Tuesday, May 17, 2016

2015 Tour Divide - Days 18 - 20

I woke up the next morning, packed my gear, and hit the diner across the street for breakfast - a large omelette, coffee, and two bowls of fruit. I took two grilled cheese sandwiches to go. I met Jean-Michel at the convenience store next door and soon we were headed down the trail. The first seven miles of our day was road and bike trail into Poncha Springs. I noted that we should have ridden here last night and put another 7 miles in the bank. A five mile climb on Hwy 215 was next then we turned off toward Marshall Pass. Not too long after we made the turn, I saw an older mountain bike pulling a bob trailer ahead. I pulled up next to a 77 year old man who decided to embark on his first off road tour after years of paved touring. He informed me that his destination for the day was where were are headed for lunch. He didn't get why "you racers" were in such a rush, but he was impressed by our ability to crank out the miles say after day. I wished him luck and headed to the start of the Marshall Pass climb. Since it followed the old route of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, it was a steady meandering climb for the next 14 miles. The solitude of the day was briefly interrupted by the arrival of three northbound riders. After a short conversation with them, I continued my steady ascent of the pass. The descent down into Sargents was fast and enjoyable, including a brief cheer from some teenagers relaxing in a driveway on the hood of their jeep. I sat down in the Sargents store and ordered a beer and giant bison burger. Jean-Michel came in soon afterwards, I had passed him at the top of the pass while he was taking shelter in a kybo from a small hail storm that had developed while we were nearing the top of the pass. We left Sargents in the rain, but a few miles down the road the sun came out and I was forced to take my rain coat off so I didn't overheat. We left the pavement and went back on ranch roads at the blink or miss it town of Doyleville. The rest of the day was uneventful and ended with with wild camping under three large conifers at the base of Mount Lion. - https://www.strava.com/activities/343305618

It was the morning of June 30th, and I was getting ready to start Day 19 on The Divide. As I climbed towards the top of Carnero Pass, I set my sights on making Platoro and then figuring out what to do after resupplying there. I saw Jean-Michel as we reached the top of the pass and we rode together and chatted for a bit. We stayed in sight of each other throughout most of the descent, and we both ventured off route to the hospitality of Hachita, where I had one of the best breakfast burritos of the entire trip. Forest road 667 was an enjoyable, twisty run of two track towards a pair of buttes. During this section I was imagined a stagecoach full of mail, money and passengers rolling across the desert plains. That vision was quickly dispelled by the tricky, sandy descent down the dry creek bed on the other side of the saddle. After exiting the creek bed, I was staring at the infamous set of signs warning us not to ride onto the airport runway. After a bit, I was in Del Norte, making a bee line for the first convenience store I spotted. Jean-Michel joined me there as we filled up on fluids and grabbed some Subway to go. I opted to ride up the route a few blocks and eat at a diner my friend Matt had told me about. Not exactly the smartest move from a race standpoint, but I was hungry and it sounded better than Subway. After a big burger and huge slice of banana cream pie, I left Del Norte and began the climb towards Indiana Pass. In the hour that it took to eat at the diner, the temperature had climbed considerably. That, combined with the lack of tree cover meant the climb up to the top of Indiana Pass was going to be long and miserable. It took me a  3.5 hours to reach the top of the pass, with temps during the first 90 minutes hovering somewhere between 90 and 100F. After reaching the top of the pass, I once again found myself looking towards the clouds in the sky. At this point I went from tired to completely overcast. My climb to the top was rewarded with miles of big rollers all the way to Summitville. After a few more large rollers and another long climb, a descent started, but my mood wasn't improving. About half way down the descent I ran into TD finisher Fixie Dave Nice and his friends Cricket and Keith. I stopped, Dave asked me how I was doing, and I just completely lost it. After the race, I apologized to Dave and his friends for my outburst. After taking leave of Dave and his friends, I dropped down a little further, suffered through the climb up Stemple Pass, and then flew down the descent into Platoro. As I pulled into the front of Gold Nugget cafe, Jean-Michel came out with a menu in hand and told me the cafe was waiting for my order. I stumbled in and the cook asked me what I wanted, and then  told me what I was going to get. After a delicious chicken fried steak, gravy, and a slice of pie, we made a quick pass through the meagerly stocked general store, where I bought a rain cape to replace the raincoat I lost during the day, along with some food to restock my stores. Afterwards, Jean-Michel and I retired to the comfort of an old airstream trailer for the night. - https://www.strava.com/activities/343305623

The alarms went off early. I stuffed my face with food and drank a room temperature Coca-Cola while getting ready. I also took the opportunity to replace my brake pads and adjust the calipers while I was still inside the comfort of the Airstream. The day started with a long mile descent along the Conejos River valley. This would be the easiest part of the day. After the descent, the route took turned onto Hwy 17 and then climbed up 1500 feet over the next 6 miles to the top of La Manga Pass. After a bit of a paved descent the route turned back to gravel and quickly dove across some narrow railroad tracks and down into a valley. Earlier, I noted a water tower off to one side as I descended off of La Manga Pass. Not long after crossing the railroad tracks, I heard the sound of a steam whistle echoing throughout the valley. I would later find out that this was the Cumbres and Toltec narrow gauge scenic railroad. One of many pieces of history that exist along the route. Soon I was at the entrance to Carson National Forest, and the Colorado/New Mexico border. I was nearing the final steps of my journey, or so I thought. The next 25 miles were some of the roughest on the route, with many sections that were unridable due to either steepness, fields of rough rock, or combinations of both. After about 12 hours of riding, I found myself once again dancing with the lightning filled storms that seemed to occur at the end of the day. After dropping off a ridge, I found myself in the middle of another scene from Ride the Divide, sitting in the snack shack with Jean-Michel talking with Silvia and watching the lightning in the distance. After our snacks were done, it was dark due to the time and the storms. We motored down the road towards Vallecitos and spent the night in the lobby of the Post Office. We couldn't turn the lights off, but it was dry, warm, and sheltered from any storms that might pass through. I used my rain poncho as a pillow, laid down on the floor mat, and fell asleep around 10 PM. - https://www.strava.com/activities/343305694

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