Tuesday, September 25, 2007

photo: Climb up to Continental Divide #2

photo: Stream Crossing

photo: Lincoln Chickens

photo: Holland Lake

photo: Beaver Dams & Single Track

Beaver Dam: Amy points out the characteristic chewed off ends of the branches in the foreground.

Single track: This is some of the beauty to be found at mile 198 from Roosville.

photo: Columbia Falls Shay Engine

photo: Climb up to Red Meadow Lake

photo: Alongside Glacier National Park

photo: Climb up the Whitefish Divide

photo: Crossing the Border

photo: Friends in Fernie

photo: Sparwood's big truck

photo: Riding the Fording Creek Baby Heads

photo: First Campsite

photo: Sights from the first day of riding

Silver City, NM

Just finished ~5 days of fantastic riding from Grants to Silver City (route mile 2587). New Mexico is the favorite state of the trip for both of us.

The roads continue to be rougher and the scenery more dramatic than in the states further north.

Pie Town has a terrific little municipal campground, right next to the two cafes that serve pie. It was a nice break in an otherwise long stretch without services.

We've overlapped for a couple days with another GDR couple - Christine and Eric (Erik?) from Corvalis. It's been nice to visit with other riders. They ate 12 pieces of pie in a 36 hour break in Pie Town!!

Two or three days ago we had more rain, and we encountered true New Mexico mud. We were on a stretch of dirt road which was essentially made of clay, and the stuff just sticks. Our bikes became completely solidified in mud - not just the tires, but every gap just filled with mud. Quite an experience. We pulled and scraped the mud off, and waited a few hours for the road to dry a bit. We had to push the bikes through the grassy fields beside the road for a couple miles, until we were past the worst of the mud road section. When the map says "roads impassable when wet" that is not an empty threat. Christine and Eric put their bikes on the back of a passing pickup truck and got a ride to Beaverhead Ranger Station, where they used the wonderful hose to de-mud their bikes.

Yesterday and this morning we rode through a section of the Gila National Forest that is not grazed. Holy wow what a difference it makes. There is topsoil, grass, forbs, flowers - it all looks so healthy. I believe that is the first long section of ungrazed habitat we've been in since Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks many weeks ago.

We have 2-3 days from here to the Mexican border. The next couple days will be the first real desert of the trip, and I'm excited to change to a new habitat. From there, we've decided to ride east toward (or maybe to) Tucson. We're trying to find some good maps so we can figure out a good dirt road route east. We'll probably be riding for another week or so. From Tucson, we'll either rent a car, catch a commercial flight, or possibly arrange a ride from a friend with a private plane.

All continues to go well. Amy & Jim

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Grants, NM

We just spent two days on dirt roads crossing over from Cuba to Grants (route mile 2310). With the exception of a 9100' crossing of the shoulder of a small mountain range, we've spent the last two days at about 7000' in arroyos, buttes, cactus, volcanic plugs, and of course the dreaded cow habitat. The roads in this area have provided by far the most difficult riding we have experienced for any extended period of time. Sand pits, washboard, deep water cuts, loose rocks, steep sections and so forth form a large portion of the road. While we have had short stretches in the past with technical difficulties, they were always over quickly; not so for the last couple of days. Great southwestern landscapes.

The section yesterday afternoon and part of this morning had some really poor road conditions, and the going was quite slow. Last night we had a terrific campsite at the bottom of an arroyo (which was still damp from the rain a couple days ago), on a nice flat sandy patch with no plants with thorny parts :)

The last 20 miles downhill, from San Mateo Spring in the mountains into the town of Grants we had a good little downpour of rain. The roads in Grants are all full of huge puddles.

I probably mentioned a few weeks ago that we passed a couple - Dave and Michelle - also riding the GDR. Their website is http://outsideforever.com/

We're about to start our longest stretch without access to much of anything: 260 miles from here to Silver City. We pass through a cross-roads called Pie Town, which has a cafe that is famous for its pies, but other than that there are no other amenities. This should be an adventure.

We're going to spend the night at a motel here in Grants and get prepared for the next leg.

Take care, Amy & Jim

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cuba, NM

Writing from the library in the small town of Cuba (route mile 2201). We just had a stunning two day ride over the Povedera Mesa - the last mountains with elevations >10,000' on the trip. That may be our last spruce trees on the trip.

