Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tour Divide 2012 Day 15 and 16 Into a lower income tax bracket...

Profile Days 15 and 16

Day 15. Into the land of breakfast burritos.

Route Day 15

I never get tired of waking up high in the mountains and thought that this would probably be the last time for me as I had camped at bout 10,500 feet on Stunner pass above Platoro and would now be heading into the deserts. I had a real hard time, from the guide books and what not, telling if there were any services in Platoro. I hoped so as I descended in the cold air. I pulled into "town" at about 6:15am and saw a small restaurant among many cabins and whatnot for rent. It was closed . As I tried to see if and when they would open, a tall man with gray hair and a few teeth missing came walking around the corner with a black lab with a grey muzzle walking very slow. The man smoking a cigar began to talk to me in a thick N'aleans accent. He began to tell me of a one, Ollie Whalley, who had come through and ate breakfast. He laughed as he told me of Ollie eating the 5 pancake breakfast that no one had ever eaten. Then he ordered eggs! One of many waves that Ollie had made. He said the restaurant most likely probably would open at 7. There were a couple of guys that usually ate on their way to the mine. But the owner didn't like to get up early so.... I said, "Hmmm there's another town in a little while I think." He said, "You should stay, it's only 30 more minutes." I declined and carried on the rough road. Let's foreshadow here and say if a tall grizzled guy from down south tells you to wait 30 minutes and eat, do it.

The road just kept getting worse and worse along with my mood. Large loose rocks. Feelings of what the hell am I doing. I'm just not having fun. This is getting old. I want some good food. My legs hurt. My butt hurts. My ankles hurt. This was a bad day and I wasn't in the mood for it. Being in a bad state of mind isn't good for riding long distances. I kept stopping for stupid small reasons. Let's look at the map again. Let's make sure I didn't forget my money or insulin at camp. Let's make sure my food is OK.

I looked at the map one more time to see how much farther the next town was. As I was looking, a 30ish year old man and Hispanic woman in a truck pulled up and asked if I was looking for the main road. I said, "No that's the last place I'm going. I just was looking to see how much farther to the next town. I'm sick of candy bars." The lady popped her head around and asked if I liked breakfast burritos. I said "Yes", hoping she was going to say there was a great restaurant down the road. But no, she said, "I have 4, take one" and handed it to me. Before I could say another word, they took off. The burrito was homemade and fantastic! The road continued to suck. Horca is really just a large RV park with some houses thrown in. I found the store and restaurant. Both were closed. They didn't open until the afternoon. I looked at the map again. It was a long way to the next place to get food and those weren't exactly big towns. Nothing would be open late in the day. This could get ugly. I set off with the food I had and my mood didn't improve.

The now paved road climbed very steeply up La Manga pass. The ACA maps showed a restaurant shortly after. Nope it was closed for a year. I was a little put out not knowing if food was in my future. I saw a truck parked in front of a ATV outfitter across the street. They might have food. I went in and talked to a guy who had grown up in the area but whose voice sounded just like a guy from Minnesota. He did indeed have candy bars. So I bought 10 for insurance and filled my water. Talking to a guy that sounded like he was from Wisconsin or Minnesota brought my spirits up as everyone is just so nice up that way. He also said that he'd eaten at a hole in the wall restaurant in El Rito down the road that was really good. Ten years ago anyway.....

I passed into New Mexico with little fanfare and turned onto dirt roads with good views and steep pushes up and down at around 10000'. I crossed the Cumbres-Toltec rail road track and heard the narrow gauge whistle in the distance. This was Brazos ridge. Not easy riding. I noticed that many of the trees, as I gazed down across the valleys, looked odd. They seemed to be deciduous but didn't have leaves. Was it a fire? What were they? Were they dead from the drought? After descending some, I saw that they were aspens and tent caterpillars had peaked this year and eaten all the leaves off all the aspens for miles.

Matt Lee, at the Brush Mountain Lodge, had said that there was water at Hopewell Lake. So that was my next push. And sure enough right at the entrance was a glorious spigot! How nice. My mood improved some. This area was also in a drought and terribly dry and dusty. The campground was full and as I passed I smelled home cooking. It smelled of a green chile sauce on something good. This was another instance where, if I was a bear, I would have broken in. It started me thinking of the little restaurant in El Rito. Could I make it there during business hours? I began to fantasize about the great foods of northern New Mexico like my neighbor from Taos back in Gunnison makes.

