June 03, 2010
We woke up early today to get a good start out of Grants. Water was our main concern of the next two days. Between Grants and Cuba is 120 miles of dry mountains and desert.
The distance is recommended to be split into three riding days. We decided to try for two.
After getting to bed just before midnight, 5:30 arrived very abruptly. After a luxurious rest day, I did not want to suffer in the heat again.
I forced myself out of bed and started the packing routine. We were on the road by 7:30.
The first 20 miles were on pavement…which gave the illusion of ease. Once a few miles out of the city, the road climbed steeply. I struggled a lot during this section, but did not walk. With the amount of time I spent standing/resting, walking may have been a quicker means of travel.
The pavement ended, giving way to loose gravel…the climbing continued. Around mile 26, we stopped for lunch by the San Mateo spring. I ate tuna on tortillas as the main course and nutella and pineapple on tortillas as desert.
We treated the spring as our last encounter with water for the day and filtered a lot of it. Just after lunch, we had the steepest yet climb of the day, reaching 9,000 ft.
Surprisingly, at the top were cattle near the road. Auke pointed them out. I noticed one looked very angry and then said so. “Thats a bull.” Right then, it started running toward us. Even with many miles of steep climbing, the adrenaline rush got Auke and myself away fast enough.
There was a nice long descent afterward that I really enjoyed…until my gear started threatening to fall off the rear rack. I tightened some straps and continued descending.
After a very bumpy downhill section, we rode onto pavement that had been marked as a private road – not for cyclists like us. We rode on it anyways…it was only a 4 mile stretch.
Without incident, we left the pavement for more dirt. In the past ten miles, we went from pine forest in the mountains to barren desert. The Great Divide aways surprises!
With some careful navigating we made it through many intersections of desolate unmarked roads.
As we rode, the scenery changed again. We found ourselves in our very own Monument Valley.
Later in the day, I noticed my tire pressure was getting low. When I stopped to fix it, a group of five or six motorcyclists rode up. They were also riding the Great Divide – sections of it, anyways.
We pressed onward, riding through sand, eroded rock, and deep arroyos. We were riding along a single road – no turnoffs – so Mathieu and Auke rode ahead (or I slowed). Then, from behind came two motocross/dirt bikes equipped for touring. I kept riding, expecting the guys to pass. Instead, he paralleled me and started talking – asking about the trip, giving advice, making sure I had enough water, and took a picture of us both. He wished me well and accelerated. He had Illinois plates.
A few minutes later, I arrived at a BLM wildlife exclosure where we would camp for the night. The motorcyclists were talking to Mathieu and Auke. It turns out the two were father and son from Vernon Hills, IL – only a few miles from my Chicago hometown.
We had a spectacular campsite. Open desert with mountains stretching to the east of us. It made for a very nice sunset. After eating and assembling my tent, I notice my sleeping mat wouldn’t inflate. There was a large hole in it where it rubbed against the rear rack! The sun was setting fast and the mosquitos were out in full force, so I hastily patched the hole.
I went to bed hoping it would hold, but it did not. I had a long night sleeping on hard ground. It wasn’t as cold as past nights, so the lack of ground insulation was bearable