Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Update #7

Nordegg, Alberta


Actually, scratch that.


Y'all did nothing. In fact, with the exception of the 7 wonderful folks who posted comments to my last blog update (and my dear sister who, bless her soul, tried desperately to post and finally emailed me her top 5 song list a la High Fidelity), you suck. Do you realize that the Canadian version of my blog fetched 287 comments plus an additional 17 video responses to the cemetary jokes and song requests? Bryan Adams himself posted a video (Rush was on tour but their road manager sent regards). Stephen Harper even commented with a cemetary joke. Stephen know who he is, right? Yes?

No! You haven't the foggiest idea who this man is, do you? Hello? Prime Minister of Canada. Big country just a bit North of the home of the brave. Go to Maine, look up and you'll see it. Jesus. I'm pretty sure you don't know who he is because there are only 7 people in the entire U S of A who have ever heard of the guy and five of them are Canadian ex-pats living in Buffalo. The other 2 are Condoleezza Rice and my old friend Larry Finkelhor from Perth Amboy, NJ. Larry knows everything.

Anyway, I'm over it. Also, I'm finally done riding! And the crowd goes wild. First, for all you number-cruncher-data-weirdo-types out there, the stats:

Total Distance: 2934.4 miles
Total Days: 48.5
Avg Distance/Day:60.5 miles
Total Riding Days: 41.5
Avg Distance/Riding Day: 70.7 miles
Longest Distance In One Day: 103.5 miles
Avg. Speed:10.9 miles/hr
Highest Speed: 42 miles/hr
Total Time Spinning: 276.8 hours
Total Elevation Gain: ~200,000 vertical feet
Average Elevation Gain/Riding Day: ~4810 ft

OK, now that that's over with, get ready for some excellent anecdotes filled with hijinx and wacky mayhem. By the way, I've always despised the word anecdote. Sounds too much like antidote or antelope to be taken seriously.

Greetings from Nordegg, Alberta! Now, I know what you're're thinking here's where that little SOB says something like Nordegg: French for "ovaries of the North", or Nordegg: Named for Crispin and Meredith Nordegg, who opened the first dental clinic in what was eventually to become Saskatchewan and The Northwest Territories. But no, some things are too small and precious to be taken advantage of.

Actually, the hell with it. Nordegg, named after Martin Cohen, a Jewish-German industrialist who felt his name was not Canadian enough so changed it to Martin Nordegg before settling in the SW Alberta region in the early 1900's and founding one of the largest coal mines in all of pre-WWII Canada. The comedy of all this is that it's actually true. I couldn't make that up if I tried. Seriously. Look it up.

Let's see....ah yes, my bike ride. Hmmm, rolling North from Lincoln, I devoured the mountains of Montana like a goat on wheels. Not even the mosquitoes could slow me down. Skirting Glacier National Park and the moist mountains to its West, coniferous forests and startled cows blurred past. Speaking of cows, the number of our future hamburgers that inhabit this nations public lands and denude the landscape of anything nutritious within 4 vertical feet of their fat ankles is nothing less than pathetic. In the 40+ days I rode through public lands, there was only 1 that I did not pass herds of cows (my second to last day in the states).

Most herds of cattle in the Rockies are comprised of adult cows and juvenile males and females. This is not necessarily the case in Montana, where often there seems to be one lucky bull amongst the beauties. When passing a herd of cattle on bike, for personal safety it is imperative to identify the bulls and avoid them. Suffice it to say that I now consider myself an expert on bovine anatomy and can spot a bull from a healthy distance. They tend to be large and lumpy and appear slightly brain damaged (it's a guy thing). Their swinging testicles sometimes can be seen from great distance (holy moley!), an obvious identity giveaway. Once in a while though, even when one is watchful, a bull can step out from behind a rock or large shrub and give a cyclist a good scare.

This precise event happened to me on one of my last days in sagebrush country in Montana. I was heading up a steep hill on an open slope when an enormous lummox of a bull stepped out from behind a wooden sign just as I was getting ready to pass. After soiling myself, I rolled backward a few feet to give myself a little escape route downhill. I just stood there facing him from a (hopefully) safe distance while he snorted and scraped his foot a bit (a guy thing again). He must have gotten bored with me after a few minutes because he strolled up to a fine-looking young cow, presumably for some tender moments. Much like my former lovers in Portland, I noticed her rolling her eyes as I took the opportunity to continue on my way. I know how it feels mr. bull.

