Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tour Divide - Day 13

I didn't allow myself much sleep last night, waking just before dawn to break camp. Just as I was stuffing the last of my gear into my bags Tom D.V. rolled down to my little river crossing. It sure was nice to see a familiar face and he exclaimed how he thought I would be miles down the trail by now. Another example of how you think everyone else must be doing it easier than yourself. In fact, everyone is hurting and retaining the motivation to press on is extremely difficult when the ride is almost overwhelming. 

We climbed a few short steep hills before coming to an overlook where some tourers were still camped. I pedalled on as Tom stopped for a minute and before I knew it I was looking down onto Radium. I was so close last night, yet it was soooo far away.

Yes, I was hurting.

I now had to endure a huge descent in the cold morning air to cross the Colorado River at Radium. Dropping down through a series of tight switchbacks I soon crossed the river. There was a proper camp ground and dozens of campers spread around it but none showed any sign of movement.

I noticed a rail tunnel on the other side of the river which seemed so exciting at the time. I think after so much time alone, these signs of civilisation were almost overwhelming.

Then I turned onto a main road, while made of dirt was as wide as a four lane highway and quite smooth. It looked like it was oiled to stop dust and erosion. Looking at the map last night I could see the huge climb and had not even contemplated riding this far as I thought it would be a back-wood climb late at night while extremely tired. The reality is that it was a perfect dirt road and while a huge climb, completely "civilised". This is where my "rookie" status let me down compared to a veteran racer's knowledge of the course.

The huuuge climb gave way to a massive fast descent that went on forever. Well, not quite forever but to the beginning of another huuuge climb. This one was called Gore Pass and had spectacular views down into the Colorado River. I wish I wasn't as tired and had taken a few more photos but I really just wanted to get to Kremmling and breakfast.

Cresting, then descending off Gore Pass was another great pleasure as it went on forever. 

While coasting along I was still debating whether to go off route into Kremmling for food. It was 2 miles each way, which is a significant amount of extra pedalling. I still had a bit of food and could collect water but in the end I decided on the "bird in the hand" approach and reluctantly turned off route, into Kremmling. It wasn't a very attractive looking town from a distance, looking very industrial.

I wasn't sure where to go but when I saw a sign advertising coffee and breakfast burritos I thought I would investigate. I had actually stumbled on the best coffee that I encountered in the whole of the time I was in the US! The burritos were huge and awesome. I had 2. I had a bucket of coffee, a cinnamon scroll and some ice cream. While I was gorging two tourers rolled in, then Tom rolled in. I lounged here for about 30 minutes more than strictly necessary before bidding everyone farewell. Tom was saying that he was really struggling this morning and I tried to cheer him up by saying that we were nearly there! He was a strong rider and could do this thing easily. He just needed to believe it himself.

Just a few miles out of Kremmling and back on route I caught up to Patrick again. This time it was me thinking that he should be miles down route. He said he pressed on to Radium last night and had bypassed Kremmling but was struggling now. I couldn't help but tell him how good a resupply Kremmling had been which may not have helped his mental state!

We rode around Williams Fork reservoir which on a still morning like this was quite spectacular.

We were climbing all the way out of Kremmling, heading for Ute Pass at 9500ft. The road was good but I wasn't feeling much love for climbing this morning having already done two passes.

I had a to-go burrito and looking down at it now I decided that it was time to stop carrying it. I was too tired to unwrap it while pedalling, probably risking a crash, so I hopped off and pushed my bike along while I ate it. It was all about forward progress this morning.

The land soon changed from open countryside to aspen studded hillsides and gushing rivers. 

Ute Pass itself was a paved climb that I didn't have the legs for. I pedalled some, then walked some. It was hot, the air was thin and after almost thirteen days on the bike, my legs were well past their best. Somehow I got over the top and began enjoying the crazy fast descent.

The views across to the Eagles Nest Wilderness were breathtaking and just the cure for failing motivation.

Again, I thought it was all downhill from here to Silverthorne and again, I was wrong. 

The false flat that ran along the valley floor was exacerbated by the growing heat of the day and by this stage I had consumed the whole 3 litres of ice water that I had packed from Kremmling. It tasted so good that I had drank it all before cresting Ute Pass, a mere 52km further along from Kremmling! That is the highest water consumption rate for me on the entire Tour Divide by a huge margin and was a massive failure of my usually solid self discipline to make it last.

As a result I gasped into Silverthorne and stopped at the first gas station where I inhaled a massive bottle of Gatorade, which barely touched the sides.

The rear shifter on my bike was becoming more and more difficult to move late yesterday and this morning. I was cursing Orange Peel bikes for not doing the job properly and installing a cable outer as well as the inner. There are a million gear changes on this ride and I was starting to worry that I might break the cable in some inhospitable place if I didn't get it looked at asap.

I wasted a heap of time in Silverthorne. First, when looking for the bike shop which was closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.(it was Wednesday today) Then I went to Wendy's for lunch where I bumped into Patrick again. I noticed that I had cell service here for the first time all ride and rang my wife to voice my displeasure at the shifter situation. That done, I filled my Camelbak with ice from the vending machine and pedalled on toward Frisco. 90 minutes wasted....

The ride across to Frisco (and then Breckenridge) was awesome as there was a dedicated bike path to follow. It first passed Dillon reservoir, then paralleled the main road. 

Even though it was a Wednesday afternoon, there were heaps of riders out. I cleaned up a few guys on road bikes and I think they got a shock when my rig went shooting past.

The path dumped me at the main street in Frisco, a very groovy looking little town. Here I spied a bike shop, just on the left of the photo below.

