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Showing posts from June, 2009

Free day

I groped my way out of Silverthorne this morning along a series of confusing bike paths. Just when I thought i was home free, I came up on the tail end of a large breast cancer awareness walk. For nearly 10 miles, I weaved through a parade of people wearing pink shirts and waving balloons shaped like breasts. At first I cheered them on, but after four miles, I began to feel herd weary. I blew through Breckenridge and ran into my third human traffic jam up Boreas Pass, with Sunday drivers and bikers crowding the narrow road.I dropped down the pass into much more lonely country, wide open country without even a tree to pee behind. I was slammed by a couple heavy thunderstorms, dropping hail and mixing up mud. I was pretty muddy when I rolled into Hartsel, which was teeming with bicycle tourists traveling the trans-America route. Everyone was curious about my mountain bike and muddy state, so I spent more than an hour chatting with fellow travelers, including a vehicle-supported group tr…

Good luck, bad luck

I was grinding up a loose gravel road, feeling lonely and tired, with a gorgeous sunset fading quickly behind me. I watched my headlight beam bounce off pebbles until it illuminated a sign announcing 10 miles of private land. No tresspassing. I wondered if I would just keep going. I thought i should.After 10 p.m., I passed the Brush Mountain Outpost. I lingered a moment, envying its comfort and warmth, before continuing up the road. I was about 100 feet past when a woman called out my name. "You hungry?" she asked.Inside the warm building, she told me she was a fan of the race. She had been tracking everyone and inviting them in for meals and beds. She made mw a quesedilla and fresh fruit. She told me about the things that were going on in the world. She asked if I thought i was doing well in the race. "Well," I said, "If your goal is simply to finish the race, I believe it's 20 percent perseverance and 80 percent luck. So far, I've been pretty lucky.&…

Nearly stranded

Despite the daunting combination of heat, wind, desolation, remoteness, and lack of shade, food and water, I had been looking forward to the 140-mile trek across the Great Divide Basin. A big part of that has to do with my ancestry - my great-great-and-so-forth grandparents crossed the plains with the Mormon pioneers in the mid-19th century. They trekked across the Basin in the same area that the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route traverses today. And because of the aforementioned heat, wind, desolation, ect., little about the region has changed. I was excited to get out there and think about all the things they saw and felt, and draw inspiration from their struggle and perseverance.

I left Atlantic City at 5 a.m. beneath a beautiful sunrise and bid goodbye to the last tree for 135 miles. Shortly thereafter, I passed the Willie's Handcart Company historic site, a place where tragedy struck a group of pioneers attempting to cross the Sweetwater River in a winter storm in late October.…

In Pinedale

I rolled into Pinedale, Wyoming, at about 11 p.m. Monday night after a ride that was, like most days on the Tour Divide, sometimes hellish, usually beautiful, and always intriguing. In the past two days, I crossed the borders of both Idaho and Wyoming with little fanfare, but the real sense of accomplishment has come in how much the landscape has been changing. From aspen groves to high alpine drainages to rolling sage valleys, the land is my gauge of progress. Like everyone else in this year's race, I've been caught in a fair amount of weather, but I've been lucky enough to miss most of the rain on trails where dryness is crucial. I did a long push yesterday around the Brooks Lake loop. It took me nearly three hours to go three miles. The snow pushing was fine - I'm used to it, really - but the muddy areas where the snow had melted had become that wheel-sucking, wet cement mud that freezes up my wheels within seconds. By the time I realized it, it was too late. I had …

Tough day

I made it across the state line today and rolled into Sawtell, Idaho around 6 pm. It was an 85-mile day that ended about 40 miles short of my goal, but it was definitely one of the tougher days of the trip. John and I left Lima under dark skies and light showers that soon turned to heavy rain. By 10 am, the road had turned to wheel-sucking muck. No matter how much pressure I let out from my tires, I could not stay on top of it. The mud had the consistency of wet cement, and eventually i couldn't coax the tires to turn. For several quarter mile stretches, I had to pick up the bike and carry it along the thorny side of the road as mosquitoes swarmed me. It was pretty ridiculous - one of those situations where I couldn't help but laugh at myself and the idiotic things I get myself into. After the tiny, remote town of Lakeview, the road surface improved somewhat, but the thunderstorms became more violent. In a particularly terrifying moment, I felt the wet hairs on the back of my …