The entertaining thing about this anecdote (god I hate that word) is that only a few miles up the road, I came upon a cyclist heading the other way on the route. This guy was loaded with overstuffed front and back panniers, a large handle bar bag, and an enormous duffel bag strapped to the top of his rear rack. All in bright red. I swear he looked like a frickin 2 wheeled matador. As he passed, I just kept on thinking "ole', he's a dead man".

Anyway, from cow country I passed into grizzly country in Northwest Montana. I saw no grizzlies, but did see lots of mosquitoes. They must have seen me too, the bastards. Finally, on day 45 of my travels, I rode across the international border and into Beautiful British Columbia.

And then it rained. Just like it does every time I go to Canada. During the 2.5 days I was in BC, it must have rained about 16 cm (we're in Canada now, folks. Think Metric). This included an epic deluge of rain and hail on July 27th that brought down about 5 cm in 20 minutes. Miraculously I was stopped in the town of Sparwood, and took shelter in a grocery store during the onslaught. Local folks wandered to the plate glass windows thinking "that's a whole lotta water, eh?" Indeed it is. And I don't need to remind you that where there is rain, there is mud.

Yes my friends, as a cruel gesture to remind me both of my days of mud-past as well as my inherent weakness, Beautiful British Columbia provide me with a total muck-bath. My awesome stamina and hard-won experience were no match for the dirt road from Dante's Inferno. Eventually I was able to push through it and, after several attempts over numerous hours, clean my bike up enough to where the wheels would turn and the gears shift. Whew.

The next day I rode the final 50 miles, the last 12 down glorious singletrack in Banff National Park, to the town of Banff, which is the official northern terminus of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The trail ends directly across from the Banff Springs Hotel, which may be the single most obnoxious building ever erected, a fine counter point to the rustic environs of my last 2 months.

But wait, there's more. Yes Charles, homey kept riding North. "What? This is madness! Say it isn't so, man!" To be sure, madness indeed. From Banff, I hit pavement and rolled North 58 km to Lake Louise and then another 80 km up the famed Icefields Parkway toward Jasper National Park. Canadian tourist literature claims the Icefields Parkway to be "The most beautiful road in the world". I hate to admit this (and I'm leaving this paragraph off the otherwise fabulous Canadian version of this blog), but I think they've got something there. I'm not a huge fan of pavement, but as far as roads go, it truly is spectacular, particularly by bike. Check out the pic, bro.

Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about.

At the Saskatchewan River Crossing, I picked up a bottle of Wild Turkey, and peddled the final 90 km East to my final destination of the hamlet of Nordegg, where my old hiking buddy Simon lives. As a slap to my ass on my final day, the last 70 km were against a vicious headwind, and naturally it started pouring about 1km from his house. But did I care? Not in the least. Well, maybe a little. The mud was behind me forever and the only things separating me from 2 twelve packs of Labatts were their screw tops.

And while we're on the subject, Canada is a fabulous place. You see, by the end of those twelve packs, when Simon finds me face up in his downstairs bathroom gurgling in my own vomit, he can just pour me into the back seat of his Hyundai and drive me to the local hospital (which happens to be 110 km away, but that's besides the point). They'll pump my stomach and fix me up real good at no cost to me. It's called socialized medicine folks. Duh!

After a 16 hour alcohol-induced rest, I joined Simon on a 3+ day hike through the alpine wild lands of Alberta. What the hell is wrong with me? I ride a goddamn mountain bike 5000 km and celebrate my achievement by walking up and down mountains. Weird.

In Summary, after spending seven weeks pedalling the dirt roads and trails through the states and provinces of the Rocky Mountains, I've decided to take it upon myself to change their state and provincial slogans. The old ones were boring anyway. Here goes:

1) New Mexico: Never rains here in June. Nope
2) Colorado: Gosh, I wish I could be Oregon
3) Wyoming: If the wind doesn't kill you, our culture might
4) Idaho: Obese children on ATVs. Sweet!
5) Montana: It's Mantana!
6) British Columbia: Goddamn rainforest, eh?
7) Alberta: (See Wyoming)

Thanks to everyone for the support and enthusiasm. I couldn't have done it without you. Actually, I did. Whatever. Oh, and one last self-congratulatory-epic-glory-shot:

Peace and love to each of you.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Update #6

Lincoln, MT

This posting is the audience participation part of our program.

The Danny Express is headin' to Canada. And it's moving like one of them new fangled high-speed bullet trains they got in Paris and Tokyo and other cities and stuff.

Beautiful Lincoln, Montana. Famous for being the home of Ted Kaczynski and, well, not much else.

My voyage here from the fine metropolis of Rawlins has been wild (2 snaps and a circle).

Oh where to begin.

