Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bike Repairs

Just for kicks (hey - I am delayed in Denver airport - go figure) here is a list of things that broke on my bike.

Handlebars - broke about a 3" chunk off the right side in Sparwood BC.
Numerous rear spokes after dropping my chain into the space behind my cassette.
Front Derailleur - on that day from hell coming into Rawlins WY.
Broke my chain 7 times (I think - lost count). Replaced the SRAM with a Shimano chain in Steamboat and only broke it one more time after that. Also broke my chain tool.
Snapped front and rear shifter cables - at different times.
Blew rear tire on a downhill in Montana. Replaced the tire and used a tube (I was tubeless) the rest of the way. 2 more flats including one on my crash.
Front tire succumbed to goatheads after healing itself a few times (thanks Stan's!)
Broke my seat post dropper on Monarch Crest trail.
Went through 2 containers of lube - Rock'n'Roll is the best.
Replaced rear shock sleeve, and broke that one too. Finished without it.

Viva Mexico!

Stick a fork in this puppy!

After 39 days of riding, through 2 Provinces and 5 States, we finally reached Mexico.

The last 3 days in New Mexico have been a mix of tough riding and great experiences. After Pie Town, we headed into the Gila National Forest. Wow, what a pretty little piece of the world. I am definitely heading back here again sometime soon.

We were trying to add extra miles to today's leg in order to shorten the next day. We were doing great until we hit a washed out section of the road that was impassable for the support van, and it would take 3 hours for a drive around the closed road to pick us up and shuttle us to the hotel, so we called it quits for the day.

We camped in Reserve NM that night. A quiet, funky little town but apparently the campground owner doesn't own a lawn mower. Needed a little bike repair as my crank was cranky.

The next morning was a pre-dawn start and pretty crisp with temps below freezing. We shuttled back to the spot where we left off the day before, and worked our way around the closed road section. It seems that it rained for the last 2 months in the Gila area, and most of that rain looks like it went right down the middle of this road. It took me an hour to get the first 5 miles - and it took the main group about double that time as they pushed their bikes through most of it, and I tried my best to ride it all.

It was 100.2 miles of up and down and up and down. Rough climbs and descents and you ended up braking a lot more than you wanted to. Part of the ride was on the Geronimo Trail - I would have thought Geronimo was smart enough to pick a smoother route.

Eventually we came out on a paved section and pedaled to Roberts Lake for the night. It was a hotel night, and I have no complaints about The Little Toad Creek where we stayed. They brew their own beer and distill their own whiskey, which we worked our way through while chowing down on venison ribs in their dining hall. Life was good again after such a killer day.

The next day started on Trail Of The Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway. After a tough steep climb right out of the gate, we were up on this amazing ridge where you could see forever. Today's 'normal' route was a short and scenic one, where we passed through Pinos Altos and ended in Silver City after only about 40 miles.

But, we all wanted to chew off some of the LAST day's mileage, since we were scheduled for 120 miles and not looking forward to it. So, we pitched our tents at the campground and pedaled another 50 miles to I-10 (our LAST Interstate) and got picked up there. Strong winds, but sometimes they were at our back for a change so no complaints.

A great dinner and then a few beers out in Silver City. Apparently the only silver here is in the hair of most of the residents - pretty much a retirement community - think Florida with less humidity.

And finally the big day. After being shuttled back to I-10, we had 72 miles of STRONG headwinds to contend with. And a landscape that didn't change much. The only break in the pain was when a Border Patrol car would race by - and there were a lot of them. I was on my own for one section, and got pulled over and questioned a bit. I guess I didn't fit the profile so off they went and left me alone.

I rode the last 17 miles with a pack of folks in what could only be described as a survival peleton against the wind. Finally we could see the border station!

It felt unreal to actually finish. A lot of the ride is a blur - there were so many miles and so many memories. Good days and bad days. Amazing experiences, and a few really bad ones.

Now we can add our names and experiences to the GDMBR register, and start thinking about the next adventure! Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

And now we skip ahead a little...

Okay - I am a week behind, and can't bring myself to sit down and try and think of everything that happened - so skipping to yesterday and we will backfill later.

We are in New Mexico now... and yesterday was my birthday. A great day of riding from Grants (which is a dump) to Pie Town. A nice arch along the way...

