Zen On Dirt


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CDT Day 67 – Rain, rain, stay away. Racing into Pinedale.

“We should go and take advantage of it not raining.”

“Hrrmph.” I rolled over in my sleeping bag.

“We can sleep when we get to Pinedale,” Scott insisted, getting up.

“Can we eat breakfast under the tarp?” I really didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. Or move for that matter.

“It’ll be easier to cook out here.” Scott got up, readying the stove for oats.

Drip. Drip. Drop.

“Ok. It’s raining. We can eat under the tarp.”

We ate our oats listening to the soft pitter-patter of rain drops. It was going to be a long 60+ miles to Pinedale.

As it was time to take the tarp down, it stopped. Time to go!

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The day was gray. Overcast. Threatening. I braced myself for rain as we rolled down the primitive dirt road that eventually turned wider as we descended. We filled up at the Sweetwater River again and climbed and descended a series of rollers as we made our way back towards the GDMBR via a small two-track road that wound through beautiful piles of granite.

I fell in love with the White Acorn Ranch and all of its beautiful horses. If I owned a ranch, I’d own one here.

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Then it was back on the GDMBR. Scott commented on how knowing a route takes so much of the stress out of it. While we still had 50+ miles to go to Pinedale, we knew the roads. We knew that there wouldn’t be a million down trees. We knew we wouldn’t run into private property. Barring mechanical issues or massive winds, we’d be in Pinedale mid-afternoon.

“You can eat whatever you want because all you have to do is pedal.” Finally, we were arriving to town not terribly light on food. Not bad for a three day stretch, though the ice cream sandwiches and double rootbeers in South Pass City definitely helped the calorie count. As did pretty much forgetting to eat during the first day when we didn’t want to stop because we’d get baked by the sun with no wind.

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These miles on the dirt rollers were my favorite when I raced the Tour Divide. Going backwards, they were equally as spectacular. Wide open range lands. Ranches. Few cars. Fast roads. The rain had made for a fast rolling surface and our moving speed increased rapidly.

Rain came down, but never hard enough to warrant jackets. Our speed would dry us out during brief breaks in the precipitation. It was glorious and fast road riding and we had a rolling dance party as the miles passed. We hit pavement without mud. 19 miles to Boulder. 31 miles to Pinedale. We were golden.

We rolled into the gas station in Boulder for a drink. Looking at the clock, I asked Scott, “What time is it? It’s can’t only be 11:30.”

It was. We’d flown. Moving average was 11.4 mph, which on tour with big and still relatively new tires, is pretty impressive. We drank a hot chocolate and started in on the final 12 highway miles to Pinedale.

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We took at look at Ricky’s (the GDMBR fat biker we’d leapfrogged with in NM) blog to see where he stayed. We seemed to have similar tastes in lodging. Good Wi-Fi, decent, but not too expensive.

We found the Rivera Bed and Breakfast. While the price was higher than we were used to, it has a home cooked breakfast that Ricky had vouched for. We called around and found nothing significantly lower, so we got the last cabin and settled in.

Cranking the heat to warm it up, we headed to the Wind River Brewery for lunch. The oatmeal stout was one of the best I’ve tasted, though on an empty stomach, incapacitated me for a while afterwards. Totally worth it.

The plan is a zero day as we have our computers and the forecast is for rain all day, then on into the unknown.

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CDT Day 66 – Chasing Sunsets, ice cream and root beer in South Pass City, and primo trail

The big news of the day: We caught Sunset.

Finally.

And we got root beer and ice cream in South Pass City.

And we rode some amazing trail.

Camped high on a mesa, we were up before the sun peaked over the horizon, moving just a few minutes after it made its full brilliance seen. Let’s go get Sunset! The day started with a frolicking descent through beautiful, grassy fields lit up by golden light. Yeah! This is the way to travel!

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We kept waiting for the 2-track to drop off the mesa but it kept finding more ridges to follow. It felt like high alpine riding, tundra, but we were deep in the desert. The Great Basin where water doesn’t flow to the Atlantic or the Pacific.

