Packed In

IMG_7068We didn’t think to take a photo before we packed the bike in the back of the Avalon, but there she is neatly fit into the trunk.  Timing is everything and as it was Stanna was 26 miles from Steamboat Springs when I called her from McDonalds.  She had anticipated my arrival by watching the Spot Locator track and was right on.


She was in Denver after having made a road trip with her brother, David, to Mississippi for their aunt’s 90th birthday celebration.  I had pre-arranged to meet her somewhere enroute with a box of re-supply items such that Don and I could have hard-to-find things available for the next stage of the adventure, since we’d theoretically be crossing paths on her return to Durango.

IMG_7005As it was, I was ready to “pack it in” anyway, primarily because I’d already ridden the next 700 miles out of Steamboat solo in the previous two years: a 500-mile stretch from Steamboat to Del Norte and then an aborted leg from Del Norte to Grants, New Mexico when I only completed 200 miles due to saddle sores from a new saddle.  Having ridden the last two weeks alone wasn’t as fun as with Don, and the prospect of repeating the next 700 miles by myself once again didn’t appeal to me.

At this point all I have to do to “finish” the Great Divide route is ride from Abiquiu, New Mexico to the Mexican boarder (a little over 500 miles) and I can take credit for the entire route.  August probably isn’t the best time to tackle this portion anyway.

IMG_7009So it was anti-climactic arriving in Steamboat Springs and fortuitous, because just after loading the bike a thunderstorm opened up and poured rain.  It was the first daytime rain I’d experienced in the entire 21 days and I was smugly inside a vehicle.

The bike and the gear worked out perfectly.  Other than the crimped cable housing I caused from strapping on the handlebar bag above rather than under the shifter, I experienced not a single malfunction.  If I asked myself the same question I’d asked the other riders and thru-hikers, “What would you do different?”, my answer would be “nothing.”  I’ll use the same list for the next bike adventure, and I’ll be looking forward to it.


Thru Hikers

As you might imagine the Great Divide route along the Continental Divide crosses tracks a number of times with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), a cross-continent trail for hikers.  The CDT is one of the jewels in the Triple Crown of American hikes, the others being the Appalachian Trail (AT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  I saw and talked to probably 12 or more of the hikers, always in groups of two or three, trying to glean whatever I could about their ultralight gear.

The one question I always try to remember to ask is, “What would you do different. Or what would you change if you could?”  This far along, all that I talked to had started at the Mexican border and had already “dialed-in” their gear, so I generally got comments like, “the weather” or “nothing.”

IMG_7067One solo hiker was zipping along with his head net on. After stopping and talking to him for several minutes along the road, I asked him about his net, which evidently was so comfortable that he hadn’t noticed it was still on.  He quickly pulled it off, embarrassed, saying he didn’t know he was wearing it from early morning.

Later I asked another group of four about head nets and one hiker quickly whipped his out saying it was the best one available, Sea to Summit, and that I should try it on.  It actually has underarm shock cords that keeps it down and away from your neck.  I’ll definitely be looking into this new piece of gear for backpacking.

Other info gathered from the troops of thru hikers: One preferred a canister stove, a cheap 4-oz knock-off of a MSR with the smallest fuel can, he only ever carries one canister and when it’s out, he eats “cold” until the next resupply.  One guy carries his alcohol in a squeezable Platypus water bag, so volume decreases with fuel level.  Another guy absolutely loves his Z-pack chest bag (another item I’ll be looking into).

Most hikers seems to be in the 12-pound base-weight range and most had a tarp-tent.  All but one was in trail-runner hiking shoes, everyone had poles and two I saw coming down the road with identical Go-Lite Chrome Dome umbrellas deployed above their heads like Asian ladies in the afternoon sun.  Water filtering was with Sawyer minis or Aqua Mira, no one mentioned SteriPens.

Most surprising was a couple of guys, the ones with the Chrome Domes, said when I mentioned Z-Packs, “Z-Packs gear doesn’t hold up.  Not suitable for thru hiking.” When I protested that I love my Z-Packs gear, they remonstrated adamantly, “it may be great for bike packing but it’ll never hold up to a thru hike.”  Strange, I’ll be looking into this further.

