Monday, July 6, 2009

Prologue


3GenDivideRide2 high atop Indiana Pass on Day 4

‘Salida’ is Spanish for ‘Exit’, and last year on August 20, 2008 the 3GenDivideRiders Salida'ed our mountain bike trek from Aspen Alley, WY to Salida, CO. The blog site for that adventure is here.

It is now July 6, 2009, roughly 46 weeks after we reluctantly left the trail. We are all excited to be back in Salida, ready to attempt to face the southern half of the Colorado portion of the Great Divide mountain bike route. Hey hey, the gang’s all here, including...

Richie, the youngest (and most fit) of the 3Gen riders. Richie will be a Sophomore in HS next year.
Rich, the middle (and least fit) of our group, and your narrator of this adventure.
Grammi, the Elderest (and most trained) of the 3GenDivideRiders.
SagMan, Grammi's better half, and our indispensible support vehicle driver.
Tavy, the Sag Dog, to soar our spirits when the road is grinding us down.


Parking lot of hotel in Salida, ready to roll!

Tomorrow morning we plan to return to the very spot that we stopped last year, and continue South on the road that beckoned so strongly (to me) at the end of last year’s ride. Our goal is to roll up to the Colorado/New Mexico border in 5 days. Between here and there are 240 miles of mostly dirt roads, and 6 (!?!) named mountain passes, including Indiana Pass, which tops out at 11,910 feet, the highest pass along the entire Canada – Mexico Great Divide Ride.

I am frankly not as prepared as I was last year. While I was not exactly in top shape last year, at least I had put in 400 miles of mountain bike training. This year I am afraid that I have only put in about 100 miles on the saddle, so this could be a difficult five days for Gen #2. One decision we made to ease my ride is that I will not be pulling the BOB trailer this year.

However, working on my side is extreme excitement to be out here again with my son and my Mom. This ride pulls hard at me during the winter, and I am just thrilled to be out here again. I tend to be pretty determined to accomplish a goal like this, so hopefully that drive will overcome my slovenly preparation for this trip. I can't express enough my appreciation to everyone mentioned above (as well as Paula, Jed, and Kirsten back home) for indulging my desire to complete the Colorado portion of this ride.

One aspect of *this* trip that I am particularly excited about is that this entire ride will be new terrain for all of us. Last year my Mom and I had already ridden the majority of the ride (from Steamboat Springs to Salida) on a ride in 2003 sponsored by Adventure Cycling. This year will be the very first time that any of us have ridden these roads. It is exciting to be riding virgin terrain for the next five days.

Our passes (first 5 are dirt, and most are relatively remote/unknown even to CO natives):

Day 1: Marshall Pass
Day 2: Cochetopa Pass
Day 3: Carnero Pass
Day 4: Indiana Pass and Stunner Pass
Day 5: La Manga Pass

It takes a bunch of work to prepare for this trip, and I think we have leaped over the many logistical hurdles. This year we decided to rent our Sag vehicle, and I got a very good deal on a large SUV to support our ride. We have cabins/hotel rooms reserved for each night, saving us the need to pack our camping gear like we did last year.

We had a good carbo-loading meal at a funky wood-fired pizza joint. I also treated us all to some new bike Jerseys at Absolute Bikes, an awesome bike shop that is known to cater to riders of the Great Divide route.

Now we pray for good weather and strong legs. Bring on the passes and Spanish influences of southern Colorado…ready or not, here we come!


View 3GenDivideRide2 Overnights in a larger map
Start and End points of our daily rides. Each blog entry below has a link to a detailed map of our route. Needless to say, we were not riding on those yellow roads in the map above!
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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Day 1: Salida to Sargents

Day 1: Salida to Sargents
43 miles, Marshall Pass
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I am exhausted. We rode from Salida to tiny Sargents today over Marshall Pass. The 43 miles we rode happens to be the longest ride that Richie and I have done this year (a record that will be broken tomorrow with any luck!)

The day started with a gradual/easy 6-mile climb from Salida to Poncha Springs, then turned south for a more gnarly paved ride up Poncha Pass for the next 5 miles. We had moderate traffic and a stiff headwind, but the pass was scenic and had a good shoulder.

