This was my last day, y’all! Sure, I’m writing it like a week and a half later from the comfort of my home back in DC, but it happened. (Also holy moly was it only a week and a half ago?! It feels like I’ve already been back home for months, when it’s only been a week in reality.) Anyway . .
Climbing: 2264 (aka way more than I expected)
FLAT TIRES: 2
Total flat tires for the entire trip: 2
I left the sweet riverside retreat feeling bittersweet about my last day of riding. Glad to be waking up on the ground for the last time in a while. (My sleeping pad developed a slow leak about a week in that was never AWFUL, but I did wake up lying partially directly on the ground for pretty much m the entire trip.)
I stopped by the only place in Abiquiu, from what I could tell–a convenience store/mercantile/restaurant where I had sat yesterday eating barbecue and trying to decide whether to go home early or not. This morning, I was feeling really positive about my decision.
The road out of Abiquiu started off really nice–a wide paved shoulder kept me feeling safe from cars, and the beautiful southwestern landscape was really starting to charm me. I passed Georgia O’Keefe’s Abiquiu studio and thought of her mountain paintings.
After about 25 miles of the gorgeous quiet countryside, however, the big wide shoulder on a pretty quiet road turned into a much narrower shoulder on a major highway–definitely the biggest (and busiest) road I had traveled on of the entire trip. For the most part, I ended up riding on frontage roads, but it was still harrowing. At one point I got kind of stuck on the main highway with no access to the frontage road for about 3 miles. I could see the quiet empty road I should have been riding on, but a giant concrete partition separated me from it. Instead, I was riding just a few feet from traffic going 60+ mph, hugging the concrete guardrail as tightly as I could.
Through this part of the journey, I was NOT feeling super positive–it was HOT, the pretty scenery seemed far behind me, and I felt mega unsafe. Even in my neon pink t-shirt.
Eventually, I got back onto the frontage road, which kind of took a meandering path. It was irritating, because sometimes I’d have to go under the highway and travel on the other side for a few miles before returning to the original side. Irritating, but far less scary. Suffice it to say that at this moment, I was feeling SUPER GOOD about the fact that this was my last riding day.
With about 18 short miles left between me and Santa Fe, New Mexico took her toll. I thought I could escape the trip without monsoon rains and peanut butter mud? Well, NM wasn’t going to let me off so easy. At one of the above-mentioned meanderings of the frontage road, I noticed my back tire was feeling sluggish…….Sure enough, my first flat tire of the ENTIRE trip. Over 2200 miles of smooth sailing, only to get a flat tire in the last 18 miles. Christ.
I pulled over into a little wooded area to fix the tire (MISTAKE, as you’ll see in a minute) and then ensued the most frustrating hour I’d had in 2 months. I’ll start by saying this: I know how to fix a flat tire. I’ve done it lots and lots. I even did it several times with this bike before the trip, just to practice.
I flipped my bike upside down and immediately found the culprit: a goathead thorn. These guys are notorious for flatting bike tires–the ACA guide even warns about them in the NM section of the Divide. They lurk especially on the sides of roads, so it’s easy to get not one, but several punctures at one time. Many (if not MOST) GDMBR riders use tubeless tires to try and prevent their damage…..I had decided against going tubeless; partially because I didn’t know how to set it up, and partially because I kind of ran out of time when prepping for the trip. Oops.
Regardless, I pulled out the thorn and heard the “pssssssssssss” of air escaping. Damn. I took my wheel off, and tried to get my tire off the rim (again, something that I KNOW HOW TO DO AND SHOULD BE EASY), and CAN’T GET IT OFF. My tire is like FUSED to my rim, and I can’t do anything to wedge it off. Great. Cool. Awesome.
I call Arthur, start googling, and am feeling frantic–I even price getting an Uber XL to take me the remaining 18 miles to Santa Fe (no cars around). It’s around this time that I notice not 1, but THREE MORE GOATHEADS. Where? In my already-flat rear tire? Oh no, of course not…….IN MY FRONT TIRE. I had probably picked them up when pulling over to fix the original flat. So, two flat tires, and no luck getting the tires off my rims to change the tubes. Cool. Cool cool cool. (Note: I was NOT being cool).
Here’s a good time for me to insert a note/PSA: Are you a not shitty person? Then, if you see a person, stopped on the side of the road with their bike upside down, looking kind of frantic…..STOP AND ASK IF THEY NEED HELP. Probably 30 cars passed me and didn’t even slow down, as I’m
near in tears on the side of the road, trying to wedge my tire off the rim. Eventually, a woman (of course) with her mom and three kids in a truck stopped. She offered to give me a ride to a gas station up the road, where I’d be more likely to find help or a ride into Santa Fe. THANK YOU BLESSED LADY! #shredthepatriarchy indeed. I loaded my bike into her truck and stuffed into the back with the kids–they were going swimming for the day, and were all very sweet.
At the gas station, I had time to collect myself a bit, since I wasn’t jammed on the side of the road, probably collecting more goatheads. With Arthur’s youtube research help, I managed to get my tire off my rim by literally standing on the tire and pulling the rim….apparently this happens pretty often with this kind of tires. I got both tubes switched out with spares and got my brain together. And……I got back on the road ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . I had just under 2 hours of riding left, and I rode it……….more climbing and hotter than I expected, I made it into Santa Fe in pretty good time. Thankfully, New Mexico was satisfied with my offering of two tubes, and the goatheads let me survive the last bit of riding.
The final descent into Santa Fe was really pretty, down a bike route that overlooked the city (and thankfully, was far from the highway). I navigated into downtown, and found Santa Fe to be really cute! It reminded me of the touristy aspects of Jackson Hole, WY, but much more diverse and southwestern. There were adobe buildings everywhere, Native artists selling their work, and beautiful little vistas of flowers wherever I looked. I was a little bummed when I realized my hostel was still 2 miles away, but I cheered up when I realized that it was almost entirely on bike paths. Nothing will warm me up to a city like good cycling infrastructure.
I made my way to Santa Fe International Hostel, which was awesome.
It’s a non-profit, and gets overage food donations from Whole Foods, so the entire kitchen was jam-packed with delicious FREE food. I checked in, got an obscene amount of fresh fruit, showered, and unloaded my bags off my bike.
My former student Kanan, who lives in Albuquerque, came up to visit and we went out to dinner, as a huge thunderstorm crashed down on Santa Fe. It was great to catch up with Kanan and sample the world famous New Mexico green chile.
Back in the hostel for the evening, I took a deep breath. My tour was over, and I felt sad. The thunder and rain were pouring down, strange to go to bed (in a BED) without worrying about whether the rain would ruin the trail for tomorrow.
The bottom line/conclusion is (and always has been) this: I’m really fortunate that I had the time, the ability, and the money to make this trip happen. I’m already planning my next big bikepacking adventure (and figuring out where I can learn to build a wheel). I’m infinitely grateful for the friends I made traveling, and the strangers who helped me.
I have a lot more to write about this trip–reflections, lessons learned, gear that worked (and didn’t). I have a few ‘wish I would have’s, but many many more ‘I’m glad I did’s. I also want to do some tallying of mileage, climbing, nights spent on the ground, etc.
In other words, if you’re interested, stay tuned for the after-the-game re-cap. 🙂