I set off on the road to El Rito. The road was OK to the little enclave of Canyon Plaza. Here there is the "Snack Shack".  A lady named Sylvia sells all sorts of goodies. As I pulled into town, her husband yelled from across the street that she was in the house and would be down. She said she was just cleaning up from dinner. They had beans. Mmmm Beans! I told her I would buy her leftovers. She said I could have them. So off she went and I started rummaging in the shack. Crackers with peanut butter in the middle. My favorite lately. Frozen burritos. Chips. Ice cream. Spam. SPAM?? Vienna sausages. Baby car seat. Jerkey. And her prices were actually cheaper than the gas stations. She said they stole from you. She also discussed the merits of Vienna Sausages. I had eaten them a long time ago. Along with the SPAM fried by Mr. Dick Cover. Dick said back when he was in college, he is older than my father by 10 years, they used to call him Trojan. Anyway if she would have fried it up like Richard, I may have gotten some. But I settled for the Vienna Sausages-lots o' sodium....

MMMMmmmmmmmmm Vienna Sausages- Soft and slimey!

I ate the beans with some Fritos and salsa, other goodies, and the Vienna Sausages while sitting on a chair watching the sun set and talking to Sylvia. Canyon Plaza had once been bustling when the railroad came through to pick up timber when she was a girl. She also said that she didn't have the shack open on Saturdays. She is 7th Day Adventist. Their Saturdays are others' Sundays. But if someone came by, she would feed them whatever they were eating in the house. She also talked of the movie "Ride the Divide" and how Matt Lee was knocking on her window to get her up for it. I bid her adieu  and headed towards Vallecitos. I would have liked to see this town in daylight. The narrow street (it is a small town) and old Spanish architecture in some of the dilapidated houses was interesting. The narrow street also encouraged dogs to chase you as you were very close to their house. Several came out to bark and chase me. One really looked like he wanted a piece of me and didn't give up for quite a while. The narrow road was smooth and climbed a large hill with some downhills thrown in. Coming down one hill, I noticed that a large dead tree with a very sharp end was sticking out in the road and pointing right at me. I hit the brakes, skidding sideways and just missed the end skewering me. That was a close call. I'd better make camp soon. So near the top of the climb, I found a nice place in the Ponderosa pines and went to sleep. Not a huge day. Actually one of my shortest at about 119mi.

Day 16. A lower income tax bracket, The Res, and friendly locals.