In Butte

John and I arrived in Butte, Montana, just before midnight Wednesday night after a pretty solid 18-hour day on the bike. It was a tough day, 130 miles with six passes that added up to more than 11,000 feet in climbing. We pushed a lot of the Lava Mountain trail because of mud and huge boulders, but thanks to my GPS and John's memory, we didn't get lost. I was feeling really tired when we rolled into Basin and knew we had 30 miles of boring cattle trail and interstate riding ahead. But I pounded another King-sized Snickers Bar, turned the iPod on my Iditarod mix, and rolled with it. The last five miles into town were my favorite part of the day. It was dumping rain and pitch dark when we crested the pass and caught our first view of the sparkling city lights. After a day working our way through deep woods, rolling meadows and beautiful valleys, it was an amazing sight.

I am having a great time, even at the low times when I am wet and tired. I just checked the progress of the rac…

Back on regular Pepsi

I'm in Lincoln, Montana, after a super mellow day to rest and recharge before what I hope becomes a big push begins. It's funny to think that 65 miles with two decent climbs as a rest day, but that's what it feels like after five days on the Divide. I can feel myself getting stronger every day. My legs have pushed out the ache. My butt cheeks have hardened. I eat Snicker bars and traverse mountains carrying my whole life on a bicycle. Life is simple and good.Since day 3 I've been traveling with John Nobile, last year's GDR winner who was a contender for this year until his knee went out just north of the border. Now he's touring with me for a few more days. It's been fun to have a traveling companion, especially one who knows the route so well. We've come across four bears on the trail, and he always charges ahead to chase them away, so that's a benefit, too.I have managed to keep myself healthy and strong subsisting on gummy worms, chocolate, grano…

In sparwood

Arrived in sparwood at about 10 am after a great first day and a nice long rest in elkford. i'm feeling super strong so far. I'm still going to take it easy for a few more days. Headed out for the reroute 100 miles of strange trail with no services and only a cue sheet to follow. I'm a little nervous about this section, and will be happy to cross the border.Sent on the go from my Peek

Going on Tour

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Well, it's officially less than 12 hours until I head out with the Tour Divide with the hope of pedaling along 2,700 miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Canada to Mexico. It's an impossible concept to swallow right now, so I hope to find the strength to bite it off in small but consistent chunks.

I met a few of the people who will be riding the route, but most of the Tour Divide racers are still strangers to me. I hope to become better acquainted in the next week or two. The fellow crazies and their stories are one of the main reasons I'm here now, along with the scenery, the challenge, the flow and the opportunity to do something for myself. I'm in this for the experience. That's probably obvious to most who read my blog, but if you're waiting to get caught up in the forward-drive "race" of it all, don't expect miracles from me. :-)

A bike mechanic in town graciously gave my bike one last once-over and everything's good to go. It'…

Paradise in a bubble, part two

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Right now, I feel happier than I have in a while. I credit both having finally made a definite decision about riding the Divide, and the stunning scenery of the Canadian Rockies. The word "healing place" is overused, especially in the context of the most photographed spots in Canada, but there's a reason these places draw so many people. They really do mean something.

I set out on Leslie's cruiser this morning to check out the first few miles of the Spray River Trail, where the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route begins. I actually meant to go on a few errands, which is why I had the cruiser in the first place, but the trail was in such great shape that it didn't even matter. The weather again was gorgeous - just cloudy enough to block the sun, but warm and dry.

Then, instead of going on my errands, I veered off on some horse trails and ended up at the hot springs, where I parked the bike and set out on foot up the Sulfur Mountain Trail. You can take a gondola up to…

Paradise in a bubble

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We arrived in Banff on Tuesday afternoon. I met up with locals Leslie and Keith, who kindly offered me a place to stay during my time in town. Keith took me up to an overlook to survey the lay of the land. "Banff is a town in a national park," Keith said. "There are no scars on the mountains, because there's no mining or logging here. The town is as big as it's going to get, because it has a set footprint and it can't develop any further. We have this great law called the 'need to reside clause,' which means you have to work here to live here, which means there are no million-dollar second homes in the hills. Because of tourism, we're stocked with all the dining and retail options of a good-sized city in a town of 8,000. The biking is incredible, but the trails aren't mapped so they're not crowded. We ski tour all winter. We trail run all summer. As long as this is a national park, nothing is going to change. That's not the real world…

