Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tour Divide - Day 21 - The Finish

I had gone to sleep at about 9pm but was now awake at 10pm. It was hot in the room which made it hard to sleep but I was also ravenously hungry. I got up to eat most of what I had bought earlier this afternoon and began to worry that I might have done myself some damage in the Gila with my lack of nutrition. My body had to get the calories from somewhere and that somewhere seemed to be my muscles.

After eating everything I tried to go back to sleep but only managed a fitful sleep. It wasn't because of any excitement at finishing the race tomorrow, more because the room was bloody hot. When my alarm went off at 1:30am I felt wrecked, so reset it for 2:30am and went back to sleep. But I still didn't sleep very well and got up at about 2am. If I couldn't sleep I may as well ride.

I packed up my gear and left the hot house hotel. Pedalling back a quarter mile to get on the route where I turned off to get to Gila Hike and Bike I then followed the main 90 which the route leaves town on.....until I came to a "bridge out" sign. What?! I then had to ride right past the front of the hotel I had left 5 minutes earlier and find my way through the back streets of Silver City and back onto the 90, cutting out the closed bridge.

As I left town I still had cell service and my phone pinged away. Who would be messaging me at this hour? Checking it and I could see that at least one person back home had noticed my blue dot moving again. Mr Ride Mechanic, creator and purveyor of awesome lubes and balms was giving me some cheers about making 20 days instead of the 23 I had targeted. But I still had  200km to go. Alice had said yesterday that Dave and I would "fly" on our geared bikes to the finish as it was downhill then flat for most of the way to Antellope Wells. I had noticed on Trackleaders that Dave and Alice hadn't stayed in Silver City last night but had gone on to a little RV park about 25km out of town towards Antellope Wells. The park isn't even marked on the ACA maps and again demonstrated how route knowledge gave a rider the upper hand. I suspected that they would have been up early to beat the heat as well and yesterday would be the last I saw of them.

The road had been a bit up and down so far this morning but being dark you can't see how high the climb is and the downhills seemed to go on forever. I eventually came to the left turn off the sealed road at the little locality of White Signal and started on the penultimate section of dirt for the divide. I had a nice breeze at my back and it was still trending downhill so I was ripping along at around 30km/h for quite a while and hitting 45km/h at times. The road dropped 500m over the next 55km to Separ, on the Interstate and as Alice had said, I made great time.

There was a full moon out and I tried a few times to get a photo but to little avail.

The sun was starting to approach the eastern horizon and apart from myself, the desert seemed deathly still.

Almost there!

I had been able to see the hazard lights blinking on a large radio antenna at Separ for quite a while now and finally I could see the few buildings around this truck stop in the morning light. But, I had some loose sand and sandy washboarding to give me some final grief before I was done with the dirt of the divide.

I just had to cross over a railway line, then under Interstate 10 and I was in Separ.

I had been riding for 4 hours now and had decided that if the diner was open I was treating myself to a cooked breakfast but alas, it was still too early and the shop was closed.

I turned east, along the service road that ran parallel to the Interstate. This was partly sealed and partly dirt, so this WAS the last dirt that I would ride on the Divide. Was I sad? HELL NO! I was so over energy sapping dirt, hills and headwinds that I would have almost hitched a ride if someone had offered!

But thankfully no one did because it would have spoiled my ride. The 12km along the service road was done with the wind at my back. There was a constant stream of cars but mainly trucks along the Interstate and as I pedalled along, one of the trucks hooted me a few times. Another blue dot watcher?

The final run to the border came into view. I stopped for a moment to take a photo of that sign.

65 miles.

 105 kilometres.

 Then I would be done. I had to ride to those hills in the faar distance...then ride about that far again past them.........

The wind was pretty much all crosswind now and I hoped that was as far around as it would go. Hoping for a tailwind would be too much to ask for and I didn't want to anger the Divide gods in my weakened state.

I began pedalling for the final stretch, not in a sprint but finally with the knowledge of what that last 65 miles would take out of me. It doesn't seem much after what I had covered but it was definitely not to be sneezed at.

While it was still cool I was enjoying the ride and taking photos but I knew when the heat kicked in I would have to just zone out and not think about anything at all. As I had done in The Basin, on Bannack Road, on the Sheep Creek Divide, on the road to Del Norte.  Not thinking about the aches and pains, not think about the hills or headwinds, not thinking about the distance to go, to just zone out and pedal, getting the job done without thought or emotion would be the only way I could manage to go on........

Twenty miles along I came to the very last town on route, Hachita. Town is a very kind term for what looked like a derelict and deserted outpost of yesteryear. Everything had that closed down look and had been that way for some time.

I had to make a left, then a few hundred metres further on, a right. The last navigation task on The Divide.

