Hiking around with the Family

The other day we did a little hike up the Coontree Loop in Pisgah Forest.  It was a nice little hike up to the ridge which this time of year provides some nice views.  We just did an out and back to the ridge and didn’t complete the whole loop.  Maybe next time we’ll be more prepared.

20141204_Coontree-Loop-Hike-69 20141204_Coontree-Loop-Hike-100

Leif had fun playing in the dirt, getting licked by Birch and putting everything in his mouth.  Mmmmm…..dirt, rocks and sticks!


Tour Divide – Day 17

Sargents to Del Norte:

Being that Sean and I didn’t push on the night before we were pretty motivated to get rolling the next morning.  We were up before the sun and on our bikes at first light.  We rode out in a dark canyon and it was freezing!  I had all my clothes on and still couldn’t get warm.  The pavement didn’t help much either as we were cruising right along.  I was getting hungry but I didn’t want to stop until I found some sun.

At last right at the turn off of pavement and onto gravel there was sun!  I stopped and ate some breakfast.  Mostly junk food, a cold burrito and two candy bars.  Apparently we were in Doyleville but there was nothing there but a couple beat up looking houses.


We pressed on down the gravel and eventually Chris Culos caught up to us per usual.  He said Kevin wasn’t feeling well last night and was up most of the night.  I guess it was from that burrito!


Eventually we made it up to Cochetopa Pass (10,067′).


And then back down.  Onto a paved road for a little while and then back to gravel and climbing.  The terrain was somewhat gradual and kicked up a little bit the closer I got to Carnero Pass.  There was so pretty open fields leading up to the pass surrounded by green mountains.  It was really heating up and I was plowing through my water.





Once I got over Carnero Pass Sean caught back up to me and we headed down.  Once we hit the pavement it started raining and then pouring.  We were so hot that it didn’t matter but still decided to put on our rain jackets.  We made our way back out of the mountains and into the open flat land again.  It looked like the desert and with signs that said places like La Garita, we knew we were getting close to New Mexico. We were tempted to go into town and get some food but I wasn’t really sure if anything would even be open.  It didn’t look far on the map but in the end we decided to push on.


For some reason after looking at the map I just assumed it was going to be pretty easy going all the way into Del Norte.  The elevation profile showed a small climb but it seemed like it was going to be easy.  Looking in the direction we were heading also looked flat so we were good to go.  I was beat down and ready to get to a town and get a big meal in me.

We started riding and shortly after made a turn towards some rough looking terrain.  Where were we going?  This didn’t seem right.  At least it wasn’t at all what I had made it out to be like in my head.  I’m generally good to go no matter what lies ahead.  I always hope for the best but expect the worst.  Even when I think I’m getting close to the end of something hard I always just keep telling myself that its probably another few miles or probably quite a bit more elevation to gain.  No sense in letting yourself down over and over.  But this time I let me guard down and I was not ready for this.


We climbed up and onto some double track that was sandy and then rocky and then more sand.  Steep little climbs followed by short descents.  It was like interval hills all over again.  We climbed and climbed through the rocky terrain.  The scenery around was beautiful but I was too tired to notice.

We got to what looked like the top so I pulled out my camera to take a few shots.  It was then that I noticed how beautiful it was.  Once we started down it actually started to get fun. The double track turned into a roller coaster of jumps and bermed corners.  We climbed up a little more through two huge desert mountains and looked down to Del Norte below.  It was still a ways away but it looked to be mostly down hill from here.  The terrain was rough though and pretty washed out.  It was pretty close to riding single track and got exciting a few times!

Eventually we made it back to the pavement and noticed on the GPS that we had to go a little in the wrong direction to get to town.  I guess it was just how the roads went but it seemed like we were riding away from town.

Sean and I had met up with Peter and Chris on the descent so we got to catch up with them again on the ride into town.





We found the first place to eat that was open and went in and sat down.  The menu was a little different than what I was used to.  The place was your typical diner/cafe but nothing really seemed to sound that good.  I got the usual coke, water and chocolate milk to drink and when she came to take orders everyone seemed to be getting some kind of “thanksgiving dinner special” they were having.  I gave in and decided to give it a try.  Well it was horrible.  I don’t think anyone really liked it but we of course all ate it because we were starving!  Chris Bennett popped in shortly after us and ordered the same thing.  I mention this because form here on out Chris Bennett seems to pop up quite often along the route.  He was sort of a lone ranger and seemed to push on longer into the night and get up earlier in the morning.  He always said that he was just slower than us “young, fast kids.”  But he always seemed to stay ahead of us or pop up at funny times.  And he was generally in a big hurry at restaurants as well.  I respect his way of racing though.  He didn’t stop much and not for long.  Just spent a lot of time in the saddle.

After we ate there was lots of talk of pushing on or getting a hotel.  There wasn’t much for options in town for hotel rooms.  Sean and I wanted to push on or at least not pay for lodging anymore.  We had heard of a place up the road that we could stay.  It was just someone’s cabin and their number was on the map.  He is listed as Kevin and is at mile marker 165.6.  In the meantime it started raining outside and it was looking pretty nasty.

