Leaving Abiquiu or not leaving Abiquiu on the Great Divide!

I had been so exhausted and defeated in the days leading up to Abiqui. I enjoyed a day off at the Abiqui Inn- a neat little respite from the long days on the Divide. A few weeks prior while I was in Colorado; I had been informed about a man who lived outside of Abiquiu who was holding bikers up at gunpoint and robbing them, it had been on my mind ever since learning about it. It had created an immense amount of anxiety and fear in me and I was leaning towards taking an alternate route to avoid that area. I spoke with locals and other bikers who for the most part knew nothing about that guy. After, a nice day off, my plan was to head out. I went to the restaurant to eat breakfast and was seated next to this guy who was also eating alone. He looked like a movie star, he had this sleek, kind and handsome look to him. At some point, we struck up a conversation, we talked about my trip and a little bit about who we each were and where we were from. I have no idea how the topic of losing my sister Martha came up, but somehow it did. He was so easy to talk to and I guess I was in dire need of releasing some of my grief. Grief is a constant ebb and flow of emotion. I hadn’t really been addressing my grief on my ride thus far. More so, I had been hiding it, pretending it wasn’t real and trying to ignore it. I mean, I was on my bike, I couldn’t ride at all or make any miles if all I did was cry and let my grief out. I had to stifle it and put it away. But, grief isn’t just tears, sometimes it shows up in the form of just needing one more day off on a big bike ride, or being extra anxious or lonely or feeling “off.” That morning it knocked me over and consumed me. He began to talk about his own losses and grief and what his process had been. The more we talked, the more both of us started to tear up. There we were two grown strangers crying at breakfast. It was one of the most therapeutic experiences of my life. I then told him I had planned to leave that morning and about my concerns about what I had heard about that guy harassing bikers. He could tell I was struggling with myself to continue riding. He said to me, “you don’t have to ask permission for another day off.” You can take it. He offered to take me into Espanola so I could get to a real store. I told him I’d let him know in a few hours. After, I finished my breakfast and exchanged contact information with him I left the restaurant and noticed that there was horses in the back of the property.

I immediately walked over there and had another big release of grief. Horses are extremely therapeutic and it was exactly what I needed at the moment. The way they smell, the way they feel, the way they can reflect and comfort you without even knowing you, without any questions asked is such a special gift. I stayed there for a while and then decided to walk back to my room. I was so tired and now, I was emotionally exhausted. Grief wears you out. It drains you. It’s so hard. I ended up texting my new friend and he picked me up and drove me into town to Walmart and Dairy Queen. It was awesome and relaxing. I was so glad I had not ridden off that morning. I wasn’t ready to leave and that was okay. I had a kind escort for the day and a cool Kermit Car to ride in.

My new friend and his awesome ride 🙂

After we returned to the inn, he offered to take me on his motorcycle up Polvadera Mesa where that guy I was worried about had been known to be. He said it might help to see some of the route and if I did indeed decide to take the alternate then at least I wouldn’t miss some of the beautiful views of the actual route. The ride was amazing, it’s so special out there, so beautiful- the desert, the mountains, the rock, the sky- man, it’s all so indescribably beautiful. It was nearing the end of the day and I knew that in the morning I was leaving. I had to chose the actual route or the alternate. I got back to my room right at dinner time and said goodbye to my friend. It had been a very healing day for me. Though, I still felt sad, uneasy, and anxious. I knew that I had to start allowing my grief to surface more. That I shouldn’t be scared of it or try to ignore it. That it was okay to be a mess, to be vulnerable and lonely and sad even when I was on a big adventure, being a badass or trying to be a badass. It was okay to be just me and to be just where I was with my grief. The next morning, I packed up and rode to the general store. It was either turn left and head up to Polvodera Mesa on the actual route or go straight and take the alternate. I started riding and for some reason turned left onto the actual route. I surprised myself with that decision. But, I was not going to let some guy scare me off the route…

I made it into Abiquiu- The Great Divide continues!!!

