Tour Divide 2014…1 year late

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TD 2014

Tour Divide 2014. Yet again. But why? Have you not promised yourself that this ‘racing’ is not for you? How about another thru hike? Wasn’t there a ride across Europe/Asia planned? Plans change. I have the gear. It’s a familiar route. I love the people out there. It’s almost August  time to get out and do something with your life. Call it a mid-summer crisis.
If you’re gonna do it, do it right. That means training. Not the heart monitor shit in the evenings and weekends. It’s a bike tour. Some serious hours in the saddle living on the bike. That’s how you ready yourself for the Tour Divide. Or at least that’s how I do it.
It seemed only logical that I would leave my home here in Vail and make the tour my transport to the start. With a pretty open time-table I decided that the tour would be best on the TD route itself and not via road like I had done in the past.
I got to work refining the gear I would bring. Trying to lighten things up a tad and streamline. I opted to carry a bivy over the cuben tarp-tent I had in the past. I thought making one would be a good way to go but for time and simplicity sake I decided to go with a Titanium goat number. At only 5 oz it would shave some weight and pack down a hair better as well. Only $100. Done.
The main advantages would be ditching stakes and poles along with convenience of crawling into the sac with no thought given to weather or not to expend the energy to set up the tent. Crawl in and pass out. Easy.
This choice was one of the fatal flaws of my planning. More on that later.
The other part of my gear that I chose to refine was my seatbag. Yet again heading down the road of designing and producing my own luggage. I created a seatbag that was based on the principle of a lightweight stuffsac, plumply stuffed, to be it’s own structure to secure to the bike as opposed to the one I currently had which had a form of it’s own, and with that form, a bit of extra weight.
I started with a mockup that seemed very close appearance-wise to a christmas stocking. A little refining of that and I moved over to some of the 1 oz cuben I had and made my bag.  I used parachute chord to lace the stuff-sac to the seatpost and seat rails under the concept of optimal compression no matter the load. Roll top closure. 2 ounces total weight.
Mistakes made: not having Dave Wilson at Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks make it. His quality is so far superior to my own. Not a long enough allowance for the rolltop closure. Other than that, not a bad bag.
I changed up my navigation to simplify things a little bit. Since I felt pretty comfortable with the corse having done most of it two time prior, I chose to use my phone for my GPS. I also went with a decent commuter light that USB recharges and adding a small auxiliary battery to power those devices over a couple day period.
Wouldn’t recommend the Iphone for nav for anyone new to the corse because when it rained I didn’t want the Iphone out in the elements despite a waterproof case. Knowing the corse allowed me to only take the phone out a few times a day to confirm hunches. The backup battery to provide USB power worked very well. Ensuring that I have enough USB ports on my wall adapters was key to this setup so i could fully charge all devices overnight when I had power available and not being forced to wake up and change them over in the middle of valuable sleeping time. I would estimate that I had 4-5 days between mandatory recharges. The Iphone is incredibly efficient when all features are shut off. This site was key to figuring all that out..
I probably only used 5-10% battery a day. The light was very dependent on how much I road at night and which mode was required. The battery was only good for a couple Iphone/light recharges but that was plenty. Heavy little buggers, so it’s easy to go overboard and take along a big one. More on this junk over on the gear section.
All other gear remained the same from years past. Simple, light, clean. I didn’t go a bit heavier on the rain gear which was a very good call.
Left Vail after a few days of solid prep. Made it out of the house by 9 a.m. or so. I timed myself over Vail pass and was pretty happy when I reached the summit in just 45 minutes, 12 minutes faster than my shit-talking buddies, loaded on 3.0 tires.
I reached the TD coarse in Frisco just an hour and a half after leaving Vail, took a right turn and proceed to ‘ride the divide’ as they say.
Bike path to Breck and found my way onto boreas pass. Finally some gravel and a bit of solitude. What it’s all about. My excitement about successfully preparing and finally leaving was high enough to keep quite a gingerly pace.
Around half-way up the pass the ominous clouds began their daily ritual of dropping rain on Colorado below. Boreas Pass is a particulary high pass rising above Breckenridge which already sits at 9200′. It tops out at 11.500′ which equals very cold temperatures. Combined with a fair bit of rain, some may describe conditions as dismal, or even miserabe. Some may not be so kind.
As it started to rain, just as I was dawning my rain gear, (full Patagonia super stout jacket and pants, thank the baby jesus) I spotted some cyclists ahead. Not overly excited as I might be to see other riders above breckenridge, CO. because, in all likelihood, they were recreational cyclists from the area. I noticed that they weren’t fully loaded but partially loaded with only a small pannier setup on one bike and a lonely seatbag on the other.
I engaged in conversation, I’d be a fool not to on this lonely route in early August.  The two gentleman were in fact riding the divide route with some slack help from a sag vehicle piloted by an injured partner. They had started their ride in Wyoming and were riding the Colorado section.
“I’m 68 and my friend here is 70.” Said one of the riders proudly. Fuck me fantastic (not aloud as they were of coarse eldery.) 70 years old on the divide. If ever I felt tough doing this thing, think again, young able-bodied 20-some year old. As the rain continued I was happy to chat with the two riders until I could no longer match the slow pace of the geared riders with my tallish 32-19 single speed. I bid them fairwell and hustled on.
Just after the pass I encountered some navigational woes. I had never ridden the Golddust alternate, which is expected of all southbound racers along the route, and therefore didn’t know exactly where it went. Boreas Pass to Como was the jist of it but that alone doesn’t ensure that one will have an easy time of it.
By the time I found the entrance to the rough single track it was raining hard. I heard later from some others that it was a balmy 38 degrees. Yucky.
Single track is single and easy until it gives two options and there were a few on the trail down to the bottom. I crossed a road and continued on, realizing after finally pulling out my iphone that that road was one I wanted to be on. Freezing and wet fell secondary to my fear that rose to an amber level when lighting began to crack around me. A fair amount of lightning had me crossing streams and shouldering my bike through creeks that were now flashing under the heavy rains.
Day 1. Freezing rain and a lightning storms mixed with navigational woes. A real shit-storm.
Lightning was cracking on all sides. The type that startles you with its decibels and power every time no matter if you’re ready for it or not. This was the very area that Jesse Carlson (2nd place TD rider from the year prior) had been struck by lightning. I was doing my best to keep it together but failing just a little bit.
I diverted my progress in favor of the overhang of a vacation log home with no trespassing signs loudly posted for potential touring cyclists to heed. Screw your vacation home. I know you’re not here. I’m going to stand under your overhang in the name of humanity. Trespassing be damned.
I pulled out my iphone and noticed that the although still functioning, I may not want to expose it to any more direct rain, which i had been in the name of holding the route down to Como. It informed me that I had yet again gone astray.
After the lightning subsided somewhat, I did what any competitive ultra cyclist does, proceeded on despite the conditions. I was a little disheartened as I was forced to ford the flashing creeks yet again.
Very lucky that this was all occurring on the first day of my journey when my spirit was high and my resolve, robust.
When I got to Como I was a bit bummed to find that the country store was boarded up. The nic-nac shops didn’t seem to offer much and I had the food and water I needed to continue but i was sidetracked by the bikes of another couple riders, surely TD cyclists.
They were on their way out. After a quick chat I gathered that they were with the older guys I had met on the other side of the pass. They invited me to stay with them in a friends cabin nearby. My heart broke a little bit as I told them, in the pouring rain, that I had to push on as it was much to early to hang it up. It broke a little more when they told me the senior citizens had already come and gone and were up ahead. Total tortuous and the hare. Sure they hadn’t taken the alternate but getting so jammed up on it myself they were again in front. Wow.
I hustled and followed two bike tracks all the way to Hartsel. Surely they hadn’t made it this far ahead of me. Damn those old men. 40 miles of following their tracks in the rain and no sign of them.
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I was happy to see two bikes that didn’t belong to them in front of the bar in Hartsel. Two Uppers (upper penisula of michigan, thick with accent and good humor) were happy to make my acquaintance and the feeling was mutual. It was still raining and these boys were just enjoying some coffee on the cold day. Smart.
We sat for a bit and then I suggested we ride out together. They left a bit earlier than I as I needed to grab a few supplies from the gas station before departing. They were fit as it took me a bit to catch back up on the long stretch to Salida.
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Ron told me a story about getting his toe amputated after a Tour Divide effort the year before. His toe had gone gangrenous not from the TD but the Arrowhead 135 a few months before. SO GNARLY!
I was a bit bummed to leave my new friends as the sun set and they decided to make camp where I was forced to continue on because I had no shelter, just an extremely lightweight bivy which might provide mortal safely, but not safety from a miserable night of rain. My choice in shelter was now confirmed as an error. Monsoon in Colorado and New Mexico was upon me and the reality of daily precipitation was showing it’s mighty face.
After I left my midwest buddies the reality of getting to Salida didn’t seem so bad. A healthy period of of twilight was aiding me and the rain had subsided to intermittent drizzle. I settled in and followed the gravel road ahead through the vast high plains of the Hartsel area.
The road took a turn to the west and I followed it but upon confirmation with my Iphone, I turned back to the junction. Instead of following the somewhat improved road the route went straight ahead. This SoBo stuff was hard to wrap my head around.
The route was now on an unimproved road with no discernible roadbed. That spells mud. Not death peanut butter, but close. Sticky enough to stick to itself which spells trouble.
There were a few times that I was off the bike walking along the chaparral as the road no longer allowed the bike to roll. I knew there were better roads ahead from experience and had been in these situations before so despite the apparent hopelessness of my situation I didn’t get too down. At least lightning was no longer threatening my life. I was just a little tired dealing with some mud. No biggy.
At one point I did notice that the amount of mud pouring from the side of my chainstay where the rotating tire was depositing it’s bounty had grown to a point where the chain was running through it.  In essence lubing my chain with fresh gravely mud. WOW. God bless the single speeders.
My bike was making some serious noises at this point. It’s complaints weren’t without merit. The conditions had grown almost comically bad. Daylight was long gone. A mechanical at this point would be quite disheartening.
The Monē Continental was earning its keep on that wet wet day. Its tired components were the same ones that had completed the Divide the year prior. Scheduled maintenance wasn’t in the cards until Silver City where the Gila Hike and bike would provide their magical service. Just hang in there bike.
I rolled into Salida a few hours into the night. Relieved to be there, in need of an overhang.
I rolled into downtown where downtown bar antics where happening. I spotted a guy rolling around on a bike with a framebag. Damn I love Salida.
I inquired about where I might be able to lie my head for the night. We came up with the Sub-Culture bike shop’s overhang. Bingo. Swapped bike touring stories. My new friend had been a guide for adventure cycling.
I hung as long as I could as to not appear ungrateful but day one was long and I was tired.
A fitful night of sleep. I woke with the sun opting against an alpine start. Afterall this was only my tour down to the beginning. No need to go crazy.
I pedaled around. Grabbed coffee. Ran into one of the men i most admire in the world. Don McClung was walking his dog Onyx around the Absolute Bike Shop area. I followed him back to his house and we chatted for as long as I had time for. Maybe an hour or so talking about his new 29+ bike design with disc brakes!!! He is the most gentle man that creates the coolest shit. 73 single speed and rigid. McClung is a G. Really neat dude. Could have sat for hours listening to stories from decades past, but alas, I needed to depart.
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I don’t think I made it back to dirt before it started to rain again. Not the worst thing ever but it was becoming apparent that this was going to be the norm and not the exception.
About halfway up to the parking before the route turned steeply upward a blue Chevy pickup past and slowed. I began to ride around and the driver shouted out the window, ‘Cjell Mone!’
I am pretty much under the impression that most people out there should no who I am but when my delusions actually come to fruition, it’s pretty damned exciting.
A dude named Aaron from Salida out to rip some trail with his lady off of Marshall Pass. He had ridden the divide a few years prior and recalled our meeting in the great basin. I felt like a butthole because, of coarse, I could not, being one of over 100 meeting I had of that type. SoBo’s suck it!
We pow-wowed, talked bikes and the three of us slowly made out way towards Marshal Pass. Aaron was riding a beautiful non-suspension corrected (replace previous with ‘hardcore’ if you’re not sure what that means) Waltworks custom steel bike. Needless to say we got along well. Aaron and his lady cut out around halfway up the pass and their presence was replaced by that of heavy lightning. The remainder of Marshall Pass was completed in a very gingerly manner. The rain and lighting were getting a little old.
Condititions improved somewhat over the next few hours. Lighting became less of a factor after taking the left turn onto the wide open section between Sargents and Dome Lakes outside of Gunnison.
I have grown very fond of the next sections of the divide. Cochetopa Pass and Carnero Pass. Neither very tough on their own, they are stacked up making them difficult by their proximity to one another. They are both very scenic, relatively quite even by divide standards. I made it my goal to get over the second, Carnero Pass, before laying down. Skies remained ominous all day so needless to say my decision was based on getting to the national forest campground on the south side of Carnero.
In the middle of the night I was glad to be sleeping on the patio of the vacant national forest’s latrine when it started raining again.
The next morning was brutally cold. I still had a fair amount of descending before I could start excreting myself to raise body temperature. I put on all the clothing I had available and froze on the way down to the open flat sections north of Del Norte.
The few miles just before Del Norte are a blast. Some flowing single and double track with minimal elevation. Very scenic. Always a high point.
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Lucky for this sign or I would be lost…

