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.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Great Divide Mountainbike Route

We left Pinedale feeling fed, rested, refreshed.  Even better, the first twelve miles out of town were slightly downhill and we had a strong tailwind all day.  

We pedaled with the Wind Range Mountains on our left for hours.  The scenery never stopped being breath-taking, though this entire ride could be described that way.  

With the tailwind helping, we covered over 80 miles and arrived in Atlantic City, WY.  Unlike the one in New Jersey, this one had a population of just about 54 people. 

Camping was in the front yard of the bar/restaurant/store, nearly the only business in town.  The following morning we'd be heading out across the Great Basin, a geographical anomaly that is on neither side of the Great Divide.  As a side effect, it is a very dry place.  The map told us we'd go 55 miles between potential water sources.   Carry all you need.  If only that was our only problem.  

13.5 miles from our start, our day's ride ended with a bang from my rear tire.  The old, well-ridden, and slightly abused rear tire started to come apart, which allowed the tube to poke through, which is bad for the tube.  

But the tire was a bigger, more immediate problem.  The fix involved me sewing the tire back together enough  to inflate a new tube just enough to be able to walk the bike.   Riding would stress the broken parts too much.  Options were plentiful, good options less so, as is so often the case.  

Going back to Atlantic City was 13.5 miles.  Going forward to Rawlins was 127 miles and no matter how you slice it, that is a long walk. 

Paul started riding, hoping to borrow a truck.  I started walking, hoping Paul would have good luck before I walked the full 13 miles.  As it was, I walked less than 8 miles before he showed up with truck.  Good times.  

Back in Atlantic City and for about twice the price of a new tire I got a new tire.  That included delivery from the nearest town with a bike shop, over 25 miles away, and hours later, that still seems like a good deal.  

Regarding riding the Great Divide Route, the question has been raised; why do we voluntarily do something that involves so much suffering.   This question bounced around my head as I walked, and the answer came easily.  We do this because the North and South Pole have already been explored.  Because Lewis and Clark are no longer hiring.  We do this, not because it is easy, for it certainly is not.  We do this because it is hard, it is challenging, and it forces us to test ourselves and push our own limits.  We do this because most people can't.  

As a bonus,  everyday we are reminded what a great and beautiful country this is.  We are spending hours riding through history.  Today we crossed the Oregon Trail and the Pony Express Route. The bicycles allow us to feel the sun and smell the dust.  We've seen clouds of pollen leaving pine trees and herds of pronghorn antelope running past us.  In this country you are free to travel at high speeds between destinations.  The real question is why anyone not travel by bicycle if they could.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Great Divide Ride Part Next.

I forgot to mention the cabin we stayed in was the Lava Mountain Lodge near Dubois, Wyoming, and highly recommended if you're in the area.  

Leaving there we turned off the pavement and headed uphill.  Locals told us Union Pass wasn't passable but we'd heard that before and always managed to get through.  Not passable by car is a long ways from not passable on a bike or on foot dragging a bike.  

And dragging a bike is what we did.  The pass was 9,672 feet above sea level and there was 3-4 miles of walking in snow dragging our bikes.  We celebrated when we crested the summit and could drag our bikes downhill for a while. 

It was a long and slow moving day and after almost five and a half hours of movement, we'd covered just over 36 miles.  

Worse news, we weren't descending much. The mountain has a bit of a flat top so when we looking for a place to stop around 6:30 pm, we were still over 9000 feet.  

Dark clouds were moving in as we passed on the first campground.  There was nothing there, no outhouse, and no bearboxes.  Bearboxes are small metal lockers where you store all your stuff.  Try to avoid feeding the bears.

Anyway, the first place didn't have them.  A few miles farther along, the second campground had its own issues.  But it had a shelter.  Small, unfurnished, just four walls and a roof.  Room for one, but there were two of them.  And each one had its own toilet.   Okay, they were outhouses.  Sound gross?  It was!  But the ground was soaked and trees were scarce and when lightning started hitting near by, being in a concrete building seemed okay.  At that altitude, the lightning and thunder is pretty close and personal.  

We had two separate thunderstorms pass over that night.  Sleeping in an outhouse to avoid getting struck by lightning or eaten by a bear: living the dream.  

The next day, things got worse.  

We had some breakfast and headed out early.  It was about 57 miles to Pinedale, WY, should have been an easy day.  Alas, there are no easy days.   

