The rest was a good choice. My hip is feeling top, so we’re back on the road. We rolled out of town at 7am to avoid the traffic on Highway 9. 7am was definitely not early enough, but the maps were wrong–there was a huge shoulder the entire 13 miles. It went by in a blink–we were soon on Ute Pass road climbing some very steep pavement. This too went by easy enough. The low pass of 9500 feet was a piece oh the cake.
At the top a girl on a road bike passed us and asked if this was Ute Pass. It was indeed, and we agreed that the climb seemed too short. Her name was Jennifer, a mountain bike racer from Keystone. She was fairly impressed with our trip and concluded that we should definitely do some races when we are done. It looks like a consensus–Paula at the Soul Ride or the Tour of the White Mountains this year.
We cruised down through heavily clear cut areas and the Henderson sawmill. Again, at least it’s all in one place, and it didn’t really seem that bad. What was bad was that they were grading the road, and had sprayed water all over it to keep the dust level down. Well, this was fine for a while, but once we got near the actual grading operation it turned into a mess.
We would have been OK if not for the oh so courteous drivers on the road. On the muddiest section we got blasted by no fewer than 6 truck/trailer/ranch rigs. One group of three vehicles refused to even take their feet of the GAS (it was uphill), despite our obvious requests for them to slow down (palm out with a downward motion). When it was clear they would not slow down we simply turned away, covered our faces and were blasted with mud. These were the only drivers thus far I have felt like giving an obscene gesture to, but I did not.
The mud ended and we resumed some very pleasant cycling. We had a significant headwind (that’s just life on the GDMBR), but we were making great time. We stopped to eat PB&J sandwhiches at Williams Reservoir, where there was no shade but a picnic table and trash cans.
We rode briefly again on highway 9, then turned off towards the town of Radium, Colorado. The road here was as close to pavement as a dirt road can get, and this unfortunately meant that drivers could drive 60-70 mph (though the limit was 40). It felt like riding on the freeway. River shuttles, SUVs and even many semi-trucks buzzed us as we struggled up the steep hill. Impressive views of the Colorado river unfolded behind us as we climbed. But the headwind and inconsiderate drivers were almost enough to spoil it.
We rolled down to the Mugrage camp ground to pump some water for the big climb out of Radium (and away from the big river). As we pumped Paula noticed a bike with panniers! Ah, another GDMBR cyclist, we thought. It was a nice spot to camp with a big flowing creek and not too many people, so we decided to stay and meet the cyclist.
He was from Amsterdam, and was a great guy. We had some interesting trail conversation as we all ate some dinner. He is on quite an elaborate 6 month trip, of which the GDMBR is only a part. We look forward to riding with him tomorrow – and perhaps even asking his name!
His name is Jelle (yell-ah), and he rode all day with us today. As always it was nice to have someone else to ride with. We were rolling around 8 o’clock to start the big climb out of Radium and the Colorado River.
Yesterday was a complete contrast to today. Yesterday felt like a road ride (near paved dirt roads and tons of cars). Today was mostly narrow, rough dirt roads with zero traffic.
The climb was much steeper and difficult than expected, which was great as far as I was concerned. 3500 feet of climbing over 13 miles, mostly in granny gear. At one point I took a harder cut-off route around a turn that I nearly could not ride. My tires were spinning and I was definitely pushing the limits of climbing with a loaded Bob trailer. We dropped five or six hundred feet over the climb, of course steeply and actually technical in some places.
I’d much rather be climbing steeply and descending gradually, but this climb was definitely one of the more difficult climbs among the entire route thus far. It was a good thing it was early, because we were still getting too hot.
Jelle rode very well, at first riding in front, then taking more breaks as the climb progressed. His 28 inch touring bike fared surprisingly well, even on downhills.
As we climbed we left the desert behind, for probably the twelfth time. We were once again in thick forest with plenty of shade. We rode briefly on the paved highway 134, then took a much higher quality dirt road than the climb out of Radium. It was a better road, but it featured a very deep creek that we needed to ford. Off came the panniers, the bob and our cycling shoes. We carried everything through the knee deep water. It was actually quite refreshing.
The map indicated there would be another crossing a mile later, but instead we found a large culvert–yippee. It was fun once, but it did take a bit of time.
The rest of the day’s riding was a breeze compared to the climb. We rolled through open meadows then climbed briefly to Lynx Pass (8,973 feet). At the top we got some water from the campground hand pump, but it was so murky that someone staying in the campground offered us some of his water. On the other side of Lynx Pass we found an even thicker forest that provided a nice downhill run.
Next up was the first real “trail", that is, singletrack, of the entire ride: the Elk Run trail. It took us around Stagecoach Reservoir (the spelling of that word is repeatedly escaping me), and it was mostly just an old ATV track (now closed to motorized vehicles). For about .1 miles it was beatiful forested singletrack…. if only it had continued. The forest was preceded by a very nice challenge climb. Paula and I cleaned it but Jelle shifted a bit too late and had to walk it.
We crossed the dam (cool views), saw a fox on the other side, then rolled down the Yampa river valley. This was supposedly another bike “trail” but it was also a trail for cars, though there were few. It was quite narrow, tree lined and paralleling the running river. We were now back at 7000 feet and it was 3pm, so it was quite hot. The shade and river air was quite welcome. So, we stopped for a bite to eat. The river was quite refreshing.
After the snack and river cool-down it was easy cycling into Steamboat Springs. As always the increase in traffic was not welcome, but the restaurants, stores and showers are. Sadly is it a weekend and there is a “Pro Rodeo” going on, so the town is packed.
We’re technically halfway on the route (and it is Day 20, yay), so I’m doing some bike maintenance: 2 new chains and a new rear tire.
