Cuba, NM to Pueblo Pintado on the Divide 💨 Holy Cannoli, Oh My Goodness, Heavens to Betsey, For Pete’s Sake, and Geez Louise 💨

After an enjoyable day off in the charming town of Cuba, I opted to take the paved alternate into Grants out of respect due to the closure of the reservations because of Covid. The first few miles out Cuba along highway 197 were perfect- the riding was so easy and fast and I hoped that it would be that way for all of the 46.6 miles into Pueblo Pintado/Chaco Wash. The sky was clear, blue, the temperature was a bit cold, but, made for great riding. The wind was non existent and so was the traffic for the most part. I felt so free and light and happy, in fact, I was listening to music and singing along to it; I was in a state of pure bliss. I was riding my bike through beautiful country, the miles came easy and fast and that feeling of being on a bike and everything being just right is something I cannot explain, its like being a little kid again, no worries, just the bike and you, the speed, the air and the road. Awesome!!! Wonderful! Bliss!! I stopped for a short break to eat and drink some water I knew it would be a quick ride judging from how fast I was riding, so I thought 🙂 When I got back on my bike, my nemesis appeared. THE WIND!!! Oh my goodness, the wind had come back to haunt me and rip away any enjoyment I was having that day. The miles turned into a slog, I was pedaling, but, it seemed as though I wasn’t moving, the force of the wind against my bike and my body zapped my energy. At one point I got off my bike because I was so exhausted from fighting the headwind, walking my bike was more efficient. The mental struggle along with the physical struggle of fighting a strong headwind on a bike is something I really hated. It was so frustrating, exhausting and made me feel so defeated. I had started the day in such an up beat mood and the wind just destroyed that. It made miles so hard, so miserable. There is no respite from the wind out there, you can’t run away from it unless of course you go inside. There I was my bike and I being pushed back each time I attempted to go forward. The wind throbbing against my face and ears started to give me a headache and I was pissed. I won’t lie, I hate wind!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As the afternoon began, I knew the final miles of the day were going to test everything I had and I was tempted to stop a car and ask for a ride. But I didn’t. I would ride for awhile and when the wind pulled me off my bike, I would walk my bike, this dance went on for a few hours until I could finally see Chaco Wash off to my right. Chaco Wash is a laundry mat on the border of the reservation that has a small convenient store and allows bikers to camp on the property. I made it. I rode up to the front door, laid my bike down and went inside. I had to get out of the wind. I was about to lose my mind. I had a few snacks and talked to the employees to get the down low on where I was allowed to pitch my tent. The manager told me to setup up camp near the old box car and that at 9pm the gates closed and would lock me inside the property until 7 am the next day. He explained to me the gates are a necessity to prevent exposure from the reservation and the known wild and dangerous happenings that sometimes occur. I spent the rest of the afternoon inside the laundry mat, talking to people, charging my phone, writing and occasionally going outside to check the status of the wind and say hi and love on my rez dog friends.

Watching the day come to an end I noticed the vibe at the Chaco Wash change, it became quieter, people started going home but it had un indescribable tone to it. Something I still can’t put my finger on. I waited until the wind let up to setup my tent. I bought a pizza at the store for dinner and stayed inside until close. It was cold, I crawled inside my sleeping bag and laid under the stars. I thought about so much that night. I was starting to feel a tad sacred, being locked inside this gate at this place and I started to freak myself out with my thoughts. Around 10 pm the caretaker, came over to my tent. We started talking and eventually went inside his trailer to continue our conversation because it was so cold outside. It was nice to have company and friendly conversation, but, I was tired and knew that I needed to sleep. After an hour, I went back to my tent to try and get some sleep. I didn’t sleep well that night, in fact, I barely slept, maybe 30 mins total. I couldn’t calm my mind enough to actually sleep. Around 630 am I got out of my bag, packed up and went over to the store for a morning hot chocolate and to wait for the gate to open. I was so wiped. My eyes were heavy, my head was foggy and my body was not up for riding the 68 miles into Grants. But, you know me and my stubbornness, I got on my bike and headed out of the gate and towards Grants.

To Cuba, NM I go- on the Divide!!

After packing up my bike and filling up on water I left the campsite. I wish I could have said goodbye and thanked the hunters again, but, they were long gone and I needed to get going. I had 57 miles to ride. I remember getting on my bike and feeling a sense of strength and pride that morning. I felt proud I had made it that far a, I felt strong because I had overcome so many obstacles both emotionally and physically to get to that point. I felt excited to see my friend, Hallie, in Cuba and somehow just knowing I was going to see someone I knew gave me an immense amount of peace. Of relief. It gets lonely out there, it’s hard to be alone while embarking on something like the Great Divide, it’s hard to face what’s in the innermost corners of your mind and heart, it’s hard to look grief in the face and not allow it to consume you. Being in your own head is both extremely difficult and beautiful. It’s a roller coaster. It’s dark and light and messy. But what a wonderful chance it was for me to be able to walk through my own mind while being among so much beauty, challenge and adventure on the Divide. The riding was pretty easy that day, though the section descending Polvadera Mesa on FR 144 had rocks as big as microwaves and the going was pretty darn slow and rough. I had to walk my bike down parts of it because it was so rocky and I was positive I was going to get a flat. Oh man the rocks!! The damn rocks! Ugh! There was many turns that day, definitely had to pay attention so I didn’t take the wrong road. Right, left, stay straight, left, right again- lots of small ups and downs and winding sections. Once I rode onto FR 70 I could see the rim of Valle Grande Caldera and in the distance mountains rose into the sky. It was a beautiful and refreshing view after being in the trees and on rocky terrain for most of the day. I continued on FR 70 past some campsites and trailheads and eventually turned onto highway 126. Pavement was very welcoming after that section. I was happy to be able to ride fast and on smooth terrain for a bit. As I rode downhill on the pavement and out of Santa Fe National Forest I became super excited to get into Cuba and eat some good Mexican food. I was always hungry and always excited to eat 🙂 in fact, many nights, I laid in my tent and had food fantasies. As I pasted a few houses I had a dog run out and chase me, he almost bit me and it scared me to death. It’s hard to defend yourself while riding a bike especially on the side of a highway. But both the dog and I were okay, finally the dog ran back home.

I continued on highway 126 and then finally turned onto highway 550 into CUBA. I rode straight to McDonald’s and rode my bike through the drive thru. After I ate my chicken nuggets, I rode a mile out of town to Juicy Jitters, my friends place, we spent some time laughing and talking. We reminisced about the our days thru hiking the Arizona Trail and the friends we had made along that trail. What wonderful memories those were. As it got dark I returned to town and got a motel room and then rode my bike to the nearby Mexican restaurant and had another meal topped off with a pint of ice cream 🙂 yes, the amount of food I consumed out there was disgusting 🙂 but it was necessary! I slept very well that night and took the next day off to spend more time with my friend, to write and to just enjoy the part of the adventure off my bike. The divide wasn’t just about the time I spent on my bike, the adventure also included the time I spent off my bike in the small communities along the route. Those times are just as important to my story on the divide as the time on my bike was.

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!!