June 16, 2024

Tour Divide '24: Day 9 - Hachita to Antelope Wells

 It was a warm night in Hachita making it a bit more difficult to fall asleep. We had positioned our cots by the open double doors to get some cooler airflow, but I was still lying there on top of my sleeping bag thinking about the final day's ride. Sometime around midnight, Justin had enough and moved his cot out onto the porch. There were a few bright street lights, but he found a dark shady spot for a few hours. I debated joining him out there, but didn't feel like moving. The road was quiet except for the occasional border patrol vehicle. Eventually, I was able to doze off.

Daybreak came and we got going in an attempt to stave off the 100º temps forecast for later that day. Breakfast was quick, time to pack the bike. Whoa!! Not so fast. I had all my gear spread out on one of the tables and my bike leaning against it. Sometime during the night a local visitor decided to use my front wheel as an anchor for their home...

Why, hello there!! Black Widow's are the coolest looking spiders. And to think I had been walking around barefoot all night!! :o

Lots of wide open space here.
I let the others know about the Black Widow spider, who now had scrambled to safety under the table. Guess who's shaking every piece of gear out before packing and dressing? I'm no stranger to Black Widows as we often would have a few residing on our front porch at home.

The other three cyclists made the far corner home for the night.

Justin is packed and ready. Photo by Justin.

It was a pleasant morning, just after sunrise. This would be our final turn of the route, straight shot to the border from here.

Neighborhood street in Hachita.

Looks like we have about 4-ish hours of riding remaining.

Beautiful stone church on route.

There's something about a desert cemetery that screams 'Wild West'. 

We'd be passing Big Hatchet Peak through the valley marked 'Hilo Peak'. PeakFinder app.

We found a bit more dirt on route!!

Common sight in these parts.

Cattle ranching country.

Couldn't quite tell if this ranch was abandoned or still in use as a couple of buildings looked fine.

Mile markers counting down and cell phone towers showing the way.
We had stopped for a snack break around 9a, some 22 miles remaining when Justin's wife and son drove by. He waved, but the car kept going!! Haha. I guess she was sticking to the race rules, but those no longer applied to us. Justin mentioned to me that somewhere around five miles to go, he made take off as he wanted to see his family. Go for it!! I'll just cruise on in and I couldn't keep up with aero-Justin anyway.

It was starting to get warm, but at least the wind was cooperating. Only a light breeze, which is always welcome.

15 to go!! I can almost taste the chocolate milk.

The desert morphed into this Martian looking landscape.

With about four miles remaining, the wall becomes visible along with the cell tower at the crossing. There goes Justin, now only a speck on the road ahead.

There was a slight downhill over the final miles, speed up, effort down.

Justin arrives at Antelope Wells!!

Meanwhile, I'm taking it all in. It was here that the magnitude of what we just did began to sink in.

Justin giving me a chocolate milk handup as I reach the end. What a guy!!

And there it is, the now famous sign at Antelope Wells.
We had wondered if we'd ever get here at times over the past five years. We stuck to the plan, agreeing to finish what we started in 2019 together. So glad we did. Heck, we both had our doubts early on this ride in northern New Mexico. Those first three days were tough and we were way behind schedule. The big day on pavement between Cuba and Grants brought everything back in order and renewed hope and energy. Here we were, Tour Divide route finishers. That 2019 DNF didn't matter too much on this day.

On a personal note, by completing the Tour Divide route, I had now had a career Triple Crown of bikepacking. Finishing the Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail races and this. There's a list of Triple Crown finishers and it's not too long:
Really cool to see so many friends on this list.

AZTR patches can be ordered here, CT patches are available through the CTF website and Tour Divide patches can be ordered here

Hey Justin, look tired.

My Garmin Edge530 stats. It was a running joke as Justin's eTrex had about 5 more miles. I had also recorded the ride on my Garmin Fenix watch and the total there was 698.5. I like the sound of that better.

The bikes that got us here.

We had to wait a few minutes before attempting the classic over the head shots!!

At least it was the lightest of the entire ride at this point.

One final hoist.
Justin needed to get on the road since he had to retrieve his truck in Chama. He was about to disassemble his bike...wait a second. We still needed to see if we could get some photos by the old finish line along the actual border. There's a cool plaque there and it can only be accessed when the border crossing is open. Antelope Wells has very limited hours as it's not used much, only open 10a - 4p daily.

