Gila

October 15, 2012 at 8:45 am

I was getting a bit fatigued, mentally. It was near the end of the trip and I had to go through the Gila Wilderness, supposedly one of the hardest parts of the entire route. But I had already seen so much and I’ve had so many adventures, I was getting stuffed, so to say.

However, it was time to move on. Pie Town had cleaned me out; I left my last cash in the donation box and there was no ATM. Besides, all you could get there was pie so I was eating my own food. Four days of food, to get me from Grants to Silver City. Frickin’ heavy. Across the toughest part. “PFFFFFFFF…..” (click on “Read More”).

Oh yes. Before I forget: there’s two pictures of a dead fox in this post. No wounds, no blood, no posturing or whatever. But it is a dead fox, so watch out if that sort of thing disturbs you.

Some ruins. Who? When? What? I don’t know.

I was off at about ten. I wanted to get to Silver City in three days. Three 100 km-days in tough terrain. Kate & Lee were departing that day too (a bit later than I was), the rest was going to stay, still sucked into the Pie Town vortex…
The first fifteen to twenty miles were pretty bleak desert-like landscape, with lots of climbs and sandy ruts. Exhausting… I divided the climbs up into bitches. So there’s bitch #1, bitch #2, a couple of small bitchin’ in between and then I would get to bitch #3 who was a major bitch, and so on…
About two hours into the ride I was back into the forests again and I noticed my mood getting better and better. Maybe it was because of the bitching around, maybe it was because it was all unexpectedly beautiful. I didn’t mind the frequent up-and-down roller-coaster rides at all. It was good to be on my own again for a while, too. I took my sweet time taking pictures.

Landscape AND mood, going up.

It’s a locust-eat-locust world…

And then, you’re back into the open country again. These are the Plains of San Augustin.

My luck went up too. I noticed an 8-pack of Gatorade lying beside the road. Was this dropped for me, or did someone genuinely lose it? What to do? I decided to take half of it, and if the owner would drive back for it in his car, I’d give him the bottles and point him to the location of the rest. If there would be no owner, I’d have four bottles of Gatorade! And left four for the first other cyclists to come behind me. I’d expect Lee & Kate to do that, I didn’t expect the others before the day after, when the bottles would probably be picked up by someone else anyway. Despite the extra weight (remember, I already was carrying water for two days and food for four!) I was happy.

Free Gatorade!

Small ranch on the Plains of San Augustin.

Unceremonious Continental Divide Crossing # 834756.

I really warmed up to the landscape of the Gila wilderness.

Tallyin’ up another one.

The ride was a study in contrasts. New Mexico has been the most diverse state on the route.

These guys were trying to stare me down, but I was having none of it.

COWs with horns, or, as I like to call ’em, “chicks with dicks”. I’m a stupid city boy, probably.

Alligator juniper, named so for it’s typical bark.

Close-up of the alligator juniper.

At the end of day 1 into the Gila, I camped in the wilderness. I must have spent an entire hour just gawping at the stars. My rope snapped, so no more bear-bagging for me. There were still black bears around, but they seemed me to be very shy. I had little worries and slept well. The only incident was elk bugling nearby and a big guy running towards my tent (I heard the hooves coming nearer), stopping right in front of it and waiting. I started talking to it (“now don’t you push over my bike, you little…”) and after a few minutes it left. Funny how this sort of thing would have completely freaked me out just two months ago.
The next day, the inevitable happened: I had a flat tire. My second one of the trip. It was not one of the feared “goathead thorns”, just some piece of a metal pin which punched right through my outer tire and was still stuck in my tube. I patched the tube, but with the tire I didn’t take any chances. The whole wasn’t big as such, but it looked like it was going to tear. I just put on my spare outer tire and stuffed the other one in my bag, for emergencies. This new one should get me to Los Angeles, easy. The front one was still fine.
I did all this at the Beaverhead Work Center. It had a soda machine — Dr. Pepper for 75 cents!! I didn’t have cash still (Pie Town cleaned me out), except for two quarters, two dimes and a nickel… 75 cents, woo hooo! I threw ’em in, pushed the button and… no response. I pressed it again. I pressed all the buttons. Then I proceeded hitting the damn thing. Kicking, cursing, shaking… damn it!! Frickin’ soda machine… and it didn’t give my money back, either. It all seemed like a dirty trick. Squeezing my last cash… I must have spent 30 minutes on the damn soda scam.
This, lunch, and the tire thing took me a full two hours. And when I got in the saddle again, I noticed some tire tracks. Who could it be?

After slightly over 80 kilometers of riding, it turned out to be Kate & Lee. I wanted to do another 15 km towards Black Canyon campground, but decided to stay with them instead, just camping besides the dirt road. Like I said before, those campsites are the best. It was nice getting to know them a little bit. They are about my age and seem to have a similar outlook on life. We also share the same professional background (insurance).

So the next day, we departed for Silver City together.

Kate & Lee.

