One Relentless Life

Relentless Forward Motion

Category: Tour Divide (page 2 of 2)

Day 10- Tour Divide

Read Day 9

The morning is amazing. Brisk but I am enjoying it fully. This is going to be a very good day of riding. Steve is getting his gear together and brushing his teeth as I take off. I ride up the first large climb and pass an Inn where Will is just leaving. In no time at all he pedals off in the distance. A short while later Steve catches up to me as I am finishing the morning business in a field. For the next few hours we pedal while the Grand Tetons grow closer.

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Even from miles away the site is one I will never forget. As they grow closer and closer, I can feel myself being a kid again. Just gazing in amazement. We arrive in the Tetons fancy welcome center. All the boys are there: Brian and Brian, Steve, The Rev, Will. The company is fantastic. People are coming and going in their Sunday best as we reek of B.O., piss and exhaustion. I say something to this effect and Brian #1 says loudly “we pay the same money everyone else does.” That’s a good point. Still, I would love a shower. As I am finishing up lunch and getting supplies, I run into a friend of mine from home that I was deployed with. What are the chances?! We chat for a few minutes and then take a picture. My face is so windburned, sunburned and chapped I can’t smile. I smear Carmex all over my lips and give it another go. Close enough. We say our goodbyes. We ride on. Steve, The Rev and I take off. We are riding alongside the highway right in the national park. The traffic is getting worse and worse and eventually people are stopped alongside the road. What are they trying to see? Then we come around a bend and see it. Tetons. It is magnificent. I stop and take a picture and just stare in amazement. Pure awe. The lake and the mountains are what I am here for. All of the struggling and pain are gone in this moment. I could sit on the ground right there for rest of the day and be happy.

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Sadly I have to move on. As we pedal on I get to know the Rev. His is a pastor from Tennessee. He is known as the pedaling pastor. He rode the whole way across the United States with a support van in 14 days. That was less than a year after getting a bike. He does crazy things like this all of the time to raise awareness. He once got on a stationary bike at his church and rode until 250 turkeys were donated for the people in his town. We chat about all types of things.

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Mostly I listened to his stories of God and his greatness. Fun fact – Greg didn’t bring a tent or sleeping bag, with the idea that God would provide him with what he needs. He has already slept in a few post offices on the floor to stay warm. I do believe that there is something more important than me in the universe. This could possibly be a creator or the God. One thing I know for certain, if there is, I hope it is busy with more important things than finding me a place to sleep at night.

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With that said, I brought a solo tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad just in case. We hit the middle of a long climb up to the divide pass and there is a gas station and very nice lodge. We decide that the lodge would be the better place to eat. As we get off of our bikes we are swarmed with mosquitoes. This is the first time on the race that I can remember there being a large amount of bugs. I don’t like it. I rush inside and get a table. After we eat no one has the energy to move on. We go to get a room and find out that they are $250 a night. We grumble about it but, take the room. It is all that is around and the addendum for this year’s race specifically said no tent camping in this area due to high grizzly bear activity. I will pass on seeing another for now. Pile in the room, shower number 3 for the race, and lay down for sleep. The Rev has to sleep with noise. He turns on a phone app that sounds like a shitty old box fan that is about to set on fire or fall apart. I fall asleep quickly.

Read Day 11

Day 11- Tour Divide

Read Day 10

This morning is cold. We are high up and heading higher as the sun is coming up. I have all of my clothes on, including my rain jacket, for warmth. It is tough to get the blood pumping and the aches and pains worked out early in the morning. As we get to the summit we stop for some photos.

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Up until this point we have been riding pavement and the spot we are headed is right down the hill on pavement. I glance at my gps and assume we are taking the road. I start bombing down the pavement easily going over 35 mph. I look down at my Garmin on my handlebars to see that my dot is quickly leaving the line that signifies the course. I slam on the brakes. I look closer at the course. I am way off. I turn around and pedal back up to where the Rev is waiting at the turn-off talking to a couple in a pickup truck. They are telling us that they heard about the race and want to see some of the riders so they got up early and sat at the turn-off. We chat and they give us a banana each. Back on the bikes to ride the trail that parallels the road I just climbed back up. As we make it down to the next town, the gas station/restaurant/hotel is just opening up for the day. The restaurant won’t open until lunch and I’m not going to sit around for hours. I grab every snack treat I could fit on my bike, drink a few cups of coffee and eat cold cans of ravioli. It is a grand breakfast. We head down pavement for a short while more and turn off the road.

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The maps and GPS give you a fairly good idea on how many miles you need to go and a fairly good idea on what the climbing and descending will be like. What it doesn’t tell you is what the terrain is like and what the weather will be. As we head up the trail it gets slower and slower.

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Pedaling becomes walking with the bike, walking with the bike becomes carrying the bike. This extra time really burns into the food supply.

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It is quickly becoming evident that we would barely make it to the next town with a restaurant with any food in our belly. As we hit the top of the climb to the wide open field, it hits us. The wind. Luckily it isn’t a head wind. It is a weird cross wind – strong enough to take us off the bike if it gusts hard enough.

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We continue the walk, ride cycle. We are getting really low on food but, we are almost to the town. Just a long descent through a ranch and we are there. We can do this. As we start the descent the Rev and I talk about what we are going to eat. He loves chocolate milkshakes. He wants one of those and a chicken sandwich of some kind. I really want a bacon cheeseburger. We are riding through hundreds of cattle meandering across the road and make our way to pavement. Only 10 or so miles to get to food. Easy. We pull up to the restaurant. I walk up to the door and the door is locked.

WTF?

