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 saying...to 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 walk...er 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.


  1. Praise the B.J. and I do mean Baby Jesus.....or do I? Sorry to hear about your back issues. Maybe you can get a local to crack your back for you? Nice job showing that Brit and Australian how we eat pizza in 'Merica!!

  2. Hi Daniel! So sorry to hear about the back, get well soon!!!

    Jill gave us the $5.00, thanks, but you didn't need to.

    Patti left this AM to ride to Salida via the GDMBR. Jill was her inspiration to do it alone, she's never done a solo camping trip before.

    Stay in touch.

  3. I can't believe you're up there already. I read the parts about Breckenridge aloud to the hubby - we got a good laugh out of it, and the pic of your muddy bike tire!

  4. Aw dude. Sorry to hear about the back. At least you've got scenic Rawlins to pass the time in. Hopefully the library is well stocked and there is some free HBO to be had somewhere in that town. I'm going to tackle the Creampuff this Sunday. I hope you're back on the bike by the time I come out the other side. I'll be thinking about you around mile 65 and how I'm kind of a creampuff.

  5. rallww inzzz.... raul wins... rawwwl inz... crap, guess you just gotta be there. Hope you are back on your wheels again very soon!

  6. Good luck crossing the basin! I just did the Great Divide myself south to north earlier this year, it was a great ride!

  7. Yeah Daniel!! Love the photos especially the ones with the mud. mud rocks.