Route Day 16
Riding through El Rito early I saw the small restaurant closed this early. Some artist studios. Many houses that looked like at one time were very nice. It felt like being in a Spanish village. A dilapidated Spanish village. They also apparently have a community college with a cafeteria that is said to be good. I rode into Abiquiu early and found the one place that had food early in the morning, Bodes gas station and store. I was in much better spirits today. I only had to push a few more days and then I was done. Bodes was almost identical to the gas station in Lincoln, MT except they had hot breakfast burritos instead of egg muffins. I ate a bunch and grabbed one for the road. I also bought some other junk food and some funky vegan oat energy bars. Hmmm Eszter will dig these. I left some for her. The people in the store coming in for burritos and owners were all really helpful and friendly. Lovely place. One guy even made sure I didn't leave my sunglasses out by my bike. "Those are nice glasses. They'll get stolen."
I noticed the post office on my way out of town. I decided to send all my warm gear back to Gunnison. Just a sleeping bag and pad. No warm clothes. I walked in the post office and tried to open the door to the counter. It wouldn't open. A lady's voice came out of the wall behind the PO boxes. "We're closed Saturday."
"Oh" I said "It's Saturday? Sorry I didn't know what day it was." I stared for a second at the sign and my watch. I guess I didn't move fast enough and she popped her head out of the door to explain herself more. I said I just wanted to send some stuff home. She obviously was the "helpful" type and said "OK I'll just give you a box and we'll send it out Monday. Also we need more packages sent so they don't close us." I was now traveling light as I started a long 4000' climb up a rocky and sandy road. It was getting warm so at the last stream on route I dunked my shirt and put it on. Nice! After about 25 miles I ran into a Canadian on a motorcycle. He was going to a wedding so he decided to take the scenic Tour Divide route. He lived west of Banff in a really nice and warm sounding place. He pulled out a slushy Gatorade out of one of his large packs and handed it to me. Nothing ever tasted so good in the heat. He also pulled out a large bottle of club soda that was half frozen and offered it to me. I told him that was too big but put some in the Gatorade bottle. Soon a couple came up the road on motorbikes. They were on a weekend cruise from Albuquerque.We talked about how nice New Mexico was and why all the Texans came to Colorado and not there. He said it was a secret. Oops I guess I let the cat out of the bag. It really was nice mountainous country, if not a bit dry from the drought.  I also told them to delay the girl behind me as much as possible and that she was trouble.
Finally I was close to the descent to Cuba. Many people were also camping here and there and there were some small lakes and trails. The paved descent into Cuba was fast but you could feel the temperature quickly rise. I was happy to get to a "real" town for some food. First thing I saw coming into town was a baseball field full of Indians. A sign said "All Indian Baseball Tournament" Then a teenager on the street. I asked where there was good food. He said, "Presciliano's Restaurant to the right." I said I needed to go to the left. He said, "The Cuban."
I turned left following my GPS line and saw a Saveway Supermarket and Variety store. I pulled my bike into the enclosed entryway. The farther south you go the fewer fancy energy bars they had. So I bought bananas, large bottles of Gatorade for my bike water bladders, my usual chocolate milk, V8, and juice to drink immediately and a few boxes of granola bars. These bars per calorie are much cheaper than other fancy ones. On the way out, the clerk was talking to a lady about the new chicken place across the street. Sounds good. Eszter got me hooked in Rawlins. I saw the young variety store clerk looking at my bike. He was very interested. I felt sorry for him as in Cuba he would probably never get the chance to ride a bike like mine. We talked and I told him I was raising money for diabetes research. He said his dad had Type 2. I went over to the chicken place and ate so much fried chicken, potatoes, slaw, and New Mexican beans I couldn't move. So I rinsed my shorts in their bathroom and washed up and sat outside and watched some Indians from the baseball tournament eat. Nice people but weathered and worn. Finally they left and a sharp looking older man stopped by and started talking. His name was Mickey and he was old school Hispanic. We talked for a long time. His son was running the chicken place and his other son ran the Saveway. His brother was an outfitter hunting elk and was riding his horse up from Mexico for a fundraiser. He seemed like a real nice guy and loved playing with his grandchildren. I told him I'd gone 100+ miles and was going to ride on towards Grants tonight. He said, "No I'll get you a motel and you can take a nap or sleep all night. You will feel so much better." I tried to tell him that it wasn't necessary but he wouldn't have it. So as not to insult him I said OK. He went to two places but all the rooms were full with the baseball tournament. I thanked him anyway and left town towards the "Res". I was a little nervous as alcoholism is a bit of a problem with native Americans, there was little shoulder on the road, it was going to be dark soon, and it was a Saturday night. When ever a car came up, I would pull over into the bushes. The road looked flat on the map profile but actually was quite hilly. The Res dogs barked at you here but the houses were set farther off the road so they wouldn't come at you. The houses all had light poles some distance from the house with a bright orange light shining brightly. The poverty was palpable. I rode as far as I felt I could and found a nice clean patch of sand under a lone tree and slept. I road about 134mi that day. Two more days? Three more?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tour Divide 2012. Day 13 and 14. Meloncholy and obsessions set in.

Day 13 and 14 profile

Day 13. My obsessions begin to thicken.

Many people ask what I thought about while riding. Soooo many things. But I really began obsessing about things. Some things you as a avid reader of this blog may have noticed is cows. But really it would be two main things. 

First song lyrics. 

I was beginning to sing songs quite beautifully but would get the words wrong and sometimes they would then blend into other songs. One in particular was the Take it easy by the Eagles

I had a serious logical feed back loop. I could have sworn that the song went like this. 
7 women on my mind.
2 that want to own me
2 that want to stone me
1 says she's a friend of mine.

But that's only 5 women!!!!
I was like one of the computers on Star Trek..”that is illogical. does not compute..
illogical..illogical..” And my head explodes.. this would repeat into the night down the roads and I would have to sleep.

Second trash on the side of the road. 