Parade happeing in Del Norte. Subway-gas station and gone. Had to ride on the side of the parade. Thought about doing a wheelie but this was not the Cjell Mone Parade so i passed.
In the middle of the longest and one of the toughest climbs on the entire route I was happy to catch the tracks I was following. A couple from southern California riding a tandem. We got along great and I was happy to pedal at an impossibly low cadence and the switched off between walking and spinning their rohloff equipped super-two seater.
They were a pretty heady couple. I was entertained by their stories from the walls of Yosemite. They spent their honeymoon on El Cap. Neato.
We had lunch and shared snacks and some Colorado kind. I bid them farewell and laughed as the wife asked me if they were almost there…
Indiana Pass is no joke. Your biggest mistake is thinking that you might almost be to the top as I can assure you that you most certainly are not.
When I did make that illusive summit I was greeted by a massive heard of sheep all around. I was a bit apprehensive as I scanned the exposed landscape for a bloodthristy shepherding dog, but I saw non and was happy to make all the little bah-bah run in unison.
It was shocking nice as I traversed the incredible section below and around the Summitville Superfund sight. I think the lady from the California couple asked if there was ice cream up there. HA! Summitville. Maybe a ice cream cone made of incredible beauty, abandoned ghost town houses and laced with heavy metals.
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I descended into Platoro and decided to eat at the resort/food truck/gift shop place. I had great conversion with the seasonal help from Oklahoma and I feel like they really styled out my chicken fried steak and potatoes.
I took my time on the way to Horca because skies were again filled with threatening clouds and pushing past Horca would mean a night in the Brazos with only 5 oz of flyweight bizy between me and more monsoon. Oh what a horrible horrible shelter choice I had made. I had never experienced the insentient rains that I was now, normally the bivy-only route wouldn’t have been so bad.
I scoped out different places to squat approaching Horca. Under some buses. A busy campground, some abandoned cabins.
I was ultimately bailed out by a young guy who allowed me shelter outside of his small condo thingy. Thank you mucho John from Joplin Missouri! I owe you!
I awoke early and timed myself up the long steep pavement grind that is La Munga Pass. I didn’t break any records but it was under 40 minutes and I was tuckered at the top.
An adventure motorcyclist on one of these big adventure KTM/BMW what-have-yous road by a couple times before finally stopping to ask directions back to the Divide Route. I felt badly for the guy as he stopped for literally 1 minute and was off at 70 MPH down towards Mexico. How lonely would that be? I mean I thought I was a bit isolated but this guy had 1 minute for a fellow divide traveler. I fear that is the fate of many-a divide motorcyclist. I saw more this year than ever but failed to converse with one over 1 minute, most of them just driving by. Would someone else biking the route ever just pedal by another cyclist. No Way! We are far too lonely for that. The motorcycle in my opinion is a little too isolating in that regard.
I made it up and over the Brazos with little trouble. Oh how I love that stretch. So vast and remote. A few elk scouters and the odd cowboy and not much else.
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I did meet a couple from Prescott, AZ camping and surveying the forest on a government contract. They were of like mind. I was happy to take a half and hour to stop and chat.
Buzzed through Hopewell Lake campground and onto one of my favorites, Canyon Plaza, Sylvia’s summer store.
I stopped to chat with Sylvia and eat some junk food for a minute. She informed me that there were a couple of riders a few hours ahead. Planning on staying at the Abique Inn. I figured if I hustled I could catch them and enjoy some companionship for the evening.
I made good time over the next section and arrived in Abique around 10pm. I snooped around the new-agey campus of the Inn for a few minutes before surrendering to the fact that it was late and I was being a bit of a weirdo wandering around so i left the area.
I could see the stars clearly so I figured I didn’t need shelter too badly. Ended up sleeping outside the malt stand at Bodes.
I waited for Bodes to open in the morning and enjoyed a few breakfast burritos when i did. I prepared myself for the long climb out of Abique. I can say now that I think I prefer it to the decent.
A long day of rain showers with scattered lightning over the Jamez. Very isolated place that is abundant with elk. The technical sections are comically so but offer a bit of distraction from the conditions and monotony.
I was happy to end with the steep fast pavement decent down into Cuba. Man Cuba can be rough.
I stopped at the gas station/mexican joint on the corner. It looks pretty shady and the fair matches the looks. I had a Navajo Taco that I was regretting even as it was going down. When in Rome.
As I sat there I saw a divide kitted bike roll by and I flagged it down. It was a guy named Tony from Calgary. He was one of the riders I was chasing the day prior. Tony had taken an alternate which put him in Cuba at the same time as myself.
I was happy to split a room with Tony as the alternative was riding through the reservation at night which I didn’t much feel like and besides, its illegal to camp on the land that belongs to the Navajo. Generally try and respect that for more reasons than one.
Tony and I did laundry while we shared divide stories. He was being featured in a feature for the national news in Canada and was taking footage of his trip with a GoPro and some other nifty gear to support it. He was very positive and in very high spirits. He also shared with me his little ‘secret’ that he kept in the bottom of his framebag…a wedding ring. He was set to propose to his girlfriend at the end of the ride in Antelope Wells. Booya! Nice Tony!
I offered to ride the following day with Tony. I told him I planned to knock out the next 200 miles to Pie Town. A great way to get his first double century. He declined, bummer.
Got up at 4:30 trying not to wake Tony, probably unsuccessfully. Headed out into the darkness that is the Navajo reservation. The landscape is stark yet beautiful.  I knew halfway across the reservation there was a christian couple who ran a convenience store. I was shooting for it.
The lady there packages fruit in small ziplocks at very reasonable prices, just over a dollar or something silly for the locals to have available. I asked her permission before I bought 4 bags of the most delicious strawberries and grapes. The next 75 or so miles flew by with my lute of fruit and clear skies. Man I was happy to be dry for the first day since my departure.
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Quick stop on Grants and I was off to Pie Town.
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Got a bit dark on me but 200 miles will do that. I was happy to have made it to the Toaster House. What an amazing place of respite deep in southern NM.
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For those of you who don’t know, I can share what I know about the Toaster House. It started out as the home of a beautiful soul named Nita. I am not sure of Nita’s history but I know it has a lot to do with Hawaii. Nita was playing host to thru-hikers coming through on the CTD. She was an up and coming trail angel as the popularity of the CDT grew. Pie town also lies on the southern tier Adventure Cycling route so she also started playing host to the weirdo bikers as well. More recently the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route gained a great deal in popularity and Nita’s home was now a wash with vagrants seeking respite on long journeys across the county. At one point Nita took other residence and her old home, the toaster house, (named after an alter made of toaster that one passes under on the way into the residence) was offered as a public house of sorts to those who sought it on their long journeys.
To date I have been to the Toaster House a staggering 5 times. I have yet had the opportunity to meet Nita although one day I hope beyond hope that I do. She has done amazing things for me and I owe her bigtime.
The following day I had a very lazy start opting to trim down a large amount of my gear there in Pie Town in preparation for my impending NoBo effort. I sent a leaky air mattress back to Big Agnes which they replaced and sent back. Thank you big Ag. I instead carried a thin piece of foam (gossamer gear 1/8″ nightlite) left by a CTD thru hiker. Not optimal but workable. I settled on hydration needs, cut out some leg warmers I wasn’t using as the rain pants were seeing all cold weather duty. Really trimmed it down.
After my first visit to the Pioneer I nearly missed PO hours. Luckily the lady was sweet and sent my package out anyway despite my tardiness.
After taking stock and grabbing a few packets of Top Ramen from the hiker box at the Toaster House I was still well short of what I needed in terms of calories for the tough long section to Silver City. I went back to the Pie shop to add to my reserves. I was grateful that the cook was receptive to my requests for anything to go… He made me a couple PB and J’s and even threw in a bag of chips. I needed that.
When I finally made it to the north side of the Gila Wilderness I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There were more wild flowers than I had seen in my entire life. As a resident of Colorado and tourist of Crested Butte during Wild Flower Festival thise year, I was no stranger to amazing beauty in wildflowers but what I was seeing in the Gila was staggering. Every flower seemed more special and vibrant than the last. Giant white ones shaped like roses, smaller purple one hanging delicately. Fields full of so many extremely vibrant flowers. I was pinching myself when the magic hour of light before sunset had me biking through herds of elk numbering in the hundreds.. Stampeding! Really an awesome evening. Made it to the Beaver Work Center. Laid down under their overhang after chatting with a wild-fire fighter for a while. First night with no rain.
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Soda machine still doesn’t  at the work center. I was wishing it was. Anything to add to my dry Ramen breakfast. I left early in the morning with food on the brain. The Gila is a massive beast. South of the work station there is stacked up vertical that tests a man’s fortitude. I was rationing and wishing I wasn’t.
After a few trips up the divide one tends to develop landmarks and memorable sections or climbs. The Gila is filled with places of special note. The flip side of that is all of the riding in between those sections. Anticipation can be a killer and when a sneaky 20 miles lies in between you and the next landmark you remember. That day in the Gila was a perpetual 20 mile sneaker…for a 150 miles, my body suffering the early effects of starvation. Tough day.
I was happy to make it the to CDT singletrack because I knew it meant one final push up and over then, another 20 mile sneaker, that sneaky 20 miles being the final 20 before Silver City and food! Oh god, I am hungry.
Up and over. Down, down, down a challenging decent that had turned to double track and then to a more well used section almost looking like ATV accessible… Hmmm, doesn’t appear to be sweet CDT single track. GPS-iphone…computing….FUCK!
I turn around and look up at a very steep pitch I had just come down. How far til my dot hit the line. Scale on GPS….1-2 miles. Damn I need food.
Was able to ride some of what I had just come down until the pitch went up and the technical sections that I had enjoyed just before were now slightly more arduous while walking, up a steep steep pitch. Around 45-60 minutes later I passed a point where I was sure I was on the route as it was one of those remarkable points that I could easily remember from a year prior.
I looked down and noticed a knee high rock karen, some yucca that had been laid down showing the way, and then removed again by dirt bikes that weren’t, in fact, traveling on the CDT. Relieved, hungry frustrated I pointed my bike down one of the most scenic sections on the GDMTBR.
My desperate emotion slowly faded as I climbed over single track that seemed to have a layer of bright green, almost lawn grass grown over it. Karens reassured me as I meandered. A technically demanding section that was almost fun, although taxing. Something to challenge the bike handling skills for a change, my hunger was slighted, somewhat, by a grin on my face as I climbed to the crown of the CDT singletrack section.
Returning to double track, noting spots I had camped years before after a big first day. I didn’t have to go to mexico this year, just down down down into silver city. When I hit pavement I rejoiced and ate the last of my dry ramen and trail mix. Whatever sneaker section lay here I knew it wasn’t long and mostly downhill. After pinos altos, after, a plethera of dining options await my calorically depraved body.
I saw Richard from the bike house as I destroyed some Chinese Fast Food, a budget conscious GDR riders dream.
Nice to reconnect to the community so quickly. I love Silver City and i don’t care who knows it. Nestled on the bench in front of the Gila to the south, Silver sits over 7000′ which keeps the climate very pleasant all year. And something about the university and the right amount of southern New Mexico weird keeps it awesome.
The fact that I still had an official yo-yo attempt clock running i figured I would make haste in Silver City despite really, really not wanting to. Martyn, Bill, Chris, Jack, Karl, Damie Jamie T, and Dave Baker to name a few kind souls that I really connected with made a hastened departure so tough.
Jack was good enough to have replacements for all of my drivetrain pre-ordered per my request. Super fair prices on all the junk to get my poor poor single speed back to life. I chose to go with the same gear I had going on the previous years divide, and thus far this year…32-19. Or 32-YM with the big tall tires. For anyone reading this who doesn’t know single speed gears…easier (spinnier, faster pedaling) than an average urban gear but heavier than an easy mountain bike gear.
My Mone Bikes Continental was getting rather vocal with me after dragging it from Vail, to Mexico to Canada, then over a summer of vail and fruita riding and then back down to Mexico.. it started creaking – A LOT.. Actually, funny sidenote; I got to see Billy Rice and Big Dave Wilson in Summit County on their cross country treks and both laughed because my single speed made more noise than their geared bikes.
Dousing the setup in lube would quiet the works down a bit but larger bearings were the culprit. I thought my BB was yet again my obvious creak-er so I went to replace my BB and everything  I could afford to, within reason… sticking with the same single speed ratio.
I was a little shy about asking Hike and Bike borrow tools but Dave Baker stepped up and set me up in a corner of the shop with a temporary stand to toil away at my own bike. How nice are the dudes at the Gila Hike and Bike!!
Went to work trying to stay out of the way but ultimately engaging Dave for some pro tips. Chris hustled and Jack inevitably watched bike racing on TV. Missed Martyn and Bill this year which was a bummer. What an awesome bike shop that is with incredible personalities
Crank, chainring, chain, cog, bottom bracket, pedals, tires, brake pads, NEW NEW NEW NEW. I wasn’t messing around. I was about to ride to Canada, no cutting corners. on the OL Continental. Took me the better part of the morning and I have the rig up and running. Next order of business…Back of the Pack Racing Jersey.
BPR is a group of no good hooligans that ride SS bikes and drink high gravity beer. Met Judd, one of the founding fathers, on the Colorado Trail, through blacksheep and again on the AZT. I begged to join his crew cause they had rad gear and seemed like real dudes. Think hells angels meets mountain bike geeks. General norms for BPR guys.. rigid, single speed, 29er, no spandex and a Black Sheep if you can afford it. The gear was generally a plaid shirt with team colors sewn to it and some dickies. Variations on the kit abound but the big skull back patches are to let folks know, maybe a little more oddball than your average bike rider.
But seriously, a great group of super genuine guys that are a little fringe and ride sweet SS bikes pretty much sums it up. Anywho, Judd, my BPR sponsor shipped my a patch set and a couple par of socks. HELL YES. Now all I needed to do was sew these babies on a shirt.
Klarl, a gentleman who I had met a year prior in the shop agreed to sew the patches on pro-bono, which was very appreciated. He then invited me to join him next door for a few drinks which I happily obliged.
Just as Karl and I were finishing up the boys were closing down the bike shop and Dave Baker popped out and hopped on my bike to give it a spin and see what all the fuss was about.
It was a real bummer when we both heard the primary creak that my bike had made before replacing the entire drive train… was still there. They were closing the shop. Shit. Felt like a total dumb dumb drinking beer thinking that my bike was all good when it was clearly not.
Dave Baker, hike and bike pro-wrench extraordinaire to save my ass yet again on the day. He was heading up the hill to Bike Worx, A Silver City not for profit entity that promotes bike culture through community based bike classes and programs for youngsters to earn bikes in trade for shop work which they taught right there.
Dave suggested that I start by taking apart the freehub and checking the state of its contents. Bone dry. Good, kinda. Pretty sure thats the culprit but also not good to the state of that hub. packed it full of white grease, reassemble and, boom, no more creak. Hell Yes Dave. Saved my ass again.
In traditional BikeWorx style I returned my services by tuning up a few treks out of their fleet and shooting the shit with Dave Baker who is a super great dude by the way. Jamie Thomson also paid a visit, which was great because he caught me volumteering at bike worx, a organization that he plays a key roll in. Dudes just don’t come classier than those two.
The following morning I was up early. I had decided to make the ~140 mile shot to the border from Silver City. I was thinking of making it in two days to preserve energy for my big break to the north. Dragging the journey through the desert out over 3 days rather than two seemed silly. Not a lot out there to capture one’s attention. Lotta pavement right at the end. Better to get her over with…
So I started the day early enough to give myself a shot at the 140 miles to the border.
Temperatures where not extreme, as the have a tendency to be on that stretch. It’s a wide open lonely section when you get into it. Separ store marks the end of the gravel and the start of the 80 or so miles of pavement to the border.
In the middle of the gravel section I noticed a bight orange brand new Jeep coming towards me. It’s rare to bump into folks that have an idea about the GDMBR but this shiny Jeep seemed so out of place I had to believe I might be stopping to chat. Sure enough.
It was a Texan couple surveying the coarse via Jeep. Kind souls. We chatted for 15 minutes about this and that. Saul, from Honduras, had attempted to complete the TD earlier that year but had fallen victim to a broken collar bone and his trek now included a Jeep and a wife a couple months later.
Passing through Thorn Ranch and the rest of the lonly gravel to Separ was familier. I thought about the first time I had come through here two years earlier. The divide definiely rewards those who return to it. Comfort comes from every turn and landmark that you can recall from before. The route literally cuts through the middle of Thorn Ranch. My first year I can assure you I was very concerned about the possiblitiy of a ranch dog or two. I would have also been turning on the GPS to make sure that the route did indeed cut through the middle of this ranch house and stables. This year I was delighted to see Thorn Ranch and was pretty confident there were no dogs.
Separ for a quick snack. It was hot enough to really enjoy an ice cream and some ice water. Not too long of stop as I wanted to have a good shot at making Antelope Wells for camp.
30 miles to Hachita. Very isolated T-storms were forming over hills in the distance. Small yet intense cells scattered here and there. By the time I made it to Hachita I dismounted the bike and saw for the first time the storm cell that had been growing behind me. The thunderstorm seemed about 10 to 15 minutes from coming down on my current location. It was a very dark front and I could feel the temp dropping in Hachita.
This is one of my main issues with Divide racing. Pushing a schedule for pace and speed sake despite weather or conditions. My options at this point were to make camp in Hachita, or ride onto the border. Making camp here in Hachita would delay my start to sometime tomorrow when I arrived in Antelope Wells, after the 50 mile ride. This would be fine as my start on my NorthBound effort would simply begin a bit later. It would be a little less than optimal as my NoBo effort would begin with a 50 mile ride that morning. I had put a lot into planning and facilitating my fasted effort to date so staying in Hachita seems a little less than desirable. Also, what would I do until night finally came and where did I want to camp?
Despite the encroaching T-storm, which was seemingly growing in intensity and electricity, I got on the bike and went for it.
50 miles is a long way, pavement or not, but the fact that I had made the journey 4 times previously either by car or bike, quantified it in such a way that made it seem manageable. I would estimate the time to be around 6:30 but the dark skies were making it seem a bit later.
Thinking about the 50 miles as a single easy strech make it seem easy but when I commited to riding it into the storms and the night, the mile markers played out trip more consistent with the realities that were playing out. The growing storms continued to grow. The 50 miles crept by very slowly as they tend to do when you are on a bike and confronted by the exact distance every mile and the sun fell below the horizon and darkness built sooner than expected.
I understood that I was pedaling into a very lonely section of road as no car would attempt the journey at this time because crossing the border into mexico at this hour would be impossible and the road had no other purpose than this passage save a few very very isolated ranches. For this reason I stopped the first border patrol officer that I saw and let him know what I was up to. I felt it a prudent maneuver considering the fact that I would undoubtedly be monitored the entire way down and would likey have further interaction with them in some form. If this guy would let all his mates know on the walkie talkie it couldn’t hurt.
He was a Mexican American. Friendly enough. I asked him about where he lived in light of the fact that this was serious butt-fuck-nowhere and I was trying to imagine where a border patrol in the area made residence. He said he lived in el paso and lived at specific border patrol houseing for the week or so he was no duty.
I continued on and the skies turned from dark to black and as the last of residule sunlight faded out the lightning strike began to light up the skis more vividly and with more intensity. My pace quickened directly related to my concern level. Hatchet Gap was a familiar landmark which marked the last of any turns in the old highway. No shoulder. Little separated the edge of the pavement from the dry scrubby chaparral that was all there was for vegetation.
For over an hour the storms intensified all around me but rain had not yet fallen. This is often the way of the desert I would imagine.  The lighting was now cracking and flashing a few times every 10 seconds. The mile markers dragged on just now dropping below 30. I have no spedometer but considering that I could comfortably spin my single speed along at 17 mph that put me at the border in just under 2 hours. Fuck. 2 hours is a long time when you are the tallest object in a desert valley that seems almost as though God himself is flicking a light switch switching from very very black to brilliant incondesent light every few seconds.
Mortality. The feeling of being human and very very scared. My options were few now. Duck into the remains of a collapsing wooden structure or cease the growing tail wind and up the cadence to make it to Antelope Wells as I intended to. Intention is a powerful thing. I press on.
The brilliant flashes of light become more and more frequent and my tail wind is also growing. At this point I know its a very dangerous situation but my options are limited and the tail wind is strong so I pedal on into the black night. I have a red flashing light on the back of the bike and a weak headlight. Enough to be seen if a vehicle were to come upon me.
My mind is somewhere between frantic and panic. I attempt to calm myself with rationalizations and convincing myself that the fear is useless but the flashes of light and the threat of lighting are so very real. The mile markers continue on at an unbelievably slow pace.
 At this point the wind generated by the storm is incredibly strong at my back. I switch from a mode were I am spinning my legs at their limit, around 17-18 mph, to spinning them above their sustainable limit and coasting and spinning up again and coasting, I would estimate my speed to range from 19 to 23 depending on where I was with the spin-up process.
Big rain drops begin to fall on the road in front of me and I can feel my first few. This after over an hour and a half of intense build up of lightning and thunder. Never have I been exposed to this much storm with no rain. The coming of the rain was anticipated for a very long time. The rain came and left and the strong tail wind continued. It was almost as if I was surfing the very front edge of this storm and I was frantically spinning my legs to stay on the wave.
I looked up at a point to see headlights coming down the road from the direction of Mexico. Visible from a very long way off they covered a great distance very quickly. I was sure to be very clear of a possible vehicle path. The border patrol truck passed in excess of 100 mph. He was onto something. It was a Ford Raptor pickup outfitted with big tires and mean looking suspension. Just after it passed me flying down the middle of the road like pacman eating up the centerline dots, it slammed on the brakes. He was coming for me.
It did burnout doughnut maneuver to make the u turn and roared back in my direction all the with being lit up in the incandescent light of unceasing lighting strikes.
He parked his truck perpendicular across the highway just up in front of me. The stance of the big truck and the lighnighg made it seem like the scene of a movie. The rain-wave I had been riding caught up a bit and the big drops overtook the place where the truck was standing me down.
The drivers door flew open and a big voice yelled out over the rain and thunder.
I rode as humbly as I could up to the truck. Before i could answer the broadchested border officer yelled again.
“Where’s you partner!!”
“I’m sorry officer, I am riding solo. I have just…”
Yelling again, “NO PARTNER!?”
“uhh, yes officer”
“I AM NOT AN OFFICER. I am a former green beret working for the United States Border Patrol. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE!! You see this bullet proof vest! This area is heavy with narco traffic! Put your bike in the back.”
I am around 15 miles to the border at this point. There is no way I am going to accept a ride, even as the spitting heavy rain drops catch up to our current location, although the offer is tempting.
“With all do respect sir, I have ridden by bike from colorado to make it to antelope wells under my own power. I mean no disrespect to you or your…”
“NO PARTNER! C’mon. Just know you are on your own! I’ll call down to the border and let them know.”
Ha, I am thinking I didn’t need this hot-head to let me know I was on my own. I do however respect his warnings of the dangers of the place but to give up and take the ride seemed to me self defeating.
“Thank you sir.”
I get back on the bike a midst the cracking lighting with a renewed urgency mixed with comfort that there is someone 15 miles down the road that knows I’m coming, for whatever it’s worth.
Every tenth of a mile is marked on the side of the road. I don’t miss one of them on my way to Antelope Wells. The 15 miles comes very slowly despite retaining my frantic 20+ mph spun-out-pace.
The lights from the border station come into view over while the signs still read over 5 miles. The number of lightning strikes dwindles as I close in on the border. I am so very glad that the series of questionable decisions I had just made didn’t result in personal injury.
The large well lit structure and compound to the left is surrounded by a tall fence and razor wire. The area I am used to as the border crossing and adjacent parking lot where NoBo TD riders have staged in the past sits 100 meters behind a closed gate. There is one trailer that sits back and just outside the razor wire tall chain link perimeter. A dog in that trailer has discovered my presence and I am relived after 30 seconds of barking that the K9 is sufficiently restrained and hasn’t approached me.
I know that making it to the buildings I am used to isn’t really an option. I look back at the large compound. No real other options. I am thinking someone would approach me at this point as GI Joe-border patrol radioed ahead. No such contact.
I make my way in the compound and a light bulb goes off. This compound is where the new border crossing is. The buildings and old crossing is all but a thing of the past relegated to forever be far behind the new razor wired gate. I can see the computers and scanners inside the building. Still no contact from anyone.
I figure I will make myself as comfortable as possible. I got out my new paper thin pad and laid it out next to the coke maching on the cement. The place was pretty well lit so I did my best to get in the shadow of the soda vending machine.
Terrible night sleep was puncuated with a sharp sharp strong pain that brought me fully out of the half-sleep I had acheived. WOW! OUCH! I am guess a centipede or scorpian, because that mofo HURT!
Woke up before my alarm set for 4:30 a.m. Let’s get this show on the road. no sence in fake-sleeping any longer. It was time to begin my strongest TD effort to date, or at least that’s the plan.
The sun began to rise as I hit hatchet gap, the first geological happening a full 40 miles of flat straight highway riding though classic New Mexico chaparral.
Just after Hatchet Gap I saw a Volvo wagon pass by me. This must be someone involved with the GDMBR or CDT. No one down here could possibly be liberal enough to be seen in a volvo.
Sure enough, Jeff and Toni of Hachita had come to check up on me. The couple had made it a habbit to come party with finishing thru-hikers and TD’ers. Rad rad couple. They drove along side and we chatted for a while. Saw them again in Hachita. Had a quick safety review and I was off. Efficiency and speed were my focus on this day.
The same ground I had covered the previous day now lay just as it had before. Around 60+ miles of pavement before riding along side the I-10 into the Separ store. I resisted all urges to pick up dream catchers, turquoise earrings and Mexican blankets. Water and trail mix and I was off.
I felt very efficient through Silver City. A quick in and out of my favorite shitty chinese. A few customary egg rolls to go complimented my current rations and I was off climbing for Pinos Altos.
I had made good time all day. I welcomed the right turn off the pavement and began the sharp climb up to the CDT section. The sun had long since set when I reached the single track. I felt fresh enough and was happy to have passed the point at which I had camped for the previous two divide attempts.
I made it to the most scenic point of the CDT section, the one with a small ledge and some moderate exposure to each side and decided it would be a good place to sleep.
I am not sure how long I had been out when I began to feel rain on my face. I was wrapped up in my bivy but I knew that any sustained precip would result is some real saturation. The bivy was almost a mute point here.
I knew that an outhouse lay just below me at the campground at the end of the CDT section. I bee lined it there. The move was somewhere between 12 and 3.  Only a minor annoyance considering how gross sleeping out in a real rain storm in only my chinsy bivy.  I woke before my 4 a.m. alarm and began to pedal down the pavement section connecting the CDT section to the 120 miles of gravel and stacked up vertical. This section is never to me underestimated.
I knew to expect nothing but water at the Beaverhead wild fire work camp. I pressed on. The Gila was strikingly beautiful at this time of year. Flowers and rainbows…pretty much the tour divide in a nut shell.
A big day to the Toaster House of Pie Town. Yet again missing pie but taking atvantage of the amazing toaster house for the strict benifit of wayward souls on cross country journies. A seriously amazing place of respite. I held up here as again, the sky threatened rain and I was ill prepared. I also facied the bed at the toaster house.
I was challenged by the fact that I hadn’t made it any farther than I had in years prior. This was mostly a testimate to how strong my previous rides to this point had been. I felt fast and effecient all day so I figured if I was holding the pace of years past than it was a result of the stregth of that former pace and not the lacking of my current progress.
I set the alarm for very early and took off hoping to make a gap on the pace of years prior. The goal is to sleep somewhere further along than I had in year’s before.
Were I to equal the pace from before that would be a double century today on the pavement. The early start plays in my favor.
I make a quick stop of the grocer on the far side of Grants. They have the fastest most nutritious food in their deli and produce section. Not a show stopper but definely not the norm in that part of the country.
The scenery through the 150+ miles of reservation is breath taking. A bleak yet vast place. One turn around half way and the Choco-store is all that I have to think about. I was successful at bringing my mind outside of the grind of the mile marker and time/speed calcs.
I found a couple fellow divide tourists dining at the mexican restaurant in Cuba, NM. I relaxed with them and they found my time spent with them funny as I was “racing”. I had strong desires at that point to drink beers and hang with the boys but I pressed on. My former camp stop lay around 7 miles outside of town at the base of a very nasty sustained pavement climb.
I made the spot where I had formerly made camp at the base of the climb. The year prior I thought I was smart to remove my cleats and resolve to a long walk up the hill. This year I thought I would give a go at trying to ride it. I was surprised to still me pedaling the bike over halfway through and knew that I would very much like to clean it with the amount of ground I had already covered. I rode up and over happy with my effort late into the night. I made camp at the beginning of the mighty Jamez section.
I gave myself til 4 am the following day. I easiy navigated the rocky and technical section that would normally require a close eye on turns. I had ridden in no more that a few days prior. A major atvantage through here.
I didn’t clean the whole thing as such an effort would be a little ill-advised through such technical rocks so far removed from any place of possible evac.
Bode’s store at the end of the section was welcome. I enjoyed the spoils of large burritos, bobo granola bars and other heady snack available there. The influx of yuppy artists to Georgia Okeafs former haunt of Abique is to thank for all the high quality gas-station food. I also got a coffee milk shake which is without compare to a TD rider on a hot afternoon.
Hustle hustle hustle up the hot pavement to El Rito, tired looking place mixed with Abique yuppie rejects, Mexicans and a sprinkling of rednecks. Interesting part of the world. Somehow artists have made all the areas around Taos, NM real estate anomalies.
More hustle up and over, past the viscous dogs of Vallecitos, a NM town that is shitty enough to scare even the artists away. Quick stop to say hello to my honey Sylvia at the summer store.
Pretty view of Canyon Plaza on the climb out of town. I contemplate a simple life on a small piece of land ever time I leave here.
The sky starts to cloud over as the sun sets. I ride hard and make it to Hopewell lake campground just as the sun sets. I am ahead of previous year’s pace by over a few hours but now the reality of my feeble shelter sets in. Past here there is pretty much guaranteed nothing for shelter until Horca Colorado at the base of the mighty La Manga Pass. Standing between me and there is over a half day riding. 8 hours at least. That is my next opportunity for shelter apart from 5 ounces of paper-light silnylon.
So here are my choices, sleep here under cover of a picnic shelter, much earlier than I would like, or press on, looking at an almost impossible 8 hours of riding starting at 8 pm or so. This no-tent idea was D U M B!
I set my alarm for 230 and fall asleep in the shelter, almost happy to hear the rain as it falls reinforcing my decision with it.
At 230 I pack and leave. I am looking at over three hours of pre dawn riding. Some predawn is good, but 3 hours is too much. I am forced to take cat naps often that morning almost negating the early start. A little disheartened, I try hard not to dwell on the fact that I am dealing with far less daylight and far more rain than I ever have on the divide.
By the time I get to Horca I am tired to say the least. I have fallen prey to a phenomena prevalent with veterans. Compartmentalizing an entire section of the ride. This is debilitating because for 8 hours of riding I find myself in a state of pre-arrival only due to the fact that I have mentally placed myself as mid-section…status: not arrived. Where if I wasn’t keenly aware of what was ahead I would only be aware of the present surroundings and view. Psyco-bibble-babble over.
20 miles of gross gross semi buried rocks to Platoro. I have refueled and resupplied in Horca so I don’t take the time-sucking oh so glorious stop into the resort dining car. I am happy to fly by but at this time I am becoming aware of something I feared for most of my scenic ride over the Brazos…I am behind.
The eve of the day had descended and instead of far in from of where I had been in previous years I was behind. Year one I camped on the decent of the Indiana Pass and last year it was just beyond Del Norte. Because of my in efficent morning and super efforts of years past I now knew that equaling those camp-spots would mean a bit more night riding than I like.
I hustle over the double pass of Stunner (aptly named for those south bound on the divide) and Indiana (divide’s tallest pass at 11000-something?). The ride at the top near summitville is breathtaking and even more so now with the golden hour of light highlighting the mountains stripped bare in search of some heavy metal at some point.
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I arrive in Del Norte as the last of the twilight has left. I could see rain clouds gathering as night arrived. I have yet to have a totally dry day. Again I am bummed to think about my options sans any real shelter.
Stay in Del Norte or push on to the next forest service bathroom. This choice is really bring down my will to continue to battle fast paces set by me in years previous. I know if I stop it will mark the first time I fall behind the pace set in previous years. I will also stay at the glorious bike hostel set up there which will cost time and feel a lot like failing.
The alternative is to ride into a pending rainstorm that will force me into 20 or so mandatory miles to the first roof I know for sure will be waiting for me. The situation shouldn’t be that discouraging but fatigue and sleep deprivation has a way of amplifying emotions. The effort I am putting forth only seems to be met with failure. It marks the first time in 3 years of riding this thing that I am pretty bummed out.
I opt to stay in the hostel which is nice but falling behind sucks out all the enjoyment. I know in my mind that it’s not that bad and battling the super strong pace of my previous New Mexico charges is foolish. Wyoming and Montana is where I could get days back but I am hear in Del Norte and it’s raining again, and yet again the sun has set an hour earlier. I can’t help but being a sad sally.
I set my alarm for 430 which I am sure delighted the 3 other bike tourists that had stopped there for the night. I wanted to sleep a bit long to reverse some of the self pity I was having. I had made a run into town for supplies the night before which felt so inefficient but necessary to get out of town before business hours.
Sunrise on the cruiser single track just north of Del Norte is a beautiful thing. It really helped re-focus my riding and appreciate the natural surrounding that make this ride what it is.
I ride hard and smooth over the two passes of the first half of the day, Cochetopa and Carneros. It spits a little rain. In the afternoon it clouds up again as I resupply in the small Sargents store. Heavier rain looks eminent.
Up and over Marshal I am happy it isn’t cracking lighting like it had on my way down but I know rain is on the way and I can see what is coming. Another decision to stay in Salida or ride on, as time is permitting, with no shelter in the face of another rain storm.
Shit. I am not saying that a tent or tarp would have saved this ride, but I might be saying that a tent or tarp would really have saved this ride. Having the peace of mind to leave places of shelter with pending rain is usually not an issue day after day, evening after evening but the monsoon is here and this is a different divide in mid august. Had is been a bike tour, no problem, but unfortunatly much of my enjoyment and selfworth, pride, what-have-you comes from riding farther and faster than before. This is the devil in the ‘race’ part of the whole thing.
I arrive in Salida just as night falls. I am around 6 hours slower than the year previous where I made it here around mid-day to have Don McClung, my hero or heros, fix my bike. So the situation is, I would be leaving Salida back on the the pace set last year, but this year, sans delay. Basically sucking a bit harder now than before.
The whole pace-thing has made me a bit of a head case. Ride harder, farther, faster than before or what’s the point. This is a terrible outlook and it’s about to ambush the ride.
I ride into Salida and think I will sleep in front of Sub-Culture Cyclery considering yet another night-time storm is moving in. I give half a thought of bothering Don to hang out but I know it’s late.
While riding from the divide route to downtown Salida I see none other than the Don himself walking Onyx his black collie of questionable behavior. Don loves that dog.
I am happy to see Don and he lifts my spirits. He invites me over and asks me how the ride has been going. I know if I head to Don’s my ride will be in grave danger. Not only will I undoubtedly drink beers and pow-wow with Don, I will be offered a place to stay. Rule violation of the worst kind. This is my home territory and the rules of the divide were set up to stop this very thing. Not saying that breaking a rule and continuing on would be out of the question, but the ride would be tainted in my own mind. It would still have just as much significance to me as my main battle would be again my own prevoious times and paces but it just wouldn’t taste good.
Don invited me over and by the second beer I had resolved to myself that this meeting what the essence of bike touring and to forfeit it over ‘racing’ spells out too much of a conflict of interest. In the picture of the Tour Divide I paint in my own head, to have the ‘race’ win over hanging with Don McClung, The Don McClung, hand crafter of the finest bicycles in the world, Colorado’s most raddest 70 year old SS rigid mountain biker, is losing.
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If you don’t think Don is the man, you’re wrong

