Hoo-hoo! What a ride!
It all began smoothly. We left Frisco on Monday morning (thanks again Jeff and April) and rode 46 miles to Williams Fork Reservoir. Climbed Ute Pass and had a welcomed downhill to our campsite. First (but not last) day of substantial rain. Next day, we rode to Route National Forest, only 38 miles but earned every inch of it. Some climbs so steep, it made me believe ACA would have never included these roads if they had considered those traveling north. Difficult route but the best scenery thus far, sweeping views of green valleys and snow covered mountains. The rain didn’t bother us so much... until we hit the MUD. This is the mud that all GDMBR and Baja Divide riders fear. Described as “peanut butter,” it clogs up your chain and cassette. Adds 10 pounds to your tires. At some point, you can’t even push your bike because it is so heavy, your feet are slipping, and you are sucked into the tar pit, only to be found thousands of years later.
So, are we having fun? I have asked myself this and my answer is, most of the time. I had a good and long conversation with myself about why I am doing this and made the following conclusions: I am pursuing the unexpected memorable event or encounter; being outdoors with all of its physical and emotional benefits; accomplishing a goal; testing myself, both physically and mentally; and keeping fit in an effort to avoid the cost and other consequences of additional needed healthcare. I would have included the economic benefits of living cheaply on the road without any debt and few expenses but honestly, we’ve had so many unexpected costs, this isn’t reality.
On Wednesday morning, John’s derailleur decided it had enough and decided to end it. His derailleur self-combusted right before Rock Creek. It blew up real good. Luckily, John is bike-repair savvy and was able to shorten his chain and turn his bike into a one-speed, enabling him to reach pavement. We caught a couple of rides into Steamboat Springs, where we left the bike with The Orange Peel bike shop and went to stay with our WarmShowers host, Rich. Rich is awesome and kind. Thanks for a dry and welcoming place to sleep. Keep living an amazing life.
Thursday we we did lots of zero-mile stuff like hanging out at the public library, drinking coffee and eating delicious baked goods at Smell That Bread, and waiting to hear from the bike store. We saw that the weather forecast for the next day was rain and more rain. And rain is okay. We can do rain. The fear factor comes from rain and COLD. Or even worse, rain and COLD and MUD. So, we booked a room for 2 (two) more nights in Steamboat’s finest and cheapest hotel, with a full kitchen.
Best damned decision ever. Honestly, I admire those GDMBR riders plugging along, regardless of weather. But that ain’t me—today. Reality is we woke up not to rain but to snow. Snow on the first day of summer. Welcome to Colorado 2019: the snow and flooding episode. But we get to spend the day walking around a winter wonderland and eating cereal with cold milk/baguette with butter and jelly/yogurt/and salad in a bag. We are hanging out once again in the public library, may go to the Old Town Hot Springs this evening. Already feeling energized and looking forward to heading out once again in the morning. Because we’re doing this. In our own sweet time and John/Beth manner. Gratitude abounds.
Lots has happened since our zero-mile day in Del Norte. We forgot a charger in the middle of nowhere and were contacted by a CDT hiker that found it the next day. By chance, John had left our Librarians on Bikes business card in the case. We told the hiker to keep it or pass it on to someone who needed it. We wild camped among a herd of angry cows in San Isabel National Forest. We rode up Marshall Pass, a pleasant 16-mile railroad-grade ascent followed by a welcome and memorable 25-mile descent into Salida. We spent the night at the Salida Hostel and bought a NEW STOVE (earlier fix didn’t stay fixed) and now have hot food once again.
