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.

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!!

The waves of grief!

The dictionary defines grief as- deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. It is said that there are 7 stages of grief- shock, denial, anger, guilt, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some argue there are more of less stages. These stages are not linear in any way. They come and go, they tear at your heart, at your very existence, they beat you up, they paralyze you at times. They suffocate you.

In the first few months after losing Martha, I would have this dream almost every night. Martha and I were at our childhood home on Williamsburg Lane, we were in the back study together, she was a little girl again and in her nightgown and I was an adult, I was me today. She would smile and play, but, whenever I attempted to talk to her, she wouldn’t respond. It upset me. I would watch her play and smile in the dream. She had that cute little blonde bob haircut again and her innocent sweet smile with her teddy bear nightgown. She was adorable. Then, I would wake up and realize that she was gone and I would not be able to go back to sleep. I would just lay there and cry. I was so angry that she wouldn’t talk to me in the dream. After awhile, I started dreading sleep because I didn’t want to see her. It hurt too much. A few months later, the dream stopped and that upset me. I remember being alone on hikes or runs and screaming out loud to the universe, asking for the dream to return, it never did. I had moments in the woods where I would turn around to check on Zoroaster and I would see her standing there, clear as day. Then in a split second she was gone, it was though my brain was playing tricks on me. But I begged the universe for more moments like that for more dreams because I felt like maybe she was somehow checking in on me and I needed her. I needed my friend and sister back.

The morning she passed away, I was abruptly woken up at around 2:30 am. I couldn’t figure out what had woken me up. I tried to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I remember I took a bath and stayed up. Then around 11 am I got the news, Martha was gone!! I lost it. I cried out, I screamed so loud. I fell to the ground, I couldn’t even think straight. My world was shattered. Martha was gone??!? I knew right then that I had been woken up the moment she had passed away. I know it sounds insane, but, Martha and I were so close and connected. I couldn’t function or eat or even drive my car. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t possible. That moment started the process of grief for me. The stages ebb and flow through me. The anger and depression stages are what I feel the most of the time.

My anger around her death is so incredibly deep and layered with an immense amount of emotion and questions that I’ll never know the answers to. I am so angry. I am angry at the person who was with her and didn’t call for help, instead he let her die alone on a cold floor. I am angry at the people who sold her the very thing that killed her. I am angry at my husband who blew me off that day and refused to come to the funeral with me. I am angry at myself for not calling her more and messaging her more. Maybe just one text or call from me would have changed what happened. I am angry at the entire situation. Finding a place for that anger seems impossible because it’s just so deeply rooted.

Then, on the other hand, the depression from grief, that comes across me as fast as a hurricane wind, it knocks me over. It makes every part of me ache. The deepness of the sadness is overwhelming. It’s indescribable. At times I feel like a zombie and I feel as though I just can’t take it. It’s too painful. It’s too much!!! I already struggle with depression and anxiety and her death and the grief surrounding it, makes me feel even more lost and sad. More defeated. I swirl around each stage of grief, never knowing which stage I’ll be in on any given day. Some days, I pass through multiple stages at the same time or within hours of each other. It’s a never ending process of hell. I hope through the years that it will ease up, but, how do you cover up such a big hole? How do you let that go? My brain knows she’s gone, but my there’s a part of it that cannot accept it and that’s the part that is still riding through grief and trying to find a way to be okay with what happened. Maybe I’ll get there one day.