Just 2 miles before the Poncha Pass summit, we turned west to start climbing the dirt Marshall Pass. It was a really scenic pass, and had mostly a gentle grade, but it was unrelenting uphill for 15.5 miles. All told we had 26.5 miles of climbing from our hotel in Salida. While it was mostly railroad grade, the constant up proved to be a challenge for so many miles. We all (particularly me) were pretty gassed by the time we hit the summit around 2:45. I was definitely the slow-poke this day.


Atop Marshall Pass

The downhill was a blast, along a river (with lots of beaver dams) for 17 miles to our little cabin in Sargents. The only negative was that I managed to wipe out, falling over my handlebars and sliding on the dirt. I guess I am lucky that I managed to absorb this fall over many contact points. My head (helmet), right shoulder, right forearm, right shin, left elbow, and left hand all sustained some damage. (Watch out for me if we play Twister…I’m not sure how I hit all these spots!) Since it was spread out so much, none of these areas got hurt too severely. I sat on the dirt for a few minutes, and decided that I was OK.


The set of us who did NOT fall off their bikes

How did I fall you ask? It happened quickly, but I think I have pieced it together. Blame it on a failed clip that is supposed to keep my odometer wire on my front fork. It broke during the day, so my odometer wire was loose, and sometimes hitting my spokes.

I was leaning forward on the bike trying to get my odometer wire away from my spokes, and with my attention so diverted I hit a bump and soft dirt. At that point I reflexively squeezed my brakes, except since my right hand was busy with the wire I only squeezed my left (front) brake (super dumb rookie mistake). Next thing I knew I was falling over my handlebars at a moderate clip. When we got to SagMan, Richie fixed my odometer wire with electrical tape. That should prevent a repeat performance.

We all were happy to make it to Sargents, and we got a very nice cabin right along a small creek. I am sore, both due to the fall as well as general bike soreness due to my lack of conditioning. Tomorrow should prove interesting. Until then…

Click here to open Day 1 album in a new window

I suggest you hit the 'slideshow' button when the album opens to see the big pictures and captions. Note I made a mistake the first 2+ days...I had my hiptop set to 'medium' quality pictures, so the ones I took are small. Grandman had a good digital camera, so his pics are the nice ones.


Click on the 'View Elevation' button to open a full size, interactive Day 1 Map of squiggly Marshall Pass

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Day 2: Sargents to Middle of nowhere (end of Cochetopa Pass)

Day 2: Sargents to the end of Cochetopa Pass, where it intersects CO Route 114.
58 miles

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

No falls today, so that is a good thing. Even though the mileage was quite a bit longer than yesterday, and we had to climb a pass at the end of the ride (after we had already gone 40 miles), we agree that today was easier than Day 1. Today’s ride split into 3 segments:

We started with a 13 mile ride on paved and busy CO 50 from Sargents to Doyleville. This was a gradual downhill most of the way, so we had an easy start.

Next up was a long stretch on a dirt road to cut up to CO 114. This had no pass, but it was mostly uphill with several steep sections. It was arid terrain with not many trees…so this had some of the feel of last year’s South Park death march, though today was considerably more scenic.


Arid stretch after turn from CO 50

Finally we climbed up and over Cochetopa pass, all dirt, to rejoin CO 114. Quite a bit of this continued to be in dry treeless land, though we finally reached Gunnison National Forest and got up into the trees. The pass was mostly gentle, though the final 1.5 miles were quite steep.


Another Divide Crossing--Cochetopa Pass

I crashed early (ooh bad choice of words…I mean I fell asleep early) last night and woke up quite sore. But as usual, Advil helped ease the pain, and once I got on the bike and started pedaling I felt OK. I have a bruise on my left hand from where I hit it yesterday, and all the bumpy riding does not help that situation. Otherwise I am not too affected by my spill on the first day.

The weather has been fantastic…not one drop of rain yet (CO has had a ton of rain this summer) and temps in the 80’s. A tad warm at times, but it has been great, and I think we are in for continued good weather.

I did not have any cell coverage since leaving Salida, so I was unable to send my normal nightly email updates. This is one of the downsides of the lonely terrain we rode on this year in southern CO. The northern sections of this route in Colorado are significantly more populated.

Time for bed, we are scheduled to hit some form of civilization tomorrow night in Del Norte.

