eventually we get to our pass for the day. Seriously why does every freaking day have a pass? It’s pavement so it’s not hard. I am in a sing along to songs LOUD mood. On the other end we see an old timey coal powered train going through a valley. I am pretty stoked on how old west the scene feels…. well until I realize it’s full of tourists…. but let’s ignore that part.

We eventually turn off onto a winding dirt road and past a New Mexico forest sign. Yay! I am in New Mexico!!!!!!! I didn’t think I would hit this border but I did and even yet still have a few days to get farther into it. Wahooo!

We get into some high fields and it feels like we are just swirling around. We hit some very steep technical trails. Ed shoots off as he is in his element. I do OK and bike up most of it until the last 15 maybe 20 minutes I am pushing. I get to the top where Ed has been waiting and of course there are storm clouds. Really? Every single day we get rained on? We start trying to out run it and as usual fail. It’s also starting to get dark. Fuck. We come across a campground turn off. I vote to stay there. Ed votes to keep going and camp along the trail. We are short our mileage again. The miles were technical and that for sure slowed me down plus since my crash and losing my glasses, my downhill speed has definitely dropped. Ed has a plane ticket deadline nawing in the back of his head. So we go on. We do about another 8 or so miles pretty fast and determined. We make it 59 miles. When we call it at a field we are drenched. I realize I left my headlamp at the airstream. Perfect, great addition to this night. We quickly set up our tents in the rain. I sit in there shaking while eating a protein bar for dinner. Once I switch to dry clothes and get settled in my bag it’s not too bad. I had also put toe warmers on and had distributed 4 hand warmers in my sleeping bag. Down right cozy in there. At one point I am in the fetal position in my bag eating multiple plain rolled tortillas. The glamorous life.

We talk back and forth through our tents about tomorrow’s plan. 83 miles to Abiquiu. Totally gonna “smash it out”.

 

Day 44 (8/25): Somewhere on the trail to Ghost Ranch (not quite to Abiquiu).

In the morning I feel pretty good about our decision to go a bit farther and camp on the trail, starting out slightly less on a negative for the day. Karen and Tracy come upon us while we are on the trail. They had camped at the campground and we share stories about the storm and the hard riding the day before. It was nice to hear that it wasn’t just me.

We start going and like yesterday it is technical. There is a part of the trail today that the book says is impassable when wet and to take the highway. I checked the weather the night before and it’s supposed to rain at 4, we will still be on those roads at that time. We had both been stuck in that terrible clay before and I had NO interest in ever doing that again but we had awhile to make that decision.

While everyone is up ahead my mind starts swirling about the end being near. Ed has his deadline and he is in terrain he excels at, while I am “pretty good” for someone who bike tours I am def not an expert MTBer. I also think about Jeanne’s last night and how that was the way to do it. A nice last night with your buds and whatever extra food or fun drink you can scrounge together. We will be staying in a town tonight. I bring up the idea to Ed about this being our last night together (as travel partners you pervs) and explain that I would rather have a purposeful goodbye then a stupid trail goodbye. Cue black and white image where I can’t go on, he says he must, and I am left on the side of the trail reaching out to empty air with sad violin music playing. It was lame when I did that the first time. He says he will think about it and we keep moving.

We get to the decision point about the alt highway route. We decide to play it safe against the rain and go on the highway. Truth be told at this moment there were no clouds in the sky but I wanted to be fast after yesterday’s slow day. There was also a good amount of sneaky doing something naughty laughing. It had a fun kid stealing candy element to it.

Welp, I won’t say this was a terrible decision but it definitely wasn’t a good one (I know, I know, David and Jeanne. Weak. I can feel your disappointment and am hanging my head in shame). It ended up making the ride to Abiquiu 103 miles instead of 86, with almost 5,000ft elevation gain in giant heat, over hot pavement. Definite punishment for choosing the “easy way”. The good thing was an amazing miles and miles long descent on a newly paved road. I hit my trip top speed of 38 mph. We decide to stay at the Ghost Ranch (where Georgia O’Keeffe did a lot of her paintings) since it’s 16 miles closer then Abiquiu and we had heard good things about it from another Divider. That gave us an 85 mile day. We can finish the last mile to Abiquiu in the morning. It starts to get dark. You can tell we are starting to go through a beautiful multicolor Canyon but we can barely see it. When we get to the Ghost Ranch it’s pitch black and the actual Ranch is one million miles from the turn off. Ok fine, more like two but holy buckets it felt like a million. I was SO cranky and ready to be done. We check in and sadly missed dinner. We were running low on food so we sat on one of the beds and pooled all the food we had left. My tendency to doomsday prepper all the food was finally of use. Not the classiest meal but it worked.

 

Day 45 (8/26): Ghost Ranch (not quite to Abiquiu) to somewhere along the trail up Polvadera Mesa.

Warning: Holy crap now that I am towards the end these are getting long with feels.

We get breakfast at the Ghost Ranch and make the plans for the next couple of days till I leave. Since we got to the ranch in the pitch black we have a mellow morning looking around and appreciating it a bit.

We finish off the last 15 miles to Abiquiu through red and orange cliffs. It’s pavement with a nice wide shoulder that allows for chatting.

