Day 41. September 26th. 48.6 miles today for 1,619 miles in total. We climbed 4,436 feet today for a total 118,849 feet of elevation gain to date. We just calculated what we estimated to be our total feet climbing and are amazed it is so much. We’ve also across the continental divide about 16 times by our estimate. We slept in Radium last night and just as we went to bed a very loud, very long train proceeded to pass very close to us. About an hour later another very long very loud train passed but we were fortunate those were the only two all night. We woke up to a heavy frost and lots and lots of magpies on our table. Nothing lost to the beautiful crows of the west, just some holes packed into a couple baggies. We left camp around 8:30 AM and started with a couple of good climbs up to inspiration point. Saw red tail hawks, horses, cattle and passed a few log trucks. We saw one cyclist who commented (these are his words) that his perineum hurt. We talked to him for about three minutes in total and learned about the most intimate part of his body. Tara, as a nurse, offered to help (with ibuprofen) but he declined. Rode down to Kremmling, about 2 miles off route and we failed in our quest for more fuel for our stove. We’ll have to be careful tonight to save fuel for breakfast. We did have great coffees at shooters café. I attempted to have an ice cream but dropped it in the parking lot, and we chatted with a woman who did the first trans American ride in 1976. We also met a young woman, Mandy, who is doing the Transamerica ride now, pulling a BOB (beast of burden) trailer. We also picked up a few groceries for tonight and tomorrow. We made phone calls to make a new plan to meet Maggie, as we did extra miles yesterday and messed up the original plan. We also made a plan to meet a new friend Hollyanna in Breckenridge. (After first declining because we did not originally think we could make it that far……and stay on schedule.) Our friends must think we’ve lost our minds out here but it is really difficult to estimate mileage with the unpredictability of this adventure. Yesterday we added 20 extra miles because we did not want to sleep close to 10,000 feet and freeze our perineums off. We were at about 20 miles in Kremmling. About 10 miles later we passed a very low level reservoir, the Williams Fork Reservoir where we stopped for lunch. We wrote a book about the great GM on that climb up to the reservoir. For those of you who are wondering what the great GM is, go back to anatomy class, gluteus maximus. We must keep our GM happy just as you would your general manager. After lunch we had to pass by a grader and road watering truck and we wondered about……noooooo, not mud! Thankful for road maintenance that doesn’t generate mud with a little watering, but keeps the dust down. Before approaching the campground we passed a no trespassing section of fencing that had cowboy boots upside down on each post. There was also a rather phallic looking stone monolith in the field with a fence around it. We didn’t dare approach it afraid we might lose our biking shoes to the fence! We arrived at the (closed!?!) horseshoe campground around 4:30 PM. Needless to say, we are the only ones here because the campground is closed. There is a pit toilet but with no TP. There’s a beautiful river where we bathed and lots of lovely aspens all around in their fall color of golden yellow. We enjoyed our best dinner yet, of rice and beans and veggies in the last rays of evening sunshine as the sun disappeared behind the ridge. A good day.
Day 40. 60.3 miles and 6,019 feet of elevation gain! We left around 8 am after saying goodbye to Ed and Donna who were great hosts. we enjoyed our day off in their home and use the hose to clean our bikes in the backyard with the chickens. Goodbye Ollie. You are a great dog! Started on the bike path out of Steamboat Springs. It meandered along the Yampa river. Fairly quickly the houses were further apart and we were in Ranch country again. Horses and cows, fences and fields, pick up trucks and magpies. We passed a pretty lake and continued on the flats for a few miles. We then climbed up to the Stage Coach Reservoir and crossed the dam. There was a large sign just before the dam that warned of a mountain lion in the area. The lake had a low water level as it was generating electricity and it’s been dry out here. We skirted the reservoir and started to climb eventually reaching Lynx Pass, over 9,000 feet. After you go up, you get to come down. We passed an historic building from a stage coach stop and then we had to take our shed off to ford a small, cold river. Then we climbed again and rode along the “eyebrow” - as we called it, a fairly level section at the top of a ridge, with a few ups/downs as it followed the contours of the mountain. Tara’s brakes are flat again and we don’t know if there is an adjustment….and we started the down, supposedly one of the best downhill sections on the entire great divide trail. It was awesome, even with soft brakes. We dropped down 2500 feet to the Colorado River in the “town” of Radium. There is no town, just a boat launch for those rafting on the Colorado river. And a small campground with pit toilets. We arrived before six pm and filter drinking water out of the Colorado river for dinner and tea. Set up our tent and had dinner and by the time we were cleaned up and ready for bed it was past the Marsha rule time of 8 pm. The weather was spectacular today - frost this morning but soon in the 60’s or close to 70 with blue sky and sunshine. Because we rode 20 miles beyond our planned mileage, we mapped out a new plan for the next few days to connect and ride with Maggie, stay with Hollyanna in Breckenridge, and meet up with Larry and Mimi for three nights. We will ride 40+ each day for 4 days and take Friday off in Salida.
