Tour Divide 2014. Yet again. But why? Have you not promised yourself that this ‘racing’ is not for you? How about another thru hike? Wasn’t there a ride across Europe/Asia planned? Plans change. I have the gear. It’s a familiar route. I love the people out there. It’s almost August time to get out and do something with your life. Call it a mid-summer crisis.
If you’re gonna do it, do it right. That means training. Not the heart monitor shit in the evenings and weekends. It’s a bike tour. Some serious hours in the saddle living on the bike. That’s how you ready yourself for the Tour Divide. Or at least that’s how I do it.
It seemed only logical that I would leave my home here in Vail and make the tour my transport to the start. With a pretty open time-table I decided that the tour would be best on the TD route itself and not via road like I had done in the past.
I got to work refining the gear I would bring. Trying to lighten things up a tad and streamline. I opted to carry a bivy over the cuben tarp-tent I had in the past. I thought making one would be a good way to go but for time and simplicity sake I decided to go with a Titanium goat number. At only 5 oz it would shave some weight and pack down a hair better as well. Only $100. Done.
The main advantages would be ditching stakes and poles along with convenience of crawling into the sac with no thought given to weather or not to expend the energy to set up the tent. Crawl in and pass out. Easy.
This choice was one of the fatal flaws of my planning. More on that later.
The other part of my gear that I chose to refine was my seatbag. Yet again heading down the road of designing and producing my own luggage. I created a seatbag that was based on the principle of a lightweight stuffsac, plumply stuffed, to be it’s own structure to secure to the bike as opposed to the one I currently had which had a form of it’s own, and with that form, a bit of extra weight.
I started with a mockup that seemed very close appearance-wise to a christmas stocking. A little refining of that and I moved over to some of the 1 oz cuben I had and made my bag. I used parachute chord to lace the stuff-sac to the seatpost and seat rails under the concept of optimal compression no matter the load. Roll top closure. 2 ounces total weight.
Mistakes made: not having Dave Wilson at Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks make it. His quality is so far superior to my own. Not a long enough allowance for the rolltop closure. Other than that, not a bad bag.
I changed up my navigation to simplify things a little bit. Since I felt pretty comfortable with the corse having done most of it two time prior, I chose to use my phone for my GPS. I also went with a decent commuter light that USB recharges and adding a small auxiliary battery to power those devices over a couple day period.
Wouldn’t recommend the Iphone for nav for anyone new to the corse because when it rained I didn’t want the Iphone out in the elements despite a waterproof case. Knowing the corse allowed me to only take the phone out a few times a day to confirm hunches. The backup battery to provide USB power worked very well. Ensuring that I have enough USB ports on my wall adapters was key to this setup so i could fully charge all devices overnight when I had power available and not being forced to wake up and change them over in the middle of valuable sleeping time. I would estimate that I had 4-5 days between mandatory recharges. The Iphone is incredibly efficient when all features are shut off. This site was key to figuring all that out.. http://adventurealan.com/iphone4gps.htm
I probably only used 5-10% battery a day. The light was very dependent on how much I road at night and which mode was required. The battery was only good for a couple Iphone/light recharges but that was plenty. Heavy little buggers, so it’s easy to go overboard and take along a big one. More on this junk over on the gear section.
All other gear remained the same from years past. Simple, light, clean. I didn’t go a bit heavier on the rain gear which was a very good call.
Left Vail after a few days of solid prep. Made it out of the house by 9 a.m. or so. I timed myself over Vail pass and was pretty happy when I reached the summit in just 45 minutes, 12 minutes faster than my shit-talking buddies, loaded on 3.0 tires.
I reached the TD coarse in Frisco just an hour and a half after leaving Vail, took a right turn and proceed to ‘ride the divide’ as they say.
Bike path to Breck and found my way onto boreas pass. Finally some gravel and a bit of solitude. What it’s all about. My excitement about successfully preparing and finally leaving was high enough to keep quite a gingerly pace.
Around half-way up the pass the ominous clouds began their daily ritual of dropping rain on Colorado below. Boreas Pass is a particulary high pass rising above Breckenridge which already sits at 9200′. It tops out at 11.500′ which equals very cold temperatures. Combined with a fair bit of rain, some may describe conditions as dismal, or even miserabe. Some may not be so kind.
As it started to rain, just as I was dawning my rain gear, (full Patagonia super stout jacket and pants, thank the baby jesus) I spotted some cyclists ahead. Not overly excited as I might be to see other riders above breckenridge, CO. because, in all likelihood, they were recreational cyclists from the area. I noticed that they weren’t fully loaded but partially loaded with only a small pannier setup on one bike and a lonely seatbag on the other.
I engaged in conversation, I’d be a fool not to on this lonely route in early August. The two gentleman were in fact riding the divide route with some slack help from a sag vehicle piloted by an injured partner. They had started their ride in Wyoming and were riding the Colorado section.
“I’m 68 and my friend here is 70.” Said one of the riders proudly. Fuck me fantastic (not aloud as they were of coarse eldery.) 70 years old on the divide. If ever I felt tough doing this thing, think again, young able-bodied 20-some year old. As the rain continued I was happy to chat with the two riders until I could no longer match the slow pace of the geared riders with my tallish 32-19 single speed. I bid them fairwell and hustled on.
Just after the pass I encountered some navigational woes. I had never ridden the Golddust alternate, which is expected of all southbound racers along the route, and therefore didn’t know exactly where it went. Boreas Pass to Como was the jist of it but that alone doesn’t ensure that one will have an easy time of it.
By the time I found the entrance to the rough single track it was raining hard. I heard later from some others that it was a balmy 38 degrees. Yucky.
Single track is single and easy until it gives two options and there were a few on the trail down to the bottom. I crossed a road and continued on, realizing after finally pulling out my iphone that that road was one I wanted to be on. Freezing and wet fell secondary to my fear that rose to an amber level when lighting began to crack around me. A fair amount of lightning had me crossing streams and shouldering my bike through creeks that were now flashing under the heavy rains.
Day 1. Freezing rain and a lightning storms mixed with navigational woes. A real shit-storm.
Lightning was cracking on all sides. The type that startles you with its decibels and power every time no matter if you’re ready for it or not. This was the very area that Jesse Carlson (2nd place TD rider from the year prior) had been struck by lightning. I was doing my best to keep it together but failing just a little bit.
I diverted my progress in favor of the overhang of a vacation log home with no trespassing signs loudly posted for potential touring cyclists to heed. Screw your vacation home. I know you’re not here. I’m going to stand under your overhang in the name of humanity. Trespassing be damned.