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We saw antelope, more wild horses, lizards, and cows. Lots of cows. We got to Weasel Springs to fill up on water. Surely, Sunset wouldn’t have made it past here last night, we’ll get him in the next 10 miles. We climbed, we descended, we oohed and ahhed our surroundings, but one thing we didn’t see was Sunset, only his footprints.

We T’ed into the Tour Divide route just a few miles shy of the Sweetwater River, following it north, amazed at how big the road felt after our previous 90 miles on 2-tracks.

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We crossed the river and the CDT split off. We took it, knowing that it would turn into cross country eventually and we’d be back on the road. Until it turned into the sage, it was more lovely 2-track. Then back to the road. Based on the fact that we’d seen no footprints on our side excursion, we deduced that all the hikers were just putting their heads down and getting out of the Basin on the road.

We gave up on catching Sunset.

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We opted to roll into Atlantic City even though we knew that everything was closed. Maybe, just maybe, Sunset would be there and he’d talk them into opening for us. If anyone could do it, it was Sunset.

Lo and behold, there on the porch of the Merc sat our ghost.

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“‘Bout time you guys got here!” he said.

Good to see you too, Sunset. It’d been a while since Pie Town. As it turned out, he had left Rawlins Wednesday evening, not Friday evening as Chimp had led us to believe. We felt a little better about taking so long to catch him.

While he hadn’t managed to get the Merc to open up, somehow he had a small bowl of strawberries in front of him. Something tells me he didn’t haul them across the Basin, but he wasn’t talking.

He did tell us that they sold ice cream in the gift shop in South Pass City, just four miles down the road.

“We’ll see you there!”

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Sure enough, the little gift shop hooked us up with two root beers a piece and a Klondike ice cream bar. We ran into two GDMBR tourers headed south. They each ate an ice cream and shared a single root beer. We didn’t understand…but I guess they weren’t coming from getting cooked in the Basin.

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They’d quit their jobs in Vancouver in exchange for traveling. With no set timeline, they were taking their time, taking alternates, and finding all sorts of cool stuff along the GDMBR.

We filled up on water, dropped some lube into my front derailleur cable housing (It’d stopped shifting completely earlier in the morning, which was pretty awesome), chatted with the other bike tourists some more, and eventually bade farewell to Sunset and headed up the trail.

We climbed on a road for a while that turned progressively rougher and rougher and then turned into single track. That continued to climb fairly nicely and then it was time to go down.

I’ve learned to temper my expectations for CDT singletrack. This stretch blew all expectations out of the water. Beautifully built, flowing trail that went on for miles and miles and miles and miles. And then some more. The ups were ridable, the downhills ripped. We felt very, very, very lucky.

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It started getting late as we pressed on, the goal being the road that would take us back to the GDMBR and then into Pinedale. The weather looks crap starting tomorrow afternoon, so the closer we could get, the better.

We called it quits as soon as we hit the road, just shy of 8pm. We’re camped in a lovely little grove of aspens, the tarp is set up so that it won’t rain, and we’re about 60 miles out from Pinedale. Here’s to hoping the storm takes its time getting here tomorrow. I don’t do rain. Or at least, I don’t do it gracefully.


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CDT Day 65 – The Great Basin = Fantasy Island

Riding the Great Basin. It’s like Fantasy Island in Tucson. No, wait, hear me out. Fantasy Island is a 2×1 mile, pan-flat tract of land with a million little single track loops built on it. The riding is fairly sub-par, but there are surprises around every corner in the form of trail art or random things to look at.

The Great Basin, so far, has been similar. Nothing super exciting about the riding, but surprises around every corner. Given that there aren’t many corners, surprises don’t come often, but when they do, they’re good.

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We rolled out at a semi-civilized hour, dropping our bounce box off with the front desk of the hotel to mail on Monday, picked up another dinner and a few donuts since we discovered that nothing is going to be open for us in Atlantic City on Monday, and went to Penny’s for breakfast. I love me a good greasy spoon diner.

From there, 15 miles of easy, paved, highway riding north. We opted to skip the fiddle-farting dirt road and cross country sections that the CDT did, paralleling the highway. The wind stayed calm and we made it to Mineral X road in no time.