Absolutely perfect riding today. We were treated to nice weather, a challenging and long climb and a beautiful downhill run all the way to the day’s end. It was almost too good to be true.
We spent the morning shopping–Walmart 2 miles from the motel, City Market for groceries and a bagel/yogurt for breakfast. Then some chaos ensued back at the motel as I attempted to get my bike into working order after the chain replacement. The middle ring was keeping the chain a bit too long, as often is the case on worn rings, so I went next door to Steamboat Bike Kare (where I had purchased the chains and tire yesterday) to find a new middle ring. They had just what I needed–an LX 32 tooth, so I happily went back to the room to change it.
I don’t have a crank puller and foolishly thought I could swap the ring without taking off the crank. It almost, and I mean almost, worked, but in the end I rolled my bike out to the shop once again. I know shops don’t like customers using their tools, and normally I wouldn’t ask, but I had bought a fair amount ($150 or so) of goods from them in the past 2 days, and they were happy to let me borrow a work stand, long 8mm wrench and a crank puller. I was out of there in 5 minutes with the new ring dangling from the crank.
We seem to always push right up to the checkout time limit, and today was no exception. We pulled things together in time and headed out down the main street out of town. Yelle cycled with us to go check out the campground, or to call his friends to stay with in Steamboat (I’m not sure which). An attempt was made to ride the river trail out of town, but the Rainbow Days and Pro Rodeo and Artisan Fair foiled that plan. People were everywhere, so we were forced onto the main road. We said goodbye to Yelle, then rode away towards state road 129.
The start of the ride was on the pavement with very little shoulder and a fair amount of traffic. Happily the drivers were quite considerate, slowing to drive behind us until it was safe to pass and generally giving us some room. There were other cyclists out and several of the cars had bikes on them, so I suppose that helped. Still, we were happy to see the signs for the town of Clark which meant our term of slavery to motor vehicle traffic was at an end.
We got a quick sandwich and tasty ice cream at the Clark store, and listened in amusement (and later annoyance) as the kids of the owners, well, acted like kids. Then it was off down a dirt county road to head into the hills.
For the next 6 hours we saw only a handful of vehicles. This was a stark contrast to many of the other big climbs and passes of Colorado. Once the road turned rough about 6 miles from (and 2000 feet below) the top of the climb, we saw no one until the end of the day in the town of Slater.
Behind us the clouds billowed, threatening rain. But it was clear to the west, so we hopped on to try and dodge it (our route was also heading west). This worked. We got clouds for the climb (our late start made it hot out), but no rain. Perfect.
Now, the climb was a surprise to us: very rocky, but not so steep that granny was always required. It was just technical enough that you had to choose your line wisely, but not relentlessly so. As we climbed and climbed the scenery just got better. These will be the last big mountain meadows and views for a while. The descent from the Sierra Madres will land us into the plains of Wyoming. I thought we were only going to 9500, but my altimeter nearly read 10,000 before we reached a beautiful campsite amongst tall trees at the very top.
The first 1.5 miles of the descent were bacon fat. Very fun mountain biking–especially the really steep bits. The trees were once again very dense on the north side of the pass. After the 1.5 miles of technical mayhem the road instantly turned smooth and fast. We were carving turns through aspens at 20 mph, seemingly forever.
We then rolled through HUGE mountain meadows with yellow flowers. The downhill just never seemed to end. Even the small uphills were of no consequence, I guess because we were feeling so well. Neither my hamstring nor hip were hurting, and I just wasn’t tired. I just felt great all around.
I was happy for our late start because we enjoyed the evening sun as we coasted down the river valley to the town of Slater. The miles passed like seconds, which is rare for a day on the GDMBR.
We saw our first people in 5 hours at the bridge over the little snake river in Slater. I asked them how the fishing was. “Pretty rotten, but it’ll get better.” “At least it’s a nice evening” “Sure is.”
0.6 miles down the pavement we found the River’s Bend campground and were met by the owner, Debby, and her pup, Maria. We checked out the miniature pony’s, camp cats and other animals, then pitched out tent in her lot. It was nice and warm here at 6700 feet, but the river meant quite a few mosquitoes. Her campground even has a shower, which made things even better.
Now to bed. Tomorrow: Wyoming (we are literally a stone’s throw from the border).
70 miles, 5600 feet of climbing
We were up early in an attempt to beat the mo-skee-toes. It worked. The wind blew fairly strong, which was surprising for the morning. We talked some more with Debby, the campground host, and visited with her various animals, including a few cats. There wasn’t any drinking water available (the people staying in the cabin had finished it yesterday), but she hooked us up with 2 bottles of arrowhead water, which was enough to get us up the climb and to the ranger station.
We climbed into the wind on the pavement, slowly but surely, going from 6500 feet to 8400. It was a nice morning and the road was deserted, but the wind was definitely getting old.
We checked out the deserted Sandstone Work Center, but it was abandoned and only provided a picnic table and a restroom (no water). We ate an early lunch (10:30) of PB&J sandwiches, then rolled on towards “Aspen Alley” and finally some dirt. Immediately after turning down the road we saw two riders, one with a Bob flag flying behind him.
These were the first North to South GDMBR riders we had seen (besides the racers). They were a large group (7 in total) that were originally the Adventure Cycling group that never got off the ground. They were doing 30 or so miles a day, having started June 5th from Roosville. We chatted a bit, but it was short since we were going separate ways.
One rider did his best to be inflammatory (obviously his nature), challenging my UofA jersey with his “Purdue” jersey and flag. There are very few things I am interested less in than school rivalry, so I could really care less. Then he yelled, “Why is it that every couple we see the guy is pulling a big load while the girl has nothing.”