I pulled out my iphone and noticed that the although still functioning, I may not want to expose it to any more direct rain, which i had been in the name of holding the route down to Como. It informed me that I had yet again gone astray.
After the lightning subsided somewhat, I did what any competitive ultra cyclist does, proceeded on despite the conditions. I was a little disheartened as I was forced to ford the flashing creeks yet again.
Very lucky that this was all occurring on the first day of my journey when my spirit was high and my resolve, robust.
When I got to Como I was a bit bummed to find that the country store was boarded up. The nic-nac shops didn’t seem to offer much and I had the food and water I needed to continue but i was sidetracked by the bikes of another couple riders, surely TD cyclists.
They were on their way out. After a quick chat I gathered that they were with the older guys I had met on the other side of the pass. They invited me to stay with them in a friends cabin nearby. My heart broke a little bit as I told them, in the pouring rain, that I had to push on as it was much to early to hang it up. It broke a little more when they told me the senior citizens had already come and gone and were up ahead. Total tortuous and the hare. Sure they hadn’t taken the alternate but getting so jammed up on it myself they were again in front. Wow.
I hustled and followed two bike tracks all the way to Hartsel. Surely they hadn’t made it this far ahead of me. Damn those old men. 40 miles of following their tracks in the rain and no sign of them.
I was happy to see two bikes that didn’t belong to them in front of the bar in Hartsel. Two Uppers (upper penisula of michigan, thick with accent and good humor) were happy to make my acquaintance and the feeling was mutual. It was still raining and these boys were just enjoying some coffee on the cold day. Smart.
We sat for a bit and then I suggested we ride out together. They left a bit earlier than I as I needed to grab a few supplies from the gas station before departing. They were fit as it took me a bit to catch back up on the long stretch to Salida.
Ron told me a story about getting his toe amputated after a Tour Divide effort the year before. His toe had gone gangrenous not from the TD but the Arrowhead 135 a few months before. SO GNARLY!
I was a bit bummed to leave my new friends as the sun set and they decided to make camp where I was forced to continue on because I had no shelter, just an extremely lightweight bivy which might provide mortal safely, but not safety from a miserable night of rain. My choice in shelter was now confirmed as an error. Monsoon in Colorado and New Mexico was upon me and the reality of daily precipitation was showing it’s mighty face.
After I left my midwest buddies the reality of getting to Salida didn’t seem so bad. A healthy period of of twilight was aiding me and the rain had subsided to intermittent drizzle. I settled in and followed the gravel road ahead through the vast high plains of the Hartsel area.
The road took a turn to the west and I followed it but upon confirmation with my Iphone, I turned back to the junction. Instead of following the somewhat improved road the route went straight ahead. This SoBo stuff was hard to wrap my head around.
The route was now on an unimproved road with no discernible roadbed. That spells mud. Not death peanut butter, but close. Sticky enough to stick to itself which spells trouble.
There were a few times that I was off the bike walking along the chaparral as the road no longer allowed the bike to roll. I knew there were better roads ahead from experience and had been in these situations before so despite the apparent hopelessness of my situation I didn’t get too down. At least lightning was no longer threatening my life. I was just a little tired dealing with some mud. No biggy.
At one point I did notice that the amount of mud pouring from the side of my chainstay where the rotating tire was depositing it’s bounty had grown to a point where the chain was running through it. In essence lubing my chain with fresh gravely mud. WOW. God bless the single speeders.
My bike was making some serious noises at this point. It’s complaints weren’t without merit. The conditions had grown almost comically bad. Daylight was long gone. A mechanical at this point would be quite disheartening.
The Monē Continental was earning its keep on that wet wet day. Its tired components were the same ones that had completed the Divide the year prior. Scheduled maintenance wasn’t in the cards until Silver City where the Gila Hike and bike would provide their magical service. Just hang in there bike.
I rolled into Salida a few hours into the night. Relieved to be there, in need of an overhang.
I rolled into downtown where downtown bar antics where happening. I spotted a guy rolling around on a bike with a framebag. Damn I love Salida.
I inquired about where I might be able to lie my head for the night. We came up with the Sub-Culture bike shop’s overhang. Bingo. Swapped bike touring stories. My new friend had been a guide for adventure cycling.
I hung as long as I could as to not appear ungrateful but day one was long and I was tired.
A fitful night of sleep. I woke with the sun opting against an alpine start. Afterall this was only my tour down to the beginning. No need to go crazy.
I pedaled around. Grabbed coffee. Ran into one of the men i most admire in the world. Don McClung was walking his dog Onyx around the Absolute Bike Shop area. I followed him back to his house and we chatted for as long as I had time for. Maybe an hour or so talking about his new 29+ bike design with disc brakes!!! He is the most gentle man that creates the coolest shit. 73 single speed and rigid. McClung is a G. Really neat dude. Could have sat for hours listening to stories from decades past, but alas, I needed to depart.
I don’t think I made it back to dirt before it started to rain again. Not the worst thing ever but it was becoming apparent that this was going to be the norm and not the exception.
About halfway up to the parking before the route turned steeply upward a blue Chevy pickup past and slowed. I began to ride around and the driver shouted out the window, ‘Cjell Mone!’
I am pretty much under the impression that most people out there should no who I am but when my delusions actually come to fruition, it’s pretty damned exciting.
A dude named Aaron from Salida out to rip some trail with his lady off of Marshall Pass. He had ridden the divide a few years prior and recalled our meeting in the great basin. I felt like a butthole because, of coarse, I could not, being one of over 100 meeting I had of that type. SoBo’s suck it!
We pow-wowed, talked bikes and the three of us slowly made out way towards Marshal Pass. Aaron was riding a beautiful non-suspension corrected (replace previous with ‘hardcore’ if you’re not sure what that means) Waltworks custom steel bike. Needless to say we got along well. Aaron and his lady cut out around halfway up the pass and their presence was replaced by that of heavy lightning. The remainder of Marshall Pass was completed in a very gingerly manner. The rain and lighting were getting a little old.
Condititions improved somewhat over the next few hours. Lighting became less of a factor after taking the left turn onto the wide open section between Sargents and Dome Lakes outside of Gunnison.
I have grown very fond of the next sections of the divide. Cochetopa Pass and Carnero Pass. Neither very tough on their own, they are stacked up making them difficult by their proximity to one another. They are both very scenic, relatively quite even by divide standards. I made it my goal to get over the second, Carnero Pass, before laying down. Skies remained ominous all day so needless to say my decision was based on getting to the national forest campground on the south side of Carnero.
In the middle of the night I was glad to be sleeping on the patio of the vacant national forest’s latrine when it started raining again.