It was time to go hunt down some hikers. We knew we had at least 8 of them in our sights for the Basin crossing.

A gentle east wind swept us along, and we eventually turned onto the two-track that would be the norm for the day.

We saw a dead cow who’s innards were completely licked clean but most of the skin was intact. Totally gross, but fascinating.

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It wasn’t long before we saw the Fellowship trio in front of us.

“When did you leave Rawlins?” they asked.

“You don’t want to know.”

“We do.”

“8:30.”

“Wow. We hiked forever last night (we’d bade them farewell around 2 pm at Penny’s the day before), but we had a rave party along the highway with glow sticks and everything. It was awesome!”

Then we pulled out our trail magic.

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“You guys want some watermelon?”

Eyes got big.

Undoing my seatbag, I pulled out my sleeping bag and then a personal sized watermelon that I’d been hauling. We’d decided to share it with the first thru-hikers we saw.

Stoked. I think they were stoked. We cut it in half and enjoyed the juicy sweetness in the warming desert sun.

We bade them farewell. We had more hikers to catch. We ran into Analog, Mellow Yellow, and Want Some at a water source, our first meeting with them. They told us that the Chimp crew was just a few miles down the road.

We ran into Chimp and Kipper first. We hadn’t seen them since Pie Town.

“Look at all these petrified rocks we’ve found!” They showed us their two handfuls of beautiful rocks. “This one has a fossil in it! Look!”

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We chatted for a bit about the past 1,000+ miles since our last meeting. “Are Tootsie and Spork up there?”

“Yeah. They weren’t as enthused about findings rocks as we were.”

We laughed and pedaled on to find the next two sitting next to the road, waiting for the rock hounds. “How many rocks do they have by now?” they asked.

“You don’t want to know.”

They caught up eventually and showed their hiking partners their finds. It was one of the cutest things I’ve seen.

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Chimp – “Have you seen this one?”

Tootsie – “Yes.”

Chimp – “How about this one?”

Tootsie – “Yep.”

We left them soon after with our eyes on catching Sunset who they said was about a day ahead of them.

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We rolled on beautiful double track. Wild horses stampeded in the distance. Pronghorn antelope ran with us, babies in tow. More wild horses. More antelope.

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We found a spring with a sign in book and a bocce ball set. Bocce in the basin! Too bad neither of us knew the rules and the flies were horrendous. All you can drink cold water!!

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The trail went from hardpacked to sandy to rocky to sandy to hardpacked. It climbed, it meandered, it ran along ridges. It was absolutely the most gorgeous riding we’ve done since…well, the ride into Rawlins. Every day is the prettiest day ever.

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As the sun started to set, the repeated question was “Where the heck is Sunset?” One could surmise that he’s up to 90 miles into the Basin and we called it quits at 75. We’re perched high on a ridge looking back along the ridges that we just ran with the sun setting behind the Wind Rivers and putting on an amazing light show. I love these wide open spaces with 360 degree views.

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And we’ll get Sunset tomorrow. And maybe Jefe and Bad Seed if we’re lucky.

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CDT Day 63 – Winning the tailwind lottery into Rawlins

The hikers have a saying: The trail will provide.

Today, the trail provided. 10-fold.

When we counted up the mileage to Rawlins, we came up with 45. Sure, it was mostly road miles, but if we had another windy day like we did yesterday, it could have proven to be a post-dark arrival. This would have all been okay if we were flush with food, which we weren’t.

Food is funny. You feel like you have way too much, until you realize you don’t have enough. There’s no middle ground of “I have just the right amount of food to have enough in case of a wind/weather/trail delay, but I’m not carrying a ridiculously large amount.

You always have plenty, until you don’t have enough.

Waking up, we had: 5 packets of oatmeal for breakfast, a handful of granola, a small wedge of cheese, 1/4 bag of fritos, 1/4 bag of Boulder chips, a pack of Skittles, some Happy Colas, and about 8 oz of trailmix. 45 miles…oi vei.

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We were rolling by 6:30, hoping to beat the wind during our westward trek. The CDT heads west for several miles from the GDMBR before curving north, and then eventually trending back north east to rejoin the route right at the outskirts of Rawlins.