We knock on the door. Nothing. As we are sitting in the chairs out of the blistering sun a lady comes out and greets us. She is explaining to us that this place (the only restaurant in town) has been purchased by a rancher and they now only serve the ranch hands breakfast, lunch and dinner; it is a private restaurant of sorts. We offer to pay her. She says “no” and closes the door. We sit there and try to decide if we can make it another 30 miles to the next town. It is on pavement, but it is still 30 miles. As we sit there avoiding the truth of the matter, the lady comes back out. She offers to let us fill our waters at least. Good. When we go into the kitchen to fill the water, there is literally a 5 gallon cook pot with spaghetti boiling and six trays of garlic bread ready to go in the oven. I am going to punch this lady in the throat. As we get back outside on the porch we assess what we really have left for food. It is under 750 calories for the two of us. I think the lady sensed my rage. She comes  back out a third time. This time she has two sodas, a few slices of deli meat and a couple fruit cups. She said we could have those if we left quickly before anyone comes. Deal.

As we take off, we make sure to ration our food.  We have plenty of water. The farther we ride the farther behind we get on nutrition. There are little chipmunks that I call street weasels running everywhere. I am dreaming about catching one and eating it. Cooked or not. We are working up and over the rolling hills and can see the town in the distance. As we reach the edge of town we can see houses and hotels. The safety of seeing people is a fantastic feeling. The single road downtown area is in sight and our stomachs are as empty as can be. Mine is sore from being empty and working overtime.

We find a pizza place that advertises Chicago style pizza. Everyone loves pizza. It is just like sex. Even if it is bad, it is at least ok. As I am sitting looking at the menu, I see that they have a deep dish, all meats pizza. You know what I am doing. “Large Please”. When it arrives it looks fantastic. The first bit is bliss, until I actually taste it. Absolute garbage. I am starving and can barely choke down two pieces. The Rev finishes up his meal and I ask for a to-go box. I end up with pounds of horrible pizza wrapped in aluminum foil. I should just put it in the trash, but I paid $25 for this pizza and I am going to eat this crap.

We get back on the bikes as the sun is setting. We have about 20 miles left until the next town. We are actually going to get in a good amount of miles today. Stomach bubbling, we press on. I can smell that garbage pile called pizza. It isn’t making me too happy. Two hours of me wanting to eat pizza and having 2 pounds of what I am assuming a raccoon wouldn’t eat. We coast into the town. There is a bar attached to a gas station and a motel across the parking lot. When we enter the motel there is a hallway with doors to rooms and nothing else. No desk, no lobby, nothing. We walk over to the bar and ask what we have to do to get a room and find out you have to pay at the bar. What? Ok. We get a room, shower and I try to choke down some more of the horrible pizza. I get one more piece of it down and call it a successful night. Sleeping in a bed naked and showered is wonderful. The small things we take for granted. If the Rev knew I was naked he would probably have to say some Hail Mary’s. As I start falling asleep, he turns on the shitty box fan noise maker again. I pass out anyway.

Read Day 12

Day 12- Tour Divide

Read Day 11

The Rev and I wake up early to get a good start on the day. We want to make it to Atlantic City before the sun is really blasting. Today is the day we really get into the high plains desert of Wyoming. A vast area of nothing but sand, heat and altitude. I am pumped up that I get fresh coffee after a night of sleeping in a bed. I look around for coffee filters and can’t find any. As I open the coffee maker, I see what appears to be a sock being used as a filter. I guess the coffee will wait. As I head outside and over to the gas station, there is a man waiting for a ride. He is trying to hitchhike from Wyoming to Arizona for a funeral. I ask him if he wants the pizza and he gladly takes it. I hope he likes that garbage more than I did. I grab some snack food and fill up my food bag. The Rev and I hit the road.

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We have been pedaling for a few hours through nothingness when we stop and decide to put on sunscreen. It is just dusting rolling hills. No beautiful views. No animals. No buildings. Nothing. As we take off again, I am getting bored with this place. Spin, spin, spin, Count pedal strokes, spin. Off in the distance I see a van sitting on the side of the road. I wonder if they need help. It is getting hot and we are really next to nothing. As we get closer I see that it is a guy and his dog. We pull up to make sure everything is ok. It is GRAND! He tells us that he is here just to help the Divide Racers. Everyday he drives from his house before sunrise, rock climbs the small rock faces and then sets up shop all day until the riders stop coming. He has burritos, soda, jugs of water and a bike repair set up. He is wicked cool. I fill my water only after eating a couple burritos and having a few cokes. I give him a $20 and tell him to keep the change. He is living the dream. Adventuring and helping others. I love that.

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The Rev and I get back going. It is getting really hot and we need to move. Spin, heat, dust. Spin, heat, dust. I am pedaling past the Rev and his tire has a giant boob sticking out of the center of the tread. We stop and inspect it. The layers of tread are pulling about. I ask him what he brought for repair items. Nothing. WTF? I get out my repair kit. I take my pocket knife and punch a hole straight through all of the layers of the tire. I open the tire up and put a tire boot inside to plug the hole and let the Rev pump his tire back up. Fingers crossed. It holds air and the tit is gone. This is great news for him. I am not going to sit out here and roast because he is leaving his survival in the hand of his God. Off we roll. We hit the interstate and see a rest area with shade. This is the first shade we have seen all day. When I roll in there are already a few people resting their skin and eating some food. I am going to do the same. Then it is back on the road. It is getting blazing hot. The Rev and I decided we are going to get to Atlantic City, wait for the sun to go down, and pedal through the night to miss the heat. When we get there it is already 3PM and we are roasting. We get inside the bar and saloon, which happens to be the only thing in the town, and order mountains of food and gallons of soda. After eating and calling Alex to tell her my plans. I go outside and rest my eyes in the shade. It is hot as sin. HOT! I am half sleeping off and on for a few hours. I can’t take it anymore trying to force myself to sleep. I go back in the saloon and get as much food as I can fit in my bag and a few Gatorades.

