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 clicksI 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 bikepacking.net 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. DamnMy 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. numnumnumnumThe 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..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfEm_HBpkbwSun 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…#instagramgoldThere 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.
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
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.
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.
….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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. http://www.eddieclarkmedia.com/
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.
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..
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 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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
More to come in Divide Riding IV
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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.
I’m back bitches.
Been a bit since the Colorado Trail. Reloaded and back on the adventure train, coming correct from Grenada, Nicaragua.
Recharged the batteries in Vail for a whole minute. It was the longest stint I have spent anywhere since college. Shredded a moderate amount of pow. Made it to Jackson Hole with a beautiful babe. Snorkel riding the entire time. Pretty fortunate on all fronts.
Working, hanging with a beautiful lady, Robin, short trip to TX to visit the entire Zimmerman clan (w/ Robin) and finally preparing for Tour Divide.
Tour Divide (Wiki): The Tour Divide Race follows the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR), a continuous long distance bicycle touring route from Banff, Alberta, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, USA. As of 2010, the route is 2745 miles (4417 km) long. In this event, the race clock runs 24 hours a day and the riders are allowed no outside support other than access to public facilities such as stores, motels, and bike shops. The record time to complete the Tour Divide in its 2010 routing is 17 days, 23 hours and was set in 2009. The Tour Divide has been raced and completed on both single speed bicycles and on a tandem bicycle. There are neither entry fees nor prizes in either race.
Seed was planted while riding cross country with a couple roudy boys a few years back. I knew i needed to ready my mind, body and machine in order to compete, so that was it.
On my last tour from MN to Vail I rode through Ft. Collins in hopes to meet up with a frame builder. Black Sheep Bikes is 3 dudes who specialize in crazy sick titanium bike frames that lie somewhere between art and bike. Their bikes certainly caught my eye and i really just wanted to meet the guys and see the bikes. Rolled into the shop on Lanny…the 1987 Trek and around 1000 miles a road grime and he dug it. We leveled and a deal was struck to get me on one of their bike. I was stoked and they seemed to be as well. The part of the agreement that sold me on the ultra high end trail destroyer (a little more Gucci than i am used to), was the part that they were going to allow me to come and build the bike with them. Boom. Done. Sold.
Spent a few weeks down in Ft. Collins in October living in the parking lot of Black Sheep in a VW van. Van of my roommate, Chris. Got the van in trade for doing a little work on it while i was down there. Tried to learn as much as possible in my short time down there. Black Sheep was in the midst of creating a run of 10 snowbike frames for 9:ZERO:7 out of anchorage, AK. I was able to help out with production of those…at least earn my keep. http://fatbikes.com/2012-907-titanium.html Didn’t mind at all that I wasn’t able to start on building my own frame. I was happy to spend more time in the shop.
Returned to Black Sheep in early April to start building my own. Turned out sick. Was able to do a bunch of the design, cutting etc. Wouldn’t say that I built it…it’s definitely a Black Sheep, but, apart from welding, I got my hand pretty dirty for another couple weeks.
After riding their bikes I decided to go with what Black Sheep does best…fully rigid 29ers. I also made it with wide enough spacing to accommodate snow wheels. Went a little crazy and picked up a Lefty front end as well. 3 bikes in one? The drive train is a Schlumpf 2 speed planetary gear that shifts with your heel…no cable…super clean. Also set it up so i can select between 4 single speed options because the snow wheel spacing allows for 2 rear wheels…2 cogs a piece. Each wheel is it’s own double single speed or ‘dingle’. So with the 2 speed planetary gear in the crank it’s technically a 8 speed bike although it only has access to 2 speeds at once. Wanted to avoid a drivetrain with a deraileur/tensioner.
FUCKING Bad Ass (snow setup)
2 speed dingle, another 2 cogs in the front. Tool-less swap with the front wheel with a couple master links
Sewed a set of bike packing luggage as well. made from super durable 1 oz Cuben fiber…turned out pretty trick…albeit a little Gucci. The bags a lace up around the bike frame with parachute cord. Spent a few nights up til 4 in the morning to get it all done. Bike with all luggage and gear weighs in at a scant 32 lbs. Doesn’t include a few clothing items, but i suspect that minus food and water the setup should be sub 35 for sure. Stoked.