Best of all, every one of the thru hikers seemed jovial and eager to talk about their gear and the six-month journey.

Great Basin


Crossing the Great Basin, a hundred-plus stretch of alto-plano featuring sage, far-off views of the Wind River mountain range, pronghorn antelope, rabbits and more sage, had only two dependable water sources, both within the first 26 miles.  It was the first time I’d gone more than 3 or 4 hours without seeing some vehicle on these remote roads chosen for the Great Divide route. As it was, I cycled about 10 or 12 hours altogether before several motorcycles entered the Great Basin from the southern end.

Having already cycled some 90+ miles of similar dry and vacant terrain, I thought Atlantic City the correct spot to rest and overnight.  After a long and leisurely burger and fries, followed by a humungous ice cream sundae, I had secured permission to bunk in the giant indian teepee.  The only problem as I departed the bar was the lady owner, who’d granted permission to stay, mentioned, “I’m sure the Saturday night noise of the bar won’t bother a tired rider.” (The teepee was erected directly in front of the Grubstake Bar and Restaurant.) The weather was warm, the winds very light and the sun was still high in the sky, so I left Atlantic city about 7:00 PM after checking the map, thinking I could get a head start on the Great Basin.

Since I’d been cycling solo, I’d started listening to audio books (finished 4 and I’m still on the fifth – an 800-page Pulitzer prize-winner called The Goldfinch) which combined with the waning light and empty road of that early evening, made the ride new and almost refreshing.  It wasn’t until I stopped to don a head-lamp about 10 PM that I realized I’d probably done enough for the day and should stop and camp for the night.

The map showed a wetland spring at the 26-mile mark and the last water for the Basin, so I thought I should keep an eye out for its landmarks.  The text of the map said something about “cross over the stile to access the spring” and I hadn’t seen a fence line for hours so I thought maybe I’d missed it. (One thing I should mention is that I don’t have an odometer on the bike and because of that many of the turns and map instructions I’ve had to suss-out in other ways or flat out miss.)

IMG_7061The sage was so thick right up to the road-bed that I wondered where I could set up a tent, when I came across a small side road.  I circled around to check out the possibility of camping directly on the side road and saw in the distance a reflection of a sign post or something luminous 150 yards down that small slightly used two-track road.  Curious as to what could be reflective at that point in the desert and wanting to know what I might be camping in front of, I cycled down to find the Digneous Well, the same fenced-in spring I’d been looking for.  Amazing.

It was a good thing I’d knocked some miles off the Great Basin the night before because even with an entrancing book to listen to, the next day the miles and empty road went on and on and on.  As it was, I barely got into a campground in Rawlins (having stopped to eat & shop for provisions) before the campground locked up the showers at 9 PM.

Continual Flow


There has been a continual flow of cyclists almost from the beginning of the Great Divide route. The frequency of seeing them seems to have increased in the last week to the point that I’ve finally lost count. What is most surprising is the number of cycle tourers travel the opposite direction. Every time I come down a long downhill or get a generous boost from a westerly wind I say to myself, “Sure glad I’m not going the other direction”.

These two bikes belong to a Basque couple traveling north and represent just about the maximum you can put on a touring bike, outside of China.


Not sure if you can read the notice posted on a Forest Service roadside board, so I’ll interpret: Grizzly trapping during 6/20 and 8/19. Everywhere we’ve camped and traveled the warnings about storing food away from your camp are everywhere, with many official campgrounds providing bear boxes and even one site two days ago had a horse trailer set up as a bear proof storage cage. I rolled my bike right inside so I didn’t have to unload the food stashed in the frame packs,


Much of the last several days route has been in high plains of
the continental divide. Unfenced prairie that rolls and undulates on and on, with the Tetons or Wind River ranges as a backdrop.


There has also been a number of CDT thru hikers that I’ve come across, as the two routes converge quite often in this region. Not sure a six month trek is in my cards.

Wyoming Now


When you ride longer every day it’s hard to find time to blog. Plus there’s been some sections with A paucity of Internet connections.