The next morning was brutally cold. I still had a fair amount of descending before I could start excreting myself to raise body temperature. I put on all the clothing I had available and froze on the way down to the open flat sections north of Del Norte.
The few miles just before Del Norte are a blast. Some flowing single and double track with minimal elevation. Very scenic. Always a high point.
Parade happeing in Del Norte. Subway-gas station and gone. Had to ride on the side of the parade. Thought about doing a wheelie but this was not the Cjell Mone Parade so i passed.
In the middle of the longest and one of the toughest climbs on the entire route I was happy to catch the tracks I was following. A couple from southern California riding a tandem. We got along great and I was happy to pedal at an impossibly low cadence and the switched off between walking and spinning their rohloff equipped super-two seater.
They were a pretty heady couple. I was entertained by their stories from the walls of Yosemite. They spent their honeymoon on El Cap. Neato.
We had lunch and shared snacks and some Colorado kind. I bid them farewell and laughed as the wife asked me if they were almost there…
Indiana Pass is no joke. Your biggest mistake is thinking that you might almost be to the top as I can assure you that you most certainly are not.
When I did make that illusive summit I was greeted by a massive heard of sheep all around. I was a bit apprehensive as I scanned the exposed landscape for a bloodthristy shepherding dog, but I saw non and was happy to make all the little bah-bah run in unison.
It was shocking nice as I traversed the incredible section below and around the Summitville Superfund sight. I think the lady from the California couple asked if there was ice cream up there. HA! Summitville. Maybe a ice cream cone made of incredible beauty, abandoned ghost town houses and laced with heavy metals.
I descended into Platoro and decided to eat at the resort/food truck/gift shop place. I had great conversion with the seasonal help from Oklahoma and I feel like they really styled out my chicken fried steak and potatoes.
I took my time on the way to Horca because skies were again filled with threatening clouds and pushing past Horca would mean a night in the Brazos with only 5 oz of flyweight bizy between me and more monsoon. Oh what a horrible horrible shelter choice I had made. I had never experienced the insentient rains that I was now, normally the bivy-only route wouldn’t have been so bad.
I scoped out different places to squat approaching Horca. Under some buses. A busy campground, some abandoned cabins.
I was ultimately bailed out by a young guy who allowed me shelter outside of his small condo thingy. Thank you mucho John from Joplin Missouri! I owe you!
I awoke early and timed myself up the long steep pavement grind that is La Munga Pass. I didn’t break any records but it was under 40 minutes and I was tuckered at the top.
An adventure motorcyclist on one of these big adventure KTM/BMW what-have-yous road by a couple times before finally stopping to ask directions back to the Divide Route. I felt badly for the guy as he stopped for literally 1 minute and was off at 70 MPH down towards Mexico. How lonely would that be? I mean I thought I was a bit isolated but this guy had 1 minute for a fellow divide traveler. I fear that is the fate of many-a divide motorcyclist. I saw more this year than ever but failed to converse with one over 1 minute, most of them just driving by. Would someone else biking the route ever just pedal by another cyclist. No Way! We are far too lonely for that. The motorcycle in my opinion is a little too isolating in that regard.
I made it up and over the Brazos with little trouble. Oh how I love that stretch. So vast and remote. A few elk scouters and the odd cowboy and not much else.
I did meet a couple from Prescott, AZ camping and surveying the forest on a government contract. They were of like mind. I was happy to take a half and hour to stop and chat.
Buzzed through Hopewell Lake campground and onto one of my favorites, Canyon Plaza, Sylvia’s summer store.
I stopped to chat with Sylvia and eat some junk food for a minute. She informed me that there were a couple of riders a few hours ahead. Planning on staying at the Abique Inn. I figured if I hustled I could catch them and enjoy some companionship for the evening.
I made good time over the next section and arrived in Abique around 10pm. I snooped around the new-agey campus of the Inn for a few minutes before surrendering to the fact that it was late and I was being a bit of a weirdo wandering around so i left the area.
I could see the stars clearly so I figured I didn’t need shelter too badly. Ended up sleeping outside the malt stand at Bodes.
I waited for Bodes to open in the morning and enjoyed a few breakfast burritos when i did. I prepared myself for the long climb out of Abique. I can say now that I think I prefer it to the decent.
A long day of rain showers with scattered lightning over the Jamez. Very isolated place that is abundant with elk. The technical sections are comically so but offer a bit of distraction from the conditions and monotony.
I was happy to end with the steep fast pavement decent down into Cuba. Man Cuba can be rough.
I stopped at the gas station/mexican joint on the corner. It looks pretty shady and the fair matches the looks. I had a Navajo Taco that I was regretting even as it was going down. When in Rome.
As I sat there I saw a divide kitted bike roll by and I flagged it down. It was a guy named Tony from Calgary. He was one of the riders I was chasing the day prior. Tony had taken an alternate which put him in Cuba at the same time as myself.
I was happy to split a room with Tony as the alternative was riding through the reservation at night which I didn’t much feel like and besides, its illegal to camp on the land that belongs to the Navajo. Generally try and respect that for more reasons than one.
Tony and I did laundry while we shared divide stories. He was being featured in a feature for the national news in Canada and was taking footage of his trip with a GoPro and some other nifty gear to support it. He was very positive and in very high spirits. He also shared with me his little ‘secret’ that he kept in the bottom of his framebag…a wedding ring. He was set to propose to his girlfriend at the end of the ride in Antelope Wells. Booya! Nice Tony!
I offered to ride the following day with Tony. I told him I planned to knock out the next 200 miles to Pie Town. A great way to get his first double century. He declined, bummer.
Got up at 4:30 trying not to wake Tony, probably unsuccessfully. Headed out into the darkness that is the Navajo reservation. The landscape is stark yet beautiful. I knew halfway across the reservation there was a christian couple who ran a convenience store. I was shooting for it.
The lady there packages fruit in small ziplocks at very reasonable prices, just over a dollar or something silly for the locals to have available. I asked her permission before I bought 4 bags of the most delicious strawberries and grapes. The next 75 or so miles flew by with my lute of fruit and clear skies. Man I was happy to be dry for the first day since my departure.
Quick stop on Grants and I was off to Pie Town.
Got a bit dark on me but 200 miles will do that. I was happy to have made it to the Toaster House. What an amazing place of respite deep in southern NM.
For those of you who don’t know, I can share what I know about the Toaster House. It started out as the home of a beautiful soul named Nita. I am not sure of Nita’s history but I know it has a lot to do with Hawaii. Nita was playing host to thru-hikers coming through on the CTD. She was an up and coming trail angel as the popularity of the CDT grew. Pie town also lies on the southern tier Adventure Cycling route so she also started playing host to the weirdo bikers as well. More recently the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route gained a great deal in popularity and Nita’s home was now a wash with vagrants seeking respite on long journeys across the county. At one point Nita took other residence and her old home, the toaster house, (named after an alter made of toaster that one passes under on the way into the residence) was offered as a public house of sorts to those who sought it on their long journeys.
