Friday, July 13, 2012

Tour Divide 2012. Day 7 and 8. Kiwis are coming! And if you go fast enough you don't feel the bumps.

Elevation Profile

Day 7. The Kiwis are coming!

Well before the race I came across a blog by one Ollie Whalley. A friend from Christchuch NZ sent a link to a guy's blog who had done the New Zealand Brevet. Brevet is what they call these long rides like the tour Divide. But I think they are officially not races--you have to sleep 4 hrs etc.. So I was poking around different sites and came across Ollie's. I saw his cool Helter Skelter rain pants and ordered them from They were a bit spendy but from my mother's visits to see my sister and family in Christchurch it sounded like it rained there a little bit so they would know rain pants.  Here are my Helter Skelters- knee length rain pants. Shipped air mail from Christchurch New Zealand for $5! They really did work well being light and easy to pack with good room for movement, warmth and keeping important parts dry! So thanks Ollie! 
My rain knickers
The reason I bring Ollie up, is that today would be my first day of Ollie stories. People here and there would tell me something that Ollie did or said. But before we get into that I have been obsessing about the way we live on the same planet but on opposite sides of the world and how our dialect is so different! Here are a few "funny" (to me anyway) things they say that I found while reading Kiwi blogs.

Don't know exactly what they were eating but here is the Kiwi description.
"Maggi Soup, cheesy one-pot pasta and steamed pud never tastes so good as when capping off a big day."

"Steel roads" are mentioned a lot. I think these are gravel?
"Push bikes" (bicycles) vs motor bike

Here are a few from Ollies blog that had some very interesting terms and style.

"As a rule, I am staunchly dismissive of the offensive naffness of saddle bags..."
"......long relatively un-technical trails that fill the bulk of the Brevet’s chubby body."
"....... a buzzing family campground with an early morning visit from a V8 driving bogan the only downer on a sweet and sheltered camping spot."
" left my face and body layered with a putty of beech and mud that meant my attempts for service at the bakery would be met with a hearty West Coast ‘piss off’."

I was a bit jealous of Ollie as he had done a couple of brevets already in the NZ summer (I had one 70 mi race, the Growler, under my belt that Ollie had come over for also.) and was accustomed to riding in the rain and dry as NZ seems to have both conditions at different times and places on the islands. And yes Ollie and Craig Stappler had taken off in the rain on day 2 while most everyone else was hunkered down in the motel.  So at this point they were about a day ahead of me. However they were killing it and I don't think I could've hung on a good day so awesome job dudes!

When we last left our hero, me not Ollie, he had bonked with low blood sugar late in the night at the top of a pass at Crystal Park above Elkhorn Hot Springs and had slept on a pull out off the highway. Apparently there are great places to stay just a few miles down the pass if I hadn't dallied so long at Wise River or bonked.... I woke up and tried to shake the frost off of my bivy sack and sleeping bag from condensation. If you want to sleep in warmer locations, go to the BOTTOM of the pass! I put on all my clothes and started down the pass. There are at least 4 lodges and some campgrounds as you come down! I noticed that my swollen legs weren't quite as swollen but my right eye had fluid around it as it had the day before but not as bad. As I came down in the below freezing morning air, a guy named Russ hopped out his truck and took the picture of me below.

Coming down the pass in the collldddd.
He motioned for me to stop and said he ran the High Country lodge that wasn't listed on the ACA maps this year but was on the addendum. I didn't read that. He is a huge fan of the Tour Divide and was taking pictures of most all the riders so far. He said that they were serving breakfast if I wanted some and pointed me to the lodge down the road. As I was leaving, Kurt and Caroline, on Babe the Big Blue Tandem, pulled up and he got a picture of them.