Tour Divide Rig in front of my home outside of BlackSheep.
32 lbs = Retarded.
Machine dialed, i needed to work on me. Plan is: (Moab for a week, then..) fly to Costa Rica…Chill with Vail kids and Robin for a week then ride back to the southern start of the Tour Divide in New Mexico. Build some mental and physical strenth for the impending race. Had a little too much invested in the Sheep to risk riding in though central america and mexico so I gave Lanny the nod and packed up the Black Sheep to be sent to a bike shop in NM where i will switch them out.
scenic routs in CR and hit Ometepe, the vulcano island in Nicaragua. Schedule-wise I am a bit behind to make it back to the US in time to race. In the case that i am in fact tardy i wll skip some of the desert in northern mexico with a bus. The week with Vail crew has been sick. Surfing and chilling and repeating. Left C.R. a couple days ago. In Grenada, Nicaragua now. Riding has been hot, but i can feel myself being broken in. A good thing. Loving the peope and culture here. Caught a few snHate to rush any of this, striking a balance. Trying to hit the century mark more than not. Be back in the states in one hot minute.
Central America gear. (Minus dog)
Broke my rack, found a dude that welds aluminium in Rivas Nicaragua. BOOM
boat with vulcano
20 miles of pavers. Sounds cooler than it is?
“DEBT, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver.” (2)
The American Dream: Graduate high school, go to college, graduate and get career, accrue wealth, marry/kids , buy shit. Anything wrong? Maybe.
Maybe. Maybe the setup isn’t as good as it could be. The dream costs. College $$$, Marriage $$, Kids $$$, Buying Shit $$$$. It’s the inadvertent accumulation of debt that accompanies that American Dream which makes the path maybe not quite as good as it may seem to be.
It was senior year at North Dakota State University. Sitting toward the back of my senior design coarse. It’s a brightly lit stale room with 3 rows of new fake wood finished tables. Dr. Bob is lecturing on something dealing with how a design process relates to the development of a housing project. Per usual, he has a few slides prepared and is rambling. Most students sit and listen, unquestioning, but I take the ramblings for what they are…ramblings. Everyone just wants to graduate and start their American dream already. Questioning D-Bob’s lecture won’t get them any closer. As he approaches the topic of housing costs he takes the opportunity to single me out among my peers.
“Mr. Zimmerman, aren’t you planning on moving to Denver?”
“Not Denver, but Colorado, yes.”
I had indeed worked out a deal with Dr. Bob to complete the balance of my course work remotely after completing my study in Fargo.
“What do you know about the cost of housing in Denver?”
“More than double. Buying a home will be nearly impossible. Have you even considered this?”
He takes joy in calling me out in front of my peers for a seemingly hasty decision to move westward before completing my design project.
“I’m renting.” I think I have him. It’s a situation where I am certainly the one on the defensive.
“For how long do you estimate you’ll be throwing your money away on rent?”
“Buying a home might not be right for everyone.”
The dialogue continues to digress until it is no longer relevant to the lecture with neither party as an obvious victor.
It’s an argument that I have thought about a few times since and one of those that where I continually come of with things that ‘I wish I would have said’.
Dr. Bob has a long and impressive resume leading up to his tenure at NDSU. Over this time it would be safe to say that D-Bob has accrued a considerable amount of wealth. For him, the decision to buy a house is an easy one. Owning a property does in fact seem like an easy financial decision. A no-brainer. (The economics of home buying are not really my concern or the focus of this argument) It’s also a lifestyle choice. And that is the side of the argument that Dr. Bob fails to see.
When one buys a home, they need take out a loan. The loan will require a monthly payment to the bank until it is paid off. If the payments aren’t met, the house will be reclaimed by the bank. The buyers credit will suck a bag of dicks, not to mention all the other massive stresses associated with defaulting on a loan. That’s not really the point. The point is…
That loan has put you in bondage. No longer are the options for exploration. It’s either work, or lose the home and watch your new-found quality of life degrade. It’s either work, or shitty, shitty things will happen.