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The Rev and I hit the road as the sun is going down. It is beautiful now. We are cruising, but it is tough following the trail. This is a section of the course that was rerouted due to construction and you can tell. Any intersection is a pain in the ass to find.

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The closer we get to midnight the harder it is to stay awake. We pass a group of riders sleeping in bivy sacks in the wide open and decide to keep pushing on. I can’t make it much farther. I am tired. I decide to set my tent up and sleep. There is no way that I am going to make it the next 70 miles to town. The Rev doesn’t have any camping gear – not even a sleeping bag. He decides he is going to put on all of his clothes and just sleep out on the ground with the wind hitting him. I offer to pull the rainfly to one side of the tent and let him use it as a wind block. He gladly takes the offer. So here we are, two grown men, jammed into a solo tent. I am in the main area of the tent and Rev is sleeping under the fly. It is going to be a snuggly night. I pass out almost instantly.

Read Day 13

Day 13- Tour Divide

Read Day 12

Wake up, wake up. I try to will myself to wake up. I stayed up late to stay out of the heat of the sun. I have to get up now to make sure it wasn’t all for nothing. I’m laying in a tent that smells like two grown men are smashed in a solo tent and haven’t showered in days. I’m starving, and I have to get up and move. I’ve only been sleeping a few hours. GET UP! I wake up the Rev and break down camp. I’m eating like a monster as I break down camp. I feel like an idiot as I realize that I didn’t consider how much extra food it takes to eat before going to bed and eat breakfast after a few hours of sleep. This is going to be rough. I have hours of pedaling to go, so I better get moving.

As we slowly get moving again, I can’t get rid of the hunger. The sun slowly breaks the horizon and I can already tell it is going to be hot. Really hot. An hour passes quickly and we stop to eat, but I’m almost out of food. We’re getting closer to a gravel road and will be out of the loose soil of the back country desert. As we hit the road I realize I have run out of water. Half of the guys that we passed during the night have already caught us. I’m down to one Gatorade and one bag of almonds. I’ve still got fifty miles to go.

I have two choices; stay still and wait for it to get hotter and my hunger to get worse, or tough it out, pedal and get to the next town. I would rather die trying than die laying down like a coward. I plan to drink one fifth of the Gatorade and eat one fifth of the almonds every hour. The gravel road is flat in comparison to a lot of the riding that we have already done but the rolling hills are still climbing and descending hundreds of feet per hour of pedaling, if not closer to a thousand.

One hour down, four to go. I open the bag of almonds and they fly all over the road. I want to sit down and stop. I won’t. I cannot give up. I pick up all of the almonds I can find and count them one by one. I put one fifth of them in my hand and try to eat them slowly. This is going to hurt. As I drink one fifth of the Gatorade, I can already feel my energy getting low and my legs getting stiff, but I still climb back on the bike. Two hours down and three to go. One more small portion of almonds and Gatorade. I’m starting to feel sick and I have to stand to pedal the hills. The rest of the guys we passed in the night are flying by us, but I have nothing left for effort to try and keep up with them. I’m getting dizzy and expending any effort is hard as hell. Three hours down and two to go. I eat the almonds and it might as well have been nothing.

All I want to do is lay down and push the rescue button on my SPOT tracker. I have  to move! The sun is getting blazing hot and every minute I am out here it gets hotter. Four hours down. My pace is almost nothing and I’m riding one of my easiest gears. I have to move! Five hours down. I finish my almonds and Gatorade. I have almost ten miles to go. The lack of food and water has consumed all of my energy. Every time I climb uphill I feel like I’m going to pass out. I have to make it. I’m running on fumes as I start to pass oil field workers. I am going to live. If I have to, I will beg for help. I dream about all of the guys with their coolers full of lunch and cold drinks.

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I hit pavement and see the town. I’m going to make it. I pass a Subway at the Love’s gas station but it’s packed and I need food now. I pass under the interstate and hit the other side of town. There is a Mexican restaurant. I lean my bike against the building and go in to eat.

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When the waitress comes around I take the menu, order the top two meals on the list, coffee, soda and water. It seems like an eternity before she returns with the soda. I drink it all in one go, and she brings me another. This one goes down slower. I feel the sugar hit my system and immediately feel more alive. When the food comes out, I finish it without breathing. She comes back around and asks if I want the check. Nope. I want the menu! I order another breakfast. When the third meal comes out, I enjoy this one. I sip my coffee and enjoy the fact that I will not die today. I pay my bill and head outside to find shade and nap. I need this food to catch up to my weak body. I find a nice tree with shade, under which it feels 50 degrees cooler. I pull out my rain jacket and use it as a pillow. Sleep comes easy.

I wake up and my back and legs are on fire. Am I getting a sunburn? I quickly assess my surroundings, but I’m still in the shade. What in the world is this? Then it hits me; I am covered in fire ants! I quickly get up and brush off all that I can find. A man can’t even nap in peace during this race. I head to the gas station to resupply and fill my water. When I get there, the gang of racers are all there. For some reason Will is there. So is Brian and the gang. He should be a half day ahead of me! Jeremiah Johnson is there. He found his legs again and is back racing! I load up, see the Rev and we leave town together.

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As we are head out of town we see Nick sitting on the side of the road trying to fix his tire. He throws something off the bridge, but I have no idea what. We pedal for an hour in the heat and decide to take a break in the shade. The only shade that is available is next to a large dumpster. It’s sitting in the sun in the desert so you can picture the smell. I sit down next to it anyway. After a few minutes we are back at it. Ride, sweat, climb.