Ah, yes. After Macgyvering my lower back together with ibuproferin, short lengths of wire fencing and blue electrical tape, I proceded through the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming. A parched and barren landscape, this desert provided me encounters with roaming wild horses, thousands of antelope, and vast amounts of nothingness. Oh, and 30 mile/hr headwinds. Let me tell you, my back really appreciated it. The second afternoon of this madness, as I was crawling downhill at 7 miles/hr, I finally did what I should have done 4 weeks ago. I cried.

Yes the wind in Wyoming is the stuff of legend. Like in New Mexico it comes blasting out of the West every afternoon like a Greek god on Viagra. Unlike in New Mexico, I was not heading East.


After 2 days of riding through the desert winds, I reached the small town of Boulder, WY. Spread on the open range, a gas station pretty much sums up the place. It was late and I needed a place to camp, and it looked like it might be a tricky affair, as it all seemed like private land with no forests to sneak into. As I come to the edge of town, I spot a sign pointing up a small hill to the town cemetary. Now, regardless of what you may think of cemetaries, they make great places to camp. Flat, quiet, grassy; over the years I have camped in cemetaries more than once. Perfect, I thought. So I roll on up the hill 1/4 mile to the gates of the town folks' final resting place. As I approach, I think....great, this place is classic. Green and shady in an otherwise brown and exposed part of the universe, good camping indeed.
But hmmmmm, something seems familiar. I've been here before, I think to myself. Could it be? Is it possible? Past life? Past death? Gotta know!! So I roll down the hill to the road and continue on to see if other spots come back to me. Well, I don't get another 1/4 mile down the road when, sure as the nose on my face (no comments from anyone), I spot it. The campground.

Eleven years ago, I rode a bike from Oregon to New Jersey. Turns out I passed through this very town and popped into this campground to see about camping for the night. They didn't allow tents (?), so I continued up the road until I saw the cemetary sign....and....well.... you know the rest of the story. So I have not once, but twice, camped in the Boulder, Wyoming cemetary. 1998 and 2009.

Apparently the campground still does not allow tents. Recreational vehicles only. Seriously!? Now allow me to explain something to you. Tooling around the pavement at 60 miles/hr in a wheeled land yacht is driving, not camping. Likewise, pulling one of those traveling, temperature-controlled b&b's into one of these many roadside stables for the night is parking, not camping. To camp, one needs, at most, a tent (and maybe a cemetary). Just wanted to clarify that for everyone.

So here is your 1st oportunity for audience participation. Post a comment with a bad joke about camping in a cemetary. Worst joke wins my bike shorts when I'm finished (ewwwww!). I'll start it off (see comments). C'mon, this is gonna be fun.

So, now that that's over with, I can tell you about Pinedale, Wyoming. Down the road from Boulder and at the foot of Wyoming's incredible Wind River Range, Pinedale is an old western cow-town that is slowly transforming into an eco-tourist destination. Like others along the divide, this town is engaged in an identity crisis with itself, but seems to be searching it's soul and, with lots of therapy, pulling through. After doing my shopping, mailing, emailing, etc, I stumbled into a brewpub (I rest my case!) to get some lunch before riding off that afternoon. A strapping cowboy comes in and sets down next to me at the bar. Turns out he's a horse shoer. That's right folks, he puts shoes on horses for a living. We chatted about shoeing horses, long distance mountain bike touring, cows and know, everything we had in common. As I got up to leave I had this strange feeling I was Jake Gyllenhaal for a moment. hmmmm.

After I composed myself, I peddled 50 miles up into the Wind River Range. Now, I've mentioned that this was a wet year in the Rockies, right? Help me out here, what likes rain? Trees and plants? Yes. Umbrella manufacturers? Yes, yes....good. TV meteorologists? Perhaps. Let's see...what else? Ah, of course......mosquitoes. You see, unfortunately, unlike my ex-lovers in Portland, rain makes mosquitos want to get all romantic with each other. Those tender moments produce vast millions of baby mosquitoes with one mission: to drive Daniel to total and complete insanity.

I had been utterly harrassed by mosquitos every day since northern New Mexico. But let me tell you, nothing prepared me for the onslaught I faced in the Wyoming forests. I have been humbled by the little blood-suckers.

Which brings me to a completely different subject. What does Daniel do while peddling for 12 hours/day to entertain himself (don't get smart). Besides attempting not to get lost, pondering lunch, keeping an eye out for predators and thinking too much about too little, I tend to bide my time with a song or 2 in my head. The voices in my head and I have become fabulous with the three part harmonies. Our favorite tunes you ask? Well, most popular has been "In The Navy" by the Villiage People (exclusively for easy downhills), "Take This Job and Shove It" (ascents), and the theme song from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (for pavement). But, alas, I'm bored.

