Read the Beginning of the End
I get back to pedaling. The roads are crappy mud because of all of the rain. I make my way slowly as another storm rolls in. It is mid day and I set my tent up just to get out of the rain. I take a nap. When I get up the rain is slowing. I take off again and there is water draining out of my tent bag.
I see a family walking on the road and I ask if they know where Beaver-head ranch is. “Go over to the building with the green roof and tell them Jack sent you and to feed you.” I go over and wash off my bike with the hose and when I go inside there is a wonderful old lady in her 90’s. It is Jack’s mom. This is not the ranch I’m looking for, instead it’s privately owned.
Jack’s mom wants to know if I want food, and I do. You never say no to free food. She feeds me, and in true mom fashion, feeds me again as we talk about everything and nothing. Jack’s dad is sleeping on the couch sitting up and hasn’t moved since I got here. The rest of the family returns from their walk and they invite me to stay the night with them and celebrate the fourth of July this weekend with the family. They offer me my own cabin, more free food and all of the beer and burgers a person could want. I can’t. I have to go. I cannot sit still for that long. They give me as much food as my bag can hold. I make a note to send them a thank you card and take off. They really are wonderful people.
I wake up in the morning and want to make one big push to the end. No sleeping. I will go all the way without rest. I will do this. I take a five hour energy and get a gel packet with caffeine in it…
I wake up hours later with the sun almost all of the way up. I have my hand half tucked inside of my sleeping bag bag. SHIT! I pack my gear and get going with a later start on the day than I want.
Alex and I always talk about building our dream home together. She really wants a wrap around porch. This house looks like what I see in my head when I think of it.
I roll up to the gas station. I don’t know if they’re allowed to open carry, but I’m not going to tell the guy at the gas station in the middle of the desert that he’s wrong. I’m not concerned, I’m just glad they have food. They even have Spam slices! My buddy Rick loves fried Spam sandwiches, and I am going to eat a couple slices for him. He got me into riding as an adult. He would even get up at 11 at night to help me fix my bike so I could ride the next day even if he had to be to work at 6am. Good memories, but I better get going.
As I’m cutting through a campground, I think that it can’t be the right way. Everyone is partying for the fourth of July. Where is the trail? It has just rained and there has to be someone who left tracks. The internet isn’t working on my phone, so I can’t look it up. There is another route around this campground on pavement to the next town. Is it one of the places that the changed the course? I don’t care at this point, I just want to be done.
I find a small bed and breakfast on the side of the road. Everyone stares at me when I walk in. I ask for a menu and the lady behind the counter questions what I am doing. They lost their food services license and are not legally allowed to sell food. I don’t care, they have wifi. I ask for a dozen eggs and bacon to match. She brings it out with a smile and some cans of Coke. We chat. Her and her sister are struggling to make ends meet and they cannot afford to pay for the renewal on the license. She is an absolute sweetheart. As I search the course online and find out that I have to go back to where I just came from, she brings out three sack lunches with sandwiches and cookies. She knows where I’m headed and tells me it took her two days to get over the divide pass on foot. I head back out.
Two lost riders are right where I got lost as well. They’re starving, so I point them in the direction of the Bed and Breakfast. I head up the muddy divide pass. I know I have to take a left trail at the top, but there are five of them, none of which are really headed the way I think I’m supposed to go. I lay my bike down and walk the trails hoping my GPS gives me a clue which is correct. I find it and retrieve my bike.
This trail is barely walk able. I have to shoulder my bike and grab plants to make my way up. It drops off to both side.
Now the trail is too narrow for me to carry my bike. The rocks are too close on one side and the drop off is too close on the other. I get on my bike and hope my flow is smooth enough to not drop to my demise.
I am heading downhill to Silver City; it literally is all down hill from here. I am flying! I cut through a small town and see a saloon with food. I am not stopping. I WILL MAKE IT TONIGHT.
Silver City is a giant crap hole. They have all of their ‘Merica celebrations going on. Almost everything is closed. I stop at a gas station and buy tons of supplies. I am not stopping again. I talk to the attendant and ask where is a good place for a sit down meal. It will be my last until Mexico. He tell me about a killer Chinese place. Closed. Drunk people on the street tell me about a burrito place. Closed. I go to a bar and get a burger. The music is blaring. I don’t care. I sit by myself and eat in peace.
