Zen On Dirt


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Thinking about “adventure”

“Is the word ‘adventure’ becoming cliche?” was a question posed on The Facebook by Drunk Cyclist Chris the other morning. He got all sorts of replies, some of them serious, some of them not.

I replied, “It’s a state of mind. Duh.”

I wanted to reply something along the lines of “only if it’s preceded by the word ‘epic’,” but I restrained myself. I hate the word epic.

Epic’d, yes. Epic, no.

But it did get me thinking: What is an adventure?

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I’ve been having a hard time thinking about blogging again, like I’m out of practice writing about anything besides what happened on the CDT, which was a trip that I consider an adventure. What could I possibly write about that could compare to that?

Today I sat in front of my computer and made money. I cuddled with my 16 year old dog who still thinks she’s three and tries to attack any other dog we see on our walk. I took a two hour nap instead of doing something active. I ate leftover flourless chocolate cake from my dad’s birthday. I tried to convince Scott that it was still warm enough in Idaho to do the ACA’s hot springs route before going back to Tucson.

But really, I’m of the mindset that adventure can happen in every day life if you let it. I’m also of the mindset of saying yes to as many opportunities as I can, so when I got a text from Kay at 8:45 pm saying, “We’re riding Ned tomorrow, want me to pick you up?” I replied yes, even though I knew I was in no shape to be riding, let alone riding with a whole gaggle of fast girls.

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But I’m glad I went, as it turned into an unintentional mini-adventure complements of running low on time, running into some unhappy land owners, flat tires, and hills that kicked my ass.

I got home absolutely wrecked, but not for a second regretted going. Riding with girls is fun and I miss it. Recovery is for people who can’t think of anything fun to do.

So if I were to call it an adventure, would I be being cliche?

I guess I’ve been called worse things, so I’m going to keep calling every day of this amazing life an adventure. Because it is. It really is.


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All good things must come to an end…

“So how are you guys going to rejoin real life?” was the question.

We had cofee/ice cream with Justin Simoni this morning and he wanted to know. He’s also coming off what I consider the bad-ass feat of the summer, knocking several days off the FKT for the self-supported, non-motorized Colorado 14’ers tour. He’s got crazy eyes and crazy ideas. I dig it.

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Those beards…

“You’re pretty much looking at real life,” we joked as we lounged in the sun at Amante, watching the Boulder road riding parade go in and out with their espressos.

Joking aside, it did sort of beg the question: What is real life for us? And did we ever really leave it during our 1/3 of a calendar year on the trail.

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Hiker/biker trash in East Glacier

Neither of us stopped working. We reduced working, for sure, but I still wrote. Scott still programed. We still kept up on the happenings on Facebook.

Even when we’re deep into a 6-month lease in Tucson, we still wake up, eat breakfast, stare at computer screens for a bit, and then go ride bikes. Sometimes, we sit in front of our computers more. Sometimes we ride more. But really, it’s the same basic equation that we followed on the CDT as well.

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Snowplow finished hiking, yogi’d a free bike in East Glacier, downloaded a GPX of the Norther Tier ACA route, and was headed to Seattle to meet his girlfriend to go touristing in Vancouver. The Mongoose it totally going to make it.

I think that this trip drove home the point that home can be pretty much anywhere. On the trail. On a road trip. In the middle of the winter in Tucson.

Which, if you think about it, is pretty cool. (Full disclaimer: if I don’t have to stay in another cheap hotel room for a while, I won’t complain.)

We woke up to our final epilogue morning on the trip in East Glacier, headed over to the Whistlestop Cafe for huckleberry stuffed french toast, and then rolled down the road to the rental car office. The mountains of Glacier glistened in the distance, covered in snow, beckoning.

“We have to go home,” I told them. “We’ll be back, I promise.”

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The 13 hour drive went smoothly in the Chevy Impala. It was sad pointing away from the mountains and rolling along the wide open plains of eastern Montana.

Trip over.

Really over.

Not just, CDT-proper over. Or US and into Canada over. Or hike over. Or get back to East Glacier over.

Just over.

Sad. I was sad.

