Sunday, 30 October 2016

Tour Divide 2016: Day 20

Gila National Forest, NM to Antelope Wells, NM
Mileage: 300 km (186.4 mi)
Riding Time: 20 h 49 m
Standing: 14th place

Day 20 Map
I forced myself up and started riding.  It was a short, but hard sleep.  I was going to go until I was done.  The terrain in the Gila was challenging, but it was dry.  I could see how much more difficult it would be in the rain and mud.  I took the blessings where I could.  The sunrise was gorgeous as I went up and down the hills.  There was not a lot of overall elevation gain, but lots of ups and downs. 

Sunrise in the Gila

I liked to see the terrain change from forest to desert.  Right now it was forest.  As I got to the top of a plateau, the riding was nice, but the washboards were rough at times. 

Gravel near the end of the Gila

I kept plodding along.  Almost at the finish line! 

Almost done!

The gravel led to a stretch of very smooth pristine pavement that led to the legendary CDT Alternate.  

Pristine pavement

I heard how difficult this section was and was looking forward to it.  I stopped at the campground to visit the little boy’s room and tried to find my way up the trail.  There was a huge group of ATVs just leaving as I rode in circles looking for some semblance of a trail.  I tried following the little pink line on the GPS but it wasn’t near any trail I could see.  I eventually managed to see some cairns on the side of a steep dusty hill.  I pushed the single speed up and followed the cairns.  They roughly followed the pink line so I thought I must be going the right way. 

Pushing up the dusty trail

It was only about 10 am and starting to get hot.  This part of the trail was awesome!  So many different types of cactus.  You had to watch your shins walking by to avoid shredding them up.

Shin shredding cacti

View into the distance

The trail traversed several steep slopes and was very thin.  The shale was hard to keep traction on so I walked a lot of the first part of the trail.  I didn’t want to risk riding and sliding out down the steep slope into a big pile of prickly cacti.  The trail climbed steadily and eventually widened enough that I felt comfortable riding. 

More hike-a-bike

As I pushed the bike up one steep section passing the different types of cactus, I saw a horny toad.  I just loved seeing these different creatures on the trail!

A rideable section!

The trail got more and more ridable and it was so much fun!  It was such a blessing to ride through this desert terrain on such fun single track!  I was elated!  The trial widened and got really fast on a descent.  I tend to let the brakes go on descents trying to keep as much momentum as possible to help get up the next climb.  That strategy almost backfired on this part.   Maybe I was a bit over confident, but I almost went over the handlebars at one point.  No harm done though.  I kept the speed up, but was a bit more cautious.  I didn’t want to crash and get injured on my last day.

Then I was back on pavement again on my way to Pinos Altos.  At one point I passed what I think were a father and son shooting a rifle on the side of the road.  These type of the people were probably how the bullet holes got into the signs.   I grew up in a hunting family so I am comfortable around guns.  I wasn’t worried.  It looked like they were being fairly safe and the gun was pointed away from me.  The road started to get curvy and wind its way through some houses.  I passed through Pinos Altos and was on my way to Silver City.  So close!  I entered the city and it seemed so huge.  

I rode down the busy street wondering where I would stop.  Then I saw an oasis in the desert.  McDonalds!  The home of the McFlurry.  This was the first and only McDonalds meal for me on the trip and it was good.  I called Kristin and we caught up.  My family was in Tucson trying to time it right so they would be at the border when I finished.  As I was finishing my Big Mac, she mentioned Dan was about 50 miles behind me.  Uh oh!   Too close!  I was trying not to focus too much on the race, but I wasn’t going to get passed if I could help it.  I checked my junk food inventory in my backpack and figured I could make it the last 200km to the border without any more stopping.  I filled up my water and was off.  No unnecessary stops until I made it to the end.  I told Kristin that I would probably be at the border no faster than 10 hours.  20km/hr is about as fast as I thought I could average.  With Dan on a geared bike, I had to keep the pace and not stop if I wanted to stay ahead.  He could probably go faster on these flat, paved roads. 

