Days 51-55: Hi-Yo Silver, Away!

Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades (well that escalated quickly).

This is a commonly used expression in the Fontanella household accredited mostly to the matriarch of the family — not a big surprise if you’re familiar with her brand of humor.

This phrase definitely becomes relevant in this section of the journey because as we’re nearing the end, it’s easy for me -- and you -- to get complacent. Danger is still possible and just because I’m close to the end of this thing doesn’t mean that one mistake can’t put me in a sticky situation (literally, with the mud).

Fortunately, this is also the fun part of the Great Divide. Expecting the unexpected then getting fooled by the expected that was then unexpected. Then, overcoming it all as you question your sanity calculating the semantics of it.

Confused? I am, too. So let’s talk rain, mud, trail alternatives, and most importantly, pie.

Day 51 - Don’t Get Too Comfy

With the finish-line seemingly in sight, I will admit I got a bit overconfident. I traded my tent for a hotel room and spent the morning watching football — West Coast time zones = morning football = happy Clint.

After setting off around 11am, much later than I usually start, I found myself racing a lightning storm that was quickly gaining on my tail. While it was fun to watch the storm strike in the distance, an uneasy feeling set in as I realized that the “distance” was where I was headed and the field was where I was camping. Lightening doesn’t strike the same spot twice, right?

This ride was taking me through the Badlands, an area shaped by volcanoes that suddenly erupted and liquid-hot magma (spoken in a Dr. Evil voice) cooled into mind-boggling formations millions of years ago. Here’s an arch that even in stormy weather stood out as a wondrous testament of the relationship between physics and Mother Nature. (How's that for a sentence?)Badlands new mexico great divide

After I pedaled hastily to camp, I set up my tent in the middle of a wide-open dirt patch smack-dab in the open field — the perfect spot to be in a thunderstorm. I then spent the remainder of the day hanging out in my tent, listening to the rain and holding up the right side of the tent against the constant 15 mph wind. 

This was a not-so-gentle reminder that my journey wasn’t over just yet, and there was still real danger to be cautious of. While I survived the storm, I returned to a more disciplined routine the following day. After all, tomorrow was pie day — priorities people.

Day 52 - Pie Town

Let’s skip the boring details, I made it to Pie Town.

Pie Town is not a misnomer, it’s not even a sarcastic joke — which I would have appreciated. Pie Town makes pies, and they don’t mess around.

There are 3 restaurants in Pie Town (which is about as many roads as they have, too) and each one has its own pie specialty. I found myself at the Pie-O-Neer (10/10 name) where I confidently ordered and ate the following pies: Banana Foster, Pecan, New Mexico Apple (Apple pie with a green chile in it), and Fried Pear Cream Pie. Whoever put this stop on the trail was a genius.

After stuffing my face with sugar, I met Steve, another Great Divider. Before I knew it, Steve and I were walking to the “Toaster House,” a hostel for bikers and hikers passing through Pie Town.

Toaster house - Great Divide Trail

The Toaster House is managed by Jefferson and Nita who have a firm, “open door” policy. They only ask for a small donation, if possible, and in return, they offer delightful hospitality — regardless of the donation or not.

Jefferson played some Bob Dylan on the piano, cooked frozen pizza, and even offered a bed for the night. This time I turned down the bed as my tent was already pitched for the night. I was oddly proud of my setup and was excited to listen to the rain as I fell asleep.

Day 53 - The Mud Alternate

Enjoying my dreams about pie, I woke up with a decision. The storm had put a lot of water down on the sandy roads and it was unclear if the trail was passable or not. A few locals suggested it was a fool’s errand to go down the dirt roads while others were more optimistic.

Staying honest here — I was done with mud, rocks, and carrying the bike. When someone told me the forest service was considering closing the road, I opted for the pavement. Same distance, same amount of climbing, better surface. Deal.

This was surprisingly refreshing. Rather than traversing dry desert, I was back in the woods. It somewhat felt like I went backward into Montana as I passed by tall trees and a fast-moving creek as I pedaled over a small mountain. Needless to say, I preferred this exceptionally more than the desert.

Whether I’m on the official trail or not, I think I made a good choice. Especially as my route had a nice view of the mountains and the trail that was getting hammered by the rain that afternoon.New Mexico - Great Divide Trail

Day 54 - Silver and Goals

Day 54 was another day on the road. Passing through small towns on my way to Silver City, I realized I only had 4 more days of riding before this journey was complete.

First, I think we can all agree that I can’t believe I got this far — hope your local bookie had good odds. And, second, this was somewhat of a conundrum because all this time I was worried about finishing after my deadline. I didn’t even consider that I would be a few days ahead of schedule. My ride to El Paso was coming on October 11th, which left me with 3 days of downtime that I would have to use in Silver City.

That’s why I’ll go big with this post and give you a recap of not only 3 days but a bonus 4th day to bring us up to my arrival in Silver City. After that, I may mix it up the next few days as I’m sure you’re not too interested in my mini vacation. Either way, it’s been an incredible journey thus far, and I can’t wait to close this thing out.

Side note: I was able to connect with Steve a few days after Pie Town. Turns out, we made a good decision. He took the main route and was forced back onto the pavement after getting stuck in the rain and mud. While I feel for Steve, score one for Past Clint and his decision-making.

Day 55 - Well, that took longer than expected.

At first glance, the final leg to Silver City seemed very modest. Just over 50 miles and about 1500 ft of climbing — and on pavement.

But, as I neared 1400ft of climbing about 10 miles into the ride, I had a sneaky suspicion my GPS might be off on this one.

Turned out to be close to a 3500 ft climb as I struggled my way into Silver City — the last major city before the finish line. Silver City is tucked into the mountains, sitting between steep hills and bare mountaintops. It was the home of Billy the Kid and is filled with tons of American West history.

It’s also filled with nails on the roads as I discovered Apollo sporting a new piercing in his back tire. Not a big fan of this new body piercing trend that my bike is going to, (I’m sure it’s just a phase) I called a local shop to get Apollo fixed up. After all, I tempted fate enough by threatening to walk across the finish line, the last thing I need now is a flat.

Two more days of riding to go, but for now we’ll pause in Silver City and see what this town has to offer — other than roadside nails. 

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