We all know timing is everything. Weather, stock market, wedding proposals. Whatevs. Timing is huge. And so is luck.
In our case this morning it was… when should we break camp and dash to Hartsel from Como. The rain forecast told us we needed to be strategic. There was a window. We’d already decided to layup in Hartsel to ride into Salida on Wednesday. So it would be an easy day for us. Just 30 miles to Hartsel.
After quickly packing up we rode a quick 30 to Hartsel (with some rain and mud but no big deal). Once there we pretty much hung out in the small town supporting the local economy with purchases of beer and food while we watched our cycling buds roll in one after the other.
We also met this cute family riding the Transamerica Trail. What a beautiful family with such an immense spirit and love for each other and God. Ya just knew it!
We’re camping in the back yard of the saloon. It’s been raining off and on all day but we found a window to set up the tent and just in the nick of time.
Well there is one thing I need to make perfectly clear. Boreas Pass is only 11,482, not 14,000+ feet as noted yesterday in the blog. Sometimes I fall asleep with my phone in my hand and I wake up in the middle of the night and continue blogging. That’s what ya get, typos. Hate ‘em!
But I do love a stellar bike trail, climbing higher on a bike than ever before and listening to rain falling gently on the tent. And all three happened today.
We kicked off the day riding on an exceptionally scenic bike trail that connected the towns of Silverthorne, Frisco and Breckenridge. It also skirted around Dillon Reservoir. It was well marked, well traveled and for us heading to Boreas Pass, all uphill from Frisco to Breckenridge. Seriously though, could we have more bike trails in Indy? So many people were out using them.
After a quick snack break in Breck we began our 10 mile ride up Boreas Pass. I was definitely anxious about this one and for good reasons. Rain was expected later and I wanted to avoid a repeat of the chilling ride down Lynx and Gore Passes two days before. Also we’d never ridden above 10,000 feet before and it was our fourth mountain pass in three days.
But up and up we peddled, Tom leading and waiting for me to catch up every so often. Like pennies from heaven, before we knew it we were at the top! And Tom must be making it look too easy. Twice today (once in Silverthorne and once at the Pass) someone asked him if he was riding an e-bike. 😂
No time to celebrate our good fortune, however. Yep… the rain began. Again. It was a windy, wet, sloppy descent down Boreas albeit a shorter one than Saturday’s ride in the rain.
The route took us to Como, a tiny town with the only shelter options for cyclists at the Community Center – outside. No water or food options were available but… there is a pit toilet, plug outside the old building for charging devices and cell service! Pennies from heaven!
Gary and Kurt who are section riding the divide also landed in Como. They considered continuing on 30 miles into Hartzel but then opted to stay. We chatted it up for a while exchanging stories before we hit the sack – at about 6pm because of the rain.
Just an easy ride into Hartzel tomorrow where rumor has it a pizza place offers free camping in his yard and pizza to hungry cyclists. 🍕
Today’s “main event” was getting up and over Ute Pass. It sure was easier than yesterday’s ride: paved, no rain, and just one pass. Maybe we are getting stronger?
Tom saved his Oatmeal Cream Pie as a treat for reaching the top of the Pass. I need little perks along the way so ate the rest of my Goetz candies on the way up.
We did a celebration dance at the top. We’re over half way completing the ride, we’ve cycled in a new state and Ute Pass is ✅
The view at the top of Ute was stunning with a line of high, jagged mountains as far as we could see. They look like clouds in the photos.
We have a couple short days before meeting our pals in Salida so we delayed our start this morning and took all the bags off our bikes and cleaned them up. They were wicked nasty from yesterday’s ride. We kicked around town, purchased a few provisions and devoured sausage breakfast burritos. #delish
We also had the first opportunity to hit Mass up while en route to New Mexico as their was a small Catholic Church right across the street from the Budget 8. So much to be grateful for and so great to be back at Mass!
We planned on camping at Blue River Campground about 10 miles north of Silverthorne but as luck would have it, a gentleman stopped us on the side of the rode and offered us a place to stay for the night. His son and daughter raced the TransAmerican trail a couple years back and he knows Great Divide riders can always use a favor. Thanks for the night’s stay and the Mexican food, Paul!
