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.
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!!
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.
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…
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.
I was slow to pack up the morning after I entered into New Mexico. It was freezing out. My body was now in trouble. I was really struggling just to get ready that day. Everything seemed so hard. The day started with lots of rocky climbs. I struggled with each mile. FR 87 was rough and I was in no position to be riding that day. A few hours into the day, I called my parents crying- I was exhausted beyond exhaustion. My body was rejecting the physical aspect of the riding. My mom got online to look at maps trying to find a way for me to get off so I could quit. Honestly, I was at that point. My body was giving up on me, it didn’t care about my goals. I could hear my parents concern and worry. They know all too well that I often push myself past my limit and that my health issues cause me a great deal of stress and pain and my body is impacted by all of that. I just kept telling them that I wasn’t going to quit. That of course did not make my mom happy, but, I couldn’t quit. I had to keep going. I tried to reassure them as much as I could, but I think I was really just trying to reassure myself. I hung up and got back on my bike. There was a nice ROCKY descent after my phone call and it gave me some relief from the climbing. That was short lived though. I then began to push my bike up a half mile of some ridiculous terrain filled with sharp rocks and lose gravel. You absolutely couldn’t ride that section. Ugh! Right before the top of the climb I fell to the ground. I was crying like a baby. I was done. Mentally and physically I was done. Little did I know 100 yards away was an amazing view on top of Brazos Ridge looking down into Cruces Basin Wilderness. When I finally got to the top, the view was rewardingly peaceful and pretty epic.
I took a long break up there and then continued on FR 87. I was still struggling a lot. I was fighting each mile. I was fighting myself and I was fading. I always always carry extra food- usually one or two days extra- but I just couldn’t stop eating. I couldn’t get satiated. I was going through all of my extra food and I knew I was going to run out. I wasn’t riding as fast as I had planned and my tummy just couldn’t stop feeling hungry. It’s a terrible feeling to be eating through your extra days of food and knowing you will soon run out. On top of that my Crohn’s was flaring up and I was weak.
Riding down from Brazos Ridge was pretty fun and soon enough the road became smoother. I kept riding on FR 87, it went up and then down some and then back up, but the road was in good shape and the riding was pretty easy. Eventually, I started heading down through the aspen trees towards the Rio San Antonio. I could feel the sun get more intense as I approached the bottom of the descent and I wanted to find a place to camp, but, I knew I had to keep riding and so I did. I crossed the Rio San Antonio and turned off of FR 87 and onto FR 133. A couple miles later I met a guy driving back from a bike ride. I asked him what the closest town was, he told me about Tres Piedras and offered to take me there for some real food and a night of good rest.
Logistically, though getting back to the route from that point would have been too hard, so I decided to continue another 11 miles or so and try and hitch into Tres Piedras from highway 64. I really needed food and I needed some real rest, but I couldn’t put myself in a situation where returning to the route would be difficult. I kept riding, as I rode I felt so lonely, so tired, so defeated. When I got to Cisneros Park I could see the mountains of Colorado and that only made me feel more lonely. I missed my friends. I missed connecting to people and laughing and missed having days where I wasn’t on my bike. I followed FR 133 passed a dry Beehive Spring and began descending into Little Tusas Creek. The cows seemed to be amused by me, they were very vocal as I rode by. A short time later I got to highway 64, walked to the other side of the road and stuck my thumb out. I was going into Tres Piedras for the night. I had ridden only 44 miles that day, but for my body it felt like 100. The traffic was slow on highway 64 and the day was quickly ending. I didn’t want to be on the side of a highway when it got dark. A few cars went by and then the same guy I had met earlier that day pulled over. Unfortunately, my bike tires were too big to fit on his rack, but him and his friends flagged down a truck and I finally told got a ride into town. They dropped me off at the only restaurant in town. I ran in and found out they were closed, I was bummed. I secured a room for the night there at the motel and I bought a handful of goodies they had at the bar. The lady who runs the place stopped me before I left and asked me what I wanted to eat. She knew about bikers on the divide and she stayed late to cook me some food. She also told me to come back in the morning for breakfast. After a nice full dinner, I went to my room to unwind and eat all the goodies I had bought. I sat on the bed and ate for almost an hour and a half straight. It was like I was garbage disposal, I just kept shoving food in my mouth. I was able to really relax and get some good warm sleep and that made a giant difference. I slept in, I didn’t rush back on my bike in the morning. I stayed for breakfast and bought more snacks to take with me. I left around 11 and started to hitch back to where I had gotten off the route the night before. It was amazing how one night with lots and I mean lots of food completely turned me around. It was just what I needed.
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.