I make many sacrifices to race along the tour divide route. Every sacrifice that counts to me involves choosing to press on with haste lieu of something cool that has come from the nature of the bike tour. To bike tour is to put yourself in the hand of nature and the universe and see what comes of it. Anyone who has toured will, without fail, recount the amazing luck and grace that they have experienced by putting themselves in situations of need…either by good luck or the graciousness of others. Even though the tour divide exists mostly in the back country, it still has its fair share or angels looking out for its riders. Every real sacrifice to ‘race’ along it involves forgoing some of those special experiences to continue on as fast as possible.
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This is not to say the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race is without those experieces….no no no, I have had many while I have been out there. I have connected with the most amazing of people ad been so fortunate along the way, but most times I would like to spend an afternoon or evening with a kind soul or watching a sunset from camp I press on because racing has it’s own set or rewards that the leisure bike tour does not.
On this evening in Salida with Don Mcclung, the race lost. The tour won. To hurry out of Salida and give up the fraternization of a living legend and personal hero was not going to happen. And in dramatic style I gave up the entire divide effort there too. If I was going to carry on with Don til late, that would set me way back and be astrisk on the entire ride. Besides, the august days were too wet and too short to enjoy fully out on the divide. I was done.
I let Don know and he heeded against it, but he had no idea what a head-case he was dealing with and what a weight lifted it was.
We chatted brazing, bikes, geometry, mtn biking in Salida til one in the morning. It was then too I decided I needed to have one of his bikes before he was finished building them in his older years.
The following morning I woke naturally around 5 in Don’s camper. I lazily packed up and waited for the grocery to open. I was happy to have committed to calling the race when I did and felt no pressure or regret.
It rained that afternoon like it had every day for the past 20. I climbing up and over Boreas pass as the sun set. I should be 50 miles north on the route had I still been on pace. Funny how much slower even just normal riding is compared to the urgency of divide racing.
In Frisco I got to the point where I had joined the divide. I biked over to a convenience store and sat down with a beer. I bought a few more to drink while my buddy drove over Vail pass to meet me. I was all finished up.
As I finished up my second Bud tall boy I thought about how great the ride from my home here in Colorado had been. A total success of a bike tour to Mexico and back. Convincing myself that it was indeed a success of a tour and not a failure of a race would take a bit of time but wasn’t impossible. The Divide Route will remain and my efforts on it will to along with the sweet sweet experiences it’s provided me over the last three years will as well.
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Tour Divide 2013, Ballin Halls


Why does anyone ride the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race? Why do I ride it? I have said many times, I am a cyclo tourer much more than I am a bike racer. Then why the hell are you racing this damn thing?
Hmmmm. Questions I have been mulling over for some time. Reasons for riding the gdmbr mostly fall into a few categories according to me.
1. The divide route is gorgeous, amazing, epic, scenic. It brings a rider out, OUT, into the west. Escape from society is not total, but much more than any other normal bike tour.
2. You’re a competitive son of a bitch who loves the idea of going hard and beating the shit out of your buddies. 3000 miles over 2 weeks, an epic race. Along with that are results. You were attracted to the race based on those insane folks who tore it up in years past. Your respect them for their accomplishments and results have stuck with you, and dammit, that could be you.
3. You’re a gearhead  Between the ages of 30 and 50. Hungry for an adventure. Slightly disappointed in yourself for the amount of time you spend on the internet. You love your bike and possibly have an online shopping problem. Pedal strokes < mouse clicks
I am willing to guess that those who are honest with themselves are a combination of those three reasons. I definitely choose to ride based on some combination of those reasons.
I know that the more of reason 1 and the less of number 2 and 3, the easier it is to ride the divide route. If you can appreciate the beauty in the entirety of the thing. The smile that can follow suffering. The comedy of the number of things working against you. And when the beauty of the ride smacks you in the face you can still appreciate the shit out of it. There’s beauty in pushing yourself to a limit that didn’t even exist even a year prior.
When I finished at the us-canidan border due to flooding, it really forced me to examine what the hell I was doing out there.  I rode until I needed to in order to feel I had completed my ride, and then I sat down outside the Roosville, Montana border crossing duty free, on a bench, and a drunk Canadian bought me a beer. Did I ride the tour divide this year for a beer? Nope. Did I do it be because I wanted to break the single speed record and see my name among those I saw come before mine? Yup. A little part of me did. Did I do it for my love of stuff? Fancy bikes and sick light tents with bike bags and gps, and fat wheels..yea, I did, a little part of me.
But those shallow reasons died in Roseville that day. I didn’t qualify for a record according to the archives of tour divide, despite recording (fact checkers welcome) a top 10 all time fastest border to border time, and stacking up 3rd with this years south bound idiots, not to mention a projected SS  record. (Tooting my own horn? Yep, but it’s my blog dammit)
Did i love tour divide every second of every day while I’m out there? Nope, but I think this year has taught me there’s beauty in all of it’s faces.
The tour started in Vail, Colorado for me this year.   I was offered a ride by my sweet girlfriend robin but we settled for camping outside of Leadville together in night 1. There’s nothing like starting a bike tour from your front door (or in my case, shop door). 
My time-frame was a little tight to make it down to antelope wells in time for the grand depart so I had to trade sleepy dirt roads for sleepy paved ones. Even though my time table was tight on account of finishing the fabrication if this year’s divide rig, I knew I needed to leave as much time as possible to fit another prologue tour in.
I road south along the east side of the collegiate  peaks and crossed the divide route outside of salida. I had the big 3 inch tires on for the first bit but elected to ride the same tires I had used for last year’s td to save the tread on the new rubber. (More on my gear for the trip I the next update.)
Continuing south I again skirted to the east of the San juans. I looked at a few maps and for my inevitable westward reach of the journey I could either tackle wolf creek pass or the mighty La Manga pass. Either way, it’d be a pavement cakewalk compared to what I knew the divide had in store.
I chose la manga because it was familiar and i thought it would be good to pick up more overlap along the divide route.
It just so happened to be very fortunate I did, in fact, choose La Manga, because on the extended approach to the pass along the Carneros river I encountered my second ever spot stalker. Bounce (his handle) was standing along side the road the a sweet “Go Cjell Money” sign. Of coarse I stopped and chatted. He invited me in for a beer and I instantly knew I wasn’t riding away from his glorious cabin that night.
Bounce quickly offered me a ride to advance me towards my destination if antelope wells but I stoically refused.  I then went to figuring my average mileage to make it down there on time and I have a little extra time for recovery and fraternizing in silver city which I knew I would thoroughly miss. I quickly recanted my refusal I decided I would take bounce up in his generous offer.
The one problem was that I failed to ride la manga pass which I was excited to do. So the following morning I packed my bike up with my full kit and rode the remaining few miles to the base if the pass, started my timer and unleashed all my fury on an 32/18 single speed. Bob met me at the top, snapped a photo, and we hatched a plan to put a few SoBos in the hurt locker by putting a little incentive on the lowest time. The time was ultimately bested, to my surprise, by a catagory something racer who shorted himself on provisions and charged up that thing. My hats off to Peter haile for posting an incredible time of 33 minutes, over 4 minutes faster than myself. I know he suffered for it, but as he should for being an idiot SouthBounder.
Bounce ended up taking me all the way to grants where I hopped back on the bike and spun it out to pie town. Finally some breathing room in the timetable.
Arriving in the evening, I once again missed business hours one the pie shops, shucks.
At least I had the toaster house. As I neared the communal house in pie town known as the toaster house, where wary hikers and riders of the continental divide find respite, food, a laundry machine, and artifacts of all kinds, I begin to make out the bike of another touring cyclist. All right, someone to chat with. The bike is loaded with fore and aft panniers along with a two wheel trailer.
I am greeted inside the toaster house by what I would call an a-typical cyclo tourist. She stands three feet tall and is wearing a summer dress and no shoes. She appears to be around the age of three. The next person I encounter is a small female (100lbs all wet), dark hair, maybe around my own age. Hmmm.
I quickly learn that these two are a mother daughter riding on the continental divide route as a part of a tour starting in Texas and ending at ragbrai. What!? You’re are riding the divide route with a 3 year old in a trailer? Up until then it was a family if 4 that were the gnarliest I had encountered but they have now been ousted by mom and daughter.
I spend that night and the next morning talking with her about their trip and past trips which fascinate me to no end. How a 100lb girl can tow her daughter on the great divide mountain bike route is beyond me and remains so even after seeing it with my own eyes.
The pavement ride from pie town to silver was hot as hell. I had ridden it before on last year’s reroute. Scenic and hot hot hot as shit.
In silver city I quickly located the bike house. The folks there along with ringleader, super bike advocate and super awesome dude,  Jamie Thomson, were hospitable as shit. Unfortunately cloe no longer resided there and so I skipped getting a tattoo this year.
Spent a few days recouping in silver, spending much if that time at Gila hike and bike where I pestered the professional bike mechanics there. The place lacks the giant egos that are normally found at a bike shops which makes it quite a pleasant place to spend time, probably to a fault.
Martyn, one of hikeandbike’s up and coming pro bike mechanics, and myself took a shop cannondale road tandem out for a group ride. We took every sprint and barely broke a sweat, sayins all.
Ended up getting a ride from silver to the start with a local bike guy and his wife. Super nice man, jazzed on the race, happy for the ride.
At the lonely outpost dividing Mexico from the USA sat a few vehicles with some nervous fools standing around them. It was fun to be joined down south by a few more this year.
Dave Wilson of Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks had driven down to check out the scene and outfit me with a couple new bags for the trip. The gas tank and top tube-seat post bag were ever so slightly off in angle for my road inspired divide frame so he was replacing those bags. He is a perfectionist and it is reflected in his beautiful bags. My bags were made of a cuben hybrid fabric this year that I had purchased to make my own bags, but sent to Dave to have his hand make this year’s luggage instead (good call).
I believe there was me and 6 others gathered at the start. Dylan and Wade hailed from Whitehorse of the Yukon Territory. Whitehorse is WTFOT, a million miles from anywhere. I ended up pedaling out of AW with the two of them.  Wade was an auto technician and Dylan a mechanical engineer.  Dylan was fittingly riding a surly ogre outfitted with a rohloff hub. Wade was a fellow single speeder on his second attempt. Both seemed a bit nervous, Dylan a bit more-so, asking questions about water and resupply that I had trouble fielding. Their setups seemed indicative of good candidates for finishing the ride. It’s easy to identify those who aren’t likely to make it to banff, a bit harder to profile the rider that will indeed make it.
Bruce, a master class racer had been on the divide 3 previous times (fact check?) and was back for more, on a sensible northbound run.  I got the pleasure of making Bruce’s acquaintance in silver. We talked bikes and route, the normal shit.
I was able to meet 2 others that I can recall. If you were a rider down in aw and I forgot about you, work on making yourself more memorable, going nobo is, however, a good start.
A young lady with a very clean bike was shedding a few tears with her boyfriend. Appearing somewhat novice, I admired her courage for tackling this thing all on her own.
The last nobo rider I can recall is Rudy from Tucson. I was told by Matt lee that Rudy was an original character and I should make an effort to get to know him. Intriguing.
I don’t think Rudy made it for the photo at the start line which was already staged a painful 8 minutes late. Seems funny to say that now but tell that to anyone who has spent months preparing for a race, of any length, and is stalled at the start.
To add further to Rudy’s mystery when he finally made it underway, he passed Dylan,Wade,and I busily chatting away. He didn’t even pause as he rode by commenting on our single speed drivetrains.

Last year I rode away from chip andreous just outside of hachita, 40 miles into the race, and this year I was determined not to be too anxious to ride away from the only divide racers I would see until Wyoming.