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We’re starting to leave the desert. It’s still sandy but the climbs are starting to get bigger. Storms are rolling in. This is normal and I am used to it by now. I’m not happy about it, but I am used to it. The pedaling continues. I have heard that seven miles past the Colorado/Wyoming border is the greatest place on earth, Brush Mountain. I have to make it there.

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As the sun goes down, the Rev and I roll into a small town. There is a lady outside unloading her RV. They list camping in this spot and I am really tired. She tells us that she used to host free camping but no longer does; we can sleep there no problem but there are no longer any services like water or electricity. Better to keep moving. I know very well what it feels like to run out of food. She offers to fill our water and I kindly accept. It looks like we’re about fifteen miles out. It is now 9pm. An hour and a half and we should be there. Two hours tops.

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We swing onto a paved road and jam. A few miles up the road we hook a right onto the road that takes us all the way to the lodge. A mile or two up the road and a truck stops us. These country boys are drunk! They ask us if we have guns for all of the mountain lions. Nah, we’re good. We keep pedaling up. It has been an hour and is pitch black now. How far have we made it? 4 miles.

4 miles? Shit. I am exhausted. I start pedaling again. All I want to do is lay down and sleep. All the Rev wants is a chocolate milkshake Another hour goes by. Another 4 or 5 miles. I’m beat. I want sleep. Food deprivation has ruined my efforts today. Something is missing. My mind is foggy and I am trying to place it. I have my bike. I have all my bags. What is it?

IT’S MY SPOT TRACKER! I dropped it again. I get off my bike and yell until my throat hurts. This is it! I’m going to quit this race! I am dropping. There is no chance in hell that I can ride back and scan the desert for my tracker. I grab my bike by the frame with both hands and I am dragging it over to the edge of the mountain side to throw it off! Just at that time a truck rolls up and asks if we’re okay. He just came from hanging out at the lodge and is headed home. I tell him that I’m dropping because I lost my tracker. He tells me to hold tight and that Kirsten will figure it out. He heads back for his bigger truck and I sit on the side of the road and try not to cry. I’ve pedaled for weeks and now it’s all over. But when the man gets back, he tells me it will all get sorted out. I catch a ride the last few miles to the lodge and Kirsten is there waiting for us.

As soon as I get out of the truck I can tell she’s wondering  why there are two of us. She watches the race tracker almost 24 hours a day so that she can have food and drinks ready for everyone as soon as they get there. She doesn’t even let me tell her what happens; she just gives my one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever had in my life and tells me that whatever the issue is, we can get it sorted out. I then tell her my story as she makes burgers for me and the Rev. She says it won’t be a problem. Her and Matthew Lee, the race director, are old friends,and she can vouch for me riding there and not cheating. In the morning her friend that works at the lodge will give me a ride to find my tracker and it will all work out. I just need to hold tight. I eat my dinner and set my tent up in the back yard. As I lay down I think to myself that whatever happens I will have to accept the outcome. If Matthew says I’m getting scratched from the race, I will just finish it on my own. I have came too far to quit. I almost died this morning for this race, and I am not quitting now. I will die with my shield or on it. Relentless forward motion. I am not doing this for the online status of finisher. I am doing this to see how far I can push myself. I close my eyes and think of Alex. I hope no one is disappointed in me.

Read Day 14


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Day 14- Tour Divide

Read Day 13

I wake up rather early having only slept between four and five hours. What I lacked in hours, however I made up in quality; I slept like a baby with a full stomach and a safe setting. This means I’m wide awake and ready to go. I pack my tent up and head inside. No one else is awake yet, and Kirsten is just getting set up for breakfast. She tells me that I am going to have to wait until all of the other racers are up and taken care of before I can get a ride back to get my tracker. She tells me that she has contacted Matthew for me and that I should send a message to him to make sure I get his response in writing. She gives me a hug and tells me it is all going to work out and I will be at the finish line before I know it.

I decide to take a shower, because why not? Afterwards I go back out to eat breakfast and everyone is stirring. I eat and go chill on the porch. The sun is coming up and the valley is beautiful. This is now one of my favorite places in the world. I don’t know if it’s the view or the hugs, but whatever it is, this place feels like it is magical. I’m soaking it in when I get an email back from Matt. Thankfully, I am good to go.

Since it’s a safety issue I’m fine to get a ride back to my tracker, which is a big relief. The Rev is just chilling out with me, and he says that he only has a couple days of riding left before he’ll drop to make it back home. So he will wait for me and help me push hard and catch up to the group we’ve been leap frogging. That sounds good to me, and now I’m doubly grateful.

After everyone is gone, we use the race tracker to take aerial pictures of where the tracker is at. It’s 40 miles away, so we better get after it. We head down the road, windows down and chatting about life. We make the 80 mile round trip and I’m ready to roll again. Everything at the lodge, excluding the rooms and cabins, are by donation. You pay what you can and what you feel it’s worth to you. If I had the money I would leave them a million. I don’t, so Kirsten says to pay for the meals and that the shower and camping are on the house. I leave them a two hundred dollar tip. I’m 100% sure that the hugs and help are worth more than any dollar I will ever pay. She gets a quick photo with me and we are on our way. As soon as we leave the real mountain biking starts.

The real mountain biking begins.

We’re climbing fast and high; it’s a wicked climb. We keep pedaling, and a few hours later and we are at the top. Colorado is going to be a tough summa gun. We start to descend some gangster hard off road trails. I have to stop every 20 minutes or so to let my forearms and calves take a break. This is a beating even going down. I have to wait longer and longer for Rev to catch up. He’s riding carbon rims and they are getting wrecked and wobbling all over the place. He says he will just get a replacement in Steam Boat.