It’s funny how quickly we forget the steep hike-a-bikes, the cold feet, the numb hands, the terrible food, and the grandeur of the experience takes over.

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That’s a lot of tents

I’ll write more eventually about the trip. Thoughts on gear. Thoughts on the trail. Thoughts on food. Thoughts on the experience. Thoughts on the nearly 80 thru-hikers we met. But I think it’s still all too fuzzy and incomprehensible right now.

So for now, I’ll just think about decompressing at my parents’ house in Boulder for a few more days before pondering a cross CO roadtrip on our way to Salt Lake. Then maybe St George, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Flagstaff.

Real life. Yes. This is real life.


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CDT Day 112 – To the finish!

We finished today!!!!

I’m tired.

Whew.

We woke up to an alarm this morning, which is always a bummer. Loaded our bikes, headed over to breakfast, ate some delicious french toast, and coasted over to the trail head, locking our bikes together next to a pole.

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And we hiked. The trail climbed (of course it did, it’s the CDT, sort of) and was covered in a sheet of ice, perfect for us hiking in bike shoes. We moved as fast as we could through the ice, which turned to snow, which turned to dirt, and then back to snow.

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It ended up being a 5.8 km hike out to the border, taking us right around two hours.

We did a happy dance at the border marker and took a bunch of pictures.

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We sat down for a snack and soon heard voices coming from the other direction. Hikers!

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Beaker, Wolverine, Snowplow, Northern Strider were just finishing their hike, three of them their Triple Crown. They were pretty stoked. We took their pictures, they took ours.

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When I couldn’t feel my feet any more (bike shoes aren’t exactly meant for tromping around in the snow), we took off, back towards Waterton. To get the core temperatures back up, we ran as much as we could through the melting snow, a decision I’m sure we’re going to regret when we can’t walk tomorrow, but it was totally worth it at the time.

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We treated ourselves to lunch at the Prince of Wales Hotel, but didn’t splurge for the $30 afternoon tea, even though they had a harp player playing.

We took a shuttle up to the border, they let us back into the US of A and we waited for the next shuttle to come, the one that said we couldn’t take bikes when we called to make reservations.

“Sure, we can totally fit the bikes in the back,” said the driver.

“Awesome!”

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He took us, Beaker, and Chili and Pepper who’d finished at Chief Mountain, all the way back to East Glacier where we’re currently stuck without a rental car…they say Monday, but to call back in the morning.

We may end up taking a train to Whitefish tomorrow night if there’s no rental car and trying to rent from there.

Definitely ready to get home…


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CDT Day 111 – CANADA!

Scott was talking to his parents on the phone last night. I overheard, “So, what’s your plan from here?”

Scott answered, “We’re going to wake up tomorrow, the sun’s going to come out, the roads are going to dry out, and we’re going to ride to Waterton.”

Sometimes plans just work out superbly.

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I was the first to succumb to having to pee in the morning and peered out the bathroom window. “I see blue!” I said excitedly. “It’s a tiny patch, but it’s definitely blue!”

The snow had stopped, the clouds were clearing, it was going to be a beautiful day of bike riding, if a bit cold.

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Breakfast. Discover that the shuttle from the border to East Glacier wouldn’t take bikes, decide that was an issue for another day. Pack. Roll out.

It was four miles to the turn off towards Waterton. The snow was melting fast, massive chunks dropping off the still green aspens. No one was ready for winter yet! From there, 14 miles of mostly climbing towards Chief Mountain Pass. The views were off the hook. The cows provided endless entertainment. We could see south for miles into the imposing peaks of Glacier. Spires, rocks, huge, huge peaks.

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The border crossing went easily and we were magically transported into an otherworldly land. The peaks got twice as big, twice as dramatic, and stretched out in every direction.

We made it to Canada!

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18 more miles brought us to Waterton proper. We spent the whole approach to the park marveling at the giant peaks. I’ve never finished a trip in such a spectacular place.

Arriving at 3, we debated trying to knock the hike out in the afternoon, but we would have been rushing, and anyhow, we were hungry. Instead, we booked our shuttle to the border (thank you Canadian shuttles for taking bikes!), checked into our motel room (the heater cranks!), and went out for lunch.

