Grants, NM into Pie Town, NM on the Divide!

I left Grants around 9 am and headed for El Malpais National Monument. The riding was easy, the miles came almost effortlessly. I was happy for that, seeing as the miles behind me were so challenging and rough. I met a thru hiker hiking the CDT upon my arrival into the National Monument, we chatted for awhile and exchanged old thru hiking stories. I felt as though I was missing that part of my life, missing the slower pace of movement you find while thru hiking. Missing the direct connection from one’s body to the earth. Being on a bike is not the same. The pace is faster, the miles are forgotten easier and you are not directly touching the earth. It is different, neither good or bad, just different. But, I began to miss thru hiking, but, at the same time, I was so proud of myself for doing what I had done on my bike and for overcoming everything I had. We talked about the pie in Pie Town and how life is so wonderful when you are free and footloose. After a short time we said goodbye and I continued on. El Malpais was beautiful, it reminded me of the Canyon world back home, just as some of Northern New Mexico had. The riding remained easy, the perfect amount of wind brushed my face, it was one of the best days on the Divide. Perfect weather, good riding, easy riding. About 40 miles into the day, I took a left onto County rd 41 towards, Pie Town. I had planned on camping that night at Armijo Canyon 4 miles away. The road turned a bit rough, the washboards made the riding a tad irritating. When I got to the turn off of Armijo Canyon it was still early, I took a break to decide what to do and ultimately decided to ride another 28 miles into Pie Town for the night. The riding was pretty straight forward, some bad washboards, a few sections of up and downs, sand, dirt, everything fun for a bike. I passed a ton of ranches and saw very little traffic along the way. One man stopped and gave me some water, I really needed it, so it was a welcomed gesture. As I made the last big left turn towards Pie Town I rode off the road, into the sand and came to a complete stop, right before I gracefully, (not) ate it and fell of my bike. The final four miles into Pie Town were some of the worst washboards I had ever seen. Oh my goodness, they were terrible.

I finally made it into Pie Town about 20 minutes before dark. I stayed the night at the Toaster House, a place that welcomes hikers and bikers and provides showers, places to sleep and good memories for travelers. I met a few hikers there and we shared a night filled with good food, laughs, stories of our adventures and our lives. I appreciated that night so very much, since, I had spent most of the Divide alone, it was great to connect with other like minded people and share in one another’s adventures. I slept well that night. In the morning, we all made the short walk to the restaurant to eat pie. I filled up with pie and a huge breakfast. I struggled with what I should, should I stay the day and take a day off or should I get back on my bike and continue onwards. Around noon, I decided to pack up and head out. I filled up my water bladders, bought one more piece of pie, made sure my phone was charged, said goodbye to my new friends and climbed back onto the saddle of my bike.

I headed out of town on Double Bar Road, the scenery was beautiful, the road was alright, bumpy, dusty and washboarded. The short climbs were not too bad, the temperature was perfect, the riding was mostly enjoyable and I was looking forward to the final handful of days left out there. I was about 12 miles or so from town, I rode over this really bad washboarded section and a few giant bumps. All of a sudden a heard a loud thud, I thought for sure my rear tire had popped. I got off my bike to fix my tire and realized that my rear rack had ripped out of my frame and was now smashed into my tire. There was holes in my steel frame on both sides where the rack had attached. I was stranded in the sand and no way to carry my gear. I was so frustrated and upset. I called my parents crying, worried that I had worked so hard and overcome so much and now my trip was over. How was I going to weld my bike together, fix the rack, how was I ever going to finish the Divide now. My heart sank. I felt defeated. I was hundreds of miles from the nearest bike shop, I was in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. I sat there crying holding my bike in the middle of the road. I did not move my bike. I just cried and I am sure my tears were not all from my bike being broken, but rather from a culmination of everything that happened on the Divide and everything that had lead me to ride the Divide. I sat there, alone, crying, feeling so down and out. After about 45 minutes, a truck drove up and asked if I was okay. I explained what had happened to them, they kindly put my bike in the back of their truck and drove me down the road to their ranch. We deflated the tire and removed the remaining pieces of the rack, then we made a plan to get me back to town where I could hopefully find someone and some place to help me. I called the Toaster House, they had a number for a (trail angel) a man who helped bikers, he agreed to help me and within an hour or so he picked me up from that ranch. I remember sitting in this truck driving away from the Divide, feeling so incredibly sad, like a failure, like I was never returning and my time on the Divide was over. I cannot fully explain that gut wrenching feeling. This kind man drove me into Quemado, New Mexico to a motor welding shop. Jerry at the shop was so helpful and stayed late to weld my rack back onto my bike. I am so grateful for what they both did for me that day. I got a room at the motel across the street and figured out my plan to return to the Divide and finish. In the morning, I returned to the shop to have the welding double checked. Jerry was gone, but, Mike his friend was there and Isaiah, Jerry’s grandson. Mike offered to reweld it to make it a more solid weld. Mike, Isaiah and I went over to Mike’s shop and I watched as my bike was welded yet again. Who would have thought, a small town in the middle of nowhere New Mexico saved the day. After the welding was completed we drove into Pie Town and I treated them to lunch. We said our goodbyes and I headed out yet again to finish the Divide. I remember not wanting to re ride the 12 or so miles I had already done before my bike broke. I put my thumb out and a rancher came along after a short time and drove me back to where I had left the route the prior day. Getting back to that spot was an amazing feeling. All those kind people who had helped me when I needed it the most, all of those strangers who just showed up out of nowhere now permanently in my heart as friends and apart of this wild adventure. I was shown so much love, support, kindness and generosity. So many people were cheering for me and I am grateful for every single person who became part of my story on the Divide. After everything that had happened, I was heading for the Mexican border no matter what now. I knew at that very moment, my dream was really going to become a reality.

