Monday, December 4, 2017

December 2017

Another long overdue blog update.    I'm tempted to do a year-end summary, highlighting all the great experiences of the past 12 months.   But I'm not going to, because that would require work and effort.
Flat tire during a ride with new tires already on order.  Still had to change to tube to get home...
I usually update the blog when I'm staying in a hotel somewhere, but for the past few months I have been camping exclusively.  Hence, no wifi, hence no blog updates.  That doesn't mean I haven't been having a wonderful time, camping, showering outdoors, not watching TV...  Sometimes, the fun never ends.

Always nervous when I have to leave the bike like this for a day.

Less nervous as this bike is practically made to fall over occasionally.

But the temperature has dropped enough, and enough cloudy days in a row, meant my solar shower was not getting the least bit warm.  I put up with stinking as long as I could but a hotel was the obvious answer.   There are not a lot of full-service campgrounds in this part of Arizona, at least for tent campers.

Overall, the past two months, while fun, haven't been the type of adventures that make for riveting blog entries.  Thanks for sticking it out this long.  I'll be back early next year with more.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Since the Great Divide trip ended, I’ve been enjoying some camping and motorcycle riding, reading books, listening to podcasts, pretty much anything that doesn’t involve spending all day on a bicycle.

I’ve camped in the Gila National Forest, the Apache National Forest, the Cebolla Wilderness Area, and the Santa Fe National Forest.  At one place I was noticed by the Forest Service who politely point out that they have a 14 days (per 30-day period) stay limit.  I was allowed a couple extra days upon asking, which seemed nice.  I was the only one in the campground most of that time, so I wasn’t really putting anyone out…

I was returning to my campsite on a motorcycle and spotted a snake in the road.  I was able to miss it, but not by much.  Not enough for the snake, for as I went by, I saw it strike.  That was the first (and hopefully last) time I’ve been struck by a rattle snake.

The actual snake that struck me.  I gave it a pass this time...

I wasn’t too worried.  I was wearing a leather jacket, pants, and leather boots.  Plus, I figured with a rattle snake using heat sensitive vision, the motorcycle was literally twice as hot as I was.  So, I guess that was the first time my motorcycle has been struck by a snake.  I never found the bite marks anyway. 

spring loaded candles and New Mexico weather.

On two separate occasions, different days, different motorcycles, I managed to get stuck behind a stripe painter.  Both times they were painting a white stripe on the right side and two yellow stripes on the centerline.  Both times I followed till they had demonstrated no intention of letting me by and the motorcycle was in danger of overheating.  Those things are not made for parades.  So both times I had to pass and leave yellow moto-footprints on the road.  Jerks.  

65 mpg!  Easier on gas than it is on tires.

Despite the slightly confusing road signs, it's tough to get lost on this road.

left or right, those are your choices.

Turns so tight that you can see road signs for oncoming traffic.

Dropped of both my girlfriends for service. 

I had intended to head northwest to Washington but didn’t make it out of New Mexico before I was offered a house-sitting gig.  Too good to pass up, it’ll give me an address to use to get new tires for the KTM, again.  That bike is fun to ride but this will be the fourth set of tires in less than 8000 miles.

So sometime in October I’ll be on the road again, not sure where to as winter will be setting in.  Even now, in Arizona in August, I’m feeling a chill at night at the high elevations where I’ve been camping.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Great Divide Mountain Bike Ride: Grants to Antelope Wells

(Pictures in almost no particular order and not corresponding to the text.)

The weather doesn’t like us as much anymore.  After learning the hard way that the roads are not passable in the rain, we are paying more attention to the weather forecast for our route, and it is not great.  Afternoon rains, almost every day.

To deal with that, we set an alarm (for the first time this trip) and got up before dawn in Grants.  A short walk in the dark got us to Denny’s where we were served breakfast by what may have been a vampire, after which we were on the trail earlier than ever before.

Seventy surprisingly tiring miles got us to Pie Town, NM.  We stopped in a cafe for a late lunch and pie, then off to the local hostel.  The rain started as we parked the bikes.  It’s great when a plan works.

We slept in a bit in the hostel.  Easy to do as we were the only ones there; no noise.

But we were still up at 6:30, packed the bikes, and headed down the road to breakfast.  Good thing we did: it would be two and a half days to the next opportunity to sit down and eat.

At first the ride south from Pie Town didn’t seem that tough.  Rolling hills and trees and ranches.  But no towns or restaurants, and no gas stations to resupply at.

And eventually the rain caught up.  We made it to the edge of a national forest and set up tents.  Not quite the miles we’d hope to cover but it rained for a while and when it finally stopped, neither of us felt like riding more.  