To date I have been to the Toaster House a staggering 5 times. I have yet had the opportunity to meet Nita although one day I hope beyond hope that I do. She has done amazing things for me and I owe her bigtime.
The following day I had a very lazy start opting to trim down a large amount of my gear there in Pie Town in preparation for my impending NoBo effort. I sent a leaky air mattress back to Big Agnes which they replaced and sent back. Thank you big Ag. I instead carried a thin piece of foam (gossamer gear 1/8″ nightlite) left by a CTD thru hiker. Not optimal but workable. I settled on hydration needs, cut out some leg warmers I wasn’t using as the rain pants were seeing all cold weather duty. Really trimmed it down.
After my first visit to the Pioneer I nearly missed PO hours. Luckily the lady was sweet and sent my package out anyway despite my tardiness.
After taking stock and grabbing a few packets of Top Ramen from the hiker box at the Toaster House I was still well short of what I needed in terms of calories for the tough long section to Silver City. I went back to the Pie shop to add to my reserves. I was grateful that the cook was receptive to my requests for anything to go… He made me a couple PB and J’s and even threw in a bag of chips. I needed that.
When I finally made it to the north side of the Gila Wilderness I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There were more wild flowers than I had seen in my entire life. As a resident of Colorado and tourist of Crested Butte during Wild Flower Festival thise year, I was no stranger to amazing beauty in wildflowers but what I was seeing in the Gila was staggering. Every flower seemed more special and vibrant than the last. Giant white ones shaped like roses, smaller purple one hanging delicately. Fields full of so many extremely vibrant flowers. I was pinching myself when the magic hour of light before sunset had me biking through herds of elk numbering in the hundreds.. Stampeding! Really an awesome evening. Made it to the Beaver Work Center. Laid down under their overhang after chatting with a wild-fire fighter for a while. First night with no rain.
Soda machine still doesn’t at the work center. I was wishing it was. Anything to add to my dry Ramen breakfast. I left early in the morning with food on the brain. The Gila is a massive beast. South of the work station there is stacked up vertical that tests a man’s fortitude. I was rationing and wishing I wasn’t.
After a few trips up the divide one tends to develop landmarks and memorable sections or climbs. The Gila is filled with places of special note. The flip side of that is all of the riding in between those sections. Anticipation can be a killer and when a sneaky 20 miles lies in between you and the next landmark you remember. That day in the Gila was a perpetual 20 mile sneaker…for a 150 miles, my body suffering the early effects of starvation. Tough day.
I was happy to make it the to CDT singletrack because I knew it meant one final push up and over then, another 20 mile sneaker, that sneaky 20 miles being the final 20 before Silver City and food! Oh god, I am hungry.
Up and over. Down, down, down a challenging decent that had turned to double track and then to a more well used section almost looking like ATV accessible… Hmmm, doesn’t appear to be sweet CDT single track. GPS-iphone…computing….FUCK!
I turn around and look up at a very steep pitch I had just come down. How far til my dot hit the line. Scale on GPS….1-2 miles. Damn I need food.
Was able to ride some of what I had just come down until the pitch went up and the technical sections that I had enjoyed just before were now slightly more arduous while walking, up a steep steep pitch. Around 45-60 minutes later I passed a point where I was sure I was on the route as it was one of those remarkable points that I could easily remember from a year prior.
I looked down and noticed a knee high rock karen, some yucca that had been laid down showing the way, and then removed again by dirt bikes that weren’t, in fact, traveling on the CDT. Relieved, hungry frustrated I pointed my bike down one of the most scenic sections on the GDMTBR.
My desperate emotion slowly faded as I climbed over single track that seemed to have a layer of bright green, almost lawn grass grown over it. Karens reassured me as I meandered. A technically demanding section that was almost fun, although taxing. Something to challenge the bike handling skills for a change, my hunger was slighted, somewhat, by a grin on my face as I climbed to the crown of the CDT singletrack section.
Returning to double track, noting spots I had camped years before after a big first day. I didn’t have to go to mexico this year, just down down down into silver city. When I hit pavement I rejoiced and ate the last of my dry ramen and trail mix. Whatever sneaker section lay here I knew it wasn’t long and mostly downhill. After pinos altos, after, a plethera of dining options await my calorically depraved body.
I saw Richard from the bike house as I destroyed some Chinese Fast Food, a budget conscious GDR riders dream.
Nice to reconnect to the community so quickly. I love Silver City and i don’t care who knows it. Nestled on the bench in front of the Gila to the south, Silver sits over 7000′ which keeps the climate very pleasant all year. And something about the university and the right amount of southern New Mexico weird keeps it awesome.
The fact that I still had an official yo-yo attempt clock running i figured I would make haste in Silver City despite really, really not wanting to. Martyn, Bill, Chris, Jack, Karl, Damie Jamie T, and Dave Baker to name a few kind souls that I really connected with made a hastened departure so tough.
Jack was good enough to have replacements for all of my drivetrain pre-ordered per my request. Super fair prices on all the junk to get my poor poor single speed back to life. I chose to go with the same gear I had going on the previous years divide, and thus far this year…32-19. Or 32-YM with the big tall tires. For anyone reading this who doesn’t know single speed gears…easier (spinnier, faster pedaling) than an average urban gear but heavier than an easy mountain bike gear.
My Mone Bikes Continental was getting rather vocal with me after dragging it from Vail, to Mexico to Canada, then over a summer of vail and fruita riding and then back down to Mexico.. it started creaking – A LOT.. Actually, funny sidenote; I got to see Billy Rice and Big Dave Wilson in Summit County on their cross country treks and both laughed because my single speed made more noise than their geared bikes.
Dousing the setup in lube would quiet the works down a bit but larger bearings were the culprit. I thought my BB was yet again my obvious creak-er so I went to replace my BB and everything I could afford to, within reason… sticking with the same single speed ratio.
I was a little shy about asking Hike and Bike borrow tools but Dave Baker stepped up and set me up in a corner of the shop with a temporary stand to toil away at my own bike. How nice are the dudes at the Gila Hike and Bike!!
