Friday, October 16, 2015

2015 Tour Divide: Part 2 of 3 Idaho to Colorado


This post is part 2 of 3 covering my adventures during the 2015 Tour Divide Race. Part 2 covers the days between Idaho and Colorado. If you missed the first part of the story, be sure to check out Tour Divide 2015: Part 1 of 3 Canada to Idaho.
Everyone says your odds of finishing go way up if you can make it out of Montana and I believe it. There are a lot of hard miles in Montana and there are no shortages of reasons to quit. Add in the abundance of small towns with reasonable options to get and you get a high attrition rate.

I had a mini celebration as I crossed the border into Idaho, but knew there was still a long ways to go.

Day 11: Island Park, ID to Togwotee Mountain Lodge, WY  
131 miles – 6,153 feet of climbing - Strava

The next day I woke up early in my Island Park motel room and scarfed down a deluxe gas station breakfast before anything else was open. This day would have been brutal with good knees. It was time for the dreaded rail trail. I had heard tale of the rail trail being unridable. How bad could it be? It’s a rail trail.
When I first hit the rail trail I didn’t think it was that bad. It was a little loose but not bad at all. I rode for a few miles thinking how everyone was complaining for no reason. Sure it was harder than much of the route thus far, but it wasn’t that bad.
I spoke too soon. Apparently that was just the primer. The trail went from loose but manageable to hub-deep gravel and sand. I was suddenly having flashbacks to the Stagecoach 400, the only other place I’ve ridden miles of frustrating sand.
It took a lot of effort to keep the bike upright and pointed in the right direction. Who thought this was an acceptable trail surface? Ugh.
Fortunately, it was fairly short and it wasn’t long before I was out on a paved road.
I stopped in at the Squirrel Creek Ranch for lunch.
Soon after Squirrel Creek I crossed another border and entered into Wyoming.
Realizing that babying my knee every night was the only way I’d make it through the race I set my sights on reaching a Lodge just past Grand Tetons National Park. However, when I arrived they were closed for a private event. No rooms. No food. No luck.
There was another lodge another 20 miles up the road so I decided to push on. I arrived at Togwotee Mountain Lodge not too long after dark. It was already getting quite cold. Unfortunately there was no room at the inn and no amount of begging was going to help.
I ate dinner then the hotel manager pointed me to a camp ground down the road. I didn’t find the camp ground so I went back to the lodge and set up my tent in the parking lot amongst their fleet of snow mobiles without icing my knee.

Day 12: Togwotee Lodge, WY to Pinedale, WY  
107 miles – 5,653 feet of climbing - Strava

The next morning I scouted out Pinedale which was the next town with a hotel. Plus I was running dangerously low on Vitamin A (Alieve), which was the only thing keeping me in this race.
The climbing was minimal but the route made up for the lack of elevation change with steep and rugged hike-a-bike sections.
The worst part of the day was the descent. What looked to be a long and fun romp turned out to be some of the chunkiest roads on the entire route. I couldn’t wait for the downhill to end.
The teeth rattling road eventually became pavement just as I caught up with another rider. We both then proceeded to race the remaining 20 miles or so to Pinedale as if it was the finish line.
It was a very hot day. I found myself low on water early and spent much of the ride conserving precious water. As civilization approached, I tried getting water from a fire station with no luck. I pedaled on.
A few miles later, a couple pulled up in their car next to me and asked how I was doing on water. They proceeded to tell me how they left a hose out in front of their house for racers. Just look for the white sign on the left.
I eventually spotted the world’s least conspicuous sign and turned off to load my water and cool down.
By the time I reached Pinedale I was beat. The pace to finish the day was way to fast. I had nothing left. I had hoped to make it another 10 miles to boulder, but my legs wanted nothing to do with it. I pulled into the first hotel and called it a night.

Day 13: Pinedale, WY to The Great Wyoming Basin  
120 miles – 4,631 feet of climbing - Strava



I had heard tales of the Great Wyoming Basin, but didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew is I was heading into it today ready or not.
The ride to Atlantic City went pretty quickly. Though Atlantic City is nowhere near as grandiose or glamourous as its name suggests. There was no hotel and I was actually feeling good so I rode on.
20 miles out of Atlantic City my knee blew up. I couldn’t bend my leg without excruciating pain. There was no way I was going to go any further tonight so I pulled off the trail and set up my tent for the night. 




Day 14: The Great Wyoming basin, WY to The Great Wyoming basin, WY  
102 miles – 2,275 feet of climbing - Strava

As I woke up and first stepped out of my tent, I saw Jon ride by again. This was actually an eerily common occurrence. Why did he always go by when I first stepped out of my tent?
I had been trying to ride alone, but when I caught Jon this day I decided to give in and ride with him for a while. We rode through the heart of the basin together.
The next morning we pushed on to the bucolic town of Wamsutter. When I say bucolic, I am using it in the most sarcastic manner possible. Wamsutter is many things, but bucolic is not one of them.

There was a surprising number of riders at the truck stop in Wamsutter. It felt good to catch them, but with the heat, I was in no hurry to continue on. Both Jon and I spent a few hours in the soothing AC of the Loves Truck stop.
We eventually got up the energy to pedal and pushed on. With a tail wind we made some good time but still found ourselves surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. We ended up camping next to some fracking equipment. The countryside was littered with fracking stations and they provided the only respite from both wind and sun.

Day 15: The Great Wyoming Basin, WY to Steamboat Springs, CO  
97 miles – 6,855 feet of climbing - Strava

The next morning felt good knowing we would be leaving the basin. Though there is a whole lot of nothing until Steamboat Springs.
Shortly after crossing the border into Colorado we made it to Brush Mountain Lodge. I had heard a lot about it, but wasn’t able to determine its exact location online. As a result, the climb up to the lodge felt extra long as we hoped it was around each corner. Eventually we rounded the right corner and saw the lodge.
Kirsten at Brush Mountain is the most amazing person I met on the entire race. And I met some incredible people. Kirsten greats every racer with a hug and does an amazing job of feeding and taking care of each racer. I never wanted to leave. Unfortunately, there was still a race going on and it was much too early to call it a day. So Jon and I reluctantly remounted our steeds and headed off for Steamboat Springs to cheers from Kirsten and others.
The descent into Steamboat is crazy rough. I could have used full suspension for several miles. The dirt road is covered with large rounded rocks making for a very rough ride. I was glad my brakes were fixed in Butte.

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