Crossing the border…

July 22, 2010

We were accompanied by Glen on our way out of Silver City, and for the first time since Oakland I felt a pang of leaving a place behind.  As we rode away, I wondered what William and Angel were doing on that fine afternoon, a natural thought after spending such a long time in their company.  Nonetheless, I was more than happy to be back on the road, once again heading for places new and exciting.  Our journey to the border lasted two days, dodging afternoon monsoons and taking time at the last of the American rest stops to support the local economy with what US dollars we had left.  Of course, mine all went to postcards to use up my stamps.  I can say with pride that over the course of traveling so far I have written in between 40 and 50 postcards.  So many I lost track.  Having the time in Silver City allowed me the luxury of even printing out my own photos to send as cards.  If you’d like to get a surprise postcard at some point, just email me your address and I will be sure to follow through.

We camped underneath the water tower in Hachita, witnessing a lighting show far more impressive than the fireworks in Silver City.  At some points, the sky was illuminated in four different places, with brilliant white bolts striking down here and there.  After a quick breakfast in the park, we filled our water, had a few words with the locals and started to make our way towards the border.  After about 20 miles we found ourselves once again in some rain and took shelter in an abandoned garage, making tea to warm our insides.  Somehow, this was not the weather I was imagining we’d encounter so far south at this time of year.  The tea turned into tuna sandwiches as well and before long I realized it was after 2pm.  The border closed promptly at 4 and we were still 25 miles or so away.  Not wanting to get caught for another night on the US side, we started our mad dash to Mexico.  To some, 25 miles in an hour and a half is no big thing…but not so much to me.  The slow buffalo I am doesn’t like to cover miles in a pressing fashion, but this time I turned it in to high gear and kept on it.

We made the border with about 4 minutes to spare.  The guard let us know they’d be closing in a bit, but to feel free to take some photos, making sure to point out the places people take “good photos”.  It was then we realized he thought we were turning around.  We informed him we wanted to go into Mexico and were soon after escorted through the gate, which had to be unlocked at this point.  We cruised up to the Mexican immigration office and apologized for being so last-minute, explaining that we were hoping to get our passports stamped before they closed.  On came the barrage of Spanish we both agreed later on that we had not been entirely ready for.  “Where are you coming from?” “Where are you going?” “How long are you staying?” “When will you leave?” etc.  Some we had answers for, some we did not.  It took a bit to explain we would not be leaving Mexico at any point, but actually riding through Mexico out the other side.  After a bit we got all the basics covered and were granted the generous 180 days of travel.  We were also given 7 days to find a bank and pay the $262 peso turista tax.  (Currently pesos are 11.something to the US dollar, so the tax equals roughly $25 US dollars.)

Our bags were then patted down for guns and other such dangerous items and we were sent on our way.  As you can imagine, the “other side” of the fence was pretty much the same at that point.  Same grass, same ominous clouds, same mountains.  But to me everything seemed new and beautiful and exotic and Mexico.  The road did turn back to dirt, which was nice, as it always is if it is not raining.  We took a minute to take in the massive expanse of fences and barbed wire stretching as far as the eye could see, designating this land versus that land.  Pretty soon after beginning to ride again, the skies opened up on us yet again, turning it into one sloppy, slippy-slidey mess.  This mud was actually an interesting consistency at this point, making it hard for us to even stand up in, let alone push our bikes.  As with most things, hilarity ensued and I found it difficult to push my bike at times because I was laughing so hard.  We eventually made it out to the highway and took one look at the shoulder, or lack of, the monster trucks barreling down and the puddles they were each conveniently displacing and decided to seek refuge under an awning for a bit.  It was but a matter of 10 minutes or so when we were able to continue down the highway.

And here comes the big way-to-effing-go!!!  It was with that border reaching that Kurt had officially completed the Continental Divide Mountain Bike Route.  A year in the making, with several detours and some parts ridden more than once, he can now add this to his ever extending list of bike trails mobbed in epic proportions.  Way to go Kurt!  And how did we celebrate such an occasion you may be wondering?  Well, by sleeping in a field full of cow shit of course.  The sun went down and we found cover from the road in some bushes the best we could, the field just happened to be a hot spot for cow dumps as well.  With the highway to our left and mountains to our right, we just settled in for our first night in Mexico before it was too dark to see anything.  Once again, we were welcomed seemingly with open arms based on the beautiful sunset playing off the thunder clouds.

Back on the trail, heading towards the border...

The secret life of ants is something that continuously fascinates us. Kurt and I have spent a considerable amount of time following ant tracks here and there to see where they go...

