Hiyya from Arenas Valley, after an admittedly arduous couple hundred miles of forest and county road slogging.
I remember too well now why I chose to shake down the ride with the section between Grants and Silver City...shaky resupply options and little water for 160 or so miles. We did it in a day less than I did solo, which you could chock up to being able to ride all day with no issue. Much of the road surface was rough dried mud, too much/too coarse gravel, brake bumps, killer grades, and soft areas from daily precip. Fully rigid bike with 40+ in the tires...bring your fortitude.
So, sadly (?!), it's goodbye NatFo as we drop into the desert to the finish a few days from here. Assuming that, we will have done it in 60 days including 4 days off. But who's counting? It's been the bike odyssey of a dream, and I really can't even understand what we just did. Like some of my early rock climbs where I got so high that I never came down all the way. Total recalibration.
Gila NF offered one crowning moment for the weary bikers. Down we plunged through failing light, 12-hours tired and needing a key water source. The narrow canyon opened slightly up to fenced ranch land. Suddenly we realized we were a part of a stampede, of what we could not discern. Huge hoofed mammals were now bounding the fence we ran along, crossing the road both before and behind us. The last, a young and slower one lagged behind, hesitant to jump the fence. That's when we could see for sure they were elk. There must have been 20 or more. It certainly is an indelible moment, one of many I'm grateful to experience.
We hope you all have been having a great summer...ride on!
Very inspirational journey.
Wow, you have me hooked!
I was so busy reading really meaningless words on wheel size that I missed your initial post entirely. This is what passion is all about and I look forward to following your progress.
Divorce Horse for sure. Turbo and I never let a tandem come between us over all our years of riding because we were smart enough to know our cycling limits but I do remember a relationship that went sour in college because of a "Divorce Horse."
This sounds like quite an adventure! I'm so jealous!!! I wish we would have known you were rolling through Colorado, we could have joined up for some miles.
I have dreamed of doing this route, and may some day, but the wife is not up for all the camping, so probably a no-go on the tandem.
Can't wait to see the photos!
Dan (aka ds2199)
Hey, Dan, thanks for the good words!
It would have been a gas to ride with you guys, but we wouldn't have wanted to slow y'all down : 0 You guys have the terrain to be jealous of, so enough there! Maybe just do a nice chunk where you can work in hotel stays? A supported hut or hotel ride? If you guys wanna do it, it'll gel somehow. Mind the fun meter as always, all will be fine.
We'll give you a holler if we see tandem action brewing. Our friends Jesse (Mendo Bike Sprite) and Sojo invited tandem'ers up to the Redwood Coast, which we would be nuts to miss. They are solid and fun riders. Anyway, possibilities abound...creativity is the only limitation. Maybe lost wages, too, but who's counting?
Hoping your two-seater (and single bike) dreams materialize! Keep hammering
Mike and Moria
Two rest days, what the hey? Yea, never ones to shy from leisure, we took the weekend off at the KOA outside Silver City. It's not like a rest day makes a lot of difference at this point. A rest week would probably begin to help.
But we were 130 miles from the finish, and that magnetism overruled the cheap brecky and numbness of inactivity at the CG. Feeling a little aprehensive about societal reentry, and generally sentimental about a good time ending; all shades of mood I've experienced before on both borizontal and vertical surfaces.
Who's counting? I like to say. Sometimes I am. We secretly wanted to tick a century on one of our days, so we lit out of Silver City toward the finish with that carrot dangling. A last chance to blow the routefinding burned eight miles and left us spent before reaching Hachita, still 45 miles to go from there. So we settled for 93 on the day and gladly rode into Jeff's ranch for the bivy.
Next day we relished the few paved miles left, stood on the shoulder and gawked at the last views of the Divide. And before our ride found its end, it's entirety flashed before me like a passing life. All the dreaming, wishing, planning, tinkering, ridingridingriding, was over. At the Antelope Wells port of entry we embraced and met our shuttle driver. It really was over.
