The final day of the Divide!

Tonight, 10/23/20 I am staying at the Hacita Bike Ranch, owned by Jeffrey Sharp. It’s 11 pm and I cannot sleep. I rode 80 miles today from Silver City and I should be exhausted and dead asleep by now. However, I just can’t sleep. My mind is all over the place. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll arrive at Antelope Wells/ Mexican border and my time on the Great Divide will end. A few days ago while riding into Silver City I was overwhelmed with memories of my journey out here playing in my mind like an adventure movie. Scene by scene. And, tonight it is even more overwhelming for me, this journey has been difficult to say the least. I am no stranger to great adventures, to long adventures; I’ve thru hiked and traveled 1000s of miles on my own two feet. I have thru hiked Mexico to Canada and I know all too well the emotions that accompany the completion of these kind of adventures. But this accomplishment is more emotional than any of my past ones.

I set out from Canada on my bike, having not ridden a bike in 15 years, I knew nothing about bikes or specs, or maintenance. Hell, I couldn’t even pedal up a 200 foot hill 🙂 seriously!! I was a rookie in every way in regards to biking. I set out to heal, to reflect and process the loss of my sister and come to terms with the horrible man I married, the destruction he caused and my choice to divorce him. I set out to find the person I was and had lost through years of his abuse. He robbed me of time, of myself and of all my goodness and happiness. I thought that riding from Canada to Mexico would be just what I needed to heal. Tonight, as I lay awake unable to sleep due to the anticipation of finishing tomorrow I realize that my expectations of this journey didn’t come to life. I haven’t healed. I haven’t processed anything. I have had many many moments of tears, of wondering why Martha is gone and thinking about how I miss her so very much. How she was always my greatest cheerleader and she wasn’t here for this journey. I have struggled internally everyday to keep riding, to not give up, no matter how hard it got. I have met fantastic people from all walks of life, I have shared conversations, laughs, tears and food with so many amazing people. I have felt alone. I have felt lost. I have felt scared, happy, hopeful, sad, defeated- I have felt at one time or another out here every possible emotion. Yet, I haven’t healed and I fear that returning home tomorrow will bring everything back, everything I wanted to escape from. I worry that maybe nothing will help me heal.

Everyone carries their own definition of adventure- to some it’s having a baby, buying a house, moving to a new place, walking across or biking across the country, climbing Everest, etc. For me, adventure means mental and physical challenge and being outside among the wild for extended periods of time. I have always used my adventures in the past to help me heal and this time it just didn’t work. I hope in the coming days after I complete this journey there will be some kind of realization inside of me, some sort of healing. And, if not, I guess I’ll just have to keep adventuring until my heart is whole again.

Great Divide- Butte, MT to Lima, MT

My cousin, Mark drove me back to Butte after my stay in Bozeman. It was nice to be able to get to know him more, talk and spend some time together. We stopped at Dairy Queen before he dropped me off. We said our goodbyes and I spent the rest of the night preparing for the next day. I woke up early and grabbed some breakfast. I rode about 36 miles the next day, which landed me at Beaver Dam Campground- the haze from the fires continued to block any and all views. I set up camp and during that time a creepy guy drove up to my campsite, got out of his truck and walked over and sat on my picnic table. He let his dogs out of his truck, they were sprayed painted neon orange. When I questioned him about why his dogs were spray painted, he responded by saying, “there’s a lot of weirdos out there.” Oh my goodness 🙂 He then proceeded to tell me he had a cabin a few miles back and told me I should come stay there. He was way too interested in my route and itinerary and he began to really freak me out, he didn’t take any social cues I gave to leave and acknowledge that I was super uncomfortable. A few minutes later this red van pulled up to the site across from mine and I walked over to talk to them. The guy left and I was happy to be near others for the evening.