Day 39. 0 miles on our butts but a few miles on our feet. We stayed with Donna and Ed at their Home/Airbnb with Ollie the Newfoundland last night. Woke up to great coffee - thank you Ed. Tara and I went out to The Shack in Steamboat Springs for a large breakfast. Sigh. No scraps on these plates! We got groceries, cleaned our bikes with our toothbrushes , (there was mud in every crack cranny and crevice) and then had to go get new toothbrushes. Made phone calls purchased a few things like a new notepad, some new butt cream, new toothbrushes, and then went to Clydes pizza for dinner. We bought a pint of ice cream on the way back. Our bikes are re-pack and we are ready to go fresh tomorrow after a nice zero mileage rest day in Steamboat Springs!
Day 38. September 23rd. 39.6 miles. 1510 miles total! We were up with the cows wandering past our campsite, mooing, and headed to the beautiful sunlit field across the road. We had a steep mountain to climb and the first 4 miles were uphill. We will take hills over mud, any day! The last 1.6 miles we were pushing up a steep gravel and rough Rocky slope. It took us a little under two hours to reach the summit. Going down was chilly even though the sun was shining, because after yesterday’s storm, the temperatures have dropped a bit. Going down was slow because the backside was also very steep and very rocky. We stopped a few times to adjust clothing and eat snacks. In about 15 miles we passed one truck coming up the road, one motorbike coming up the road and one man on horseback with three dogs. Early afternoon we reached the pavement and stopped in the town of Clark for lunch. One building, a deli. Yeah! As we were pumping up our tires to finish the last 20 miles on pavement I bent over the core of my valve stem. I crossed my fingers and prayed that my tire would stay inflated for 20 miles into steamboat springs. It did. Phew. Tara pulled us through the headwind for 20 miles. Grateful for her strength! We had a couple of gravel bumps to go over but it was fairly uneventful. Steamboat Springs is a Town full of athletes and cyclists. Tara commented that we would hardly be noticed in this town with our loaded bikes, but right away a middle-aged man on a bicycle asked if we would talk with him, and his wife and friends about our trip. We feel like what we’re doing is very normal for us, even though it is a BIG adventure and we are continually surprised that people are a bit fascinated. During lunch we tried to find a place (scrolling on our phones….) to stay and were fortunate, on a Friday night, to book a bedroom in an Airbnb with a lovely couple. She (Donna) and her daughter both work for United. Her daughter was responsible for United Airline services in Portland, Maine for a couple years and just moved back to Colorado. After arriving and dropping all my gear, I stopped at a local bike shop to see if they could repair my valve stem and check my brakes. literally three minutes later I was back on the road! Thank you! We had fantastic beds and there’s a great large black Newfoundland named Ollie here. We showered and went out for some Thai dinner. Let’s just say we were in bed very early!
Day 37. September 22nd. Most challenging day yet! 12.5 miles (yes, only 12.5…….. and we biked most of the day, or really pushed bikes through sagebrush….) for a total of 1470.5. To FR #42 remote site. MUD. Mud. MUD. Rain. MUD. We packed up from Kirsten’s land early, hoping to get to Steamboat today. Alas, the best laid plans sometimes go awry! Mud. Right before leaving the wet site, we saw a nice rainbow and hoped it was a good sign. Quickly we ran into the infamous peanut butter mud we had read about. It encases your tires and literally stops your bike, there is no moving forward when the wheels won’t rotate. We made 5.9 miles of progress in just under five hours!!!! We need our friends back! We used sticks and a bike tool we had with us to clear the mud every 3-5 minutes. SLOW progress but we just got into the routine of push a few feet, scrape the mud, push a bit more. We went off the road and pushed through the sagebrush, sometimes on cattle trails, other times just pushing through the brush and cow Pattie’s. The mud was on a section of road that we believe was private. Once we got back onto the county maintained road, it was more sandy and not sticky. We stopped and scraped as much as we could and rode 2-3 miles, which felt fast, but was really creeping along. Then a storm blew over us and we went under the emergency shelter again. We were quite tired from the pushing. A few miles further we missed a turn and rode down hill about a mile out of our way. We turned around, Went back up the hill, and the rain came down. We called it a day about 2 pm, it was not meant to be for us to arrive in Steamboat today. We set up camp in the rain, then the sun came out and we spent the afternoon drying gear, cleaning the bikes as best we could, and then we went back out on the bikes looking for a creek to get water. Another round trip of about 4 miles and we had water for dinner and breakfast. Thankful for water tonight.