Some of the passes felt like a real accomplishment.  

We spent the night there and hit the road in the morning with eyes on Silver City, NM.  Alas, it was a long way, with many ups and a several downs.  By the end of the day, we’d pedaled up over 5700 feet and made it to a campground just before sunset, about 40 miles short of town.  

That was yet another adventure.  We found the campground, picked a spot, and set up our tents in fading light.  After a small meal of the last of our dehydrated food mixed with instant potatoes, we collected all our trash and took a walk in the dark to a dumpster.

As we walked, a pickup pulling a fifth-wheel trailer motored in to the campground and after driving a full lap parked near where we’d set up tents.

Turns out it was very near, as in the same site.  When we got back to camp, I knocked on the door but no one was home.  It seemed to have been abandoned except for a dog that was checking out our tents while dragging a long piece of rope behind it.  We re-attached the dog to the truck and turned in, not knowing what else to do.  

Before long, there where headlights and the noise of a large truck maneuvering nearby.  I stuck my head out to see the owner of the truck had returned and was trying vainly to back his rig out of our campsite, hindered by the many trees and total darkness.   I approached and told him to not bother.  We didn’t mind sharing and it was too dangerous to back up in the darkness.  We’d be leaving early in the morning and he could have the spot alone after that.   It seemed like the best option.  

In the morning we headed off, riding paved roads all the way to Silver City.  It’s one of my favorite towns, and I would have spent a day off there, but the end of the ride was a mere 120 miles of nearly flat terrain.  And as much as we’d been enjoying our ride, it had been 6 weeks on the road for Paul and 3 months on the bicycle for me.  We were ready to be done, ready for more than one change of clothing.  Ready to not be in a tent at night, ready to eat real food.

An abandon cabin provided shelter during a heavy rain one afternoon.

So off we went, enjoying what might have been the easiest day of the ride.  After 76 miles of paved and dirt roads, we arrived in the town of Hachita.  We asked about a place to camp and where shown to the community center.  It was a big building with a bathroom and kitchen and a lot of empty space.  And though it was a bit stuffy, we slept on the floor and were happy for it.

The next morning we had a mere 45 miles to ride to the finish in Antelope Wells.  Don’t be fooled by the name of the town, because it is really just a border crossing at the end of a road.   There is absolutely nothing else there and no one lives there.  We sat on the ground in the meager bit of shade provided by the sign that says Antelope Wells and waited a short time for our ride.  

Fancy hotel, dirty bikes.

Trail Angels provided water in New Mexico.

Pouring rain outside.  

Another nice campsite.

Not far to go.

And that’s it.  A few hours later I was reunited with my van.  A couple days later I dropped Paul off at the airport.  And a couple days after that I’ll be hitting the road.  From here I’ll be heading north, not a real direct route, not a real specific destination.  Blog updates will go back to my normal sporadic rate, and the adventures will be a little less epic.  

End of the line.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Great Divide Mountain bike ride, Cuba to Grant, New Mexico

We hit the road from Cuba enthusiastic for the ride.  There are so few miles to go we can almost see the border from here (not really, it's still over 350 miles).   Well, it seems closer than it's been this entire trip.  

The ride started with ten miles of pavement and then we turned onto a pretty nice dirt road.  We hoped to cover about 70 miles, but around mile 58, it became obvious that it was going to rain.  

Funny thing about those dirt roads: when they are dry, it's hard like cement with occasional soft sandy bits.  When they're wet, it's like snot with glue.  

We tried to make it two extra miles to what the map called a campground but it became apparent that movement was out of the question.  I put my tent up as fast as I could, right next to the road.  Once it was up, I spent a few minutes bailing water from the floor and then sat and watched it rain.  Paul was up the road a quarter of a mile doing the same thing.  

The rain only lasted 30 minutes or so, and it was only mid-day.  The road was dry by the time I had my tent repacked.  I joined Paul and as he packed his tent, a local pulled up on an ATV.  He had water and even better: come by the ranch, he said.  Just 6 miles, he said.   

Twelve miles later we rolled onto his half-mile-long driveway.  He did have a ranch, or rather, was caretaker to his nephew's ranch.  But the nephew stayed in town, and we were given free run of the main house.  Our host stayed in the guest house at night. 

So the three of us sat on the porch of the main house on this 10,000 acre ranch.  And as we sat there, Paul, the caretaker (nameless for reasons), and myself, we all wondered what would make someone want to stay in town instead.  Utterly peaceful, watching lightning so far away that we couldn't hear it.  Occasionally,  coyotes off in the distance chased rabbits, and cigar smoke drifted lazily around us.  No traffic, no other people.  Even airplanes passed quietly, too polite to disturb the silence.  I could have sat there for a long time.  Maybe I will do that next.   But not now.  

