Friday, July 31: Despite a rather moderate day of riding, time-wise anyway, I was just totally beat. Probably just the build-up of everything culminating in our leaving yesterday. Judy’s doing the first stint today as designated driver on our way from Grand Jcn. to Denver, and I’ll take over in the mts. Feel pretty refreshed this morning though, so that bodes well for a relaxing drive to the big D. 

I didn’t have much time to reflect yesterday, and as I sit here right now I’m still a little fuzzy on exactly what to say, how to put it down on in words intelligibly. So this day’s blog could be a bit of tangential ramblings, if so I apologize.

First thing that comes to my mind is that this is the first X-country trip out of the five attempts that I’d not finished - in the same summer in which I started it that is. So that in itself is not pleasing to me, especially when I’ve had this thing wrapped around me like a second skin for the last several years. Just getting finality to American Dirt was going to be a massive burden off of my shoulders. Yet today I’m faced with the fact that I’ve got to get my game face back again for another year in order to complete it in 2016. My savings grace is that I’ve already completed 10.75 of the 13 states, so the daunting nature of what lay ahead of me this past May, that will not be present next May. 

But my mood perks up when I compare 2015 to my unsuccessful 2012 American Dirt attempt, where I did make it to the Pacific Ocean. Looking at it that way, this year was a stunning success. I mean I had to throw in the towel and start riding asphalt in 2012 back when I was in Athens, OH for goodness sake, and I’d started in Washington, DC. This year, hell, I started in DE, and I took this thing all the way to Lynndyl, UT. And quite honestly I’d be stunned if I had even 100 miles of asphalt this summer. I think, just off-hand, I’ve counted like 80 miles asphalt miles in I don’t know how many thousands of miles of travel. So this in itself pretty much quells my disappointment in not completing the whole trip this summer. From that standpoint alone I’m pretty damned proud of what we accomplished.

Yesterday, on the way back east to Grand Jcn, I was thinking of good comparisons from my past athletic life to what I’d just experienced with American Dirt here in 2015. And my immediate thought went back to when I did my first few marathons in the 1980’s. When I’d gotten done with marathon #1 and #2, I still have visions of myself resting on the ground just beat to hell, sore and tired, swearing up and down that I’d NEVER do another marathon - NEVER. And then the very next day, as if I’d just experienced a split personality moment, I was raving about how I wanted to do it again, to try to do better, to get back on the horse so to speak and ride that puppy all the way to the finish line yet again. So on the drive back east yesterday to Grand Jcn., I was wondering if I’d get that same feeling today, feeling like I wanted to pick it up again and go for it. Well, I can definitively say that I do! And I know this feeling will grow and flourish as the clock ticks down again to the start…er…the restart of American Dirt in May of 2016. 

As I mentioned yesterday in the beginning of the blog, I’d definitely lost my zeal, my mojo, after I’d completed that Salina to Filmore mountain segment back on Tuesday. I think that was my immediate post-marathon #1 and #2 moment of this trip. That day really took a lot out me emotionally as well as physically. And the last thing I wanted to do was to get back on the horse again when I exited that mountain range. It was the focus of my concentration for nearly a week, knowing what a day that would be to complete. And once I got done, sore, beaten and tired, once I rode out of that Chalk River Valley and threw my bike in the van for the end of the day, I think I’d just used up all I had left in the tank. Didn’t know it at the time, but I was a different person for Wednesday and Thursday. Judy noticed it, but I didn’t. I just wasn’t there anymore with respect to my drive and  enthusiasm. I’d checked out Tuesday afternoon at 2 PM. 

I’m sure some of this loss of drive also revolved around the fact that I knew I would not finish the trip this summer, and suddenly those last couple rides seemed so insignificant. That blessed end point - the finish line - was just NOT there looming on the horizon like it had in the past for me. Without that finish line, that dangling carrot right in front of my face luring me on like a siren song, those last few rides just seemed so absolutely empty & without purpose. That’s why I pulled the plug yesterday. I just couldn’t see doing any more of this thing without the eye of the tiger mentality. I needed the reflection, the re-examination, and the recharging of my attitude so I can finish strong. 

I think I’m going to have to go over this massive archive (A half full terabyte external hard drive) of video and still photos to truly appreciate what we’ve done. Now that’s not so I can pump myself up like an egomaniac, nor to pat myself on the back so hard as to dislocate my shoulder, I’m not that vain. No, it’s more to silently savor the challenges that I was able to endure. Those of you who know me understand that I prefer the quiet and confident approach to athleticism. To me, just knowing that I did it is THE penultimate reward for doing it. I don’t need the pub., I don’t need the glad-handing, and I don’t need the ego crap. It’s that simple. So for me, just being able to sit at my desk on a cold winter’s day and go over all those photo and video moments by myself, looking at so many of those challenging days, that’s when I’ll really get to appreciate the effort I put in this summer. Right now it’s all just a rush of fast-forward, jumbled snippets, dream-like visions that make no sense because most of them are too foggy in my mind.

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who have supported us throughout not only this summer, but also through the past couple of years leading up to this summer. The list is long. You don’t know how much this has meant to us as we’ve pushed this trek forward from conception to actuality. Wether it be monitory   or simple well-wishes, having you guys out there cheering us on all this time, you just don’t know how awesome that is for the psyche. I can tell you for real how important that’s been over the years of me doing these crazy trips. There’s been moments of despair, both in this trip and in prior trips, that I’ve leaned on this one crucial phone call or email that just inspired the hell out of me to keep pushing on through the bad times - not just for me, but for you guys to! 

I feel like you guys out there are as invested in this as I am, and I take that very seriously. There have been times when Judy’s kind of gotten paved at me for my insistence in getting the blog done asap after a day’s ride. And my reply to her has always remained the same: The blog is my repayment to all of you who are so faithful with respect to your interest in what I’m doing. I owe it to you to keep you informed, to try to put you in my shoes, where I can share my senses with you, all the sights, the sounds, the smells, and even the thoughts that I experience in a day’s ride. To me, that’s a big deal! And I can’t thank you all enough for your patronage. 

Based on the above, I hope this blog has fulfilled it’s goal. You’ve given to us… it’s my hope that we’ve given back to you. And I would like to think that as I build back up to a full head of steam in prep to finish this trip next spring/summer 2016, that all of you will be right back here again with us to see that task completed. It’s been my pleasure to share the past three months with you. Thanks a million to each and every one of you!

P.S.   We’ve been talking today about a little get-together sometime in the near future where we’d have the opp. to see many of you in person, and to share the American Dirt experience with you first-hand. I’ll post more information on the American-Dirt homepage within the next week. I’ll also be updating the American-Dirt website with photo/video/commentary from this summer, so stay tuned. 

Take care all, signing off for 2015…….Pete


Thursday, July 30: I feel kind of like a smuck saying this, but once I got though the Pahvant Mts from Salina to Filmore on Tuesday, I had pretty much lost my mojo for the remaining 3 days of riding for American Dirt. Didn’t really realize that until today, but it hit me around 1 PM as I finished up a segment in the little town/hamlet/hole-in-the-wall place called Lynndyl, UT. More on this at the end of the blog. 

Up at 5 AM, load van, have breakfast, move on out. Got going out of Filmore at 7 AM for the 30 mile drive to the junction of Harding Rd/Clay Springs Rd/FR90 and Rt 50 where I ended yesterday while anticipating a “Grudge Match” of golf with Judy. Took a quick R on Rt 50 berm for 200 yards and then a L, west on 4500. From there, with Judy leading the way on these wide gravel roads, we went R, north on 2500E. And then we went L, west on 1000S. This was gravel up until the last 2 miles, when I just got on this super wide, gravely, irrigation canal track right alongside the road. We took that to the junction with the UP/Amtrak (Union Pacific/Amtrak) line that runs through downtown Delta. 

From this junction point, I had Judy just drive back to Rt 50, and then got on Rt 6 north. I would have to get on this little dbl track dirt thing that paralleled the RR line for about 9 miles. It eventually bends around after Xing Sevier River and parallels Rt 6 where I’d meet back up with Judy. So I got my riding pack on and we each departed. My track was little more than this ATV dbl track about 4 feet wide that closely hugs the UP RR line. It ain’t the best of tracks, this due to the large mix of sand in the soil matrix, somewhat similar to what I experienced back in KS. By now, we’re in the desert, with cactus, sage brush, and lots and lots of sand. 

So in addition to dodging all the sand patches, I had to dodge these nasty overhanging sage bushes that can rake the hell out of your arms and legs. This is the same stuff that when dead forms the infamous “tumbleweed.” The middle of the track was just total shit, with thick crusted beach sand, while the right and left sides were slightly packed down, but still a tad loose. The speed was slow and the progress was labored on this stuff. I took the track into downtown Delta, where there is a smallish RR yard of 5 or 6 sets of tracks. Out here damn near everything is gravel or dirt, so once I hit the yard were some UP RR guys working on train engines, I just blipped on over to my right and kind of rode on the periphery, just outside the RR yard area. I had a couple dudes checking me out. So I wanted to make sure to not garner any undue attention as I cruised on by. Once I got another mile north of the yard, I went right back onto that track and continued north along the RR tracks. 

Now this track is actually very visible on Google Earth maps, and I used it as I mapped out this segment, but that has to be ancient stuff, because today this track eventually just disappears into nothingness after a bit. So I had to get on the RR berm on the right hand side of the north trending tracks and ride on this. The right side of this ballast dbl track had the best surface so I just stayed on this for a bit. And wouldn’t you know it but I take a look back to check for trains and here comes a UP freight train baring down on me. So I immediately went off into this non-existant track I’d gotten off of, and I began doing this total bajaing on the desert adjacent to the RR, just to be on the up and up. Once the freight train went by I jumped back on the ballast track. 

When I got up to the Seiver River valley, the RR was really elevated above this thing with zero riding room on either side of the tracks, so I had to go up onto the RR and ride in the middle for a mile or so until the RR cleared the valley area and that berm reappeared on the right hand side. With the traffic this RR lines gets, I was rubbernecking constantly as I rode down the middle of those tracks! Cleared the valley, and rather than ride on ballast again, I got over onto a dirt/sand track a bit further away from the RR, but I gather, still a RR access road. Took this all the way back to where the RR bends right alongside Rt 6. The track veered to the R and junctioned with Rt 6, but not without a really tough mile of dbl track sand riding. God, this sand riding is just one of the most frustrating, crushing experience you can imagine on a bike. It takes everything you have just to keep the bike upright and rolling. It’s a total energy drain, like opening the spigot up full force. 

Got onto Rt 6 and called Judy, who was somewhere south of me by the airport outside of Delta. Told her my location and she was there within 5 minutes, pulling into that sandy area I’d just come out of rather than on this little gravel road where I was waiting. I began shouting to her NOT to drive on the sand, waving my hands like a madman, for fear of her getting stuck. She was good though, backing out and pulling in my gravel area, shaking her head in disbelief at my ranting & gyrating. So my next step was to ride berm on Rt 6 for about a half mile to this sand/gravel road that parallels the RR and Rt 6, Railroad View Rd, and take this to the town of Lynndyl. So I hit the beginning of this road and it’s just sand 6 inches thick up a hill. So I motioned Judy to stop for a minute. Told her rather than drive all the way to Lynndyl, to stop about half way into this thing at the junction with Rt 174, just in case this track is just choked with sand killing my ride time. The total track was a good 10 miles, and I was concerned that if the thing was all sand, I’d be needing some support 5 miles in for water and Powerade. 

That was the plan. We each got rolling, with Judy driving north on Rt 6, and me walking the bike up this sandy hill. At the top the sand was much thinner, so I could get on the bike and get it rolling. The riding was easier, but definitely not easy. It was middle ring stuff and more of a dbl track than a road. Big surprise after all this time in UT right? Many of these so-called county and BLM roads here in UT are nothing more than tracks with names. I was able to keep it consistent to the junction with Rt 174 where Judy was waiting. Got more water and Powerade, as the temp by now was in the 90’s and a significant headwind was blowing out of the north. Asked Judy to meet me in Lynndyl where the RR and this track X Rt 6. 

And then I got it rolling again. Rode the five miles in Lynndyl, this dilapidated, pathetic little place on the fringes of nowhere. This was something out of the pages of Baja Mexico, what with the trash, the junk cars everywhere, the beat up and condemned buildings, and the shanty-town atmosphere. It was almost haunting to ride into because I felt like I was in a Third World country. Rode to the junction with Rt 132 and Rt 6, past barking dogs, abandoned tractor trailer rigs, and ramshackle houses. But no Judy to be seen. 

So I did a small circle around the RR access spots. And still no Judy. I had no pack, therefore no phone. Didn’t make a difference anyway - we had no service out there in Mongolia. So then I got on Rt 6 and began riding it south hoping so see her on the southern outskirts of the town. Sure enough she was there. And there we were, with Judy asking me what the next segment was? I knew we had a couple of long, unsupported segments ahead, somewhere along the line of about 15-20 miles each in length, with one a long UP access track parallel to the RR, and the other a primitive ATV track. I just kind of sat there for a good 10 minutes thinking. That’s when I knew I was done for 2015. My mojo was gone. Just couldn’t see any sense in beginning these next segments in the desert heat, with just a day to go, and with over a hundred miles left before the NV border. It just seemed so…well…useless… like a drop of water in an empty 55-gallon drum. My time had run out then and there. After three months and thousands of miles, it was time to pull the plug for this year and save the rest for next year where I’ll have cooler spring temps and a much fresher mind and body. 

I told Judy what I was thinking and she was 100% on board. We headed back to Delta where we were going to bag it for the rest of the day, but for some odd reason all the motels were booked, so rather than putz around any more we decided to begin the long ride back to Ohio a day early. Made it to Grand Junction, CO this eve. We’ll head to Denver and stay with Drew tomorrow, and then do the final push on Saturday and Sunday. 

Tomorrow I’ll give you a kind of epilogue of sorts, really dissecting the last couple of days, and then the trip as a whole. Right now I’m dead tired and ready to hit the hay…and not get up and ride in the morning!! So until tomorrow I’m out.


Wednesday, July 29: Woke up this morning feeling like yesterday I’d taken a job as a tackling dummy. My legs are pretty lethargic from the never-ending 4K of climbing for those first 8 miles of climbing on FR102, and then my upper body - hands, arms, shoulders, traps, and lats - feel as though I’d just done a resistance workout….for the first time in 20 years, this the result of 18 miles of some pretty wild descending.  I did some math on that climb yesterday, and roughly speaking it worked out to average of 9.5% grade for the first 8 miles, and 7.5% for the second 2 miles. Now there were some mellower sections, and certainly at the switchbacks there were some higher grade sections. But man, on gravel it’s just magnified by 2 or 3 yet again because you have to pick the cleanest line you can find  through all the loose gravel and cobbles. 

With that said, getting up this morning was a toughie. Rolled out of bed at 5:15, hobbled over to the coffee maker like a 90-year-old granddaddy and got the go-juice going. Once the coffee was made I got Judy her cup and then I just parked my ass in a sitting position on the bed, with the pillows against the headboard, where I vegged out in front of the TV watching the local Salt Lake City news. I just didn’t want to move! Felt so good to sit there sipping hot java for a half hour of doing absolutely nothing. 

Have to say I could have played hooky from the bike today and not felt a bit guilty, but with today, tomorrow and Friday as my last ride days for American Dirt this summer, I just absolutely had to get my ass out there and get further along such that I could make next summer’s American Dirt at least one, two, three days easier. So we did breakfast at this little place next to the hotel, and then Judy drove me back to yesterday’s end, at the point on E. Canyon Rd where the gravel ends and the pavement begins. 

My plan today was to have Judy follow me for a good part of today’s ride, so I wouldn’t have to take a full backpack as I’ve usually been doing. Just that alone would make my life so much easier. So I got going on the berm of E. Canyon, and the first 1.5 miles was just a crapfest of this 3-5 inch thick loose gravel that was angled down slope into a ditch. After descending through the loose stuff yesterday, doing this again, in stuff that’s even smaller, it was like riding in sand. Made it through that and then once I began to get closer to Filmore a really nice, wide berm opened up and the riding was a breeze. Went into town, took a R, north on 100W and rode this 30 foot wide berm to it’s end. Funny, but I’m finding that these small towns have this massive gravel berm, I think for parking cars, on both sides of the road going right through the town. Love it! At that point I just had Judy drive off up to the exit 167 along I-15 where I wanted to end up.

Now despite the fact that I’ve kind of mapped most of this out for a route itinerary, there are sections like today, down there where 100W comes to an end in the middle of Filmore, that I kind of have to wing it with. Out west here, there are times where if you have to bridge a mile or two to someplace, hell, you can just ride through the desert. So I was expecting to add-lib this part up to that exit 167 where I could pick up a gravel Frontage road. So anyway, I saw this little singltrack right where 100W deadened, and I Xed a small creek and jumped on that. It took me to a golf course, where I just began riding the gravel paths out towards I-15. Then, at the northern edge of the GC, I found a gravel road that went under I-15, followed that for a mile, then when I saw the top of exit 167, I took this access farm path into some wheat fields and rode/hike-a-bike all the way to the Texaco station at the top of the exit where Judy was waiting. Had to hop a barbed wire fence and I was done, I was in this gravel parking lot. 

My next project was breaking into my van because Judy had locked the keys in the van….and in the van was my riding backpack that contained the spare set of keys! Ooooops. Not going to say exactly how I did it, and thank God the van’s alarm system was not on, but I was able to do it with my plastic bike fender. Next up I got on the Frontage Rd and took this gravel road right along I-15 north to Holden. Exited Holden on Rt 50 berm and rode that through town - about 4 blocks in size - again, on this great berm that was about 30 feet wide on both sides of the road. Took that to the Rt 50 split, and right at the Rt 50 west part of the split is this great gravel road called Whiskey Creek Rd/1900E. Went R, northwest on that and rode this pup almost all the way to Delta, UT at the junction of Rt 50 west and 8-Mile Rd (Whiskey Creek changes name to 8-Mile). 

That was a nice long stretch where I could just let that bike “sing” for a change instead of grunt. Ended up with 43 miles for the day. Now I cut it a bit short today because I promised Judy we’d do something together today. Believe it or not….and most of you who know me are going to say I’m BS’ing you all…last night she asked me to play golf with her today at this little course next to the Best Western in Filmore. We’ve had a bet for over twenty years that I claim I can beat here with just a 3-iron while she could use the whole set of clubs. She called that bet in last night. And shoot, we’re almost done with this trip, and my debt list to her by this point could fill a freaking Black Hole, so I agreed I’d do it. Yup, I’d just ride for 4 hrs, we’d come back to Filmore and I play a round of golf with her. Hell, for the hotel people golf on that course was just 10 bucks apiece with clubs. So that was the plan. 

So we come back here to Filmore and Judy’s complaining all the way back to the hotel that her back is really sore, like so sore she was scared to play the golf for fear of throwing her back out (happens several times a year to her). Ok…no golf (and NO, she’s not dodging me). So here we are back at the Best Western, with Judy in the swimming pool area reading her book and resting her back, and me doing the blog in the hotel room. I’m a bit disappointed in that just doing something so diametrically different than cycling each and every day, that would have been fun. I’m certainly no golfer - haven’t played the game in about 30 years - but that little 20-year old challenge, and a change of pace activity could have been a great way to finish up the trip this week. Maybe on the way home?

Not much else to say here after that. We sat outside the hotel room this eve, on a nice little promontory overlooking the golf course, with the sun setting in the west, reflecting on the past three months of travel. This was fun, hearing what Judy recollected as being her high points, and me doing the same, usually with totally different remembrances for each of us. I love the road….and I hate the road. Crazy isn’t it? But I’m game for this to continue next summer. I’m already thinking of what we need to do to finish this thing off in 2016. I really want finality to Amercian Dirt - it’s a finality to a part of my life!


Tuesday, July 28: Well, I’d commented that in yesterday’s blog that today could likely be a bit of a grunt, grind, thrash, and pain-fest. It was definitely a grunt, it was absolutely a grind, and it was definitely  bit of a pain-fest. This was a TOUGH day. And having been putting this together for the better part of three days I pretty much knew it would be this way. Now what I don’t do sometimes, and maybe I’m wrong in doing this, is tell Judy just how hard/nasty/gnarly/dangerous the segment it. She worries too much in my opinion, and I’m ok with that, but her idea of a bad track and my idea of a bad track are really way, way off from one another, and we both know that. So if I open my big mouth and tell her I’m in for an ass kicking for a segment, or that it’s a dangerous or technical segment, she immediately puts on the worry-wart face. So I usually tell her the difficulty thing once a segment is over. That was the case for this one. I’m usually pretty silent before hand if the segment is serious. Again, that was the case for this one. 

So, with that in mind, I worked longer yesterday so I could get up early this morning and really be ready to ride, like on the bike, at 7:30, this to get done early and not have to riding in the heat on the west side of this mountain range. So we were up at 5:15, did the coffee thing, and I ate my leftovers from last night’s dinner at this wonderful little Mexican restaurant. We checked out and were on the road before 7. Problem was that as I was going through gear on the way to yesterday’s end point, I wasn’t watching the road and Judy ended up making a wrong turn. I didn’t catch it until we were 12 miles from Richfield, about 15 miles in the wrong direction. This one was on me obviously because I’m the map/navigation guy. So right from he get-go I lost a bit of early start time. 

So instead of getting on the bike at 7:30 I was on the bike at the junction of the Paiute OHV trail and FR102, I was on the bike just before 8. Got going on this climb on FR102, 2 miles up from the start, which I descended yesterday to meet back up with Judy, and I was in the middle ring and hurting because that’s just not the way to start the day - climbing as the gun goes off! The first 2 miles were still just climbing up the foothills through scrub pine, sage brush and high desert. Things got real at the Willow Creek junction area, that’s where the road did a hard 180 switchback and really shot up in the gradient. Went from the middle ring to the little ring in the switchback, and did not shift out of that for the next 2 hrs!

This wasn’t the nasty, rocky, ledgy stuff I’d done in the canyons. It was true gravel/rock/dirt single lane road, but it was pretty steep and consistent, like about a 10-12% grade with maybe like +1-2 more percent on the switchbacks. Most of the time I was in the absolute easiest gear I had. I just tried to get as comfortable as possible and not torch myself by getting on some kind of testosterone mindset. At times I’d shift down 2 gears so I could go out of the saddle and stretch out my hammies. When I was about 40 min into this thing I heard the roaring of trucks below me, and I kind of figured it was time for the off-road truck crowd to begin coming through, but to my surprise it was a train of Forest Service and BLM folks who were fighting a fire up in the mts. Had to be at least 10-12 trucks go by me in the span of 15 minutes. 

Judy and I had seen this fire on Sunday from our motel room window in Salina as it was really billowing a lot of smoke. By Monday it was still smoking, but much, much less than on Sunday. And it still was emitting some smoke today as I started the ride. This got me a bit concerned about getting to the top of the mt and then running into a road block on the roads because of a forest fire. That was a very real possibility, which it kind of had lurking in the back of my mind all the way up that mt. What the hell would I do if I couldn’t descend down to Filmore?

This FR102 just went on for what seemed like forever. I’d think I’d see the notch that this thing may be going through to get me to the top, and then it was just a false pass and I’d keep climbing. This must have happened 5-6 times. It was just relentless. Once I was about 1:30 hrs into the climb, and I was still clean (hadn’t dismounted the bike to rest or walk) I was determined to do this whole damned thing clean. “Ride clean or Pie out,” was going through my warped mind. 

By this time I was well into the mts and way, way out of the high plateau desert terrain. The mountain sides were just covered in pine trees and there was Willow Creek at my left side gurgling away. The temp had gone down to a very comfortable low 70’s and there was a light breeze. Sky was cloudless and deep blue. This was just fabulous despite the unrelenting climb. No worries about storms blowing in, and no constant ATC traffic. After those Forest Service vehicles it was just me out there listening to my breathing and watching my lines in the loose gravel. 

Now I though by the time I came to the first important junction, FR96, that’ I’d have topped out, but that was not the case. I made the L onto 96 and continued to climb on this ridge line. I did stop at that junction to take a few pics, especially to the easy where Salina and Aurora were located. I mean it looked as if I’d ridden 40 miles. That desert area looked so far off. Got rolling again up this ridge line for another 2 miles, and finally, finally topped out just before the next junction. At this point I was 10.5 miles into the ride, and I’d gained just over 4K in elevation. Took the next junction onto FR100, Chalk Creek Rd, and this kind of rolled up and down on a ridge line as did FR96. This section was just like riding on softball sized ballbearings. I mean it was just treacherous, and my mantra of  “Ride clean or Pie out” became ever more important as I hunkered down on the bars and tried to use just my legs while not pulling up on the bars as I did these little kicker climbs as the road rolled up and down. 

Finally this thing began to look like it was going down, and that’s where I saw a sign that read: “Filmore 20 miles”. “Twenty miles,” I thought, “that’s one HELL of a descent!” It started pretty mellow, at a sane gradient down through this cattle area way the hell up there in the mts at over nine thousand feet. But it soon started kicking down at steeper and steeper gradients. I’d hit sections of really, really loose gravel and cobbles, that I’d just try to float through with no brakes so as to not dump it with a wheel wash, and then I’d try to hit a line with little to no gravel where I’d feather the brakes a bit. It really wasn’t that simple, as I’m just trying to generalize. Each chunk of switchback presented its own set of logistics. Some were smooth, some totally choked with gravel and cobbles, and some contained both. 

I couldn’t even guess how many switchbacks were on this descent. Look at it on google earth and you can count (that’s FR100 to Filmore)! But by half way my hands were really starting to go numb. I’d unclip the inside foot on the switchbacks because these things were just swimming in loose rock and gravel, so if I were to slide in those tight turns it I could dab out and save myself from washing a wheel and dumping me and the bike. Did this countless times with all those steep, gravely switchbacks. After the half way point, this thing really got steep and exposed. At that point it’s a road-cut in rock with expose on the outside that’s as little as 50-100 feet, or as extreme as 300-500 feet. I mean this thing was just a beast in places. I’d try to ride the best line, with the least loose gravel, and unfortunately sometimes that line lay on the exposed outside part of the road. I had been shooting this on my Hero4 hemet cam, and several times I thought about NOT becoming one of those knuckleheads on Youtube whose video of him/her ends as the rider goes off the road, into the air, and into the trees, and ends with the video just bleeping out suddenly in a flash of fuzz.

I could gaze down this canyon and see the road switchbacking deeper and deeper down, a thousand feet or so, without any end in sight. This was just amazing. Once I got to this area that warned of the 4WD road up ahead, where I’d just descended, the road really got much better, and the gradient calmed down. This is where I took a break, shook out the hands, and turned off the video, which had been recording for a whopping 45 min. This was at the Pistol Rock picnic/camping area. So from here on the road is drivable on most higher clearance vehicles, and there are several camping/picnic areas. 

Kept descending though, for another several miles to the junction with Chalk Canyon Rd. Now the road I had descended on, FR100 this splits into New Chalk Canyon Rd and Chalk Canyon Rd. When I’d giving Judy my route itinerary I’d written that I’d be on New Chalk Canyon Rd. But when I got to this junction I was stunned to see that New Chalk went up, and Chalk just continued down along the creek. At that point I really, REALLY did not want to climb again. But the nagging thing in my head, “what if Judy get’s worried and drives down New Chalk looking for me?” I had no cell service at this point to tell her that I would be coming out a different road. Had to bite the bullet and do that freaking climb up New Chalk. I knew it would eventually descend again, but any more climbing was just not in my mindset by then. 

The climb was steep and slow, with me again in the easiest gear I had. Had to be a good 2 miles long before it actually flattened out a bit. And right around then I heard the phone ringing. It was Judy, worried as hell since I’d told her the segment would take 3-4 hrs, and I was at 4:15 hrs. Told her to just hang tight…I was ok…I wasn’t lying at the bottom of the canyon unconscious…and that I was within several miles of where she was at. The road went back to the descending mode and I had a flyer on some very good gravel for the next couple of miles. Met Judy at the van with 28 miles in for the day, with nearly 4.6K of climbing in 4.5 hrs of riding. Filmore was still another 3 miles up the road, but I was good with the end point for the day. I still have to work on getting myself from this end point back to my original route which is west of Filmore. I’ll do that work tonight. 

I was done, tired, sore, hungry and parched. We drove into town and I treated Judy to a Best Western just outside of Filmore. Right now she’s lounging in the pool area as I write this. Feels Great to have done my last stint of mountain climbing/descending for this summer’s trip. The next three days should be on the high plateau desert area as we work north towards I-80 and the NV border. I think I’m on the way to a nice cold Fosters Lager Oil Can right now. I’m out!!!!!


Monday, July 27: With me taking off from the hotel today, which is quite unusual 99% of the time, I was a bit less harried about getting on the road this morning. So by the time all the morning details were wrapped up I was ready to roll at 8:30 AM. I was certain this was going to be a bit of a nasty segment just because most of the road, or should I say tracks, are just so tough to find out here where there are just thousands of these ATC tracks with zero signage. 

Last night I had to make a itinerary list for Judy as well as myself. So what I did was a reroute of my original itinerary. Originally I had the route going south to Richfield, UT, and then on this long southwesterly track through the Pahvant Mts. But the more I looked at it the more I began to see if I could save us a whole lot of riding for me by crossing that same mt range in a more northwesterly route. Because I’m heading north once across the range anyway, so why should I go so far south only to ride north again? I’d been looking at this for a week or two, but had to wait until we got here to actually see what the situation is first hand. 