I hung out in the beautiful lodge and ate some great breakfast made by his wife and her mother (for too long again). He told me of Ollie and Craig that had eaten the day before. Ollie told him a story of New Zealand sheep shearing where the sheep had gotten so fat with wool that they had to roll him down to get it cut. I'm pretty sure I heard the same story from other friends from NZ but he really liked it. He had pictures of them and Eszter from the night before. Eszter stayed at another lodge and couldn't eat breakfast as she was leaving so early. Among other things we talked was the diabetes and that he has type 2 and about his mother in law (91yrs old and looking good!) whose father had been from Mancos where I grew up. I grabbed a sandwich, with my secret weapon enclosed for the road and he took my picture.
At High Country Lodge
I started down the paved highway and my ankles felt much better with the tape job and European pain killers as long as I didn't hit large bumps or try to push really hard on hills. At this point my leg soreness was also subsiding. My butt was getting sore, however-not open sores but more of a bruising feel. As a side note, the aerobars are very good for times like this as you can relieve hand pressure and get a different angle for sits bones. Also when doing such a ride cleanliness will get you a long way. At least with saddle sores and rashes and the like. Get the shower wipes!
I must have passed the "town" of Polaris that was on the map (with a post office) but have no recollection of it. The road was fast with 30 some miles of pavement and then good dirt roads. I was feeling good and moving fast. It felt good! After about 38 miles I saw the Tandem in the distance. I was hoping at first that it was Eszter as today I decided that I was going to catch her. I spooked Babe the Big Blue Tandem as they thought I was ahead of them. They expected to catch me as on a tandem the flats and downhill are advantageous on the tandem and were surprised to see me pass. I passed them and blasted up over Medicine Lodge-Sheep Creek Pass. I ate my sandwich at the top and then cruised into Lima (pronounced like lima bean). I got my first gas station burrito (named "Big Bomber" of the like) and a ton of other stuff. I had taken to drinking a chocolate milk, orange juice, and maybe a Starbucks Frappachino at the stops. I also tried some jerky and yogurt. 
The road out of Lima started off OK. On ACA map's elevation profile it also "looks" flat. It grew gradually rougher and rougher and contained many rollers not seen on the map so it actually was painful to ride with accumulated elevation gain and irritating my ankles and butt. There were, however, many birds to see along the lakes here. Cranes, swans, swallows, killdeer.... There were also many very old abandoned farm houses with cemeteries along here. Must have been an experience to be here 50? 100? years ago. I saw Eddie the photographer along here somewhere and he asked if I was going to go over Red Rock pass. It made me think.... "Hmm, I bet Eszter is going to go over and camp or hotel it on the other side I'd better get a move on. The bumpy road was making my legs and arse really hurt. At about 150 miles at the "town" of Lakeview by Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge a bug flew in my eye an caused my eye to hurt quite a bit and my vision was very blurry. I think it is a defense mechanism that bug juice really irritates our eyes. A bit of a low point for sure. There was very nice looking campground soon after Lakeview and I pondered it as the sun was getting low and my spirits were diminishing. But NO I was GOING to catch Eszter as every now and then I would catch her tracks! So over the next 500 ft climb of Red Rock pass I went in the dark. I saw a bright light coming behind me and I had convinced myself that it was the Big Blue Tandem. Somehow they had put on a surge and were catching me. No just a truck..... Coming down the other side, the Big Bomber burrito began to make itself known as all of a sudden I had to take off three layers-jersey, long sleeve jersey and warm jacket to get my bib shorts off and relieve my self in the cold night air. I then got going again for a mile or so and apparently only half of the big bomber had passed and I was forced to stop again just as I saw an RV park with bathrooms! But no! A security code to get in! So off to the other side of the road again! At this point I had gone about 195 miles and this had made my movement too slow to be sustainable so I threw my bivy in a level spot in the grass on the side of the road and went to sleep next to the RV park. I hadn't caught Eszter. Damn that girl is tough! I later found out she had snuck into an RV park room with bathrooms for a very comfortable sleep not far down the road.