Instead we left in the morning.  Pretty fast riding got us to Milan/Grant in time for lunch.  That had been our goal for the entire day, but we're getting fast, apparently.  

Options were discussed, weather and maps were checked.  In the end, we called it an early day.  It was either that or ride in the rain and then have a short day tomorrow.  But who really wants to ride a bicycle in the rain?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Great Divide: Frisco to Cuba

Leaving Frisco after expensive parts and repairs and lodging and meals, we took a bike path all the way to Breckenridge, which is probably a nice place to stop if you have a large amount of disposable money. We carried on. 

A paved road turned to a dirt road and went over Boreas Pass, 11,482 feet above sea level.  The road dropped in to the town of Como were we hopped to have a meal, but the only restaurant had shut down months if not years before (my maps are from 2014).  The only other business in town was an art hall with cool desert art and free water.  

We continued on a dusty road to Hartsel and dined at every/only restaurant in town.  Camping that night was at a nearby lodge, they let us sleep in the barn for $10 each. It was a nice barn though, cement floor, bar, lights.  Besides housing smelly cyclists they use it for parties, though sadly not at the same time.  

We were joined for dinner and camping by Mark, a recently retired U.S. Army Warrant who was doing a 4,228 mile east-west Trans America ride.  That sounded like too much suffering to me. Good guy though.  

From Hartsel, another dry dusty road got us to Salida.  We tried camping (none) and a hostel (full) and ended up in a motel. 

Just one night though, then back in the trail, over Marshall Pass (10,482 feet), and down to Doyleville were we ate lunch at every/only restaurant in town.  We sat with two Divide racers (no sense stinking up the entire restaurant), a guy named Bobby and a cool woman named Jill who was so sleepy she probably doesn't remember lunch. 

We camped next to a reservoir that night, with several racers passing by, one camping with us, one sleeping in an outhouse nearby.  Really. 

We'd see them and more racers the next day in Del Norte but loose touch with them as we took a day off and they pressed on.  For some people it's hurry up and vacation, for others it's great to be retired.  

After a day off we headed out of town.  The paved road went up hill gradually but when the pavement ended it went up with vigor. Twenty the miles from town we'd gained over 4000 feet in elevation and none of it easy.  Indiana Pass, 11,910 feet. 

Down the other side to the town of Summitville (population: people 0, superfund sites 1) and down to Platoro where we camped in the yard of the only restaurant.  

From there to Horca (the only restaurant was closed) then up over La Manga Pass (a mere 10,230 feet), back onto a dirt road and then we quietly crossed into New Mexico, our final state. 

Later we camped at the Upper Lagunitas campground, spending the night above 10,000 feet and battling mosquitoes the entire time.  No snow though, so that was good.  

On our way down we came to a detour due to a forest fire.  It wasn't marked but we'd been warned that the forest service wouldn't be happy to see us in the area so we detoured to Tres Piedras.  The only restaurant in town was open and thrilled to see us.  We were thrilled to be there.  

After lunch it was back on the roads, till we got to El Rito.  The map suggested we would find a restaurant, bar, and lodging.  We did not.  Instead there was a church.  The new-to-the-church priest was willing to let us camp in their front yard and even brought us a pizza when we asked for hot water.  

The next morning we headed down the road for breakfast and water in Abiquiu. 

After that the trail would be hot, dusty, uphill, and technical.  I walked a lot of it with a gallon and a half of water weighing me down.  We got to camp near the top of the hill, a nice spot, and then ride down to the town of Cuba.  

I ran out of water along the way, finally finding a creek to filter water from.  The creek was so shallow that the suction end of my pump would barely stay under but there were few options.  

It got me down the road and later we found a deeper stream to get more water from. 

In Cuba we took another day off.  I really needed it.  That first night I drank 3 quarts of Gatorade and another of water before the cramping in my hands and legs went away.  

Good times.  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Steamboat Springs to Frisco, Great Divide Mountainbike Route

Departing Steamboat. 

We left Steamboat Springs, rested, repaired, and refueled.  The road out of town slowly went from busy to less so to a bike path to a dirt road to Lynx Pass (8,937 feet).  There was a campground at the top but it was too early in the day to stop.  Further down the mountain the rain started and the clouds were so dark we decided to stop when we saw a likely spot. 

