Cruising along

I left the cabin yesterday with some big idea of doing a big loop to Crested Butte, over Pearl Pass to Aspen, and back home.

It didn't work out. Two hours in, my legs were totally fried. It's been almost a month, but I guess I'm not still not recovered yet

But I did find some roadside panties:

Old Melancholy Mahokey would be proud. These panties were two firsts for me- first Colorado roadside panties, and first roadside panties smaller than size XXXL.

A few miles later, it started to sprinkle. Since I've been back from the divide, I've been caught in the rain on trails twice (the first time was after I asked Colleen to get hitched- how romantic).

A little bit of rain is a scary thing out here. The trails immediatly turn into clay that would great if you were making some pottery, wheels lock up, the bike becomes a muddy anchor while gloop builds up into huge balls around feet. Every step forward is a huge struggle, and then you slide half a step backwards.

I wasn't willing to put myself through that again, so I beat it out of there as soon as those first drops hit my helmet. I think I'm going to stick closer to town until monsoon season ends in a couple weeks.

But it was still a good ride. That's the swell thing about this place- it's alway pretty, even when it's threatening to trap you in the mud.

 

Tour Divide Gear Stuff

For a typical Tour Divide year, I might have been packed a little heavy. But for the weather this year, I was pretty dead on. I used everything I had, and never wanted anything extra (except for a stove and some coffee in the morning, but there was no time for that, becasue bike race).

All my stuff was carried in an Oveja Negra bag setup- really great, well thought out stuff.

My sleep stuff, all packed in a drybag on the handlebars, was a Tarptent Double Rainbow, Thermarest Prolite pad, and Big Agnes Horsetheif SL.

A full tent was great- especially the first week, when I set up in the rain almost every night. Since I practiced before I left home, I was able to get the tent up, pad inflated, and bag unrolled in about five minutes. That beat the hell out of hunting around for the perfect place to string up a tarp, or suffocating all night in a bivy.

The Big Agnes bag is rated for 35 degrees, and unlike most overly-optimistically rated bags, it's actually warm at that tempurature. I was able to sleep naked every night and dry out my ass, which helped helped heal my saddle sores.

By the time I was in Wyoming, the rain let up, so I was just using the tent as a ground cloth and sleeping out in the sage brush.

My rain gear was Outdoor Reaserch's ultralight Helium jacket and pants. The stuff was really swell until it broke- which I really don't blame OR for. Ultralight stuff isn't intended for riding 800 miles in the mud.

I wore a giant hole in the seat of the pants by the forth day, and zipper broke on the rain jacket right before I descended a long pass into Basin, Montana at night in the rain. Because all my layers got soaked on the descent, that was one of the three nights I spent inside durring the race.

My other clothes were a wool top, wool tights, a Club Ride button-down, a pair of light polyester baggy shorts, a Mountain Hardwear synthetic bubble goose, two pairs of thick wool socks, and two pairs of wool boxers.

I don't wear chamois anymore, because I think that having a dirty sponge on my ass all day is nasty. Since I was able to sink wash a pair of underpants everyday, I didn't have nearly the saddle sore problems that some racers did (some people had some seriously gross stuff going on down there).

I carried a bunch of spare bolts, brake pads, and all that stuff all the way to Fleecer Ridge. After blasting down the ridge like I had somebody to impress, even though there was nobody around for miles (it's one of the only hard descents on the entire route) I was rewarded for showing off by tearing a big hole in my back tire on some sharp shale at the bottom.

The Stan's wouldn't seal the hole, so I plugged it with a Genuine Inovations tubeless tire plug. That little plug held for the next 2,000 miles. I wish I would have know about those things earlier- they would have saved me so many races over the years.

I was so excited about the plug that I hopped back on my bike, and rode away from my bag of tools.

Which later led me to the discovery that A&D ointment works as a chain lube.

My Krampus was solid- I had to replace a bottom bracket in Steamboat, but other than that I didn't have any mechanicals. I didn't even go through a set of brake pads on my Shimano XTRs- which might have something to do with braking technique, becasue a lot of people around me on the exact same brakes were blowing through pads like crazy.

