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Friday, July 29, 2022

Jessica's Great Divide

I just want to celebrate another day of livin'
I just want to celebrate another day of life.

I Just Want To Celebrate, Dino Fekaris & Nick Fesses (1971)

Even though I'm back in the Black Hills excited to be scouting roads for a new adventure, the Great Divide occasionally pops into my world. And it's great fun.

Last summer, Jessica Shadduck of Omaha, Nebraska rode the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route starting at the Canadian border with a friend, who stopped in Northern Colorado. Undeterred, Jessica soldiered on, riding solo for weeks to cross the rest of Colorado and all of New Mexico, finishing in Antelope Wells. In a recently published article, she candidly expresses her battles to overcome a host of physical and mental challenges. It's quite a story. Jessica's Great Divide.

For me, this is not just another Great Divide travelogue. I met Jessica on the Great Divide, leap frogging a few times across New Mexico. That girl has grit. And she knows how to celebrate.

Jessica packing up for the climb up Polvadera Mesa.
The Resort At The River, Abiqui, New Mexico.
I didn't realize she was in this picture until reviewing my Abiqui pictures for this post.

I met Jessica at the Gold Pan Cafe in Platoro, Colorado, a popular rest stop for Great Divide riders after the big climb over 11,910' Indiana Pass. I had arrived a couple of hours earlier, rented the Great Divide Cyclist Only cabin, cleaned and dried everything from a rainy day, and started a big burger meal when she dragged in sometime after 6 pm. 

Although looking every bit the trail weary traveler at the end of a long day in the midst of a very long journey, Jessica was in good spirits. She chatted a bit, but was on a mission to re-fuel, re-supply, and return to the route. In no time, she was back on the bike to pedal off a few more miles that day and maybe into the night.

At her pace, I never expected to see her again. But a few days later and 150 miles down the trail, there she was in Abiqui at the Resort At The River. I caught up only because she crashed and absolutely smashed her rim, rendering the bike unrideable. Take a look at that rim in her article. With no bike shop within carrier pigeon range, she didn't panic and she didn't call it quits. She somehow managed, with enough time and persistence, to straighten that rim enough to hold a tire under pressure on a bike under load. Trailside. Wow. That's self-supported bikepacking.

Jessica was still sorting through some minor mechanical issues the next day when I started the climb to Polvadera Mesa, which I consider the toughest climb of the entire route. See The Toughest Climb. Hours later, as I pushed my bike up a steep, rocky, loose pitch in the heat of the day, Jessica lightly spun by and cheered me on. Thanks, Jessica, go get that hill! She soon disappeared over a ridge and I certainly did not expect to see her after that.

Seven days and about 500 miles later, I'm on the home stretch to the Mexican border. As that reality gradually took shape, a crazy number and variety of thoughts and emotions bombarded my senses. But not one of them involved sharing the moment with another Great Divide cyclist. After all, I have not seen another cyclist in over a week and only 3 others since Platoro almost two weeks ago.

What happened next made my day and even landed on a short list of my Top 10 Moments on the Great Divide. I'll simply copy here what I wrote in the prior post Top 10

8. Jessica's Joy
As I'm riding the last few miles into Hachita, New Mexico, maybe 50 empty miles from the Mexican border, I see a dusty four door clunker approaching me from the south. The sketchy car slows, so I slow almost to a stop well ahead of it, peer into it, mind the doors and windows, and instinctively ready my bear spray. The car abruptly stops. The front passenger door flies open. 

"CRRAAAAIIG!!!!!" screams a woman, as she runs toward me, arms flung to the sky. HEY! It's Jessica, another south bound Great Divide rider whom I met 13 days ago in Platoro, Colorado. She rode to Antelope Wells today and was in a shuttle on her way home. Jessica is just bursting with energy. So excited. So happy. So enthusiastic. For finishing her big ride. For me about to finish mine. For everyone else out there. For life. She is pure, unrestrained, unadulterated JOY! I believe she would have hopped back on her bike to ride back to Antelope Wells with me, if her driver hadn't nudged her back into the car. Jessica, you are a gem.

Jessica's Great Divide article is compelling, because of her and her journey. And it's more than that to me. Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your experience and bringing yet more smiles.

I Just Want To Celebrate, Rare Earth live on The Midnight Special (1973).

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