Thursday, July 21, 2016

TD 2016 Never Give Up - A Week Later

Banff was fun. After last year, I kinda had the routine figured out ... get the bike to Soul Ski and Bike to get boxed up for the flight home, make a reservation to get to Calgary and find a flight. Was all set by noon on Thursday, got a chance to sit in the sun for a while ( really nice to do after 4 days of rain ), and walked down to see the falls on the Bow River.


Rapids above Bow River Falls

One epic fail, I missed Bundy coming in to finish out his ride. He was a long ways out, and I was out walking away from wi-fi.  Had trouble getting trackleaders to load up on the phone and by the time it did, he had already finished. Good guy too ride with !

Canada Day chalk work on sidewalk
Really great magic show and a nice Library

Had to move hotels on Friday, so walked around with all my stuff on my back, checked out the Whyte Museum and while at the library in Banff, watched a really good magician do a kids magic show.

Saturday morning, caught the shuttle to Calgary, no problems with Customs, had a good seat on my WestJet flight to LAX.  Had to change Terminals at LAX going from Term 2 to Term 6 meaning I had to go back through security again, but it being Saturday evening wasn't a problem. So around 8 pm, I got back to Tucson.

Old Man sitting in the Sun
Pacific Ocean

Let's see, I lost about 11 lbs, but otherwise doing fine. The saddle sore issues are healing just fine, haven't ridden the bike in a week now, but soon. Am still waiting for a new chain ring to show up so I can take the bike to get some much needed new parts. My PIVOT performed just fine through the whole ride. The shifting was a little wonky with all of the mud and debris and my cassette has a couple of cogsets on it that are pretty worn and prone to skip, but those things are pretty much expected. Last year the drive train held up much better, but the weather was a lot better.  It's pretty hard to keep things lubed up when it's raining and you are riding through puddles. I might have to look for a different lube for wet conditions.

Lots of good things to say about the Saguaro tires that I ran. Going up to Brazos Ridge in NM, I hit a sharp rock and heard Stans and Orange Peel coming out. Turned the tire so the puncture was down and waited and it sealed up and was fine for the rest of the trip. The rear only had a problem with the valve core, a 50 cent part that I replaced in Steamboat and never messed with again. Putting extra sealant in the tires was probably a good idea.

Only weird problem with the bike was that Revelate harness and Summit stuff sack that I had on the front would rub against the front tire on steep descents, especially when braking a bit.  I managed most of that by making the stuff sack longer instead of fatter and really tightening it up, so other than one hole I tore in it on Thorn Ranch, it came out unscathed.

Was happy to have finished 4 days earlier this year. I had thoughts of maybe 6 days, but lost one with my debacle at Separ in the first hours of the race, and the mud and rain meant that I wasn't going to get from Elkford to Banff in one shot, so that was that. I did take care of the pieces last year where I though I wasted a lot of time, so that's where most of the 4 days came from.

All in all, I have to say I had a pretty good time. I thought about quitting more this year than last, having your rear end hurt every time you hit a bump isn't a lot of fun, so I thought about bailing to Jackson and it was good to get away from Flagg Ranch and out where bailing became less of an option. The little surgery ( poke the boil ) thing I did in Pinedale probably saved the ride for me. And then there were those first moments in Separ, where I was overheated and bonked and probably would have taken a ride back to Tucson and bagged the whole thing on the first day !

I knew going with a new saddle wasn't a good idea, but it had to be replaced ( my old one was 4 years old and worn out ).  Same for the shoes, starting with new shoes because I managed to kill my old shoes trying to do some pre-rides for the AZT.

