Sunday, 30 October 2016

Tour Divide 2016: Day 20

Gila National Forest, NM to Antelope Wells, NM
Mileage: 300 km (186.4 mi)
Riding Time: 20 h 49 m
Standing: 14th place

Day 20 Map
I forced myself up and started riding.  It was a short, but hard sleep.  I was going to go until I was done.  The terrain in the Gila was challenging, but it was dry.  I could see how much more difficult it would be in the rain and mud.  I took the blessings where I could.  The sunrise was gorgeous as I went up and down the hills.  There was not a lot of overall elevation gain, but lots of ups and downs. 

Sunrise in the Gila

I liked to see the terrain change from forest to desert.  Right now it was forest.  As I got to the top of a plateau, the riding was nice, but the washboards were rough at times. 

Gravel near the end of the Gila

I kept plodding along.  Almost at the finish line! 

Almost done!

The gravel led to a stretch of very smooth pristine pavement that led to the legendary CDT Alternate.  

Pristine pavement

I heard how difficult this section was and was looking forward to it.  I stopped at the campground to visit the little boy’s room and tried to find my way up the trail.  There was a huge group of ATVs just leaving as I rode in circles looking for some semblance of a trail.  I tried following the little pink line on the GPS but it wasn’t near any trail I could see.  I eventually managed to see some cairns on the side of a steep dusty hill.  I pushed the single speed up and followed the cairns.  They roughly followed the pink line so I thought I must be going the right way. 

Pushing up the dusty trail

It was only about 10 am and starting to get hot.  This part of the trail was awesome!  So many different types of cactus.  You had to watch your shins walking by to avoid shredding them up.

Shin shredding cacti

View into the distance

The trail traversed several steep slopes and was very thin.  The shale was hard to keep traction on so I walked a lot of the first part of the trail.  I didn’t want to risk riding and sliding out down the steep slope into a big pile of prickly cacti.  The trail climbed steadily and eventually widened enough that I felt comfortable riding. 

More hike-a-bike

As I pushed the bike up one steep section passing the different types of cactus, I saw a horny toad.  I just loved seeing these different creatures on the trail!

A rideable section!

The trail got more and more ridable and it was so much fun!  It was such a blessing to ride through this desert terrain on such fun single track!  I was elated!  The trial widened and got really fast on a descent.  I tend to let the brakes go on descents trying to keep as much momentum as possible to help get up the next climb.  That strategy almost backfired on this part.   Maybe I was a bit over confident, but I almost went over the handlebars at one point.  No harm done though.  I kept the speed up, but was a bit more cautious.  I didn’t want to crash and get injured on my last day.

Then I was back on pavement again on my way to Pinos Altos.  At one point I passed what I think were a father and son shooting a rifle on the side of the road.  These type of the people were probably how the bullet holes got into the signs.   I grew up in a hunting family so I am comfortable around guns.  I wasn’t worried.  It looked like they were being fairly safe and the gun was pointed away from me.  The road started to get curvy and wind its way through some houses.  I passed through Pinos Altos and was on my way to Silver City.  So close!  I entered the city and it seemed so huge.  

I rode down the busy street wondering where I would stop.  Then I saw an oasis in the desert.  McDonalds!  The home of the McFlurry.  This was the first and only McDonalds meal for me on the trip and it was good.  I called Kristin and we caught up.  My family was in Tucson trying to time it right so they would be at the border when I finished.  As I was finishing my Big Mac, she mentioned Dan was about 50 miles behind me.  Uh oh!   Too close!  I was trying not to focus too much on the race, but I wasn’t going to get passed if I could help it.  I checked my junk food inventory in my backpack and figured I could make it the last 200km to the border without any more stopping.  I filled up my water and was off.  No unnecessary stops until I made it to the end.  I told Kristin that I would probably be at the border no faster than 10 hours.  20km/hr is about as fast as I thought I could average.  With Dan on a geared bike, I had to keep the pace and not stop if I wanted to stay ahead.  He could probably go faster on these flat, paved roads. 

There was a paved climb somewhere out of Silver City and the McDonalds that was so delicious hit me.  The familiar fatigue after a big meal.  I had the big meal out of Pie Town and I felt great afterward so I thought the same thing would happen again.  Not the case.  I think the quality of food makes all the difference.  McDonalds is tasty, but not the most nutritious.  I was back into the stupor of half-asleep riding.  The unfortunate thing is I was on a busy highway.  I guess I got too close to the road at one point and someone honked at me.  That snapped me out of it.  The adrenalin rush of fear can wake you up!  I was awake again and turned off the highway into the desert. 

I loved this stretch!  The dirt had a reddish hue and there were cacti everywhere.

Separ desert - awesome!

The road had its share of washboards and sand, but I was happy to be on the final stretch.  There were these cactus plants that had a round base and a thin stalk that spouted out from the centre.  They were everywhere.  I started to get sleepy again and I remembered a tip Kristin told me that my sister Sheila left on Facebook.  The alphabet game.  I gave it a try.  Come up with a category and name items in that category starting with the letters of the alphabet.  I did cars, movies, and musical instruments.  It worked!  My mind was occupied enough to keep me awake. 

