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GDMBR2 – DAYS 19-22

The good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes all in one day.

I woke up early, packed up my tent and, as I was fumbling through my tank bag, I noticed my granola bar was opened. It took a minute to realize a mouse had crawled up my motorcycle, under the cover, and chewed a hole through the fabric and zipper of my bag to get at the bar. Fortunately, the critter was not in there when I was fishing around. But, the bag is shot.

Then, when I went to start the motorcycle, it barely turned over and started. Oh,oh. Something is still wrong with my battery or charging system. I headed west towards the next largest city, Montrose, to see if I could get a charger or battery jumper.

Traffic jam along the reservoir

My guess was right, Montrose was large enough to have a Wal-Mart. I bought a trickle charger, went back to my bike and it was dead. I pushed it to an alcove where the employees smoke and take breaks. There was an outlet there that I shared with a couple of transients charging their cell phone and drinking a slushie. Nice.

While the battery charger was working, I ate a sandwich and started searching the internet for motorcycle repair shops. I talked to a guy in Macon, near Durango, who refered me to a guy in Montrose who was off the internet radar. I called Randy, talked to him for quite a while about the suspected problem, a bad stator or regulator,or both. The mechanic in Macon had warned me that the BMW replacement parts were around $1100 but that there are aftermarket parts at a fraction of that cost. Randy said he knew a guy in Denver who might be able to FedEx them to him by Friday Noon. He could then fit me in after another customer and before he leaves for the holiday weekend. A lot of if’s and maybe’s. I decided to put my faith in a stranger and told him to order the parts.

With my battery 44% charged, I headed back to the KOA I had seen coming into Montrose, got a tent site, did laundry, took a shower and ventured back out of town 6 miles to check out The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I was disappointed there was no ranger in the entry booth that I could flash my Senior Card at… The park was a complete surprise to me. A very deep gorge (blackish of course) in the middle of a desert landscape.

The view from the first overlook

I stopped at the visitor center and watched a 20 minute video a guy in the laundry room at the KOA said not to miss. It talled about exploration, the building of a railroad in the canyon and the tunnelling of a water diversion path to make the arid desert around Montrose a fertile farmland. Very interesting.

I ventured as far as I thought I could risk with my battery and the rain clouds to a few overlooks.

Montrose traffic jam

Back to the KOA, and a short walk to a local brewpub, Horsefly, for dinner and beverage. A text to my nephew who lived in Montrose for a spell determined it was a favorite spot.

The back page of a paper I found at Horsefly…

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To bed for a restless night worrying about how tomorrow would play out. I put the charger on the battery and hoped for the best.

Since I had until at least Noon and I had a fully charged battery, I went back to the Park to explore further. There was a ranger led geology hike which talked about gneiss, schist and pegmatite. She talked about the unique circumstances that led to the canyon including uplifts, volcanoes and erosion. It was all fascinating but the real highlight was back at the visitor center where a volunteer had a telescope with a special filter so you could look at the sun’s surface. You could see the spots. Freaky cool.

Around Noon Randy called to say my parts were in but that he needed until 3 to finish the other guy and start on my bike. I drove out at three to his address, it was a house with a big garage at the end of a gravel road miles out of town. Breathe deep.

I met Randy and he told me some of his life history which gave me more confidence. He had worked for the BMW dealer in Denver for a while but that was before my bike was built. Breathe deep.

He started and I helped pull the shiny parts off so he could begin the surgery. The stator went well and it smelled burnt which gave me confidence it was the root cause of the problem. The regulator was a challenge but after two hours the bike was back together, it started, and a check of the battery voltage indicated it was charging. Hooray!

I thanked Randy sincerely and rode off to Grand Junction to meet an old biking friend, Greg and hjs wife who had moved from Golden Valley earlier this year. I got there just at dusk, they fed me food and an Indeed beer. What a relief to a stressful day.

In the morning, Greg and Shari took me to Rocky Mountain National Monument, anther spectacular geological feature I’d never seen. To my dismay, they had a National Park pass and I didn’t get to flash my card. It was a beautuful climb along the park road to the visitor center.

The prominent feature, Independence Peak

Another Ramger talk on geology.

