Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tour Divide - Day 19

I was up just on daybreak, packing up as quickly and quietly as I could. That stupid Rottweiler had barked every time I moved during the night. This was due to my Thermarest mat that sounded like a scrunched crisps bag each time I moved and being a considerate person I was trying not to incite it again. In hindsight maybe I should have stomped around on the concrete in my cleats and woken them all up.

But I didn't.
I rolled out of the camp ground silently and turned left, onto the road to Mexico. I would have quite a bit of sealed road riding this morning before hitting the dirt to Pie Town. First up though was passing through El Malpais National Monument with it's huge escarpments towering over the road on the eastern side and an ancient lava flow on the western side.

On the left.......

On the right, lava flow!

It was nice and cool again this morning and I munched some Sweet and Salty bars as well as a bag of nuts but my main aim for breakfast was Pie Town, some 80km (50mi) away. I had plenty of water as I was carrying a full load out of Grants last night and I wasn't aware of any before Pie Town.

The road was deserted and I pedalled along in silence marvelling at the two opposing landforms, both so completely different from one another.

Cresting a small rise I could see off into the distance and there was not much inspiration in the view. Miles and miles of nothing that I would have to cover in the next few hours. Miles and miles before pie!

I hit the Pie Town turn off in the still of early morning and it actually looked very pretty, in a isolated, outback kind of way. A lonely road sign, a cattle grid and a dirt road disappearing into the distance. 
Very Australian bush-like.

The road was quite washboarded and I guess putting a positive spin on it, constantly choosing a new line gave me something to occupy my mind.

But soon the road started climbing low hills and a slight headwind kicked in. This now occupied my mind as I crawled up the climbs. I just had no energy.

Cresting a climb I noticed two riders coming toward me. We stopped and chatted for 5 minutes. The
young couple were from the Czech Republic and had ridden from South America. The guy was very
interested in my frame and rear hub setup, noting that you can run a miriad of options on the BNT.
Mr Muru, if a BNT frame goes to the Czech Republic any time soon I will only take a small commission!

We wished each other the best of luck then parted ways. The hills became steeper and higher the closer I got to Pie Town and I was reduced to walking some most again.

Pie Town eventually materialised and I came to a crossroads. The route went straight and there were building on route and one to the left, up the hill. I wasn't sure where the pie shop was but hoped it was on route. One hundred metres along route and it was obvious that there were no shops this way so I backtracked and turned onto the sealed road, climbing the hill. A quarter mile on the right I came to the Pie Town Cafe'.

I was so shagged and pissed off at this mornings effort. As I rode into the cafe I saw a guy sitting outside taking pictures of me. I grumbled to myself about Blue Dot stalkers as I was in no mood to talk by now. I went to the other side of the entrance hallway, sat down and muttered
a"fuck this stupid fucking race" half under my breath, throwing my gloves down as I flopped down on the bench.

This is about when I noticed that the cafe' window was open and a couple were sitting at the table inside. Shit! Then, to confirm what a tool I was this morning, the guy taking photos came around the corner and said "Hi Dave". How did he know who I was? I must have had a confused look on my face as he said "its me, Josh Kato".

Josh! I didn't recognise him, standing there with no helmet on his head. And what was he doing standing there looking so fresh and clean?! Hadn't he just won the Tour Divide a few days ago? My mood instantly lifted as I congratulated him, then bombarded him with questions about his race. I was in awe of his achievement and confounded at how fresh he looked compared to my utter decrepitude.

After 5 minutes I excused myself as I had a date with some pie! I walked into the cafe' to be met with another "Hi Dave"! Bloody hell, everyone knew who I was. There is no hiding on the divide.

I was a bit flustered at my very minor celebrity status but managed to order bacon and eggs, eventually. I downed this so quickly that I think I caught them by surprise. Asking what sort of pie they had, the woman began to list the menu (what I can only imagine is an extensive list) but I stopped her a the first one, Apple, saying I would have that! I downed this in the time it took the young girl serving me to walk back behind the counter. Next! And next was a triple berry pie, all loaded up with ice cream again which I dispatched in quick time.