Here is your 2nd oportunity for audience participation. Think Elton John Concert here, swaying and clapping over your heads. Seriously. I need new ideas for songs to get stuck in my head for days on end. Post a comment with your suggestions. Sound fun? Yeah. OK, some exclusions. Absolutely no Fleetwood Mac. Please no TV theme songs. Nothing French or Slavic. Oh, and no Peter Frampton. Definately no Frampton. God, I hate Frampton. Forget about it.

Alright, I love Frampton. But just post one or 2 and don't tell anyone how I feel. Cool.

From the Winds, I peddled through the cold and wet area of Togwotee in central Wyoming and somehow managed to severely dehydrate myself. How is it that I get through the most arid desert stretches of the entire country and keep myself adequately, if not well hydrated, and totally lose it in the cold/wet area? By the time I got to the Tetons, I was in pretty bad shape. I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say, I'll be drinking lots of agua from here on.

Which brings me to Montana (after a brief ride of mixed enjoyment through Idaho, which involved my 1st, and hopefully last, crash). I camped on the border of Idaho and Montana last Thursday night, and to celebrate my arrival, decided to do a 100 mile day in Montana. So the stats of Friday's ride: distance: 103.3 miles, average speed: 11.3 mph, 2 passes, 65 miles of light headwinds (this is not good, for those confused), 8700 calories eaten (no confusion there). Boom!
A couple days later I came upon a section of the trail known as the hardest of the entire route. It drops (or rises depending on which direction you're headed) straight down (or up) the West ridge of Mt Fleecer in Southern Montana. I was coming from the South, so was expected to ascend this thing.

As I approach, I swing around the forested corner humming "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..." Then I saw the climb on the open slope and started singing "No f-ing way, no f-ing way....". Now I've climbed and decended lots of steep trails in the last month, but this one is totally absurd, and therefore worth special mention. Only the most skilled (and fearless) mountain bikers even try to ride down this slope. Not only have I never heard of a cyclist riding up it, I have not heard of one pushing their bike up without first taking off all their gear, thereby going up twice.

After walking about a third of the way up with the gear on my bike, I realized it's futility and shed my panniers. Two trips and three liters of water later, me, the bike and my gear were finally, if not safely at the top of the 1/2 mile climb.

Now hauling a bicycle up a steep hill is what East-coast Jews call schlepping. Let me tell you a little about schlepping. Jews don't schlep. We hire non-Jews to schlep for us. This is a fact. So somewhere under the earth in Northern New Jersey, my grandparents spent several hours rolling around wondering what the hell I was doing up here. I swear I heard them thinking "...we survived pogrums in Eastern Europe, 2 world wars, the Great Depression, mortgaged the kosher butcher business to send your parents to grad school, and you schlep bicycles up mountains in Montana?" Then they say "oy" and go back to what they were doing.

Sorry Grandma and Grandpa. I love you.

So the good news is that the few hundred miles I've ridden in Montana has featured better trails, more incredible scenery and tons more fun than the 1st 2o00 miles combined. Yes, Montana has been a gem. I cruised through the town of Butte, and yesterday hauled butt (not butte) 80 miles over 4 alpine passes and killer trail into Lincoln. As I approached Lincoln, I was following a super steep and technical trail downhill for a few miles. It featured tons of rocks and roots and creek crossings. And big puddles spanning the width of the trail. I managed to avoid all the puddles (I am paranoid about the mud).

Except the last one. Yes, friends, I decided, to blow right through the middle of the last puddle. Can you see where this one's going yet? It was really big (8ft wide by 15ft long), and would have been tricky to get around. I gathered speed and.....splash.....oh shit. Of all the puddles I could have gone through, I decided to take on Lake Erie. The thing was like a foot deep. With another 6 inches of mud underneath that. My bike made it to exactly the middle, where it completely stopped. It then began to sink. I hop off, sink up to my shins in muck, and wrestle my poor vehicle out of the goo. Like I said, between the water and mud, it must have been 1.5 feet deep. For those of you who haven't seen a bicycle lately, that would make the muck line over my wheel hubs, bottom bracket, brakes, deraileurs, chain and cassette. In other words, I submerged both myself and pretty much every sensitive part of my bike in a muddy broth.

Let me tell you, I looked really good when I walked into the grocery store here in Lincoln 12 miles later. "Hi, my name is Daniel Kaczynski. Do you carry envelopes and zip locks?"

