Days 60 to 64 photo journal

Day 60: 14 miles from the turn-off the highway from Cuba to a few miles north of Felipe Tafoya Grant private land

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Cerro Parido

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Dry river

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Filling up with water out the well

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Tiny Daniel

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Me

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Camping spot

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Day 61: north of Felipe Grant boundary to Grants

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Morning fog

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Up and down the steep sides of arroyo (water channels)

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World’s biggest cricket

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RATTLESNAKE!!!

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Day 62: Grants to Armijo Canyon on the El Malpais alternate

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Sandstone bluff overlook

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La Ventura natural arch

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Day 63: Armijo Canyon to Pie Town

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The Toaster House in Pie Town – let yourself in and make yourself at home!

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Reminded me of Hope’s flat on the ground floor of my house

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With Nita who owns it but leaves it open for Great Divide cyclists and hikers on the Continental Divide Trail

(Note the toasters in the bushes)

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Day 64: Pie Town to somewhere near a stretch of private land in the Gila National Forest

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Not before we’ve had some pie…

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One of the 2 water source options for that day. The other one wasn’t a goer either but someone gave me 2 litres!

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Escondido Mountain

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The Drop

This is Dick and his 4 rescue dogs.

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I first met Dick when cycling out of the wilds and into Grants. He has a thing for cycle tourers after having helped the Adventure Cycling Association draw up the map for Northern New Mexico. He very kindly got out a map of Grants and marked on the need-to-know info: which Chinese to avoid and which is decent (neither were visited), the location of Walmart (useful) and Dennies (now you’re talking!).

Daniel also bumped into Dick later that day and Dick offered to leave some water midway between Grants and Pie Town (2 days away) to save having to carry the extra weight. I think Daniel thanked him but said it wasn’t necessary and we thought that was the last of our very helpful friend.

Then as I was cycling through the Badlands the next day, a guy on a motorbike pulls over and it’s Dick saying he’s made the drop and left water and other goodies in some bags hidden “in the bushes along the fence to the west of the cattle grid that you cross when you peel off the main road onto the road to Pie Town”. Off I trotted with childish excitement and soon found the stash exactly where he’d indicated:

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There were 2 massive bottles of water (too much for me to carry) and this:

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And also this:

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How nice! Brightened up what was already a great day cycling down the El Malpais alternate on what was clearly national cricket Let’s Have Sex! day as 8 out of 10 crickets on the road were at it. The others were, I suspect, either post-coital or in the bushes spraying themselves with Lynx or Impulse ready to paint the Tarmac red. I seriously think there is a mass mating day as after that I saw little cricket-cricket contact bar those eating a friend who’d been squashed on the road – they are ruthless!

On top of the sandstone bluff south of Grants on the El Malpais alternate:

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La Ventura arch:

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Next stop was Pie Town, historically and still famous for its pies. As I was cycling down the road towards some pie and the Toaster house (a must-stay place in PT), a car pulled up alongside me and, as we were both cruising along, the female passenger asked me what I was doing etc. The whole interaction was a little odd and the bloke driving looked like a cross between a garden gnome and those little troll figures you get in places like gift shops in Cornwall and you wonder who’d buy them when you could just get a box of clotted cream fudge for a couple of quid, job done. Eventually the woman asked if I was going to stay at the Toaster house to which I said yes. She replied that it was her house, took a photo of me out the window as we were both still cruising along and silently drove off. Bit odd…

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I made it to the Toaster house to find Daniel there having done a full reccy and found out the essentials. It’s the former family home of Nita (the woman in the car, who now lives on a ranch) and she leaves the place unlocked for cyclists and hikers to use. There’s a well-stocked fridge (we took beer) and freezer (frankfurters and bread, gone) and kitchen appliances so you can make yourself at home, which we did! Nita came round later (she’s not weird when you chat to her properly) with some delicious pie and some tomatoes and peppers, then took us on a tour round Pie Town. Pie Town has a population of 40. They do have a massive radio wave satellite, a windmill museum and 4 churches though.

