Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Riding the Divide - Baby Tracks (First Leg)

Drum roll please!  Neva and I biked across west Texas just so we could do the small portion of the GDT (Great Divide Trail) from Silver City, NM to Poncha Springs, CO.  The first push is from Silver to Pie Town.  It's got some good climbs because you're going from 6000 feet elevation to 8000 feet.  This leg doesn't have much water, no towns or food, and has some difficult climbs for pulling a trailer, but it's behind us now, and it ended in pie!  It doesn't get much better than that!

My dad seeing us off at the very beginning of our journey in Camp Wood, Texas.  Thumbs up and peace signs all around.


My friend Ben lives in Silver City and decided to see us off by joining us for a couple days on our journey.  We stayed with Ben and the whole Bike Haus gang while packing up for the big trip.

This is Jamie, owner of the Bike Haus, racer of the Great Divide Trail, and one of Neva's favorite people.  Hey!  Ben's hair photobombed the picture!
It's a fun place for Neva to stay with a community atmosphere, bikes all around, and giant puppets that Jamie makes for monthly bike parades.

Not even a fraction of the puppets they have...they have other storage facilities that house more of these full-sized puppets.
It's kind of a tradition for Ben to make his famous Ben bread before a bike trip, or any trip, or if it's Tuesday, or... If you ever get to meet Ben, you might be lucky enough to get some home made walnut cranberry sourdough, or a variety of his other delicious creations.

Three loaves of sourdough here with some fresh goat milk to wash it down.
Ben and I got the official well wishing good bye with the Bike Haus friends ringing cow bells for us as we rode off towards new heights.

Ben, Neva and I about to leave from the Bike Haus


Our first day was all pavement, but it was all uphill from Silver City to Pinos Altos.  We were good and ready to set up camp right next to the lake, eat dinner, and watch birds for the remainder of the daylight hours.

I was told this is an Osprey.
Ben's mind was on food, and he started up dinner.  Pasta and pesto with tuna.
Ben's usual place, slaving over delicious food.
Neva and Ben were playing around while I was blowing up the ground pads.

Ben and Neva decided this would be an easier way to strap Neva to the bike.  The Ortlieb rack pack in medium fits one Neva.
Ben and Neva slept in while I was taking in the early morning scenery.  

My fuzzy hair biking partners

A whole herd of deer came through our campsite.  I think they were looking for a place to get a sip of water.  There were over twenty of them, all in a row.

They way they walked in a line reminded me of Madeline.

We started out fresh, and came to the section from pavement to off-road.  This section definitely seasoned us for the trails, starting with a very steep uphill.

Ben looking serious and ready to attack the 150.
 A day full of hills took it's toll.  Here's Ben soaking in a good leaning spot.

Ben headed back home after making a great lunch, while Neva and I pushed forwards.  

Ben bread with hummus, sardines and cucumber on top.

We ended up at the Rock Canyon campground which is literally in a canyon.  I decided to save the walk uphill for when Neva and I were fresh the following morning.  We had one camp-mate, Dave, who is a retired school teacher and current explorer of beautiful, secluded places around the US.

Oops, Dave accidentally scooted out of the picture, but he made us a lovely oatmeal breakfast with a side of good conversation.


Getting to Beaverhead Work Center was rough with the persistent climbs and sweltering heat, but after many long hours, and many stops under the tall pine trees, it was well worth the wait for a welcoming smile from Levi, the firefighter on duty.  Levi found us a hot shower, got us some fresh fruit, and even helped us set up our tent.

You guessed it, we were on the other side of that steep descent sign.  Phew, that was a big hill!

As we were packing up in the morning, we even had a stream of firefighters bring us various lunch items and juices for our journey.  Neva even got a Smokey the Bear pin which now sits proudly on the trailer.

Neva watering at Beaverhead.


Another rough day as the trees disappeared into desolate plains with no signs of shade as far as the eye can see.  The elevation turned to gentle rollers, but intermittent sections of heavy gravel brought the pace to a slow walking pace.  After about 20 miles of the plains, some pine trees start to appear again when entering Elk Springs, and the terrain is much more fun and tolerable, though the gravel still takes a lot of strength to get through if you're biking it.

A typical view of the Malapais Plains

We noticed a cabin to the left in hopes of getting water or a camp site, or both.  We were in for a treat, starting with a grinning Doug and cold waters.  Doug was on vacation from Tucson at his weekend cabin with family and friends.  They all welcomed us and let us stay on the most comfortable fold out couch bed I've ever slept on, while trying to pack us with as many calories as possible.

Everything in Doug's cabin was wood, even the bears! Doug and his brother in law built the entire house by themselves.

An unexpected surprise came in the form of Chris from the USFS.  He had received a call from a local who had seen Neva and I, and had come to check on us.  It turned out we were both recent Flagstaffians and we all chatted for a while about common acquaintances.  Chris also kindly let me look at his forest service map of the area to see what my options for the next day would be.


I was tired of biking through thick gravel and decided to have a change of pace, literally, and hit the pavement.  Since Doug was headed home, he dropped me off at the intersection of Highway 12 and Highway 32 where I could bike north to Quemado and then east to Pie Town.

A cool rock formation on the way to Quemado.

We stopped in Quemado for lunch at the Largo Cafe. We had the soup and salad bar and filled up on fresh fruits and vegetables.  Coming off eating raw before our bike trip, this place was really an oasis with deliciously fresh food, good service and a clean atmosphere.

It was a great day.  I covered about 60 miles within five hours time, and was greeted by Kathy, the owner of the Pie-o-neer in Pie Town, NM.  Neva and I enjoyed a root beer float and pecan-sweet potato pie while exchanging stories with Kathy about travels to central America.

Hmmm, Neva doesn't look too happy for getting pecan and sweet potato pie with a  root beer float...
There's the smile!!!
We ended up staying the night at the bike-famed Toaster House which offers hospitality to anyone coming through on the continental divide or GDT.  I met a fellow cyclist named Cjell (pronounced 'shell') who was headed south just so he could turn around June 14 to do the northbound GDT race.  Him and a bunch of other racers will pass me in the days to come.

We stopped by the Pie-O-Neer to say hello, to check Wifi and to see Cjell off.  They are closed Mon - Wed though, so call ahead for pie!

Buuut, Kathy was sweet enough to save us a slice.  Peach!

Pie Town was a great place to recharge.  I'll tell you all about my little slice of Pie Town next time!

The rig in front of the toaster house.  Can you tell why it's called that?

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