Monthly Archives: August 2017

GDMBR2 – DAY 14

The final day… mixed emotions today, glad to have another day on the bike with friends old and new, but also looking forward to getting over the big climbs today and finishing this ride.

A side note: just to add some intrigue to our adventure, after dark last night, a pickup with a trailer circled our tents by the”party barn”. Half of our group had elected to sleep inside the structure. I opted out as it was a spider,mouse, mosquito, you name it habitat.

From the late night truck a couple men opened the barn door and penned on with flashlights to see if they could hang an antelope carcass. They apparently had won the antelope lottery and shot one from 243 yards. It was hanging from the porch of the lodge in the morning. No picture.

Back to the adventure. The ride today was just over 50 miles and took us to Salida, our endpoint. The biggest and toughest climb was right at the end before the steep descent into town.

The rollout was pretty mellow. We turned off of the highway through Hartsel onto the gravel road we would follow most of the day. It was lined with yellow flowers on each side which looked like daisies.

Follow the yellow brick road.

It looked pretty but the road was badly washboarded. We struggled to find a smooth line for most of the day. The constant hammering takes a toll on you.

What surprised me about the ride today was the landscape, it wasn’t high peaks but instead, wide open expanses. I actually liked it a lot. The hills were beautiful and green.

But, we were not alone, there were antelope, free-range horses and cattle, hawks and these guys.

Road block…

We stopped a couple times to snack and rest before the climb started, maybe a mistake in hindsight.

The big climb we were dreading started nice but turned sharply steeper as we ascended into an aspen forest, the grade kicking up to 13% at one point. Ouch!

As we came over the top,we could see dark clouds and rain, oh-oh, a half hour too late.

There was lightning from this cloud and we were at the highest point. We decided to try to outrun the rain into Salida. No such luck. It started to rain and as we stopped to put on rain gear, it started to hail with the lightning strikes now within 2 seconds of the thunder. I’ll let you figure out how close that is but know that sound travels around 1100 feet per second. Yikes.

It was a bone chilling, wet, muddy, scary fast descent for 3 to 4 miles. The rain was cutting channels in the gravel road, the rain was pelting my eyes so I couldn’t see. And to top it off, my brakes wore from the gritty slurry coating everything to the point that my brake levers hit the handlebar and wouldn’t completely stop the heavily laden bike. I was too cold and afraid to to stop and adjust them so I kept on going .

When we got to the bottom, we finally broke from the rain into sun. We stopped and laughed at the crazy end to our weeklong adventure.

Dirty and wet but alive…

I guess we were due to hit some rain, we had escaped it all week. But, what a time to get the full brunt of the Colorado monsoon.

A final group dinner tonight as we van shuttle back to Steamboat in the morning. Then, phase 3 of my two -wheel adventure begins. Stay tuned.

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GDMBR2 – DAY13

Chilly morning, my bike computer said 32. I guess at over 10,000 feet in late August you have to expect a little nip in the air. Rumor has it there was snow on Maonarch Pass.

Today, we had a bumpy descent down a back road to reconnect with the Boreas Pass Road. We dropped into Como, whose claim to fame was an authentic railroad roundhouse, which unfortunately burned down… The town’s most prominent resident, and by that I mean the only visible living person, told us we missed the Railroad Days celebratiom last Saturday and that Como was a hopping place.

The route empties into South Park, which is not a city but a terminology for a wide open valley.

The ride today was mostly downhill (only 700 feet of climbing). Our destination was Hartsel Ranch, an oasis on the North Platte River. We get warm showers, the use of the kitchen and dining areas.

The lodge, comfort among dead critters.

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One more day, and the longest, into Salida tomorrow. The weather looks favorable once again, warm and sunny with a chance of afternoon showers. Hopefully our luck will continue and we’ll get in ahead of the rain.

GDMBR2 – Days 11&12

I’m combining because yesterday was a layover day and not much excitement in Silverthorne… Well, that’s not totally true.

Pirate Greg showed up in camp just as we arrived back just as wet came back from our Uber ride to the Rec Center for our indulgent shower and hot tub. Our plan was to ride the trail up to Keystone, have lunch, rude back to Silverthorne to check out the outlet stores and home to camp.

The adventure came when Jim has a puncture that wouldn’t seal, just as a rain cloud was moving in. He had to walk his bike a half mile to a store with a porch where we put a tube in. We never made it to Keystone nor Silverthorne. Instead, we went to Frisco to get a new tire for Jim. You need to be flexible.

On that note, the group dynamics have evolved and improved. Yoy know you are getting along when you can poke fun at each other’s foibles without getting under their skin. We are having a lot of fun around the campfire.