The next morning we left a donation in the box in the Toaster house, headed to one if the 2 pie cafés for pie then pedalled on our way.

Staged pie-eating shot:

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Rolling the Dice

It’s been ages since I wrote my last blog and I can’t remember exactly what’s happened but I’m pretty sure it’s involved riding a bike. Most significant parts of the route include Jevez mountain (rough roads and uphill, enough said) and the crossing between Cuba and Grants.

I have been on a similar schedule as Aussie Daniel for some time now since we bumped into each other after leaving Salida, and we were due to cross the infamous section between Cuba and Grants at roughly the same time (with me about half a day ahead). The section – about a 100 mile diagonal crossing of whatever large number of square miles that makes of deserty, canyonish area – is well-known on the trail as if there’s heavy rain the roads turn to mud and you’re stuck a long way from civilisation and will likely have to walk out of there.

The alternative route between the two towns that many are forced to take is 120 miles of highway, ideally done in one day as there’s not really any place to camp. That and the fact I’d been warned that it wasn’t that safe meant that I was keen to take the rural route, despite the weather forecast being a little bit dodgy.

There was somewhere between a 20 and 40% chance of thunderstorms each day. As there’s dark clouds most afternoons +/- thunder which more often than not don’t release any rain (or if they do it’s short-lived), which I assume get labelled thunderstorms even though storm is over the top, I wasn’t overly worried about the roads becoming impassable. So, after a disappointing 18 mile mistake that morning after turning left rather than right to get to Cuba, I had a MacDonalds (don’t judge me – they have free wifi and I like the salt injection), and set off on the crossing that afternoon. My bravado disappeared almost as rapidly as the lunchtime fries had done as I found myself in a vast expanse thinking “I’m the only one out here!”. Part of the attraction of the route is taking lesser-travelled forest or county roads but I’ve rarely felt lonely or alone on them as at some point someone has driven past and said hi or I’ve met another cyclist or something. This was remote in a bad way though and as I became more and more nervous I started putting a different spin on the weather forecast: what if they’d meant ‘proper’ storms? What if the 40% happened rather than the 60%? If you take that worst-case scenario you’re left entering an area where there’s only a 60% chance of you coming out of there with your bike and a 40% chance of coming out on foot with only your most valuable possessions – not really odds you’d take a gamble on.

There’d been dark clouds that afternoon that I’d got really het up about wondering whether they were standard late in the day ones or going to tip it down. It was really windy that night and I associate wind with ‘proper’ storms so was really worried and didn’t sleep a wink. I was saying to myself “that’s it, you can’t have another 2 days of neurotically worrying about each cloud is going to bring so just back-track in the morning and take the highway. And DON’T get out of bed, see a cloudless sky and think ‘it’ll be alright, I’ll go on” as the morning weather bears little correlation with the afternoon weather”.

When I arose that morning, I saw a cloudless sky and thought “it’ll be alright, I’ll go on”. Some nagging doubt did remain but as I was coming down the hill I’d camped on, Daniel was there as he’d been following my bike tracks and noticed they’d disappeared so had stopped, guessing I was up there. Having another person there finalised the decision to risk the crossing and off we went on what, now I look back, was one of my favourite bits.

There were some big black clouds around at times on both days but having someone else there to keep you having a more rational take on things that we’d probably be fine helped a lot.

Daredevil Daniel:

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Daniel wondering whether to make macaroni cheese or….. macaroni cheese for dinner:

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RATTLESNAKE!!!

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I haven’t heard of any of the other people I’ve come across along the way who had good enough weather to do this stretch so I feel very lucky.

The Helmet Has Landed…

…in New Mexico.

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A slight baptism of fire after crossing the border into what I’d been forewarned was rougher roads territory. I’d been anticipating washboarding of the flat sections, not the rocky, muddy steep terrain that greets you fairly quickly after crossing into Carson National Forest.

