Day 28: Salida to Upper Dome Reservoir
Heeding the advice from our bartender the night before, we woke up from our stealth camp early to avoid being detected. We found a nice bakery, ate breakfast burritos and ordered bagels to-go. After a few more errands we set off for the long climb of Marshall Pass. The first 26 miles were nearly all uphill. The climb was long and steady while the heat made it hard. The changing Aspens made summiting the climb enjoyable and a few hours later, we finally reached the top. We took a short break to admire the view and devour our bagels, both wishing we had ordered more. The long descent was a nice break and a few miles later we stopped at a small bar/general store. As Brett wasnt feeling too hot, we took another small break and ordered a beer. Still not feeling well we sat outside where Brett rested and I mended my frame bag’s zipper. We then left and rode a few more hours until night came and we camped at the Upper Dome Reservoir.
Day 27: Dillon to Salida
After an amazing nights rest we woke up, ate eggs and said our goodbyes. As we were leaving, Jackson, Jesse’s son, told us that he was a expecting us to have ridden on a tandem, he seemed a little disappointed to find that we each were riding our own bikes, but it was a good laugh! We set off down the bike path from Dillon and rode up and up and then down a short descent into Breckenridge. After 30 minutes of Matt dealing with Post Office shenanigans, Brett discovered the glory of peanut butter on blueberry muffins. We left town and climbed up Borealis Pass. The leaves were finally beginning to change and the views were amazing. The descent was fun and as things flattened out we followed a handful of nice gravel roads before turning onto a stretch of paved highway. A short storm was coming our way and we pressed on a couple miles to a convenience store. During that time something went off in Matt’s Achilles and he was barely able to stand. Luckily we tapped into the science of K-tape, which instantly helped. We cruised along a series of washboarded gravel roads until sunset. We still had aways to go as the path suddenly turned into a hard, steep climb. It got dark as we spun our way up the climb and shortly after summiting, we saw the lights of Salida. We donned our headlamps and started down. It was pitch black outside the illumination of our awesome Dynamo headlights and every few minutes a new corner would reveal the lights of Salida getting closer. Fueled by hungry stomachs, we crushed the descent. We soon found our way into town, and smelled our way into an open bar and feasted on Beer and Burgers. With no rooms available in town and the nearest campsite miles away, we opted for stealth camping down by the river. Sleep came quick.
Day 26: Cow-Pie Field to Dillon
We woke up after a decent sleep amid the field of cows. We ate breakfast and after a short climb, descended down into the small “town” of Radium. We met a local who let us fill up our water bladders and began the long slow climb out of Radium. It was a hot day with lots of hills. We pedaled on and eventually passed Inspiration Point, where we were greeted with uninspiring Headwinds. Eventually we settled next to a lake and ate our delicious lunch, the usual bagel peanut butter fabulous (PB, Nutella and JAM). As we left, our headwind woes continued to destroy our souls and we trudged along the next dozen or so miles. We eventually passed the worst of it and summited Ute Pass. Not many climbs along the GDMBR are rewarded with such sweet descents, but the paved drop to Silverthorne was nothing less that glorious. We rode the remaining miles into town and met up with Brett’s girlfriend’s brother Jesse and his family. That night we ate like kings. Steak, Pesto Pasta, Ice cream, Beers. The night was an epic. Did we mention there was a hot tub?
Day 24-25: Brush Mountain Lodge to Steamboat To Cow-Pie Field
After an awesome stay at the Brush Mountain Lodge, we set out with hopes of making it the 50 miles to Steamboat Springs by the early afternoon to have work done on our bikes. The road started off pretty mellow, got a bit rugged, and then turned up. It was a steep rocky section that took us over the pass. We stopped at the top, hiked a small hill and took in the view while eating lunch. We were feeling good and began the descent, which quickly became more work than the climb. Finding a good line through the rocks and ruts slowed our progress and added to the stress on our camera bags. We had to stop a couple times to secure them in place while we continued down the rugged descent.
We finally made it to the highway and put the hammer down on the smooth pavement, working hard to make up lost time into town. Unfortunately we arrived too late in the afternoon for the shop to work on our bikes and were forced to stay the night. We took the opportunity to sample delicious beers and fuel up on burritos. After a pretty lousy night of sleep we got to the shop at opening and they set off to work. It seemed to take forever. After breakfast and hanging around a while, we finally received our bikes and got rolling. It was early afternoon and hot. It wasn’t long before the lack of sleep began to set in. We decided to take a power nap at the first bit of shade we saw. On the side of a small rocky driveway under the edge of a few small bushes, we did our best to sleep. After 20 minutes we got up, ate lunch and continued the climb up Lynx Pass. Our moods were still pretty sour as we heard a car approaching, we pulled to the side to allow them to pass, when we heard a woman shout out the passenger window, “you guys want a beer?” It was a couple we had ridden with a bit earlier in the day, who were on their way to a party. They pulled over and we all shared beers on the side of the road. The sun was getting lower and our moods were shifting. It was just what we needed to push on a few more hours before we found a nice primitive campsite in a cow-pie filled field.