Today was a short bit very rewarding ride. We started just this side of Frisco and ride a bike path all the way up to Breckinridge.

My bike in Howler Monkey disguise.

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The view from Frisco.

Clowning in Breckenridge.

From Breckenridge we climb up and over Boreas Pass. Boreas Pass is an old railroad grade, which to the tails to trails aficionados, means the grade is never over 4%. Very manageable.

A water tank from the railroad days.

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The view back to Breckenridge.

Another view from the climb.

The top of the pass is 11,482 feet, the highest point on our ride. It is also a cruising point for the Continental Divide.

We’re above the tree line.

Our camp for the night is about three miles over the top and down the backside.

Camp view… nice!

Tommorow, we drop down into Hartsel, our shortest and easiest day. Maybe internet access.

GDMBR2 – DAY 10

Hello Milky way! What a wonderful starry night. This was the first night I didn’t put in earplugs, the sound of the river was so soothing. But, morning comes early when you go to bed at 9 and have to pee by 5.

Today’s ride starts with a grunt up and over Ute Pass. It is steep but only 4 miles long to the top. About halfway up is s huge mining operation for molybdenum. It is a visual scar. The ore is processed and pumped through large pipes down the mountain.

The tailing wall for the mining operation.

The view from above the mining.

At the top n the view of the Gore (?) Range was pretty sweet.

The downside was a paved 30+mph screamer. That left only about 14 slightly uphill miles into Silverthorne. The bad news, another busy highway, the good news, a bike path started about 7 miles out of town.

Silverthorne is a ski/ tourist town that we’ll explore more tomorrow on our layover day. We had to climb up to the top of the Dillon Reservoir and on to our campsite just as a nasty storm cell moved in. Fortunately, we were once again ahead of the clouds and got camp set up before the heavy rain and wind came. Sid, a bit further back, had 40 mph wind and hail coming across the exposed reservoir.

Jim add I caught a ride with a local friends of his to buy our dinner groceries. We were inside the store when the rains came. We made a chicken Alfredo pasta dish with salad and cheesecake as a belated birthday test for Steve who turned 37 yesterday.

Josh mused it, he got lost, stopped in Silverthorne to shop at the Perl Izumi outlet and didn’t arrive in camp after 7:30 and after Sid went out to find him and lead him in. (we arrived around 1:00….). Cold dinner for him.

As noted, tommorow is a rest day. Our Pirate friend, and new Colorado resident, Greg, is planning to come over from Grand Junction to visit. Also on the agenda is laundry and a shower. Dirty stinking bikers…

GDMBR2 – DAY9

Mellow day. Sid didn’t lie. Only 28 miles total and 1300 feet of climbing. The first 4 miles were along highway 40. It reminded me why I’ve lost my love of road riding. No shoulder and 65 mph pickups buzzing by. But, we turned onto a nice rambling gravel road that climbed up to Fort William reservoir.

After winding around the reservoir, we faced a pretty stiff climb. Ouch. That fresh food for dinner was weighing heavy in our panniers. The road at the top of the hill was being graded and a truck spraying water on the road passed us. Nice, wet gravel…

A fast decent and a mellow climb brought us to our camp by Noon. We found a great place to eat lunch, to csmp and to put our feet into a cool stream. So nice.

Tomorrow we climb over Ute Pass and drop into Silverthorne/ Frisco/Dillon. Warm showers and internet. Yay!