27 miles got us to pavement, 4 more got us to the first restaurant we'd seen in two days.  We fought for every mile.  The more we moved forward, the harder the wind blew in our faces.  Just before the restaurant, Paul was nearly blown off the road.  Winds were reported at 32 mph gusting to 46. 

Of course the restaurant was closed.  We sat on their porch and discussed our options.  I was out of gas, could barely pedal anymore, and almost out of food.  Paul said he was nearly spent.  I looked in the window of the place, it looked like it should be open.  And the door was unlocked.  Sticking my head inside, I saw a guy in the kitchen.
  "What time do you open?"
  "Wednesday."   Hmmm, two days from now.  After briefly explaining our situation, he offered to cook a frozen pizza for us.  Done!

Slightly fed, we considered our options for getting to Pinedale.  Google said twenty seven miles, the weather app said 32 mph headwind.  I figured four hours or more, with afternoon rain in the forecast.  But we had one more card to play: we'd visited an ATM at Lava Mountain Lodge.  At the time I wasn't sure why, there wouldn't be any places to spend money along the way.

But it turned out a nice lady at the restaurant was willing to give us a ride, bikes in the back of a pickup truck, in exchange for some of that ATM booty.  I was fine with that, especially after riding over 30 minutes in a truck, felling it get pushed around by the wind.  And then looking out the window of a hotel room as the rain that turned to snow.  We could have gutted it out, but days like that are why people quit the Divide.  

We're still in it.  But taking tomorrow off to go fishing.  

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Continuing Saga of Bicycling the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route with my buddy Paul.  

A day off in Lima, MT, did wonders for us and once again we were off and riding.  Funny, if you don't count the interstate, there are three roads out of Lima (population 224) and with 6 GPSs and a paper map, we still managed to get lost. But only briefly and then we had a pleasant backcountry ride that got us to Idaho and Henerys Lake.  There, we camped in the front yard of an RV park and felt like kings.  All the RVers were jealous of our freedom.  "A man is free in relation to the number of things he can afford to leave behind." HDT. 

Leaving there we headed south and after a short but difficult day we camped at a golf course.  No, really.  It was nice and not terribly over priced.  So nice we delayed our start in the morning in order to play nine holes.  Hilarity ensued.  Golf is a great game if you think you aren't spending enough time looking for small round objects in deep grass or if you just want to practice your swearing.  

Back on the road we had a very pleasant ride toward Yellowstone and the were brutally punished for thinking the day would be easy.  

As we passed 7000' we started to encounter snow drifts.  Nothing is as fun a dragging your bike through snowdrifts unless you add in hoards of ravenous mosquitos, which we had.  Even when the snow drifts were far enough apart to make riding between the reasonable, the uphill speeds and tailwind made it easy for the mosquitos to keep up.  We couldn't even stop to eat.  Brutal.  

Once over the pass, we still weren't done with the drifts, although eventually I shouted for joy upon seeing an abandon van stuck in a snowdrift. Hey, somebody drove it that far!  Sure enough, after the van the trail was rideable.  We later met the girl who stuck that van and the short story is don't trust google maps explicitly. 

We camped at the most expensive campground ever, paying $40 for a patch of dirt between two dirt roads.  They also offered "cabins" that had a bunk bed, no electricity, no running water, no heater.  Just four walls and a roof for a mere $75.  

To make the deal sweeter, Paul and I both woke up with food poisoning (possibly due to some golf course kimchi) and were forced to stay another day, spending almost all of it sleeping in our tents.  

Finally leaving the Yellowstone area, we spent a long day on the pavement. That day ended with rain and sleet and a 9500' pass.  Easy enough to keep warm on the climb, the screaming descent... not so much.  

For lodging that night we got a cabin, electing not to camp in the near freezing temps.  Our cabin had two bunk beds and heat and lights, though not much else, $30. A deal, all things considered.  

If you've read this far, please leave me a message, either here or on Facebook.  It's helps me write knowing someone is reading it.  

Monday, June 5, 2017

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

For pictures of this trip, check out Paul's Tumblr
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Paul finally arrived in Butte.  I'd been waiting there for him for... a while.  After an afternoon assembling his bike we were ready to hit the road for the 75 mile ride to Basin.  

But first some errands.  Among them was purchasing fishing licenses.  Sadly, a 10-day non-resident fishing license was a whopping $80 each.  Not knowing what to expect in Basin, I suggested we wait and buy the licenses there. Errands mostly done, we left town around noon. 

