After being in the 90s yesterday, I woke up to temps in the 40s. I made some oatmeal and ate with Sam. After packing and giving him thanks, I bid Sam Hughes farewell. He truly was a great host.
The first 20 miles were on pavement with one divide crossing. It was very mild compared to the epic crossings I’m sure to come across soon.
Long, straight, and flat are great descriptors of the first part of the day’s ride. I could see far into the distance where I would be going, but I wouldn’t actually get there for many hours.
Short of I-10, I turned west onto an unpaved frontage road. My first taste of gravel. After 10 miles on that road, I found the first shade of the day – an overpass. I rested there for a while before continuing onto Separ.
In Separ, I filled up on water. As I was about to leave, a guy approached me. He recognized I was riding the Divide and warned of controlled burns north of Silver City – the trail might be closed.
With that warning, I left Separ. Ahead of me lay 33 miles of dirt and 18 of pavement before Silver City. Not a mile into this stretch, I hit a roadblock…almost literally. Cattle were standing directly in my path. As this was my first experience with them, I did not know the proper etiquette. Will they move or charge if I rode toward them? I waited to see if they’d move, but they just stared. Finally I decided to ride toward them and they scattered.
Not far beyond that I experienced my first washboarded roads. Day one on dirt and I was already being tossed up and down.
I pressed on, stopping occasionally for food/water or to check directions.
It was getting to be late in the afternoon. I filled my water bags at a cattle tank and continued riding. At this point, I was 25 miles from Silver. I just wanted to get there so I kept riding…and walking. My legs were fried, but my desire to get me to the security that Silver City offered kept me moving…however slow that may be.
Around 19:00, I made it onto pavement. 18.5 miles to go! To me, pavement meant smooth sailing. It turns out that some of the largest hills of the day were on that pavement. My legs were still dead, so I dumped my spare water (1 gal.), leaving only what was in my camelback. I wouldn’t need the water for camping because there were fences 20 ft off the road on either side. One way or another, I was going to make it to Silver City tonight.
I continued going…walk up a hill, ride down, rinse and repeat. The sun set around 20:00, so I turned on my lights and pressed forward. A half hour later I was still 8 or so miles short of town. Darkness was falling and the heat of the day was quickly radiating back into space. Now I was mentally fried. Having to walk your bike up small hills will do that.
There was little traffic on the road and my only hope of getting to town in a reasonable time was by hitching. I chickened out for the first few cars that drove by. I couldn’t get myself to stick out my arm and pop up the thumb. The first time I did, though, the passerby stopped! And it wasn’t the stereotypically feared psycho axe murderer.
Kaleb, my driver that night, is a pastor at churches in Silver City and Lordsburg. After asking what denomination his church was, he asked my background. I told him I did not have a religion – raised Catholic but gave it up years ago after starting to think on my own. Naturally, I asked if he thought atheists (any non-Christian, really) could go to heaven if they’re good people. He did not think so. We discussed the God/no God debate and agreed no side would ever convince the other of their opinion.
When we got to Silver City, he left me with a final thought: “Have you ever thought about giving Jesus Christ a try?” No. First, I need to be convinced that gods exist before “trying out” the son of the Judeo-Christian god.
Now I was in downtown Silver City, NM. What should I do? Where should I go? I started walking my bike down the main street when a guy started talking to me about my bike. I told him my plans and where I came from. I asked his story. He was homeless by choice – wandering from town to town playing his guitar for money. Already, I felt like I was in the company of adventurers, travelers, and free spirits.
I also met a guy named Josh while talking to the guitar-wanderer. He was in town getting to know the area – in fall he is going to attend the local college. We sat on the street corner at talked of my upcoming adventure and his past adventures. I had to be sitting because I was getting dizzy and nauseous. In my frenzy to reach Silver City, I had not eaten a proper dinner.
As we talked, a cyclist came by and started talking to us. Marshall was going out for a midnight ride. He has a wife and kids and this is the only time he could get some miles in. I had no place to stay and Josh usually camped up in the mountains/slept in the bed of his truck, so Marshall offered to put us up for the night in his studio apartment style massage parlor.
I can’t refuse a free, especially after the day I had, so I moved my stuff there. We talked and looked at pictures of Marshall’s bike trips. As I was standing there, dizziness struck full force. I thought I was going to puke right there. Cold water on my face and in my stomach seemed to help the situation.
Right before going do bed, I applied a liberal amount of chapstick to my lips – they were burnt from 12 hours of riding in the desert sun/heat/wind. Josh and I both agreed that you can’t ever have too much chapstick.
Tomorrow, I have a rest day and should meet my riding partners – Mathieu and Auke.
As I write this, I am in Grants, NM. I am behind in my journalling, but will keep posting entries in order whenever I have computer access and adequate time to write something decent.