Ride Report: Through Riding AZ’s Black Canyon Trail

Spring has sprung, and so has the appetite to explore!  Taking the girls to visit the grandparents and the Grand Canyon was the perfect excuse to slip in an all day adventure at the last minute.  The Black Canyon Trail (BCT) is a 75ish mile / 6k climbing, almost all skinny singletrack, point-to-point trail spanning from Mayer, AZ to near Phoenix, AZ. There are many different segments which are great for shorter rides (check out my previous blogs here and here), or a great point-to-point mega ride / 2-3 night bikepacking route. It is an IMBA Epic after all…

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Gratuitous Grand Canyon poser shot

Most of my riding gear was at home in Mammoth, but luckily, a co-worker gave me a gift certificate to REI, so I was able to grab what I needed to set myself up for success.

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My REI shopping cart – chain lube, water purification tabs, sunscreen, batteries for my Spot Tracker, a bladder for my frame bag, chamois cream, and Sun Legs – which I wish I had on the Tour Divide!

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The big wide open, just a couple miles after the start near Big Bug Trailhead

The Trail:

So frickin good!  Every section was a beautiful chapter of a book you don’t wanna put down and just binge read from cover to cover.  You don’t even wanna take your eyes away from the page to eat food or take a sip of water.  The tread ranges from smooth and buff to rugged and rocky.  Views flip flop between open vistas to cacti strewn valleys and switchbacks.  The terrain always warrants your attention – the second you gain speed and flow,  you’re on the brakes navigating a series of tight turns.

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There aren’t many extended periods of high speed “free” miles.  With that, the 75 miles feels more like 100, and the short, techy climbs sprinkled between flowy grade reversals are definitely more taxing than the sustained gradual breed – although there were a few of those too… climbing out of the river crossings were the toughest.  Don’t forget the cacti and cat claw are always lurking if you lose your line… throw all of these ingredients into the pot and you’ve got one stellar day of riding!!

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The flowing singletrack on Little Pan is a definite highlight of the BCT

I saw lots of cattle, a roadrunner, a snake, a turtle (yes a turtle), lotsa birds, blooming wildflowers, cacti, four humans, and more cacti.  Luckily, only one cholla reached out and touched me.  Lotsa chatter about the “river crossings”.  Obviously, the water levels are constantly changing, so check levels before you ride.  The deepest I encountered was up to my shins.  I just walked through the water.  Didn’t bother taking shoes off.  I’ve had enough experience with wet feet so no biggie.  Merino wool = all good.

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Shell shocked!  I almost ran over this poor little guy near Black Canyon City

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I didn’t bring a fro pick, but luckily nothing dug in too deep.  Pulled my legging away from the skin, and the pricklies disengaged.  Whoosh.

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One of the easy river crossings.  I don’t even think I got wet on this one.

 

Logistics:

I decided to start at the northern “traditional” Big Bug Trailhead (Highway 69 / Mayer) and ride south to Bob Bently Trailhead (Carefree Highway).  As of a few years ago, the trail now extends farther north than Big Bug to Orme Rd / Russian Wells.  I would’ve started there, to get every inch of trail possible, but that TH is more remote and takes much more drive time to reach.  My wife was generous enough to drop me off early in the AM, and I didn’t want to “exploit” her more than necessary – so the Orme Rd / Russian Wells TH was out of the question.  I’ll save that and the newer Copper Mountain singletrack for another ride 🙂

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Don’t bother going to Bumble Bee – nothing doing.

With a 2 mile out and back to the ghost town of Bumble Bee, the 3.2 miles out and back to Rock Springs, and the “getting lost bonus miles”, my ride wound up being about 75 miles with close to 6k climbing according to Strava.  Riding north to south (as most do – since it descends more that way, and has you finishing closer to civilization), is how I’d recommend tackling this one.

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Wildflower Season!

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PS – The most southern 7 miles, from Emery Henderson Trailhead to Carefree Highway, is rarely ridden anymore.  And for good reason.  It’s pretty mundane and unmaintained compared to what you just experienced.  Some sketchy route finding before you pass a prison and reach the “official” end of the trail aka being dumped out on the highway.  Not sure why they even call it Bob Bently?  Anyhoo… you’re better off  finishing at Emery Henderson TH which has bathrooms, parking lot, etc and is a much more appropriate spot to revel in your achievements and crack a coldie, just sayin. 

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I heard this is spring water, just before you cross Crown King / Bumble Bee Rd – Glad it was there, even though I didn’t need it.

 

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I pity the foo that don’t close the gate

 

Route Finding:

The trail is mostly well signed with confidence markers at most major intersections.  There are a few areas where you come off singletrack to doubletrack (and vice versa) that can get confusing.  Also, at the major Agua Fria river crossings (I had four, I think) there could be some head scratching.  No garmin with me, so relied on GAIA / iPhone which I pulled out of my pocket when I wasn’t sure.  Anyhoo, just carry gps and keep your life easy.

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One of the easier Agua Fria River crossings

Water:

I carried 2L water in my frame bag, and had 3 water bottles (2-20oz, 1-24oz) on the bike.  From Big Bug to Rock Springs Cafe, I only went through the 3 bottles, and didn’t touch the bladder.  From Rock Springs to the end, I only drank 2 bottles (although I drank a pepsi and a few glasses of water at Rock Springs Cafe).  Hindsight = definitely should have guzzled more water throughout, as I was pretty dehydrated by the end.  I also had great weather (50ish at the start, and high around 78).  If it was much hotter, I’m sure I would’ve used the full 2L in the bladder.  I was also prepared to treat water from the river, or by the Crown King source, or stop in Bumble Bee Ranch and ask to use their spigot in an emergency.  If you’re prepared, water shouldn’t be an issue.

Food:

I ate trail mix (Trader Joes – cashews, almonds, and chocolate), a couple tangerines, gummy worms, a luna bar, a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and grabbed a burger and fries at the Rock Springs Cafe.  BTW, the pie is fantastic at Rock Springs, but I wasn’t “craving” any on this ride.  If it’s your first time to Rock Springs Cafe, definitely grab some pie!!  The burger was what my belly was yelling for this time.

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Bike:

I used Dolphina, my full squish Niner RKT9 RDO.  I went with the 27.5+ wheelset and 2.8 tires. Happy with the setup although regular 29er wheels with beefy tires would be fine too.  No mechanicals.  Super happy with my custom Rogue Panda framebag which maximizes the small space, and my new Bedrock Tapeats feedbag which is HUGE!

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Best.  Urinals.  Ever.  Reason enough to visit the saloon at Rock Springs

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Where the ride should have ended.

Summary:

I’m sick of writing.  Go get some.  Check out the links below to recon your adventure!

Recon Links:

Watch this video of bikepacking the BCT from Rocky Mountain – https://vimeo.com/122393611

Bikepacking.com – http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/black-canyon-trail/

Bikepacker.com – http://bikepacker.com/black-canyon-trail-2/

Brian Lucido blog – https://www.brianlucido.com/bikepacking-arizonas-black-canyon-trail/

John Schilling blog – http://schillingsworth.blogspot.com/2017/02/bct-orme-to-emery-henderson.html

 

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Seal Team, Woolsey Fire, 6 Months of Ketchup

My alarm clock can suck it!  I won’t even look at you, or come close to setting you!!  8 months of hustle and… last week we wrapped Episode 22 / the Season 2 Finale of Seal Team in Los Angeles!  Boom!

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A random still from Ep 12 / S2 – Dir. Michael Watkins

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Lucy hitting the sticks on a set visit!!  Doing some night for day work at a bamboo forest in the Arboretum in Pasadena for Ep 16, S2 Seal Team, Dir. Holly Dale

Interest is compounding, divies are DRIPin – super jonesin to slide back into gainful unemployment aka spring corn ski bum status.  Traveling with the fam and clicking play on paused mtb adventures are also on tap with some gooooood beer.  I’m also hoping to catch up on some blogging before my lousy memory fades to black.   Here we go.  Can’t believe my last post was almost 6 months ago…

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Dita!! – Cruisin around in a Blackhawk Helo as the sunball was droppin.  I think this was for Ep 19 / S2

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Getting ready for a drive with the Mexican Marines.  Ep. 6 / S2

Cliff Notes version of the last 6 months:  Work.  Eat.  Sleep.  Repeat.  Actually, it wasn’t that bad… I snuck a decent amount of riding in… for every 8 days of shooting , I usually get 8 days to prep my next episode… during which time, it’s usually much shorter hours, working more from home, and more family and fun time sprinkled in.  Thank goodness for prep days!

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What a couple of Jabronees.