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❤️

Abiquiu to Polvadera Mesa- Great Divide!

Turning onto CR 189 and heading onto Abiquiu Grant Lands was a bit nerve wrecking for me. I chose to follow the standard route despite my anxieties and worries about my safety. I rode through a neighborhood where I counted 4 red trucks. I was worried one of those trucks belonged to rhe guy that had been known to harass bikers- hold them up and rob them. I felt very alone, I felt very vulnerable. I questioned my decision to take the standard route over and over as I rode. I was scared. As I pedaled across Abiquiu Creek and rode up to a steep ridge which opened to amazing views I continued to feel scared and worried and unsure of the hours ahead. I reached a plateau about 5 miles in and enjoyed the beautiful views, the juniper trees and piñon. It reminded me of home in Arizona. I still was struggling to wrangle in my anxiety and focus on the riding. Every so often, I would turn around and check to see if there were any vehicles coming up behind me or any vehicle parked on the side roads or in the trees off the route. I turned off of CR 189 and onto FR 27. A few miles later I entered into Santa Fe National Forest, as I made more miles away from that neighborhood I started to feel a tad more safe, but, I still felt vulnerable. I kept praying I would run into other campers at the end of the day so I would not be alone that night. Around 10 miles into the day, I saw a truck and they stopped and talked to me, they were out hunting, it was opening day for the season. That made me so happy because I knew there were others out there, the likelihood of that guy bothering me was starting to become less of a concern. I entered into a canyon, the road was in decent shape and I began to descend for awhile. The riding was enjoyable and the weather was perfect. FR 27 started to get very rough, very uneven, very rocky and very hard to ride- I was beginning the climb up to the top of Polverda Mesa. The slick rock made riding difficult, but, it was nice to be in the tall trees of the forest- it was quiet and beautiful and though the miles were hard to ride, it seemed to go by fast. I continued to climb the volcanic road towards the sky. 12.5 miles after beginning the steep climb, I finally reached the top.

I noticed a group of hunters camped off to my right. I walked right up to them and asked the first guy I saw if I could camp with them for the night? They didn’t even hesitate as they welcomed me into their camp and showed me where I could pitch my tent. The guys then left on their ATV to scout for their hunt the next morning. I setup my tent and went out for a short hike. I felt relieved that I was at the top and that I had stayed safe and was going to be safe all night long. I could feel my anxiety simmer down and my entire being seemed to shift into a calm place. The sky lit up with magnificent colors, the day was coming to an end. I crawled into my tent after cooking some food; right as it became dark, the guys returned to camp and offered me a hamburger and some drinks. I bundled up and joined them around the fire. The night air was cold. The guys built a fire, it was a welcomed addition to the evening. To me, fire is like primitive tv, it is mesmerizing and for some reason they always provide good vibes and good times. We ate, exchanged stories and embraced each others company for the night. They talked about their lives in New Mexico and how Covid was impacting their towns. We talked about my trip on the Divide and where I was from. They were externally generous and told me to take whatever I needed or wanted out of the cooler in the morning before I left camp. We stayed up for a few hours and then called it a night. Around 4 am the next morning the guys left camp, they were determined to get an elk. I was not getting up that early. I laid in my warm sleeping bag until about 7 am and then started my day. It is never fun to pack up in the early morning when it is freezing cold, but, it is part of the journey and the bitter cold against your body reminds you that you are alive. To Cuba, NM I go!!