Tour Divide Update: The Gila, NM

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Lael and Kathy at the Pie-o-neer Cafe, 8000ft, Pie Town, NM.  Photo courtesy Pie-o-Neer Cafe.

Lael is gaining ground on the women.  Even on a short day– only 156 miles– she has stretched her lead to the point that she is over 300 miles ahead of the next female competitor.  Two riders, Joe Fox and Andres Bonelli, have gained some ground and are riding steadily behind her by about 17 miles.  If they all continue pace they may never see each other.  If their paths cross, we may have a race to the border for sixth place.  Lael slept early last night and started on the bike at about 3:30AM.  She only rode about six miles before stopping for another three hours.  Either she decided that a little more sleep would be necessary, or was disturbed by something or someone in her original location.  Perhaps she suffered a mechanical in the dark, fumbling with cold hands.  These things are hard to say from cold digital data, and a solid reminder that the even 9.4mph pace that every rider seems to keep, exists outside the digital vacuum in which we read it.  It hails, it is hot and dusty, there are headwinds, broken forks, saddle sores, and frequent stops to eat, resupply, refill water, lube the chain, lower tire pressures, talk to people, navigate the route, plan the day ahead, eat pie, and sleep.  Yet, the strongest riders in this event seem to be set to autopilot, pedaling a consistent trajectory for up to 20 hours a day.  I know for certain that at least three of those things happened yesterday for Lael.  Steady headwinds and sidewinds slowed much of the ride into Grants.  The Pie-o-neer Cafe in Pie Town reports 36 seconds of hail yesterday, amid thunderstorms.  And, Lael seems to have gotten her pie.

Kathy Knapp, from the Pie-o-neer Cafe, reports: “I spied her our the window– leaving town- and yelled at her to come back.  GOOD LUCK Lael!!!”  

Lael got a glimpse of the Pie-o-neer where I spent a magical evening back in 2011.  I rolled into town on the bike in November.  On the same day three southbound CDT hikers occupied the Toaster House, the local free guesthouse for thru hikers and bikers.  The Toaster House is the gift of Nita to the community of self-propelled travelers through this corner of New Mexico.  Catron Country, NM reportedly has no traffic lights.  But there is a house adorned with toasters, full of beds and couches and old magazines and a wood stove– and most importantly, a shower and a freezer full of frozen pizzas and pies.  Nita has moved a few miles down the road and has left something very special for us.  She accepts donations to keep the freezer stocked.  One day years ago when her kids were young, she invited a lone hiker into her home.  This is how she learned about the CDT, which passes on the dirt street in front of the house  She has made an effort to invite weary travelers to her home ever since.

Back on that day in 2011, I enjoyed a few slices of pie and free wifi for several hours as a customer at the Pie-o-neer.  I was was invited to return later that evening with the others, after hours, to a private gathering.  Some friends of Kathy’s were coming from out of town.  A table of food was presented, red wine, and at the right time, there were pies.  Several small tables of friends, including our now-showered group of hikers and bikers, enjoyed the dimly lit space, sitting close to the wood stove on this cold November evening at 8000ft.  The dishwasher plays the guitar, Kathy and Nita sing, and a few other friends join with instruments and voices.  The set list is Arlo Guthrie Guthrie and Joan Baez, and other hits from the era.  These hippies didn’t go to California.  They found a better place on the Continental Divide in remote southwestern New Mexico.  Near the end of the evening, Nita and Kathy lead the group in the Kate Wolf classic “Across the Great Divide”.  I’d ridden my 1985 Schwinn High Sierra from Maryland to New York and Ontario, out to Banff, Alberta and down the Divide to Pie Town.  Nearing the end of my five month odyssey, there couldn’t have been a more perfect song for the moment.  I will always be grateful for that song in that place at that time.  Of the three hikers I’d shared that time with, I was sad to learn this past year that one of them, Benjamin Newkirk, was killed in a climbing accident in the Sisters Wilderness near Bend, Oregon.  Ben and I stayed in contact.  I helped him prepare for his first bike tour.  After countless miles in the backcountry on foot , he transitioned well to cycle touring aboard a Salsa Vaya.  But his place out there was on foot.

Salsa Cycles provided Tour Divide racers with commemorative Pie Town top caps at the Grand Depart in Banff.  The stem top cap, a small part on the bicycle, could be used as a token worth two free slices of pie in Pie Town.  Thanks Salsa Cycles!

Dylan Taylor and Alex Harris both finished yesterday ahead of 2012 record pace.  Congrats on the strong ride!  Lael and her group will be next to Antelope Wells, sometime tomorrow.

Follow the Tour Divide 2015 at Trackleaders.com.

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6 thoughts on “Tour Divide Update: The Gila, NM

  1. Oh, I how I hope she can hold off the 2 guys gaining on her. I will watch until I have to sleep, then tune in at 5:30 a when I bike to work! Go, Lael, GO!

  2. I have been following you guys now for a while on your adventures through Europe, Egypt and Israel. It’s so nice to be reading up on how Lael is doing, specially after being on the divide in 2013. Keep up the work, even in Holland we are (at least I am ;)) cheering for Lael!! Good luck over the last miles!!

  3. Great ride by Lael! Observation: I really like her simple choice of clothes in non-garish colors and patterns unlike most TD riders. Is that just a simple poly T-shirt and down vest that she had on for most of the trip?

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