Colorado section of the Tour Divide

We keep dropping downward. I’ve heard that right on the other side of the pass is a baller ice cream shop and I could definitely go for some ice cream. As we are approach the shop the Rev says his friends are there. Huh? This is a surprise to me.

He says something about traffic being bad and he has to get back to his congregation. This makes no sense. Sure enough, two of his friends are waiting in the parking lot of the ice cream shop with the back of the van open. As soon as we pull up Rev says he has to make a video really quick and he will be in for a chocolate shake. What in the hell is going on? Is he quitting on me? He is.

I go inside and get some ice cream and look for more vaseline. My ass is starting to get pretty sore. The Rev sneaks in, grabs a cone and as I’m walking out he shouts goodbye from across the parking lot. Whatever. I don’t need his helping catching up. I finish my cone and walk back to my bike, but the tire is flat.

As I’m fixing it, a few cyclists roll by and ask what I’m up to. They tell me the ride to Steam Boat is going to be a screamer if I wait a few more minutes for the storm to roll in. I have nothing but time. They take off and another guy walks up. “You have a flat tire?” Eat it you jerk bag. For some reason I am pissed. I slam my pump down and catch my knuckles on the brake rotor. Damn! When I look at them, two of them are white. This is bad. Blood starts pouring out. I grab my first aid kit and go into the bathroom leaving a trail of blood as everyone stares at me. I wash it off and wrap it with a part of my bandanna I cut off and some sports tape. That’ll do. Time to hit the road.

I get back on the bike. The wind is ripping at my back and I am heading slightly downhill. The miles are flying by. Nothing changes but I notice that the pedaling is getting harder. I look down and my tire is going flat again. I get off and pump it back up. Then back on the bike, back to flying. I slow down again. Pump and repeat. As I am getting into town I ride into traffic and a guy rolls his window down to give me a cheers. I ask him what bike shops are in town. He says The Orange Peel, which I’ve heard of; my good friend Moon knows the owner. I headed that way, following the bike path. The next person I pass says I’ve got a mile to go. I ride for ten minutes and haven’t found it yet. Did I miss it? I ask another person, they say it’s about a mile. Ten more minutes. Nothing. Ask, ride, repeat.

Turns out, it’s clear on the other side of town, but I find it. When I roll in, I ask if they can help fix the tire and change my brake pads. I have all the gear, I’m just to lazy to do it right now and I want to leave town before all of the comfort and beers draw me in for the night. Unfortunately, they tell me they are shutting down shop for the night and they have to get rolling so they can ride before sundown. This won’t do, so I name drop and ask if they know Moon. When one of the guys says yeah, I tell him that Moon said they would hook a brother up. Still no dice, they say that they’re hungry and really need to eat before riding too. Boom, that’s the solution! I offer to buy them all the appetizers they want from the bar next door if they fix my bike real quick like. They agree, so I go next door and order them one of everything and a big burger for me. I am stoked.

When the food is ready, I head back over. Two guys are working on my bike. Why do they have the front rim off? When I ask, the mechanic says the tires look fine. I point out that the rear tires is completely flat. They laugh and get to fixing the back tire and eating. I am stuffing my face and grabbing all of the supplies that I need. They get it all fixed up and ready to roll and right away I’m out the door. I am going to make up these miles!

As I follow the course closer to where a gas station is, I see hundreds of people outside enjoying themselves. I really wish I could stop and hang out. I just want a beer and some good conversation. Really bad. I shake it off, I have to keep going. I get to the gas station and resupply my food. I’m not quite ready to leave the safety of town and the awesome people, so I sit outside the gas station drinking an energy drink and calling everyone I can think of to talk to. I know I need to get going, I’m just wasting time. I get back on the bike and get back on the course heading out of town. The views are beautiful in Colorado. I love this place.

Views of Colorado

When I hit the edge of town I run into a Northbound racer and we talk. He has been laid up in a hospital for a while. A storm had rolled through a week ago and a tree had fallen on him! Good news is that he’s alright. Better news, the SPOT tracker SOS button works really well. He pushed the button and said he had emergency services there in no time at all. That is a relief. As always, I have to get going. We pedal our separate ways. I only ride for another hour or so. I am not tired but I’m mentally done for the day. I walk out into some tall grass off a country road and set up my tent. I lay there and think about how I am going to catch this time up. I have gone from being on an almost 30 day pace down to a 20 day pace and I am now back to 23 or 24 days. Shit happens.

Read Day 15

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Day 15- Tour Divide

Read Day 14

The morning is perfect. The sun is rising and slowly warming up the field I slept in, and the dew smells sweet. If my butt cheeks didn’t hurt so much I would think I died in my sleep. The sunrise is absolutely stunning. I am not quick to pack up and get going.  All of this has put me in a chill zen place, where everything is just flowing. As I get my gear together, I munch on some food and turn on some tunes. Nature calls and I walk out further into the tall grass and answer. Then it’s back onto the bike and get moving. As I roll out, I look out and see a nice looking lake, held in place by a large dam. The morning still feels pleasant.

Large lake on the Tour Divide

The houses are spectacular in this area too. I am zigzagging around the lake parking lot looking for the trailhead as it gets increasingly sunny. I need to get my sunglasses off of my helmet. Damn it.

Mike Kinney on the Tour Divide

Oh well, no sense taking yourself too seriously.