There was a paved climb somewhere out of Silver City and the McDonalds that was so delicious hit me.  The familiar fatigue after a big meal.  I had the big meal out of Pie Town and I felt great afterward so I thought the same thing would happen again.  Not the case.  I think the quality of food makes all the difference.  McDonalds is tasty, but not the most nutritious.  I was back into the stupor of half-asleep riding.  The unfortunate thing is I was on a busy highway.  I guess I got too close to the road at one point and someone honked at me.  That snapped me out of it.  The adrenalin rush of fear can wake you up!  I was awake again and turned off the highway into the desert. 

I loved this stretch!  The dirt had a reddish hue and there were cacti everywhere.

Separ desert - awesome!

The road had its share of washboards and sand, but I was happy to be on the final stretch.  There were these cactus plants that had a round base and a thin stalk that spouted out from the centre.  They were everywhere.  I started to get sleepy again and I remembered a tip Kristin told me that my sister Sheila left on Facebook.  The alphabet game.  I gave it a try.  Come up with a category and name items in that category starting with the letters of the alphabet.  I did cars, movies, and musical instruments.  It worked!  My mind was occupied enough to keep me awake. 

There some farms along in this section that I really liked to see.  The fences were made out of the weather beaten natural wood.  Everything looked so worn with time.  The wind started to pick up as I reached Separ.  I looked at the Trading Post and hesitated.  Should I fill up with water?   I hadn’t really stopped and didn’t want to now.  I took the chance and kept riding on the frontage road.  Dan was close!  I tucked into the aerobars and pedalled into the wind.   The wind was hard to ride into, but a blessing too.  Anything that could slow a rider down took away the geared bike advantage.  I stopped at an overpass to refill my bladder with my reserve bottles.  This was the only stop I took on this last stretch.  I stopped to pee a few times, but I got a good system where I didn’t even have to get off the bike. Don’t worry! I wasn’t just going in my shorts.  Everything little bit of saving time helps!

As I was going down the frontage road, I heard some honking and cheering.  My family passed by on the interstate.  I gave them a wave as they blasted by.

Photo from the family vehicle

I turned right onto the last long paved stretch to the end.  I was about 100km to the end.  About 5 hours of riding.  I continued to play the alphabet game as I pedalled on the long, flat, straight road.  The sun set and I started to see lightning in the distance.  The wind died down and I was very happy about that.  I would dodge the millipedes and talk to the bunnies on the road.  Cute little desert bunnies.  One millipede was not so lucky.  I didn’t quite dodge it and felt the spray on my leg.  When the darkness set in to the point I had to turn on my lights, I kept them on the lowest setting so I wouldn’t have to stop and change out the batteries.  I had my red blinky on so I felt safe.  The only traffic I saw was the odd border security vehicle.  This was a tough ride.  I couldn’t ride any faster and I just wanted to be done.  These last four or five hours seemed to go on forever.  Boring. Hachita came and went in the dark and I kept going through without stopping.  I could make the last bit with the water I had.  When my bladder ran out, I had my two fork water bottles.  I managed to get them unstrapped as I continued to ride.  No stopping until the finish! 

As I was about 15km from the end, I looked back and saw a light.  Dan was close!  I rode as fast as I could.  I would spin my legs as fast as I could and get up to about 27km/hr and coast until I dropped to about 24km/hr and repeat.  I didn’t care about burning out because I was almost done.  I rounded the corner and saw lights.  The end was right there!  I turned my light to a brighter setting and pulled up to the sign.  My family poured out of the Honda Pilot and hugs went all around.  I wondered if Dan would pull up any minute.

At the finish!

My beautiful wife!

My wonderful kids!

All done!  The adventure was over.  I finished in 19 days, 17 hours, and 29 minutes.  Goal complete! 

Before and after

We didn’t see Dan until we started driving away.  He was actually about 1.5 hours behind me.  I saw his lights, but the road was so flat and straight I could see them from a long way off. 

Now the road trip back home had begun.  The trip home was an adventure too.  We had a great time visiting the sights and going to amusement parks all the way home back to Canada.  Time to eat!

Tour Divide 2016: Day 19

20 miles north of Pie Town, NM to Gila National Forest, NM
Mileage: 220.8 km (137.2 mi)
Riding Time: 18 h 52 m
Standing: 14th place 

Day 19 Map

I woke up in good spirits and looking forward to breakfast in Pie Town.  I willed my creaky, sore legs down the road.  I was getting stiffer and stiffer first thing in the morning.  I got to the intersection to Pie Town and wondered which way to go.  I discovered the restaurants are to the left up the hill.  I headed to the Pie-O-Neer Café because Kristin said they would open at 6am.  Nope – closed.