The 29+ Knard tires were heavy, and they definitely slowed me down sometimes. I was using the 27tpi wire bead version, becasue the 120tpi tires I bought before the race were messed up- they grew some big tumors in the sidewall when I installed them.

When I rode with Alice, she coasted away from me everywhere. Gradual pavement descents, flats, washboard roads. It didn't matter. Her Moots on Schwalbe Racing Ralphs just rolled faster.

The Krampus was super comfortable, and I never regretted riding it (it's my all time favorite bike), but the current tires just aren't race quality. The casing is too thick and slow rolling for divide racing (touring, I wouldn't think of using anything other than the Knard though).

I really wish Surly would make the Knard with a folding bead and a 60tpi casing. That way it would roll well, and wouldn't be super fragile like their current light-weight tire.

Other parts were Jones Loop Bars- I love the sweep, and the loop is a great place to mount a light and dry bag, gearing was 36×22 (works out to about 32x19ish on a bike with shorter 29er tires), and my saddle was a Chromag Trailmaster. Thompson stem and post, Shimano SLX cranks, Industry Nine single speed hub- all stuff that works.

I'll go onto more detail on this stuff in a later post, but I ran an Exposure Revo light, and charged my iPhone with a Shutter Precision hub and Sinewave USB charger. I couldn't believe how well these electronics worked.

Even after being constantly submerged, the hub kept on chugging. The Sinewave USB charger was flawless- it put out constant power, even in the rain, as long as my speed was more than six miles per hour. There were a lot of other models of dynamo chargers out there, and a lot of riders having problems with them.

I used the Gaia GPS app on my phone, and it made following the route pretty stress free. I never had a problem with GPS reception, and never had to buy batteries. I also used the phone to play music and take pictures- really slick to be able to do everything with one device.

As a back up, I carried cue sheets and had a cycling computer.

There were times I wished I had some aero bars, but there were more times I wished that I didn't need aero bars. So overall, I was happy with my setup. It ran real good.

 

Tour Divide

I haven't been able to sleep- every night I wake up, thinking that I still have more miles to ride to the border.

“No, Colleen already picked you up, it's over,” I tell myself. Then the sun comes up and my legs are rubbery.

Tour Divide was monstrously hard. I thought that I understood how difficult it was going to be- but based on my past experience, that just wasn't possible.

I always thought “Yeah it's a long ride, but there's hardly any singletrack. It's all dirt road. So it's probably not that bad.” I was so far off.

We had the worst Grand Depart conditions so far. It was 45 degrees and dumping rain in Banff, and it stayed that way almost until I made it to Wyoming.

The first two days I rode like I was in a cross country race. Dan (who eventually won single speed) and I were cruising. Gotta pass people, gotta make time. My knees are a little cold, but I don't have time to stop and put on my tights. We're bike racing.

By the third day, my knees were destroyed. I couldn't pedal my bike uphill.

The next day, it was excruciating to spin on flat pavement. The pain swirled around both patellas, like someone was trying pry my kneecaps off with a hot screwdriver. I was going to have to drop out and go home.

I started walking up the pass outside of Swan River and almost cried. Becasue I'd always just assumed that I would finish the Divide, and now I was breaking. My right achilles creaked. And the rain kept falling.

I walked and soft-pedaled another 70 miles to the Hungry Bear barbeque at the base of Richmond Pass. I ordered a burger and coffee at the bar.

“It looks like we're going to have early spring-like condidtions for the rest of the week, with temperatures 25 degrees below normal, and snow in higher elevations,” said the TV weather girl.

Oh god. Everyday I told myself the weather would break tomorrow. And now there it was- the five day forecast. Little cartoon rain clouds that were certain that everything would stay horrible. I had to escape Montana. Better get moving.

I start walking up Richmond Pass. A few hours later, check the GPS, looks like I'm almost at the top. People kept talking about this thing with such forboding. It hasn't been so bad.

