We left the Toaster House in Pie Town and headed for the local cafe. We were the first ones in the door, but it was still three hours later when we had our breakfast and took our dinner burritos and headed north. It is 90 miles from Pie Town to Grants and the route winds through desert volcanos and lonesome roads. A few miles out of town, we encountered another couple of riders headed south; most riders on the GD ride north to south. We had a few minutes of intense conversation regarding the route, water locations and other riders we had already met, then continued on our way with more knowledge and feeling good about our day. These encounters happened so often to us that most of my memories of this trip are about the brief encounters with other bikepackers and the instant connections we made. As we approached each other, I would unclip one pedal and tentatively swing my foot down to see if they wanted to stop and chat. Invariably they did and it was great to hear stories and pass on some of our own.
Our many Southbound friends all told us that there was no water ahead so we were loaded down with water and prepared for a dry camp. As the day wore on we turned west into a fierce headwind that slowed us down even more than our usual crawl and we finally camped at a windmill. It turns out that there usually is no good water here-unless the wind is blowing so hard that the windmill pumps out more water than the sealed tank would hold. Avoiding the small rattlesnake that lived under the tank, we were able to refill every container and watch a herd of wild donkeys cavorting in the distance as we were treated to another magnificent sunset. The noisy windmill kept us awake until the wind died down and we slept in our 360 degree view campsite.
We rolled into Grants the next day after a long dusty day of winding through volcanic craters and lava.The last 15 miles of downhill were supposed to be easy, but the iron hard washboards and dust left us tired and battered as we rolled into town. We went looking for a brewpub and some food, but all we found was a Subway out on the highway interchange. Grants downtown was pretty dead and the only open restaurants catered to the freeway. We needed an air conditioned rest day so we opted for a nearby chain hotel. We were able to wash the bikes, do some laundry and rest up for the next days climb.
It's a long road climb out of Grants. It is nice to start climbs like this in the early morning with a hint of coolness in the air, but if it goes on long enough it gets pretty hot and the miles grind by so slowly. At the top of the paved portion we met another rider (Ukulele Mike) who filled us in on where to get water- including a spot where a pipe sprayed water out of the desert. After 23 miles of climbing we finally made it to the descent and rolled into our camp, a stunningly beautiful abandoned ranch, as the late afternoon sun slanted down.
The next days ride was like a sampler of Great Divide roads in New Mexico. We had stretches of unrideable sand, arrow straight roads across endless basins and winding bits of road carving through arroyos and around the caprock, along with random bits of paved road in the middle of nowhere.
We camped a few miles out of Cuba and were treated to yet another amazing sunset.
On our morning ride the next day into Cuba we encountered more members of our instant bikepacking friends and they told us about a great place to stay in Abiquiu. Some of them also told us about the Polvadera Mesa climb out of Cuba and said it was the hardest climb on the Great Divide. They described many hours of push biking effort to get up and over. We headed out of Cuba the next day loaded up on a great breakfast and ready for some heinous biking. Since we were headed Northbound much of the rough track was downhill for us but it was still some serious pushbiking. A fellow rider told us about a shortcut that saved several miles so we ended up camped at 10,000 feet in good spirits and ready for the next day.
This would turn out to be our last night camped out on the trail. We bumped and rolled the long downhill miles into Abiquiu and made it to the bikers only campground on the river and a the well stocked local store. It was a great place to stay and we realized that we were out of time to make the additional 200 plus miles we had planned to Del Norte, Co. Our friends, Matt and Cindy, offered to come and get us and suddenly we were back in Durango, leaving the next section as a future project.
This was our third long section on the Great Divide. We don't have that many sections left- just Banff to Ovando and the last of New Mexico into Colorado. I am glad to have those waiting in our future and know that we will be back on the Great Divide.