Went to work trying to stay out of the way but ultimately engaging Dave for some pro tips. Chris hustled and Jack inevitably watched bike racing on TV. Missed Martyn and Bill this year which was a bummer. What an awesome bike shop that is with incredible personalities
Crank, chainring, chain, cog, bottom bracket, pedals, tires, brake pads, NEW NEW NEW NEW. I wasn’t messing around. I was about to ride to Canada, no cutting corners. on the OL Continental. Took me the better part of the morning and I have the rig up and running. Next order of business…Back of the Pack Racing Jersey.
BPR is a group of no good hooligans that ride SS bikes and drink high gravity beer. Met Judd, one of the founding fathers, on the Colorado Trail, through blacksheep and again on the AZT. I begged to join his crew cause they had rad gear and seemed like real dudes. Think hells angels meets mountain bike geeks. General norms for BPR guys.. rigid, single speed, 29er, no spandex and a Black Sheep if you can afford it. The gear was generally a plaid shirt with team colors sewn to it and some dickies. Variations on the kit abound but the big skull back patches are to let folks know, maybe a little more oddball than your average bike rider.
But seriously, a great group of super genuine guys that are a little fringe and ride sweet SS bikes pretty much sums it up. Anywho, Judd, my BPR sponsor shipped my a patch set and a couple par of socks. HELL YES. Now all I needed to do was sew these babies on a shirt.
Klarl, a gentleman who I had met a year prior in the shop agreed to sew the patches on pro-bono, which was very appreciated. He then invited me to join him next door for a few drinks which I happily obliged.
Just as Karl and I were finishing up the boys were closing down the bike shop and Dave Baker popped out and hopped on my bike to give it a spin and see what all the fuss was about.
It was a real bummer when we both heard the primary creak that my bike had made before replacing the entire drive train… was still there. They were closing the shop. Shit. Felt like a total dumb dumb drinking beer thinking that my bike was all good when it was clearly not.
Dave Baker, hike and bike pro-wrench extraordinaire to save my ass yet again on the day. He was heading up the hill to Bike Worx, A Silver City not for profit entity that promotes bike culture through community based bike classes and programs for youngsters to earn bikes in trade for shop work which they taught right there.
Dave suggested that I start by taking apart the freehub and checking the state of its contents. Bone dry. Good, kinda. Pretty sure thats the culprit but also not good to the state of that hub. packed it full of white grease, reassemble and, boom, no more creak. Hell Yes Dave. Saved my ass again.
In traditional BikeWorx style I returned my services by tuning up a few treks out of their fleet and shooting the shit with Dave Baker who is a super great dude by the way. Jamie Thomson also paid a visit, which was great because he caught me volumteering at bike worx, a organization that he plays a key roll in. Dudes just don’t come classier than those two.
The following morning I was up early. I had decided to make the ~140 mile shot to the border from Silver City. I was thinking of making it in two days to preserve energy for my big break to the north. Dragging the journey through the desert out over 3 days rather than two seemed silly. Not a lot out there to capture one’s attention. Lotta pavement right at the end. Better to get her over with…
So I started the day early enough to give myself a shot at the 140 miles to the border.
Temperatures where not extreme, as the have a tendency to be on that stretch. It’s a wide open lonely section when you get into it. Separ store marks the end of the gravel and the start of the 80 or so miles of pavement to the border.
In the middle of the gravel section I noticed a bight orange brand new Jeep coming towards me. It’s rare to bump into folks that have an idea about the GDMBR but this shiny Jeep seemed so out of place I had to believe I might be stopping to chat. Sure enough.
It was a Texan couple surveying the coarse via Jeep. Kind souls. We chatted for 15 minutes about this and that. Saul, from Honduras, had attempted to complete the TD earlier that year but had fallen victim to a broken collar bone and his trek now included a Jeep and a wife a couple months later.
Passing through Thorn Ranch and the rest of the lonly gravel to Separ was familier. I thought about the first time I had come through here two years earlier. The divide definiely rewards those who return to it. Comfort comes from every turn and landmark that you can recall from before. The route literally cuts through the middle of Thorn Ranch. My first year I can assure you I was very concerned about the possiblitiy of a ranch dog or two. I would have also been turning on the GPS to make sure that the route did indeed cut through the middle of this ranch house and stables. This year I was delighted to see Thorn Ranch and was pretty confident there were no dogs.
Separ for a quick snack. It was hot enough to really enjoy an ice cream and some ice water. Not too long of stop as I wanted to have a good shot at making Antelope Wells for camp.
30 miles to Hachita. Very isolated T-storms were forming over hills in the distance. Small yet intense cells scattered here and there. By the time I made it to Hachita I dismounted the bike and saw for the first time the storm cell that had been growing behind me. The thunderstorm seemed about 10 to 15 minutes from coming down on my current location. It was a very dark front and I could feel the temp dropping in Hachita.
This is one of my main issues with Divide racing. Pushing a schedule for pace and speed sake despite weather or conditions. My options at this point were to make camp in Hachita, or ride onto the border. Making camp here in Hachita would delay my start to sometime tomorrow when I arrived in Antelope Wells, after the 50 mile ride. This would be fine as my start on my NorthBound effort would simply begin a bit later. It would be a little less than optimal as my NoBo effort would begin with a 50 mile ride that morning. I had put a lot into planning and facilitating my fasted effort to date so staying in Hachita seems a little less than desirable. Also, what would I do until night finally came and where did I want to camp?
Despite the encroaching T-storm, which was seemingly growing in intensity and electricity, I got on the bike and went for it.
50 miles is a long way, pavement or not, but the fact that I had made the journey 4 times previously either by car or bike, quantified it in such a way that made it seem manageable. I would estimate the time to be around 6:30 but the dark skies were making it seem a bit later.
Thinking about the 50 miles as a single easy strech make it seem easy but when I commited to riding it into the storms and the night, the mile markers played out trip more consistent with the realities that were playing out. The growing storms continued to grow. The 50 miles crept by very slowly as they tend to do when you are on a bike and confronted by the exact distance every mile and the sun fell below the horizon and darkness built sooner than expected.
I understood that I was pedaling into a very lonely section of road as no car would attempt the journey at this time because crossing the border into mexico at this hour would be impossible and the road had no other purpose than this passage save a few very very isolated ranches. For this reason I stopped the first border patrol officer that I saw and let him know what I was up to. I felt it a prudent maneuver considering the fact that I would undoubtedly be monitored the entire way down and would likey have further interaction with them in some form. If this guy would let all his mates know on the walkie talkie it couldn’t hurt.
He was a Mexican American. Friendly enough. I asked him about where he lived in light of the fact that this was serious butt-fuck-nowhere and I was trying to imagine where a border patrol in the area made residence. He said he lived in el paso and lived at specific border patrol houseing for the week or so he was no duty.
