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We have ridden through this section with the awareness of many changes in the wind. We’ve had more desert, and again enjoyed the sense of space and peace. A final stretch in the mountains south of Pie Town brought much more wintery weather (but still no actual snow on us). It also brought punctures – lots of them. My front tire has slashes in the main substance despite ok tread, and the back tire probably wasn’t helped by the low pressures needed to stop the crack in the rim causing catastrophic problems.

The good news – the crack didn’t extend and I have a very nice new back wheel :-)

The other theme has been the next stage of our journey. When this trip was in the offing, we found the Great Divide MTB route and thought “that’s that planned – a nice route to follow” and paid more attention to the non-english speaking bits. Now that we’re fast approaching the “main part of the trip”, with no insult in any way to the GDMBR, it feels that the real tour is about to begin. It’s been great to have such an amazing route planned for us to show up any problems with the bikes and make sure we could at least make it this far.

We’ve wanted to be able to follow our noses and seek out the quieter ways, and the GDMBR has done that very nicely. Now the route-finding is up to us. We’re not very original in this, with others ahead of us (www.ridingthespine.com and http://whileoutriding.wordpress.com). We’re quite happy to plagarise with the intention to flatter…

So our time in Silver City will be longer that it would be if we were just stocking up for the final days of the GDMBR. Thankfully we’ve landed on our feet at the “Bike House”. A house full of resident bikers (pedal ones), puppeteers and thinkers. Silver City has already, with less than a day here, got its claws into us. A very happening, “us” place. Maybe even with some tunes for Tom (Irish, or vaguely celtic ones).

We left Cuba after a hasty lunch on a service station forecourt (our worst lunch spot on the trip so far – we are keeping a mental list).

Sarah explaining that a Surly Big Dummy isn't a Harley to the nice man in Cuba

That evening we encountered our only navigational near-miss on the entire GDMBR – a Y-junction that could have gone either way and was totally unmentioned by the directions (we turned right first, then backtracked with great harumphing and went left with more success).

Wiggly tracks in the sand - to ride or push. Sarah pondering the eternal question

We’re also beginning to keep a graded list of our least liked trail conditions. Soft sand is probably at number one, closely followed by gusty head-winds. Sarah feels that these things never come in anything less than twos with an adverse synergistic effect. We were followed along this stretch by Russell who reckoned we didn’t push any of it. He was wrong, but the pushing was short-lived though in no way less frustrating. We pitied him his rigid front fork and narrow tyres though.

Camp - just a spot on a ridge off the sandy track winding through the desert with space all around

Grants is a town left behind by America’s falling interest in Uranium. The checkout person in the supermarket was astounded we had come all the way from Australia to Grants. Carole and Hugo saved the place with their generosity. Carole came across us repacking our groceries in the carpark with hot sun beating down on us and took us in like 2 strays. She and Hugo are Continental Divide (walking) Trail “trail angels” and we agree with the term. Hugo’s eyes were only briefly raised when we showed up. They have 11 cats and 3 dogs, so we weren’t the first. We hadn’t planned our weekend in Grants, but the unhelpful staff in the post office who wouldn’t have more than a cursory look for our general delivery parcels did us a favour. We were taken on a tour of the nearby archaeology and saw the country in a way we would never have.

Hugo, our host in Grants suggesting that our tent could do with some reinforcement to come up to the local standard. Cliff dwellings near the Mal Pais alternate south of Grants

Petroglyphs - one of many hidden away up in the Mesas south of Grants

Red to replace gray with peeling bits

The “cyclist accommodation” marked on our maps again turned up trumps in Pie Town. The “Toaster House”, named for obvious reasons, is a place in a million. A slightly ramshackle house, complete with well stocked cupboards and fridge not to mention a bulging hiker/biker exchange box, that is open for the use of any foot or pedal powered travellers passing through. The guestbook revealed that we were not the only people to have difficulty “achieving escape velocity”. It felt overly indulgent to have another rest day after having nearly 2 in Grants, but it was worth it. For the Pie alone :-)

Having gone over 4000km without a puncture, the days since Pietown felt as if they more than made up for the lack.

Very pretty, but we don't like thorns much at all.

We shared the agony with Russell who caught up with us at the Toaster House. Mind you, he had to contend with front rack failures and double the number of flats. We were humbled by his tenacity and energy. He’d left Juno (Alaska) in June and started the GDMBR a week before us, but visited friends along the way and is now ahead of us on his way to Antelope Wells and a well deserved bus ride east and onwards. We were left with a present of chocolate and hose-clamps at Gila Hike and Bike in Silver City :-) There’s little that can’t be fixed with the combination, and we’d given some of the latter to him to aid rack-fixing.

Mexican route reckoning will now begin, and we’d like to keep to the high, quiet places for the time being before heading west to the coast to by-pass Mexico City.

The bike house front fence - Andrew's twist to what your eyes tell you vs your assuming brain

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