The pie was great and making it even better was the fact that the Salsa guys had given all of us a special stem top cap back in Banff. "Present this in Pie Town for two free slices of pie" they had told us. True to their word, upon showing my orange top cap I was asked to fill in my name and pie consumption habits on a form that would be sent to Salsa Bikes. Thank you Salsa and The Pie Town Cafe for this very generous gift. This half starved racer appreciated it very much!

Awesome Eddie Clark Media photo

Feeling human again I ordered a sandwich to go, apologised to the couple sitting near the open window for my exasperation earlier and wandered outside into the now warm day.

Josh was still there and suggested the store up the road for a food restock if I needed it. I did need it
but thought I would push my boundaries a bit and not carry too much weight. I wish I had someone there to give me an upper cut and remind me that it would be two full days before the next resupply.

Josh said he was going back to the Toaster House. I chatted to the English couple from near the open window. I eventually rolled out to check out the Toaster House. The house is iconic and I wandered in to find Josh sitting on the deck. He pointed me to the fridge and a huge box of energy bars that he had bought with him from a bike shop that he visited after the race.

I chatted to Josh for a while and he explained that he had finished the race so far ahead of time that his wife was not due to pick him up for a week so he had hired a car and driven back to Pie Town to hang out and cheer on other riders. I thought that was pretty cool. Josh is a first rate guy and I was very happy to sit, chatting with him but the race was calling me after just 10 minutes.

Slinging my heavy backpack on again and I must admit I was dreading the next section of trail. There was nothing between me and the Beaverhead Workstation as far as resupply goes and I had already heard that the soda machine at Beaverhead was busted. Soda was THE only luxury between here and Silver City, 296km away.........

What could I do? There were two racers approaching Pie Town and I had run out of excuses to linger. I rode out into the white hot vastness of New Mexico. 

The road was being repaired for quite a ways and as a result was loose and very dusty. my chain complained at the second rate lube I was forced to use and so out of a sense of sanity I stopped to lubricate it and rest my legs in the shade of a scrawny little tree.

I was cursing the soft road but as I would note about 2 weeks later, Billy and Lina Rice were much less fortunate as heavy rains turned it to peanut butter and they were forced to return to Pie Town. Soul crushing!

I pedalled on and on, passing the roadworks crew, passing some old ruins and seemingly, not getting anywhere.

I tried to set goals that I could strive to acheive. The deserted Mangas Work Centre was my next goal. When I reached the area it was marked with a sign and little else. I moved off the road and sat beneath a Ponderosa Pine, digging out the sandwich I had taken away from the Pie Town Cafe. I unwrapped it, salivating at the thought of eating it,,,,,and it was toasted.......even though I said "don't toast it please"............ Should I eat a cold meat sandwich that has been heated then cooled, then stored in a 100F frame bag? Screw it, I was starving and the sandwich lost the battle.

CDT Trailhead

I was feeling very tired now. As tired as I had felt the day I left Wamsutter in the southern Basin. At least I was in a forest and sitting on pine needles under a shady tree today. So I set my alarm for 30 minutes and closed my eyes. I was finding it very hard to go on.

My alarm pinged away in what seemd like no time at all. I hauled myself up and climbed on the bike, wondering if the two riders that were approaching Pie Town when I left had passed me while I snoozed behind my tree.

I grovelled over Divide Crossing #24 and got to enjoy some downhill for a while. I stayed off the brakes even though they may have been warranted at times. I simply did not want to convert my efforts into brake dust any more.

I finally came to the 12, where the route went right, along the sealed road then left, onto the dirt and into the Gila (pronounced Hila). Four little letters that I would come to loath the sound of. 