We get to Abiquiu and head to the cafe/grocery/hardware/camping store. Ed decides to stay at Abiquiu for the day, he has a friend to catch up with. I cant. Cue black and white image where he doesn’t go on, I say I must, and he is left on the side of the trail reaching out to empty air with sad violin music playing in the background. Ok it doesn’t exactly go down like that but still, GODDAMMIT IT’S A STUPID TRAIL GOODBYE!!!!!!! I don’t trust myself to do the double miles the day after. I mean its not like we have had 100% success rate of “smashing it out” and it’s over what the book says is one of the most difficult climbs. Granted the book says things are “the most” a lot but it’s going to be technical with a high grade and no water sources for two days. The day after that day I had to be in Cuba for a shuttle.

It’s was a super bummer parting with my travel partner. I know there is a layer of general end of the divide sadness there too but this second time around my friend and I have now been traveling together for 10 days which is equivalent to 25 years on the divide. It’s the titanium spork anniversary. We had been through some shit and always watched out for each other. I can’t help but say “I am sad!” roughly 37 times.

I earlier told Ed that for my wrap up on the day we end up parting I was either going to just copy and paste what I wrote the first time or just say “Ed is kind of an asshole” but I just can’t do that. He was a great travel partner. He had a sense of humor going the full spectrum from smart and witty to penis jokes. We had MULTIPLE giggles. While at times things I did gave him an aneurysm and vice versa we got into a good rhythm and worked together. We called each other on our shit (“You’re projecting!” “You’re the one projecting!” “Ok fine, you’re right. I am.”). A LOT of bickering, in the good way. We always checked in and asked each other if we were ok. Well, technically I never could figure out what exactly the word he was saying super fast in his accent was, maybe it was “all right?”, BUT…. the context was “You doing ok?”.

I was scared that doing this thing alone I would be super bored and lonely, which I for sure was at times, but I am not sure that if I started off with others if I would have met and bonded with so many amazing unexpected people. Maybe I would have but maybe not. I mean my friends are amazing and that would have been a great experience too but this forced me to go out of my comfort zone. I liked how it tuned out. I guess moral of the story, don’t be afraid to do things alone kids. I mean how lucky was I to end up traveling with a rando person from the other side of the world that I was that sad to part ways with.

I move on and only make it about 15 miles up until it’s time to find a spot. It’s something. I also noticed I am only 12% scared to camp by myself in the wilderness now. At the start I was at least 87% scared. Way less freaking out at the sound of grass brushing my tent. Good job me.

Oh but Ed IS kind of an asshole.

 

Day 46 (8/27): somewhere along the trail up Polvadera Mesa to Cuba, NM.

Last day of riding, last daily wrap up. 😞

I get up before the sun rises and get packed up quick. It was going to be a big day and I did not want to mess around. It’s my last riding day so I look through my music and pick something upbeat yet melancholy. Postal Service on repeat it is. Here we go.

It turns out to be a beautiful sunny day with not a cloud in the sky. The first half of the day is a steady plod up the volcanic Polvadera Mesa. The grade is not a problem at this point but it is a volcanic trail so it has huge rocks and is slow going. I mostly stay on my bike and dont walk it except for a couple small spots so that is exciting. I do liberally use the scootch scootch method. You may not have heard of it as only expert trail riders use it. It’s where you stay on your bike but take one foot off the pedals to scootch along the rocks with.

I get over that and keep expecting it to get easy for the second half of the day. It gets slightly easier, but there was another decent climb and then rolling hills.

I made the mistake of refusing to stop for lunch or pretty much any other reason. I think I ate like 12 bars. This is how I did it the first few days when I started and it is a terrible way to do it. Even if your body doesn’t need a refresh your mind does but I just wanted to finish.

While I was riding I kept thinking “God I hope Cuba is a cute town. Please let me end in a cute town.” I roll in at about 7:30. Well, I will say it is….. a town. It’s ends up a 68 mile day with 5,500ft elevation gain. Three riders zoom past me on the cross street and wave as I was trying to decide on a hotel. I yell at them “Where are you staying?”. They yell back and I follow them. We stand around the hotel parking lot and talk about the day and who all we know that is out there. I think to myself, oh sure NOW I run into a hot guy in my age range. Figures. They invite me in for a beer but with that whole not drinking thing and still being dirty and hungry I move to my room and finish off my tuna packets and tortillas.

I just sit on the floor and think “It’s over. I am so close.” I take out the map again to figure out the milage to the border compared to how many days till I have to be at work. That “WEELLLLLL MAAYYYBEEEEEE….” voice is still in there. Yep numbers haven’t magically changed. Would have to do 97 everyday. Then to torture myself I figure out how many more days I would need if I did 70 miles a day. That I could definitely do at this point. I would have only needed 4 more days. This of course gets me going into a big swirl of “If I did this instead…” “If I didn’t lose this day because of….” but I ultimately get out of that thinking (mostly, it is still there a bit). I mean, the moments that were the best for me were between the riding. The hanging out or even the fun conversations while casually riding. If I was more in a hurry maybe I would have not gotten those or at lease less of them. I did ultimately make it farther then I initially thought I would. When I look back its the moments with the people, not the riding or the views.

The first things I did when I got back to civilization (had a stop over in Portland for a couple of days)…

1. Replace my glasses

2. Got a haircut

3. Bought a dress.

4. Put on mascara

Girly Monica was apparently HELLA ready to come out. Man it felt good not wearing the same clothes that I did EVERYDAY for 46 days.

When I finally got to Seattle my awesome friend Sara Shosho picked me up at the train station just so I wouldn’t have to ride my bike from the south end of downtown to the north end (a whole 25 or so blocks). I was SO DONE with riding my bike.

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