Friday, July 31, 2015


The last few days since leaving Grants has been a period of high expectations only to be derailed or disappointed. No worries, my attitude is still great and things are rolling along, but to say that everything went as expected or planned would simply be lying.

Monday, July 27: Grants to Pie Town, 70.1 miles

I opted for the El Malpais Alternate this morning and not because it was nearly 18 miles shorter than the main route. I wanted to ride it because it was paved and after the issues with mud in the desert and the rain that fell in Grants, I wanted a smooth ride. I got one. It was scenic and low traffic. There were a few large trucks, but they gave me plenty of room. A guy in a pickup even stopped and asked if I wanted a lift. I was 4 miles from the turn off to Pie Town and he was headed in a different direction, so I passed.

I made pretty good time to Pie Town. I was pretty excited because Pie Town is somewhat legendary in Great Divide circles. Well, I was bummed when I got there. I arrived just before 4:00 and everything was closed. The Pie-O-Neer was only open on Thursday-Sunday and the other cafe closed at 3:00. I also had a package from Buck Tanner at the post office, but small community post offices often close at noon or 1:00. Everything I was looking forward to was closed, it was indeed a let down. The only place open was a little shop run by Janet, who sells her own art and items from other local artists. She also sells some sodas and light food items, so I ate and talked to her for a while. She also pointed me to the Toaster House.

The Toaster House is definitely one of the highlights of Pie Town and the Great Divide. Nita, the owner, apparently raised a family there. Now, it is unoccupied except for the riders and hikers that are allowed to overnight there along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. And all the toasters that decorate the fence outside. It is donation driven, you just leave some money in a box inside. The house is kept stocked with food; there were fresh potatoes and onions on the counter, sodas, lots of packaged snacks, a pantry full of non-perishable food and even a whole watermelon. The back had a refrigerator full of frozen pizza and pot pies and filled with beer. It was one of the neatest things I've experienced. I ate some of the pizza, had some soda, a Rolling Rock and some ramen.

About 8:30, a four wheeler pulled up and behind it was Chad. He couldn't find the Toaster House, so a local showed him the way. I went out and said Hi. When I told the young man who brought Chad my name, he said, "Is that Cambodian?" I was impressed. He said he was in the Navy and had a Cambodian friend.

Tuesday, July 28: Pie Town to Middle of Nowhere, 64.6 miles

I was up early with no where to go because the post office didn't open until 8:00. Ate some food and made coffee at the Toaster House. Left my donation to the Toaster House. Rode to the post office and got my care package. Thanks Tanners. Went next door to Janet's again and had some coffee and a croissant. She, Chad and I talked for a while. We decided to stay until 9:30 when the cafe opened. You can't leave Pie Town without having pie!

The wait was worth it. I had the New Mexico Apple ala mode. Connor, who is doing an Individual Time Trial (ITT), joined us. He had already covered 30 miles that morning. He started on July 5 and was caught up with me already, averaging well over 100 miles per day. The three of us swapped stories and gorged. It meant a late start, after 10:30, but the terrain was set up for lots of fast miles.

When I started rolling, I was making good time. I was hoping to get close to Beaverhead Work Center, 99 miles away. Covered 30 miles quickly and then it started raining. Conner and I waited out the rain for nearly an hour. Then we were riding again. Covered another 25 miles pretty well, though it would rain lightly off and on. The grades were gentle and Beaverhead was looking good. Then I hit a section of clay. The clay clumps, so as you roll it clogs the clearance between your tires and frame locking up your wheels. You'd clean off as much as you could, roll 3 feet and then it's all clogged again. I was two inches taller because it would clump to the bottom of my shoes.

Conner said he was going to push on, he was more determined and has a lighter set up than me. I pushed about 3/4 mile and camped. Beaverhead was not going to happen. I was still 30 miles away. It was frustration, mixed with disappointment. The rain was crushing my momentum.

