Thursday, May 19, 2016

2015 Tour Divide - Days 24 to the end

I woke up at sunrise on Sunday morning. I was glad to see that it hadn't rained any more, and the sun was out. I felt cautiously optimistic after taking stock of the road conditions. I really wanted to make Silver City, but it would be a big push. A quick clean and lube of the chain and I was off. The first thing I noted was no fresh tire tracks, which meant Jean-Michel was likely still in Pie Town and I would be on my own for the day. The little bit of downhill through the valley was a good way get the blood flowing, but soon I began the seven mile climb up to the edge of Mangas Mountain. The next ten miles were all downhill, interrupted only by two or three sections of mud that were better walked than ridden. After crossing Hwy 12, I entered a large valley. The road snaked by various ranches whose houses were set back anywhere a great distance from where I was riding. By this point I was looking for water to keep my reserves topped off. After a couple of false starts, I found an above ground tank that wasn't surrounded by No Trespassing signs. The water was clear, so I filled my bag, filtered it into my bottles and headed down the road. Around mile 50, there were three crossings of the CD in quick succession. I wouldn't have noticed except for the signs noting them. A long gentle descent followed, as did some storms forming in front of and behind me. I took shelter under a small rock ledge until the lightning storm in front of me moved away. I spied a soda machine at the Beaverhead Ranger Station, but it was unplugged and empty. I filled my water bottles from the faucet near the restrooms and moved on. Once I passed the Ranger Station, the roads switched from gentle rollers to steep climbs stacked on top of each other. My legs were getting tired and Silver City was no longer a realistic option. After looking at the maps, the Sapillo campground seemed like a better option. The route and my legs had other ideas. After nearly six hours of riding, I'd covered around 25 miles. It was now pitch black, I had an underwhelming headlight, and the roads were littered with fist sized rocks. At the bottom of a descent, I saw a sign for Rocky Canyon Campground so I pulled in. A group was in the campground with a fire going and radio playing, so I found a spot underneath a large conifer, set up my bivy and crawled in. I was tired and I hadn't made either of my goals for the day. My 25 day race goal meant that I had to be in Antelope Wells before 8 AM on Tuesday. With only 170 miles left, I went to sleep confident that I would finish the race tomorrow. -

I was up with the birds and before the sun lit the valley. I fed myself and packed my gear, keenly aware that this was the last time I would be doing any of this. After nearly two years of sacrifice and preparation, it was  going to be over in a few hours. I wiped a few tears from each eye and left the campground. I started with a mile and a half of climb. It hurt the legs, but it did get the blood moving. It was flat or downhill for the next ten miles to Hwy 35 then paved for another eight miles to the Sapillo Campground. While riding along the highway, I had a small herd of elk run along then dart across the road in front of me to get to another open meadow. While graceful, I couldn't help but think of the hippo dancing scene in Fantasia. After turning into the campground, the Sapillo Alternate started. While shorter than the main GDMBR route, this seven miles was, IMO, the most difficult section of the entire route as it was right on the CDT. It took me three hours to cover this small trail section due to rocks, the trail's location on the hillside, and steepness of some of the climbs. I clearly recall cursing both Adventure Cycling for mapping this out as an alternate bike route and Matt Lee for making us use it. A nice paved descent was followed by a short climb and I was in the historic town of Pinos Altos. The KOM/QOM markers from the Tour De Gila were entertaining to read as I slowly scratched my way up the climb. After this, it was all downhill into Silver City. While stopped at the McDonalds, two women approached me and asked my name. It was Jean-Michel's wife and that of his friend Loic. They had tracked me down and were wondering if I had seen Jean-Michel. After a bit of discussion and looking at Trackleaders, I figured out that he was taking something other than the race route into Silver City. After eating, I called my wife to let her know that I was going to ride through to the finish, I would be finishing late in the evening, and to keep an eye on Trackleaders for my position. With that, and a resupply, I headed to the finish. A couple of miles from McDonald's, the route was blocked due to a damaged bridge. I took photos of the closure and sent them to Matthew, then took the shortest detour I could to get back on route. On the way out of town, Dan Lockery's parents stopped to talk while I was making some tire pressure adjustments. While the hills south of Silver City were big, they weren't mountains and they were paved. I rolled along and tried to soak in as much of the final few hours of the race as I could. Not long after crossing the Continental Divide, I saw a sign giving the mileages to Lordsburg and I-10. I didn't recall Lordsburg being on the route, and the mileage to I-10 didn't match up with what I expected it to be. At this point I flipped to my Garmin's map page which did not have my purple route line on it. I had a hollow feeling in my stomach as I started zooming out. After nearly 2700 miles of riding, I was off route for the first time, and I was off route by a lot. I turned around and headed back north, mad at myself for missing the turn, and feeling sick as saw my 25 day finish slipping away. I can honestly say that I had thoughts of calling my wife to pick me up right where I stood, rather than riding to the border.