The last three days have all been short mile days. Riding out of Salida was a brutal 14 mile uphill, so we stopped at 2pm, after only 22 miles. Pulled out our chairs and made camp in Long Gulch among the cows (these seemed much happier than previously mentioned cows). Wrote letters, made notes, played some cards, and made bean-noodle soup for dinner. Next day was a quick 44 miles into Fairplay, CO, where we beat the cold rain and spent the afternoon eating good food, grateful to be cozy in our tent and sleeping bags. Went off-route due to snow pack at Boreas Pass and climbed Hoosier Pass for the second time in two years (part of the TransAm Route). I think I can say that today has been the best day of the trip so far-a fitting Father’s Day tribute to John. We made it to Frisco early, had some good coffee, and headed over to April and Jeff’s townhouse. Upon arrival, Jeff told us we had about 20 minutes to shower before “a big surprise.” Best surprise ever, he had arranged for us both to get hour-long massages! And this was John’s first ever massage. We also had a wonderful dinner, did our laundry, and are sleeping in a real bed tonight.
The plan is to keep riding for another six days before our next zero-mile day in Rawlins, WY. We will be staying with a Warm Showers host in Steamboat Springs but otherwise there aren’t many towns between here and Rawlins. We’re well-stocked with supplies, sleeping well tonight and heading back out in the morning. Until next week!
Yesterday we entered a new state—Colorado! Good-bye New Mexico and thanks for all the beautiful scenery, wildlife, fascinating abandoned ranches and houses, and wild camping. We’ve passed the 800-mile mark, averaging about 45 miles and ten hours of riding a day, and guessing between 4,000-5,000 feet a day climbing. We stop often during the day to eat, filter water, and take Ibuprofen. The climbing (often on foot, pushing my bike) is what makes this so very different than past touring. We have never rode any route as challenging but also rewarding in so many ways. We really appreciate the wild camping in our national forests: beautiful and remote sites, cheap, and you get to pick when to stop for the day. When your legs say stop, you can stop. The remoteness means no one cares about how dirty you are. And we are nine-days out with one change of clothing dirty. Each night’s bathing consists of three handy wipes, no more, no less.
We’ve seen many antelope and elk. One day we passed a herd of elk with a small baby calf, legs still wobbly. We also saw a cow giving birth! We’ve ridden past mesas, plateaus, volcanic plugs, and steep arroyos reminiscent of the Baja Divide. The scenery changes throughout the day, from open valleys with big sky amazing views to mountain aspen groves to desert ravines.
A couple of days outside of Grants, we met Rani and Bob and their horse Chirpas. Bob is providing support to Rani and Chirpas as they travel the GDMBR with a small Amish wagon. They travel about 20-25 miles a day. Rani remembers reading an Adventure Cycling article about the GDMBR many years ago and is finally making her own adventure traveling from Mexico to Canada. Very cool people (and horse).
A couple of days ago we were riding past the Lagunitas campsites close to the Colorado border when things began to get interesting. With the big snowfalls this winter, the snowmelt had turned the gravel road into a fairly large stream, Mud included. We were feeling quite proud of ourselves, finally doing the “oh no, look at how much mud is on our tires, we must be REAL GDMBR riders,” when we noticed that the Continental Divide hikers had started passing us. Than we hit the snow. Again, REAL GDMBR riders hike through snow. Then the Five Four-Wheeler Riders of the Divide (Clint, Matt, Randy, Casey, and Everett, all from Texas) came across our path and advised us what was ahead. Snow above the knees. River crossing with water four feet deep and strong current. Our best option, they said, was to backtrack seven miles and head off-route to Antonito, CO. Backtrack!? Horrible thought. To my great relief, the 4-wheelers volunteered to put our bikes in their vehicles and drove us back to our turnoff. Plus, they made us hot coffee and fixed our camp stove! No more cold instant coffee and cold-soak ramen for us. It’s the small things that give so much pleasure on the GDMBR.
Sad to miss Indiana Pass (highest point in the GDMBR) due to the snow and high water but secretly was so, so very happy to ride the 80 miles to Del Norte on a relatively flat road with the wind at our backs. Don’t tell anyone about my love of easy riding because I may lose my GDMBR status if word got out. Recharging today doing all the usual zero-mile day chores and treating ourselves to a hotel room, shower, restaurant, etc. Talked with our kids and family, wrote some letters, and downloaded new books and movies. Ready to begin the Colorado ride!