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Needless to say that I used the form of transport commonly known as ‘walking’ for both the particularly bad uphill and downhill sections.

This bit took me half an hour to push up 0.5 miles (up Brasoz Ridge):

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I’d been planning on doing it near the end of the day to get to a campsite which has water (a rare resource here), but was totally sapped of any energy a good 2 miles or so before I reached it so put my tent up there and then, listening to fervent rodent alarm calls and coyotes howling as I drifted off to sleep barely slept.

The next day I was pretty unimpressed with New Mexico thinking it was just a rubbish version of Colorado but it soon came into its own with some amazing terracotta landscapes and my first cactus!

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My highlight so far though has been meeting this dude at his little shop in Canon Plaza, a collection of houses you ride through on the stretch to Abiquiu. His wife Sylvia has raced the Tour Divide and was in the film of the event, Ride the Divide. Now they have this tiny shop to serve cyclists: hot burritos and chimmy-changas when the racers come through and junk food for when the normals pass. He spots you from his ranch house and races down on his ATV (all terrain vehicle, or quad bike) to serve you.

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We all know you pay over the odds for food in remote circumstances so I took it easy and only bought 2 ice creams, a tube of Pringles (small), packet of Skittles, cinema-size box of Whoppers (like Maltesers) and some Starburst.

There’s a book to sign as well:

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I’m currently in Abiquiu deciding what to do next as southern New Mexico is getting a battering from the tail end of hurricane Odile. It’s fine where I am right now but need to be cautious about heading into the wilds with flash flood warnings and potential to be stuck when the road turns to clay. Still, there’s worse places to be spend a day contemplating plan of action:

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Days 55 to 59: photo journal

Third of day 54 and day 55: heap in Carson National Forest to Hopewell Lake

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Up Brazos Ridge

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View into Cruces Basin Wilderness

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Aspen eyes

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Evening thunderstorm

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Day 56: Hopewell Lake to Abiquiu

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Landscape changed a lot this day, from greens to terracotta

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El Rito

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What the rivers look like at this time of year in New Mexico:

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Half-price room at Abiquiu Inn!

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Day 57: Abiquiu (reservoir campsite) to half a mile short of the top of Polvadera Mesa

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TOUGH DAY! I agree with those who say it’s the hardest day on the route (so far…) although I’ve had worst days when I was hungry or just really tired. I only did 28 miles and haven’t been in the 20s since Canada. Basically lots of walking up slopes with large rocks and pushing through the sandy bits as my 2.0 tyres sink right in.

Nice morning at the reservoir. As you can see, I like to keep a tidy bike with carefully packed and folded panniers:

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Back into town through red rock and river valleys:

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Then up from about 6,300 ft to 10,300 ft, passing through piñon and juniper trees to fir and aspen, via this stuff:

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Camped here to the sound of elk hunters blowing their bugles to attract their prey:

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Day 58: near top of Polvadera Mesa to about 3 miles from the edge of Santa Fe forest (rather than staying in Cuba)

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Low dark cloud that characterises many afternoons:

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Day 59: edge of Santa Fe forest to on top of a hill 24 miles from Cuba (14 miles into the wilderness from where you leave highway 550)

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18 mile detour after turning left rather than right coming out of the forest onto the main road 😦

Coming down into Cuba:

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Amid sage and piñon covered plateau country, with the yellow and purple flowers that seem to be everywhere:

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The book has this to say about this stretch: ‘the 115 miles separating Cuba and Grants constitute one of the wildest and least watered segments of the entire route…one should not venture into such unforgiving country on anything even faintly resembling a lark…Whilst you may be wishing you’d find more water to drink along this stretch, you’d better also hope that none falls from the sky’.

Like this?

