Tour Divide: Day 18

Day 18 Into New Mexico. (Header by Dave Nice) I did indeed wake up with the sun. I had a slow start getting out the door that morning. I had breakfast in the lodge and took some PB&Js to go. Sara and Mirko had made it in later that night. The others had camped at the base of the previous hill. I checked Facebook and posted an update on the lodge computer:

     I’m in Platoro, Colorado. Yesterday I made a 6 mile mistake and had to turn around and ride the correct course. That was demoralizing but I made it into Del Norte and loaded up on coffee and food. I attacked the highest point on the route, Indiana Pass at 11,910 feet. I think that’s the highest I’ve ridden a bike. Coming down from the pass it started raining and I almost hit 3 deer, and I saw a little black bear cub in the dark. I did not stop to say hello. I’ve been watching fellow riders slowly start to scratch out of the race, and some fall back. I’m struggling with choosing between riding with other people, which is sooooooo nice, and getting super competitive. More and more I’ve found that my pace varies from other riders and I’d much rather ride a bit harder and have a bit longer rest. I can feel the direct impact of the food that I put in my body. I slept in a bed last night and it was glorious! I struggled with my zippers at the top of the pass yesterday. It took me 20 minutes to get my zipper on my jacket. I had to use my pliers because I couldn’t grip it tight enough. So after tackling the highest point on the ride, “It’s all downhill from here”. I’ve seen tons of wildlife, including a porcupine, buffalo, a herd of elk that I chased down the road, and countless little critters. The other night I rode well into the night and made some good time. I rode by moonlight aside from the downhills and it was beautiful out. I’m running a WTB crosswolf for a rear tire now and it’s a little smaller than my old 40c and I can feel the difference. Velominati: Rule #5.

     Dear ColoRADo, why haven’t you returned my calls? I’ve left like 30 messages. Was it something I said? Please love me.

Breakfast was delicious. Sara was having trouble with her SPOT beacon beeping and she didn’t know how to turn it off. I packed up the last few things on my bike and hit the road. Mirko and Gabes had left a little before me and I was out to chase them down. I caught them at a little supply station aka someone’s front room. They did not have any sunscreen there but they did have peanut butter crackers so I had to stock up. We rode together for a few more miles following a river downstream through a beautiful green valley. We stopped in one more little trinket shop in search of sunscreen and Mirko continued to get a head start on the next pass. The shop had beeswax based sunscreen that you had to rub on like a giant chapstick. It was terrible. On the upside, they had Amish pies. They were little fruit pies just like the hostess ones you get at the gas station except way better. They were refrigerated, packed with fresh apples, and made by an Amish community “a few miles away” which means 3 hours worth of driving. Nonetheless they were delicious and cheap so I bought a bunch of them. We got out onto a nice paved section to climb the next pass. It was glorious…. OK it was pretty hot and the pavement was roasting us. I caught Mirko at a vista taking pictures of the valley we rode down and continued up the hill. He was struggling but he was breathing better than Gabes. I stopped for a snack and the rare opportunity for a photo op at the top of the pass.

After the pass there was a fast descent where I got a few drops on me. There is a short crime and then I turn to the left and onto dirt once again. The road was rough with lots of baby head size rocks. It was fun finding the smoothest line possible. I came to a stream where I met perhaps one of the craziest riders on the Tour. This guy was a bike shop mechanic meeting some friends along the route. He was riding a rigid fixed gear mountain bike. That’s right, I said fixed. Not singlespeed, no freehub, but fixed. We rode together more or less across the border into New Mexico.  The road instantly got worse with deeper ruts and bigger looser rocks. We came upon a beautiful green valley filled with sheep. It was hard to get a good look around when I was concentrating on the road. Sitting up on the hillside with a bow and arrow and his border collie was a Shepherd. I think he was incredibly drunk. The collie did it’s job and got up and barked at us as we slowed down to scare the sheep off the road. The owner of the dog made some inaudible noises and the dog seemed to understand his slur and backed off. There was some HAB up some steep loose terrain. The going was slow and precarious over some big rocky terrain. We finally got to an overlook where the mosquitoes weren’t as bad. We stopped and had a bite. The madman on the fixie stopped there to wait for his friends that were coming the other way. We said our goodbyes and the usual find me on Facebook. I set off down the hill very carefully. I walked a few of the downhill sections. The roads were more like ATV trails that were pretty blown out. As I got further down the road, it got a bit smoother and I was making good progress. I chatted with some forest rangers that told me I was the first person they saw that day. That was a good feeling. I knew I was too far behind the next group to catch them but at least I was in front of my group. Shortly after seeing the Rangers I saw Fixie Dave’s friends heading north. They asked if I had seen a madman on a fixed gear bike and I told them I had. They were only a couple hours away from where he was waiting. They told me of better and smoother road conditions and said I probably had the best bike for the next section. They warned me about the terrain in New Mexico with rocks that would chew up my tires. The immediate next few miles were downhill on loose gravel and it was exciting. I was feeling good. I knew I was ahead of everyone I had been riding with and the weather was pretty great. I got down to a paved climb up to Hopewell Lake. I had heard there was water there. I rolled down to the lake and all the water pumps had pink ribbons over them insinuating that they were not to be used. I leaned my bike against a table in the late afternoon and pulled out my Jetboil and mountain meal. I had carried a dehydrated vacuum packed hamburger stroganoff all the way until that point. I boiled some water in my Jetboil and re-hydrated my stroganoff. It was a little disappointing being that it only had 700 calories and it didn’t re-hydrate the best but I wasn’t as hungry as I had been so it was all good. I went back up to the road to check for any more water spigot and I found some in a campsite above the lake. A couple newlyweds were having their honeymoon there and were filling their water bottles. She was either just really hot or I had been on the road too long… or both and I wanted to stay and chat. However there were no new bike tracks on the road and I wanted to keep people behind me. I set off down the dirt road and enjoyed some fast descents but also some tough climbs. The sky grew dark and I made my way down to the desert. The roads had smoothed out a bit and I discovered some sandy washes while I rode by moonlight. I rode right through some towns that I had heard rumors of wild dogs but had no confrontation. I eventually made my way onto pavement and made good time on gentle slope down into Abiquiu NM. I rode by moonlight except for when I saw a car in the distance and turned on the light. It was strange to be going 20+ but it felt great! I was suckling on Starbursts and watching the landscape change around me. I was no longer in the land of trees. When I finally arrived at the Abiquiu Inn at around midnight, it was all locked up. I went around to see if there was an office but everything was closed. It was warm out so I just set out my sleeping pad on the front porch and ate a Builder Bar for dinner. I don’t know how long I was asleep when Gabes and Mirko showed up. They went around to the back lawn and I foolishly got up and followed them. They found all the mosquitoes. It was warm out but I grabbed my bivvy bag and covered my head with a jacket. Bug spray was everything but effective. Day 18 complete with 144 miles, and a tough 9.9k feet of climbing.

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