Wednesday, July 29: Middle of Nowhere to Rocky Canyon Campground, 66.3 miles

Again, I was up at 6:30 but took my time getting packed in the morning. It had rained again and I wasn't going very far fast. When I did get moving, I made the strategic decision of not riding in the road. I rode in the grass beside the road as much as I could. Pushed where I had to. I was really thankful for the big tires this morning. Biked about 2.5 miles before the road met another road. The surface, while still dirt, improved immediately. I was so elated to be able to pedal. I was going to make up for lost time. Lake Roberts, 85 miles away, was my goal!

Like the day before, I was making great time. The Beaverhead Work Center houses Hot Shot Fire Crews that go in and fight wildfires. A firefighter named Anthony rode down to the water station and asked if I needed anything. He told me they have men all around-- in California, British Columbia and other places fighting fires right now. He had tweaked his knee, so he was recovering. I told him I was good, I'd probably grab a cold drink from the vending machine. He said it was broken, but he'd be back. A few minutes he returns with a tall cup of Pepsi and a bowl of fresh fruit mixed in yogurt. I wasn't expecting that! This day kept getting better. I was definitely going to make Lake Roberts.

Soon after leaving Beaverhead, you pass little Wall Lake. There it started raining again. I waited 30 minutes before riding on. The rain let up and things were going well. I topped out on two climbs. On the descent to Black Canyon, I hit the clay again. I was literally stuck. I would push 3-4 feet, wheels lock up and I'd spend 2-3 minutes cleaning. I decided the best technique would be to drag the bike sideways. I would do this for 4-5 feet, rest and do it again. I did this for about 300 meters before I was too tired. 80 pound bike, pulling it uphill, was tiring. Lake Roberts wasn't going to happen. I cursed and fumed and laughed and cursed some more. Things were going so well...

Had someone driven by in a pickup I would have asked for a ride out of there, but alas, I would see no one on that road.

I ended up ditching the bike and walking nearly a quarter mile to see where the road improved. Then I made two trips, one carrying my panniers and the other carrying, pushing, dragging the bike. One more cleaning and I could ride. My drivetrain was gunked and gravel grinding, but I could pedal. Maybe I would make Lake Roberts.

About 6:30, the skies opened up again. Evening thunderstorm. Of course. I rode on since I was already wet. Made it to Rocky Canyon, which is not the developed campground I was hoping for. And it was still 20 miles short of Lake Roberts. But the rain had stopped and I set up camp. I cleaned off my dirty stuff in the rising creek next to the campground. When I was settled, I got in the tent to rest and eat. And then it rained again. At least I was dry.

Thursday, July 30: Rocky Canyon Campground to Silver City, 50.3 miles

When I woke, I did a lot of things that I were no fun. I packed a soaking wet tent. I put on wet clothes. Wet jersey and shorts, wet socks and shoes. The rain the day before and overnight had caused the water to rise in the creeks draining into the valley. Lots of fording of creeks that had flooded the road.

But the sun came out! Thursday would be the first day I did not get rained on in New Mexico. I rode into Lake Roberts finally! At the motel/store there, I asked if there was a place I could get breakfast. The lady said no, nothing was opened. She had some burritos made, but sent them away to a worksite. She offered me hers, but I didn't want to take that. More disappointment! But then the truck that had picked up the burritos came back for something and she grabbed one for me, so things worked out.

It was a big 10 mile climb out of the Lake Roberts and the climb didn't feel bad at all. There was no rain, the sun was out and I was going to make Silver City. It's really unfortunate about all the rain, because the Gila National Forest was one of the prettiest places that I rode through on the Great Divide. I just couldn't appreciate it at the time because I was frustrated and slowed down.

Roll into Silver City and stop at Gila Hike and Bike. For the last 4 days, I was wondering if my rear tire would make it to Silver City, much less the border. I would occasionally hear or feel leaks that the sealant would close. But I could tell that a good amount of air had left the tires and the tires were getting close to being worn through. I was going to either get them to put a bunch of sealant in the tire and take a chance on the border or maybe get them to rotate the tires. Against my expectations, they had a 29x3 Surly Knard in the shop. I was going to have to buy a new tire when I got home anyway, so I went ahead and bought it and had them install it. Finally, something working my way! And now, I knew I wouldn't be stranded 4 miles from the border with a giant hole in the tire.