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If it rains heavily, everything turns to mud and you’ll be stuck and have to ditch your bike and walk out of there. I thought this was heading away from me – WRONG!!! It did rain but only very slightly that day and I lived to tell the tale. I made sure I camped up high though:

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Days 50 to 54: photo journal

(Just adding day 49 number as I forgot it last time)

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Days 50 and 51 (done in one day): Luders Creek to Del Norte

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Day 52: Del Norte to Stunner campground

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Over Indiana Pass (11,903ft)

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Made it!

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The way down: mountain feeding Iron Creek

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Day 53 and two-thirds of day 54: Stunner campground to collapsed in a heap just short of Brazoz Ridge

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Cycling along the Conejos river

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Conejos Canyon

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Day 54: heap to Hopewell Lake campground

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“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!

Days 45 to 49: photo journal

Day 45: Frisco to Hartsel (sleeping in field opposite the bar)

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Up and over Boreas Pass, the highest Divide crossing

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Hartsel (population 37) – best bar in town

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Day 46 and 47: Hartsel to Salida

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Day 48: Salida to camp 6 miles after Marshall Pass

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Day 49: aspens after Marshall Pass to Luders Creek campsite

Morning amongst the aspens

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My second bear hang

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Beaver dam

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Autumn colours in Colorado

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Kent and Robert who raced the Tour Divide in 2013

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Trout that a hunter gave me to cook on the campfire which I never did, so it got carried around in an empty Gatorade bottle before I could throw it out away from bears and where people may camp. Poor fish 😦

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Learnings from the Divide part 2

10) At times, ascents are your friends and it’s descents that are your enemy

As you’re plugging away to get up a hill, it’s easy to start resenting the uphill and favouring the downhill. However, when descending, sometimes you think the ascent was better if you find yourself having hit the wrong bit of the slope and not being able to get out of it.

I’m more familiar with skiing than I am biking so I’m going to use that sport to explain the predicament. It’s similar to when you’re going up a button lift and one ski accidentally goes into a groove carved into the track by a procession of other skiers. You find yourself desperately trying to keep your ski in a straight line with the groove as catching an edge would surely lead to a fall and significant embarrassment. Whilst focussing on said ski, your unattended ski can easily fall into a similar groove the other side of the track. If you’re lucky, the grooves are parallel and of consistent depth. If you’re unlucky, they’re not and you find yourself in the squat position, skis juddering and legs widening to biologically dangerous levels before being pulled upright and your legs forced closed only to be unceremoniously ripped apart again a few metres on. During this time, you are trying to remain calm and let your skis flow with the snow whilst simultaneously being tense as hell and worried you’ll be the one wearing the Salopettes of Shame after you fall over and the lift has to be stopped.

It’s similar going downhill on a muddy or gravel road. The cars (of which there are few, usually pick-up trucks) inevitably leave tracks in the road. The edges of deep tracks formed during heavy rain are very hard when dry. Once going downhill, if you enter a tyre track that baby is yours for the rest of the descent! To hit a solid edge at a narrow angle would likely mean a fall so you’re left in a similar predicament as above in trying to relax and go with it whilst being incredibly nervous. Similar with gravel: the car tracks are devoid of gravel and thus attractive to travel in but, once in them, again, that’s home for a few seconds or minutes as exiting it may prompt a nasty skid.

At least there’s no fear factor going uphill, they warm you up when you’re cold and there’s usually a great view, so here’s to the hills!

(Having made the hills sound good…)

11) Stay calm as the hills and terrain can mess with your head if you let them

Firstly, there is no flat. You may get a few miles of fairly level ground but never a full day. Even in the Great Basin the ratio of up to down is 80:20 (apparently). So don’t look at the topographic map and think “ooooh, a flat day coming up” as it won’t be – it’ll be undulating. If you start getting angry at the hills when you turn a corner and see a road like a brown sea serpent’s back, it’s coils rolling up and down through an ocean of sage brush, you’ll get yourself down. Once you’ve accepted there’s bound to be a hill coming up at some point and don’t fight against it, you’ll be a lot happier.