Tomorrow’s menu includes Boreas Pass (the second highest on the ride at almost 11,500 feet) with of course… a side of rain.
After we had breakfast and Tom made himself a sausage sammie to go from the breakfast bar we headed out of Steamboat. The route immediately took us to bicycle Nirvana. Gorgeous bike routes! The first half hour we must have seen close to 40 cyclists. The local bike club even arranges porta potties so cyclists can take bio breaks.
Soon we were off pavement and on a sweet dirt road that followed a stream populated with Saturday morning fly fishermen.
An easy path that led to single track took us around Stagecoach Reservoir, the dam and a picturesque mountain home community around the water.
Then the climbing began. Again. Nothing new here. All good. It was a subtle but longish grade. On the way up the first assent I told Tom we should give ourselves credit since it’s pretty hard to train for all this elevation living in flat Indianapolis. Tom answered, “True but why are you talking while we’re punching pedals up the hill?” 😂
Less than a week before, Lynx Pass was closed because of forest fires. Grateful the fires had been extinguished we continued up the pass and saw so much community support for the fire fighters. Very cool!
After 30 miles we stopped for a quick roadside snack and noticed the clouds moving in. We were still about six miles from the top of Lynx Pass.
Shortly after, not only did we begin seeing evidence of the burn, both vegetation and some structures, the cold rain began. And. It. Did. Not. End.
Up, up and up we went. There was no shelter and the steady rain kept coming. We put on rain jackets shortly after it began and the constant grind of climbing kept our body temps warm but we wondered when the rain would quit following us.
Another concern was our cranks. We both have Salsa Cutthroats and they have been performing well but both of us were beginning to feel and hear grinding as we pedaled hard up the pass. The muck and sand seemed like it was seeping in with all the rain. Hummm what to do if it doesn’t go away. The grinding sounded destructive.
After hitting the top of Lynx Pass we found shelter under the eave of a pit toilet building and put on a warmth layer and rain gloves. We wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible since we could see more nasty clouds moving in.
The route said that the Watershed Divide would be impassable if wet so we had to detour to the pavement. That meant another pass… in the rain.
By the time we reached the top of Gore Pass, it was raining even harder and the wind had picked up. Without shelter, we knew we had to keep moving or get colder so we had a quick snack at the top to ensure we didn’t bonk. I had my sites set on the bar-b-q Vienna sausages I’d been carrying around in my fork bag since Rawlins but we opted for the quicker choice of Cliff bars. And I popped a couple of the Goetz’s chewies in my mouth. Then we began our descent.
That’s when Tom noticed his brakes weren’t working properly. Seriously? He was Fred Flinstoning it dragging his left foot on pavement trying to stop his bike while descending Gore Pass in pouring down rain and relentless wind. We quickly pulled off the road and he adjusted his brakes. Not sure how he did it with such cold fingers but in less than 10 minutes we were back on bikes coasting down ginormous descents. In the rain, only this time we weren’t peddling, just coasting wicked fast and we were so cold!
We were off route, had no cell service but we had our Adventure Cycling map and found our work around to Highway 40 which was another adventure in itself. Apparently rock slides on I-70 shut it down so traffic was routed through Kremmling, our destination for the day, via Route 40.
We just rode our gravel bikes off the side of the road when we saw traffic approaching from the rear. Those little helmet mirrors are life savers.
We rode a couple more miles than expected, and opted for a budget hotel room for the evening to dry out but at least now we know why Colorado is so green. It rains!
Tomorrow it’s Ute Pass. And there’s no rain in the forecast. Plus Tom still has his sausage sammie to look forward to!
There’s nothing like a bikepacking trip to help one recalibrate. I mean the juxtaposition of simple meals and bountiful meals, clean clothes and wicked dirty clothes, brown, barren landscapes and green, wooded landscapes, sandy sleeping bags and clean sheets, dust and sunscreen laden skin and a fresh shower. It just makes you appreciate the little things so much and take nothing for granted.
