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.