We started on faint and sandy two tracks, navigating by phone and doing a happy dance every time we saw a CDT marker, indicating we were on the right track. Winds stayed calm. We were averaging just under 7 mph. At this rate, we’d be in under 8 hours, in time to make it to the post office.

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Two tracks turned into wider dirt roads and the wind started to gain force. We started heading north, the wind at our backs, carrying us along the aptly named Muddy Creek at warp speed.

Ding ding ding. You’ve hit the tailwind jackpot. Please enjoy the ride.

Pedaling was purely optional as the landscape wizzed by. We turned up the valley, heading north east. The wind howled. We barely pedaled up hills. Up and down and up, through the Bridger Pass area. 25 miles in, we stopped for a snack.

Scott pulled out the remains of a peanut butter bar that we’d eaten for lunch dessert our first day out. It was the best surprise ever. We finished off our cheese and chips and some of our trailmix. At this rate, we’d be in Rawlins for lunch!

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We flew until the CDT turned off for a cross country section. Not liking the look of it, we continued to the GDMBR, 100 yards down the road. The two would parallel each other and we could hop on after the XC.

We saw Gar soon after getting on the GDMBR. He and his buddies, The Fellowship, had opted to stay on the GDMBR into Rawlins, saving them 15 miles of walking. I don’t blame them, one dirt road really is as good at the next, and when walking, shorter tends to be better. The road miles were killing them.

They were hurrying to get into Rawlins before 3 for an All-you-can-eat Thai buffet. Sounded perfect to us! It was 11:30, and with only 12 miles of road or trail to go, we liked our odds. The Fellowship…they’d be pushing it.

We got to our road to rejoin the CDT.

“Such a lovely paved road we’re on,” I said approaching it, “Such a nice tailwind to push us along. What boneheads we’re being for turning onto a dirt road that climbs to the top of a mesa only to come back down.”

“No trespassing! There’s a No Trespassing sign!” I said with delight halfway through the turn. Our cut over road passed by a drilling operation. I wasn’t particularly disappointed.

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We continued on. 8 miles out, we found another road that would have taken us over to the official route. I felt guilty about skipping it for about 1/2 mile and then went back to enjoying our double digit speeds and easy cruising.

We made it to Rawlins in no time, secured a motel room, and made our way downtown to the Thai place. Sure enough, an amazing buffet. We ate until we couldn’t eat any more, then sat and digested, and ate another half a plate, just because we could.

It could have turned into a death march into town, instead, it was as close to a 45 mile nero day as possible.

We’re taking a zero day in Rawlins with a weather forecast calling for a shift in the winds. Maybe we’ll get blown across the Great Basin afterall!


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CDT Day 62 – When things go wrong…

Today didn’t go exactly as planned. It’s not that it was a bad day of touring on the CDT, it’s just, it wasn’t how one would imagine an ideal day.

It started around midnight.

“Scott, wake up. We’ve got to put the tarp up.”

“Why?”

“It’s starting to rain.”

Sure enough, a midnight storm had moved it and we raced, in our half asleep states, to get the tarp tied up, after we’d decided, while sitting with plenty of daylight at camp, that it wasn’t going to rain and that we wouldn’t have to put it up.

We listened to a brief downpour as lighting lit up our tarp and cracks of thunder moved across the sky. When the fireworks died down, we drifted off to sleep on our very not flat campsite.

Breakfast. Rolling.

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“My GPS isn’t turning on,” said the GPS Master.

“I’ll turn mine on so at least we have a track to follow,” I said. “That’s funny, it’s turning on but the map screen is black.”

“Weird. Let me turn it off and on again.” Scott looked puzzled. “Now the screen is green.”

He did it again, red screen. And again, blue screen. No maps. No tracks. Fudge.

“I’ll figure out how to do a hard reset at the top of the pass,” Scott decided. “We’ll use the phone for now.”

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Both of our legs lacked spunk. We independently spent the first 10 miles of the day thinking about going right on the highway and coasting into Encampment for breakfast rather than going left and climbing to Battle Pass and rejoining the trail.