Anyway, Lincoln is also home to my friends Jerry and Jane, who put me up 9 years ago while hiking the Divide Trail. And again, just like old times, I was able to stay at their home. Much better than a cemetary.

And now this little engine is movin' on North.

Oh, and don't call me Danny.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Update #5

Rawlins, WY

This posting is dedicated to Baby Jesus.

Rawlings. Say it with me now. Raw-lins. Heavy on the Raw, less so on the lins. A place where, like their domestic pick-up trucks, the men of this town are large and loud (and a touch rusty). Yes lovely Rawlins, Wyoming. Wyoming. Yep. Uh Huh. Ok, enough.

Like water for chocolate. I always wanted to use that line somewhere, and now seems as appropriate a place as any. Hikers and bikers often need both to survive. Le eau et le chocolate (heh heh heh). I never did see the movie, which I'm guessing is not about hikers and bikers. Ok, really enough.

Since last we touched, so to speak, I have traveled hither and yon (what the *&#^%& is yon?), northbound through the conceited state of Colorado (say it with me now. Caw-leh-raaaaah-do, not Caw-leh-rahhhhhh-do). Like Oregonians, folks from Colorado believe they have died and gone to heaven. Unlike Oregonians, they are wrong. Sorry.

To summarize.

My 1st few days riding North from Del Norte were reasonably uneventful. Long wisping climbs along aspen-filled mountain passes, followed by smooth rolling descents through sage brush and meadowlark-graced valleys. Epic cycling featuring stunning scenery and wonderfully constructed trails and roads. Easy living. Ah them's the days.

And on the third day, I got lost. Shit. There I was, rolling along, following my guide-maps to the T. Everything seemed ok as I made camp for the night on an abandoned jeep road in an aspen grove (fabulous sunset to boot....again, I adore that boot....I haven't the foggiest idea what it really means, but I like it). Woke up the next morning and continued riding another 10 miles or so......wait a minute.....hold on.....why am I heading East? The sun does rise in the East, last I checked. Time to break out the trusty compass. East it is. Oooops. I should have been heading North.

Now, I had a pretty good sense of how I went wrong and what road I was on. What I didn't know was exactly where I lost the route and how far I'd have to backtrack to reconnect. Seeing as I was on a very remote dirt road in central Colorado with basically zero traffic, I did what hikers always do when lost and in need of assistance. I dug a hole, pulled the old shorts down to the ankles, and squatted. No sooner do I expose my untanned parts, than, sure as baby j, over the next hill comes a back hoe a rumblin' down the road. Hot dog (no pun intended).

After reclothing myself and approaching the back hoe, I was informed by the friendly operator that, indeed, I was where I thought I was. He gave me directions to reconnect with the route a ways up, instead of backtracking. It saved me 10 miles or so, but did cost me an extra bit of climbing. So instead of 60 miles and 4000 ft of climbing that day, I landed up doing 85 miles and over 6000 ft. Jeez Loise.

Along the way I passed through the settlement of Hartsel, Colorado, where the tap water tastes and smells like yesterday's egg salad (extra mayo). No lie, it truly does. Landed up camping at over 11,000 ft for the 1st (and probably last) time. I was tempted to push 100 miles since the last 15 were downhill, but that would have landed me in Breckenridge after dark, and I didn't really feel like spending half my annual income on a hotel room.

Breckenridge. Say it with me now. Breck-en-ridge. Swedish for "rich people on a hill". Yes indeed, I landed up there just in time for breakfast, looking AND smelling quite desirable. I pulled up to a pedestrain square with fancy brickwork and benches and proceded to count the people (24). Then I counted the black Range Rovers (31). Yes, Mabel, it's true, there are more black Range Rovers in Breckenridge than people. How they do it is a miracle, praise b-jeez.

Now I should mention that as I travel through the towns and villages of the Rocky Mountains, I try to support the local economies as best I can. I frequent their breakfast joints and mecantiles to do my part in bringing much needed revenue to hard-scrabble towns. So I thought to myself, I'm gonna buy me a Breckenridge t-shirt. However, the only t-shirts I could find cost between $75-$150. As I will wear no t-shirt that costs less than $200, I reluctantly had to move on to the little outpost of Vail, where I easily satisfied my hankerin' and brought revenue to a village struggling to survive.

After a dozen miles negotiating a labyrinth of bike paths out of Breckenridge, I arrived at the hamlet of Silverthorne. Don't say it with me. Seriously, do not. It's true that if there were a Swedish translation for Silverthorne, it would be "outlet mall on a hill". Nuff said.