GDMBR2 – DAY8

Considering the altitude, the morning temperature was reasonable. No frost. Everyone seemed to have recovered from the challenge of day 1, though the breakfast was quiet. The first half of the ride was spectacular and pretty easy. We rode along a river sprinkled with fly fishermen. A volunteer doing trail work said the rivet yielded 19 inch average brown trout. No wonder they’d drive miles along a bumpy gravel road. We pushed up a short climb to the top of the reservoir. Coincidentaly, two Divide riders from the south and two riding our direction all converged at the same time. Weirder yet, the two northbound and one of the southbound riders had met last year while riding the TransAm ride. Dam meeting. We rode a pathway around the reservoir for 3 miles. Very nice. Then there was a little climbing… Today was also the day of a little event called the total eclipse. Paul and Angie work for NASA and handed out special viewing glasses to everyone at our orientation. We found ourselves (after a massive climb) at an overlook of the Colorado River and a town (a stretch) called Radium. We took a lunch break, pulled out our glasses and savored the moment. I can’t say it got dark, more muted. The valley looked like Los Angeles smog had settled in. Eclipse watching geeks. Tbe route drops 1300 feet in about 3 miles to the river. It was a white knuckle, disc brake searing bumpy thrill ride. At the bottom, our reward was ice cream bars at the rafting office and a chat on the porch with possibly the only resident of Radium and his two border collies. They watched is intently, looking for an opportunity to move us along. We were in no hurry because we knew we had an absolutely horrendous climb back up out of the valley in a now full sun. It was awful. The grade was a steady 6.5 to 7 percent and I resorted to weaving back and across the road to try to reduce the effective slope. I stopped three times to prevent my heart from exploding. A brief rest at the top, a screaming descent and do it all over again. The Big Horn Sheep are safe, no kill shots on the sign. Tbe next climb took us to Inspiration Point, overlooking the Colorado River. We weren’t home yet, more climbing before finally descending into Kremmling, the Red Mountain RV Park and our home for the night. I told you about the helicopter at the High School… A Cobra Attack Helicopter from the Vietnam War. The park had hot showers and the Kum-and-Go made pizza, surprising good pizza. Our concern was for Sid and Josh. We had arrived around 4, they didn’t arrive until around 7. The pizza’s were still warm and frankly looked better. Still, we couldn’t feel too smug, another Divide rider, Jordan, rolled in, riding with tennis shoes on platform pedals, looking fresh as a daisy and said he’d left from Steamboat that morning, having ridden what we did in two hard days… Sid promised us tomorrow would be more”mellow”. Sure.

GDMBR2 – DAY 7

Here we go!

Everything I’m taking on the bike packed, everything else in Jim’s SUV. Last thing to do, move my motorcycle to the storage parking area to await my return. Ugh, dead battery. Cripes. I pushed it to the parking area, locked it up, covered it up and admonished it that I’d deal with it when I got back. I hoped the rest of the day would go better…

First out of camp was Steve, a complete rookie and the only one with no GPS. Do you see where this is going? I was second to last ahead of Sid who will ride sweep. I caught up to everyone along the path in town and soon Jim and I were out front, presumably, by the time we but the road out of town. The first section is paved but rural. It is Sunday and there were lots of roadies out.

Steamboat mail box. I can identify.

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Wonderful rolling hills and scenery.

The easy stuff ended when we turned onto gravel and the climbing began. Today we’ll go from about 6500 feet to 9000 feet over 42 miles. I’m not going to lie, it was hard. Climbs in the 7% range and roads muddied by passing showers. Jim and I stopped for lunch under a tree to avoid a soaking. We talked to a rider going northbound and be said he had not seen another rider pass him. Oh, oh Steve.

We split some dark clouds as thunder cracked behind us. One more big climb and into camp. We were the first in. Since we had dinner duties, we started filtering water and setting up a rain tarp.

I had dragged our last beer from last night up the mountain so we toasted our success. The next rider was Steve with Marie close behind. He had gotten off track before he left the city limits of Steamboat. He decided it might be best to ride with someone with a GPS. It was an hour and fifteen minutes after we arrived. The last of the riders didn’t arrive for another two hours, looking a little ragged.

I think that’s our road…

Jim still looking fresh.

The rains held off and we had the campground to ourselves until Allen, an experienced GDMBR rider, rolled in. He’s riding the route for at least the third time.

Food is so tasty when you’re beat. Rotini pasta with tomato sauce, sauteed zucchini and onion. It was devoured.

We’ll sleep well. We’ll need to, tomorrow’s ride looks just as tough…

GDMBR2 – DAY 6

Today’s agenda is pretty light, get acquainted, take a short shakedown ride and a team meeting to go over the groundrules. Jim, Marie and I rode our bikes into town on a nice bike path along the Yampa River into town. There are a network of mountain bike trails on the south side of the city called Emerald Hills. We picked our way along the green (beginner) and blue (intermediate) trails, climbing up above the horse stables. I could definitely feel the thin air. But, the bike felt fine, with a little brake adjustment. It was Saturday so there was a small but nice farmer’s market going on. We sampled the peaches (they were huge, some grapefruit size) and Marie bought a bag for the group. We enjoyed a nice patio lunch across from the river and a tubing rental business. I suggested we put our bikes on the tubes and float back to camp. No takers. Marie and I did a little shopping at the BAP store (parent company of Big Agnes, Honey Stinger and Helinox) while Jim took his bike into Orange Peel, the local bike shop for a brake adjustment. He wisely opted to not let me touch his bike. Our first group dinner with grilled chicken and rice preceded the orientation and map meeting. There are eight total heading out, including our leader Sid. Jim, Marie and I were the only ones signed up until about a month ago. Late entries include Steve from Chicago, a couple, Angie and Paul, from Huntsville, Alabama and Josh from New York. The bikepacking experience varied from zero to one trip. This should be interesting. The last super and map meeting . Tommorow, we get up, pack up and hit the trail. I hope I get a good night’s sleep as the advice from our map meeting was that it would be a tough day. Sunset at the KOA.

