After following the Great Divide Mountainbike Route for more than 2/3rd (check out our map) it is time to find our own way again as we want to travel West. Aim is to cross the border to Mexico at San Diego but mainly wanting to see parks such as Arches, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, requires us to go South West.
It was great to be able to follow a route which was 90% gravel, leading us through very remote areas of US. Not the corporate enviroment we both were used to but the remote, less urbanised USA.
A well described route which indicated also campgrounds, water sources and even where you could stock-up on supplies, made daily planning easy. Just double-check what was needed for the next days and start peddling. Now we need to plan again as we did from Vancouver to Banff, aim to be as much on gravel as possible.
Final part GDMBR
But first we still enjoy a part of the GDMBR this week.
It was so much fun to meet Nicole and Chris again.
After wild camping behind a big red shed, we joined Chris and his buddy Bill for a cup of coffee. Nicole already left as her plane was leaving from Denver. Chris and Bill have been doing these type of trips already for 30+ years and will now complete their GDMBR adventure. Wishing them all the funin the world in the next 900 miles!
We leave together but soon we have to stop as Franks new tire is flat again. The patch is loose and he applies a new one. He knows how to patch a puncture, but believes the outer tire being too weak, just rubs it off.,
The bump remains and it is very tiring to bike, like riding on one of those mechanical rodeo bulls. Few miles further it happens again, new puncture, new patch. And a few miles further again… Now he changes to a new inner tube. Fixing is done in a few minutes but getting everything off and on the bike takes more effort. Having biked +4.000 km without issues is now soon changing in one small issue after the other.
Due to all the changes we are facing quite some delay and are overtaken by another Dutch couple that is biking the GDMBR. Lovely couple, Mike and Firien. Mike being from the same part of The Netherlands as Frank, Frank recognizes the accent immediatelly. http://firienenmike.mine.nu.
They are carrying a GPS tracker which is sending their location every so many hours and if everything is still OK. Also they had the impression that we would see less people on the route. But we do see every day, also in the most remote areas at least a few cars, or other GDMBR riders. It seems that the number riding this route this year will probably reach 1.000.
We ride through one of the basins in Colorado. Very minimal vegetation, even sages will not survive here. Miles and miles of nothing, once in a while a camper in the middle of nowhere. Are they herding cattle? We don’t see any for miles at a stretch. Could also be what they call residential camping, people actually living in RV’s permanently or while working in a certain area. How to survive in here in the middle of no-where?
We slowly ascend to the mountains of San Isabel. On the top we would like to do wild camping, probably we would be able to reach Salida but we need to wait for a delivery (Goal Zero AA recharger, thanks Hilde for the tip) and we do not know if we will do a lot of wild camping once we are off the GDMBR.
As the guide indicated that at Ford Creek there would be good drinking water we did not stock-up as much as we normally do.
A herd of yaks has been playing around the creek and it is totally murky and not potable, not even after filtering. We are really happy when hunter Kwik, his family emigrated from Holland already in the 17th century to this area, offers us some bottles just before the top of the watershed divide. This is so sweet of people along the route, stopping and asking if we need anything, offering water etc and not wanting anything in return.
After a quiet night under the stars we are ready to roll into Salida, after repairing once again Franks tire.
Salida straight away steals our hearts. We find a motel with kitchenette where we will prepare recepies with 18 eggs during the next 4 days!
It is like being in your own little house. But first thing to do is fixing Franks tire. Absolute Bikes puts a 2.2 Maxxis Ikon tire on and it feels straight away much better! Great service.
During our rest day we go to Wall Mart for some shopping and to wash our bikes.
Frank makes them as new. I clean my white Ortlieb bags. Still like them but next time I would do a colour that shows less the dirt. Checking out the outdoor shop and talking on where we want to go next but don’t yet know which route we want to take, the owner recommend to check-out the trail of the Trans America Race, this is a race which was held for the first time this year and could/should be similar road conditions as the GDMBR. As we both like the city but also the motel, my cooking and we want to decide/prepare the further route to Moab we decide to stay an other day.
