I thought the road to Grants had been tough, but when Marco went on ahead to Pie Town (we heard that the grocery store closed at 3pm and we needed to stock up), I didn’t know that it would be so long until I saw him again.
My day started well, the legs felt fairly fresh and I seemed to be coping well with the climbing - a long steady uphill to make another Continental Divide crossing. After a short section on the highway, I turned into the West Malpais Wilderness, about which I had heard many horror stories. The track was surprisingly good and the first 20 miles passed very quickly.
With less than 10 miles to go to the highway, I got my first flat tyre. I sat down at the side of the trail and got it fixed, had a bite to eat and got back on my way. Less than 2 miles later, the bike was back upside down as I had ripped a hole in the tyre. That, and the resulting puncture fixed, I got back on my way. It didn’t last long though. Two more thorns made their way into my front tyre and I was getting very frustrated.
Finally, I made it to the road and I thought that maybe my luck was turning. Sadly not. A thorn had worked its way into my back tyre and so I stopped again. Now, my back wheel has been a problem throughout the trip and had started to buckle a little bit a couple of days before. I took the wheel off to change the tube, and in releasing it, I allowed it to completely buckle. Three spokes broke immediately and by the time I’d fixed the flat, the wheel would only just go back on the bike. I tried to ride on but it was hopeless. I still had 30 miles to Pie Town and from there it would be 180 miles to the next bike shop in Silver City.
I sat at the side of the road, desperate and distraught. I thought that maybe my Great Divide experience was over. Enter Duran and Cindi, a couple of waste management executives from Tuscon, Arizona. They were on their way to Albuquerque, where I knew there was a bike shop or two. I rode with them for the 130 miles or so and they dropped me right outside the shop.
The boys at the shop got my bike fixed and I tried to get a message to Marco, who I knew would be wondering where the heck I was. Lots of international calls and internet research later (thanks Dad) the message got through and I began to ride towards Silver City. I made it to Los Lunas, about 35 miles from the bike shop, before I crashed in a motel for the night, with the bonus of being able to watch highlights of Le Tour before going to bed!
This morning, I was up at the crack of dawn, and began biking South down the Interstate 25 - a horrible road, with a horrible shoulder to ride along. After about 50 miles of riding, I decide to try my luck at hitching and got a ride for another fifty miles or so, to the amusingly named town of Truth Or Consequences. There, I tried to find out about a bus to Silver City, but none existed, so I was back onto the bike for another forty miles or so, before it got too hot for me and I tried to get another ride.
After a long wait, and several short stints of riding, I got a lift from Kenny and Dominic, cousins who had been working out in T Or C and who happened to be going all the way to Silver City. I’m glad I got that ride. The last 60 miles would have been hellish. A huge climb and a tricky, winding descent would have finished me off, I am sure. I arrived in Silver City and stared riding to find the campsite. Almost immediately, I felt that familiar sinking feeling - my new thorn-proof inner tubes had been punctured by a staple left in the shoulder.
Anyway, I made it here. Marco isn’t too far away and we will meet up tomorrow to begin the final push to the border. Will it be plain sailing? I strongly doubt it!