One look at his rig was telling: an overloaded Bob trailer, plus front and rear panniers. Even I was carrying nothing compared to him. I’ll bet that both of our loads combined were less than his. In reality the gear between Paula and I is fairly well distributed. While I am certainly carrying more weight, I am carrying the non-essential items like the laptop, 4 different chargers, GPS+cable, extra batteries, satellite phone, camera+card reader, et cetera. None of these items really does her any good, in terms of progress on the trip. They’re really just for me.
Even still, it makes sense from an expedition planning angle for me to carry more since I’m bigger, stronger and more experienced than her. For us to have equal loads would make the trip much more difficult for both of us. Do you get the impression I wasn’t impressed with this guy? I told them about the upcoming terrain (the tough climb to nearly 10,000), but it was obvious that he already knew everything about the route, though he’s never been further than where he stood. Meanwhile we listened in interest as they told us about the great divide basin and water sources.
At any rate, we cruised through the famed “Aspen Alley", a short section of road lined by two thick walls of aspen trees. We enjoyed our last miles of trees, shade and cool air. We stopped at a nice creek (little sandstone creek) to pump our camelbaks full, then climbed a short hill before meeting the stragglers of the ‘adventure cycling’ group. They were the ones who liked to start and finish late, often riding in thunderstorms and strong headwinds that afternoons often yield. But at least they didn’t go out of their way to insult us. Nice guys, really. Perhaps a little naive though. They told us they had been fighting headwinds all day, so we would have a “tail wind all the way to Rawlins.” Actually it was more of a cross wind, occasionally it was what I call an “almost tail wind.” The wind was coming from the Southwest and we were going generally north. But for quite a while it was a headwind, so we kept laughing and repeating, “Tail wind all the way to Rawlins, guys.”
Even before we got blasted in the face by our first headwind I knew they were full of it. It’s not surprising, though, because cyclists will only notice the headwinds, and because of the slow down it seems like so much greater a percentage of your ride is spend into the wind. But are you really getting ALL headwinds? Please.
Another of their group told us we’d probably have a tailwind in the great basin since they had a headwind. Yeah, right.
Further down and still in the trees we saw yet another rider pulling a Bob! This guy had just started on a 9 day stint on the GDMBR in Rawlins. He definitely looked fresh and a bit green. We told him about the group ahead of him, and after talking I realized he’d rather not see anyone out here. Perhaps he’s not as green as he first seemed. But his bike, clothes and gear were just so clean that the first impression was hard to get around.
Soon we rolled out of the trees and stared at a never ending road before us. The rollers were huge, extending well beyond the horizon. Paula loves the rollers. I like them too, but after 20 miles they do get a bit old.
The road was covered in thick gravel at times, which combined with the cross wind made for the first section of the GDMBR where I actually felt in danger. The drops on the rollers brought us into deep wash crossings where the crosswind was much more fierce than on the tops. Combine downhill, speed, a very loose road and a strong crosswind and you’re looking for trouble. Of course another problem was that the temptation to gain as much momentum as possible was very hard to resist. Logic, in the end, prevailed, and we both applied the brakes when we could have let it rip. I really, really, did not want to crash with a full Bob load behind me.
We had heard that the man of the Dutch couple in front of us had crashed here and had to be taken to the hospital. I’m not too surprised after seeing the road.
The rollers continued for a long time. We were running out of water, it was hot and dusty. Rawlins could not come too soon.
We crested yet another hill and caught a glimpse of buildings. At this time both of us tanked our remaining water supply (unknowingly, we were quite a distance apart). In fact, Paula was pulling us through this tough section, riding well in front of me with the hammer firmly down. I was really impressed.
There was finally a downhill into Rawlins where we hit the cigarette store for $5 in powerade, juice and water. Can you say refreshing?
Paula’s mother, sister and nephew met us at the Day’s Inn, which we rode 4 extra miles in the wrong direction trying to find. But eventually we found it, checked in, then pigged out at KFC/Taco Bell. We had another dinner with her family then a good night’s rest.
The next project will be the Divide Basin. Strategies are currently being formulated.
75 miles (some extra in town), 6100 feet of climbing and “tail winds the whole way!”
Seeing Paula’s family was a great addition to the trip. It was a 4 hour drive for them to come meet us in Rawlins, and it worked out rather well. We ate enormous amounts of food, they restocked our dried mango supply (Paula insists on hoarding mangos) and we were able to spent almost a full day together.
It is so hot in this part of Wyoming right now that we had two options: leave super early or super late. Early was not going to happen today (her family was there), so we left very very late.
Breakfast was at the hotel, where all you can eat meant we were extremely full. Next was lunch at Cappy’s which also left us quite full and satisfied. We said goodbye to the family as they headed off back to Salt Lake around 1:30pm. Afterwards Paula and I pedaled over to City Market to restock our food supplies–no major towns for a couple of days. We bought some fresh fruit and candy to keep our stomachs busy during the afternoon. As we sat at the City Market we watched the shadow from the buildings grow, signaling the descent of the sun towards the horizon. But it was still very hot and the next 130 miles have no hope of shade.
The shade eventually got too hot, so we rolled across the parking lot to visit Pizza Hut. A small veggie pizza and large alfredo pasta dish later we were completely full for the 3rd time today.
We planned on leaving Rawlins at 5pm. As we rolled past the bank the marquee read exactly 5:00. We were loaded with enough water to get us to Atlantic City without searching out or pumping the somewhat unreliable sources in the basin. For us this meant two 64 oz. bottles on the back of the bob, 2 full camelbaks (90 oz and 40 oz), 2 20 oz waterbottles and an ‘emergency’ 32 oz nalgene. The map recommended 3-4 gallons per person–yikes.