Next year ?  I doubt it, but never say never.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

TD 2016 Never Give Up - Canada

Into Canada, the last part of the trip. Mexico is now nearly 2500 miles in the past and I know I only have two or three nights left. Galton Pass is the first thing up and the sun was out most of the day. It went pretty well, always longer than you think it's going to be and the descent on the other side is never as long as you'd like for it to be. I caught a lot of rain on the descent, actually got pretty muddy in some places and then it cleared up by the time I got to the "wall" between Tembec Road and Wigwam Road. Someone had made a little coffer dam that redirected most of the water so the "slip and slide" wasn't nearly as bad this year as last, but it's still a sketchy couple hundred feet of steep downhill where one misstep could screw up you or your bike or both.
Galton Pass

When I got to the Wigwam Campground area I ran into two big groups of cyclists touring southbound. A group of about 12 and another group of about 15 I think. They all seemed to be having a pretty good time.  I went on up Cabin Pass with the sky getting darker and near the top it started raining pretty good. Most of the rain had fallen earlier and the east side of the pass was a mess with big deep puddles all over. Long and short of it was that I was delayed in getting to Butts Cabin by maybe an hour and a half and I got there around 10 pm. I lit a little candle on the table in the cabin and ate my breakfast burrito that I had carried all day and the rain started coming down. Laid there in my sleeping bag, probably the only person for 15 or more miles in any direction and slept really really well, so hard that I didn't wake up until 9 am the next morning.

Cabin Pass
We're Gonna Get Wet

Sasquatch Junction
Just below Flathead Pass

It was still wet and pretty sloppy out, the road being hard to make headway on, but off for Flathead Pass and a hotel room that I had earlier reserved in Sparwood, BC. I ran into another group of touring cyclists, one or two of whom were going to AW and the others doing just part of it.  It was good getting to pavement and better getting to Sparwood. Again was probably early enough in the day to have continued on to Elkford, but I was pretty beat up from the night before, so any hopes of knocking a 5th day off my time was pretty much out the window.

Left Elkford the next morning and started to Tomeroy the little cabin just before Elk Pass. That was just about right, as I had enough mud and slop on the road that I was more than happy to make that cabin, and again got there just as the sky opened up and we got a hard rain. In the middle of the night I got up to pee, stepped outside and heard something different ... it was a little bit of snow, not much, but the rain had turned into light wet snow, that didn't stick.
North of Elkford
Rainy Day

Right of Way Issue
The next morning was the last morning of the trip, I ate some jerky, some chocolate and began for Elk Pass, on the border between BC and Alberta. As I came around one turn, I saw my first grizzly bear on the side of the road. I took a picture from a distance, put the phone away, got my hand on my bear spray, and blew my whistle.  He stood up, looked in my direction and went back down into the grass nosing around. I started around him on the left side of the road away from him. He moved in a semi-circle and started to come back to the road towards me. I stopped walking, repositioned the bike more between he and I and he stopped.  I waited and he seemed to be stable, then I took a few steps. He stepped onto the road. I stopped and waited on him.  He stopped. I started walking away keeping a wary eye on him and he remained. A few yards later it seemed ok to get on the bike and I had enough distance that I felt I could have my back to him, and I rode away and that was that.  Found out he was male when I overheard some rangers in Banff talking about how they tag the left ear for males and right ear for females. This bear was tagged and probably came from the Park about 3 miles up the road.

Tomeroy Cabin
Grizz is on the right of the road just before the trees

I crossed into Alberta, and the rest of the day was pretty uneventful. Just wet sloppy roads, big puddles of water, slow shifting on the bike and the cassette skipping a little bit now and then in certain gears. I did find out that if I pedaled in complete circles ( pulling up rather than just pushing down ) the skipping was a lot less.

Alberta on the other side of the puddle
Spray River

Path over the swamp around Goat Lake
Done !  At the Spray West Trailhead 

It was good to see some of the familiar stuff getting towards Banff and it continued raining pretty much all day. I spent the whole day in rain gear, wet feet and all and got to Banff around 7 pm about 4 days better than last year.

TD 2016 Never Give Up - Montana

On through the Centennial Valley to Lima. With Mount Taylor and Mt Jefferson to the left and the water of the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge to the right, it's a beautiful ride. I really liked the first part of the day.