Leaving Hachita a brown Volvo rolled up next to me. It's driver said "hi" and asked who I was. I told him and he told me his name, which I can't remember, and that he was a blue dot watcher and I "was doing awesome". I wasn't feeling very awesome this morning but it made me feel a little better all the same. He wished me well and then turned around and I was on my own. I put my ear buds in and listened to some music for a while. I was sick of my play list so played some of the kids "poppy" albums.

A short time later I heard a loud tearing roar. I ripped an ear bud out to hear the unmistakable roar of a fighter jet and then saw two F16s roar past me, at low level heading east. Awesome. Top cover! They would fly back and forth twice more before I reached the border. I was also noticing the big green and white border patrol cars now. Some were roaring past while other sat menacingly by the side of the road. I didn't take any photos as I know how touchy these security types can be about that sort of thing.

Another car approached from the direction of the border. This one had 2 bikes on the roof and when it stopped next to me Alice hung out of the rear window, a huuge smile on her face and said "hi". Dave was also wedged into the back seat of the small car and I was pleased to see them both. They had finished a few hours ago at just under the 20 day mark. We chatted for a bit and they said they had seen the Kiwis at the border, so Greg and Evan were done as well. They offered me some water but I had heaps so I politely declined. Wishing each other the best, we parted ways.

It was getting hot now, the road had been gently but steadily climbing and each time it turned to a westerly heading I had to endure headwind. This was getting OLD!

I thought Mile 13 some sort of omen.

My family had flown in from Australia a couple of days ago and were my extraction plan as there is absolutely nothing at Antelope Wells except for a border crossing. I wasn't sure where they were as I had virtually no cell service these last few days but they had not passed me and I was beginning to wonder if they would make it before I finished. 13 miles was probably less than an hour to go. Less than an hour? YEAH!

Then a black car roared past me and cut across right in front of me. WTF? To be taken out this close to the finish? Bloody idiots! I kept my line and rode past the car stopped on the side of the road when I noticed that it was the wife and kids....who had almost taken me out! (my wife later told me that she had burst into tears when she saw me and then couldn't see me!)

I just kept pedalling and they drove up next to me. I said I wasn't stopping and to just drive next to me like everyone else had that morning. It was good to see them and I was a little bit emotional and couldn't talk. This thing was almost done and they were here to see it. I choked back a few tears at the realisation I was going to do it, I was going to finish this impossible race....

 I could only wonder what they thought of the sight of me. (I was to learn that there had been a large group of blue dot watching friends back home and while they followed me along each day there was no way to know the hardships and privations I had suffered apart from the very infrequent updates I posted. I only spoke to my wife 2, maybe 3 times in the three weeks I was racing)

I told them to go on to the border and wait for me there.

It wasn't long to go now and at about 8km(5mi) out the road turned southeast and I had that tailwind again. I was hooking along at 30km/h now. What a way to finish!

One mile out and I was flying. Then this song came on, via shuffle, for the run to the line.

The small collection of buildings that is the Antelope Wells border crossing was in sight.

 Will came running out to meet me and gave me a high five. Lucy did the same.

Then, I was done.

After some hugs all round I downed a couple of ice cold chocolate milks then we took some photos.
Lucy held my bike for a minute and complained about how heavy it was while I made sure I had a finishing photo. I was not coming back to get another!

Seeing them in their clean clothes made me realise how rough I looked.

I went for a quick ride (as if I hadn't done enough) to try and find the old border crossing point for a photo there but it didn't look too friendly near the Border Patrol buildings and I retreated back to the main gate. 
Coming back out I remembered to look at the time on my GPS. It said 11:23am. 
I had finished 3 or 4 minutes before that so my time was 20 days, 3 hours and 20 minutes. My Spot tracker checked in at 11:26am, so the Trackleaders website has that as my finish time.
20 days, 3 hours and 26 minutes. 
I'll take that!

The elation of finishing was starting to be overtaken by the fatigue I had been carrying for days or even perhaps weeks now. I needed to sit down but there was nowhere to sit. I had to fit my bike into a car full of luggage before I sat down, in case I couldn't get back up. I took the seat bag and handle bar harness off plus both wheels and just managed to squeeze it all in the rental car.

We drove off, back toward Silver City, where I planned on having my bike shipped home and getting myself started on the road to recovery.

What a journey!

Cheers and thanks for coming along with me.


  1. Thanks for writing this up and taking us along for the ride. Having your family show up for the extraction was a surprise ending for me. VERY COOL! Cheers to a job well done!

  2. Congratulations again, Dave! This was a fantastic accomplishment, and thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. This was easily one of the best accounts of the Tour I've ever read. Great photos, great detail.

    A fantastic story from start to finish!

  3. Have truly enjoyed reading your incredible journey. Congratulations!!

  4. Wow, how awesome, not only to finish but to have the wife and kids there to greet you. Very cool.

    Congrats on living your dream!

  5. Awesome and inspiring story Dave! You've got a real knack for writing. I've followed this from day one and have felt tired just reading your blog sometimes!

    Congrats on an amazing ride.