Found out what with these OHV trails that it is possible to link up to a northerly route across the range. So I changed the itinerary a bit ago, and then over the past couple days shored up the viability of doing it from Salina by including these OHV trails. My eyes are pretty sore from staring at my maps and the google maps on the computer. But I believed that I got it down. Today would be a short ride day, but a tough mapping/route locating day. I knew this for sure just because of all these tracks out here. 

Anyway, I gave Judy this one page list of directions and sent her off to meet me on Lost Creek Rd. I took off north on that Paiute Trail, X’ed Rt 50 and then chose my best track to the west across these foothills. It was a total cluster^&%^# maze of ATV trails. I mean there was not one piece of signage. So what I did was just navigate by the sun and the topography, knowing that I had to trend to the southwest down to the town of Aurora along the Sevier River. So I rode up to these 3 cell towers on the highest point of this foothills area, and kind of lined up the sun, my shadow and hunted for the line of foliage that runs along the river. 

Just as I was getting a handle on my trend, Judy called. She was on Lost Creek road, but could not find the junction point we were supposed to meet at. So I told her to just wait somewhere on Lost Creek, and when I get a bead on where to ride to find it, I’d give her a call. Began riding down the western side of the foothills on a track and be darned if I didn’t pick just the right one because as I was descending down towards the river, way down there I saw Judy turn around in the van. Called her really quick and said, “don’t move, I’ll be down in about 10-15 min.” Got down to Lost Creek road and began riding southwest. 

Well, as Judy had found, and I was soon finding out, the road signage and the gps’s didn’t mesh at all, not hers, not mine. So all these turns we needed to do, they were under different names and numbers. At this point in the trip neither of us were surprised, it’s all just part of the game now. So we continued on what we thought was Sage Creek Rd, and I just rode and rode and rode, until I got down to junctioning  with I-70, and that’s when I knew we were both off course. Judy came back to tell me what I’d already discovered. We loaded the bike back into the van and we drove the 4 miles we went out of the way, back up to where we must have made the gaff. Turns out my silly little phone’s gps app. actually had the right signage names/numbers. I used that to do the remainder of the ride into and through Aurora. 

Got off where we screwed up and began riding again, this time taking a R on 2050S, to a L on Rt 24 for a short berm ride, to a R on Rt 160 berm and then a quick L, on 3550S. We took this just about a mile up into the foothills of the Pahvant Mts, just west of Aurora. At this point I had Judy turn around and go out to Rt 50 to meet me at the junction of FR102 and Rt 50. The remainder of this mess was going to be mine to experience! I got rolling on this long gradual middle ring climb up 3550S through the foothills. Gained some elevation pretty damned quick. 

Next, and I bloody well memorized this darned series of turns and tracks from last night just in case of zero signage, was a L, north on Frog Flats Rd. So I counted the roads as I climbed and came to what should be my L turn. Got out my phone gps because my Gamin with a $100 CO/UT micro-sd card of topo USA 24K read “riding on unnamed road!” And I say this because I think this is total bullshit! I pay all this money for a fancy, high tech gps and my damned phone is better at telling me where the hell I’m at. While my phone tells me I’m on….guess….Frog Flats Rd! So I made the turn and did this wicked series of little cookie climbs, one of which I threw a chain into the spokes. These things were just screamers.

This thing finally topped out, onto a flats of sorts in the foothills. Guess that’s why they call it Frog Flats? Ok, then more turns up here on tracks that just criss cross each other like a spiderweb. My notes told me to take Frog Flats Rd until it takes a hard R turn and at the apex of this are 2 lefts, and to take the second left. So I did that and things seemed to be going well. Now at this point this track is just a track with no name, as are the rest. My next check point to make sure I was riding in the right direction was when I passed a track to the R about a quarter mile up. Did that. Then I needed to take a L at the first Y and a R at the second Y. Did both of those and things looked good. My phone gps showed me I was indeed on the right track…and my Garmin, well as usual it told me I was riding on unpaved road. 

Now after that second Y, I knew to just ride this track straight, due north the rest of the way up to its junction with FR102. Slowly this track just disintegrated into almost a “ghost” track, barely visible dbl track, and then at the Xing with another track, it just disappeared. And I mean it was gone, despite the fact that, and you’ll just love this, despite the fact that both my phone gps, and my garmin gps indicated that there was a road there. It was freaking trackless desert!

Ok, so I walked the gps’s along this invisible track, and be damned if they both said I was on a track of some sorts, yet there I was walking through sage brush, rock, sand and desert. Got the bike and walked up to this high point, where this invisible track was supposed to go. Couldn’t see a thing. And that track I’d crossed, hell it trended to the south, so that was no good. I decided to hike-a-bike to the east, knowing I’d pick up Rt 50 somewhere along the line. Off I go, hike-a-biking, and be damned if not more than 200 yards down is this freaking deep wash I have to get across. And that brought back memories of all my stream Xing in Ohio. 

That thing took a good ten minutes to get down into and back up out of. So much for my short day! Got across that and found this faint track which trended to the east-west, so first took it west to see if maybe that original track picked back up. Went about a half mile, got out the phone gps and checked my position. That original track was nowhere. Went back to the east and just became resigned that I was just going to ride back to Rt 50 and see how far off I was from my original destination. So I go a bit on this and be darned if I didn’t come across this Paiute OHV trail. BINGO! Now I was getting somewhere. 

And just as I was ready to make the L on the Paiute I went to flip my sunglasses down….and they weren’t there. I’d left them on the ground that last time I checked my phone gps. What a dipshit! I was so mad at myself that I was cursing out loud - loudly! Now I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and those particular sunglasses, well, I’ve crossed North America 4x with those on, and I was NOT about to just ride off this late in the game. So I rode the mile back on that crappy, barely visible track, uphill, to where I’d stopped to take a gps reading. Did the ride back, retrieved the glasses and then rode back to the Paiute track. 

Took this north to where I figured I’d junction with FR102, and within 3 miles that’s indeed what happened. And once again, that garmin had now *^*&%&$# idea what road I was on (riding on unpaved road), yet my phone gps said it was FR102. Amazing? So I rode this 102 descent back down and met up with Judy at the junction of FR102 and Rt 50, about 8 miles northwest of Salina. 

Wow, that little jaunt is exactly why I did not try to combine today and tomorrow into one ride. I mean my total mileage for the day was 20, with about 1.4K in elevation gain, and that took me nearly 4 bloody hrs to complete. Yup. This was my “set-up” ride for tomorrow, where I’ll ride across the mts to the town of Filmore, UT. That ride alone I’m predicting at 4-6 hrs, so I’m very glad to have gotten this navigating nightmare out of the way today. 

Sure hope tomorrow goes better. At least I only have 3 roads/tracks to ride on instead of the absolute mess I had today. On second thought….this is American Dirt, so tomorrow will probably be another grunt, grind, thrash, and pain-fest. Adios………pete


Sunday, July 26: Another early start today, but at least I was staring at a really mellow ride today, and that really felt good. So based on the weather forecast for today, high near 100, and probably the hottest day in a string of like the next 6 days, I had decided last night to get this thing done really early before that heat even got to 80. Thus, we were up at 5 AM. Since we’re staying here at the Salina Super 8 a second and third night, we didn’t have nearly the gear to reload into the van, and we were on the road at 6:45 AM. We were at yesterday’s end point, exit 86 on I-70 west, at 7:15, and I was on the bike at 7:30. 

So my strategy today was simple….ENJOY! This segment was done on what’s called a “Frontage” road, a road that parallels a freeway or toll road. Out west they’re very prevalent due to the long spaces between towns and cities. These road enable locals to get off and on the freeway from ranches, National Forest recreations areas, and BLM lands in 10-15 mile increments along the freeway, this rather than having to drive 50 miles to go 10. And this particular frontage road was just perfect for me, for it enabled me to ride non-stop on gravel without all the hassles of route support and riding 27 miles to make 8 miles progress as I did yesterday. Nope, usually the frontage road just hugs the freeway all the way. 

I considered this ride today my well deserved dessert for a pretty hard couple of days riding. And the icing on the cake was the fact that of the 34 miles I had to ride, about 31 were big-time descent miles. I mean this is just a bobsled run down along Salina Creek in Salina Canyon. I was anticipating this ride as far back as February, and now here I am, with 10.5 states behind me and this puppy in my periscope sight.

The temps was really wonderful, like about 62 degrees with a wind out of the west, and I had to put a polypro long sleeved top on to take the edge out of the wind. I got going on this road, simply called Frontage, and started climbing, and I do mean climbing. This was a build-up to the very top of the canyon, and I, not a smidgen warmed up, felt sluggish as I peddled up this long 3-mile climb up a gradual pitch at 6-7 mph in the middle ring. Hey, if that’s the toughest part of the day, I’m totally on board, this compared to navigating through sand and rock gardens for hrs on end! So I just noodled up this climb, taking me time and enjoying the scenery. 

Made the top and that’s when the long sleeved top came off and the fun began. It was just this great “over the top of the roller coaster” kind of feeling as I began descending. Hit the big ring and just peddled lightly, taking in the sights as I careened down the canyon. The frontage road would change from the south side of the freeway to the north side by going under the freeway every now and then. A couple of these tunnels were just filled to the brim with purple martins (or something similar) with their mud nests clinging to the wall-roof interface. As I’d ride in these birds would just flood out in a virtual cloud of flapping wings. They almost looked like bats flying out of a cave when a person invaded their darkness. 

I really didn’t need a support stop on this segment, but just to be safe we scheduled a stop at exit 73 and exit 63 on I-70. So at the first stop, 13 miles in at exit 73, I just stopped long enough to tell Judy everything was good and to drive on to the next stop. This was only one of two sections of this frontage road where there were asphalt section. I hit it for 1 mile prior to meeting up with Judy, and was able to ride some good berm down to our meeting point. After this the pitch of the descent really increased, to the point to where I had to feather the brakes occasionally so that I wouldn’t wash a wheel in the thick, loose gravel. 

Matter of fact when I finished this ride I’d made a suggestion to Judy about me taking her back up to the top to do this ride, but it was the loose gravel issue that kind of had her feeling not so good about doing the ride. And I couldn’t lie to her and say all was just a big party. I mean you really did have to have a soft touch on those bars as you navigated through the gravel on this section. Any twitchy moves on the front wheel could wash that thing easily…and I was rolling through this stuff with a 2.4 front tire, not some thin little 26er 1.75 like Judy has!

But man was this fun. I went through these two big rock cut tunnels and was just flying down mountain. Had to really slow it down for a very sharp 90 that led into a concrete tunnel under the freeway and then up to what I call a little “kicker” climb in the little ring up to some good elevation again. This thing had to go up a sharp pitch for a couple hundred feet of gain. Then it did another roller coaster descent back down mountain. Met Judy at exit 63, and again just motioned her to head back to the motel. 

I descended the final several miles, and by this time was in a totally different environment, having gone for 8K up in the mts down to just over 5K down into the high plateau dessert region of Salina. The last 3 miles of this frontage road is asphalt and is called Old Hwy 10. I got on some ATC track at that point and paralleled the road for a couple miles at that point, then I jumped on some OHV tracks that took me above Old Hwy 10. These led me back to a couple sections of really shaky, rocky junk, where I opted to hike-a-bike the descents, that rather than do a potential series of cartwheels down while fixed to the bike. Once I got down to road level again, I crossed Old Hwy 10, jumped back on this OHV (Off Highway Vehicles) track, the Paiute Trail, crossed Salina Creek and rode back to the motel. It was pretty cool that the trail took me right back to the motel. This is my start for tomorrow. 

That was my day - 34 miles of riding with just over 1K of elevation gain. I decided to make that my day, a gift to both myself & Judy. I really have to take a closer look at my route out of here, where I’ll be using some of that Paiute Trail that I rode today, so I have to coordinate the support on this pretty complicated next several segments. I have it down on paper, but once you’re out here, it’s a whole different story on how to do it. What I’m trying to do is X over the Pahvant Range to the west of Salina using these OHV trails, and instead of taking a chance on a mega gonzo nasty long day tomorrow, I will be breaking it up into another easy day on Monday with an approach into the mts, and then on Tuesday I’ll ride across the mts for a moderate to long day of motocross type riding. 

So anyway, we started early and finished early today. Judy wanted to sight see in town, which we did, and it turns out the town is no bigger, actually it is littler than Green River. So we came back to the motel and watched the thermometer rise! No, not really, Judy is reading and watching movies while I work. I’ll be going out to do a little recon with the van to shore up these OHV track, because this place is a maze of OHV trails. This is a OHV mecca down here, and this Paiute and Gooseberry trail system is nationally recognized. Today being Sunday, is not a good day to do any of my long distance OHV riding, as there is likely to be much more traffic. Tomorrow and Tuesday will work much better. 

Ok, so the next thing up is what I’ve been telling some folks privately over the past 3 weeks. And that’s that I will not have enough time to finish the American Dirt trip this summer. Turns out that I’d budgeted 3 months to do this trip, both for myself and for Judy. We each have obligations in August that we have to be home for. We’d planned to be back first week of Aug, and I just cannot change that since we’d made those plans many, many months ago.

I kind of knew this was going to be the outcome way back at the beginning of July when I was fighting my way across KS. At that point I’d needed to make it through each of KS, CO, UT, NV and OR in about 7 to 10 days each, depending on the state, to be able to finish the trip by August 1st. Well, I came nowhere close to that. Colorado alone took over 2 weeks. I mean in my trip itinerary booklet I’m working on Day 46 for today, so that shows you how far off of schedule I am. Hell, today we’re at day 82 or 83 I think. 

Too many things kind of got us off track here, weather being a big one. But I have to be honest, I totally overestimated what I thought I could do each day. Some of the days on the itinerary, like going through KS, I’d estimated doing nearly 100 miles/day. What that  taught me was that I ain’t the spry young punk I was 10 years ago. I just cannot recover as fast, and I just cannot do the heavy volume I used to be able to do. Hate to admit it, but it’s fact. Shoot, I think my best day in KS for this trip was 90 miles, and that was unusually high compared to the rest of the days. So just as much of this off-schedule issue is my fault, as it is the weather’s fault. 

Now that’s NOT to say it’s over. It’s not by any means. I will finish what I started. And believe you me, I wish more than anything I could get this thing off my hit-list this summer. But I’m going to have to finish this thing up in early summer of 2016, starting it up again in early to mid May, and finishing it up in June. At this point, as tough as this is from a riding, support and logistical standpoint, I don’t even know if I could get this done by the end of this August. And that’s the truth. I know for sure that OR is going to be outrageously difficult what with a gazillion BLM and logging roads that I have to negotiate. 

So I would love to give all of you an end to this thing this summer, but it’s just not in the cards. Both Judy and I have to go back to our real lives, jobs and responsibilities. I’m kind of looking at this now as a thing I have to breath life back into next spring. And I’m more bummed out for those of you who have lived this thing through my blogs each and every day, than I am bummed out for myself. I mean it’s all of you who give me the motivation to keep plugging away when I’m too sore, to keep blogging when I’m too tired, and to keep a good attitude when things are going poorly. I mean it’s analogous to investing yourself in a cable or TV series, only to have the series take a hiatus for the summer, and to start back up again in the fall. I get it.

So with all that being said, we’ve 5 more days of me trying to get as far as I can in UT before we shut it down on July 31st to begin our drive home to Ohio. I really want to thank each and every one of you for your support and encouragement for all these days. And I make this promise to both you & myself: American Dirt WILL have a finish. 

Until tomorrow, take care all………Pete


Saturday, July 25: Another day up before the crack of dawn, and then into the same routine: drink coffee, catch up on the local news, work, dress, pack, eat, load the van, drive to start, ride five to seven hours, find a motel, wash cloths, wash me, work, blog, eat dinner, have a beer or two, watch a movie, go to bed. It’s groundhog day, but on a bike across the country. Now I’m not complaining, just stating the truth. You fall into a routine that utilizes the time to best fit the situation you’re in. My situation is a freedom of sorts, as most people see it, being on the bike and having the opportunity to ride each and every day, but it’s actually my responsibility each and every one of those days to ride, to get on that bike and ride - period!. There’s a routine to this gig just as there is to a real job. And I treat this as a real job. I try to explain this to people. Some get it. Some don’t. You really have to do this to understand that the romance of the whole endeavor ebbs and flows. It’s not always a bed of roses. Yet for some unknown reason I just love to do this stuff, knowing full well how burned out I get the longer the trip stretches out. 

Right now I’m pretty toasted mentally and physically, despite the fact that I get to ride though places most people only see on TV, in books or on the internet. It’s awesome many days, and tough as hell on others. This last week, with all the really demanding riding in canyon country, it’s been double tough. I mean I’m out there in some pretty remote places, riding on tracks that are just bitchen hard to ride, and all I have to do is slip up just once, and who knows what happens. I really put all that out of my mind as I’m riding. You can’t ride that kind of stuff scared, because when you’re tentative that’s when you screw up. So it’s game face on while riding, and then when I finish the day it’s decompression time, where I have the opportunity to go over the “what if” stuff that I don’t think about when riding. Anyway I went into today knowing that I had two more pretty demanding X-type segments to go before I get a reprieve of sorts on this 40-mile stretch of “Frontage” gravel road - real road - that goes all the way into Salina mostly along I-70. 

We drove the 45 miles from Green River back to the west to where I left off yesterday, at exit 116 off of I-70. Today I’d ride east to west because as far as I could tell, there’d be little difference in total elevation gain either way. Was on the bike unfortunately a bit too late - 8:10 AM - for this place and this heat. But that’s just the way it shook out this morning with such a long drive to the start. Just goes to show that the logistics out here are equally as difficult as the riding, maybe not as crazy as it was in CO, but hard nonetheless. It’s just that in this particular stretch, there are no services for over 100 miles between Green River and Salina. So there’s just no easy way to do this thing. We bit the bullet in Green River for start of today, and we’ll bite the bullet again in Salina for the ride tomorrow. 

My first segment today was one that I really had some trepidation about. I mean it had some gnarly motocross track ascending and descending through tons of loose rock, through some sections with nasty exposure, and past a myriad of unmarked trails. I know I’m sounding like a broken record but I’ll say it again, even with gps and maps you can still get lost down in these slot canyons. You really have to be vigilant while riding! 

The temp was nice, in the 60’s, and it makes me think about how wonderful it is in the mornings, but then round about 11 AM, when the sun really starts to gets up there, how much of a hades this place can be in the afternoon. It’s heaven and hell all in a day. I descended down the road I took yesterday when I did the Eagle Canyon ride, Devil’s Canyon Rd, but this time I didn’t take that R on the access track into Eagle, I stayed straight on Devil’s Canyon and descended some more until I hit a sign for Copper Gold Mine Rd, also called  BLM6845 and EM927. My gps called it 927, and for that I was thankful because there were just a maze of roads running off of Devil’s Canyon. Made the turn R and I knew I was in for a thrashing because this road was half dirt and half beach sand. Some sections were all dirt, some all sand and some a mix. It was dbl track and it was just a total bitch in sections with all that sand for several miles.

Once I got down along and into the main canyon, and into the rock, the sand stuff was pretty much gone, but the painful little punchy climbs and descents were just endless. And again, some parts, like on these nice long sections of slick rock, those were just amazing to ride, while others, these loose rock and boulder strewn climbs and descents, they were pretty tough to negotiate, especially the 2-3 foot slabby drop-offs and step-ups. I had several stretches on the edge of these small slot canyons below me to my left that were anywhere from 20 to 100 feet drops straight down, so I would venture more to the middle and right of the track while riding next to those…just in case I washed a wheel and dumped the bike. 

So I got through about 9 miles of this stuff and then the trail just went to shit as I left the canyon, turning into this narrow dbl track of pure sand along a broad expanse of wash. I did my best to fight through it for a bit, but finally in total exasperation I had to concede and begin walking. No gear, no matter how easy, were you going to ride a bicycle through this stuff - a motocross motorcycle, yes, and so to with an ATC, but not a bicycle. I needed a “FAT” tire bike, and even that I’m not sure would do the trick. I’d try to ride on occasion, but always with the same result - just spinning and falling and washing out the wheels, over and over. It was fruitless. I ended up walking about 2 miles of this stuff, with my feet just sinking in that sand as if I was hiking on a sand dune. 

When the trail finally left the wash for higher ground I could get back on the bike and pedal again, as the trail was a bit half and half dirt to sand, but I could only use my little cookie. Now this thing climbed for a bite, again with those short, steep, rocky, bouldery, ledgy climbs, such that I gained some elevation. At the top was this absolute maze of side trails that all looked like the main trail. Again, thanks to my gps, I was able to ascertain which of all those was EM927. The descent was as grueling as the climbing, but this time, instead of ending up down in a sandy wash, I ended up further descending in this slot canyon for a good 8 miles of circuitous riding, with 180-degree turns every quarter mile, like a snake coiled up, it just went on and on and on. There came to be a point where I wondered if I was off route, but that gps kept telling me I was on 927. Really this was not a road, but just a gravel and sand wash in a long slot canyon. The creek bed was the road. 

This thing finally went out of the slot and began climbing again onto the table top, but then with another long descent I ended up right back down in another slot,  shorter but another slot nonetheless. When this slot came to an end I was at a Y junction point in another sandy wash with zero signage. I could go straight, or turn right. Now I knew I’d have a right to take to get me back up to I-70 and to the van for support, and I knew it was called either I-70 Rd, or EM923, or who knows what the hell else? But again, my gps to the rescue where it registered as EM923. Thanks goodness, that was my right that I’d been thinking off way, way back in those slots. Had I had to go straight into another sandy wash I think I’d have lost my mind. What’s more I’d told Judy this could be a long segment, and it was turning into a REALLY long segment!

Took a R, north on 923 and climbed out of the wash on about a 6-mile gradual up, way back up to the interstate. By the time I got to the van I was just beat, and the sun was beginning to really make itself felt. Judy was wigged on how long it took….nearly 3.5 hrs for 27 miles! I sucked down Powerade and water, ate a peach and some muffins and had some fresh watermelon that Judy had sliced up and put in the cooler for me. Had to empty about a half cup of sand out of each shoe, and then brush off the socks. Ok, the big question was this: do I ride back down 923 to that wash, which is called Willow Springs Wash Rd, again, still part of EM927, and continue on that for 30 more miles to that segment’s end point, OR do I concede to the sand riding, puss out, get my skirt out of the spokes, and ride the berm along I-70 for 13 miles to that very same end point, exit 91 along I-70? Judy was like, “are you kidding me, you should have ridden berm on that first section!” You see when she dropped me off earlier at that first segment’s start, she was 8 miles from the exit point, and I was 27 miles. She thought I was nuts to go 27 when I could do 8. But the stoic A-hole that I am, I wanted to try to stick to the route today, especially since it was the last two segments before an easier day. But after that fight down there in the wash for 8-9 miles with sand hiking, I was really thinking that the berm was an excellent alternative, cuz that next section was going to take a good 4-4.5 hrs if I chose it.

Nope, you don’t have to beat me in the head with a club to get it on this call. I decided to do the 13 miles of gravel berm along I-70. So we got going, with Judy just bloody elated that I came to my senses for a change, and I got rolling on this ugly ass angled gravel berm. And I do mean ugly. Hell, there was an asphalt berm a lane wide, and there I am riding in the gravel and weeds? The temps by then were in the 90’s, and be darned if I didn’t have this long, long climb. No, this wasn’t the punchy little steep rocky stuff, this was just a gravel grinder for 10 miles at a 3-5% grade, and sometimes 7-9%. Couple that with these damned flies biting me as I’m spinning away in the little ring and this was my FUN for the day. Let’s see….walking the bike in sand for miles, or gravel grinding on I-70 for 10 miles with flies biting?

Made exit 91 in about 1.5 hrs…for 14 miles. So Judy though this would be the end of the day, so we could get the heck out of the sun and into some AC. But I had one more section that would connect me with that long stretch of Frontage road to Salina, and this was just 5 miles along Rt 72 and Rt 76, both of which are asphalt. I was hoping against hope that there was some good berm to ride here - better than that on I-70. Now this section was no choice. It was THE only way to connect onto that gravel Frontage Rd. 

So Judy bucked up for the last 5, and we both went R, west on Rt 72. Now these two roads are in what is called “Open Range” territory, where the cows can just walk across the road and go from one mt side to the next. No cattle grates here. To my delight I found that there was this single track, cattle trail that anastomosed from one side of the road to the other in the gravel and dirt - a bloody single track cow trail! Man I was on that pup with delight, cow crap or not, it was totally like riding single track. Thank you Elsie! I couldn’t go fast because a lot of this was slightly up, but I could ride it at like 6-8 mph. I made exit 86 in about 45 min and that was the day. My Frontage road was just on the south side of I-70. Ended up with 43 miles total for the day, with 1K in elevation gain in the first segment and about 2K of elevation gain in the second and third segment - most of this coming from that 10-mile climb. Finished just before 2 PM, with the heat just blazing. 

We did this 30 mile descent down I-70 to Salina, as we watched my Frontage road wind down the mt going under the interstate at least 10 times from south side to north side. Only trouble is that this gravel road does NOT all go down like the interstate. In some places it goes up over ridges and mesas, so my ride tomorrow is not a cake walk, BUT it will be way easier than anything I’ve done in the last 5 days. 

Got a Super 8, did the Groundhog day routine post-ride and here we sit with a movie on and the AC blowing on high. Got to be nearly 100 out there right now. Heck, I hand wash my kit, hang it on the van and it’s bone dry in 40 min! That’s no BS. Well, as the routine goes, I think it’s just about time for that beer or two. Late…….


Friday, July 24: Got up pretty early, as I’d done in the past to try to get a jump on the heat. I just have a terrible time once that temp gets up in the 90-degree range, and today was forecast at 95 or more. So I was up and working at 5:20 AM, then we got everything transfrered to the van, we ate, and were on the road for the 35 mile ride to where I left off yesterday, when I made that nice little gaff of leaving the bike behind. 

This first section, Black Dragon Canyon, was going to be a real tough go, so as I’d decided yesterday, I was going to ride it in reverse direction, starting up at the top, about 1K feet high, and then descending the canyon down to where I left off yesterday afternoon at the little BLM gate. From what I’d read and ascertained on the maps, this pup is just some real serious track, with sand washouts sections, tons of loose rock and boulders, and you name it. Basically it’s more motocross and ATC track. I didn’t see anything about actually being able to take a vehicle on this thing. So doing it as a climb, that would likely be a 4 hr trek with lots of bike hiking, as opposed to 2 or less if done as a descent where you’re on the bike a WHOLE lot more.

So we proceeded up the long climb on I-70, through the San Rafael Swell, and then just continued to do this long false flat climb to exit 131, where the route comes out onto Frontage Rd, my day’s start point. Got on the bike at about 7:40 AM, in pretty good temps and a nice bright blue sky. Got going on Frontage riding east, which paralleled the interstate for a mile or so, then it turned north. Rode another mile or two to the junction with Sinkhole Flat Rd. This was kind of a nice little descent down some dbl track for a couple miles out in the high plateau area. Then the next turn was a L, east on an unmarked dbl track. At this point my gps just says I’m riding on a road. There’s no mention of the name or anything. But I’d memorized all the turns because this place is just a maze of small BLM roads, many of which just don’t have any marking whatsoever. 

Rode this for another mile or so to the next turn, a R, east into the Black Dragon Canyon. Now this guy was marked, so I knew I was on the right track, despite a number of R hand turns along the way. Man, I would have had to get the exact latitude and longitude coordinates if that weren’t the case. So I took this thing and that’s when the fun began. And when I say fun, I say this kind of jokingly, because this thing is some pretty serious riding. There’s slick rock sections, drop-offs, sand and boulder washes, I mean you just had to keep your eyes on the trail ahead of you rather than gaze out at all the eye candy scenery in front and at your side. There were a few sections where I had to dismount and walk the bike down due to the really hairy nature of the drop-offs with loose boulders and rocks. I’m ok with the 2-3 foot drop-offs, but when there’s just a big pile of basketball sized rocks at the bottom for 10 feet or so, that’s where I draw the line. But by and large most of this I was able to ride without being too wigged out. Now mind you, these 4-5 miles weren’t even the canyon, it was more like this series of benches that continued to go down towards the actual canyon. Off to my right I could see the view area just off of I-70. 

We’d stopped there yesterday to look at the trail way off to the north, and you could actually see it from up there, and it looked pretty good….from like two miles away. Being right there on it and it was this wicked motocross track that snakes it’s way along this big bench. And you can just see those massive 500-800 foot walls looming in the east as you’re riding down dip towards the canyon. Once I began to see these little slot canyons on my right, with like a hundred or so foot drop offs, I knew I was entering the guts of the canyon. This is where the real riding began, and I was thinking to myself the whole time, “I am SO glad I’m riding this thing as a descent, because it was equally as brutal as the Hermit Pass climb - which I hike-a-biked for God knows how long. 

I’d get occasional give-me’s where I could let the bike run for several hundred yards, but then I’d hit a wash for a half mile where I was fighting the sand and gravel just to keep the bike upright. There were a pair of motocross tracks in there so I figured that I’d use those as my lines of choice. Otherwise, you have kind of a myriad of ways to track through the washes. Once you get out of a wash, you’re right back up on this really thin dbl track, so thin that only an ATC could make it. This is not a place for 4WD trucks, just too narrow. Once I made it deep into the canyon, the walls were towering over me for hundreds and hundreds of feet. Riding this thing really gives you a perspective as to how wide this San Rafael Swell really is. I mean this thing is massive, and I’d see sunlight around the bend, thinking that I was nearing the end of the canyon, but then I would just snake and descend for another mile. I went through this numerous times, to the point to where I just accepted the fact that I had a LONG ride ahead of me. 