One of the by-products of filming in Los Angeles for 8 months was getting an apartment in Calabasas.  Multiple trailheads to pristine singletrack in the Las Virgenes Open Space just out my door.  A couple miles south and I’m riding Malibu Creek State Park, New Millenium, etc.  A mile west and I’m into Chesebro Canyon, etc.  Roam 5-10 miles either way on the 101 freeway, and I’ve got the Santa Monica Mountains, Topanga, Backbone, Newbury Park, Space Mountain, Dos Vientos, Sycamore, Malibu, etc.  And then…

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Las Virgenes Canyon / North/west part of Calabasas (where my apartment is) was right in the path of destruction.

Unfortunately, we experienced the devastation of the Woolsey Fire first hand.  Luckily, Angela and the girls were able to go home to Mammoth for a week while I was evacuated and our apartment lost power for 5 days.  I couch surfed and stayed in a motel for a and handled stuff while the girls were home waiting for the “all clear” to return.  Only one apartment in our complex suffered damage, and thankfully nobody was hurt.  The trails I ride every day were completely torched, neighborhood homes destroyed and playgrounds melted.  The smell in the air lingered for months, especially after rainfall.  Even now, with the amazing wildflower superbloom, and lush greenery covering the ashen earth, scorched trees are a constant reminder of all the loss… and I don’t even wanna start with the Camp Fire up north…

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Nov 4, 2018.  Rode Malibu Creek State Park / Bulldog loop with Catherine and Kevin.  Little did we know that 4 days later (Nov. 8th) the Woolsey Fire would start up and eventually burn the whole area.

Anyhoo, instead of being a Debbie Downer and boring you more than I already have, I’ll stop with the words, and just post some photos from the last 6 months of riding bikes and stuff – no particular rhyme or reason…

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November 26th, just after re-opening Las Virgenes to the public.

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I used to sit in this chair and look out at the gorgeous views. Nov, 2018

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Another one from Nov 2018, riding on ashen moonscapes.  As sad as it was, trail conditions were fantastic (although air quality definitely wasn’t)

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1/2 mile from my apartment – January 7th, 2019.  Reminders like this are sadly still all around the neighborhood.

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This pic is from January, but those trucks are still there as of two weeks ago (end March 2019).

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The Lehigh/NICA trails in Tehachapi.  Feb 9, 2019

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Hero dirt in Tehachapi, just as it was starting to snow a bit.

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Pristine fat biking in Mammoth – Dec 18, 2018

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Lower Rock Creek – Dec 23, 2018

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Lower Rock Creek with Lucy – Dec 28th, 2018 – what a difference a few days can make – luckily we always have the right tools for the job!

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San Clemente Single Track aka “The Weed Patch” – Jan 13, 2019

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KC’s birthday – Dec. 1, 2018, Joshua Tree – we found this Jack Daniels pinata and it was on like donkey kong

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Dec 8, 2018 – found this little gem near my apt that wasn’t effected by the fires! – but you can see how charred it was just across the way…

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Sunset sesh – my apartment complex is down in the valley below.  Jan 11, 2019

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Sunrise sesh – Laguna Canyon – Dec 16, 2018

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Gettin jiggy with Molly Love – Lake Perris – Feb 24, 2018

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Wifey ride.  Backyard trails getting GREEN – crazy what a couple months can do! Photo taken Jan 26-2019, as of March, this same trail has 3-4′ walls of grass the whole way down!!

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Another shot of the green starting to cover up the black ash on my backyard loop.  Jan 22, 2019

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Haha snuck in another work photo 🙂

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Getting ready for bikepacking season!  Shaking down some new gear on Dolphina!  Feb 20, 2019

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Superbloom in full effect – Corral Trail / Chesebro Canyon – March 30 – 2019

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Wishing everyone happiness!! – Until next time…

 

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Ride Report: Skyline Trail – Big Bear, CA

Sometimes I feel like such a schmuck.  What’s taken me so long to ride this trail?  I’ve been to Big Bear countless times over the years (mostly in the Winter, so there’s that excuse)… but other than riding the bike park at Snow Summit once (way back when they still weighed your bike) – I’ve never “really” ridden in Big Bear.  I’ll definitely be back for a more extended immersion – but at I least touched the crown gem of the area- the Skyline Trail.

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One of the many stunning views.  Good morning!

Brought the family up for a quick weekend getaway from the hustle and grind of L.A. – didn’t have to be at work ’til 1pm on Monday… so… saw the sign for Sizzler, we were all in – remember that cheese toast?  It’s like crack.  Shared the magic with my kids, and they are forever changed.  Jumped in the hot tub for soak… hmmm… what else?

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Sizzler!!

We hit the Alpine Zoo – love this place.  It’s a rescue and release zoo, with such a diverse collection of animals.  From snow leopards to wolves to grizzlies to bobcats and much more.  They bring in wounded animals, rehab them, and get them back to the wild whenever possible.  My kind of zoo.  The kids love “Pooh” – a black bear with three strikes that was slated to be euthanized.  His last strike was for stealing honey from a beekeeper (seriously).44052114_10217258117474159_7649301432364957696_o

So yeah… we had perfect weather, just after a rainstorm.  Sunny, and in the low 60’s when I slipped away to ride the 15 miles of singletrack bliss named Skyline trail.  Such a gem.  I rode Sunny (my drop bar mtb / Salsa Cutthroat).  Super easy to access the trail head from town. Just get the details from MTB Project.  Although Skyline is actually a point to point, it’s very easy to turn it into a loop which starts and finishes in town.  I did it from east to west, but you can totally ride it either way and seems like it flows equally as well in both directions.IMG_0032

Velcro dirt after a storm.  Perfect temps.  Couldn’t get enough of the mixed bag of terrain and viewpoints sprinkled in throughout.  From full throttle bermed turns over twisty, loamy dirt to tight, rocky switchbacks and undulating grade reversals, I was always longing for more!!  None of the climbs are too long, and all are rewarded with flowy goodness.  I only saw one trail runner and one other MTB on a Sunday.  Nice!!IMG_0031

Finished up at Grizzly Manor for brekky.  I don’t recommend!  Waited an hour and a half to get seated (I know it was Sunday at 10am, but still).  Then it took another 40 minutes to get our food which was so-so.  So, don’t go… they were actually telling people to go to Denny’s down the block… we should have.

Definitely worth riding Skyline.  Next time will explore more and hope to reintroduce myself to the bike park next year… until then… where shall we shred next??

 

 

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Twas A Dream – Reflecting on the Tour Divide 2018

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The feeling of finishing the TD is up there with Angela saying yes to my marriage proposal on the Great Wall and seeing my kids being born.  Check this one off the list!!

Wow.  It’s been a little over a month since it ended.  The whole thing is a blur.  A dream. 2,745 miles.  200,000′ of climbing.  An amazing, never to be duplicated  22 Days, 6 Hours, 43 Minutes of my life.  It’s amazing how much living can be crammed into such a short span of time.  Tied for 17th place with 5 others (we chose to cross the finish line together) in a field that started with 165 riders.  Not bad for “raoring“!

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June 8th, 2018.  The start.  Banff, AB – YWCA

Modesty aside, I’m pretty damn proud of myself for finishing as a rookie on my first attempt.  It’s icing on the cake that I finished within my secondary goal of 21-25 days.  The people, places, hardships, day-to-day achievements, and all the “little things” are etched in my brain forever.  I’m back in “civilian life” now – enjoying the fam, hustling in the bike shop, shooting Seal Team… starting to get the itch for the next one 🙂 – oh yeah, just ordered a unicycle… I’m hoping to teach myself at work and ride it around set…

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Stray Bullet Cafe – Ovando, MT

I’m stoked that other than soreness on my rear end, damaged taste buds in my mouth, catching up on much needed sleep, and my body and mind struggling a little with metabolism change / post-ride food consuption, I feel GREAT!!  A few sunburns, a little pealing on my ears, but hands and feet are fine (many riders struggle with numb fingers and toes for weeks or even months).  I started the race at 154 lbs, and although I didn’t get a chance to weigh myself right after, I’m sure I lost 10-15lbs. I’m currently back to 159 lbs, crazy!! –  the massive eating with slowed metabolism has been interesting.  Now I’m home from vacation, eating “appropriately” and feel like my body is settling back into it’s “normal” routine.

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At home, I play GO-RI-LLA with the kids.  Envisioning this moment also helped get me through the dark times.