When Rudy passed us at speed I began to think of what that implied. Are we ‘racing’? Dammit Rudy, NoBo’s know better. Now I’m thinking, I better not let him gap me too bad. The Mantelope has to at least be the top finishing NoBo’er. So I hustled up a bit.
I was happy to know that I would be ok to blow off Hachita and shoot for Separ. I would guess that Rudy at least nailed that and the Canadian didn’t because I finally did catch Rudy and the gas station in Separ and left before the Cannucks arrived.
I was careful that didn’t shoot out ahead again. I wanted to meet this dude. I was in luck. He didn’t seem to be to hell bent on crushing it hard on the first day, so we were able to spin for a while.
Rudy is an artist out of Tucson. He was on a beautiful handbuilt steel bike from Arizona. I can’t remember the builder but I can recall the pretty color matched Waltworks fork. We chatted about handlebars and girls, life, etc. He entertained me with tales of another failed attempt on the TD that he made with Matt Chester on Matt Chester custom ti fixies. Fixed is the new 11 speed.
Rudy frustrated me when he made the conscious choice to drop off the back. He said something stoic as I pulled away on a long easy climb like, ‘I think I see our future arriving,’ like I would drop him and he couldn’t hang, which was BS. But he dropped off so quickly and abruptly that I figured that’s how he wanted it. Damn you Rudy.
I made it to Silver by the evening. A super quick stop at my favorite dirty chinese. All I required were a few egg rolls to go and I boosted.
Jack from the bike shop passed me on the climb to Pinos Altos in his Datsun 240z all decked out to see a play up in the theater in Pino Altos. Grease. He had made an attempt to look 50’s fab but his wife put him to shame. Can’t remember if it was the poodle skirt or what but I thought jack was doing pretty well for himself in that hot car with a babe in the passenger seat.
My goal was the CDT alternate by nightfall. As it became dark, I began to become significantly less efficient and started walking almost everything after leaving the pavement. When I reached the turn onto single track it couldn’t have been that late but I was tired and ready to call it. Not sure the number of miles for the day but nothing spectacular.
Woke up early. 3:45. Still enthused about being back on the Divide. Matt Lee had sent some special warning about the alternate. Something about ledges or some shit like that. There was maybe a slightly pitchy section but when I reached pavement on the other side with dawn beginning to show it’s face, I had to review in my head about which sections might have been the sketchy ones. A great way to start the day.
Pushed through some drowsiness as I made it to the next turn where the route left the pavement again. I had been rerouted around the Gila the year prior due to fire so it was all new to me.
The sign at the start of the gravel section reads: NO SERVICES, STEEP GRADE, MORE SCARY STUFF, NEXT 125 MILES. Shit. When was the last time you read one of those no-services-signs that read 125 miles. That’s a serious distance. I checked my water situation out. Fair, to inadequate. I thought Chip might have mentioned something about this section on a brief review so instead of continuing into the unknown I decided to stay with the pavement for a little bit longer in search of some water. I made it 100 feet before i decided that I’d be fine and to quit worrying.
By the time I made it to the first janky creek I was decently thirsty. Picked up some water and was happy to drink the rest of my good stuff that I had made it there with.
I ended up walking a significant amount on the gravel road climbs in the Gila. No too unbearably long, but hot and steep. I began to doubt my gearing selection bigtime.
The sky looked a bit ominous at the church on the north end of the Gila. I was glad to be back on sections of the divide that I knew well. I was happy not to be guessing at water any longer.
I had one of my later nights riding into the toaster house in Pie Town. You’d be dumb to stop within 30 miles of the place. Yet another visit with no Pie.    Poop.
Ate a few things out of the hiker box, bathed and passed out.
Early rise, in the saddle before 4. Forrest Baker had taught be lessons on the AZT about what was feasible for early starts. Before that I would have been reluctant to set the alarm before 430 but if you feel good, go for it. For some that doesn’t seem that extreme, ie mike hall and other freakshows, but for me 345-445 is the window i shoot for allowing for more sleep when I’ve pushed hard the night before.
The extreme washboard on the north end of the Pie Town Road had been graded smooth. I had caught it (not so smooth) on my way down to sliver city a was almost missing the poor state of the road…I knew SoBo’s were going to miss out on the terrible sandy washboards.  It was, however, still very loose which allowed the big 3 inch tires at 10psi to really shine. Hit the pavement, took care of morning time duties, pumped the tires up hard for over 175 miles of pavement.
I had asked Matt Lee about the reasoning behind the New Mexico alternates on the tour divide. As a rule, the divide race takes the tougher of any alternates proposed by Adventure Cycling, but in southern NM there are two sections back to back that opt for pavement. Matt’s insight; the alts in south NM were put there because of extreme peanut butter mud on the normal route. At some point times must have been set taking the alts and it has since stuck. Huh. Now you know.
I had already thought about this day a long time before it’s arrival. The year prior I was able to pull over 200 miles which was farther than I had ever ridden in a day to that point. 200 miles on a SS. What’s that like? Let’s rage and find out. Opted to make the subway just outside of Mal Pais my only Grants stop. Ate a foot, wrapped a foot, and pedaled through Grants at speed.
At this point in the trip I had become a bit cocky in navigation. I knew where I was going from the year prior. You always hear of salty old vets that do the thing by memory. I gotta a knack for that, right?
I passed the right hander that went over the tracks. The sign even said ‘Cuba’ right on it. In my head, I knew it was a 4 laner that left Grants and the right was only 2 lanes. I press on.
After a half hour of battling pretty stiff winds I turned on my GPS. No teal (that’s the color of the track i like) line. Panic. Panic. Zoom out, Zoom out, loading, loading, fuck garmin, fuck garmin….SHHHHHIIIIITTTTTTT. Super loud, top of my lungs. FFFUUUUCCCCCKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Not the end of the world but not a good feeling at all. 6 miles, one-way, is what i estimated my error at. 12 bonus miles. I was lucky to be heading into the wind on the way out. I lamented my misstep the entire way back to Grants. How was I going to pull 200 like this, idiot!
I got back to the edge of town and took the left (then right) towards Cuba. Battery saving and the environment be damned, my GPS was staying on. IDIOT.
I stopped for water before the road becomes extremely desolate on the Navajo reservation. This makes me smile as I write it, but I pow-wowed with a real live Navajo in his trailer after he caught me using his spigot. It may, or may not, have involved a gas mask.
Variable winds were merciful as I winded around the great uranium mines. I knew from the ride down with Bounce, that Pueblo Pintado’s general store had closed it’s doors. Prepared for that, I made it to the next general store. They thought I must have been slow (in the head) when I told them I was shooting for Cuba by night. 50 more miles.
A few night miles got me into town. The Mexican restaurant was still open for business. A little upscale for my mal-odorous self, I opted to dine outside. I failed to resupply sufficiently which frustratingly brought me back into town after attempting to leave. Camped next to the national forest sign in the same exact spot I had the year prior, over 220 miles (12 bonus) from where I had began. big pavement day, proud that i had done it on a 1 speed and not given it a second thought.
From Cuba to Abiquiu is one of the Divide’s toughest sections. From where I camped on the border of the national forest the route climbs, and climbs, and climbs….then it gets hard.
Mornings are by far my least efficient time of day. It seems like without fail, extreme tiredness and desire to sleep comes within a half our to an hour of breaking camp. Combine that with low temps that make it difficult to nail down wardrobe and morning tasks like eating, pooping, brushing teeth, etc. Twice on this morning I employed my strategy for combating sleepiness; napping. I will lay down next to my bike, next to or on the road and close my eyes. My alarm will be set for around 5 to 7 minutes and in that time I can’t remember failing to fully fall asleep. Most of the time that’s all I need to raise my spirits and kick the sleep demons. It’s part of my 0 masochism strategy. I find that never punishing myself and always catering to my desires keeps morale high and makes the riding easier. Most mornings, all I want to do is sleep, so I do, a little.
I finally summit the pavement portion of the climb and stop to replace the cleats on my shoes. I have taken them out because I remember from last year how brutal the climb was and I wanted to avoid wearing out my cleats walking on the pavement.  I was running a 33/25 for my easier gear the year prior and i knew there was no way I was cleaning this climb on my 32/18, so i submitted to walking/napping. The plan went well until I almost lost a screw that holds the cleat to the shoe while replacing them at the top. Minor delay but I felt anxiousness rising because it was compounded with multiple naps and stops making for a pathetic predawn session.
Elk litter the forest on the ridge and the views are spectacular. Life isn’t so bad and i am able to calm myself.  I can recall the route towards the top and take comfort in knowing that no matter how bad the terrain gets I will be diving into a burrito or ruben or both at bode’s store in a few short hours. As the route forks and continues to deteriorate I notice the tracks of a few cyclists in front of me. I love following tracks because it means human interaction which is something I end up craving.
There are a few sections high on the ridge in the Jamus that are fantastically difficult. I clean some and laugh while I dismount to hike up others. I see something very odd as i get off to walk over yet another tough sections. It’s the unmistakable footprints of a small child. I contemplate it for a second before it hits me. It’s Megan and Neva, the mother and daughter I met earlier in pie town. It makes perfect sense when i put it together with the three tire tracks from her bike and two trailer tires.
The longer I follow the tracks the more I contemplate how amazingly difficult it must be to navigate and ride over one of the toughest, if not the absolute most difficult sections of the divide, with a trailer, fully loaded, and…and…a fucking 3 year old!!! That is all i am able to think about as I ride over the extremely rough terrain myself. There is no self pity now. This 95lb girl and her daughter just made it through, I had better be able to right? An her tracks don’t stop. They constantly confront me with this reality.
I ride hard to catch the phantom mother daughter, eating up there tracks. On the steepest most technical bits I see neva’s footprints which makes me smile. I begin to think of what i can say to offer encouragement as I’m sure the mammoth effort has taken it’s toll on the two of them.
The decent into Abiquiu is a tough one down a 4×4 road. The difficulty of the terrain on a rigid bike is tough on the body, but I am still looking at the 3 tracks which doesn’t allow me to feel sorry for myself in the least.
I finally make it to Abiquiu and Bode’s store where I spot a loaded bike and trailer. They made it! I chat with megan and little Neva. Both are in high spirits which is inspiring. I hammer calories as we chat next to the milkshake shack. I tell Megan honestly that few people will be able to understand what she had just accomplished/gone through and I felt honored to have an idea myself. She tells me the ride over the jamus took 5 days. I only had to carry supplies for the half day it took me. I couldn’t imagine.
It was in Abiquiu that I finally started addressing an issue that I had discovered a few days prior, a hairline crack on the shorline of my bottom bracket lug on my beloved frame. I knew I had to deal with it at some point but also knew that meant taking a lot of time. I was holding a good pace and knew a delay to deal with my problem would undo a bunch of hard work up until that point. I also felt a little sheepish about what had happened because I knew there were a number of people that were aware that I was attempting to complete the race one of my first frames. ‘Cjell Money, what an idiot, I knew this would happen.’ …and now they were right.
I had been keeping a close eye on the tiny crack and it was growing ever so slowly. I couldn’t quite tell if it was superficial or all the way through the tubing.  Whatever it was, it weighed very heavy on my mind and on every decent, and every big bump. If it let go, that was it.
At one point I made a call to a frame builder out of Salida which was a few short days away. Don McClung builds beautiful old school rigid steel 29ers and seemed to be more than happy to help me out. It didn’t fix my problem by a long shot but was encouraging none the less.
I was carrying a small amount of brass and flux for a field repair which I could accomplish with a farmers cutting torch at the least. At bode’s store I asked a few folks if they knew anyone around that would have a torch. No real leads. Someone had a buddy who would be around after work….hours away. The bike had made it through some of the divide’s toughest sections so I elected to just roll the dice and leave Abiquiu.
I made a few stops before el rito looking for a torch. I was confronted with some unfriendliness and dogs. I was also dealing with losing significant amounts of time while searching and yielding nothing. I visited a bar that seemed to be connected to a ladies house.  She made the mistake of telling me that she did indeed have a torch, but her husband was resting. It’s not right to be angry at a person when asking for a favor so i carried my frustration with me out on the bike and dealt with it on the ride to el rito.
In el rito i again wasted significant amounts of time looking for a torch with no luck. Country folks with torches are everywhere until you need one. I pulled the plug on el rito and hustled over to Canyon Plaza.
Canyon Plaza, New Mexico is one of my favorite places on the divide route.
In canyon plaza I made another effort to find a torch. Cynthia at the summer store, such a sweatheart, made a few phone calls to her neighbors on my behalf, looking for a torch. She thought there was a good chance that the neighbors had one, but they were out riding 4 wheelers. FML. I waited with dilutions of them returning within a few minutes and after chatting for 10 minutes, I bolted. 
The weight of that crack on my mind waxed and waned. I knew salida was only 2 days away and tried very hard to make peace with my decision to ride on with some decent success.
I put a few night miles in, making it to the campground off of the paved road (name escapes me). There I caught up with a few cycle-tourists. 
A couple a friendly guys happy to share their site. I lasted all of 10 minutes of conversation before passing out.
I woke early and pushed hard to get up I to the brazos. A few roads up there get slightly technical but very manageable. The double track on top of the ridge is fast and beautiful. It has to be some of my favorite on the entire ride. I remembered a vantage point of sorts at the top and scheduled a little break there to take in the breathtaking views. From there there is a loose loose technical decent. Of coarse I cleaned it in the aero bars, per usual.
When I hit the Colorado border my lady sent a text message, “welcome to colorful Colorado”. Someone was watching, can’t tell you how much that lifted my spirits, thanks robin.
Came up and over la manga pass. Saw Bounce. He had outfitted the la manga pass signpost with a drop box for those southbounders with the cajonas to take on the La Manga pass challenge, loved it.
Hustled through horca knowing platoro was a better stop. Quick in and out and set out to get up and over Indiana pass. Not sure what got into me, but soon after setting out, I was determined to clean it.
It’s a long drawn out climb starting with a stout switchbacky pass called shocker pass, fitting. Once I set my mind to not taking my feet off the pedals until del Norte , I didn’t consider once stopping short. The final push o the summit got a little silly at quite an incline but at that point I’d be fucked if I didn’t get up and over. My 32/18 felt tall but I had learned the necessary body English to continue up and up.
The decent down to del Norte was endless. The feeling of getting over Indiana on the single speed was amazing, totally worth it. 
On the spin into del Norte at dusk I was confronted with my last opportunity to find a torch. There were the unmistakable red and green tanks of oxygen and accetaline. Booya. I wondered around the vacated property long enough to get frustrated and left. Surely my bike would make it one more easy day to salida, right?
The year prior I had camped out just short of del Norte, electing to pedal in and hit it before breakfast. This year I managed to get in and out almost before nightfall, add a couple more nighttime miles and I was a good distance in front of last years pace, good enough for me.
The riding north of del Norte is some of the best on the route. Fast double track. Smooth. Ahh, mountain biking. That combined with one of the more spectacular sunrises almost got ol Cjell money emotional. Goood riding.
I made it to salida in the early afternoon, the year prior I camped there. Boom. The mission now was to see how quickly I could fix my faithful steed and press on.
Don McClung is a frame builder out of salida. Not just any frame builder, don, 73, is OG. He was around when fisher and those other idiots in Marin county along with the scene in crested butte started mountain biking. He told me he couldn’t buy exactly what he wanted so he decided to build it himself. The evolution of his craft has brought him to where he is today. Don builds gorgeous old school twin top tube, full rigid, non suspension correct, fillet brazed, steel 29ers…and they’re fucking beautiful. 
Don himself is a beautiful man. Very soft spoken and unassuming. All of the tools in his shop were well used and all showed evidence of years of thought and hard work.
His small shop sat out back of his home just outside of salida’s downtown. Sweet spot if you ask me. Don still rides, and his beautiful personal bike sat in front of his shop. Phil hubs, canti brakes, twin plate crown, dual truss fork…the bike was amazingly beautiful. Don even showed me a handmade knife he housed in a trick secret spot in the steerer tube…so fucking cool.
We wasted no time tearing down my bike to isolate the repair. I had thought I might do a little of the repair but I just got out of the way as don expertly crafted a patch and set to brazing it in place.
I took mental notes on his technique and tooling. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Time flew by and before I knew it I had made the obvious decision to camp in salida and drink a few beers with the master. What could I do? 
I thanked don, bought him a few beers and paid him way too little. What a classy dude.
I slept out by the tracks making sure to drink water after imbibing with don himself. I had camped here in salida the year prior and this year I got the added bonus of meeting don McClung which was well worth the extra hustle. The visit with don was around 8 hours. What did you do on your divide ride?
The next day I was determined to start gaining on my previous years pace. What I didn’t account for was the possibility that I may have had a killer day the year prior. This seemed to be the case. I had my strategy dialed for summit county, one stop in hartsel and the next stop in dillon and no others. Summit has tons of shit going on. Breck is a zoo in the summer. Como seemed like a good idea but it just comes too quickly after hartsel. 
I left silverthorn very happy with how I had executed my plan. 1 stop in all of summit, boom.
Riding down highway 9, I was confronted with a bout of extreme tiredness. I dealt with it how I knew best, cat nap.
I set an alarm for 7 minutes and laid down on the side f the road. Traffic noise must have been high because I didn’t hear my alarm. I decided it would be better if I didn’t calculate how long I slept. Maybe 20 minutes, maybe an hour, still don’t know.
I made it to radium after a tough night ride, equalling my effort from the previous year.
For the northbounder, the climb out of the Colorado river canyon/valley is in the running for the toughest climbs of the ride. For me, 2 years in a row I can say that it is the toughest climb if the route. Sustained incline just beyond what is rideable after a solid week of exertion and sleep deprivation, FOREVER! It just doesn’t stop.
If someone were to watch my dot during that time I think they would find humor. Ride some, walk some, poop, brush teeth, ride some, walk some, cat nap, eat, walk, poop, ride, you get the picture.
I finally make it out of the grasp of the Colorado river and its terrain. 
I remembered the stream crossing south of steamboat before I came to it. This year it seemed much more formidable than I recalled. I made a quick decision to attempt riding through. Before I made the far bank I realized my decision was the wrong one. The level of the water quickly rose above my hubs and bottom bracket which is a no no and should be avoided whenever possible in my humble opinion. I quickly dismounted and lifted my bike out of the stream, but the damage had been done. I hopped onto a beaver dam and was able to escape the cold waters not happy with how the scenario had played out.
I enjoyed the ride into steamboat a bunch. Trophy homes, water skiers, an old person’s group ride, sensory overload. All the while I was taking in the sights and sounds of society, my bottom bracket became more and more vocal. I gathered that it wasn’t happy about the morning’s stream crossing. Damn
My stop in steamboat was much more efficient this year when compared to the previous year’s despite the boys at orange peel replacing my semi worn, complaining bottom bracket. I could have rolled the dice but the had already pushed my luck in that department.
A highlight for me, and any divide rider for that matter, is the brush mountain lodge. The setting, the food, the good energy all come together and make one of the most amazing places a weary soul could ask for. 
Kirsten kills it with a capital K. She gets it. Laundry, beer, burgers in any quantity you can handle. Quick as you want it. Matt lee and his beautiful family had taken care of me the year prior proving that Kirsten not only does a good job with the ranch but with HR as well. 
I felt so much love there that I committed to returning under less hurried circumstances.
Almost forgot, golden spoke moment. Mike hall was at the lodge when I arrived. I waited out front as he ran around gathering and double checking for left behind items. He seemed rushed which I’m sure he was. Craig stapler was a slim 5 hours behind. He finally had his things gathered and we snapped a photo. The local drunks heckled us a bit but that’s what townies do when they encounter folks doing something outside of the scope of their world view.
I hugged Kirsten and thanked her for having the biggest heart I’ve ever encountered. What an angel. Promised I’d return and I did.
Spun down the hill to the highway through Slater (po, no more). A few hundred feet before the Wyoming border I looked and saw one of my heroes of bikepacking, the great Craig Stappler.
His carbon bike and cuben luggage looked like it was from the future. I gave him all the encouragement I could. Told him mike looked frantic. Craig looked focused. 
We started getting eaten alive by mosquitoes so I decided that instead of cutting our conversation short I would ride with Craig for a short bit, towards Mexico.
As we rode I asked all about their extreme pace leaving Canada. I remembered what had happened to Craig the year prior and could see that he wanted it bad. He explained how he had cracked the night before sleeping 8 hours, allowing mike to take a 5 hour lead. He said a 5 hour move to counter was tempting but not smart. Smart indeed, I thought. I wished him well after riding a few backwards minutes and cheered as he rode away.
As I proceeded north again I thought of our conversation. ‘5 hour move’, ‘cracked’? Not even in my realm of thinking. The type to torture those two were putting each other through is fucking insane.
I made it to the top of the pavement climb and decided to call it at aspen alley, a nice spot to camp. Now 20 miles up on last year.
I hustled early, knowing that all the effort I put in now would pay dividends later in getting through the basin and its prevailing westerly winds. The route traces a primarily east to west direction and combined with the prevailing wind it can spell disaster for the northbound racer who must travel from the east to the west, 220some miles from rawlins to Atlantic City and onto Boulder/Pindale. If I recall correctly, it’s 110 miles from rawlins to the diagnus well and then 20 on into Atlantic City. I knew from the previous year that with a strong headwind the section can start to seem hopeless and unending, which it is. The great basin brings it’s own unique challenges, and the same can be said for it’s beauty. Chaparral scrub with more antelope then you thought existed. I had a theory that at any one point you could lift up your head in the basin and see and antelope, that theory failed zero times.
Anywho, I was now on the 50 mile rolling section south of rawlins in extreme south wyoming and was hustling because i knew effort now would propel me through the basin and hopefully to atlatic city by bedtime and out of the clutches of the mighty great basin desert.
I ran into Jesse Carlson from australia. He was very chipper. I would almost accuse him of faking a level of comfort that I personally knew was near impossible to sustain, especially at a pace faster than even Jay Petervary, the current record holder. I am guilty of misrepresenting my current mental state in order to lead others to believe that this is easier than it is. We shot the shit for a while. He had a little speaker on his handlebars which made me smile. I liked the guy, he seemed to be well adjusted and enjoying his time, fake or not.
How did my plan go? decent. I made a quick stop in Rawlins, carrying the necessary water to make it to the ranch that I knew sat halfway, with a well, that had water. Without the ranch, or the information thereof, it’s 110 to the well. BIG miles.
Scattered t-storms threatened as i spun through the long deserted remnant of a paved highway that once carried cars to who knows where. There is nothing out there. It was on this section that I met the leaders the year previous. The freaks from this year of coarse crushed the pace of the year as well as other competitors so I hadn’t seen anyone for a long while.
I started passing a few the further I pressed into the desert. I noticed that I had not passed a single American, interesting I thought.
I thought the scattered storms might vary the wind direction a bit which was wishful at best. I only got a sprinkle and the strong winds that accompanied the storm grew in force as the rain-clouds subsided. The coarse has long westward stretched accompanied by shorter northward jogs. It was after leaving a northern reach, turning left to the west that I started hitting some very very fast moving air. The gust had picked up a large amount of sand and seemed like it was gaining in velocity to super strong, viscous proportions.  My forward progress had not slowed, it stopped. I started yelling at the wind but couldn’t hear myself. It’s a deep hopelessness when there is no end, no crest, no downhill, no nothing beside desert and wind.
I was fully stopped and screaming at the wind who answered by blowing even harder. My face started getting sandblasted pretty seriously. I turned my bike perpendicular to the wind and crouched behind the frame bag. It felt as though if I were to let go my bike would literally fly out of my hands. Rather incredible feeling. No shelter, no hope just the deafening roar of extreme straight line winds.
The preposterous gusts mellowed enough to mount the bike and pedal again. Progress was slow but I knew that if I could somehow make it to Atlantic City I would be out of the worst and wouldn’t have to be concerned with another day of it like I had experienced the year prior.
I found water at my favorite ranch again. I have yet to encounter a human there, just some friendly puppies.
I had gone through all the edibles that I was rationing for the ride. There wasn’t a prayer to spark anything out there so i was happy to have the secret weapon on board. Without it the miles, no, check that, the thought of the miles, would crush you. It’s a stretch of divide that will make anyone who counts miles cry. Miles could not come more slowly than they do for the lonely northbounder in the basin.
My spirits lifted as I saw a toyota truck parked on the horizon. They lifted even further when I saw a man with a camera standing outside of it. Eddie Clarke. Divide photog extraordinaire.  It was exactly a year ago in the same desert that I ran into him chasing after the southbound leaders. We are like minded and it took a lot of will power not to shut it down right there and enjoy the beautiful setting with my old pal.
We chatted for a while. I hadn’t seen anyone in a while, Eddie came back into my life at a perfect time. We were both in awe of the sutset in that fucking bastard of a desert. We powwowed for as long as I could afford and then I pedaled away. I knew if I could make Atlatic City before I slept it would be a huge victory.  The year previous I was forced to camp in the middle of the basin and the winds had blown all my shit away by the time I woke up. I could not afford another basin battle like the one i was currently  finishing up.
As the sun disappeared the wind was all but gone and I found my legs. Pouring it on, I would not be denied Atlantic City.  I know I am spun out on my gear at around 17 MPH. That evening I was so filled with determination I had to be clipping along at at least 20.
As twilight faded to be replaced by darkness I noticed some LED lights up ahead. As I approached I found 2 divide riders making camp. I gave half a shout and was met by a familiar voice. It was my old buddy, Forest Baker. I had met Forest a few years prior while hiking in Nepal. It wasn’t until we had been hiking for a few days that I learned that he had raced the divide before. I picked his brain for a few days before we parted ways.
Here he was again. He had pedaled a good distance out of Atlantic City. Forest is a very disciplined rider and he knows that getting out of town before going to sleep is key for fast racing, this night was not exception.
He offered me a chicken strip and some stale fries that he wasn’t interested in. I accepted as we chatted. I felt like joining him for sleep but i knew that Atlantic City now only lie a few hours ahead, making it there tonight would be big.
I press on into the blackness.  Not much help from the moon. My eyes struggled to remain within the beam that my light was providing. With all of my strength, I tried and failed to keep my eyes in front of the bike. I fail and pressed on pretty much completely blind. I would assume those that are capable of riding when their body is absolutely refusing are those that are able to ride the divide faster than myself. I take comfort in knowing there aren’t too many.
I finally make it to Atlantic City. I had heard they were having a bit of a shindig there and I might get lucky and get a bite to eat before i passed out. Sure enough the party animals of A.C. were still going hard, and i mean hard. If my body weren’t completely shutting down at that point I would have enjoyed some serious fraternization. Maybe it was my my tired eyes but the ladies of the night out there in the Great Basin were giving me some sultry looks as well.
I gorged myself on the leftovers from the day’s feed. Calf Balls, battered and fried were the delicacy of the day.  Not great, not bad, certainly edible. Ate so many balls. numnumnumnum
The gentleman from the bar made me a couple heaping deli sandwiches for the following day. He was drunk as a skunk, but that didn’t inhibit his ability to pile delicious ingredient skyward on sandwich bread. Maybe the intoxication actually improved his sandwich making abilities.
Passed out in the teepee that sits out front. The folks from the bar are some of the most genuine, real people i’ve ever met. They are a very positive breed, you’d need to be, i guess, living out there in the basin.
A couple more dividers pulled into the teepee after i was bedded down… This was after wasting 45 minutes of me watching drunks drink. 45 minutes later, a couple mid-packers pull in! WTF. (that’s internet for WHAT THE FUCK?!!?)  I about came unglued to ride into the night as long as i did and much later these two clowns come riding in. Just confirms my suspicion that i really am terrible at trying to ride at night. When Cjell Money is tired, and it’s dark, Cjell Money needs to sleep, period. I don’t know how these other fools can do it. What are they doing during the daytime? I don’t think i ride that fast.
Decently early start. Took a shit in the ditch that I wasn’t proud of, but at 4 a.m. there aren’t too many options. Needless to say those other clowns rolled over on my alarm. Ride hard, wake early and sleep when you feel like it. That’s what Forest Baker would teach and that dude holds his own.
South Pass City with the sun starting to arrive and the rest stop at daybreak. Hobo shower there at the rest stop and water up for Big Sandy. Some big country up there. It seems like you could be in the same valley for hours and hours. Pretty stretch, some refuge from straight line winds which hadn’t reared it’s ugly head quite this early.
Passed a few more. Two euros passed early in the morning. I was taking one of my custom power naps at the time. I’m sure I appeared slow to them laying there but I already had a couple hours in the saddle and in the grand scheme of divide racing was kicking their asses, so i said hello and slipped off for a few more minutes of unconsciousness.
Blew through Boulder and mentally prepped for Pinedale on the pavement spin into town.  I think it’s important to get a gameplan together whenever you are going to get out of the saddle. It avoids wasting time or taking off without taking care of something you meant to. 
Before arriving to Pinedale I get a call from my ma. Normally no one calls me. I make a few outgoing calls and that’s it. My ma has bad news. She reports the situation in Banff. ‘It’s flooded, you can’t finish’ is the jist of the message. HUH.
I hang up and am stunned. Trying to process what I’ve just been told. Could she be right? is there really no way i can finish. I just crushed the basin in half the time it took me last year. If I have a good day today I will be up on last year by almost 16 hours. SS record would not stand. ‘Can’t finish’. REALLY! Shit.
I take in the news and slowly process what it means for me personally. Question why it is that I’m out here. It is what it is. Maybe you can stop beating yourself up and sleep a little more now. I would prefer a result but letting off the throttle is a consultation I guess.
The news sinks in further and i am bummed but life goes on. I’m still a white guy in america, riding my bike because I want to. Things could be worse. Just pedal, you butthole.
I simplified my Pinedale stop to the grocery store only. I kinda like that style stop. No frills. No comfy seating. No wasting time waiting. Usually a grocer will have a deli or some sort of adjunct hot food provider. Fried chicken in Pinedale. Good enough. Wam-bam, done.  I will sit down and relax for a few minutes outside the store while i take on calories because eating too fast is a recipe for indigestion and adds to general anxiety. Mental health cannot be overlooked on these races. So many mid packers love to tell me about how they “were really racing” early on but fell off because of this or that. The reality is they didn’t give their mental health a second thought. You gotta stay happy out there or you’re fucked. Sit down, take on calories leisurely, ride hard and sleep early (relatively).  Avoiding trying to convince yourself that you are capable of superman feats for 18 days on end helps. Doing that shit only ends up in self-created failure and increased fatigue. Beating yourself, don’t do it.
Start seeing a ton of riders as I leave Pinedale. Pass most, stop for a few. There were a couple single speeders.  They seemed to think they were battling for a SS win and possibly the record which now seemed to be the truth after the bad news that had been relayed that morning.  Irked me a little bit that they hadn’t registered that there was a NOBO kicking their asses by days, but fuck ’em, i say. They can think they’re the president of the United States for all i’m concerned.
Union Pass isn’t really a pass, but a long stretch of rollers in the high country.Pass a group of 5 or 6 riders all side-by-each. Seemed wild to see people ‘racing’ like that but to each their own. I ride until around dark and camp early with a SOBO. The news that I wasn’t going to be able to finish doesn’t slow my riding or screw with efficiency, that is programmed now. I receive joy from quick stops and fast (ish) riding. The sleeping is where I let off a bit. That night I am camped before twilight has vanished and sleep until after 5 a.m.  May not seem like much but that’s around 2-3 hours of riding chopped off.
The decent down to the highway is steep and long. I pass a couple SoBos struggling with it and laugh at the idea of stopping to chat.
Gas station on the highway before climbing towahgotee (sp?) pass. Grab and dash. Met a SoBo in the store. “where you from?” I ask. “Vail, Colorado.” no shit, huh. Kind of a newbie ski bum, but I loved his spirit. Was out of the gas station before I was, loved his efficiency too.
Summit the pass and descend a bit before hitting the short pavement bit on the other side. Towahgotee has to be one of the most beautiful places on the divide. Check some of Eddie Clark’s pics from there out. amazing.
Fun decent (the one billy rice missed) as the tetons show themselves for the first time. Passed the national forest campground where I had bedded down a year ago. Still early in the day. I was crushing last year after clearing the basin in one piece.
Stop at the diner for a hit of water. The proprietor remembers me from the year prior. He saved my life with a cookie and coffee on one of the coldest mornings of the ride.
Up next is the pavement grind through Teton National Park. To Enter Teton you must pass through a park entrance. I see plainly scribed on the sign, ‘Bicycles $12’. The year prior I snuck through and got away with it on account of the ungodly hour I was doing it in but I’ll be fucked if I weren’t going to try and do it again. $12 to ride on a busy ass pavement road. All SoBos enter the park via Flag Ranch road which doesn’t have a park entrance and thus no one to remind them to pay. I’m sure all of them pay on their way out anyways…
I spot a lane with an 18 wheeler stopped in it. I ride on the far side of it and don’t look back. I am a few fedal strokes into the park when the ranger starts yelling. I pretend not to hear but it’s the conviction in his voice that was loudest. I can tell that he won’t be letting this punk kid be getting away with it. In lieu of dealing with another ranger chasing me down (assuming the park has sprung for walkie talkies) I stop and head back to pay my toll.
Not that unreasonable I guess, just hate doing it. I told the ranger that I promise not to take a do-do in the park or use any facilities or enjoy myself in any way. The humor is lost on him. I guess he was taking my end around a bit personally.
Grind for a bit and meet the construction zone I had heard about. Another emphatic public servant explains to me that I ‘must’ get in the pilot car. I paid for this shit? really? $12 for traffic and bullshit.
I concede after a drawn out process of trying to reason with the unreasonable. This lady had specific instructions not to let me through and she was going to stick her guns. Ohh well.  While waiting for the oncoming lane of traffic to arrive I combed the backed up line of park-goers for one that appeared to be of like mind. Locked onto a VW van which proved unfruitful, teton is really getting the best of me.
I get into the pilot car with a little more fussing. I didn’t want to make the poor lady running the pilot car take any more of my shit for doing her job but I wasn’t happy.
The original TD wouldn’t have anything to do with a pilot car. Jay P has refused a number of pilot cars and blown through construction zones because he’s hard. He embodies what O G tour divide racing is.  One problem that I have is the construction zone has now been dealing with the onslaught of TD riders for a few days now. I’m just another idiot on a bike.  O G JayP would have been the first and probably find it much easier to storm the gates. I feel like i am dishonoring TD by getting in the pilot car but short of causing this poor lady more trouble than I already have, i throw in. shit.
Once I get to the flat-ish part of Flagg Ranch section I start moving again. tickling 20 mph. I figure if I get to the mouth of rail to trail I’d be doing well, and so I did. Right at dark. Perfect.
Slept under a picnic table.  Decent wake up. I convince myself that throwing in or slowing up would be dishonorable and so I am back on the 430 schedule at least.
Rail to trail, I was ready. Smiled as I took almost all the air out of my big ass tires. Without rail to trail (famously sandy 30 mile section) the big tire set-up is unbeatable in my opinion. The rail to trail section is just gravy when you’re running at 9 psi.
I have spent a good chuck of time living outside… in a tent, 5 months on the PCT, CT, bike tours, etc. Never seen a lion. On this day, that changed. It was about 150 yards ahead on the trail. Jumped down the the rail bed from the western bank, took a look down towards me and was gone to the east just as quick as it had arrived. At first I told myself it was a dog but it’s long tail had given it away. I can say with decently high confidence that I have now seen a mountain lion.
The other thing I had encountered on the rail to trail section was one Billy Rice. I had read about this nut attempting to yo-yo this year. I was looking forward to meeting him. I was not disappointed. Billy was an absolute delight. Super upbeat, great energy, genuine, all smiles. One of my favorite divide riders.  We chatted for maybe 10 minutes as a few other racers past by us. He said he was really dis-heartening those at the back that he was now catching and passing. too funny.
 Island Park. Crushed the subway and was gone.
Saw a man painting on an easel, stopped and chatted. Reminds one of how beautiful the route really is.
Up and over Red Meadow (red indian? can’t remember) Pass. Wind on the other side was strong and variable. mostly a headwind. Saw a number of other divide riders.  I recall one in particular.  He must have been 250 lbs, mostly fat. Riding a sick-light carbon-carbon cannondale with a lefty, a Matthew Lee special. He was struggling.  He explained that he was trying to “ride himself back into the ‘race'”.  I guess there was some chatter about dropping those who weren’t ‘racing’ (keeping a 25 day pace). Not tracking them i guess. I really felt bad for the guy, i wanted to shake him. STOP ‘RACING’. For him, it seemed the racing aspect was only adding a strong sense of failure. Forget the racing, forget the failure and he’d be left with one kick-ass bike tour…but what do I know.
Hit the diner in Lima, quick in and out.  Made it a good way up the canyon before losing ambition. Spotted a nice cabin that looked to be related to the huge-ass ranch I had passed a few miles earlier.  It was overcast, looking like rain and I figured that whatever fantastically wealthy people that owned the ranch before wouldn’t mind me sleeping on the stoop of their cabin, so i did.
Woke up early to offset the early quitting time the night before.  I hit the big meadow area above the canyon as day broke. The skies were still overcast.  I try and make an effort to not let the elements or pending inclement weather affect my mood so I pedaled on thinking of the High Country Lodge which I would hit later that day.
The road forks a couple times and swings between some old cabins. At about that point the gravel turns to dirt. If it’s dry, it’s ok, if not…well, you hope it’s dry. I remember hear accounts of this section be brutal on the account of the clay and mud but figured that would never happen to me. This tends to be my outlook on misfortune in general.
As soon as the gravel went to dirt the dirt began to stick to my tires. My bike had been designed around lugs and big-ass tires which are in direct conflict when designing a bike. The lugs would dictate a classic lined road bike where as the big tires are happiest with a lot of space. Compromises were made to accommodate the two and mud clearance was the loser. The bike didn’t have terrible clearance but no one that i know would call it ‘good’.
As the sticky mud started sticking to the tires and then again to itself, it was only a matter of a couple hundred feet before the bike ceased to move. The ability of the mud to stick to itself was incredible. I quickly ground to a halt. I began walking my bike down the dirt path. It wasn’t two steps before I realized that on top of not being able to ride, I was unable to physically push the bike for the same reasons. The sticky sticky mud continued to collect and wouldn’t allow the wheel to rotate.  I futilely attempted scraping the mud off my tires but it would return in a single wheel rotation.  It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.
There I was, smack dab in the middle of a long remote section of the divide and I was unable to even push my bike. Brutal. The simple thought of my predicament was daunting.
The area had some rolling hills which were covered in scrubby chaparral. I lifted my bike up off the road and into the scrub and began to navigate it hoisting my bike up and over sage bushes. The progress was SLOW at best.  My actually situation was hopeless and was compounded by the fact that there was no discernible end in sight.  I continued wrestling my bike over bushes and dragging it up side slopes. I couldn’t believe that I literally couldn’t walk my bike down the path.
I thought that If the sun were to come out, even for a bit, I would dry things up just a little and I would get back to walking on the road, Just as that thought occurred to me it started to drizzle. FuckMyLife.
I tried to keep things into perspective. In my head, I knew that at some point the gravel would replace the dirt and I would be able to ride, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember where that was. At my pace it could take days to get that far. shit.
After a few hours of dragging my bike through sage I came upon a herd of cows in the pasture. Most of the time I ride by, and don’t give it a second thought. Even if the cows are in the road and block progress, I am on my bike and feel safe there knowing that I can ride away if need be. Off the bike I feel a bit more vulnerable, especially when I am dragging 40 awkward lbs of uselessness and mud.
I found myself right in the mix of a dozen or so cows. They wouldn’t move and didn’t seem to be phased by yelling at them so I pushed through within petting distance. The nearest cow stopped eating and turned towards me. It then did something very un-cow, it reared up a bit and moved even closer towards me.  It was a distinctively aggressive move.
I quickly positioned my bike between me an the cow and tried to move along. The cow stood its ground and reared its head. At that time I made a terrifying anatomical discovery. This cow had a wiener. It wasn’t a cow at all. It was a bull! FUCK ME!
I scoot past the bull and continued to keep my bike between myself and it. Most of the time at this point, a cow loses interest and allows you to pass, this was not the case. The bull was now following me at an unnerving distance.
I would like to say that this was the biggest bull I had ever seen, which was not the case at all. It was a midsize adolescent with rather aggressive tendencies.  The fact that I was relegated to dragging my bike amongst the herd made them all seem much much larger.
The next cow was not giving an inch either. I continued to drag the bike and keep an eye on the not so friendly bull that was now following me.  I did a dick-check right away on the next cow and I couldn’t believe my shit luck. Another bull. This one more animated than the last.  It spun around and stared me down.
I said some soothing things that didn’t seem to help. These fuckers where crazy.  It reared up and faint charged me. I swung the bike towards it and positioned myself, again, between the bike and it.
I then took a second to scan the other surrounding cows.  Check that, bulls. FUCKING BULLS! Every last one of them. Sausage party, and I was the entertainment.
As I took notice of all the bulls at once, they all seem to do the same.  Every last bull had now noticed me and was walking over. Holy shit. At this point I had made my way through the thick of them and had only a few left to deal with, although the herd of them was now sauntering my way.
My first instinct was to get back to the road but i knew that that was a dead end. My bike won’t ride on the dirt, or even roll down it for that matter.  I continued talking to them as I weaved by the last angry bulls. They continued making faint charges and rearing up.  I once drew my bike up as to threaten swinging at an oncoming bull, marginally effective.
I snuck by the last bull and gingerly continued to drag my bike through the scrub. a few bulls lost interest and a couple continued to follow me. I felt a bit safer now that I wasn’t surrounded but didn’t breath easy until a few minutes later when the last bull seemed to lose interest.
The comedy of the situation seemed to diffuse a bit of the utter hopelessness feeling.
I had about another half hour pushing my bike up the crest of a large hill. I would estimate 3 to 4 hours of pushing and dragging. In the grand scheme of things, not terrible but at hour 2 it seemed as though it would never end.
At the top of the hill I cleaned my tires and mounted my bike. I figured if I could go fast enough I could fling the remaining mud off my tires and blast through until gravel returns.
My plan was mostly successful. I made a big mess of things but at least I wasn’t dragging a bike through a herd of bulls anymore.  Mud everywhere. I was looking forward to arriving at the High Country Lodge and cleaning me and me steed up.
Pedals gingerly feeling like I had let a bunch of time slip away through the sticky mud. I took the opportunity to keep a very gingerly pace.
I passed a cyclo tourist on pavement section outside of polaris. She was scottish. I slowed up and chatted for a while before splitting off. She had a fantastic outlook on touring and here energy was contagious. 
Pulling into the High Country Lodge. Per usual, Russ and Karen had been tracking me and were prepared. On this day, Russ was out guiding some folks on the river so he left a note and his beloved mother-in-law, Winney. She must be all of 85 lbs, and 85 years old, give or take. I remembered her from the year before.  What an angel. She looked at me and said: “what do you need?…lets get to work.” Hell yea Grandma. Somewhere in there was a divide racer.
Showered, washed bike, ate, chatted with Winney and was out. The sack lunch she sent me with was outrageous, just what I needed to get to butte.  The Kipp crew is amazing and that lodge is unbelievable. Any divide racer would be a fool to miss it.
Hopped back on the bike with a little pep in my step. Great stop. Up and over the pavement grinder to Wise River. Saw a man looking for rainbow gathering. Had no idea the divide was so close. 
On the long decent into Wise River, I saw 2 things I thought I had missed. 1. Mr. Russ Kipp himself.  Glad to catch up with him. Promised him a return visit once I picked up my Toyota Chinook RV and pointed back to Vail.
The second was a true back of the packer, Javier. All kitted out with big aero bars, pimp ass bike (cannondale or something similar), and a big solar panel to power all his goodies. Cracked me up.  In my pursuit of replenishing green supplies I was referred to Javier multiple times. Young guy, dreadlocks…no brainer. Here’s how our encounter went:
There were two back of packers riding very near to each other. The first one was a swiss kid. He was a fucking chatterbox with nothing to say. He kept telling me how he was a strong rider. He asked if I had heard of this rider or that pulling big miles, etc. I wanted to smother him with a pillow. He asked me to keep an eye out for his spot which he had dropped…got it. PEACE OUT! Out of the corner of my eye I saw Javier and didn’t want to have to chat to the both of them.  I rolled away quickly and up to Javier who was a quarter mile back. I stopped and we started chatting. Out of both of our mouths simultaneously  “do you have any weed?” Shit. He as a funny dude though, and super fun to talk to. I told him to hit up rainbow gathering. I would. After about a minute, who comes rolling from the NoBo direction, our swiss friend. He must have spotted us chatting and wanted in. At this point I had had all I could take of our chatty friend and bid them both ado.
No stop in wise river, felt good. Hustled over to fleecer. Got in the aero bars and cleaned that shit, unlike this guy..
Sun went down and I camped just short of Butte. Turned in right at dusk, I was tired.
Putzed it butte at the grocery for a while. Hit the road. Love that section between butte and basin. Train tunnels on a rail grade. Fast.
The climb out of Basin is Burly. Capital B. Hustled up and over. I think it’s better for the NoBo. The decent is barely ridable at the top on a beat up rooted trail. No way folks are able to climb up it.
Helena, divide highlight…spot stalkers. A guy came out of his office building to say hello and offer some encouragement. A few others joined him. Kinda nice when someone else gives a shit.
Grocery resupply. Poor fueling decision at a Hardees led to some extreme fatigue leaving town. Laid down for a power nap. Helped enough.
While I was rising from my nap i was greeted by one of the more inspiring bike tourists I have ever encountered. A young kid, maybe younger than myself. Standard mtn bike with a bob trailer. I didn’t see it right away but he was only pedaling with one leg. Some defect only gave him strength to pedal with one leg. The other leg was strapped to a modified crank arm designed to keep the works spinning until the other leg came around for another power stroke. The divide with one leg…SHITFIRE! What an animal.
I crested the pass and started down into very familiar territory. There is a little rail yard on the back side of the pass there and remembered it vividly. I also heard train whistles as I was coming down hill. The road descends parallel to the tracks and the crossed them once it reaches the same level. 
As the road paralleled the tracks down below, I realized it was a classic scenario being played out. I was a few cars back from the engine but had a descent down to where the road crossed the tracks. I was racing the train.
My first thought was, don’t do anything stupid. Noted. My next thought was, might as well pedal and see how it comes out when the road crossed the tracks. Assessing the situation I didn’t really think beating the train was feasible. The train was in fact leading me by a fair bit, but I put my head down and spun up that 18 tooth cog.
I started gaining on the front of the train. Took a look at the crossing a quarter mile ahead. Looked back at the train. Things still didn’t look good. Again I put down my head and used the decent to grab a few more MPH’s and accelerated. 20 is spun. 22 is totally spun out. I would say I was at 23.
I looked back down to the train and I was now even with the engine. Well, hell, I might have this. I did have a decent amount of real estate until the crossing. I continued the spin and found myself a fair distance out front and it was then I told myself that it wouldn’t be totally crazy to edge this train out.
When the road took the sweeping left to go over the tracks, I had put a comfortable amount of distance on the train and went for it. Probably a bit anti climactic, but when I crossed those tracks and looked down at the face of the approaching engine, the engineer letting me have a good taste of the whistle, it was like staring down the barrel of a gun.  Heart pumped. I was no longer tired. Raced a train and won. Felt pretty good.
The sun had started making its way down. I have spent a good number of nights sleeping out in griz country but for some reason this night, I didn’t want to. Probably a poor choice, but I really wanted to make it to Lincoln. I had camped in Ovando the year before so getting to lincoln would only put me a few hours back on being up a full day on last year’s time.
There is a huge climb and huge decent between me and lincoln. I put my head down and let the fading daylight add to my hustle.  I remember the abandoned mines at the top of one of the more technical long descents into the low river valley that Lincoln sits in. The year prior there was a lot of standing water that I had to navigate to stay dry, ended up falling in last year, but that’s another story.
This year, in the dark, not so bad, made it down quickly and had an easy nighttime spin into Lincoln.
Only a bar was open in Lincoln but I wasn’t overly famished so I skipped it and decided I would take the time to rest and resupply in Ovando.
I found a piece of grass behind the gas station.  A few minutes after I laid my head down I started hearing rustling in nearby grass. Two of the most curious and gregarious deer were walking around my little camp spot. I threw some rocks at them but they weren’t fazed. I yelled and they sauntered off only to return a few minutes later. FML. Town deer. I would have been better off with the griz. They would leave me alone.
Started over huckleberry pass to Ovando early. The views from the pass onto the vast flat valley below are spectacular. Combined with a sunrise…#instagramgold
There are some very Very nice folks in Ovando. The lady that runs the small angler shop there now carries 29er tires and assorted bike triage parts. She told me that she had bailed a few riders out bigtime in this year race. Her name…hmmm…Karen? bless her heart. I remember the shop owner from the year before. He watched my dot and opened the store up special. Nice man.
Destroyed the cafe and set out for richmond pass.
Easily the most spectacular section of the route. If you disagree, you’re wrong.
Met another tourist. He had a custom Seven and a bob trailer. We talked for a second about gear (something I try and avoid as a rule) and were on our way. I hope I’m not like that guy. I acknowledge that much of divide exists on the internet but that’s not what makes it special.  Everyone geeks out on the setups and gear at home on the time-sucker machine, but I like to leave it there. Seven Cycles guy, I hope the divide teaches to many important lessons about why bike touring kicks ass and how little it has to do with machines.
Clear day up and over Richmond. What a lucky guy I am. I couldn’t believe that I was able to ride the entire way through. No snow to speak of. Boo-ya.
Once you descend off of Richmond you are presented with navigating the doldrums of Swan Valley. Has to be e longest single section of the route. Super scenic. There are a few old groth stands and many section of road are closed to cars. Without a GPS, it would be tough. There are a few places there the ‘road’ goes to grass and turns off onto a path in the ditch. With a GPS and having ridden it before, painless….without, probably frustrating.
I remember the big climb out to get to the highway to ferndale. It seemed like just around the next corner, for a few hours, would be the first switchback. Hours or riding and I finally got there. Futurizing is a good way to fuck yourself on the divide. Stay present and it become exponentially easier. Easier said than done.
Once you hit the highway to ferndale there are a bunch of easy flat pavement miles to Columbia Falls and then only 12 more to Whitefish. Very easy miles to pound out even at night. Got about halfway on the maze of gridded roads leading into Columbia Falls and fell apart like a cheap toy. Passed out behind a fire station. Probably close to a double century which is good enough for me.
Spun through Columbia Falls and made a quick stop in Whitefish. Love that town.
I knew I would be finishing that day so there was a little pep in my step.  Super scenic section between Whitefish and Kalispell.
Got to Kalispell early afternoon or so. Stopped at a gas station and picked up a few road beers for the 10 mile spin up to the border where my ride would unfortunately have to end.
It began to rain before I got out of town. Didn’t bother me much because I was about to finish. Mixed emotion. Would I like to make it to Banff? Hell yea I would. Am I glad to finish? You bet. Do I fee like the ride is complete. Yea, I do.
Drank my beers on the pedal up the to border.  Sat down at the picnic table outside the bar there at the border. Had a bottle of Champagne that I didn’t really feel like opening. Chatted with a drunk Canadian who bought me a beer and pedaled back into Kalispell. Depresssing? a little, but also nice to finish. I ended up getting to the border almost exactly a day ahead of last year. Victory I’d say.
Spun back into Kalispell. Ended up missing business hours but was invited to join some local jocals at Jax Cafe for some beers and pizza. The owner of the restaurant invited me over to camp in his yard and shower which I was very grateful. It was heartwarming touring cyclist good fortune.
The next day I again was treated to the good graces of kind souls. Had an amazingly slow 50 mile spin back to Whitefish. Chatted with another touring cyclist for over an hour…how nice it is not to be racing any longer.
In in Whitefish I tracked down the current owner of a 1977 Toyota Chinook Camper RV that I had purchased sight unseen via craigslist and a phone conversation.  The current owns was a standup guy and offered me a bed and dinner along with a sweet old camper at a great price.
The trip home in the Chinook was magical. Stopped in Misoulla at a good buddies. He was there for a minute and then left his place for me to unwind and detox for a few days. Amazing. Registered the chinook in my name under his address for my life…amazing.
Stopped for an overnight at the High Country Lodge. Was treated like royalty by the Kipps. Amazing people.
The next night I dropped in on JayP in victor, Idaho. Great host. Chatted divide till late.
Jackson for a couple nights with a buddy. Through the basin the easy way (in a car) to Brush Mountain Lodge where I got to spend a couple nights with kirsten, God’s gift to divide racers (or anyone who is lucky enough to know her for that matter). And then onto Vail. An amazing way to end my divide. What a magical time it was.
More to come on  gear in another post.
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Tour Divide I