I saw so many "Bud Light" cans it was crazy. One cattle guard was literally almost full with them. And I noticed that there always seems to be more cans at the tops of climbs. It's not like I didn't notice other cans and just the bright blue Bud Light ones. So you have to ask yourself, who is drinking Bud Light and why do they feel the need to toss the cans out? This was pervasive all the way on my trek except one section in Montana where there were many coffee cups. I think you could assume a few things. It's light beer so probably overweight people. In the boonies so probably a conservative cowboy. And they don't like a clean landscape. Later on the "Res" there was just a lot of trash. Also in New Mexico, there were many single shot bottles of whiskey along with the Bud Light. 

And with that, here is a American beer joke at about a minute in the following video. 

Day 13 Route
I started moving the morning of my 13th day and took notice of the old ranch that I had camped near that I couldn’t see in the dark of the night. At around 6:30am I reached the metropolis of Hartsel. I thought “hmmm breakfast sounds smashing but nothing is probably open”. So I rode to a café and sure enough it was open! After a nice breakfast of French toast, biscuits and gravy, eggs, coffee, hash browns and toast and a real bathroom, I got going. The best part was that the waitress didn’t look twice when I ordered two meals. The road now I had imagined to be mainly downhill and flat all the way to where I had ridden with Josh “Tiny Dancer” Shifferly a few weeks before. We had done a 2 day, nearly 300mile ride to test out our stuff. It was a little downhill but also had many rollers. The rest of the trail that I had ridden with Tiny Dancer was fine with one good climb but I had no recollection of ever riding it. Soon I was dropping steeply to Salida. I noticed a rider coming up the trail and it was a guy that had ridden up to check me out in my physical form vs a blue dot. We rode to town and I headed to the bike shop. 

My bike was making clunking sounds for days in the left crank, the brakes were still squeaking and rubbing, the front derailleur would over shift and pop the chain off onto the pedals constantly and the back tire was getting really worn. I walked in Absolute Bikes -the guys knew I was on my way and asked what I needed. I said, “uuuummmmm. Back tire bald, squeaky cranks….” They grabbed it and quickly cleaned it up and started to clean the bottom bracket while I got a new tire. I grabbed a tubeless ready Hutchison Python. Pretty fast and light. In my state of brainlessness, I decided to just get some coffee and food in the café next door versus walking around looking for something. It was good food but a little slow and spendy…… and not the caloric values I wanted. I did order an excellent salad, something green in the diet was novel.
I spent far too much time once again eating and hanging out at the bike shop. I came back and my bike was really quite shiny with the tire installed. One of the techs just noticed that the front derailleur didn’t work right. I said oh yeah and the brakes aren’t adjusted right. He tried to adjust the derailleur but noticed that the adjustment screw was stripped. “Lephenhiemer!” The AVID XO brakes should be easily adjustable to widen the gap between the pads. But we noticed that as you adjusted the barrel on the lever the whole mechanism came unscrewed. Ah that’s why they came apart in the snow in Canada and why I hadn’t been able to adjust them! OK squeaky brakes it is. I left town after another long ramble in Safeway for food with some help from some friendly ladies.
It was getting very warm and by Poncha Springs, I was really hot. I stopped in a gas station and washed my shorts in the bathroom, wrung them out and put them back on. Ahhhh cool wet clean shorts. The ride up the highway to Marshal Pass is normally easy for me but as I started to climb the dirt Marshall Pass, I began to lose steam. It was rocky and dusty from the lack of rain and overabundance of ATVs. It was slow going to the top and over the other side to the store at Sargents. I wasn’t feeling super here with a lack of energy and motivation. I sat in the sun and ate and ate. A woman on her way to Telluride stopped to talk for quite some time…… I finally headed down the highway and saw Chris Miller, Eszter’s husband. We talked for a minute and he got a good picture of me.
Coming towards Doyleville
Anne said she wasn’t going to come out and see me - she was superstitious and didn't want to jinx things. I was only going to be 20 miles from home. I guess it bummed me out a bit. I came to Doyleville and the turn to Cochetopa Pass. There was Adam Jensen and a few friends from Gunnison to wave as I went by. It was nice to see them, although Adam was leaving the race. The bearings in his wheels were shot and I think mentally he’d had enough. Too bad, it would have been nice to ride with him more.
At Doyleville. I'm getting sinewy at this point.
I turned up the dirt road feeling better but soon after sunset I lost all energy….. I got the sleepies (term coined by Eszter) and pulled over and slept on the side of the road. I had planned on camping 10-15 miles ahead by Dome Lakes….. For the day I had put in about 133 miles. Hmm I had to start picking it up!

