Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Great Divide - Collins Park, Lake Roberts, NM

From: Mary
Sent: Sunday, 9/14/03
To: Friends and Family
Subject: Valle Tio Vences Campground to Lake Roberts

September 13 - Valle Tio Vences to south of Collins Park (45 miles, 1920 feet) 

Whereas the dirt roads yesterday were "good enough to drive a school bus over," some of today's roads were solid washboards.  That's hard on a bike and even worse in the motorhome.  That stretch was harder on Mom & Dad than it was on us.

This was a good day; my knee pain was gone.  I could squat to pee -- and get up -- without wincing in pain.  I don't know if that's the result of a double dose of Celebrex, the Salonpas patches Mom gave me, the arnica gel I bought from Nita, the adjustment to my bicycle seat that Jim made, or the lack of cherry pie ala mode.  Whatever the cause, it was a great day to be alive and riding through God's magnificent creation. 

Several times during the ride as I admired the scenery, I would stop to capture the moment with a photo.  It seemed that the magic would disappear with the click of the shutter.  The magic came not only from the visual beauty, but theGila National Forest fragrance of the flowers, the feel of the sun and breeze on my skin, and the sounds of the forest.  When I look at the one-dimensional image, I can only wish for that magical memory.

I'm saddened to think that this bicycle trip will be over in just 5 days. This adventure has been more fun than I expected, and not quite as hard as I expected. 

September 14 - South of Collins Park to Lake Roberts (64 miles, 5740 feet)

Bite my tongue!  This was a hard day for everyone, including our support team.  It started out well enough; I felt strong and was even able to keep up with the big boys (Mark, Jim, and Evan) for a little while.  Mark and Evan eventually pulled ahead, and Jim patiently stayed back with me.  We had intended to meet Mom, Dad, and Janeen at a campsite 50 miles into the ride. To get there, they would have to drive 200 miles on dirt and pavement. 

When we got to the 50-mile point, it was obvious the motorhome wouldn't be meeting us there.  The road was terrible!  We began a steep climb out of a valley, hoping that the road would improve.  Instead, the road steadily deteriorated.  We were dangerously low on water when Jim spotted a small spring.  Jim replenished our water supply by pumping water through a small filter.

It was getting late.  I kept hoping to round a corner to find Ironman Evan and the equally fit Mark riding back to check on us, or to see the group lounging in lawn chairs by the motorhome enjoying cool drinks.  When that didn't happen, I started worrying about how my parents were doing in the motorhome, and I knew they would be worrying about us. 

Near the top of the Continental Divide, we heard the unmistakable roar of Evan and Janeen's diesel truck coming our way.  They told us our campsite was another 16 miles away, 8 on dirt, and then another 8 on pavement.  I was excited about the 8 miles on dirt -- mostly downhill along the Continental Divide.  Isn't that what this trip is about?  Jim wisely convinced me to put my bike in the camper and call it a day.  I was horribly disappointed; I felt like a little kid who had been told on Christmas morning after eyeing a gaily-wrapped present with my name on it for weeks that I would NEVER be able to open it.  I'm so glad I married a man with much more common sense than I have.  It was dark when we arrived at the campsite.

Mark had passed an inn with a cafe and asked the owner if we could get a late meal.  Fran, an angel living on the edge of the Gila Wilderness, stayed open past closing time to serve us delicious meals.  Mark and Jim and I booked rooms at the inn so that we wouldn't have to put up our tents.  Over dinner, we shared our stories. 

Mark and Evan had a rough time as well since they had run out of water.  The bladder on Evan's Camelback broke, drenching him and draining his precious water supply.  Evan realized this road was no place for a motorhome, so he pushed to make it to the paved road before the vehicles started up the dirt. He arrived at the intersection of the dirt and paved roads at the same time as Janeen.  My parents went on up the paved road to the campground while Evan and Janeen came back to get us.

As I drifted off to sleep in a real bed, I thought about how fortunate we are to be with this current group of people.  I've come to depend on Evan's strength whenever I get into a bind.  For an Internet blind date, he's worked out extremely well.  Having Janeen here with a camper turned out to be another stroke of luck.  They were able to pluck us from danger even before I realized we needed rescuing.  We weren't carrying lights for riding after dark. 

Mark is a dear friend as well as my brother-in-law.  Any day with Mark is a good day, but today was especially good. Mark saved me from having to cook dinner and Jim from having to put up the tent in the dark.  He found the right person Mark's devilish doto ask for help.  Fran said she used to make long-distance rides on horseback and knows what it's like to come in late and hungry.  As a result, she's always glad to help out hikers and bikers.

Even though Mark is a great guy, that didn't stop us from laughing at his hairdo.  My dad took this picture of Mark. With his horns and sunburned racing stripes on his forehead, my dad thought he looked a bit like the devil. 

My parents had gone above and beyond the call of duty as a support team today, and without a single complaint.  They drove on rough dirt roads, shopped for groceries, dumped the tanks, filled up with water, and detoured several hundred miles to make it back to us with a smile.   Driving a motorhome under those conditions is exhausting.  Whenever I'm counting my blessings, my parents are at the top of my list. 

Happy trails,

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