GDMBR2 – DAY 5

Today was officially a rest day, a day to see the sights and explore Steamboat Springs while acclimating to the altitude.

First on the list was a factory visit and tour of Moots, a titanium bike manufacturer. They’ve been hand crafting world class bikes here for 30 years. Titanium has the reputation of combining the best features of strength, resilience and weight for bike frames. I only know one person who actually owns one. They can run between five and ten grand. Moots builds about 1200 bikes a year with 15% being custom built.

Their manufacturing was essentially a metal machine shop, Bridgeport lathes and milling machines, a couple CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines and TIG (Argon) welding. It was petty loosey-goosey on the safety. We wandered the production floor between the machines (in operation) without safety glasses. It was interesting to see how they shaped and molded the tubes into bike frames. One of the guys on the tour actually spotted his frame hanging in the welding area in the process of being built. That was cool.

I discovered that Big Agnes, who makes the tent I’m using and a sleeping bag/ pad I own is also headquartered here. I popped in, unannounced and surprised the Development Team. I let them know how much I valued their products and customer service. They were nice but suggested I might want to visit their actual storefront… I noticed that Honey Stinger (energy gels, waffles, chew blocks for athletes) was also in the same building so guess what, I walked on in and struck up a conversation with JD. Also nice, but wasn’t sure how I got in the door.

I picked up a couple items for the ride, had lunch and headed to do a hike at Fish Creek Falls, a National Reccreation Area. By now you know how happy I was to show my card for free parking. They had a few short hikes to an 80 foot cascade/ waterfall and a 5 mile hike to a second waterfall which was 2400 feet up. It was like the Grand Canyon in reverse without a 45 pound pack. I could definitely feel the thin air on the climb up.

On the way down I was startled by a crashing sound in the bushes 15 yards ahead, looked up to see the rear end of a bear scrambling away. I sang and whistled the rest off the way down. No pictures of this adventure as I left my phone at camp.

Everyone arrived by dinner time today and are getting set up and acquainted. Steve from Chicago arrived with his bike in a box and all the bags and gear practically still had the tags hanging on them. He seems to have a great attitude and I’m confident he’ll do fine.

Tomorrow I’ll do a shakedown ride and we’ll get our provisions for the first two days in preparation for the Grand departure Sunday.

GDMBR2 – DAY 4

The objective for arriving three days early was twofold, get acclimated to high elevation and ride the beautiful curvy roads. It was 45 degrees upon waking, glad I brought my electric heated vest. I checked out routes to RMNP and the Peak to Peak highway. Hmmm, seems a little longer ride than I had anticipated, better get rolling. The route took me into Kremling, a

stop on the bike ride well be seeing in a few days. I stopped for a fritter and some random gas station conversation with the locals. The high school kids were holding football practice on the school fields next to a mounted attack helicopter. You just don’t see that kind of monument at Hopkins schools…

It was something over 50 miles to the entrance of the park. Flash the card and smile… The road through the park is a slow, winding road, but 35 mph. Relax and enjoy the journey. It was a little sad to see all the brown pines being devastated by the beetles. Another park to visit before environmental issues change it ( a la Glacier). I stopped at the peak for a short hike and the view… 12,000+ feet, this should test my breathing.

The wonder turned to another test of my patience as immediately after the summit there was road construction and a 30-40 minute wait, while dark clouds moved over us. A little sneet but no real rain. It seemed everyone from Denver was heading up the mountain.

Down into Estes Park for lunch and gas (I’m 150 miles into the ride…). This was the start of the P to P highway. The first is Long’s Peak, a fourteener. Pretty impressive. The route takes me another 50 miles south to Central City. By now it is afternoon and there are random dark clouds with rain falling. Fortunately, I was able to navigate between the patches of rain onto I-70 and a 70mph sprint up through the tunnel at Loveland Pass. What a spectacular interstate! Well, except for the smell of burning brakes on the drop into Silverthorn (another stop on our ride).

Off the freeway and back on the two lane roads back to steamboat. All told, another 350+ day on the bike but I wouldn’t take it back.

Bus to town for pizza and beer with Sid. Tomorrow, everyone shows up and a tour of the Moots bike factory.