Same principle goes for the terrain. Most of the time you get dirt or gravel road +/- small rocks and +/- washboarding. The fact the route is not on the main roads and for the most part is forest or county roads is what makes it great, so don’t get yourself worked up and angry at the terrain if you’re struggling to hit 5mph even on a flat bit.

At some point each day, you’re likely to hit some better quality road that’ll make up for lost time on poor surface. At one point I was doing 2.2mph thinking that at that rate I’d arrive at my destination at 10am the next day but at some point things changed and it was nearer 10pm that same day that I made it into camp – success!

12) You form quite close bonds with people quite quickly

Firstly, I haven’t met any other people also riding the route who I haven’t liked a lot and, secondly, you find yourself feeling like you’ve known them for ages to then recall that actually you just camped at the same spot about twice and rode together for about 10 minutes one day. I also find myself worrying about them and hoping that they’re ok when we inevitably go our separate ways (I.e. distance covered per day or number of days off separates you). If anyone says to me be careful I think “just don’t do anything stupid out here, control what you can control and hope for a bit of luck with the things you can’t and you’ll be fine”, then when it comes to the others I find myself thinking “be careful, it’s JOLLY DANGEROUS!”. Sean finished his ride at Steamboat to head to a course in Rifle and I was really sad to say goodbye to my Basin buddy and chief fire-starter, and worry in slightly parental fashion about him riding the Interstate to get there!

13) Age is no barrier (assuming you’re still relatively healthy!)

I’ve actually found myself a relative youngster on the Divide! Dean (maturing years…) has put me and my peer group to shame by doing the Grizzly Bear Highway (which none of us did, opting for the Fernie Alternate) and follows his motto of EFI (Every F*cking Inch) of the trail rather than skipping even a mile for whatever reason.

I met a couple of riders coming south to north who do a stretch of the Divide every year (and mapped the new route from Basin to Butte). I thought she was about 50 so was merrily telling her about Dean and how amazing at 70 and she told me she was 65. I told her she didn’t look it but she said I hadn’t seen her naked. Point taken.

14) The weather matters

In some locations the weather doesn’t need to spoil the fun but out here, no matter how much of a smile you try and put on your face, the weather can dampen one’s spirits. At best, a very bad weather day morphs over time into type 2 fun. At worst, it is and remains type 0 fun.

The problem with rain is that everything gets wet and unless the sun comes out you’re reliant on motels as drying opportunities, you can’t see that well when you’re riding, the downhills become slippy and dangerous and the uphills extra hard work when the ground is sodden. If you’re on a dirt road described in the book as ‘primitive’, you can forget all thoughts of movement once it’s turned to thick mud after rainfall except from perhaps bowel if there’s lightening around or the slow roll of a tear down your cheek once you realise you’ll be spending the night at your current location.

15) Every day looks different and is beautiful in its own unique way

It sounds cliched but it’s true and, without making a deliberate effort to prove it with my choice of photos, I think my photo journal posts show that.

This is very beneficial when someone stops to chat and asks you what made you do it. Rather than feeling you have to provide some deep-seated emotional reason to explain why, you just spread your arms at the scenery like a conductor directing applause at the orchestra and say “this” and your audience is left satisfied with your response.

So if you’re thinking it’s miles and miles of the same view of mountains and trees, it isn’t and you rarely get bored.

16) Something great happens every day

There have been 2 days I can recall where I went to bed thinking “nope, today was a bit toss” but every other day something good has happened to brighten even the darkest of days (of which there have been few anyway). Be that someone stopping their car and handing over a bottle of Gatorade or a joke like “now I can tell from your accent that you’re from Alabama”.

Which leads me onto…

17) Americans love an English accent!

It’s not often/ever that anyone says “I could listen to you all day” but that happens in the US! I had some insight into this from work trips to America and receiving heavy praise for my dulcet tones, and once being asked to recite words including ‘pineapple’ and ‘piña colada’ to the delight of the crowd. Anyway, it makes it easier when it’s not what you say but how you say it seems to please people!