It was hot for the first 15 miles of pavement out of town. Traffic was moderate, but we had a wide shoulder. We were climbing but making good time. I could not wait for the sun to set, though.
We saw our first anetelope on the highway, chewing away at grass on the side of the road. He was not at all concerned by the speeding cars passing him. But as soon as we got near he jumped up, scooted under the fence and was running across the hillside.
Just as the shoulder narrowed we crossed the continental divide and coasted down a huge downhill. Since we were now going 25 mph only a car or two passed us on the narrow road. Our turn was at the bottom. Still on pavement, but with no markings and a deserted road. However, there was an SUV with bikes parked there. Inquiry led to meeting a group who was section riding Wyoming only, and with a support vehicle. They told us to bring plenty of water (like we could do anything about that now) and that it was quite beautiful out there. They still had some stragglers coming in, I guess.
The miles flew by on the pavement was we pushed further into the vast, barren basin. No trees, very little water, but plenty of wildlife and plenty of dirt roads. 17 mph was the order of the day, and directly in front of us the sun slowly continued its descent. I couldn’t believe how hot it was even at 6pm. In the afternoon this would be grim indeed. Riding out here in a strong headwind would also be grim indeed. In the evening we found what we were looking for: calm wind. It seemed a bit unlikely leaving blustery Rawlins, but sure enough by around 7 pm or so it was quite still.
So still, in fact, and so temperate, that we just kept riding. That was exactly the plan. It was amazing to watch the sun set out in the basin. With no trees, only distant mountains and very clear air we could spin our heads 360 degrees and marvel at the sunlit clouds surrounding us. We felt small in this huge place.
We rode without lights until well after 9pm. Twilight is such a peaceful time, especially out here. Finally Paula wanted to stop to set up the lights, then, disaster–we couldn’t find her light. After searching we gave up and concluded it was left in the motel. She rigged up her reading light to illuminate the area just in front of her, then we rode side by side, sharing my light. This actually worked really well. We made it to the end of sandy Sooner road with no problems. We stopped there to eat a PB&J sandwich, then debated about continuing on. We decided to keep it rolling for at least an hour or so. An hour now meant an hour less sun tomorrow on the pull to Atlantic City.
The road was mesmerizing. The led light is not quite enough to see details clearly, so we rode somewhat in a daze, a small bubble of existence in a vast area of nothingness. We ticked off another 13 miles in the dark, then decided that midnight was enough–we should pitch our tent and get a bit of rest.
No dinner (our mega meals of the day had done us well)–just sleep. After we jumped in bed several trucks drove by. We puzzled over where they were going and what they were doing out here at this hour as we faded off to dreamland.
67 miles, 2600 feet of climbing (flat!)
I awoke to a couple more trucks at 5:15am. I was rested, but my head wanted to remain fixed on my pillow, not suspended by my neck. 20 minutes later I rolled out of the tent to make us Oatmeal. Paula also soon stirred, packing up the gear in the tent. We were lethargic for a while, but were rolling in the cold morning air by 6:30.
Now we could see what we were riding through. It was beautiful, but it seemed to never end, nor really change. We’d look ahead at our road and think, “that will be us…. in 20 minutes.” Progress seemed slow, but we averaged over 11mph. The terrain was mostly flat (the flattest we’ve seen outside of the very beginning in New Mexico), though it did roll at times. We crested the divide and dropped out of the basin onto the west slope. But things didn’t change much.
We must have seen at least 60 antelope out there. They kept running and running along side us, crossing in front or scooting under fences. They are incredible creatures to watch at full speed. They must love to run, because they seem to do it at the drop of a hat.
As the sun finally rose enough to assault the eyes Paula searched for her glasses. She found them scratched in her rarely used front handlebar bag pocket. “I wonder what scratched them?” You guessed it, our other head light–doh! Better than leaving it at the hotel, I suppose.
The miles piled on, but the morning air made them so much more bearable. Our first stop was about 20 miles from our destination–we had 42 behind us already. We ate PB&Js that would bring us home, all while sitting in the not-quite-too-hot-yet sun. When we hopped on the Pony Express / California Trail we met a group of horseback riders doing the Pony Express in its entirety. Their support driver was fun to talk to. We spent a bit too much time chatting, because when we left it was getting far too hot!
The stragglers of the pony express group were about 5 miles behind. We stopped and pulled off the dirt road to let them pass (common trail courtesy). As the last woman passed she asked us, “How many miles have you been?” Others in the party had earlier asked how far we had ridden that day, so I responded, “About 55.” She immediately retorted, “We’ve got 800, starting at Carson City.” “Oh, cool, well, we’ve done about 1500 from Mexico.” And I should have said, “and we’re the ones doing the work, instead of your animals.” Their horses were beautiful creatures, and tough too, long distance horses that just don’t know when to quit. One of the other women commented that horses were meant to travel across the country. I thought, “yeah, but not with you on its back.”
A few more miles brought us to the sweetwater river, flowing strong. I was tempted to jump in, but we faced a nearly 1000 foot climb and it was already quite hot. So we pressed on. My arms nearly melted as we pedaled up towards the Wind River mountains and the town of Atlantic City. But we were saved by a desert cloud, and just in time. I could see it ahead on the road, so I pedaled as though racing to reach it. Probably not the best strategy, but it was quite a relief. I waited in the cloud shade for Paula to catch up. The clouds held all the way into Atlantic City, which was exactly what we needed.
We rolled into Atlantic City around 1:30pm with plenty of (hot) water to spare. I drank at least 7 glasses of lemonade at the mercantile/restaurant along with mozzarella sticks and a ham/cheese sandwich.