There were few barriers to falling to your death. But there was this sign..

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I bid farewell to Greg and Shari and headed east across Colorado on I-70, a National Treasure, towards Boulder, and the home of a former work associate/friend, David.

It was hot. 90+ degrees until I hit Vail Pass. I got to his home in Longmont around 7. His wife and son joined us for dinner in Boulder, a town like no other. There were street performers on a pedestrian mall and all sorts of people, really. I was thoroughly entertained.

In the morning , David took me up into the mountains for a 6.2 mile hike to a cascading stream with a view to Long’s Peak, one of Colorado’s 58 14’ers.

It was a great outing. We had lunch, I packed up and headed my bike out of Colorado and homeward. The adventure is coming to an end..

The temperature was over 98 and the winds were strong out of the north, of all things, making the riding a slog. Add to that, the air was filled with dense smoke. Something is burning somewhere. The sun was an orange ball that looked just like what I had seen in the telescope.

I made it back to Scottsbluff for the night. Another 12 hours of riding to get home…

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GDMBR2 – DAYS 15-18

After finishing the ride, we had a group hug/ picture and packed into the adventure cycling van and shuttled back to Steamboat, leaving Marie in Salida, and dropping others at hotels and bike shops in Steamboat. I put my new battery in my motorcycle, gave my bicycle and gear to Jim to transport home and hopped on my motorcycle to begin phase 3 of my adventure. It felt odd to be solitary once again but nice to be moving at my own pace and direction.

The plan was to head south towards Leadville. Thirty miles in there was a detour. I didn’t believe the real detour sign which pointed to a gravel road (not my favorite on the motorcycle) and stayed on a wonderful curvy road that passed huge mining operations. My assessment, mining pays for nice roads in the middle of nowhere.

Unfortunately, that road looped back almost to Steamboat… new plan. There looked to be a Scenic byway through the Flattop Wilderness so I headed west and then south. It was getting dark as I looked for a campground 30 miles along the road through the National Wilderness. Then, the road turned to gravel. As I said, not my favorite. It was getting too dark to head back and fortunately, after a few miles, there was a campground. Thank goodness. There was deer in the campsite and bear boxes so I knew the wilderness description was accurate. The ground was too hard to drive a tent stake into so my tent was free-standing.

Morning… The camp host stopped by in his golf cart. He talked my ear off for a good 45 minutes. Among the topics, he is building a rail gocart. What is that you ask? A gocart modified to ride on the million miles of abandoned railway tracks in the US. From the Salton Sea to Salida he’s going to be buzzing around. He’s a bit of a train but, has 300 boxes of toy trains waiting for a place in Silverton to agree to display.

He said the road was gravel for the remaining 51 miles. I elected to see how bad it was. It was fine for 11 miles and then turned to soft, deep gravel. I rode another 3 miles with my front wheel squirming around. The Sheriff came by and said the rest of the road was the same. I tucked my tail between my legs and turned around. New plan, ride further south around the area and drop into Salida. Maybe I’ll ride the Monarch Crest mountain bike trail (an IMBA Epic Ride) after all.

I called the shuttle company, for a 10 am shuttle, rented a bike at a shop in Salida and went to the local hostel to get a room. Tomorrow will be epic.

Up early, the bunkroom was full of Colorado Trail through hikers, some of whom were calling it quits and taking a bus out of town at 7:45. You know my opinion of solitary through-hikers.

I picked up my bike and rode 5 miles to the shuttle company in Pancho Springs for the lift to Monarch Pass, 12,000 feet and change. There were six of us including a local packing a “varmit” rifle.

The trail starts at 12,000 and goes up… I was feeling it, 32 miles to go. Eventually it starts down, and gets below the treeline.

I was glad there were others on the trail as I might still be out there.

My shoulders and wrists were killing me from the death grip on the bars and the constant bashing over and through big rocks. Yikes.

Kid’s Club rules prohibit any more description of the ride but suffice it to say, I made it down in one piece and rode back to drop off the bike by 4:00, to the surprise of the shop manager.

Back on the motorcycle and west to find a campsite west of Gunnison. Made it just before dark…

Tomorrow is another day, and another plan.

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.

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

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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.