During my time riding with Andres back on Day 2 and 3 we had discussed the mythical church where Matt Lee is seen sitting on the porch of a church in the "Ride The Divide" movie, chatting about life. This church has the only water between Pie Town and the Beaverhead Workcentre. I didn't trust it to be true so had carried 6 litres from Pie Town but now I saw the church and after a short search around, found the tap that dispensed clear, clean water!

I filled up then hosed myself down to cool off. I sat on the porch (there was no rocking chair) and snacked away in the shade, feeling well pleased with myself. I then saw a horrible sight. Two riders were at the left turn, just across the ways! I waved, hoping to attract them over to the water but they just continued on along the route! I quickly loaded my bags up and let myself out of the church grounds to chase the pair who had now disappeared over the next hill which was a few miles away. It always amazed me how quickly riders got away from me even when they were grovelling along themselves.

I caught up to these two riders soon enough though and it turned out to be Dave McInerney and Alice Drobna. I hadn't met Dave before but he turned out to be another Aussie and better still, another country boy from New South Wales but living in Canada now! It was nice to see Alice as well. The last time I had seen her was at Flagg Ranch, waaay back on Day 9.

Even though I had been caught I was really happy for the company. I found, as always when riding with others that I lifted and it felt effortless to pedal along and chat away. I was even riding in the marbles in the middle of the road, so as not to draft either of them and still be able to chat easily.

We met some NoBo riders who were in awe of Alice and her single speed effort so far. I was as well to be honest. If she was hurting in any way she wasn't showing it. I was feeling pretty weak and over the next 20km or so Dave told his race story so far. It consisted of mechanical failures and physical failures. His knees had pretty much rebelled mid race and Vitamin I was his good friend now. This made me consider how I had overcome my Achilles problem early on and really, had nothing much to complain about other than a bruised bum and slightly sore hands.

After a while I noticed that we were sort of riding on top of each other, which was probably my fault for trying to stay close, without drafting, to chat.

I was sort of in a position to coast away when we crested a rise and I did so to make some room. I pedalled smoothly and easily for a while and when I looked back Dave and Alice were nowhere to be seen!

I quickly checked my GPS to make sure that I hadn't taken a wrong turn but all was ok. I was on route. I figured I had either annoyed them with my puppy-dog-like excitement after being alone for so long or they had just stopped to eat/adjust or stretch as you do on The Divide. Either way, they looked strong and I knew they would catch me sooner or later.

The sun was slowly sinking toward the horizon when I came to this sign.

30 miles?!
30 miles isn't like 30km. I was finally getting my head around these statute distances and reading them for what they really were. Earlier in the race it was easy to see a distance, convert it to metric but on some deeper level, not really understand the measure. Some deeply inbuilt mechanism kept taking it back to kilometres and I was constantly dismayed at how long it took to do 20 or 30 or 40 US distance units.

I still had plenty of water and with just 48 kilometres to go I stopped to empty the two Platypus bladders that I was carrying in my backpack. It felt great to get the backpack off again and I was glad I had chosen not to rely on a backpack for the entire ride.

But now, in the late afternoon I understood that this was another 48 kilometres. I took the left turn and enjoyed having the sun at my back as shadows lengthened and the road undulated up and down. After a while I came to a lodge that was dispersed on either side of the road. I looked for any obvious signs of life or more importantly, a reception area but it looked deserted. To add insult to disappointment a sign proudly proclaimed that I was still at elevation.

The trees began to thin out until I found myself crossing wide, rolling, treeless plains. At least they were fairly level! I passed a group of three NoBo tourers setting up camp in a small basin on the north side of the road. They had a fire going and I almost jammed the brakes on to join them. Almost. I knew if I did I would sit up until late, chatting all things Divide when I needed sleep. No, I kept powering onward, toward the Beaverhead Workstation.

Night fell and the almost full moon was shining down on me. I began climbing and winding my way along the side of a lake or swamp. It was hard to tell despite the moonlight. There must have been some water around as I saw all sorts of animals in the glow of my headlight. Skunks shuffled off the trail and in my biggest encounter, four huge elk/deer with massive antlers galloped onto the road just as my circle of light got to them. Being only about 30 metres away it gave me a huge fright and got the blood pumping, as if the last 220km hadn't done that already today!