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The obligatory “lift my bike in triumph” photo

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The gang – we all crossed the finish line together, tied for 17th (except Mitch – in the middle with no bike – he rode ahead and beat us all 🙂

Trackleaders shows that over 70 riders scratched.  That’s almost a 50% attrition rate.  Again, I feel blessed just to have completed this beast. Right after the finish, my family swooped me away to Crested Butte for recovery and 4th of July shenanigans.  I haven’t had a chance to process the experience until now, and don’t feel like I’ll ever fully “process” or be able to convey the mental and physical journey.  Slowly, I’ve been looking over photos, notes, and delving into thoughts that have been pushed to the back of my mind.  So, here we go…

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Sunny being taken away at the Reno Airport for the trip to Banff – my girlies!!

I’m not gonna bore you (or maybe I will ) or myself with a day to day recap, journal, etc – I’ll simply ramble off some thoughts and share some photos (in no particular order) that will help me remember that I really did achieve this goal (probably the hardest, most fulfilling physical/mental feat of my life) and make sure it doesn’t slip through the cracks of my brain, as my long term memory basically stinks.

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Sign that Crazy Larry made welcoming us at the YWCA Banff

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Unboxing Sunny the day before the start.  She’ll never be so fresh and clean again!

#1 – PEOPLE:

I met amazing people on this journey.  Other riders that I shared time with on the bike, and folks I met along the way.  Out of 22 days, I spent around 9-10 with just me, myself, and I out there pedaling for 12-16 hours a day.  So yeah, I was pretty stoked when I got to ride with others, and learn their stories.  In general, the type of people that do these sorts of things are gonna be positive, inspirational, and pretty cool cats.  It takes time, money, an adventurous spirit, and tenacity to do the Tour Divide – so TD riders tend to be intelligent, successful, and driven in their day to day lives.  They share the “I can do anything I put my mind to” outlook at life – so hanging with these gentlemen (and women) was a fantastic bi-product of this individual/ self-supported event.

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One of the best days of the trip.  Riding out of Salida, and climbing Marshall Pass with this group.  This pic says so much.  Dennis, Mitch, Craig, and Alexandra – wound up becoming the first female finisher!

I met many so riders, but am deeply honored to share indelible memories with Renato, Dan, Riley, Mike, Chris, Craig, Mitch, Alexandra, Dennis, Jesse, Paul, and Matej.  Sometimes a 3 hour, 3k climb can go by in the blink of eye with some good conversation.  It’s amazing how so many “different” people from “different” parts of the world can all gather in Banff with one common goal that becomes a common thread that becomes a lifelong bond of brotherhood/sisterhood.  The TD has this power, and it’s fantastic!  I’m blessed to be part of the “TD Family” and for every moment shared with kindred spirits.

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Kiwi Craig and I spent a lot of time talking about Seal Team and you name it.  This photo was taken on the last day.  The sunrise out of Silver City was breathtaking, and we knew we had done it.   His smile says it all.

Trail angels seem to jump out at you just when you’re at your lowest and need the motivation.  I don’t think they realize how important they actual are to us, but man, they are.  Here are a few that really stand out to me, and I don’t want to forget:  Barbara and John run a cyclist only lodging spot just below Stemple Pass.  They gave us beer and food and fellowship, and would not accept money for anything.  “Pay it forward” was all they asked.  Well I’ll do my best.  Kirsten at Brush Mountain Lodge – smiles and hugs and wood-fire pizza from “Vito” at the half-way point of the route.  Adam in Pinedale for buying me a beer and reminding me to keep my eye on the prize.  Tammy in Horca, for opening her cabin and her arms to us.  Sylvia in Canyon Plaza just outside of El Rito. The mechanics from Absolute Bikes in Salida that we had dinner with and then allowed us to camp in their yard (sorry I forgot your names!!).  The list goes on, but it’s the time spent with good people and good hearts that really keeps ya going and reminds you that there are good people in this world and it’s worth looking past the assholes and millenials and tailgaters to find and embrace the keepers in your life.

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Dinner in Salida – met two mechanics from Absolute Bikes that let us camp in their yard, right across from the bike shop.  That Ska Brewing Blonde Ale was sooooo goooood!!!

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Pinedale, Wyoming, Wind River Brewing – Adam (left) saw my blue dot, wanted to buy me a beer and hear stories.  His buddy, who’s name I forget talked a lot about Longmire.  Reminded me of Dale White.  My knee was killing me, and I spent the night here while many pushed on.  The next morning I felt better… rode 180+ miles and made it through “The Basin”.  Caught a bunch of people, and was somewhat of a turning point in my adventure, as I continued to pick up the pace.

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Haha!!  This one makes me laugh.  Jesse, Mitch, Craig.  Last meal of the TD – Brekky at McDonald’s in Silver City at 4am.

# 2 – PLACES:

Are you kidding me?  Every day was filled with beauty beyond belief.  Sure, a lot of them were also filled with rain, fog, and whiteout.  But hey?  Simply looking around at the majesty and soaking it in was mind-blowing at times.  I’d constantly think to myself, WOW.  This is so big!  Mountains that go on forever.  Endless views, that get better and better as I crest another false summit and another and another.  Until finally you reach the top of the pass, zip up the wind vest, eat a half pb&j and glide down the other side.  I can’t get over how “big” and diverse everything was.

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Yes.  There was snow.  I remember smiling and laughing all through this section.  Felt like home.  I kept sayin, “bring it Mama Nature.  This is why I’m here”.  After a couple hours, though… I was ready for it to be over 🙂

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Spirits high.  Tunes pumpin.

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Richard and Tony in the Great Basin of Wyoming.  120 miles of “this”.  It was hot.  Many people hate the Basin.  I loved it.  

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Day 2 – heading towards Fernie, B.C. – Simply magical.

From the 30 degree temps and snow-covered peaks in Canada and Montana to the 100 degree temps and desert of New Mexico, mother nature did not disappoint.  Countless mountain passes and Continental Divide crossings with birds-eye vantage points.  Seeing these sights, and doing what we did to get to those sights – that is the TD.

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Beautiful Banff.  June 7th, 2018.  The day before it all began.

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I’d just left Kirsten and the Brush Mountain Lodge.  Sunflower fields forever.

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Aspen Alley

#3 – HIGHS AND LOWS:

Everyone always asks about your best and worst experiences on the route.  Hard for me to say, but my “best” memories always seem to be late in the day, as the sun was setting.  I always seemed to be descending some amazing mountain, with gorgeous views around sunset.  Dropping from the sky on an endless ribbon of dirt over rolling hills shared with wild horses and elk… slowly seeing the faint lights of a quaint town coming into view as the last light of the day fades away.  A hot meal and a motel coming shortly.  Those are the memories that flood me now, and I’m sticking to it!

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Sun is setting behind us.  Moon is rising in front of us.  120+ miles of riding, and over 10k climbing, and we’re off the dirt and descending to Grants, NM for dinner at Denny’s and a motel room for the night.  10 minutes earlier, I was cursing the climb and my knee was screaming at me.  Unforgettable.

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Holland Lake Lodge.  I met my first “scratcher”.  Martin (by his bike) was figuring out how to get back to the Czech Republic.  He hurt his knee and achilles.  I tried to get him to wait it out, eat some food, spend the night.  But he had already decided in his mind.  The mind is so frickin powerful.  

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Places like the Holland Lake Lodge make it hard to keep moving.  Especially when you know you’re about to climb that snow-covered Richmond Peak up there yonder.

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Camping at Butt’s Cabin – night 2.  Be bear aware!

That is what kept me moving.  How funny!  Another example of how powerful the mind is… Since more often than not, my day actually ended with me exhausted, wet, and cold – camping off the side of the road – huddled into a damp, smelly sleeping bag, and scarfing down a snickers and sour patch kids for dinner.  Only to wake up 4-5 hours later after a restless sleep.  Throw on damp, stanky riding clothes, and start the cycle again.  Ride for a couple hours, warm up the sore knees and achilles, fight off the “Why am I doing this?  Why am I here?  I’m over this crap, this sucks! I just want to go home to my warm bed and cuddle with my family” thoughts.  The first couple of hours each day were always the hardest for me mentally.  Once I got through the mornings, I was ok.

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Sylvia!!  She’s famous from the Ride The Divide movie… her little snack stand in Canon Plaza is an absolute life saver after hours in the 100+ heat, and she’s such a gracious human being.  It was an honor to sign her guest book.

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Brush Mountain Lodge – Eating pizza from the wood stove “Vito” and getting trail beta from Jay Petervary.  Kirsten is an angel.  She somehow even had Sram HRD brake pads and saved me a trip to Orange Peel.  I didn’t want to leave!!!

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Made it!!  Hugs and cowbells and everything I dreamed and hoped it would be.

My darkest time was leaving Steamboat Springs, CO.  It was June 22nd.  My wife’s birthday.  I started feeling so guilty for being out here, and not at home to celebrate with her and the family.  I missed them so much and it got super hard to control the urge to quit that morning.  I called home and I must’ve been a wreck.  I will never forget that day.  I got off the phone, and it took a few hours for me to finally get back in a decent space mentally.  That was as close as I got to pulling the plug.