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Click Here to open Day 2 album in a new window


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Click on 'View Elevation' button to open full size interactive Day 2 map

Friday, July 3, 2009

Day 3: Middle of nowhere to Del Norte

Day 3: Middle of nowhere to Del Norte
Scheduled for 53.5 miles
Thursday, July 9, 2009

On paper, this looked to be one of our easiest days (oh oh...)

We spent the night at an overpriced hot springs that was 40 miles away from the trail, but was the closest thing I could find. Shows how remote we were. The ride started with a nice paved 6-mile downhill stretch on CO 114.

Next we turned south on a dirt road, and had a climb up Carnero pass. This was scenic riding up in a canyon, and had very little traffic. We ate lunch at the summit, and Sagman agreed to meet us an hour (bike time) down the pass.


Along the Carnero Climb

Near the top of the downhill we came to a very scenic spot...the dirt road squeezes between a rock face on the left and a rock spire on the right...this likely once was an 'arch' but the top has eroded away. We stopped to take pics, and then Mom and Richie continued down.


Road squeezing through the rock face and rock spire

Duhnt duhnt duhhhhh....

I got on my bike and realized my rear tire was soft. I tried riding, but it quickly got flat. I called out and thought that Richie heard me, but it turns out he didn't.

Rich's perspective:
Bummer, but I should have been OK. I had a pump and spare tube, so I started fixing the flat. Unfortunately, in a moment of bright boneheadedness, I realized that my spare tube was for Richie's bike, and would not fit my 29" wheels. Further, the cause of the flat was a faulty valve, so my patch kit was useless. I put my flat tire back on the bike, and could do nothing but start to walk my bike down the remote pass. Not one car passed me going down the hill.

Mom & Richie's perspective:
They rode down the pass for about 2.5 miles, then stopped in a beautiful meadow full of wildflowers to wait for me. After 5 minutes, they joked that I must be taking lots of pictures. After 10, 15, then 20 minutes they realized that something was not right. They made a good decision to ride down to find Sagman. They both started envisioning worst case scenarios (perhaps I rode off a cliff, for instance.) It is an understatement to say that they were worried.

Sagman's perpective
10 miles down the pass Sagman was pulled over peacefully reading a book, when Richie rushes up in a semi-panic and says 'We gotta go find Daddy!'

I had walked down to the same meadow that Mom and Richie had been waiting in when I saw the red sag car coming up the pass. As Bill would say, all's well that ends well...I fixed my tire (I had an 'extra' spare tube in the sag car) and we resumed our ride.

We got close to the town of La Guarita, and still had 15 miles to go to get to our destination of Del Norte. It was hot, and we had a strong headwind. We struggled into the wind for a slow 5 miles, then decided to end our day. The photo album contians some funny pics of our day's end.


Mom not digging the name of our next road

Given the trauma of losing me and the headwind at the end of the day, this turned out to be a much tougher day than we expected.

Next up...Day 4 and Indiana Pass...our most challenging terrain.

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Click here to open Day 3 album in a new window


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Click on 'View Elevation' button for full interactive map of Day 3

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 4: Del Norte to Platoro

Day 4: Del Norte to Platoro over Indiana Pass and Stunner Pass
49 miles
Friday, 7/10/09



Me in my glory, consulting the Map

This was the BIG day—Indiana Pass. Our ride maps showed that the day was to start with a paved 11-mile climb of about 1000 feet out of Del Norte (rhymes with 'gel snort'). The road then turns to dirt, and the grade steepens significantly—an additional 3000 ft climb over the next 12 miles. This is the highest pass on the entire Canada - Mexico Great Divide route. We all had been anticipating this day with a mixture of excitement and dread.

Moreover, once we hit the 11,910 foot summit we still had an additional 26 miles to ride to our destination of Platoro, a small town that caters to hunters and fishers. Platoro is super-isolated, and sits at 10,000 feet. While our final 26 miles were predominantly downhill, there were 3 separate uphill sections after the summit, including one other named pass (great name—Stunner Pass.)

We arose early and started this ride much earlier than all other days...we were riding before 7:30 am. The weather was again close to ideal…perhaps a bit warm at times, but a bright clear day for our big climb. The first 11 miles were relatively easy, with a gentle uphill grade on a scenic and low-traffic paved road.