Towards the end the wash actually had some water, where I’d hit this wet sand and silt, but it was really nothing to worry about from a getting soaked perspective. The walls at the end really get confining, kind of like you’re riding in this slot canyon, and most of this is just riding down the middle of a wash. By the time I actually rode out of the canyon, my hands and shoulders were just smoked. There was just very little chance to loosen up on the descent. Heck, I had a fly biting my arm and I just couldn’t take the other hand off the bar to swat the bastard. Had to wait about a minute, when I was down in this wash to go one-handed to smack the thing. Made it out and the track opened up to about a lane wide, and it undulated up and down for a bit before finally descending all the way back down to I-70. I was very happy to see that van down there. 

Got back to the van in 1:50 hrs to descend 21 miles. I think my total gain in elevation for that segment was about 100 ft, so you know that you’re doing nothing but going down, down, down. Must have dropped about 2500 feet in that 21 miles or riding - nothing as sustained as Hermit Pass, but serious nonetheless. Judy had some food ready for me and we got going west on I-70 to the next segment, and I was riding this one in the same manor - west to east so as to take advantage of the larger net descent. We drove back past exit 131, where I started the Black Dragon Canyon ride, to exit 116, where I’d start near Eagle Canyon, and finish back at exit 131. 

Again, I knew this pup was going to be another serious ride, at least for 8-10 miles of the lead in to Eagle Canyon, and then Eagle Canyon itself. Got to exit 116, and did a final map and directional check before I headed out. I had Judy drive back to exit 131, and park on the eastbound side of the road where I’d come out. I told her again that this could be anywhere from 2-3 hrs, and to just relax and stay put. Off she went and off I went, on Copper Globe Mine Rd. It went to the east for a short stint, and descended sharply, then did this dogleg to the north and went under the interstate. This was wide enough for a really small vehicle, but not full blow 4WD machines. 

There was some good signage on this track, which was just after I went under the interstate, and pointing me in the right direction to the beginning of the Eagle Canyon track. This, just like the Black Dragon Canyon descent, was just a motocross track, and a steep one at that. I thought my sphincter was tight on the BDC descent, man the beginning of this little track was just treacherous, and I had to walk the bike on several occasions because the drops were so big and the boulders were so menacing looking at the bottom. Got to the bottom of this track and a sign pointed to Eagle Canyon, which I thought would be more of a jeep track….WRONG! More of the adrenaline pumping descending I’d just done. 

And the washes, damn, these sand washes were like quicksand, and I washed out the tires several times. I did a ton of shifting on this thing, going middle ring on the slick rock and ledges and rocks, and then little ring in the sand. And you had to be careful though when coming off a steep rocky descent and going right into a sandy wash, because the tires can just go anywhere in the sand once you hit the wash. It’s a double edged sword because you need speed to get through the sand, but that speed can cause you to crash if you just hit the sand and the bike slips out from under you. It’s a delicate balance. 

Now I was working my ass off on this track because it wasn't all descent. There were a ton of these punchy little climbs where you had to shift fast into the little ring, with the easiest rear cog and then just try to pedal like hell to get up this rock and boulder strewn climb without biffing. I was Z5 numerous times as I crested these things. So Eagle Canyon is called BLM 820, and all around are these other tracks coming and going off of 820. I just made sure to really watch for these small plastic BLM trail markers as I continued through the canyon, because I needed to veer to the L and go up past Swasey Cabin and stay on 820, or else I’d be riding south to Taylor Flat and into a massive maze of trails. 

On the bright side I have to say that this canyon really reminded me of Zion Canyon, but on a much smaller scale. The rock walls, the orange and yellow colors, and the brilliance of the walls lit up in the sun made for a spectacular sight. I stopped several times when my heart rate was going through the roof to take some still pictures of the canyon. But as I said about Black Dragon Canyon, you’re just so focused on the track, and not screwing it up that it’s hard to appreciate the scenery. Hopefully my GoPro video with do it justice.  

Made the turn and began climbing out of the canyon on a series of those punchy little cookie climbs for 2 miles. There was a point where I got over the 4th or 5th of these and I just had to get off and bike hike for 5 minutes to catch my breath. I mean I was tasting lung tissue! And nothing was sustained for climbing. It was just all these steep little things that just sucked the life of me. Finally got to the cabin and then the track changed from motocross track to single lane gravel road. God, I was so happy to be able to relax my hands, arms and shoulders. This took me to the junction with BLM 6852, where I went L, north towards this rock mesa called Head of Sinbad. From here I was on a great dbl land gravel-dirt road that took me back up towards I-70, and then bent back around to the south.

The rest of the ride was really super relaxed, where I could ride no handed, look around, enjoy the solitude, have fun. At the junction with BLM 7196, I went L and took that back to the main gravel road, Temple Mt Rd. Went L on Temple Mt and took that back towards the junction with exit 116. By this time Judy had started driving towards me on Temple Mt, worried that I was gone too long. I motioned her back to the BLM kiosk where I would end the ride. For the last mile we saw a herd of wild donkeys out grazing to the south. 

Got done at about 1 PM, and THAT was a day, for the heat by then was in he 90’s, and for us to drive back to exit 116 and then for me to do another segment heading west, that would just be too long to do in the heat for the day. Ended up with 42 total miles for the day in about 5 hrs of riding. My total gain for the second segment was just over 1K in elevation, but all of that was a combination of those short, steep little climbs. 

Right now my legs are still twitching from muscle spasms - likely due to those 10’s of anaerobic climbs power climbs. Have to say that this is just as difficult as doing the passes back in CO, it’s just a different kind of difficult. There’s weather concerns out here in UT, but it’s for the heat, not for rain and lightening storms we faced in CO. And of course there’s climbing, but it’s not the high altitude stuff that went on for mile after mile, it’s these anaerobic lung twisters that come at you in 2’s, 3’s and 4’s. So I have two more of these kinds of segments to go before things settle down a bit. I’ll hopefully get both of them in tomorrow + some of the easier Frontage Rd stuff next to I-70, and then we’re off to Salina for 2 days as I work my way west.


Thursday, July 23: Sitting here in a motel room at Super 8 at 3 PM MST in Green River UT, with the temp outside in the mid to high 90’s. Yea, it’s getting back to the normal weather that I’ve experienced out here in the past - hot, hot, hot. We were lucky for our first couple of days in UT with the cooler weather pattern, but now that pattern is changing with the weather out of the south, with a stiff southerly wind. As the week goes on the temps are supposed to get back up into the 100’s. 

Soooooo…with that in mind, let me work a bit backwards today to explain my early stop. I shut it down about 1:30 in the afternoon as the temp just got really stifling. What really shut me down was this: After completing a section I jumped in the van to do the next section in reverse, this so I could ride in the heat descending down through this massive San Rafael Swell formation, within Black Dragon Canyon. BUT, when we got within a few miles of where we needed to get off the interstate, I looked back in the van and realized that I forgot to put my bike back in the van. Yea, I just let it sit there at this pull-off, right along I-70 at the entrance to the bottom of the Black Dragon Canyon Trail. Right then and there I wanted to bash my thick skull into the dashboard until I rendered myself unconscious. What a knucklehead! 

So Judy found a place to do a U’ie, and back we went, with me convinced that I’d just left some lucky soul a $3K gift - with a nice Garmin 810 gps, I might add. The whole way back I was just talking out loud of what a dipshit I was, and how that had to be the absolute dumbest thing I’d ever done. Judy on the other hand, was driving like mad down this major descent back down through the San Rafael Swell rock-cut canyon, telling me the bike would still be there. It was a case of “Judy Upper” vs “Peter Downer” the whole way back, with her telling me the bike would still be there, with me saying the thing is long gone, having sat there right next to the interstate. Took us about 15-20 minutes to get back, as I’m counting the miles, one mile marker at a time. 

So I was just past mile marker 147 where I’d left the bike, and as we continued east, I’m just looking at those markers, 152, 151, 150, 149, and then 148 where I’m feeling like I’m about to throw up. There’s this gravel U turn area for the people who are going to and from the Black Dragon Canyon eastern trailhead, and Judy just did this hard stop and quick turn into the gravel connector, and be damned if that bike was still there right next to the westbound lane! I mean the bike was just in the middle of the little gravel road that leads to the trailhead. I’d had it resting on the side of the van when we took off. “I told you,” Judy blurted out. Man, my heart was about to pound right out of my chest I was so nervous leading into that. 

Got the bike, put it in the van and declared that I was DONE for the day. The heat, the time time of day, the stress, the craziness, I’d just  had enough. I did not want to drive back to that western trailhead and begin riding at 2:15 in the afternoon for a very tough ride through a canyon. So we headed back to Green River. 

Ok, so that’s a little reverse plot for the day. Now let me take it from the bottom of the day, the start. Kind of a Groundhog Day as far as the morning went: up at 5:45; worked while Judy did a run; ate breakfast; loaded the van; took off at 7:30 AM. Our drive back to yesterday’s end point, exit 175 on I-70 west, was about 40 miles. So I got going on the bike at 8:30. Now I went L, west on Rt 152, Old Highway 6. I knew I’d have to do berm, OR if it was terrible I’d have to ride on asphalt, yea, just what I wanted! But when I got going, with Judy doing support on the up ahead of me, we found that the road was this slurry of rotted asphalt and gravel. They must be reverting the road back to gravel as is being done in many states. So I was feeling pretty lucky. Finally the gazetteer being wrong was working to my advantage. But this only lasted for a mile and then it reverted back to good asphalt. Now I was in a pickle, having felt all giddy about the gravel. So to do? I decided to ride off the road about 10, to sometimes 100 feet on this cattle track, more of a game trail kind of thing. It was rough, bumpy, crunchy with dead vegetation, rutted from washouts, and filled with rocks and debris, but by God I could ride on it. 

And that’s my criteria, is it safe, and is it ridable, ie. faster than like 3 or 4 mph? Yes, and yes to those two questions for the cattle trail. Easy? Nope, it was ugly. I had to activate both shocks, and just kind of stand through a lot of sections due to the ruts and washouts. There were times where this little trail would venture out 20-30 feet from the road, going right into this fine, silty, dried mud surface. It reminded me of what you see in the Badlands, this fine, silty, dried mud. It’s just a tad soft, so you feel the tires kind of pushing the crust downward as you ride across it, so it definitely has some give. But it’s solid alright, and ridable. Hell, felt as though I was “bikewhacking” west to Green River. 

I did this for a whopping 8 miles. And let me tell you, it was slow and laborious, but by gosh it was my vengeance for that first day of riding asphalt in UT back on Monday! Then as if a gift from heaven, the RR that goes right into Green River, kind of paralleling the road , well it X’ed over the road I was riding along. Now I knew this was the case, but I didn’t know if I could ride on the RR or not. It was my trump card if it was good. Was it ridable or was it even worse that my current hell? So I rode up this embankment to get some 15 feet above the road and up onto the RR trestle. And be darned if there wasn’t this nice fill of ballast between the ties, and this wonderful little single track trail in the ballast on the left hand side of the tracks. I had my choice. Man, I was on that puppy like a dog on a hambone! Started by riding right down the middle of the tracks, then a few miles in, since we’d seen an Amtrak train racing down this thing earlier when we first got on I-70, I deferred to the single track off to the side. Having ridden Amtrak, I know those guys can do 80-90 mph on the flats. That’s mpg a lot of time to react as I’m rumbling down the middle of the track. 

Was able to bump my mph up to 10-11 for the rest of the way to Green River. Now I did get off the tracks and back onto the road to let Judy know that I was going to have her drive through the city, going on Rt 19 east to west and meet me at the last gas station, located on the outskirts of town on the entrance ramp to I-70 west, while I’d continue down the RR, X’ed the Green River on a trestle, then get on all this ATC tracks I’d seen on google maps that go west along the RR to that final gas station. 

This worked perfectly. I rode the RR into town, across the Green River and then dismounted, walked the bike down an embankment to this gravel-dirt road, and then took this west to the ATC tracks that led out of town. Met Judy at the gas station for some water, and then we plotted out the next segment, at 15+ mile trek on this lonely old mining road that trends west, kind of paralleling I-70 and junctioning with the interstate very close to where the San Rafael Swell juts up out of the earth like this 500 foot high wall of rock. It’s a hogback on steroids, and it’s a very famous rock formation here in the UT. 

So I got going on this ATC dbl track out of Green River. It kind of parallels I-70 and the RR for several miles and then dead ends into Four Corners Mine Rd. Went L, southwest on FCMR, and then began the long, circuitous trek on this desert plateau. By this time the temp was really starting to have an impact on me. This heat out here is just amazing. You feel like you’re in a frying pan while on the gravel roads, as they just reflect that sun right back onto you. But I had plenty of water, and I had my backpack with all the necessary gear in case of trouble. There’s a point where this road just trends to the northwest, and you see I-70 just disappear. 

Once the road does this hard dogleg to the left, back in a southwesterly direction you come into this old abandoned mining site, Four Corners Mine, where there’s a sign warning of the potential for radon poisoning. Nice huh? I accepted the warning and rode on through the mine area, through rocky washouts, ruts, and tough stretches of beach sand that just sucked the life out of my speed. Almost walked a few sections the sand was so thick. With just about 1 mile to go I see Judy driving up this wicked road. She was worried about me being too long on the section. Told her to turn it around asap, so as not to go up into the washes and the sandy sections. Then I continued back to the interstate at exit 149. For a brief few moments Judy didn’t come back behind me, and I stated to stress about her backing the van up in all that sand and getting the van buried. But several minutes later she arrived back at the exit. 

My big decision for the next segment was this, do I ride berm for 5 miles south on Rt 24 to get to get in back of Shadscale Mesa and a couple of trails that will take me back to the north, under I-70, and smack dab to the eastern trailhead of the Black Dragon Canyon Trail, my next segment, OR do I just do 2 miles of berm along I-70 to the Black Dragon Canyon trailhead?  The former is a whopping 15 miles of riding. The latter is just 2 miles, but berm. My vote was for the berm, and Judy concurred. So I had Jude drive to this little gravel pull-off just past the San Rafael River that leads to the trailhead. I got on the entrance ramp, and just rode off to the side of the road on the dirt and through the vegetation. Actually, it was exactly like riding off to the side of Old Highway 6 that I’d done in the morning. So that was a really time-saving decision. The other route would have likely had some spectacular sights, as it trends along this famous area called “The Squeeze”, this 4WD track right up against the Swell. Down side was that it would likely have taken me 2-3 hrs due to the really tough terrain up there. 

Anyway, I rejoined Jude in a paltry 15 minutes. And this is where I started the blog. So I got to this trailhead access road, set my bike against the van, hopped in, and began looking at the maps to see what the best approach to this trail was. This is a tough cookie in the initial for 5-8 miles as it climbs right up through the swell on some pretty challenging track. I decided that since it was already early afternoon and quite hot, that my best bet was to ride it from west to east, to link what I’d just ridden. This would be time saving and WAY easier than to climb that puppy in the heat of the day. So I just told Judy to drive me up to exit 131, where I’d get out and ride down Swell back to that eastern trailhead. We took off, with me totally forgetting that I hadn’t loaded my bike in the van, and BAM! It hit me like a freight train when we got within spitting distance of the exit. 

So there you are. Just call me Numbnuts! All worked out, except that I only put in 37 miles of riding today, ending at the eastern trailhead to the Black Dragon Canyon. Still had 4 hrs of riding in, so it’s not like I took the day off. Still, my progress is just like that of a snail on this trip. If it’s not one thing, it’s just another. Now I’ve got some really challenging riding for tomorrow and part of Saturday. These are all BLM tracks, 4WD tracks and trails that somewhat parallel I-70 west. This will be at least 70+ miles of tough riding. On the interstate it’s 58 miles from the Black Dragon Canyon area, mile marker 147, west to exit 91 at the Rt 10 junction, but on my  circuitous tracks, it’s much more. 

Problem is that there is zero services for the 101 miles between Green River and Salina, so Saturday is going to be a whopper of a commute to the day’s start area. As I’ve said numerous times, half the difficulty of this trip is the logistics. This is one of many examples. 

Tomorrow I’m going to institute a new policy: I’ll have a 3 foot long piece of perlon cord attaching me to my bike. No more mishaps!


Wednesday, July 22: As far behind as I am right now, I just had to make today kind of a half day, this way we could spend a second day in Moab…Judy’s favorite spot in American! And that’s no lie. As hot as it is down here in the summer, for me anyway, Judy loves the place. Couldn’t just pass through after all the sweat and blood Judy’s given me on this crazy journey. So we re-upped at the motel and I decided last night to do kind of a half day and then come back here early in the afternoon. That way Judy could get more of her Moab fix, and I could get a small respite from full day riding. 

With that decided last evening, we got up super late this morning…at an embarrassing 7 AM. Yea, what a luxury to sleep that late. I worked for a while as Judy did a run up the Bike & Hike trail up the canyon, followed by a wt workout, and then we did breakfast, and finally loaded the van in anticipation for a ride for me, and a ride for Jude afterwards. We got rolling up the canyon on Rt 191 to where I finished yesterday at the FR 313 junction. From there I rode L, north on some very primitive dbl track alongside the road to the junction with  FR 215. Now again, the road signage is an issue here in UT, as I’ve found out over the past 2 days. This gravel OMV road was not even given a sign, and our gps’s both gave it different names, my gamin called it Mine Rd, and the van gps was Willow Springs. 

Figured that this had to be the road, so I told Jude to go down the road to the very next L up 191 north. Couldn’t even begin to guess what the name would be down there, so hoped we work it out with our gps’s. I got going on this thing and it was just 4WD from the start. Thank God I didn’t have Judy follow me. This thing went into a really nasty little ring climb within a mile, and it was one long, rocky, ledgy, mess of a road. And about half way up 4 ATC’s came rolling down at me, with one guy kind of not really wanting to move over. I just held my line and rode right at him. He moved…and I was lucky he didn’t call my bluff!

It then flattened out up on top of this ridge and kind of undulated over the next several miles. This was some truly grunt riding, and it made me wonder what that second and final segment for the day would be. Heck, I was banking on a light day, but of that second 25-mile segment was as gnarly as this first 7-mile segment…I was in for a long, tough day. Well, I made it back eventually to meet with Judy, who was able to match the name of the road with the gazetteer - FR 342, Mill Canyon Rd. My garmin also called it Mill Canyon. Ain’t that coincidence? From there I took a L, north, on another primitive dbl track alongside 191. My guess is that the ATC folks were doing the same thing as me to bridge from one track to the next alongside 191. For once I appreciate their presence, cuz riding that dbl track is a lot easier than fighting the berm alongside 191 like I did yesterday. 

Next segment for me was a tenuous one, in that there were just a plethora of roads out there and as I’d found, hardly anything is marked with a sign, let alone the gps information is sketchy at best. So I’m thinking I have to get this thing dialed in great or else I could end up pedaling all over this giant plateau in the middle of BFE! I studied this route last night on google maps in conjunction with me Benchmark gazetteer. So I kind of memorized the junction points. I’d told Judy to meet me at Blue Hills Rd, FR 138, and be damned of once again, that’s what the van gps confirmed. 

Took a big hit of water, knowing that with temps in the high 80’s, mid 90’s I could be out there for several hours. Told Judy to meet me in Floy, off of I-70 west, and off I went. My gps told me I was on 10-mile Rd, despite the fact that this was a 25-mile ride. But the google maps also side it was 10-mile Rd for a portion, then it changed to Powerline Rd, and then to Ruby Ranch Rd. So I was prepared for name changes along the way. This thing started out super fast, like I could go at about 14-16 mph. I was just waiting for the bottom to fall out each and every mile. But this continued for 5, 6, 7, 8 miles where I could crush it. 

Now there were washout sections where the silt was still really tacky, and I’d come through one of those and the crap was just flying everywhere. It was this super fine silty, half dried mud that just stuck to the tires like flypaper. But I’d blast through it and within several minutes all the stuff was gone from the tires. Now my bike, and me, that was another story. That stuff clung to me and the bike frame and was dried mud within seconds. At about the 9-mile mark I did this little cookie climb, but it was over quickly and then I was back to hammering. At about 12 miles in, the washes really increased and I was plowing through these little mud fields a couple times per mile. One wash actually still had a good bit of water in it, in addition with about 30 feet of tacky mud. This I hike-a-biked through by tip toeing on rocks across the mess. 

Go up along these power lines for a bit on a ridge, hence - power line Rd - and then back out onto the plateau. Now during this whole ride, I only saw one vehicle, and it wasn’t even occupied. It was parked alongside the road. Otherwise this was just the barrens. Good news was that this was not an OMV route, so it was just silence all the way. Got to the junction of Ruby Ranch Rd, and this was on a sign, but my gps still called it 10-mile Rd. So this is to all you folks who think that gps is the answer to any directional issues…IT”S NOT! You’d better research the routes or be damned good at navigating via a compass!

Do the last 7 miles north and met Judy at the junction of Ruby Ranch Rd, FR 147, and I-70 at exit 175. On a route that I’d feared would take me 3 hrs, it only took me 1:45 hrs. I mean I was just flying. That was a good chunk of high plateau, desert riding for sure. My real amazement was in all the water that was out there in the washes and alongside the road. This has really been a wet summer out here. Normally this area is just as dry as dry can be. So that was it, I’d gotten in 32 miles with about 1K of elevation gain - a meager day, but what the heck. Now it was Judy’s turn to ride. 

So I changed and drove us back to the end of the bike & hike trail up on Rt 191, where Judy got on her bike and did the bike trail south back into Moab. I drove back down the canyon and waited for her at the motel. The day worked out great. We went for an early dinner at the Moab Brewery, where I imbibed in a couple Nut Brown Ales, while Judy had some a Pino. We did this Thai calamari for an ap. and I had the Green Chile Burrito while Judy had the Turkey burger - really quality dinner all the way around! All in all we had a really nice day together where we could actually enjoy a venue, such as we did back in Dolores, CO. Tomorrow we’ll begin riding parallel to I-70 all the way to Salina and more mts. 

Oh yea, as a side note, I was weighed when I went in to get the stitches taken out yesterday. I weighed a paltry 158 lbs with all my gear on. Damn, I have not been that light since I was in high school. Don’t like it either. I feel like a damn rail. Judy tells me I’m looking more and more like a scarecrow. Ahhh….the downside of X-country riding. I’ve got some serious work to do on the bod once we get home!


Monday, July 21: Got up this morning with a better attitude. I pretty much decided last night that I’d rather ride berm and continue on the itinerary and keep on riding on asphalt as I did yesterday. Heck, my whole introduction to American Dirt Utah had been on asphalt, In a state that’s famous for awesome mt biking! Go figure? I pretty much scoured the gazetteer and did a bunch of google map study last night and just could not come up with an alternative through route up to Moab. Most of the 4WD stuff to the southwest is just not in my direction or if they do trend north, they kind of dead end at vista points or die out in or near the Canyonlands Rim Recreation Area. Nope, my original route was the most direct, and the most efficient with respect to gravel roads. So with that in mind I figured that I’d go berminator on Rt 191 north and then go back to my “bypass” route to get through the city on dirt and then continue north trending along Rt 191. That was my only option, so that was THAT. Done. 

All that thinking made me hungry last night and I ended up cooking up 4 dogs, then I ate two chocolate chip cookies, and chased it all down with a nice big Forsters Lager Oil can. Let the good times roll! 

We ate at last night’s cafe, and I of course had the breakfast burrito, which was awesome. Judy did this granola parfait with yogurt and fresh fruit. Damn, she eats so well, and here I am just a garbage gut taking in thousands of freaking useless, junk calories, and yet I’m still on the X-country weight loss program. It’s sick! I’m at the stage now where I’m hungry all the time in the evening. 

So we got going from yesterday’s end point and I had to do asphalt up to Rt 46 because there is like zero berm on this little country road. I’ve found the bigger state and federal routes usually have much better berm. And that was indeed the case with Rt 46 where I had to ride on some sketchy stuff, but it worked! Took that to the junction with Rt 191, and found the berm to be of a wide variety of states…great, good, moderate, fair, poor, total shit, shit squared and unridable. But the net ride was all a descent, as we had to drop some 2K in elevation, so that made some of the really crappy sections more tolerable. Still, I had a couple sections where I had no choice but to hit the pavement for anywhere from a few feet to avoid a bloody 3-foot deep hole, to a section of maybe a couple hundred yards long where the road just hugged rock wall. But by and large I was on this slanting, loose gravel berm with light vegetation cover. 

Ended up holding about 10 mph through the whole stretch down to this junction with FR 157 that I knew was gravel. So I went R, northwest on that and I had Judy follow me, but right off the bat we came to this massive 4-foot deep washout where there was no way the van could get through that slash in the earth. And it was likely caused by the major rains they’ve been experiencing out here this summer. There have been numerous flash flood situations from what I’ve gathered through the weather forecasts. So I continue on 157 and Judy had to go back to 191 and go south. Now I’d been on the roads out here several times, and this was part of my itinerary on how to kind of bypass the downtown area of Moab. So at this point I was back on track. 

I junctioned 157 with Spanish Valley Rd, and went L, north on Spanish Valley. This is asphalt, but has this great berm, almost a line wide on both sides. It’s red soil and gravel with some plant growth, but its solid, and quite fast to ride on. Took this pup all the way to within 2 miles of the downtown district. Then met Judy at a Shell station to give her the lowdown on the next step. I had her drive to Kane Creek Blvd, while I took the junction of Spanish Valley Rd with E. Mill Creek Dr, where again I had good berm. It dead ends into Grand County HS, where I rode on the grass through the campus, then down this little dbl track dirt trail that goes to Canyonlands RV Campground and to Kane Creek Rd, where again there’s this super berm. Hell, it’s almost as it the mt bikers use it to ride back and forth to some of the mt biking tracks, so it’s a piece of cake. 

Now at that point I wanted to continue just a tad further to the northwest to pick up this trail that will take me to the Colorado River Xing on the bikeway, but Judy insisted that I first go to the hospital to get my stitches taken out. The hospital was just 2 blocks from where we were. So I capitulated, and threw the bike in the van and we drove to the hospital. I was hoping to get this done in like a CVS type of pharmacy by a nurse practitioner, but we were told by folks at the health center, first stop, that they don’t have that here. My best bet was going to the Doctor office attached to the hospital or worst case….going to the ER in the hospital. 

So we went to the Family Practice Center adjoining the hospital, and I was really lucky enough to get in on a cancelled appt., and within an hour I had the stitches out, the wound cleaned and bandaged, and giving a small lecture on doing a better job of “airing the wound & bandaging with fresh gauze every day”. I’d been doing the bandage thing every other day, and never airing the wound. So lesson learned. My sister told me as much, but sometimes I’m just a bit thick-headed. But anyway, the prognosis was good, the wound is healing. 

Ok, so by this point I had 26 miles in for the day, and I really wanted to complete this segment by continuing around Moab, and then up out of the valley to the north. With this in mind we went and got a motel in town, then I had Judy ride with me to complete the segment. We rode the short distance from the motel back to where I ended on Kane Creek Blvd. I did berm to this really big area, a delta on the Colorado River, that wraps around the river to the Rt 191 bridge. I tried to get into this delta area where I knew there was a trail that went right to the bridge, by accessing it through these single track trails. Now let me tell you that Judy is NOT a single track rider. She rides her mt bike on nothing harder than gravel road and cinder bike and hike trail, so this series of single track had her cursing me up and down. 

I mean we came to words with this, and quite honestly, this stuff was just like flat as a pancake and super easy - no technical stuff at all here. But buddy, she was just bitching to such an extent that I had to ride her back to Kane Creek Blvd, and then go back on my own. Well, while Judy rode on Kane Creek Blvd, I explored all these single tracks and to no avail. Not one went in the direction I was hoping. They all dead-ended. So back to Kane Creek Blvd. and not more than a half mile further was the key - the trailhead! 

Went back and got Judy to ride this with me, and then again, same thing happened - “weeds were touching her.!” Ok, so I sent her back to town to get on the bike trail that leads out of the valley north for 9 miles. I’d do the trail and meet her at the bridge over the Colorado. This thing was just a cake of a little dbl track trail that went for about 4 miles and took me right under the bridge. X’d the CO river, riding over pavement of course, and then I went on the berm of 191 out of town. This time the 191 berm was really quite good - for UT anyway. Judy rode on the bike and hike paved trail which parallels the road. Only negative here is that this is about a 8 mile climb out of the valley, with about a 1K elevation gain. So the riding was slow, but good. Now there were several single track trails that I saw along the way, but these were all single track loop trails, with none going due north, so I just continued plodding along on the berm to the top, out of the Moab valley. Made the junction with FR 313. And that was the day. 

Judy had turned back in the interim so I just got on the asphalt trail and descended down to Moab by myself. Got back to the motel and I was pretty done for the day, with 58 miles in for the day. The elevation gain for the day was a measly 1.3K, and most of that was up 191 north out of Moab. Today wasn’t pretty, but I did my best to make it work. I’m sure there are tracks and trails I’m unaware of that would have better served my goals, and if I had more time I’d likely have used them, but at this point in the game, I just have to make progress each day on a soft surface.

