I spent the entire day either terrified or miserable. It was my lowest day on the Divide and I have not a single picture to show for it. That's when I know I'm having a truly terrible day.
I admit, I woke up stoked this morning. 'All downhill to Cuba, breakfast, then easy, paved miles to Grants. Today is going to be a big-miles day!' The other thing that I was excited about was that I was going to be able to cross the 100+ miles of the Rez in daylight without having to bivy or ride at night. While Jill had found friendliness on the Rez, this section of the route was the final 'ghouls and goblins' crux for me. The rest, as far as I could tell was just pedaling.
I started coasting down the road after a delicious breakfast of goodies that Bode had supplied me with, and before long, it turned upward again. Of course, it's the Divide. But I felt strong and I knew Cuba had a McDonalds and I was salivating over the Egg McMuffins that I'd had in Butte. Dirt turned to pavement and before I knew it, it really was all downhill to Cuba, except for the nasty rollers before the final drop. I was mid celebration of getting to town when I heard the distinct sound of a dog claws on pavement, accompanied by barking so ferocious my heart may have skipped a beat, or two. There weren't supposed to be angry dogs in Cuba!
Leading up to the Divide, LW had me do a nasty workout a couple of times consisting of some short, all out, puke-inducing efforts. I did the first one after studying the cue sheet and noticing a line that said 'watch out for ostriches.' Really, of all the ways to get taken down in the Divide, an angry ostrich was not my top choice. I told LW about the warning and she came back with all sorts of information on ostriches (because that's what coaches do), such as them being able to run at a sustained 40 mph and how much their eggs weighed. Thus, I named the evil workout Ostrich Sprints.
With my water bottle out of reach, I had one option with the dog that had rapidly closed the distance between it's home and me: I sprinted. And while I'm sure it looked pretty pathetic, the dog eventually left me alone and I said a little thank you for having to do my Ostrich Sprints, even if they made me want to vomit.
Over breakfast, I pulled out my cue sheet even though I knew I was in for a straight, paved shot to Grants. 'Turn on dirt road...cross arroyo...may be impassable if wet...climb steeply out of arroyo...' I looked quizzically at the sheet. I thought this was paved...maybe there was some dirt, but no where did I see pavement on the cue sheet. Confused, I resorted to my 'special' cue sheet that told me how much food I needed at each resupply. '110 miles' it told me and I shrugged off the difference between what I was expecting and what the cue sheet said. I added a couple of bags of Swedish Fish to my pile of goodies hauled over from Bode's and set out.
The first sign I saw was 'Grants - 124 miles'. Now I was even more confused, what happened to my 110? I continued to follow my GPS, knowing that if it had the Gold Dust trail on it back in Colorado, then it was correct but I was unnerved, to say the least. 'Maybe we take a dirt shortcut that crossed all those arroyos that the cue sheet was talking about,' I reasoned. I rolled through the morning, becoming increasing agitated at the poverty of the area. Run down towns, abandoned houses, rusted out cars. It didn't seem fair, coming from places like Banff and Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Steamboat, places of wealth to such a run down, despondent land. Maybe I was just looking for something to get angry at, but I fumed as the mile markers counted up from zero to 29. Then the mile markers changed and I saw MM 91 on one side of the road and the equivalent in kilometers on the other side. I was officially on the Rez and my anger turned to fear.
'Fear is in the stories,' I reminded myself.
Leading up to the race, I spent a lot of time on Google Earth looking at the route. At one point in time, Chris had come up behind me and said, 'that looks like a long, straight road.' I was now on that 30 mile stretch of road and instead of it being flat as I had imagined it, sitting in the comfort of my living room, it was non-stop rollers, and big ones. Not ones that you can coast up the other side, but ones that you quickly reach terminal coasting velocity on the downside and can coast a quarter of the way up, with the remaining being a significant climb.
I pedaled, making note of the laundromat where Jill must have stopped to get her soda, past the small town that according to my GPS waypoints had a gas station (I couldn't find one) and on into the desert. The minutes and hours dragged by slowly, the miles even more slowly, and then at the end of the 30 miles of straight, the route turned directly south, into the wind.
It's strength took my breath, and speed, completely away. I put my head down and pedaled, hard. And my speed inched up to 8 mph. I let up slightly and was quickly reduced to a 5 mph crawl. I took my speed off of the main screen of the GPS focusing on the singular arrow and red line.
I had plenty of low points on the Divide up until here, but this was carrying me lower than even the Platoro descent had. I stopped on the side of the road late afternoon. The sun had started to lose its intensity. 'I can't do this anymore' I cried to myself, because on the Divide, there's no one to cry to. I stood there for a few minutes, straddling my bike. 'But I have to because I don't want to bivy on the Rez.' I kept pedaling.
Then a beat up, old red pickup pulled up next to me. An equally old, toothless Indian was behind the wheel, 'Where are you going?' he asked. 'Grants,' I told him. 'Oh, good,' he said, grinning, 'Where are you coming from?' 'Canada,' I told him, but I started just outside of Cuba today.' His eyes lit up. 'That's a long way,' he informed me, 'Have a good ride.' And he drove off.
'That is a long way,' I reminded myself. Really, had I just underestimated the effort that 110, or actually 124 miles would take, even if it were paved. It's not just 124 miles. 'You've bee pedaling for over two weeks, Ez, you're allowed to be a little tired.' With that admission in hand, I accepted the fact that I was only going to get to Grants as fast as the wind would allow me, so I might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.
Then I ran out of water. Crud. I shrugged, I'd already written the day off as cruddy, something as simple as running out of water 20 miles from a resupply wasn't going to make it any worse. Besides, the sun was starting its dip towards the horizon. I rolled into Milan, four miles from Grants and stopped at the first gas station. Soda, Vitamin Water, and I searched for appealing food since with the end of my water came the end of my appetite. I settled on Swedish Fish because everything else looked repulsive. I sat and drank my soda and ate my fish, acutely aware that I was wasting time, but too broken to care. 'I should resupply here,' I coaxed myself. 'I don't wanna,' came back my irrational reply and I poured the contents of a second bag of Swedish fish into my Gastank and took off towards Grants.
For the second time that day, the golden arches graced my field of vision and I quickly pulled into the McDonalds and placed my order, looking warily at the cop who seemed to have the place under some sort of stakeout and listened to the endless stream of police sirens. It gave me the willies. It was 8:30, Grants seemed like a sub-safe place, and now I couldn't trust my cue sheets anymore, so I had no clue what laid ahead. 'Well, this is as good of an excuse as any to get a hotel room,' I told myself and perked at the idea. I found a gas station, resupplied, and pulled into the first seedy looking hotel I could find. I paid $37, was handed a room key, and immediately locked myself into the safety of four solid walls.
I pulled my dirty clothes off, and sitting in the comfort of the bed, devoured my McDonalds and called Chris. I told him I was scared and while I didn't want to spend money on a hotel, I didn't want to go out in the dark. He assured me we could afford $37 for me to be safe. I hung up, got in the shower, and gave myself a thorough scrubbing with nearly two weeks of dirt washing down the drain. I crawled into bed and waited for sleep to come.