Day 8. If you go fast enough, you can't feel the bumps

Day 8 Map
I woke again with some frost on my bag and got going before the RVers awoke around 5:30am. I quickly dropped down more and hit a funky little rough road cut off that seems to be the way of the Tour Divide. If there is a rough road or pass better take it versus a shorter smoother route. But hey this is a mountain bike route after all! The paved road hit a junction with a gas station. Many gas stations seemed to have small "cafes" in them along the route. You go to the back and grab food, pay for it at the front and then go to the tables in the back and eat it. This one was almost the same as Bodes in Abiquiu but with hot English muffin egg bacon sandwiches instead of breakfast buritos. So I stopped and ate several and some fresh pastries and doughnuts and stocked up on bars and random food items. My bad food of choice now was Cheetos. Lots of salt and calories! As I came out to get something off my bike, a random blue dot stalker wanted picture so I obliged. I, of course, spent way too much time here. How was I going to catch Eszter doing such things? Today I decided I wouldn't goof around and I would catch her!
So off I went. The route turned down a famous Tour Divide section of old railroad grade. The railroad took people to Yellowstone back in the day. The tracks had unfortunately been set in loose volcanic gravel. This turned the path into huge wash boards and loose sandy volcanic rock. The ACA maps say the loose sand is the problem. It isn't. It is the washboards. I thought I had found a new torture technique to be used for Gitmo (I would later find some worse trail) instead of water boarding. It would be called "washboarding." Make the person ride this trail until they gave it up or made something good up. ATVs are booming these days with people hauling huge truckloads of them and then driving 10 in a row breathing dust and exhaust. This trail was no different with many tracks on the RR grade or with new trails made next to it going back and forth making banked turns across the trail.
Example of ATV squad.
Finally the trail got better and followed a beautiful river and a nice campground. I hit the highway towards the Tetons. I climbed a large hill and my eyelids wouldn't stay open so I decided it was power nap time. I laid the bike down on a pullout next to a potato field took out my bivy and sleeping bag to dry off from the night condensation in the sun and took a good nap. I packed up and hit the dirt road to the Tetons. A sign said, "road closed ahead to park closed for season." Hmm what? Must be some snow or something. Maybe a landslide. I was a bit worried and freaked out that I would get up there 30 miles and have to backtrack and find a way around the park. But then I thought that surely Matt Lee would have told us of a reroute as this would have been known. And I could see Eszter's tracks here and there. Finally I reached some snow fields as I descended towards Flag Ranch Resort (a large motel and campground now). Someone had driven through the first few patches. Then there in the road an RV was stuck in a snow field. The driver was madly trying to dig it out with a little camp shovel while a ranger watched. I stopped for a second and the mosquitoes nearly ate me alive. Every square inch of exposed skin was covered with mosquitoes. I left chuckling as another ranger vehicle nearly ran me down coming to help.
I stopped at the store at Flag ranch and got some food. I was told that Eszter was there a couple hours earlier. Damn! 
I turned on the highway with narrow shoulder towards the Tetons. I saw more cars in five minutes than I saw for the past week. A bit of a shock. I came up over the hill and cars were stopped on the shoulders and a few people were aimlessly walking around some down the middle of the road. Must be a deer or something. I made it by without being run over.
Riding along Jackson Lake
I always liked Teton National Park more than Yellowstone. The peaks are spectacular and it seems less crowded. I had climbed Mt Owen which is the peak just to the right of the Grand Teton way back with a friend on the way back from climbing by Banff and Jasper. Anne and I had also backpacked here. It brought back some cool memories.
I decided I needed some more food so I pulled off where it looked like there would be a store. Big mistake. I went to the Jackson Lake lodge. Or I should say huge parking lot with very expensive lodge. The stores only sold expensive silly things. The restaurant was also very fancy. I asked a guy at the desk if there was a store with food. He pointed at a place that had some gum or something. Frustrated I left and headed back down the highway thinking I would pick up more food somewhere else.
I rode out of this amazing valley and up Buffalo Valley road that parallels the highway and meets up a few miles before Togwotee Pass. As I climbed the last steep section, I saw a young bull moose and then a young grizzly bear walked over little hill as I climbed up. I gave my little bell a ding ding. He or she looked up, saw me and with a look of HOLY CRAP!! A HUMAN!!! ran away as fast as possible. The sun set and I climbed the final steep pitch to a lodge as the dirt road hits the highway. Just as the restaurant closed I got a couple of hamburgers and fries. I was cold and hadn't taken a shower in a week so I decided to crash here. It wasn't very late now-around 10:30 but I could put in a long day tomorrow. I had rode about 140 miles. I grabbed some candy bars from the hotel desk as they had them for sale. As I ate the hamburgers, I checked out a computer they had available. There was Eszter just a few miles down the road at either a lodge or a campground. Darn if I hadn't just paid for the motel I would've kept going! I found out later she stayed next to some cowboys' camper scared a bear would get her. Good thing she didn't know that I saw a bear just around the corner....

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