But we turned left. And into the wind. Heinous wind, straight in our faces. We had seven miles to climb. I’d love to say I handled it with grace…but that would be a lie. I tried to make peace with it, we were in Wyoming after all, but it slowed our progress to nearly a standstill. Pavement. 2 mph.

We eventually reached the top and took shelter behind the outhouse. Scott interneted to figure out hard resets for the GPSs and tried mine first. Red screen. He moved on to his. Now it booted up…but to a blue map screen. Double fudge. He traced the problem down to a corrupt track that we were now close enough to that the GPS saw it…and crashed. We couldn’t delete them, we couldn’t turn them off.

It was to be a navigation by phone type of day.

Luckily, the trail was super well marked. Once we found it.

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Ghetto sign

For good measure, it started with a hike-a-bike. What would a day be without some hike-a-bike. We gained the divide and the trail turned into a lovely little ATV track. Ups and downs, standard divide procedure, but nothing too bad. Well, if we’d had legs, it wouldn’t have been too bad.

After some time, we dove off onto actual 1-track. Quite possibly one of the best kept WY single track secrets. Zoom diggity down we went through the woods, stopping only occasionally to get over a downed tree. We both knew it couldn’t last, but we enjoyed it while we could.

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After exiting Deep Jack Creek trail, things took a turn for the worse. When in the trees, the trail was full of trees. When out in meadows, there was no trail. We spent the next couple of hours climbing through meadows to a highpoint and then dropping down into some trees.

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This went on until Divide Peak where the trail mercifully spit us out on a road. New trail had been built as a continuation of the ridge running, but we were more than happy to take the “old” CDT route and coast and pedal freely for the first time all afternoon.

Whooped, we knew we had to make it to water before calling it a day, so we continued onto the GDMBR and turned north.

“I think we’ve gone too far,” Scott said after a while. He pulled out his phone. “Yep. We overshot it, by almost a mile. I didn’t see a 2-track going off to the left, did you?”

“Nope.”

We turned back, descending the mile that we’d just climbed, wondering how we’d missed the trail. Then we saw the marker. Behind a giant pile of construction dirt, like a 30 foot tall, 50 foot wide pile of dirt. Right. In. Front. of. the. sign.

Scott had some select names for the construction crew.

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We followed our newly found 2-track down to the river where we set up for dinner in lush grass while watching sparrows play. While we wanted to camp there, river valley camping is never warm.

We unwrapped dinner #1, a burrito from Steamboat. Mold on the tortilla. Bugger. Two days was asking a lot of it…but it was supposed to be half of our dinner, and we were lowish on calories, so we unwrapped it and ate the innards anyway. We made the rest of our mac and cheese and pretended that we weren’t still hungry before pedaling our bikes to near the top of the mesa to set up camp.

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We can see miles in all directions. There’s a good storm, complete with lighting far to the south. I guess all we can do is hope that it stays south as there’s nothing here but sage brush, so the best we could do in the rain is get in our bivies and burrito ourselves in the tarp. Here’s to hoping for a dry night!


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CDT Day 61 – Clark and into Wyoming!

Day 61

The big accomplishment for today: We made it to Wyoming. And a little beyond. And really, barely beyond, because once we hit the border, my legs decided that they wanted to be done for the day. After a 10 minute siesta on the side of the road, I coaxed another hour of riding out of them, which is good because we found camping water and a nice little campsite among living trees.

I can’t wait to get out of beetle kill territory.

And mosquito territory. If I had a nickel for every mosquito I’ve killed, I’d never have to work again.

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We left our nice little campsite early enough to still be riding in jackets. The trail continued to be a beautiful little river trail, trending gently downwards through high vegetation. With trail like that, we could cover endless miles. We’d also be bored silly after about an hour.

We rejoined the GDMBR 11 miles shy of the Clark Store. The Clark Store is like a Bode’s, has everything, food is great, and you never want to leave. Unfortunately, when racing SoBo on the GDMBR, Steamboat is a mere 20 some odd miles away, so there’s really no reason to indulge in all that Clark has to offer. Plus, chances are, you’ve just come off a massive feeding at Brush Mountain Lodge.