I continued on and the skies turned from dark to black and as the last of residule sunlight faded out the lightning strike began to light up the skis more vividly and with more intensity. My pace quickened directly related to my concern level. Hatchet Gap was a familiar landmark which marked the last of any turns in the old highway. No shoulder. Little separated the edge of the pavement from the dry scrubby chaparral that was all there was for vegetation.
For over an hour the storms intensified all around me but rain had not yet fallen. This is often the way of the desert I would imagine. The lighting was now cracking and flashing a few times every 10 seconds. The mile markers dragged on just now dropping below 30. I have no spedometer but considering that I could comfortably spin my single speed along at 17 mph that put me at the border in just under 2 hours. Fuck. 2 hours is a long time when you are the tallest object in a desert valley that seems almost as though God himself is flicking a light switch switching from very very black to brilliant incondesent light every few seconds.
Mortality. The feeling of being human and very very scared. My options were few now. Duck into the remains of a collapsing wooden structure or cease the growing tail wind and up the cadence to make it to Antelope Wells as I intended to. Intention is a powerful thing. I press on.
The brilliant flashes of light become more and more frequent and my tail wind is also growing. At this point I know its a very dangerous situation but my options are limited and the tail wind is strong so I pedal on into the black night. I have a red flashing light on the back of the bike and a weak headlight. Enough to be seen if a vehicle were to come upon me.
My mind is somewhere between frantic and panic. I attempt to calm myself with rationalizations and convincing myself that the fear is useless but the flashes of light and the threat of lighting are so very real. The mile markers continue on at an unbelievably slow pace.
At this point the wind generated by the storm is incredibly strong at my back. I switch from a mode were I am spinning my legs at their limit, around 17-18 mph, to spinning them above their sustainable limit and coasting and spinning up again and coasting, I would estimate my speed to range from 19 to 23 depending on where I was with the spin-up process.
Big rain drops begin to fall on the road in front of me and I can feel my first few. This after over an hour and a half of intense build up of lightning and thunder. Never have I been exposed to this much storm with no rain. The coming of the rain was anticipated for a very long time. The rain came and left and the strong tail wind continued. It was almost as if I was surfing the very front edge of this storm and I was frantically spinning my legs to stay on the wave.
I looked up at a point to see headlights coming down the road from the direction of Mexico. Visible from a very long way off they covered a great distance very quickly. I was sure to be very clear of a possible vehicle path. The border patrol truck passed in excess of 100 mph. He was onto something. It was a Ford Raptor pickup outfitted with big tires and mean looking suspension. Just after it passed me flying down the middle of the road like pacman eating up the centerline dots, it slammed on the brakes. He was coming for me.
It did burnout doughnut maneuver to make the u turn and roared back in my direction all the with being lit up in the incandescent light of unceasing lighting strikes.
He parked his truck perpendicular across the highway just up in front of me. The stance of the big truck and the lighnighg made it seem like the scene of a movie. The rain-wave I had been riding caught up a bit and the big drops overtook the place where the truck was standing me down.
The drivers door flew open and a big voice yelled out over the rain and thunder.
“YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR ARE!!”
I rode as humbly as I could up to the truck. Before i could answer the broadchested border officer yelled again.
“Where’s you partner!!”
“I’m sorry officer, I am riding solo. I have just…”
Yelling again, “NO PARTNER!?”
“uhh, yes officer”
“I AM NOT AN OFFICER. I am a former green beret working for the United States Border Patrol. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE!! You see this bullet proof vest! This area is heavy with narco traffic! Put your bike in the back.”
I am around 15 miles to the border at this point. There is no way I am going to accept a ride, even as the spitting heavy rain drops catch up to our current location, although the offer is tempting.
“With all do respect sir, I have ridden by bike from colorado to make it to antelope wells under my own power. I mean no disrespect to you or your…”
“NO PARTNER! C’mon. Just know you are on your own! I’ll call down to the border and let them know.”
Ha, I am thinking I didn’t need this hot-head to let me know I was on my own. I do however respect his warnings of the dangers of the place but to give up and take the ride seemed to me self defeating.
“Thank you sir.”
I get back on the bike a midst the cracking lighting with a renewed urgency mixed with comfort that there is someone 15 miles down the road that knows I’m coming, for whatever it’s worth.
Every tenth of a mile is marked on the side of the road. I don’t miss one of them on my way to Antelope Wells. The 15 miles comes very slowly despite retaining my frantic 20+ mph spun-out-pace.
The lights from the border station come into view over while the signs still read over 5 miles. The number of lightning strikes dwindles as I close in on the border. I am so very glad that the series of questionable decisions I had just made didn’t result in personal injury.
The large well lit structure and compound to the left is surrounded by a tall fence and razor wire. The area I am used to as the border crossing and adjacent parking lot where NoBo TD riders have staged in the past sits 100 meters behind a closed gate. There is one trailer that sits back and just outside the razor wire tall chain link perimeter. A dog in that trailer has discovered my presence and I am relived after 30 seconds of barking that the K9 is sufficiently restrained and hasn’t approached me.
I know that making it to the buildings I am used to isn’t really an option. I look back at the large compound. No real other options. I am thinking someone would approach me at this point as GI Joe-border patrol radioed ahead. No such contact.
I make my way in the compound and a light bulb goes off. This compound is where the new border crossing is. The buildings and old crossing is all but a thing of the past relegated to forever be far behind the new razor wired gate. I can see the computers and scanners inside the building. Still no contact from anyone.
I figure I will make myself as comfortable as possible. I got out my new paper thin pad and laid it out next to the coke maching on the cement. The place was pretty well lit so I did my best to get in the shadow of the soda vending machine.
Terrible night sleep was puncuated with a sharp sharp strong pain that brought me fully out of the half-sleep I had acheived. WOW! OUCH! I am guess a centipede or scorpian, because that mofo HURT!
Woke up before my alarm set for 4:30 a.m. Let’s get this show on the road. no sence in fake-sleeping any longer. It was time to begin my strongest TD effort to date, or at least that’s the plan.
The sun began to rise as I hit hatchet gap, the first geological happening a full 40 miles of flat straight highway riding though classic New Mexico chaparral.
Just after Hatchet Gap I saw a Volvo wagon pass by me. This must be someone involved with the GDMBR or CDT. No one down here could possibly be liberal enough to be seen in a volvo.
Sure enough, Jeff and Toni of Hachita had come to check up on me. The couple had made it a habbit to come party with finishing thru-hikers and TD’ers. Rad rad couple. They drove along side and we chatted for a while. Saw them again in Hachita. Had a quick safety review and I was off. Efficiency and speed were my focus on this day.
