It was the last morning that I had to get up and peddle to a destination set by my own reckoning.
But it was no different... I packed up with the same routine that I had done for the last 22 days... I answered fb messages and comments... I filled my water bottles... I pulled on my cycle shorts and added chammy cream to saddle sore prone areas... I switched on my GPS...I started my SPOT tracker tracking....
I took a deep breath... and headed out into the now expected bright sunshine and blue skies.
My plan this morning was to head to the bike shop to see if they could fix my brakes(I couldn't as I had no brake fluid with me) only they didn't open until 9am so I went and had breakfast in the greasy spoon diner next door.
Some could have considered it a bad omen when I unwittingly poured VANILLA milk into my coffee... WHAT?? WHY?? NO FAIR!!
Being British.. I said nothing and sat as drank it and even nodded politely and said thank you when the waitress refilled my cup!
At 9am I walked into the bike shop... they were sympathetic but could only promise to try and look at my bike in the next few hours. I understood completely because at 9am the shop was heaving (EMPTY) and they clearly had loads (NONE) of work to do. The customers lining up with their bikes (TOTALLY EMPTY SHOP) clearly precluded them having the time.
So I walked out.. and set off to my final destination for this trip. Durango was a wonderful town to cycle in... with clearly marked bike lanes... signs everywhere for 'Share the Road' and generally felt very safe and cycle friendly. It reminded me of Duarte going into L.A.
Today on paper was pretty flat. The reality confronted me straight away. No sooner than I had left Durango and the 550 turned South did the road climb up out of the river valley to a plain on an escarpment. It was a proper climb... with barriers and everything... but with a bit of 'soft peddling' (see day 22) I got up it no problems. In the grand scheme of things it is barely worth mentioning.. only my legs would put it into a mountain stage category.
Once up on the plain it flattened out. To my left stretched green .. irrigated fields.. to my right a spectacular view hidden by trees and houses. One house had the name Eagle's View and was for sale. If I had been unconvinced about the worth of that house before... the view when the trees receded would have stamped the paperwork firmly.
Stretching out ... a view over the whole valley.. the river (which I will come back to) winding far below and the yellow brown fields beyond. On the other side of the valley a similar escarpment as the one I stood on. Way in the distance were the mountains I had done battle with. They still call me... trying to tempt me back into their clutches once again. No doubt they will eventually succeed for the calls and the whispers pervade my life as an ever present rustle in the background of my life. My love of the mountains... whether scrambling on foot or crunching the gears on my bike.. will always ensure that I challenge and push myself as far as I can ... and no matter how much it hurts or how much sweat it entails I will always answer the call.
I contemplated this as I stared at the horizon. Unwilling to move... to break the spell. For to move was to bring the end closer and I wasn't sure I was ready for it to end. My body hurts but my mind is strong and already even at this point was missing the open road.. the silence... the fresh air... the independance... the simpleness of it all.
But for a journey to begin... another has to end and so I reluctantly turned my back on the mountains... promising to return... and set myself Southwards once again.
I freewheeled as the road headed downwards back towards the river. The Animas River... a fitting river to run alongside on the final day of this journey. Anima ... meaning soul or life force...
My soul has been fortified by this journey... more force brought to my life from the challenges and the hardships. The remainder of this journey would trace a path alongside the Animas River providing a parallel.
I crossed the river and settled in for a stretch of minor ups and downs.... the dusty road stretching out in the distance towards my final destination. A gas station loomed and given the heat... which must have been pushing 100°F (in old and U.S currency).. I needed more refreshment. One carton of banana nesquick and 1 gatorade later and I was ready to hit the road again. V shortly after I crossed the border into New Mexico.
Almost as soon as I did that the rock by the side of the road turned into sand and cactus appeared suddenly. Birdsong had been replaced by the chirruping of crickets and the heat radiated off the black tarmac in a heat haze.
The straight roads meant I became vulnerable to that most dastardly trick of the cycling gods... the headwind. It wasn't severe (I didn't have tumbleweed heading straight for me this time- see 'Putting the Metal to the Pedal' available on Amazon for that story) but it sapped the energy somewhat. I had earlier determined to enjoy every lasting minute of today and the headwind served to make it that little bit longer but my body is short on reserves and is easily tired ... so now I wished to be there... the end... finito.
I eventually came upon tbe town of Aztec.. and decided that food was a necessity for fuel should this headwind continue. McDonalds it was... free wifi and a place to sit. I sat there... tired... but still not wanting it to end. When I got on the road again ... it would be the last leg of so many legs.
But I wouldn't get there at all if I didn't get moving.. my mantra still being uttered out loud...
I was now riding through Ute and Navajo Indian territory ... a history and a people that fascinate me with their love and understanding of the natural world. I wish I had more time here to explore... but there has to be some adventure left for next time.
And then I was there ... Farmington... or at least the outskirts of... and suddenly traffic started shoving past me... jostling for the space on the road... forcing me to rely on my cycling wits once again. ..
It was not a pleasant 20 minutes as I fought my way through. In fact I had probably more close calls in those 20 minutes than in the whole of the rest of the journey. Farmington surprised me... I was expecting a small town... unhurried and laid back. It was not to be. However I found myself crossing the Animas River for the last time and arriving at my final destination... The Hampton Inn, Farmington, New Mexico.
It wasn't my original intended destination but at least I had cycled into New Mexico and totting up roughly the journey of 2 parts... I have cycled over 1000 miles. More details of exact figures will be given in the next week or so for anyone still interested.
As for how I feel now that my cycling jersey is hung over a chair .. not to be worn again until WASHED!! (It might well walk off on its own)....
The answer is... I don't know yet... and I haven't told my bike yet so shhhhhh.
There will be a few more blogs to round off this adventure... some information about the kit I took and what I would never have been without and some thoughts once my pedals have stopped turning. One question which has already been asked... which may be answered... is What's next?
There are some things I do know...
This journey is in memory of my Phoenix.. who I carry with me always and forever.
I do know that without the support... messages... comments... shares... likes and above all ... donations to the cause at the centre of all I do... I would not have been able to get as far as I did. Heartfelt thanks to every single one of you. Love Hope Strength x
I also know that every one of you is also capable of a journey like this... if you choose to step out over the edge of the comfort zone... Fight the Fear... Embrace the Randomness and above all Go With The CraZy!
Thirdly I know that I have the scars to testify to this wonderful... breathtaking... wearing... soul destroying... soul building... renewing... rebuilding... rearming journey and I wouldn't change a single thing... not a thing.....
Except perhaps the mosquitos... yup them... I would murder every single one of the little Fcukers!
If you have enjoyed following the journey and want to help Fight Back against Cancer with me... please go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/OneChallengeAtATime by clicking on this link and donate whatever you can.
To find out more about Love Hope Strength Foundation and its founder Mike Peters...my inspiration. ..
Please click on the link below
www.lovehopestrength.org if you are in the U.S.A