Centennial Valley
Started getting a little bit of mud in some wet areas and at some point noticed that my derailleur was making some funny noises and shifting was sluggish. I tried to wash it off and applied some liberal doses of oil to the lower cable area and it improved a little bit. The last few miles to Lima seemed to drag quite a bit with the same scenery repeating itself as we rode above a stream with uphills and downhills and sluggish shifting. Finally got to Lima and got the last hotel room at the little motel right at the I-15 exit. Ate, washed my clothes in a washing machine for the first time on the trip so far, got a burger to go at the restaurant and early to bed.

Early in the morning I awoke to the sound of rain. Knowing that the road ahead is prone to muddy impassable sections I buried my head under the covers dreading the dawn. Got up turned on the SPOT and managed to hit one of the wrong buttons and put it away. Result was that the SPOT turned itself off, a fact I didn't discover for many hours. Had some breakfast and started north towards Polaris.
Scenic Byway

As it turned out, the road wasn't all that bad, just a couple of soggy areas and it all went fairly well. Someplace near the Bannack State Park, my OCD kicked in and I checked on my SPOT and found out that it was turned off. Changed the batteries for good measure and rode on towards Polaris. When I got to Montana High Country Lodge was surprised to see a sign out front with my name and Bundy's on it, as Russ Kipp knew we were coming and had a nice welcome for us. MHC is a great place to stay and I left the next morning after breakfast. Thanks Russ and Karen for opening your home to us !

Medicine Lodge Road scenery
To the Right

Awesome Welcome !
Roll Call

Ready to roll for Butte

On the way to Butte, I stopped to drink a Coke that I had gotten at MHCL and was surprised by Kevin Jacobsen and his family who were camping in the area after Kevin having finished #3 just a few days earlier ( on a single speed ! ).  Was really good to meet them.
Kevin and me

Getting to Wise River was the easy part, being all on pavement. Then comes Fleecer Ridge. I did a lot better with it this year. Took my water, my sleeping bag roll up the hill first, then pushed the bike up. That got some weight off the front and I could actually push the darn thing. It still was a pain, but not as impossible as it was last year. Near the top a thunderstorm was starting to happen and there was no place to go, just keep on climbing and hope we don't get hit. The ride down the other side went well and pretty soon we were across I-15 and making a long climb up the other side and looking back at Fleecer. I got into Butte much earlier than I did last year, not as beat up and ready to do well on the next day.
Kind of a pain to get up to, but a nice view of Butte from up here
Picture does not do justice to how "up" this thing is

The next morning I grabbed some waffles at the Continental breakfast at the hotel and started out, getting to do a hassle of a climb right at the edge of town, climbing up to the "M" on a hill above Butte.  The ride to Basin went well, and I ran into Bundy there, and we rode towards Helena.

The Lava Mountain trail was the main obstacle for the afternoon. Pretty much unrideable for me, lots of pushing the bike uphill and the descent was just too treacherous to ride, so I walked and walked, and finally got through it all. We headed on to Helena, found a hotel room and started looking for a restaurant which turned out to be harder than we would have thought, as it was the 4th of July and everything was closed. But we did find an Italian place, had a great meal and back to the hotel and to bed.
Took a nap on the floor of the bike shop with this fellow
New Brakes here !

Cyclist house in the ilama pasture
Awww !
Next morning we started for Lincoln after getting some bike repairs done.  I knew of a convenience store at the edge of town on the right side of the road and was going to stop there. Got there and they had a closed sign in the window !  So we rode backwards about 3/4 of a mile. Got to another store and the lady there said "Lincoln has been evacuated due to the fire".  I sent Matthew Lee an email and then Bundy called the Forest Service and they said there's no closure. So we rode off to Lincoln, stopping at Barbara Nye's place for cyclists with the ilamas in the pasture. When we got to Lincoln we heard "They put the fire out".  Stayed at the Log Cabin hotel.