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Breakfast of champions.  Microwave gas station sausage sandwich before leaving Wamsutter.

Anyone can be physically in shape, and have the best gear for dealing with Mother Nature.  But harnessing the power of your thoughts is really all it comes down to in the end.  For me, the whole route was a roller coaster of emotions and polarizing thoughts in my head.  I cried almost daily.  I’ve never been so emotional in my life.  You have lots of time to think.  Lots.  All day and night.  Thoughts.  Putting a lasso around these thoughts and rangling in the most polar emotions is critical.  So yeah, lots of highs and lots of lows.  In the end they’re all part of the experience, and a confidence builder for life.

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Camping in the middle of cow patties.  Debbie offered, and I couldn’t refuse!  Caught in a horrendous storm on the way to Bannack Rd.  The next day was one of the most brutal.  “Embrace the grind” – the mantra that got me through this section.

I know life is going to throw many more highs and lows at me, and the TD experience has proven that we can all deal with all the highs and lows and maximize the hand we’ve been dealt.  I just want my kids to know they can conceive a goal and achieve a goal and appreciate every little blessing.  Now, more than ever, I sure do.

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Thank you Angela, Lucy, and Molly.  For letting me embark on this dream, and giving me courage and motivation to see it through.  Thank you Craig.  For capturing this moment that I had been imagining for 22 days.  My family and the thought of reuniting with them in Antelope Wells kept me going through the tough times.  There was no other choice for me.  I never let “scratching” creep too far into my thoughts (although it was a hard fight at times).  It was simple – I had to ride my bike to Mexico to see my family. 

 

I tried to journal for the first few days, than stopped because I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough at night. wish i had done it for the whole trip- here they are, unedited with iphone auto-typing and all… so I don’t forget…

6/7/18
Met Gary Meyer from bend Oregon at trailhead of spray lake trail/start line
Bought bear spray at Atmosphere with crazy Larry 20%off code
Pint of kolsh and buffalo chicken sandy at banff ave brewing before riders meeting at high rollers
Met some cats at the bar discussing buying bear spray- thought they were doin the td, but the banff marathon next weekend- when I told them I’m doing td they shit

Met up with Kevin – made plan for day 1 camp around mile 110 before climbing koko pass – don’t push too hard, ease into it
Grabbed salsa top cap – saw crazy Larry
Dinner at Greek joint with grumpy owner barpa bill banff expensive time to go!

6/8
Tube, sundcreen, rain pants, hat, tent poles- alll seen dropped on trail
New singletrack section is sick!
Sleeping under stars halfway up koko claims in just bivy with Barry Idaho magical – pushed a little more than I wanted but not too bad
Haven’t seen Kevin – resupply at boultpn creek awesome
Shooting star
Chick from Australia like a Jonathan singles bar trying every guy to share room in elk ford
Say a dude with a pizza box strapped to his backpack

Day 2
Got woken up by rain on my bivy at 4am – got packed quick and started riding/hiking koko claim ouch! Got dumped on but got to the snowmobile warmup cabin at the top and thawed out/dried my clothes / met up with renato and dan and rode to Fernie. Pushed on to butts cabin and rode with Jesse from Montana on the descent to flathead river so beautiful
Pitched tent in front of butts already full with people

Day 3
To eureka, cabin pass and galton pass knee hirting in am – scary- dropped saddle a little and took Advil
Wild horses coming down cabin pass were amazing- one albino
My birthday – stopped a little early got hotel – relaxed my leg/knee both passes had rain/sleet/Snow storms up high

Day 4

Big day – eureka to Ferndale

Mellow passes- whitefish divide and red meadow pass which had 1 mike of hike a bike thru snow- muddy and snowing up top- pizza in whitefish from there to Ferndale- whitefish lake is gorgeous – thought about fundraiser slideshow for new trail construction – both brake pads are toasted- must change before next big pass – used squeegee at gas station to clean drivetrain. Rura neighborhoods – a guy putting golf on his front lawn, deer hangin out back at bed breakfast candlewyck Megan took care of me Thai curry chicken soup and pbj’s for the road

Day 5 fern dale to seeley lake

Such a cold start! Threw every piece of clothing I have on – over 9k climbing
Descent was so cold from swan lake!!! Fingers numb
Met first scratcher at holland lake- sad, and a reminder that it can happen to any of us- Martin from Czech Republic – hurting knee and Achilles
Listened to hunters playlist all day, waited at Holland lake for Canadian friends to do Richmond with. Not too bad- only 40 min of snow hike a bike – share room and laundry in seeley and huge dinner at the bar- the filling station
Didn’t see bear, but tales to others who rode through just after me and they saw 2! I was sketched and singing through one area and my spider senses went off

Day 6 seeley lake to Helena
Longest hardest day yet. 130 miles, 10k climbing – left at 7:15 wasn’t in bed til 1am – 4 passes wow
Met Barbara and John at cyclist only camping / cabin- Pay it forward
Ward- broken chainstay
Anthony- broken wheel
I got really emotional climbing stemple pass – took photo
Riding up high at last light, seeing train, descending priest pass in the dark and hobbling in to Helena delirious at midnight!!!

To do: Advil
Brake pads
Check chain for wear/b-screw
Tighten Fred Bar
Check all important nuts/bolts
Put black sock on right foot

Day 7 Helena to butte
A little easier day put still had a grinder of a climb to lava mountain and a long ascent from basin to butte- but the reveal of butte from the “butte” was magical – the steep switchback singletrack into town was also fantastic
Shard a room with Riley

Day 8
Feeling pretty good- can’t wait to get out of Montana! Left butte earlier than Riley and made good time to wise river – all the views were amazing today, especially lookin down fleecer ridge !!

Good burger in wise river then climbed to polaris – it started raining so after eating some lasagna and getting a couple sandwiches to go, I pushed hard to bannack rd to get through before too soaked in rain- it’s known to become peanut butter and an instant hike a bike – it paid off- made it through – Agee Mike’s up the road, asked a lady Debbie if she new of any campsites up ahead and she offered me to camp in her cow pasture- done!
This adventure is amazing- the challenges and rewards are exactly what I was hoping for. Miss my family so much and I’ve been getting emotional and even crying sometimes. I can’t wait until we are reunited. They mean the world to me and a trip like this just magnifies those emotions. But hopefully in two weeks or so, it’ll all be worth the hugs inantelope Wells!!!

Greatest showman soundtrack 40 min long – last track was going home – got me up many climbs
The simple day to day life puts everything in perspective
The divide does change everyone
I was open to everything Mother Nature threw at me
Thunderstorm going into silver city – hill climb to keep core temp up and me from freezing
Straight to motel bath heater dominos order

Only ailments: ass, mouth, sunburn peeling

Mental is 80% of this adventure 10% physical 5%prep 5% luck

And finally, here are some more photos of the journey.  Feel free to hit me with questions/comments – especially if you’re thinking about doing the TD – all I can say is, DO IT.  Don’t put off life.

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An oasis in the Desert!!  We came across this about 50 miles into the Gila (a very tough section in New Mexico.  We were all running out of water, and this was a Godsend!  We actually met the people that put this out, and got to thank them personally. 

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Jim and Tammy’s cabin in Horca.  Words can’t express how important this was for me.  It was familiar, and I knew at this moment I was going to make it to the finish.

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Almost there.

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The Toaster House – Pie Town, NM

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Carried the Salsa top cap all the way from Banff to Pie Town to EARN a free piece of pie!!  Yes, it was worth it.

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Pie Town, NM

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Snowmobilers warming hut at the top of Koko.  Was able to dry off and warm up.  I was getting a bit hypothermic – so this was super huge!

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Great climb out of Breckenridge, CO – and equally great descent down the Gold Dust singletrack right after.  Yahoo!!

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Found this during “Magic Hour” just before descending to Silverthorne.  Magic is right!

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Good morning New Mexico.  New day, sunshine, last state.  Life is good!

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PB&J at the top of Lynx Pass.  

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“Bears with cubs x-ing rd” – Teton National Park.  Nuff said.

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This was another super emotional one for me.  Hammered by rain and storms all morning.  My mind and body were beat down.  Had no clue where I was.  Clutching to any positive hope I could find.  Then out of nowhere, the clouds parted for the briefest moment, and the Tetons smiled at me.  The switch flipped.  Life was good once more.  This is the TD.

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Big milestone.  Leaving Montana and heading into Idaho!

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Lunch break.  Somewhere in New Mexico

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Looking back over the Great Basin, Wyoming

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Another day, another crossing 🙂

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I came flying towards this old railroad tunnel in Idaho… and almost crashed when I saw it was boarded up.  Haha!  Made me laugh, so I stopped for a pic

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I like history.