Day 23 – Rawlins, WY to Brush Mountain Lodge, CO
After yesterday’s long ride out of the Great Basin, all we wanted was a rest day. But the logistics ahead looked a little tricky and we would not be able to take it easy. The forecast called for a large storm later in the day, coming down from the north. Our goal was to make it 75 miles to Slater, CO where we thought we would be able to camp or find additional shelter if it were to snow. After getting groceries, we set out and climbed straight away. After cresting the top of an enormous, straight hill, we entered a 27 mile construction zone. It was a mess. We dodged construction vehicles, tractors, semis and all the huge ruts they left in the loose dirt. The few mandatory stops didn’t help in the way of our anxious feeling about the weather, as the construction workers kept warning us about the incoming snow. We kept at it, and after what seemed like an eternity, we exited the steep and rugged ups and downs of the construction area, and entered the National Forest. It had taken us much longer than expected and we were talking about readjusting our ride for the day when we came across a pair of northbound riders.
This husband and wife duo spent a couple weeks each summer tackling different sections of the great divide, and were really enthusiastic about it. It honestly felt like a halftime pep talk. Their energy was contagious and exactly what we needed, as they told us of a epic decent just ahead and about Brush Mountain Lodge, a hunting lodge that was cyclist friendly. Although it was late and we would still have well over 30 miles to go, we were pumped and felt great. On the divide such simple things as an energetic and enthusiastic stranger can change your whole outlook after a long frustrating day. We finally stopped for “lunch” around 5:30 in Aspen Alley and enjoyed the beauty of this natural attraction. For about 1/4 mile an aspen grove lined the narrow road. It was quite a juxtaposition to see logging truck after logging truck pass through the narrow corridor, each hauling a load of freshly cut trees just past the beauty of the living. Soon we were back on our bikes and reached the paved highway 70. After a short climb, we began one of the most glorious descents of the whole trip. It was at this point that all our worries faded away. The clouds and threatening storm had vanished and we couldn’t help but smile the entire way down the 17 mile descent. We were flying as we dodged herds of cows and basked in the warm golden light of the sunset. It was peaceful and soothing, our minds were quiet. We finally bottomed out and back on dirt roads we began the long 13 mile climb to the fabled Brush Mountain Lodge. There were a few steep sections but overall the grade was mellow, but despite our best efforts the last few miles were through the dark. We were tired, having almost ridden 90 miles on the day, and the temperature was dropping. There were lights off in the distance, but they seemed to conflict with the milage we were following. Trying not to get down, we pushed on and suddenly around a turn, there the lodge was. The fire pit in the front yard was inviting and after resting the bikes against the rack, we went inside to ask about rooms. Kirsten the owner ran over greeted us with hugs, introduced us to other staff, and sat us down at the table, quickly bringing out pizza and beer. It seemed like a dream. Their kindness, generosity, and passion for the GDMBR was incredible. We spent a good while hanging out, talking about bikes and the Tour Divide (Brush Mountain is a huge supporter and major stop for the racers), before getting cleaned up and taking advantage of the hot tub! It was the most awesome ending to a hard day in the saddle.
Day 22: Diagnus Wells to Rawlins, WY
We woke up to the solitude that is the Great Basin, packed our things and set off from the remote Diagnus Well. A tailwind offered us some hope for the days ambitious goal of making it to Rawlins. As we continued deeper into the emptiness of the basin, we encountered wilded horses and pronghorn. It was incredible to see the horses, wild and free, unlike any horses we had seen before. The pronghorn always seemed to be in a hurry, running at FULL SPEED, constantly, with no signs of slowing down, ever. The wind and mellow grade helped us crush through more miles than we had hoped in the early part of the day. We passed through an oil field and after a short climb, the road switched directions and we started into the wind. It was incredible to think how quickly you take a tailwind for granted. The silence and peace of the tailwind was soon replaced with white noise and suffering. At times we were blown sideways, making little progress. After an effort, the road turned and the wind was in our favor. We pressed on, taking advantage of the helpful wind, but knew that soon we would face another long section of headwind. We made it to a junction and after debating if it was worth a two mile ride to fill up on water, we decided to press on and take our chance on what we had left. We continued and began a 10-15 mile section of death wind. Our progress was slow, and full of swear words. The suffering finally abated as we reached a paved highway that turned us in favor of the wind. After a quick lunch of the usual PB, Nutella and Jam bagel – maybe some string cheese in there for good measure – we set off into the final stretch of highway that would lead us to our destination of Rawlins, Wy. We rode into civilization, feeling completely haggard, but a cheap motel, delicious burgers and mediocre beers did the trick. We fell asleep feeling content with our effort for the day.