Tour Divide preparations are over. Can’t say as it was a breeze but i’m ready. Thing were comlicated a bit by the fact that I had resolved to build my own bike this year, as in my own systems and shop. Decided I wanted something drop bar cross/road geometry inspired for aerodynamic and body positioning reasons. I also wanted some serious comfort which comes in the form of 3 inch tires.

The 29+ Bike-gasm was born. Lugged steel, custom single speed tensioner, thru axles front and rear, custom 2 peice bar/stem/steerer/fork that clamps underneath the fork as opposed to on the stem. Made a couple forks as waiting on the plates for the twin-plate crown was killing me. The twin plate turned out cool. Old school steeze with the thru axle. Gangster?

Will be running a true single speed this year. No dingles or 2 speeds. Headed out to tour to the starting line in a few hours. Check my spot.

The luggage comes from Dave Wilson of Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks. Dave saw me struggling with my uber-light cuben luggage in AZ (beaten down with 3000 miles of TD 2012) and took pity on me. Although, slightly heavier than my ridiculous bags, his shit seems bombproof and sturdy. I have looked at others making bags for this kind of thing and the NSS bags are a no brainer. This set is made of some cuben hybrid fabric making them lighter than average. Dave is a real pro. I always thought my own bags were pretty sweet until i got these in my hands. Handmade, American…if you can’t do it yourself, Nuclear Sunrise is a close second.

Money Bike LTD. is alive. I’ve got a few more steel bike in the works. My shop in Vail is a little messy and is rented on party favors. Step II for Money Bikes is moving out of the shop here and making it mobile. Enter Toyota Chinook. Little efficient pop-top RV will be the new home of Money Bikes. Handbuilt bikes to your door. Picked it up on craigslist from a guy out of Whitefish. Turns out he works at the bike shop and knows Tour Divide well. The Chinook awaits my arrival at the end of the Tour Divide.

Velocity helped me out with a wheel build. I have a shot of setting up their P35 (or Blunts they’re called now) tubeless with a small amount of gorilla tape. Sweet wheels and the 35 mm rims same a ton of weight over the rabbit holes.

22 cycles of vail helped me out with the buildout. Turned out nicely.

Sorry about the hastienss of the post but need to get riding it I expect to make it to Silver City in a week. Toodles










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Cjell Money is a Pussy – Tales from the AZT


The Ariozona Trail is a 750 miles foot path from the Mexicoan border to the Utah border. The Arizona Trail Race is a bicycle race along that route. It is fucking hard.
I had heard of the race a while back but hadn’t considered giving it a go until Chip Androus had emailed me a month or so prior urging me to consider it. 750 miles of the single track. The longest single track bike race on the planet. Springtime Arizona riding a month before Tour Divde…no brainer.
Preparations consisted of around 48 hours of scrambling. My time up until then had been consumed by putting together steel frames, a new venture for me. I have gotten together a humble fab shop in Vail where I have started constructing custom steel bicycle frames. Frame number one was built for a friend of mine in Texas and I was obliged to get it sent out before my departure for the race. This meant most of the time in which I should have been getting cues together and constructing new luggage was utilized to finish the frame. No regrets, the drop bar fillet brazed 29er that resulted was worth it.

photo 2

Frame number 2 will be this year’s Tour Divide bike. It will be a very cross inspired drop bar 29er+ bike-gasm. Lugged steel construction with classic lines tweaked slightly to accommodate dirt drop bars. The bike will also run Surly’s new Knard 3.0 29+ tire. The big volume tire combined with a frame pump should provide a very versatile bike which will be tunable to the varied surfaces encountered on the TD. 25psi for road and 5 psi for that extra shitty stretches, somewhere in between for everything else.
Needless to say, much of the time spent in the shop building frames left little time for much else. A breakdown of the remainder of my prep time would be best represented in a pie chart.