I start pushing through the snow. The sun sets. I click on my headlamp. The rain turns to a wintery mix. I stomp along the steep off-camber slope, my heavy bike sliding in the snow, occasionally knocking me over. Still not too bad. I should be over this thing pretty soon.

Then I make a turn at the top, and the trail disappears. Gone. Absolutely no sign that a trail ever existed.

The purple line is still on my GPS, a friendly little path. I look up, the weak beam of my headlight overpowered by the heavy rain. Nothing in front of me but a dark, wet, steep scree field.

I pull out the damp ACA cue sheet. “Occasional downed trees and rocks in trail durring next 3.8 miles; use extreme caution in slide zone at point where road has failed.”

At point where road has failed. The understatement of the trip.

I start shuffling along the slope, 60 pounds of bike and gear trying to push me down into whatever is a few hundred feet below. I throw my bike over a wet log, it clatters and bounces, I try to stop it from sliding down into the void, it pulls me. I dig the handlebar into the mountain side. I trip, fall into the damp rocks.

Check the GPS, still on the line, sorta. My bike falls on me again, knocks me down. I start to panic. Don't panic. I'm wet and freezing, but my knees are on fire.

Keep moving forward. The bike knocks me over again, I slide into a pile of snow. Don't panic. The rain snow falls harder.

Suddenly saving $20 by renting a spot tracker without an SOS button seems like an unwise decision.

“Just fucking let me off this fucking mountain!” I yell into the void. The rain drowns the echo.

Don't panic. Forward. The only way to end the nightmare is to keep moving. My bike slips on a wet stick and knocks me over again. Stand up, walk. Follow the line, keep moving.

Almost an hour later, I stumble off the scree slope. Back on a trail. Thank god. I push downhill through the snow, the snow piles start to shrink.

Then I'm on a gravel road, hood covering half my head, jacket zipped, doing 40 miles an hour down the pass in the rain, shivering and thinking of anything warm, coffee, Colleen, our cat. Think warm, be warm. The wind screaches through the vents in my helmet.

Miles of dark descending, then the road flattens. I roll off to the side of the road, set up my tent, pull off my soaked clothes, and crawl into my clammy sleeping bag.

Three hours later the sun rises. I pull on wet socks, muddy rain gear, eat a crushed Mrs. Freshly's cherry danish, and try to find the sweet spot to sit down in between saddle sores.

Every day of riding Tour Divide was crushing- and at the end of the day all I had to look forward to was a damp sleeping bag and some neosporin on my ass. And I really, really looked forward to that.

After Richmond Pass, I bought Crank Brothers flat pedals in Seely Lake. Then I rode 130 miles to Helena, where I bought a pair of hiking shoes. I sent my clipless shoes and pedals home, and my knees slowly started to get better.

By the fifth day of riding in the mud, I'd worn a giant hole in the seat of my rain pants. The zippers on my framebag were clogged and starting to seperate.

When I hit the top of the pass before Basin, Montana, it was still raining, and the sun had just set. I yanked on the zipper of my rain jacket. It split apart. The only thing that was keeping me warm and dry. Nothing to do but keep moving forward. I stuffed a garbage bag into the neck of my puffy coat and started the 15 mile descent.

In Steamboat, the Crank Brothers pedals where already falling apart, so I replaced them with some Shimano Saints.

By the time we were in Wyoming, Klaus, Alice, Max and I were riding together a lot. We'd try to drop each other occasionally (mostly Max or I would try to get away), but it never stuck.

But eventually the gang split up- I left Klaus in a Mexican restaurant in Del Norte with an all you can eat buffet and the World Cup on TV. Max rode into a mud hole outside of Pie Town, took four pedal strokes, and ripped his derailluer off. And Alice, who was way faster than all of us the entire race, got a hotel room in Silver City, while I rode on into the night.

After Dan rode away outside of Lima, Montana, I spent the next 2,000 miles trying close the gap with him. Never happened, but it was great to have someone to chase. He stayed a half day ahead the whole time.

I heard a few people say “Once you get out of Montana, you've made it.” Totall bullshit. It never gets any easier. In New Mexico, where I expected to be warm and dry, Alice and I got caught in a monsoon. It was the second to last day, and the hardest ride of the trip.

