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.