From left are Grant County Beat intern Alexis Rico, Payton MacDonald and Mary Alice Murphy in front of the old Elks Lodge.
By Mary Alice Murphy
Payton MacDonald is a composer, percussionist, singer and ultra-distance mountain biker.
The William Paterson University music professor decided to combine the two areas in his life'music, which is his career' and extreme athletics.
He got into the latter by doing a triathlon. "I had done no training, and probably came in third to last, but I had so much fun." He has competed in 25 triathlons and three or four years ago decided to take up bike packing, which is backpacking on a bike.
On Sunday, June 5, MacDonald launched his latest challenge, riding the Continental Divide Trail from south to north. That day he rode 125 miles from Columbus, N.M., to Silver City.
Monday he spent in Silver City, resting up for the next portion, which would be about a two- to two-and-a-half-day ride to Pie Town, N.M.
"I'm still adjusting to the altitude," MacDonald told the Beat on Monday. "I went through 25 pounds of water yesterday. Because the heat comes up in the afternoon, the next four or five days I plan to ride from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m., then ride some more at night. I will become a desert animal."
He has ridden the Trans Wisconsin Trail, about 400 miles of the Allegheny Trail and 500 miles of the CDT from Banff, Canada, down to Montana.
"The latter was sort of a race," MacDonald said. "I decided I didn't like the race format. I prefer touring, because I can meet people and weave music into the trip."
Music was the impetus for this tour. MacDonald commissioned 30 pieces of music that can be performed with voice, and percussion, using two sticks that he strikes against pieces of wood, rocks and a bag of leaves. He noted that bicycle spokes are also very tuneful. The number represents the 30 places where the trail he is riding crosses the Continental Divide. Hence the name Sonic Divide. He said he would also read poetry as part of the performance at each crossing and would record them with a recorder and two lightweight cameras.
"I will create a documentary," he said. "The music is avant garde, although some pieces have traditional elements. It's more underground, like bike packing."
He acknowledged that funding the effort is tough, but he has plans for a crowdfunding effort to create the documentary.
"I did two performances yesterday (Sunday)," MacDonald said. "The first was just north of HachitaG