Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tour Divide 2015 - Day 8

I had set my alram for a leisurely 6am. When it went off I just lay there for a few minutes thinking "do I really have to get on my bike today"? I grabbed my phone off the charger and looked at Trackleaders to see where people were. There was a conga line of about 8 riders making their way into Lima from about 20 miles out right up to 5 miles out! I could see that Brett, Josh and Jill were in the group. I didn't want to be passed by that many riders! It was best they don't see me lest I become a mental win for their tired minds and best that they don't become a mental defeat for my tired mind.

I jumped out of bed and quickly began packing up my now dry tent and all of my other belongings that were sprawled across the room. I was trying to shove all of the food I had bought last night into my stuffed bags, not without some difficulty.

Leaving the motel room I saw that the truck stop was open so went and grabbed my morning Starbucks Frappacino. While downing it Brett and Josh rolled in. We exchanged greetings and they said they camped about 20 miles out as they just couldn't reach Lima last night. I told them there were a lot of riders in the same boat as they were trickling into town now. Looking at a grassy spot 50 yards from the truck stop there were a few small tents set up, being late night arrivals. and I noticed Robb Orr appear out of one. I had thought he was long gone. 

The divide does that though. I forget that everyone is struggling each day, trying to find the strength to go on. From the outside people look so strong and focussed but I guess inside these mid-pack racers are much like myself. Tired and trying to maintain the self discipline or motivation to go on. My motivation this morning is the conga line of riders approaching. Beth and Simon's dots are far to the east of Lima having, as I expected, left early this morning. I bid Brett farewell (until next time) and head off toward Idaho. Yes, we get a new state today!

Riding into the morning sun is always my favourite part of the day. The air is still and shadows contrast the landscape. The hills to the east of Lima look like the cover art on the "Ride The Divide" DVD case and I wonder if this is where they got their inspiration.

The roads here are very open.Trees are nonexistant. This would be a section from hell with a strong headwind.

But this morning, there is no wind and I make good time along these relatively flat farm roads. We are heading east toward Macks Inn/Island Park which are just service stops on the I-20 for drivers on the way to Yellowstone but full-on oases to divide riders.

I am soon passing a glassy still Lima Reservoir. Where was that water last night when I needed it?

The open countryside exposed a lot of road to the eye. This can potentially be crushing for the mind but today I was just loving the fact that there weren't any hills and I could easily turn pedals to produce 25-30km/h speeds.

Coming into Lakeview I caught another rider. It turned out to be Doug W. He was on a woodchipper equipped Salsa Fargo so we exchanged bike notes for a bit. He reminded me that I owed him one as he had arrived at the motel in Lima not long before me last night and told them that there was another rider right behind him that would want a room-the last room- and would they hold it. Doug thought that rider was Mitchell, the guy I passed on the Sheep Creek divide crossing but I had leapfrogged into room-winning position now! I thought it was my phone call from the High Country Lodge that secured me the room but apparently not. I thanked Doug very much. ;)

Lakeview came and went as we chatted and I almost forgot to get my camera out to get a snap of this western movie set like town.

I was maintaining a slightly higher pace than Doug so drifted off ahead of him. We had come close to the continental divide again with the Centennial Mountains being just a few kilometres south of us. This was Mt Something or other....I really should have taken a photo of the sign....

The divide coming closer meant my nice flat ride was about to come to an abrupt halt. It was time to go vertical again with the climb up to Red Rock Pass. I had been on the bike for 5:45 by this stage and was glad to get off and walk for a while. As the grade shallowed out I hopped back on and pedalled up to the pass with it's must-do photo opportunity.

I was leaving Montana! There is some Tour Divide folklore that if you can make it out of Montana, you are likely to finish the ride because Montana is brutal. In a race that is north to south, Montana has you going south, east, west and north and lets not forget, up. It is probably bulldust because, as I was going to find out, there are plenty of challenging sections in the southern states that are pushing you to quit. But today, in the nice warm sun on another divide crossing I was happy to be a believer. 

The ride down from Red Rock pass was fast and sketchy as the road was made up of crushed granite. I had a front end slide in a high speed corner that would have been very messy had I not saved it so I backed off the pace in the interests of self preservation. The road soon went up again and high speed front end slides were but a distant memory.

Here, my lack of really-in-depth route knowledge produced a pleasant surprise. I came to an RV park that I had no idea existed. It had a little shop that was chocka-block full of ice creams and sodas! It probably sold other things but all I saw were the ice cream and soda! Just short of two cans and an ice cream sandwich later Doug rolled in for some as well.

Red Rock RV and Camping Park was a little oasis that I would have loved to stay at as the sun was now beating down on me. The intensity of it's bite really had to be felt, being far more savage than the Aussie sun. I guess that altitude may have something to do with it and I was ruing my decision to mail my sun sleeves to Steamboat Springs, another 4 days along route at least.

With a belly full of ice cream and a thunerstorm in the faaar distance I was a happy lad.

It was only a short ride through some fun atv trails to the Macks Inn service stop. Subway seemed to be the obvious choice and we availed ourselves of their air conditioning and wifi. I wasn't hungry as I had just gorged myself on ice cream but Doug tucked in. I rolled across the road to the supermarket and grabbed some cinnamon bagels for a possible camp tonight.

Next up was the dreaded rail trail. Everything written about it dripped loathing and I was about to find out why.

It was an old railway line which had been converted to a recreational trail. This meant that atvs ripped up and down it all day long. How this is exciting, being 50km (30mi) of dead straight trail, I don't know but thousands can't be wrong, right?

Anyway, I almost ate it turning into the bloody abomination. The loose, deep, dark gravel is like riding in a sandpit. It got slightly better the further I got from the trail head but it was always hard work.