As soon as the road turned to dirt, it steepened considerably. (Incidentally, we did not see pavement again until 23 miles into our ride the next day, so we had a continuous dirt stretch for 61 miles over two days.) The next twelve miles lived up to the difficulty we had been expecting. There were steep sections followed by less steep sections, but almost no breaks. We slowly made progress, but the miles were hard fought. We had lunch at the intersection with Blowout Pass (another awesome name) 5 miles from the top.


Climbing up Indiana Pass

As we climbed the trees started to thin out marking our approach to tree-line. The final half mile or so was a real treat. The hill finally let up a bit, and we had a long sweeping level stretch, with a big meadow at hand and lofty peaks all around. It felt like a victory ride, and the high alpine scenery was spectacular. Sadly Indiana Pass has no photo-op sign at the summit, but it was thrilling to have conquered the nasty climb we had feared.


Sweeping conclusion to climb up Indiana

We hit the summit at 2:30, tired but filled with a sense of accomplishment. While we hit very little traffic all day, wouldn’t you know that sharing the summit with us was a scad of ATVers who were growling up and down the road. I believe there were 12 or so in total, and they played cat and mouse with us over the next 5 miles, treating us to their noise, dust, and exhaust fumes every time they passed. Such a pleasure!

As mentioned before, we still had 26 non-trivial miles to ride, so we had to point our bikes south and keep riding. The terrain between the summit and Platoro is fascinating. First up, after a short-seeming 5-mile downhill, we hit an amazing blight. Summitville is a mining operation that was shut down in the 1990’s, and now is one of the EPA ‘Superfund’ sites. They have demolished the landscape around the mine (little wonder, using the friendly sounding ‘open-pit heap leach pad’ method of mining), and the water is contaminated for miles all around the site.


Summitville--Superfund 'scenery'

The area around ‘ground zero’ is sad to behold…the mountain they were mining bears the wounds of their work. Almost all of the damage was caused by one owner who mined from 1986 to 1991 before they were shut down. They were looking for gold, and left behind this disaster. If you are curious, you can click this sobering link to learn more about the Summitville Mine. If you look at the 2nd picture on this site, we rode up the dirt road on the bottom of the picture. The maps warned that we should not drink water anywhere close to the mine site, and as that picture shows, the water was not particularly tempting near the mine!

Our first of the three additional climbs started right at Summitville, and we had to climb (sometimes steeply) for about 2 miles. Mom took a spill on a patch of very soft gravel around the mine site, and has impressive bruising on her arm. (This on top of a tough day for her…much like me on Day 1, she just didn’t have much oomph in her legs, so this difficult day was even more difficult for her.) I am very proud of my Mom’s unrelenting positive attitude. She walked much more this day than any other (at a pace not much slower than my plodding riding pace) but persevered and refused to sag!


Mom shows no signs of having a tough day!

As promised on the maps, the terrain just beyond Summitville was magnificent, in stark contrast to the gross Superfund site. The next 10-15 miles had an extremely remote feel, and our little dirt road treated us to tremendous vistas, forests, and streams. We cursed at the ‘little’ uphill that was more taxing and lengthy than we had been expecting. We then finally had a major downhill section, zooming past the majestic Lookout Mountain. This mountain has not been mined, but it has striking metallic colors that are naturally occurring in its soil. We passed a stream that was equally contaminated as the streams around Summitville, but in this case due to nature rather than man. We could smell the water (sulfur, metallic odor) as we rode over it.


Lookout Mountain, resplendent in earth tones

After a long hand-numbing downhill we hit the ghost town of Stunner, CO. There were some interesting interpretive signs but little remnants of the town. There were lots of hopeful mines started in the area, but evidently the majority failed to yield much of anything profitable.

We then faced our final climb of this long day…Stunner Pass, with a considerable and steady grade for four miles. While this normally would not be too challenging, it was a big grunt at the end of our big day. It started to rain just as I hit the summit, and within minutes we were subject to a drenching downpour. Fortunately for us Sagman and Sagdog were at the top, so we quickly made the wise decision to forgo the final 4-mile downhill into Platoro. We felt that it wasn’t cheating too much, since we had completed all the climbing of the day.

