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!!

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.