Unfortunately we waited in the sun (an hour or so) for the owners of the Miner’s Delight B&B to return. But it was worth the wait. Debby and Ken were a riot to talk to and were very kind. We rented a cabin from them for $50, but spent most of our time in their lodge talking about all sorts of things. They were just good, hardworking western people. As long as the conversation stayed away from talk of people from the middle east, things were ok. It is interesting to meet very kind hearted people who still are so ignorant in some ways.
Now, for sleep, and we still need to figure out what the plan is for riding to Boulder/Pinedale tomorrow!!
69 miles, 4200 feet of climbing
We were asleep before the sun was completely set, then awake fairly early. We opted out of the breakfast with Ken/Debby, which would have been great except that it wasn’t until 8am and would likely entail talking to 9, and a rolling time of closer to 10. We were a bit slow to rise from our near hibernation, but we rolled by 7:30am.
In my mind the day’s ride started at South Pass City, which is the beginning of the next Adventure Cycling map. It was 4.4 miles, so I considered it a mere formality….. not so, you fool. It took probably 45 minutes of steep rollers before we climbed away from South Pass City. It would have been an interesting historical lesson, but at 8 o’clock it was neither open nor were we interested in spending the time while the sun was rising ever higher. It was already getting hot.
The paved highway 28 was still a ways, and a bit of frustration grew in me—I just wanted to get started with the ride. That 4.4 mental starting point business really shambilized me. Once we turned onto dirt again at the historic South Pass (where the trails Oregon, Mormon, Pony Express and Overland met to cross the continental divide), I started feeling better. I felt some link to my ancestors who traveled across the Mormon trail, since I am pulling a load of my own and putting in big miles. Our accomplishment pales in comparison to crossing with a handcart or wagon, of course, but there are similarities. I am filled with pride at my ancestors, though also with a bit of pity.
It is a good thing my frustration level decreased, because the following section was as slow as can be. We climbed up through never ending rollers… netting about 1000 feet, but over 20 miles. At 35 miles the sun was beginning its assault, there was still no shade, and we needed a break.
We found a perfect spot at “little sandy creek.” By hopping over a side creek we were able to access some trees (the first we had seen) where we could make a sandwich and lie down. It was tempting to stay and nap, but we pushed on instead.
The road we cycled on was really nice. The snow capped wind river mountains were to our east, treating us to some of the most magnificent views of the trip. The view was constantly there since there were no trees, but also constantly changing as we made progress across the range’s western flank.
About 60 seconds after we left our lunch stop we cruised a downhill, gaining speed for the corresponding uphill, but at the bottom Paula’s tire spit air and slime all over her rack and the road. It was such a large puncture that the air coming out was moving the dirt and rocks around on the road after she stopped. It must have been a nail or glass, but fortunately it was right on the top of the tube. So, it was slime to the rescue once again. I was very skeptical, but after letting the slime sit on the hole (it also ripped a hole in her tire) I pumped it up and listened in amazement as I heard no air escaping. I put it up to 40 psi or so, which held all the way to Pinedale, some 50 miles later.
After not having to change a tire for the second time (same tire as the Cochetopa Pass flat), I was quite happy. We rode more climbing rollers then finally hit a downhill, saying goodbye to the awesome Wind Rivers vistas. We crossed big sandy creek running strong. On the other side the road turned to a sandy mess. Fun and interesting riding, as long as it did not last for the remaining 12 miles to the pavement!
In the distance we saw two blobs that looked like they could be cyclists. One toppled over in the sand, stopped for a while, then continued. Jen and Vick were cycling N to S, had two companions behind them, and had somehow hooked up along the way and were now all riding together. They were fun to talk to, and the clouds had just rolled in, allowing us a few minutes of respite from the sun. We noticed a bit of a different attitude in these riders compared to the bigger adventure cycling group. We were in the middle of a ‘horrible’ section of sand, but they were happy and not complaining about it. They didn’t tell us about how they had been in headwinds (and that we’d be in tail winds).
Vick started his journey in Anchorage, and will be riding all the way to Argentina, using the GDMBR for only a short section. Amazing. He rode through Canada including Banff, but said he liked this area better because of the wide open spaces. I agreed, but I also said I was looking forward to getting back into some trees.
They told us that the sand did not last too much longer (and we told them the same), which was good. We said goodbye, then piloted our rigs from left to right, continually swerving to find firmer ground. Soon enough the road did get better, but it varied from washboard to sand to firm.
Around this time–just when we needed it–big clouds rolled in to serve us up a barrier from the sun. Of course with the storm clouds came winds, stiff headwinds, of course, so it was a mixed blessing. Actually I was happy for it since the last few days of riding have been so hot.
We hit the pavement, then saw the other two of Vick and Jen’s group. We didn’t talk long because the mosquitoes were thick. It was also late and they needed to get all the way to little sandy creek (they must have had a very late start). But they were nice enough. I liked their custom (hand) painted bike frames.
It was 18 miles of pavement to Boulder, where we had planned to stay that night (75 miles from Atlantic City). But there was only a small cafe (where we ate once, which was good, but enough) and an Inn. We needed groceries and had heard that the Dutch couple (or one of them) was ahead of us and going to Pinedale to camp. It was only 12 more flat, paved miles, so we pushed on. It was an easy hour’s ride, thankfully with no wind, to Pinedale. All the motels had no vacancy, so it was a good thing we weren’t looking for one. The oil rigs are working this summer, so all the employees are staying in the motels, I guess. Boom and bust.
We cycled to the west end of town to find the campground quite full of trailers. But it seemed quiet enough and there were the Dutch cyclists. We talked and laughed for a while before Paula and I headed out to find groceries. The big store was closed, but we were able to get what we really needed (bread for sandwiches) from the subway in the gas station.