I’ll just include a couple of photos from the road for example my last nights camping spot along a creek. Still a lot of warnings about grizzly bears so I have to hang my food every night here’s a photo of the food bag hanging in a tree 25 feet up.


Just now passing into the Teton national Park area which is spectacular and Jackson lake is also beautiful


Just read this blog item which shames my blog :
One more follow-up regarding the connection between clear thinking and clear writing: Orwell’s famous essay, Politics and the English Language:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

Wise River

Don’s enroute to California, his wife Jann came to help him.

Lots more climbing and big sky vistas now that the smoke has cleared. Finally catching up to other riders in Wise River. 2 Dutch, 2 from Florida and supposedly 6 more just ahead. [BREAK: lost wifi at the biker bar where I started this day’s blog.]

I caught up with a clot of riders at the big joe campground along the scenic byways between Wise River and the town at the end of my second map (6 maps total). There were seven riders in the campground plus myself, among them two more retired fellows from Fort Collins riding together, a solo retired man from Dallas (who has done Rawlins to Del Norte before) and a solo fellow in his forties who was the lightest of them and I forgot to ask his home town.


The ride out of Wise River is on one of Montana’s Scenic Byways and, if you discount the head winds in the earliest open valleys, is quiet spectacular. After the first 8 or 10 miles there was maybe one car every half hour on this late Sunday afternoon.


Of the eight riders there were five different camp stoves in use. One canister, one Jet Boil, one MSR white gas, another I couldn’t recognize, and my Caldera. The Dutch boys ate ramen, canned green beans and Tuna, the Forida guys Ramen and canned meat, and the rest all had their Mountain House foil backpacking meals. I wonder how many foil packages they travel with? I had a Knorr rice and chicken pack ($2 in Wise River, $1 in City Market at home).




Flash News–Updated

Don just text messaged me that he took a 20+ MPH fall and broke 7 ribs and separated one end of his clavicle from the sternum. After a careful ride downhill from the Divide, he hit loose gravel in a bad washboard and lost control.  He thinks all the smoke in the air caused congestion which exacerbates his Meniere’s disease, which affects his balance.   He’s in Helena and his wife Jann is flying in to help him.  They should be flying home Sunday, where Don will be evaluated to determine if surgery is necessary or not to repair the clavicle.


Real sorry to get the news, I was looking forward to hooking back up and finishing the ride together.

Three Pass Day


Not a good start for a 65-mile three-pass day, when you don’t realize you’ve camped past the turn off for the next leg of the route. Using false logic and no help from the considerable resources, I turned left out of the high school football field I’d been invited to pitch my tent in, and started looking for the first crossroad mentioned on the map. After 4 miles I was suspicious and at the six-mile curve that turned north convinced I’d missed the road described. About half way back I realized it could have been something I passed the day before, prior to the hosted camping. Oh well, a 12-mile warmup on a cool morning.

Backing up a bit, we’d caught up with the ACA touring cyclists (mentioned in the prior blog post), and they offered once again to let us camp with them in Lincoln if we planned to stay there as well. Don and I hadn’t been committing to any daily destinations, primarily because we’d had a number of diversions that slowed our progress already. (Ends up Don did have still more problems – bent derailleur hanger again [from a single track fall] and a loose cassette.)

Anyway, we camped at the high school football field and enjoyed all the amenities the group did this time, including hot showers in the locker room (didn’t remember the nozzles were so low) and even better the farewell BBQ. The intentionally-delayed dessert after the evening debriefing was Bananas Foster with all the trimmings. I made more trips back to the table than I’ll put in print. “Plenty”connotes plural doesn’t it?

Don was uncertain how to tackle the next portion of the route (3 passes and almost 4,000′ climbing in 67 miles) so we agreed that he’d get himself to Helena in an easier or more leisurely fashion and I’d carry on. He’s hoping to shuttle himself down route and meet up again after he’s recovered, the bike is dependable and maybe even a new pair of riding shorts.

Photos for this leg of the trip are all masked with fairly dense smoke-filled skies. Lovely vistas and greenery just hazy from all the forest fires to the west.