Seems that we will be able to use part of the American Trail Race route which is only available as a draft GPX, this we can up-load to our Garmin and MapOut App. We now have only access to the profile but what the heck let’s try it out because we don’t want to bike the Western Express route of ACA which would lead us over HWY 50. As this route will go over a 3900m pass we decide to stock-up on dry food and Idohoa instant mashed potato. We also prepare some sandwiches with baked sausages and omelets. In Salida we meet only one other GDMBR rider, Ross, who does not yet know if he will spend a few days here or push on and try to meet-up with some folks of his age who are also biking the same route. Ross is from the UK but lives in Australia and is riding the trail alone, next time his girlfriend will join. You can check him out at www.bikingthegdmbr.com
It is hard to say goodby to Salida.
After a soothing breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt and granola in our own kitchen we need to say goodbye to this little home. Lots of bikers will find our way of eating funny but we prefer a substantial, healthy way of eating and not lose more weight with only eating a sports bar as breakfast. Or mix instant coffee through your oatmeal so you at least have your caffeine (sorry Marty, not our cup of coffee).
After a stretch of highway we take the gravel road to Marshall Pass. Once you are used to ride over gravel with almost no traffic, all the noise, wind, aggression of fast-moving traffic on the HWY is an attack on your system. Happy to enter gravel even if this is going much slower. As this is also an old railroad track, it is a long stretch but with no more than 4% ascend.
Today I don’t feel so well, think too much rest or that one spicy margarita I had yesterday.
But it must have been the height as I had all the clear symptoms, just move slower and take more often a rest and we also reach the top of Marshall Pass.
Much later than Ross, who passed us on the way up. What a great ride and what an amazing views, colours are changing, chill is in the air. Will we be able to keep ahead of autumn?
After the pass we see a tent but also a pickup with another tent next to it. As we don’t see Ross we decide to camp ½ mile further south. To our surprise Ross passes us the next day when we are 2 miles on the road.
We agree to see each other in Sargents for breakfast. All downhill, us in our down jackets, Ross in short sleeves speeding off 😊 Sorry Ross we missed you yesterday to camp together. In Sargents you can only get lunch as of 11:00 and no cooked breakfast. Luckily Frank made us oatmeal so we are happy with a muffin and some coffee.
This landscape gives me the feeling of rowing in a wide ocean with high rolling waves which will swallow me if I don’t row fast enough.
Today will be the day that we veer off GDMBR and will follow the American Trail Draft. AT NN14 we detour and start heading west. Will this be rougher than the route we have followed till now?
Close to the reservoir we meet some hunters and they suggest a great camping spot between pines instead of camping next to the reservoir. Being surrounded by pines gives at least some protection against the wind.
This area has one of the oldest settlements, the Old Agency Ranch, with cattle, even irrigation channels have been made to irrigate the pastures.
First day of the route leads us over Pinos Pass, slow but steady climb. From 2700m to 3200 m in 20 km. Not too heavy going up but we can’t really make much speed. Going down is much steeper but also here we cant make any speed because of the rougher surface. Clouds are gathering and soon the first real rain in days will have us finally use our raingear.
Today we have already seen more off the road motor bikes than on the GDMBR. Two off them stop, Lee and Randy from Florida. We are the first cyclists they have seen on their part of Trans American Trail while they had seen a lot of bikers during their previous Divide ride. Will we hear less of the grinding sound of bicycles overtaking us on gravel roads? Lee asked if we would also do Engineers Pass, we don’t know as we have not looked at all the names of the passes we will do until Moab. He warns us that it will be a lot of pushing up-hill and sliding downhill. In the evening, at Spruce campground, (yes with an outhouse!) we look at our map if Engineers Pass is on our route. It is, but there is no way around it, except for a major detour. Can’t be heavier or worse than Lava mountain or Fleecer, can it? Check it out in the blog of next week.