Thirty seven miles later we arrived in Basin.  I've never been so glad to be bad at math!  From there it was 9 miles to the cabin we would be staying in while fishing. Some of that was not uphill.  Some of it was extremely uphill.  As in, when the road turn up, we were less than 4 miles from our destination and it took an hour to get there.  I walked the last half mile, with several breaks along the way. Brutal. 

Sadly, fishing opportunities that didn't require riding back down (and back up) that hill were pretty slim.  We stayed one day and headed south again. 

Back to Butte.  The Great Divide Route to Butte (37 miles, not 75) is pretty tough till we cross the summit, then it's a terrifying descent for many miles.  We arrived back in Butte and stopped at the excellent Vu-Villa Pizza.  Rain was in the area but I guessed it would miss us.  After pizza we coasted down the hill to the motel I'd lived at for two weeks, this time just one night.  

Leaving Butte we went up into the mountains, down the other side, then up another mountain.  5 grueling hours into our ride we came to an overlook where one can clearly see... Butte.  It was an impressive view, and a bit disheartening.  

The descent from the second mountain was the steepest thing either of us had done. Riding down was out of the question, walking down was scary.  

As the trail flattened a bit we rode through a spectacular valley.  Views for days.  House to envy.  Rivers, mountains.... breathtaking.  

Then we were in the "town" of Wise River.  We camped at the hotel/restaurant/RV park/bar, one of three businesses in town.  It was nice.  

Heading spit from Wise River we pedaled uphill on a paved road.  Another tough day, we stopped at every restaurant we came to (one) and camped at a state park that had free wifi but no permanent toilets, no showers, lots of mosquitos, and we were happy for it.  

From the state park, we were on a dirt road, another long uphill that topped out over 8000 feet above sea level.  At the summit, the wind was howling but thankfully the temperature was pleasant.  

Downhill into a headwind and through some amazing  canyons, 73 miles from our start got us to a paved road, 7 miles more with a punishing headwind got us to the town of Lima (pronounced Lima).  Not taking a day off was out of the question.  We were both as exhausted as we had ever been.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Ennis to Butte

So I made it to butte.  I was pretty glad to be here.  I had gotten to a point where I didn't want to ride anymore, right up to when I actually got on the bike, and then I felt at home.  At home is not a feeling I have very often, so that was nice.  

After all those states (5) and all those miles (1,234), I finally encountered rain, and thunder, and (gasp!) lightening!  I'm very superstitious about riding a bicycle or motorcycle during lightning.  Something about the quick death...   Anyway, I pulled off the road and looked for a place to set up my tent to get out of the weather.   A place eventually turned up but by the time I planted the second (of 6) stakes in the ground, the rain was barely noticeable.  The thunder (and presumably, the lightning) was moving away.  And I was less than 15 miles from my destination.  Pack it up!  

The break while I fooled around with my tent had been enough to give me a second wind and I resumed what had been about 17 miles of uphill. Amazingly, I was less than a mile from the summit.  There I stopped to read a sign about the trails and struck up a conversation with a cool guy who was getting ready for a trip of his own.  He's going to ride the Al-Can highway with some friends as soon as he works out the logistics.  Makes me feel like a poser.  

From the summit to the end of this first half of my ride was almost entirely downhill.  An awesome finish to a tough day.  

And good timing too. The next day Butte had sun in the morning but rain after that.  And snow forecasted the following day (snowing starts as I write this).  Sure, I'm tough as nails and everything, but who really wants to ride in the snow?

Anyway, here's the stats:
1,234 miles ridden, 19 days on the bike, 6 days off, averaged 65 miles per day.  Climbed 49,387 feet uphill. 

After a break in Butte, I'll be heading back south, this time following the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. 

That'll be 2000 miles to the Mexican border. Read about it here. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Idaho Falls to Ennis, MT

Idaho is easily my favorite state.  Forget for a minute that it has every kind of geography that you can name.  I have pedaled in almost every state in the union and none match the courtesy of Idaho drivers.  What more could you want?

From Idaho Falls I made my way through Rexburg and found a nice campground near Ashton, but it wasn't open yet.  They're seasonal and I was early.   

But everybody has sympathy for a biker and I was given my choice for campsites.   

The next morning it was a short ride to breakfast and then a longer ride to a reasonable lunch break.   There I checked the weather radar and decided stopping was the best idea.  It was only noon, but, the weather.  

I fell asleep in my tent as the thunder rolled in, and woke up to bright sunshine.  It was early but I'd already sprung for the camping fee ($10) and if I rode on, I'd cover more miles but not much else.  Everything "down stream" was closed for the season.  

