“Where the rivers change direction, across the Great Divide.”
— Singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith, Across the Great Divide, 1993
EL CAJON, Calif. — My previous crossings of the Continental Divide were events of a sort — usually done on a bicycle. They were preceded by a great expenditure of breath-sapping effort and followed by a Rocky Mountain high — literally and figuratively.
Today’s crossing of the Great Divide, by car, was decidedly underwhelming. It snuck up on me before I even knew it was there.
One minute I’m driving along an arrow-straight section of Interstate 10 in a griddle-flat valley in southwestern New Mexico about 30 miles west of Deming. The next minute I see a sign that says: “Continental Divide 4,585 feet.”
Whoa! That can’t be the Continental Divide, I think. There wasn’t even a hill. But a look at my road map confirmed that that spot on Interstate 10, surrounded by desert, is indeed along the Continental Divide.
Several ranges of mountains a bit further west on the road to Tucson would seem to have a far better claim to be the nation’s watershed.
At least the car had to drop into a lower gear to get up and over them. But they apparently didn’t get the nod from the geographers and geologists who figure out such things.
“How in the world do they decide where to put the Continental Divide?” my wife, Mary Ellen, once asked.
Middle son Matt had a ready answer: “Multiple urination tests, Mom.”
Today’s drive of 611 miles from Deming, N.M., brought me to El Cajon, Calif., only 15 miles east of San Diego, the jumping-off point for our cross-country bicycle journey beginning Sunday. Tomorrow, I’ll check into the Point Loma Hostel and perhaps get a chance to meet some of the other 14 riders I’ll be riding with to Florida.
Too bad that we won’t get to cross the Continental Divide at that flat spot just west of Deming.