Now consider life if the loan hadn’t been taken out. You will work, most likely, as most people do. But as soon as a modest amount of savings has been compiled, work, as it was before, is no longer mandatory. Something new can happen. Travel. Time off. Search for a new career. Change. Anything your heart desires. Freedom. Freedom through frugality.
Home buying is just one way to gather debt. There are a bunch. America has a limitless supply of them. College, Cars, Combines, plus anything that can be put on a credit card.
The debt cycle hasn’t been around forever. In fact it is a rather recent invention.
“…when Henry Ford introduced the assembly line in 1913, workers simply walked out. …“So great was the labor’s distaste for the new machine system that toward the close of 1913 every time the company [Ford Motor Company] wanted to add 100 men to its factory personnel, it was necessary to hire 963.” (1)
So what the fuck did ol’ Henry do?
“…the only way to get them [early 20th century craftsmen] to work harder was to play upon the imagination, stimulating new needs and wants. Consumption, no less than production, needed to be brought under scientific management – the management of desire.” (1)
He got them to buy shit. In his case cars, but any kind of debt would do. It was the industrial revolution that introduced consumer debt. Debt was transformed from something undesirable to something totally acceptable and normal.
“The habituation of workers to the assembly line was thus perhaps made easier by …[an] innovation of the early twentieth century: consumer debt. As Jackson Lears has argued through the installment plan previously unthinkable acquisitions became thinkable, and more than thinkable: it became normal to carry debt. The display of a new car bought on installment became a sign that one was trustworthy. ..a wholesale transformation of the old puritan moralism… “ (1)
Debt is a new thing. It hasn’t been around forever. It’s not something that has to be endured. Is living totally without debt for everyone? Nope. But for those people that have a bone buried anywhere in there body that wants to travel, or make big changes, or simply live freely, they may want to consider living without it.
I see it as timing and mindset. When you want to buy something, the desire is strong and real. A new car for example. At the time you are thinking about pulling the trigger, a lot of reason fades away. We are masters of convincing ourselves of most anything. It’s easy to concoct a slough of reasons why it makes sense to drive a new car. Reliable for getting to work. Safer. Blue is the new red. I’ll dirve the car for years. Etc. I am certainly really great at doing this myself. This is mindset. The timing comes into play when you consider when it is that we will be paying for our debt. Payment comes when you consider the amount of time you will be living under the weight and bondage of that new-car-payment. You’ll be required to come of with that money every month for years. Years away from when you made the decision to buy the car. Not merely limiting your freedom but literally enslaving you. Maybe not so bad when you bought the car but for the next few years how is one supposed to know what their desires will be. Staying ahead of debt spells freedom to choose what is is that you most want to do in life when you want to do it. It’s about considering timing and mindset.
If what you want most in life is a new car than by all means, suck that cooperate cock. Take that loan and deal with it for the next few years. It’s not all that bad for many people. But if you want, or might want down the road, something else for yourself besides bondage to a certain lifestyle; avoiding debt is certainly the gateway.
“The advantages of debt have become almost a philosophy. Possibly it is true that many people, if not most, would bestir themselves very little were it not for the pressure of debt obligations. If so, they are not free men and will not work from free motives. The debt motive is, basically, a slave motive.” – Ford
Ford invented it to keep workers working. Workers enslaved. We don’t have to take the bait. Debt costs freedom.
“Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal – that there is no human relation between master and slave.” -Tolstoy
1. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work
By Matthew B. Crawford
2. Ambrose Bierce, debt in The Devil’s Dictionary
3. Today and Tommorow, 1926, Ford
4. Leo Tolstoy
I was chatting with Sue (mom) on the phone when I decided to pull the trigger on another long trail hike. Was trying to organize a bike ride down the continental divide that involved too much hassle. Didn’t have a passport, luggage, gps, ride to Canada, or a bike. Sorted most of it out but after a tird sandwich who just happened to be from England, bailed on a craig’s rideshare I was out. ‘Sue, screw all of this, I’m just going to go walking.’