Next day's ride was to Seeley Lake. And it started raining and as we climbed Huckleberry Pass we got dumped on pretty good and had rain and mud all the way to Ovando. I had soup in Ovando at the Stray Bullet, met Bundy as he came through and we started. About a mile outside Ovando, we could see the rain coming and didn't have enough time to get all of our rain gear on. Some of the strongest wind I've ran into in a very long time and good sized hailstones hit us, and we elected to run for it to a group of trees where we got the rest of our gear on. Continuing on to Seeley, I noticed the bike was making even more noises. In Seeley the hotel had a hose and soap and water, and we were able to wash the bikes up a bit and things seemed to go pretty good.  Good breakfast burritos at the gas station and on to Richmond Peak.
Finished with Richmond Peak
Holland Lake

The ride up Richmond is really pretty, with the "Chinese Wall" on the right separating you from the Bob Marshall wilderness. We rode ( I walked some ) and up and over and stopped at Holland Lake Lodge for lunch, and then on to Swan Lake. Swan Lake was a little off the route, but was good to be able to get in a cabin for the night rather than sleeping with the bears.

The next morning we had a McSwan sandwich, got some stuff to go and started for Whitefish. A pretty good ride, one good sized climb, breakfast at Echo Lake Cafe and got to Whitefish with a little bit of rain falling. I got my hotel room and headed for Great Northern Cycle where Will added some oil to my derailleur housing which made the shifting work quite a bit better.

Bundy had bigger bike problems with a failing rear hub, so we had breakfast the next morning and he stayed to get that stuff fixed and I started out, initially thinking I would go only to Polebridge. But when I got to that turnoff, it was way too early in the day to quit and I continued to Eureka. It rained quite a bit as I climbed up Red Meadow Pass and all along the Flathead River, and then as I climbed Whitefish Divide. But got to Eureka around 9:30 with another hotel for the night, and a good breakfast the next morning at Cafe Jax.  Then I headed for British Columbia with the sun up and a pretty day.
Near Whitefish Divide
British Columbia

TD 2016 Never Give Up - Idaho

On to Idaho. There is a sign out there someplace for the Idaho - Wyoming state line but I have yet to see it and my GPS wasn't very clear on the subject, but with a slightly muddy road I think I made pretty good progress from Flagg Ranch to Squirrel Creek. 

Snake River valley in the distance
I stopped and got some lunch, Bundy was already there, and the two of us left together and set out for the rail trail.
Warm River from the Rail Trail
Again, as last year, the first part of the rail trail is really really pretty. It climbs along the Warm River which has lots of waterfalls and you can hear the rapids and the soil underneath is pretty good. Then it starts to level out and things begin to go awry quickly.  The good thing from last year is that the ATV guys weren't all out there.  Last year, it was 4th of July and every crazy fool in the Island Park area was out there on his lawnmower drinking beer and just having a grand old redneck time of it. This year, they were still at work, but the underlying soil was still nearly impossible to ride on. It took forever and then some. There were a couple of dirt roads to the side and I thought of taking them, but stuck to the GPS track and finally got through it. Made it to Macks Inn and we got a camping spot in the campground/RV park and a good dinner at Connie's restaurant.

Rail Trail
Dirt starting to wash off in the rain
Mother and baby moose

Found some great breakfast burritos at the Chevron station next door in the morning, so breakfast was pretty good and set off for Lima and Montana. On the way there, watched a bunch of cows breaking out of their pasture, seems there was a piece of fence down and every cow in the adjoining several acres was making a bee line towards that little section of the field. The grass looked just as good on the other side as where they were, but they sure were putting a lot of energy into getting out of that field. Also saw two pickups going by towing bear traps behind them, they pulled into a ranch just short of Red Rock Pass. 