The same ground I had covered the previous day now lay just as it had before. Around 60+ miles of pavement before riding along side the I-10 into the Separ store. I resisted all urges to pick up dream catchers, turquoise earrings and Mexican blankets. Water and trail mix and I was off.
I felt very efficient through Silver City. A quick in and out of my favorite shitty chinese. A few customary egg rolls to go complimented my current rations and I was off climbing for Pinos Altos.
I had made good time all day. I welcomed the right turn off the pavement and began the sharp climb up to the CDT section. The sun had long since set when I reached the single track. I felt fresh enough and was happy to have passed the point at which I had camped for the previous two divide attempts.
I made it to the most scenic point of the CDT section, the one with a small ledge and some moderate exposure to each side and decided it would be a good place to sleep.
I am not sure how long I had been out when I began to feel rain on my face. I was wrapped up in my bivy but I knew that any sustained precip would result is some real saturation. The bivy was almost a mute point here.
I knew that an outhouse lay just below me at the campground at the end of the CDT section. I bee lined it there. The move was somewhere between 12 and 3. Only a minor annoyance considering how gross sleeping out in a real rain storm in only my chinsy bivy. I woke before my 4 a.m. alarm and began to pedal down the pavement section connecting the CDT section to the 120 miles of gravel and stacked up vertical. This section is never to me underestimated.
I knew to expect nothing but water at the Beaverhead wild fire work camp. I pressed on. The Gila was strikingly beautiful at this time of year. Flowers and rainbows…pretty much the tour divide in a nut shell.
A big day to the Toaster House of Pie Town. Yet again missing pie but taking atvantage of the amazing toaster house for the strict benifit of wayward souls on cross country journies. A seriously amazing place of respite. I held up here as again, the sky threatened rain and I was ill prepared. I also facied the bed at the toaster house.
I was challenged by the fact that I hadn’t made it any farther than I had in years prior. This was mostly a testimate to how strong my previous rides to this point had been. I felt fast and effecient all day so I figured if I was holding the pace of years past than it was a result of the stregth of that former pace and not the lacking of my current progress.
I set the alarm for very early and took off hoping to make a gap on the pace of years prior. The goal is to sleep somewhere further along than I had in year’s before.
Were I to equal the pace from before that would be a double century today on the pavement. The early start plays in my favor.
I make a quick stop of the grocer on the far side of Grants. They have the fastest most nutritious food in their deli and produce section. Not a show stopper but definely not the norm in that part of the country.
The scenery through the 150+ miles of reservation is breath taking. A bleak yet vast place. One turn around half way and the Choco-store is all that I have to think about. I was successful at bringing my mind outside of the grind of the mile marker and time/speed calcs.
I found a couple fellow divide tourists dining at the mexican restaurant in Cuba, NM. I relaxed with them and they found my time spent with them funny as I was “racing”. I had strong desires at that point to drink beers and hang with the boys but I pressed on. My former camp stop lay around 7 miles outside of town at the base of a very nasty sustained pavement climb.
I made the spot where I had formerly made camp at the base of the climb. The year prior I thought I was smart to remove my cleats and resolve to a long walk up the hill. This year I thought I would give a go at trying to ride it. I was surprised to still me pedaling the bike over halfway through and knew that I would very much like to clean it with the amount of ground I had already covered. I rode up and over happy with my effort late into the night. I made camp at the beginning of the mighty Jamez section.
I gave myself til 4 am the following day. I easiy navigated the rocky and technical section that would normally require a close eye on turns. I had ridden in no more that a few days prior. A major atvantage through here.
I didn’t clean the whole thing as such an effort would be a little ill-advised through such technical rocks so far removed from any place of possible evac.
Bode’s store at the end of the section was welcome. I enjoyed the spoils of large burritos, bobo granola bars and other heady snack available there. The influx of yuppy artists to Georgia Okeafs former haunt of Abique is to thank for all the high quality gas-station food. I also got a coffee milk shake which is without compare to a TD rider on a hot afternoon.
Hustle hustle hustle up the hot pavement to El Rito, tired looking place mixed with Abique yuppie rejects, Mexicans and a sprinkling of rednecks. Interesting part of the world. Somehow artists have made all the areas around Taos, NM real estate anomalies.
More hustle up and over, past the viscous dogs of Vallecitos, a NM town that is shitty enough to scare even the artists away. Quick stop to say hello to my honey Sylvia at the summer store.
Pretty view of Canyon Plaza on the climb out of town. I contemplate a simple life on a small piece of land ever time I leave here.
The sky starts to cloud over as the sun sets. I ride hard and make it to Hopewell lake campground just as the sun sets. I am ahead of previous year’s pace by over a few hours but now the reality of my feeble shelter sets in. Past here there is pretty much guaranteed nothing for shelter until Horca Colorado at the base of the mighty La Manga Pass. Standing between me and there is over a half day riding. 8 hours at least. That is my next opportunity for shelter apart from 5 ounces of paper-light silnylon.
So here are my choices, sleep here under cover of a picnic shelter, much earlier than I would like, or press on, looking at an almost impossible 8 hours of riding starting at 8 pm or so. This no-tent idea was D U M B!
I set my alarm for 230 and fall asleep in the shelter, almost happy to hear the rain as it falls reinforcing my decision with it.
At 230 I pack and leave. I am looking at over three hours of pre dawn riding. Some predawn is good, but 3 hours is too much. I am forced to take cat naps often that morning almost negating the early start. A little disheartened, I try hard not to dwell on the fact that I am dealing with far less daylight and far more rain than I ever have on the divide.
By the time I get to Horca I am tired to say the least. I have fallen prey to a phenomena prevalent with veterans. Compartmentalizing an entire section of the ride. This is debilitating because for 8 hours of riding I find myself in a state of pre-arrival only due to the fact that I have mentally placed myself as mid-section…status: not arrived. Where if I wasn’t keenly aware of what was ahead I would only be aware of the present surroundings and view. Psyco-bibble-babble over.
20 miles of gross gross semi buried rocks to Platoro. I have refueled and resupplied in Horca so I don’t take the time-sucking oh so glorious stop into the resort dining car. I am happy to fly by but at this time I am becoming aware of something I feared for most of my scenic ride over the Brazos…I am behind.
The eve of the day had descended and instead of far in from of where I had been in previous years I was behind. Year one I camped on the decent of the Indiana Pass and last year it was just beyond Del Norte. Because of my in efficent morning and super efforts of years past I now knew that equaling those camp-spots would mean a bit more night riding than I like.
I hustle over the double pass of Stunner (aptly named for those south bound on the divide) and Indiana (divide’s tallest pass at 11000-something?). The ride at the top near summitville is breathtaking and even more so now with the golden hour of light highlighting the mountains stripped bare in search of some heavy metal at some point.