Colorado: even the state flag is cool

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As Dean said “Canada was good, Montana was good, Wyoming sucked, Colorado looks good” and it is indeed good!

I’m not too sure how they drew the State boundaries – I’m assuming using some key geographical feature – but all the States have been quite different thus far. Montana was all hills and many were steep at that, Wyoming had no big climbs but plenty of sage brush whilst Colorado is the perfect balance of long yet shallow climbs and comparatively good quality roads (even factoring in that Wyoming was on the back foot from the off due to the amount of rain).

Colorado is home to many relaxed ski resorts and chilled out people. As a state of outdoors pursuits, many people understand why you’re doing what you’re doing and don’t question it, rather encourage it. I’ve had a lot of “good job!” and “you go girl!” out of car windows in Colorado which has been very welcome as I’m on my own again now. Which is fine, just takes a bit of getting used to after having been spent a while seeing one person or another that I’d bumped into before. I am essentially in the middle of the Divide rider train, although I expect someone will catch up soon.

I think a few people had a case of mid-Divide blues at the end of Wyoming maybe for reasons different to or the same as mine: the simple fact that you’ve ridden 1,500 miles, are tired and still have 2 states to go which feels a bit daunting. In the middle of a Tired & Emotional session (made 100x worse by food poisoning and Rawlins) I found myself contemplating calling it a day as it felt a good time to stop, Canada and 2 US states down and leaving both Colorado and New Mexico for another time (whereas leaving 3 or only 1 state doesn’t feel as balanced). Once over the bout of T&E, I was keen to carry on and getting going and the very different State of Colorado has helped in leaving those feelings behind.

Colorado also offers the opportunity to hit a few milestones that make you think “well I’ve done that so surely I can do the rest”. This includes crossing Boreas Pass which, at 11,300 ft, is the highest crossing of the Continental Divide. I was lucky to go up it in sun (although it was raining by the time I got to the top) as it’s a beautiful part of the route through rocky outcrops and aspen.

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Looking down on Breckenridge:

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On the way up, I inadvertently found myself as a participant in a mountain bike race and got a lot of “good jobs” from my fellow contestants. I came third and am hoping to do a bit better next year.

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View from the top. Simply breathtaking:

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Actually it was quite nice once the weather cleared a bit!

Going over the pass also gets you to the milestone of:

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And less than 1,000 miles to go!

Next up is Indiana Pass which is the highest pass on the route at 11,900 ft (but isn’t a Continental Divide crossing). There’s a reasonable chance of it snowing up there so I’m going to follow Greg’s New Yorker attitude that he had to the Great Basin of entering it then “getting the f*ck out”. Whilst often the best bits, it is true of some of the more testing parts of the route that if the weather is vaguely ok and you have some energy left, then move on before it all goes pear-shaped!

I’d get over the pass more easily if I stopped vastly over-catering and carrying unnecessary weight. There’s no real shop for 2 days before the 2 day crossing of the Basin so you need to pack for 4 days. Here’s my load (with the peanuts and Hot Tamales on the right donated by 3 locals who stopped to check I was alright):

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After displaying my goods, I remember thinking “gosh, I’m sailing close to the wind here in terms of how much I’ve got vs. how much I need”. 9 cycling days later and I still have a third of the stash! Granted I’ve had a few diner breakfasts and dinners and still eating significantly less since being ill but I still think it’s safe to say I went over the top. Another stretch requiring 4 days food is coming up and I clearly haven’t learnt my lesson as, on top of what I already have, I’m adding $27 worth of grub from Safeway. The thing is, you don’t pass many Safeways so when you do it’s important to capitalise on the opportunity and variety of goods on offer. They do some really nice own-brand mint fudge biscuits, there’s a new type of gummy sweet out and it’s vital I try them…

Anyway, here’s to Indiana pass and see you on the other side!