Day 21: Witches Brew to Diagnus Well
After a nice nights sleep, we woke up and packed. As we were nearing the Great Basin, we decided to get pedaling to cover as much ground as possible. There would be no services until we hit Rawlings, WY and that was still another hundred fifty or so miles away. We set off and wandered through the desolate landscape. Storm clouds soon gathered all around and we happened upon the tiny towns of South Pass and Atlantic City. We decided to take a quick break and eat lunch in South Pass, hoping the storm would switch directions or dissipate. Unfortunately, soon after we ate, the storm came through with a vengeance. The wind picked up, thunder clapped, and hail fell with force. We took cover in the bathroom to wait it out. Eventually the storm seemed to have passed, so we tried our luck to see if Atlantic City had any rooms. We left South pass and made the 3 mile trek over and the town was as closed as could be. We wandered around but to no avail. Shivering, wet and cold we decided there was no point in waiting and continued on. The climb out from town was short and steep, but just as we crested the top, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We continued on another 20 miles or so to Diagnus Well- a small spring in the middle of desert. We found an area near the well and made camp. We made a nice sage brush fire and cooked our dinner. It was so quiet and peaceful in the middle of nowhere.
Day 20: Pinedale to Witches Brew
Per usual, we had a slow start in Pinedale. We packed our things and found a good breakfast down the way. After satiating our appetites, we set off for the days tasks. We had ordered replacement front racks a few days before as Matt’s broke and had been held together by a string for the previous week and they were due to arrive today. Like most times you are waiting desperately for a package, Fedex arrived much later than expected, but that was fine as we had errands to run. We dropped off postcards at the post office, attempted to pickup some general delivery packages, got a new water filter, stocked up on food and supplies for the next couple days and used the public library to back up our photos to hard drives. Once our racks arrived, we set about installing them with haste. When all was said and done it was half past four. Definitely not ideal. We shrugged it off and set out, leaving the small town of Pinedale behind. The ride was nice and windy, with intermittent rain. We trudged on into the night. Eventually we got tired and after a bit of searching, we found a decent spot to camp off the road next to a stream. The rain picked up as we set camp. We got dry and sheltered under the tarp and cooked a nice meal of rice, zucchini and sausage. We ate the delicious meal under the makeshift awning as the rain let up and the clouds scattered, exposing the full moon’s light on the eerie landscape. A couple pulls of whiskey and we were off to sleep.
Day 19: Middle of Nowhere, WY to Pinedale, WY
After enjoying a warm night in the cabin, we slowly got up and took advantage of the breakfast treats the lodge had to offer. After a muffin, coffee, tea, and sausage egg and cheese sandwiches, we stepped outside only to realize the weather did not look promising. With storm clouds already gathering, we set off with a bit of trepidation, hoping that the weather would hold. The guidebook told us we would spend much of the day riding at 9,000 feet of elevation and the threat of heavy storms was not ideal. After a couple miles, we turned onto a gravel road and began a steep climb. It was tough to tackle so early in the day, but was reasonably short, only about 4 miles. We soon crested the top and entered Union Pass high country. The wind picked up and storm clouds gathered all around us, the cracks of thunder became louder and louder. We put our heads down and pressed on, trying to stay ahead of the storm. The high country was a roller coaster terrain, with a few steep climbs thrown in for good measure. Somehow luck was on our side, as our route just skirted the edge of most of the storm. But soon we stopped to eat lunch and the storm finally got to us. The wind was horrible, blowing rain straight into our faces, which made for challenging riding in the rough terrain. Once we descended back down to 7,000 ft elevation, we contemplated calling it a day at a nearby campground, but ultimately pushed on the remaining 35 miles to Pinedale, a majority of which was paved. It was definitely the right call. We caught a nice tail wind and cruised along the smooth pavement, with the uncertain weather of the high country behind, us we basked in the glow of the golden light of the sunset on the empty highway. The sky was beautiful and we were in good spirits as we neared the last turn of the day onto the last few miles of gravel leading the way to Pinedale. Once we arrived in town, we got the obligatory snack from the first gas station we found and set off to find the campground.
Day 18: Colter Bay to Nowhere, MT
We woke up early and hung around with some camp neighbors, ensuring we didn’t get an early start on the day. We had bought some delicious cinnamon rolls the day before and enjoyed those for breakfast as we chatted and packed up. We were on pavement for a while after leaving the campground. The views of the Tetons were stunning. We continued climbing, switching between paved and gravel roads, until we topped out over the Togwotee Pass at around 9,500 ft. We stopped for lunch just after the summit at a glorious lake. We debated the route ahead, as the map gave warning that the next section would be unridable after rain, and took a gamble as it appeared that the storm had just passed through. It was the right call. Shortly into the section, the sky cleared. We stopped to change out of our rain gear and took in the views before cruising down a rad descent. After turning back on the highway, we pulled into the Lava Mountain Lodge to refill our waters. We ended up getting a beer too, and before we knew it, we befriended a regular named “Cowboy Jim”. He was quite the character, entertaining us with great stories and hilarious conversation. He bought us a couple more rounds and we even got some free food. With all this, we decided not pedal the three extra miles to the campground and got a small “Grizzly” cabin for $25 instead. We made mac & cheese, drank some whiskey and slept comfortably in the warm cabin. “If you’re ever in trouble, just give’er some gas” – Cowboy Jim’s late friend Charlie.