Hitching back to the route from Tres Piedras was difficult, the traffic was almost non exsistent, at least in the direction I needed to go. After an hour and a half I got a ride in the back of a pickup truck, with no bed gate. I had to hold my bike so tight and keep us both from falling out of the back of the truck as the driver drove way too fast for the turns on that road. I was pretty scared to be honest. When I got back to the route, I put my panniers back on my bike and started the 5 mile climb up the paved highway 64 to Hopewell Lake. I was still feeling tired, my body was still exhausted and I was only planning to ride to Canon Plaza, 24 miles away. My riding was sluggish, I was still fading mentally and psychically. FR 91 was in alright condition, the terrain was pretty nice, there were a few climbs up to Burned Mountain and then again to the top a saddle that stood above ranches and wetlands. I loved riding through the tall trees that day. It was so quiet out there, no one else was out there, but me and my bike. Most days on the Divide were like that, but there was generally some vehicle traffic at some point and that day the road belonged to just me and my bike. After only 10 miles of riding I was beginning to feel the fatique worsen. My pernicious anemia and Crohns were giving me trouble as they often do and coupled with the fact that I was riding the Divide and pushing myself day after day for weeks now, my body was admittedly protesting. I rode into Canon Plaza and went to the store Joe and his wife have setup for bikers, I bought a few snacks and talked to Joe for a while. Joe kindly offered to let me stay at his house he was fixing up across from the store. I happily accepted his offer and ended my day on the bike early. As I was writing outside on the patio of the house a dog named Duke came to greet me. He was a skiddish shepard mix, but, sweet as could be. He hungout with me for a while as I wrote and then went on his way.

I struggled to sleep that night. I did not sleep at all in fact. I laid awake all night. You would think I could fall asleep so easy and fast because I was exhausted, but, I have always had trouble with sleep. Even when my body is beyond tired in every single way, there are nights when I cannot turn my mind off and I cannot sleep. It is like torture. Absolute torture. I have grown used to it over the years, but, it makes my days harder, especially when I am out on a big adventure like riding the Divide. The lack of sleep messes with my focus, emotions, appetite, endurance- everything- it throws yet another challenge into the mix for me. I have tried a lot of different things over the years to help with this struggle, but, I have yet to find anything that has worked long term. So, I have no other choice than to accept it as a part of who I am and learn to live with it, just as I do with having Crohns, Pernicous Anemia, anxiety and depression and POTS. All I can do is embrace those struggles and decide to not let them stop me from what I want to do.

As the daylight crept through the windows I knew I was going to have to pack up and start riding. I was headed for Abiquiu, 38 miles away. I left early as I was already awake, I wanted to see Joe again but I was not going to go over and wake him up. The morning air was cold, my eyes burned from staying up all night, my head was all over the place. I was supposed to have been in Abiquiu days ago, I just wasn’t riding as fast as planned because my body was just too tired. The riding out of town wasn’t too bad. The route took me across Rio Vallectios and then it turned onto FR 44 which was rougher riding than the nice gravel and pavement I had just been on. The road climbed up to a remote high point and then continued downhill for a bit. Then it went back up hill, eventually leading me onto Highway 554. I rode into El Rito and stopped at the little store there to get a soda and take a break. I was 18 miles from Abiquiu at that point and it was all pavement from there JAfter I was finished with my soda, I got back onto my bike and headed South on 554. The views were so beautiful riding into Abiquiu, the distant mesas and desert landscape did not disappoint. I was so happy to finally be in Abiquiu, a few days before when I was really struggling I did not think I would ever get there. I went straight to the Inn and got a room and ate a huge lunch.

Del Norte, CO into New Mexico on the Great Divide!

