Sunday, 30 October 2016

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 CafĂ© 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.  

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