Thursday, September 17, 2009

it didn't quite kill us, so i guess we're... stronger?

YES, we have finished the Great Divide journey!
YES, we have a big game of media catch-up to play!
NO, I am not recovered!

Early on in the adventure, it became clear to me that riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route on a unicycle would not be a test of technical riding ability; it is a test of will. It tests one's ability to endure: fatigue, extreme weather, dehydration, pain, etc.

How to summarize the unsummarizeable?
First I'll post (too?) many pictures from our journey south of Grants, NM. Then the really fun stuff starts, in the form of trip statistics and the like.

Due to the continuing monsoon rains that create impassable roads, we had to take the Adventure Cycling-recommended alternate through the El Malpais National Monument, which actually ended up being way cool. The monsoons came a bewildering few weeks late this year, which unfortunately coincided with our travels through the really mucky section of New Mexico.

["Collecting" is the new "gathering." Gathering is so B.C.]

[Near The Narrows in the monument, winding through a corridor lined with rock cliffs on one side and a wild lava bed on the other.]

[Jiminy cricket! (who is not amused)]


[But surprisingly standupable! This otherwise-nearly impossible feat is made possible by the insanely sticky mud.]

[Here's a shout out to the folks at KEEN! The shoes were great and got us through the best and worst of it.]

[Unrollable means just that. Time to drag it sideways.]


[Nita and I share a mutual friend! Pie Town, NM was a kind place, full of welcoming people and friendly faces. The pie lady at The Pie-O-Neer Cafe even lent us her car to do a grocery run several miles away! They were busy crankin' out the pies for the annual Pie Fest. I recommend the New Mexico Apple pie a la mode, with green chiles and pine nuts!]

Sidenote: I know I've mentioned the insects and animals frequently during the journey, but seriously, sometimes they are out of control. Dung beetles are simply outrageous, expending an astounding amount of energy forming balls of poop in the cow pies, then rolling them away to do what they do best (and I still haven't figured out what that is). The ant hills are tremendous, and if you camp anywhere within a expanse littered with them, they will crawl on everything - and I mean everything - and even into your sleeping bag. And oh, the mice - clever ones, they are, creating all sorts of ruckus while we try to sleep. The dogs mostly stay away when we draw our knives and pick up stones in a ready-to-throw posture.


[Nope, the mud hasn't stopped yet!]


[Thunder and lightning all around, with absolutely no place to hide. The storm is so close and thick that it is blocking the view of large mountains just beyond. We ended up finding an outcropping of rocks, and I wrapped up in trashbags leeward of a boulder.]

["Roads impassable when wet." ...I'll agree with that.]

[a sloppy "27"]


["29..." These poses and camera shots are getting lazy!]

[Muck through O-Bar-O Canyon.]

[Rapidly changing surface quality did a number on me, making my knee bleed even through the thick layer of mud.]

[New Mexico unicycle stand. Once again, this is not supposed to be possible.]


[Ugly Santa Rita Mines.]

[Observing the piles of destruction at the Santa Rita Mines outside Silver City.]


[Into the Chihuahua Desert, a stark contrast from the lush areas in the state that looked more like West Virginia. Good luck finding shade.]

[Just a cool sign, a cool sky, and 2 cool wheels.]

[Crossing a cattle guard just north of Separ.]

[First sign to our finish at Antelope Wells!]

[With Ron & Carol Elder, who showed us great kindness by saying hello in Silver City, picking us up on the route the next evening, filling our bellies with goodies and minds with good conversation, giving us a place to sleep, and returning us to the route. What a treat!]

[Starting our last full day of the trip!]

["Last full day" still means over 60 miles of pain, but with more motivation.]

[I think I see Mexico....]

[The road looks empty, but it is sprinkled with massive centipedes, tarantulas, and the occasional unicyclist.]

[Giant spiders devour Hachita!! Once again, no illusions. Tarantulas were everywhere.]

["32" - last crossing at 4,520 ft.!]

[Filling up at every chance meant finding windmill-powered pumps that filled stock tanks in the middle of nowhere... and I do mean the middle of nowhere.]

[Hatchet Gap: Windmill, pipe, fresh water, YES.]