Some single track


According to those that know the Great Divide route there is only about 10% single track and today we got treated to 1% of that 10. It must be some of the more spectacular because the adventure cycling Association chose this portion of the trail for one of their supported trips. ACA GD Montana


The climb to get there was 1500 feet in 5 miles. Views were spectacular and the trailer was pretty narrow and exposed in a few spots. Don says, “it was overgrown for many miles”. Downhill was fast and furious, not allowing for sightseeing unless you stopped to look.


We came into Sealy Lake where the ACA was camped in the local campground. Kind of overwhelmed the campground single stall male female restrooms were crowded with 38 riders and 10 support to say the least. There are also two thru-riders totally overloaded on heavy bikes. Since I am mentioning other riders we met with three northbound riders from Tennessee just about to complete their tour. All young guys who have carpetbags for a front handlebar bag.


Dill & Detour


Riding thru ranch lands south of Columbia Falls the distinctive aroma of Dill led me to notice almost a section of land behind split rail fence was entirely dill. As this was horse country, with every spread featuring corrals, stalls and hay stacks it seemed incongruous. It set me to thinking, ” do horses eat dill?” I doubt it, but it was a pleasant surprise.


Don’s rear tire was still losing air even with a new tire installed just the day before. Fortunately there was a bike shop only five miles off route half-way thru the days ride so we stopped in Big Foot for a fix. Unfortunately the sealant was on a. UPS truck due in by 3pm, hopefully. We took a real leisurely late breakfast and hung out until the delivery which came in early at 2pm.

On a long downhill high above a lake we were pretty surprised to come across an eight inch turtle smack in the middle of the gravel road. After watching him for a short spell we placed him on the down slope hoping he wouldn’t be road kill.



It was hard to start out once again in the mid afternoon especially when the route involved most the days climbing remaining. We opted for an off route campground near Swan River that was more swamp than campsite. At best you’d call it abandoned, however there was already a Canadian couple with there tent set-up next to the only broken picnic table. We asked to share the site, pitching our tents in the gravel driveway. Before long still one more couple cycled in and we had five tents clustered around.

Bugs and Mosquitos were the best redeeming factor of that site.

Ten Miles

Not a zero today but two digit day with a zero after it and only a one in front. Between bike repairs, catching up on blogging, sleeping in, shopping and a rainstorm we didn’t get very far. We’re calling it a rest and recovery day.


Yesterday Don had to pump his rear tire up about four or five times and this morning we woke up tire was entirely flat and couldn’t get the tire to seal on the rim. We tried to seal the rim on the local picnic table but that didn’t work and so he walked a mile and a bit to the bike shop where they put it on the rack and determined that he needed a new tire.  And it was time to restore the supplies so we spent quite a bit of time in the local Safeway trying to figure out what we could fit on the bike, have high calories and protein and tasty at the same time.


We weren’t the only ones getting reorganized and recovering. Our local Commonwealth friends spent quite a bit of time in Whitefish as well. We found them on the corner lawn going thru all their gear. They said they sent a combined 20 pounds home. Young folks from Washington State sent home 15 pounds from their Bob trailers.


In early afternoon we found ourselves in Columbia Falls, Montana. Yes, only 10 miles down the road, where it started raining. After waiting over a hour for it to stop, Don found an Air BnB for a reasonable price and checked us in. Bunks tonight.



Could be a zero day


Tough day yesterday, lots of climbing, lots of dust on the road. Not to mention heat was probably somewhere between 99 and 100 and we’re only at about 4000 feet. We did manage 60 miles, actually 62 miles, yesterday but today we got 60 miles of them off the map.


It was hard not to jump into this lake at the top half called Red Meadow Lake, we still had 22 miles down into Whitefish, Montana. Whitefish is evidently a recreation town of less than 10,000. Lots of trophy homes along the lake and very small downtown area. We found a restaurant specializing in pork before we even looked for a place to lie down. Grilled pork salad went down with 3 16-ounce tumblers of water.


The hardest part of the day is gone climbing is riding with a semi-flat tire. A slow grind, it had to be pumped four times in 60 miles. Don says, “should’ve been 10 times”. He tried fixing it once we got to town on a picnic table, no joy. Now it’s on the bike stand shown above.