We had a rest day in Grants and the only thing to do was visit El Malpais Monument - which was pretty cool. We rode our bikes up to the Ice Caves and Caldera - a round trip of 50 miles or so.

The night before, we went to the dirt track races, slamming beers in the van and whooping it up with the rednecks. We left when we ran out of beer and the exhaust fumes almost killed us. Giddyup! We hit a great little Mexican bar on the way back, shot some pool, then midnight breakfast at the local Denny's. Almost like a night in Durango.

Anyway - on to Pie Town. There are 2 places there that serve pie. One was closed Mondays, and the other shut down at 4. So Vinnie and I did an afternoon time trial, riding hard and making it there with 30 minutes to spare. Our reward? A sweet chunk of Blackberry Pie, a la mode. Happy Birthday to me!

The campground was a dirt and weed field. In fact it was full of cockleburrs, which are also known as goat heads. Instant flats for many of us and we spent the next hour repairing them while we waited for dinner. Joy.

Today we headed to Reserve. A short stage, but we added some mileage in order to cut down on the slog that we have tomorrow. We were finally stopped by a closed road, where the van picked us up and shuttled us to yet another shitty camp. We have 100+ miles to ride tomorrow, after we suffer the hour+ shuttle back to where we left off today.

Gonna be a long day in the saddle.

Friday, September 27, 2013

CO is Disappearing Fast

Hartsel to Salida was a cold start and a hot finish. Got the climbs out of the way in the morning, and peaked out Ute Pass for a ripper descent for 12 miles into Salida. We had a casualty along the way though - Karen took quite a fall, knocked herself out. She was taken to the hospital in the lunch van, and seems to be OK but is very stiff and sore.

Salida rocks. I almost moved here - it was my 2nd choice after Durango when looking at CO relo choices back in the day. Great river, great bike scene - we spent a little quality time at Absolute Bikes and left smiling (and with a bunch of stuff).

We camped in a decent little trailer park off of Highway 50. We went out for a few beers and called it a night around 10. Come 3 AM, I could hear someone, or something, moving our coolers and food boxes around. Turns out it was a bear - Mose got up to chase him off, which sent him right to my tent. I opened the flap just in time to look up at him running past me close enough to hear him breathing. Finally a bear sighting - but a little closer than I would have liked.

After Salida, a few of us opted for some single track on Monarch, rather than slog the roads. And it was the right choice. Jordan, Glen, Vinnie and I headed up and over, then down Agate Creek, which comes out on the road a couple miles above our destination in Sargents.

Turns out that we were in a RV park in Sargents that had the side lot reserved for us. By the time we rolled in, there were already a lot of tents set up. What nobody seemed to want to do was take over one of the two teepees that were in the middle of the tent spots. So, Vinnie and I each moved into one. It took a little sweeping and handiwork, but made them livable. And the added bonus was that they had gas fireplaces in them - a little propane and the place was perfect. We made a few people jealous of the fine digs.

Next up? Del Norte - a rest day and a chance to see my wife for the first time since this adventure started!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Argh falling behind...

OK - we left off on our way to Kremmling. Another wet day with some amazing views. At one point in the afternoon, we came out on a hill 2000' feet above the Colorado River. I literally teared up, it was so amazing. Then we dropped all the way to the river, crossed it at Radium, and started the huge climb up the other side.

We had been dry up until now... only 10 miles to go down a huge descent ... but the rain wouldn't wait. The skies opened and it rained hard all the way down. Crap.

Pulled into Kremmling and the sun came back out, but too late as we were all soaked and covered with mud from head to toe. We had a nice little campground on the edge of town. The town itself was dead - we grabbed a couple beers at the local bar to catch some Monday Night Football, and practically had the place to ourselves.

The next day was a cold one, and a wet one. The rest of the gang took off in the cold and mist, but a few of the smarter ones went to the local coffee shop. After an hour, the sun was out and it was 15 degrees warmer so off we went to Steamboat.

We met a couple of other trekkers on the road - a Dutch woman (who lives in Norway) with her dog, and her friend from Oregon. Some awesome views along the way (of course) and on to Frisco. I rode most of the day with Vincent and we kept a good pace going. I was starting to bonk when we got to Silverthorne, and then - like a vision - we spotted Wendy's. Double meat double cheese at 3 PM? Heck yeah. Oh, and large fries and drink. Boom.