I’ve come to understand that there is no “best route” or “better route”, just the present route. I can only do my best with the time and funds I have available, always knowing that with more time and more money I could do better. But it’s that way with anything really. This isn’t my job, nor my career, this is just something I’m really doing to see if I can do it, to challenge myself, so I have to step back at times to accept that for what it is. I know deep down this won’t be perfect, and I know that someone else with the same passion could probably do better with this task what with the foundation I’ve laid. I hope that day comes and I’m able to help that person take this a step further, to make it better, purer, more dirt and less berm and asphalt. So I’ll go to sleep tonight in a much better frame of mind. I can’t castigate myself for gaffs and blems along the way that are out of my control. I have to keep this fun! And I will.

Until tomorrow….


Monday, July 20: Man, I can’t remember how many times I’ve said in these blogs, “don’t get complacent and think you can just do a day in cruise control, because &$^$#@ happens!” And that was definitely the case today.

Had more of a leisurely attitude today as we did yesterday, seeing that the temps, the terrain, and the route was all pretty good/easy. No need to beat the weather, no need to worry about surmounting passes, no need to worry about a boat load of climbing. I had it figured that today would be another one of those transitional days as was yesterday where I’d just cruise over the table top terrain in very comfortable temps for 60 miles of “fun & casual” riding. NOT!

Got going out of the sack about 6 AM, worked for a bit and then Judy and I went to That Place restaurant for another great breakfast. We both did a carbon copy order from yesterday: her getting the real oatmeal and me getting that massive breakfast burrito. The owner’s wife waited on us again, and was as friendly and hospitable as ever. I was just overwhelmed by the quantity of food, and when we walked out I was sporting a nice little Buda belly! Judy drove us back to yesterday’s end point, the junction of Rd R and Rd 15. Went on a small litany of gravel roads to work my way west to the UT border. This is the order: R, north on 15, to a L, west on Rd M, to a R, north on Rd 14, to a L, west on Rd M, to a R, north on Rd 13, to a L, west on Rd J. Now up to this point the road signs jibbed with both Judy’s and my gps’s. Now the only real surprise, based on how I stared the day’s blog, was that this was NOT easy table top riding. 

Oh no, I was hitting roller after roller, and not just little punchers, but these steep power climbs where I had to drop into the little ring, and I do mean the little ring. Ok, so much for the nice and easy, casual riding on the table tops. This was just one roller coaster after another. Damn was that a slap in the face. Judy even kind of ribbed me about the “easy riding” that I had anticipated quite openly to her about. So that was the first surprise for the day. Next up was the fuzzy situation of our gps’s and gazetteer suddenly not jibbing with the the road signs. And I mean these guys were miles apart. 

We first noticed that when we needed to go R, north on 9 from Rd J. And suddenly this stuff is labeled on the sign as Rd. 9.3, 9.7, Rd 9.9, and so on. There was no Rd 9. So we made a wrong turn on a dead end where I thought we may still be on the road, but it had deteriorated into a farm field, just as some of the KS roads had done. This thing looked ugly for the van, so I sent Judy back to the main roads where she would take those to meet me about 10 miles away. I’d stay on this dirt, rutted out dbl track and see what happened. Well, it just got fainter and fainter until I was in a wheat field with nowhere to go. Ok, then back to the junction with Rd J where I continued, and then it took this dogleg to the R, and changed names….BUT not according to my garmin. At that point all I knew is that I was riding to the west because my shadow was directly in front of me. So I just continued on this ambiguous road. 

So I went another mile, heading towards Dove Creek, CO, and then I see this road sign, where I should be doing a R to go north, and it’s labeled Rd 8.7, but my gps says it CR 9. I go for it, knowing this has to be the Rd 9 I had to take a right on. And this puppy wasn’t kind to me, having a lung crushing little cookie climb on it that just went on for what seems like forever. And it just kept going for miles. I knew I had to look for a L, west on Rd E, and eventually this CR 9 did a hard L and wasn’t labeled at all. My gps told me it was E. Ok, good so far. Next up should be a R, north on Rd 8, but again, I get to this junction and the sign says Rd 7.7. What? My gps tells me it’s indeed Rd 8. So I took the R. And finally I had to look for a L, west on Rd C, and….surprise…it was labeled Rd C, and jibbed with my gps. So I took this several mile to meet up with Judy who’d been waiting not the 30 min I’d told her, but more like an hour. 

We talked about the weird road sign labeling, and the garmin we use in the car was just like my gps - it jibbed with the gazetteer but not the signs. Anyway, we were good to go to push into UT. This Rd C goes west across the UT line, and it stayed gravel dbl lane for about 2 miles - again, with nice steep power climbing - and then you enter UT and the road narrows down to single lane dirt and changes name to FR 336. And I mean it’s big time dirt. Now my gps called it Old S Highway, as did Judy’s, but at least this jibbed with our UT gazetteer - the Benchmark Maps UT Road & Recreational Atlas. We used this same gazetteer for CO, as opposed to the gazetteer put out by DeLorme because the Benchmark Atlas gives you a delineation between dirt & gravel & 4WD roads and asphalt roads. They are invaluable for this trip, and though CO the Benchmark Atlas was spot on. 

OK, at this point, where we entered UT and the road changed to single lane dirt,  Judy had asked a guy in a pick-up if the road was passable, and he indicated that it was. So we continued on with her driving several miles ahead of me and stopping at the junction points in the route. I kind of held my breath for those 7-9 miles in UT with this road because it was just entrenched in the red dirt in places, where if there were some clearance issues up ahead, we’d be in a pickle for sure. But, since it was so dry the road was definitely passable for the van and we made it quite easily. Our next turn was a R, north on CR 313, West Summit Rd, which according to the Benchmark UT Atlas is supposed to be gravel. It was not, it was asphalt. 

“Ok,” I thought, “maybe it will change in a few hundred yards or so.” Well it did change in about a mile to back to gravel. But then within another mile it went back to asphalt. And the berm on this thing - NO BERM. It’s just weeds and rocks on a 40-degree angle, so there was no berminating here. I took it in stride figuring it would go all gravel soon. It did not, and as the miles rolled on I got more and more frustrated. This was THE, and THE ONLY way north to hook up with the rest of gravel routes up north closer to Moab. Mile after mile of asphalt, and right there on the gazetteer is the route in horizontal hashed lines indicating gravel road. I stopped Judy a couple times to look at the gazetteer to see if I made a mistake in the route, but it was dead on correct - only it was asphalt. 

Now at this point my options were really nil, because I’d done all that previous riding to set myself up for this push north into the canyonlands area. I had nothing else to fall back on. So we continued, we me hoping that this thing would indeed go gravel somewhere down the road. It never did. My next turn was a R, east on Bryan Rd/CR 324, which is also supposed to be gravel. Nope, it was asphalt to. Then there was the L, north on CR 370/Ucolo Rd/Rt 4430, and be damned if that to was asphalt when it is labeled in the gazetteer as a horizontal hashed line road. By this time I had a tantrum at the van, and Judy calmed me down by telling me that there was nothing I could do. I probably uttered about every foul word in the English language as I stood there staring at the gazetteer. 

You see when I did recon on these western states I did NOT drive each and every road, rather I jumped around checking out the road routes at points every 20-40 miles. This way I could cover much more ground by driving on asphalt, and then get off and check out junction points with my gravel route. This saved me a ton of time last summer. So I did not drive these three roads, and there I was SOL. My UT gazetteer was worng, and that’s got me pretty worried right now. 

So the situation was further complicated because my gps called this road Lisbon Rd, not any of the CR 370/Ucolo Rd/Rt 4430 as indicated on the gazetteer. Judy’s garmin called it CR 370, so that was about the only bright spot. I had to keep riding, and did the big descent down into a canyon where there was this major mining operation. And this thing was major, with open pit mines all over the place. All I can figure is since the gazetteer was made, the first edition was 2002, and my edition is 2014, that they have not updated some of the road information since 02. And with this mining operation, the roads were paved to accommodate all the heavy truck traffic going in and out of the mines since then. 

And there I am completely stuck. Just continued down the descent, and then up this really long gradual climb for about 8 miles. I could churn out a great pace, but that was not a good feeling for me as I was doing it on asphalt. Finally, at what I intended to be the end point for the day, I just threw the bike in the van in utter frustration and we headed south to find a motel in Monticello, UT. My options without these roads being gravel is nil. I have no options out here, as that WAS my gateway to the La Sal Mts and the western canyonlands. I’m going to have to really work tonight to see what I can do to reconfigure this thing and salvage the route. I have a feeling I’m be doing some berminator on Rt 191/163 north. For the 30 miles of asphalt I did today….I guess I’m just going to have to take my medicine like a big boy and live with that. We’re so limited on time now that I do not have to time to take this thing all the way back to CO and do a total reconfigure to get us to where we’re intending on going. I really don’t even know if it’s even possible out here what with all the canyons, washes, arroyos and rocky escarpments that you have to go around, down, through and over. Travel avenues are really limited at this point.  

Ok, enough of the weep-wow stuff. Here’s the day’s stats: Covered 68 miles with just under 4K in climbing and I burned - according to my garmin - app. 4000 calories. As far as location for today’s end point of the ride, we’re probably about 30 miles south of Moab. 

We got a little cheapie motel in Monticello, UT, and had a very nice dinner at a little cafe down the street. Got a nice dinner but I’m still hungry - the curse of riding all day. I’ll likely nuke some of those “spicy dogs” we still have left from when Bill was with us. Mmmm Mmmm good. Bring on the dogs!

I have to get my stitches out of my right leg here today or tomorrow, and it looks like Moab will be the place to do it. I’m hoping there is a CVS or the like there which has a nurse-practitioner on the premises to do the deed. Otherwise, I’m going to have to buck up ($$$$) with a med center for the procedure. Until tomorrow….


Sunday, July 19: Didn’t sleep too well last nigh. I kind of chalk that up to 1) the mind racing thinking about leaving CO and getting it rolling in a totally different environment, and 2) I think I was so tired from the prior week of mt passes that I just couldn’t sleep. This is pretty common, getting so tired that you just cannot fall asleep. Anyway, I just rolled around for a good hr before I fell asleep, and then the rest of the night was just restlessness and waking up each and every hour. So getting up early today to ride….ha, not a chance. We got up at a very leisurely 6 AM and that wasn’t even enough. Drew was also a bit mellow about getting the ball rolling. He and Judy rousted enough to walk across the street and got us all some good coffee. 

We decided to get on the bikes by 9 AM, which gave us plenty of time to go out to get a bite to eat for a change, and then tear down and get Drew and I dropped off where I stopped yesterday. Bill would drive Drew’s car to where we’ll end today, then ride out to meed up with us. Judy would stay in Dolores and ride in town rather than out on the backcountry gravel roads. So that was our plan. We debated about where to go for breakfast, and I was a proponent of this place right next to our motel, whereas Bill had read some good reviews of “That Place” restaurant, and suggested we walk several blocks to it. Judy was neutral. Well, Drew broke the tie, agreeing with Bill that we could easily walk the several blocks for a place that had good reviews. That Place was our place, and off we went. 

And by gosh, That Place was just awesome. We were all blown away by how wonderful the breakfast was. I publicly ate my words and dug into this amazing breakfast burrito. Judy and Bill got their “Real Magilla” oatmeal, and Drew got a fabulous omelet. Wow. I was just packed by the time we stumbled out of there. Judy and I will be returning to That Place for dinner tonight, as we’re staying a second night in Dolores - just because the motel is so nice and the food and market options are really good. It’s worth driving back the 35 miles from where we ended today. More on this later. 

Got packed and Judy drove Drew and I back to yesterday’s end, at the junction of FR 535 and Rt 145, 13 miles north of Dolores. The weather was perfect - cloud cover and temps in the high 60’s to low 70’s. I pretty much knew that since I’d changed the route yesterday to make today’s ride with Drew possible, that I’d kind of have to sacrifice riding on some pavement for a few miles, and that was indeed the case, as there was just zero berm of any sort going north on 535. All the was, was chest high weeds and cobbles and rocks all along each side of the road, so I just sucked it up (right, riding on asphalt is just so sweet!) and did the 5 miles up 535 to the FR 532 junction. This was a very gradual climb, and on asphalt, wow, it’s just so danged easy. 

Made the turn, a L, north on 532, and we began this very gradual climb up to the top of the foothills. This topography is just so different that what I’ve been riding through for the past week. This is gentle, middle ring climbing, through aspen glens, pine thickets and open range. It’s kind of like going all the way back to when I was first entering CO from KS, hitting plains, then foothills, then mts. Only difference here in Western CO is that instead of plains you have canyon lands, and it’s a portent of what lies ahead in UT. This was just the perfect day to relax and ride easy knowing that nothing BIG looms in the future. We did this 180 on 532 and did our “pass” for the day, this short, 5-10 min switchback climb to the top of the tablelands. From there it was just some big ring riding on the top of the table to the next junction. 

We went R, north on Rt 31, and then within a mile did a L, west on FR 514. This was another really super road where you’d get these whoop-de-do’s for a bit, then a massive false flat descent where we could ramble at over 20 mph. It made me think about yesterday, where at 2 hrs we’d covered a pathetic 10 miles. Today…we were nearly 20 miles in at the 2 hour mark, and part of this was because of that long, sweeping false descent on 514 through the San Juan National Forest. Man, this was some really pretty riding. I think Drew was really enjoying it to, just being out there in the backcountry away from everything. It’s just so sweet on a mt bike doing this. I call it hiking on a bike, getting away from it all but having wheels under your butt. And when you’re not worrying about surmounting a mt pass, it’s just so enjoyable. Now there are just a plethora of gravel roads out here in the San Juan National Forest, and you could spend months exploring all these anastomosing tracks, but we just stayed on our 514 and continued west towards Cahone, a small town located on Rt 491. 

Our next turn was a L, west on FR 521, Ormston Point Rd. This would be our descent back into the Dolores River Canyon. And again, this was wonderful, rolling table top topography for a stretch. The, about 3 miles into this 11-mile road, it began to descend, gradually at first, and then moderately, and finally it just went into this switchback crazy descent down, down, down into the canyon. I cautioned Drew to use those hydraulic brakes by feathering to reduce speed rather than getting it rolling too fast and then grabbing the brakes and just washing out a wheel in the extremely loose gravel. We also needed to engage the front and rear suspension to make the bouncing across the washboard sections less severe on the steep descent. Bouncing could prove fatal in such loose gravel conditions, and this road was just awash in loose gravel.

He did a great job, and we ended up at the bottom of the Dolores River Canyon in no time. From there, down along the river in the Lone Dome State Wildlife Area, an old ranch that was sold to the BLM, we crossed the Dolores River and got on Rd S. Then we climbed Rd S out of the canyon west back up to the table top. This was what I call a “kicker” climb, a climb that kind of finishes off the day with some pretty heaving breathing. Didn’t take more than 10 min to get to the top, but it was a wonderful kicker nonetheless. So we got to the top and dead-ended at the junction with Rd 16. Went R, north on 16 into some rolling farm country at the top of the canyon. Man, it’s just do different that what I’d been riding through. I looked back to the east and saw the dark outlines of the high mts of Southern CO. Man I had truly ridden through CO almost exclusively on gravel. That look back at the mts really felt good. And as I waited the minute for Drew to pop up over the top of the climb I thought back to those passes….Hermit, Marshall, Poncha, Los Pinos, Slumgullion, Cinnamon, Ophir, and Lizard Head, all behind me. Man that felt satisfying. As they say, “beauty has it’s price,” and in CO this is so true. 

We continued north on 16 to the junction with Rd R, then went L, west on R for a couple of miles to meet up with Judy. Bill, as it turns out, had taken a wrong turn up near our descent into the Dolores Canyon so he never hooked up with us. But he did get on FR 504 and he had a really wonderful ride. Not more than 5 minutes after we met with Judy at the van Bill pulled in in Drew’s car. All accounted for and the end of a great day. The stats are as follows: total ride was 42 miles with 2400 feet of elevation gain. Yup it was a mellow day, but a MUCH needed day. 

Since we’d had such a nice time in Dolores yesterday Judy & I decided to stay a second night rather than push on to Dove Creek, despite the fact that Dove Creek is closer to where I ended today. A mean, why take a shot in the dark when we know what we have back in Dolores? The vibe of the town, the motel, the restaurant - That Place. Just couldn’t pass up a second night there. So Drew and Bill came back to the motel where Jude and I got another room. They showered and we all traded hugs and hand shakes on a great time together. I was so lucky to be able to share some of the American Dirt experience with these guys. I think they had a really good time. Thanks fellas for a fantastic time together!

Later in the day Judy and I went back to That Place for dinner, and again, it was just fantastic. The owner is a cook who does everything from scratch. It’s little things like this that prompt me to highly recommend R & R (recreation & relaxation) in Dolores, CO. This place is a really keeper! 

Tomorrow we’re in UT. And the journey continues…..


Saturday, July 18: As I told Drew this morning, and it’s no slight to him, but I was just so tired and sore and drained that I didn’t even look forward to today’s ride. Man, this getting up at 5 AM to push my sorry ass over yet another pass and another pass, it’s tough. And I can just hear some of you….”Pete, you A-hole, you’re living the dream, you’re on this full summer vacation, what the hell are you talking about?” You’re right, I’m being an A-hole, but I’m a tired A-hole. It’s just reality. I’ve been on the road nearly 3 months, riding just about every day, through rain, sun, cold, wind, and through, on or along just about every crappy road, RR, trail and bushwhack that you can imagine. I guess you have to walk in my shoes to realize that it’s a drain sometimes….and today was that sometime. It took all I had to get myself psyched for today, and another 2 mt passes looming in my future. Drew told me I just looked tired, with sunken eyes and a wishy-washy demeanor.

Got up at 5:36 AM, pretty late actually, and then the 4 of us ambled down to a cafe for breakfast at 6:10 AM in downtown Silverton. The temp was in the low 40’s, and it was definitely cold. Had to wear a goretex jacket. Against my better judgement I had this breakfast burrito with sausage, egg and cheese, along with a pretty large, stiff cup of coffee. There was this 13-mile race up a mt today, and the cafe we dined in was hosting the event, so as we were eating the runners were filtering in. The event, goes up this mt to 13K, and then back down. That kind of gave me a dose of reality, or should I say humility! Hell, I just had to climb to 11,700, and 10,500 today, NOT 13K! So I felt a bit better knowing that my suffering was much less than that of the runners today. 

Headed back to the motel, readied the gear and Drew and I were about to embark on his first taste of American Dirt. Poor Judy would have a good 160-180 mile drive today for support, BUT the good news was that this would be the last of the long support rendezvous of the trip for her. Once past today, things settle down considerably out of the big mts and down on the high plateau and canyon land terrain. We got going at exactly 8 AM from the motel and rode on a gravel side street to gravel 15th street, and then straight up, north out of town to junction with 6th St. This first stretch was just a killer. We were both totally cold, and not a bit warmed up, and then BAM, straight up this 15th St in the little cookie to the point of spitting out lung tissue at the top. We were both just gassed and gasping for air. Then we had to hike-a-bike about a quarter mile to 6th St. 

Drew was wondering what the hell the day had in store for him, what with this as the WU. And I was just thinking…”WTH, I’m in big trouble today.” So we went west on 6th St and I was hoping we’d junction with this Chute Trail that parallels Rt 550 north, but somehow I must have turned on the wrong single track and we ended up on the wrong side of the Animas River with no crossing. So with that idea was gone. I got us back to 550, and we ended up just doing the climb on that, with me doing some great berm. We took that to FR 679/Ophir Pass Rd. Went L, west on 679, and BAM, steep climbing right from the get-go. Only good thing was that we were warmed up from the 1000 vertical feet of climbing on 550. Drew was doing pretty good for his first foray on a mt bike, a rental carbon fiber 29er duel suspension, that he had gotten in Denver. 

We stayed together for a good bit of the first couple of miles of that Ophir Pass climb, and then he kind of fell off just a bit. I continued on my own, up some pretty stiff climbing, where there were these punchy sections that were so steep that I had to hike-a-bike. But really, most of this was rideable, BUT in the easiest gear I had. This pass as compared to Cinnamon, was pretty short and pretty mellow. Heck the top of Ophir was at about 10 miles in, whereas Cinnamon was 23 miles in and 1K higher. Just continued on through some stellar scenery. And wouldn’t you know it, just like yesterday, I’m climbing along, feeling like the day is actually going way better than I’d figured, and I look up at the pass and this massive dark grey/black could bank is floating in from the west. 

I just about shouted out the F word heard round the world. Damn, I’d just checked the weather forecast when I’d gotten up this morning and it called for great, clear blue skies for Silverton through 4 PM today. And here we go, another potential sock-in lightening storm on the horizon - with us plodding along up the mt at 5 mph. What to do… but just keep going? Now the only good thing here was the fact that this cloud mass was moving to the northeast more than to the east, so there was a chance we might make it over the pass with no storm. 

This pass, as I later told Andrew ranked #3 on my CO mt pass tour. First was Hermit, which is just off the charts crazy, and second was yesterday’s ascent of Cinnamon Pass. Ophir was steep and high, but not crazy steep and/or crazy long. So I did several bike-a-hikes on my way to the top, and then was determined to totally ride the last 2 miles, come hell or high water. And I did, making it to the pass in 2 hrs of ride time…for 10 miles of riding! Funny isn’t it? I stopped at the pass, put on a mt jacket, and then waited about 10 min for Drew. The wind up there was pretty stiff, and I was getting cold pretty quickly. No sign of him on the flanks of the mt coming up, so I asked a guy up there in his 4WD pick-up to tell Drew that I was descending due to the cold, and that I’d meet him in the town of Ophir at the bottom of the descent. 

And I got going, fearing that I’d become hypothermic if I stayed much longer. The descent was nearly as bad as Cinnamon. It’s steep, really rocky and unconsolidated and completely narrow. You screw up on this one and you’re taking a header down about 1K feet. I began the descent feeling pretty confident, having done this for a good couple of weeks now, but within a half mile this thing just did a super steep pitch down this chute of dbl track on nothing but unconsolidated cobbles and gravel. I bike-a-hiked this just to keep my butt out of the ER. Then it was rideable, at least for me, but still really steep, where I had to hang the butt down over the rear wheel. I even caught this jeep 4WD and then had to wait about 5 minutes for them to go ahead so I could ride uninterrupted. 

These descents are just workers, taxing all you have to keep yourself out of the hospital. I mean I’m mentally drained at the bottom of these things because the concentration is so high. So I made it down about 3 miles of the steep stuff, and then had another couple of miles of more dirt and gravel rather than a dbl track rock garden that I had above. Xed a couple streams and then ended up in the small resort village of Ophir. My hands were sore, my shoulders were beat, and my legs were toast…and I still had a second pass to ride! Waited in Ophir for about 45 min for Drew, as I stood by this little kiosk that had skis affixed to the two sides. Drew came down and I fist bumped him for an amazing effort on his first mt bike ride. Think about it…never ridden a mt bike and the dude does this 11,700 foot pass, and then does a really dangerous descent. 

Well, after the fist bumps Drew tells me he biffed it on the descent and ended up sliding about 15 feet off the road, down mt. He had some scuffs and blood, but looked and sounded ok. Right about this time the rain started. We descended another 2 miles to the junction of Rt 145, and by then the rain became steady. I, for some reason right now, am getting cold really easily. Now maybe that’s because I’ve lost about 10+ lbs of muscle and fat. But I told Drew that I had to wait this one out or else I may be in trouble, despite all my rain gear. So we rode back up to this abandoned mill about a half mile up the road, and parked ourselves there for about 30 min until the storm passed over. But still, the whole seeable mt ranges, both north, south, east and west were shrouded in dark grey clouds. So we weren’t out of the woods. Went back down to the junction with 145 and went L, southwest to begin the climb to Lizard Head Pass. Again, little cookie material. I rode this great gravel berm while Drew rode on the asphalt berm. This pup went up for about 7 miles, at a moderate gradient. We passed this poor dude with a yak and full rear panniers walking the rig. Ouch, made me feel a bit more lucky than to be walking up an asphalt mt pass. 

Drew and I finished this pass together, and while he had stopped to put on a jacket for the descent, I opted to just continue down in my nylons thin Underarmor top. And again, more rain. Just so confounded me with the high mt weather. I mean you can do your best to prepare and check, and be ready, but you get up there into it when it’s raining with thunder, lightening and wind, and suddenly you’re pooping bullets. So Drew flies past me on the descent as he’s on asphalt and I’m descending a mt on the 1-foot gravel berm, and we see Judy. Prayers answered. She turned around and found this wonderful turn-around for our support stop. It had taken her 4+ hrs to make the drive to us, so she was late, and we were an hour late in the time I’d told her we’d be there, so it worked out just perfect.

Got in the van and she had 4 sandwiches made for us, in addition to the ice water and Powerade ready to rock. About half way into our lunch the rain just got worse, with the whole mt side to the north totally whited out. Not a good track record for the Denver meteorologists so far! Must have sat in the van for 30 min trying to wait the storm out. Heck, I’d gotten so cold from the rain, wind and altitude that I’d put on a heavy polypro top and my mt jacket. Damn near fell asleep there, and I said to both Drew and Judy that I could easily pull the plug right there, right now - with a measly 25 miles of riding in for the day. That’s when Judy informed me that our intended end point for the day was over 30 miles away, and that our motel in Dolores, Co was a whopping 45 miles away!

Man, I was crushed. To haul my ass out of that van in the rain and wind and cold for another 30 miles….shoot me please! But she knew the right buttons to push with me by declaring that, and it worked. So slowly, as the rain died down, I began to think about getting that 30 miles out of the way to stay on track today. What I decided to do, rather than go back into the mts for this 30+ mile chunk of unsupported backcountry riding, I considered doing this great berm on Rt 145 southwest along the same trend, that way we could ride down mt and down river along the Dolores River, and enjoy this great tailwind at the same time. That could potentially save us 3 hrs of ride time, but still keep me honest with the gravel and set us up to be on schedule for tomorrow’s ride in the foothills and tablelands of southwestern CO. 

When the rain was down to a sprinkle I put my helmet on, and signaled Drew that we were going. I told them about my idea for a change in the itinerary, but nothing more, especially how I wanted to get in that 30+ miles. We decided to ride to Rico, 8-10 miles and see how things were. Well, with the descending road and the tailwind we were able to get through Rico in no time. Initially we rode in the rain for about 5 miles, but the further to the southwest we rode, the more the rain dwindled off to nothing, until we were actually riding in the sun. With each mile we rode we left the high mts of CO further and further in the rearview mirror. In Rico I signaled Judy for 5 more miles. And then another five, and then another five. I kind of got in that zone, where I could turn some fast tempo on the gravel berm forever. Drew was a bit behind me, and as I signaled Judy every five miles for another five, Drew was just shaking his head. 

By the time I was within 10 miles of our intended end point of the day, I was rock solid determined to finish this thing. That last five left me short of the goal by 2 miles, and I shouted as I went by Judy, “not stopping until the junction of 535!” The last 10 miles of berm on 145 was just a crapfest, with high weeds, rocks, mud, corrugated washout sections, and cobbles and boulders from adjacent rock cuts. But I was just intent and getting this thing done. Period! Made the junction of 535 and that was it. Managed to get in 58 miles for the day with 4044 feet of elevation gain. Drew was smiling to himself as he pulled in, and jokingly said to me, “come on, let’s do the final 13 miles to Dolores?” 

Drove the 13 miles southwest to Dolores to a great little motel, then went to the town’s pub for dinner outdoors next to the Dolores River. Awesome way to finish the day. Right now it’s 10 PM and everyone is sleeping. I’m going to sign off now and get some shut-eye myself. But I’ll feel good knowing that the high mt passes are over. I’m just within spitting distance of UT. Love ya Colorado, but I’m moving on! Goodnight……..pete


Friday, July 17: Today, I figured, is supposed to be the gnarliest day in the mts through CO. It’s a day with a pass at 12,500 ft, with it’s climb to the pass being in the vicinity of 21+ miles. It’s Cinnamon Pass, and it’s a LONG pedal on gravel, dirt, and rock. So I just needed to get mentally prepped for this guy. Didn’t start too well this morning in Lake City when we were out of the motel at 6:45 AM and then we couldn’t find anyplace in the town that was open for us to get some breakfast. Really I just needed to pick up something that would tide me over for the ride. No gas stations, no cafes, no nothing. So we just had to sit in the van for 15-20 min to wait for something, anything, to open. Only good out of that is that the morning temp was 44 degrees, so we did need a bit of time for the temp to warm up. 

Finally found this little greasy spoon where we all got pancakes and coffee. Got rolling out of there as fast as we could to get Bill and I back to the end point from yesterday. The sky was cloudless as it was yesterday. Only trouble was that my legs were still sore and tight from doing 2 passes yesterday, this I knew that this one today was really going to put the hurt on. Could be one of those LONG days indeed. So we got out at our junction and readied to ride. I again had a pack full of mt clothing just in case of one of those mt storms out of nowhere. The forecast was really good for the first half of the day both in Lake City, our start point, and in Silverton, our end point. Nonetheless, I wasn’t taking any chances. 

So we bid farewell to Judy, who was going to have to drive 160 miles, to the north, to the west, and to the south, to get around the mt range that we were riding through. General consensus was that my van was in no way going to be able to drive on the whole route we were going on. Thus….one long assed support drive. We began riding at 8 AM sharp. There was a light wind out of the west-southwest. Got going on the gravel berm of Rt 30 southwest to Lake San Cristobal. Right at the lake the road split to a R & L, where the R is paved and the L is gravel. I went L, southwest on Rt 33. Now this pup was HILLY, as I was expecting this nice flat little loop around the east side of the lake. Nope! Now on the west side, the paved side, well, that was flat, really flat! Oh well, as I’ve said, the gravel roads know no gradient adjusting. 