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Finally the sun came out and the peanut butter mud on the infamous Bannack Rd started to dry up!!

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YESSSSS!!!

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Butte, Montana

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Riding into Butte after a long day in the saddle.  Civilization was sure nice to see!!

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Smell the flowers!

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On the way to Helena… Drinking beer, eating food, and shooting the breeze with Barbara and John at their “cyclist-only” lodging spot – she wouldn’t let me give any money for the food/beer… simply said, “Pay it forward” – I’ll do my best, Barbara!! another fantastic memory!!

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I was crying my eyes out behind the smile.  Overcome with emotion during this climb up Stemple Pass.  The music, missing my family, the beauty, the delirium, all got to me – so I decided to take a pic to remember.

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Laundry at Seeley Lake!!

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Deer in the backyard of the Candlewyck B&B in Ferndale.  Megan treated me with warmth and kindness… the Thai Curry Soup hit the spot!!!

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My room at the YWCA, Banff.  Packing up to start the adventure of a lifetime 🙂

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One of the few sunny moments in Canada 🙂

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How awesome is this!!?? The new section of singletrack on day 1 is fantastic!  Stoked for all future TD riders!!

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Day 1 – still fresh and clean – not for long… 

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where it all begins.  the official starting line for the tour divide

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TD life.  Wet wipes, jerky, vitamin water.  Simple pleasures.

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First taste of mud, on the way to Fernie – little did I know this was nothing compared to the drivetrain seizing mud I’d encounter over the next few days.  Thank gosh for coin op car washes!!

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This dude was stuck on a section that I just spent an hour hiking through- I offered to help him shovel out, but he declined.  Either way, good to see another human being (and a dog).

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Dan and Renato – at the top of Richmond Pass – two amazing guys, and a pleasure to ride with!!

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Singletrack descent from Richmond Pass 

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Stray Bullet – Ovando, MT

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Scenery like this.  Day in and day out.  Up and down.  Slow and fast.  I never felt more wild and free.

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Yep

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About to descend into Salida, CO – thanks for the pic Craig!

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Another shot sent over from Craig – thanks!

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That’s a wrap 🙂

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Get Busy Livin or Get Busy Dyin

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As soon as I hit “Publish”, it’s game on!!

6/5/18

Alrighty.  I’m heading up to Banff.  Grand Depart leaves Friday, June 8th, 8am.  From now, until I reach Mexico, I’m goin off comms except to check-in with Angela, post some pics, and record my daily rides to Strava.  If you’d like to follow the journey:

6/1/18

Tour Divide 2018, baby!!  Southbound and Down!!  Less than one week until the Grand Depart and it just hit me.  I better get my crap together ASAP.  No more spending 10+ hours a day at the shop working on others’ bikes.  Time to tend to my body, mind, and bike from here on out.  Finished my 2nd (and final) “shakedown ride” with Sunny.  Stoked on some subtle packing changes and cockpit adjustments (figured out a way to create more room in seat bag for extra food, adjusted handlebars and saddle slightly = more comfy).  Pack list finalized.  Bike build complete.  Hunter just loaded my MP3 player with tunes… can’t wait to hear what’s on there!!

Haven’t trained as much as I hoped to, but I feel healthy and strong.  So far, in 2018, I’ve ridden 215 hours – 1,960 miles, and climbed 188,465′.  Much of that on my fat bike and plus bike and loaded bikepacking rig (and almost all of it without a chamois:)  Funny to think that I’ll be riding 2,800 miles and 200k climbing over the next month (more than I’ve ridden so far this year!)

What now?  Just sprayed my waterproof bags with Scotchguard, because why not?  Still waiting for final 2018 gpx route.  Still waiting for Trackleaders/Spot sign up.  Tomorrow, I’ll clean the drivetrain, check spoke tension on my wheels, and place Sunny gently in a box.  Countless hours of training, planning, studying, dreaming, worrying, hypothesizing will soon be divvied between a bike box, and a disposable duffle bag.  I’ll shave my 4 month old beard to start fresh.  I’ll wear my cycling gear on the plane, and toss my worn out Hoka’s and baseball hat before the start.

I’ve gone over all the TSA regulations.  Gonna do everything I can so as not to “flag” myself.  No co2 cartridges.  Carrying on all liquids/creams in a quart sized ziploc, nothing more than 4oz.  Batteries living in the devices they are powering.  Spare batteries in a ziploc with electrical tape over the terminals.  Cross fingers the bike arrives in Calgary with me.  Then get on a shuttle bus to Banff.  Arrive late night to the YWCA.  Probably have trouble sleeping.  Wake up and build bike.  Take test ride.  Meet all the other yahoos.

Let’s see what I weigh.  Wow.  Lighter than expected.  154.2 lbs.  At night, before bed.  With the crazy Rabbi Beard.  I’m expecting to be in the low 140’s by the end of the race… we’ll see.

Nervous.  Eager.  Anxious.  Excited.  Scared.  You name it.  Am I pregnant?  I’m already missing my girlies, but can see their faces at the finish line.  It’ll all be worth it.  Soon enough I’ll be channeling all these polarizing emotions into achieving a single, simple goal – to find out if I’ll have enough strength to raise my loaded bike in the air in front of the border sign/finish line at Antelope Wells for a photo.  I vote yes.

I’ve done everything I can to set myself up for success.  I’m ready to leave everything on the trail and embrace it ALL – Mother nature’s glory and fury.  Yes, there’s a lot of luck involved, and many variables beyond my control- but I know I’ve done and will do everything I can to complete this route.  Onward!!

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Tour Divide 2018 – Gettin’ Anxious!

5/12/18

Hurry up!!  Get this bike built already!!  Less than one month from now, (June 6th to be exact) I’ll be flying to Banff.  Am I ready to start a 2,800 mile journey into places my mind and body haven’t yet fathomed?  I’ve accepted that I’ll never be ready… so yeah, I guess I’m ready.  Anxiety lately… but hey, that’s all part of the mental TD warfare training too, right?

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I’m pretty much done “studying” the route logistics, and all that.  I had my gear dialed before the theft, so now it’s just re-dialing it to the new rig once I’m done building it.  Sure, it’s gonna be snowy and wet and cold and windy and hot and dry.  Uh huh, we’re gonna climb and climb some more, and then descend and climb some more.  Ya, my ass is gonna hurt and my achilles is gonna get sore.  Knees will ache, I’ll be soaked to the bone and cold and miserable and overheated and stanky and muddy and crusty and punch drunk and dehydrated and starved.  FOOD!!  I’m already hungry!!

But… there’s only so much a brother can read on the TD forums and Facebook about drivetrain gearing, saddle sore cream, dish washing gloves, bivy vs tent, etc.  At a point, you just wanna ride your bike.  Enough about Toaster House and this and that lodge.  I want to touch and feel these places and make my own experiences and memories, instead of just reading about it.  Before I know it, I’ll be small-talkin and geekin out with nervous and twitchy like-minded adventurers at the YWCA.  But what I’m really looking forward to is riding my bike.  That’s when all the nerves and anxiety and training and prep stop mattering.  That’s when the simple life starts.  Keep an arrow on a purple line on my Garmin.  Onward.

For now, insomnia is nightly.  Wake up.  Think.  Read some Cordillera.  Try to fall back asleep.  Riding my bike some days… spending 50+ hours at the shop each week (and trying to find 3 new employees to replace the 3 that quit within a week of eachother as we head into our busiest season).  Gotta be creative with time management to get miles in these legs and still have quality time with my ladies.  Lots of mental training without even trying 🙂  With the added task of replacing my stolen TD bike and my bikepacking kit, spare time to “train” is definitely at a premium.  So yeah, focused on brain training.  Staying positive.  Weathering storms.  Accepting and embracing the angst and anxiety.  My family is healthy and we’re still getting lots of daddy dates and movie nights on the couch, and I’m sharing life with an amazing and beautiful wife and we’re giving our girls the best life we can.  The bike shop is thriving better than we ever could have imagined.  I’ve been promoted on Seal Team for next season from “A” Camera Operator to alternating Director of Photography with Jimmy.  I constantly wonder why I deserve such blessings… but I’ll take it!!

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Having fun with Jeremy.  Hard to imagine we’d soon hit snow…

A couple days ago, Jeremy and I tumbled 30 ft off Mammoth Rock Trail trying to slide scoot his hand-cycle past a small patch of off-camber snow drift.  I lost my footing in the snow as I was spotting him, and his bike flipped over me and down the hill.  Luckily, neither of us were injured as we somehow missed the rocks that sheered four spokes from his wheel.  I had to carry his 60lb rig back up a steep, slippery slope and then carry his 135lbs of dead weight back up to safety.  A good laugh, and good times with a good friend.  Jeremy kept saying “this is good Tour Divide training for you” as I fireman carried him back up the hill.  It was!!  Both physically and as a reminder to treat every potential setback as a positive opportunity.