87 miles, 5000 feet of climbing
We invited the Dutch cyclists to ride with us, however far, and they happily accepted. We are coming off a good sized stretch of long/hard days, so we were in need of rest. We were up fairly early, but slow to get things together and even slower to leave. One reason was the weather: overcast skies and light rain. It rained and blew during the night, and drizzled in the morning.
The Dutch cyclists went to the post office and to make phone calls while we got a bite to eat in the local cafe. While we ate it started to rain again, so things got pulled out even longer. We stopped in to the bike shop (just a section of the hardware store, but they have some good stuff) where I found a new bottle of lube. The Dutch cyclists repaired a flat tire at this time while we waited out the rain and talked a bunch.
Eventually we headed off down highway 191 out of town. Immediately we took a wrong turn which was entirely my fault. No one was following the narratives on the maps (too busy talking), but I saw the turn on my GPS, so we took it. The road was extremely washboarded and soon looked like it was to dead end or go to someone’s house. Checking the map we realized that our turn was about a half mile later. So, the first wrong turn as a result of the GPS. Not bad for 1500 miles of cycling on remote dirt roads. This was our first wrong turn to date, and it was only a minor one.
Back on track we pedaled a nice dirt road for a bit, then hit the pavement towards Union Pass. The rain continued fairly unabated, but we had new friends to chat with so the time flew by. The man of the couple (I know their names, but do not know how to spell them) and I rode together, at times getting very far ahead of the girls. So occasionally we waited, once pulling out lunch to eat on the side of the road.
After lunch the clouds lightened and it stopped raining. As we crested a hill we were treated to a spectacular view of the Green River valley and surrounding peaks (even Gannet Peak, I believe). It turned into a nice relaxing ride.
Paula’s blown tire from yesterday was losing air about 30 miles into the ride. We pumped it up again and it held briefly, but I knew it was time to change the tube. I was so happy to be changing it in the shade of a cloud, today, during a rest day, instead of while roasting in the sun during the middle of a 87 mile day, anxious to tick off some miles.
They planned to stay at the Whiskey Grove campground, a USFS one that was only 37 miles from Pinedale. We certainly needed a rest, and 37 miles is not bad for resting, so we pulled in to stay with them as well. We have already had some interesting conversation and hope to have more. However it is likely that we will say goodbye at some point tomorrow. Paula and I are looking to put in some large days to get through the big parks (Teton and Yellowstone) without too much chaos and traffic. We will see how that plan works out.
The campsite is nice. The Green River is flowing right by our tent, hopefully providing a lulling sleep effect. The bugs of course are not nice. I’m afraid it is Mosquito Time from here on out. Yet another reason to keep riding through the evening, camping later at 9pm or so. I’m not much in the mood for too many more evenings of sitting around camp being eaten alive by bugs.
37 miles, 1600 feet of climbing
The lull of the Green River provided the expected good sleep. Our friends were up and at them before 6am, with us up a bit later. It was quite cold and wet, but we managed to pull things together for a 7:30am start. The Dutch couple left a bit earlier, trying to get out on the climb to warm up.
It was gradual at first and very cold (my feet were numb for the first 10 miles or so), then the real fun began. It was a bit rough of a climb, but not too steep. A worthy climb, I’d say. At one of the crests (around 9000 feet) before the actual Union Pass we stopped to eat an early lunch. Oatmeal and hot chocolate make a nice breakfast, but it only endures about a half hour of packing up camp and an hour of riding before my gas tank is in the red.
PB&J hit the spot once again, with various treats exchanged between our two groups as well. That is always one of the fun things of camping and riding with new people is that you get to see how they operate and get to try some of the food they bring along.
Climbing continued, then we stopped at a outhouse along the side of the road to, well, use it. It was in the perfect place, for me anyway, but I’m still not sure what it is doing there. When we were about to leave a laden cyclist emerged from the trees beyond. He was a stout fellow, who’s name escapes me, who has been ‘on the bike’ for about 3 years, including a cruise around the continent. He was an interesting guy to chat with, and, surprise, he was GPS’ing the entire GDMBR just like me. Unfortunately he’s saving the data in Mapsend format, so its use will be a little limited. He didn’t seem to understand the point of using GPX–so that other programs and units can benefit from the data. Nor did he understand why collecting a more detailed tracklog could be useful, even on today’s technology. I have the exact unit he was using, and, well, the tracklogs it (Magellan Sportrak Map) collects are not that great. Nevertheless, the guy was a serious tourist whose full story we do not really know. He hung an “Abortion Kills” type flag made out of marker and a cardboard box from his Bob trailer. His website is “havebikewilltravel.com", though I have not visited it yet.
We traveled on, now getting late into the day, climbing away toward Union Pass. As the road improved we came into Tire Tuffy (ATV/motorcycle) land. They seemed to be everywhere. At the top Renate (one of our Dutch cycling friends) wanted to stop and eat. The sun was glaring and our food is not exactly overflowing Paula’s panniers, so we decided it was best to push on. We were sad to leave our new friend after such a short time, but we are sort of on different trips with different goals. I think they were the most interesting and most similar to us of all the people we have met thus far on the divide. It’s too bad they aren’t riding a bit more miles a day… of course if that were true we would have never caught them. The conversations we had while we cycled today and while we camped last night ranged through many topics, usually important ones, and we found them to be inquisitive, capable of critical thought and also very respectful of other people. We can’t say enough good about them, really.
Paula and I rounded out the last climb ABOVE union pass (the real climb comes after it) to 9600, then began the steep drop to the highway. 4 miles of lost elevation took us to the Line Shack ranch/dude/lodge/restaurant where we happily feasted on club sandwiches, fries and ice cream. This trip is turning me into even more of a food addict. It was also good to be inside during the hottest part of the afternoon.