I fucking hate Garmin. Load the entire track of the Trail? Nope. Multiple base maps for the tour down the start, and then the race? Nope. Randomly deleting shit I really need? Yep. I would say that my little GPS unit is the exact opposite of intuitive, but that would imply some sort of predictability which it has none. I turn it on and it takes an inordinate amount of time to start and load. Simple made maddenly difficult…Garmin. Soon they will be eclipsed by an apple product that works which will be a blessing.
In typical Cjell Money fashion I decided I would ride down to the start of the race. I felt that the tour to the start was necessary training being that the number of bike rides over 5 miles could be counted on a fist thus far this season. I did get some snow riding in on my snow bike this winter. Mostly riding back and forth from East Vail to Vail via the cross country ski trails. I was a bit discouraged by the pretentious XC skiers. Every forth one would throw a shit-fit about me biking on their trails. Not a single one stopped to take a look what effect a 4 inch tire at 4psi leaves on the trail, which is nothing. Those fools are worse than roadies, come to think of it, they probably are roadies.
Vail to Tucson is around 800 miles so I figured 12 days would give me time to ride at a decent pace and a couple rest days at the end. 10 days would make it tight and anything under 7 would leave no rest and constrict the schedule to uncomfortable levels. Of course I chose to leave 7 days before the race start. What could I do, my Garmin needed hours of undivided attention.
I took a ride towards Aspen with my loving girlfriend Robin as to skip the I70 corridor and give me a jump start towards Arizona. The black sheep was packed out with luggage that remained from TD the previous year. Remnants is what they were. Made of cuben then had been abraded heavily and had holes. Seams were blown out. Closure systems protested. It’s what I had and needed to make it work. After packing everything up it didn’t seem too bad. I failed to predict what I would be asking of them on the AZT.
Leaving Carbondale I had also added a small backpack to my kit to expand storage for the ride down. I was carrying two fresh tires for the start of the race along with extra sealant. The extra space was welcome but I was reminded how much I dislike riding with a pack on. Spent a night outside of Delta sleeping out. The next day brought me to Telluride where the locals were talking of the heavy snows that were predicted for that night. I wasn’t too excited about setting up my tarp and battling snowfall all night so I started thinking of alternate plans. My first instinct was to hitchhike out of telluride with the bike to avoid the impending weather and dodge it from lower elevations but as I stood outside the Conoco with my thumb outstretched I saw a man pass on a bicycle equipped with drooping panniers. Decidedly not on a bike tour, he did however appear to be of the bike touring pedigree, so I made my move.
Biked up alongside and inquired about camping. Camping was not really the goal, more of fishing for a roof was the plan. I’m not sure if I could have encountered a better person in the situation. Dave was an old salty bike tourer, gray beard and a hardened exterior, who had been at it since the 70’s. He immediately invited me over to camp at his place. After a minute of riding towards his place enough trust and mutual respect had been built and he invited me in for a shower, bed, dinner and some documentary viewing. BINGO.
Dave had just come off his annual winter bike tour of 9000 miles! Desert riding in the SW and Old Mexico. He had gone around the globe and was almost too humble about it. I had to pry stories out of him, which I was happy to do because his tales from the road were incredible. Getting beat and robbed in Turkey, desert crossing in Africa.
I was a little embarrassed to show him my rig with cuben luggage, GPS, Ti frame, etc etc but he was very interested in how one could tour with so little. Makes me think about the essence of bikepack racing and how it aligns or doesn’t align with my personal ethics. I had never toured on a bike valued at over $100 before tour divide, and listening to myself telling Dave, my ultra real bike touring host, how the fancy bike wasn’t ‘me’ seemed disgenuine.
He made me a bike tourist portion of pancakes and bacon and we watched a documentary on Arctic exploration from the 90’s. Now those idiots were nuts. Schadenfreude was a term he introduced to me, meaning taking pleasure from the hardships of others. The documentary was all the Schadenfreude I needed to keep pedaling.
Snowed hard that night. I would estimate 8 inches to a foot. I was grateful from my wonderful host who was luckily house sitting a very nice mountain home on not living in a tent outside of town as he usually does.
I seized the morning sunshine to bike up and over Lizardhead pass. Most of the new snow had been push out of the lanes of traffic. I put on all of the clothing I had and started up. Lizardhead is a bitch, but very pretty and rewarding. I crested the top with a bike filled with dirty icicles and a glad to start my freezing decent.
All downhill to Delores and then Cortez. I got some direction from a bike shop in Delores telling me to take a right after the big Casino which I did. The particular right after the casino was not the road I wanted, it was a road leading to a small reservation community.
100% Native American. All of the residence I passed stared at me asking with their eyes, ‘What in the fuck are you doing up here?” I looked back inquiring with my eyes ‘what in the fuck am I doing here?’ Finally a sweet Native American resident driving the tribe security car approached and asked if I was lost.
She offered me her tribe discount at the casino hotel. I considered the time of day and my current navigational misstep and was obliged to accept.
$40 was much more than I like to spend on lodging but I was short on options entering into the reservation. I showered and proceeded to try my luck in the casino with the promotional cash they gave to me for staying in the hotel. I asked a few people working there how I could cash out because I would much rather have the $20 than casino action. My mother, father, and sister are all math teachers, casino were never really my thing.
I gathered that I needed to play the money out before I was allowed to cash out. I was down to $3 when the slot machine I selected started dinging and counting. It didn’t stop counting until it hit $60. FUCK YES. 60 bones. I couldn’t run to the cashier fast enough. +20 for the hotel. Boom.
The morning was very windy as I set out to 4 corners. It only got windier. And windier. When I finally reached 4 corners I rode past the ticketing booth prepared to claim ignorance, no one seemed to care. 4 corners was a bit of a let down and it sounds like the little monument was off by a ways. Ha.
Joke was on me though. Winds increased and the next 5 miles took me over an hour. 40+ miles an hour would be a conservative estimate.
Had a look at the map and started doing calculations about how long it would take me to reach the next town on the reservation traveling into the extreme headwind. It would be over 2 days riding hard at 5 miles an hour. Shit.
Pulled the plug. Decided I would have a hard enough time on the AZTR and didn’t need to beat myself up in the windstorm. Stuck my thumb out and got picked up quickly. The Native American man had a brand new truck who was really into professional wrestling.
He gave me around a 40 mile ride which put me smack dab in the middle of no where on the reservation. Wind had now picked up and with them sand. SAND. A full on sand strom. In my eyes and mouth. My efforts to ride now were almost laughable. 5 mph had now dropped to 3 or 4. I was pretty fucked.
Tried hitching again for over an hour with no luck. I decided I would stop being such a baby and try to ride. I stuck out my thumb feebily as cars passed by. No luck. At this point, with my current progress I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it to the next town before dark. Shit.
Camping wasn’t really an option considering the winds and my tarp tent whose kryptonite happened to be high winds. Needless to say, moral was low.
I told myself to stop being such a baby and get in the saddle but my efforts to make forward progress were so futile. Options…options…options? Hmmmm.
I continued to attempt to ride sticking out my thumb to passing trucks or anyone who looked to have enough room for a bike. If I could time it right I wold fake like I was having a mechanical while cars passed. I was surprised no one stopped considering the all out sand storm that was happening. I couldn’t clench my teeth any longer without grinding copious amounts of sand. Wow, AZ, you are a real bitch.
I was in the saddle when a passing Tacoma with two bikes in the back saw my thumb outstretched. An avid cyclist from Durango heading to Phoenix. He recognized my current predicament and pulled over. Thank the baby Jesus.
I considered just taking a ride the next reservation town but listening to the radio, the 50 mph wind of the day were expected to increase to 70 the following day. Are you kidding me? 70 mph winds. Shit the bed.
Happily accepted a ride to Flagstaff with the sandy tail between my sore, sun burnt legs. Cjell Money was feeling like quite the pussy.
A fellow AZTR racer, Eric Foster was obliged to host me for a few days in Flag while I recovered from the riding. He as attempting to graduate from college while simultaneously preparing for the AZTR. He as forfeiting sleep to accomplish his goals. I was happy to accept a ride down to Tucson from another racer passing through leaving Eric to sort out his shit without me.
Forrest Baker had an amazing connection in Tucson and I was happy to take advantage for a shower and a bed when I arrived. The following day I reunited with Chip Androus, the only other Grand Depart finish of the Tour Divide from the year before.
Chip had ridden 350 miles of the course before succumbing to cactus needles, knee injury and infection. I was beginning to understand that the AZTR might be slightly gnarlier than I had estimated. He has some good info for me and insisted that I bring a tweezers. A tweezers? Really? Shit.
Chip and I headed down to the start of the race where we met back up with Forrest and some others to camp for the night.
The following morning we headed down to the Mexican border where the 750 hopefuls were lining up. A decidedly nervous energy in the group with good reason. The AZ trail was about to kick the shit out of every last one of us. Got hi, took photos and started off.
It wasn’t a couple miles before I started making a few discoveries. 1, leaving on a true grand depart with other competitors was stressful. Every time to stop to piss, fix something, rest, or whatever, you are passed by other riders. Especially that first day. I wasn’t doing a great job of handing that anxiety. 2, my luggage was shot. I was losing thing on the gravel road even before hitting single track. After surviving 3000 miles on the TD it needed to be replaced. Weighing in at under 10 ounces, it was impressively light but was certainly not up to the rigors of the AZT. I was stopping to fix it constantly and it’s in effectiveness zapped my confidence in riding anything technical.
I will save any reader who has made it thus far in the post from the ‘whoa is me’ crybaby ethos I would normally put here as many others were experiencing the same thing. The AZ trail is fucking tough. 100 degrees. Single track. Hike a bike. No water. Long resupplies making your super Gucci titanium super bike a 50 lb pig. Shit.
I hadn’t quite bonked getting through the canello (sp?) hills but needed salt and water in a big way when I finially reached Patagonia. The trail was shaking out my gear more than I had expected. I was riding the same 2 speed BlackSheep from tour divide and I managed to lose the shifter button early one. Hell.
Traced my steps back to the last time I was sure I must have shifted with no sign of the tiny button. Single speed it is. I of coarse was passed by a number of other riders, one of whom, rhino, spotted the button that I had missed. Wow, some good fortune.
More issues with luggage coming out of Senoida. My setup was very from heavy so I removed tubes and taped them under the seat. I would lose one soon after but who couldn’t see that coming. Most riders were wearing backpacks and at the start I was feeling confident that I had my setup entirely on the bike. I soon realized that with all of the Hike-a-bike that the backpack was very advantageous as pushing the full 50+ lbs of bike/gear/water sucked ass. The pack would help with some of that. Live and learn.
Rode into the night as much as my body and mind would permit. Ended up camping with my buddy Forrest. Only made it til about 10 but was fully shot at that point.
On the bike at about 4 the next morning, Forrest was already gone. Leaving with all those riders was killing me. Hard to ride your own race when other riders would constantly remind you of where you were losing time.
That morning as the sun started to rise was the first section of fun ridable single track. Hope was being restored. Getting into a section around Saguaro National Park, the trail weaved almost comically around miles of cacti that would constantly remind you that any slight miscalculation would spell certain needle carnage. Everything in the desert want to fuck you up. Everything.
Got into the Rincon market and took my time trying to relax and take in calories. It is so hard to do with other riders coming in and making a faster stop that you, but really focusing on yourself is necessary.
Left the Market knowing that reaching the Summerhaven store/restaurant before closing would be impossible but forward progress was the only the to do.
I recall that section as being quite trying. Rationing my water too much was my main problem. I arrived at the next water with over a bottle remaining. A theme for the trip. Normally one can run quite a hydration deficit and fill up at the next point but dehydrating yourself in anticipation for the next water stop but for the AZTR depriving yourself of food or water would have a compounding effect and the terrain provided no respite. If you were dehydrated or bonking, it would be much slower that traveling fast with a lighter load. Lesson I was quickly learning.
I was also fully educated in how under prepared I was. I spent and evening riding with Max Morris who was telling me that he was bikepacking almost every weekend preparing for the race. I hadn’t seen any dirt on a loaded bike since last year when I hung up my gear. My foolishness was deheartening as the arduous miles continues to come. My headspace was becoming more and more dark.
I slept that night next to bathtub springs and was up early. I ate the remainder of my food save one granola bar. One bar for around 50 more miles of single track. Shit.
There were certainly moments on the trail that were so rewarding and awesome. The AZT is not without it’s amazing single track that is fast and fun. It just mixed in with shit that is hard as hell and unridable.
It started getting warm as I crossed the Gila River and filled up with water. This time I figured I wouldn’t over fill and left there with three bottles. Mistake. The miles on the Gila brought me my first crash which are always emotional. My spirit began to break as temps soared. I wasn’t in danger of being thirsty when I started the climb out of the river valley and came upon a hiker water cache. I took a modest drink and continued up and out. I was soon walking as the sun brutally pounded me.
My hunger gave I to thirst as I started to realize that my miscalculation might be putting me in a bit of danger. I was now having my first thoughts of calling the race at the finish of the 300. There was a waypoint on my GPS marked, “finish of the 300, sweet.” I was prepared to call it there. I figured there would be people there and I would happily accept water, breaking the rules and calling the race. When I got to the point, there was nothing, just more single track. Screw it. The next point to bail, I’m out. This is a type of dangerous punishment that I wasn’t prepared for. My brakes were also noticeably weakened and I was using that as another excuse for a forfeit. The 50+ lbs of bike on descents were eating my pads at a accelerated rate.
I had made peace with my decision to call it before I made it to the road. It was simply more than I was prepared for. A springtime training opportunity for the TD had proven itself way more than that.
I did finish the 300 which I could not trick myself into being proud of that accomplishment. At this point I was simply happy to know I would not need to wake the next day at 4 in the morning and do it again.
Another racer and I enjoy the small amount of shade a small tree provided there at the trailhead. He encouraged me to wait until the following morning before calling it quits but I had taken too much solace in the fact that I needn’t worry about anymore thirst, hunger or exhaustion. I would be done right here.
We pedaled the next 20 or so miles into apache junction together. The miles were much easier knowing they would be my last on the AZT that year.
Destroyed a Chinese restaurant and crashed on the side of the road. My friend got up early and I wished him well. I believe only Max was ahead of us at that point but it no longer mattered to me as my head hit my makeshift pillow.
Blake, another rider passed that morning and rode passed. I didn’t envy him. I was going to ride into Phoenix slowly and sit at a diner for as long as I pleased.
Stayed with a friend of a friend. I don’t know if I had ever been that dirty before. The shower was almost spiritual. I had all my cloths on as dirt covered the tub floor. I had few feeling of failure. Just relief knowing there was no more.
The fine folks at the Slippery Pig bike shop allowed me to box my bike. I hopped on the train to the airport just outside of the shop and bid Arizona farewell. The state had truly kicked my ass. If I were ever to return, I would be with much more preparation and in better headspace.
I congraduate all those who finished the 750. I am not sure that I envy you but commend your accomplishment.
Will I be back? Not enough time has passed to know for sure but if I do, it will be a different Cjell Money.

More to come on TD prep. My bike conctruction is coming along well and preparation for the tour to the start as well as the race are in full swing. Dave Wilson from Nuclear Sunrise witnessed some of my plight struggling with my uber light luggage and has volunteered services. His shit is second to none when it comes to bikepacking bags. I’ll check in soon with some updates with prep, kit, bike, etc.

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Divide Riding IV. Tour Divide.


….The gnarliest bike race on the planet?

Maybe so, maybe not, but it is fucking tough. I was certain it wasn’t going to be easy, but ‘prepared’ for what was to come certainly wasn’t accurate either.

I seemed to be the only one anxious to leave the border and head north. Chip was a little more seasoned than myself and didn’t see the 10 minute delay as important…definitely wasn’t.

As Chip and I pedaled away from Arno, who was still putting together his rig, a wind kicked up from the south, stiffly, and we were off.  I started out in a 36-22 gear times 1.65 with the 2 speed Schlumpf drive gave me a full 78 gear inches which allowed me to keep up with Chip despite my abbreviated drivetrain (even with a tail wind on pavement).

Chip and I stopped in Hachita to fill up on H2O, I again felt myself anxious to move north. Shortly after hitting the road our favorable winds wavered a bit and I ever so slowly gapped my new friend Chip. It was weird to not say goodbye and just slowly ride away but I would see him again.

A quick in and out at the highway-side Separ store, looking over my shoulder the whole time. Tortoise and the hare for sure.  It was exciting to leave noise and well traveled roads for ones were I wouldn’t see anything for a while. I quickly learned how handy the GPS was for navigation.  I was following the cues I had as closely as I could but the GPS proved an invaluable resource. I had known how to turn it on but past that I hadn’t realized what a powerful aid it really was. Along with the GPS, my entire kit was almost totally untested. The first time I had it fully assembled was a few days prior at Gila Hike and Bike in Silver City. I had about a week’s riding the bike itself in Moab, UT but never with bags.  Probably not to prudent, but that’s pretty much my style.

The luggage was all built by me just before leaving for Costa Rica. Heavier cuban fiber fabric was used. I think the front bag come out to an ounce and a half, the seat bag – 3 oz and 8 oz for the more technical gas tank. The gravel from I-10 to Silver City was really their first test…pass.

Saw a Mexican man with a pickup sporting Sonora plates…thought I left there? He offered me agua and was surprised to carry on a short exchange in spanish. I politely declined his offer and pedaled on. It wasn’t much farther and I started to cramp like I hadn’t cramped before.

The cramps came on suddenly. The first one’s were the type I could stretch out on the bike  but the subsequent ones were so severe that I had trouble alleviating them even off the bike in a full stretch. I was a bit puzzled because the day hadn’t been nearly as hot as some I had experienced riding through Central America/Northern Mexico just before – 0 cramps. I was also pretty sure I had nailed my nutrition for that day with the pound of bacon I had packed out from the Howard Johnson that morning.  Couldn’t get enough salt I guess.

The cramps were slow to subside but I was happy to be able to spin again when they did.

A gingerly in and out through Silver City.  It was in the grocery store that I realized how limited the data I was carrying really was. In the south my best resource was Chip. We had a few days in Silver City where he was happy to sit down with my less-than-optimally-prepared ass and give some resupply and water info for the south.  What I carried with me now was little help for judging the amount of food I needed to carry. I carried:

-GPS with full track and TOPOs for the areas to be traveled in. Super easy to use…turn on…’Does my triangle land on the green line?’…yes?-proceed…no?-figure it out

-Custom cues printed and laminated in Silver City. Chip had done the work of simplifying the stock cues to only include the ones that required a turn and change around the wording for those traveling north-bound. (R’s for L’s…etc) Life saver really. Something that I’m sure took him a good amount of time to prepare, which he was more than willing to share with me. Classy dude

Things I didn’t carry:

-ACA’s maps. Would have helped a great deal with efficiency in towns. Resupply was always a shot in the dark. Just carried a standard amount of food, never really knowing when the next time I would find some. Making around 150 miles a day help mitigate errors in resupply. The GPS was little help as towns only appeared when zoomed in a great deal making identifying them from a great distance away too difficult. It also represented towns that had nothing equal to towns of great resource…ie: Summitville was represented by the same size dot as Del Norte, the former having nothing, the ladder having all services needed. A simple town list with resources would have helped a great deal.

-Water info past what Chip had let me know. The critical carries Chip had given me the heads up until S.C. but beyond that I just carried a standard 2 bottles. I drank ground water the whole way so this was never really an issue.

Under-prepared? Sure, but not to an unsafe degree, just not quite as efficient as possible. Part of the adventure.

Matthew Lee had contacted me about the reroutes concerning the fires in the Gila Wilderness. Originally they were trying to find a way through that wasn’t closed and would still include a lot of the technical riding but the expanse of the fires was too great, so a total pavement circumnavigate was prescribed.

I remember chatting the Matt on the phone and he had mentioned that I might consider sneaking though the official route at night which I thought was funny but now understand why.  At the time I had no idea why it was important for some to ride the entire route unmodified, without reroute. For the purpose of qualifying for the Grand Classification. Looking back on the ride, I guess I didn’t even qualify to have my time compared to those who came southbound as I was rerouted and they were not. It comes back to a more fundamental question of why it all matters anyway. The ride is half-tour half-race.  If you make it 100% race I believe it makes it much harder to enjoy. A balance must be struck and for me if there was a reroute around a fire, no biggie.

I put another 30 miles on the pavement reroute before calling it a night on the side of the road. An annoying dog barked at me all night while I slept with a direct view of the mountains burning above me. A lot of visible orange flames.

Caught a breakfast at a roadside greasy spoon. After grabbing the most expensive items on the menu and conducting myself as politely as possible one the grumpy patrons scolded me  for washing up outside the hole-in-the-wall cafe citing that it was a ‘business’. Put a damper on what was a good morning. Spent the next few hours thinking of things i should have said, about running a ‘business’.  I hope you existence isn’t quite as miserable as it seems you fat jerk.

Made it back to the original route where I met a couple on matching Surley Ogres. They had ridden up from El Paso for flight reasons which seemed like a popular thing to do. The first cyclists I had seem since Chip. They were cooking a mid-day meal of pasta and sitting of the deck of the church there. I was jealous of their leisure as I rode away.

Some rough roads from the church to Pie Town. I arrived to Pie Town quite early…maybe ~300 miles from A.W. I knew I could clean up at toaster house, eat and do laundry so I chose to shut it down for the day, deciding that I would wake very early and take off the next morning. It was a very nice stop.

Sometime in the middle of the night I was awoken by someone coming the the front door of  the Toaster House…It was Chip! That son-of-a-bitch caught up by pedaling into the night because he knew how key the pie-town stop was. We didn’t talk much as I was mid-REM sleep but I was surprised to see that old bastard. I don’t remember exactly what was said but it was probably along the lines of..”Oh hey Cjell, surprised to see you here you big pussy. You look tired. The riding too hard for you, you little girl.” It was fun to see him one last time but i knew I had better get my ass in gear. Inefficient stops like Pie Town were really where I lost all my time, oh well.

True to plan I got on the bike at 3 in the morning and left Pie Town. Cold, but a good move. Made it to Grants to catch a McD’s breakfast and talk to another TD bike tourist. He was rolling a fully loaded Surley LHT which we discussed to be slightly less then optimal but passable. Every technical section from there on out I thought about my friend on a full rigid 4 pannier set-up…mind boggling.

Snowsalamander juxtaposed to an LHT.

Didn’t carry a camera, so all photos are stolen from blogs, thanks Andrew Sufficool

Out of Grants I took the pavement alternate as was suggested by M.L. the godfather. Who was I to argue? Had some less than favorable winds which made it a long stretch but around halfway in I ate my reserve special brownie witch got my mind off of things.

Hit the gas station on the reservation for some treats and hauled it the rest of the way into Cuba.  Destroyed a Subway and grabbed some grub for the next leg. Of coarse I had no idea at the time but it would be one of the toughest bits of the entire route.

Left Cuba into the night to make sure I made 200 miles that day. The first double century of my short life.

Made it up and over whatever the name of that next gnarly section is cursing my fully rigid bike on the decent. Spent and inordinate amount of time at Bode’s Store in Abique thinking about how late in the day it was for only making it just over 70 miles.

Shot out of Bode’s and flew through the next couple towns… stopping in Canyon Plaza as it seemed obligatory after viewing Ride the Divide. The lady there…can’t remember her name…selena, celest, serina?..kept asking about Mathew and if he was riding this year. Was a theme among many of the ladies along the route…Matt, you dog.

Camped into the woods a ways. Set up my tent for the first time but no rain.

Can’t remember the name of the next technical ridge section but i remember wanting to let the SoBo’s know that I had cleaned the entire thing in my aero bars which shall remain as truth because I am saying here, center for all truth, the internet.

I hit 47 mph on La Mangas Pass coming down into Horca, CO. Stopped there for a bite and then after ~20 (memory is fuzzy) very annoying miles ate again at Platoro. Had an awesome reuben with complementary cantaloupe to boot. Little cantaloupe for the Mantelope. BooYa. Sweet people in Platoro.

Rode out of Platoro into the evening with Henrick (?) from the netherlands. Super loaded pushing out centuries. Gnarly dude.

Pedaled up to Indiana Pass into the evening. Last bit of twilight around Summitville…crazy superfund site. Summited to see a bright starlit sky and started descending to find a place to bed down. Found a spot around 10 miles outside of Del Norte…leaving a little riding for the morning before establishments opened.

Crushed a cafe and bought some grub. Outside of Del Norte were 1 or 2 of the only signs for the Divide route on its entire length. Very official looking too. Found them odd yet encouraging.

Passed another touring cyclist breaking camp. Super loaded on a full sus rig. Nice dude, snapped a shot of me lubing and switching the gear ratio.

rednamalaS wonS

The BlackSheep SnowSalamander  ran like a dream. Set up with a Schlumpf 2 speed BB and and no derailleurs meant lubing the chain every couple days and that was it. One set of Maxxis Icons rotated in Steamboat and that about did it. Didn’t think about the machine at all the entire way to Banff. Bike probably weighed around 23 lbs plus around 8-9 lbs of gear. Matthew Lee lifted it up and was less than impressed but he’s a butthole anyway and doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. More on the bike and gear in the ‘Gear’ section coming soon.