Then I discover that they’re missing. Gone. I’ll squint until I make it to the next gas station, I guess. The sun is getting hotter as I ride into town, and I’m glad I made it in time to get glasses before my eyeballs melt out of my head. I’m not particularly hungry for anything. I am eating but nothing is really good. I’m just sitting outside eating a couple cheeseburgers and wishing that I would have loaded more music on my phone. A few hundred songs is plenty when you have access to the radio and Pandora, but it doesn’t take long for those hundred to get repetitive when you listen to them on a loop. I decide to take a break from music for a bit.

Beautiful views on the Tour Divide

I head back out on the road and as I leave town and start climbing again, I start feeling lonely. I haven’t really seen anyone today. I haven’t really seen much of anything; there are beautiful mountains and wilderness but I think I’m starting to get a little jaded. Halfway up the ascent, I see a guy parking at a view point area. Since I’m lonely, I decide to stop and see what he’s looking at, hoping that he might talk to me. The view is just a big drop off, but the guy is pretty interesting. He is the supply truck for his wife and friends, who are are section riding the Continental Divide. Five years ago they started in New Mexico and they ride three weeks a year. We chat for a bit, but I’ve got to keep rolling. I head back on up the hill!

More Tour Divide Views

I pedal into the evening and grab a spot to call it a night. I’m not feeling incredibly enthused though…  guess I will wake up and ride tomorrow. I bet the leaders are done already. Shit.

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Beginning of the End- Tour Divide

Read Day 15

Exhaustion is really setting in. I’m no longer really ever awake or sleeping. I blur on and off of the bike. The order of events happening make no real sense to me. I think I might have a concussion from wrecking. 

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I have been trying to pack too much food and water into my backpack. I get off my bike to take a break and let my ass rest. There is blood running down my left leg. I try to peel my underwear off to see what is going on. They are stuck to my ass and I have to peel them off of the cracked callouses.

A guy comes out on his balcony and yells that I am doing a great job on the race. I really want to get to the next town, Frisco, to clean myself. I haven’t showered in days. Sitting is not fun.

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I finally get there and get a room in Frisco. I order food before I get in the shower. When I get my pants and underwear off it looks like a massacre happened. I take a butt selfie of the damage to try and see what is happening. I delete it immediately after I look at it. No one every wants to see that. The water hurts so much it makes my eyes tear up. I make the decision that I will scrub the dried blood and callouses off. I wrap the washcloth around my knuckles and scrub until I can’t take the pain any more. I use my half numb finger to feel if it is clean. I don’t think I wash anything else on my body. My food arrives and after I eat every crumb, I pass out,  face down and butt naked with an empty family sized lasagna pan next to me.

Some time later…

I am climbing out of Breckenridge. It takes hours, but the views are beautiful.  I even see a person with a tent set up on a huge boulder sitting next to the edge. I get to the top and there is a train car and elevation sign. Maybe I take a picture. Maybe not. Like I said, everything is pretty blurry at this time. Descending the single track in the woods is slow going but amazing.  

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I meet Australian Dave and we ride together. This is his second attempt at the race. We ride into Salida and eat dinner. Every place is super busy. There is a festival in town and a rodeo on the edge of town. We pick up Jeremiah Johnson on the side of the road. We pick up Nick sitting on the side of the road with a whole pizza, cellphone in hand trying to find a place to stay. Everything is booked solid. Campground is sold out. We find a bar to ask where we can sleep. 12 miles up the mountain. We all stumble outside and pedal for under five minutes. We find a wooded picnic area that has a “no camping” sign. We walk right past it into the woods deeper and closer to the creek and go to sleep.

I fade in and out- blurring again- but then I’m at a fire station in the middle of nowhere. I fill my water and talk to the volunteers for a bit. Back onto the bike. I make it to a town and see another rider. I’m feeling really depressed. I sit outside of the gas station on one of the islands and cry for as long as I can remember. People stare at me as they fill up their cars and leave. I just want to quit. I lost my tracker. I missed my goal time. Everyone at home has to hate me for not being strong enough. I call Alex crying. She talks some sense into me. I just have to keep going. That is all. She still loves me. Everyone thinks I am doing great. I just have to keep going and make the cut off.

My bike has too much food and water on it so I have to push it up the hill. A guy in a truck stops me and says he just saw another rider getting ready to set up camp in the national park. I really want to camp with someone and have a conversation, so I hurry as fast as I can to catch them. So of course, I wreck my bike and flip over the handlebars. I lay there. I decide it isn’t worth being hurt over finding someone who is possibly not there. I set up camp and start a fire. I leave the door of the tent open and just watch the fire. I some how have a phone signal. I call Alex. I just want to hear her voice again. Once I hear it I am better. I don’t know what came over me this past day(s).

More blurring. I think about how I’d heard that the people on the Indian Reservation laugh at white people who ask for sunscreen. I better buy more before I get there. More blurring…

The sun is going down and there is a huge storm in front and behind me. Luckily it is getting cooler out. I get out my rain jacket, put my headphones in and my hood up. I ride a super fast pace on the pavement jamming to Led Zeppelin.

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When I round the horse shoe corner an hour later the rain is in my face and the storm is getting more intense. The rock faces are on either side of me. The only flat spot is on the other side of a fence. I jump the fence and set up my tent. The wind is getting crazy. I have to anchor my tent to my bike. The rain is really coming down. I take everything off my bike and bring it in the tent with me. The rain rushing under and around the tent is a few inches deep. I don’t care at this point and fall asleep in the pond.

I ride into a town early in the morning and meet a guy from Iowa. His son when to school at the university of Iowa and his daughter in law went to high school 15 minutes from my house. It’s a small world He buys my breakfast and even a few pieces of pie.