Staying at the Bike Haus. Found Conner (below) there too! He's going to bike 120 miles to the border on Friday. It's an interesting place. About 5-6 guys live there and they open their house to the random cyclists who need a place to crash. It is definitely a bachelor set up, I would not call it the Marriott. The people living there are an interesting, eclectic group who range from a college professor to people who just arrived in Silver City and looking to get established. Not my first choice, but it's cheap and that works for me right now.

Im two days to the border. Brian, who I met over a week ago in northern New Mexico, has agreed to come get me at the border on Sunday and house me in El Paso and take me to catch the Monday train east. It's really neat how things indeed do work out. I was planning on biking two days from the border to El Paso and this random dude I meet offers to come get me (though he said I was welcome to bike it if I wanted). My plan is to take the train home, tickets run me $279. That's versus $600-700 to fly and ship bike, so it's worth it to me. A bike box is only $10 on Amtrak, $150 on most airlines.

The homestretch is near. Thanks for reading and following. Thanks for the prayers, encouragement and support.

Monday, July 27, 2015


I was riding along passing time and I thought to myself, I wonder if people wonder what I eat. I'm gonna blog about it.

First of all, I've lost weight. I don't know how much, but one of my riding shorts now fits loose (saying a lot for spandex) and a pair of off bike shorts I brought I can literally remove without unbuttoning. 

In cafes and diners, I'll eat whatever is there and a lot of it. I'm burning a lot of calories each day. But the snacks and provisions I bring when I'm not in a dining establishment is a smorgasbord of random things.

I'm not a nutritionist that is careful about what and how much I take in, especially while bike touring. I'm gonna burn it off anyway. I just need calories. And to feel not hungry. So I take things that are easy.

The staples:
Clif Bars, Granola bars, beef jerky or Slim Jims, Trail Mix, dried fruit.

The Random:
I've been consuming a lot of Combos and I've been craving popcorn, so I might carry a little bag of that. That's stuff I would rarely buy at home, but have made me quite happy on the bike.

Tuna packages stuffed in pita or naan. Recently, peanut butter on tortilla. The dehydrated backpackers meals that friends sent were good, but I never bought any because they are hard to come by in small towns.

In the beginning, I was boiling water and making oatmeal. But then I got lazy because I didn't want to clean. Now I just boil water for coffee and have granola bars or one of those packaged danishes that you find in convenience stores.

I usually also stop at a convenience store or grocery when I arrive at a town if I am not stopping for a meal. It's an excuse to be off the bike, I can refill my bottles and they usually have ice cream. It's hot and after 40 miles ice cream and a coke or root beer just make me feel good. 

Moving on

Today, July 26, marks my 33rd day since I left Banff. I've biked about 2,120 miles. I'm approximately 375 miles from the Antelope Wells.

Some highlights since Shawn left me in Del Norte on Tuesday:

- Indiana Pass is the highest elevation I'll be on the route at 11,910 ft and it's a long 22 mile climb from Del Norte that gains 4,000 feet of elevation. My plan was to stay at a cabin about a third up the climb, but when I called the guy said that staying there tonight was not an option. I didn't want to do the entire climb in the morning, so I decided to start up and then camp somewhere along the way. I met an older gentleman from Alamosa who was doing a 3 day loop. He said he was too old to being doing stuff this hard. 

I found a nice clearing about 3 miles short of the summit. It was next to a road that led to private property. Usually, the people aren't home, but here they were. A very nice older couple stopped and asked me if I needed anything. They live in Corpus Christi, TX and spend their summers here at 11,200 feet and 8-10 miles away from their closest neighbors. They said if I needed anything to come to their house, about 1/2 mile down the road.

- Wednesday, after crossing Indiana Pass, I went around the old town of Summitville. Summitville is now an EPA Superfund site. Gold, iron and copper were mined here but left behind a scarred mountainside and contaminated water sources. There are gorgeous streams but the Adventure Cycling Maps say in bold that the waters are contaminated and not drink.