We called Kevin anyways and figured we could ride up the 13 miles or so to the cabin and go from there.  Kevin answered and said he was up at the cabin and for us to stop in no problem.  He also mentioned he had a house just outside of town on the route and we could just stay there if we wanted.  He was staying up at the cabin so his house was wide open.  Told us to crash in his bed and everything, “just make yourselves at home.”  We hung up the phone and thought it was a little strange but figured what the heck.  Sounded good.  Nobody else wanted to come with us even after hearing it was free.  So we got on our bikes and hit the road.  20130708_TourDivide2013-575

Pretty much right as we got out of town the clouds started to break.  We were tempted to push on but I think we were both feeling beat down after what we had been through before reaching Del Norte.  We came up on the house and rode up to the front door.  To say this house was a little strange was an extreme understatement.  That wouldn’t even begin to describe what we were about to walk into.  We knocked and nobody came to the door, as Kevin had stated, he was up at the cabin.


We went inside to take a look around.  This was the weirdest place I had ever seen.  I was very artistic in many ways and clearly a lot of time went into the design and creation of this place.  But there were a lot of things that were just creepy. At first we both just wanted to get the hell out of there but there was something intriguing about the place.  We had to keep exploring.  There were so many nooks and floors and staircases so we just kind of wandered around.  The upstairs was definitely what made us think we needed to leave.  The floor was covered with socks, I mean like 200 pairs of socks just lying on the floor almost as some sort of extreme “shag carpet.”  There were wire fences and couches and it just all seemed like something I could never dream of thinking up.  We went back downstairs.20130708_TourDivide2013-594

Entering into the kitchen you had to walk under a giant upside down tree which on the opposite side had a large hole in it with a light.  Was this supposed to have meaning?  The stuff in this house definitely made you think that there was a lot of meaning behind all of it.  Nothing was created for no reason.  A lot of the trees in the house had humanlike qualities.  In the center of the house was the bathroom and it was basically surround by boulders which made up the walls.


We explored around and then had to make a call.  We were both a little creeped out and didn’t really know if we wanted to stay there or not.  What if this guy comes home and he’s a wacko?  What if one of his friends stops by?  Who knows, it was just an erie place.  In the end we decided that we probably were making some false assumptions and that the guy was probably super nice and just has a bit of a interesting taste in architecture and design.  He was clearly an artist.  His name and number was on the map so he must have other people who stop.


So we decided to stay.  The next questions was where the hell was I going to sleep that didn’t freak me out?

I found a nice little spot on the floor with some nice big windows and some really cool log work so decided that’s where I’d sleep for the night.


Tour Divide – Day 16

Hartsel to Sergents:

I woke up to clearing weather and it looked like it was going to be a nice day.  I headed over to the main lodge where there was coffee brewing.  I could have stayed there for hours sipping coffee and relaxing but there was miles and miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route laying ahead.

Everyone packed up and headed back into town to the General Store for a quick breakfast and resupply and then headed out.  20130708_TourDivide2013-498The morning was chilly and the riding was fairly easy so not really a good way to warm up.  We entered into a pretty wide open area with no trees and it was starting to look like the Great Basin again.  A lot of Colorado was like that and I guess being on a bike you tend to notice them in a different way than traveling by car.

All the sudden nature was calling and there wasn’t really a good place to hide from the road.  I waited.  Come on, there has to be a tree or something somewhere.  Sean was riding next to me and Kevin was somewhere not far behind.  I kept looking for a good place but there was nothing.  Then I saw a small little rock outcrop that looked like I could crouch behind.  I told Sean I’d catch up and veered off the road and pedaled over the the rocks.  It wasn’t much but at least my ass would be hidden.  Sure enough, Kevin came riding by waving and laughing.  All he could see was my head poking out but it was fairly obvious what was going on.

Soon enough we made it back to trees.  And also to some steeper terrain.  It was getting hot and the hills were making me work up quite a sweat.  We passed over Watershed Divide and began the decent into Salida, CO.  20130708_TourDivide2013-518There were some pretty spectacular views of the Sawatch Range of Fourteeners in the distance.  Apparently that was the actual continental divide.  This would be a good time to point out that the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route adhere’s to the philosophy that keeping within 50 miles or so of the Continental Divide was the primary goal.  It’s also noted that the Continental Divide Trail is completely different.20130708_TourDivide2013-520Further down the road and after some pretty exciting descending, Sean and I stopped to snap a couple photos of this view.  Pretty amazing.  I think we also needed a  minute for our brakes to cool down!20130708_TourDivide2013-525I made my way the rest of the way down and Sean and I parted ways once we hit the turnoff to Salida.  Salida was a little off route and the maps showed services further down the road on the actual route but I wanted to check out Salida and I also wanted to pick up a sun hat.  The back of my neck was starting to take its toll from the sun.

I headed into town and stopped at the bike shop which I had heard a lot about.  There wasn’t really much going on in there and I didn’t really need anything done to my bike so I guess I was just wasting time.  I think I really just wanted to hang out and relax for a while, take it easy and stop rushing but after all this was a race.  There wasn’t time to meander around the shops.  I was feeling tired though.  Kevin popped in and he didn’t really need anything either so we decided to hit up the burrito shop in town that we’d heard about.  It was great, the burrito weighed about 10 lbs and I easily ate the whole thing.  I got some dessert and Kevin and I headed down the road to a gas station to stock up for the rest of the day.  After that we headed down the road to Poncha Springs which was were a few services were on route and we thought we might meet up with Sean.

