Be a better human!

Tonight, I found out that my friend, Billy, who drove me to the Canadian border to start the Divide committed suicide right before Xmas. We weren’t that close of friends, but, it was his kindness and generosity that allowed me to get to the start of the Divide and then complete it. He was the beginning of my journey on the Divide. I am so sadden by this news. Life is so fragile. It hits home for me because I too struggle with depression and anxiety and I’ve been to that dark lonely place many times of wanting to end my life. In fact, after I lost my horse Hayduke in 2016, I attempted suicide and I woke up in the ICU on a ventilator. That wasn’t my first attempt either.

I am happy to be alive today, however, I know the secret deep struggle of depression and having suicidal thoughts. I know the storm clouds that suffocate you when you are at your lowest point. I know the feeling of wanting to disappear, to feel like a burden to others, to dislike yourself so much you feel it’s best that you aren’t around anymore, to feel exhausted by life, overwhelmed by life and to feel completely and utterly alone and drowning in pain, pain that’s just too deep and too difficult to talk about. I know that pain and that scary place and I’ve spent many days trapped in that place within myself. The struggle is always there, it never goes away, at least for me, it doesn’t. It’s a daily battle within yourself to get through the day, to cover up the saddest parts of who you are and to bravely face the world. It’s so hard. It’s so fucking hard sometimes! People are scared and or uncomfortable with the topics of depression and suicide so sometimes the conversations that need to happen, don’t.

The world can shut down the chance for honest conversations about true feelings and the reality that some of us face. Most people who struggle with depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, do it in private and no one suspects it, but, we need to change that. We need to rid society of the stigma that all of this carries and we need to open up the channels of communication, understanding and love. You never know, maybe your kinda words to a total stranger or a simple phone call to someone you know will make all the difference in the world to them. You don’t ever truly know someone else’s struggles- so call your loved ones more, say hello to strangers, for God Sakes smile at strangers, give a stranger your extra dollar or two, listen more- listen with the intention to listen. Because of Billy I was able to have the adventure of a lifetime on the Divide and now as I sit here and write this I feel so god damn sad, I should have reached out earlier to take him up on his offer of going on an adventure or a trip, but, I didn’t. I didn’t know.

So, if you read this remember to check in on those you love, to create memories with them, to talk openly about things like mental health- even if it’s hard for you- talking and loving one another is the only thing that will change things. Hold on to your loved ones and encourage them to talk, write, adventure, whatever they need to do to honor themselves and to help them get through the day. This world needs more love and more open ears, more kindness and more true humanity. Mental health is so important to us all, to everyone whether you know them or not. We all need to be better humans to one another!!! In loving memory of Billy❤️

Hachita to the Mexican Border at Antelope Wells!

It was the morning of October 24th, today the Great Divide was coming to an end! I was leaving from the Bikers Hostel in Hachita and heading for the Mexican Border. I said goodbye to Jeff and packed up my bike for the last time. I remember trying to hold back my tears as I left Hachita and turned onto highway 81. I felt as though I was in a dream. Canada was now so far away and I had only 46-47 miles to the end!! THE END!!! The riding was great, easy, beautiful, perfect, fantastic. The miles seemed to fly by, the landscape was beautiful. The Hatchet Mountains were on both sides of me. The desert lands have always spoken to me on such an intimate level and I just loved the riding through such amazing land. Every so often Border Patrol would drive by me, but, other than that, there were no cars. It was me, my bike, the Chihuahua Desert and the lonely highway. My friend, Ruthanne was picking me up at the Mexican Border and I was excited to see her, but, I didn’t want the day to end. The riding was just so wonderful and enjoyable. I wanted to savor it, to ride that stretch forever because I felt after all of the hard days, here it was, a true perfect day. Everything was perfect- the sky, the riding, the temperature. It was all just so great.

Every few miles I would get off my bike, take a few pictures and start crying. I was so overcome with emotion. I was so damn proud of myself, so excited to be done, but at the same time, not excited to be done. I thought about my very first day leaving Canada with my shiny new bike, knowing absolutely nothing about bike packing and then I thought about everything that had happened since that day. I remembered everyone I had met, I remembered all of the hard moments and wonderful moments. And all of a sudden I was homesick for those places and memories. I was homesick for my story and memories on the Divide. I wanted to go back to some of those days, laugh a little harder with the friends I had made out there, stay a little longer in the towns I had resupplied in and I wanted to embrace it all more than I had. I already missed the Divide and it wasn’t truly over just yet, but, I wanted it back so badly. But, the miles kept going by, the land was so desolate and so intriguing. The tears kept falling, the memories of my journey kept racing through my head. My heart hurt, my journey was almost over. I wished I had had a partner to share all of that with. It was so hard alone, however, in the hardest moments out there, I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of, how strong I am. I was reminded of the best parts of myself and I was fortunate to learn so many new things about myself. When I reached the sign that said Mexican/US Border 2 miles, I lost it. I got off my bike and fell to the ground. I cried like a baby on the side of the highway next to my bike. After awhile I composed myself and called my friend, she was still far away. I sat there in that spot for a few hours waiting for my friend. I was happy to sit there because it meant my adventure would last a little bit longer and I could rewind the entire trip and just sit there in the desert with it all. The wind would blow hard into my eyes and the sun beat down on my skin, I didn’t care. I sat with my story of the Divide and it was one of the best times I have ever had. Those few hours seemed to allow me to get to a place where I was okay with it coming to an end.

