After finishing the AZT, I slit my foot open on a piece of glass in such a way as to remove any chance of starting on the Great Divide on my designated date. Instead, I went to Colorado with my family for a couple of weeks and took nearly a month to ensure no infection would ensue. I reached out for help getting to the border and my former students Emanuel and Sierra volunteered. I was SUPER grateful that they were willing to drive with my down to Lordstown, NM the night before and then return my car to Phoenix the next day.
The morning of the first day, the three of us got our free continental breakfast from the Days Inn and started an early morning drive to hit the Border Patrol station as soon as it opened. My goal was to be on the route early before the day’s heat set in. Driving towards the starting terminus, the terrain formerly undulating became increasingly flat, lowlands with creosote and little else. Cell reception receded as we turned onto “The Loneliest Highway in America” and headed towards the border in the boot-heel of New Mexico. Their eyes were wide with imagination as they considered what the riding would be to me. Emanuel asked if I was really going to get to Hachita, NM in a day. I responded positively. Both seemed unsure of how I would take that happen.
As well pulled into the Border Patrol Station, a father and daughter migrant duo sat against the fence. I gave them some food while Sierra and Emanuel then helped me construct my bike. I entered the Border Patrol station as soon as it opened for a commemorating stamp in my passport. The officer on call gave me free ice cream for being a Great Divide rider. He said most racers get the ice cream when they finish here at the end, but since I was going northbound, he saw it equally fit.
I headed outside and took photos by the Antelope Wells Station sign both solo and with Emanuel and Sierra. Then, I began pedaling north along the shoulder of the highway. The two passed me in my vehicle and sped off into the horizon leaving me alone in the desert.
I had spent relatively little time in the Chihuahua Desert. I spent most of my ride really soaking in the scenery. This was one of the lowest parts of the Continental Divide and I would be gaining elevation slowly from here on out. The flat and vast basins were punctuated by the desert Big Hatchet Mountains in front of me. The heat built up quickly as I began to sweat hard in the mid-morning temperatures. To my right, pronghorn herds ran across the desert grasslands. It was truly summer; all plant life seemed brown and brittle, in the distant sort of torpor. The Big Hatchet Mountains ahead of me were noticeably green with plant life from a recent rain. As the highway wound around to their north side, I saw a kiosk for the Continental Divide Trail. I pulled off and walked up the trail a bit. Back on the side of the highway, a vehicle slowed down parallel to me. The couple inside talked to me for a few minutes saying they were getting ready to begin their northbound CDT thru-hike. This blew my mind for the prolonged heat they were about to walk into. It’s mid-June in the Chihuahua Desert, some of the driest and hottest months here in foresummer before monsoon season. I was already questioning biking solo across here at this time of year but they were going to hike it far slower than me who would exit this desert in a few day’s time. I wished them good luck and they sped on.
Around 3 pm, I was feeling really shitty. I checked the temperature and saw it was 103 °F, which caught me off guard because the day’s forecast high was supposed to be 95° F. A local rancher pulled his truck over and asked if I was okay, saying that he couldn’t believe I was out here riding at this time of year/day. He pulled on and I kept on riding until I reached Hachita, NM. I immediately beelined it to the small mini-mart/gas station for COLD Gatorade and some AC. Refreshed inside, I used their wifi (no cell service) to get in touch with Jeffrey Sharpe, a local known for his hospitality towards Great Divide riders and CDT hikers alike. The town provided it’s local community center as a place for riders/hikers to spend the night before continuing on. He picked me, bought me ice cream (a tradition of his), before dropping me at the community center and giving me the tour. I was super grateful and took the time to use wifi to catch up with Janna. A couple hours later, he texted me to forgo the night at the center and stay at his place at the The Bike Ranch. I pedaled outside of town and up an unaddressed dirt lane to his spread. It was super nice of him to let me stay in his guest rooms and place. He had open Dot Watcher and was tracking the southbound progress of the Tour Divide racers who had just recently done the Grand Depart from Banff, Alberta.
As the evening wore on, a local friend of his came by to drink beers and talk. We all watched the movie Vice while Jeffrey prepared some chicken and rice for dinner. After several beers and food, the three of us retired where I passed out deeply in a bed along with a shadow headache from the day’s heat. I slept hard though and woke up energized the next day.