Day 36. Wednesday September 21. 39.7 miles for a total of 1458. We climbed 3,789 feet. We had packed and left before breakfast because we had no water. A mile or two up the road we found a creek where we stopped to pump water, and we rode up until we were in the sunshine and stopped to cook breakfast. The riding was varied and the same. The dirt road was well packed and we went down a great paved hill - the steepest down yet, or perhaps it just seemed that way because we had no wind pushing back on us! We left Wyoming and entered Colorado, the first town and post office in a trailer was just over the border in the town of Slater. As we climbed the dirt road we passed two snakes basking in the sun and then saw a couple more as we climbed. Two good sized rattlers and two smaller unidentified slitherers. Ended our day Just after Brush Mountain lodge shortly after seeing the two rattlesnakes in the road! Are we camping near here?! Yikes! We also met Kirsten, the lodge keeper, on her way to Phoenix in her camper truck after her season at the lodge ended. She gave us two Mountain Dews, directions to get water at the lodge and directions to camp on her land. People are so kind! We filled up with water at the brush mountain lodge and talked with the elk hunters, hunting with bows. Then we biked another mile or so and found a tenting spot on Kirsten‘s land. It was going to rain so we had an early dinner at 4:30 PM and we’re in the tent and it was raining by 5 PM. It’s been a long evening but Tara sewed up her vest (Frankenstein like)that was caught in her bicycle brake and a bit shredded. I took notes for the blog and sorted photos. Also ate about 8 powdered donuts after dinner. Tonight we are sticky and stinky in the tent together now due to the cold temperatures. We just had a nice cup of tea and are waiting for the Marsha rule to kick in, which means we can go to bed, but not until after 8 PM.
Day 35. Tuesday September 20th. 50.2 miles for 1418 miles to date. Hardest day to date. All 50 miles were into a brutal headwind, and we had to pedal both up and down the hills. As Tara went down one hill she said: “please gravity, win this battle with the wind”. We are not complaining though! We miss our friends and their help in a headwind! We choose to do this and everyone is so stoic- but I am a bit of a fraidy cat whiner - I don’t know why I am afraid of the hills because when you get to them, you just go up- for as long as it takes, sometimes hours. Everyone has their battles and you only become aware of them through advice quietly solicited. Or an off hand comment or question but never voiced as a complaint. Butt sores, raw crotch, stiff back, sore neck - everyone copes quietly and keeps on pedaling. Enjoying the incredible views, the unique perspective of seeing the US one mile at a time, and feeling grateful for the opportunity to be out here. Lois especially has a great attitude- the ailments come with the adventure. I guess if it was easy, the trail would be crowded! I am tired after keeping up with the younger folks for 4 days. My legs feel spent so we’ve planned a full day off in Steamboat Springs, 3 days away. We listened to the trucks all night and were up early, around 6 am. Some folks thought about sleeping in and everyone planned a bit later departure to make some phone calls and sort food. Tara and I decided to stay a bit longer in camp to map out the dates to meet Mimi and Larry who are coming to visit, and to estimate when we will be near our friend Maggie, so we can plan to see her too! We also wanted to drop postcards and some gear at the post office, which took us off route a bit. The other four headed out before us and we hope to see them again in Steamboat. But, that is the nature of friends on a trip like this, you cross paths or travel together for days and then perhaps you don’t cross paths again, or for many miles. Our day was hard due to the wind and we were not able to get to the campsite where the others were headed. We stopped for lunch near a cattle guard and talked with a north bound cyclist. We saw a large animal skull on the roadside today, and a large dead snake and rabbit. At one point we deployed the emergency shelter and sat out a 10 minute storm - thunder and lightening. The shelter is great- warms up quickly, deploys in seconds and keeps the rain out. Then a beautiful rainbow came out! The cows all around were mooing and mooing. Maybe they didn’t like the wind either! Or were on the wrong side of the fence or cattle guard. Late in the day we climbed into the aspen forests from the open scrubland. We rode until after 6 pm and I think I was barely moving. The FS site had no water. And we set up our tent right under the deer hang….or maybe those cross beams are for a bear bag? But we are out of grizzly country and Tara says black bears are scaredy bears. The sunset through the trees was a pretty red. It was a bit windy as we retired and we were camped near some hunters who were up at 5:30 headed out on their 4 wheelers. It is bow season for elk hunting.