[The last sunset.]

["1 Mile" in "Travel Time 5 Min." is twice our pace, and makes me doubt cars actually drive 12 mph for this last stretch to The Promise Land, or shall I say, "La Terra Promesa."]


[The moment we've all been waiting for. La Frontera.]

["United States Border Inspection Station Antelope Wells, N.M."]

[Tim, et al., at the border station is famous for his hospitality shown to bicyclists. He greeted us with ice cream and hot biscuits to supplement the multiple sodas we bought from the coveted Coke machine!]

[An hour after arriving at the least-used border crossing in the U.S., we hopped a shuttle (one of the ~3 vehicles that crosses each day) that takes Mexicans over the border to see family in Phoenix, AZ, then rented a car to drive through the night in shifts to Sacramento, CA where my parents picked us up and escorted us to Davis, my motherland.]

[Glowing grins.]

Now for the fun stuff!
total route mileage = 2,628.7*
riding days = 68
average daily mileage = 39.2
rest days = 9
time frame = july 2-september 16, 2009
# of days over 50 miles = 17
# of days over 60 miles = 5
# of days over 100 miles = 1
most # of saddle sores at one time = 11
ratio of most # of saddle sores to pairs of socks lost = 2.75:1
size of biggest saddle sore: 3/4-inch diameter
total # of continental divide crossings: 32
most # of continental divide crossings in one day: 4
% riding days I cried = 19%
# animal species I had never seen before = 9
# of Wal-Mart sightings = 4
ratio of bags of chips consumed to threatening hummingbird encounters = 3.33:1
# of flat tires = 6 (each) (Matt got 3 in one mile near the Mexico border!)
# of flat seat tubes = 1 (each)
approximate % of days that the "I'm On a Boat" song was in my head = 95%
*Note: the total route miles listed is less than the initially intended 2,705 due to re-routes around impassable roads. Miles actually ridden are ~6% more (on our 29-inch, single-speed unicycles) due to the natural squiggle during the turn of a unicycle wheel, making the total ridden mileage 2,786.4 miles.
So, with little (if any) optimism from anyone who had actually ridden the route, we beat the odds and further expanded the horizon of possibility. Back in the real world, I am savoring every bit of music I can get in my ears; such a remote trip created quite a deprivation of one of my basic needs, as evidenced by frequent singing during the journey. Songs stuck in my head represented genres including, but not limited to, rap, children's songs, Gracie & Matt originals, and orchestral soundtrack scores to movies such as Dances With Wolves and Mr. Holland's Opus.
Rebounding from an extremely taxing endeavor has facilitated the alignment of my needs and wants, a blessing I wish would come more often. I need a job, and, ironically, I need balance in life; thankfully, those are the two things I want most right now. So... who's hiring? :-)
Finally I am going to post two lists of things I will and will not miss about the journey.
Things I will not miss:
1. mosquitoes
2. flies
3. bees
4. perpetual dehydration
5. wearing filthy clothes
6. wet-wipe baths
7. crotch-crunching washboarded roads
8. popping saddle sores
9. smelly feet
10. shivering in the mornings
11. lack of fresh food consumption
12. being too tired to eat dinner
13. being uncomfortable
14. getting stared at
15. wearing a dirty "diaper" (chamois shorts)
16. running out of toilet paper
17. waking up still exhausted
18. being in pain 12 hours/day
19. loathing, but needing, the sun
20. struggling to maintain adequate hygiene
21. chasing daylight
22. wondering what is floating in my water
23. high-altitude boogers
24. strangers telling me I'm sunburnt when I'm not
25. running out of food
Things I will miss:
1. killing mosquitoes
2. killing flies
3. killing bees
4. watching the sky change over the course of a day
5. uncluttered horizons
6. freshwater springs
7. speaking obnoxious baby-talk to cows, to either confuse or startle them
8. early morning wildlife sightings
9. having everything I could need in my pack
10. sleeping outside
11. rarity of mirrors
12. sporadic reliance on technology
13. taking breaks wherever & whenever I want, even sitting in the middle of the road
14. eating junk food and getting into amazing shape
15. deep appreciation for the simplest of conveniences
16. receiving uninhibited friendliness from strangers
17. seeing new things all day every day
18. night skies so starry, seen only when at least a day's ride from anywhere and anything
19. eating fingerfood all the time
20. groves of aspen trees
21. creating an evident positive impact on others simply by pedaling
22. a special comaraderie with other cyclists
Lest I bore you with more, so ends the journey. Thank you so much to all those who helped and supported us in person or remotely - seriously, we are so very thankful! Thanks to Panama Jack, KEEN Footwear, roll: bike shops, and Kris Holm Unicycles: Evolution of Balance, who made it all possible. Good luck to our friends hiking the Continental Divide Trail, finishing up the home stretch!
Remember to donate if you feel so inspired, and as always...
...Rock 'n' roll!
Yours Truly,
Team Blazing-But-Slowly-Healing Saddle Sores



