Having read this far you’re probably thinking I wish he’d stop moaning all the time and enjoy the scenery. Which would be fair enough as the Tour Divide certainly fills your face with it as you traverse the route. But you need to remember that I’m cycling it carrying all my gear, water and a lot of food. This stuff is heavy and it makes the going slightly tough. Which in turn means I am tired. In fact I’m mostly tired all the time. The two profound cravings throughout the race were cold drink and sleep. Always. So I’m sorry that I’ve not been as gushing about the surroundings as I maybe should have been but we’ll put that down to fatigue. Which is what I had leaving the railway station with a higher dose than normal down to the deflated mat.
The last thing I wanted was to be surrounded by cheery mountain bikers so I sodded off up the road to ride on my own through the Carson forest. Which did nothing to improve my mood as it was very climby and covered in trees with little distraction for the sulky laden cyclist. I didn’t really enjoy this, sorry for moaning some more but it proved to be quite a tedious section of riding. Which led to a horrid steep tarmac ascent topping out at Hopewell Lake campground. I was in pieces at the top of this and very low on water. The campground had several spigots but all of them were dry. I watched a lady retrieve bottles of water from her car and craftly enquired as to where I could find water. “None here” she replied and shut her boot without taking the hint. Minutes later I asked her young sons who opened the boot and gave me a few bottles for the three of us to share. Big up the younger generation.
We sat in the shade and panted like old farm dogs. More water was required to continue in this heat, it looked like we’d have to drill our own well until the campground host intervened and gave us access to his secret supply. I’m not sure what we would have done without him as there were no other water options for miles and it had become really very hot. Not surprising as we were now in New Mexico where things are invariably hot.
Reluctantly we wheeled out into the heat and continued grovelling through the Carson Forest. I was soon riding on my own again and on a short descent passed three riders in conversation. We exchanged waves. I rode on. Davy and Geof encountered these same riders a few minutes later and were fed cold beer. Yet again I’d missed out on trail magic. First sodas and now beer. The next lot would be handing out money and I’d no doubt trundle past oblivious to their gifts. But there was one bit of trail magic I definitely wasn’t missing and that was Sylvia’s Snack Shack.
The water we had scrounged at Hopewell Lake was welcome but horribly warm as was the day we were riding in. I entered a period of mini-suffering not helped by more climbing. During these periods I often marvel at just how fucking stupid the human body is. Yes, I said that. We’re always reading about the miracles of nature and how well we have adopted and evolved over many thousands of years. But yet as humans we are full of some basic fundamental flaws that desperately need sorting out. Fantasies are one of these flaws, what on earth is the point of them? They serve no purpose at all other than to prolong torture or drive the fantasiser insane. Heat is a particular case in point where this flaw is exposed. For sure, the body should indicate that some water would help in this situation. That might be useful as a lake nearby could help out. But instead the mind goes wondering off into La-la land, requesting unobtainable treats such as Strawberry Mivys, bottomless Fanta or just one Cornetto (or maybe a few more). Beyond Hopewell Lake I tortured myself with such images as the trail led on to Canon Plaza.
As I got closer I upped the torture by wondering if Slyvia’s Snacks was even going to be open? Her snack shack is a Tour Divide legend. She’s been running it for years to supply the local villages and passers by. Ever since the first race Sylvia has been on hand to sort out ragged riders with a well stocked fridge and shelves. I did not know how well stocked. I’d always imagined a few Clif bars and some warm Gatorade. I wasn’t to know that my every trail fantasy was about to become a reality.
I arrived just as Dylan was leaving to be welcomed by Sylvia herself and asked to sign her rider guestbook. So many legends had inked it before me. Then I had free reign of the shed. It had everything. Five minutes later I had reached Orange Fanta capacity, stuffed in two Cornetto type ice creams and was working my way through a large bag of crisps. Davy and Geof caught up and we formed an inquisitive trio quizzing Sylvia on every aspect of her life outside of the shed.
We left her shed reinvigorated and rode on to Vallecitos, another legend of the Tour Divide, due to its wild aggressive dogs that apparently tear riders to pieces on the road. All dogs were on holiday as we rode through but a couple of rednecks kept the edginess high by letting off firearms of some sort in their back garden. This blew second wind into Davy and Geof who sodded off up the dirt track at warp speed. They were either trying to get rid of me (likely) or suffering sugar rush as I’d been waiting for them at the top of hills most of the day. I let them go I knew it wouldn’t last. Sure enough we regrouped as it all got a little steeper and regained tarmac road at El Rito. Elon Musk had got there before us.
The town of Abiquiu was ten miles ahead and seemed to be a decent option for a night’s stay. The road descended for ten miles and I enjoyed every single minute of it. There are not many options to average 20mph on the Divide and when they arise you take them!
On arrival it was clear that the heavens were going to open. I pulled in to the Abiquiu Inn, parked bike and strode up to reception. It looked very posh and I was fully expecting to be thrown out. Quite the opposite. They were incredibly welcoming and had a special “Divide Rate” for riders. Ace, I reserved two rooms and enquired about washing facilities? They were happy for us to use the staff laundry. Double ace! Food? Yes, the restaurant was open until 9pm.
We washed clothes, ate steak and nearly drank beer, however, it was Sunday evening and state law said that alcohol could not be served. As we were about to retire Zoe entered the room. She was back on track, had sorted out her medical problems and chased down the old men in front of her. We reminded Zoe that we were a lot older, in fact our combined age was over 150 years. From that point on we became known by her as the 150 trio.
Zoe was dithering about stopping or riding on up the trail. A monsoon like downpour helped make up her mind and we retired for the night to our extremely posh rooms.