Yesterday was rainy (never very heavy) off and on all day. It wasn't too bad, except that we stopped frequently to take the rain gear off and then put it back on again a half hour later. The scenery was stunning, and the flowers were fantastic. We had our first Bushtits and Scrub Jay of the trip: familar birds from home.

We camped last night up on top. Most of the higher elevation was wooded with no view, but the area where we camped had been logged and so had views to both east and west. Took a long time to find a flat place to put the tent, since the logging equipment reconfigures everything into pits and mounds. During the night we had good solid thunderstorms, hail, wind, and such. But we awoke to clear skies and had a great day riding today.

Our next town will be Grants NM, in about three days. After that it's 5-6 days to Silver City with no stores between Grants and Silver City.

We heard from the librarian that two GDR cyclists passed through this morning - we hope to run into them in the next few days -- it's fun to meet other riders. A couple days ago we met a French fellow riding the GDR northbound on a motorcycle - he was jovial and having a blast.

All is well, Amy and Jim

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Abiquiu, NM

We are now in the very old small community of Abiquiu NM; the former residence of the great artist Georgia O'Keefe. (route mile 2123). Although we've been in New Mexico for a couple days, it wasn't until this morning that we came down out of the mountains and into classic NM landscape -- eroded red mesas, cottonwood trees, oak trees, spanish town names and surnames, old catholic churches, and our first temps over 80 in weeks.

Everything continues to go well. The weather has been perfectly splendid, and the scenery great. We have spent the last few weeks amongst hunters, as we are in the heart of the season. While most of the hunting camps are tidy and clean and the drivers are nearly always exceptionally courteous, the number of trucks and ATVs on the road is much higher than I expected. If anybody wants to ride this route but is nervous about having mechanical problems in the middle of nowhere with no access to help -- well, just come during hunting season and you will never be far from help. These camps are usually a couple trailers, a few pickup trucks, a handful of ATVs, some tables and chairs and usually a running generator (what they use the power for is unclear) - tucked into a cluster of trees on the side of a USFS dirt road.

We had been warned that the road quality deteriorates in NM and so far that has been true. In Colorado, the road surface was consistently very high. Once we crossed Indiana Pass and headed downhill toward NM the road quality has varied widely. It's very frustrating to ride downhill at 6 or 7 MPG because of the loose gravel/rocks on the surface.

Jim has had his second dog attack - it erupting out of one of the hunting camps - he takes the brunt of these because he rides in front. The barking and growling dog nipped his heal, it didn't break through the shoe, but it did cause him to lose control and crash - fortunately nothing hurt. He was riding downhill on a dirt/gravel road, so getting jumped on by a dog is a hard thing to ride through. That dog and that dog's owner got an earful about keeping their pet tied up so the riders behind us don't get the same attack. Jim was bitten once in England on a walking trip, and the owner of that dog as well as the owner of this dog said the same thing - "he's never done that before, he's a very gentle and nice dog".

We are a little too early for Cottonwood and Aspen colors, but we are getting little patches of nice yellow trees. It's quite lovely.

It's likely to be a while before we post again - we're in sparsely populated region with few towns and fewer libraries.

Amy and James

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Del Norte, CO

We arrived in this small town early on the 12th of September. The ride over the big passes from Salida was very straightforward as the grades on all three were very moderate. We continue to experience very benign weather which makes life so much easier. The aspens have just barely begun to turn in a few places, so signs of the oncoming change of seasons are not much in evidence.

In Del Norte, we are staying at Gary and Patti's home. They are a local couple who welcome GDR riders. We have only had a brief conversation with each of them at this point, so don't know much about them yet, other than they are kind and welcoming and have a very comfortable home in town.

Tomorrow, we head for Indiana Pass, which, at 11,900+ is the highest point on the route. After that pass, we drop toward New Mexico through very isolated country without the benefit of towns and libraries, so it may be some time before we get to post again.