In Canada

We just crossed the border into Alberta after spending the night in Great Falls. The weather has been cool and cloudy with lows in the 30s and the snow line low on the mountains. Currently, we're out of sight from the peaks. The rolling prairie reminds me of the simple joys of life on the bike. I'm starting to feel much more excited about the prospect. I love the paradox of fast touring. Life is never so simple and at the same time never so hard as life on a bike. To me, it's the ultimate way to live ... Moving in the open through open space, breathing clear air, drinking fresh water, consuming all the beauty and joy and pain that a body can possibly absorb, through the filter of fatigue that so effectively removes all the white noise and gray emotions of that other kind of life, real life. And then there's the race. I'm getting more excited about that, too. There's a post in my sidebar under the heading "Some of my better posts" called "Dear Can…

Testing remote blogging

I'm currently traveling up i-25, just north of Casper, Wyo. I had a fun visit in Denver. My aunt mapped me out a scenic bike ride in Castle Rock that ended up following a century that just happened to be going on at the same time. Toward the end, I passed a few people who seemed completely wrecked plowing into a 30 mph headwind. The sky was nearly black, with swirling clouds that threatened tornadoes (i found out later that one touched down nearby.) One lone roadie bent over his aerobars looked at me with bloodshot eyes and asked me what I had in my bags. I told him ... Camping gear, food, rain clothes. "Why so much?" he asked. I shrugged. "You never know." He shook his head. I think he was bummed that a severly overprepared mountain biker caught him. I should have told him I wasn't even riding the century. I was 40 miles into a fairly lax ride with only another two miles to go. But then I wondered how I would feel if our roles were swiched, and I was a wre…

Enjoying the last days

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My sister came out today and helped me box up my bike. As we hoisted it into the truck, she said, "Are you going to be able to carry this across the airport?" "I better," I said. "After that, I have to carry it across the country."

We started down the road as dark clouds billowed over the Oquirrh Mountains and a swirl of dust obscured the valley below. "Are you nervous?" she asked. "Kind of," I said. "I mean, it's not like this is it. I'm just flying to Denver. But it feels like this is my last chance to bail out. Once I get on a plane, it's going to be a lot tougher to back out."

The past few days in Salt Lake City have passed by in a blur. I've spent a total of an hour riding my bike since I returned from Heber on Tuesday. There just hasn't been time. I've had too much to do ... get a few last-minute things fixed on my bike, sort and re-sort my gear, track down charger tips for all of my miscellaneous…

Darlin don't you go and cut your hair

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I told the 19-year-old stylist at Supercuts to lop off at least a foot. She talked me down to 9 inches. "You'll still be able to pull it back," she said. "I just want something light for summer," I said. What I meant to say is, "I just want something that's not going to snarl into one massive dreadlock that I'll never be able to untangle after it's coated in several days' worth of sweat, dirt and sunscreen."

It's a small thing, but it matters - a physical act, something tangible to remind me that I'm on track to do that which I came down here to do, which is ride the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. I've been somewhat pulled back from that goal for most of my trip south. That's probably been obvious ... the lack of direction in my "training," the radio silence about a looming big ride at the end of all of this frivolous vacationing. I've continued to prepare for the possibility, but in the back of my mind …

Wish you were here

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Dear Pugsley,

How are things going up there in Juneau? It's been a while, hasn't it? Last time I saw you, leaning against boxes in that dark storage unit, you looked a little forlorn. I thought I'd take the time to drop you a line and say hello. I hope it cheers you up.

As you know, I've been down in the States, trying to wrap my head and legs around this whole summer biking thing. It's hard! Much harder than I anticipated. When you swerve out of control down a patch of scree, there's nothing soft on the ground to cushion the blow. And everything around here is bumpy. We're talking boulder fields that could break teeth (and spokes and derailleurs.) But for the most part, it's been going well. Just this past weekend, I took an overnight trip to the Uintas. You would have liked it there, Pugsley.

I left Heber in the early afternoon on Sunday, climbed to Kamas and aimed at getting over the pass on Highway 150. I was hoping to connect with some gravel and work…