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We decided it would be a good idea to see where our trail tomorrow started in order to decide whether to ride or walk to it in the morning. We wandered along the lake’s edge, eyes turned upwards to the imposing peaks, eventually finding the trailhead.

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We’re riding, we decided as we barely made it back to our room. Walking without the support of a bike may prove to be difficult. 8 miles roundtrip…this could be the hardest part of the trip.

It hasn’t really sunk in that for all practical purposes, we’re done. We pulled this thing off. 4 months to the day.

Wow.

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Tomorrow, we go there.


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CDT Day 109 &110 – Snow delay in Babb and thoughts on What’s Next?

We’re holed up in Babb. It’s blizzarding out, as in accumulation, minimal visibility, snow going sideways, snow falling off roofs, and bitterly cold temperatures. Ok, the last one’s an exaggeration, but it is cold out.

We rode 5.9 miles yesterday after waking up in our cabin in the middle of nowhere, and without any food, were forced to ride in the snow up to Babb, population 50, on a good day, where we checked into another motel room, but not before getting breakfast at the Glacier’s Edge Cafe.

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We ride paved roads to get our bikes muddy.

It’s been a chill two days, it would have been perfect for reflecting on the trip as a whole, as we only have 39 paved miles left to pedal and a short hike south to the border. Instead, we’ve watched bad movies for hours on end, including: She’s the Man, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Big Daddy, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Star Trek, and Montana Sky. I think A Beautiful Mind is on tap for tonight.

But this forced stop has been interesting. Mid-trip, I would have welcomed the rest. We came into here with 12 days of continuous riding with the only reasonable day being from Lincoln to Ovando. We initially sat in the cafe wondering if we should just suck it up and pedal the last miles (it wasn’t snowing at the time), but when the sleepies started to hit, we decided: We’re tired. We want to see Waterton in its full glory, not just in a white out, and we didn’t want to turn the end of this trip into a death march. That was the goal from the beginning – minimize death marching.

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But it was hard to accept that rest was good so close to the end. I keep feeling like I’m ready to get the trip done with and move on to what’s next.

What’s next?

That’s a loaded question. I don’t know. I know the immediate plan of getting back to civilization, renting a car, driving south via Bozeman to visit friends, making it to Boulder in time for my dad’s birthday, picking up my car in Boulder, head to Salt Lake to visit Scott’s family and new niece, and then slowly make our way back to Tucson for the winter.

That I know.

We’ve talked a good bit about What next. It seems to be a question that I want answered immediately. I change my mind every hour. What I have discovered with my What next circles is that my default is always “I’ll train for something and race it.” It’s a safe option. I know I can bikepack real-fast-like. Training gives structure. Training gives purpose. Racing well brings positive feedback.

But racing also shuts down a lot of other possibilities. it would have shut down my Death Valley tour this spring, as well as our AZT tour, and my hilarious Coconino 250-ish trip, Camp Tucson probably would have been out as well as drinking margaritas during our Girls Trip to Moab.

This trip wouldn’t have happened. This trip was a direct result of my “I don’t want to race anymore” crisis over New Years, and the result I wouldn’t trade it for any number of bikepacking race wins.

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I don’t know what’s next, but the goal is forward, not backwards. Touring South America? Van life? Get a real job and buy a house? (Ok, that last one was a joke.)

I think for now I’m going to sit with not knowing and do my best to be okay with it. I’m going to let this amazing string of bike trips (seriously, I’ve been going pretty non-stop since March 1) sink in a little bit and allow the experiences to settle.

And then when I get bored in three weeks, I’ll start pestering Scott about buying a Sprinter van for next summer. Anyone selling one?


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CDT Day 108 – Still not superhuman…d’oh!

It was a good plan, it really was. It just need a lot of things to go right in order to be pulled off. I think Scott and I have an amazing amount of faith in each other to be able to pull off stupid stuff…almost to a fault. But today, things didn’t really go our way. But luckily, we’re adaptable, so when 2 hours into the pedaling portion of the day we realized that we weren’t going to make the border before it closed for the night, we decided that we were going to savor the day in Glacier instead and deal with the weather when it showed up.