The Beaverhead finally rolled into sight and I climbed the short distance up to the ranger station. The soda machine was indeed dead, but just next to it was a water pump. Glorious water!

I set up my tent on the edge of the helipad, fairly certain there would not be any arrivals between 9:30pm and my intended departure time of 5:30am. I had completed my set up and was just washing the dirt off my face and legs when Alice and Dave rolled in. They were in great spirits as they enjoyed riding in the cool night air. We were soon all sitting on the front step of the ranger station, in the dark, eating what food we had. My tin of pineapple pieces finally met it's end and it tasted bloody good but I think the Subway that Alice and Dave had carried the 280km from Grants this morning would have been much better for the legs. In hindsight, I really should have stayed in a hotel in Grants, rested well then got on the road at 1 or 2am as these guys had done. They had a better strategy than myself today but I couldn't stop myself from feeling the need to push on last night.

Still, I had covered almost 250km (155mi) for the day and I ONLY had about 135km (83mi) to Silver City tomorrow, where I would restock and rest before the final push to the border. 

I would be there before lunch. The Gila would be easy........



  1. I don't know why but many underestimate the Gila. A lot of racers wind up forcing "trail magic" from the locals as its a hot and long ride from Beverhead WC to Silver City. Looking forward to reading your next write up!!

    1. I think it is like Beth Dunne said in her blog. By the time you come to NM in your preparation you are a bit punch drunk from the distances involved and tend to skip over it.
      Nobody really mentions it in their blogs or in trip reports. The official maps themselves gloss over it, devoting only one map, Map 6, to that whole section of the route. The endless energy sapping climbs and descents aren't well represented either.
      Local knowledge is gold here and that is where veterans shine. I should have paid more heed to Josh's subtle hints in Pie Town that I might like to "stock up" on food. ;)

  2. I am still in awe that you completed the Divide in your rookie year!!

    1. How is that new bike going? See you next year?

  3. I have really enjoyed reading your account and look forward to the remainder! I am planning on racing the Divide in 2016 so I am gathering as many tips as I can. Thanks for posting!

    1. Thanks for the kind words and glad you are enjoying it. It is a fine line with what to put in and what to leave out. Sometimes the boring s#it is important to the overall experience.

  4. Best Tour Divide blog around. Nice one Dave!

    1. Thanks Hugh. I hope it is useful to someone's future attempt.

    2. Well I'm also a Brisbane local so was cheering you on the whole time. Can't believe you managed it inside 21 days in your rookie year!

  5. I'm really enjoying reading your write-ups and it is giving real colour into the race, route and decision making pros & cons. Happy to hear the confirmation of the Church tap - there are only couple of references to it around e.g. "ML's super-secret church spigot" and Petr Kraft mentioned it also. I'm racing in 2016 and your blog is great inspiration / reality check.

    1. Thanks Dave. My write up is 80% for my personal memories and 20% for rookies as there is so much to know and so many facets to the Divide.
      Another great divide for cutting through the BS and getting to the nitty gritty is Marshal Bird's blog. I hope he finishes this years write up but he also has lots of good stuff over the last few years.

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  8. Dave, I finally got to sit down and enjoy your entire TD story. It was fun riding along with you through your story. It was good to meet you in Banff. I had to laugh about your description of our meeting in Pie Town. I thought you looked a bit dazed and confused. Congrats again on an exceptional achievement!

    1. Hi Josh. Thanks for the kind words. For a "mid pack amateur" like myself it was the experience of a lifetime to compete. The people that are involved in this crazy sport are amazingly generous, supportive and giving people that bring joy to one's life.
      I said "never again" but the TD may have got it's hooks into me a little deeper than I first thought. ;) Good luck with your 2016 attempt!


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