For a couple hours we debated moving on but there always appeared to be more rain imminent.  Finally, we decided to stay the night.  It was okay, rain and thunder and wind kept us from sleeping well but at least it wasn't wide open like the Great Basin.  

The next morning we waited a long time for the sun to clear a mountain and melt the ice off our tents.  It's bad for them to be packed when frozen.   We hit the road and a half mile away discovered a historical landmark: a two story building used as a stage coach stop by Wells Fargo.  We could have slept in a building instead of frozen tents!!

From there it was some steep climbing to the "town" of Radium, population 1 or so.  But the river guide that was painting window trim was willing to sell us Snickers bars so on we went, mostly uphill, to the town of Kremmling.  

Resupply at a gas station and we're on the road, the dirt road, heading up to Ute Pass (9524 ft). The ride down was "exhilarating."  I worked to keep my speed down around 30 mph.  

In town (Silverthorne) we passed on the cheapest motel in town ($79 and it was full) and stayed at a Super 8 (a mere $140 including a $20 charge for checking in early).  

It took us two days to get there, what we'd hope to do in one. But from Silverthorne, only two more days, 60 miles each, would be a lot of progress south.  If only...   If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.  

From Silverthorne, we headed south along a nice paved bicycle path.  Through the town of Frisco, past a large medical center, down a slight hill....

I was in front, moving at about 20 mph, slight right turn, when my rear tire let go with a load bang.  Steering into the skid did little for the metal rim on pavement. In a split second I was turned 180 degrees and landing on my back.  My head hit last and lightest, my ample crashing experience coming in handy. 

Why did my tire blow?  I wish I knew. Even now I wonder, but the answer is missing.  

Damage to my bike was minimal but critical.  A derailleur hanger, a part meant to break in such a case, broke.  A new one is a day away, but today is Sunday, so two days.  

The rim has some damage but will survive.  I have some aches but will carry on.  Otherwise, things are rosy.  Paul went down in avoiding me, but at such a slow speed as to be a none issue. 

We'll be back on our way, maybe Tuesday, no later than Wednesday.   

I still wonder why the back tire blew.   It was new, installed in Atlantic City by myself.  It was upgraded to tubeless in Steamboat Springs, and the pressure was checked by me this morning, set to a reasonable 45 psi.  Both the tire and rim are rated for quite a bit more than that (max about 60 psi).  

There are worse places to be stuck than Frisco, though we both would rather be moving south.  As my old friend Mike Tyson said: "Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth."  I guess a day or two off here won't be that bad.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Not the Martian Chronicals

We departed Atlantic City after what almost seemed like a day off, because we didn't make any forward progress, but didn't seem like a day off because there was riding and quite a bit of stress involved.  

The folks at the bar/restaurant were wonderful. Not only feeding us and letting us camp in the front yard, there were drinks and live music too.  As an added bonus, when we first got there they stared at us like we were from outer space. You know, just to make us feel at home.   

Leaving town is via a dirt road that climbs over 300 vertical feet in less than a mile.  A nice warmup (sarcasm!).  The rest of the day was a doodle by comparison.  Notably, as we climbed away from town, we left behind trees.  Once at the top there we none and we wouldn't see any for quite a while.  

A dirt road and a strong tailwind got going nicely.  The Great Basin is a truly amazing place.  Take away the free range cattle, the wild horses, and the grasses, and you could be convinced it was the surface of Mars.  We would not see a tree till we reached the town of Wamsutter (population 500), 93 miles from our start.  Even there, the trees were obviously not natives. 

We stayed at the only hotel in town and ate dinner at the only restaurant.  Then it was back to Mars, another 63 miles of treelessness.   

At the town of Savery (population 25) we were back on earth, back amongst trees.  And for a small town it was pretty accommodating.  We were at first at a loss, the "store" in town was out of business and there was no sign of the camping that was indicated on the map. 

There was an interesting museum and they always have snacks in the gift shop, so we headed there.  To our surprise, the lady running the place asked immediately if we were Divide riders, then escorted us into the basement where food and snacks  were for sale just for Divide riders.  Score!  She also arranged for us to camp across the street in somebody's yard ($5).  We set up camp and turned in early, only to be woken up at 9 pm by some locals.  They'd seen us camping, had some leftovers, and brought them for us.  Second dinner was fresh trout, baked beans, and fried potatoes.  I only wish they'd had leftover breakfast too.  

From there we had two short days.  I've been hurting from the pace and mileage and climbing.  A day off was needed but we had to get... someplace.  

That place turned out to be Steamboat Springs, CO, which is a great place if you like quaint and very expensive little mountain towns.  

We're leaving Steamboat in the morning, more blog to follow soon.