I woke up feeling a little rough around the edges, but I woke up every morning feeling a little rough, so I was starting to get used to it. The south had two advantages over the north, the first was that I could keep food nearby which meant I'd carefully lay my breakfast out next to my head so when the alarm went off, I didn't actually have to get out of my sleeping bag to eat, and the second was that when it was finally time to get out of the sleeping bag, it wasn't cold, or as cold, as I did start every morning except for my final one with my knee warmers on.
The route meandered among giant open meadows that began to show themselves in the soft glow of dawn, slowly dropping in elevation on smooth roads. I scoffed at those who'd told me New Mexico roads were rough, this was nothing compared to the Platoro descent. I rolled by a campground filled with RV's, occupants still soundly asleep. I rolled by a red truck that made me do a double take, I knew that truck: Eddie! He stumbled out of the cab looking rougher than I felt, saying that he's pulled up around 2 am the night before and that he was headed down to the border next to see Ollie finish. Seeing Eddie look terrible reminded me that, all things considered, I was feeling pretty okay.
Up and over the next pass, I ran into a group of four who were touring the route, fully supported. We stopped to chat and they told me about the double pack of dogs in Vallecitos and the angry geese that were scarier than the dogs. They assured me El Rito didn't have any dogs when they passed through. I gulped, double checking that my anti-dog water bottle/spray bottle had enough water to deter angry dogs.
I rolled down the road and as soon as I saw signs of civilization, I pulled the bottle out, ready to do battle. Nothing. Not a person, dog, or goose to be seen. I rolled through what seemed like a ghost town. El Rito was next. One dog made it to the gate in pursuit before the owner called him back. People meandered the street. Saturday, I remembered. Maybe Saturday is a dog-free day. Maybe my fear of the dogs was just a story that I was telling myself.
The 20 paved, downhill miles to Abiquiu went quick, tucked up in the aerobars. It was mid-afternoon, my favorite time for my daily hot meal. I quickly found Bode's General Store where I was greeted by two moto riders standing outside, 'Are you from Gunnison?' they asked. 'Umm, yeah,' I admitted. 'We saw your friend about two hours ago, way up high on his way to Cuba.' 'Ah, tall, goofy looking guy?' They confirmed it was Jarral.
Inside the store, I ordered a Bode's Burrito and set to work resupplying for the 80 miles to Cuba. I guessed about 10 hours, I'd have to sleep, I'd be in Cuba by morning. But unlike most stores on the route, Bode's had GOOD food, like KIND bars, and Bobo's oat bars, and Lara bars. Bode, who clearly knew about the race kept apologizing for being out of certain items. I told him his store, and it's selection was amazing. I paid for enough food to get me to the border 700 miles away even though Cuba had a perfectly good resupply. Food hoarder. Then I ate half my burrito, stuffed the rest into my backpack, and headed out.
From Abiquiu the road went up. I'd heard the the 80 miles was a grunt, that it was the section that they'd filmed Matthew Lee riding through sand and rocks and lamenting about the road surface. I braced for battle but as the road surface deteriorated (just like the cue sheet said it would) a giant thunderhead parked itself over me. I could see blue sky to the south where I was headed and I bargained with the cloud, 'Let me pass, don't make me put rain gear on, and I promise I'll boogie!' It upheld it's end of the bargain, but every time I eased off the pedals it would emit a roar of thunder, reminding me that it could soak me anytime it wanted. I barely noticed the road surface as I climbed, yelling at the cloud occasionally to stay put, I was moving as fast as I could.
As quickly as the cloud had formed, it dissipated and I let out a huge sigh of relief, and promptly realized that in my race with the cloud, I'd forgotten to eat and was slipping into Bonkersville. I tried to fight it with some trail food knowing that I was down to my last hour of daylight and I could eat plenty well in the dark, but riding was definitely slower but the mood deteriorated as quickly my energy levels and I succumbed, pulling over and devouring the rest of my burrito which I had been hoping to save for a real dinner. 'Well, at least it's weight off my back,' I reasoned, licking my fingers.
The burrito did wonders, and as night fell, the sleepies didn't attack like they normally did. 'Ride till ten,' I told myself as I crested the pass. At ten, 'Ride till eleven' and at eleven, 'You need to stop or you're going to have to sleep through sunrise' as I'd upped my sleep to nearly six hours a night to try to avoid the mid-day sleepies. I dined on what was quite possibly my best trail dinner of the route: my usual Slimjim sandwiched in cheesesticks but then I had a giant apple danish for dessert. It was a little slice of heaven and I slept deeply in the woods knowing that tomorrow brought the desert proper. Things were about to get interesting.