While crossing the large dry basin east of Gunnison, we did manage to see a single Gunnison Sage Grouse, an extremely rare and local species of bird. It was only separated as a species from the Greater Sage Grouse a few years ago; it is only found in high sage covered areas in central Colorado and eastern Utah. Given how few birds there are, maybe 5000 total, and what a large area they can be found in, we consider ourselves quite lucky to have seen the one we did.

best to all; Amy and James

NOTE to GDR riders present and future... There is a terrible stretch of jeep track as you approach Del Norte - a "biking disaster". Apparently it used to be rough, but is now REALLY rough due to a very heavy storm a month or two ago. The bad stretch is from mile 144.2 until 149.8. Lots of unridable sand. Very loose rock, bumpy, and unpleasant. We recommend you take the more straight-forward route mentioned in the book. At mile 139.9, don't turn right onto FR660. Instead stay on 38A all the way to 112 and take that into town.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Salida, CO

We're at the library in Salida (mile 1775 on the route), while the good folks at Absolute Bikes put fresh new chains on our bikes. At our current pace, we'll probably reach Antelope Wells in about 20 days.

Everything here continues to go very well. Weather has been great, scenery has been great, bikes are healthy, and we are healthy. We consider our luck with weather to be exceptionally fortunate.

We met another pair of GDR cyclists today. That's only the second party we've met riding the whole route this summer, but we continue to hear about a few more parties within a week ahead or behind us.

The scenery has been great, with the exception of the incredible sprawl of one ski area that seems to be a bit out of control - the complex of Dillon/Silverthorne/Frisco/Breckenridge was a bit overwhelming. Most of the towns we've been through since Helena seem to be either dumpy and economically depressed, or ski/golf areas that are over-run with condos and McMansion sized second homes. Salida is the first town since Helena that seems like a normal, livable place.

The riding between Breckenridge and Salida has been perhaps the most satisfying of the trip - just lovely very empty country, high quality dirt roads, lots of space, nice camping, etc. We crossed Boreas Pass above Breckenridge, which at 11,400+ is the second highest on the route. The road was an old railroad route constructed in the 19th century which was converted into a dirt road in the 1950's. It had a nice gentle and steady grade which made the crossing surprisingly easy. We made it to treeline at the summit and had great views of the central Colorado Rockies. It was a real relief to find that we could still pedal at high altitudes.

We continue onward with high hopes that we can finish this thing.

Friday, September 7, 2007

photo: Start of the Trail Riding

We are still very fresh. We are at the Banff Springs Hotel where we leave the paved roads. This is the beginning of the 90% off-road route. This is notable that this trail start is marked by such a palace of luxury.

photo: The Send Off

Jim, Amy and I gratefully receive the well wishes from Linda and her family. We are most fresh looking in this picture.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Kremmling, CO

Now in Kremmling, at the library. I've never appreciated the value of libraries as much as I have on this trip.

The ride here from Steamboat has been lovely. Good dirt road conditions, beautiful mountains.

We've had our first encounter with "weather". It rained lightly yesterday morning for a few hours, and then started again in the evening about five minutes after we got the tent set up and everything in it - we were racing against the inbound rain. It stormed off and on all night, heavy rain, huge thunderclaps, lightning - the whole thing. We had a nice campsite in grass in a valley (right next to the creek ford, for those familiar with the route) so the lightning was not troublesome. Fortunately for us, the rain stopped before we started riding this morning.

Yesterday morning, while it was raining lightly, we were ready to stop for lunch but didn't want to spread our food out in the rain. I rode up a driveway to a rural house to ask permission to sit under their eave. As is often the case in rural areas when traveling by bike, the couple at the house was very kind and allowed us to sit on their deck, out of the wind and drizzle. In addition to being dry, it had hummingbird feeders and Gray Jays (coming in for daily bread).

We met our first motorcycle GDR riders yesterday. A couple of gents from Laramie WY. They started last year in Roosville MT, but abandoned when one lost a battle with the dreaded chasing dogs. He said he was watching a couple dogs coming out from the left side of the road and was caught by surprise by a dog coming in from the right side. The collision with the dog left him with a broken shoulder and a damaged motorcycle. Jim was chased and bitten by a dog early in our trip, but fortunately the dog took a bite out of the Ortlieb pannier instead of taking a bite out of Jim's leg. Last year my friend Martin got a pretty good bite in the leg. Dogs are probably the most unavoidable problem for bicycles, but I didn't know they caused grief for motorcycle tourists as well.

