I don't think I actually slept much out there in the desert. It was hot and I was restless. The alarm was almost a relief, and an excuse to drink my Starbucks energy drink. As I got on my bike for the last time, I cursed myself for stopping as the three hours allowed my rear to remember what it was like not to sit on a saddle and getting back on brought the same discomfort and pain that every morning brought. I pedaled slowly wondering why I was so confused about the red line I was following just three hours prior.
The miles passed silently and I did my best to tell myself positive stories of beautiful starry nights, trying to relish the final miles of the incredible journey rather than letting fear creep in. As the hours passed, I continued to glance to the east looking for any sign of the sun. I could see the radio tower of Separ in the distance and as the road continued, it didn't seem to get any closer. Eventually, the lights of the cars on the highway came into view and as the sun started casting rays into the sky, the highway itself and the Separ general store came into view. I turned left onto the frontage road, facing the giant orb of the sun which was finally making an appearance.
'This is the last of the dirt,' I thought to myself, sadly at first. Then I hit washboards and cursed. Then I laughed, 'You're not giving in without a fight, are you Tour Divide?'
The aptly named Lonely Highway
I finally reached the overpass where the Lonely Highway started and rode 100 yards down the road to the sign. 'Antelope Wells - 65 miles' it read. I looked down the long straight road and sat down for breakfast: gas station burrito. Then I saw a car pull off the overpass, a gray CR-V. It took me a second to register: Chris! He stopped where the dirt stopped and I watched him get out of the car and walk a few feet. 'Probably peeing' I thought and yelled. No contact. I yelled again. Nothing. So I sat and waited, watched him get back in the car and head towards me. He pulled up besides me after having driven all night, 'I was looking for your tracks back there, they weren't there 30 minute ago but I saw them now, I thought I'd find you here.' We chatted for a few minutes while I finished my burrito and he set off down the road to take a few photos and to take a nap while I pedaled the final stretch.
Final Tour Divide meal
If there's one way to describe those final miles, it would be as 'uncomfortable.' My rear hurt holding onto my handlebars, it hurt in the aerobars, I wasn't about to stand up for 65 miles. The mile markers counted slowly down to 22 to Hatchita where I saw the vending machine that I'd heard was broken. I continued. The mile markers started to count down again. 'This is it!'
I stopped at Mile 30 to refill my Gastank. Cashews and Skittles. I did a probe of my water supply, it was time to start rationing. I opened my bag to add a 5-hour energy to the stash, a staple of my TD. The supply had seemed endless throughout the ride as I'd pick a couple up at each gas station but as I dug through my bag I pulled out five or six empty bottles but as I emptied out the contents of my bag I came to the startling realization: I was out of caffeine. Bugger. I grumped out for a second but was quick to let it pass and started pedaling. 30 miles. That's a Neva Loop from my parents' house. Then it was 20. That's CB South to Gunnison. Then it was 10. Single digits left on the Divide. 7 miles, that's a easy ride from CeeBee South to town. 5 miles. At 3 miles, Chris was set up with a tripod in the middle of the deserted road. 2 miles. Out of water. 1 mile. I pulled the camera out to document it.
3 miles to go.
Chris and the border guard, Tim, waited for me in the middle of the road. I didn't know what to do. All I felt was relief. I'd actually made it. My bike had made it with no mechanicals. Not even a flat tire. I wheeled it over to the border sign for the obligatory photo and then it hit. I'd really made it. And I'd done it fast! I'd done it with style!
Chris got me two sodas out of the vending machine, a Dr. Pepper and a Fanta and Tim gave me an ice cream bar that they kept around for TD finishers. I ate it happily as I started to peel clothing layers off. First the socks that had been on since Grants. Then the arm coolers which had been on equally long. Then into my first change of clothes Chris had brought me. I washed my face in the bathroom, wiping the dirt and grime off. 2,745 miles. I shook my head in the mirror. Is anything going to be able to top this?
Eventually, we were shooed out of the border station and we loaded my bike into the back of the car. I immediately turned on the radio: music. It felt heavenly. We started driving and I gripped the handle tightly, the world going by faster than I was used to. We stopped to cheer Dylan on who was just starting the Lonely Highway in the heat of the day and made a beeline to the nearest gas station, nearly 90 miles from the border. I went straight to the Dairy Queen and ordered a hot fudge sunday, complete with whipped cream and cherries.
I watched Americana for a few minutes while waiting for my ice cream. It was over. The Tour Divide was over. I allowed myself to get sad for a few minutes and then I went back to looking forward: Cat's house in Durango for the night and then back to CeeBee, which is the most magical place in the world in the summer.
There were more adventures to be had, both on the bike and off. I knew the better I ate after the Divide, the faster I'd recover and the sooner I'd be back on the bike. I shrugged at the thought of recovery and took a giant bite of my sunday. It was delicious.