Before Red Rock Pass

So climbed up Red Rock and we were in Montana !
On To Montana

TD 2016 Never Give Up - Wyoming

From Brush Mountain to the Wyoming line, it's about 15 miles of mostly downhill and was great in the early morning chill. At Savery, Bundy and I stopped to refill our water and get ready for the ride to Wamsutter. Wish the Little Snake River Museum had been open, it looked like a really cool museum to check out, but no waiting around, we had a string of rollers to tackle. I likened it to a third grade writing exercise where someone once wrote "the little airplane went up up up up .... and then down down down down .... " for 100 words. Finally get to the top of this thing and start to run into more southbound riders, including Hal Russell, who has done this at least four times.

The view of the Red Desert is simply stunning, this is a beautiful place, but being ruined by fracking and oil exploration with big cleared areas with industrial junk sitting around on pads behind fences.  There is a pretty 50 miles, the first part, followed by an ugly 26 miles where the majority of the oil stuff is. It's a slight uphill going north, we had a wind in our faces and there is just enough gravel to slow you down. Then added to that, my backside was starting to really bother me, more then ever before and each washboard would hurt.


Bird nests in a Quonset Hut on the way to Wamsutter
The road goes on forever
Hal Russell

From the bluff on the connector trail

Against the Wind
So little Wamsutter, nothing much other than a Love's truck stop on I-80 was good to get to. We ate at the Mexican restaurant and took a nap near the health center on some nice grass, waiting for the sun to start to go down and the wind to lie down. Finally rolled north about 8 pm and got in another 15 or so miles in the early darkness as a head start on what would be a hard day. I found a camping spot that looked pretty nice, setup the tent, got in it and twenty minutes later was awakened by a bright light about 1/4 mile away, seems I was pretty close to one of the oil things and they were doing some nonsense at 11 pm on a Sunday night !

Up the next morning in what was probably the coldest night of the whole ride, and headed for Atlantic City. I really liked the connector that we took, riding and sometimes pushing along a bluff high above some of the desert. Had a Fanta soda with me and it bounced out and destroyed itself on a rock, not a drop to be salvaged !

Getting to Atlantic City was hard, with more west wind in my face. I stopped at Diagnus Well, didn't need the water, but wanted to see the well. That last few miles to the Sweetwater River just went on forever and the backside issue was now starting to really hurt.

Atlantic City was open, got a burger and fries and pie and Cokes and iced tea and we found a cabin next to the Mercantile to stay in for the night. On to Pinedale the next day, the ride was actually pretty pleasant, with not much wind and a to-go burger from the night before to eat on the way.

In Pinedale, I bought a mirror at a hardware store, and coupled with my flashlight, a tube of Neosporin and my knife, did a little bit of lancing on a spot on my bottom, rather than waiting for a clinic. Wasn't sure that was going to work, but it did !

Tog Pass and Wilderness Beyond
Delicious !

When you leave Pinedale, it's on pavement for quite a few miles then hits dirt at the Forest boundary near the Green River. I knew from last year this place is full of mosquitos and it gave me great pleasure to pull out a larger sized spray can and kill about 20 of the things on my legs ( dead mosquitos stuck in sweat and bug spray ! )  We climbed up towards Union Pass and took the Continental Divide Trail piece that I got confused on last year, with a great tailwind and a storm brewing. It was spectacular up there !  Then around a turn where you could see Togwotee Pass and made it to Lava Mountain Lodge where the restaurant was open with some of the better food I had on the whole trip.

Jackson Lake

Had plans the next morning to stop for breakfast at Togwotee Mountain Lodge and we got there at 10:02 and they would not serve us breakfast as their hours went to 10.  One of the few things on the whole trip that really just infuriated me. Got a burrito at the gas station and then a good lunch at Grass Valley Cafe just before Moran Junction.  The ride along Jackson Lake is pretty, but there are way too many cars and RV's ... it's just one big string of motorized junk. We stopped for the day at Flagg Ranch, got a tent site that was kinda marginal. Some fool parked next to us decided he had to start up his bloody pickup truck to drive someplace at 10 pm ( there is no place to go, he probably drove to the store about 1/10 of a mile away ... just lazy ) then comes back and beeps his car alarm.

The next morning we left and headed for Squirrel Creek in Idaho.