Now the fun begins. Did I mention that this is the wettest June on record for much of Colorado? For most of the areas I have been riding, the average rainfall is 1-1.5 inches in June. This year.....5 inches! You can take the boy outta Portland, but....well you know. So, being from the Northwest (amen, brother), precipitation doesn't bother me so much. You get wet, you dry off. Big deal.

However, we've discussed what the rain does to some of the dirt roads I'm riding. Sure as baby jesus is looking after each of us, the downpour to end all downpours (we're talking Noah and the animal pairs here, lady) blessed me exactly 2.37 miles from a stretch of road that, shall we say, doesn't fare so well in the rain. I managed to ride about 15 miles through the soft poo until it became totally impossible to peddle in. So somewhere in the 5 miles that I was sliding around on foot, hurling my beloved bike through the muck like a cowboy wrangles steer, I managed to pull a muscle in my lower back.

It's pretty bad. How bad you ask? (come on, at least pretend to care). Well, I can bend over about 1/8 of an inch from upright. This predicament makes both cycling and sexual relationships a bit difficult, of course. Luckily, me and baby j are both celibate on this journey. Unlike our favorite baby lord, I am cycling (he prefers to toddle).

Which brings me back to Rawlins, Wyoming. I'm on medical leave, so to speak, in this sparkling metropolis of art and haute cuisine. I shouldn't complain. There are motels, a pharmacy and a library. But complaining is so fulfilling. There is a Thai restaurant that I can't bring myself to try. And a Pizza Hut.

Did I mention that I've been here before? No? Pardon moi. Oiu, my dear, 9 years ago I thru-hiked the Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada, which is kinda like what I'm doing now, but on foot along hiking trails. Rawlins will forever remain in the deepest crevices of my gastro-intestinal memory as the place for the epic Trans-Atlantic Pizza Hut Gluttony. You see, after hiking alone through the states of New Mexico and Colorado, I met a few other hikers in Wyoming. Among them were 2 American women, and a Brit and Australian man. Rawlins was the 1st town we came to, filthy and starving. So, naturally, we decided to dine at the local Pizza Hut, and partake in the lunch buffet (you know where this is going, don't you). Somehow, in a fit of nationalistic pride, we decided to have a pizza eating contest. It was the Yanks vs. the Queensmen. I'll leave out the gory details, but suffice it to say, I took home the gold, baby. 21 slices later and no vomiting, god bless the USA.

In a curious lapse of reason, mixed with a touch of nostalgia and massochism, I revisited the Pizza Hut lunch buffet yesterday. Not even close to the record this time. My gullet and I are no longer olympic material I guess. Probably better off in the long run.

OK, gotta go. Lots to do here in Rawlins. Send your love to my spine.

Daniel and b.j.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Update #4

Del Norte, Colorado

The hell with Beowulf.

Here I sit in Del Norte, Colorado. Named after the first white settler in the region, Del and his wife Gwyneth McHitchen Norte became famous, if not wealthy, by establishing a trade route through the southern Colorado mountains for the fur trappers and native tribes in the region. Legend has it that Del met an untimely death when he was unable to dislodge himself from a large mud pit en route to Wyoming during an unseasonably wet June. Starved to death while shaking his fists at the heavens. And if you believe that crap, have I got a great used mountain bike to sell you.

Anybody a Star Trek fan out there? Not Galaxy #736 or the X Generation, but the great ones where Kirk and Sulu lean hard left during turbulence on the Enterprise? Yeah, I thought so. So this update is subtitled "I Mudd". Classic episode, good fun. Less fun was my personal I Mudd experience in northern New Mexico.

Allow me to elaborate.

Leaving the clay soils behind, I ventured into some of the first truly challenging terrain of the trip so far. Steep climbs on rough roads featuring their own micro-topography. Troughs, ruts, erosion channels, blah blahs and hoo hoos (just checking to see if you're paying attention). Tough riding like nobody's business (I adore that saying, so shut up.).

My first day in this terrain was hard. I think that was Monday. Sixty five miles with over a vertical mile of tough climbing (masochism is my middle name). Towards the end of the day that silly rain set in, slowly, teasing. Just enough to make the roads spongy but not soupy. Kinda like riding a bike over a large partially-inflated balloon (use your imagination here). Tuesday...a mix of balloon and stew as the moisture (moystyah for those of you in Jersey) drained from the heavens above. It took all I could muster (mister) to crawl 50 miles through this malarky. Was the worst over? Could it get worse? Gotta know, gotta know.....ahhhh....what happened?