In the morning, I filled up on water and left camp. Today, I was to climb up and descend the famous Fleecer Ridge, which is an extremely steep unridable rocky section. Many great divide riders opt to avoid this section and take an alternate to save themselves the headache of navigating this section. The climb was moderate, the cows were so incredibly vocal during my ascent. Once I reached the top the clouds started to darken, it started to drizzle, but the views were incredible. I could see for miles and it was so peaceful up there. I walked my bike to the edge and began the descent. No way on earth could I imagine myself or anyone riding down that. I squeezed my brakes, braced myself and carefully walked/slid down the worst of it. My bike slid all over, it was very difficult to maintain footing and keep my bike from falling down. Once I got to the bottom the rest of the ride into Wise River was fairy easy.

Wise River was a nice little stop for pizza and charging up my phone. After lunch, I turned on to the Pioneer Mountain Scenic By-Way, which climbed for miles and miles but it was an easy grade climb, with fabulous views, running water, rainbows, trees and plenty of nice campsites along the way. I camped about 13 miles after Wise River. It continued to rain heavily all night and it was freezing cold the next morning while I packed up, but it didn’t stop me from heading out. The remainder of the climb from camp on the By-Way was a bit steeper and I walked my bike the final 5 miles or so. I was rewarded with a super fun downhill from the top and then an easy and very enjoyable rest of the day into Bannack State Park. A few miles from Bannack I was stopped by two guys in a car who offered me a coke and water. They pulled over and we began talking. The older guy told me about his adventure of riding his tandem bike across the country with his wife in 1989, we shared stories, laughs and then went our separate ways. I remember feeling so good this day, feeling like today was perfect. Then, right before Bannack I met the Denver boys. I kinda invited myself to camp with them that evening and I would end up tagging along with them for the coming two weeks. We all set up camp, then decided to go explore the old ghost town of Bannack. We visited each building, creating our own stories about what the history was in each of them. It couldn’t have been a better day.

The next day, I packed up early and left. The boys were still sleeping. My bike was soaked and so was my tent. I hate packing up wet gear 😦 My plan for the day was to ride 38 or so miles and camp after the big climb up to the medicine lodge/ big sheep creek Divide. Around noon after about 31 miles the boys caught me while I was eating lunch and Zach made a comment about riding another 51 miles into Lima. I laughed and told them I was camping at a lake off route and that there was no way I could ride another 51 miles. They took off and finished my lunch and dried out my tent fly. The climb sucked. I rode down the other side of the climb expecting to see the boys camped, I didn’t see them anywhere. I assumed they actually did ride another 51 miles into Lima and from somewhere I decided to ride into Lima to meet up with the boys. The rain started up again, it rained hard, it was freezing. I kept feeding myself donuts and riding, luckily it was easy riding. The route took me through this beautiful canyon area, it was even more beautiful in the rain. Miles and miles kept going by and I kept telling myself, “Elizabeth, just get into Lima”. It was mentally difficult to keep riding and I was more than exhausted. Just before dark I arrived in Lima, 81 miles from camp. I went to Jans to eat, there was no sign of the boys 🙂 I spent the night in Lima and the next day the boys rode into town around 1 pm. They thought it was hilarious that I had actually ridden 81 miles the day before and they told me that they had camped at the off route lake I told them I was planning on staying at. The rest of the day was lazy and all I did was laundry and eat a lot of food. My body was way more exhausted than I thought. I decided that day that there would be no more 81 mile days! However, I was very proud of myself for accomplishing that, but, knew it wasn’t something I could sustain. The day ended with a yummy dinner at the steak house in town.

A girl, a bike and a new adventure!