We began riding through the fenced area looking for a border agent to let them know what we wanted to do and if we needed any other form of identification. No one was around. We kept riding and saw not a soul...on either side. We spotted the sign, still empty. Let's get our photos and scram. Justin's wife and son were also walking over to check it out.

Old school classic finish photo.

Really glad we were able to get these. I had wondered for years if it was still possible as most riders finish when the border is closed and can't access it.

The 'official' end of the line.
We started riding back, but there's a separate lane for traffic coming into the USA, so we went that way. The agents soon appeared, asking for identification, etc. I told them I only had a photo copy of my driver's license on me. That was ok. Justin had his as well. Meanwhile, Justin's wife and son were walking back the way they came, which was not allowed. A bit of yelling ensued and they were directed our way. Of course their ID was in the car. Once the agents realized no one actually entered Mexico and we just wanted photos, everything was fine. They were simply doing their job. I did find it funny when one guy asked me where I was going? I said: Here. I don't think that was the answer he was looking for. I clarified: My wife will be picking me up shortly for our drive home to Phoenix.

Once everything calmed down, more questions about the ride came up. Seems like the agents swap out regularly and they can't really see the area by the main sign. It's not surprising they don't know about the route as most folks going northbound would start well before the border opened for the day. And as mentioned, most southbound riders finish at all times of the day & night.

We were there talking with them for a few minutes when an older agent approached. He asked if we ever heard of the Ride the Divide movie. Of course we had!! Come to find out, he was the agent at the end of the movie!!

How fitting, end the ride and meet someone from the Ride the Divide movie.

For perspective, above the funny sign on the cattle guard, you can see the gap in the border wall. That's where the border sign is located. This fence closes when the crossing is closed, that's why all the riders take their photo at the big sign now.
Justin loaded up his bike, topped me off with some cold water and hit the road. I found a small slice of shade next to the sign and waited for Kara to arrive. It didn't take too long, only 20-30 minutes as she hit the road early. It was so great to see her and do a quick celebration of our own. She too had been through it all: Joining at the start in Banff five years ago, picking up my broken body in Salida that same year, dropping me off in Colorado for this ride and returning to Antelope Wells for that long awaited finish photo. Your continued support in my adventures means the world to me and I couldn't do these without you. Love you so much!!

Justin, it was a wild adventure and true pleasure to share the final segment from Del Norte, CO to Antelope Wells, NM with you. You're a great rider, even keeled, great person to talk to and just as goofy as I am when things begin to scramble your brain!! It may have taken longer than we originally planned, but I think we'd agree it was worth the wait. Thanks for juggling your life's shedule and family time to help make this work. Can't wait to share another big dumb ride with you in the future, perhaps not as long though. In the meantime, go get that Colorado Trail!!
Look at that. Kara snapped this photo at the YWCA in Banff, AB back in June 2019. Little did we know what lie ahead. Two strangers about to be life long friends. Then, there's that guy in red, Chris Seistrup, ready to dominate!! He'd go on to win the Tour Divide that year.

One final shot, a bit more relaxed.
I want to give a huge thank you to George and Jalene Harris at Binary Bicycles for giving me the opportunity to pilot the Havok down the Divide. The bike is remarkable and literally built for this route. My hands & wrists were especially happy on Binary's Falken handlebars. My wrist was kept neutral the entire time, which is important to me after having wrist surgery years ago. If you're in the market for a custom Titanium frame, look no further than Binary Bicycles. Well built, beautiful designs and exceptional customer service is what you'll get. I'm happy to call George and Jalene friends, long before they made bikes worthy of your biggest endeavor.

So, what's next you may ask? Nothing on the calendar...yet. I have a long list of bikepacking routes/races I'd like to do. Time to start prioritizing. One goal I have is to ride all the published bikepacking routes in Arizona. I'm over halfway there with a few more almost complete. I don't have any real desire to attempt the Tour Divide again, maybe as a tour when I'm retired. The race is quite all encompassing and requires a full year of dedication, vacation time and money, etc. Plus, let's face it, I had pretty good weather in 2019, what are the odds of that happening again? I know: Zero.

Route:

Made a quick stop on the way home, this sign deserved a Locorides sticker. (Lower left)

Back at home, hard to believe this setup got me 450 miles down the route. I think it's time for a new saddle.

Strava Link

The story is now complete!!

That looks much better. Available here.


Elevation profile posters are available here. NOBO available here.

Full photo album for Day 9

Here is a full Tour Divide Index from each day on the route, beginning from 2019's Grand Depart in Banff, AB.

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