I could see my friends truck in the distance. I was thrilled to see her. She and I agreed she’d drive to Antelope Wells at the US/Mexican Border and wait for me. It was time, it was time to finish. I got back on my bike and pedaled to Antelope Wells. I saw the sign (US/MEXICAN BORDER) and the gate and just like it was OVER! I got off my bike and set it down. I could barely breathe, I wanted to scream and cry and yell and fall over and just lose it as if I hadn’t done that enough that day 🙂 It was over! I did it. I rode my bike from Canada to Mexico. I bent down and hugged my bike, that bike had become way more than just a bike to me. My friend snapped some photos and we stayed there for awhile. I found it hard to leave. I didn’t want to leave. But I knew I had to. It was over. I really struggled with leaving though. I loaded my bike into my friend’s truck and jumped inside. It was time to go home. The Great Divide was over! Its such a bittersweet thing to finish big adventures and I am no stranger to that. But this one was so hard for me. It always takes awhile to process an accomplishment of this extent and to really learn what it meant and how it impacted your life. It is such a difficult thing to explain to others. In that sense these big adventures make you feel alone because only very few people understand them. I felt so many emotions that night- I felt pride, excitement, I felt strong, sad, and anxious about facing life back home. In only two hours, I was back in Arizona and the Divide started becoming only a memory.

Pueblo Pintado to Grants, NM on the Divide!

The morning was freezing; I was exhausted. I had gotten less than an hour of sleep the night before. I ate a quick breakfast and then left the Chaco Wash and rode back onto highway 197. I was praying the wind would leave me alone that day. The wind is usually not too bad in the morning hours, but, that isn’t the case every day and the wind was definitely waiting for me. I knew the 65 miles into Grants was going to be rough. I was too tired to fight it. My body was tired. My heart was tired. My brain was tired. Thank goodness the riding was easy, only a few minor little ups, but, most of it was smooth riding, except of course for the wind. I enjoyed the desert/New Mexican landscape that surrounded me. It made me long to be back in Arizona, back home. The random horses on the side of the highway made me smile, made my heart happy. There wasn’t much traffic, I felt pretty lonely that day, pretty broken and everything about my sister’s passing and my marriage came crashing onto me. As I rode, every mile seemed to toss something else at me, it would twist and turn my emotions and throw me into a state of deep sadness. I was struggling a lot emotionally during those miles and as the day continued the wind picked up, my inner frustrations picked up too. I was so irritated. At White Horse I turned left onto highway 509 towards the little community of Hospah. A few miles later this car drove up next to me and offered me water, I gladly accepted the offer. It turned out to be one of the guys I had met the day before at Chaco Wash and he lived nearby. We spent about 15 minutes talking before we went our separate ways.

I have probably said it before, but, I’ll say it again. I am so humbled and grateful for all of the random acts of kindness I was shown on my journey, it truly made a world of difference to me and it was those acts of kindness that got me through so many hard days out there. A bottle of water, a Coke, a smile, a candy bar or just stopping to talk to me, doesn’t sound like much, but, those moments with those strangers, those encounters are what kept me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of you. As I write this, it brings me to tears to remember all of the kind and amazing people that showed up on my hardest days, hardest moments and became a crucial part of my story because it gave me the strength to keep riding. In many ways the people I met are the most beautiful part of my story on the Divide. I was really homesick that day and my emotions were everywhere, being extremely fatigued didn’t help. I listened to music for the rest of the day, I had to get out of my own head and just focus on getting into Grants. Eventually, I could see Mt Taylor in the distance, it was a beautiful view, six miles later I turned onto highway 605. I stayed on that highway until I turned onto Route 66, (which really made me miss Flagstaff) and rode that for three miles into downtown Grants. I passed all of these cute stores and yummy looking restaurants, but, I was too tired to stop. I got a motel room, took a bath, ordered pizza and fell asleep. I slept well that night. I remember the next morning, the desire to quit and to go home started to become very intense. Very intense. I had had enough. I wanted to go home. I was done. I was tired of being alone, tired of being tired, tired of being gone, tired of exploring the depths of my own mind. Homesickness overcame me and it took everything I had to stay in Grants and decide to just take a day off and not go home. This is where the Divide really started to become a mental game for me. I didn’t quit though. To be continued!!