Thankfully this year there was no need for major work at Orange Peel bike shop in Steamboat Springs like last year. A few minor adjustments, some BBQ and I’m on my way toward Silverthorne. First though, I must get past the downhill into Radium where I went down last year on the fast switchbacks. Safely making it past Radium, I stopped into Kremmling for a big burrito for the push over Ute Pass, 20 miles of slow grade until the summit, and then a FAST downhill – about 1,000′ elevation drop in 3 miles of smooth, paved road. Then it’s 20 miles into Silverthorne where I have a room. Checking in, a woman customer sees me -‘You need a beer!’. She goes to her car, brings me in 2 bottles.
My cousin Carol and husband Jim from Denver had driven out to watch the racers come through town. It was good to see family on the route. Also, my friend Troy and his son Dillon from Wichita were in the area and we met up on the trail between Silverthorne and Dillon. In Breckenridge my friends Matt and Kara were vacationing. Matt sees my Facebook update post and we get together for a bit before I press on over Boreas Pass through Como and on to Hartsel, where I get a burger at the bar and grill. I’m now over a day ahead of last year’s pace, so I press on. I was wishing I could be further ahead, but an extra 10 miles/day at the end of the day is hard to do.
Another night in the desert, and I’m closing in on Salida. Again this year I had less mechanical work to be done, so I don’t even stop in at Absolute Bikes. I know it would cost me an hour or so, besides, I’m looking forward to riding up and over Marshall Pass which is an abandoned rail bed. It’s gradual grade is another favorite spots of mine on the route as I try to imagine taking the narrow gauge over the pass over 100 yrs ago.
A late afternoon stop in Del Norte then the highest point of the route, it’s Indiana Pass at 11,910 ft. Spending another night under the stars then it’s on to Platoro, where more food is available at the lodge. With rain forecasted for the afternoon, I press on, but then it starts to rain. Not knowing how long it will last, I decide to set up camp and wait it out – all 20 minutes of it! Horca has a small gift shop/snack bar where Amish fried pies are available, I get a couple for the road. Six paved miles up and over La Magna pass in the cold rain, but with New Mexico just another 7 miles, I’m determined to make the last state that evening. A campsite just at the border in the Carson National Forest is the perfect place to set up for the night.
By now I’m not seeing my 25 day TD goal as being reached. It’s been raining, it’s going to get muddy, and my daily milage is getting less than 100, more like 75. That’s ok, I’ll do what I can do.
Today it’s the start of the last state. With rain most of the day, and the mud here is much different that Canada. This is peanut butter mud. It sticks to everything – your drive train, chain, derailleur, pulley’s – things can break. Ride a little, stop, scrape off mud, do it all over again. Finally, I get to about mile 30 for the day and I ride up on a $75,000, 4 door, dually, Ford F350 truck, pulling a 4 horse trailer. A teenage boy in flip flops, shorts, T-shirt is taking a leak outside of the rig. I pull up and HE asks ME for directions! I tell him I can’t help, and he says ‘At least you are on a bike!’. I laugh and say ‘Look at Me, I’m covered in mud!’. We part ways and make it to Hopewell Lake for the night where there are 4 other racers taking shelter from the rain in a park shelter. More trail magic. Campers are heading out and drop off hot chocolate, chips and snacks they aren’t wanting to take home with them.
The next morning, it’s still raining. I see another rider, it’s TD veteran, 67 year old Hal Russell (on his 4th TD) pulling out as we are getting out things together. Hal had pulled into the park well after midnight and was heading out in the rain. He is a motivation to all, not the fastest racer out there, but he just keeps turning the pedals. The next morning, I pull up to the snack shack at Canon Plaza. Sylvia from ‘Ride the Divide’, a Tour Divide documentary, has a spot on the route where snacks are available. About the time I’m getting ready to leave the snack shop, Hal pulls up and we visit a bit. Silvia’s daughter and Son-in-Law are working that day.
Today’s goal is to make Abiquiu for lunch and restock, and beyond. This section of the course has to be the roughest of route. The green chile cheese burger at Bode’s General store was good, and this is another stop on the route where you can get about anything needed to refuel you and get you on your way again.
Unfortunately, at this point I knew my 25/26 day TD wasn’t going to happen. It was July 3rd, and I needed to be in Denver on the 6th. Cuba, NM was up next, and my friend Bill was 30 minutes away in Albuquerque. I made the call I really didn’t want to make. Bill would have driven anywhere to pick me up. I’m sure I could have made it to Grant’s or beyond, but I figured it was best to end my ride in Cuba.
Looking back, am I disappointed that I didn’t finish? Not really. If I really wanted to finish earlier, I could have started in Banff earlier and ridden an ITT, and finished the route. There is something special about riding with people on the route though. It’s the people, both the racers and the people you meet along the way that makes this event what it is.
Stay tuned for what’s next, because I assure you there is something and it’s going to be AWESOME.