When there weren't passes to climb, headwinds pinned me down to five miles per hour. Sometimes for eight hours straight. I don't usually have to wear sunscreen, but even with SPF 50 on, skin was frying and peeling off my arms. I put a piece of tape over my bike computer, becasue looking at the odometer was too depressing. My mouth turned raw from all the processed sugary crap I had to eat.

And the last 10 miles into town, thinking about hot food, were always the worst 10 miles of the day.

The Divide isn't something you can do as a personal challenge. You have to truely love being on your bike to finish. The race seems to spit out people who don't pretty quick.

It was the most painful, best thing I've thing I've ever done. The route is harsh, and the mountains don't care. It's really beautiful.

I can't wait to recover enough to get back out there. Maybe next week.

I don't think I would race the Divide again. There are too many other places I'd like to check out, and too much cool singletrack to ride.

But at the same time, with what I learned out there, I think I could cut a lot of time if gave it another shot.

 

Tour Divide 2014: the start

“Adventure is a mark of incompetence.” – Vilhjalmur Stefansson

 

After being breifly detained and seached for the devil's lettuce at the border (again), Colleen and I made it to Banff last night. Tomorrow morning I'll start the long ride to Mexico.

A bunch of my family and friends, as well as Wilderness Voyageurs and Aloha Mountain Cyclery have chipped in, completely unsolicited, to make this race possible. I'm super grateful to know such good folks.

Hopefully I've prepared thouroughly enough. Wouldn't be right to waste such a cool opportunity.

Whenever possible, I'll be calling into MTB Cast: mtbcast.com

And the race will be live on Track Leaders: trackleaders.org

So that'll be all on this thing for a little.

I'm excited to roll down the spine of the West, sun burnt (though not too much thanks to my greasy skin), wind blown, and rained on. I like it out there.

My goals for the race: Ride hard, look around, take notes.

Also, don't sweat the mileage and have an occasional beer.

-M

Tour Divide Pack List

The stuff. All the things that I'm carrying. When it's all laid out, it doesn't look like much for a few weeks of living off the bike. But when I'm pushing it up a moutain road, it feels like a ton.

All the bags were made by Lane and Monty at Oveja Negra in Leadville. I'm testing them for the Dirt Rag, and I like them a lot.

I've never cared about how much my race bike weighed. I've always felt that the main difference between a 20 pound mountain bike and a 27 pound mountain bike is about $2000, and the fact that a heavier bike won't break when you hit a rock the wrong way.

But this is different- when the dry weight (no food or water) of the whole setup is pushing 50 pounds, I've been doing everything I can to save weight. I even bought a kitchen scale to weigh crap. And I've been debating the little things- do I need a wool hat if I have a jacket with a hood? Probably not. Saved 150 grams.

At the same time, everything isn't as race optimized as it could be- for example, I can only afford to own one tent, and I like camping with Colleen, so I have a two-person tarptent instead of a lighter one-person.

The rest of the stuff is a result of the way I'm going to be racing- I'm navigating primarily with GPS, trying to go as fast as possible (and make it to the finish), and not staying in any hotels.

Anyway, here's the list. From the back to the front. I'll do a final weighing at some point, but it's around 45 pounds with the 3.0 Knard tires, which means it'd be right around 40 with some normal 29er rubber.

Seatbag:

  • Rivendell wool shirt
  • Smartwool tights
  • Socks
  • Mountain Hardware Thermostatic jacket
  • Outdoor Reaserch Helium rain jacket and pants
  • Space for food

Framebag:

  • Park MT-1 (the most underrated muti-tool ever)
  • Pliers
  • Brake pads, spare bolts, needle and thread, sidewall boot
  • Chain lube
  • CO2 (to reseat a tubeless tire)
  • Soap, A&D, Pepto, toothbrush, toilet paper, bandaids, Neosporin
  • Four-liter water bladder
  • Steripen Ultra (not pictured)
  • Space for food

Handlebar Bag:

  • Revenge of the Rattlesnack bandana
  • USB Battery (buffer battery for dynamo hub)
  • iPhone charger
  • Headlight
  • Mountain Hardware PL-100 gloves
  • Space for food

Dry Sack on Handlebars:

  • Big Agnes Horsetheif sleeping bag
  • Tarptent Double Rainbow
  • Thermarest Prolite

Not in bags:

  • Lezyne mini-pump, with Gorilla Tape wrapped around the handle
  • Shutter Precision hub dynamo
  • Exposure Revo dynamo light
  • Sinewave Revolution dynamo USB charger (also on the magazine test, and working great)
  • iPhone with Gaia GPS (primary navigation tool and camera)
  • Modified Lifeproof/ King Cage iPhone top cap mount
  • Two Fish bottle cage on the top tube
  • Two 29er tubes strapped to the down tube

And the bike:

  • I9 Torch Single Speed Hub laced to Blunt 35s (built by the same handsome fella who'll be riding them)
  • Jone's Loop Bars
  • Shimano XTR Trail brakes
  • Thompson post and stem
  • Hope bottom brisket
  • Shimano SLX crank
  • MRP Rock Solid fork (not in the picture)
  • Chromag Trailmaster saddle (finally found a saddle that fits my ass right)
  • Surly Krampus frame
  • Knard 29×3.0 tires (which might be changed to 2.4 Ardents so that I have some mud clearance)

And that's that. I'll go into some more detail about some stuff in the next few days, but when I get to Banff next month, this is what I'll roll out with.

Two Months Out

A little less than two months out from Tour Divide. I'm starting to feel pretty good about the race.

Since leaving Pennsylvania, I've been on my bike a lot. An hour commute in the morning, an hour and a half mountain bike ride at lunch, and an hour commute home. And on days off, a long ride.

Before the snow melted, I pushed a fat bike 24 miles a day back and forth to the cafe where I toasted bagels.

Not too much that's better strength training than that.

I've done a bunch of overnighters, so I'm feel pretty good about all my gear.

I even dragged Colleen along on one. I promised it would be flat.

In my defense, it was slightly less verticle than some things, like a refrigerator door.

More of the logistical things are comming together. I finally have a passport, in which the government made me look flatteringly tan:

Now I can enter the wild and exotic land of Canada, where people speak English with a slightly funnier accent than people in Minnesota.

Some supportive friends have mailed words of encouragement:

“All great adventures have moments that are shit”

It's good to know good people.

2700 miles ahead. All I need to do is eat and pedal. I can't wait.

Kokpelli’s Trail

Sweep, back flush the espresso machine, mop, last dishes, count the drawer. Lock the door to the café by six.

Grocery store with Colleen.

“How much food do you need to take?”

“I think around 4000 calories’ll get me to Moab.”

Reese’s King Size Easter Eggs are two for $3. Can’t beat that- I grab four packets. Ramen Noodles, pepperoni (never go anywhere without Italian meats), and a block of motzerella. I add up the numbers on my phone. That should work.

Leftovers and coffee back at the house, pack up the last of my stuff and get in the car to drive out of the mountains. I hit the Kokopelli Trailhead in Loma at midnight. Trucks roar down I-70, their dim yellow headlights fading into the road.

There aren’t many stars out. I pull on my riding shoes, snap my iPhone onto the stem and turn on the GPS app. Alright, it’s Monday night, I need to be back here by Friday morning to get to work. That should be fine.

I start the first ledgy climb on Mary’s Loop. The loaded bike is a little tough to hop up the rock steps, but overall it’s riding good.

Up top the dirt is smooth, tacky and fast. Big berms are worn into the the old two-track. My dynamo light warms up, the beam brighter with speed. I’m ripping, this is so excellent.

Then the first intersection. Arrows pointing in every direction. Crap. Which one’s the Kokopelli? I ride up one trail, check the GPS. Nope, that’s not it. Back down.

Another intersection. Check again, stand around and try to figure out which way is right. I’m overheating in my puffy jacket, I yank it off and stuff it in my seat bag. Now I’m cold and sweaty, I pull on a wool shirt. I’ve gotta stop screwing around if I want to make any sort of time.