I’m trying to leave town, but the road is out. As in gone out. GONE! I try to see a way to carry my bike down one side and up the other, but I don’t see anything. I ride a few blocks over and cut back to the other side of the bridge to retrace the route. If they relegate me for missing 300 feet of the route they can suck my butt.
I am going to make it tonight. I see another storm rolling in at my back. I am flying. I am probably averaging 20 mph in the sand through the desert. Up and over the rolling hill. I can see another monster storm in front of me and I don’t care. I am going to make it tonight.
I pedal hard into the night. There are thousands of reflective green things in the sand around my bike. Am I going crazy? Seriously, what can those be? I get off and shine my light on one of them. It is a spider. Those are all spiders. Whatever. I will be sleeping at the border crossing tonight.
I get back on my bike and turn on to the last paved road of the race. All pavement and I have a tail wind. The storm in front of me is getting closer and stronger.
Border patrol stops me. I tell him what I am doing, but he says he knows. The only other people out here at night are drug runners; I am headed the wrong direction and am terrible at what I do if I am moving drugs, and not racing. We laugh and I get moving again. The wind is now in my face and I am pedaling under 4 mph. This blows. My ride isn’t going to be here until tomorrow at 10. I pedal for another couples minutes and decide to set my tent up. There is a fence on both sides of the road and the other side of the fence is the same thing. Sand. I go to bed. I will finish tomorrow. I have less than 100 miles to go.
Morning arrives. I have a ton of food and water. I’m pedaling downhill and will be there in no time. Then I get a flat tire.
I sit down and eat some more food. It doesn’t matter now, I can eat enough to be stuffed full the whole way. I only have to ride a few miles an hour to make it to the border before Alex’s friends show up. She really does love me tons to set that up for me. I pump my tire up and ride ten miles.
I stop and eat a bunch of food and pump my tire. Repeating this process every ten miles until I am 2 miles from the end. I stop and change my shirt. I really want to finish the race with my Plan for Adventure shirt on. Alex’s friends will be taking pictures as I ride in. I wonder what they look like.
My GPS dies. I am not going to change the batteries. I stay on this road for two miles. That is it. I pedal to the border crossing. Where is everyone? No one is outside. No one is looking for me. I ride across the border to Mexico. I had to have crossed the finish line.
I stop in the vehicle inspection area in the shade and take my helmet off. There are a few guys a hundred yards away in their uniforms looking at me. I nod at them. They nod back. I sit by myself and eat.
I guess I better get back to the U.S.
I stop at the crossing back into the United States. They open the door and ask why I just rode a circle. I told them what I was doing and that I didn’t know where the official finish line was because my GPS died. I ask if they want to see my ID or passport. They say no. They congratulate me on finishing in 23 days and close the door with me standing there. It’s a bit anticlimactic, I suppose.
I don’t know who I am supposed to be getting a hold of for a ride and my phone has no signal anyway, so I start stripping my bike down. I throw away the garbage and stuff all of the extra clothes into my seat bag and use it as a pillow and go to sleep in the shade next to the garbage can and the bathroom.
I wake up a few hours later to Alex standing over me. She came to surprise me and pick me up. We load up my bike, take a few pictures and head back out on the road. I really want a chocolate shake, but there’s no food nearby. It’s going to be a few hours.
An hour down the road I finally become coherent and realize that Alex has flown halfway across the US, rented a car, drove hours and hours to come and pick me up. I really love her. She must love me. I am an extremely lucky man.
We find a Sonic connected to a gas station. I bet they have shakes. They DO! I get a mountain of food and a shake. The shake is gone before the food comes. As I am eating my food, I lean over and fart loudly. The plastic bench makes it even worse sounding. It doesn’t even register that this isn’t normal etiquette. Alex looks me right in the eyes and says “This is what you have become now?” Everyone within earshot of the fart is waiting for my answer. I am filthy, sun burnt and don’t remember my last shower. I giggle and say “I guess so.” I am happy. I am alive. Everything hurts. I have lost 22 pounds in 23 days. I made it. I think I could go faster. I have more in me. I am already dreaming of starting the race again. Maybe I will train harder and plan better. What if…