This area, Lake San Cristobal is really beautiful, despite the incessant hills along the way, and there’s some awesome little campgrounds on that east side that are primitive camping. Got back to the junction of the west paved road and the east gravel road and that’s where it goes all gravel and turns back into Rt 30 again, or as my garmin gps calls it, CR 5 west. Went L, west and went through another series of rollers where you’re slowly climbing up more than your descending, so I was gaining just a bit of elevation on each and every roller. Bill and I separated somewhere right after the two roads junctioned. The scenery here is just awe inspiring, as you’re paralleling the Gunnison River and riding along this deep canyon formed by the river. Then then it took me through this great little mt meadows. The fabulous scenery really helped to take the sting out of some pretty dead legs. Shoot, I was just struggling in the saddle, and had to resort to going out of the saddle way more than I typically do - this just to generate some power where there isn’t any! So anyway, I just tried to do my best to ride while enjoying the scenery. 

Now as I was riding I’d always be looking to the west at the high mts, and I was really surprised, and pretty concerned that there were clouds moving in from the west across the very area that we had to ride though. Been out here enough to realize that this was NOT just cotton-ball clouds floating across the pass. This looked like a future sock-in storm forming. Nothing to do…Judy was gone, no phone service….SOL! So I just kept riding, hoping against hopes that this cloud mass would move off to the north or south and not continue to the east on top of us. 

The real climbing began at the Y where the Pass road goes to the R, and this Cottonwood Creek 4WD road goes to the L. I went R, and BAM, an in-your-face little cookie climb right out of the gate. That lasted about a half mile, and then it kind of leveled out a bit so I could get into the middle ring again. At the top, where it did level out, the road changed to more of the rocky variety that I experienced while riding up to Hermit Pass, though this one was far less intense. It did though, force me to concentrate much more on good lines and tracks. And it’s about this time that the army of ATC and ATV riders started passing me on their “lazy man’s” assault of Cinnamon Pass. At times there were a cadre of these things going by me, 3,4, 5 at a time. Now I know it’s public roads, but these folks and their loud engines and such just took that thrill out of backcountry mt biking. Very disappointing indeed. 

Not more than a mile or two further west and I had to begin doing hike-a-bike on these super steep pitches. I just don’t have the full on pie-plate for getting these guys. And really, there were times where I’d do my best on one of these steep ups, and I’d just have to hunch down to keep the front wheel from coming off the ground. So the steep stuff, I just couldn’t do in the saddle. OTS was totally undoable. I was totally ok with this, and just did my best to keep a good pace while walking - about 2.4 mph. My biggest concern was the weather, which was moving in fast. In front of me was a wall of black, with thunder and lightening in the background. 

This was the time I began to look up the road for little occupied and unoccupied cabins where I could high-tail it to when, and I do mean WHEN the storm hits. Continued for another couple miles of riding and hike-a-bike to about 18 miles into the ride, and then the rain came. I had been spotting a couple cabins as I rode, and there were two I could run to. I chose the further west cabin. My MO was to either knock on a door and ask for a place to wait out the storm, or if unoccupied, then just sit under an overhang or deck roof. Turned into a faint gravel drive, went around a gate and No Trespassing sign and bee-lined it to the cabin. 

Tuns out this guy was unoccupied, so I just parked myself under the roof of this entryway to a storage shed. It was perfect, about 10 feet wide by 8 feet long. Got the bike under the roof and me just as the rain just began hammering. I mean the whole mt top was whited out. Got out all my high country clothing and began putting everything on, goretex pants & jacket, my Mt Hardwear hooded jacket, my ear warmers, and my mt gloves. I was nice and toasty as the temp dropped, the wind picked up, and the rain just going crazy. I looked out at the mts I had to ride up and they were just totally gone in a white-out. 

Thunder boomed and lightening cracked all around me. I ended up just sitting down on the porch, bringing my knees up to my chest, and exhaling down inside my jackets to keep my core nice and warm. A couple time I almost fell asleep. Ended up waiting for a whole hour for this thing to blow over. And I wanted to make damn sure it was over, for if it was’t and I struck out again and got drenched, I’d be in a big world of hurt with the potential for hypothermia. Made sure there was blue sky to the west before I ambled out there to continue. Once I did decide to go, I kept all the clothing on just to make sure I’d build up a good heat having just sat there doing nothing for an hour. Only took about a mile and I had to stop to begin pealing gear off. Took everything off buy my long-sleeved polypro. Made it up the the American Basin junction and then pealed my polypro. And this is where the real steep, rocky stuff began. 

The ATC, ATV folks must have waited the storm out to, because all of a sudden there was this train of traffic coming up the mt past me. The road was pretty wet, but since it was more rock than dirt, there wasn’t much of an issue. The weather did indeed turn for the better, with blue sky and those cotton-ball clouds. And the wind was down to nothing for a bit. The last three miles of this thing was just brutal, with alternating riding and hike-a-bike. I’d do my best to pedal over the steep little bumps, but it was the sharp, steep switchbacks that really forced me off the bike for a stretch until the grade settled out a bit. 

Entered the treeless, high country where the wind really picked up. BUT, I could see the end of the line a mile or so up, where the vehicles were parked and the sun was reflection off of mirrors and windshields. Hell, I walked half of that last mile. At the top of the were a slew of ATC’s, ATV’s and 4WD vehicles. There were even a few rentals that should NOT have been on that road. These were drive by “Tourons”. Stayed longer than Hermit because I didn’t have a lacerated leg! Took some pics, dawned my mt jacket for the descent, and got the hell out of there. Heck I was already at 4 hrs into the ride what with that rain break, and I’d told Judy I’d be in Silverton in 4 hrs. Had to beat feet. 

Now the descent on the west side, this thing was just brutal, I mean it just did the plunge down like at a crazy grade. I had to bike-a-hike the first 1/4 mile just to make sure I didn’t end up in the ER for a 2nd time. Once bitten twice shy! Once the grade settled out just a bit, and I mean this was still pretty damned steep, I got riding again, with me doing the “hang the butt down into the rear tire” routine to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. And this just continued for 3 miles of some pretty hair raising descending. Meanwhile, the ATC’s and ATV’s just streamed by me like a plague of locust. Got to just above the Animas Forks junction, then took a hard L and got on FR 586/Rt 110. The descending was a lot less severe, but it was still serious enough that I had to really pay attention to what I was doing. Again, a steady stream of ATV’s, C’s and dirt motorcycles passed me going both up and down the pass. 

Now somewhere along the line here, around Eureka, was this massive campground and staging station for the ATV/ATC/Motocross crowd, and it was just a cluster&%^#@ of a place. God, talk about outdoor recreation?????? This place seems to signify the current state America’s idea of outdoor recreation. I was THE lone mt biker the whole day - other than Bill in back of me - in a world of motor heads in the backcountry. Hey, this is my blog and my opinion piece. 

Descended down to Silverton, where 110 turned to asphalt for the last 2 miles, and I went to the berm for the remainder of the ride into town. When the main street turned to nothing but pavement, I went one street over and rode the gravel parallel to our motel, the Canyon View Motel. All along the way back down I did not see Judy, and at this point I was about 5:30 hrs into the ride. She had about 170 mile drive to meet us, so I’d figured that she would be here by that time. Got the cell out and called her, with no answer. Did the same for Bill, and no answer. So I waited at the motel for a few and then decided to head back up main street to see if maybe I missed her on the way down. 

And that’s when I saw my black van, and a huge rush of relief shot through my body knowing that she was safe and sound. Flagged her down and she made me a couple turkey sandwiches along with some Powerade and water. I relaxed a bit, ate, drank, and then we took off back up 110 to look for Bill. We drove about 4 miles up into the canyon, fighting all the ATC/ATV traffic along the way, and then spotted Bill coming down. He gave us the cut-throat signal - meaning he’s done. Got him in the van and went back down to the motel where again, another storm blew through dumping about 45 min worth of rain. 

So I finished the day by riding about 38 miles with 4K of elevation gain, and an extremely tough day in the saddle. I have to give some kudos to Bill for staying with it today and getting this nasty of a ride in. The weather, the terrain, the motor traffic, and the elevation all combined to make this a really challenging day indeed. Later in the day Andrew made it here, and we all went out to a local microbrew for beer and pizza. Had a great time. So tomorrow I have just two more passes in CO and then I’m back into the foothills on the western slope. Drew will ride with me as Bill drives Drew’s car and Judy drive my van. My big pass tomorrow is Ophir at 11K. And then I have Lizard Head Pass at 10K. From there…it’s into the high plateaus of CO and UT.


Thursday, July 16: Had another stomach gremlin thing (eating attack) going on last night, and I had to fire up the microwave again and nuke some spicy sausage dogs. This climbing and altitude is really messing with my metabolic rate for sure. Seems like I’m just always hungry since we began doing the mt pass thing several days ago.

Well, got up at 4:40 AM, and be darned if I didn’t beat Bill to the draw this morning. Got the coffee brewing for Jude and then I settled into work for a bit. I like working early, as that’s my MO at home, so hitting it really early while on the road gives me a jump on working after the ride in the PM. My breakfast was a full Subway sub that I’d bought last evening when we did Subway for din-din. We’d have no support for pretty much the full length of today’s segment, so I really wanted to have a big breakfast to get me through the day. 

Packs were loaded and about 6:45 AM we took off out of Gunnison east for the 1 hr drive to where I left off yesterday. The drive was especially slow on Rt 114 what with all the twisting road up canyon. 

Got to KK14/FR 788/C50/Los Pinos-Cebolla Rd (yes this road is called any one of those, depending on which map, gazetteer or gps software you use!) and Bill and I got going exactly at 8 AM. Temps were cool, in the 50’s, and the sky was blue and cloudless. I had my polypro long-sleeved top on just to take the chill our of the air. My riding pack right now is a good 15-18 lbs what with all the warm weather/rain gear I’m carrying for the higher altitudes. Add the tools for the bike, camera gear and you’re talking about a pack that you can definitely feel as you’re riding.

And it wasn’t long before we began doing just a little bit of climbing on some false flats. The scenery is just stunning out here, and I was digging it from the get-go. Bill and I separated early so I was on my own for the rest of the trip. Slowly worked my way southwest along the Los Pinos Creek and entered the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre Gunnison National Forest, where I got into this wonderful pine forested foothills. Now our first pass, Los Pinos Pass, was about 11 miles up the road to the southwest, and the riding was actually just about like the riding we did up to Marshall Pass, low angle and very comfortable. Was quite easy to maintain a good 7-8 mph on  good portion of the climb while in the middle ring. There were some rollers where I’d descend a bit, but the following up more than compensated for what I’d lost. Peeled the long-sleeve polypro and just enjoyed the cool air with this super thin Underarmor top on (I’ve worn this pathetic thing for the whole trip, something I’m famous for when doing X country trips). 

This continued for most all of the climb…until the last 2 miles. Then it got real, where I had to shift down into the little ring and drop down to about 4-6 mph. Have to say that this last portion leading to the pass really took some gas out of the tank. Made the top in 1:24 hrs. The top-out wasn’t really that stellar, BUT the descent was just amazing! I turned on my GoPro and let it rip. Have to say this descent was a winner on so many accounts, from a scenic standpoint, from controlled speed, from great dbl track road, to it’s length. Man, I was just loving it all the way. Took the tangents and moved from turn to turn and switchback to switchback. The descent lasted about 26 minutes, this I know from looking at my watch at the top to see how long the video would be on. 

Ended the descent in a canyon in this little place called Cathedral. Went L, southwest, and stayed on the litany of road names I listed at the beginning of the blog. Down at Cathedral it was listed as FR 788. Now down there at this 3-way junction is a sign that says Rt 149 is 16 miles away, and that’s where we had to ride to, all the way to Slumgullion Pass at an elevation of 11,530. So pass number two was another 26 hundred feet higher than Cathedral. Got rolling through a beautiful canyon along Cebolla Creek, with red colored cathedral rock formations and red rock foothills. The first 5-6 miles were a gentle up where I could do anywhere from 7-10 mph, a very comfortable ascent as was the initial phase of the Los Pinos Pass climb. And again, this was through some spectacular red-colored cathedral rock formations and walls.

But once I started climbing along Mill Creek, this really changed. Then the grade got stiffer and the pace got slower. I went back to the little ring and had to bounce in and out of the saddle on a regular basis just to stretch the hammies out now and then. This steeper climb was going to be a solid 9 miles. As I got higher and higher the temps really cooled down and the high mt winds began to appear. And something else appeared…a mushy rear tire! Yea, I began to notice that the rear tire was making a whirring sound, something you don’t hear when it’s fully inflated. And then there was that very subtle soft feeling of the rear tire over rocks. I’s stopped several times to check the tire by squeezing it with my hand, and it appeared to be ok. 

So I just rode on. But the sound, and the softness of the tire just continued to bug me. I ended up checking it each mile, and finally noted that it really was loosing air ever so slowly. Now with a slow leaker I kind of thought I could ride this thing out to the top where Judy was parked, some 6 miles up the mt. But the riding just got steeper and tougher, and that rear tire getting soft was doing me no favors. It was just plain tougher to ride with the air leaking out. I was counting the miles down, and at the 3 miles to go point I really thought I could pull it off. But by 2 miles to go I could really feel it bouncing, and it even looked mushy. Time to inflate. Got off and pumped in about 150 pumps of air and then got rolling again. Damn, what a difference, I actually felt like I’d been reinvigorated with a fully inflated tire! But that climbing just never ended. Watched the gamin like a hawk as the miles were counting down

With 1 mile to go I was really getting beat, not to mention getting cold with the wind and lower high mt temps. And then I saw Judy in the van coming towards me. She must have seen me, then stopped, backed up and went back down the road. That there told me I was almost done. Made the top with a total time of 3:47 hrs for 34 miles of riding. The elevation gain was app. 4K. Got in the car immediately and drank water and Powerade. Judy gave me a half a sub and a big wonderful muffin and I just sat in the car as we waited for Bill. Had to put my long-sleeve on, and then followed that with my goretex jacket. 

Ahhh, felt so good to sit in that big comfortable seat! Bill rolled in about 45 min later, just as the whole surrounding skyline was getting dark and threatening. The rain was on it’s way just like clockwork. Now I wanted to get this steep descent done today, and that involved riding on the asphalt of Rt 149 back down towards Lake City so I could set us up for tomorrow’s ride. Now there was probably a shot that I could have done this descent this on berm…BUT it would have been just dangerous as all hell what with this loose, sandy gravel and the nasty angle it’s on. The inside was just gnarly as hell, and the outside, well it had thousand foot drop-offs just below the angled gravel berm. Nope, zero guardrails here. So I knew from doing recon here, that I’d be riding the asphalt down for 6 miles.

I’m dumb, but not stupid! Judy was freaking that I was doing the descent because of the steepness, AND the black skies surrounding us. I had to get this thing done, and fast. It was a great descent, and thanks to those hydraulic disk brakes, it was a breeze. The turns and switchbacks were amazing. This pup was just plain fun! Made it to the junction of Rt 149 and Lake Fork Rd, just about 3 miles south of Lake City. And that was the day. I’d gotten in 41 miles for the day, and just as I stopped the rain began, and it followed us into Lake City for about another hour of precipitation. 

We got a little motel in the center of town called the Silver Spur Motel. These folks own the motel, and this grocery/souvenir shop/liquor store. We joked that they probably owned the cafe and half of town. All around us, especially up in the high mts the rain just continued for a couple hours. I changed out my flat, slow leaker by putting on a brand new, narrower rear tire, a Pisgah 2.2. Then we went to a little cafe across the street from the mote to eat a great dinner. The dark skies and threatening weather is appearing yet again as I’m writing this, so the monsoon continues as usual. That’ just made trying to camp out here a real drag. I mean you get done, than have nothing but the van for protection during the storms…+ you have to figure out a good weather window to cook on the outdoor grill. This has been pretty frustrating as of late, especially up here in the mts where camping is a blast. 

Well, tomorrow is a 12K pass called Cinnamon Pass, and it’s our biggie for the day. We’re hoping all will go as planned and we’ll be in Silverton tomorrow afternoon. Have to get an earlier start tomorrow just to make sure we’re out of the high pass area early. Hoping to hook up with Andrew from Denver there, where he’l join us for 2 days of riding. Only drag of the day tomorrow is for poor Judy, who will have to drive 160 miles around the high mts to meet up with us in Silverton. Our ride is a mere 31-34 miles, but it’s on some really rugged single lane dirt and gravel, with a bit of 4WD jeep track sprinkled in. Man, I owe this lady big time!!


Wednesday, July 15: Kind of a Roman food orgy last night. That pizza just didn’t do it for me so I ended up firing that microwave up and cooked some spicy dogs, three of them to be precise, with buns, and then I had a couple Newcastle Ales. To top it off Bill went next door to Sonics and got a shake, so I had him get one for Judy and I. We split it. And that was the deal. I can’t fathom how many calories I consumed yesterday, but hopefully that climb up Marshall Pass made the calories in/out equation equal out. 

This morning was a bit casual, as I really didn’t need to do a big ride or worry about any passes and the weather, so I kind of dilly-dallied a bit. The max amount to ride today was about 30 miles, so that all weighed on when we got going. Now the riding is kind of shorter and broken up because the support is so darned complicated. If I were to do several of those 30-40 miles segments in a day, that would mean that Judy would have to do nearly 200 miles to go up and around the mt ranges to meet up where the my gravel backroad routes come out and junction with the asphalt main roads that Judy’s driving on. So these next several days have to be shorter to accommodate the support driving. Plus, all the upcoming rides after today have a pass or two to surmount, and that takes more time and more energy, so breaking the rides down into smaller chunks works ok. 

Anyway, while I worked Judy did her morning walk and went to a cafe to pick up some pastry for our road breakfast. Got on the road at around 8:15 AM and headed back east on Rt 50 to our end point from yesterday, junction of Rt 50 and CR 45. Had to endure some road stoppage on the way due to construction, and that took some wind out of our sails for getting off earlier. Finally got to our start point right exactly where the construction ended. Bill and I headed south on CR 45 to the junction with Rd 14PP to begin our climbing on this big, wide, wonderful gravel road. Bill and I were both pretty blown away by how beautiful the table top topography is out here near Gunnison, just rolling hills and small canyons for miles on end, and then there’s this stunning backdrop of a snow-capped mt range just to the southeast. I’m telling you….you ride across CO on stuff like this and you’ll NEVER go back to pavement! My only regret is that I could have had Judy drive the van on this route rather than having her go back around to Rt 50 east, and then south on Rt 149. 

The scenery was so awesome that I had to stop to put on my GoPro to take a bit of video of Bill riding in front of me. This segment was just pure enjoyment. We ended up rolling through this 18 mile segment in around 1.5 hrs with a total elevation gain of app. 2K ft - there was a LOT of up and downs. Met Judy at the junction with Rt 149 and Rd 14PP. Judy did a quick ride up to the top of one of the higher elevation climbs while I waited for Bill and checked out our next segment for the day. 

Jude and Bill got back and Jude was complaining of headaches, and I’m guessing that part of this is the altitude. Now we were planning on having her ride the next segment with me, but she really didn’t feel up to it. Thus, I rode solo. So I went L, south, on the berm of Rt 149 - loose gravel, angled and full of weeds - for about a mile, then took a R, south, on Rd NN14. This gravel road was as wide and wonderful as was 14PP. I had Jude and Bill drive ahead every couple of miles in front of me, know that at any moment they could be stopped dead in their tracks by a section of horrible gravel road. I was really hoping that I could have them drive to the junction of FR 788 where I wanted to begin tomorrow’s ride. If not, then we’d have to add the mileage from where they stopped up to FR 788, to tomorrow’s trip mileage. But all was good on NN14, and so we continued with a R, west, on KK14. And again, great wide and wonderful gravel road that the van could drive on.  

Had a bit of fun on this section because there were some ranchers on horses who were herding cattle down the road. So we, the van and me on the bike, and this logging truck coming from the opposite direction, we all had to stop while the ranchers kind of herded all the cattle to our left in order for everyone to get through. Bill got several cool shots of this including me riding in the midst of cattle, and a shot of this cowboy with the lasso in mid air. Got through that and made it all the way to the junction with FR 788. And that was it. Made it A-Ok, such that Judy can drop us off there quite safely for tomorrow, and we’re in great shape for that ride to Lake City and the big mts. We have two mt passes tomorrow. 

So we loaded up and headed back to Gunnison to the same motel as yesterday. I ended up with about 30 miles of cycling with just over 2K in elevation gain. Had to go through the cattle herd again, and then took a great drive down canyon on Rt 149 south back to Gunnison. Stopped at Sonics for lunch, and then the rain came right on time, at app. 2 PM. It’s been raining for 1.5 solid hrs since. You really have to time your recreation out here during the monsoon. If you’re going long, then you’d better start early. Two PM is usually the safe cut-off time for cycling and hiking right now. Anything after that and you’re toying with riding/hiking in storms. And some of the storms out here are just ferocious. Add riding on gravel/dirt to the mix and there’s even more impetus NOT to get caught in the storms. It could be a really messy affair. 

6 PM: Storms cleared and the temps are really nice, like in the low-mid 60’s. We’ll be heading to Subway for some din-din. Tried to pack up a lot of gear and I readied my GoPros and cameras for tomorrow’s ride to Lake City. Should be really amazing. My only regret is that I can’t share this segment with Judy. She’ll be driving the van on a long route on 50 west to 149 south to Lake City to meet up with us. I’m sure she’ll see some great sights, but to experience it on the mt bike, that’s a whole different kind of thing. 

I’ll sign out now. Until tomorrow.


Tuesday, July 14: Man I was a wreck last night. I’m just flabbergasted as to how sore those pups were. And then I get up this morning and it was a kind of paralytic soreness - that’s a deep, paralyzing sore, the kind you get when you do a crazy long & hard squat workout when you haven’t squatted for months to years. You wake up the next day and can barely haul your arse out of the bed. Man, that was me. I just couldn’t fathom getting on a bike and riding up Marshall pass today, some 3K of gain in 12 miles of cycling. But Bill was up at 4:50 AM, and I followed suite getting my poor old wreck of a body out of bed at 5:10. Poor Judy, just lays there and covers her eyes in exasperation knowing that she could sleep another hour or two with no trouble. 

First thing I do is to make Judy coffee, and what we’ve been doing at the Big Valley Motel is to microwave water to a boil in our pyrex measuring cup, and then pour it into our coffee press. It takes 2 cups, so that’s about 10 minutes of prep time for a cup of really good joe….BUT it’s worth it, cuz the coffee’s just great. We’ve been brewing this Sumatran stuff. Once I get Judy the coffee she’s in a really good mood. But prior to that - ouch! So I turned on the local morning news to see what the weather looked like for today, and the forecast was not good. Round about that time a cell was rolling through Gunnison, our intended end point for today. But really the whole state of CO was expected to have bouts of heavy to severe thunderstorms throughout the day. Our start point, just southwest of Salida, that was forecast for storms around noon. So we would have storms moving in our direction from the west from Gunnison, and have storms building to our east from Salida. Wasn’t a very good forecast for a couple of guys who had to ride up to and over the 10K high Marshall Pass. 

And I’m not going to lie…I was really hoping that the forecast would be so bad that we’d just have to bag it for the day. That way I could just lay in bed and go back to sleep, and not have to use my catatonic legs today. But there was this 3-4 hr window we could work with and actually get the ride in between storm systems. Bill was getting all prepped to ride, and Judy had had enough of the Big Valley Motel and the town of Sagauche, where everything closes at 3 PM. Bill and I just love the motel and could stay there even longer and just soak up the ambience of such a small town. So anyway, I was not going to be the kill-joy and insist we just stay put for the day and use the weather as my excuse. And when I think about it, that was probably really good that I had a little pressure on me to get my butt in a bike kit, get on a bike, and ride the heck to the west. 

So I worked for a bit as Judy and Bill kind of pulled up camp, then I got dressed to ride, made a couple sandwiches for breakfast and we loaded into the van. Stopped at the little cafe and grabbed a couple breakfast muffins and we were on our way to Marshall Pass Rd, CR 200, where I ended the ride I’d done on Sunday. We got going on the bikes at just before 8AM. I briefed Judy on the route she’d have to take around the mts to meet up with us when we got to the end of CR 200. With all that done, Bill and I took off down a main road for the first two miles before the Marshall Pass turn-off. I swear I felt as though I was peddling squares with 15-lb ankle weights around each leg. Man did I feel like crap. And I told Bill not to wait for me, and visa versa, because we had a very small window to ride in what with the weather forecast. Plus, the road before and after the pass really had no major junctions, which meant that there was no way to get lost on this route. So it was a done deal, just stay on the main gravel road and end up in Sargents, CO where the road dead-ends into Rt 50. 

Well, Bill looked pretty good as we started out, and I had this sneaking suspicion that I’d be OTB on today’s ride because that little 2-mile false flat just felt miserable. BUT, the only thing I could hang my hat on was the fact that having been through this same dead-leg malady across some 4 prior X-country rides, I knew there was a chance that I might get my legs somewhere down the line. Main I was praying for that. 

Another thing was that was really dogging me, and kind of worrying me this morning was this left medial knee joint thing that I’ve had bugging me on and off for the whole trip. Well, yesterday’s hike just inflamed the heck out of that knee joint. It’s just a bit swollen this morning, and I can’t help but to limp when I walk. So I had all sorts of junk going through me mind on that 2-mile run up to the beginning of the Marshall Pass climb. So as I said, Bill looked smooth and I looked like a first time mt bike rider with ankle weights. We got to the turn onto Marshall Pass Rd, 200, and it just went straight up. I knew what was coming because I’d reconned this segment last summer in an SUV rental, so this was no surprise, and really that first mile is the worst part of the climb because it’s so bloody steep.

Dropped into the little ring and just spun. My breathing sucked, and my legs were rebelling, but I just peddled on at 4-5 mph, knowing the agony of this initial pitch would end soon. Bill was a bit behind me, and I was quite surprised. I just kept rolling. Made it through the steep section and then was able to move up to the middle ring and get the ball rolling at 7+ mph. That was good! Now we did this big, sweeping switchback and I saw that Bill was about a half mile behind me, and that’s the last time I saw him on the ride. I just continued to move along at that 7-8 mph pacing as the switchbacks went by like 1/10 mile markers on the freeway.

I actually got into a good rhythm, except for the fact that I just could not get comfortable out of the saddle. When I went out my legs would damn near cave in on me. I mean they were just that sore. So I’d do this only to stretch the hammies out on occasion. Just climbed and climbed and climbed as the switchbacks ticked by. I was actually really happy at the 4-5 mile mark in the climb that we were getting this thing done today. The weather looked good one hour into the climb, so I was able to relax a bit and just enjoy this amazingly great gravel road mt climb. It’s a low enough angle that you can settle in and go steady-state through the whole thing above that initial steep section. I was passed by a few trucks and SUV’s, but really the traffic was just about zero. What a wonderful way to go in the CO mts when you’re the only one out there pedaling across a mt range. 

I hit the pass, 10,842 feet, at 1:52 hrs into the ride. And that was good. With the 2 mile start up to the climb that put me 14 miles into the ride. The bad part of all of this was what I saw when I topped out - bad weather to the southwest looking real dark and threatening. I didn’t even stop to take pics or put on some warm descending clothing. I just threw it into the big ring and shifted down a few cogs to get the speed up for a super long descent. I also activated both shocks and I was rolling at a comfortable 21 mph. Now the descent had some rutting from all the rain, and it had these whoop-de-dos where it was almost like going off a ramp, so that’s why I activated the shocks. 

The descent was just like the climb, kind of low angle such that you weren’t doing some kind of out of control freefall. It was very comfortable and manageable. And it went on forever! I was just loving the fact that my day was coming to an end and that I was actually having fun when earlier I’d figured I’d be in misery the whole time. I think I had about 4 vehicles pass me either way during the whole descent. It was just stellar. My only negative issue was that I’d just coast for a mile or two, and then when I wanted to pick up some speed and begin pedaling, my legs were just frozen in place from the inactivity. They’d tighten up and were a real bear to get moving again, especially that left knee. It would seize up like a pillar of ice on each and every coasting session. 

The descent took nearly 1 full hour! And it was a total blast. I reached the junction with Rt 50, where I saw Judy parked at this little gas station/campground/store/eatery in the very small town of Sargents. I’d done the 32 miles in 2:51 hrs. Man was I happy to have gotten that done on what I thought would be my day from hell. Judy went in this multi-faceted little place and orderd a couple burgers & fries for the both of us while we waited for Bill. Meanwhile we watched a X-country cycling couple come in from the west where they stopped in Sargents for food and drink, and we watched a couple of young Norwegian women pull in on their fully loaded bikes, having pedaled from the Atlantic Ocean in VA. Their end point is in San Fran, CA. 

Now in the meantime, the weather up at the pass really looked bad from our perspective down in Sargents. We were hoping that Bill had gotten well into the descent before the cell engulfed the whole mt range. And really, the weather was just like yesterday, a mix of all these converging cell systems surrounding us. We decided that if the weather really turned for the worse, we’d drive up 200 to try to get Bill. But the problem there is that a lot of that back side of the Marshall Pass road, especially down near Sargents, that was dirt. And if we got the van up there in a downpour we could very well get the thing stuck. So we were really crossing our fingers that Bill would make it down before the deluge. 

Turns out he did. He told us he did experience some very light rain at the top of the pass, and that he got a couple in a jeep to strap his bike to their vehicle and take him down a piece where the weather appeared to improve. That’s when I got back on the bike and finished the ride. So all was good.