Up the dam, along the lake, and into Frisco Best Western for 2 nights with a rest day in between. We made the mistake of hitting the liquor store when we got there, and the next thing you know we are eating Mexican food and drinking margarita's, then downtown for open mic at Prost. After we closed another bar (a bit fuzzy what bar it was), staggered home and crashed.

With a throbbing head, we ventured up to Breckenridge the next day on the free bus to check it out. After a nap back at the hotel, my kiddos showed up from Boulder and Denver and we had a great dinner together. Great to see my kids and hang out!

After a good nights sleep, we were off to Hartsel. There was fresh snow on the hills above Breckenridge, and Boreas Pass was full of aspens turning yellow. Probably one of the prettiest days that we have seen so far.

Hartsel was pretty cool. We stayed at this old ranch, along a cool little river full of trout. The groundskeeper was a super guy. He even let us hang out with his little orphan buffalo. Pretty cool!

A pretty brisk morning after that. More to come.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Putting Wyoming behind us

The rest day in Rawlins was pretty uneventful. In fact, Rawlins is probably uneventful on most days. The only attraction there is an old prison.

So, it was great to pull out after our rest day and get heading south. It was also great to head back to where there are trees, after hundreds of miles of sage.

And the trees were great. We went through a section called Aspen Alley, and the leaves are definitely changing. The days feel like Autumn days for sure.

And then - finally - COLORADO!

Later in the day, we arrived at Brush Mountain Lodge. Divide riders know this place well, because Kirsten the owner is a true 'trail angel' and takes good care of them, particularly the racers in June. It was great to meet her in person after reading so much about her.

Of course, it rained late in the day. So, another night pitching a wet tent in a wet field, and getting up to put on wet clothes and start riding in the mud.

This time, it was Rien's bike that exploded in the mud. Day over for him.

The skies stayed clear that day, and we made it to Steamboat Springs. The group headed to Strawberry Hot Springs for a little soak, but I wanted to see my old buddy Lou who lives in Steamboat, so went that way.

Off to Kremmling tomorrow. Hope it stays dry.

The Great Basin Century

We woke up in Atlantic City to cold and rain. I had set the alarm for 5AM because I wanted to be riding by 6 given the long miles that day.

After packing up my stuff and dressing in a lot of layers, I staggered down to the truck for some 'breakfast' - an energy bar and a cup of coffee. I stuffed a bunch of bars in my backpack, along with some dry clothes, and headed out alone in the dark.

I made it 100 yards up the hill and my chain broke.

I took the bike back to the truck and we fixed the chain. I started out again - it was still dark. After climbing for about 30 minutes and reaching a paved road that I didn't expect to see, I realized that I had left town on the wrong road. Back to town in the rain and dark, right past where I started 45 minutes earlier, and out the other side of town on another steep climb. Now it is getting light and I have lost the early advantage. Only 3 others were even trying this ride, and they were now in front of me. They were the 3 strongest riders, so I figured I would be on my own all day, with 100 miles of nothing in the Great Basin. And I was right.

It rained off and on all morning. Temps started in the 30s and peaked in the 40s. And it was windy - very windy. Around noon, I can over a hill to see our support van, much to my surprise. Glen had come out to set up a lunch stop for the riders brave enough to go out that day, but had gotten stuck in the mud and had turned around to try and get out of the basin on another road.

I had enough food and water with me, so I kept going. And I quickly saw how they got the van stuck. The road had turned to muck. Not mud, muck. As soon as you rode into it, it stuck to your tires and every other part of your bike, and stopped you cold. The only choice is to find a stick, scrape off the worst of it, hoist your bike on your back, and carry it past the mud. And this happened 5 times in the next 10 miles.

Eventually, the roads started to dry out. And then at around mile 60, my chain broke again. I fixed it, hopped on my bike, and discovered that my front derailleur was broken as well. I took if off the bike, and was able to manually move the chain to whatever front ring (usually the small one) I needed.

Off I went again. At about mile 90, my GPS died so I had to rely on my maps and a rough guess on my mileage so that I knew which turns to make.

The good news was that I saw so many pronghorns that it became routine. One herd was running so close to me that I could actually hear their hooves on the dirt. And the capper was a herd of wild horses, led by a huge black stallion.

After 100 miles, I finally made it to pavement. Luckily, the van was there, and Glen had a sandwich and a cold beer waiting for me. Off to Rawlins.