Cycling the GDMBR

GDMBR: from Pie Town to Del Norte – searching for water

by Bicycle Junkies
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As we cycle into Pie Town (sounds a lot bigger than it actually is with just 60 souls) we run into Chris and Alex again; father and son bikepacking the Great Divide. They are just about to leave the famous Toaster House and Chris shows us around. We pick ourselves a room, drop all our stuff and run to the nearest pie restaurant, which was about to close. Lucky us, we are able to treat ourselves to a 8 dollar (!!) a piece blueberry pie. I guess you have to be here to really appreciate it…

Back in the Toaster House we can scrub off all the dust and dirt from the past days and have a chat with some hikers also staying here. Let me tell you about the Toaster House; it has a couple of bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a huge supply of food and drinks. Some food is left behind by other hikers/bikers, but a lot of it is just new and left there by the owner Nita and the Pie Town community I guess. Free for the hungry cyclists to grab. The house works with donations and no supervisor is arround, it’s just open and free to use! Isn’t that great? We had pizza for dinner, topped it of with a cold beer and left our share of money in the donation box. Incredible, I can’t imagine this being available in the Netherlands… Yet again, proof of the American hospitality!

Cycling the GDMBR

Grants to Cuba


Bad decisions…
Sometimes on the road there are these times for bad decisions to be taken… and today is just one of those days… From Grants the map shows two routes to Cuba; one paved, the other one not. Since we are craving for offroad cycling, we decide to take the offroad option… mistake number one! This section turns out to be bone-dry, filled with deep arroyos, remains of flash floods on the tracks and the springs that are supposed to be here to refill our bottles are nowhere to be found… And since this section is part of private lands (we have to open and close numerous gates) there is absolutely NO traffic! Not a soul in sight, apart from a few cows. With our eyes wide open we scout the landscape for water, but what we find are cow basins full of flies and other creepy crawler thingies and the color is more or less shitty brown… No thank you, not that thirsty yet! As like a fata morgana I suddenly see a pump in the middle of nowhere spitting out loads of fresh water! We jump of our bicycles and armed with our water bottles and two Ortlieb water bags we walk like crazy to the pump. But, another obstacle to deal with: the area of the pump is surrounded by deep, shoe-sucking mud. With  rocks we make ourselves a bridge and finally after half an hour we can fill up our water supply. After about 80-something kilometers we call it a day and again the supposed stream is nothing more than a pool of mud…
Cycling the GDMBR

Bone dry


The heat (about 43 degrees Celsius) and search for water had exhausted us and we look at the map and GPS for a solution to reach a paved road (and traffic) as soon as possible. Both the GDMBR map and our GPS show a track of about 15 kilometers to the nearest paved road and so we decide to take this track tomorrow morning instead. WRONG! Bad decision number two!

A gate and a vague track… should we or should we not jump the gate and hike/bike this section? Since it’s bad decision time, we decide to go for it; even if we have to walk, it should be faster. I guess the heat, lack of water and exhaustion is playing tricks with our mind. The track dissapears after a couple of hundred meters and we are pushing our bikes through soft sand and thorn bushes. Still, not a hair on my head (a Dutch saying) is telling me: uhh, maybe it’s NOT such a good idea? So, we keep on going. We both agree we see a road on the other side of the huge arroyo, so if only we can make it to that road…
We push our bikes, further and further. Together, through deep arroyos, up again, down again. More arroyos. Sun is burning, we keep drinking. Let’s just push our bikes through the arroyo! Yeah, why not? BECAUSE IT’S STUPID! A dirty water pool, left from the last flash flood. Wait, I’ll just climb over these two meter high rocks to see what’s behind this! Ok, another pool… and more rocks… STOP!
Elmar says, let’s just stop here for a moment. We have been pushing our bikes for two hours now and what have we covered? Two kilometers? Maybe we should go back… Finally, some sanity from one of us… No arguments, we are a team. We help each other and decide to return to the GDMBR track. (I know, it’s much more fun for the reader if we actually had a huge argument, but he, what can I tell.. in times like these we help each other. Boring, but a lot safer!). We track back following our bicycles tracks (not so hard, since they left a deep impression in the sand) and four hours later we are at the same spot where we started this morning. The only difference is, we are now almost out of water…

This leaves us with no other option than to drink the shitty brown cow water (we purify it of course, but still). We keep cycling, dry mouth, sqeaky voice, thick tongue. I think I’m starting to see things, but it’s real! 4 more hours later, I see a car! Followed by dozens of blood sucking horseflies we hurry to the paved road and stop the first car passing by. “Please, do you have some water for us?” The guy gives us half a gallon and we suck it down! OMG, that feels good! It’s 45 more kilometers to Cuba and we are in no shape to do that, both being dehydrated and very tired. Helen, a Navajo lady, is willing to take us to the highway and even decides to bring us all the way to Cuba even though it’s 30 miles off route for her. We highly appreciate her help. Taking a lift, was actually a GOOD decision. 🙂
Cycling the GDMBR
Into Colorado and cycling the Indiana Pass
As soon as we enter the state of Colorado things start to get greener and wetter. Fresh and clear streams, lots of smelly pine trees, aspen trees and yellow flowers in the valleys. Once above 3000 meter piles of snow are still lying around and the daytime temperature is pleasant. Nights are colder, but great for sleeping! We feel more at ease in these circumstances and are really enjoying the ride. We climb to the highest pass on the GDMBR, Indiana Pass (11910ft / 3630mtr) under a blue sky and among white peaks. We see many antelopes near the track and also passing our tent at night. Our reward is a long downhill into Del Norte, where we ride another 25 kilometers to South Fork to meet up with my parents; it’s time for a break!
Cycling the GDMBR


Cycling the GDMBR

Valley with a yellow flower bed

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9 comments

Paul vanPeenen June 30, 2015 - 20:28

Wat een avontuur! Beautiful pix, too.

Reply
Annelies June 30, 2015 - 23:02

Wat een mooi, goed geschreven verhaal!

Reply
Remy Leverdingen July 1, 2015 - 09:46

Prachtig, ademloos zitten lezen. Het maken van dit soort ‘foute’ keuzes is inherent aan jullie avontuur. Jullie kunnen het gelukkig navertellen. Fantastische foto’s.

Reply
Wim Verhoef July 3, 2015 - 17:12

Hoi Ellen en Elmar,
Wat een belevenis! Gelukkig dat jullie als team dit hebben ondergaan. Dit soort ervaringen moet je niet dagelijks meemaken. Ik voelde met jullie mee. Heel invoelbaar overgebracht Ellen. Opnieuw weer toppie kwaliteit foto’s Blijf genieten. Groetje’s Wim

Reply
Bicycle Junkies July 6, 2015 - 23:17

Thanks guys for the positive comments! We’re glad you like our stories!

Reply
Punta Cana Coffee Shop November 11, 2015 - 12:17

A house without supervisors and is open for free use? Great! Kudos to the donors of Toaster House.

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bespoke stickers at low cost December 4, 2015 - 10:27

Fresh and clear streams, lots of smelly pine trees, aspen trees and yellow flowers in the valleys. That is dream of every adventurer.

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clark January 12, 2016 - 11:08

Great

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