My initial plan was to end the day in Sargents, but I felt that I could get a few more miles in for the day such that we could make tomorrow a really mellow day, so I decided to ride more. The next section was this super great gravel berm along Rt 50. I removed the 15-lb backpack I’d carried up and down the pass road, threw it in the van, and began riding with this super sweet tailwind out of the east. Was able to do 14-16 mph as I rode west towards Gunnison. Ended up doing an additional 12 miles to the junction with CR 45 and Rt 50, about 18 miles east of Gunnison. And that was the day. I ended up with 44 miles for the day - not much mind you, but a far sight more than I bargained for early this morning. We got a little motel here in Gunnison and right now, at about 4 PM there’s a thunder storm outside. Been watching the weather channel since we go here, and it looks as if numerous places in CO are experiencing some kind of severe weather issues. Man, we were lucky to get anything in today. I’m icing my left knee and just listening to the thunder and lightening outside as I work here and do the blog. 

5 PM: We went just across the street to Micky’s Pizza, and they offered fabulous thin crust specialty pizzas. Jude and I split a 16-inch za, one half veggie for Jude and one half ham, pineapple, mozzarella cheese and diced jalapeño peppers for me. Bill got a wonderful fried eggplant dish, but it was just not the kind of volume he needed after a good mt bike ride, so he ambled over to Sonics for a sandwich. I was a spectacle to behold, as I walked over and back from there. Now mind you I was simply crossing the street from the motel, yet I hobbled miserably across that dbl lane highway, looking like I had nearly lost control of my leg muscles. THAT is how sore these legs are right now. I just cannot believe it.

Hoping for a MUCH better leg day tomorrow.


Monday, July 13: Sitting here on the bed at the Big Valley Motel at 6:30 MST with my legs stretched out and the computer on my lap. Got blisters on both heels. My legs feel like they’ve been beaten with a meat tenderizer. My left knee was cranky the whole day. And…my feet are stiff and lifeless. Hey, must have been a good day huh?

Let’s start from the start then. Got up at 6 AM, slammed some breakfast consisting of a couple bananas, an almond butter sandwich and some yogurt. Then Judy raced us over to this jeep rental place out in the middle of nowhere just off of Rt 285 to get our 4WD jeep rental for the day. Then Bill and I took off for the Rio Alto Trailhead that I couldn’t take the van on yesterday. We were fighting the clouds of mosquitos the whole time when we got there so we got out the deepwoods OFFF. Began the Rio Alto trail at just before 8 AM. Goal today was to connect the Hermit Pass to the Rio Alto Trail and all the riding I did yesterday to get to Marshall Pass. 

Now I knew this would be a hard hike, obviously when you’re climbing to 13K in elevation. I wasn’t able to put it into my “cruise control” mode because of those sutures in my right let - just did not want to chance taking long, loping strides for 16-18 miles of mt hiking today for fear of breaking some of the sutures loose. So I had to back off just a tad from my normal pacing. But that was ok. Bill was with me for about a half hour and then I noticed he wasn’t behind me after that. I needed to be swift and steady to get to the top of that pass and get back down before the predicted monsoon manifested itself in the early afternoon - this I’d gleaned from this morning’s weather forecast for our area. But hell, been doing this for quite awhile, and it’s always good to go high early and descend early to stay out of trouble up top. 

The trail is a tough one, with a tons of rocks and tree debris, mud, swamp, streams in the middle of the trail, creek crossings with no bridges, and bogs that can suck your hiking shoes right off your feet. I though I was keeping a pretty good pace, but my first time test, Rio Alto Lake, just never seemed to appear. I knew I’d need to reach it, at the most, by 2 hrs in to feel I had a serious attempt at reaching Hermit Pass. But I think I went through at like 2:10 or 15. Not good. And for some odd reason my heels were just giving me all sorts of trouble. I felt a hot spots coming on within 2 miles of hiking, and it just got worse as the day wore on. I even stopped and doubled down a hiking sock on my right foot to kind of lessen the friction. And it worked for awhile, but it didn’t last. Amazing because I brought my ultra-hiking shoes which fit so well and are really broken in. All I can figure is that I just have not hiked long for a good 2 months, and my feet weren’t used to it. 

So I went up and around the lake, which was a boggy mess, and where by that time my feet were soaked numerous times prior from stream Xings and marsh marching, so getting more mud and water in them was just par for the course. Got around the lake and began the second big push, up into a cirque below Hermit Pass and then a traverse of the headwall up to the pass. It looked even tougher than what I’d just done up to the lake, and that was a solid 6 miles of up from the trailhead. Had to X a couple small snowfields leading up into the cirque, and then some really rocky ledge type hiking. By the time I got into the cirque I was 3 hrs into the hike. And Hermit Pass lay far off to the east, way the heck up this long and winding trail of switchbacks. At that point I was really wondering if I could make the pass in time and then get down before the storm action begins. So I set a time goal on the thing, where I’d hike as fast as I could for 30 minutes and see if I could make the pass. Anything past 3:30 hrs into the hike and I’d be tempting fate with the weather, which was already beginning to change for the worse. 

So I got through the cirque and then scrambled up a big talus slope to try to cut off some of the switchbacking and save some time. Finally got up onto the final stretch of switchbacks at about 12,100 ft.  But let me tell you….they were long and went for nearly another 1000 feet. So I got going on these, and they really looked like a continuation of Hermit Rd, CR 160 that I’d done on Saturday up into Hermit Pass. The trail was wide, as if cut for ATC’s and 4WD vehicles. But you could tell that no off-road vehicles had been on the road for years. I did one set of the 3-4 switchbacks and looked at my watch. I was already past my deadline of 3:30 hrs in - I was at 3:45 hrs in. Time to think this one out my friend!

Now I know a lot of you who read my blog are competitive athletes, and you know better than most people what it feels like to kind of be on the bubble: DNF or Finish, that’s the question? It’s a crappy feeling letting it all come down to a simple decision like that. It’s a decision you may come to feel happy with, or one that you may detest, either or for the rest of your life. I’ve gutted out some pretty ugly finishes, and I’ve DNF’ed, so I know the feeling oh so well.  And there I was looking up at Hermit Pass about to make that decision. Do I take a chance and go for it, or do I cash my chips in and get down off the mountain? I kind of stood there in the trail accessing the logistics of going for it. 

By the looks of it, and judging by how fast I’d ascended the first switchback, I was guessing that the pass was at least 1.5-2 more miles up - round about another 1000 vertical feet. Kind of figured that would take me another hour to do. So that would put me at 4:45 hrs into the hike one-way. Now I knew I could hike down faster, but maybe just 45 min to one hr faster, so the total hike time best case would be a total time of 8:30-8:45 hrs. That would mean I’d get back to the trailhead at somewhere between 4:30-4:45 PM. The next thing to consider was the weather, and I could see from 12K up there on the flank of the mt that the weather was getting a bit dark off to the southwest. 

Those two factors really made my decision for me….I had to get off the mountain. I mean you look at it simplistically and it’s like, “I came all this way, and I just have this little bit more and I’m there.” But the one thing I’ve learned in the mountains hiking with some pretty smart folks is to use good judgement when you’re up high. I just didn’t want to take a chance with the weather. When It came down to it we should have been hiking at 6 AM not 8. So that’s on me. Just not enough time, and some sketchy weather and that’s all you need….to DNF in a hike. 

Yup, I just had to turn back, knowing that I’d leave this 1.5-2 mile break in the route that I wouldn’t be making up. And I can live with that decision. And it became even more evident to me that I made a prudent decision when I had hiked back down below the cirque and saw this big grey-black cloud bank amassing to the west over the mts - coming my way. Then suddenly I questioned why I even went as far as I did, what with Bill down there somewhere not knowing where the hell I was, and not having a key to get in the jeep if the weather went to hell. Not only that, if we got caught out on those crappy dirt roads in a storm deluge….well that could be real trouble in the rental. That’s when I really picked up the pace, this despite my worries of the sutured right leg. 

By that time my heels were raw from the soaking, the mud, and the rubbing, and my legs were feeling all the pounding of hammering back down from the headwall to the cirque valley. Got back down to Rio Alto Lake, and it was 6 miles of controlled pain from there on. God, that was the longest 6 miles I’ve done in years. It just never seemed to stop. I’d remember all these key spots, and where they were on the way up, and it seemed that I was lightyears from getting back to the trailhead. And it was all the more important when I’d take a gander to the west to look up at the clouds, seeing that grey-black cloud back creeping ever closer to this stream valley. Tried to keep the pace high, yet safe. Hell, I’d already used up my dumb-ass card with the bike accident. I didn’t need to toss in a header while hiking to the mix of dumb-ass moves. I like to call it controlled descending, a mix of going with the gravity jogging and speed hiking. You can cover a ton of ground of you just go into this ultra-runner mode. It’s much faster than just hiking. 

So I kept this going the rest of the way. There were a few stumbles, a few trips, and a few stumbles, but I made pretty good time. About half way down from the lake I noticed that the really threatening cloud mass had moved past this particular valley, so I felt some breathing room. By this time my legs were just these external parts moving independent of my thought. My hiking buds and I call this the “ROBO MODE”. You just hike robotically without thought because your legs are just totally smoked. The last 2 miles seemed like 10 miles. Plus…the mosquitos were out of this world. I’ve NEVER had this much trouble hiking at altitude with mosquitos before. Maybe it’s the wet spring and summer out here, but from 10K feet up, all the way down I was battling the varmints like nobodies business. It even affected my hiking, causing me to trip and stumble a few times as I descended while swatting bugs. 

Within 2 miles of the trailhead I saw this massive storm raging off to the west. It was just black, and that made me hike/jog even faster to get the hell out of there. Finally made the trailhead with a total hike time of 6:55 hrs. I stumbled to the jeep like a drunken soldier. Bill had gotten in the jeep by unzipping the rear window panel. As I looked out to the west I was wondering if we’d get out of there before all hell broke loose on us on those 13 miles of red dirt/gravel roads. I felt every bump and jolt in my low back as we scrambled out of there in the jeep on the Rio Alto Trailhead Rd. By the time we got to AA Rd, looked as if we would make it off the dirt road before the storm, but heck, back to the east in the Rio Alto valley it was getting just as black and ominous as what lay ahead of us to the west. We dropped the jeep off and had Judy pick us up and that was it. All around us it was raining and storming like hell, but here in Saguache, nothing until about 6 PM. I look like crap, limping and stumbling around. The legs are just shredded. 

During the hike, I’d been fantasizing about a pizza the whole day, and then we go to the pizza shop at 4 PM - and it’s closed. What? Are you kidding me? Yea, the places here just close when they want to, as if the business is that fantastic? So as a last resort in this little town we went to the grocery and I bought some roast beef and ham and made sandwiches. Judy made a salad and that was our dinner. 

So that’s the story. Did my best but sometimes the mt wins! Tomorrow’s ride should be fun, going over Marshall Pass. Yea, I need to get some legs and quick! Until tomorrow….I’m out.


Sunday, July 12: Kind of a goofy day today for sure, when we had planned on one thing and then ended up doing quite another. 

Had kind of a restless night of sleep last night, pretty much because the painkiller meds I’d gotten in the hospital had warn off by night time, and I kind of had a tender leg all night long. When I moved around in the bed I felt that sore leg each and every time. So my sleep quality was on the low side, and when I got up at like 6 AM, I was sore and stiff on the right side. Made the prospect of hiking 14 miles with a 5K elevation gain sound very gnarly. And by the time everyone was up I conceded that I could do the hike but doing anything else for the day….like riding 40 or 50 miles afterwards, that was not in the cards. 

Bill and I packed for the hike, with me pretty much just keeping the same gear in my medium backpack that I had yesterday, save for the bike repair tools. I added a long sleeve polypro top and a long sleeve fleece top to the mix. Also got out some backpacking socks and relaced my hiking shoes. Did a quick banana, yogurt & and almond butter sandwich for breakfast and we were out the door with Judy driving us the 17 miles to the trailhead. We had to take several dirt/gravel roads to get to the trailhead, and since I’d never did on-the-spot recon on this section, I was a bit concerned that one or several of those gravel roads would be undrivable in the van. Then what?

So first road was great, like a dirt superhighway, and the second road was really good, and then came the third road, the access road to the Rio Alto Trailhead - X.8 Rd. It had a cattle crossing grate and on the other side was this rutted out dirt road. The sign at the cattle grate warned of bad road conditions. Just what I was worried about had happened. So the trailhead was 4 miles up this access road. Now we were just getting ready for me to drive the van through this sketchy section with Bill kind of directing me while standing out on the road, and I thought, “hell, Judy won’t have this luxury.” And that’s all it took. I threw the van in park and we had to kick this one around. What to do? Do we hike an additional 8 miles, with me already nursing a bad leg? Or do we ride our bikes to the trailhead, then hide them in the trees and lock them together? 

I decided to get on the bike and recon the road all the way to the trailhead, then call them one way or another to tell them that the rest of the road was doable in the van, or that it was not and I was either riding back or having Bill ride out on the bike to meet me. I took off riding in my hiking shoes and wearing a thick polypro hiking top and hiking shorts. But heck, I had to get that ride in today or tomorrow to connect everything to Hermit Pass, so at least I was getting something accomplished. Took off and this thing just did a false flat climb right from the get-go. The first 3 miles were dbl track and definitely doable in the van, though at a slow speed because of all the loose rocks. But then it really kind of went to poop - and it felt WAY more than 4 miles - for the last 1-2 miles. The road surface was all dirt and there were ruts about 2 feet deep in there such that she’d have to straddle the ruts. Not good. That right there convinced me that the van coming out there, that wasn’t happening.

But I did want to ride this thing all the way to the trailhead to get that riding portion done and scope out the start of the hike. Got there, called Bill and told him the van was out. By that time we were getting into late morning, about 8:30 not the ideal start time for a hike up as high as we were planning on going. And if I had Bill ride out here on his 29er in his hiking gear, that would be another 40 minutes, which would put us at a 9 AM start time. No good! I told Bill I’d ride back and we’d discuss what to do for the day. By the time I got back I had an hour invested in that 4….errr 5 mile long road. So I had 8-10 ride miles in already. 

While I was riding back Bill was doing some thinking on the issue, and when I got back he suggested we rent a jeep for tomorrow or see if we could pay an outfitter to shuttle us out there. I was definitely on board with that suggestion. So that was it. Hike Rio Alto tomorrow. For today? Had to get the ride from the trailhead to Marshall Pass road done. We’d just switch out Monday’s segment for today, and today’s segment for Monday. So I changed into a cycling kit I had in the van, and put my shoes on, then suggested that Bill or Judy ride with me on the gravel roads back to Rt 285. Judy wanted breakfast and Bill had to go back to the motel for his cycling kit, so I ended up riding this alone. They would meet me back at the junction of AA Rd with Rt 285. 

So after completing the trailhead road ride - X.8 Rd - I went R, north on 64 Rd for a few miles, and then L, west on AA Rd for a whole bunch of miles. Met Bill just before I junctioned with 285, where Judy was waiting for me. So she’d ride the second section, about 16 miles to the town of Villa Grove. Now let me digress here for a minute. What I’d decided to do last night, having had my right leg sutured up a couple inches above the inside knee, is to alter the itinerary a bit to make the cycling for Monday’s ride, which I was doing today, to make it easier on me. The original route would have taken me around a small mt range with a pass, The Gate, which is on 4WD track just west, and parallel to Rt 285. That small portion was pretty much a day of riding for 30+ miles due to the difficulty factor. 

I’d decided, since I’d seen the great gravel berm on Rt 285, that I’d do that instead in order to not stress out that sutured wound with more gnarly bike hiking and bumpy descending. Saw the great gravel berm yesterday on our way down here from the hospital. And that’s when it occurred to me that I could make my life a tad easier for a day and still stay on gravel. So, with that being said, I just needed to go up Rt 285 north on this wonderful gravel berm for 35 miles to the junction with CR 200 - Marshall Pass Rd - rather than risk the 4WD stuff so soon after the injury. 

Well, luck was on my side because there was a wind out of the south, and I do mean a wind. It was just marvelous, pushing me on the gravel berm at a comfortable 13-14 mph. Judy rode on the great asphalt berm while I rode on the great gravel berm. No sandburs, no hassles, and with that tailwind, it was just glorious. Judy and I crushed it for just over an hour. Did a food/hydration stop in Villa Grove, and Bill got on the bike at that point and Judy drove. I told Bill to just go, because with him riding asphalt berm and me in the gravel, hell he’d be feeling like a slug. So Bill got it rolling on 285 for the 22 miles up to the 9010 ft Poncha Pass. From there it’s a descent for 3 miles on 285 to the junction with CR 200, Marshall Pass Rd, which we’ll ride on Wed. 

I rolled out about 10 minutes later, and again, with that southerly tailwind in good gravel, I was just flying up this 22 mile false flat climb to the pass. I mean I did this thing in about 1:15 hrs! That had to be the easiest pass yet. Quite a difference when you’re doing a false flat as opposed to a steep kicker. Made the pass and then descended on the gravel berm for 3 miles to CR 200. The descent was actually harder than the climb due to the water erosion in the gravel causing this washboard surface. Had to activate both front and rear shocks to take the sting out of that jarring on my wound. 

Made the junction and met Judy at 200, but no Bill. What the what? Where the hell was he? So we figured that he did one of 3 things. The least problematic was him riding down 200 west to the actual junction where Marshall Pass road splits off. The more problematic was Bill missing the 200 junction and riding that descent all the way back down to Salida, and having to climb back up to 200. The worst case scenario was Bill thinking we were going all the way on Marshall Pass Rd, some 31 miles of riding with a 12K pass to cross. That third one, doing Marshall Pass Rd, that would be a BIG BOO BOO! 

So we waited for 30 minutes, with Judy kind of suggesting we go the the Marshall Pass junction to see if Bill’s waiting there. I resisted saying that if we did that and Bill had missed the junction and ridden further down 285, we could miss him coming back through. Conversely if we went down 285 we could miss him coming back at us on 200. Too much of a chance for even more mishaps, so I wanted to stay put. Another 15 minutes went by and I finally capitulated and went with the idea of driving further down 200 to the Marshall Pass cutoff. Got there and no Bill? So back to the junction again, with the idea that we’d drive down 285 south and look for him. Well, just as we got there we saw Bill waiting. He did indeed miss the junction and rode down the mt, and then had to climb back up again. 

Did dinner this eve at a little restaurant  and we’re just chilling again in the same little motel in Sagauche as last night. Bill and I love the place due to it’s quaintness and Judy does not like it because of it’s….quaintness. Bill’s idea for the jeep rental paid off, as we’re picking up a little 4WD jeep at half price for tomorrow at 7 AM to drive to the trailhead. So we’ll complete this dag gone collection of segments tomorrow - I hope with no more issues!

Got in 62 miles for the day. Soooooo….. if all goes well tomorrow I’m at the junction of Rt 285 and CR 200, just south of Poncha Pass. If we get rained out tomorrow…..well, I just don’t want to think about leaving another unconnected segment as we had to do in Illinois. Until tomorrow…………Pete


Saturday, July 11: Quite an interesting day to say the least. Now we were a bit on the casual side today seeing that we just had to do the ascent of Hermit Pass, a mere 7 miles up with 5K of gain. So with that in mind, I was able to work a little longer in the morning while Judy and Bill did a coffee run. So then Judy and Bill came back and said there was a pancake breakfast at the Westcliff HS. Ok, I was game, hell, just had to ride 7 miles today….with 5K of gain right?

We go to the HS and it’s vacant? And that’s when Judy asks for the date today. “Is this the 18th,” she asked? And I tell her that today is the 11th. OK, no pancake breakfast then. 

So we go to this little diner across the street, and then wait an eternity for the food to come out. I did the Chicken fried steak with eggs and hash browns. Bill and Judy do the pancakes. But we had to be there for about an hour. I think the guy had to go out and kill a cow before he made my streak. Alright, got that done, went back to the motel and got prepped to go back to yesterday’s start point, junction of CR 159 and Hermit Rd, CR 160. Now today I was going to go with my bigger backpack, so I could get my high mt weather gear in there in addition to my bike repair gear and electronic gear. It turned out to be a fairly stout pack. And off we went. 

So we were told by a seemingly well intentioned guy yesterday that we should be able to drive the van to within a couple miles of the pass, so we were expecting to have some good support for the majority of the ride. BUT, I had my pack packed just in case. Go going, made the turn onto CR 160, Hermit Rd north, and no more than 50 pedal strokes into the road I see this monster puddle in the middle of the road. And I knew damned well that the van was going to have a bit of luck to get through there, what with the light rear end and all. I turned around and rode back to Judy and just had her park where there were some other vehicles parked for this climb. She wouldn’t sniff an inch of that road, not with the puddling on that thing she wouldn’t. Grabbed my pack, and told Judy this could be 3+ hrs, and to just sit tight. 

Bill and I took off and headed up, right from the start. Bill stopped soon thereafter for a bathroom break, and I was on my own. As soon as I went past that puddling, the road just pitched up hard, and the road was pure jeep track, all this unconsolidated rock, along with deep ruts and water flowing down the middle of the track. And I’m thinking, “what the what, how in the hell did that guy think we were even going to go a mile on this mess?” It was just brutal. You need 4WD and high clearance for the whole damned thing. Within another half mile I was bike hiking. Now I’m not a technical mt biking stud like some of my clients (you guys know who you are) but I’m a pretty good climber on back tracks. And I was in my easiest gear - the big pie plate in the back - just spinning like mad, seated and hunched down low, with my arse pressing against the seat to give the rear wheel purchase, but the pitch combined with all the loose rock, cobbles and junk, it was just impossible for me in places. 

I looked down at my garmin and I was about 1 mile into this puppy! I’m thinking, “dude you’re freaking crazy…you’ve got 6 more miles to go!” Ok, so I kind of settled myself down, talking to myself, saying, “you’ve done grunts before, and it’s time to suck it up and get this done. Even at 2 mph you can do this in just over 3 hrs.” So I just pushed the bike at about a 2.4 mph pace in my good mt biking shoes slipping and sliding on the rocks and cobbles. There were places where I could mount the bike and ride for a half mile or so, until I hit the steep sections of unconsolidated crap, and then I was back off the bike. So it was a mix of riding at like 3.4 mph, or bike hiking at 2.4 mph. And my eyes would always wander to the garmin so I could see how far I had to go, how fast I was going, and what the total time was. And I was doing the math in my head the whole time. 

There were some folks who past me on ATC’s and some people in 4WD machines, and they were creeping to. This road, errrr track, is just punishing, and they just barely were going faster than me, maybe like 5-5 mph. Only a couple times did I hit areas where the terrain was gently sloping up, and only twice did I hit a whoop de do. The rest was just unrelenting climbing, where the track doubled for a run-off stream for the snow melt. Past the 5 mile mark in 1:30 hrs, and it just seemed like I was riding and bike-hiking forever. But I kept ticking off the miles, one-tenth at a time. It was as if time was dilated, and moving ever so slowly. On the bike, off the bike, on the bike, off the bike, over and over. Past the 6 mile mark and I was beginning to think I had this licked. Around this time the gradient seemed to back off a bit and I was able to really get in like a half mile at a crack. 

And that’s when it happened….I rode to this nice less rocky side of the track to my left on a punchy little up hill and my front wheel just kind of stopped dead against a biggish rock. Time just stopped as I was balanced there for a couple seconds, and while trying to unclip my right foot I tipped over onto my left side on a slope. “BAM,” as Emeril would say! I was down on my left side. Problem was that since I was in the little cookie and pulling my right leg out of the pedal and falling, all in one motion, I came down with my inside right leg, right above the knee joint, getting raked by the big chain ring. The minute I was able to unclip my left leg so I could stand up, I saw the chuck of flesh kind of peeled back on my right leg. 

No, I did not utter the F-word heard round the world. Not this time. I was silent. I kind of knew that I screwed up, in a not so good way. My first thought was bleeding and how deep was the laceration? The bleeding was minimal, so that was good, but I had a 2-inch chunk of skin flapping, and it was down to the muscle. Ok, so I took my sweat washcloth and did a tight wrap around the flap to prevent dirt and such, and to keep the bleeding to a minimum. Then the next decision…what should I do, turn around and go straight to a med  center in Westcliff, OR since I’m within a mile of topping out finish the damned thing. Well, my decision was based on the bleeding, and my washcloth was not saturated with blood. 

I decided to finish that bastard. So on I went with this pseudo tourniquet around the top of my knee. I guess I was kind of taken by my adrenaline so there was little pain. I did my bike hike, and I’d ride, same as before. Now I got up to above Hermit Lake, and it just continued more like foot trail than 4WD. I mean the trail really narrowed out. By the time I was above Hermit Lake I’d gone the seven miles up, as all the trail guides and ATC guides had said, and I was still what looked like a mile off. That pissed me off for sure. “Ok, I’m this far, I’m going,” I muttered to myself, and on I trudged for the next .85 miles up to 13,045 feet. I took two pictures, and that sucks because I had wanted to scout out the other side for the hiking trail that junctions the pass, and I’d wanted to get the GoPro out and shoot the ascent, but that was it. I figured I’d better get down and get my butt to a med center to see into cleaning the wound and getting stitched up. 

And then the fun began. NOT. This had to be the toughest technical  descent I’ve ever done. And I’ve done a couple dillies in the Black Forest of PA, but this thing was nearly 8 miles of pure shit, of rock garden and unconsolidated rocks and boulders coming out the whazoo - non-stop - and of steep pitches where I had to hang my butt down towards the rear tire - constantly. Now I did feel my right leg gash on this bumpy soul-crusher as I bounced my way down mile after mile. I tried to hug the inside track most of the time, just to make sure that I didn’t take the outside track and then biff it and go sailing down into the pine forests below. But I had to drift from side to side just to avoid the really big cobbles and boulders. Sometimes I even rode right down in the stream in the middle of the track because that was the cleanest line. 

I think I was still on the adrenaline buzz, because I was just in a zone on this descent, wired, where I was fixated on looking ahead and steering through the maze of rocks, lightly hitting the hydraulic disk brakes, which are so touchy that one hard squeeze and you’re doing cartwheels down the track, and focusing on a soft touch on the front steering. You almost had to make your adjustments 50 feet ahead of time so that you can hit the right line without washing the wheels on a last minute move. There were a couple hold-your-breath moments, but I really felt that despite my moderate ability level on this kind of stuff, I did a pretty good job. Those miles just ticked off fast, and before I knew it I was at the 14-mile mark with just a couple miles to go. Those went nice and fast, and bingo bang I was back at the van. Total ride time was 3:36 hrs for just under 16 miles - of which only 7.8 were forward progress for American Dirt. Judy saw the rag tied around my leg and I went into the description of what happened. Took a powerade and ice water and asked them to take me to a med center in Westcliff. 

Got into town to find the med center had closed at noon. So we went to the EMS center just across the street. They told me they could call an ambulance that would take me to Salida, or we could drive. So we were planning on going that way anyway for today, this so we could go up and around the mountain range, then go south, where we could then go up to Hemit Pass from the west side to connect the two segments. So on we went, to the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center. The drive took us an hour across some stunning terrain, including a drive along the Arkansas River west to Salida. Judy and Bill really enjoyed the drive. 

Got checked into the med center by a wonderful lady named Marybeth, and then went into the Emergency waiting room with Judy by my side. The leg really didn’t hurt that bad, it just kind of looked gnarly with a chunk of skin peeled back off the muscle. I have to say that for a very short moment back up there on the mt, I’d though about just washing and disinfecting it myself and then bandaging it up myself, but that soon evaporated when I considered the remainder of the trip it had ahead of me where I’d be sweating, riding through dirt and dust, and just taking way too many chances on getting that infected. So good sense prevailed here. 

An RN by the name of Zak came in and took a look at it, pulling the washcloth with coagulated blood from the wound. “Yup, you’ll need that stitched up,” he remarked. So we waited for a bit there, and then we were moved to one of the  rooms in the Emergency area itself. Had a few more very nice nurses come in to get my info etc, and then in came Kelly, who was doing an internship at the center. She told me she’d be doing the sewing today, under the tutelage 

of Doctor John. Took awhile because just when I came in, so to did several patients who needed attention much more than I. So our wait was about an hour. No problem though, everyone was really friendly and accommodating. Once Kelly was ready to go, she peeped me with a rinsing of the wound, followed by several injections of numbing meds to kill the pain of suturing. Then Doc John came in and supervised the suturing. I’d told them of my plans to keep riding and hiking post stitches, and asked if there was a way for them to stitch me up such that I could still be active with respect to range of motion of the leg. 

Doc John said they could do that. And really, they were just brilliant in working on getting that thing stitched up properly. Kelly was super, and Doc John was very engaging in conversation with me as he was watching the whole operative process like a hawk, offering some advice here and there on how to stitch, anchor etc. I think I even learned a thing or two just listening to them talk about how to best do the stitching for what I had to do once I left the center. And their bedside manors were awesome. Thanks to you both!!!

Now Judy had asked for a couple of restaurants in the area, and Doc John had given us his favorite, but by the time we were done it was after 6 PM. So Bill told us of the Hospital Cafeteria where he’d eaten earlier while waiting for me, so we did that just to save some time. The food was actually pretty good. Then we were back in the van cruising west on Rt 50, and then south on Rt 285 to the town of Sauguache where Bill had reserved a room at a little motel called the Big Valley Motel, close to where I have to start tomorrow to go up the west side of the mts to join up with Hermit Pass. It’s a very tiny town, but the motel is amazing. We love it. It’s so quaint and tidy, a real slice of small town American - just the way I like it. 