Our cabin in Platoro left a bit to be desired (d├ęcor and bedding from the 1960s I think) but the single place to eat there was a hoot, and served up our best meal of the trip. More on that in tomorrow’s report. While I have enjoyed many other days on this ride through Colorado, there is no question that this one stands out.

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Click here to open Day 4 album in a new window
Reminder...click on the slideshow option to see the large pics. You can hit the pause button if you want to soak in my witticismic captions.


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Click on 'View Elevation' button for full size interactive map

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 5: Platoro to CO/NM border

Day 5: Platoro to CO/NM border
38 miles, La Manga Pass
Saturday, July 11, 2009


OK, so you ask why dinner was so good in Platoro?

First, we sat down in front of a welcoming fire. We went directly to this lodge when we escaped the pouring rain atop Stunner Pass, concerned that they might close early. Since the restaurant at the Skyline Lodge was our only food option, we couldn’t risk taking the time to clean up. The big fire felt wonderful on our wet and stinky selves.

The waiter was quirky and witty. My favorite example is when he explained something slowly in detail, and then said to Richie (who was wearing his NE Patriots cap) ‘I had to explain that slow because I see you are a Patriots fan.’ He had us laughing throughout dinner, while at the same time giving us insights about what life in Platoro is like.

The first thing I asked for was lemonade. I was expecting something powdered like Kool-Aid or Crystal Light, but I got a delicious glass of genuine lemonade with lots of fresh lemons, water, and sugar. Now *that* is a good sign!

Mom ordered fresh trout from the local waters. Richie got a double cheeseburger. I opted for a chicken fried steak--embarassingly unhealthy, but on a bike tour I allow myself these indulgences. All meals were large, fresh, and great. If you find yourself in Platoro, I highly recommend you dine at your single option—the Skyline Restaurant. (Readers of this blog now know where to eat in both Hartsel and Platoro…valuable info for sure.) We returned the next morning at 7:00 sharp for breakfast, and were all happy to see our server again. The breakfast was also fantastic, as was the good-natured wise-ass service.


Leaving Platoro, fond of our short visit

New Mexico or bust! Our route today promised to be the easiest day of 3GenDivideRide2. We started with a long 23-mile downhill cruise on a pretty good dirt road (finally the payoff for our climb up Indiana Pass.) This was a treat…easy and scenic riding down a valley with lots of interesting terrain. It shows how far out of the way Platoro is…visitors must drive up this long dirt road to get to town. We ultimately spilled out onto CO Highway 17. As mentioned in yesterday’s report, this was our first glimpse of pavement since the spot where Indiana Pass turned to dirt over 60 miles ago.


Platoro Valley scene

Of course no day is without challenge on the Divide ride, so once we turned south on paved Highway 17 we were immediately faced with our final named pass of the trip. La Manga pass climbs pretty steeply from the spot where we hit the welcome pavement for 6 miles to its summit. It is the 9th and final named pass along the Colorado route. We tackled Lynx, Ute, and Boreas last year. This year we climbed over Marshall, Cochetopa, Carnero, Indiana, Stunner, and La Manga. We resigned ourselves to the climb, sometimes steep, and were psyched to get to the top. I make it sound like a grind, but it was a very scenic pass with little traffic.

From our snack break on the summit, we continued 5.5 rolling miles along CO 17 to our final turn of the trip on to the dirt fire road 117. We had only three miles to go on this road to get to the New Mexico border. It started with a big downhill into a very scenic basin, crossing the narrow gauge Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. Sagman saw the train, but we managed to miss it, only hearing it lumber by once we crossed the tracks.


Big downhill, 3 miles to go!

Naturally the final 3 miles threw a few more challenges at us, with some short steep climbs. Fortunately the scenery was grand, and we all were riding the high of approaching the border. The border tricked me by not emerging at the first two or three spots where I expected it. However, we were not to be denied and eventually we pedaled to the cattle guard crossing marking the end of Colorful Colorado and the start of the Land of Enchantment. Fortunately there is a sign here for a photo op.


Riding across the border to New Mexico

We have ridden the divide in Colorado, and it is truely special to have shared this accomplishment with Mom and Richie.

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Click here to open Day 5 album in a new window


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Click on 'View Elevation' button to open full interactive map of Day 5