The following morning I was sitting on the I-70 entrance ramp in front of Vail Village.
All I had to do was get my ass to Durango, CO that was it. The CO trail is 485 miles from the SW corner of the state diagonally across the rockies to Denver. The Colorado Trail Foundation describes the trail as “the most beautiful long trail in the world.” I figure that if it were somewhere between that and wal-mart parking lot it would be pretty rad.
Plan was to hitch to Grand Junction, spend the night with a friend and probably catch a greyhound down to Durango. Rides in Colorado came quite easily. Got a ride to Eagle with a knee doctor. Next ride was with a sweet old lady down to Gypsum. Next ride was a really nice dude who took me to Glenwood. Black guy, almost didn’t believe him when he told me he was born and raised in Aspen. G-wood Crunk City had a K-mart which stocks an aluminum pot for 7 bucks. Lighter and far cheaper than titanium, boom boom.
A Mexican dude brought me a few more miles west to New Castle. A pretty dead exit, I set a number of 35 cars before I walk down the long entrance ramp to catch cars moving by on the interstate. Car number 30 was a fancy Lexus truck. A traveling vacuum salesman from Denver. Got along quite well. Got a nice ride to Rifle, CO. Salesman made a sales call and picked me up where he dropped me off, gave me a ride exactly where I needed to go in Grand Junction. DingDong.
Stayed the night. Visited Wal-mart. Bought a tin of Vienna sausage which made a decent cook stove and I was set up. Bus to Durango and disappear. Bink-bank-bonk.
I arrived to Durango around dark. Bought some eye drops and Clorox which would be water purification and I was set. Walked my way 3 miles out of town to the southern terminus of the trail, snapped a photo and went to sleep. I had completed the most difficult portion of a long trail, getting there.
I hadn’t calculated the reality of completing the hike in the time I had allotted myself but I was looking at an average of 26 miles per day to arrive in Denver for a flight I had 19 days later. Do Work.
20 miles into the first day I had hiked from Durango to tree line and got my first taste of southern Colorado’s monsoon. Thunderstorms moved in and I reluctantly set up my tent next to Taylor lake of all places. Gorgy alpine lake, first of many.
Felt like a big pussy when an older couple came over the exposed ridge into view from my tent in the middle of the afternoon t-storm. Was happy to make camp with the gnarly older hikers. Muleskinner, Woodrose and Retro were cronic long trail hikers. Cool to be back out on trail and meet freakshows like me.
I had been gifted a liberal amount of cheeba before starting out on the hike which transformed me into the Colorado Basil fairy. A really awesome thing for a northbound hiker on the CO trail and I’ll tell you why. Most who set out to hike the CO trail start in Denver and end in Durango for reasons mainly dealing with the difficulty of the terrain. The southern portion of the trail snakes much above tree line in the enormous San Juans, arguably the most extreme of the Rocky Mountains. The sections of the trail outside of Denver are decidedly less demanding physically; a good warmup. Since I was flying out of Denver in 19 short days my hiking direction was a given, but most choose to do it the opposite way. So strapped with green nuggets, I was in a good position to stage wilderness pow-wows with the ever numerous southbound thru-hiker, and because the devil’s lettuce was a gift to me I felt obliged to roll up fatty J-zzles for anyone who was cool enough to pow-wow. On a guess, ~9% of southbound hikers pow-wowed down.
Just a taste of the San Juans…
My first resupply was in Silverton, Colorado; a short 78 miles into the trail. Hitched in with a couple southbounders (non-powwow types) with a wilderness firefighter, hit the stupidly overpriced general store and hitched back with a cool couple back to the trail (powwow types).
Spent the next couple days through the San Juans with a dude from Boise. I named him Bones because he was an archeologist and a seemingly talented one at that. He as constantly picking up bits off the trail and dating the surrounding mines based on the most obscure shit. Definitely a scholar. We put in a couple 20 miles days which was digging me quite the hole if I wished to complete the trail in a single push.