There some farms along in this section that I really liked to see.  The fences were made out of the weather beaten natural wood.  Everything looked so worn with time.  The wind started to pick up as I reached Separ.  I looked at the Trading Post and hesitated.  Should I fill up with water?   I hadn’t really stopped and didn’t want to now.  I took the chance and kept riding on the frontage road.  Dan was close!  I tucked into the aerobars and pedalled into the wind.   The wind was hard to ride into, but a blessing too.  Anything that could slow a rider down took away the geared bike advantage.  I stopped at an overpass to refill my bladder with my reserve bottles.  This was the only stop I took on this last stretch.  I stopped to pee a few times, but I got a good system where I didn’t even have to get off the bike. Don’t worry! I wasn’t just going in my shorts.  Everything little bit of saving time helps!

As I was going down the frontage road, I heard some honking and cheering.  My family passed by on the interstate.  I gave them a wave as they blasted by.

Photo from the family vehicle

I turned right onto the last long paved stretch to the end.  I was about 100km to the end.  About 5 hours of riding.  I continued to play the alphabet game as I pedalled on the long, flat, straight road.  The sun set and I started to see lightning in the distance.  The wind died down and I was very happy about that.  I would dodge the millipedes and talk to the bunnies on the road.  Cute little desert bunnies.  One millipede was not so lucky.  I didn’t quite dodge it and felt the spray on my leg.  When the darkness set in to the point I had to turn on my lights, I kept them on the lowest setting so I wouldn’t have to stop and change out the batteries.  I had my red blinky on so I felt safe.  The only traffic I saw was the odd border security vehicle.  This was a tough ride.  I couldn’t ride any faster and I just wanted to be done.  These last four or five hours seemed to go on forever.  Boring. Hachita came and went in the dark and I kept going through without stopping.  I could make the last bit with the water I had.  When my bladder ran out, I had my two fork water bottles.  I managed to get them unstrapped as I continued to ride.  No stopping until the finish! 

As I was about 15km from the end, I looked back and saw a light.  Dan was close!  I rode as fast as I could.  I would spin my legs as fast as I could and get up to about 27km/hr and coast until I dropped to about 24km/hr and repeat.  I didn’t care about burning out because I was almost done.  I rounded the corner and saw lights.  The end was right there!  I turned my light to a brighter setting and pulled up to the sign.  My family poured out of the Honda Pilot and hugs went all around.  I wondered if Dan would pull up any minute.

At the finish!

My beautiful wife!

My wonderful kids!

All done!  The adventure was over.  I finished in 19 days, 17 hours, and 29 minutes.  Goal complete! 

Before and after

We didn’t see Dan until we started driving away.  He was actually about 1.5 hours behind me.  I saw his lights, but the road was so flat and straight I could see them from a long way off. 

Now the road trip back home had begun.  The trip home was an adventure too.  We had a great time visiting the sights and going to amusement parks all the way home back to Canada.  Time to eat!


  1. Really cool write up Dean. Which bivy did you use? Can it be fully zipped with an anti mosquito type netting and were there any condensation issues?

    1. Thanks Dave! I used the Outdoor Research Helium. It has a single pole and netting. I slept all nights with the cover off and the netting on. The condensation was not an issue for me. If the cover was zipped up, there probably would be. I tried to sleep under trees or bushes so I could keep the cover off.

  2. Great write up Dean and congrats on an awesome ride! Seb

  3. Really enjoyed the write up Dean, thank you, and congratulations on a really strong ride. And thanks for the beta - I'm from Canmore and am hoping to race the Tour Divide next year!

    1. Thanks Megan! Good luck on your race next year! Living in Canmore will give you good practice on the first bit. That's a fun stretch for training rides.

  4. Dean, just to say thank you for your blog, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! You must be a very accomplished outdoors man and rider - I love the blasé ' I put my bivi under a bush and had a great sleep' mentality. I'm feeling underprepared now, but have taken some great pointers from your account. Great job!

    1. Thanks Mark! I love sleeping under bushes! If you do a couple of overnighters, it will build your confidence a huge amount. Good luck on your ride!

  5. Dean,

    This was a great write-up. I had a question about your Bible (and maybe I missed it)...did you carry an electronic version on your phone or an actual Bible? If an actual Bible, which one? I would like to carry one with me while cycling, but am always concerned about the weight.

    Thanks again!! This was great!

    1. Thanks a lot Joel! I shopped around for a small, actual bible. I found one that was New Testament only and weighed about 150 grams. It's about 5" long, 3" wide, and 1/2" thick. It worked well for me and I was glad I didn't have to use battery power to read it. All the best on your ride!

  6. Awesome read Dean. An inspiration! And great to see your mentions of David Stowe. He is a friend of mine, and kicks my butt regularly in our local races!

  7. Wonderful story and finish. Quite and adventure and felt some of the emotion and family pride. Well done.