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Today, we did. Huevos rancheros for breakfast, some interneting time, the weekly call to my parents (my mom is on a mission to fatten Miss Maia up and has been treating her like the princess that she is, feeding her sausages and adding bacon fat or olive oil to her dog food. Old souls need to be treated with care, we decided.)

Then we walked out with $98 worth of groceries. Three days, two nights. I was a little skeptical that we’d have enough to get to Rawlins, but the hand cart was getting heavy!

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When everything had found a home on our bikes or our bags, we headed up the road, now off the GDMBR. Aided by a tailwind, we made short work of the 9 miles up to the trailhead where we’d rejoin the CDT after detouring around the Zirkle Wilderness.

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We’d been warned that the trail was open to motos and an overall moto’d out mess. I think our standards are getting lower because we thought it was fine. There were definitely some rubbled, steep climbs and descents, but for the most part, it was a lovely little trail. 1-track eventually turned to 2-track as it opened to ATV’s, and we spent the rest of the afternoon on the divide, climbing to every little high point available. Scott called them PUDs. Pointless up and downs. I called the small ones upsy daisies, the medium ones upsy doozies, and the hike-a-bike ones oofsy-doozies. There were a lot of each category, and while we were making decent time, we were both ready to be off the ATV road and onto an actual road. 20 miles of trail was just about perfect.

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We descended down to the Wyoming state line, detouring around another Wilderness area, and since there wasn’t a sign signifying the change of state, we did a little happy dance to signify it instead.

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We rolled along for a while, took a break to let me regroup, and then continued on until we found camp. The fire’s going. Mosquitos are getting killed. Dinner is eaten. Tomorrow, further into the unknown.


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CDT Day 60 – Steamboat town chores and Strawberry Hot Springs

I had a roommate back in college who was, well, let’s call her a hippy of sorts. She was into fire dancing, drum circles, and the clothing-optional hotsprings north of Steamboat, Strawberry hot springs. I’d been there during the daylight where clothing is required, and definitely wanted to go back.

Luckily, our route went right through it. Not just to it, but in one end, and out the trail on the other. There was no way we weren’t going to stop and soak.

But, we were also tired and Steamboat is definitely not a place to hurry out of.

We started our day at CreekSide for breakfast. Becky and Dan understand bike touring. Then know that towns are for eating, sleeping, and recovering, so they sent us to the cafe with the biggest portions in town. We almost made it in time to get the local’s special, but we couldn’t quite get out of bed in time.

Next stop was Orange Peel bikes. We arrived at the same time as a tandem touring the GDMBR, and a father and two sons from Ireland who were touring from Steamboat to Santa Fe via the GDMBR to Abiquiu and then over. We watched them unpack a huge box of brand new Revelate Gear. Seatbags, handlebar rolls, frame bags, the works. I’d be curious to hear how their trip went, they weren’t lacking in enthusiasm.

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To keep a running tally of things we’re replacing (Scott thinks I should keep a photo gallery of equipment that I wear out):

I got new gloves, new grips, a new camelback nozzle, a new pair of socks (apparently when you hike a lot, the heels get worn out quick), and a new rear derailleur cable, as mine had frayed, again.

Scott got new grips, and had me sew a new hole in his gloves.

Back at the house, we installed all of our new goodies and then proceeded to hang out with Becky and Dan for the rest of the afternoon, through lunch and dinner, waiting for the temperature to drop (it was roasting out).

It finally cooled off enough to pedal and we pointed our bikes towards the hot springs. 10 miles later and a boat load of climbing, we found ourselves at the entrance. We’d been riding in the dark for the last half hour. Timing was…a bit off, but we weren’t fussed. Really, how scary could a clothing optional hot springs be?

The soaking was divine. Hot pools, cold pools, a million and a half stars in the sky. Not a light to be seen anywhere. I’m pretty sure we were one of the last ones out, drying off quickly, filling up on water, and continuing on our trip, out the back entrance of the springs.

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Becky had told me that the trail started in a narrow valley but that things eventually opened up. Two miles of fairly blissful, smooth, slightly downhill trail later, we finally found a flat spot big enough for two bodies. We were sold.

Camp went up quick and we were out within minutes. Still warm from the hot springs, we slept quickly and deeply.