Closed - sad morning

I rode up and down the road looking for an open restaurant, but to no avail.  I saw that the Gatherin’ Place opened in about an hour so I decided to wait outside.  The owner showed up early and let me in early to have some coffee while they got the kitchen ready.  I took the time to get the bike ready to go so I could dash off after breakfast.  As I was waiting some northbounders showed up.   They were going at a touring pace and looked really clean.  One German rider skyped with someone from back home and got really worked up.  I think it had to do with work.  Angry, harsh German language for breakfast ambience. I ordered a couple of breakfasts and they were awesome!  Best food I had in a long time.  I dilly dallied too long at the restaurant, but was having a great time.  I got my pie cap out when I learned they were good at any restaurant in town.  I picked up an apricot pie for supper and was on my way out.  I stopped at the toaster house to take a look around, but didn’t stay too long. 

Outside the Toaster House

Inside the Toaster House

I took a look around inside, exchanged greetings with a surly guy and was on my way down the road.  I passed farms and ranches and enjoyed the morning.  The jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains were a memory and I marvelled at the way the terrain had changed.  The hills out here were so smooth and covered with what I think was sage brush.

Smooth sage brush covered hills

I passed one farm (or ranch) that had a cooler on the side of the road offering drinks to riders.   I was topped up with supplies and didn’t want to stop… so I didn’t.  What nice people offering to help.  I am sure it would be take advantage by other riders.

Later on in the day, I came upon a pond.  It was a welcome sight.  Pretty much all of the little blue lines on the map that were supposed to indicate a stream or creek were dry, dusty depressions in the ground.  I debated stopping to filter some water, but I saw a cow skull sitting nearby.  I thought maybe that was a sign so decided to refrain.  I kept riding past more wide open spaces and desert cows.

Desert cows

I remembered one of the northbound riders said there was water at a church on highway 12.  I got to the highway and saw the place, but nobody was there.  I looked around and marvelled at how wide open this area was.  There were just these few buildings consisting of a church and farmhouse in the huge expanse of open space.  I knocked on the doors of the church and no one answered.  I took some water and left a note on a $5 bill thanking them for the water and was on my way.  I hoped stopping and helping myself to the garden hose was okay.
I rode off into the wide open space and met another touring north bound cyclist.  We chatted a bit about the weather and parted ways.  The weather was good and I rode along.  There were some stretches I could see dried tire tracks in the hardened dirt.  When this gets wet, it looked like it turned into the sticky mud I heard about.  Thunderstorm-like clouds started to form in the distance all around me and I started to get worried.  I rode fast along the dried mud hoping the rain would not fall.  I was blessed again as I made it through the dried mud without getting rained on.

The terrain started to get more rocky and hilly.  I saw some cool rock formations with the desert cows staring at me as I rode by.

Rocks and desert cows

As I rode I looked at the two things my kids Evan and Mia gave me before the trip.  Mia made a tire out of Rainbow Loom rubber bands and Evan made a Lego heart and drew an ‘E’ on it.  I put them on my aerobars by my light and they were a constant companion the whole trip. 

More cool rocks with the rubber
band wheel and Lego heart

I rounded a corner and saw another new sight.  Wild pigs!  How awesome is that!  They were some of the ugliest creatures I had ever seen.  As I rode by they scattered and ran off into the trees.  I kept riding looking forward to the Beaverhead Work Station.  The road meandered into the forest.  I approached a Beaverhead Ranch and I thought that was the place.  As I started up the driveway I realized I was mistaken.  It was a ranch, not the work station.  I kept going down the road and there it was.  There was no mistaking it.  I thought it was a forestry work camp, but it was actually a military outfit.  I am not sure what they do there, but there were lots of soldiers.  I saw a couple of young tourers and sat with them while I had my pie.  I didn’t have quarters for the pop machine and they said I could ask one of the military guys for change.  They had some change so I got a couple of pops.  I don’t drink pop very often, but these tasted great!  The tourers had made their way up from the border with a lot of gear.  They were filming their whole experience and had all their camera gear with them.  Over the last few days, the heat was pretty bad and one of them got sick.  They were taking it easy so he could recover. 