I arrive in Del Norte as the last of the twilight has left. I could see rain clouds gathering as night arrived. I have yet to have a totally dry day. Again I am bummed to think about my options sans any real shelter.
Stay in Del Norte or push on to the next forest service bathroom. This choice is really bring down my will to continue to battle fast paces set by me in years previous. I know if I stop it will mark the first time I fall behind the pace set in previous years. I will also stay at the glorious bike hostel set up there which will cost time and feel a lot like failing.
The alternative is to ride into a pending rainstorm that will force me into 20 or so mandatory miles to the first roof I know for sure will be waiting for me. The situation shouldn’t be that discouraging but fatigue and sleep deprivation has a way of amplifying emotions. The effort I am putting forth only seems to be met with failure. It marks the first time in 3 years of riding this thing that I am pretty bummed out.
I opt to stay in the hostel which is nice but falling behind sucks out all the enjoyment. I know in my mind that it’s not that bad and battling the super strong pace of my previous New Mexico charges is foolish. Wyoming and Montana is where I could get days back but I am hear in Del Norte and it’s raining again, and yet again the sun has set an hour earlier. I can’t help but being a sad sally.
I set my alarm for 430 which I am sure delighted the 3 other bike tourists that had stopped there for the night. I wanted to sleep a bit long to reverse some of the self pity I was having. I had made a run into town for supplies the night before which felt so inefficient but necessary to get out of town before business hours.
Sunrise on the cruiser single track just north of Del Norte is a beautiful thing. It really helped re-focus my riding and appreciate the natural surrounding that make this ride what it is.
I ride hard and smooth over the two passes of the first half of the day, Cochetopa and Carneros. It spits a little rain. In the afternoon it clouds up again as I resupply in the small Sargents store. Heavier rain looks eminent.
Up and over Marshal I am happy it isn’t cracking lighting like it had on my way down but I know rain is on the way and I can see what is coming. Another decision to stay in Salida or ride on, as time is permitting, with no shelter in the face of another rain storm.
Shit. I am not saying that a tent or tarp would have saved this ride, but I might be saying that a tent or tarp would really have saved this ride. Having the peace of mind to leave places of shelter with pending rain is usually not an issue day after day, evening after evening but the monsoon is here and this is a different divide in mid august. Had is been a bike tour, no problem, but unfortunatly much of my enjoyment and selfworth, pride, what-have-you comes from riding farther and faster than before. This is the devil in the ‘race’ part of the whole thing.
I arrive in Salida just as night falls. I am around 6 hours slower than the year previous where I made it here around mid-day to have Don McClung, my hero or heros, fix my bike. So the situation is, I would be leaving Salida back on the the pace set last year, but this year, sans delay. Basically sucking a bit harder now than before.
The whole pace-thing has made me a bit of a head case. Ride harder, farther, faster than before or what’s the point. This is a terrible outlook and it’s about to ambush the ride.
I ride into Salida and think I will sleep in front of Sub-Culture Cyclery considering yet another night-time storm is moving in. I give half a thought of bothering Don to hang out but I know it’s late.
While riding from the divide route to downtown Salida I see none other than the Don himself walking Onyx his black collie of questionable behavior. Don loves that dog.
I am happy to see Don and he lifts my spirits. He invites me over and asks me how the ride has been going. I know if I head to Don’s my ride will be in grave danger. Not only will I undoubtedly drink beers and pow-wow with Don, I will be offered a place to stay. Rule violation of the worst kind. This is my home territory and the rules of the divide were set up to stop this very thing. Not saying that breaking a rule and continuing on would be out of the question, but the ride would be tainted in my own mind. It would still have just as much significance to me as my main battle would be again my own prevoious times and paces but it just wouldn’t taste good.
Don invited me over and by the second beer I had resolved to myself that this meeting what the essence of bike touring and to forfeit it over ‘racing’ spells out too much of a conflict of interest. In the picture of the Tour Divide I paint in my own head, to have the ‘race’ win over hanging with Don McClung, The Don McClung, hand crafter of the finest bicycles in the world, Colorado’s most raddest 70 year old SS rigid mountain biker, is losing.
I make many sacrifices to race along the tour divide route. Every sacrifice that counts to me involves choosing to press on with haste lieu of something cool that has come from the nature of the bike tour. To bike tour is to put yourself in the hand of nature and the universe and see what comes of it. Anyone who has toured will, without fail, recount the amazing luck and grace that they have experienced by putting themselves in situations of need…either by good luck or the graciousness of others. Even though the tour divide exists mostly in the back country, it still has its fair share or angels looking out for its riders. Every real sacrifice to ‘race’ along it involves forgoing some of those special experiences to continue on as fast as possible.
This is not to say the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race is without those experieces….no no no, I have had many while I have been out there. I have connected with the most amazing of people ad been so fortunate along the way, but most times I would like to spend an afternoon or evening with a kind soul or watching a sunset from camp I press on because racing has it’s own set or rewards that the leisure bike tour does not.
On this evening in Salida with Don Mcclung, the race lost. The tour won. To hurry out of Salida and give up the fraternization of a living legend and personal hero was not going to happen. And in dramatic style I gave up the entire divide effort there too. If I was going to carry on with Don til late, that would set me way back and be astrisk on the entire ride. Besides, the august days were too wet and too short to enjoy fully out on the divide. I was done.
I let Don know and he heeded against it, but he had no idea what a head-case he was dealing with and what a weight lifted it was.
We chatted brazing, bikes, geometry, mtn biking in Salida til one in the morning. It was then too I decided I needed to have one of his bikes before he was finished building them in his older years.
The following morning I woke naturally around 5 in Don’s camper. I lazily packed up and waited for the grocery to open. I was happy to have committed to calling the race when I did and felt no pressure or regret.
It rained that afternoon like it had every day for the past 20. I climbing up and over Boreas pass as the sun set. I should be 50 miles north on the route had I still been on pace. Funny how much slower even just normal riding is compared to the urgency of divide racing.
In Frisco I got to the point where I had joined the divide. I biked over to a convenience store and sat down with a beer. I bought a few more to drink while my buddy drove over Vail pass to meet me. I was all finished up.
As I finished up my second Bud tall boy I thought about how great the ride from my home here in Colorado had been. A total success of a bike tour to Mexico and back. Convincing myself that it was indeed a success of a tour and not a failure of a race would take a bit of time but wasn’t impossible. The Divide Route will remain and my efforts on it will to along with the sweet sweet experiences it’s provided me over the last three years will as well.