July 4, 2019

Tour Divide '19: Day 21/22 - Salida DNF

So much for a restful night at the motel. Like clockwork I was awake every two hours to take a leak. Under normal circumstances it would've been a minor annoyance, but on this particular night I was finding out quick how poorly I was doing. It was a bit of a chore just to get out of bed and stand up. I needed both hands to hold onto the bed or furniture just to make it to the bathroom. My knee was throbbing and I thought about yelling out a few times, but opted to be courteous to my fellow motelers at 1a, 3a, 5a...

I did finally get a larger chunk of sleep, not sure when I decided to get moving for the day, but it was slow at best and extremely uncomfortable. I knew I wasn't resuming the Divide today.

I needed to eat and hobbled over to the motel lobby for a recommendation. I was told about the Patio Pancake Place only a few blocks down US50. Seemed close enough that I could coast my bike there and walk back if I had to.
This place was so good, I ended up eating here three days in a row!!
I had to practically lay the bike down to get my leg over the seatbag. I was on the bike!! I didn't have the gumption to even attempt to sit down, stand and coast. Much to my dismay, I was seated at a table with wooden chairs, there had been a long line since it was the 4th of July and I wasn't about to wait for another table to open up with a cushioned seat. I'm sure I looked awkward as could be sitting half sideways, grimacing, in filthy bike clothes. Whatevs. Needless to say the huge plate of pancakes, eggs & bacon went down easy and rather quick.

The ride back to the motel was a bit more of a struggle. I was able to muster a few pedal strokes, but not much more. I had already made up my mind to spend another night in Salida after visiting the Regional Medical Center later in the day. For now, I needed to rest. I was exhausted from the little morning activity.
My right knee/quad looking very angry after the puss head broke.

This band of red splotches appeared over night and had me a bit concerned.
Sometime after noon I looked up the Medical Center and saw that it was located clear across town, practically at the bottom of the downhill I did y'day. Knowing that, I should've gone straight there, but I didn't even notice it in my sleepy state of mind. I quickly found out that there were no Uber drivers in Salida, but there was a taxi service. 

The motel owner gave me his personal number and told me to give him a call when I needed to get picked up from the ER. He thought there might be a delay with the taxi since it was the holiday. I could tell he felt really bad for me, and had mentioned that he couldn't believe I got on my bike to ride to the pancake house. 'You could barely walk to the office this morning!' I thanked him for his offer and hopped in the taxi, SUV style.

The ER was empty when I arrived, which is a good thing for all involved!! When I met with the Doctor I told him about the ride and how I'd been camping out most nights. I thought it may be a spider bite. He said they couldn't confirm, but it could also simply be an infected hair follicle or worse, a bacterial MRSA infection. He wasn't concerned at all about the mysterious red dots on my leg. (They would be gone the next morning) *After arriving back home to Arizona, my doctor had a culture sent in and it was indeed a MRSA infection* With that as a possibility he prescribed a couple heavy doses of antibiotics. He then informed me he'd be inserting a drainage loop into the area to relieve the pressure.

Of course before doing that, he had to numb the area. I felt the typical prick of the needle to get things started, wasn't a big deal. Then he stuck another one in to suck out some puss, OMFG I thought he said the area was numb!! The pain was so intense my vision completely blacked out. I told him I may pass out since I couldn't see anything with my eyes wide open, he kept apologizing: 'I'm sorry, only a couple more'...
What's an 11??
I managed to stay alert and my vision came back into focus. Boom, he was done. I was so ready to get out of there.

Drainage loop complete.

Definitely not on my Divide cue sheets.
I hung out for another 15 minutes or so, until I knew I could stand up. The painkillers had kicked in so it didn't really bother me at the moment. I made the call to the motel to get picked up and he, Ralph, then offered to drive me to Walmart and wait while my prescription was filled. I couldn't thank him enough.
Waiting for my ride back to the motel while a couple deer stopped by the ER.
By the time I arrived back at the motel the day was all but over. I booked another night's stay and settled into an evening of mind numbing TV. I actually watched two full episodes of some reality miniature golf show... My dinner consisted of the large brownie from Sweeties and whatever I still had available on my bike, namely Paydays, Peanut M&Ms and almond butter filled Clif Bars. Mmmm. I read through the countless words of encouragement on Facebook, then called K. I was't ready to throw in the towel yet, I still held out hope for a bit of a miracle. I asked her to be ready to head north the next morning to pick me up, but if I felt good enough to ride, I'd text her that I was continuing south. I think we both knew my Divide was over, but I had to sleep on it one more night.

Day 22: July 5th.

Once again I was awake every two hours to take a leak. WTH?? Same drill as the previous night, but this time the pain index was kicked a bit higher. I was in complete agony, knee throbbing each time I stood up for a solid five minutes before settling down. I would've been better off having a walker to get around.