  6. Dave, An absolutely incredible challenge, so well conveyed. It's had me inspired, emotional and enthralled the whole way along.

    Congratulations on the personal accomplishments.

  7. Great race Dave, great write up,
    humm, you don't look so rough but rather look pretty 'TDR racer' like in the later photos, suites you well.....

  8. Outstanding achievement and it's been a fantastic read! Huge effort my man!

    That last picture is took a lot of getting and is a beauty!

  9. Awesome achievement Dave, thanks for sharing your adventure. The writeups were great.

  10. Great story of determination and motivation overcoming the physical and mental challenges of a great adventure. Thanks for taking us on the journey with you!

    Proud to be able say I'm a mate of yours!

  11. Thanks for taking the time recount and share your epic journey in such detail - now there’s no need for me to do it! That’s a huge relief coz I think I would still be out there riding!

    Following your progress live it was hard to imagine the trials and tribulations you were facing and understand what it took to keep that little blue dot moving each day.

    I had a rough idea how challenging this race was so expected to see you take a rest day or 3 - but you just kept on getting back on your bike each day!

    Truly an incredible feat of self-discipline and determination - well done Dave

  12. Excellent effort big Bro. I'm proud of you and what you have achieved. Such an epic journey and just putting this blog together has been a epic effort. Many hours spent to get such an excellent trip record together.

    The experience of a life time, and another thing to tick off the bucket list.

  13. Wonderful to have you take the time and make the effort tow write up and share the experience. Quite surprised how hard you pushed yourself and didn't approach more as a bike-packing tour. May have been a different experience if you did it as a tourist rather than racer - OM

  14. Thanks for the kind words everyone.
    It was a hell of an experience, one that I wasn't sure I could manage but as the race went on my determination hardened. I WOULD finish this thing and I would give it my best shot. I'm surprised and humbled at the level of support I have received from those who followed along from home and abroad. I am pleased that you found it interesting. For those of you considering taking a crack yourselves, I will be putting together a post soon on what I consider to be the more important points of racing The Divide.

  15. Really enjoyed that Dave. Great account and fair play to you. Thanks very much.

  16. Hey Dave, thanks for penning such a comprehensive blog. It's been great to share the journey with you. As a fellow Australian gearing up for TD2016 (on a Muru Mungo 29+) it would be great if you could spare the time for a 'what gear worked/what didn't work' wrap up.



    1. Hi Matt. Glad you found it interesting.
      I am planning a postscript to the race but as far as gear lists goe, there are 100 gear lists floating around the internet but the best I have seen is by Josh Kato (this years winner). Why is it the best? Well because most of the stuff he took, I took as well. Our gear lists were very similar in that we didn't go ultra light and sacrifice comfort over weight. The comfort comes in two forms, one is physical but the very much underrated one is mental comfort. When you are absolutely fatigued and your mind is looking for ways to give up on the race that little bit of extra clothing or sleep kit or whatever nicety is what will give you the strength to carry on. Look up Josh's list either on his blog(he has comments above on my blog) or at Bikepackers Magazine where they did an article on his gear. The only thing he took that I didn't and wouldn't is a backpack. He must be super strong to lug one of those at the pace he rode.
      Also, feel free to email me at the address on the contact page under the blog header. I am happy to give any advice/assistance I can. I now know where I wasted prep time as a rookie and where your worry/angst can be better focussed!

  17. Thanks for the offer and the tips Dave, much appreciated. At this stage the majority of questions I have are mainly around logistics (travel insurance for pseudo racing, shipping bike home etc) so I'll flick you an email in the near future. I've seen Josh's kit list previously, I'll go back and have a closer look!



  18. Dave,

    The more I read on the Tour Divide, the more I keep coming back to this site. The TD is a bucket-list item for me, and your account continues to be the standard by which all others are measured. Thank you again for taking the time and effort to put this together.


    1. Hi Joel. I'm glad you find it interesting. I was hoping that it would be informative for other rookies which is part of the reason I went into so much detail with it.
      Good luck with your attempt. it will be a life changing undertaking.

  19. Hi Dave,

    Great blog for the whole TD and it's a great resource for a TD rookie like me. You really raced it and nailed a super time. It's nice to be able to get a feel for what it is actually like to be out there grinding out the miles day after day.



    1. Thanks and glad you enjoyed it. I really wanted to convey what this race is like, particularly through New Mexico. Most peoples accounts taper off through that state which adds to the mystery that is NM.
      Good luck with your attempt in 2016. Remain strong but flexible.
      Cheers. Dave

  20. Dave, thanks for this. Not only an entertaining write up but one of the best accounts I've seen to convey trail conditions and logistics. As someone touring the route later this year with limited time, having recent data and a sense of place from the combination of trail photos and text is extremely useful. I'll especially thank you for the NM detail when I get there I suspect. Glad you had such a good time and were able to put both realtime feeling and post race perspective into the material. Thanks again for sharing.


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