….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