Logistics ace Jeff got us and our bike on a Lordsburg Greyhound at 10:30pm--no small task with the big bike. Several hours later, here I am thumbing out the story in the civility of my mom's house, as if it had been but a dream.
I will add some postscript info to this thread in between sleep and recovery beers. In the spirit of mtbR, I will blather about gear and bike. Probably additional ramblings. Right now I need to wallow in the doneness of it. Thanks to MTBR and its kooky and spokewise denizens; you all made this outing fun in a new way for me. Thanks for all the kind words and thoughts, and for the space in Passion to tell a story.
Power on...to whatever's next! Cheers!!
"apprehensive about societal reentry"
That line brought a chuckle. When ever our NG armor unit returned from two to three weeks of annual training in the field, we always had to caution each other NOT to say "pass the f...ing salt!" when we returned to society.
Seriously, what an adventure you had!
LOL, thanks for that nugget, Rev. You know...
I feel like I lived it...a little. Thanks so much for sharing the adventure. A little envious. I suspect there is a long distance trek somewhere in my future. Maybe not 60+ days long, but who knows? ;-)
A hat tip to you, huffster. I hope any aspirations materialize. You know, there's really not much difference between a couple nights out and a couple dozen. Once you're bike is packed up and you are pedaling, the hard part is done. And who's counting?
That was an amazing read, and I'm sure an even more amazing experience. I tip my hat to the both of you.
Thank you, musikron. I somewhat regret not being able to convey more narrative and photos. I've spent a good deal of effort documenting and putting reports together, but I'm trying to put more into the activity part these days. Getting on in years, I think, makes one more selective about time.
Suffice to say that I hope everyone who has the smallest inkling to do some adventure-style MTB will take that leap. I hope that reading about a successful outing by an average rider will bolster others to suffer some lost wages and get out there.
For what it’s worth, some retrospective musings...
My stoker - Moria was the perfect partner for this. Always measured, practical and patient, she more than makes up for what I lack. I’d often be laid out at day’s end and she would happily handle the domestic duties. She never complained (never does), and she put up with me the entire time. And get this: she pedaled!
Adventure Cycling Association - The route wouldn’t exist without them. Their maps and guide book are indispensable tools that are well designed and as accurate as one could hope, which is key for a route with zero specific signage. Their web site is an additional and fantastic resource; map addendums are uploaded yearly, GPS tracks are available for free. And more…check it out: Great Divide Mountain Bike Route | Adventure Cycling Route Network | Adventure Cycling Association
The bike - The quintessential piece of gear, our MTB Tandems Fandango Tourista, was rock solid and trouble free the entire time. In 2500 miles, we replaced chains and rear chain cogs once, adjusted chain tension up front a few times, changed Rohloff oil, replaced rear brake pads, and repaired two flats. We ran regular lightweight tubes, one of which I patched and re-used, the other I replaced with a sealant tube heading into NM. Bontrager XR3 Comp tires were a great choice (thanks, MikeC, for that recommendation). They performed well in every situation, and were durable enough to last. We got a sidewall slice that didn’t penetrate, but was bulging. I superglued a rubber patch on the outside of the tire and went with it to the end.
Shuttle services - At the start and finish, we had fantastic support from two resources: In MT: Whitefish Bike Retreat. In NM: Southwest Trailhead Hand. Many thanks to Cricket B. at WBR, and Jeff S. at STH. These are a special breed of people, and their penchant for helping cyclists (and hikers) is a logistical godsend. Thank you, Cricket and Jeff!
Orange Peel Bike Service in Steamboat Springs CO - A great shop for service and more, and probably the only one on the Divide that can service a Rohloff Speedhub. Other very helpful shops were Great Northern Cycles in Whitefish MT, and A-Z Hardware (includes a bike shop) in Pinedale WY. A deserved shout-out to my LBS, The Path in Orange County CA. They did some fine work on my bike pre-ride and are always there to back me up.
Truckers - I don’t recall being on a bike and being treated, universally, with such respect by truckers. These guys take Share The Road seriously—in every state. Newfound respect for these pros.