To our delight, a bag containing some seriously meltable things formed into one gigantic chocolatey, nutty treat...

Bear Hunter resting at Sam's feet, two of the locals we met in Hachita. Sam picks up CDT hikers and helps them accoplish such tasks as getting back to the airport or getting more supplies. After a whole lot of "baloney" (according to Sam), he became a certified CDT trail guide...

Riding towards the ever-ominous midday monsoon...

The border patrol vehicle. Just one of the defenses used against people who want to work really hard for a better life in the US...

Gringo y gringa, having just crossed the border...

Many forms of fencery, designating clearly one side from the other...

The beautiful scene as we enter into Mexico...

A view looking back. Goodbye US of A...

Leftovers from the earlier rainstorm. It was not long before...

...the mud gave us the "push only" option. The consistency of this gray mud had me in fits of giggles, slipping around so much that most of the time it was hard to stand up straight, let alone push a weighted bike...

Our camp spot the evening, complete with lots of obstacles to practice your short distance hopping...

As muddy as it gets, you can't complain too much when you get sunsets behind thunderclouds such as these...

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Silver City…

July 9, 2010

If we weren’t all packed up and ready to go…would we stay?  Silver City has been such a wonderful place to spend the last week, making final preparations before crossing the border.  Mexico lies some 126 miles away.  We will continue on the Continental Divide route from here and cross over the border at Antelope Wells, heading for Copper Canyon.  Again, the riding will be as much off road as possible, sticking high in the Sierra Madres.  I’ll let you know how Mexico deals with their immigration…

Silver City has an absolutely wonderful community, bikes being a huge part of that.  We have stayed the last week with William, a bike and overall life enthusiast and his fluffy orange basketball, Angel.  Again, everyone here is making it hard to leave.  We even have a bike escort out of town!  …after hitting up Dairy Queen one last time.  The next time I write will be from the international road!

Bike in Tree in Pinos Altos, a town a little ways outside of Silver City. Here the post office doubles as an ice cream palour, perhaps the most dream combination to me...

What dogs do in Silver City...

Downtown Silver City...

Mural outside Co-Op...

Bob Ross would be excited...

We got to experience the 4th of July parade...

Yankee St., which we learned is actually a flood route coming off of the divide...

Kurt helping William with his pedals at Bike Works, the community bike collective...

Mural in Bike Works. Once complete, it will show where all of the bike collectives are nationwide...

Spokes...

Bike Works and Bodhi...

Bike Work's organizer Dave's son Bodhi...

Kids building a bike for their brother. Here kids work through the earn-a-bike program, devoting time in order to learn how to build and fix bikes they will eventually get to call their own...

4th of July fireworks...

Angel...

Apricot tart cooking in the solar oven...

Our hangout spot for the week...

William, our very gracious host...

View out one of the Museum's Coppola windows...

Wall art...

Parts to an ancient jackhammer recovered from one of the mines...

Silver City was bike friendly even back in the day...

Old town bike race. So awesome...

Riding the Divide…

July 9, 2010

After leaving Pie Town, we dropped onto the Continental Divide Mountain Bike Trail, a route running the length of the continent from Canada to Mexico.  The trail is all off-road, making it the longest mountain bike trail in the world.  Kurt started the divide over a year ago and will finally get to finish it these next few weeks, a huge accomplishment.  He was well on his way last year, but after a visit to California in the summer he decided to winter it in Durango, CO, taking time to check out some of their trails while adding some cabbage to our funds and waiting for me to come join him on this world-wide adventure.  What a pal!  You can read about Kurt’s epic year in review here.

The divide riding has been the best riding of the trip so far, hands down.  All off-road, mainly above 6,000 ft, the views are incredible.  Wildlife is plentiful and everything is just dreamlike.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

An exciting change in numbers as I left the Toaster House. Though, my computer went down in between Yucca Valley and Flagstaff due to faulty wiring, so I actually hit 1,000 quite a while back. Sigma kindly sent me a new wire, I just have yet to count up the missing miles and add them in.

Continental Divide landscape...

Cowboy...

A cheesy photo to make you go 'awwwww'. We had some cheese sandwiches and donuts here, given to us by some church folk when we stopped to get water. We just narrowly escaped their many requests for us to stay for the service and their 5 or so offerings for us to use their shower...

Rancho abandonado...

One of the many stock tanks along the Divide. Great for collecting water from when it is windy enough, otherwise the option is to filter out of the tank...

One of the Divide crossings. Over the course of the trail, which runs from the Canadian border to the mexico border, the route crosses the divide 28 times...