I finished my pie for supper and was on my way into the Gila as it was starting to get dark.  The tourers thought I was a bit crazy for heading out in the middle of the night.  The climbing was steep outside of the work station so I walked for quite a while.  As I was walking I started to see some more interesting bugs.  There were big millipedes the size of felt pens, big beetles, and jumping spiders.  The spiders were about the size of a nickel and would jump about 8 inches at a time.  I considered pushing through the night to go all the way to the border, but decided a few hours of sleep would be faster than stumbling along slowly the next day.  I stopped under a big tree at the top of a climb and made camp at about 12:30am.  I wanted to get up at about 4 so that would give me about 3.5 hours of sleep.  Good enough for the last push.  Tomorrow would be my last long day on the divide.  Finishing in less than 20 days was a goal within reach.  

Tour Divide 2016: Day 18

Outskirts of Cuba, NM to 20 miles north of Pie Town, NM
Mileage: 268.2 km (166.7 mi)
Riding Time: 17 h 32 m
Standing: 14th place

Day 18 Map

I woke up to a nice, clear morning and I was happy I didn’t get mauled by wild dogs.  Every morning is a good morning when you haven’t been mauled.  I was hoping with an early start I might catch up to Bailey and Justin.  This was the day that was all riding on paved roads.  I was looking forward to this.  All of the major mountain passes were in the past, but there was still the Gila to look forward to.  I had heard stories about how difficult it was and was looking forward to seeing what it was like.

I didn’t get any rain at night and the morning was clear and nice.  I wondered if I would see Justin or Bailey again since I stopped a bit early last night.

Clear morning outside of Cuba

Riding along on pavement was nice, but a bit dull.  The best thing was being able to coast along and look at the scenery.  More and more sage brush.  I rode along wondering how hot it was going to get.  I don’t mind the heat, so I wasn’t worried; just curious. 

I rounded a bend and saw a store.  I wasn’t expecting to see a store until Grants so it was a nice surprise to see somewhere I could have some breakfast.  As I rolled into the parking lot a pit bull and another less menacing dog came charging at me barking wildly.  I slowed down and in an unimpressed tone said, “Hey dog.” Both dogs stopped in their tracks and walked away.  I was too boring to be prey.  It was a good convenience store. I heated up a couple of burritos in the microwave and was on my way. 

It was still early and I started to get sleepy after the big breakfast.  I slipped off into a half conscious zombie-like ride.  At one point in my stupor I imagined seeing a camp on the side of the road and thought it was Justin and Bailey.  There were a couple of handlebars sticking up like bikes lying on their side and what looked like a bivy or two on the ground.  I rolled by at a fairly quick pace so I couldn’t get a good look but I thought it was strange that there were no people.  When you are in that half dozing state, your imagination wanders like a waking dream.  I started wondering if they met some horrible fate and their gear was left behind.  Later in the day when I talked to Kristin, I learned Bailey and Justin were much further ahead.  What I thought was a camp was probably a pile of trash on the side of the road and I hallucinated the rest.  Still sleep deprived.  I learned a lot about sleep deprivation on this trip.  In those half dozing states whatever I thought, I would visualise on the side of the road.  This time it was Justin and Bailey’s camp and other times it was cars, signs, people, etc… Weird.  I rode the pavement until Pueblo Pintado.  There was not much in this town.  No resupply so I didn’t stop.

