On June 28th, 2003, in a beautiful small town with no traffic lights in rural Northwest Wisconsin, my beautiful wife said “I do”. The featured pic above is an hour or so later taken by a dear friend who snapped it after we finished the drive even farther into the woods to a cross country ski resort that had facilities for a nice reception, including a bear skin on one wall and head of elk above us at the head table. Thus began a lifetime of adventure with Kristine.
Since that time, June has been the month of everything for us: our one year anniversary spent in the hospital having our daughter, our son born two years later at the beginning of the month, me ending up in the hospital after passing out in a parking lot on our anniversary, at least one or two more hospital trips for kids or us (we always joke about whether or not our anniversary will be in the hospital), two Race Across America finishes. And now added to the list of significant events in June and even more specifically on our anniversary: finishing the Tour Divide 2022 Southbound Grand Depart in 11th place on our 19 year anniversary.
Matthew Lee, pioneer of the Tour Divide route, texted with me about a re-route due to some flash flooding outside Silver City. In his last text, he noted that I should really enjoy the last day, specifically the Separ Desert, and how surreal it would be. He was right.
Even early in the day, it was surreal. It started out wet and raining as I left Silver City on a large highway. I ended up stopping at the first gas station outside of town just to get something hot to eat since I had already resupplied for the day the night before. Shortly before the turn off the pavement onto the long dirt road through the desert, it stopped raining. The dirt road, however, was still wet … but thankfully not peanut butter mud. Instead, it was a wet sandy like texture that was hard to ride through, but since everything was generally downhill that still was a decent speed compared to all the riding from the previous days.
The sun came out a bit and the views looking down into the desert were surreal. It was surreal because 1) I had just ridden from so much cold and snow just a week earlier and 2) It isn’t like anything you see in Alabama. See pic above.
This continued for many miles such that I was starting to reflect on the whole race and made two videos (below). These are extremely long so I have uploaded them to youtube.
As documented in the second video above, I had a surprise encounter with peanut butter mud on this final day. The first encounter was documented above, but I would have another encounter at a flooded riverbed leading me to walk downstream far enough so that I could get water off my shoes and bikes and then carefully step from bush-to-bush avoiding the dirt back onto the course.
This return trip back to the course led to the first of what would eventually be FOUR thorns that I pulled out of my front tire. Each one gushed a little bit of sealant but then after plugging it with my finger and spinning the wheel and riding a short bit, each time it would seal up. Thankful that the tire was sealed, I continued on and encountered the last two “animals” of the trip.
The first was a nice big tarantula crossing the road. I stopped and took a pic and then decided to Facetime Kristine to show it to her, and Josiah was there too so she put him on the call to see the tarantula up close. I saw many other tarantulas after the first one but only stopped for the first two for pics. Afterwards, I just tried not to run them over. The second animal was a javelina (similar to a wild boar, but classified differently as native animal) that I first mistook for a dog until I got close enough. I unfortunately did not get a picture as it took off snorting away from the road through all the bushes as soon as I got close.
And not too long after the Javelina, I could see I-10 way ahead in the distance and was ready to cross the last interstate of the route … having crossed them all that make it all the way across the country … I-90, I-80, I-70, I-40, and now finally I-10. I also knew that there was a gas station at the interstate, but I didn’t realize it was actually a large “trading post” almost like a department store with all kinds of clothes and toys plus the normal convenience store fare.
I called Jeff Sharp on the way in to arrange for him to pick me up at the finish and stay at his hostel “The Bike Ranch” after I finished. He wanted to meet when I resupplied at the Hatchita store before the final push down to the border. And that’s what we did! It was great meeting Jeff and saying hi to a few other people who were all at the store, a significant fraction of the town population of 49.
Away I went knowing that Jeff would catch up to me at some point closer to the finish. On the way down there I reflected a lot about the people trying to cross through the border here (see pic above). It is inhospitable even to try to ride across on a bike, let alone the much slower pace of walking. Here’s two last videos … one of me reflecting on the area 30 miles from the finish and then the live video I got rolling up to the finish.
And with this post, my detailed write-up of my 2022 Tour Divide adventure is done, but there’s more! After finishing the race, I started to ride 1800 miles home to Alabama. I only made it 1300 miles and ended up taking a train home the final 500 miles, but I did successfully cross the entire state of Texas from west to east in one week and then made it another two days (300 miles) across the Mississippi River in Louisiana to Baton Rouge where I decided to call on a friend to give me a ride to New Orleans where I could pick up the train the next day and make it back home before my kids left for summer camps.
Along the way, I visited the site of the Uvalde mass school shooting from just a few weeks before the Tour Divide started as well as the site of the Santa Fe mass school shooting from 2018. I will leave with a side-by-side of the memorials.
Maps and Data
Pickuta photo album
See even more pics from the entire race along with the exact time/location where each was taken on the tracking website I created called pickuta.com. If you are on a phone or small screen web browser, click the “hamburger” triple bar icon in the upper left to slide out the photos and turn on/off the tracking markers: https://pickuta.com/album/258