The plan was simple. Pick up passports at the Whitefish postoffice at 8:30, haul ass across the park for 100 miles, make the border crossing by 6pm, and then pedal the last 30-ish miles to Waterton. We even had a motel reservation there we were so certain of success.

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After breakfast, we headed over to the post office at 8:15 and pushed the little side service window bell, hoping they’d get our packages for us (our bounce box was there and needed some items removed and some items added before getting sent home) early so that we could be the first to mail our box back out and be on the road by 8:35. They opened up the window and agreed to get our stuff. They guy came back with our bounce box, but no envelope of passports. “Don’t have them,” he said.

I called my parents. “Do you have the tracking number for the passports?” I’d left them with them figuring that a passport was just one more thing to lose while touring and we could pick them up last minute if we needed them.

“Your brother sent them out,” they said. “Registered mail.”

“Registered mail?” the postman asked, “I have somewhere else to look.” He came back empty handed.

I called my brother. No answer. “Wake up!” I told my phone and dialed the number again. He answered this time and read me the 15+ tracking number. We plugged it into the online tracking, No Match Found. I called my brother back and recited the tracking number, we had it right. By this time, the post office was open, so I stood in line to talk to the same guy.

He plugged the tracking number into his system, “We have no record of this package. Was it sent from a post office?”

“No. One of those pack-and-ship places. I guess I’ll call them.” I checked the hours, not open until 9.

By this time, Dave Chenault had found us at the post office, so we talked bikes and trails for a bit before my phone started ringing. My brother, “I gave you the wrong number, an 8 rubbed off to a 3. But you have an issue, it says Undeliverable and In Transit, I think it’s coming back to Boulder.”

I went back in, just to see where they were. Passports aren’t exactly something you want floating around in USPS land. I gave the same guy the new tracking number and told him that all I wanted to know was where the package was. He disappeared into the back again, and a few minutes later, emerged with my envelope.

“He sent it Priority Express,” he explained.

“I don’t care, as long as it’s here.” But…you have to wonder how many different places they can put general delivery packages. By this time it was past 9 and we scrambled to rearrange our bounce box, stood in line for the 3rd time, and finally got it sent. Whew. Time to boogie!

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We rolled the 10 miles back to Columbia Falls and started north towards the park. “What are we averaging?” I asked a couple hours in.

“12.3.”

“We’re not going to make the border, are we?” We checked some milages.

“We could put our heads down and hammer and maybe make it,” Scott assessed.

“I vote we tourist it, and we’ll deal with the weather tomorrow.”

“Deal.”

The pace slackened. We talked of all sorts of things. The day was beautiful.

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We paid our park entrance fee, the discovered that there’s a bike path that comes in from West Glacier (is there a free way to ride in? Anyone?) and toodled along McDonald Lake. Traffic was minimal.

We stopped for a snack at the lodge and watched tourists getting off a scenic boat ride. I wanted to go on a boat ride…but instead, we pedaled on with Logan Pass in our sights, a mere 3,400 climb.

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But first, upon a recommendation, we went for a practice 15 minute hike up Avalanche Creek. Totally worth it with cool, swirling pools of water, water falls, and the characteristic super clear and blue water of Montana. What’s the hurry, we have all day to get over the pass.

We’d heard it was a super exposed road with no rail guards. I imagined Million Dollar highway style, but it was way wider and had guard rails the whole way. Traffic was courteous and really, for a National Park, pretty low.

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One of those Uh-oh moments…

We climbed, and climbed, and climbed, looking at the cloud pouring over the pass in front of us. Surely we’ll be able to descent out of that…we climbed in to cloud. The temperatures dropped. The wind picked up. We hightailed it to the visitors center, which we knew was closed, and hid in the family bathroom eating a snack and putting on all of our layers. We had 2,000 feet to go down.

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It was…cold. After 1,000 feet we had to stop for a Hands-in-the-Pants break to get feeling back. Near the bottom when we got stopped for construction, we had another Hands-in-the-Pants break. Toes were freezing. From the top of the pass, it was 12 miles to a lodge. We pedaled hard to get there. While they had no rooms, they let us use their phone to reserve a cabin in St Mary, 6 miles down the road. We warmed up over a bit of dinner.