Day 34. Monday 9/19. 57 miles into the town of Rawlins, Wyoming. Last night there were herds of Pronghorn near the reservoir. When we pumped water, the filters clogged up. In the morning we all left the A&M Reservoir together, (6 of us) and it was a dry night so our tents were not wet. We «smashed it » as our Canadian/British friends say, for the first 15 miles, two by two, speeding down the dirt road, nearly nonstop. We hit pavement then and climbed our way up and down. The road turned to dirt again and we passed a Uranium mine next to the Raptor Conservation Project Lands. What?! At the next junction, where the pavement began again, we had lunch. There was also a barrel to collect one wing of any bird you shot. We dumped in six wings from the sage grouse we shot. (Not!) Then we climbed, going up the hill on the highway before descending into Rawlins. We had to pedal hard, both uphill and downhill, to keep the wind from blowing us back wards! It was tough going DOWNHILL!! We spent the night, 3 tents, in one KOA site, right next to the highway. I guess it’s for the convenience of those hauling a big camper, but the truck traffic went by ALL night long! However, there was ice cream, showers, flush toilets, and washer/dryers. The wind was crazy but it was warm. Difficult getting the tents up but great for drying laundry. The activities of having services is all about cleaning……and eating. After laundary, dishes, and showers, we went out to a great Mexican restaurant and then rode another 3+ miles round trip for a resupply at Walmart. We needed food for 3 or 4 days to get us to Steamboat Springs- Colorado!!! Another state almost complete! I was toast. 4 challenging days and I could barely see straight. We rode back in the dark and fell into bed to listen to zoom, zoom, air brakes, truck traffic. Lulled into sleep.
Day 33. To the A&M Reservoir. Just under 70 miles today. The Great Basin. About 130 miles across a sage brush desert. Not even FedEx or Ups Trucks, which are ubiquitous on these roads, venture here. We saw a few hunters, one skinning an Antelope in the back of a truck. and a couple of oil trucks taking oil from the two oil depots we passed, with the oil wells out here. We were glad to have Harry and Jon to pull us part of the way to through the wind. We finally turned the corner and had a good tailwind, although bumpy, washboard road, to the remote campsite at the reservoir. When we arrived, our friends were chatting with a couple, hikers, who gave each of us a banana, water, and a worthers candy. Antelope came to the water early evening. Beautiful sunset!
Day 32. September 17. 44 miles. Lander Creek to Sweetwater River. 1242 miles. It was a frosty morning. We left the Frosty campsite just after 9 AM. Rollinghills and lots of mud and we had to stay in the parallel tracks. Right away Jon stuck his foot in a puddle and filled his shoe with water. Thank goodness for dry socks and doggie bags! We traveled through Atlantic city which has a population of 57 and an elevation of 7675 feet. These two days have been harder after getting four days of food supply. My legs are sore and Tara chalked it up to the extra weight from the food. We rode as a group again, with Moe and Harry still with us. They are young, strong and fast but are enjoying some company, even old, slow company! Lunch tucked into some warm rocks was pleasant. We stopped for water at South Pass city in Wyoming and then walked through the ghost town. Our next stop was wild Bill’s guns and knives and he also does septic tank pumpIng. Rumor has it he could give us information on crossing the Great Basin, which is 130 miles of desert wasteland with only two sources of water. After we left wild bill’s we rode up to an overlook for our first glimpse of the basin. Wow. Vast. We camped next to the Sweetwater river which was anything but sweet. Complete with a large beaver, and two hunters cleaned their game, which we believe were birds, In the river. We were grateful we filtered our water before then! As we were setting up camp the clouds and wind came in but soon the sun came out and made for a pleasant evening. Tomorrow we enter the basin…..