Bones and I found ourselves in the middle of a afternoon monsoon t-storm while hiking over 12000’ on a section of trail that was above tree line for over 25 miles. When there is no cover and it begins to lightning it get my attention in a real way. I always think about the phrase ‘about as likey as getting struck by lightning.” I also think about another hiker who broke down the “likelyhood of getting struck” into its factors. Like, most people live inside, or at least around things that are taller than they are at elevations much lower. When you find yourself as the tallest object on a ridgeline at 12000’ thoughts about what’s on TV that night aren’t the ones that tend to fill your head.
Bones and I decide to make camp on a saddle where the trail in front of us climbed onto another ridge. A pretty heavy rain was falling, like it did for the first 10 days of the hike, and I was quick to find rocks to aid the pitching of my 1 1/2 man tent. Bone’s on the other hand was rocking a hammock. A hammock that he was quite proud of I might add. Hammocks are sweet when there are trees around but in their absence hammocks suck donkey balls. I made room in my tiny tent and we sat out the storm under 16oz of silicon impregnated nylon.
Driven by pride Bones got out of the tent when the showers subsided just after dark, only to be driven back in when more precip hit us again that night. Within the period of bones sleeping outside, both of us were awaken by the presence of numerous mega fauna very near to us. The bugles made it obvious that it was a large herd of elk very near to our sleeping area on this exposed saddle. As the monster mammals made their way by us one caught a glimpse of us through the darkness. When one elk get spooked they all seem to got nutty and Bones and I found ourselves in the midst of an elk stampede. I can’t really comment on the scale of the herd of running elk as it was pitch black but it fucking sounded like a lot of them. Our headlamps only illuminated the last elk running away and their eyes reflecting at a distance. Really? Elk stampede? Boom boom boom.
Spent the next night with Bones in a backcountry yurt complete with stove and wood burning fireplace. Almost disappointed because it was the first day it hadn’t rained but that night the water hitting the canvas roof of the structure was like music.
Split from Bones early the next morning. If I were to continue at out moderate pace I wouldn’t be able to finish in time. I at least wanted the option of finishing the trail if it were to present itself and 20 miles a day wasn’t going to do it.
I hiked hard all morning and stopped for the first time at a campground around spring creek pass. There was an outhouse and I needed some TP. I saw another hiker approaching the latrines and I opted for the women’s side. A few seconds later we made each others acquaintance while rolling up our stolen toilet paper. As I went to put it in the mesh bag were I keep toilet paper I got real sour real quick. FUCK! The mesh bag that makes a sweet place for TP also houses my wallet, phone, and bleach sunscreen etc. Gone. Must have fallen out. First reaction, “FUCK!” Wait one minute… “oh well.” What’s it matter where I’m walking. Settle down.
Began hiking the 9 miles back to the yurt that I had so gingerly covered that morning. Had the pleasure of sharing the walk with my fellow toilet paper thief. A young dude like myself from Decorah, IA, going to school at Carlton College, a short 45 minute drive from where I grew up. Pow-wowed for sure.
Ran into Bones, no sign of the bag. He suggested that it would have been sitting next to my morning tird…in close proximity to the yurt. 7 more backwards miles away. An 18 mile round trip. Oh well. 2 options, be pist or don’t be pist. Had a bit of difficulty locating my morning bathroom but finally did and there it was, my mesh bag. Boom.
Pow wowed the yurt and I set off, 18 miles into the day, from where I had woken up that morning.
Hustled back to the latrines at spring creek pass over trail I was now intimately familiar with, 27 miles into the day. Added another 6 miles that night and made camp. Didn’t even make it to where Bones was camped. Oh well.
Caught up to bones the next day. Whatever my new daily average was going to have to be it was big. Started making some big days. Next day was a 37 mile day which was quite stout considering the limited length of day.