I found that out the next day.  As I rode north, I stopped at every restaurant I came to.  I wish one of them had been open.  I passed on a bar and grill just ten miles from my destination, it was the only place I'd seen that was open, but I was so close to Ennis.  

Ennis has quickly bumped its way to the top three of my favorite towns.  Is it the many restaurants?  The many bars?  The distillery named after me?  All of the above?  Yes, yes, and a population of 838, yes.  Seriously, if I stop blogging, look for me here first.  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Tremonton to Idaho Falls

Leaving Tremonton, I learned that I was quite a ways ahead of schedule.  This prompted me to have another cup of coffee at the only place in town that served breakfast.  Then back on the road, ever northward.  

I had ambitious plans for the day, plans that would get me 150 miles to Idaho Falls in just two days.  But suddenly, that plan seemed unnecessarily hard on my legs and seat.  Instead of pushing 93 miles to the next town on the map, I stopped at 50 and set up my tent at the Summit Campground in the Caribou Nat'l Forest.  

The next day seemed short, still 50 miles but telemetry revealed it was mostly flat and downhill.  In Pocatello I got a room at a motel with more gear problems.  My fancy inflatable camping mattress sprung a leak (I've slept on it less than seven times!).  Last night I woke every two hours to re-inflate it.  I found the leak using the tub in the motel room; oddly, it was in the center on top.  Not even a part that touches the ground or is exposed during storage.  

From Pocatello to Idaho Falls was another relaxing 50 mile ride.  For a while I was on the shoulder of a quiet highway, pleasant enough, but then I turned off onto backroads that roughly paralleled the highway - even better.  

I took a day off in Idaho Falls, not needing it as much as having time for it.  But then when I got ready to leave, weather.  I was faced with riding ahead of the rain, risking it catching me on the road, certainly raining on me as I camped that night, or staying another day. 

As is customary, the weather was cold and wet while I debated riding, and sunny and warm as soon as I committed to staying put.  But time is my ally. And tomorrow's weather should be nice enough to make the riding decision much easier.  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wellington to Tremonton

It was early for a day off and I was ready to roll.  But I kept looking out the window, second guessing myself.  In the end, the day was cold and windy.  Staying put was the right decision.  

Then I was off, enjoying a ride uphill.  And more uphill. And still more uphill.  Ohmygoduphill.  Solider Summit, almost 7500 feet above sea level. 

The downhill should have been a hoot.  It was not. 

Headwinds, crosswinds, road shoulder that varied from reasonable to none, and lots of traffic.  Seven hours (and six minutes) got me to a destination.  I was so wiped out, it took all my effort to get some food, a chore that involved walking across a parking lot. 

But then another day, and another ride.  In this case, another 73 miles, this time through a very urban area known to the locals as Salt Lake City.  Mercifully, there was very little uphill and google maps kept me on bike paths for most of the day.  Just what I needed after the self-punishment the day before.  Welcome to Woods Cross.  

From there I continued north using a mixture of bike paths and roads.  It was interesting to see how the area became more rural as I left SLC behind.  The transition is always gradual. 

I stopped for the night (and a day off) in Tremonton.  If you're following along on a map, I'm only 21 miles from Idaho. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Moab to Price

I felt so much better after a day off in Moab it felt like three.  I couldn't wait to get back on the bike.  

I barely minded having to ride on the shoulder of a busy highway.  It was still better when I turned off onto a dirt road.  Many cows were thrilled to see me pass by.  

I made it to Greenriver, had a nice meal, and continued on.  About 4 miles latter I found a pretty good stealth camping spot.  The next section of road would be a highway with few options for camping and a long ride to the next town.  A little rain fell that night, but nothing to worry about.  

High winds were forecast for the next day, so I didn't waste time when I got up.  I was on the road for almost an half an hour when a headwind began to crank up.  Pretty soon I was pedaling down hill in low gears.   

It was 60 miles to Price. I made it 20 miles in two and a half hours.  And I was spent. 

I pulled along side a pickup that was parked on the side of the road.  Were they going to Price? Turns out they were.  Two geologists from Colorado (no, neither of them was named Randy Marsh).  I would have ridden in the back of a horse trailer at that point.  

Sitting in a hotel room in  Price and looking at the weather reports, there is more wind in the forecast tomorrow.  Worse, rain and snow at my next destination.  Waiting a day will make a world of a difference.  

So, after  two days and only 110 miles (including a pickup truck ride), I'm taking another day off.  I'm all for forward progress but day's off are in the budget too.