After a short climb we dropped once again to the pavement, with the descent framed by beautiful red colored hills. The high cliffs of the Tetons loomed off in the distance as well. It was quite nice, except that it was getting hot.
We stopped at the tiny store (where everyone, including the customers seemed to weigh over 200 lbs) and found some oatmeal and drinks. Then it was back into the sun to begin the today’s second climb: Togwatee Pass (9668 feet). We were at 7300. Not too bad, but the beginning miles were gradual and there was plenty of traffic. In spots they had spilled out slurry all over the road (a supposed improvement). In the hot sun it burned our nostrils as well as covering our bikes and bodies with tar covered rocks. You never can find anything disagreeable with road construction (progress), can you?
Most of the serious climbing was done on dirt by way of Brooks Lake. We enjoyed this road, especially near the top where it was very narrow and cutting across a steep side slope. The road traversed extremely green meadows and offered awesome views all around. Even though I was feeling like crap (Ice Cream, though tasty is not something I can eat in the middle of a day of riding), I loved the climb.
We crested the pass and began a fast dive on pavement. We were rolling towards our 80th mile for the day, the sun was setting and it was actually getting cold. The first place we found to stay at was the Togwatee Lodge. Expensive, but it would work. We probably should have continued further to get an early start on tomorrow’s John D. Rockafeller highway of death section, but, alas, we were done for the day. I’m not sure that an early start would have helped much anyway. We are planning on it being mostly to completely awful, except for the views.
79 miles, 7000 feet of climbing
Things further north seem to be getting easier and easier. Today we knocked off 97 miles without too much of a problem, and with less moving time that yesterday’s 79. Either we are getting stronger or the ride is getting easier. I think it is a little bit of both.
We got a very slow start after an all you can eat breakfast at the hotel where I ate 4 huge Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Also partaken were hash browns, scrambled eggs, a cinnamon roll and several glasses of OJ. I think this breakfast was key to the day seeming fairly easy.
We visited the Exxon station at the hotel for some PB&J refill action, messed around trying to get things packed then were finally on the road (dirt, leaving from the back of the cabins area of the lodge) at about 9:30.
The dirt was mostly downhill, somewhat muddy and quite beautiful. I tried to enjoy it as best I could, but to be honest my thoughts were dwelling on the road through Grand Teton park, and I was cursing our late start. It was already warm (though we were descending) and I knew the traffic was only getting worse. It took quite a while before we reached Moran junction to turn into the road of death through the park.
First up was a nice little pleasantry: paying $20 to enter the park. If you do the GDMBR N to S you do not have to pay this fee. Fie, I say. We paid as much as a car ($10 per person), but we did complain about it to the (unsympathetic) money taker woman. Since the national park system is designed solely around automobiles with absolutely no facilities or access for bikes, we should not have to pay to support the park. What we paid $20 for was to ride a horribly congested, smelly, but scenic road.
I tried not to let the entrance fee bother me, and it worked. The road went by the lake, was mostly flat and not altogether too hot. The cars would come in waves, usually spearheaded by a truck pulling a camper. Oh how we sang the praises of the RVs and campers. Is there any other way to experience nature? Our verse went like this:
"I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died to give this gas to me. And I'll gladly drive my RV... next to you... and defend her still today. Cuz there ain't no doubt..."
The traffic was unbelievable at times. We had a tiny shoulder so it made for very stressful riding. There was some kind of animal off on the side of the road at one point, because everyone was stopping to take a look. Later on down the road we spotted a moose in the lake that no one else had seen. There are benefits to being on a bike on this park, however they are few. The main event, of course, is to drive this ‘beautiful’ road and perhaps stop at a pull out or two in order to take a photograph or admire the view–for 2 minutes. It actually became comedic after a while. The rented RVs, people stopping on the road to grab views without getting out of the car and sheer numbers of tourists was just a sight to behold. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
We did get some nice views of the Teton mountains across Jackson lake. Dramatic, but the traffic certainly detracted from them. We stopped in at Colter Bay which had a good grocery store. Here we met two southbound riders–young guys who were doing 50 or so miles a day. We chatted a bit, but kept it brief.
The worst part was the climb at the end of the road. We were going so slow, in the sun, and being passed as if standing still. It was enough to drive me mad.
The top did come, though, where we saw 2 Trans-America riders. The guy’s bob bag was so yellow it was nearly fluorescent. Mine’s covered it dirt and filth. They were nice to talk to a bit, and didn’t seem to mind all the traffic. Wow. I don’t think I could ever handle a tour on only pavement.
We coasted downhill through one of many 1988 burn sites. I was happy to see new trees already growing to moderate heights in between burned toothpicks of old trees.
We turned west at Flagg Ranch past a full campground which reportedly costs $26 to stay at. A few miles later we passed into the national forest to find campsites #1 through #8–all free with bear lockers, toilets and picnic tables. We were surprised to find an empty site at #2, so we pulled in to eat a PB&J.
As we were leaving more N to S riders–a couple who had started in Helena. They were very fun to talk to, though they encouraged us to detour around Fleecer Ridge. We have been hearing the horror stories about this section of the ride, but nothing will deter us from attempting it. He said we’d regret it. We’ll see about that.
We climbed and rolled through burned and non-burned areas and through rollers. We crossed a dam, got rained on for a half hour or so and dodged mud puddles. It was too much fun.
We eventually popped out of the rained area and into the wide dusty FR 267 road. Ugh, no one bothered to slow down so as not to dust the crap out of us. We did see Mike (www.mikelikebike.com) on his way south on the GDMBR. He had some great stories (perhaps embellished), and works as a teacher for homeless kids. We could have talked to him for some time, but I eventually got us out rolling on the road again. It’s too bad these cool people aren’t going the same way as us.