I rode in and explained what the problem was. I asked very nicely if they would mind taking a look at it. I got the "too cool" vibe right away and could feel that they weren't interested in fixing it and then I noted that it was 4:30pm. I am not sure when they closed but it must have been soonish. They said I would have to overnight and bring it in tomorrow morning. Yeah, right. Anyone would think I was asking for a full rebuild. All I needed was a shifter cable outer housing fitted. I thanked them for their time and rode on, hoping that it would be ok.

The bikeway continued on to Breckinridge and I was feeling a lot of "drag" here. Breck was such a beautiful place that I was starting to look for reasons to stop for the day.

I passed a store selling garden ornaments and I couldn't help but feel this rooster was talking to me in a Foghorn Leghorn voice. I wasn't sure what he was saying but I knew it was motivational and the gist of it was "boy, ah say, boy, move your arse"!

I pedalled along gently while scoping across the road for a hotel to call it quits at for the night. Motivation was lacking with the massive storm that seemed to be over Boreas Pass and the thunder emanating from said storm. I flopped onto some nice soft grass alongside the bikeway while I considered what to do. The 9000ft elevation wasn't particularly motivating either.

As I sat pondering, Patrick rode past again. I suddenly had a rabbit to chase and I jumped on my bike again. Screw the storm, it was time to push some boundaries and comfort zones.

I passed some old railway equipment and while I would have loved to check it out I had already wasted three and a half hours in Silverthorne/Frisco/Breck and it was time to pedal. Boreas Pass was a high one at 11 482ft and it was late in the day to tackle such a high climb but seeing these old trains reminded me that it is an old railway line so the grade is very manageable.

I stopped at the last gas station leaving town and stocked up on little bags of nuts, Sweet and Salty bars and some beef jerkey. There was a good chance I might have to camp tonight but my first choice was to get a room in Como.

The climb out of Breck didn't feel too steep but I was gaining elevation quickly. The view back across the Eagles Nest Wilderness toward Vail was spectacular, even in the fading light. I love this photo because it shows how the road looks to be going downhill but it was climbing, trust me!

Along this straight I cracked 10 000ft for the first time....and it felt easy!

As you can see I was just at the 100 mile mark (162km) for the day and already had 3 passes in the legs. Why not take on the biggest one so far?! This whole race was crazy anyway, right?

It was looking dark with rain to the south but I was committed now. I wasn't going back down to Breck.

As I climbed I could hear shots ringing out. I soon came to a group of young guys and girls on the side of the road who were flinging clay pigeon targets out into the valley and then blasting away at them. I stopped for a while to watch as big rain drops began to splat down around us.

I donned my trusty rain gear and pressed on. Before long the top of the pass came into view. I had to stop for the obligatory photo but lets just say it wasn't the best day to yield high quality photographs.

Of course, one of the mandatory off route sections of trail was a few hundred metres below the summit here. The Gold Dust Trail is approximately 7km of single track that in good weather, would be frickin' awesome. Tonight? Not so much. 

I was cold, it was raining, I had a LOT of miles in my legs and my 25 kilograms of not-the-best-singletrack-bike were all working against me. This didn't stop me from taking some stupid risks as I sloshed down this creek er.... singletrack. Most of it was fun despite the water but the tree roots were uber slippery and there were a few creek crossings that I could hear long before I saw them, they were crashing down the mountainside so full and fast.

Needless to say, there was no more photography tonight which is a shame as the trail builder in me was marvelling at sections of this trail. Quite a bit of it resembled a World War 1 trench!

I was somewhat relieved when I was finally spat out onto another fire road and I could start powering toward the little ghost town of Como. I had heard of the Como Depot, a refuge for riders and was hoping it might be open tonight, despite the map saying that it was closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Riding into Como just on dark, there was not a single light on on town. The Como Depot looked shut up and I spent 20 minutes looking around town for somewhere to stay. My brakes were squealing because they were wet and I was sure someone would come out to see who was getting about on this dark, wet night but no, there wasn't a soul to be seen. This place seemed deserted.

I looked for the school, which is another place where cyclists can camp but I couldn't find it in the dark. I then began looking at porches on the front of some of the old buildings. I finally found one that was almost totally enclosed, with just a doorway opening to the wet night. There was no sign saying what the shop was but looking on Google Maps now that I am home I can see that it is listed as "Hondo Arms". A gun shop!

I was quiet and kept my light dim. I just wanted to sleep and not attract any attention. I laid my tent on the dusty floor then inflated my sleep mat. Hanging my wet gear around the porch I was again surprised at how dry it had kept me. I pulled my seal skin socks on as I though I might be cold at 9870ft and promptly fell asleep.

The day started slowly and it felt like I took a long time to warm to the task but looking at the stats of 12 hours moving and 2900m (9500ft) of climbing it was a pretty solid little ride with some of the most spectacular views I had had in a while. 



  1. That day sounded grueling too. Did you find that the change in scenery (not just grade of road/trail) could really change your mood and help with motivation?

    1. It would a bit but the more important factors were food and if the road was downhill/downwind. That would really give me a lift. If the scenery was nice, well that was icing on the cake.

  2. Am enjoying your write ups of your trip. Think I remember seeing you on that uphill walk climbing the east side of Ute Pass as I was going downhill in the other direction ( I rode northbound ). Can't imagine how frustrating it would be to be at that bike shop that couldn't find the time to help you out.

    1. Hi Mike. I do remember having someone pass me going the other way and feeling a small twinge of embarrasment that I was walking Ute Pass. You will be pleased to know I only walked a few hundred yards to rest my legs then got on again - although, i did do that a few times!
      Glad you like the write up. Thanks. How was your trip?

    2. I walked quite a few places ( many places ).. I was much slower finishing than you, but I finally got to Banff ... what a great feeling to finish it ! It was a great trip.

    3. I just read your blog Mike. Great write up and good luck again in 2016!


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