I took a day off at Danielle and Trenton’s house outside of Del Norte in South Park. It was a perfect day off, pizza by the creek with their doggies, easy errands, good company and good conversation. The following day, they drove me back into Del Norte where I had gotten off the route. And, the bike mechanic from Salida had texted me that my maps had finally arrived and his mother in law drove out to Del Norte that morning to bring me my new maps. Absolute wonderfully kind people. I was still incredibly tired and decided to just ride 12 miles to a local cabin that hosted bikers. I was anticipating the long hard climb to the summit of Indian Pass, 11,910 feet and decided an easy quick day of riding would set me up for the next day to tackle the big climb. The cabin was very neat, kind of like an artsy Jeremiah Johnson cabin, very unique and cozy and set in the low mountains of the Rio Grande National Forest. I did not sleep well, but, I got enough sleep 🙂

In the morning, I left the cabin prepared to handle the next 12 miles of climbing to reach the Pass. In true Elizabeth style, I walked my bike a lot of the way up. I even called my mom during the climb at one point and had a good conversation with her. Once I neared the top of the Pass the views were beautiful but the sky was hazy and the views were impacted by that. I rode from the Pass down into Summerville and then began to climb yet again. The views were great and the riding wasn’t too bad. I then climbed up to Elwood Pass and the views just kept getting better. I passed by a few lakes and kept riding with the intention of getting into Platoro for the night. I passed Stunner Campground and kept riding focusing on the final climb and final Pass for the day, Stunner Pass. That climb was so pretty. So many colors, so many rocks, lovely Colorado. At the top of the Pass I bundled up a bit, it was starting to get cold. I was ready for some nice downhill riding as the day had been filled with over 5,000 feet of climbing already and I did not want to face any other climbs that day. I rode into Platoro about an hour before dark, the store owners showed me the Great Diivde Cabin and set me up inside for the night. He later brought me some watermelon, cheese and a sausage, I sat on the deck of the cabin and ate my dinner. It was so peaceful there. I had lived in Colorado for 15 years and never even knew about that place or the surrounding areas. It is definitely a special part of Colorado and I plan on visiting it to adventure more one day. I slept very well that night, though my body was sore, so sore. I tried to stretch before bed and again in the morning, but I was beyond that being enough to help. My body was beginning to break down. I was beginning to feel my body breaking down. I was not recovering like I should. My health issues were getting the best of me.

In the morning I again received a generous home cooked meal from the owners of the store. It was delicious and filled me up enough to begin my day. The first part of the day took me along the Conejos River, it was like a scene from a cowboy movie, so much wild land out there. So much to explore. It was mostly flat terrain and easy riding. When I got into Horca, I stopped for a few Amish pies at the store in town and then turned up on Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway to climb to the top of La Mangas Pass. I stopped at a few viewpoints along the way to take in the views and take some pictures. The climb was pretty easy for the most part and only lasted 7 miles. I headed down from the pass absorbing the joy of the downhill riding. I left the highway and turned onto FR 117 which was a nice road with easy riding. Three miles later I left the Rio Grande National Forest and entered into the Carson National Forest/NEW MEXICO!!!! The final state of the Great Divide, getting that far was a huge moment for me. I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it. I was aware I still had hundreds of miles to ride to the Mexican Border, but, that moment, that moment when I knew I was finally in New Mexico brought me to tears. I felt so proud of myself. I was so excited. I rode about another mile or so and camped near a few other people who were out with their RV. One of the guys at camp had Kentucky Fried Chicken and offered me a few pieces along with some water. I was loving New Mexico 🙂 I set up my tent in a cluster of trees near their RV and prepared for the cold night ahead. I was still struggling with my body, it was fighting itself and it was breaking down. I was not feeling rested at all after days off or sleep, I was tired, I was slow, I was hungry. I couldn’t give my body the recovery time it demanded. I kept pushing myself in all ways possible and my body was now rejecting all of the pushing. I was in trouble physically and I felt it. My entire body felt it, but, I was in NEW MEXICO and nothing was going to keep me from getting to the Mexican Border. To be continued…..