Zen On Dirt

Day 5 and 6

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Silver City is a special place. As Matthew Lee so aptly put it: No one is going to expect you to act like a grown up. The impression that I came away with is that Silver is filled with happy and friendly people. Every one says hello, from the elder statesmen at the local breakfast cafe to the homeless woman searching for cans in the trash can in front of the Co-op. People smile at you and the whole town is filled with art. I was a little sad to leave.

We went out to the Grinder Mill for breakfast, acting on a tip from Mathew. It was a good tip. We then spent the next hour wandering around town looking for lithium batteries (fail), a mail box to mail postcards from (success), and good food for the trek to Pie Town (great success). The Co-op there has some pretty impressive food.

We wandered back to the Bike House to see the homemade bread go into and out of the giant clay bread oven, we packed up our gear, and we bade farewell. I’m pretty sure we’ll be back someday.

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We headed up Little Walnut Canyon Road and into Gila National Forest to rejoin the CDT. It was a six mile paved climb, and we again wondered what it would be like to be a hiker doing it at a third of our pace. Hikers are special.

We had seven and a half miles of trail ahead of us before we’d run into the trail closure due to the fire. Set by someone BBQ-ing on Mother’s Day, the section of trail included on the Tour Divide route was closed as well as some additional trail. We were bummed, but at least we’d get some trail, and any day with single track is better than a day without.

It took us on the order of 3 hours to ride the trail. While fun, it did a lot of uphill traveling. It also did a bunch of down, but the overall trend was up. Mostly ridable, it definitely had a non-zero BS factor to it with some rubbly descents. All in all, B+ rating.

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We did get cooked for a bit out there. We declared it Gila (pronounced hella) hot, but we expected no less of the dreaded Gila (pronounced hee-la).

We did see a naked dude sitting in the trees near the end. While I would have loved to know what he was doing, it didn’t really seem the time to exchange pleasantries.

At long last, we popped out on Hwy 15, leaving the trail and the fire closure. We’d be on the road for many a mile, but really, as Scott put it – as far as paved roads go, there’s no better one to ride. It was narrow and winding, short sightlines, lots of ups and downs. High on both the entertainment and beauty factor.

We dropped down into the Mimbres Valley hoping to score a meal at the Little Toad Brewery, but were 30 minutes too late for lunch and 30 minutes too early for dinner. Normally, we would have waited, but friends of the Bike House were getting married there in 30 minutes and we felt a little out of place in chamois while everyone else was dolled up.

So we set off down the road to the general store 4 miles away…only to find it locked. Now, this was a crisis because we needed food and water, and really didn’t want to ride the 20 miles to Mimbres to get either. Luckily, a construction worker pointed us towards the cabins next door and said they normally stocked snacks.

And did they ever! And they had ice cream. We bought a bunch of food and two ice cream bars and headed out to their little park to eat. Ice cream and breakfast burritos from Silver, life was good again.

We did an inventory of our food supply and found it lacking, even with the addition of what we got from the little store. So we went back in for more, and for good measure, each got another ice cream bar. No point in leaving anything but completely stuffed.

A few miles later, we found ourselves at the base of the Geronimo Trail, back on the Tour Divide route. Turning on the road, I said, “Scott, I’m scared.” He just smiled. The section had beat me down so thoroughly during the race, I was scared to tackle it again. I remember the final descent, being able to see pavement, and hitting a set of gigantic washboards and swearing so vehemently at the Divide route that a sailor would have been aghast at my language. It was like a bad dream.

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But, as it turns out, when touring, it’s a lot easier not to get frustrated with a road. If it goes up, you pedal. If it goes down, you coast. Still, the hills were Gila big. We doodled on the road till nearly dark, passing my an ideal camp site that was currently being occupied by two black bears and instead climbing out of the Rocky Creek drainage and finding a beautiful little campsite on top of a ridge.

No wind for the first time camping since we can’t remember when. At nearly 8,000 feet, it’s pleasantly warm. And with a belly full of lentils and new warm fuzzy socks on my tootsies, I really can’t imagine life any better.

It was a Gila good day.

Day 6

A long, long time ago, in a lifetime I sometimes have a hard time imagining anymore, I raced the Tour Divide. It was 19 days and some odd hours of dirt and paved road riding. Much of it straight. After today, I’m not really sure how I didn’t go completely nuts. Well, actually, I did sort of lose it on occasion…but that’s another story.

To get around the Gila Wilderness, we hopped on the Geronimo Trail late yesterday afternoon, knowing that we’d be riding the 39 Gila (hell-a) hilly miles to Wall Lake, then another 8 miles to the Beaverhead work station, where I was holding out hope to get a soda from the soda machine that at my money but didn’t give me soda during the race. From there it would be another 30 miles of the Tour Divide route before returning to the somewhat “official” CDT.

I hated the Gila during the race. Hated, hated, hated. The hills never ended, my brains boiled, it was like a nightmare that I couldn’t get out of.

This morning, it was lovely. The climbs moderately pitched, were as enjoyable as climbs could be. The early morning air was anything but hot. I wondered how I could have hated an area so intensely.

It really makes me hope that all those people racing take the time in their lives to go touring, not just an overnight, gear shakedown ride, but a multi-day to multi-week trip. It really is a mindblowingly different experience.

We made it to the Beaverhead workstation just shy of noon, rolling straight to the famed soda machine. We saw the sign from a ways out: Out of Order. Bah! Our quarters were no good. In all honesty, we weren’t really expecting it to work, so we settled down in the shade of a nearby tree for lunch

A firefighter came out to see if we needed anything. “Is the soda machine done for good?” we asked.

“Well, they haven’t come and fixed it for a long time now, so I’d say yes.”

“Bummer.”

It wasn’t long before another firefighter came out. “Need anything?”

“Nah, we’re good. Just bummed about the soda machine.”

“You guys want some soda? Let me go find some!”

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Anthony came back not only with two sodas, but two Gatorades, a bag of ice, and a bunch of maps of the area. He knew about the GDMBR and the Tour Divide, but seemed curious to hear about our route. We asked about some different options, a hillier and longer, but new road with water 30 miles in, but in the end, settled on our original plan of following the TD route for another 30 miles. We tanked up on 200 oz of water each and started out.

It started out lovely. A slight tail wind. Beautiful scenery. Fast roads.

And then at some point of time, the sodas wore off, the road turned slow, and the wind picked up straight in our faces.

Four hours later, Scott declared: The next time I want to take a flat route instead of a hilly route, remind me that I hate flat roads.

Maybe it was that we’d both been on this road before, maybe we’re in singletrack mode and a full day of riding roads isn’t good for our souls, but whatever it was, it beat us down. Someone once said that wind was so infuriating because it invaded your personal space. It definitely invaded mine.

30 miles past Beaverhead, we finally turned off the Tour Divide route, knowing that we had a good bit of dirt road riding. But we were finally in the trees, for the first time since lunch, and for the first time in seemingly forever, the wind wasn’t blasting us.

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Wind on the Divide route? Nooooo. Never.

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Not long after rejoining the CDT route, we ran into three thru-hikers filling up at a small pool of water. The Dude, Trouble, and Argentine. We’d seen their names in the trail registers down south. We stopped and speculated about how good milkshakes and cold beer would taste. The break brought be back to life and we continued up the road in the fading light.

Worked over. That’s the only way I can describe it. That wind handed out a beatdown…as did the endless roads. I’m fairly sure that this cemented my desire to never race the Tour Divide again. One trip to insanity and back was enough with that one.

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One thought on “Day 5 and 6

  1. You should hit up my folks next time you’re in Silver!

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