We didn’t see him so after a quick pit stop we started riding up Highway 285 which was a pretty busy road.  20130708_TourDivide2013-527There was something I noticed here that I feel pretty fortunate about and that is how my body handles large amounts of food.  I’m a skinny guy weighing about 135-140 lbs and on the divide when I would eat a ton of food it would only take maybe 15-20 minutes and I would start feeling really good.  Like the food was turning to energy at an extremely fast rate!  It was great and I always looked forward to that energy boost along the route.  Kevin on the other hand would always have a hard time getting going after a big meal stop.  I think a lot of other people were the same way.


We began up the paved climb and I left Kevin shortly after that.  After all he did have the same size burrito I had!  It was huge!

I finally hit the turnoff of Highway 285 onto Chaffee Co. Rd 200 towards Marshall Pass.  This climb was going to be another big one totaling almost 4,000′ from the low point just outside of Salida.  At least it was another railroad grade climb so it was just a matter of keeping the pedals turning.

Right after I made the turn it started raining.  I stopped and put my rain gear on and the it started dumping.  I found a kiosk and pulled under it to take a little break and see if the rain would let up a little.  untitled-1271Sure enough, about 5 minutes later it let up so I continued on.  There were a lot of cars in the parking area and others camping and people everywhere having a good time.  I was a little jealous of them.  They were on vacation, drinking beer, relaxing.  Riding 4-wheelers and just taking it easy.  I guess I was on vacation too but it seemed much more like work.  I continued on up some switch backs.  I just wanted to stop and sit there.  I stopped.  Standing there in the middle of the road.  Ugh, I felt terrible.  My post meal energy burst ended and I just stood there.  I looked down.  Then without thinking about anything I  started to pedal again.  I just kept my head down and rode on.  This is what it took for me to get through a lot of moments on the Tour Divide.  It was easy to start thinking too much and not focus on what I was doing.  Pedaling South!untitled-1273



I got back in my groove and started making some descent time.  Eventually I even caught up to Sean and we rode for several miles together chatting about how drained we were feeling that day.  We stopped for a snack.untitled-1284

untitled-1285 Next up we crossed over the Colorado Trail which is something that maybe one day I’ll give a go.  untitled-1288

And eventually we made it to the top of Marshall Pass (10,842′).  All down hill from here!  This was a common joke along the divide because it seemed there was never a time where it was all downhill.  Always little climbs here and there, even on the descents.untitled-1290  This one however was actually all downhill.   All the way to Sargents, CO and a good place to grab a nice meal.  We lingered at the restaurant/general store for some time.  Started talking about pushing on or staying here.  There was a campground with tiny little cabins for super cheap.  It was starting to become tempting.  While we were there eating we met up with Peter and Chris Culos.  They were both pretty set on staying and Kevin was having some stomach issues so he was for sure staying in a cabin with Chris.  Peter offered up his cabin for Sean and I and we sort of wanted to keep pushing on.  I was going back and forth and couldn’t really decide what to do.  I wanted to continue on and I think Sean was really pushing for me to come with him.  When you get into a group rhythm it can be hard to part ways and go off on your own.  We both ended up splitting the cabin with Peter and ended up getting some good sleep and an early start the next day.

The Sargents General Store/Gas Station/Restaurant/Campgrounduntitled-1294

Tour Divide: Day 14

Day 14:  Clark to Kremmling I slept in a bit to wait for the Clark Store to open.  Once they opened I went inside and got some coffee and was thinking about getting something else but didn’t really have an appetite quite yet.  I got a scone and something else to drink and went outside.  It was a mostly paved route into Steamboat and I figured I could get a big breakfast there.  I also had a package waiting at the post office with some much needed items and needed to make a pit stop at the bike shop.  I knew Sean had to stop there as well and was hoping I’d meet up with him at some point today. I rode into town and started looking for the Orange Peel bike shop but couldn’t find it.  I think I actually rode right past it but found myself on main street where I was Sean’s bike parked in front of a little cafe.  I popped in and he was just finishing up a huge breakfast.  I sat down and told the server I would have the same thing he was having.  Eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast on one plate and 6 thick pieces of french toast on the other!  “And an extra side of bacon,” I added.  Sean said he was waiting for the bike shop to open and needed to hit the post office so after I woofed down my food we headed over to the bike shop.  We got there about 20 minutes after they opened and there were already a few TD folks in there with some tall orders.  This might take a while! While we waited, Sean and I borrowed some cruiser bikes and went to the post office to get our boxes.  I had a rear tire and a chain in my box I wanted to have put on so needed that before they could get started.