Back on the singletrack, I drop down a rock chute and flow along a fast section of hardpack. I know the Colorado River is over the edge of the trail a few thousand feet below, but I can’t see anything but a black void.

The trail turns sharply, then I’m dropping down, around a switchback, and down. As far back as I can get, ass on the saddle bag.

The trail flattens out at the bottom of a deep canyon. Scrubby little bushes scratch at my face and arms. Back up the other side of the canyon the trail is steep and narrow. I push my bike in front, struggling to lift it over big boulders.

I stop at the top and eat a Reece’s egg. Not much over 15 miles, already a few hours in. Man, I’m never gonna make it down to Moab and back in time.

Back on the bike, off the singletrack and onto a fast dirt road. Sweet, now I’m making some tracks.

A few miles to Rabbit Valley. I stop to look at my map. Should I camp now? It’s 2:00 in the morning. Nah, I’ll keep rolling for a while. Rough Jeep road now, it’s rocky, slower, and weirdly damp. The wet dirt grabs at my tires and makes it tough to keep rolling.

A couple hours later see the first Donnie Darko rabbit. No, that was just some sagebrush.

4:30. Another rabbit. No, sagebrush. I’m pushing up an incredibly steep climb. Getting so tired . One more rabbit, and I’m calling it a night. Rabbit. Sagebrush. I’m out.

I unroll my sleeping bag on a big flat rock.

Two hours later, the sun comes up.

I pack up and push the bike the rest of the way to the top. Man, I was almost there last night. Maybe I shoulda kept going.

On top of the mesa, the sand is damp and deep. Thank the Surly for fat tires, but it’s still slow going. I’m following the tracks of somebody on Nates- I kinda hope I catch up with them, it’d be cool to see somebody else out here. Probably won’t happen though.

A couple more miles on the mesa top, then down onto pavement. Man, that feels nice. I coast and eat pepperoni.

Back onto dirt, cruising across some wide open space. Then not.

Tumble weeds, totally blocking the road, 15 feet deep. I’ve gotta go around them, no way to ride though that spikey mess.

The first few clots are funny. This West, so wild with all its funny little rolly shrubs.

After five or six blockages, not so funny anymore.

Ten miles later, the tumbleweeds have totally lost their novelty. They wrap around my wheels, stick in my brakes, jab my legs and hands. Fuck tumbleweeds. I’ll be happy if I never see another one. Into another pile. Dammit.

The La Sal mountains are closer now. The trail heads up there, but it looks snowy. Might have to bail on that part of the route.

A little more pavement, then back on dirt, up and over a little scrubby mountain thing that’s all tracked out by motos in every direction. It looks like a less-grey slag heap.

Down by the river, I stop for a pepperoni sandwich. I’m running low on water, so I’ve gotta filter.

I sit down on a rock, and the tired hits me. A full day of work, full night of riding, barely an hour and a half of sleep. I’m not gonna make it to Moab. No way. Shit. I’m 70 miles from the car, and 40 from town. Maybe I should just turn around. But I don’t have enough food. I have to keep going.

No, I have to take a nap. I lay down in the dirt.

An hour later, I wake up and rub my eyes. Stand up and stretch. It’s a little past noon now. I feel way better, it’s like a restart on the day. Only 40 miles to Moab, I’ll knock that out before dinner. Easy.

I go down to the river to purify some water with a SteriPen. The Colorado is really silty, so I tie my bandana into a bucket, scoop the water up and let it drip into my bottle to pre-filter the dirt. Then zap it with the UV light, and dump it into the water bladder. Repeat four times, and I’ve got a day of water.

Back on the bike. I feel great now. Push up a steep trail, then a little over ten more miles of great Jeep road. Then onto hi-way 128 at the old Dewey Bridge. I’m not going into the mountains. It’ll be snowy, and where the snow’s melted I’m sure there’s going to be horrible mud.

And I’m not going to mess with those pissed off looking clouds.

