“In the distance, I see…

…something. It’s alive and moving…going about 0.0001 mph up a hill”.

That is someone’s description of ME! I can’t believe it!

I met Aaron (of Aarondoesamerica.wordpress.com fame) on the trail, me going north to south on a bicycle and him going east to west on a motorbike. I checked out his blog and read an extremely amusing description of my climbing skills.

Here’s the cheeky blighter:

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And there I was riding high thinking I’d given a masterclass in climbing during the ascent of Indiana Pass, the highest pass on the route, only to plummet back to earth with a more objective take on things.

The weather forecaster had mentioned the possibility of snow one day around the time I was due in that area (freakishly plummeting 20 degrees in 24 hrs) but that certainly wasn’t the day I passed through. It was 24 C at 8,000 ft so a balmy 18-20 at the top of the pass I reckon, which was perfect. That and the fact I’d been led to believe that Indiana Pass was awful perhaps account for the fact that I found it absolutely fine! If you’re going up in rain, snow or strong winds, er, enjoy! But myself and Team Dangerous (Greg, Hannah and Brandon, now 5 days ahead of me), in good conditions, found it not too bad at all.

I knew that – like every sporting success – good nutrition and hydration would play a hugely important role in things. I tried to get Dave Brailsford on the blower the day before to seek some advice but he was busy so I was left to follow my intuition. My prep went as thus:

– 4.30pm: Bacon Cheeseburger, chips and a Diet Coke
– 7.30pm: all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet for $9 and a beer
– 7.30am the following morning: bacon, eggs, hash browns, pancakes and a cup of tea

It was the first time I’d double-dinnered since arriving in Pinedale, propping Reggie against the railings outside a restaurant and mainlining a Pad Thai, cycling 2 minutes to the campsite to put my tent up before returning to see off a large bowl of loaded potato skins with bacon and sour cream.

Anyway, the medley listed above did the trick as I went the 23 miles from Del Norte to the top of the pass without stopping. It took me 5hrs 15mins which is quite some lick, and 3hrs 30mins to do the 12 miles of serious climbing. A little, but not much, faster than 0.0001 mph. I did of course stop to take a few photos, ask directions (wanting an independent adjudicator to verify I was going up the right hill as it’d be heartache if it wasn’t) and chat to a couple of guys in a pick-up truck who were checking I was ok and didn’t need any water etc.

There’s Indiana Pass at the bottom of the map:

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At the top (11,903ft):

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It’s quite barren up there:

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Since my last post I’ve met 3 people who have raced the Tour Divide, all very nice and surprisingly normal! The first one, John, was in his pick-up and stopped to chat about where I was heading to that day. Not wanting to be shown up, I muttered a campsite name but quickly declared that I may press on, trying to be cool and acknowledging the fact that wasn’t really that far away and OBVIOUSLY I could go further. He then started directing me to somewhere and I was thinking “hells bells, this is going to be in the next State!” as they ride about 200 miles a day. And sure enough, just as I struggle to comprehend how the racers can manage that, they clearly struggle to understand the layman’s approach to the Divide for he started giving a lengthy list of directions. I didn’t want to burst his enthusiastic bubble so pretended to listen hard (with part of me thinking it genuinely worthwhile listening as if I dug deep I might find something special in the tank to make it there), so played back the whole “uh-huh….yep, I’ve got you…20 miles of up and down…right after the bridge…”. A few miles after I’d got going again I had a quick look in the tank, found nothing remotely special so pulled up at my original campsite of choice.

John gave me some reassuring information that (as proved) the climbs in Colorado are actually fairly easy, largely as the roads are in good condition compared to some other areas. His take on New Mexico was “New Mexico…[suck air through teeth]…New Mexico is tough man”. By now, alarm bells were starting to ring as someone else had said “New Mexico – that’s mountain-biking” (help!!! I don’t like mountain biking) and I’d detected in general to not think the worst was other just because you’d done the highest pass.

This sense of foreboding was further embedded upon meeting Kent and Robert. They used almost the exact same eyes downcast shake of the head and “that’s tough man” about New Mexico. Robert said it was “balls-to-the-wall” stuff (i.e. knuckle down and speed on through). When I saw him again the next day, he ended the conversation with “New Mexico…it’s…I’m not even going to say it…” which obviously spoke volumes.

So it’s boobs-to-the-wall for me and off I go to tick off the final State!

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6 thoughts on ““In the distance, I see…

  1. I once tried an Indiana pass on a girl in an attempt to get her ‘boobs to the wall’ – needless to say ended badly. So good on you for pulling it off.

    Now you are all four states in, it would seem appropriate that we test your knowledge of the all American life. How many states are there? Which is the last alphabetically? Which is the largest? When is Thanksgiving? Where was the first McDonald’s opened? And the New Mexico Stars play which sport?

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    • Haha, v funny about the pass!

      I’m going gut on the questions – no thinking time. Think tie-break round.

      Gosh, I should really know the number of States. Isn’t it related to the flag? 20? Or 21? I’m going 20

      Virginia

      Largest – gut says Texas but I’m not sure why

      Thanksgiving – is that 10th Dec?

      McDs – Mmmm, tricky. LA?

      They play soccer / football

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      • Given I live here I should pick this one up… Little low on the number of states. There are 50 (indicated by the stars in the flag). The 13 stripes represent the thirteen British colonies that declared independence from Great Britain and became the first states in the Union.
        Wyoming is the last… Largest in the contiguous USA is Texas but Alaska is the largest… Thanksgiving… I always thought it was the third Thursday in November but it’s actually the forth Thursday.

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      • It was 4am and I wasn’t thinking clearly. I knew the 50 States thing. stripes is new to me but prob not mark as he’s clever. Could also name several W states after posting Virginia.
        Thanksgiving – whatever. If it’s not Christmas, I’m not interested

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