Back at the bike shop we were still waiting.  The guys at the shop were great but the line-up of TD bikes in shambles was killing me.  I guess I could have thrown the chain and tire on myself but I wanted everything to be setup perfect.  I was running a tubeless setup with Stans and wanted my shifting to be dialed in and that’s what the shop delivered.  It just took some time.
Sean and I hanging out at the Orange Peel Bike Shop.
We had some time to kill so went and got a huge burrito for lunch and I even hit up a Health Food Store.  I walked around not really knowing what to do.  I was accustomed to seeing candy bars, chips, cokes, danishes and some kind of frozen burrito or hot pocket and that was about it.  What was all this organic, leafy green delicious looking food?  I just stoop there and ended up getting a sandwich, a brownie and a Sky Blue soda.  Healthy enough, right?
Finally my bike was done so after checking out and getting all packed up I was off.  It was already like 2 in the afternoon or something but I was loaded and ready to go.  The ride out of town was a nice mix or bike path, roads, gravel trails and such.  We passed a nice reservoir where people were out tubing behind boats.  I was super jealous as the day was really heating up again!  I got back in the groove climbing up Lynx Pass.  I had already drank a ton of water so stopped at a small creek to refill and have a little break.  
Mmmm….organic Blue Sky Soda and my organic sandwich.  Was this stuff really any better than Coke and Hot Pockets?  Who knows…all that mattered was it was calories in my body.  I do know that I would have gone broke if I had only been stopping at Health Food Stores along the way. Good thing gas stations were more prevalent along the route.

I continued on up Lynx Pass and finally got a view of the valley below.

I crested Lynx Pass and started the descent down the other side.  There was some re-routes required through this section and it was a little confusing but between my new cues and the GPS track that was pretty accurate it wasn’t too hard to find my way.  There was a big creek crossing that when I came up to it looked super DEEP!  I noticed a little trail going up stream so checked it out and found a much better place to cross.  I still decided to take my shoes and socks off just to keep my feet dry.

Next up was endless roads with steep climbing and descending that went on and on.  It seemed like I was going to be dropping off the edge of the world but I kept having to climb back up over and over.  Finally the route description said “Steep Decent” so I finally started barreling down off the mountain! The another turn and it was back to climbing again.  Just for a little while but at this point I was ready to be at the bottom where I would cross over the Colorado River.

I made it to Radium and crossed over the Colorado River.  There was a rafting group that had just pulled off the river.  They all looked like they had just been on the greatest adventure ever and I’m sure that they had.  I would have loved to spend a day floating down a river!  So being I was at the Colorado River I figured there was only one thing to do next, climb back up.  So up I went up a steep and straight road.  It was super steep and didn’t let up.  I grinded it out and made it about to the top just as dusk was fading in.  I stopped to turn on my light and realized the mosquitoes were terrible so made quick work of it and continued on.  It was late and I was tired.  It didn’t seem like I had gone all that far today since I was held up at the bike shop for much of the day.  But by the time I got to Kremmling I had put in a solid 100 miles. It was close to 10 when I pulled into town so I figured if I saw a restaurant open I should stop right away before anything closed.  The first thing I saw was a Mexican restaurant so I pulled right in. I ordered a coke and a water and two burritos and instantly started pounding chips.  There was a group of guys at a big table in the middle of the restaurant drinking beers and reminiscing about their day out riding.  It turned out they had done a big road ride.  They were asking where I was riding from and what I was doing and when I told them they’re jaws hit the floor.  One guy offered to buy me a beer so I took him up on it and added it to my table full of beverages.  They were super nice and started asking me all sorts of questions.  It’s funny when you tell someone about the Tour Divide and they’ve never heard of the race.  You can see their brains going through the scenario and some people either get it or they don’t.  These guys got it.  I told them about trackleaders and watching the blue dots along the route.  They were headed to their hotel room and said they’d get right on and check it out. It was fun telling people about the Tour Divide and what I was doing along the route.  It always made me have a big sense of accomplishment.  But it was equally exciting hear about other peoples adventures no matter how big or small.  The important thing is to just be outside having fun!

Tour Divide: Day 13

Day 13:  Rawlins to Clark Store

COLORADO!! That’s what was in store for today.  That and Brush Mountain Lodge which if you know anything about the Tour Divide you know it is THE BEST stop along the route.

After stocking up in Rawlins, Wyoming I hit the open road which climbs out of town.  And it goes on forever by the way!

Eventually, we hit gravel again but the roads were wide and in pretty good shape.  Not much washboard at all.  We continued on as the landscape went from brown to green and relatively flat to more rolling.  The climbs were getting steeper but still shorter and just rolling.  It was starting to look like a bigger version of the “interval” rollers from a few days back.  

Finally, we could see real mountains in the distance again.  I’m not sure if everyone was as excited about the mountains as I was but for me the mountains made me feel more at home.  Even though the North Carolina mountains are smaller I much prefer the steep winding roads as opposed to the long drawn out wide open lands that we’d been experiencing for the past few days.  I was ready to see some trees again too!

Before I knew my dreams came true and we were back in the mountains.  Riding up the winding mountain roads and encompassed by big trees!  Then we came to the iconic “Aspen Ally” a popular spot along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and rightly so.  It was beautiful with the large aspen trees lining the side of the road.

