I awoke to the high pitched beeping of my watch. It was stupid-early again and time to get pedalling. I pack up as quickly as I can and get moving in the early morning light. My overnight accommodation, while not quite 5 star, did the job. I had been warm and safe in there.
Getting my legs to start pedalling each morning wasn't as hard as you might think but I did take it very easy for the first 30 minutes or so to let them warm up. Within a few minutes of starting out this morning I pass Mitchel P, who obviously camped out on the side of the road, packing his gear onto his bike. He is a bit far away to talk to so I give him a big wave. He must have come over the CDT alternate last night after me!
The elevation profile is mostly downhill today all the way to Atlantic City, on the edge of the Great Basin. But looking more closely at the profile, it bounces along at about 9000ft for the first 20 miles which is really hard going. Lots of short climbs and descents in this thin air are taxing on my legs. When the real descent finally comes it is on rough road, meaning that you can't simply let the bike fly, you must pick your way down the road at reduced speed. I find this really frustrating this morning as I just want to get into Pinedale and eat some real food. I also had a parcel to pick up at the post office and was cheered by the thought until I realised that it was Sunday. The post office would be closed. Two out of two packages missed so far!
But Pinedale is 93km (58mi) away from my camping spot. While about half of that distance is paved, the non paved section is just energy sapping and slow. As I approach the end of the dirt a cloud of dust is rising ahead of me and there is a cacophony of bellowing. There must be 15 cowboys on horses pushing 1000 head of cattle along the road towards me. About half of the herd are across a bridge that spans the Green River. I pull off the road, onto a bit of high ground and wait. Chewing on what beef jerkey I have left I chat with the cowboys that come close to me. I get the standard questions of what am I doing then they realise I am "not from round these parts" and we chat away some more. After about a 10 minute break the cattle are all across the river and I can move on. The cowboys thank me for waiting and not pushing through their herd. What else could I have done? More to the point, what do other people do?
I was relieved to finally get onto the sealed road. I passed a few historic markers but didn't stop as I wanted breakfast.
And I was happy to not stop as I felt ripped off by the descent this morning.......
Much pedalling in circles ensued. I tried to ignore the headwind that was starting to work against me as I counted down the miles to Pinedale. It came into view but took forever to arrive.
Once in town I had a quick scout for food and settled on The Painted Pony cafe' in the main street. I ordered two breakfasts then ploughed into their coffee pot. The fact that every shop in the US seems to have free wifi is the only way I could keep up with what was going on in the world. My mobile phone sim was useless out here.
I paid a visit to the supermarket where I stocked up on real food. Here I bumped into Patrick D who was doing some running repairs on his bike. He was also a vegan so was gorging himself on fresh food as his fuelling opportunities were even more limited than the average Tour Divide racer.
I rolled out of town somewhat reluctantly as I knew that The Basin lay before me and it was one of the signature sections on the divide that really had to be treated with respect. The next 20 kilometres to Boulder were nice and flat but the sun sure was getting hot again. Even though I was stuffed full from my breakfast and supermarket shop, I stopped at the gas station in Boulder to buy an ice cream.
The next few hours consisted of gently rolling hills as I worked my way along the southern edge of the Bridger Wilderness. There were several markers along here pointing out the history of the area.
As I travelled east toward the Basin the wind began to pick up. It blew so strongly that whenever it was a crosswind it became difficult to ride a straight line. Turning northeast on the Lander cutoff trail it blew from the right direction for a while and I flew along the road.
The sun was beating down on me and even though I had applied sunscreen quite thickly, I was getting roasted alive. The wind became even more vicious and I had began to notice many small caterpillars trying to cross the road from the downwind side. The poor little buggers were inching along then getting blown back a few metres before regaining their feet.
How could I see this? Well, the wind was so strong that it was blowing me off the road and I had dismounted to walk the crosswind sections. The wind actually blew the back end of my bike out, with it sliding sideways, at one stage! Here, I saw a little caterpillar, struggling away with all his might, get picked up and simply blown into the distance. Gone in an instant!
I was cursing and rejoicing in equal measure now. Cursing the crosswind but rejoicing when it became a tail wind. 50km/h was easily achievable with that wind at my back!
Eventually, I came to the 28 highway and the route turned north which was basically a quartering tailwind. There was a traveller rest stop with toilets and water so I pulled in to top up my depleted water supply. Here I bumped into Patrick again and another rider, Tom D V. I introduced myself to Tom and we chatted a bit. He rolled out just before me, headed for Atlantic City and dinner.
Someone had painted "Go J.P." and a few other names in white on the shoulder of the road. This went on for a mile or so but I didn't see any "Go Dave" or "Go Toms" on there. What I did see was a huge traffic sign that confirmed what we already knew. That the crosswind was diabolical. Every time a car or truck passed we almost fell off our bikes in it's wind-shadow.
Thankfully the route turned east again and we zipped along without pedalling. I have never ridden in such exposed, windy conditions and I would be thankful never to again!
Tom must have had taller gearing than I because he simply streaked away from me along this section as I could not pedal at all with my 38/12 top gear. We soon passed through South Pass City (which wasn't a city). The climb out of town was a short, brutal pinch as we passed the ruins of the Carrissa Gold Mine. Then we flew along on the breeze at car-like speed into Atlantic City, which also was not a city by any stretch of the imagination.
What it was though is an almost perfectly preserved window into the past. I stopped at the Mercantile, which had several bikes out the front. It looked like an old west saloon and stepping inside, it still was.
There was a big note proclaiming that the kitchen was closed but I begged the staff to make me a couple of turkey and ham sandwiches. One for now and one to go. There were several riders dining on the same thing and we chatted away while refuelling. I noticed that this sandwich was probably the best I had ever tasted in my life!
I was too shattered to worry about wifi or seeing where anyone was instead focussing my full attention on my sandwich. If I had looked, this is what I might have seen.
As Tom and I dined in the Mercantile, Simon and Beth were dining right around the corner! I had caught up to them finally, only I didn't know it!
So, as a ship in the night, I gathered up my other "best sandwich ever" and rode out into The Basin, taking one last look back at the sun setting over Atlantic City.
Why ride on? Well, one of the best bits of advice I had read a few years back about the divide race was that you don't stop riding when you have a tailwind. Tonight we had a roaring tailwind and I was going to ride that wind out to Diagnus Well, the last reliable water source before crossing the Basin proper.
I absolutely zipped along and soon caught up to Patrick D. We rode along together for a while but Pat was planning on riding through the night to get to the next town of Wamsutter.
I slowed as I looked for signs of the well. It is located a few hundred metres off the road and is marked with a small sign. Very hard to see at night. Tom came riding along and asked what I was doing. I explained that I wanted to camp next to the last water source and get up stupidly early tomorrow and press on to Wamsutter. I couldn't go any further today.
Looking at my ACA map and my gps I figured that I had gone maybe 1 kilometre past it so we backtracked then saw a faint glow off to the side of the road as the sign on the fence near the well reflected some light. We battled along a sandy track and were happy to confirm that it was in fact Diagnus Well.
The well consisted of a pipe coming out of the ground that continuously flowed water, forming a small swamp in this godforsaken expanse of nothingness.
It was just after 10:30pm so we set up camp and turned in right away. Setting an alarm for 3:30am, I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit my Thermarest pillow.