There are a couple of mellow passes out of Del Norte. I found myself in a bit of a water situation as it was hot and dry. On the decent of the second pass there were a couple switch backs and I saw a blaze for the Colorado Trail out of the corner of my eye. I lifted my head and realized I had been to this place before. The summer before I had hiked the Colorado Trail and vividly remembered the spot. What’s more…i remembered a spring, next to the road! Hopped the cattle fence and filled my bottles. BooYa!

Pounded a few more miles to the base of Marshal Pass, Sargents. Stopped for a sec and then headed up the pass. I was eager to arrive in Salida before night so I kicked it up a notch to 2. Averaged 11 miles an hour climbing Marshall. Smooth and graded just the way I like it.

I saw some of the most extraordinary things of the entire ride on that pass. On two separate occasions I snuck up on beautiful foxes with big bushy tails. A big daddy elk with full rack. Tons of deer and a bear. All of the wildlife took a backseat to the most remarkable sighting of all….

A family of 4 pedaling the entire Divide. I caught up to them halfway up the pass where they had made camp for the night. I quickly calculated that beween body weight and the much of the kid’s gear dad was humping over 450 EL BEES! They were a gas to hear that I had only begun a few days prior but I voted them as the more gnarly of us bringing the entire family along for the ride. They still get my vote for gnarliest divide riders. Second would be Chip and 3rd would be anyone riding an LHT. A very sweet family. I did a wheelie for them as I finished speeding up the pass.

Coming down Marshal pass on the road is a major bummer as I have ridden some unreal single track from there down to Poncha Springs. Would be a nice trade to route the NoBo’s on some single track there as a trade for the SoBo’s golddust boreas pass reroute. Just a thought.

Cleaned up and stayed at the hostel in Salida. Had a nice dinner.

Rose early and was met by one of the hardest climbs on the entire route. Paved but S T E E P.  Rode miles a top the plateau. Wide and washboarded made for some slow miles. I was happy to finally meet a road grader but I knew it meant that my washboard woes would not be experienced by those coming from Canada.

In Hartsel I was lucky to meet the sweet old lady that runs the Mercantile there. I let her know there were quite a number of SoBo’s headed her way and as was customary, she asked about Matthew. What are you doing to these ladies Matt Lee?

Blew through Como which was seemingly a mistake as Breckenridge is a shitshow in the summer. Also have since heard about the nice dude that runs the store there. Oh well, next year. I couldn’t leave Summit County quickly enough. Between Breckenridge and Frisco there isn’t a bike shop that welcomes TD riders, that should say something. Not sure why I am so filled with hate (exaggerating for effect i guess) but Summit may be a good place to resupply on green buds and little else. Of coarse I am from Vail, so take it for what it’s worth.

Hustled out of Summit and found myself outside of Kremmling, I am told that is where Fixie Dave was when I passed him. To tell the truth I wasn’t sure what I was looking at from the route looking over into Kremmling, so I blew it off. Probably a mistake being that Radium has no services and The Boat is a far ways off. Again, a little better data would have helped.

Was delirious trying to ride down into the Colorado River basin. My lights only acted to hypnotize me. Dire need of water i pushed on into the night to get to Radium which at least had H2O. Stopped short at a small camping area when I heard a creek running near by. Guzzled creek water and passed out. Just before putting my head down I noticed a tent not more than 20 feet from where I lay. Also saw a bike just outside the tent…conviced it was Fixie Dave I contemplated calling out to him.

Rose early and rolled into Radium on the CO River. Had a look at the tent next to where I laid down the night before. 1- not fixie dave 2-big camping area and i laid down almost in their camp site. 3- Woke up at 4 and took off. Fucking weirdo (me). whoops.

Spent the morning climbing out of the Colorado river gorge. Toughest climb of the ride. Did I say that already? One of the first times I walked. Spinning a 33-22 felt so much harder than walking…probably about equal in speed.

NERD ALERT: next 4 paragraphs

33-22 was the other ratio I carried in my dingle….the easiest of the 4 cogs on the bike and I didn’t change for most of the remainder of the ride. Once for a short bit in Canada but that was it. That ratio combined with the 2 speed BB planetary gear was the money. It also happened to be the easiest gear I carried…go figure.

For those of you who don’t know, a Dingle, or dingle speed, is a double-single speed bike. It basically a single speed bike that carries two gear options. The magic of the dingle is that the gears have and equal number of total teeth. That is, (in my case) 3 tooth difference in chain rings and three tooth difference in cogs so that by simply removing the rear wheel and switching the chain from one cog/chainring to the other I have another gear option, same number of teeth means no retensioning. The boys at BlackSheep are the ones that got me hooked. Does this disqualify me from the single speed catagory? YES. Most certainly.

Dingle Setup

On top of the dingle I carried two rear wheels because the bike is a snowbike with spacing in the front fork for another rear-spaced wheel. On that wheel I carried another set of 2 cogs with a 3 tooth gap between them. They were more practical single speed gears but were unused the entire ride because combined with the 1.65 rise of the 2-speed Schlumpf bottom bracket, overdrive was wholly unusable. Better cogs could certainly have been chosen.

I would say the dingles add little advantage over those running single speed bikes as I only shifted it a few times on the entire ride but the 2-speed schlumpf allowed me to run a much easier gear that would be practical had I not had overdrive to compensate on the high end. I shifted the BB hundreds of times a day. My shoes have the holes to prove it. (shifter button is on the bottom bracket spindle itself) My opinion, don’t DQ yourself on the SS catagory just to run a Dingle. The Schlumpf however, is worth it. Wheehw, NERD ALERT- over.

Hungry. Next stop, The Boat. Best town stop on the ride.

Being the first Divide racer to arrive at all towns south of Rawlins, I tended to catch all shops/ TD aware establishments off guard.

I started my Steamboat stop off with a visit to the famous Orange Peel Cycles. I pulled in and milled around for a second. I figured instead of unseating my tubeless wheels (which I was having splendid luck) I would just switch them from front to back and change the cogs around. I know shops can be picky about borrowing tools but once Assam figured out I was his years first divide racer he gave me the royal treatment. Borrowing tools was understood. He also put me onto a coyboy hat so I could arrive to Brush Mountain in style, Made a call to Big Agnes (based in steamboat) to help fix a busted seam in my seat bag, called Ace Hardware to ensure I could scoop $50 worth of lithiums on the way out of town. He really went out of his way to provide outstanding service. Can’t wait to get back to The Boat and rip some single track with those fools.

Was interviewed by a nice gentlemen there for Mountain Magazine. Article can be found here. Facts a little bunk but a nice article. Pounded an unprecedented 2 azteca burritos and started out to Brush Mountain, not before stopping by Big Ag for bag repairs and Moots just cause. Lengthy town stop, but worth it.

Show- Boatin!

Hustled out to Brush Mountain Lodge. Fun bit of riding between Steamboat and there. I had planned on showing up with a ciggy in my mouth rocking the cowboy hat like I had been doing it since the border. Forgot to buy the cancer sticks in steamboat but ended up finding on unlit, seemingly untouched one the side of the road. How serendipitous!

Me at Brush Mtn Lodge. Smokin like a boss

Warm welcome from Katie, Henry, Alma and of coarse, Matthew Lee himself.  Matthew dumped a generous amount of salt on my burger, rice, taters, and dal telling me I needed it. Drank a couple beers and had a shot. Saboteur?

Katie, made me a turkey Reuben with a bit of chicken and cookie on the side – To Go. Shared my time there with a couple single speed riders who weren’t racing but could have been by the looks of their kits and 90 mile daily average. The lady said her boyfriend cleaned the climb out of radium…SHUT UP.

Matthew understood my decision to ride into the night because between steamboat and Brush Mtn, the day’s mileage was looking a little less than braggable. With a healthy buzz, and a few cups of Matt’s special extra diesely coffee (the first caffine of the ride) Matt and I rode a mile into the darkness. Matthew then turned back to the lodge and I swerved my way down from Brush Mtn. Did that just happen?

At the bottom of the hill below Brush Mountain I felt like there was something rubbing. I can now tell you that the culprit for the slowed progress is a slight incline at night where the grade is only perceptible though your slow progress. When you don’t have your vision to confirm it you don’t know what’s slowing you down. At the time I was convinced I had some intense brake rub. Got off the bike. Spun the wheels, all good. Rode a bit more. Spun the wheels again, all good. Wait, I can almost hear something in the wheel. Sure as shit, something is bouncing around in my wheel. Wheel off…shaken, confirmed. First thought. Matt Lee snuck a bouncy ball in my front tire. Really? He was messing with tire pressure. You son of a bitch. Something certainly was slowing me down. A dastardly prank. Late night. Tired as shit. Have to get that bouncy ball. Unseat lucky tubeless…

Stans ball. Big one. Fuck me. Make a good college try and seating the bead with my handpump…laughable. Tube’d it and passed out.

Tough miles into Rawlins, but I ground them out. Mornings were by far the toughest miles for me. I would often take 5 minute cat naps on the side of whatever path I was riding on.

Got a bike escort from a local Rawlins man around 15 miles back into town. I was certain it was Ollie or Craig…bet I looked like a kook raising my arms and hollering as he approached. Decidedly not a spot stalker although he was somewhat familiar with the ride itself.

Destroyed a chinese buffet and hustled through the grocery store adding 3 extra liters of water storage to the SnowSalamander. My platypus that I had carried from Mexico had conveniently fallen off the bike that morning. One liter on to of the front bag, one on the seat post, and one extra strapped below the downtube. 110 miles without water. Fuck Me.

Continued the hustle as to avoid missing the golden spoke moment with the southbound leaders, or having it in a grocery store.

Great Basin

This is almost the exact place where I met Ollie and Craig as they made their way south. Side by each. I spotted them on a rise as they came towards me. I quickly laid down my bike and spread a few water bottles around the pavement (hadn’t seen a car for hours). I then laid next to the scene and looked as near death as I could.

When they arrived I said, “waatterr.” They looked at each other puzzled. I ended up having to explain who I was and spelled out that it was a joke. They seemed to be aloof to the fact that some riders choose to ride northbound. Either that or they were double punking me. Funnier in my own mind I guess. We chatted for a while about the routes that lie ahead of us. I lit off some fireworks. I guess I was just more unhappy that all the trash talking that I had attempted to communicate to the SoBo’s fell on def ears. Wished each other luck and pressed on.

As far as all the debate on the purity or intent of the original rules…don’t care. The race will be what it is. Advantageous riding with others? maybe, to each his own i guess. I could see how some old timers might feel a little differently, ie, Jay or Matt because they had done it largely on their own and have more of a connection to the original event and its character but TD will be what it is, and this year it was a tandem (not the bike) ride to NM. No skin off my teeth.

SoBo’s Suck IT! That’s what I say.

From the time I saw the two of them until around 24 hours past then, the wind in the basin continually picked up until it hit the peak of its mighty crescendo the following afternoon. I found the first day with stiff head winds to be almost nothing compared to the all out armegedon that was to follow the next day.

When I met Eddie Clark, a photographer for Mtn Flyer Magazine he asked me if I had seen  Ollie and Craig. He again had no idea who I was or what I was doing.  I didn’t invent the NoBo effort. What gives?

The guy seemed nice enough though. I traded him some starbursts to snap a couple shots for my ma. Turned out well. You can see the rig with tons of water strapped to it. So I did give him starbursts fair and square but these shots did come from his website.


That evening I started running into the first of the chasers. Sarge, or Serge. Seemed like a nice dude. Felt bad for him as he seemed to be slightly preoccupied with the guys in front asking questions as to their whereabouts. I can imagine it would make riding more difficult if you were concerning yourself with some other dudes. Looked strong though. Wished him luck.

As I bedded down for the night, early (can’t remember why), another group of chasers sped past.

Over the night the stiff wind stiffened and by the time I woke up all of my belongings were strewn all over the place. Got the pleasure of meeting Ester who was killing it with a capital K.

Kept all subsequent visits short in length. If I were to converse with half of the SoBo’s for 5 minutes each, that’s over 4 hours. And that’s only half of them. If it seemed as if they were happy to ride by I was obliged to do the same which a surprising number were. I was most surprised with those at the back of the pack who were hustling to quickly to stop. Figured I wasn’t missing much.

Highlights included stops from Beardog, who told me all about his attempt at the triple crown of bikepacking that year. He seemed to have a good attitude. Adam Hale was another one of my favorites. His kit looked classic with some curved top tube steel bike and Brooks-esk canvas luggage. He smoked me out which was another highlight.

Not sure about the exact numbers for the wind that day but I would say 40 MPH would be conservative. I called in from Atlantic City. The report from that phone call was a description of riding downhill, out of the saddle, pedaling with everything I had, hitting 4 mph. FUCK ME! An entire day of that really beat me down. I had just passed all the leaders hoping to make some time up on them and then I was hit with a day where I was barely able to make 100 miles…or even that much?

Ate lunch in Atlantic City. Rejuvenated I figured I would head back out.

Pedaled the few miles over to South Pass City. Took forever. Windy as shit. So very loud. Had my fill of ice cream snickers and gave in. Figured I could be killing myself fighting for miles or sleep and try and make it up at night. Plan worked ok. Slept, grabbed some coffee and filled up my bottle on the way out. Saw a few more NoBo’s flying past. Long stretch from south pass city over to boulder on the main highway up to Jackson 191? The wind faded and when I hit the pavement into Boulder the sun had all but left. If I were to make it to Pinedale it would mean waiting until business opening to resupply so I slept just outside of Boulder…side of 191.

Rock Rabbit in Pinedale for some grub. Gas station to restore tubelessness (it’s a word, look it up). I’m off. Winds are now in my favor. I crush it. Making hay while the sun shines.

Meet beardog. Lose my phone. Chill with a nice dude on the side of the road…sets me up right. I think that section of road is coincident with another ACA cross country route. Tons of x-country looking folks ride by.

Up and over Towagatee (sp?). Meal at the lodge…the in efficiency continues. Resupply and press on. Bed down at the bottom of the decent. Poach a NF campground.

COLD ass morning. Freezing my fingers. Pull into a resort cafe that is still solidly closed. Sit in porch to warm a bit. Invited in as the proprietor is opening. Coffee and a roll saves my life.

Blast through Teton’s gates…not sure if you need to pay but i didn’t stick around to find out. Hit this stretch on a holiday and it would undoubtedly be the hariest section of the route. Rental RV’s are cyclist’s mortal enemy.

Meet up with a group of 3 racers at Flagg Ranch finishing up brecky. One of them appearing to have lost his way on his messenger route in Manhattan. A black dude with cycling cap and associated street garb. Chatted for a second. Brooklyn’s rig was a Surly Karate Monkey or 1×1 (ogre now that i think of it) with the same gearing he must have been using on that messenger route. Looked like a 36-12 or something like that. (tall!) Big respect for that guy. Offered to sell me bear spray…chuckled and headed out. Another top finisher in Cjell’s gnar list.

Continued to pass a number of ‘racers’. Some Bavarian sounding guy with probably the best attitude of anyone on the route taking a photo of a flower. Italian couple…lady had knee probs. We spoke spanish.

A couple of the riders had mentioned the rails-to-trails that lie ahead. Brooklyn had some choice words while Bavaria said it was some of his favorite riding.

I started riding up the hill to the flat sandy rail bed that lie ahead. Not so bad. Ever so gradually the sand got sandier and deeper. Soon 7-8 miles an hour was it. A flat, slow 30 mile paddle. If one wasn’t in a hurry…not so bad. If your goal is progress then it will kill you. Either Bavaria was fucking with me or he was truley the most positive divide rider out there.

Passed a few more on the stretch…a number choosing to cruise by which seemed incredible considering their ‘race’ position. Oh well. One rider was so excited to tell me he had ridden the entire night before pulling a 165 mile day. I congratulated him and paddled on. Would have been a fun stretch on a bike with some float…hmmm…

Island park was welcome. Destroyed a subway and headed out. Pow-wowed with Adam Hale. A top gnar finisher.

Rain threatened, never came. Made it over Red-Indian pass? gorgeous country. Poached another NF campground next to Red Rock Lakes. Really beautiful area.

Pedaled into Lima. Coldest morning of the ride. A mentally testing morning. Cat napped a couple times. Feeling a bit low when I was buzzed by a bald eagle. Life isn’t so bad.

Ate 3 breakfasts at the diner. Ressupplied at the gas station. Road out into a nice cruiser section between there and Polaris. I had heard about Russ and High Country Lodge. When a smaller SUV sped towards me and pulled over to snap a couple shots I figured I was he.

Outside of Polaris

Thanks Russ

I actually rode a wheelie across 63% of Montanna

Lodge was a killer stop. Russ had all the beta on the race inside and out. TD biggest fan? Laundry, meal, shower…could not be beat! Thank you. Recommended the shit out of that place to anyone who would listen.

Rode into the night out of the lodge. Slept in a picnic cabin that night. Nice spot.

Dropped into Wise River on another very cold morning. Waited 20 minutes for the store to open for no good reason. Bought some ridiculous big fleecy gloves at the store. Was tired of cold hands. Almost seemed comical as I stuffed the overkill gloves into the featherlight cuben bag.

Chip’s notes had a ‘very steep climb’ outside of Wise River. Fleecer Ridge. Kept looking at it in the que’s, wondering what exactly ACA classifies as ‘very steep’. The last ‘very steep climp’ was actually a descent…a SoBo que Chip hadn’t changed around. Wondered if this was the same case…NOPE.

Again, thought of my tourists on Long Haul Truckers or anyone with over 10lbs of gear. If a  SouthBounder asks, I cleaned the whole climb no problem. Actually, I had a tough time walking my bike up the pitch. SUPER STEEP. Here’s a video of the pitch, doesn’t quite really capture it…at least the dude bails. I would guess anyone with a standard amount of gear has to make multiple trips. Only a quarter or half mile or something. No big.

Up and over the next hill brought me down into Butte, MT. Just before I arrived into town I passed Tracie B. The final SoBo racer I would encounter. She was sitting in the shade of a few trees. Some gear strewn around, pouring over some ACA maps. She was undoubtedly looking at the elevation profile and the climb that lay ahead of her.  She made some comments to the effect of skipping ahead to find some lower elevation. I believe Butte is around a mile high like Denver…not sure if there are many places lower than that? I gave her as much encouragement as I could…i let her know that Russ and Wise River lie just ahead. She seemed to be kitted out with her fancy Moots garb and YBB. She couldn’t be better kitted to get after one of the world’s most beautiful rides…I hope I was encouraging as I could be. She freaked to learn that I was the first of the NoBo’s. I understand she made it to AW. Way to go Tracie.

Pedaled the loop into Butte. Didn’t really understand what the loop was all about but when I hit the apex in front of the Outdoorsman I got it. Stopped in. Again, milled around for a while until I started chatting with the help. I suppose they figured they were done with TD racers. Rob and, wish like anything I could remember the name of the wrench that lubed my chain, took splendid care of me and the Snowsalamander. On top of being very kind and unassuming, the shop hand was literally lubing and inspecting each individual link in my chain. Gave me a couple sachets of saddle cream which I sorely (wah-wah) needed. Destroyed the nearby chinese buffet which seemed to specialize in chicken done all ways…as long as it was sweet. (honey, tsao’s, orange, sesame, sugar, sugar…) Didn’t mind a lick. Suprised if they’re still in business after my little visit.

Picked up the rig and hopped back on the loop. The only time the GPS track failed me as riding the interstate out of town is quite different than riding it into town (different exits and interchanges etc). Hustled up that interstate corridor and climbed and climbed out. The single track up and over before Helena is gnarly. Thought it to be a bit easier coming from my way as the route seemed only ridable as a descent instead of a climb. Glad to have gotten out of that section and onto real roads before dark. Bedded down in front of a garage.

Quick morning stop in Helena for doughnuts, coffee and a resupply.

Scenic ride to Lincoln. The cues had another ‘steep climb’. Turned out to be a descent…a long one…Booya. around 90% of the way down the hill I had maintained a rather high level of success for staying dry by perfectly circumnavigating all puddles and streams. A tedious business but worth it to stay dry. At one point there was a large mud puddle. Like many before it, it had a narrow berm on the side. In the middle of this berm was a large tree branch. I thought I would do my part and remove the branch from the only dry passable path around the puddle. I had my feet planted on a narrow portion of the berm next to my somewhat dry, clean bike. Branch in one hand, bike in the other I tossed the obstruction into the woods. Tangled on other brush it returned to whence in came.  Determined to clear the path for future riders I again grabbed the branch and gave it a stronger toss, only this time my feet shuffled on the narrow berm and I began to lose balance. with the bike in one hand, hovering above the mud puddle I instinctively threw one foot out as a counterweight ballast. Bike versus leg, it was a classic scene that belonged in one of those Japanese obstacle coarse shows.  At a comically slow rate the bike overpowered the cantilevered leg and pulled me into the puddle, and now, instead of a simple foot drop, it was an all out bail, bike, me, shoes, gear, into the heart of the mud puddle. All for a damn tree branch.

FUCK. FUUUUCCCKK!!!!  Exhausted and sleep deprived I pulled together all my energy reserves to curse at the top of my lungs. Not once but repeatedly. ‘Losing it’ as they say. Wiki that expression and that scene around the mud puddle should come up.

I finished the descent pretty upset but really no worse for the wetness. I hopped in the next stream fully clothed and cleaned up a bit.

Stopped in Lincoln and made a lengthy unneeded stop 40 miles from my last one in Helena. A few bears and one mountain pass later, I again stopped in Ovando. Again, pretty superfluous, but I was having a bit of a tough day…boo hoo, I know.

Ate dinner at the bar there and decided to shut it down. The gentleman spotted me walking around the town center and opened the shop and showed me the old wagon where I could sleep that night. A pathetic time to shut it down, but I made peace with it.

Busted out a remorseful 30 to Seeley Lake the next morning before the sun rose. Richmond Peak was a tough little section, most of it still covered in snow. The small saplings combined with snowy sideslopes makes it pretty annoying. Scenery is the saving grace here. One of the most beautiful section on the entire ride, bar none.

Cruised the maze of backroads until Ferndale? A pretty ineffecient stop there brought me a couple miles out of my way to a biker bar. Had a couple pulled pork specials. Wrapped some to-go.

Stayed glued to the GPS to navigate the paved maze of gridded roads leading into Columbia Falls. Had Whitefish on the brain. It would be another double century. No-Sleep-til-WHITEFISH! was the song I sang at volume. Rode the route to Whitefish into the night. All pavement, no issues.

There was a point were a lady standing on her trailer porch yelled out to me, “watch out, a bear just passed by.” Not a couple hundred yards up, I met the bear in question. It ran off thankfully, I was obliged to do the same, thinking the whole time about the pork sandwich I had in my munchbox.

Caught the store nearest to the route in Whitefish before it closed. Bedded down in a baseball dugout in town as lightning was illuminating the western sky.

Out of Whitefish I crossed over my last bit of real snow walking. Can’t remember the name of the pass but it was cake compared to Richmond. Probably only a couple miles of snow walking in my estimation. Very pretty area.

Met a single speeder starting his TD attempt on the other side of the pass. Appeared to be well prepared with some nice looking home-made luggage. Chatted for a while and I wished him well.

Part B of the story goes as follows…around 2 weeks later, back in Colorado, a few friends and I were putting in to raft a section of the Colorado River starting in Radium, and who do I see, the same guy as I had met here, north of Whitefish…crazyness.

Made it safely to Eureka. Efficient stop, resupplied and ate some chicken at the grocery store. As I was packing up I pulled out those ridiculous fleece gloves I had bought in Wise River. Hadn’t used them since I bought them and now they were soaking wet. With the added water weight they were easily the heaviest item of gear I had. Tossed them out knowing that as soon as I did, I would need them.

Made the short trip to the border. Hadn’t really given the crossing much thought, after all it was going to be the 7th border crossing of the journey.

