It’s been ages since I wrote my last blog and I can’t remember exactly what’s happened but I’m pretty sure it’s involved riding a bike. Most significant parts of the route include Jevez mountain (rough roads and uphill, enough said) and the crossing between Cuba and Grants.
I have been on a similar schedule as Aussie Daniel for some time now since we bumped into each other after leaving Salida, and we were due to cross the infamous section between Cuba and Grants at roughly the same time (with me about half a day ahead). The section – about a 100 mile diagonal crossing of whatever large number of square miles that makes of deserty, canyonish area – is well-known on the trail as if there’s heavy rain the roads turn to mud and you’re stuck a long way from civilisation and will likely have to walk out of there.
The alternative route between the two towns that many are forced to take is 120 miles of highway, ideally done in one day as there’s not really any place to camp. That and the fact I’d been warned that it wasn’t that safe meant that I was keen to take the rural route, despite the weather forecast being a little bit dodgy.
There was somewhere between a 20 and 40% chance of thunderstorms each day. As there’s dark clouds most afternoons +/- thunder which more often than not don’t release any rain (or if they do it’s short-lived), which I assume get labelled thunderstorms even though storm is over the top, I wasn’t overly worried about the roads becoming impassable. So, after a disappointing 18 mile mistake that morning after turning left rather than right to get to Cuba, I had a MacDonalds (don’t judge me – they have free wifi and I like the salt injection), and set off on the crossing that afternoon. My bravado disappeared almost as rapidly as the lunchtime fries had done as I found myself in a vast expanse thinking “I’m the only one out here!”. Part of the attraction of the route is taking lesser-travelled forest or county roads but I’ve rarely felt lonely or alone on them as at some point someone has driven past and said hi or I’ve met another cyclist or something. This was remote in a bad way though and as I became more and more nervous I started putting a different spin on the weather forecast: what if they’d meant ‘proper’ storms? What if the 40% happened rather than the 60%? If you take that worst-case scenario you’re left entering an area where there’s only a 60% chance of you coming out of there with your bike and a 40% chance of coming out on foot with only your most valuable possessions – not really odds you’d take a gamble on.
There’d been dark clouds that afternoon that I’d got really het up about wondering whether they were standard late in the day ones or going to tip it down. It was really windy that night and I associate wind with ‘proper’ storms so was really worried and didn’t sleep a wink. I was saying to myself “that’s it, you can’t have another 2 days of neurotically worrying about each cloud is going to bring so just back-track in the morning and take the highway. And DON’T get out of bed, see a cloudless sky and think ‘it’ll be alright, I’ll go on” as the morning weather bears little correlation with the afternoon weather”.
When I arose that morning, I saw a cloudless sky and thought “it’ll be alright, I’ll go on”. Some nagging doubt did remain but as I was coming down the hill I’d camped on, Daniel was there as he’d been following my bike tracks and noticed they’d disappeared so had stopped, guessing I was up there. Having another person there finalised the decision to risk the crossing and off we went on what, now I look back, was one of my favourite bits.
There were some big black clouds around at times on both days but having someone else there to keep you having a more rational take on things that we’d probably be fine helped a lot.
Daniel wondering whether to make macaroni cheese or….. macaroni cheese for dinner:
I haven’t heard of any of the other people I’ve come across along the way who had good enough weather to do this stretch so I feel very lucky.