Pueblo Pintado water tower thing

I rode along the pavement at a relaxing pace.  The single speed does not allow me to hammer at a faster pace. I could only move my legs at maybe 80-90rpm max so my speed was limited to about 20-24km/hr.  I started hearing skittering in the grass beside me as I rode.  I wondered if it was snakes or lizards.  I loved riding in the desert! After several skitterings I saw a tiny Rango-like lizard.  They could run fast!  Sometimes they would run out of the grass beside me and keep pace before they darted back into the grass.  The terrain was flat with still more sage brush and cactus.  The little settlements I saw looked a bit run down.  Many trailers had tires on the roof and I wondered what they were for.  At one point I saw some guy walking on the side of the road with a suitcase.  It was very strange seeing someone wandering along in the middle of the desert.  He was well dressed in shorts and a collared golf shirt.  We exchanged nods as I rode by so I assumed he wasn’t in distress.  I wonder what he was doing out there…  I think I saw him again later in the day, but I can’t remember where.  He must have been hitchhiking.  It was a pleasant ride all along until Milan.  It was getting warmer and warmer and got to the point where it was hot.  Once I arrived in Milan I saw a Kiva Café and Chevron in the same complex.  I was craving chocolate milk bad!  I stopped in the restaurant and called Kristin.  I wrestled a bit with stopping in a restaurant, but I was focussing on enjoying myself a bit more and it felt good to be in an air conditioned restaurant for a little while. After the meal I was on my way down Route 66.  I felt pretty good physically except the butt was taking a beating.  Sitting all day keeping a steady cadence was rough on the nether regions.  Riding through rough terrain was tougher, but standing and cranking was easier on the backside.  Saddle sores were a consistent irritation throughout the trip I learned to live with.  The hygiene of the shorts was not too good after so many days with only one shower.  I am sure that added a bit to the saddle sore issue.  All part of the race I told myself.  Embrace the filth!

The route took me along the El Malpais alternate.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what a spectacular stretch of road to ride in the evening. 

Happy outside of Grants
Setting sun

The road skirted along some wonderful cliffs with desert cows scattered about.  The temperature was getting cooler and I loved the route riding on smooth pavement along these beautiful sandstone cliffs.

Cliffs along the El Malpais Alternate

Rock formation in the distance

More desert cliffs

The signs along the road indicated there was a natural arch coming up.  I managed to snatch an awkward photo as I rode by this cool natural formation.

Akward photo riding past the arch

I was nearing the end of a super long paved stretch and was about to turn off onto gravel to head toward Pie Town.  Pie Town! How exciting!  Riding as the sun set I passed a huge herd of elk.  I could still see them in the twilight and the sound they made was awesome.  These huge animals make a bugling sound that sounds like a kid blowing too hard on a recorder while still altering the notes.  Really awesome!

I turned down the gravel and saw the sign for Pie Town.  The road was sand and full of washboards.  I turned on my lights as it started to get really dark.  Cicadas came out in droves.  The surrounding area hummed with the thousands, or maybe tens of thousands of these thumb tip-sized bugs.  I had never seen these before, but for some reason I knew what they were.  Riding along at 15-20 km/hr through these swarms of cicadas kind of hurt.   They were attracted to my lights and I had one on my head.  I rode with my top lip curled over my mouth so they couldn’t fly in there.  I am glad I discovered that technique because there were some that smacked right into my top lip.  It was cool riding through this swarm of insects pelting off of me like they were blasted out of a shotgun.  Then they stopped as quickly as they started.  But then the grasshoppers came out.  I was more familiar with these.  Instead of humming, I was surrounded by the chirping of grasshoppers.  The waves of cicadas and grasshoppers alternated a few more times as I rode for the next while then they stopped.  I couldn’t see into the dark, but I must have been riding by some farmland or terrain that was conducive to these hopping, flying insects. 

After the bugs stopped, I continued to ride until my usual 11pm.  As I rode I saw a couple of tiny eyes glowing at me from the side of the road.  It must have been a rat.  The maps told me that there was a stretch of public land where I could camp.  The “POSTED” signs lined the fenced road and then it stopped.  This must be the place.  I went off the side of the road and looked for a nice tree to bivy under.  I found a good spot and made camp. 

Sleeping close to Pie Town!

Pie Town tomorrow!  I went to take a pee while setting up and with my headlight saw a huge spider by a tree stump.  I looked a little closer and saw the telltale red mark of a black widow spider.  Cool!  I had never seen one of those before.  I wondered what I should do.  Kill it or leave it alone?  I decided to leave it alone.  It was far enough away from where I was sleeping I felt okay with leaving it in peace.  I am glad a few nights earlier I started making a point in making sure my bivy was always zipped so no unwanted creepy crawlies could get in there.  I went to sleep in the dusty, sandy dirt among the sage trees and slept great.  