Passed a couple of sheep shepherds tending their herd high in the San Juans. Caught one wiping his ass as the other was quite a distance away. Kinda bummed I never got a shot to chat with these crazy assholes. I had heard that they were from Argentina or Bolivia up here for the sheep herding season I guess. Was threatened by one of their dogs but an anticlimactic encounter and the shepherding dog made a U turn after some stern words.
Other wildlife encounters were mainly dominated by cows. Shitloads of cows. Big bulls with big bull boners, momma cows who seemed to be quite aggressive. All the while walking through area that have been totally ravaged by the animals. The whole public lands ranching seems to have gotten a bit out of control.
Also got to see a bear. Seemed like quite a sizable bear at a distance that was borderline uncomfortable distance away. Bones and I also spotted a couple moose as well. Mule deer and elk were very numerous as well.
The next couple days were quite solo over very remote sections of the trail. I named one section ‘the tunnel of insanity’ because I was always questioning whether I had already been there. I also saw 0 human beings for a couple solid days adding to the insanity. The first person I encountered coming out of the tunnel was a mountain biker who had come up from Salida I would guess. He probably found it a bit odd that I would be so eager to converse. After him there were a number of others in the much higher use area around Salida and Monarch Pass. It was a section that I had actually ridden on mountain bike before. Got slightly mixed up following the bike route from my memory and missing a few miles of the CO trail near hwy 50.
Hitched down into Salida for my second resupply. Old dude with a mini van full of mountain and road bikes along with some backpacking gear. Called it his sports car.
Tried to grab a room at the hostel in Salida but settled for a shower and laundry after discovering that they were full; compliments of a yuppie guided bike tour stopping over.
Had a nice dinner and resupplied at the Safeway. Walked outside of town and bedded down in a hoarse pasture. Was bothered a bit by raccoons but was happy to be sleeping out for the first time on the trail.
Hit the Wal-mart to steal some TP and hitched back up to the trail to resume the stout pace I knew I had to keep to be in Denver before take off. Hiking with a deadline is definitely not something I recommend at all.
Made it 27 miles when I was greeted by 2 brothers and a sister from new jersey. The one brother had lived in boulder for a while but the other 2 siblings were fresh out of the east coast. Awesome trio. They had been doing 10 miles or less per day since denver. There was no way I was missing out on their company, plus they had a campfire already going. The Boulder brother had left his piece around 9 miles back on the trail and gave me articulate directions on how to find it…his gift to me. Thanks guy. We pow-wowed and I rolled a gun for the road.
Over the next couple days I travesed the trail through a few wilderness areas including Mt. Princeton, Collegiate peaks wilderness, Mt Massive wilderness. One day I at the majority of special mushrooms that I had packed out for exceptionally beautiful sections of the trail. Boom Boom. Awesome stuff. I picked the section from the data book with the highest elevations and it paid off. Really mind altering stuff. Ran into a younger hiker mid trip, maybe around my age. I recall that he smelled quite pungent even for a hiker. He was wearing some sort of rain or wind layer that had a lot of sweat on it and long pants. Its always been my personal style to hike in shorty shorts and a t-shirt and I don’t like to cast my opinions over another but if you are sweating your balls off in a rain layer…take it off? He also got right up in my grill and started asking all about my gear. Don’t get me wrong, I’m into the whole gear side of hiking as much as the next guy but if the first piece of conversation out of your mouth is about my backpack it’s a bit off putting. That combined with the psychedelic mind state made me laugh.
Some great sections of trail in the Collegiate Peaks area. Left my camera behind at a lunch spot around 2 miles back from where I set it down for a self timer upping my superfluous trail mileage to 22.
On my last bits of food coming into hwy 24, the last option to hitch into Leadville, CO. Many tourist, no rides for quite some time. Finally got in. Saw a bumper sticker that read “Leadville, we’re here cause we’re not all there.” Accurate. Love that town. Checked into the hostel for a shower and laundry and this time around, a place to sleep. Ended up sleeping at a grow-house with a dude that I met at one of the few $1 PBR establishments. I got the tour of his operation and in the flowering room he let me choose any bud that I desired. Fucking CRAZY!