By the time daylight entered my room I knew it was over. There was nothing I could do. I didn't have the time or money to hang out in Salida waiting this thing out. Plus, each time I looked out the window I couldn't help to think of what lie ahead: a 3,000'+ climb over 25 miles up Marshall Pass. Nope. Not happening. K was already headed my way, I just had to wait 11 hours for her to arrive. I was devastated knowing my ride was finished well short of the goal, but in reality it was an easy decision to make since it had been made for me.

Somehow I got on my bike and coasted back down to the Patio Pancake. I sampled some different offering and was equally impressed like the day before. This time, on the ride back to the motel I couldn't even turn the cranks over one revolution. Sad. I did a series of 1/4 turns all the way back.

I sat around for a bit, then made the call to MTBCast saying I was a scratch. That really sucked.


It's tough when you devote such a large chunk of your life towards something only to come up short. Coming into the Divide, it was a one-and-done ride for me. In spite of my difficulties during the ride, I never thought about scratching, not once. Sure, I wanted it to be over at times, but only if I was at Antelope Wells.

I checked out of the motel and found another place a little closer to town center. I spent the rest of the day hanging out there, not doing much at all because that's all I could do. Again, the outpouring of support on social media was overwhelming from family, friends, TD followers and complete strangers. It helped pass the time and jump started my thoughts on the ride experience as a whole. More on that and my gear list in the next post. I was also keeping tabs on my fellow Divide group of riders via Trackleaders. Most of them were either in Del Norte or heading to the New Mexico line and I was so stoked for every one of them, yet a bit sad I wasn't out there sharing the experience.

K arrived sometime around 8:30p and it was so good to give her a huge hug!! I think she was a bit surprised at my feeble condition. We had a recommendation for Moonlight Pizza and that place did not disappoint. Thanks, Phil!!
If you're in Salida, check it out.

*UPDATE: 2021 Salida to Del Norte here*

Back to the Desert

The original plan was to get on the road fairly early so we could drive home through Pie Town, NM. Other than the finish, Pie Town was the one place I really wanted to see and super bummed I missed. We checked out and made our way over to Patio Pancake, K had to check it out for herself. Once again, I was about to be seated in a wooden chair, but K spotted an open booth with padded seats and asked if we could be seated there. At first we were given a slightly sideways look, then a nod when I limped around. Breakfast was fantastic yet again, but it was now mid-morning by the time we got on the road.
Displaying the portion of the route I completed, about 2/3 at 1805 miles.
I made a special request to K to bring an extra cushion for the car seat. My right side was so messed up I had to hover it over the side of the cushion. I finally had a bit of a reprieve. *This went on for the next 6 days.

To make matters worse, my car wasn't handling all that well at lower speeds. K noticed it during the final hours north. It drove & felt fine above 30 mph, but just felt a bit sluggish at slower speeds. We kept a close eye on it as we neared the New Mexico line.
Finally, I made it to New Mexico.

It looked like the riders were getting a heavy dose of Mother Nature.

Angry skies all throughout northern New Mexico.

I asked the Facebook hive for food recommendations in Santa Fe, I forgot my buddy, Kevin, lived there and he met us for lunch.

I like Kevin's retirement plan.
 Almost as soon as we left Counter Culture the car really took a turn for the worse. Service engine light came on, then the oil light...Hmmm. I was nearing an oil change, so we hopped over to a nearby Firestone. They were booked full and couldn't get us in that day, but the clerk felt our pain and made a call to the next closest store. They had an opening and he gave us a neighborhood shortcut to bypass rush hour traffic. Less than an hour later, fresh oil was all it needed. My Juke is pushing 245,000 miles and needs to keep rolling!! What's a little added adventure on top of a big adventure?
Saves the day!!
 We were now running too late to reach Pie Town before either of the cafes closed. I guess I'll have to swing by next year...
The mighty Sandia Crest next to Albuquerque.

Crossing the Continental Divide on I-40 one last time.

Golden hour beauty near the Arizona line on I-40.

Welcome home!! Almost, still another 5 hours to go.
I knew for a fact that I'd sleep well tonight.

Here is a full Tour Divide Index from each day on the route.


  1. You may have been well short of your goal, but you did a pretty good job. By my estimates you rode around 1,750 miles. That is nothing to shake a stick at. You should be proud of your accomplishment. My first attempt ended in Butte with an achilles tendon problem. It a pretty teary moment when I had to admit I was bailing out. You did a great job!!

    1. Thanks. Have you gone back for redemption? 1,805 miles according to my dot on Trackleaders. ;p
      I plan to return to Salida next June to finish the route.

    2. I've been back several times. I felt 2018 was the best year for me physically. I was in the best shape of my life. I'm a big guy, 6'3" 228 lbs. Heading down Fleecer ridge I had a grinding noise coming from the bottom bracket. It turned out to be the bearings. I'm in training for 2020 now. I'll be at the starting line Banff in 2020.

  2. Hey you did all you could John. When you can sit on your saddle or pedal your bike and walking is hard...well that's out of your hands. No amount of toughness makes that work. I'm glad you are going back to finish the route. That'll feel good to see every mile of the route.