The pity party didn't last long. I needed to figure out how far I was off course and, more importantly, come up with a new plan for getting to Antelope Wells. The first goal was getting to the store in Separ, the last spot to resupply before the border. I stopped, turned on my cell phone, and opened up my last ACA map to get the store's phone number, but none was listed. As I looked at the map, every alert noise in my phone's library was going off. I had a pretty good idea what every one of the messages was going to say, so I turned off the phone and kept moving. Glancing at the GPS, I had estimated it was 8 miles back to White Signal and the turn onto Separ Road. 14 miles later, I was back at the turn and back on route. With the temps hovering in the mid 90s, I had been drinking a lot of water since I left Silver City since I was going to refill in Separ. I was now faced with the possibility of making 3L of water last me for 80+ miles of desert riding. I rode into a fairly stiff headwind not too long after getting back on route. As I rode on, my route shifted SE and the wind shifted to the NW. As I turned a corner, my speed jumped from about 4 MPH to well over 20. Things were starting to look up. As I cruised along, I saw one or two potential water refill spots, but making Separ before it closed was more important. I leaned down on my aero bars and let the adrenaline move me forward. At 7:00 PM, I backed the pace down a bit. I was about 10 miles from Separ, so the store was either closed for the night, or I would make it with some time to spare. In either case, there was no sense in wasting energy. As I rode under I-10, I was pleased to see lights on the store. It was still open. I grabbed my wall charger and ran into the store, asking when they closed. I had about 25 minutes to rehydrate, refuel and rest. I charged my GPS and phone on their counter and grabbed some ice cream and drinks. I chatted with a few people that had either just finished the race or were on their way down to pick someone up. As the store closed, I grabbed a couple of 5 hour energy drinks for insurance against the sleep monster that was certainly on its way. With the wind still in my favor, the frontage road along I-10 went by quickly. Before I knew it, I was turning south towards Hachita and the last few miles of the race. The road to Hachita, was flat, straight not terribly exciting. The monotony was interrupted by a couple of passing immigration vehicles and a spectacular lightning show to the southeast of my destination. I was happy to be riding in the dark. I turned on my iPod and started counting down the mile markers. While I was stopped and taking in calories in Hachita, a Border Patrol agent pulled up next to me. He expected to see a few of us rolling through and wanted to know if there was anyone behind me. After I told him I didn't think so, he told me he'd radio ahead to let the others know I was coming, to look out for the cows ahead, and with that he was gone. As I left Hachita, two women sitting in their yard called out and wished me luck. I thanked them and headed into the dark. The ride from Hachita to the border felt effortless after all of the strain of the previous three weeks. My legs were turning over the pedals and I was making good time, especially with the tailwind that was gently pushing me along. I kept myself occupied looking out for cows, listening to my iPod, and counting down the mile markers. I stopped for a spell,every 15 miles or so to stretch, eat, and enjoy the last few hours of my adventure. With 20 miles left, I saw a sign warning of buffalo for the next 15 miles. I figured my luck would have me getting flattened by a buffalo five miles from the border. I took comfort in the fact that if it happened, the border patrol would find me. With just 3 miles to go, Christopher Cross's song, Ride Like the Wind, came through my speakers. I blurted the lyrics out loud as a few tears fell down my cheek. A mile from the border, I removed my headphones, took my hands off of the handlebars and pedaled slowly up to the fence outside of the border station. I had finished The Tour Divide. -

2015 Result: 56th place 24:17:02


Iowagriz said...

Great replay buddy! Tear or two on my end as well. Great accomplishment.

Steve Fuller said...

Glad you enjoyed it Tom. You and Joe were with me in spirit on days 3 - 5. :) Looking back, we should have ridden Huckleberry Pass into Lincoln in 2014. It was a great climb with some beautiful views.