So that’s it. Now my sister is quite possibly going to be PO’ed at me for not calling in my injury to her, but honestly - KIM - I didn’t want to bug you or worry you. I’m A-OK. The folks at Heart of the Rockies were wonderful. My only regret is the time we lost today from my injury and the self-pay I’m going to incur for being a dumb-ass. I ended up with 9 stitches, and a prescription for an antibiotic if I begin to sense an infection coming on what with all I’ll be doing in the next three weeks. I’m planning on hiking the Rio Alto trail to Hermit Pass tomorrow, and that’s 14 miles round trip. If I can get some riding in afterwards then I will. If not, I’ll just have to suck it up and be yet another day behind. 

And so American Dirt rolls on……..


Friday, July 10: It’s kind of a love/hate relationship out here in CO. I mean on one side the scenery, the lack of cars, the totally amazing terrain, it’s just spectacular. Then there’s the climbing, and that goes part and parcel here in CO. But on dirt roads it’s exponentially tougher. There are no road-cuts on the backroads - they go up and they go down - and there’s just nothing done to lessen the gradient.  So you undulate over each and every bump, ridge, hogback, and mt. It’s unrelenting and it’s slow going….very slow going! But again, the payoff…, you’re just out there, and I mean WAY the hell out there all by yourself. It’s akin to meditation sometimes! So there it is, I love the area and the spectacular sights, sounds and smells, but there’s a price to be paid for all the beauty! And my legs are proof of the price - they’re pretty smoked. 

Got up at my typical 5 AM, worked a bit and then got ready to ride. Stopped at a Carls and got the proverbial egg & bacon biscuit for the on the road breakfast. We rolled out of Walsenburg at 6:30 and got to yesterday’s end point at about 7:15 - long drive just to get back to that point. Bill began riding with me today, as Judy kind of strained her back climbing yesterday. And she is super bummed about not having the chance to ride again. We were rolling at 7:30. We began at the junction of CR 560 and Rt 69. Had to do about a half mile of asphalt on 69, and then we went L, north on CR 634, and right from the get-go we were climbing, and climbing, and climbing. It was pretty constant, with a top-out followed by maybe a mile or two of steady terrain, kind of flat, and then it was right back to gradual or full on climbing. 

I wear a watch with an altimeter, and I had that fcn on as I was riding today, just watching the elevation go up and up and up. It was amazing to see how you’d just bust it and gain 200 feet, again and again. About 7 miles in we entered Pike-San Isabel National Forest, and that’s when the climbing really got serious. But the views, the scenery, the wildness out there. It was just off the charts spectacular. We eventually got up to about 8500 feet, with the road just this single lane. Now Bill had this car of hikers stop to tell him that a bear had just gone across the road behind him, in front of the their car. Very cool indeed. So we were up on this ridge, and then did a slight descent down to the first turn, a R, west on CR 634.4. I waited there for Bill, and as I was waiting I was kind of scoping out the next road, a single lane of dbl track that seemed to be gated off. 

Once Bill arrived we did the turn on 634.4 and rode just a short piece to find that there were No Trespassing signs all over the gate. And not only that but the gate was locked and there was fencing completely around the area, as far as the eye could see. I was a bit surprised to find that because as far as I knew all these CR - county roads - were public roads. Well, this was a new one, and there was a couple guys working on a cabin just past the gated area, so I wasn’t about to go barging in there and create a stir. So we just turned around. I did know that there was another way around, it’s just that it was adding more mileage to the total of that segment, which was only supposed to be 23 miles. Now we were going to have a really fun time!

So this whole area, I came to find out, is owned by a consortium of ranchers, outfitters and private home owners. That one road I guess has subsequently to a private entry-exit way. For us it would have been a significant shortcut around a mountain climb, and that’s why I had it in the itinerary. Even around all the public roads are signs warning of no trespassing, hunting etc. It’s owned by the Centennial Association, and it’s massive. So anyway, we had to stay on 634, and this puppy really went vertical, snaking up this ridge around and around and around. This was little cookie territory for a solid 2-3 miles, where I was climbing at about 4-5 mph. Finally topped out on this stellar ridge at about 9200 feet. Found our alternative road to get us to Westcliff - Gibbs Dr. Atop this ridge was a stunning view of the Sangre De Cristo mts to the west. I just stood there for about 5 minutes starring at those beautiful mts to my west. All that climbing - well worth it!

Waited a bit for Bill, and as I was waiting I talked with a logger who side we had a 5-7 mile descent back down to Rt 69. Sounded awesome to me, having already logged some 3500 feet of vertical in 20 miles of riding! It’s stupid the amount of climbing you do on the dirt. Bill arrived and was delighted to hear of the long run back down to meet Judy on Rt 69. So we got rolling, just crushing it in sections. Now there were a couple places where we had to climb up over a few poppers, and on one I dropped into the middle ring and hung it up on the front changer. It was locked in there, kind of doubled over on itself. As soon as I did it I totally unclipped and coast to a stop so as to not snap the changer off. Fiddled with it for about five minutes and then as I gently moved the rear wheel, the chain sprang back to normal, having released itself from the changer. Very relieved to see that happen. The ramifications could have been bad. 

The rest of the descent was just moderate angle and fast. Junctioned with Comanche Rd, continued descending, then junctioned with Centennial Ranch Rd and continued descending. We finally reached Judy at the Rt 69 junction with about 3 hrs of riding in for 27 miles of cycling. And I’m telling you, I’m not dogging it. I’m working those climbs and pushing the descents, and it still works out to about 8.5 mph pacing. Took a break at the van where Judy made us some chicken salad sandwiches. Knocked down a powerade and some ice water, and got us all prepped on the next section northwest to Hermit Rd. 

So what I needed to do on this segment is work my way north, paralleling Rt 69. To do this I’d have to do a good bit of zigging and zagging with north, west, north west, etc. I got going, with Judy and bill following me, hoping that the roads would be van worthy. had to do about a mile of pavement on Rt 69 to the first dirt, on CR 106. Went L, west on 106, and not more than a half mile into it, the road went to this real sketchy dbl track thing that there was no way I wanted them and the van on. So I just had them go back to 69 and meet me further up on one of the zigs. Glad I had them go back because this thing was just a jeep track that went through open graze land, with cattle running wild all over the place. Then it dead ended on CR 115, and this was even worse, just rocky, jagged dbl track. Went R, north on 115 for several miles. When I got to my next turn, Bill and Judy were there, having checked out this gravel road and decided it was good to drive on. We all went together on the next gravel, L, west on CR 130. This pup was great gravel road, but it was a steady climb to the west up into the foothills. 

Took a R, north on Colfax Rd and smoked it with a great southerly tailwind. Then I had to do a L, west on CR 140. This guy was asphalt, and I had to do that for about 3 miles - up a very long, steady climb towards the high mts. That was about 8 mph of tough uphill. Then we did a R, north on CR 141 and again, I had this smoking great tail wind. And again, another turn, this one L, west on CR 150, and this one was another tough climb even further into the foothills along the high mts. Now at this point we were both going to go R, north on CR 159, but I feared that the road would just be too rugged for the van, so I had them go back to asphalt and do a long way around to meet me on Hermit Rd, CR 160. 

The climb on 159 was again, well, another of an endless series of climbs, but I managed to get to the junction with Hermit Rd before Bill and Judy. Just waited for them at the junction. Now at this point the time was about 1:45 in the afternoon, and all I had left was to climb for 7 miles, gain 5K in elevation and top out at Hermit Pass, at 13,045 feet. I just didn’t have the gas, the time, and more importantly, the weather to try to go up into the high country so late in the day. So I decided to bag it for the day with 48 miles of riding in and a gain for the day of 4K. 

As we were deciding what to do, to kind of recon Hermit Rd for a bit in the van, I asked a fellow who was going to the pass about the road conditions. He told us that the van could probably go up to within 2 miles of the pass, and after that the road is for high clearance, 4WD vehicles. Good to know. So we headed back down the foothills, about 1K down in elevation, to Westcliff. What we were intending to do, since everything is sold out in Westcliff because of a folk festival this weekend, was to shop for food and then drive 40 miles north to Cotopaxi. There we’d booked a KOA along the Arkansas River. Now none of us were keen on driving 4o miles for the evening and then returning 40 miles tomorrow to start out again. But we had no choice. Out here, it’s slim pickings for lodging and camping. Anyway, got food for camping, and then went to the beer and wine store for some wine and beer. 

The place we shopped at is called Antler Liquor & Motel. Yea, bed and beer! So as we were buying the beverages I jokingly asked the guy if there was a chance in hell that anyone had cancelled on a room at the motel tonight. He told me the whole motel was open. I seriously thought he was joking, having been told by everyone that the town had been booked up for months for the festival. Well, he was indeed serious. Turns out that someone who had booked the whole motel had cancelled today, and all their rooms were available. We jumped on it. 

Now Bill did have to call KOA and cancel the reservation, and they gave he some run around about a 1 week ahead cancelation policy. Bill didn’t take kindly to that, and then they said we could cancel Saturday night, but that they had to fill the reservation tonight or he’d be charged. This is still pending, and I’m pretty sure that this one can be argued to our favor. Heck, he called at 2 PM in the afternoon, at a KOA for God’s sake. We’ll see what develops. But the good thing is that we do not have to roust at 4 AM to make the drive back down here to Westcliff do do a 7 mile ride. 

Went to the local park, cooked dinner on the camp stove - turkey burgers & pork chops - and had a dynamite salad that Judy prepared. And back here we are, just chilling and watching AMC 1940’s movies with Bogy. Tomorrow I just have to climb to Hermit Pass, which I plan on doing in the early morning, and then we’ll drive to the west side, where on Sunday Bill and I will hike the west side up to Hermit Pass to complete that segment. The hike is 7-8 miles on the Rio Alto Trail back up to 13,045 feet at the pass. I’m doing this rather than doing the Hermit Rd climb and then having to bike-hike that 29er down 7-8 miles of foot trail. Takes longer this way, but it’s far better physically and weather-wise. X the fingers for good weather tomorrow morning. I’ll be taking about 15 lbs of gear on my back for the weather up there. Should be interesting!


Thursday, July 9: We all hit the hay at around 9 PM. We were collectively BEAT! Thanks goodness for Bill taking on the role of the “rooster” as he was up bright and early at probably 5:30 AM, while Judy and I lounged until about 5:45. So I had to push to pack and get us on the road so we could drive back down to Pryor, and then do the stint down 310 to yesterday’s end spot. I ended up not eating anything from breakfast, and just hoping a good couple cups of java would carry me through the first segment. 

Now today I was able to convince Judy to do this first segment and ride the 20 miles up to La Veta. She’s been a little hesitant about riding on these mt gravel roads, kind of fearing the climbing and descending that’s involved. But with a little prodding from both Bill and I we were able to convince Jude to give it a shot. So Bill dropped us off on this just stellar blue sky Colorado morning. Wasn’t a cloud in the sky, with temps in the low 60’s and zero wind. This was just beautiful, and my lethargy was soon replaced with a kind of vim and vigor for the day’s riding. 

We went R, west, CR 310 and did a kind of false flat climb up to the junction with CR 320. Went L, south on 320, and just floated along through a series of climbs and descents with this crazy beautiful scenery. Judy was on cloud 9, really loving the views. For this I was really happy. I’m kind of giving up a bit on the volume and distance, but it’s so worth it watching her enjoy this riding. I tried to just keep the pace mellow, especially on the climbing. Actually she was way better on the climbs than the descents. She’s pretty much of a chicken poop on the descending, so I’d be waiting for 3-5 minutes at the bottoms of the climbs. Again, no biggie there, as it was so worth it to get her out there experiencing what I experience each and every day. Now she did tell me that I was bloody crazy, not her exact words, riding X country on this stuff as we finished each and every climb 

So 320 kind of swung around to a westerly trend and then we junctioned with  CR340. Went R, north, along Bear Creek for more just stunning scenery. I’m telling you what, I’ve ridden either through or traversed CO on asphalt 2X now, and though this is just gut busting hard, this gravel stuff, the trade-off is just so worth it by doing the gravel. There is almost zero traffic, and the sights and sounds and smells are just awesome. So I was really happy to have Judy experience this. We stayed with 340 for a good bit, doing a really solid climb up to the junction with CR 350. We went R, west on 350 and took that for a nice, long descent into La Veta where Bill was waiting for us. That section was 20 miles, and took us about 2 hrs to complete. 

I just had to get a bite to eat, so I wandered over to a little grocery and bought some crab salad, went back to the van and made 3 sandwiches. Downed some water and then got the next section rolling with Bill as my riding partner. We had to do a 1 mile section of pavement on Rt 12 out of La Veta, which by the way is a pretty cool little town, climbed out of the valley, and then took a L on CR 410. This was s stiff little gravel climb up to the junction with Rt 160, where we went L on asphalt for about a half mile, and then went L on CR 520 north. 

This pup was a super highway from a gravel perspective, wide, dbl lane and so packed down that it was like riding on concrete for a bit. But whoa, the climbing was just ferocious, with some crazy hard little ring climbs. So some of the sections were super fast descents with long flats, and then you’d hit these long, gradual climbs with a nasty little ring kicker at the end. We kind of separated half way through this road, and I had my gps on, and I knew that we had a L on CR 530 somewhere up the road. So I kind of just peddled on. Must have been the line crew on the road doing some line work that distracted me because I just kept peddling. And then, like 2 miles down the road I ran into this herd of cattle, some longhorn, blocking the road. I had to get off the bike and kind of yell at them to move. I didn’t what to ride too close for fear of having the big guys with the horns come out at me. These guys were pretty freaked and just stampeding in every which direction. Did a long descent and that’s when I realized that something wasn’t right, because there was this sign for Bandito. So I got the map out and realized that I’d passed the turn. 

Was pretty bummed to tell Bill of my gaff, but we had no choice, we had to turn around, do the climb and pass the damned cattle herd again. The climb sucked because I knew we really didn’t need to do it, and I was so mad at myself that the cattle in the middle of the road again, well, I just yelled at them and rode on by. They were just crazy, running in every which direction. Poor Bill having to do that climb and then deal with the cattle again!

So we got back to the spot where we should have turned, on CR 530. Turns out that the guys were doing line work there and the sign, it was broken and set off to the side against a fence, so I’d just spaced it as I rode by. Made the turn onto 530 and began another serious session of climbing and descending. It was just getting tougher and tougher as we rode on. And one of the climbs on this road was just a ^$^# buster! Add to that the fact that we had to ride in these massive tire ruts from when the roads were muddy. They were just crusted and rock hard. Get out of the line, and buddy you’re headed for a biff! We junctioned with CR 531, and went R on that, a road that looked like a dbl track access road. This thing held another just crushing climb, followed by more “frozen” ruts you had to ride in. Now I didn’t mind the descents on this 531, but Bill ended up walking them. A couple of these were just super steep and rocky, where you really had to keep your butt way back off the rear tire so as not to do and endo. Welcome to American Dirt Colorado!

Now along the way, I ran into a rancher who was trying to round his cattle up on our wonderful CR 531. Talked to him for a short bit kind of confirming my intended route to Gardner, CO. I apologized for scattering his cattle as I rode by, and he was pretty cool, telling me it happens with trucks just the same, so no harm. He confirmed my route, and I was quite happy to hear that based on Bill beginning to fade a bit with all the climbing and the real ratty road surfaces. This was TOUGH riding indeed. Stayed with 531 to the junction with CR 540, then went L, west on 540. And just like the last slew of roads, this one to had some tough climbing and some wild ass descending. I’ve had my fastest speeds of the whole trip on this day, topping out at about 35 mph on a couple of the gravel descents. And this was some pretty rocky, rutted out crap. 540 eventually trended north with a really long false flat. Finally hit the CR 560 junction, where I got off the bike, and made this big arrow in the dirt pointing to the north for Bill, this so I could ride ahead, get Judy and then go back and pick Bill up. Went R, north on 560 and took this all the way down to the junction with Rt 69, just west of Gardner, CO. 

And that was the day, with me getting in 57 miles of riding and nearly 5K of climbing. Good thing was that all three of us got to ride, especially Judy. Very nice to share the experience with Judy and Bill. Wish I had more partners to ride with out here. It’s super hard riding but amazingly rewarding. 

So tomorrow is going to be a very long day….we cannot locate any camping or lodging at all in Westcliff, our endpoint for tomorrow, so we had to book a KOA way the hell up to the north along the Arkansas River. Turns out there’s a bluegrass festival in Westcliff this weekend, and there isn’t a motel room to be had. It’s just in such a remote location that we had to look this eve for alternative places, and this one, the KOA, some 40-50 miles to the north, is the closest we could find to Westcliff. Sucks!

So if I have no wifi tomorrow night and Saturday night you’ll know why - because we’re a gazillion miles from nowhere! Maybe the KOA will have complementary internet? 

Dinner….we cooked on the grill again (and I consumed about the same as yesterday), and we had to book the Anchor Motel again in Waldenburg due again, to nothing available in Gardner. Did the motel gig because of the weather, where it just rained and hailed like nobodies business from about 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM. And again, looks like another bout of storming is going to hit us this eve. The clouds just build over the day, and then all hell breaks loose in the late afternoon to early evening. Been watching for severe storm warnings on TV for the last 3 hrs. Right now just enjoying an ice cold Black Butte Porter. Cheers…….pete


Wednesday, June 8: Don’t like finishing a ride at 5:30 PM like we did last night. Just makes for a short, tough night and then the fun starts all over again the next day. It’s like there’s no transition from ride to ride. With the earlier starts and finishes, we have more time to just unwind and relax, to kind of recharge for the next day. But I’m happy I got that darned 40-mile section in yesterday despite the late start/late finish. We went straight from the ride to this little barbecue place on the west side of Trinidad. I just put my shorts over my sullied cycling garb and went in to eat. To tell you the truth, I was so tired from driving and riding that I was not feeling that “bitch hungry” thing going on. No, it was more a matter of just getting some food in the belly and hitting the rack. Did a pulled pork sandwich, fries and slaw and that was it. I think we were all feeling the effect of driving/riding. Went back to Super 8, had a couple New Castle Brown Ales and it was lights out. The three of us hit the hay at 9 PM and slept like logs!

Got up late, for me, at like 5:45 AM. Did the coffee thing for Judy and then began a work session on my computer until Jude was done doing a walking workout. Ate a meager Continental Breakfast and then we were on the road to our finish spot from yesterday’s ride. Bill had decided to bag the first leg of the ride today and save his energy for the climbing once we hit the foothills to the Rockies. So they dropped me off for what I figured and measured was a 18-mile ride to the foothills. I Xed over Rt 160 and got on 81 Rd and rode gravel along the top of the Purgatoire River valley for about 3 miles to the northeast, then dropped down and Xed the river, came around the other side and went L, southwest, on 75.1 Rd to El Moro. 

Next up was a R, north on 75 Rd for a long, long stint. This was a mess in places as some trucks had drove on the road right after the rain last night, so the road was rutting with these deep ruts and furrows. I rode on the periphery to keep out of the mud and ruts. Then I came to a Road Closed sign for 75. Just kept going. I figured that I’d be able to surmount any closure that lay ahead. And I was right. An Arroyo bridge was out, but there was this baja track down and up and over it, which I rode with zero issues. Then I was back to riding north on this long, lonely one lane stretch of gravel for another 6 miles. Out to the west about 4 miles to my left, I could see the traffic on I-25, which I was paralleling. 

Finally got to 52 Rd, and went L, west. This was a rutted mess from a few trucks driving on it while it was wet. So I really had to stay to the far left of the track or to the far right. My only issue was that I was VERY close to the vegetation, and any potential sandbur issues. This was another LONG false flat. By this time I knew that I would be much longer than the time I’d told Judy and Bill. But hey, nothing to do but just ride. The crappy rutted out stuff finally ended with about another 3 miles on 53. Next up with a L, west, on 63.2 Rd, which was labeled 61.3 Rd. But I was so close to the meeting point with Judy and Bill that I went that way nonetheless. Once I did that L, my gps did indeed tell me I was on 61.3. Made it to our meeting point about 30 min late and 7 miles further than I had bargained for. Had to ride this half mile section section of asphalt up and over I-25 to meet up with Judy and Bill at the Ludlow Exit 27. 

Did a very quick stop. Bill was ready to go, and we both knew, what with the weather looking pretty iffy, that this could be a BAD deal if the weather deteriorated. Here on the front range of CO it’s been really unstable weather-wise, with a big increase in the rain. They call it the summer monsoon out here, with rain occurring early to mid afternoon every day, and some of the storms are very heavy. As we were getting ready to roll you could just see the heavy cloud build up to the west, right where we were headed. This caused me to make a mid-course adjustment, a kind of “bail out” stop just in case we were getting ourselves into some severe weather. 

Without the bail out stop our route would be some 47-50 miles on gravel mountain roads with zero support opportunities. But I figured that we could cut this down to about 35 miles if we exited the route and instead rode 5 miles on CR 310 to meet back up with Judy at Pryor, at Exit 42 off of I-25. Then, if the weather was good, and we still had more gas in the tank, we could go back and continue the rest of the route to La Veta. Maybe, if 310 was a good road, we could even have Judy drive us back to where we exited our route. This sounded way more palatable than taking a chance with the weather and just gutting out the whole thing in rain and/or thunder storms. Bill was good with the change, and honestly I felt a bit better to knowing that we had that in the cards. Meanwhile, Judy would go to Walensburg to shop for camping supplies while we were riding, and then to back to Pryor to meet up with us. I told Judy we could be 3 hours on this section. So we all set our watches and Bill and I were off. 

The first 2 miles west on 44 Rd were paved, and again, I just rode pavement rather than risk the sandburs and goatheads. Then 44 went gravel and dirt, and it began climbing like heck! There were sections which were still muddy and rutted from the prior days rain. So the riding was laborious and slow on this mushy roadbed. At times the climbing was unrelenting and switchbacky. A lot of this was middle and little ring climbing. Sometimes I could muster no more than 5-6 mph. And thank God for my gps with the CO/UT micro SD card, because there were a few junctions that could just befuddle the heck out of you. In addition to my gps I took pages from my CO Gazetteer just for insurance, and that really helped to. 

Now some 10 miles in I found that I could not shift into my little ring, so while I was waiting at a junction for Bill I fiddled with the thing for a good 15 minutes. Finally figured out that if I rotated the barrel on my front shifter cable I could get the chain to drop into the little ring again. Something must have changed or gotten jostled such that I couldn’t get into the little ring. I may have even inadvertently changed it as I was riding. Nonetheless, I was relieved to have that little ring back. As I was fiddling with the front changer rain had begun, and I could hear thunder storms off to the northwest. Not good! Bill arrived and we continued through a maze of unmarked junctions to our next turn, a R onto CR 43.7. The rain gradually died down and the sun actually came out for a short stint. 

This 43.7 was a main thoroughfare so to speak for a dirt road, and it goes up to the town of Aguilar, so it must get a ton of traffic compared to the other muddy, rutted out stuff we’d been riding. This thing was packed down like a dirt race track. It eventually changed to pavement for just a short stretch before we made our turn, L, west, on CR 50.9. This pup was a stiff climb on single lane gravel, followed by a stiff descent. So we’d climb up to about 71K and then descend back down to like 66K. We’d do this several times during the ride. Next was a R on CR 45.4, and again, another stiff climb followed by a big descent. By this time we were well into the foothills of the Rockies. 

We then turned L, west on CR 54.2, and began riding up into Mauricio Canyon. Ditto….more climbing and descending. Next came a R, north, on CR 41.4, and this guy had the stiffest climb of the day. Thank goodness I’d gotten that front changer to drop into the little cookie, or else I’d still be out there hoofing it up that guy. We changed counties and thus the road names changes, so 41.4 changes to CR 313. We good this to another big multi-road junction that my gps had dialed in quite well, and we eventually got on CR 315.1, and climbed again. Are you punch drunk from all the road changes so far? I was. 315.1 went into 315 and we took that to a dead end into CR 310. And as you might remember, 310 was our bail out road. 

Well, back on that crippling little climb on 41.4, both Bill and I decided that our day would be done by just taking 310 back to meet up with Judy at Exit 42 off of I-25. I just didn’t have the legs to go that extra 15-20 more miles from that point up to La Veta. So we made the R, east on 310 and rode a blazing descent down to the little town of Pryor. We’d taken some 4 hrs to ride just under 40 miles, and damn did I feel it. Met up with Judy, loaded the bike and we were done. I ended up with 62 miles for the day with about 3500 feet of climbing. Bill was toast to!

So we headed to the town of Walsenburg and got a cheap motel because the weather forecast for this evening is for rain and potential thunderstorms. And since Judy had bought all this food to cook out for camping, we went to the town park in Walsenburg and cooked dinner under an enclosed picnic area on our camp stove. Had some turkey burger, dogs and a super nice salad that Judy prepared. During the cookout, we got some rain, but nothing that was really threatening. 

Now I’ve had one of my blog readers, JimO, ask for more details on my eating habits. And I’ve been kind of leaving those out on this trip because I’d thought that you folks were not interested…BUT I will start to give you more of my food intake specifics…Soooo I had 2 burgers, 3 dogs, and about 1.5 lbs of salad. Toss in several handfuls of potato chips and that was about the story there. Now subsequently, Judy did make us this wonderful Devils Food Cake with milk, strawberries and blue berries. And add several New Castle Ales on top of that. So there you go JimO!!

Well, I’m going to have another beer and just yank this bloody computer from my lap and relax. I’m done working for the day. Late…Pete


Tuesday, July 7: Left Drew’s today around 8 AM for the long drive back down to Trinidad. We just had a super time there in Denver with Andrew, and we - Judy, Bill & I - were feeling a bit sad to hit the road. But I had to get this show going again, and I am really hoping that Drew can steal away for a weekend and join us for some riding while we’re here in CO. On the way back down I-25 to Trinidad we stopped at a Performance Bike in Colorado Springs so I could buy some backup tires and tubes, and get a new rear tire for Judy’s 26er. I also got a new pair of mt biking gloves to replace the one I lost way back in Illinois. Those darned gloves really take the sting out of a long bumpy day. 

The whole ride down was in this kind of white-out of low cloud cover. Sometimes we were in a light drizzle, and other times it looked as if the day would clear up. This just continued all the way to Trinidad, and then once we turned onto 160 east to head to where I left off last Saturday, a light rain began. Was looking like this was going to be a battle just to get 40 miles in today. Then, when we turned south on 389 to Branson, the darned rain dwindled off to nothing. By the time we got there the weather actually looked way more promising. 

Now I’m not fond of getting the ball rolling on a ride starting at nearly 2 PM, but I really wanted to get this section out of the way so I could kind of get back on a schedule here. We needed to be done with this so tomorrow we can begin climbing into the mts. So this ride today was more out of necessity than anything else. And I really did NOT feel like getting on the bike after spending 4+ hrs in the car and catnapping along the way. But the good thing is that I’d have Bill as company today, so that would hopefully make the ride go faster. 

On the way down I’d checked out the weather report for Trinidad, and it wasn’t too promising, calling for 60% chance of rain this afternoon, with the winds out of the SE at 8-10 mph. I knew that the elevation gain/loss for today was net loss if we went from east to west, and gain west to east. BUT, the wind out of the SE, I thought it would be faster to go back to Branson and ride west just as in the itinerary, so we went with that plan. We changed there at the beginning of the ride, 6.8 Rd, and downed a couple muffins, a PBJ, and some Fig Newtons and got rolling. Judy would drive back to Trinidad, get a motel and some supplies, and then come back to our end point at the junction of Rt 160 and 81.5 Rd. Bill and I got rolling at about 1:50 Pm. Right from the get-go we were cruising, and I do mean cruising, at like 15-18 mph with that tailwind. 

Our route was just out in the middle of nowhere. I mean this was a remote section for sure - 40 very remote miles. Bill was loving it from the very start. And I was pretty jazzed what with the fast start and the great road. The past several day’s on and off rain had wet the dirt/gravel down a bit, so we had to ride in these tire tracks for a bit. Then when we got 4-5 miles in, the road dried out well enough such that it looked like it had never rained out there. That’s when we were able to just crush it at over 20 mph. So for a day where I just didn’t feel like riding, I was loving it. And to make it even better, we were actually riding down elevation for a good portion of this, with a roller in there just to keep us honest. Went through this little nothing of a town called Trinchera where the road changed to 8.8 Rd. This town was more of a ghost town, with old vestiges lingering like a condemned filling station and several commercial buildings. There was a PO, but that appeared closed. 

Our first hour’s average was nearly 15 mph. That’s when we hit a pretty long little climb, round about 2 miles of gradual climbing up and over a small ridge, and then back down to fly again for several miles. By the time the road had changed yet again to 105.5 Rd, we looked as if we were going to be finishing this thing way quicker than the 2.5 to 3 hrs that I’d told Judy. And right about then I made a gaff on the directions…when I came to this T where 105.5 junctioned with 22 Rd. I knew we were to get on 22, but not by going right. But right we went, and it dogged me to such an extent that I stopped several times to check my gps and my hand written directions. 

Those directions said nothing about a right on 22. Rather I should just be going straight, as if 105.5 turned into 22. So I stopped a second time, and now it was raining a light rain, so each time I tried to manually use the touchscreen to check the directions, I couldn’t get the screen to move with all the rain droplets on the touchscreen. So it just kept rebooting back to the original spot, rather than allow me to scroll up to where I needed to go to check out the eventual tracks next junction. I knew I needed to junction with 81.5 Rd. 