We've only met one other pair of cyclists who are riding Roosville->Antelope Wells. We've met a few other cyclists riding short stretches of the route this year. We've heard that there are a couple other parties several days ahead, and another party a few days behind.

We've just ridden through the Gore Range of mountains, near the Colorado River. This is fun for me because my first high mountain backpacking experience was in the Mt Zirkel Wilderness in the Gore Range back in 1971, when my good brother Steve took most of my family up into the high country. We rode just west of that wilderness area a day or two ago.

The folks at Orange Peel Bicycles in Steamboat Springs were fantastic - every GDR rider should stop in there just to say hello.

All is well, and we'll post again when we can. Amy & Jim

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Steamboat Springs, CO

Made it to Steamboat Springs this morning. Mile 1534 along the route, although we've ridden something more than that. All continues to go really well.

We continue our great luck with weather. Highest temps so far were in the mid 80's - nothing over 90 yet. No serious rain for weeks.

Since our last post in Pinedale, we rode through ~250 miles of dry, dull, sagebrush with NO TREES and NO SHADE and very limited access to water. So it made a big difference to have relatively mild temps. One of our days riding across the Great Divide Basin was even overcast with occasional light drizzle - with temps in the 60's, couldn't have hoped for better weather in that landscape.

Rawlins WY is at the southern end of the Great Divide Basin, and we stopped there to resupply our groceries before riding another 135 miles to Steamboat. Rawlins is a tired, almost dismal, town. We were there on a Sunday morning, and the only things open (other than many storefront churches) were the grocery store and laundrymat - the only things we really needed. No library for internet access though :(

30 miles south of Rawlins we climbed back into the mountains - aspens, pines, creeks and other things we hadn't seen for ~250 miles. It's REALLY nice to be back in the trees.

Our potential for bad weather now shifts from too hot to too much snow. Our overall elevation now is higher, and the chances for 90+ temps are probably gone. However, our chance for hitting some storms including snow is just starting. If it's not one thing it's another. The aspen trees have not yet started to turn yellow, but perhaps in a week or so we'll start to get glorious aspen covered mountains.

I have lots of thoughts about cows, land-use, top-soil, huge trucks, mining, oil-drilling, and other such things. More thoughts than my 30 minute library internet pass will accommodate, but maybe in a later post. Summarizing - I think much of Montana and potentially all of Wyoming will suffer a cultural meltdown when the price of gas in the US finally catches up to the price of gas in the Europe. 95% of the vehicles on the roads are trucks, and not little trucks like a Toyota Tacoma, BIG trucks, Ford F200 or F250 is the norm. And the recreational activity of choice seems to be this: hook a big camping trailer on the back of your giant truck, and behind that camping trailer, tow a utility trailer with two All Terrain Vehicles in it. Drive some distance, park your camping trailer, and take off in your ATV to stir up a lot of dust. Then, take out your weapon of choice and shoot any public road sign you can find. Or, if there are no road signs handy, then shoot tree trunks instead.

It's a good reminder that the culture in San Francisco, or Evanston, or Ann Arbor, or Boston, or Philadelphia, or any of the other places Jim and I have lived, is NOT like the cultural norm in the whole country.

Anyway, we continue to have a great time. We are fortunate to have good weather, reliable bikes, enough to eat, and many great campsites.

For the next couple hundred miles we have towns every day or two, so we don't need to carry so much food, we get more hot meals, and hopefully more libraries.

Thanks to Rickson for posting the picture of the bear !!

All is well, we're having fun, and we'll post again when we can. - Amy & Jim

Saturday, September 1, 2007

photo: Black Bear

I have been back for over a week. I am just now looking over the few photos I took. This is one of my favorite. We were between Big Fork and Helena, just outside of Holland Lake. We were thinking about the 5.5 mile 2500 ft. climb ahead of us. It was mid morning. Jim had just ridden ahead out of sight. Amy and I looked over to the side of the road to see a black bear. It was growling at us. I think it was a mother. It was looking at a black bear cub in another tree. Amy wanted to stay to watch what was going to happen. I saw the mother start to climb down out of the tree. We could see that both mother and cub were very good tree climbers. I told Amy that I was going to leave right away. I am glad that Amy left the bears right away too.