Oct 10 and 11 Days off in Silver City, NM. Planning for the trip home. We made arrangements for a shuttle from Silver City to pick us up Saturday afternoon at the border and bring us back to Silver City Saturday night, then take us to Las Cruces Sunday, where we could pick up a rental car Monday morning to drive to Michigan.
We are staying at the home of Jamie, an avid cyclist. He often welcomes cyclists to stay here. It always amazes me when things work out this way. We were standing outside the University Library when one of the roommates in the house saw us and directed us to Jamie's office. Other people living here include all types from students to retirees. Did some sightseeing of the local Silver City attractions, including the original Main Street, which sunk 30 ft below grade due to erosion and is now a river/park, and Billy the Kid's childhood home.
Oct 12 39.5 miles to Thorn Ranch (aptly named)
After two days of rest, the dogs were very antsy to get going. What are they going to do when there is no more?
We are entering the land of thorns, rattlesnakes and wild pigs. In fact, I had a flat tire inside the house when we got up this morning. Not a good omen. We are in the true arid desert, and were warned about rattlesnakes and Javelina, the only wild pig native to North America. We had heard they could be quite aggressive, kind of like a bear. The advice was to make lots of noise to warn them we were coming and to act big and mean if they attacked. So the bells went back on the dogs and they were firmly tied to the trailers all day.
After 18 miles of pavement, we hit our last stretch of gravel roads. The terrain is as flat as flat ever gets on the road. We rode up onto the Continental Divide and followed it for several miles (Cd crossing #22). There were some nasty spots, but we were generally making good time. Until we stopped for our afternoon snack. The sign said 1.5 miles to Thorn Ranch. As we were eating, Jon's rear tire went flat. While he was fixing that, his front tire also went flat, then my front tire, and for giggles, we also found a thorn in my rear tire. Texas tacks, or goatheads, as they are more appropriately called. Not just one puncture per tire, but multiple. Took Jon over two hours to patch all four tires. By then it was 6:30, with dark coming at 7 PM. We coasted a short distance to the flattest spot we could find with no cacti and hopefully no thorns and started pitching our tent. Just then, a pickup stopped (we had only seen two other cars all day), with the manager of the ranch upon which we were trespassing. He didn't mind if we camped there, but though we'd be much more comfortable at his ranch, Thorn ranch, just up the road. So we followed Oscar to his ranch and he put us up in the house where the ranch hands would stay. A cute adobe cottage inlaid with Spanish tiles and with wooden beams on the ceiling. Oscar spoke limited English, but it was much better than our Spanish, which is non-existent. From what we gathered, the ranch is owned by a Mexican company, and he is the foreman. He has been here for 20 years and has a 15 year old son and a 9 year old daughter. He was going to Mexico tomorrow to pick up his wife and children, who were there visiting family. Oscar's offer of housing was a wonderful blessing after a horrible couple hours of fixing flats, however, when we got there, we had picked up more thorns in the short 1.5 miles. Jon spent all evening fixing more punctures, on the order of 15, to the point where he was running out of patches. We had left the last bike store on the trail, and indeed the last real city, behind at Silver City. Without patches or spare tubes, what were we to do? Knowing Oscar was leaving early for Mexico, we asked if he could give us and our bikes a ride to Separ, which avoided the last 10 miles of dirt. Maybe on pavement, the thorn problem wouldn't be so bad.
Oct 13 27.9 miles to Hachita Community Center
We left with Oscar at 6 AM and got dropped off in Separ at 6:30. Separ consisted of two closed gas stations, a souvenir shop and a questionable tire repair shop, none of which was open at 6:30. So we stood there in the dark with our bikes and our dogs and all of our possessions on the side of the road. We weren't sure what to do. The closest bike shops were back in Silver City (60 miles) or Deming (40 miles). What to do? When the tire store opened, he suggested that his daughter, who was going to Walmart in Silver City, could pick up some hard rubber tire inner tubes, which were guaranteed not to puncture. So we waited for two hours for her to return. We sat outside the souvenir shop (the owners were quite nice people, as we got to know them fairly well). We watched train after train go by. It was really a main route for train traffic. Afton also devised a game of playing with the grasshoppers. She would jump at them, then they would jump, then she'd jump again, etc. Finally, she would pounce on them and eat them. Yuck.
By 11 AM our tubes came and we replaced my front tire, which was by now flat. These inner tubes don't have any air-they are just a solid piece of rubber. They didn't fit very tightly inside my tire, so every time it went around, my tire went slosh, slosh, slosh, like a pair of old goulashes. It was extremely hard to pedal, like a half inflated tire, making it a hard day for me. We were on pavement the rest of the way now, and stayed well away from the edge of the road where the thorns might be. We were lucky to have no more flats--at least while we were riding.
As we turned south towards Antelope Wells and the border, we entered the Chihuahua Desert, a vast arid land shared by US and Mexico. It is land of yucca, mesquite, cacti, and various other succulents and woody bushes. We crossed the continental divide for our 23rd and last time, at 4520 feet, also our lowest crossing. The most frequent vehicles we saw were border patrol vehicles going back and forth, patrolling or returning illegals, we didn't know.
Hachita was the only sign of civilization on the 65 miles to the border, so we hoped to find a yard or someplace to camp there. Our guidebook had warned us about illegal aliens and drug smugglers along that road. Hachita may have been a thriving town once, but the only open businesses were a bar and maybe a gift shop, as well as a Post Office. We weren't even sure how many homes were still occupied. As we were cruising town, we noticed some activity at the community center, so stopped to ask about camping. They said we could camp anywhere around there. This was actually the weekend of the biannual Hachita reunion, for anyone who ever lived in town or was related to anyone who ever lived in town. We are getting really good a smoozing. We hung around the community center for awhile talking to some very wonderful people. They offered us food and petted our dogs and were amazed by our trip. We joked about being adopted as honorary citizens and they welcomed us to join their reunion. Lander and Afton were the official welcoming committee, and every time someone new came, they ran to greet them. "Oh boy, more people". Eventually we asked if we could sleep in the center, and by now, we were almost family, so it was not a problem. Let's see, how many days can we go without pitching our tent? Later, we asked if we could leave most of our gear there the next day so we could make a fast dash to the border.
The only problem--Jon got two flats (more goatheads) just pushing his bike into the building!
Oct 14 45.8 miles to the Mexican Border at Antelope Wells
We woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of wind and rain on the community center roof. Not on our last day! We left at 8:20 in a steady rain. Sky was dark and it looked like we'd be socked in all day. But we were determined to persevere. The road was mostly flat and we could smell victory. After about an hour, the rain let up to a drizzle and eventually quit. The clouds hung around, but actually made it cooler and more pleasant. The mile markers were counting down to the border, so we could count how many miles to the end. At 20 miles, we could see the beginning of the end. 19-18-17. At 10 miles, single digits, it was like watching the ball drop on New Year's Eve. We put on the custom t-shirts and bandannas for the Dogs that Jodie made us. 9-8-7 The butterflies were really going in our guts. 4-3-2. It had to open up and pour again about 1/2 mile from the end. Why not? We let the dogs run the last 2 miles. They had no idea what a momentous day this was. Not only are we completing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail, but they are, we believe, the first dogs to do the whole trail.
We were relieved, yet melancholy about the end. 76 days and 2381 miles worth of experiences. The border patrol was extremely nice. We stood right on the border and took photos. We had our journals stamped with their seal. Then, that was it. It was over. Our shuttle was waiting, so it was time to go.