Anyhoo… here is some nourishment I’ve been feeding my brain these days. Smile.  Life is good.

  • Discipline is the bridge between goals and achievement. – My Dad
  • Mountains are mountains.  You must take them as they come.  – Arthur Oliver Wheeler
  • Don’t have any more negative thoughts ever.  They have to end. – Billy Rice
  • Nothing that’s worth anything is ever easy. – Mike Hall
  • We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. – JFK
  • Draft off the intelligence of others. – Unknown (maybe me?)
  • Proceed with adventurous spirit. – Matthew Lee
  • Change your thoughts and you change your world.  – Norman Vincent Peele
  • The difference between the impossible and possible lies in a person’s determination. – Tommy Lasorda
  • Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical. – Yogi Berra

What about Sunny?

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Sunny 🙂 – I love this bike.  Basic assembly done, should have her riding in the next few days!!

Sunrise, my new Salsa Cutthroat:   “Sunny” is sitting at the shop.  She really is a beautiful bike.  I’ve barely had a free second to start putting her together.  Bars, stem, fred bar, dynamo wiring are on.  Wheels built, tires on.  Chris King BB is in.  Cranks and drivetrain on.  Hydraulic lines cut, just need to bleed.  Just need to wrap the bars, test ride, load it up, ride a bunch and tweak a bunch.  Got my replacement Spot Tracker, and transferred my account.  Ready for blue dot status.  Still haven’t found the stolen bikes.  Kinda stopped looking.  Not dwelling on that, but many people keep asking.  More important fish to fry.

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I had fun building the wheels last week

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Decided on a CK bottom bracket.  Set yourself up for success.

What’s next? 

Do a few long rides and an overnighter to shake everything down.  Keep riding bikes throughout May.  Keep stretching and doing yoga.  Spend lots of time with the family.  Shave this ridiculous beard.  Take Sunny apart and box her up.  Jump in a car on June 5th and go to Reno.  Kiss my angels, and fly to Banff.  Throw my leg over the bike and start pedaling South.  Smile a lot.  Enjoy the majesty.  Meet awesome people.  Be inspired.  Push through the lows and embrace the highs.  Don’t stop until I reach Mexico.  Reunite with my angels.  HOot!!

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Deflated for a Moment, But Moving ONWARD

It was that slow motion, Project X vibe where the monkeys are jacked with radiation.  The moment when I looked at my Kuat 4 banger bike rack and realized the unthinkable was in fact, fact.  Where there were three bikes, there was now only one.  My kryptonite cable and padlock on the ground next to my car.

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Never trust a big butt and a smile. 

Slowly, you start to process the loss.  The violation.  Anger meets sadness, and it takes you to your knees.  In a daze.  Call police.  Call insurance.  Beat yourself up for being stupid enough to leave the bikes on the back of the car.  Feel sorry for yourself.  Boo hoo.  Wasted energy.  Pull yourself together.  Angela’s sweet Niner Air 9 was gone.  My sweet Salsa Cutthroat was gone.

For about 5 seconds, ok maybe 10 – I actually pondered “pulling out” from the Tour Divide.  I’d been dialing in the Cutty and my Tour Divide “rig” for months (as the blogs leading to this one can attest).   I’d just been riding the Tour De Los Padres with that bike and kit, and now it was gone.  In a blink, lot’s of $$ and time and prep were gone.  For 5-10 seconds, so were my hopes and dreams of completing the Tour Divide this Summer.  Maybe it’s just not meant to be?

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The last photo I took of the Cutty before it was stolen.  17-Mile Drive.

No way.  Screw that.  I hate that “meant to be” line of bullshit, and thank gosh the 10 seconds were up.  Nothing is meant to be.  We choose our path and make it be.  In under three minutes (that’s how long it took according to the surveillance footage), two douchebags walked away with our bikes and my complete bikepacking kit.  I have my wife and my kids and my family and my friends and my health and some decent fitness and NOTHING is gonna keep me from fulfilling this goal and this dream.  This is but a minor setback.  Mental training.  Nobody can steal your resolve or motivation or your heart or your soul.  So that’s good.

I feel sorry for the lost souls that took our bikes.  They are forever cursed.  I’m surrounded by blessings.  So much goodness that I often feel I don’t deserve.  Two amazing children and an amazing wife that remind me every morning when I wake up and I’m reborn that I must not waste this life.

So, here we are.  I’ve got six weeks to get a new steed and re-build my kit from scratch.  Unfortunately, Salsa Cutthroat’s are very popular and are sold through.  My awesome Salsa and QBP reps already started scouring the dealer network, trying to find one for me when I got the best text EVER.  My friend Brahm, who’s family owns CycleQuest in San Diego hit me up.  “My dad’s got a medium Apex 1 build on the floor.  Do you want it?”  YES!!  “Ok.  I’m in San Diego, and will be coming back to Mammoth on Wednesday, I’ll bring it up”.  Are you fricking kiddding me?  Not only did Brahm stoke me with the bike, but he’s bringing it up to Mammoth as well?  Cloud Nine!!

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The girls like how KC named his bike, Sushi.  So, we decided to name this bike.  Meet “Sunny”, short for “Sunrise”.  My new companion for the Tour Divide.

My dynamo hub is sold out everywhere.  Shey, from kLite USA, graciously offered up the one he uses to test his lights/harnesses… tomorrow he’ll be sending me out my new wiring/harness/power supply/switch and the hub!! Score.  Brian / Siren Bikes had one Fred Bar left – he’s shipping it out!!  Everything’s coming together!!  I’ve already begun ordering the rest of the parts and bits, and so far the only thing that’s troublesome is my Syntace C3 Aerobars.  No longer available at any distributors, and I’m having trouble finding them anywhere online.  I really love those aerobars, they fit me perfectly… I’ll keep looking before I give in to replacing them with different ones.

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You can always count on Panda Express to lift the spirits!

Anyhoo.  Life is good.  I drink champagne with kings and queens.  I’ve got other bikes to ride in the mean time.  All the Facebook and Instagram comments from friends and family have been fantastic – motivating and hilarious.  I’ll be putting in an insurance claim today.  I have a high $5k deductible on my homeowners policy.  I’ve added it up, and our losses are around $13k.  Crazy, right?  The bikes account for about 1/2 and the other half is my bikepacking kit.  I never took the time to add it all up before, but when you see it laid out in a spreadsheet, it’s pretty crazy… to see how every little thing adds up… a tent here, a sleeping bag there, a pump, a spot tracker, a puffy jacket, waterproof gloves, blah blah.  Oh well.  I’ll just have to work hard and earn more money.  Beats going the millenial route and trying to get everyone else to pay for my mistakes/setbacks.  GoFundMeNOT. 

Here’s the list of stuff that was stolen, in case you’re curious:

Bikes
Complete Bike: 2018 Salsa Cutthroat Silver Fade / Force 1 Medium
Complete Bike: 2018 Niner Air 9 1 Star Build 27.5+ Black/Blue Small
Bike Components/Upgrades to Salsa Cutthroat
Crankset : Sram XX1 Eagle GXP 170mm (order from Hawley)
Chainring: Absolute Black 32T Oval GXP Direct Mount
Stem: Niner RDO 90mm
Handlebars: Easton EC70 AX 44cm
Aerobars: Syntace C3 Medium
Rims: Nox Teocalli Carbon (26mm int width)
Front Hub: SP 8x Dynamo 15×100
Rear Hub: Industry Nine 12×142 XD Driver
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition 2.0/1.8 Black
Nipples: DT Swiss Alloy Blue and Purple
Cassette: Sram 10-42T 11spd XG-1195
Cassette Modification: Wolftooth GCX 46T Cog
Tubeless Sealant for Tires: Orange Seal
Tubeles Tape for Tires: Stans 25mm
Tubeless Valve Stems: Origin8 Gray (2)
Tires: Continental Trail King 29×2.4 w/ ProTection Apex
Bar End Plugs: Hope Grip Doctor Blue
Bar Tape: Lizard Skins DSP 2.5mm (2)
Bar Gel: Fizik
Saddle: Fizik Gobi M3 K:ium Rails
Seatpost: Syntace P6 Carbon Hi Flex 27.2x400mm
Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3
Bottle Cages: Salsa Nickless (3)
Bags / Storage / Mounts:
Accessory Mount: Siren Fred Bar
Accessory Mount: Bar Fly Universal Mount (for Garmin eTrex) x 2
Handlebar: Salsa EXP Cradle – 460g
Dry Bag: Outdoor Research UltraLite Dry Sack 10L Blue
Seat Bag: Revelate Vischacha
Frame Bag: Salsa EXP Cutthroat
Top Tube: Salsa EXP
Top Tube: Revelate Jerry Can
Accessory: Revelate Mountain Feed Bag (2)
Accessory: Revelate Spocket (Pack for Spot Tracker)
Accessory: Specialized KEG Storage Bottle
Accessory: Backcountry Research Tulbag
Electronics/Lighting:
Light Mount: TwoFish Flashlight Mount for LD22
Light – Handlebar: Fenix LD22
Light – Handlebar: Exposure Revo Dynamo – custom kLite cable
Light Mount: Exposure Handlebar Bracket
Light – Helmet: Exposure Joystick MK12 Purple
Light – Rear Blinky: PDW Aether Demon USB
Dynamo Charger: Sinewave Revolution (custom wired by K-Lite)
Dynamo Top Cap Charging Switch: K-Lite
GPS Tracker: Spot Gen 3
Cable: iPhone charging cable
Cable: USB Splitter
MP3 Player: iPod Shuffle
Leash: Garmin eTrex 30x Quick Release Lanyard
Tools / Maintenance
Chain Tool: Park CT-5 Chain Tool
Multi-Tool: Crank Brothers Multi 10
Tire Levers: Park Tire TL-4 (2)
Chain Lube: Dumonde Tech Regular 4oz
Multi-Tool: Leatherman Squirt PS-4
Pump: Lezyne HV Micro Floor Pump
Sealant: 2oz Stans Liquid
Spoke Wrench: Park SW-0
Valve Core Tool: Stans
Valve Adaptor: Presta to Schrader
Genuine Innovations Elite CO2 Chuck
C02 Cartridge: GI 20g Threaded
Valve Stem w/ Removable Core: Stans
Removable Valve Core: Stans (2)
Cleats: Crank Bros. Set
Chain Master Link: Sram 11spd (2)
Brake Pads: Sram HRD Metal (2)
Tire Plug Tool: GI
Tire Plugs: GI “Side of Bacon”
Patch Kit: Park Vulcanizing
Patch Kit: Park Glueless
Tire Boots: Park Kit (3)
Derailleur Hanger: Salsa #687
Spare Tube: 29″ Presta w/ Rem Core
Clothing
Short Sleeve Baselayer: Smartwool Merino 150 SS
Gloves: Pearl Izumi PRO WXB
Socks: Swiftwick Pursuit Four
Arm Warmers: Pearl Izumi
Sleep Kit
Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek HV1 Platinum Tent
Ground Sheet: Big Agnes Fly Creek HV1 Footprint
Bivy: Montbell UL Sleeping Bag Cover
Sleeping Bag: MontBell Spiral Down Thermal Blanket 50 deg
Inflatable Pillow – Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Regular
Misc
First Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight 0.9
Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze Mini
Water Bladder: Playpus 1L Soft Bottle
Kryptonite 7’x10mm Cable (broken)
Kuat NV Core – Rear wheel strap (broken in theft)
Chamois Cream: Chamois Butt’r 9ml Packet (2)
Sunscreen: Dermatone 1oz Tube
Lip Balm: Dermatone 0.15oz Tube
Fire Starter: AMK Fire Lite
Fire Starter: AMK Tinder Quick

 

 

 

 

 

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Iron Stomach, Not So Much – TDLP 1, Alan 0

I’m sitting here in bed.  Holiday Inn Express.  State St.  Santa Barbara.  My old college stompin grounds.  Goucho pride.  Around 2am.  2 days after pulling the plug on riding the gorgeous, albeit brutal, Tour De Los Padres route.  Tis was to be my last “formal” multi-day shakedown as the 2018 Tour Divide looms closer and closer (man, it’s only like 7 weeks out now – yikes!!).

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I ordered a Club Sandwich to go (which I let fester in my jersey for a day before eating) and filled up water from the hose/spigot in the back without filtering.  My so called “iron stomach” will not be cocky again.

I finished the Stagecoach a few weeks ago, and was feeling great going into this one.  Body and bike and mind pretty dialed.  As I lie here, I feel my bike and mind are still smiling, and my body is about ready to rejoin the party.  So, what happened?

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Climbing into the beautiful abyss…

I needed a reality check, that’s what.  Or at least that’s how I wanna see this and take all the positive away I can.  My iron stomach has been penetrated like never before.  I’ve always eaten pretty much whatever, and rarely get sick.  Not this time.  Let’s start with the good:

  • This route is fantastic and tough and beautiful and rewarding and I will come back to summit Big Pines Mountain and descend to the ocean and drink a beer at the Brewhouse in SB.
  • The singletrack descent through slushy snow on Mt. Pinos was epic.
  • Meeting new people and riding with a bunch of them was super fun – especially Art, Tony, and Phil – who all went on to finish top 3 this year!  Great work fellas!!
  • The romp through Carrizo Plains National Monument, second to none.
  • The climb out of Selby Campground, majestic.
  • The roller coaster between Gilliam, Gifford, and Highway 166 a brutal ass-kicker, but worth every sunblock drenched teardrop that stung my eye.  I dabbed multiple times in this area, HAB’d more than I’d like to admit, almost fell into a muddy lake, and got scared crapless by a Cali Rattler shakin and gyratin on the side of the trail.

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    Cruisin through Carrizo Plains National Monument.  A definite highlight. The little dot riding by is Phil.

Yeah, bikepacking at it’s best.  Highs and lows.  So now the lows:

  • During the 40ish mile section from Selby to Highway 166/Miranda Pines climb, my body was not wanting to eat or drink water.  Of course, I forced it, as I needed the calories and hydration to deal with the 8k of taxing climbing included with those miles.
  • After 6+ hours of improper fueling, my body was getting less and less responsive, and during the 3k climb up to Miranda Pines, it finally told me to piss off completely.  Instead of merely not accepting bribes in the form of food or water, it flipped me the bird and started throwing back (or should I say “up” )everything from earlier that day and current efforts.  Including peanut butter cups, nuts, bars, a club sandwich, salami, cheese, you name it.
  • Ok.  Adversity.  No sweat.  Let’s wait it out.  Hung out at Miranda Pines Campground for a bit.  Ready to spend the night, sleep it off.  See what the morning holds.  Just one problem.  This route has no proper food resupply for the last 220 miles.  Zero.  I had approx 120 miles and 10k climbing to go without any options to pick up food on the way.  I’d thrown up most of my rations, and even in perfect health, would not have nearly enough food to make it to the end.  If I continued past Miranda Pines, it would be into no-mans-land.  So the decision was made to descend 3k and 10 miles back down to the highway, where I crawled in a ball and waited for the fam to come grab me.

Now, that might sound like a big old bummer.  Actually, it was a great reminder and fantastic training for the TD.  Back to the positive take away:

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Sunrise after camping on my first night.  Near Selby Campground.

  • I’m pretty sure I got sick in one of two ways:  Bacteria from a day old BLT or salami or cheese that had been festering in my jersey pocket or water from a hose behind “The Place” in Ventucopa that I didn’t filter.  Either way, I will make sure to do neither ever again!!  No more mayo on sandwiches, and no more day old sandy’s re-heating in my jersey pockets!!
  • I will include a couple charcoal tabs and other “sickness” meds in my kit.
  • My tent is fantastic.  Love it.  Still gotta practice staking a little more.  Can’t forego a sleeping pad (I tried this ride with no pad, and I missed the insulation and comfort on a cold night, so yeah)
  • My arse felt great for 150 miles… no chamois, but I used cream… that’s still up in the air.
  • My new wind vest is fantastic.  Stoked to add it to the kit. PS – thanks for finding it Gregg and giving it back – what a miracle!
  • No knee pain at all.  I think the yoga and stretching has been doing wonders for me.
  • No hot spots in my shoes.  I’m diggin the Superfeet insoles.
  • After trying not to, I’m considering riding the TD with a small hydration pack.  I feel I’m not drinking enough from water bottles and bladder alone.  Just not “easy” enough to take sips here and there on techy terrain.  Next thing you know, an hour has passed, and you’re behind the hydration curve.  Something to try out in the weeks to come.

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    Taking a break, trying to eat – Climbing up Gifford Springs

Moral?  This is what training and prep is all about.  To get all the kinks out, right?  Better now, on day 2 of a 3 day ride with my family nearby than day 2 of a 20 something ride.  Glad that’s out of my system (no pun intended) and thank you TDLP for the bikepacking clinic!  Now it’s time to enjoy this family vacation of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey!!  Yahoo!!