Rain.....all night long, ya bastard. The following morning, like chocolate pudding (think Bill Cosby here), the dirt roads clogged and bogged and sucked my bike in like nobody's business(2 times....oh yeah). Now what you need to do is wade back up to the surface of this posting and check out the photos from the bottom up (sorry, but this weird blog makes it hard to format photo positioning. yeah yeah).

The bottom photo is without a doubt the last cool shot of me ever (again, shut it. gimme a break, i'm alone out here). Second up is the chocolate pudding and what it looks like after I wove my 2 wheeled teenager through. #3 is what a front fork looks like when it doesn't allow a wheel to rotate anymore. And the top one, of course, is what's left of the last fellow who rode through. Luckily I was able to scavenge some parts from his bike.

Through an act of divine intervention, I still managed to ride 55 miles in the rain that day (roads did get better), and even crossed the border into Colorado (theme song to "Greatest American Hero" playing in your head right now). That was wednesday. Rained all night again (sopping wet everything at this point), and I had one 17 mile climb and then a 24 mile, 4000 ft decent into Del Norte. On the way down I crossed paths with the leader of a race that is ridden North to South on the same route I'm on. These folks are total animals. The leader is doing over 150 miles/day, solo, unsupported on roads of mud and soup and yuckity yuck. Truly amazing, if not a bit mental (as they say in Yorkshire).

Anyway, like Pie Town, Del Norte is a place of magic. You wouldn't understand, so don't ask. So I took the rest of Thursday off here, staying with a couple who put up Great Divide cyclists passing through town (these folks are known as trail angels, and somewhere in heaven there are really comfy sofas and hot cocoa waiting for them).

And today I decided to take a rest day. After 14 straight days of riding the trail, I thought it was both deserved and necessary. What did I do on my rest day, you ask. I went mountain biking of course. Look, smarty pants, two local women/goddess/mountain-bikers asked me to join the on some of the best single track trails in the country. What would you do? Yeah, but you're both lazy and in the closet, so gimme a break. Indeed, the riding was outrageous. Super technical cycling through crazy canyons and goblin-rock formations. Stunning country. Wow.

So tonight, for the icing on my vacation from my vacation cake, we're gonna have a little cook out and camp fire up at some property my hosts have up in the mountains. I plan on bingeing hard, sleeping harder, then pointing my bike North in the morning and turning my legs around and around for the next month or so. The weather forecast is not sounding too good. Wish me luck and sun.

Until next time, Kirk out.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Update #3

Still hanging onto your seats waiting to find out whether I made it or not? Weirdo! Ok, I did....sorta. The 1st day out of Grants was glorious. Cloudy, but no rain. No water either! All the reliable water sources were either dry or gone completely. After 70 miles of super eroded trails through a fantastic desert landscape, I had to climb over a 10" tall barbed wire fence to get to a pump in the middle of nowhere (don't ask) . Theif!!!!

So after a splendid sunset at camp that night, the rain came. Drat! It continued through the next morning while I rode the last 30 miles of clay soiled roads into the town of Cuba. The moist clay shot up off my tires like pellets, sticking to everthing, and in particular to my drive train, rendering it semi-functional.

So my bike and I limped into Cuba and got a motel room for the night. Let me tell you a little about Cuba, NM. A seedy highway stop between Albuquerque and nowhere, this town boasts several flea bag motels, some gas stations, lots of nothing, and a restauant famous the state over for the best New Mexican food around. Strange, yet true. So I checked into my motel room. Let's be honest. I stunk. The room smelled worse. There was a bed (luckily), a semi-sanitary bathroom with a heavily leaking shower, a tv that got zero channels, and two books on a table. The books included the ubiquitous Gideon's Bible, and the equally ubiquitous Hmong-English-Hmong dictionary. As most of you know, I am not Christian and am perfectly fluent in Hmong. So, alas, I had no use for either.

I went to the restaurant, El Bruno, for lunch. I ordered the "Fiesta Platter For Two". I ate the "Fiesta Platter For Two". Later I did a #2 with the "Fiesta Platter For Two", then went about town serching for a book to read, as I finished my last one. There was this variety store, which sold everything from 90's hip hop cd's to glass smokin pipes to oil of oley. They had a small bookshelf of books for $1. And what a selection it was. I passed up on "Combines: The How to Guide", "How to Fix Your Marriage In 90 Days" and "Classic Fords: 1979-1986" and chose a biography of Mikhail Gorbochev, that was apparently written for and by a 7 year old. Ah well.

So on from Cuba, yesterday I rode 65 miles and learned all about Mikhail Gorbochev. The first 45 miles were up hill, and the last 20 were down a seriously rugged 4 wheel drive track. My poor bike was bounced around (sorry, if anyone has a good analogy, please insert it here) something that really get's bounced around. Boy.