Steripen Adventurer - Keep those pump and squeeze water filters away from me. I’ll never again use them. The Steripen provided pathogen-free drinking water the entire ride, on a single set of lithium batteries. The optional pre-filter works pretty well, but you could probably use a piece of cloth over a bottle mouth instead. My only caution with the “pen” is to not pack it with other objects, as (I believe), the activation button can be inadvertently depressed, wasting battery life. The soft case it comes with makes it very easy to lash the unit somewhere on your bike or bags.
Ortleib Waterproof - How many products that claim waterproofness actually back that up in performance? Count Ortleib in. When we knew rain was eminent, and we wanted something to stay dry, it either went in the tent or in the Ortleib panniers. They aren’t the lightest; I did a bunch of mods to mine to cut the weight in half. But the material, welded seams and generous, formed top flaps made the bags our only absolutely waterproof storage on the ride.
Old Man Mountain Racks - Bomber gear. Thanks to Channing and company for saving me some scratch on (and for speedy delivery of) the mounting hardware I needed.
REI - House gear at the venerable retailer just gets better. We threw a big hail-Mary by getting a new tent and sleeping bags without being able to test them before the ride. The Dash 2 tent kept us comfy in a lot of inclement weather. It’s easy to set up, amazingly full featured, and packs at about 3 lbs. Two side doors + two vestibules, interior pockets, and fly rigging options…they did their homework on this tent, as its ease of use, light weight and storm worthiness attest. All I did was seal the floor seams with SeamGrip. The REI Igneo down sleeping bags are borderline too warm at +15° rating, but are also so lightweight that we couldn’t resist. The hydrophobic down and treated outer lining were impervious to condensation moisture, and they compress to a very small size considering their rating and loft.
Porcelain Rocket - Thanks, Scott, for taking on the custom bag job when it wasn't convenient. Per Tony, I'll bet you thought the bags wouldn't see the light of day. Eh, what's a few years?!
Zippers - We can go to Mars, split atoms, and cure diseases…but we are still stuck with this ridiculous “hookless fastener” from the days of yore. Yes, they’ve improved. But no matter what the design, they aren’t storm worthy. They break. They catch on storm flaps. They are flat-out hard to use and often require two hands. And when they fail, it’s a big deal.
Cascade Designs Platypus bottles - I’ve championed this product for 20 years, and it’s all we use for hydration bladders. But when half of your bottles bust a leak in the same location, it’s time to pull back. I will continue to use them, but with discretion in a horizontal orientation (they work best vertically). And, it’s obvious that, as the bottles age, the structural integrity diminishes. The good news is that MSR/Cascade will replace them without question–but that won’t help you in the field or at a retailer.
Headlamp buttons - It seems there used to be numerous headlamp designs with a somewhat protected power button that would be unlikely to activate while packed. (I have at least two older Black Diamond models like that.) I dislike having to open the battery compartment every night and flip one of the batteries. Headlamps have improved so much over the years, that it’s difficult to fathom that the power button issue still exists in popular brand lines. But it does.
Da Brim - The hat brim that attaches to a helmet. Great in concept, lacking execution. After running a couple of my own home-made versions successfully, I decided to give the mass produced version a try. We could not get these things to stay on our helmets in a low enough position to be useful. They want to ride high. The brim sides want to curl upward like a cowboy hat rather than a more useful Panama Jack shape. A ladderlock-style buckle tensioning on a hard object = fail. Ladderlocks need tension against them to work, and the elastic sewn into the brim doesn’t provide that tension; the helmet shell obviously won’t either. It seems like the product’s intended ability to fit various helmet sizes and designs renders it a poor fit for any one helmet. I wore a Giro, the wife a Bell. Hers fell off and was lost. I jettisoned mine to the mail. If I decide to run something like that again, I’ll be making my own again. Until then, my Outdoor Research Sun Runner hat under my helmet will be my weapon of choice against hotheadedness.
That was an excellent, inspired read. Thanks for sharing it. That's Passion for sure!
I've been inside too long.
