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I had been through it all before. In 2011, when I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, I remember the feeling that something wasn’t quite right in my underwear. A quick check at trailside confirmed the worst: A SHART! Trailside cleanups of that nature, on the high, dry slopes of the Angeles National Forest are logistically difficult to say nothing of the embarrassment should another hiker happen along.

On that occasion, I procrastinated, hoping that things would clear up on their own. They didn’t. A week later I was still feeling lousy and finally went to a doctor who prescribed Cipro antibiotic which solved the problem in a day or two.

This time, the precursor was the same – stomach queasiness, excessive burping. The unmistakable confirmation occurred while I was walking through a park in Del Norte. Having the park to myself, I allowed a little intestinal gas to escape. Within a few steps, I knew more than gas had escaped.

Since we would be heading into territory where no medical facility would be found for many days’ ride in any direction, I immediately got on my bike and rode lickety-split to the Del Norte Hospital.

After presenting my situation to the emergency room doctor, he sympathetically wrote me out a prescription for Cipro WITHOUT CHARGING ME ANYTHING! (Emergency room visits are notoriously expensive.) Since this was a breach of hospital protocol, he added “Just don’t come back and sue me.”

Three days later I’m feeling fine and my underwear are spotless!

We’re camping on the porch of the Vallecitos, New Mexico Community Center this evening. No one is here, which is just as well, but this hardscrabble little community has graciously opened its arms to bicycle tourists. The few houses that comprise Vallecitos look like a rural Mexican village from the last century. Humble as our accommodations are, they suit our needs.

P1030561.JPGVALLECITOS COMMUNITY CENTER

The riding from Del Norte to here has been arduous but gorgeous:

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The first day out of Del Norte we climbed to the highest pass on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Ride – Indiana Pass. Here is a photo of me, Mary, Margo, and Michiel at the summit, feeling justifiably proud of ourselves:

P1030554.JPGCONQUERING HEROES AT INDIANA PASS

That night we camped at a beautiful campsite, the one recommended by our book, only to learn that the water is contaminated by heavy-metal run-off from the surrounding mountain! I begged a few liters from some guy who was there with an RV.

The next night we just camped by some creek in the middle of nowhere – but even nowhere in the Colorado Rockies is beautiful:

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The next morning we crossed into New Mexico.

That afternoon, Mary and I stopped at a creek to get some water. Margo and Michiel decided to push on another 17 miles to a campground. After riding a few more miles, Mary and I decided we’d had enough for the day so we camped by a stock pen on the windy, open countryside. The Nederlanders have to complete the ride by October 12 so they are pushing harder than we are. We may not see them again but you never know. We four seem to have a knack for running into each other.

One last photo: Here I am at Indiana Pass just before my last hurrah:

P1030553.JPGLIEF AT INDIANA PASS(OUT)

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