The trail always looked smoother and firmer on the other side but when you crossed the centre ridge you found it just as bad. I felt like it was gently climbing (it was actually flat) and I was also pushing a 25mph headwind in the exposed sections so standing on the pedals and powering through was the only way to go. I was glad I didn't know how long it was. I had 30 kilometres in my head for some reason. If I had known it was 50km I would have spat it. As it was I did stop twice to swear profusely into the wind. That helped.......

I had decided that this trail had no redeeming features, none at all. If it did, there would be recreational riders on the trail. Lo and behold I started passing recreational riders. I was passing them very quickly actually as I had been tromping it since I entered the trail and now that the surface was hard packed I was getting some significant forward motion happening!

I had to be careful passing these larger groups as they were in a world of their own and not expecting some hairy, smelly bikepack racer to come barrelling past. but I could see why they were distracted. This end of the trail was absolutely beautiful!

I was soon riding through the Warm River campground at the end of the trail. It had taken me 3 hours to do that 50 kilometres (30mi) at what felt like cross country race effort levels. It sure was nice to be off it but now the road went steeply up and a vicious wind was battering me around. At one point I actually got caught off guard and blown off the road!

Feeling spent after the last 3 hours of rail trail fun, I flopped in the shade on somebody's front lawn as soon as I climbed out of the Warm River valley. This was also because I was in the open now and the 30mph wind brought me to a standstill. Munching one of my flattened bagels I checked the ACA map for accommodation options. Squirrel Creek lodge was my planned stop for the night but I noticed on the map that they required 24 hours prior notice. How could you guarantee where you were going to be in 24 hours time on the divide? I had weak cell reception so I tried calling them but the line just went dead.

Just then another rider pulled up beside me. We exchanged hellos but I didn't catch his name. He looked very young but I guess I looked very old to him. He pulled out a Sub and munched away while I tore my bagel a new one.......not much was said. It was one of those "I've been on my own all day and just want some company" moments. He finished up and said he was pushing on into the ferocious wind. I said I might sit here a bit longer. I watched him crawl along that shoulderless, narrow road being buffetted by the gale. This open farmland gave no shelter.

From where I sat on the lawn I could just see the top of the Grand Tetons in the distance. They are awe inspiring. They inspired even more awe when I considered that I had to ride right around to the other side of them.

Remounting, I battled into the abominable headwind like my young counterpart. Luckily there was only about a mile to go before the route took a hard left onto Cave Falls road and that 30mph wind was all tailwind. I was feeling pretty toasted now and when I came to a sign that said "Squirrel Creek lodge, 2 miles south then 1 mile east" I thought "no way am I going that far off route". Right next to it was a sign for Timberline Golf Club with accommodation and meals just 0.4 mile ahead. "I'll go there" I thought. Now, I had my gps scale zoomed in pretty well, to about 160m, so the last time I looked the route went straight. Here I was thinking that Squirrel Creek was off route and Timberline on route - even though I had been staring at the map not 15 minutes ago and Squirrel Creek was clearly on route. In hindsight this was one of my lowest points of the race as thinking was clearly not happening! I was very tired.

Anyway, I rolled down to Timberline and rocked into the clubhouse to enquire about a room. "Sure thing, you can have a cabin and we are doing a $10 buffet tonight if you would like that" they said. I enquired if I could wash my kit as well and they said they would do it for me. Even better.

So I was escorted to my cabin, which was a quarter mile out the back of the golf course. The ladies in the golf cart took my dirty, smelly kit to wash (I apologised profusely for it's state) and said they would be back in 30 minutes to pick me up for dinner. Cool. A nice long shower then I dressed myself very stylishly in my merino longjohns, my puffy jacket and bike shoes with no socks....the only clothes I had! How I looked for the last 8 days had been the furthest thing from my mind but suddenly I was extremely self conscious. Especially when I got to the clubhouse and there were about 30 people there!

I sat in the room next door to where the main group was so I could spread my maps out on the table. I was offered a beer and when I enquired what they had was told "Fat Tyre". I had abstained these last six months as part of my training but after my free Bud last night I thought "why not" and had my first real beer since Banff (I had broken my drought with a beer each night there). Looking around I spied what I hoped would be my only bears.

Dinner was a seafood buffet, which is always dodgy this far from an ocean, plus the usual mountains of pasta salad, coleslaws etc that Americans seem to enjoy. I kept the seafood to a minimum but piled up the fresh coleslaw and pasta salads. I am pretty sure I got my $10 worth!

I even got a buggy ride back to my cabin and my clean kit presented to me. It was about 9pm now so the buffet wasn't the best use of time but I just could not have ridden any further today, especially with a wild camp as my only real option.

209km with just 1000m climbing was a pretty easy day compared to the last week. If it wasn't for the climb into Yellowstone (the road went up from here) and my knackered state I would have pressed on. Or so I told myself.



  1. The picture of the Grand Tetons in the distance is spectacular. The views down to the river in the forest equally spectacular. Loving your ride report, the mental side seems just a gruelling as the physical side by all accounts.
    How was the "Fat Tyre" by the way? If you didn't mention it then it can't have been that great.

  2. Enjoying your write ups on the route and race. Great insight and detail on what to expect out there.

    1. Thanks. It is very hard to convey what it was really like but start by thinking REALLY BLOODY HARD and you won't be far wrong. :-/

  3. "I dressed myself very stylishly in my merino longjohns, my puffy jacket and bike shoes with no socks....the only clothes I had!" Which proves that you can take the boy out of Logan but.... OM

  4. Fat Tire is a really popular beer around here. After your headwind you certainly deserved one.

    Glad to see you were still smiling a week into the race.


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