Jeremiah Johnson and I ride together. He wants to be done with the race. He is obsessing over the notes that his friend has given to him about the course. Every uphill is the worst thing he has ever done. I try to stay positive. We find a small restaurant that is also the gas station and grocery store. They have a Sasquatch challenge; you have to eat a 5 pound burger and 2 pounds of fries. I fall asleep in the booth as Jeremiah finishes the challenge. When I wake up he is leaving slowly so I get on my way. He catches me around nightfall. We are high in the mountains and it is almost freezing. How are there still mosquitoes? We start a fire and go to bed hoping the bugs will leave.

It is 20 degrees and the mosquitoes are still here. WTF? Jeremiah takes off quickly and leaves me all alone with my thoughts. I want to make it to Pie Town today. There is supposed to be amazing pies everywhere. I have got to make it.

By noon it is well over a hundred. The skin on my face is burnt and I have been wearing long sleeves just to keep the sun off. A couple stops me on the side of the road and asks if I am alright. They give me a 2 liters of water. I drink it all and give them the bottles back instantly.

There are storms almost all day long now. I can see one up the mountain in Pie Town. I have to keep going. I want to be done. There is water rushing down the road now but, it still isn’t raining on me. This is going to be bad.

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It starts raining on me so hard I can barely see. A lady from Pie Town stops me and asks if that’s where I am trying to make it. She says she will go back and open her jewelry store, since all the pie shops are closed at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. She says she will see me soon and takes off. I pedal further and the rain stops. I find Jeremiah hiding under a tree, trapped because of the rain.

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The shop is heaven. We buy piles of frozen tiny pizzas, hot dogs, sodas and snacks. I ask what the toaster house is. She is afraid to actually go inside but here it is a free place to crash.

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The toaster house is eclectic. Anything you want is there. Freezer full of pizza. Fridge outside with beers and ice cream. It is too early to stop for the day but I don’t care. I choose a room and get a bowl of ice cream. There is a drunk guy who is talking about hiking for years on end to get here. He also starts talking about Vietnam and how great he was at killing people with a flame thrower. He interrupts my conversation with Jeremiah to make a racial slur about the president. We tell him to leave. He wobbles in the doorway for a few minutes and says he knows he is not wanted here and takes off. We go to sleep.

I wake up pouring sweat. Drunk man has started a roaring fire in the wood burner. It was already 100% humidity and hot as sin. I go outside with my air pad and sleeping bag to the porch and the van seats that are sitting out there. I go back to sleep.

I wake up to rain pouring on me. The wind is so strong it is blowing under the 10 foot long roof. I cover my face and go back to sleep.

Morning comes and luckily, drunk man is nowhere to be found. I make a stack of sandwiches to go. When I get on the road my wheel is making a funny noise. I have a broken spoke. I take out my fiber spoke emergency kit and get it fixed. This repair spoke should hold up for over 300 miles.

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Read the Ending

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The End- Tour Divide

Read the Beginning of the End

I get back to pedaling. The roads are crappy mud because of all of the rain. I make my way slowly as another storm rolls in. It is mid day and I set my tent up just to get out of the rain. I take a nap. When I get up the rain is slowing. I take off again and there is water draining out of my tent bag.

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I see a family walking on the road and I ask if they know where Beaver-head ranch is. “Go over to the building with the green roof and tell them Jack sent you and to feed you.” I go over and wash off my bike with the hose and when I go inside there is a wonderful old lady in her 90’s. It is Jack’s mom. This is not the ranch I’m looking for, instead it’s privately owned.

Jack’s mom wants to know if I want food, and I do. You never say no to free food. She feeds me, and in true mom fashion, feeds me again as we talk about everything and nothing. Jack’s dad is sleeping on the couch sitting up and hasn’t moved since I got here.  The rest of the family returns from their walk and they invite me to stay the night with them and celebrate the fourth of July this weekend with the family. They offer me my own cabin, more free food and all of the beer and burgers a person could want. I can’t. I have to go. I cannot sit still for that long. They give me as much food as my bag can hold. I make a note to send them a thank you card and take off. They really are wonderful people.

I wake up in the morning and want to make one big push to the end. No sleeping. I will go all the way without rest. I will do this. I take a five hour energy and get a gel packet with caffeine in it…

I wake up hours later with the sun almost all of the way up. I have my hand half tucked inside of my sleeping bag bag. SHIT! I pack my gear and get going with a later start on the day than I want.

Alex and I always talk about building our dream home together. She really wants a wrap around porch. This house looks like what I see in my head when I think of it.

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I roll up to the gas station. I don’t know if they’re allowed to open carry, but I’m not going to tell the guy at the gas station in the middle of the desert that he’s wrong. I’m not concerned, I’m just glad they have food. They even have Spam slices! My buddy Rick loves fried Spam sandwiches, and I am going to eat a couple slices for him. He got me into riding as an adult. He would even get up at 11 at night to help me fix my bike so I could ride the next day even if he had to be to work at 6am. Good memories, but I better get going.

As I’m cutting through a campground, I think that it can’t be the right way. Everyone is partying for the fourth of July. Where is the trail? It has just rained and there has to be someone who left tracks. The internet isn’t working on my phone, so I can’t look it up. There is another route around this campground on pavement to the next town. Is it one of the places that the changed the course? I don’t care at this point, I just want to be done.

I find a small bed and breakfast on the side of the road. Everyone stares at me when I walk in. I ask for a menu and the lady behind the counter questions what I am doing. They lost their food services license and are not legally allowed to sell food. I don’t care,  they have wifi. I ask for a dozen eggs and bacon to match. She brings it out with a smile and some cans of Coke. We chat. Her and her sister are struggling to make ends meet and they cannot afford to pay for the renewal on the license. She is an absolute sweetheart. As I search the course online and find out that I have to go back to where I just came from, she brings out three sack lunches with sandwiches and cookies. She knows where I’m headed and tells me it took her two days to get over the divide pass on foot. I head back out.