Congrats both of you! I hope you enjoyed some cold cervezas y tacos de pescado whilst you visited nuestros neighboros.

enchiladas and piƱa coladas,

uncle richard and auntie robin said...

Hurray!Congratulations!! Can't wait to see you.

word verification: cutamp

janene said...

CONGRATULATIONS, i'm so proud of you both!! :-D

much from a-town,


Mommy said...

We! are! proud of YOU!!! Hey!!!
We are proud of YOU!!!

word verification: whopr!
Someday children will be told of your adventure and the kids will think they're being told a whopr. Unbelievable feat. Thankfully over! Now enjoy the ice cream. You earned it.
We love you and are glad you're back.

tomblackwood said...

It's been great following your ride. Congratulations on finishing the most epic muni adventure of all time!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Gracie and Matt , You have done something that just boggles the mind . The drive and inspiration that you both have showed in your blogs have been entertaining and inspirational .

Cheers and have a very deserved rest . Until your next adventure , Andy Buchanan

Anonymous said...

Gracie, what's up with those untucked shoelaces, girl? You should know better.

Maybe just too used to riding barefoot, no laces to tuck.

Jklingon said...

Wish my mom could see me now! Standing five foot nine on the starboard bow!

Tom said...

A great adventure and a great story. It was a privilege to get to spend some time with Matt and you at the festival this weekend; congratulations on an incredible accomplishment!

LegoAndy said...

You are my hero!!!

jhoran403 said...

I've been following your journey from day 1 and I must say that you and Matt are pretty incredible. I'm filled with jealousy at the adventure you two had but it fuels my desire to get out there and do something that pushes and stretches what I thought possible.

so congratulations you deserve all the ice cream and soda you can stomach...and thanks for a wild ride.

Brosephus said...

attachiquita and attaboy.

rhondajo said...

So proud of you!

The Armstrong Brood said...

Well done, good and faithful unicycler.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing story. A friend of mine who graduated from Duke 20 years ago sent me the article about your journey. Last month, I married an 11-year leukemia survivor. He celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his bone marrow transplant by training for and completing the Lake Placid Ironman. We are both very involved with the LLS in Washington, DC. Thank you for all you did to raise awareness and funds for the LLS. Hope you are relaxing now!
All the best,
Michelle Galvanek
p.s. check out my husband's story at

Dave said...

Just found your site/blog from a link on trackleaders. My dad, brother, cousin and I did the GDMBR back in 2005 and I still think about it almost every single day. Absolutely amazing feat on a uni. Hope you're still riding,


Anonymous said...

Those three flat tires you got in one day are most likely from a wonderful little piece of New Mexico flora known as a "goat head." Nasty little buggers. Bad for bike tires, bad for dog paws, really bad for bare feet.

Congratulations on your journey.

Anonymous said...

Just want to say that you guys are awesome! Ran across your blog researching the trail. Super cool!! Way to go!

Kirk Lawrence said...

Hi I met you guyz in Montana in White Fish. I was doing the divide on a bicycle and I was with some Kiwis. We rode briefly together for a few miles. Just wanted to say AWESOME two years late. Loved your miss / won't miss list. Almost exactly like mine.
You guyz rocked and probably still do.

James Jones said...

I'm a Boston taxi driver. On my first night after 15 months of stroke related healing, a passenger told me about your feat. ......Good Job!.......