After a few photos of Aspen Ally we continued on looking for the Sandstone Work Center, a place where we were hoping to get water.  We passed the intersection where we thought it would be but there was nothing there.  Continuing on down the road I was starting to get a little worried.  We cruised down the road a little further and soon saw a sign for the Work Center.  Once we got there we couldn’t find a pump.  At this point I only had maybe half a liter of water left.  One of the buildings had a spigot on it and sure enough it was on! We filled up and sat in the shade for a while to dodge the heat.  
Next up was some pavement and there was a little route confusion as they were re-routing the main road.  The GPS track still took the old road which was being used as a staging area for the construction vehicles and there were some big mounds of dirt we had to go over.  We stuck to the original GPS track either way and got to see the old overlook.  
We bombed down some fast pavement which felt nice since it was so hot.  I was starting to feel pretty tired.  It wasn’t the normal tired either.  It was more of a whole body shut down sort of feeling.  I think the past 12 days of riding 130+ miles each day was starting to get to me.  I was more than halfway done but there was still so far to go.
After passing the Colorado State Line we started up the climb to Brush Mountain Lodge and it was a long one at 10-15 miles or so to the Lodge.  After that, the climb continued another 15 miles up to 9,500 feet.  I was just focusing on getting to the Lodge for the time being.  The climb was pretty constant but the heat was killing me.  I stopped in the shade and ate some food and was just having a a hard time getting in the groove.  It was time to put my head down and just pedal.  I needed to stop thinking about how tired I was and how my legs didn’t want to work.  Just keep pedaling!  Eventually I found my groove and got into a rhythm.  And the closer I got to the Lodge the faster I went.  I knew I was going to stop and take a nice break once I reached the comfort of the Lodge.  
Finally!!  I saw the sign that read “Brush Mountain Lodge and Outpost!”  I had never been happier!  I parked my bike out front and walked up onto the covered deck.  Kristin, who runs the lodge, welcomed me and quickly asked what I would like to drink and eat.  Wow, this was the best service yet!  Cokes, ices water, lemonade just kept pouring out of the kitchen in big gallon jugs.  She had quesadillas and burgers and asked what I would prefer.  Of course I said both!  And PB&J’s for the road!  It was so nice sitting out in the shaded porch getting out of the heat.  We all kicked our feet up and talked about the day and how thankful we were to be sitting at the famous Brush Mountain Lodge.  This was going to be a hard place to leave. 
Chris Culos (Vancouver), Me, Kevin Campagna (Texas), Sean Putnam (Cali) and Peter Maindonald (NZ)
“Trail Angel” Kristin whipping up some mean PB&J’s for the road.
Leaving the Brush Mountain Lodge was in fact very hard.  But I still had a destination to get to and the climb up to 9,500 feet was only half over.  So back on the bike I was and off I went.  
I started spinning nice and easy at first.  I was still feeling pretty full so didn’t want to overdo it.  I quickly found myself out by myself just cruising along, already 10 miles out from the lodge in just over 45 minutes, and I was gaining elevation the whole time.  
I found myself on the best emotional high of the whole trip so far.  I was feeling GREAT!  The scenery was beautiful and the light was spectacular.  I made my way from the open meadows to the aspen forests.  
I made the left turn up FR 42 towards Hahns Peak Basin.  The road got a little steeper but I was still feeling amazing.  The stop at Brush Mountain Lodge had really lifted my spirits.  It was amazing to think how bad I was feeling at the bottom of the climb up to the Lodge.  How could I go from one extreme to the next? 
Here’s a little clip of me talking about the day.  You can see the scenery but it’s pretty bumpy!  I mostly recorded for the audio.  
From here the climbing got really steep and rocky up to Watershed divide.  It was a lot of pushing the bike until I finally reached the top.  I was still riding alone and had no clue how far back Sean and Kevin were.  The sun had set and darkness was setting in.  I got out my light for the descent and started down.  It was rough!  Tons of big rocks were in the road and it was steep.  Big boulders and little drops were pretty hard to navigate with my little light.  This was one of the times I was glad I had a front suspension fork.  I think it definitely saved me a couple times.  The descent was going on forever and I guess it was because I wasn’t moving very fast.  
The road finally smoothed out a little.  I saw on the map that Steamboat Lake State Park was close so decided to keep my eye out for signs.  I never saw anything but it may have been I just missed it while riding through the darkness.  I found myself on the road heading to the tiny town of Clark just outside Steamboat Springs.  
Steamboat was still a good little ways and I was ready to call it a night.  I poked around behind the clark store and thought about shacking up under their back porch and as I was shining my light around back I heard a voice say “Hey man!”  It startled me but I figured it was just another TD rider.  He asked who I was and I said “Ryan, who are you?”  He introduced himself and said he was touring the route heading North.  He said they told him he could camp out behind the store if he wanted so I setup my tent.  We chatted a bit about the terrain we had just come through, giving each other beta on where we were headed.  He had a trailer and I told him heading up the pass I just came down was going to be a good one for him!  I was beat so didn’t chat long and was off to sleep.  

Tour Divide – Day 12

Day 12:  Atlantic City to Rawlins – The Great Basin

It was hard to sleep with the big unknown of the Great Basin geographically lying directly next to me.  Once again I had thoughts of heading out into the basin that evening but it just seemed easier to stay at the Community Center.  One guy was just leaving as we pulled in the night before.