30 miles on the hi-way, and I roll into Moab feeling fine. It’s just after five, so I go over to the Denny’s to get a predictably bad hamburger. The waiter towers over me as I sink into the worn out cushion of the huge six person booth.

“Better go to the bathroom before you leave,” he drawls at a couple girls who had a few coffee refills. “It’s snake season.”

“Oh, I always look before I squat,” says one girl. The other looks extremely uncomfortable.

I pay for the food and roll down to the gas station to resupply. Four Reece’s Fast Breaks and a bag of jerky. Back out of town, hopefully I’ll find a spot to camp before the sun sets.

“Wooohooo! You made it! Welcome!” yells a hippy chick on an old cruiser. She throws up her arms.

“Thanks,” I say. Wish I could hang out longer.

The sun sets five miles up the road. I plug in my light, and it slowly spreads white light on the asphalt. After that bad burger and coffee I’m feeling great. I could probably make it 30 more miles back to Dewey Bridge tonight.

I pass two campgrounds. Move over into the ditch by the side of the road when I see cars headlights coming around the canyon walls.

A car passes pretty close. Man, this is a bad idea. I’m not really in a hurry, no reason to risk getting hit. I better turn around and call it a night.

I ride two miles back to the Big Bend Campground and set up my tarp in the wind. Which is a giant pain in the ass. The thing’s flapping all over the place, then when I get it all tensioned out, it’s laying on my sleeping bag and still not keeping out all the wind. Might have to rethink my sleep stuff for Tour Divide. I pass out immediately.

Next morning I sleep a little past sunrise, lay my sleeping bag on a picnic table to dry and munch on some jerky. It’s about 100 miles back to Loma. I’ll split it up over two days, camp in Rabbit Valley tonight. That’ll get me home sometime Thursday afternoon, and I’ll be fresh enough to enjoy all the singletrack at the end.

Pack up, start rolling out of the canyon.

A couple hours of spinning and I’m back to Dewey Bridge. Back onto the trail, and up a ledgey climb. It looks like a herd of cattle was just driven down the road. Everything is chewed up by hoofprints, and the dust is as fine as curry powder.

After navigating a few high-security gate systems, I make it back to the spot by the river where I napped yesterday. I feel so much better this time through. I just needed a little sleep.

Down the other side of the slag heap looking area, and I’m cruising back toward tumbleweed alley.

Maybe 50 miles to Loma, and it’s not even 2:00. Just take your time and enjoy it.

No, don’t hold back. You feel good, ride it out to the end tonight. Should be able to make it back before midnight. I bash through and around the tumbleweeds again.

A pair of beefs. Perhaps someday they’ll be dried and salted and riding in my frame bag.

Hours later, I’m back on the mesa where I slept the first night. There’s some new tracks next to the fat bike tracks I was following the first day.

I wonder if that big kitty likes to play fetch with zip-ties like my cat at home. Maybe he’d prefer rebar. Or my limbs.

Down the hill where I slept on a rock after the third Donnie Darko rabbit. It’s just as steep as I thought it was that night- I sit on the saddlebag, ride both brakes, try not to crash into the sagebrush.

I make it to Rabbit Valley before dark. Hell yeah, I’m finishing this thing up tonight. Ripping the fast doubletrack (it’s all dried out now), hipping the bike sideways off little kickers, really making good time.

The sun sets with about 15 miles to go.

I plug the dynamo back in, and drop back into the canyon down to Salt Creek.

Hike to the top of the other side. Stop at the top to eat some candy bar and pepperoni. I’m actually looking forward to the singletrack. This is great.

Troy Built, Lion’s Loop, up a steep climb, drop off a rock ledge- the loaded bike thumps heavily into the dirt, the dark void stretches way out below.

Mary’s, the last trail and only a couple miles to go. I hit a rock, something pinches between my shoulder blades. Christ that hurts. My back locks up a little, but that’s fine. Only a little bit to go.

Down the last ledges. Ouch, ouch, ouch. My back stings with each hit. Then I’m on the gravel. And done. 220 miles in under two days.

I think that’s a little like what Tour Divide is gonna feel like. I’m not quite as sacred now.