I was almost asleep in the clean hotel bed when it started, just a little bit at first at prone areas such as the bottom elastic leg bands of my shorts, then spreading to everywhere: dry skin itch. The soap scrub down had not only removed the dirt from my skin, but any semblance of moisture as well. I resisted itching a first, trying to force sleep and then I gave in and gave a scratch. One scratch led to another and after a solid six hours of scratching, my alarm went off with very little solid sleep occurring. I cursed the shower as I put my dirty clothes back on. My bike was ready and I took a deep breath, unlocked the deadbolt, and wheeled my bike outside.
It was dead still, warm, and quiet and I felt almost safe rolling out in the dark. I always felt safer riding in the early morning hours rather than the late night ones and while I knew I could have covered additional miles the night before, I was glad I had made the decision to stop and hotel it. I was passed by one car on the dark frontage road paralleling the highway, I pulled far over to the side and it passed uneventfully.
Sunrise on the Malpais Park.
The sun started to rise as I entered the Malpais (I think that was the name...) Park and I continued on pavement. 'Malpais Park,' I pondered, 'I don't remember seeing that on the cue sheet.' GPS said I was on route so I kept pedaling through beautiful country but the fear that I was off route that had haunted me all of the prior day was back and eventually, it got the best of me. I sat down on the side of the road and pulled out the cue sheet: Left on a dirt road, right on a dirt road, climb steeply. I cursed and confirmed on the GPS that my arrow was still on my red line. I sat there for a while and pouted, how could I have screwed up my cutting and pasting of the cues that Jarral had sent me so badly? Was I going to be riding blindly the rest of the way to Mexico? I remembered a fit Chris threw when we first toured the Colorado Trail in 2004. It involved kicking his bike. I considered kicking my bike but reconsidered when I thought about how faithfully it had carried me so far.
Then I got up and pedaled. Eventually, the road turned to dirt and there was my confirmation: tire tracks. Jarral's Bontrager front and Python rear tire tracks in the dirt, clear as day. I let out a hoot! There was also a sign: Pie Town. I was almost there.
The long road to Pie Town.
I pedaled along, looking at the mountains ahead: the Gila. The road was straight, and long, but lacking in significant hills and at the end of it, a stop sign. I went to run it when a red pickup came cruising around the corner. I hit my brakes to yield when I recognized the truck: Eddie! We exchanged some words about Pie Town being three miles away and I took off at full tilt, or at least as full tilt as I could go.
I had a slice of key lime pie, a la mode for an appetizer and a bacon burger for lunch. Eddie had a video running while I was eating, it's pretty funny. I pondered a second slice of pie, but knew that in the heat, I'd run the risk of my entire meal making a reappearance, and anyhow, I was deadset on making it to the Beaverhead Work Station for sleep.
A slice of heaven. I'd ride the Divide again just to go to Pie Town.
After some more pedaling, I found the church that Matthew Lee filled his water bottles up at, so being big on Tour Divide lore, I stopped and filled up my water and started into the Plains of St. Agustin. It was absolutely spectacular riding, flat, with relatively minimal wind, and wide open. Beautiful. Then I turned a corner to see the familiar red pickup and assumed my very best 'serious bike racer' face to get my picture taken. I haven't seen any of these surface, but I'd love to see them. The light was pure Golden Hour and at the time, I was convinced it was the most beautiful place in the world.
Eddie and the Plains of Agustin. This used to all be underwater.
I told Eddie I was headed for the Beaverhead, he told me he was headed for the trees just above the plains, was going to drink a beer and enjoy the sunset. I felt a pang of jealousy, but knew that if I could make it to the Beaverhead, I'd have a chance of pushing it into the finish in one sweep. There were a couple of Continental Divide crossings, a beautiful sunset, a giant heat electrical storm, hundreds of elk with glowing green eyes, and a giant sand pit. I'm not sure where the giant sand pit came from as the road leading to it was perfect and the road after it was perfect, but I wallowed in the sand, confused, in the dark for far too long.
11 miles from the Beaverhead, I gave up. The sleepies were creeping, but worse, my irrational brain was starting to take over the rational and I couldn't convince myself that the red line that my arrow was on was, in fact, the correct red line and I was still on course. After futzing with the GPS, wasting time, I pulled a few feet off the road and laid out my bedding in the soft sand. There were a million stars out and I made a point of admiring them before letting my eyelids fall, knowing that this had the potential to be my last sleep on the Divide.
I felt a pang of sadness with the thought.