Day 14 Melancholy starts to take root.

"Well, when I get dead drunk, fall in the muddy street, I expect you to come get me 'cause I don't want to die muddy drunk. If I owe a man a hundred dollars, I expect you to stand good for me. And if I get melancholy--which can happen--I expect you to be my companion and to solace me."
Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon

Many people when riding by themselves for long periods, tend to start to have problems staying mentally focused. I began to lose some focus and could not tell if my body was losing energy because of the long rides put in every day or that I mentally was starting to lose “interest” or both. I think the past few days I was was a beginning to lose some mental edge and tomorrow would be the worse.I didn't have Clint like Lee Marvin did. I just had Gary my squeaky bike..... But Gary did solace me as well as he could.
Day 14 Route
The dawn broke with another glorious sunrise. I had around 110 miles to the next town of significant size at Del Norte. There wasn’t much water on route so I stopped and filled another water bottle at the inlet to the lakes for 5L total. Yes there was still water in the creek by Dome Lakes but not much. As I repacked, I couldn’t find my money! Did I leave it at the Sargents' store? By camp? I decided to just keep riding and look some more. I climbed over Cochetopa Pass and descended to the beginning of Carnero Pass. I thought Tiny Dancer had told me that this pass wasn’t any big deal on our ride earlier in the summer. But as I started climbing from around 8100’ it seemed to climb for a long time up to 10100’. I quickly descended and found a water bottle from someone ahead of me-probably Serge’s. I passed the turn to La Garita, another possible resupply point, and headed the 15 miles to Del Norte.
Coming into Del Norte in the heat
It began to get very warm here as I had a tail wind and began climbing a small hill in dry rocky country. I pulled into the Del Norte park.  I emptied my bags completely and there was my money! It got stuck under a large Velcro flap..... I grabbed my mail drop at the post office and grabbed a Subway sandwich.
I goofed around for a while oiling my chain and messing with my squeaking brakes and going through my care package. I started to feel better and better. I stopped by the Subway(1)/gas station and grabbed another sandwich and bars and Cheetos(2) and another nice lady stopped to talk to me. A couple of footnotes (except you can’t really do footnotes on a webpage that scrolls forever so we’ll do it here-Damn technology!):

Footnotes (or middle-of-page-notes?)
 (1) If you haven’t noticed Subway sandwich shops are everywhere now days! I really grew to dislike them for some reason after this race….
(2) Later Eszter told me that the guy at the counter said that she had much more food than the guy before her (me). I find this quite unbelievable, therefore, it must be untrue. She is such a liar!

I left town after a long break feeling good. The route climbed slowly up a paved road and then a long steep dirt road to Summitville. For all of you tea partiers wanting smaller government and less regulations, this is a fine example of what happens with no regulations. It was one of the largest Superfund sites around as the mining company had used cyanide to leach gold and other metals from the ore. Of course, the pond they used overflowed….. The metals then got in the water runoff. Most metals are very toxic. Anyway we all spent a ton of money trying to clean this mess up after the mining company left with their gold. Now it looks pretty nice with just on large pit collecting water that drains out of the rocks. 
 The road was very smooth as I passed by at nearly 12,000’ and the sun began to its journey around the earth pulled by Mercury... The sunset was made remarkably red from forest fire smoke somewhere in the distance. This pass was one of those passes that just doesn’t drop down the other side but goes down then up then down then up then down and up. In the dark, I began descending towards the final climb up Stunner Pass. The smooth road turned very rough with large rocks and steep corners. Not fun and it was starting to tire me. Riding at night adds another level of difficulty and without really bright lights I was not moving as fast as I would have liked. I also started getting the sleepies. And then on a fast corner a large buck (male mule deer) jumped out right in front of me and ran across the road. That near miss woke me up enough to climb up Stunner Pass. I decided to stop at the top of the pass for one more cold night as I had had enough for the day……131 miles or so. Tomorrow I would enter New Mexico and the final leg of my adventure.