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Hearing that the general store had wool gloves, we made a quick run over to buy some. We also needed food after we discovered that the cabin we reserved was actually 2.5 miles north of St Mary, so there’d be no place to get more dinner or breakfast. Joy.

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The pedaling out of the park wasn’t actually that bad. Windy, spitting snow, but the gloves were doing their job and our cores were toasty. We turned north out of St Mary’s and pedaled the lonely highway for over three miles before the lights of the Glacier Trailhead Cabins appeared. A warm shower hasn’t felt this good the whole trip.

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First Montana Yogi!

Tomorrow, we’ll pedal up to Babb five miles up the road and assess the weather and either sit tight for two days and let the storm pass, or if it’s still just spitting snow, pedal the 35 miles to Waterton.

Something’s going to happen…


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CDT Day 107 – Houston, we have a problem

“Ummm…Scott, I think we have a problem.”

We were sitting at the Swan Lake Trading Post drinking the last of our coffee and letting our egg sandwiches digest.

“We do?”

“The high in East Glacier on Tuesday is forecasted to be 37 with snow.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

Our plan was to take an easy day, possibly even a nero and stay in Swan Lake for the afternoon, then ride the 50 miles to Whitefish on Monday, pick up our passports at the post office, get a late start from town, ride halfway across Glacier, and then ride over to the east side of Glacier and up into Canada on Tuesday, and then do the hike to the border on Wednesday.

“Looks terrible through Thursday,” I added.

Middle of the trip, we would have just stayed put, but we’re so close to the end…

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“Let’s go to Whitefish today, be the first in line at the post office, roll out of town as soon as we have passports, and then haul ass across Glacier,” I proposed. “It’s only 124 miles from Whitefish to Waterton.”

“With a 3,000 foot climb,” Scott pointed out.

“We can do it.”

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That’s the beauty of both of us having done dumb stuff in the past – I know I can ride 2,700+ miles in 19 days across the GDMBR, Scott knows that he can ride the first 300 miles of the Arizona Trail in 50 hours without sleep, heck, we went and did a 90 mile day ride in the Big Hole Valley together just a few weeks ago that included 30 miles of CDT. Tomorrow is all paved! No problem!

We’d woken up fairly cold from our campsite. I think we’re both pretty over cold camp sleep. Our motivation for living wasn’t even strong enough to make breakfast. Instead, we dined on Almond Joys, crackers, and cheese sticks.

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Luckily, the Trading Post was two miles earlier than we thought, a huge bonus as both of us were cold riding with all of our clothes. 40 degrees is cold when there’s no uphill to be found anywhere. They made egg sandwiches for breakfast, and BIG NEWS: Scott paid for his first coffee. He’s claimed he’s not a coffee drinker as long as he only steals mine and gets it at continental breakfasts. Corruption complete.

After eating and making our plan, we pointed northwards on the highway to rejoin the GDMBR in Ferndale. Pleasant cruising.

We ran into one cyclotourist who’s better half had a conference in Yellowstone in two weeks, so he was going down to meet her.

We met another group of four who’d started at Prudhoe and were headed south through the Americas. A pair of Belgians and a pair of Brits (?). They didn’t seem to be too fussed by the impending weather. “My sleeping bag is bigger than all of your gear put together!”

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We found two more BOB trailer tourists in Columbia Falls after a few hours of paved pedaling. I’d love to see how many people are on the route during peak season!

We dined at a Mexican restaurant that had massive portions. Lunch and dinner! We made reservations in Whitefish for the night. We made reservations in Waterton for tomorrow night. With the plan in place, I felt like I had to get my feet up, hydrate, and log some horizontal time. Which is funny because I doubt (hope) that tomorrow isn’t going to be any more or less difficult than any other day out here.

It’s only one 3,000 foot climb…

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We pedaled the 10 miles out of the way to Whitefish (should have had the passports sent to Columbia Falls, but who knew we’d be racing weather), bought our stash of calories for tomorrow, and settled into our hotel room. We have a bag of stuff we’re sending home in the morning, going barebones (+ camping gear in case things don’t go as planned), going fast.

Time to put the race face on. Yeah right.

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