As I finish up the last week of preparations for my upcoming bike ride from the Canada to Mexico, I feel many things, I feel strong, but, scared, scared of the unknown and the loneliness I am about to endure. I feel excited and also nervous because I am leaving a safe place and replacing it with living off of my bike, away from my life as I know it. I have done this dance many times in the past prior to big adventures and it has always provided a time of reflection and it has allowed me to push myself, to get uncomfortable and to embrace the adventure ahead. Biking is way different than hiking, it requires more focus, more logistical planning, more thought. I have been able in my past adventures to zone out while moving, to get in a routine of constant movement on the earth and to allow myself to get inside of my own head and face whatever comes up. When I am peddling, I cannot give myself that same freedom to explore my inner thoughts and just stay in my own head. I have to focus on where I am riding, what is up ahead and I have to connect not only with earth under me, but, also with the bike that I am riding. I cannot lose my focus. Maybe some can, but, I cannot, I will no doubt fall off my bike or run it into something. In many ways this new form of travel for me is a welcome distraction because it will require more focus and not allow for exploring my thoughts and what is in my head as much as I can do while hiking. Biking is a faster form of movement, you cover more ground and it is not as peaceful and quiet or connected to the ground as hiking is. But, it is still pretty grounding in its own way. Being on a bike for me, brings up feelings of being a little kid, it is a whole kind of freedom in its own way 🙂 My hopes are that with each mile I pedal on my trip, that some amount of healing will occur, that some shift will happen inside of myself. I hope I can remember my strength and use it at the moments when I am completely broken out there, because those moments will come up. I look forward to the next few months on my bike, stopping to see family and friends, breathing in mountain air, connecting to the mountains, connecting to myself again. I have no idea whether or not I can pull this off, but, I will give it my best go and whatever happens from that will happen. The last year has been the hardest year of my life. I lost my sister, who was a great support and friend to me and I have divorced a guy who was beyond terrible to me. I have had moments of indescribable sadness and pain, moments when I thought I could not go on, times when I wanted to pull all of my hair out and scream and never stop. I have watched as the world has changed. I have been shattered and it is time to pick those pieces up and make something worth while out of what has happened.

Life Ain’t Always Beautiful…

Today, was a difficult day. While running this morning I found myself falling on the ground and crying. I completely collapsed. I completely lost it. It happened just after the song, Life Ain’t Always Beautiful by Gary Allen came on my iPod. The lyrics to that song ran me over like a train and every emotion that embodies grief flooded my body. There I was sitting in the shade on the side of a trail with my dog unable to get up, or think clearly, or change the song. I was a mess. I listened to that damn song over and over. I hated the lyrics because it made me think of Martha and how I wished she was there, how I missed her, but, I also loved the song. I thought about how I was so upset that she no longer appeared in my dreams at night, I thought about her recent birthday and how I missed talking to her, laughing with her, having her call me when she was going to the bathroom and how she always had something funny to say. I thought about what life means without her, how life can even continue in her absence and how time since her passing has just moved along. These days I feel as though my grief is getting worse, it is getting more intense as the days go on. Somedays I have absolutely no relief from the force of grief. I am angry, I am so damn angry that she is no longer here. I do not understand how life can just continue without her because there is this overwhelming feeling of something missing, like a vital organ. I feel like a vital part of who I am is missing, so it is hard grasp that live just goes on, that time goes on without her.

Life ain’t always beautiful. Sometimes it’s just plain hard. Life can knock you down, it can break your heart. Life ain’t always beautiful. You think you’re on your way. And it’s just a dead end road at the end of the day. But the struggle makes you stronger. And the changes makes you wise. And happiness has it’s own way of takin’ it’s sweet time. No, life ain’t always beautiful. Tears will fall sometimes. Life ain’t always beautiful. But it’s a beautiful ride. Life ain’t always beautiful. Some days I miss your smile. I get tired of walkin’ all these lonely miles. And I wish for just one minute I could see your pretty face. Guess I can dream, but life don’t work that way. But the struggles make you stronger. And the changes make you wise. And happiness has it’s own way of takin’ it’s sweet time. No, life ain’t always beautiful. But I know I’ll be fine. Hey, life ain’t always beautiful. But it’s a beautiful ride. What a beautiful ride.

I just kept listening to that song, and after about 20 minutes of doing so and throwing pine cones and rocks across the trail, I got up and ran back home. I tried to go about my day and let the grief go for awhile, but it didn’t really work. All day I felt prisoner to my grief. I felt angry and sad and then angry again. Now, I just feel angry. I miss my little sister more than words can describe, I ache for connection with her. Life is so very different with her gone, it feels less special and more dull, it feels like someone took the sparkle out of my life. I just hope and pray that one day life will feel more manageable and that I will feel more in control of my grief. But, losing someone you love is never easy and it’s a process of good days and bad days with no end date. So, maybe it’s okay to collapse while running sometimes and let the process happen with no judgement on yourself.