- This part of Colorado is all new to me and it's fantastic. The forests are gorgeous and green, great backcountry sites and magnificent scenery. I ate lunch at Platoro, a little community that caters to people heading into the mountains. The nearest paved road is 20 miles away. The Conejos River runs out of Platoro and was full of anglers and one of the most scenic descents. Road was in great shape and I could go fast. Maybe too fast...

- I have two sets of riding clothes and I like to "wash" one set each day and let them dry out by strapping to my panniers so that I have somewhat clean ones for the next day. Somewhere on that bumpy and fast descent, I lost my shorts. When I realized it, I was distressed. I biked back about half a mile and gave up, they could be anywhere. I was pondering how to get a second set so I wouldn't have to wear the same shorts over and over. Would REI or Nashbar ship General Delivery? Close to the end of the road, a guy on a motorbike pulls up next to me and yells, "You're losing clothes!" I had talked to Tim in the restaurant at Platoro and he saw my shorts, realized they had recently been dropped and picked them up and caught up with me. Crisis averted!

- Another cool people moment, I had just crested La Manga Pass, which is the next big climb after leaving the Conejos River. In this post I mention some guys from Boulder who are doing the Colorado section supported. Shawn and I talked to them a little. Well, their SAG driver recognized me and yelled at me as I was beginning my descent and he was about to go over. Then he turned around and caught up with me. He said I was hauling ass and wanted to give me something. He insisted, so I let him give me some food and a Avery's White Rascal. Forrest is a Colorado University student who got roped into driving support for a bunch of friends. They were finishing their tour but he told me to rock on to Mexico.

- Entered New Mexico on Wednesday also. Climbed to Brazos Ridge Overlook. It was such a tough climb. Had to push the last half mile, the rocks were too big and loose to ride over. Beautiful view into the Cruces Basin Wilderness. I camped near there, with cows around me and coyotes barking nearby all through the night.

- Thursday was a long day. Rough roads made for slow riding. Had to brake on downhills because the rocks and bumps jarred everything. My shoulder hurt from the ride. I longed for front suspension, though I'm not sure how much it would have helped. Also, had a rain delay. But I talked to Brian from El Paso, who is doing 5 days of the Great Divide.

- Also, met Brant. A real cowboy. He was looking for some cows in the Carson National Forest.

- Stopped and talked to Joel, who's wife runs a little snack shop in Canon Plaza. It was in the Ride the Divide documentary. Their kids started it years ago when they were young. Both are grown and married now but the couple keep the snack stand open. Neighbors stop by, hunters and fishers will drop in and, of course, Great Divide riders stop for a break. I sat and talked with Joel for over 20 mins. He called me tough for doing the ride and also jokingly (I think) called me spoiled for needing a tent (the racers don't). He was glad to hear I was an educator, he was a retired administrator. Worked at a school with 500 students in grades K-12.

- Between Vallecitos and El Rito was one more climb. It was a fun and fast descent into El Rito. I ate at El Farolito, which is not only the lone place in town to eat, but also quite famous. Brian talked about it. My friends Brent and Jessie in Raleigh messaged me about it. It's for real and it's great Southwestern food.

- A man getting takeout sat and talked with me a while. He offered me camping on his property and I almost took him up on it. I studied the map while I was eating and saw that it was all downhill to Abiquiu so I decided to do that. I crushed the 14 miles to the Old Abiquiu B&B. Wanda offers cyclists camping on her property next to the Rio Chama for a donation. Her place is really nice and even though I'd already eaten, she left me some fruit and frozen custard for dessert. Highly recommended if you're ever in this area.

- Glad I made the call to get to Abiquiu. Friday may be the hardest day of the ride. That or the day I rode from Steamboat to Radium. You immediately start climbing right out of Abiquiu. I feel like I'm a strong climber, but I could never get a good cadence. You're not so much spinning as you are picking lines and mashing the pedals over obstacles. The photo below is before the road deteriorates. This is fine for short stretches, but for 20 miles, it wears on you. It took me over 5 hours to go 20 miles. The roads were washed out and rough. In 30-40 miles I saw no other person. Rode a little with Chad from Indiana, who I met in the morning back in Abiquiu. When I decided to call it a day after 54 miles, Chad pushed on another 20 miles to Cuba. I didn't want to ride in the rain, it was getting dark and I was tired. I did climb over 7,100 feet this day and the net elevation gain from Abiquiu to the highest point was over 4,000 feet.