This day of riding was absolutely amazing...

Herd of elk. Be sure to check out Kurt's blog (pocket-thunder.blogspot.com) to view a great video of this herd...

Hanging out with the Beaverhead Forest Fire Crew and Matthew Lee. These guys were so great and hospitable. Real heros too! The Gila USFS are known for revolutionary forest fighting techniques now used by many others. Matthew Lee on the other hand is a 4 time(?) winner of the Tour de Divide, an endurance race that takes the route mentioned above. Already a day ahead of the other riders, he was able to stop and have a beer with us and hang for a bit that night. Now that is what I call taking a race seriously...

New...

...Mucksico. Mud like this makes the trail virtually unrideable. After struggling about 30 yds for over an hour, Kurt and I decided the mud had won the battle and we packed it in for the evening. The next morning the roads had dried out again, enough for us to continue on...

The ever-present and ever-ominous clouds up overhead. We kept keen watch and out feet on the pedals, hoping to make it out of the forest before getting stuck again...

The Aspen fire, the only fire in the area still active at the time...

They don't call it Rocky Canyon for nothing...

Victoriously, we made it out of the forest and to the nice long descent that dropped us down onto the paved route 35...

There were too many baby calves in this area my camera could hardly capture all of them. I really loved how the momma cows stood protectively in front of many of them...

Pie Town

July 9, 2010

How do you explain a place that is so special, that it just may be beyond any words in my vocabulary.  Yes, that is how I feel about Pie Town, NM.  After hearing so much about this place, I was very excited to finally see it.  The story goes…a Mr. Clyde Norman from Texas moved to the area in the 1920’s, seeking gold.  As he needed to pay for his operation, he started purchasing items from the nearby town of Magdelena to sell, including donuts.  The baker he was purchasing the donuts from eventually found out about Norman’s deal and told him to “make his own donuts.”   Since Norman wasn’t very good at donuts, he began making pies instead and the word got out how good they were.  People came from far and wide to taste the pies, prompting Norman to turn it into a proper town.  In 1927 he applied for a post office, but the USPS thought the name Pie Town was “beneath the dignity of the Postal Department.  Norman wouldn’t budge and eventually both the town name and post office were allowed.

Now the town sits humbly on the Continental Divide, offering a unique refuge for travelers of all sorts.  There are two pie shops in town, a park, the post office and a couple houses.  One of these being the Toaster House, one of the most amazing places I have visited in my life, and I think most people would agree.  The doors remain unlocked at all times, the sign by the entrance stating “Welcome travellers, make yourself at home.”  There is a share box with all sorts of gear and food people hiking or biking through Pie Town via the Divide will take from and add too.  The guest book boasts of folks from all over the world and offers a warm shower and even a washing machine.  The openness of the space is incredible and it is easy to feel relaxed and at home.  I felt very lucky that we got to meet Nita the next day, provider of the Toaster House.  She still lives in town, just not at the house, preferring a quieter space off the beaten track a bit.

Kurt and I ended up staying 2 days, prepping our gear more after receiving a box containing all sort of spares and replacements that Kurt had mailed ahead.  We are carrying 4 seasons of gear and enough stuff to get ourselves or anyone else out of a jam on the road, whether it be paved or dirt.  Some people choose to go ultra light, which certainly has its benefits.  We prefer to carry everything we need or may need instead, knowing bike shops will not be as accessible once we cross the border.  I also received a wonderful package from my friend Carina in NY which just made my day.  After adding some slime protector to our tubes, we spent the night at the house with Kent and his grandson Cyrus.  Kent had originally framed out the loft which sits above the house.  This was his first time returning in 17 years.  It was an honor to meet him and share all sorts of stories and opinions with both him and Cyrus.  The next morning we excitedly repacked all of our things and officially headed out on the Continental Divide Mountain Bike Trail, leaving right from the Toaster House’s doorstep.

Welcome to Pie Town, New Mexico...

Living and letting be...

Blueberry pie. Just one of the many amazing things made with love at the Pie-O-Neer Cafe...

Packages on the road are so extra special. Here I received my first one from my good friend Carina, complete with mini journals (after I was just remarking that morning how I wish I had one for my handlebar bag- amazing), wildflower seeds to spread around the world, a felt heart and a heart-felt note. Thanks a million Carina xxxo...

A baby rattler napping on the porch while it rained...

The ever luminous and kind Nita, provider of the Toaster House and great big hugs...

Morning wake up call...

You can't miss it. Just turn left and look for the...

You can't miss it. Just turn left and look for the...

Jersey pride...