Tour Divide 2016: Day 17

Outskirts of El Rito, NM to outskirts of Cuba, NM
Mileage: 169.8 km (105.5 mi)
Riding Time: 16 h 06 m
Standing: 14th place

Day 17 Map
I awoke looking at a cactus and saw a huge beetle crawling near my head.  The new terrain was unsettling but also awesome.  I liked seeing the new bugs and vegetation.  I was on an adventure!  Temperatures were getting warmer and I often didn’t need my leg warmers in the morning.  I had my last communion (Sunday) and packed up and headed down the road to El Rito.  I passed through town and again felt like I was in an old Mexican town.  Everything was closed and it seemed everyone was asleep.  The paved road was nice riding into Abiquiu as the sun rose.  It was nice to know that today was the last really big climb of the race.  I remembered to tell myself the climbing wouldn’t be over, but this was the last big pass overall.  Good news to latch on to!

Riding into Abiquiu

I loved seeing the desert terrain.  Rolling hills and sage brush as far as the eye could see.  I rolled into Abiquiu and noticed it was a fairly big town.  I stopped at the gas station at about 6am and saw that it opened at 7:00am.  It was a bit disappointing that I had to wait, but I took the time to do some chain cleaning and organising on the bike.  As I was doing this, I saw a huge rat wandering around in the parking lot.  Cool!  It reminded me of a much less-cute version of a squirrel looking for handouts at a campsite.  Several drivers arrived and looked really annoyed that the store wasn’t open yet.  The worker at the store looked equally annoyed by being continually asked when they would open.  Justin arrived and we both got some breakfast and did some shopping.  I was gone before Justin and the racer in me wanted to get ahead of him and Bailey.  As I was leaving town, I had my first run in with an angry dog.  It came bounding out from a driveway as I was riding slowly up a hill.  All I could do was continue to ride slowly up the hill.  I just said, “Hey dog,” the same way I greet the many cows I saw.  The dog ran up, and then stopped short.  Moving slow seemed to make me an uninteresting target.  It stopped, looked at me, then walked away.  It reacted the same way the dogs do back home.  Slow way down, then they lose interest and walk away.   Per advice from my legal counsel, I take no responsibility in others following this advice.  Just kidding, I don’t have legal counsel.  Ha Ha.  Just know that this worked for me, but hasn’t worked for others.  The road climbed up through some rocky cliffs.  There was lots of variable terrain on this day.  It looked like I was climbing up onto a plateau with steep cliffs all around.   I wondered if this was a little mesa.  As I travelled through the desert areas I wondered what a mesa was.  I thought it was a mountain with a flat top, but wasn’t sure and there is no Google riding your bike in the back country roads of New Mexico.
Road climbing through the cliffs out of Abiquiu

I got up on top of the plateau and it was flat riding for a while.  Every once in a while, I would look back expecting Bailey and Justin to ride up, but I didn’t see them.  The wide open trail led up the mountain.  

Road leading up near Polvedara Peak

Making my way into the forest

The wide open space with sage brush led into forest again.  Climbing, climbing, climbing.  The road was fairly decent, but then it would get really rocky.  There would be parts of slick rock, then piles of sand.  Tricky and exhausting riding.  My quad was starting to act up so every time I stopped I would stretch it out.  The road got rockier and sandier and my quad got worse and worse.  Walking seemed to aggravate it more than standing hard on the pedals up the steep climbs.  Between the walking and stretching, I felt like I was going super slow.  I popped some Aleve and continued to take the electrolyte pills I got in Salida.   The pain continued to get worse, but I just continued to move ahead.  Pain can be dealt with and stopping isn’t going to make the border come any closer.  As I was slogging along Justin and Bailey rode past.  It seemed like they were just flying up the hill.  That was disappointing.  I had a feeling I would never see them again.  I kept plodding along in pain hoping it would get better.   Eventually the pain began to subside.  I felt good that I built a lot of character.  Pain equals character building, especially if you work your way through it. 

I continued to ride and then heard a motor.  A pickup truck drove by and I wondered what they were doing out here.   I started to see dark clouds and heard thunder in the distance.  The forest started to look less desert-like as I gained in elevation.  There were leafy trees and bushes that reminded me of home.  I rode and rode up and down the hills enjoying the scenery.  Then I came upon something that looked like snow.  Hail.  Lots of hail.  I missed the storm (thank goodness) but was riding through the after effects.  It was like riding in the spring slush in Canada…but I was in New Mexico!