We said goodbye to Kirsten at Brush Mountain Lodge and started our day with a solid uphill and then a lovely ride through high meadows with stunning views of Colorado peaks.
Our climb up the Watershed Divide was manageable until the steep and rocky hike-a-bike at the top. The other side however was ratchet downhill with rocks and washout that made it hard to let loose and bomb down the other side, unless you were Tylor who raced pass me on the descent. He was a man on a mission.😂
About six miles from the top, the route finally opened up and we had sweetest downhill all the way into Clark where we stopped for a snack and met up once again with Tylor and Alex.
Steamboat is apparently a fave destination right now and shelter for bikepackers, whether it be camping, hotel or someone’s backyard was difficult to find. We could see a storm was coming and with our daughter’s help, we scooped up a hotel room for the night. Not mad about it. Another night of clean sheets and tasty food. Thanks, Anne! Not getting too used to this fine living though. It’s back to the tent the next few nights.😊
Another downhill, a favorable tail wind and speedy riding took us all the way into Steamboat before the storm. We ended the night with a dip in the hot tub and ice cream.
Tomorrow we shoot for Lynx Pass. Fingers crossed. 🤞🏻
And just like that… the topography changed as we entered Colorado. There was only a sign that let us know we were LEAVING Wyoming. The green trees around us and distant daunting mountains let us know we were in Colorado. It’s a new state for us to cycle in!
After shaking our bags, sleep pads, clothes and tent out from the dust storm the night before we were on our way to Brush Mountain Lodge which is an iconic stop on The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
We watered down at the remote Sandstone Work Center Cabin where we met Elwin and Roxie who are hosts. Roxie goes through 125 pounds of sugar in four months feeding the hummingbirds. Elwin built his own seven hole golf course. These two are livin’ their dream.
After a lunch stop off the side of the road we set our sites on BML. More climbing, more scenic views, and a lot of Jolly Rancher chewies for me.
We turned the corner on a climb and there it was! The Lodge! Kirsten welcomed us with hugs, a shaded porch and a pizza cooked in her wood fired oven (one large pizza for each of us). And yes we ate it all.
BML is a magical place that welcomes hikers, cyclists, motorcyclists, and hunters in the winter – really anyone! Cool thing is… if you arrive under your own power (bike or hike) Kirsten offers a 50% discount on rooms. Pretty awesome. Thanks Kirsten. She also did a load of laundry for us. I’d say she’s another patron Saint of Bikepackers.
Northbounders refer to Colorado as the “high peaks” state – lots of mountain passes. We are feeling stronger and so grateful.
We’re also very much looking forward to a rendezvous with our Indy buds Dan and Christie in Salida in a few days. Probs gonna take a zero day (maybe two)! Whooo hooo 🤙🏻
Wyoming we love you but what’s up with the send off?
The best part about today might have been late checkout at the Hampton Inn. 😂 We did laundry, updated the blog, backwashed the water filter, did some bike maintenance, ate a huge breakfast, bought more food and water for the road and even stopped at McDonalds for some lunch.
Late checkout was clutch after arriving later in the evening. We just took our time getting out.
Although we left Rawlins in the heat the day we were totally revived after our ride out of the Great Basin. It was super smooth riding on a newly paved road.
This was our last night in Wyoming so we had our eyes peeled for a scenic yet convenient camping spot. It looked like weather was coming in so we began to get a little more serious about finding one.
Finally we just pulled off a county road and plopped the tent down ensuring it was anchored down well with the storm coming. Dinner, stowing food, brushing teeth, securing bikes were finished so we hunkered down in our tent thinking what an easy day of riding it was and that we were both actually still somewhat clean. 😂
Next thing we know a huge gust of wind came and picked up all the dust (and whatever else is mixed in since we are in a cow pasture) and blew it up under our tent fly all over our clothes, skin and sleeping bags. It was like laying out in the beach with all the sand. Why Wyoming would you want to send us off like that? Until next time…
Where to begin describing our ride through the Great Basin? I would say it’s a love hate relationship. We loved it, but it was tough mostly because of the relentless headwind and being anxious about adequate drinking water.