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My daughter keeps telling me to take more pics.  I do enough camera work at work, but I’m trying.  Don’t think I’ll ever get used to selfies, but Lucy, this one’s for you 🙂

 

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Notes from the 2018 Stagecoach 400

Oh, the Stagecoach 400.  I did it back in 2015 on the SS… when Brendan ran it clockwise.  The diversity of terrain, scenery and vibe of the route are hard to beat.  Mountains, deserts, oceans, farms, singletrack, urban bike paths, college campuses, breweries, bourgeoisie, hobos, rednecks, no necks all cleverly crammed into 385 miles and 32k climbing.  Highly rewarding.  No small task.

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Fantastic singletrack climbing out of San Diego towards Alpine, Day 2.  Bike performed flawlessly.  No mechanicals, and the Conti Trail Kings were the perfect tire overall.

Round two.  Why, again?  Not as an end, but a means to – training for the Tour Divide.  Stoked that it’s now run counter-clock, so I still had some course knowledge, but it felt fresh going the opposite direction, and dare I say, easier?

Goals?  Mostly mental prep for the TD.  Balance highs and lows.  Work through setbacks.  Practice positive.  Way more important to exercise the mind – face the sleep monsters, weather monsters, and the deep, dark low spots that only show up on a true bikepacking event.  So yeah – kind of a TD warmup.  Also great multi-day  Raoring practice.  Ride hard, but stop and smell the roses.  Gauge fitness, continue shaking down gear/packing/hydration/fueling for the TD.

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Quick snack break.  Anza, Day 1.

I rode at what I perceive to be my “TD pace” – not “Stagecoach Race Pace”.  I wanted to put in 100 miles/10k climbing a day, but also sleep well, enjoy the route, meet cool peeps, eat well, and not feel like I was racing.  Success!  I finished in 3.5 days, with mind and body completely great at the end.  This gives me some encouragement for the TD – knowing I can potentially hold this pace for many days.  That being said, here are some thoughts/memories I jotted down during this adventure:

  • Heavy mud climbing Thomas Mtn out of Idyllwild from recent rains – but nothing too bad
  • Nippy dogs yelling and running at me as I was leaving Anza, then a trail runner came up and they went for him – haha, the decoy!  I pedaled past and left them.  Yes, I looked back and he was fine.
  • I didn’t realize my bladder leaked until I started climbing Chihuahua.  I’d finished my water bottles already, and was counting on the 2L in my bladder to get me through the next 25 miles of hot weather / slow going riding.  4 hours without water was a great mental test for me.  Composed and calm.  I did find a spigot about half way through which pushed out brown water.  I filled my bottles with it, and was ready to filter it in an emergency, but only if it came to that.  I was dehydrated by the time I hit Warner Springs, but nothing too bad.

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    The spigot I found that spit out brown water.  Luckily, I never had to drink it 🙂

  • Met Sarah and Lauren and rode with them for the next few hours.  (I should’ve taken some pics with them!)  The slower pace helped me to re-hydrate and it was great having company, as I never get much on these ITT’s.  After they decided to camp, I kept on towards San Diego.
  • Took a 15 minute siesta at the weird old building at the top of Black Canyon Rd.  Just what the doctor ordered before a magical descent.
  • Ate a fresh orange off a tree before reaching Escondido
  • Rode by a homeless lady who was using a bigger iPhone than mine.  Ummm….
  • Right knee hurt day one, stale legs morning of second day, but then they came around and knee pain stopped as I was climbing towards Alpine.  Thank gosh!
  • Had a left over fat boy pita from the greek place in Alpine for brekky in Descanso post office to get out of the rain/wind

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    Shelter from the wind/rain.  Eating my leftover half of a “Fat Boy Pita” for brekky at the post office in Descanso.  So quiet.  I could hear the time clock punch every minute.

  • Rain and gale force winds continued up Cuyamaca, Indian Creek, and Noble, and headwinds almost unbearable on Sunrise Highway.  Took cover in pit toilet at Lucky 7 to warm up a bit before descending Oriflamme.  My headlight was in a feed bag pouch and must have bounced out during the rocky descent.  Bummer.  Didn’t notice it was gone for another 60 miles or so.
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    Can’t tell from the photo – but rain, wind, and mud made very slow going through Cuyamaca and up Noble.  Great mental practice!!

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    Last time, I climbed Oriflamme in the dark.  So happy to descend it this time, as the sun started to poke out and reveal magical views after getting pelted by rain for 5 hours.

  • Yahoo, reached the desert, sun popped, temps raised, dried out at Agua Caliente with Mark before cutting through sand and washboards of Fish Creek Wash to Split Mountain.  Headwinds turned to tailwinds and helped me through that junk show.

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    So good to make it to Agua Caliente and thaw out / let my clothes dry out for a bit.  The desert can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

  • Once back on the pavement, nothing but headwinds all the way to the Iron Door Saloon.  Cookie brought me a pizza, some wings, and a couple hot dogs, which I washed down with a couple of Budweisers (yes, I know).  That’s as craft as it was gonna get.
  • Chatted with Dave, Biker Jim, and Steve and learned that Stephen Hawking passed away.  That was sad.  Steve lived 300′ from the bar, and invited me to camp in his front yard.  I said yes.  We chatted til the wee hours by firelight.

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    Hangin with Steve, so stoked he let me camp in his front yard.  You meet some great peeps on these adventures.

  • The Greatest Showman soundtrack replayed dozens of times and got me through the headwinds into Borrego Springs and up Coyote Canyon through shin deep water in the Willows and eventually to the snack shop at the RV Park.

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    Found this bighorn by the Willows in Coyote Canyon.

  • Problems with right foot getting hot spots and going numb.  I’ll try playing with cleat placement.
  • Rode the rest of the way into Idyllwild with no music, just enjoying the quiet.  Ordered a burrito to go from La Casita, took a warm bath at the Idyllwild Inn, watched some mindless TV and settled into sleep.
  • Next time, I’ll pack a few stakes for my tent which flopped around in the wind.
  • I rode sans chamois.  I made it through, but it was tough on the nethers.  I think I’m gonna give in and try a chamois on the Tour De Los Padres next month.
  • Might try a different dry bag with loops in it, as mine kept sliding out sideways over techy/bumpy terrain.

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    Trail magic.  I was face down in the aerobars, zoned out, when Jon yelled my name.  An ice cold beer and some good conversation were exactly what I needed before climbing to Alpine.  Life is good! 

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.
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Tour Divide 2018 – To Chone or not to Chone: Are Chamois really the answer?

Many a debate have been had over frosty hoppy beverages.  What’s best for the nether region?  Chamois?  Bibs?  Freeball?  Baggies?  Mandex?  Chonies?  Macaronis?

So, yeah.  I’ve been “training” my arse area for the last year or so to ride without chamois.  In the past, I got myself used to “living” in my chamois liner shorts, and never had a much trouble with saddle sores.  I just don’t love the idea of soaking in a moist, abrasive, diaper/sponge if I don’t have to.  It just feels so much cleaner and easier to go without, if possible.  I know, I know… it’s not for everyone.  It might not even be for me.  I know a few people that have done extensive bike touring for months on end, with no chamois, and no issues.   I’ve done plenty of big rides/days in the saddle, with no issues.  I’m still not 100% sold on it.  There’s a difference between 6-8 hours in the saddle/day and 16 hours in the saddle/day, every day for 3+ weeks.

I’m gonna ride the Stagecoach 400 with no chamois and see how it goes.  That should be 3-4 days of riding 12-14 hour/day.  It everything goes well, I’ll give the Divide a go with just some lightweight, wicking boxer briefs.  But, knowing me, I’ll travel with a pair of chamois to Banff and decide then.

I’m a baggy shorts kinda guy… started riding late in life and fell in love with riding the moutain bike resort here in town which has an “enduro” vibe… I never got into the mandex xc race kit deal or the roadie gear either.  I know that baggy shorts have the tendancy to move around and rub on long rides, etc – but after the initial “break in period” of going sans chamois, I haven’t had one saddle sore.  I’ve been trying a few different boxer briefs – mainly Patagonia, REI and Ex Officio, and just ordered some Smartwool seamless to try out as well.  They are all comfy, but are sewn together slightly different with seams running slightly different.  So far, the REI units are winning.  Super light and packable (I’ll bring an extra pair), dry quickly, don’t bunch up, and with baggy shorts, my “area” breathes pretty well.  As of late, my arse has been fine after multiple 6 hour rides, and a 10 hour ride around the White Rim… but that’s nothing compared to the hours we’ll be in the saddle on the TD.  To be continued…

Curious to hear any comments…

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.
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