The miles poured on as we hit pavement (finally no more dust) through huge tracts of farmland. Things are green–and now we’re in Idaho! Easy, easy miles followed before we dropped to the Warm River and into the mega campground. It was of course full to the brim with RVs, kids, bikes–you name it, they had it. We passed through after filling up on water to head out on the old railroad bed and now bike trail. 2 or 3 miles up the way we found a nice flat spot to pitch the tent. The food is hanging in the tree (though I don’t think there are many bears here) and now we’re ready for some sleep. There is big talk about riding all the way to Lima, MT tomorrow (115 miles), but we will just see how the day plays out tomorrow.
97 miles, 4440 feet of climbing
The day didn’t play out very well, so we are camping only halfway to Lima instead of moteling in Lima. So it goes, but we are actually quite happy as this is one of the best camp sites of the trip.
Everything started well. As expected we were on a beautiful rail to trail conversion that paralleled the warm springs river. We were high above it staring at huge views of trees and winding river. Then we went through a tunnel that was dark enough to remove our sunglasses. Things were looking great. The trail was a bit soft but we had no chance of being passed by a car, which was a stark contrast to yesterday’s fight for freedom against RVs.
However, the opening of the trail to ATV traffic around mile 4 or 5 soon changed all that. We didn’t get any traffic but we were the beneficiaries of their handy work: washboard city. At first it wasn’t so bad. Then it was so bad. Then it was worse, and worse still.
We’ve climbed huge mountains, endured hot deserts, braved wind/thunder storms, et cetera, and ridden over 1800 miles. But what was it that finally brought us to our knees? That’s right, a rail trail. A flat, boring and straight rail trail. I found myself for the first time on the entire trip wishing that I was not on the great divide, or not even riding a bike at all. It just never ended. It was just so slow. My butt and right leg were killing me. It was impossible to relax. And it was all because of someone else–motorized recreation. The exhaustion was not just physical, it was mental and emotional. It drove us into the deepest depths of the pain cave; we were suffering because a bunch of ATV riders were gas’ing it or slamming on their brakes on a trail that should not, under any circumstances, be open to them.
Soon we saw why it is open: Island Park is a mecca for motorized recreation. You name it, they’ve got it. As long as it uses internal combustion (preferably 2 stroke polluters), it’s OK in Island Park. ATVs, motorcycles, snow-mobiles, jet skis, motor boats, and on and on. It was amazing, but we were in no mood for these idiots.
We were rewarded with one thing: a subway. Good cheap food. But I was exhausted–almost to the point of breaking. I almost thought I was done for the day–after 32 miles. We sat out on the table in front of subway, barely alive, watching fat ATV riders go in to order Atkins friendly subs. It was bad, real bad.
But slowly the food kicked in and we lurched into a form of life. Kiddie corner was a grocery store where we stocked up on candy and oatmeal for the next couple of days. We knew we were not going to make it anywhere near Lima. We staked out Red Rock campground as a good place to stop. It was on a lake, but in a wildlife refuge, so hopefully void of motored recreation. Yet it didn’t seem possible in this “Island” of motors.
We climbed over Red Rock Pass (7100 feet) where we crossed the continental divide and into Montana. We spent less than 24 hours in Idaho, which was more than enough. Immediately, which shouldn’t have happened, we met the friendliest drivers of the entire trip. People were slowing down to the likes of 2mph to pass us. It was absolutely amazing, refreshing actually. It’s funny how there is a direct correlation between how destructive your activity is (example rancher or ATV rider) and how respectful you are of other people. Or so it seems to me. We were now being passed by bird watchers and people with canoes, who were coming from a wilderness area, and they had enough brain cells in their head to realize that a couple of tired, hot and dusty cyclists do NOT want to be passed at 40mph on a narrow dirt road–both for the dust cloud and for safety.
As we approached we could see that indeed we were near a wilderness area. No atvs, no jet skis, no nothing. It was too good to be true. Signs were everywhere stating “No snowmobiles.” The campground was free, had a flowing spring and was very quiet. The lake was beautiful and in the distance we could hear a loud bird calling–the trumpeter swan (or so we surmised). These are the very birds this refuge was designed to protect. Some ranchers lost out on prime ranch land. Too bad for them, it’s about time we rode through an area not designated for ranching.
I sat for a while next to the lake watching a huge white swan dive and swoop around the lake, then finally land. The clouds were swirling with rays of sunshine peeking through to illuminate the calm lake. I was still just happy that I couldn’t hear a motor.
A few people were there, and later 4 GDMBR bikers pulled in. They were a family: the dad, two brothers and a nephew. The youngest of the brothers and the nephew were both 14 years old. Incredible. They are 650 or 700 miles into the trail and pulling their own loads. They hope to make it to Steamboat Springs this summer, then continue with the second half of the journey next summer. Sounds like a good plan to me.
This was a rare opportunity–we could actually sit and talk with some southbound riders (usually we just pass them on the trail). I think if we could have chatted with any of the southbounders we’ve seen so far, these would be the ones. They were a hoot, to say the least, and just great people. They have a really good group going, it is obvious. Bruce, Dave, Scott and Brayden from Olympia, WA. We exchanged some ideas about the upcoming miles. We told them to cut out some of the rail trail and to look forward to the subway but not the motor vehicles in Island Park. They tipped us off to the Mountain View Motel and RV in Lima, where they had spent a day resting. The new management has decided to be very friendly to hikers and cyclists, even driving 12 miles up the Red Rock river to bring Brayden’s sunglasses to him (left in a room). We decided to stay at the motel for that reason alone.
62 miles, 3300 feet of climbing
Contine to Page Four
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