Slush in New Mexico

The road wound through the forest up and down many climbs.  Then out of the corner of my eye, cow!  Mountain stealth ninja cows!  Before I knew it they were popping their heads up out of the bushes munching on their grass all around me.  Cows are everywhere on this route – even when you least expect them.  At one point I couldn’t tell which fork to take in the trail. I climbed up one hill and it looked like I was off route on the GPS.  I could see another trail down the steep slope to the left that went past a herd of mountain stealth ninja cows.  I headed back down the hill and scared off the mountain cows.  I continued on and found I was worse off route than the other way…so I went back.  The first way I took was the correct way.  I continued through the forest on the meandering road.  Not a straight line for miles.  There was one close call with an oncoming truck and I had to veer off into the ditch.  Must stay to the right of the road at all times.  I didn’t blame them.  The road was tight with lots of blind corners.  This stretch seemed to go on for a long, long time and eventually I started to see signs of civilisation.  More campgrounds and RVs.  I saw a few people walking and greeted some campers as I rode by.  Eventually I was on the paved road leading into Cuba.  I knew this was the start of a long paved section all the way to Grants.  I was looking forward to it after the hard painful climb of the day.

The road was steep and fast leading into Cuba.  Climbed all day just to lose all the elevation gain in less than half an hour.  I must have hit close to 60km/hr on the way down.  At one point a driver tried to hand me a water bottle out of their window.   I gratefully refused and tried not to crash as the distraction sent me into the ditch.  The people of New Mexico were really nice.  My fears about unsavory people of the previous day appeared to be unfounded.  My notes said there was a 7Eleven and Subway in town and I was looking forward to a decent meal.  I stopped at the Subway and bought the usual two subs.  One for now, one for supper and breakfast.  I called Kristin and gave her an update as I munched on the delicious sub.  I was on the home stretch!  We discussed the possibility of me pulling a big 30-40 hour stretch to the finish.  I finished eating my sub and stopped at a gas station for some food and a dollar store for some batteries.  Off into the sunset I went.

Riding into the sunset out of Cuba

Continuing to ride into the sunset

As I rode into the dark, the wind started to pick up.  I could see far off into the distance and saw lighting flashing.  Back home, when it got really windy and you could see thunderstorms nearby, that meant you were about to get hammered with rain.  I thought I felt a few raindrops and started looking for a spot to bivy on the side of the road.  I rode over some bridges that crossed dry creek beds and understood the temptation to camp under one.  They were easy shelter if the rain got bad.  The thing to realise though is that the rain that falls from the sky has to flow somewhere and the bridges were there for a reason.  Camping under a bridge during the rain would result in a waterslide ride in the bivy.  Not smart!  It was a bit earlier than I usually stopped, but I wanted to set up camp before the big rain hit.  I found a spot hidden from the traffic and started to set up.  It turns out the cues for big rain is different in New Mexico than Alberta.  I shouldn’t be surprised.  They are thousands of kms apart.  The sky opened up into a beautiful clear starry sky with a full moon.  My head light was not required as I munched on a Subway sub and set up camp as the odd car would drive by. 

I put my head under a bush and tried to go to sleep.  This was my one and only restless sleep.  The bush I put my head under was on ground a bit lower than my body.  I half slept trying to get comfortable until I was woken by a pack of howling dogs.  The howls were very close and sounded like they were coming from all around me.  I was still a bit paranoid about the New Mexican dogs.  If I was in the Rockies back home, they wouldn’t worry me since I was familiar with howling coyotes and the lack of danger they posed.  Being half asleep and uncomfortable didn’t help as I imagined a pack of wild, angry, mangy mongrel dogs surrounding me.  Pit bulls, Dobermans, and German Shepherds frothing at the mouth ready to eat the Canadian burrito were all around (or so I imagined).  I got up and headed for the bear spray.  Getting up and walking to the bike woke me up enough to realise the situation probably wasn’t that dire.  It was probably just some coyotes like back home.  The sky was clear so I moved my bivy out of the bush on to level ground and went back to sleep with bear spray nearby (just in case).  I slept great from that point on.