I had everything together except one thing.  There was no water at the Community Center.  Surely there was a spigot or something on the building but there wasn’t anything.  I saw a lady walking down the street and asked her if there was water anywhere and she said to fill up at the house on the way out of town.  So we left the Community Center and headed for the house to fill up.

The road leading out of town and into the Great Basin was STEEP!  It was no way to warm up so we opted for a nice little hike out of town.

I left with Kevin and Sean and we were all pretty anxious to see what the Great Basin was all about.  Of course, we also wanted to see how windy it was going to be.  So far the wind was pretty calm but it was still around 5:30 am.

The roads were decent so far with only minor washboards.  There was usually somewhere to ride that seemed to be relatively flat and not too sandy.

First impressions of the Great Basin
Kevin cruising in the early morning light.
People weren’t kidding when they say there is nothing out in the Great Basin.  It is the most wide open country I have ever seem.  No trees, no nothing.  Just wide open high desert.  This was going to be a long day of riding some 130 miles to Rawlins.
I passed some of the time taking pictures.  A nice subject was hard to find though.
More wide open road

At one point we were riding along and in the distance saw a dust trail coming from a truck.  Wow, a vehicle way out here!  As the truck made its way towards us I noticed it had something in the back.  They waved as they drove by and as they passed I saw what was in the back of the truck….it was a boat!  What in the world were they doing with a boat out here….there are certainly no lakes out here.  There isn’t even water out here!  Maybe one of the weirdest things I saw on the whole Divide.

We caught up to Peter and Nick and stopped for a lunch snack.  The wind was picking up but it seemed to be blowing in our favor.  Not a full on tail wind but it was coming from somewhere behind us which is all that mattered.

As we continued on I found myself riding alone.  Kevin had taken off early in the day after he realized he needed to make it to Rawlins by 5 so he could pick up his postal shipment which included a new chain.  Sean was somewhere ahead and Peter was somewhere behind me.  I stopped on a small rise and watched behind me as Peter dipped down between the rolling desert.  I looked out and saw what looked like a big tan animal running towards peters direction.  It looked muscular and big and not like a deer or antelope, more like a mountain lion!  I wonder if Peter has seen it?  Was it hunting him?  Was I hallucinating?  Was it just an antelope?  It was hard to say but I just sat there waiting for Peter to pop back up.  He was riding through a low area and it would be some time before I would see him again so I continued on.  Constantly looking back behind me to see if I could see Peter or the mountain lion coming after me!

Eventually, I saw Peter emerge from the low area.  He was still a long ways back so I couldn’t find out what happened yet but I was sure that he had seen it and would have some kind of story to backup my sighting.  When we finally regrouped I asked if he had seen anything and he said “Nope.”  It made me think if I was just seeing things or if I had actually seen a mountain lion stalking Peter.  I guess I will never know.   

We made a 90 degree turn and started heading directly into the wind.  It was about a 6 mile stretch until we turned and headed back alongside the wind.  It was grueling!  I was going 3 mph, tucked in my aero bars in my easiest gear cursing the wind!   

Here’s Sean riding directly into the wind and you can see Peter in the distance walking just as fast.
This is the definition of “Headwind”:
//player.vimeo.com/video/101178929?color=ff9933 Tour Divide 2013 – Great Basin Clip from Ryan Sigsbey on Vimeo.

Once we hit the turn back with the wind we were back to cruising.  I looked at the map and noticed there was another turn back into the wind and this time for about 15 miles!  I was not looking forward to that.  Sean and I stopped for a break before starting the long grind back into the wind.  I got a pretty good burst of energy and powered through the first bit and then realized the wind wasn’t nearly as bad as the first time earlier in the day.  It was more just blowing from the side and every once in a while I’d get a little push forward.  Of course most of the pushed were just from the side trying to blow me off the road!  

We finally pushed on and hit the end of Sooner Road and the start of the paved road that heads towards Rawlins. 

We were still riding through the land of nothing even though we were now on pavement.  We passed a dead cow lying in the ditch completely bloated.  It smelled awful!  Then we passed these colorful trailers along the road.  It looked like someone just dropped them off here to decompose.  Definitely not a livable situation.  Sean and I continued on together towards Rawlins.  I would get some energy and eventually end up ahead riding alone and then I would start feeling terrible again so would just pedal along until Sean caught back up.  Then he would take off and I would catch up.  We eventually stopped and ate some food and I think both of us were pretty beat.  I had no energy and just wanted to sit there on the side of the road.  We joked about how we were feeling and made up the name “Spronking” meaning sprint/bonking.  First you sprint for a while and then bonk really hard.  Then you sprint and then bonk again.  It’s not an efficient way to ride but it was working.  Next thing you know we were laughing and cracking jokes again and just riding along at a descent enough speed.  Sean was a great person to ride with because we always just talking about random stuff and didn’t focus on our aches and pains or if we were feeling tired or bad or whatever.  We just laughed are way from town to town and occasionally “spronked from here to there.”