We resupplied at Wild Bill’s with Carmella and Chris taking good care of us. This was especially helpful as on Monday it appears most everything is closed in Atlantic City (population 57).
As much as we celebrated the tail wind the previous day we lamented over the persistent headwind. I thought a lot about tailwind metaphors in life and advantage but won’t go into it here. #toodeep
It’s beautiful in the Great Basin; the landscape rarely changes, there are herds of wild horses racing across the land and it’s pretty much all sun, no shade. The pronghorn thrive and we never tire of seeing them.
In late afternoon on Monday we just plopped our tent down when we’d had enough and enjoyed a simple dinner while sitting on our old maps sparingly drinking water.
Tent fly free camping gave us an unforgettable view of the stars.
On Tuesday it was just 30 miles to the next water source and if we were gamblers we would not have thought we would make it to Rawlins which was 80+ miles away but we did! Don’t think I’ve ever been so spent and thirsty.
Thanks to Tom for being my constant cheerleader. There comes a point when you’d do just about anything for an ice cube or cold drink. Making it to Rawlins was a big incentive for us.
We rolled into Rawlins, got something to drink at the Sinclair gas station and promptly rolled our bikes over to the local steak and burger joint for some real town food.
We are celebrating that the Basin is behind us and very much looking forward to Colorado in about 50 miles.
Even though today was our longest day of riding yet and we didn’t start until 10am this morning it felt like a vacation for our legs. It was the combo of friendly road surface and the tailwind! Yes sometimes Wyoming plays nice. 😉
We planned on stopping at 60 miles at a sweet camping spot Chere mentioned but it was only 4:30pm, and although scenic there wasn’t a lick of shade so we continued. So glad we did. Gotta just go when you’re feelin’ it. We spotted so many pronghorn today and I was able to get a short video of them.
I forgot to mention yesterday that this isn’t our first bike experience in Wyoming. Back in 2016 we rode the Tour d’Wyoming and had so much fun. Amber is the ride director and if the saying “good things come in small packages” is true, it was written for her. She’s a sweet little lady with a heart big as the state of Wyoming itself, not to mention she’s a kicka$$ cyclist. She’ll be back at it in 2022 highlighting some of the best cycling roads Wyoming has to offer. Check it out here. It’s a super popular multi day tour so sign up early.
I don’t think I’ve ever cycled though such desolate landscape (although that’s probably going to change tomorrow as we enter the Great Basin). I mean it’s hot, dry and dusty but it’s absolutely stunning. And again, pics don’t do it justice.
Along the way we met Marshall the horse and his owner (don’t know his name). Marshall carries his owner 12 miles a day and loosely follows the Continental Divide Trail. Cool! Sometime Marshall brings a buddy horse to carry camping gear. Sometimes Marshall gets a break and gets to ride in the horse trailer when his owner’s wife sags for them. Who knew that was a thing? 🤷🏼♀️
We’re just a short distance from South Pass City so that means we may find our way to a coffee first thing. Until then…
And thanks for the follow and words of encouragement. It means a lot.
Today’s theme is “Hold On, Tom! I’m Comin!” If it wasn’t the narly rocks coming down Union Pass, it was the headwind. And if it wasn’t the headwind, I needed to make a clothing change, or change my Spotify playlist or grab a snack. Thank goodness Tom was behind me at one point, because my Oofoos sandal fell off my seat bag. #bikerideprobs Thanks for your patience, Tom!
We said so long to Chere and passed Mosquito Lake, the place we were were thinking about camping. Gorgeous!
We stood in awe of a beautiful herd of elk as they moved on up to higher ground. The high meadow at daybreak was breathtaking.
Our roll into Pinedale was punctuated with scenic views, fellow bikepackers and of course ATVs with a few prancing pronghorn thrown in for good measure.
Pinedale did not disappoint. We resupplied, showered up, did laundry, new rear brake pads for my bike and hit up the money spitter.