June 04, 2010
I woke up early due to discomfort – my patch job failed minutes after going to bed. I cooked breakfast and went though the normal morning routine. As I went to put my gear on the bike, I noticed I had a flat rear tire. Fixing it put us at a later start.
When I started riding, I noticed my steering was skewed. When the front wheel was pointed straight ahead, my handlebar was a few degrees off-center. I did not want to hold up the others any longer, so I did not bother to fix it or filter extra water (our BLM campsite had a small lake/reservoir). Afterall, I had a decent amount of water from the San Mateo spring.
The road we were on was extremely eroded and bumpy. It was so bad that on a descent, I had some equipment fall off my rear rack! This was turning out to be Hell. I was tired from restless sleep and now lacked confidence in my bike and gear.
The scenery was amazing, though. Yesterday, we had our own private Monument Valley. Today, we enjoyed a private Grand Canyon.
When we descended into the canyon, Mathieu told me some discouraging news. At this pace, we would not make it to Cuba. I was low on water and there was none to be found. No way could I camp another night.
I unhappily pressed onward. On the Great Divide, onwards is often the only option.
The day turned extremely hot and dry, without any clouds to offer shade. My water supply consisted of less than a litre of water. I had been rationing all day and the previous night and was very dehydrated. We all needed water soon.
Then, we came upon a murky lake. It looked nasty, but it was our only option. A little ways up the road, we spotted a brick building surrounded by a barbed wire fence. There was a water pump inside!
Mathieu carefully climbed the fence and filled our water bottles and bags. We were saved! Even though I was carrying an extra 12 lbs now, I had the peace of mind knowing I’d survive to Cuba. This lifted my spirits greatly.
Soon after, it was time for lunch. We met on the first pavement of the day. There was no shade and endless biting flies, so we continued. Eventually, we stopped on the side of a relatively busy road and ate our meals.
I ate way too much and felt very uncomfortable on the low-grade climb that came next.
We reached a point where we could go two ways – continue straight and intersect the Chaco alternate (meaning only 30 paved miles to Cuba) or stay on the main route (going off road for all but the last 10 miles to Cuba). The guys left the decision to me, since I was the one struggling. I chose the main route.
Navigation was easy, so we let our differing paces increase the distance between each of us.
I came to a section just before a climb – a herd of cattle blocked my path. While trying nicely to get the cows to move, I was suddenly “inspired” to find a private place to go to the bathroom.
The thing about being in the middle of the desert is that both everywhere and nowhere is private. Even though I was the only person in many miles, I felt uneasy about not having a tree, rock, or shrub to hide myself behind.
After taking care of my business, I resumed my attempt to clear the road of cattle. These large creatures intimidate me sometimes – especially when going through the middle of a herd. I do not want to get between a mom and her calf.
Slowly, the cows parted and I met up with the others. We decided to wait for eachother every 5 miles. I certainly had a lot of time to myself during these stretches. To pass the time, I sometimes sang out loud – Iron Maiden, Rise Against, Bad Religion, Epica. Without the music in the background, it is very hard to remember the words. No one’s around to hear, so it does not matter.
After a few of these stretches, we reached US 550 – a busy 2 lane highway with huge, debris-free shoulders. 10 miles to Cuba!
We dumped our spare water (on ourselves) and snacked on melted trail mix. The plan was to regroup once we reached Cuba.
I started out strong, but eventually slowed (presumably after the sugar high ended). While riding the highway, I got some honks and waves. I had the feeling that those drivers knew what we were doing.
The miles went by extremely slowly, as there were no hills to climb then coast down. Just a steady cadency for over an hour. It had a bad effect on my saddle sores.
Regardless, I made it to Cuba and found my partners sitting outside a motel using the unsecured wi-fi, drinking cokes.
I had a coke, then we rode through town to find a hotel for the night. We took the last hotel before leaving town – the Frontier Inn. It had two singles, a queen-sized bed, and full kitchen.
We showered then went to a grocery store and Subway. The footlong sub wasn’t enough, so I cooked some stuffing. I was certainly stuffed after all that!
Much of the night, I spent patching tubes and the air matress. We all finally got to bed just before midnight. Again, the curse of electricity disturbed the rhythm of rising and falling with the sun.