I was getting excited knowing I was 107 miles from Atlantic City and closing in on Rawlins.  The road was pretty flat, almost downhill a little and I was making good time.  I finally got my legs back and was in the groove again.  
Then we turned onto Highway 287 and I noticed a few things I did NOT like the looks of!  First there was a ton of traffic.  Big trucks, campers, trailers, everything.  There were 4 lanes of it!  The other thing that was probably worse in conjunction with the traffic was a steep hill!  I made the turn and at least there was a little shoulder to ride on.  After getting to the base of the climb I realized there was a construction zone and the shoulder was missing!  So I am riding up the steep hill going super slow with these big trucks flying by.  Most of which were getting over into the other lane.  I was keeping a good look behind me making sure they were getting over and then I saw a semi coming up behind me and a line of traffic coming around him in the passing lane.  There was nowhere for him to go but straight into me!  I rode off the edge of the pavement dropping off about a foot down onto some super chunky gravel and finished riding up the hill in my granny gear suffering through the loose gravel.  It was better than getting flattened riding in the road!  
At the top of the climb the road construction ended and a great big wide open shoulder was in front of me.  Much better.  I just remember thinking to myself, I will never do a road tour, EVER!  I will always stick to the gravel road as much as possible!
After the long lonely ride down the endless road into Rawlins I came to the first place I saw where there was a grocery store and a pizza hut.  I went to the grocery to see if anyone’s bikes were there and eventually met up with Peter and headed over to the Pizza Hut.  I ate a bunch of food once again and met up with Sean.  We were pretty beat and felt like getting a motel and soon found out that motels in Rawlins are hard to come by.  With the oil fields near by they are almost endlessly booked so no options there.  Chris B. had gotten a room and offered Peter a place to stay and said if we couldn’t find anything to let him know.  
We started thinking about heading out of town when we found a KOA campground that had a one room cabin with two beds.  Perfect!  We found Kevin who had been in town for a while after picking up his things from the Post Office.  He had made a pretty crazy push to get to town that fast!
We checked in to the cabin, started some laundry, got a shower, found a bag of ice for my knees and sat on the porch to rest.  It had been a long day and some 140 miles later I was ready for bed!  The good news was that I had reached the second milestone of the Tour Divide – the Halfway Point!  I believe the first milestone is leaving Montana!
Kevin got his chain just in time before the post office closed.
Our cozy cabin for the night!

Tour Divide – Day 11

Day 11: From before Pinedale to Atlantic City
We woke up to some pretty chilly temperatures so getting packed up and moving my was number one priority.  I tried to eat as much food as I could before getting out of my sleeping bag but knowing we weren’t too far from Pinedale and hopefully a huge breakfast didn’t make me that psyched to eat candy bars or swedish fish.
I hit the outhouse, saddled up and hit the gravel road.

Soon after hitting the pavement we passed some beautiful scenery and mountains.  The mountain range I was looking at to the east was the Wind River Range.  Five years ago I spent 2 weeks in the Winds hiking and climbing.  It felt nice knowing I had been “near” here before but everything looks so different when on a bike.  It was nice to see the mountains again though.

We also got to see some pretty typical Wyoming scenery – some cowboys driving cattle….yeehawww!

Eventually we made it into Pinedale and the first sign of a good diner happened to be the Wrangler Cafe, appropriately named.

The food was great and the service was speedy as the server kept refilling coffee’s, oranges juices and waters. Two plates of food was in order and of course I ordered a third plate of two eggs and a side of bacon after devouring the first two plates like it was nothing.

Before leaving Pinedale I stopped at the hardware store to get some new sticky velcro.  My plastic ziploc I was using as a map case was so beat up I couldn’t really see the map anymore and the the way I had it setup was with velcro.  I kept a few extra pieces just in case and left the rest at the counter for someone else.  Just a short ride down the highway and we hit Boulder and restocked on food before heading to Atlantic City.

I had heard a rumor that Atlantic City restaurant and store were not open on Monday’s so was unsure about how I was going to resupply before heading out into the Great Basin.  The Great Basin was daunting enough knowing I had to ride over 130 miles between re-supply points but know it was looking like another 80+ miles from Boulder all the way to Rawlins.  I tried calling the store but there was no answer.  So I stocked up a ton of food without going completely overboard.  I figured I could suffer through if I needed to and was really hoping there would be something open in Atlantic City.  The other option was to wait until later on Tuesday if the restaurant opened but my plan had been to leave super early Tuesday morning so I wouldn’t get caught out in the Basin during the hottest part of the day.

The ride out of Boulder was a little windy and it got me thinking about how the Great Basin was going to be.  I just hoped there would not be a head wind!  I stopped and met up with Chris B., Peter M. and Nick H. who were stopped near the Big Sandy River doing a little bike maintenance and eating some much needed lunch.  I was ready for a break.

Sean Putnam and Kevin Campagna stopped too and we had a nice break and chatted about the resupply situation in Atlantic City.  We all figured worse case we just wait till the restaurant opens in the morning at 8.