The book “Cycling the Great Divide” by Michael McCoy promises “legs of iron” when you near the end of the trip. It was true. Boy, did I feel strong that day. Still dividing up the climbs in bitches, I was gobbling them up like it was nobody’s business. I was flying up the hills! It felt so good, stealing back all those altitude meters from the gods. Pounding away uphill, the cardiac muscles a mighty bellows transporting highly oxygenated blood by the gallons towards the mighty thighs and calves… I felt like I could climb up the WORLD. And the landscape was such a surprise; roller-coaster rides, huge views across the ups and downs, still densely forested slopes, dusty roads. I was, quite unexpectedly, having boatloads of fun. When I rode from Pie Town, I just wanted to get the damn thing done; but this day, I wanted it to never stop.

Typical view across the Gila wilderness.

Road going down.

Kate & Lee descending in the distance.

A dead fox, still pretty fresh.

Poor bugger.

Gila forest.

Cresting Bitch # 66.

An attempt to give you an idea of “washboard”. Basically, riding this stuff is pure torture.

Even the clouds are washboarded in this place.

I abandoned the idea of getting to Silver City in three days so I could ride with Kate & Lee. I enjoyed their company and hey — I’m still on vacation! These were the last miles of mountainous wilderness and I was going to savour them.

Just one more picture of this. And one more. Just one…

And another one, sorry.

We stopped somewhere near Lake Roberts to do some shopping. The store was closed for the season however, but the signs were still enticingly hanging outside: icecream, beer, campgrounds, showers… pure sadism. It was either riding back to a US Forest Service campsite without services, or riding on to see the inn a local told us about. The Little Toad Creek Tavern & Inn. We decided to give it a shot. GREAT decision.
They didn’t have a campground, but let us camp on their lawn for free. Dave (the owner) and Ty who works there were great company and we talked ourselves through the evening. They made us some awesome burgers and kept passing us beers. After a few hours we went outside, where Ty built a big-ass bonfire. Nothing better than getting shitfaced around a big fire!

Campsite at Little Toad Creek Tavern & Inn.

Me, Kate, Dave & Ty @ Little Toad Creek Tavern & Inn.

The next morning they whipped up copious amounts of coffee, fried eggs, bacon and waffles. After settling the ridiculously low check we were off. Little Toad Creek Tavern & Inn. Remember that name and visit the place if you’re ever coming through. Great place. I am Maarten de Jong and I approve of this message.

(they didn’t pay me for anything — I just want them to be able to run a good business)

Gazing lovingly upon the last portions of the Gila wilderness.

One of the last portraits of El Camino on the trail?

Buckhorn Saloon in historic Pinos Altos.

I’m not into cars at all. But still, I liked this one.

Our steeds in Pinos Altos.

Like a boss.

Silver City.

The road from the tavern to Silver City was relentless. Especially when you’re sweating alcohol. Still, in under three hours we were there. Ty hooked us up with a former roommate of his, Alyssa, where we could stay the night. Sweet!

I am writing this (and the previous five posts!) in Silver City. I’m having a chill-out day to do all this blogging. Kate & Lee are gone, they’re on a tight schedule and need to be at a ranch near Austin, Texas by the end of next week. I have just met the other guys (Colin, Ben, Mat and Anders) and we will have dinner & beers tonight. It will be a kind of celebration, even though we’re not at the border yet (that is still about 200 kilometers away). However, there is no place to celebrate between here and the border, and it’s just flat country. Two days, three days tops (and that is if anything goes wrong).

So for all intents and purposes, I did it. I feel sad, because it’s (nearly) over. I would love to ride into Old Mexico. Despite all the bad rumours and bad news about drug cartels and immigrants, I suspect riding through it won’t be much different from riding through New Mexico, except there would be more Spanish going on. I’d love to check it out. And then further into Belize. Guatemala. Honduras. Nicaragua. Costa Rica. Panama. Stringing the countries together. And then the Andes beckons… I am envious of Ben and Anders. They will ride on. Mat will go west and then park his bike to enjoy his time off in different ways (snowboarding, if I recall correctly). Colin will probably go back up north.

Man, I want to ride on. Maybe I’ll ride to Los Angeles. But as I am taking my sweet time around these parts, I don’t know if I’ll make it. I’ll have to pedal to Tucson, Arizona at the very least. But first, there is still this border to reach. After that, I hope to be able to blog in say, Lordsburg (but I’m not promising anything as this is desolate country). I hope to add some music to this last smattering of posts, too, but there simply was no time. See you around, and keep coming back for that last stretch!

Day 60 (October 6th): Toaster House, Pie Town – somewhere in the Gila Wilderness
Riding time: 6:42:16
Distance: 101,25 km
Amount climbed: 1014 m

Day 61 (October 7th): somewhere in the Gila Wilderness – somewhere else in the Gila Wilderness
Riding time: 5:09:03
Distance: 82,29 km
Amount climbed: 822m

Day 62 (October 8th): somewhere else in the Gila Wilderness – lawn of Little Toad Creek Tavern & Inn
Riding time: 4:49:08
Distance: 68,32 km
Amount climbed: 1051 m

Day 63 (October 9th): lawn of Little Toad Creek Tavern & Inn – Alyssa’s place, Silver City
Riding time: 2:48:42
Distance: 45,13 km
Amount climbed: 829 m

Day 64 (October 10th): Alyssa’s place, Silver City
No riding — blogging day!