GDMBR: The Last Day

Posted on: Thursday September 29, 2022 GDMBR, Bikepacking

The cows are still angry in the morning, bellowing just around the corner from our campsite in the aspen grove. Soon, the coyotes join in and we howl back. This is one of the more remote sections on the GDMBR and it feels desolate: just us and the cows and the coyotes out here. The road is rough but it gets better and better, until we start to see pickup trucks and ATVs again. It’s hunting season now, and everyone is looking for pronghorn.

Pronghorn are one of my favorite animals. They’re the fastest land creature in North America, evolving to outrun a predator that’s long extinct. I love spotting them running across the grassland: dark striped faces disappearing as they turn tail and run. They’re completely absent today. Animals always know when it’s hunting season, and disappear from the landscape. I already resented the hunters with their loud ATVs, and now I’m sad that our surroundings have less animals too.

We stop for lunch just before a paved highway. On the other side of the cattle grate, cows dart in front of cars, and semi-trucks blare their horns to scare them off of the road. We head off, trying to do the short highway section quickly. We climb up and up, skirting around cows. Near the top, Steve stops. I catch up quickly. “I heard a pop,” he says.

“Did you hit a rock?” I ask. That’s a common enough occurrence: pebbles pinging out from under our tires, sometimes alarmingly loud. But Steve says no, this time it sounded different. He checks over his rear wheel, which has been giving him problems for weeks. Two spokes are broken, hanging loose. He reaches out to twist one and the tire deflates, with a long, sad hiss. There’s a sinking in my stomach. He can’t ride on this. We can’t fix it either. The nearest bike shop is a long, long way away.

We push his bike a few kilometers to a campground, trying to figure out our options. There’s a sliver of cell service. The nearest bike shop is Santa Fe: four hours away in a car. We have just ten days left before we have to fly home, and almost a thousand kilometers left to cover. There’s no time to detour to Santa Fe, return to the trail and finish.

A man in a white pickup is leaving the campground. Steve flags him down to ask how we can return to civilization. After just a little persuading, he loads our bikes into his truck and drives us to the nearest town: 45 minutes and thousands of feet of elevation loss. From there, two busses take us to Santa Fe, and we start the long trip home.

And so, for the first time, we don’t complete a big adventure. I’m sad of course, but also secretly a little pleased. I was so bored on the Arizona Trail this spring. It was too easy: there was no way I wouldn’t finish it. Sure, it was pretty and fun, but where was the challenge? Now, we’ve failed. And that means we’re aiming higher and dreaming bigger. Now there’s a challenge again.

Steve spends the next few days conducting a post mortem. If we had started in Banff instead of Jasper, we might have made it. If I hadn’t gotten sick. If we hadn’t spent those days in Helena, waiting out dangerous heat. If he’d repaired his rear tire sooner, or differently. So many what ifs.

It isn’t easy to come home, but then again, it never is. We both feel like we should still be out there, pedaling through the desert.

Blogs by Category

Eloise Robbins (Fun Size)

About the Author

Eloise Robbins (Fun Size) is a writer, triple crown thru hiker, and adventurer. She is a lover of the outdoors, hiking, canoeing, and most of all mountains.

Thank you for your comment! It has been received and should show up here once it's approved.


None yet

Copyright © 2016-2021 Eloise Robbins; All rights reserved