At the edge of Leadville I made a game time decision to skip the next section of the trail, the one that runs right behind Vail from Tennessee Pass to Copper Mtn. Ski resort. If I were to leave it as is it would mean an average of 30 mile days until Denver but I wanted to leave to option to hike with someone else toward the end of the hike at less than 30 miles. It would also allow me to fill in the section closest to home versus having to do so outside of Denver. I like to ‘stay true to the thru’ (Lint Hikes) but I would have to compromise just this once.
Ended up running into a mountain marathon above Copper Mtn. I was sharing the trail with hundreds of marathoners. Slow ones at that. I was able to keep pace with most of them for a long time until the novelty wore off.
In the midst of the chaos I ran into 2 older ladies that had been section hiking the Continental Divide Trail over the past couple trail. What a delight the two women were. We chatted for about 20 minutes about the trail and lightweight hiking strategies. I got the biggest kick out of one of the ladies who stopped a marathon ‘runner’ to take our picture. He was less amused than I was.
Busy sections of trail around Breckenridge Colorado. Ran into a couple alternative kids from Portland thru-hiking southbound. We pow wowed and I wished them luck.
The next morning I found myself hiking more superfluous miles after a retarded trail marker sent me miles downhill toward Keystone ski resort. One big clue for me in deciphering trail junctions is the angle at which trail blazes face. One blaze should face me and the other should be facing the southbound hiker. In this case, the strategy failed me. Walked at least 2 miles down into a valley before resolving that an error had been made. 26 is now the count of extra miles. Bonus miles we’ll say. Bonus enjoyment that most hikers will never get to experience. Hiked back and carved a more obvious arrow into the trail market post with my chinsey razor.
The trail from Keystone to Denver is relatively mellow but not without its own character. I spent another day walking without seeing other people. What broke the unaccompanied stretch was a couple of very interested people. The first I met in the middle of a long stretch through an enormous cow pasture. Nothing for miles but the two of us. She was interesting even at a distance. Natty short dreads, died blue, plugs in her ears the sized of 50₵ pieces. It had been raining all day and she was in a big flannel and blue jeans. A big pack covered by a blue painters tarp. If I were to see this girl, gutterpunk would be accurate, in the middle of Minneapolis I don’t know if I would have noticed but out here was another thing altogether. How the fuck did you end up here. Alone. I mean, I’m weird, but I’m wearing a fucking rain jacket?!
I step off the trail and greet her. Keeping her head down she mutters something like a hello and then hikes right by. Like a mirage. I looked back after she was a few hundred yards away just to make sure I hadn’t imagined the encounter. Fucking nuts.
Not an hour later I was taking a break from the rain under a thick pine tree when mirage #2 comes sauntering by. Half jog, half walk, I ask him if he’s walking the whole trail. “Nope, I’m running it.” He had an oversized fanny pack on with a bed roll and Jesus sandals on. Had to wonder if I had imagined him too. Too much.
30 miles a day until the last day when I was met by Zoe, a friend from Vail for the last two days. The plan had worked out well because we had less than 15 miles days until Denver. I talked her into walking into Denver and figuring out the shuttle to her vehicle when we got there. I was thoroughly impressed with the last sections of the trail. Very beautiful and some of the burn sections seemed almost exotic.
Spent the last night on the trail and an epic campsite with a big campfire.
When we got to the northern terminus of the trail we walked out on the road and were immediately picked up by a welder heading east. Sedalia was a hole in the wall south of the southern suburbs of Denver. Stuck our thumbs out and in under a half hour we had a ride all the way back up to just about where Zoe had parked the truck two days before. Ex-ski bum like us said his gas was on the company dime. Never under-estimate the power of a vagina when hitching. Another quick ride got us the 16 miles down the country road and that was that. Boom Boom Boom.
Got a shower in Denver so I could get on the plane. Couldn’t have worked out better.
Dear Colorado Trail,
Are you the ‘most beautiful long trail in the world’? Hmmm, debatable. But I’d hit it. You are as epic of 500 miles as they come. You made me wet, a lot. You were desolate and busy. Diverse, definitely. I enjoyed our time together immensely.