- Up early and made coffee. Picked a good camping spot, because just a few miles pass where I camped, the forest became busy. Lots of RVs and other people camping. I would have camped with neighbors had I gone farther. This side of the forests also had more streams and water. Fast descent into Cuba, losing almost 3,000 feet of elevation. 

- In Cuba, saw Chad again. He spent the night in a motel and was riding on. I stopped for breakfast and to re-supply. Hit the trail about 10:30 and rolled into the desert. Talked to a ranger for a few minutes, the only ranger (not incuding Grand Teton) I've seen even though the Great Divide spends a majority of it's time on public lands managed by the US Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management.

- Man, the desert was beautiful. The scenery amazing. It was hot, but didn't feel bad. I made sure to reapply sunscreen. I suffered three punctures. I know because I feel sealant from my tires spraying on my legs. But the sealant seems to be doing their job and closing the holes. I made sure to ride more careful. Roads were rough, but still in much better condition than the last two days.

- Slept good at camp last night. Woke up early (5:30) and riding by 6:30. Morning thunderstorm. Not much rain on me, but the lightning worried me. Caught up with Chad, who turns out camped about 4 miles ahead of me. We waded through some mud holes together. When it was time to climb out of the desert and into the Cibola National Forest, I lost him. I'm a faster climber and I was looking forward to shower and doing laundry in Grants.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Adventures with Shawn

As I write this, Shawn is pedaling away from me. He is riding to Alamoso to rent a car and drive home. Logistically, this was the best way for him to get back. Now, I'm back to solo.

The last two days have been really neat. I think Shawn feels like he slows me down, which is not the case. I do climb faster, but I really don't mind waiting at the top. I just like to be done with climbs. To fly to altitude and ride the terrain and elevation that he has is pretty tough. Props to him.

We left Salida on Sunday morning and started climbing towards Marshall Pass. About 17 miles of climbing, but never steep. Saw some CDT hikers at the top of the pass and lots of people riding portions of the Colorado Trail. We descended to Sargent where we had surprisingly good food at Tomichi Creek Trading Post in Sargent. From there we had to share HWY 50 with lots of cars as we headed west. We turned off in Doyleville and  began more climbing.

The scenery was pretty, but the riding was tough late in the day. We rallied and made it all the way to the Upper Dome Reservoir, where we camped for the night. Met a few riders from Boulder doing the Great Divide through Colorado. They were being supported though, meaning that they rode with little weight and gear.

Yesterday, we got up early and tackled Cochetopa Pass. We were already over 9,000 ft, so the climb wasn't too bad. It took some time in the morning as Shawn rearranged his packing but we were off around 9:30. The east side of the pass, you enter some neat rock formations and a nice descent. Then we are climbing again. The climb to Carnero is deceiving. It's pretty gradual. There was a steep pitch and then it evened out again. But the last 1.5 miles becomes really steep and tough. It was definitely a grind.

At the top, it starts raining. We head down the pass and get soaked and become freezing. My fingers go numb. The Adventure Cycling maps say that there is lodging at La Garita Lodge. We were looking forward to warm and dry. When we get there, we are disappointed to see that it is closed. We're cold and wet and I'm trying to call other lodging. We decide to bike the extra 10-11 miles to Del Norte.

Then a man pulls up and asks if he can help us. We tell him our situation and he says that the lodge is booked for a wedding party but if we want, we can camp and use the bathrooms. We thought about it. Then he says that we can sleep on the floors inside. We take him on the offer, which was a good call because it rained off and on the rest of the night. At least we had warm showers and were dry. The lodge was great for our needs and a literal refuge in the storm. We were very thankful for the hospitality and mercy of Mike.