Thursday, May 12, 2016

2015 Tour Divide - Days 9 - 11

After the ups and downs of the previous day, leaving Montana and riding into Idaho wasn't too bad. The cruise through the valley at the foot of the Centennial Mountains meant lots of big open skies, long stretches of road, and many old cabins to keep my mind distracted. I made a brief stop at the top of Red Rock Pass to take my first photo with a sign marking the Continental Divide. Soon after, I stopped for a cold drink and ice cream at Henry's Lake Campground, rode a bit further and stopped for Subway and resupply on the edge of Flat Rock. Not too long after, I was on the volcanic soil of the infamous rail trail between Flat Rock and Warm River. After struggling with the trail surface for  30 or 40 yards, I dropped my tire pressure, moved my weight back a touch and rode the loose stuff like I was on a fat bike. That made things to a lot better as long as I concentrated on the trail. I failed to do that once and was rewarded with a broken light mount and a lot of missing skin on my shin. This was, thankfully, my only wreck for the entire race. After I arrived at the Wise River Campground and cleaned my wounds, I  thought about continuing on, but I was feeling a bit beat up and took the last tent spot in the campground for the evening. Not too long after laying down, Michael Kinney rolled into the campground. He had done a significant amount of backtracking to find the Spot tracker that fell off of his backpack. He asked if he could set up next to me for the night. I said "yes" and then passed out for the rest of the night. -

The pleasurable ride into Idaho was made up for upon entering Wyoming the next day. After twelve miles of chipseal and gravel, Michael and I were welcomed to the Targhee National Forest by a sign that said simply "rough road". As National Forest roads are not known for their smoothness, this was a bit ominous. The sign was right - the roads were freshly graveled, rough and had a lot of short, steep climbs that required quite a bit of power to ride up. The misery of this section was interrupted by a chance encounter with Bryan Appleby, a friend I had not seen in years. Bryan had slipped out of retirement and was working as a NPS Ranger in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for the summer. I  noticed a nice BMW motorcycle sitting off to the side of the road as I was approaching another short climb. As I cleared the top, I noticed a bearded man with two big cameras and a tripod walking towards me and waving. He let me know that he had just spotted a  brown bear not too far away. As he spoke, I noted his shirt, which was from an automobile event in the midwest. When I asked if he was Bryan Appleby, he was shocked. Ten days and nearly a thousand miles into the race, and I am catching up with someone I haven't seen in at least fifteen years. We chatted for a bit, took a couple of photos, and then I moved on. However, running into Brian greatly improved my mood. Michael and I rolled into Flagg Ranch together for some much needed food and sat down next to Brian Jett, Brian Steele, and a couple of other riders. Not too long after Greg Locke came in and sat down with Michael and I. We inhaled some burgers, fries and ice cream and set off down the the route. While the scenery of Grand Teton National Park was majestic, the narrow roads filled with rental RVs and diesel trucks with travel trailers left little time to take in the scenery. Around 8 PM, we pulled into Togwotee Lodge and grabbed dinner. We ran into "The Brians" there as well. After some discussion, we opted to get a warm, but expensive room at The Lodge, rather than ride further. -

The race was starting to wear on me. Greg and Michael opted to get up early and move on, but I decided to get some extra sleep and take care of some issues I was starting to have in my saddle area. I finally got on the road around 6:30 AM. The climb up Togwotee pass was long and steady, but cold. I pulled out my rain coat and waterproof gloves to keep warm as I inched my way to the top of the 9100 foot pass. A quick glance at my GPS showed a temp of just under 40F. This was one of the few spots along the route where I would see snow near the course. I dropped off the pass hoping to eat a big breakfast at the Lava Mountain Lodge. Unfortunately, their restaurant is only open after 4 PM during the summer. I settled for two microwaved sandwiches and a bottle of Coke. After a brief conversation with a northbound road touring cyclist, I moved on down the road. Not long after leaving highway and heading towards the Fish Lake Bypass, I saw a set of poles labeled as a bear carcass station. Not a terribly comforting thought. Nearing the top of the pass, I heard a ping and heard the sound of sealant coming out of my tire. I got off the bike expecting a cut sidewall, but I discovered that I had broken of rear spokes. I sat down and figured out how I was going to repair this and keep moving. I bent the old, straight pull spoke into a J-shape and pushed it through the hub. I made loop on the opposite end, and stretched a fiberfix spoke between the loop and the rim. After a few minutes, I was on my way. The ridge at the top of the climb was amazing. The skies were clear, the views were beautiful, and the breeze was forcing the scent of mountain wildflowers deep into my nose. The next 30 miles were rough and rock strewn. The ride on the pavement to Cora resulted in finding a restaurant that was closed. I stopped, sat on the porch and tossed down some needed calories, then hammered the rest of the pavement into Pinedale. I pulled into a cafe just before closing time, ordered a pile of food and drink, then proceeded to stuff myself while the owners finished their closing chores. -

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