Very awesome! Having done some big adventure type trips (and more to come)
really nails one's mental state when they step out of the humdrum of every day society for a big chunk of play time. The clarity....can't wait to feel that way again.
Awesome trip, awesome report!
KgB: You are very welcome, and thank you!
WHALE: Thanks, bruddah. I wonder what, techically, happens in our brains when we do this stuff. I know it's not a small thing. I guess every experience makes us what we are, but dang, the big hits just take you somewhere that is impossible to return from completely. Good or bad! I hope to read about your exploits...good to share that contact buzz for our jonesing brethren. Cheers!
A few random, average snaps from the ride...
Getting the Divorce Horse to The Canadian border took some special equipment that served double duty. Valley of Fire campground:
Whitefish Bike Retreat is an hour drive from the Canadian border. If you lodge there, you can get a ride. The place has a discernible gravity…who would want to leave?
At the start of the ride I felt like the hard part was over. All that was left to do was ride and camp.
As Californians, we were envious of all the water we saw in Montana.
We didn’t avoid all the snow. Avalanche debris over Whitefish Pass, the warmup.
About ten spots were impassable by any means but foot. This one took some work and was hundreds of yards wide. You could only guess where the road would reappear.
Obligatory shot with Glacier NP backdrop.
Top contender for Mosquito Hell on Earth: The otherwise idyllic Holland Lake MT.
No phone, no pool, no pets.
All day and only this to do.
I know how to make Boreas Pass more fun.
Da bear…where? Didn’t see a single one. Just moose, elk, antelope, badger, fisher cat, mountain lion, turtle, bald eagle, golden eagle, hawks, trout, bobcat, fox, coyote, wolf, deer, horned toad, snakes, mustang, marmot...
Basin, Montana was a welcome stop. Pizza joint, quick bivy, cafe…in that order.
With a gorgeous view of the highway.
These two guys were each going their own way. We all wondered how the guy on the right got his rig to weigh 150 pounds.
Nice, shady rest spot.
Rainfall/snowpack had been above average, leading to green everywhere. The bull moose wasn’t too happy about our presence, so we were happy to move on.
The Big Nothing, Montana style. Near Medicine Lodge NF.
The Big Nothing, Wyoming style. Great Divide Basin. No trees for over a hundred miles.
Lots of great riding through Colorado, on par with the good Montana sections, but higher elevation. Laid over in Steamboat Springs for some bike maintenance and a day off. Met some friends for dinner in Frisco. Rode around a couple passes due to nasty weather. Spent hours working through muddy road above Salida, arrived at 2am.
We started to get summit fever sometime in NM. Probably at the northern border! We jettisoned some items in Cuba NM, and hit the remaining backcountry sections with fervor. Next thing we knew, our trailhead hand, Jeff, was snapping our pic at the border station.
You saw a mountain lion? Wow.
toA, you must've missed this from a post on page 2:
"Rolling into one of a million dips on a forested dirt road past Cottonwood Lakes heading to Ovando, we spooked an adult mountain lion off the road as we rolled into the dip. My bear bell was not ringing loudly due to the soft road surface, so we got pretty close to him coasting at 10-15mph. The tail and muscular hindquarters were obvious as he quicky slinked into the growth roadside. I took a second look and saw his entire side, a big healthy cat. Then I saw in the growth next to him was another lion lying motionless with eyes on us. I got direct eye contact from that lion as we passed within 20 feet, it lowered its head and ears. There was nothing to do except keep pedaling. Wifers took another look back and saw the crouched lion pop it's head up watching as we rode off. It was a spectacular and scary moment, one I'll never forget. I think the cats were in more a defensive mode as we passed, thinking wtf izzat? but the sheer presence of carnivorous power left us stunned."
A good animal sighting is such an incredible payback for your trail toil. I've seen a lion thrice here in SoCal; twice biking and once driving. The Montana encounter was nothing like the previous; it really was too close for comfort. That had to be the wildest moment of all 61 days.
People can spend a life in the outdoors and never catch a glimpse of the elusive big cat, so I feel lucky. If I never saw another, that would be okay with me. But I hope to!
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