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!!

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…