Multi-tasking is a good skill to know while racing the Tour Divide!
Back in the saddle….
Sean showing me how to be “Super Aero” but shortly after this I pedaled past him.
The gravel road seemed to go on and on and on and on.  The terrain that looked flat on the elevation profile was definitely not flat.  In fact I found that this type of endless rollers had the worst affect on my.  It was like doing intervals and now was not the time for intervals.  I just kept pedaling as fast as I could to make it as far up the next hill as possible before shifting to my easiest gear and spinning up the rest of the climb.  Then back to hammering down the next hill and so on….I was getting beat.
Endless Rollers…….

After doing about 200 interval “rollers” Sean and I succumbed to walking.

We hit Highway 28 at “South Pass (7,550′)” and took a break at the rest stop.  There was some interesting history around here. According the ACA Maps, back in the 1840’s thousands of pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail drove their wagons up and over South Pass.  I was interesting to think we were now pedaling the same path.

We talked to the cleaning lady at the Rest Stop and asked her if there was anything open in Atlantic City.  She was a local to town and said there is a community room that she would leave unlocked for us.  She said there was some food but it was pretty limited and if we wanted anything to just leave some cash under the register.  She said we could sleep in the building if we wanted and also there were computers and internet!  What???  Internet???  In this part of Wyoming you’re lucky if you can just find water and maybe some food, but Internet???

We continued down the Highway with some new found energy and back onto a gravel road heading to South Pass City, a tiny little dot on the map about 10 miles before Atlantic City (slightly larger than a dot on the map but apparently with Internet).

Heading out of South Pass City which was basically a Ghost Town as nothing was open.  I wasn’t really sure if anything was ever open there but it did say there was a grocery according to the map.  The paved road out of town was super steep and after our interval training earlier in the day none of us had the legs to pedal it.

Once we reached Atlantic City we found the Community Center and also a sign for Ice Cream!!  Going inside was like venturing into a candy store for the first time.  In fact there was even a bunch of hand made, old fashioned candy in jars.  It looked nice and all but I went straight for the freezer with the ice cream bars!  There were several other food items in the front of the store with a mix of books and other items.  It was like a little gift shop.  In the back was tons of room for sleeping and the computers with Internet.

I ate my ice cream, found some pizza bagels and some other items to resupply with, added up my tab and left my money under the register.  I propped my bike against the book shelf, laid out my sleeping pad and fell asleep.

Main Street – Atlantic City 2013

Tour Divide – Day 10: Tetons and Beyond

I woke up pretty early and was actually feeling a little bit rested.  Of course I had the usual aches and pains and general feeling of being beat down after 9 hard days of riding but I was feeling ready to take on the day.

I headed out down the paved highway leading towards the Tetons. I pulled into Coulter Bay where I had heard of a buffet breakfast that couldn’t be passed up.  I ran into several other riders piling up their plates over and over.  This was pure heaven!  I can’t even remember how many plates I ate but I know I had just about every type of breakfast food possible.

Back on the bike and onto the highway.  Traffic wasn’t too bad yet but there were tons of big campers and some of the drivers looked a little ill equipped to be driving such a big rig down the road.  Good thing there is a pretty big shoulder.  I stopped to take a picture of the Tetons in the distance.  I had driven down this road a few years ago but its much different being on a bike.

There were lots of little stores and cafe’s along the route today which made for a light food supply load and a few nice short breaks to get out of the heat.  The first was off Buffalo Valley Road at a little cafe and then later up the road at a Saloon just before the start of the Togwotee Pass (9,658′) the highest pass yet.

Checking the blue dots.
Bar Stop – We met a group of guys touring the Trans Am Route…I was jealous cause they were drinking beers and I just got a coke and chocolate milk.

The pass ended up being a pretty good climb but being that its a major highway the grade never got too bad.  The worst part was that you could see so far ahead and the miles seemed to creep by.  Once at the top Sean, Kevin and I began the nice decent down the pavement.

We were flying!  Then I looked down at my GPS and didn’t see the track.  I think we all noticed at the same time and all quickly stopped to take a closer look.  Apparently after doing the big climb we don’t get a nice downhill break.  We had missed our turn onto a small gravel road which continued to climb up a little higher.  Back up the road we climbed.  When we got to the top we saw a group of road touring cyclists that we had passed by when we were flying down the hill.  They knew we had missed the turn and gave us a nice chuckle as we huffed and puffed back up the road.

We eventually made it to Lava Mountain Lodge and got a nice big meal, tons more coke and a huge dessert!  Back on road we continued down to the turn off for Union Pass.  This climb looked to be steep with lots of switch backs at the bottom.  It was also really hot and dusty.  It took a while for my giant pork lunch to digest as I worked my way up the climb.

Once we reached the top it was nice rolling country and the views were amazing.  This ended up being one of my favorite places on the route.

We spotted and chatted with Cjell Mone who was heading North on the route. 

We continued on through the open meadows and rolling terrain and eventually the sunset and we started the decent down towards Pinedale which was still a good ways away.  We planned to get to a nice camping spot down at lower elevation.  The descent got a little tricky in the dark.  There was a lot of bigger loose rocks and sharp turns but we just kept descending.  It seemed to take forever to get to the campground and I was pretty beat.  I was just about to stop and pitch my tent on the side of the road when we finally came up on the campground.  I got my tent setup, slipped into my sleeping back and at a ton of junk food and was out.

A Photographic Perspective