Last night after another gorgeous sunset, the skies yet again opened and let the good lord pee on me and my fabulous tent. But hey, no more clay soils....hoorah.

So here I sit in the library in El Rito, NM. For those of you who don't speak Spanish as well as I do, El Rito loosely translates as "The Rito".

OK, enough of this nonsense. Oooh, by the way, as I blog, I try to write in the style of the book I currently am reading. Last book was Kurt Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions" (ahhhh, now I see why you're such a schmuck, says the reader). Next up: Beowulf.

Colorado in 2 days. BOOM.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Update #2

Grants NM.

Life is like a bucket filled with an mysterious liquid. Could be good. The above photo of the camera-shy cows was taken exactly .87 seconds before they charged me. Like linebackers, cows have large bodies, small brains, and short tempers. Unlike linebackers, some of them have horns. My escape was notable. Less so when the half dozen ranch dogs came after me a few days before. Riding uphill against the wind with 2 mongrels frothings and nashing on each side, my escape was nothing short of god-sent. The bastards.

But that's another story altogether.

The liquid in this bucket for the most part has been sweet. I have ridden just under 300 miles to date, much of which through glorious high desert.

Let me tell you about the wind here in NM. At around 2 in the afternoon, like an in-law on a Vespa, the wind comes shooting through life. Generally it points NE (unlike many in-laws and Vespas). The afternoon the dogs attacked me, my bike and I were staggering SW. The wind on it's vespa was not. Ouch.

Earlier that day, I discovered that the route was closed due to fires in the Gila National Forest. My options were: #1: to backtrack 40 miles, then ride a 150+ mile paved route around the forest to rejoin the route. #2: accept a ride in the back of a forest service pick up filled with friendly forest service employees for the 35 miles the route was closed, then keep riding. Uh, hello? Took the ride. So here it is. I did not ride every mile from Mexico to Canada. And quite frankly, I'm quite ok with that. This experience is just that. With the idiocy of fundamentalism released, I can have fun with the process. And the process has been swell.

Then I came upon my 1st resupply: Pie Town, NM. I could tell you all about Pie Town, but I won't. Or I can't. Or something.

The other thing I should mention is the summer monsoons that come up from Mexico. They deliver sudden volumes of water from the sky with the temperment of a cow on a vespa (ok, not really). Anyway, the problem for me is not the rain or the wind. The issue is that much of the route is on clay-soil forest roads that turn to pecan pie when wet. Who here has every ridden through pecan pie? Anyone? No, me either, and I have little intention of finding out. I squeezed through the 1st sections of clay roads with little rain, and have one more big stretch coming up today and tomorrow. The wisping clouds have returned, which means storms on the way. Yikes.
Time for me to stop blogging and check the weather.

Stay tuned next week to find out if I made it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Update #1

Hi. Sitting in an internet cafe in the quaint town of Silver City in southern NM. Here is a brief update of my life since flying out of Portland on Thursday morning.

I flew into Tucson. The southwestern desert landscape is amazing from above. Flying over Arizona and landing in Tucson seems to me like how a fly would feel landing on a starving man's belly. The topography of every rib exposed, every joint detailed. Parched and undernourished, this land has nothing to hide. A the plane approached the tarmac, I noticed a small green pool. Fetid. Yucky. Probably not so different than any tarmac, just better visibility. Next I spied a huge sajuero cactus standing upright, proud. Like it could be posted at an arid 10 Downing Street.

Pulled my bike from it's box and reassembled it no problem. Rode to my hotel, then to get some stove fuel (in a strip mall camping store). Then for some Mexican food (strip mall). Then a grocery store (uh huh). Weird.

Cought a shuttle to the border of Mexico/New Mexico in a van that brings immigrants back and forth from Chiuhuahua visiting family. Me and 15 others packed into a van going 85 down the interstate. Not too scared until the driver started texting. Hmmm.

At the border, I did my last few odds and ends, had the customs agent take a ceremonial photo of me, and started to peddle North. Landed up riding 47 miles that afternoon to the "town" of Hatchita. Not much to speak of, but killer sunsets.

That was Friday. Yesterday I rode 62 miles through the arid desert landscape of NM. Got lost, Saw my 1st snake, pulled water from a windmill meant for cows. You know, the usual. Did I mention I'm tired?

Today will be a short day. Rode 23 miles into Silver City, will screw around here for a few hours, and ride 20 or so to camp.....up hill. So far I've been blessed with highly unusually cool weather for this time of year in NM. Hope the good fortune continues.