The border Mounty seemed friendly, as was I. His tone seemed to change as he asked me to step into the office. I proceed to explain the race to him which I thought puzzling at first but then realized that those racing south, around 16 days prior, never visit the Canuck side of the crossing. Very few do, hence why they seemed in the dark about Tour Divide. The mounty then sternly explained that my wallet and passport had triggered their alarms for narcotics and/or marijuana. Bummer. They then questioned me further on my intentions in Canada and my job standings in the US. Not putting too much thought into my answers I explained that I wasn’t currently employed, but would return to my job in a few weeks…wrong answer. Canada is much more fond of employed visitors. They then proceeded to search through all of my gear. The rear bag is tightened and closed with line tensioners instead of webbing (to save weight) so in the interest of accessing my sleeping bag, tent and kilo of cocaine that they seemed to be certain I was carrying, they ripped my rear bag. I was helpless in the office, left only to watch. All the way from Mexico, held together well, should have made it Mounty proof, oh well. I was then told I needed to prove I had money with a financial statement. They sent me to Canadian Duty Free where I seemed to be the first American to have ever tried to print a bank statement out of the ATM. Unsuccessful I returned to center for all things serious and not fun, Canuck immigration, where they promptly kicked me out of the country. I recapped on my way back into the USA why exactly they didn’t allow me in and it calmed me down a bit…

-I smell like hell, full beard, on a bike, unemployed, hundred bucks in the wallet on a so called ‘bike race’, and…my shit smell like weed. Touche Canada.

Got a statement at USA duty free which proved I was wealthy beyond their wildest exceptions and they let me on in…2 hours and some ripped bags later.

Up and over the next pass then into the famous section of everyone’s favorite single track. Again, cleaned in the aero bars.

Slept on the side of whatever logging road that is…have to admit my mind was on bears as I laid there next to my food but my concern was little match for exhaustion.

Road into the Flathead the following day. WATER. 100 yard long streams and lakes had overtaken the route at every corner. After exiting near that crazy coal mine it was tailwinds and downhill to Sparwood. Had my first spot stalker. She was hangin in her truck with dog, Nuntak? Really wish I could remember her name.  Very sweet. Did a few off-bike chores as we chatted for a bit. She snapped some shots..

Couldn’t fit him in the bags, damn

Sparwood came much more quickly than I expected. The A&W was the most expencive underwhelming dining experience I’ve had in a while. Maybe if I was working 80hrs/wk in the coal mines could I afford to eat here. over $11 for some chicken strips and a non-refillable small rootbeer. Booo.

Resupplied and headed out. Elkford came quickly and I stopped in for some coffee. The miles outside of Elkford came slowly. I probably logged over 20 minutes of stop-time waiting for moose. Easily saw 20 on this stretch…no exaggeration.

Slept 7 or 10 miles short of whatever super-awesome cabin that is before the final pass. Again data would have been nice. Stored my food in the portapotty. Slept on a picnic table through my GPS’s shitty alarm due to the noise from the river…lost my phone, remember. Was in a real hurt box the following morning. The work gloves I had picked up in Lordsburg at the truckstop with Wes’s Uhaul just weren’t cutting it. Lucky I threw those big fleece gloves out in Eureka. FML. That cabin seriously saved my life. Place had coffee tea, firewood, kindling, magazines. Thought about shutting it down at 7 miles on the day but the proximity of Banff was calling me onward. Warmed the hands and feets and took off.

Started raining on the other side of that pass…elk pass? Hovering right around the freezing mark with precip would be a test for anyone. Knowing that I would be sleeping in a bed that night was a big incentive.

Super miserable weather did little to dampen my spirits. I was almost there!

Made a stop at whatever high end lodge that is there before the single track. Started out just using their stoop to layer up but was soon invited inside to some coffee and fruit. Life’s not so bad. Was questioning if I was ever going to make it.

Met that crazy kid on a 29er unicycle. He was something like 28 miles outside of Banff after a full day of riding. No thanks. Get radical bro.

Pushed hard right at the end. Probs averaged over 20 mph on that last 10k of double track coming into Banff Springs Hotel.

Can’t describe my feeling when I saw my old man getting out of his rental car. Was soaking wet as the cold rain came down but hugged him for a while. Even cried a little (put me in the movie!) My dad had flown in from Minnesota in the nic of time following the birth of my new nephew Tate. Snapped a few photos.

Jason from Soul snapping an emotional father-son shot, nice sign dad

downstairs at Soul

Jason and one of his buddies from Soul Bikes were also there with PBR’s in hand, even had some clean dry cloths. My Dad had a little celebration spread. Couldn’t have been a better reception. Was expecting to pedal down to the YMCA, this was way better.

Spent the following couple days being a tourist with my father. No biking, just walking.

Thanks for the royal congratulations Dad!

I apologize for the tardiness of the update.

Summer had been good since. Look for another note coming soon for the 500 mile WA section of the Pacific Crest Trail that Robin and I just crushed.

Divide = Ridden

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Divide Riding III

Holy Shart! Holy saddle sores, Holy Moose, Holy hot, holy cold, Holy Matt Lee, Holy Mushrooms, Holy Mexico, Holy Shit.

A bit of lag in blog-age here, last entry came from San Christobal, Mex, this one is coming from Vail, CO. Back home.

Biking through Chiapas and into Oaxaca comes highly recommended. Found some sleepy moutain roads as well as hot hot desert. These photos are a taste




Swimming Hole saved my life
This dude claimed to be a huge cycling fan. Followed me down an entire mountain pass. He was wondering where my gloves and helmet were. Whoops.

One of the nights spent between San Christobal and Oaxaca I ended up the tiny mountain village of Cameron. There was a hotel that claimed to be fully booked up. It puzzled me because upon visual inspection no one seemed to be there. I ended up meeting a dude who had lived in the states and was stoked to speak english. This man had a bed, which he kindly offered me. I did accept despite the fact the he was clearly fucked up off of Mezcal.

My digs

The following morning I got an early start and ended up at a sleepy village with a couple roadside restaurants for breakfast. I chose the less busy of the two and enjoyed some huevos, tortillas and chorizo with coffee and a book. My peace was disrupted with a large white van pulled up and out poured 15 gringos. What are you guys doing here? I hadn’t seen a gringo in a number of days at that point. Turns out it was a college group from Illinois on an archaeological dig. Big gringos. After chatting for a second I learned that they had stayed in the same village (Cameron) I had the night prior. Huh, no wonder the hotel was booked.

One of the more trying portions of the trip came in the mountains outside of Tehuantepec. The morning’s ride was exceedingly hot in the plains and the climb into the hills provided little relief. I found myself climbing into the driest scrubby landscape for hours. At a point I realized that i hadn’t passed a bit of shade for hours. My situation was just short of dire when i passed this sign…


Mezcal, Tequila’s evil twin, wasn’t what excited me, it was the prospect of water and shade. I pulled my bike under a tree in their yard and slouched for a half hour before I gathered the energy to interact with the family that lived there.

They ran a gnarly Mezcal distillery selling the firewater for less than $5/liter. Water and shade were what I was after so didn’t end up sampling the goods, but maybe I was better off that way.


The Mezcal operation was the first of hundreds from there to Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. Was happy to finally arrive there. At this point in the journey I had surrendered to the fact that I was not going to make it to Antelope Wells in time for the beginning of Tour Divide on time. If I did try and push I would have no recuperation time in New Mexico.

I ended up getting a cheap room in Oaxaca and kicking it with a couple from Australia who were touring on big enduro motorbikes down from San Francisco.  A wonderful couple.


The couple and I were approached by an older women, American from San Francisco.  Through an exchange of stories between us I learned that the women had been living in a homestead in the mountains above Oaxaca. It was an area that I was familiar with through a friend, Austin, who had visited these villages years before when we were staying in Puerto Escondito on the coast of the Mexican state.

After retiring to my room that night I recalled some of the things Austin had said about the area. ‘most beautiful cloud forests’, ‘crazy pines’. He also told the tales of what the region is famous for; magic mushies.

I sat on my bed for no more than 5 minutes before I was knocking on the door of the lady from San Francisco.  ‘Juana, do you think you have room for one more tomorrow.” I had to see the place.

The next morning we loaded my bike into the back of her 1995 Volkswagen Beetle. Nothing quite as classic as getting a ride to a homestead in the mountains of Oaxaca in an old bug with a legit flower child. I had made the right choice.

Juana’s Charriot

Juana was a very honest person and we discussed all sorts of meaningful personal topics as we climbed the mountains above Oaxaca in her white ‘volkswagen peoples’ car’.  She had a wonderful soul and the scenery was becoming more and more beautiful as we climbed. The region where she lives is home to huge pines in a moderately wet climate. Almost a northern coastal California.

When we arrived by her place I kept thinking of how magical it was. A house built by her husband and herself off the grid with amazing gardens. Quite an inspirational place.


My house. Built by RK and C$.

I was able to procure a few of the season’s first mushies which was quite fortuitous.  Was joined in my trip by a girl from Brooklyn. She kept calling psychedelics ‘medicine’ which was silly but she was quite a proficient yoga instructor. The two of us found an abandoned adobe hut with a small front yard where we sat and enjoyed mountainsides covered with lush pine forests.

The mountains moved and tesselating patterns popped as we sat idly admiring god’s handy works. The differing shades of green on the mountain side formed patterns that almost melted and flowed off of the mountain sides. Accompanied by a very slow paced style of yoga; the experience was pretty spectacular.


The same day we stubled into the neighbor’s yard who was in need of a little assistance feeding a few orphaned goats. Pretty neat/silly/slash.



Juana and David


An inspirational visit to the moutains in Oaxaca to say the least.

A day’s ride back to Oaxaca City followed by an overnight bus put me in Mexico City the following morning early. Mexico City was one beautiful bike ride with a vague to-do list as my compass.


Districto Federal To-Do

-find bike box

-find dentist to clean teeth (3rd world dentists = money in the bank)

-find book written in english

-print post cards

-take as much of Mexico City from the saddle of a bike

-get to airport

-repair tent


The logistical challenge of procuring a box large enough for my bike, packing said bike, and getting to the airport was a tall order.  I don’t want to arrive to the airport too early because i would be sleeping there, already a 8 hour adventure itself. When I saw a street cleaner with a large big screen TV box strapped to his cart I considered myself fortunate but the hour was barely noon, far too early to disassemble the bike and head to the airport. So there I was, cruising down a busy street in Mex City with a giant Samsung box under my arm on a fully loaded bike. What the fuck can I do? I spot a run down hotel and quickly inquire to an agitated owner if i could leave the box with him…even offering to pay a bit for the rental of space. Nope. Shut down hard. Inquired with a car mechanic with the same proposition. No luck. Poop. Stuck.

Just down the street from the mechanic was a tiny tienda. A boy of around 14 years of age was sitting behind a set of iron bars. With little hope I asked him if he had room for my box. To my surprise he was more than happy to help, and at no charge. Booya. Bing bang, problem solved.

The generosity of the small Mexican boy didn’t stop there. When I returned for the box well after dark, he was happy to lend a hand helping me box the bike and even provided a bit of packaging tape. After the 50 lbs of bike and gear was taped inside the box I set out to find the nearest subway stop to get me and box to the airport. The young boy didn’t hesitate picking up one end of the box. He explained that the subway stop was more than a couple blocks and that the route was a little sordid. After helping me lug the box to the subway station (a sure life saver) through dark streets he then  explained in detail the subway route to the airport. I was overwhelmed by his unwavering assistance. I offered him some pesos for his help and he refused. Again I showed him a few peso notes from my pockets, but the 14 y.o. boy adamantly refused. An unreal show of kindness from such a young person in a country like Mexico was really amazing.

Without the help of my new friend getting the large, heavy cumbersome box through the transfers in the subway was a challenge. The night in the airport was manageable misery. Meditating on homeless nights spent out in rough spots helps.

Uneventful flight to Hermosillo to the north of Mexico allowed me to make up enough time to have an ample recuperation in Silver City, New Mexico before the Grand Depart, start of the Tour Divide.

Got a ton of grief from an airport employee for putting my bike together at the airport. I was successful at ignoring and faking a total lack of spanish. In my mind, if i spend the money on an airplane ticket the airport is there for me to use. Suck it.

Lanny, deconstructed


375 miles of hot Sonoran Desert lay between me and Silver City. Leaving Hermosillo around 9 a.m, i managed a extremely difficult century. I bonked harder than I had on the entire trip. It was a beautiful ride through dry and sparcely vegitated mountains that day. No food and little water over a surprise 40 mile stretch with no serves proved difficult. I was amused with amount of salt that had accumulated on my face that day.

So salty

The following day was a big one. I was determined to make it back to the USA. A police officer stopped me at one point explained how hot it was and gave me some water which i was grateful for. I was however, quite aware at the extreme temperature.

A hummer with military also stopped but were too shy for a photo shoot…shoot.

I did make it to the US border but opted to spend the night on the Mexican side for a cheap place to stay and superior/cheaper food. I was rewarded with a $6 room and spent my last pesos on some amazing fish tacos con fat burro. Booya.


“Advise and Consent” best english book for sale in all of Mexico City

An amazing last supper. I spent the evening chatting with a few awaiting border jumpers. An incredible and scary undertaking. One normal and very clean cut gentleman explained how he was very scared but jumping the border was the only way he had to return to his life in the States after a visit to his family in Mexico City. Wild to be on the other side.

My border jump was much less eventful albeit a joyous event.  Ate breakfast at a McDonalds and bought food at a Wal-Mart. I was indeed back in my own country.

God bless the Wal-Mart


My ride from Agua Prieta to Silver City fell on the same day that Fixie Dave started his Tour Divide. 150 miles of HEAT. Had a decent tail wind for the first bits and was pleasantly surprised by mountains and pine forest as i neared Silver City. Was happy to encounter my first signed crossing of the Continental Divide.

Had 6 days in Silver City to rest and prepare myself for the Tour Divide. I was taken in with open arms to the Bike House. Jamie Thompson, former GDR racer, and the wonderful people he lived with hosted me with incredible hospitality. I am forever indebted. I left Bike House with a large tattoo of a world map on my back and a number of special brownies (no better TD fuel in my opinion).

The tattoo was given to me in the bike house by Cloe, a wonderful soul that lives there. Hurt like a bitch…I kept thinking of how i would prefer the pain of the race to that of the needle. I also kept thinking of people I know, namely my girlfriend Robin, who have much more ink and what a lady i am, but FUCK that hurt. Maybe 10 hours over 3 sessions.

World on my back


Love Silver City with all my heart.  The dudes at Gila Hike and Bike treated me so well, i am forever indebted.  Also indebted to a fellow northbounder that i spent a bit of time with there, Chip Androus. Chip had toured the route before and was happy to help me out with tips and data.  He even shared his custom made north-bound cues which totally saved my life on the tour. 56 years old and finishing just over 20 days…he is a total animal. Much respect.

The day before the start of tour divide i rode over to Lordsburg, NM to meet up with the other northbound riders.  I caught up with chip on the way and was happy to sit on his wheel, fully knowing it would be my last chance to do so…drafting being illegal in the race.

Chip and I were under the impression that the shuttle down to the start was going to cost $70.  I told Chip I was considering just riding through the night to arrive in Antelope Wells before the start.  Chip offered to pay for my shuttle…can’t describe what an amazing man he is.  The shuttle ended up being $20 bucks per, so i was more than happy to hang with the 3 others planning on running the tour northbound.

Chip and I spun over to the Howard Johnson where fellow racer Wes was staying. We found Wes changing out his lithium batteries in all of his gadgets.  I was more than happy to inherit a number of almost-new batteries he was taking out.  That night the three of us had our last supper at a local diner.  Wes was very upset when his dinner had come with a fly on the top.  I laughed later on the tour at the memory when catching flies with my mouth on a number of occasions.

Around midnight when the three of us were fast asleep, Arno, the forth and last Northbound rider arrived. The German had raced the Arizona Trail Race earlier in the season and was hurrying back from dropping his lady at the airport after a car tour of the southwest. Arno had amazing energy and was fun to be around. Riding an titanium single speed with all home-made luggage, he was a man after my own heart.  He had even devised a solar setup to run his garmin and phone, all made by himself.

The following morning, the morning of the Grand Depart, I overheard bits of a conversation between Chip and Wes. Chip was attempting to coax Wes into starting somewhere in Colorado.  I was a little lost. Come to find out, Wes was having second thoughts on starting the race at all.  He had had a tough time arriving to lordsburg and was very concerned with how the heat of the Southwest was goin to affect him.  Definitely a surpirse because the night before he was replacing good lithiums with even better ones.  Wes had also obviously done his research as far as bikes and gears goes because his setup with killer…a brand new Moots ti rig with full Relevate bags. No joke.  Sure enough, after getting fully kitted up Wes took the shuttle down the the Mexican border and proceeded to take the shuttle back…to Lordsburg. I felt very bad for the guy. I wouldn’t be easy to return home after that.  Looking back, I wish i would have provided more enocouraging words but I too was uncertain about what was to come.

At the mexican border Arno hustled to put his bike together and we stapped a photo. Pure nerves…kinda.

10 minutes after 8 in the morning on the June the 8th, the gnarliest bike race on the planet began….

Southbounders suckit



More to come in Divide Riding IV

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Divide Riding II

This note comes from a little gem in the very south of Mexico called, San Christobal de las Casas. Arrived today, chilling hard.


I last checked in from the middle of Nicaragua.


goodbye grenada



The following day, riding into Managua, I saw these fools. Rode a nice strech with them. Called themselves professionals in the sence that they didn’t work other then riding bikes. I was glad they didn’t kick that much ass cause i was able to keep pace on lanny just fine. definitly a highlight for the day.




Spandex in Nica


Spent the next night in quite a divey spot toward the border of Honduras. Nice sunset from the roof.


Sun and razor wire


I rose early the next morning and rode the 60 or so miles to the border quite quickly. When i arrived, i went to change a few USD and realised that my passport along with all my money and credit cards was safely hidden under a matress at a divey hotel 60 miles behind me. FUCK, balls. KITT. Keep It Together Taylor. Shit. Oh well. Got onto a bus and watched every mile i had ridden fly by in reverse. Luckily my things of value had not moved and i was quikly on a bus back to where i had come from. The third time i passed things seemed to remain quite the same.


Horses, Man, Vulcano. Thank you Nicaragua


The crossing into Honduras was quite uneventful. I was charged $2 to exit Nica which was a small kick in the dick. The immigration in Honduras was amazing, had never seen anyting quite like it. 1 man at a desk…Bienvenidos Bitches.


Saw this shit in Honduras. Tried to get the passport in there for scale but failed becuase despite his massive size, this cuckaracha was quite nimble. Had an easier time catching this tree on film.






Salvador. I had taken a look at google maps and also consulted my novety cartoon inspired tourist map of the country and planned a route to take me directly to the beach. This route did not account for the terrain involved. Fuck me fantastic, Salvador has some big ass vulcanos. I had chosen a secondary road that had a hill that didn’t quit. Spent everything I had piloting Lanny over this massive peice of dry lava. The hill lay at the end of a very hot 120 mile day. When i summited I thanked the baby Jesus Christ and descended with a big smile. When i arrived at the bottom….mile 130 on the day, the baby Jesus smiled on me again and delivered the most welcome $7 hotel i have ever experienced. Very clean, nice kid running the place, personal garage for lanny, ice cold AC, clean shower, 100 channels of cable with porn! for 7 dollars! Porn. BOOM


Reluctantly left my hotel early and made it to the waves of Salvador just after noon. Was nice to be in a place that i already knew. It has been 5 years i believe. Found the same family run hostal next to a wave that was very familiar to me. All things felt good. Treated myself to the largest ceviche i have ever experienced.


Fat Ceviche


Spent an extra day with a canidian on account of a very acute case of diaria. Bummer.


The stech of coast in central salvador rivals the highway on our own west coast. spectacular.




Saw this dude on one of the many hills. Also ran into a kid who had ridden from Minneapolis…not the guy on the wood skateboard.



this could easily be me and bernie


1st day in Guatemaula, slept at a church. rained a little.


Day 2 in Guatemaula was moderatly unfortunate. I road gingerly for the morning arriving at the bussleing hub of the southern planes of Guatemaula, Escuintla. Escuintla lies at the base of Guate’s mighty and tall vulcano landscape. I had picked up an even more abriviated cartoon depiction of Guatemaula that was mascarading as a map from a man at the border. No help in navigation. I left Esquitla decently confident that i was headed for Antigua, gringo refuge for the county. The man that had directed me had done so with so much confidence and was quite articulate. When the next person i enquired a few miles climbing up and up didn’t understand where exactly i was trying to go it didn’t even phase me. The man in town was so certain and confidence inspiring. That afternoon I climbed for 25 km straight up into the mountains of guatemaula. Up and up and up. I attempted to grab onto slow moving passing trucks. I was gassed. When i arrived at the next town I began to enquire as to my where abouts. After the third interview the insisted i need return to Escuintla to get to Antigua I chose to curse at volume. 25 km of pure climibing. Wrong way. FUUUUCKK! KITT


Collected myself and almost enjoyed the decent back down to the flat lands of Guatemaula. I was after all, a long ass decent.


Guatemaula Superhighway


After I arrived back to Escuintla I had surrendered to the idea that I would just stay there for the night and not think about the climb that must be sitting between me and Antigua. I was talked out of the idea after consulting with a gus sitting on a porch drinking a beer. Our conversation went like this, translated to english for your convenience.


Good afternoon. 1 question.




This is the road to Antigua, correct?




Are there any small towns with hotels between here and Antigua.


Sure. (insert name of town) is no more than 15 km away.


Great. Is it all climbing?


Nope. A small climb then all downhill.


All downhill? Sure?




K, thanks.



No misunderstandings here. That dude was pretty sure. Total liar. He must have laughed so hard as I rode out of there as it started to rain and the sun was setting. Climbed for an hour before flagging down a ride to the next town which was in fact just outside of antigue…much more than 15 km. Hilarious joke bro.


Antigua had a small earthquake that morning. Fast asleep…heard about it.


Antigua hostal


Antigua church at night. Nice colonial town.


Took a few back roads from antigua to lake atitlan, one of my favorite places on earth. Awesome strech. photos will help.


Traquility of rural guatemaula


Bluetruck? One of the few vehicles i encounter on the day


Look close, no bridge. Lanny ate that river up


Almost died on the decent as it poured rain on the steeper than steep hill that runs down from the rim to the vulcanic culdren of a lake. slippery brake made decending dangerous to say the least. i could barely get my freezing hands to sqeeze the brakes to make pressue allowing just enough braking power to slow from slow to slightly slower. If i were to let it coast at all the grade in the decent to send me carrening off the edge of the road. I felt like a truck coming down vail pass.


Stayed in the same place i did before. same bald short man running it. 30 quetsales is around $4 a night…price must have been the same as well. Fucking Love Lago De Atitlan. So gorge. More pics, many come from the following day.


Lanny, boat, vulcano




View from my $4 hotel


Steepest climb of my life. Summited the first portion, willing Lanny through the unreal switchbacks. Ended up walking a fair bit after that. miles of what must have been 13+ % climbing.


Me at the top of and epic battle.


Next night spent outside of Xela Guatemaula. Paid Q35. Might have been overcharged…no shower. first time i have found a room that comes without a shower. Made friends with the man that owned the bike shop there. Sweeter than candy. promised to bring a bike back for him if i ever returned.


Amazing day from that village to mexico. Up and down for the morning and then over 50 miles in a river gorge…all downhill. boom.


Me enjoying a nice ice cream hitching a ride over a few hundred yards of 4X4 only shit.


Mexico came too quickly. Love you Guatemaula.





Failed to change money at the border. 77 km to the next town with an ATM or bank. no taco til then. The baby Jesus again took notice of my tight spot and gifted me 10 pesos on the spot. pretty wild. Then he gifted me and ATM and i was taco rich.


Thank you baby jesus


I’ve eated 22 today and haven’t even though about supper. Loving Mex. Thinking Mexico City and then maybe have to bus it. Another week or so.



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