Two lost riders are right where I got lost as well. They’re starving, so I point them in the direction of the Bed and Breakfast. I head up the muddy divide pass. I know I have to take a left trail at the top, but there are five of them, none of which are really headed the way I think I’m supposed to go. I lay my bike down and walk the trails hoping my GPS gives me a clue which is correct. I find it and retrieve my bike.

This trail is barely walk able. I have to shoulder my bike and grab plants to make my way up. It drops off to both side.

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Now the trail is too narrow for me to carry my bike. The rocks are too close on one side and the drop off is too close on the other. I get on my bike and hope my flow is smooth enough to not drop to my demise.

I am heading downhill to Silver City; it literally is all down hill from here. I am flying! I cut through a small town and see a saloon with food. I am not stopping. I WILL MAKE IT TONIGHT.

Silver City is a giant crap hole. They have all of their ‘Merica celebrations going on. Almost everything is closed. I stop at a gas station and buy tons of supplies. I am not stopping again. I talk to the attendant and ask where is a good place for a sit down meal. It will be my last until Mexico. He tell me about a killer Chinese place. Closed. Drunk people on the street tell me about a burrito place. Closed. I go to a bar and get a burger. The music is blaring. I don’t care. I sit by myself and eat in peace.

I’m trying to leave town, but the road is out. As in gone out. GONE! I try to see a way to carry my bike down one side and up the other, but I don’t see anything. I ride a few blocks over and cut back to the other side of the bridge to retrace the route. If they relegate me for missing 300 feet of the route they can suck my butt.

I am going to make it tonight. I see another storm rolling in at my back. I am flying. I am probably averaging 20 mph in the sand through the desert. Up and over the rolling hill. I can see another monster storm in front of me and I don’t care. I am going to make it tonight.

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I pedal hard into the night. There are thousands of reflective green things in the sand around my bike. Am I going crazy? Seriously, what can those be? I get off and shine my light on one of them. It is a spider. Those are all spiders. Whatever. I will be sleeping at the border crossing tonight.

I get back on my bike and turn on to the last paved road of the race. All pavement and I have a tail wind. The storm in front of me is getting closer and stronger.

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Border patrol stops me. I tell him what I am doing, but he says he knows. The only other people out here at night are drug runners; I am headed the wrong direction and am terrible at what I do if I am moving drugs, and not racing. We laugh and I get moving again. The wind is now in my face and I am pedaling under 4 mph. This blows. My ride isn’t going to be here until tomorrow at 10. I pedal for another couples minutes and decide to set my tent up. There is a fence on both sides of the road and the other side of the fence is the same thing. Sand. I go to bed. I will finish tomorrow. I have less than 100 miles to go.

Morning arrives. I have a ton of food and water. I’m pedaling downhill and will be there in no time. Then I get a flat tire.

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I sit down and eat some more food. It doesn’t matter now, I can eat enough to be stuffed full the whole way. I only have to ride a few miles an hour to make it to the border before Alex’s friends show up. She really does love me tons to set that up for me. I pump my tire up and ride ten miles.

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I stop and eat a bunch of food and pump my tire. Repeating this process every ten miles until I am 2 miles from the end. I stop and change my shirt. I really want to finish the race with my Plan for Adventure shirt on. Alex’s friends will be taking pictures as I ride in. I wonder what they look like.

My GPS dies. I am not going to change the batteries. I stay on this road for two miles. That is it. I pedal to the border crossing. Where is everyone? No one is outside. No one is looking for me. I ride across the border to Mexico. I had to have crossed the finish line.

I stop in the vehicle inspection area in the shade and take my helmet off. There are a few guys a hundred yards away in their uniforms looking at me. I nod at them. They nod back. I sit by myself and eat.

I guess I better get back to the U.S.

I stop at the crossing back into the United States. They open the door and ask why I just rode a circle. I told them what I was doing and that I didn’t know where the official finish line was because my GPS died. I ask if they want to see my ID or passport. They say no. They congratulate me on finishing in 23 days and close the door with me standing there.  It’s a bit anticlimactic, I suppose.

I don’t know who I am supposed to be getting a hold of for a ride and my phone has no signal anyway, so I start stripping my bike down. I throw away the garbage and stuff all of the extra clothes into my seat bag and use it as a pillow and go to sleep in the shade next to the garbage can and the bathroom.

I wake up a few hours later to Alex standing over me. She came to surprise me and pick me up. We load up my bike, take a few pictures and head back out on the road. I really want a chocolate shake, but there’s no food nearby. It’s going to be a few hours.

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An hour down the road I finally become coherent and realize that Alex has flown halfway across the US, rented a car, drove hours and hours to come and pick me up. I really love her. She must love me. I am an extremely lucky man.

We find a Sonic connected to a gas station. I bet they have shakes. They DO! I get a mountain of food and a shake. The shake is gone before the food comes. As I am eating my food, I lean over and fart loudly. The plastic bench makes it even worse sounding. It doesn’t even register that this isn’t normal etiquette. Alex looks me right in the eyes and says “This is what you have become now?” Everyone within earshot of the fart is waiting for my answer. I am filthy, sun burnt and don’t remember my last shower. I giggle and say “I guess so.” I am happy. I am alive. Everything hurts. I have lost 22 pounds in 23 days. I made it. I think I could go faster. I have more in me. I am already dreaming of starting the race again. Maybe I will train harder and plan better. What if…

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