(Let me first say I took a few days to write this post so I could calm down and assess my emotions. I thought about sugar coating it to not make a certain party look bad, but there are a lot of people giving me tons of moral support on my journey. To tell them anything but the truth would be wrong in my opinion. I am just going to speak from my heart in it. So here goes…)
Upon waking up I cleaned up my mess and headed to the front of the station with my trash. A lady saw me appear from behind the station and quickly rolled up her window assuming I was homeless. Some local truckers in the gas station talked to us about routes. Today we would hit Emory Pass which is the biggest mountain to climb on the entire Adventure Cycling Southern Tier route. They said it may be too windy to attempt it and talked about considering a different route on I-10. That also had its cons in that dust storms happen regularly there and this caused a 19 car pileup on the highway a few days before. After debating for about an hour I came to the conclusion that the ACA route has never steered me wrong. If the winds got too bad we could always just pitch a tent on the side of the mountain and continue on the next day.
Throughout the trip Andrew had been riding about a half mile to a mile ahead of me. He would continually gloat about how he was faster than me. To be honest he probably did start the trip in better physical shape than me, but the majority of the time I let him stay in front of me so I could look out for his own safety. I had the maps/navigation equipment and carried all the tools to fix the bikes. He didn’t get good cell phone service with his provider and I figured if he broke down or got lost behind me he would be in danger. So I just continued to let him ride ahead, but on more than one occasion warned him that he needed to pace himself or he was going to get too sore. On more than one occasion he overexerted himself and wanted to quit with only 30-40 miles under our belts for the day. He was just too hard headed to listen to me about pacing himself.
We pedaled on through flat land for about 20 miles and I finally hit a convenience store right at the bottom of the mountain and could see the 8100 foot summit looking up at it. Andrew was sitting there on the bench when I arrived with a familiar piece of paper in his hand. He had showed it to me previously and it was a distant family member of his who lived in Las Cruces about 60 miles back. I went to the bathroom oblivious to why he was holding it as we had already been through Las Cruces. I figured if he wanted to get in touch with them he would have when we were actually in Las Cruces the day before. When I got back from the restroom he walked up to me with the paper in high slightly shaky hand and said he was quitting. I sat there for about a half hour and tried to reason with him. I told him we were almost to San Diego, that his brother would want to see him push through, and that people back home were cheering him on. It didn’t seem to work. It just happened to be that the Adventure Cycling Association was doing a supported tour heading east and a lot of the riders were showing up at the gas station. The riders included a good combination of all age groups and both men and women who were heading from San Diego to Florida. A few of them even told him he was almost done and to push on. None of this seemed to help. I told him that I couldn’t risk getting stuck on this mountain at dark and had no more time to debate with him. If I sat there any longer he was risking my safety. I warned him he would regret this decision one day and told him I hoped to see him behind me in a few minutes as I rode away. At this point I was about 80% sure I would see him behind me in a few minutes and he would continue on.
I pedaled on for about a mile and I heard him yelling behind me. I slowed down and got excited at first thinking he had changed his mind. When he caught up to me he said to me, “You are actually going to leave me here?” I responded, “No Andrew, you are leaving me.” I hoped he would continue riding west, but he turned around and headed east. I guess he figured if he quit that I would quit with him, but quitting is not in my vocabulary and never will be. I knew his family was only about 50 miles away and he would be okay so I continued on. I had to make it to a campsite on this mountain before dark to steer clear of danger.
As I pedaled up the mountain I started to see more beauty than I had ever seen previously on the trip. There was much nature, rivers, streams, cliffs, and canyons the further I pedaled. I was saddened that if Andrew had just pedaled on a little further he would have experienced this with me. While riding an older gentleman in a car pulled me over and asked if I was Samuel. I asked him if there was another rider heading in my direction and he said yes. I continued on in hopes we could maybe connect and ride together. It is more rare to find riders heading westbound this time of year as the prevailing winds come from the west. Therefore most choose to start in San Diego and head east. I climbed for 17 miles and finally reached Hillsboro. I had lunch in a little diner and chatted with a family who was exploring New Mexico for the first time. The lady working in the restaurant told me I had plenty of time to reach Kingston which is about halfway up the mountain. I pedaled on through the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen in my life and finally reached Kingston. I found a campsite, but it had no showers and the family at the diner told me they were staying in the bed and breakfast in Kingston. I pedaled on in search of it and finally reached it about 5pm. There was a lady hanging laundry on the clothesline and I asked if she was the owner. She told me she was and I explained my situation in that I previously had someone to split expenses of rooms with, but now I no longer do. She decided to give me the rooms for almost half price at $50 dollars. The family had already told her I was on my way and somehow she already knew another rider heading west was to arrive in Kingston tonight. She called a guy named Bob by phone and he told her the rider was staying with him. Being very thoughtful they both arranged for us to meet. About an hour and a half later Bob and Samuel showed up at the B&B and we chatted for about an hour. It turns out we ride about the same distance each day and he also had ambitions to make it to San Diego. We agreed we would ride together the next day and Bob said he would guide us up the mountain. We would be climbing over 2000 feet within 9 miles which proves to be the steepest stretch on the entire route. I went to bed happy I wouldn’t have to face the mountain alone the next day.
To Andrew: Something I never told you is on the first leg of this trip Aaron and I had a deep conversation. We both agreed if anything ever happened to one of us we would always look out for the others brother. This experience doesn’t change that. Aaron would have never left me sitting on the side of that mountain, but I also realize you aren’t Aaron. Honestly right now I have some hard feelings, but always remember if you ever need anything I will be there for you.