So I decided that we should at least go back on 22 to this ranch we’d past to maybe see if someone could confirm or deny my suspicion. When we got back there a gate was chained shut, and it had a “Beware of Dog” sign on it. Nope, not jumping that puppy!

So I got my cell out and luckily it had a signal so I could use the map app. Found that I was right in turning back, and that 105.5 turns into 22 going NW, so we should have gone straight at the T. That cost us a good 3+ miles and way too much stop time. So we went back to the T and continued on 22. The rain kind of died out for a bit, but the tailwind was gone and we began this long gradual false flat climb towards Trinidad. 

Again, the weather began to look threatening, with this low hanging crap looming right in front of us to the northwest. It was at this point, with about 10 miles to go in the ride that I decided to put it down and try to beat any potential rain. Dropped down to the middle ring for this climb along the way, and then for some reason I was not able to shift back up to the big ring. It was if the shifter had locked up on me. I jiggled the cables, jiggled the shift lever, and I kind of tapped the front derailleur with my toe, but nothing. It was just locked up. Now with the rain looking imminent, I kind of started to get a bit antsy there, wondering if the actual shift system was buggered up. I finally got off the bike and kind of fiddled around with the rear derailleur manually with my hand, and be darned if there wasn’t a pebble lodged in-between the spring mechanism. Got it out and the shifter was as good as new. And that was a major sigh of relief. 

I waited for Bill at the junction of 22 and 81.5 Rd. Told him I was going to put the pedal down to beat the rain, because the drizzle had already begun and the low cloud cover on the horizon was looking even worse. Did the last several miles at about 17-18 mph, with the road surface getting tacky, throwing sand and gravel in my face. Got up to near our meeting point with Judy just about the time I saw her pulling out and going east on 160. At that point we were about 15 minutes later than the worst case arrive times I’d given her, so I was guessing that she was going down 160 to a different place. 

Caught her just in time as she was indeed going somewhere else. She’d already drive 5 miles down 81.5 Rd, and hadn’t seen us, so she we worried that she was in the wrong meeting spot. Thankfully I caught her in the nick of time, cuz the drizzle had turned to a steady rain, and the road was just getting even muddier and tackier. 

We drove back down the road a mile and picked up Bill, and that was the end of the ride today. I finished with 42 miles, 3+ of which were ‘wrong turn”miles. Went back to Trinidad and went straight to this little barbecue place, ate some dinner, and then came back to the Super 8. It’s looking pretty bad out there right now, with the same low hanging cloud cover. 

Really hoping that this rain system stops fast otherwise my ride on dirt and gravel tomorrow could be muddy, slow and ugly. Really want to make La Veta on Wednesday, and Westcliff on Thursday. Then take the weekend to make it over Hermit Pass west. I’ll be Xing my fingers tonight! 


Monday, July 6: Judy, Bill and Drew were lucky to get an early morning 28-mile ride in on the Cherry Creek hike and bike before the rain began. Then it rained darned near the whole day here in Denver, that along with a major shift in the temps downward. So I guess we picked the perfect time to relax. I had to get some maintenance stuff done with the van, so I took it to a Big O Tire here on Colfax Ave. - just really convenient location for me. In addition to getting an oil change and tire rotation, I wanted to have the alignment checked. I’ve begun to notice some uneven wear on the right side front. So I got this coupon for a free alignment check, and without leading them on to what I’ve seen, I wanted to see if they’d come up with the same conclusion as me. Well, their printout confirmed that I was indeed right - needed an alignment. 

We had driven the 5 blocks to Big O from Drew’s house, then left the van there, and walked back to the house. Van was there for about 4 hours while we just hung out indoors. It was kind of like a monsoon out there from the better part of those 4 hours. Then got the van, shopped for groceries and back to Drew’s to make some dinner. Judy, Bill & I kind of played “Suzie Homemaker” while Drew was at work, collectively making a dinner for Chimichuri Shrimp along with a Black Pepper Steak stir-fry. 

Watched a movie after dinner and that was the day. Today Judy, Bill & I head back down to Trinidad to restart the American Dirt route through Southwest CO. Judy and Drew are doing a ride right now, so we’ll probably got on the road at 10 AM or so. That means a short day in the saddle when we get back down there. I’m hoping the weather holds and we’re able to do the section from Branson to Trinidad, which I calculate to be about 35-40 miles. Then we’ll get going with full riding days on Wednesday. 

Short blog here. But hey, it’s hard to turn a down-day into some kind of epic event! I honestly don’t even like blogging about days like Sunday and Monday, down-days. Reminds me too much of the theme of the old Seinfeld Show - a show about nothing. In our case, it’s two days about nothing. This is why I don’t EVER have a regular blog about my daily life when I’m not doing a trip. Who the hell wants to hear me drone on and on about nothing? I certainly don’t think my daily life is “blog worthy”, and tell you what….I don’t think anyone’s daily life is blogworthy. That kind of blogging reminds me too much of someone’s silly self-indulgence in themselves, like we should all really give a shit about him/her. This is also why I don’t Twitter, Tweet, Instagram, Facebook, nor all the other ridiculous self-indulgent nonsense that’s available to the masses nowadays in the wonderful world of cyberspace. Yea, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool  Old Fart…and I’m going to keep it that way! Talk to you later……..Pete


Sunday, July 5: First of our two-day R & R stint in Denver at Drew’s house. And just like yesterday, that internal clock would not let me sleep beyond 5:30 AM no matter how much I wanted to sleep in late. Right now Judy, Andrew & Bill are doing an early morning ride out to the Cherry Creek Reservoir. I on the other hand, I just want to go “binkingless” for the second day, although we did ride a couple miles yesterday to do breakfast at one of Andrew’s favorite little haunts. I forget the name of the place, but I’d eaten the Breakfast Burrito there last year when I came out to do recon, and it’s a winner. Ditto this second time around. 

Again, I’m a day late in posting, but it just feels so good to be off the schedule for this short stint. Yesterday was more a matter of getting everything back in order again. I totally cleaned that poor van out, using the vacuum to pull out weeks worth of dust, sand and gravel, and wiping down the interior with wet wash rags. Then I pulled out gear that I’ll be storing here at Drew’s for the remainder of our trip. The canoe stays here, same for the collapsable bike. The 26er mt bike is staying here (taking a chance here but so far that 29er is making it work in sandbur country) more because Bill will be with us and we need room for his 29er duelie. Also leaving a cooler and bin filled with canoe gear. Repacked the van with three people’s worth of gear and that gig was done. 

Then I moved on to changing the bars back out on my 29er, taking off the sawed off shorties that I had Steve make me for the narrow trail and bushwhack riding back in OH, IN, and IL. I put the regular longer bars back on. And whoo, what a wonderful feeling to have my shoulders opened back up again. No more “cramped” feeling on the bars. While Bill and I were doing all this busy work with van and bikes, Drew had taken Judy out for a nice ride on the Cherry Creek Bike and Hike trail. Made me feel pretty good to see Judy out there having some fun for a change, and she remarked later in the day that she actually felt like she was on a vacation for once. THAT is how much of a grind this trip has been on her! And as I’ve said several times in the blog here, I think what she’s been doing is equally as hard as what I’ve been doing. That why I had decided to take 2 days off rather than just one. One day away from American Dirt is just like a “taster”. It’s just so fleeting. Two days at least gives you a bit more breathing room. 

I do have to take the van in today for an oil change, and I’m going to get the alignment checked. I’ve got a right front tire that seems to be wearing a bit more on the outer edge than the left front. I just want to make sure there’s no alignment issues here. Kind of holding my breath on this one as I did with that wheel-bearing issue, hoping that I don’t have any worn or trashed ball joints or bushings. BUT, it really needs to be done if only to give me peace of mind. God, it’s SO much easier just riding across the country unsupported! Those were the good old days. This supported thing just has a myriad of issues that muddy the waters when all you want to do is ride a bike. 

I cooked up a Thai spaghetti dinner last evening after we watched the Women’s World Cup Finals down at the Abby Pub, a nice little local watering hole three blocks from Drew’s house. With the help of Judy and Drew the grillmeister, we had a great dinner out on his patio. And that was pretty much the day. I’ll sign off for now. Hope everyone had a great 4th this past weekend, and I look forward to seeing all my family, friends and clients 4 wks down the road from now. Take care……Pete


Saturday, July 4: First, I hope everyone had a happy holiday  yesterday. I’m a day late in writing this blog, as I sit here right now it’s Sunday morning. We’re in Denver at Drew’s house, and as usual Judy and I were up at 5 AM. Funny how the body get used to a rhythm, resets to that rhythm, and then you’re dialed in. Normally, back home, I was always up at 6 AM, but on this trip 5 AM has been the norm, and now no matter how much I want to sleep in….that internal alarm goes off and there I am, up at 5 AM on a day where I don’t have to do a damned thing! I so wanted to just sleep until ?????, but nope, here I am at the computer just as if I were getting ready to ride at 7 AM.

Oh well. So, yesterday was kind of like a broken up day - half for riding/half for travel. I’d decided Friday evening, as we were relaxing at Tequila’s restaurant in Trinidad (AMAZINGLY GOOD FOOD) that rather than do this ugly grunt push on Saturday to finish the segment to Trinidad, which would be 80+ miles, that instead I just do half of the segment and then use the early afternoon to drive to Drew’s house in Denver. This so we’d arrive at a decent hour - like mid afternoon - rather than at 8 or 9 PM that night. 

Honestly, I did this as much for me as I did for Judy. Right now I’m pretty cooked mentally and physically. The grind of two months on the road with this trip is definitely starting to take it’s toll on me. It’s so different than my prior 4 trans continental trips. On this one there just does not seem to be a stretch of days where I can relax and just enjoy the pure pleasure of riding, which to me can be like this joyful, spiritual experience. Nope, on this trip there’s always the coordinating of the segments for both bike and van, there’s the planning of where we’ll end up and where we’ll stay, there’s the worries of sandburs, of roads that don’t exist, of roads that are unridable, of Judy getting lost, stuck or getting into an accident through no fault of her own, and then there’s my work, my job, and doing my best to put in the quality time at that in-between all this extraneous stuff. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for sympathy here, because for one, I signed up for this detail, and two, I do have this wonderful freedom to do what I’m doing, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world….BUT if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that no matter who you are and what you do, life’s just not always blue skies and a bowl of cherries. All that extraneous stuff, the tough stuff, that bad stuff, the tedious stuff, well, that’s to be expected. It makes the good times great, and the memories greater! And that’s kind of what I tell people about this American Dirt trip….most of it is NOT fun, most of it is NOT enjoyable, most of it is a test! The fun comes when if and when I finish this thing. The fun is knowing that I had the wherewithal to complete the task. The fun is “passing the test!”  

So with that being said, I kind of took a more casual approach to yesterday’s riding, knowing that we had a wonderful couple of days ahead of us where we could just relax at Drew’s house in Denver, recharge, and then get after it again. We left the hotel in Trinidad at about 7 AM, with the dread of making that 60-mile drive back to the east on Rt 160 to pick up where I left off on Friday - out in the middle of nowhere at the junction of 185 Rd on 26 Rd. So we’re kind of jabbering away as Judy’s doing the drive, and inadvertently we go straight at this road junction where we should have taken a right onto 160. We ended up going about 14 miles to the north before I realized that we goofed up. So there was a half hour out the door. 

Got back on track, took 160 east and suddenly I was looking at about a 9 AM start time for riding, not exactly what I’d envisioned for a “mellow & short” day in the saddle. I want to do this grunt section, about 35-40 miles from Branson, CO to Trinidad with about 400-500 feet of elevation gain, when we come back from our micro-vacation in Denver, so on this day I did a segment backwards - from Branson east to the middle of nowhere junction. Part of my decision for the backwards ride was the wind direction - stiff and gusty out of the southwest. I figured that if I rode that backwards I’d have a little relief from the headwind stuff and made the half day easier…plus I might benefit from riding DOWN elevation rather than up as I’d been doing for the past 4 days. 

We got to Branson, this little place that’s damned near a ghost-town, and I got going on 4 Rd. The legs just felt like cement pillars. I mean they were just so tired and lifeless. BUT I had this amazing tailwind to kind of jumpstart me along. So after about 2 miles I felt pretty dang good. Judy drove behind me in the van. Now my only worry was from that storm we’d got caught in yesterday. It had left the road muddy in sections. There were still some standing puddles, and there were some pretty deep tire ruts from the folks who had driven on the road when it was pretty soaked on Friday. So Judy had to kind of maneuver around these. Really though, we were good, despite the fact that I worried that just maybe, just maybe around every corner, or at the bottom of every roller there’d be this giant mud-fest that the van couldn’t drive through, where she’d either have to turn around and take a long, long way around, or that we get that thing stuck. 

There were a couple times where the van kind of did a little spinner on some tacky spots. I smoked that first 4 mile section what with the tailwind and the down elevation riding. Next up was a L, north, on 147 Rd. Now this was a 10-mile section where again, I kind of worried about Judy and the van with the wet spots on the road from Thursday’s rain storm. That to was ok. On this section I absolutely killed it, going around 15-18 mph with the aid of the tailwind and the reverse elevation. Before I knew it I was done with the 10 miles, and at the 14-mile mark as was a mere 48 minutes into the ride. Sweet! So we ended up at the junction of Rt 160 east and 147 Rd.

So next came the part I just didn’t look forward to - the very real possibility of riding on pavement. Now this was the one section where I had one, and only one option to avoid pavement. And I knew that would be the case as long as a year ago when I did recon on this thing via maps, and Google Earth. I could connect KS to Trinidad, CO on almost exclusively on gravel and dirt except for this measly 12-mile section. I could NOT find anything in between this 12-mile section of Rt 160 except for a faint dbl track I saw on Google Earth. It kind of ran parallel to 160 and looked more like ATC track than any kind of established road, but God knows when that map was made and if that track even existed anymore. Well, soon enough I found that where the track should have come out, about a mile before the 147 junction with Rt 160, there was nothing to my right, not even a slightest hint of a track - not single, not dbl, not even a hiking trail. And I saw nothing in that last mile of 147. There was NO track there now, at least from the 147 end. 

Decision was made, I had to ride pavement to get to my next established gravel road. And there was just no, absolutely NO way I could ride berm on this road….because no berm existed. It was simply vegetation meets pavement, and in many spots the vegetation was winning, by hanging over the roadway some 5-12 inches in places. Not only that but this stuff was just gruesome, consisting of knee to chest high thistles, cacti, weeds, sunflowers, and of course sandbur plants. The “berminator” card was out for this one. And you know what? I really wasn’t that bummed. Hell, I’d gotten away with the berminator card for over two thousand miles. I was pretty dang lucky in most cases. This time my luck had finally run out. This would be my longest continuous section of pavement riding since I started the trip, and that ain’t bad when you think about the distance from Lewes, DE to 60 miles east of Trinidad, CO!

Got going on 160 east over all these whoop-de-do rollers. I’d just hammer going down and let the momentum carry me back up and over the top. Managed to hit my fastest speed for the trip on this stretch, some 30 mph going downhill pedaling as hard as I could. Finished that section in very quickly, while at the whole time looking off to my right to see if that damned little ATC track was out there. Never saw a thing. Ok, so up next I was a R, south, on 169 Rd. This was a single lane sandy dirt road that I did not want Judy on, just too narrow with few places to turn around if trouble lay ahead. So I had her drive down the road to where I’d eventually come out. 

Started out going south and hit a brick wall what with that southwesterly headwind. I mean it felt like I had a hand against me the whole time. Next was a turn L, west, on 26 Rd. Felt much better with the wind kind of this cross tailwind. And then I came to this unmarked Y in the road. Funny thing was this wasn’t on the map. Now my gps, the Garmin Edge, told me that both ends of the Y were 26 Rd????? What the what? But the right fork really seemed to go up into this ridge, and the left fork seemed to go parallel with 160, about 3-4 miles to the north. I saw a truck heading east on 160 so I kind of had good bearing on where I was, so I went with the left fork, went down this kind of gnarly rock garden of a descent then back up and around a small abandoned ranch, and finally around this big ridge. Boom, I was, according to my gps, still on 26, and I was definitely headed east. Past a couple junction roads that I knew I was supposed to pass, and that was that. The rest of the ride I just cruised on 26 past these blooming cacti out in the vastness of Comanche National Grassland. Judy met me at Thursday’s end point and the day was done. I’d gotten 40 miles in for the day and connected the route all the way west to Branson. Time to get the heck out of there and go to Denver. 

Judy had this idea of taking a “shortcut” to get back on I-25, which involved going north on Rt 109 and then west on Rt 50 to junction with I-25. I vetoed the idea telling her that I’d rather go back to Trinidad and then go 75 mph on I-25 out of Trinidad rather than putts around through all those small towns along 109 and 50 for 50-60 miles. In my view - her way was shorter but slower; while my way was longer but faster. She wasn’t happy with the veto! And she made it a point to get Drew involved in the dispute when we got to Denver. Drew, the good lawyer that he is, declined to take a side. But between you and me - he winked at me as if to say: “yea, you did the right thing Pete.” I can say this feeling safe, because Judy does not read the blog but for once every 3 wks. 

Made it to Drew’s in about 3 hrs drive time, through some pretty stiff thunder storms in Colorado Springs. When we got there Drew was at his fitness club swimming so Judy and I just pulled out our camp chairs, set up on his porch, and had beer and wine. While watching that same thunder cell move into the Denver metro area for a second drenching storm. About an hour later Drew rolled in and did a wonderful grill session for our dinner, making us some swordfish & salmon fillets, and beef burgers with pineapple. Topped that off with a salad and we were golden - wonderful, relaxing evening. 

So that’s it for yesterday. I’ll post later this evening on what went down today. I will say that my bud Bill from Ohio is joining Judy and I for part or all of the CO American Dirt trip. He’s on his way to Drew’s house right now as I write this. So I’ll have either Judy or Bill to ride with for a week or two, which to me is just fantastic to have some companionship for a while. I’m also trying to coordinate with Drew on some section/s to ride with us while we’re in CO. Really hoping that I’ll actually get to have some of those “spiritual” rides for a spell now that we’re getting into the mts and my beloved high country of CO!


Friday, July 3: We stayed in Springfield, CO last night at this quaint little place called the Stage Stop Motel. Real small town, but they had like 4 motels - probably because in the 125 miles between Trinidad and Springfield there are zero hotels/motels/campgrounds. It’s a long lonely stretch of road between those two towns. It’s also the transition from Great Plains to the foothills to the Rocky Mts. Anyway, this little Stage Stop was a mom and pop place with basically bedrooms with a bathroom - right along with creaking wooden floors, and living room that dbls for a morning coffee area, and a nice little front porch overseeing main street. 

The price was right - $55. So that was our home for 12 hrs. Ate at the towns premier restaurant, The Longhorn, where the townspeople meet, and where we both had a nice dinner, me the burrito grande, and Judy some poached cod. This place and these folks are the small town America that I just love to visit for a half day. After dinner I went back and changed a front tire flat while Judy sat on the porch and watched while drinking a glass of wine. Meanwhile the owner was watering her plants next to my van which was parked on main street in front of the motel. She had a little bucket that I filled with water to check out what the deal was with the tube that had been leaking for a good three days now. 

I was happy to see that I had zero pinholes in the tube from the sandburs, and the leaking problem was from two patches that I’d put on, both of which were on top of the seam of the tube - very bad spot for a hole! The patches had just been leaking air along the seams for days now, slowly at first, but more significant as of late. So with the remote riding I had ahead of me for these next couple days, I wanted peace of mind with two good tires and no potential leaking issues. Had zero issues pulling the tires on this change, and maybe that’s from the tire having been on and off so many times. What a wonderful surprise! Chucked the tube in the garbage and put a new one in. 

We got up super early this morning so I could bang out another big day, this one all in CO. Now I wish I could say I had the same love affair with KS as I had back on my 2012 trip, but I’d be lying. This one was just frustrating with all the “roads that never were” and the “sandtrap roads from hell!” These issues had just made this trip super difficult through KS. My only savings grace on this trip through KS was not having the wind taken out of my sails by the sandburs. 

Judy got me back to the junction of 37 Rd and DD Rd, about 15 miles east of Springfield, and I was riding at 6:50 AM. Did this one on my own and had Judy wait back on Rt 160 where DD deadended. Then I did a mile of berm on 160 west, then returned to dirt by taking a L, south, on 32.3 Rd. This was more of a access road to some farm acreage, and was dbl track. I had Judy follow me, as we had great luck in CO yesterday with her on the same roads as me, but this one, well, the farmer was irrigating and it had cause a great deal of water to collect along the dirt road, and then it created this pretty significant drainage ditch that Xed the road. With the surface just being dirt, and that particular area pretty muddy, I got in the van, turned it around for Judy, and had her go back and meet me south of Springfield on Rt 287/385. Didn’t want to risk that big dinosaur getting stuck in the mud out in a wheat field. 

So I got my gear pack on and continued unassisted. Rode on for a bit then did a R, west on B Rd and took that to the junction with 29.8 Rd, and went L, south on 29.8. Then went R, west, on A Rd for a good stint. I knew that the next two roads were unnamed on my gazetteer, but all I had to do was the first L and then the next R. Came to that junction and without really looking, I just went L. My gps just said I was “Riding on Road”, so I figured that I was good - right….unnamed road? So I’m riding along and this thing just gets narrow and goes to thin dbl track, and then goes into a farm field. And I immediately start think de ja vu with all the roads-that-weren’t in KS. So I take this thing like a mile and it just turned to nothing. Now I could see Rt 287/385 like two miles to the west. It’s so flat out here you can see the traffic moving on the freeways. 

With all the crap I’ve dealt with regarding the sandbar, I was NOT about to baja through all that foliage for two miles to get on 287. Better sense prevailed, so I figured that I just might as well backtrack and find another access road to get me to 287. Got back to that original junction point, and to my disgust I found that A Rd just did this little jog to the L, and then continued west again. I screwed up on this one, and the road that I’d taken was just a field access road. Got back on A and continued west, THEN found the L and THEN found the R and that got me back to 287. Went L on 287, and there was no berm riding here. The berm was the knee high vegetation on the side of the road, so rather than tempt fate with getting into a slew of sandbur thorns, I just rode on the asphalt for a mile to the junction of Y Rd, where Judy was waiting for me. 

I had here ride ahead of me, or stay behind me the rest of the day. So from there we did a R, west on Y, followed by a L, south, on 20 Rd, to a R, west on W Rd to the junction with Rt 160, and these collectively that covered about 15 miles of gravel riding - all of which was a false flat upwards. 

Now while I’m on that tangent, I’ll give you some numbers here. We ended yesterday at an altitude of 4200 feet. We ended today at an altitude of 5600 feet. So when I say I felt like I was just doing this false flat clime all day….I was, because we gained 1400 feet today. more numbers…my Garmin 810 has this generic calorie burner thing, where you put in you vitals and it gives you an idea of your caloric burn for a ride. Well, over the past several days I’ve ended up with caloric burns of 4000+ each and every day. Now I know there’s only so much you can draw out of these devices, but I find it kind of cool - because it gives me the green light to eat like a man possessed each day. I mean I’m nuking hot dogs & chile sauce in the microwave at 9 PM because I’m still hungry!

So back to the ride. What I set us up to do was to parallel Rt 160 on all these gravel and dirt roads as 160 undulates west and south all the way to Trinidad. Next section of 160 to parallel was a long one - and again, they were basically all false flat up. We went L, south on 10 Rd, and then R, west on U Rd, then L, south on 3 Rd, and a R, west on T Rd, which turned into 34 Rd. This pup, 34 Rd just went on forever. Judy would drive 3-5 miles ahead of me, wait, read a book, and then when I caught up, she’d drive on again. The road was this long hilly gravel ribbon that just went off into the horizon. It looked like it went on forever. I did some Gopro video on this guy because it was just so spectacular looking. I’d see Judy drive off and then she’d just vanish over a long riser. At this point we were riding in Comanche National Grassland. It’s so vast, kind of like that Lapland area I rode through in KS, that you feel - or I feel - like you’re just a nothing  out there. Loved it. We went R, northwest, on 203.5 Rd, and then L, west, on 36 Rd to junction with 160 once again. 

Took a major break here, just on the northern periphery of the tiny town of Kim, CO. Had a sandwitch, powerade, water and hustled back to the bike, where I’d hope to bag at least 80 miles of the day. The following section was another long and remote parallel to 160. I got on 160 for a mile, and as I did with 287, I was forced to ride on asphalt for 1.5 miles because the berm was knee high vegetation, some of which was sandbur. So we went straight, south, on 197 Rd, then R, west on 30 Rd. And this is where I began to see the clouds collection, kind of amassing. Now this 30 Rd had just been regraded, and it was nothing but dirt. That, and the building cloud cover kind of worried me, more so for the van and Judy than me. 

Wouldn’t you know it when about half way down 30 Rd the rain began, starting with some light  drizzle and then some steady streaks. So we came to the next turn, a L, south, on 185 Rd. Judy had stopped and asked what I though about the weather. To me it looked good to the southwest, so I told her I wanted to really finish this section and call it a day. From that point I think we had a good 15 miles to go. I was hoping the rain was just this little micro regional thing and we’d go right out of it. But by the time we had gone the 3 miles south on 185, the rain had really begun to come down steady. Not only that but the whole southwest was suddenly a pretty big mass of grey rain clouds. I mean it occurred within about 15 minutes. Once the rain was pretty steady, and our intended area of travel looked socked it, I knew we were done. 

Judy had turned around and was headed back towards me as I was pretty much writing the rest of the day off, so we were on the same page. I had to get the van and her out of there in case there was a deluge out on those dirt and gravel roads. At that point I was 76 miles into the day, and that’s where we ended the day, at the junction of 185 Rd and 26 Rd, out in the middle of nowhere, and about 60 miles east of Trinidad, CO on Rt 160. Then came the long drive to Trinidad for lodging - amazing to have to do 120 miles in the van to get a place, and then go back to the end spot the next day. But hey, that comes with this territory. And I’d told Judy about this one because there was no way I’d be able to do 135-140 miles of gravel in a day - at least NOT out here. 

Hell, the 95 I did yesterday was way easier than the 75 today, because the whole day today was just this long, low angle climb. I got a nice hotel in Trinidad this eve for Judy. She’s just been so amazing on this trip, especially out here in the hinterlands where she’s driving down dirt and gravel roads for 7.5 hrs at a crack. I could do dive places the whole trip, but I like to treat Judy to some nice places every now and then. She deserves that for sure. So we’re in a big city, so to speak right now, and about to go get some dinner at this Mexican place down the road. 

Tomorrow I’ll be doing this remote 25-30 mile section alone, without Judy for backup, so I’m taking a bit more gear. I hope to make this last section to Trinidad in good time, and then head north on I-25 to got to Drew’s house in Denver. Need to be done by like 2 or 3 PM so we can do the 3-hr drive to Denver and not roll into town late in the night. But this remote section could involve some big climbing. I’m going to check it out this evening on Google Earth. 

Until tomorrow…..


Thursday, July 2: I was a bit worried last eve when we hit the hay, concerned about how things would go second time around with the infamous sandburs. This was my Waterloo back in 2012, the final straw to getting further west on dirt and gravel roads. From the CO/KS line I was back on the pavement for that trip. And now here I am again, face to face with the sandburs. They’re everywhere, especially on the sides of the soft surface roadways. Now that I know what I’m looking for I just fixate on the bastards. So anyway, I had all this stuff spinning around in my brain last night. So my sleep quality was on the low side. Heck I ended up waking at like 4:30 AM and that was it. I was up from there onward. 

Kind of lay around for 30 min so as to not wake Judy, but at 5 I finally got the coffee going in the motel room. Since we were situated just 1 mile from my route, I’d told Judy to go ahead and do her run workout and weights, and then she could come and meet me where we ended up yesterday. I’d just ride the first segment backwards so she didn’t have to jump in the car early and begin the long and painful support gig. So I got rolling at 6:45 AM, got on I Rd and took that north to 11 Rd, then went east on 11, which through Ulysses is asphalt, so I bermed it for several miles. Once it changed to gravel it was a wonderful road. 

The temp was great, as a cool front has moved in from the north, so the wind was out of the northeast. Now when I started there was a storm cell to the north, but there were some sprinkles in addition to lightening in the northern horizon. Part of the cool thing about riding across the Great Plains is watching these storm cells like 20-50 miles away, and they look some foreboding and close. Did get drizzled on just a tad as I was kind of riding into the cell, but the nasty part was further off to the north. Nonetheless, I was still just a tad concerned that I’d get a little dumped on. Never happen though. 

Road 11 changed to 110 Rd as I changed counties while riding to the east. The whole time I was just watching for those sandburs, checking out my tires, and occasionally stopping and looking at the tires closely. What I hadn’t mentioned was that for the last 3 days I’ve been pumping up the front tire in the morning due to a really slow leak. I just cannot see putting a new tube in there, or patching a tube and going through all the hassles I’ve had with these particular 29er tires when I was riding the things through sandbur country. But, on the plus side, is the fact that Steve had picked me some pretty darned good tires to use for this trip, plus there are liners on the inside just to give a bit more protection. Anyway, I’d pumped in a good 30 lbs of pressure this morning, and the past two mornings and the tire has worked just fine. 

Met Judy at the junction of 120 and CC roads, and then we threw the  bike in the van, got gas, and proceeded back to the start point I was at in the morning so we could begin to move west. So this backwards ride worked great, and I had no sandbur issues despite the fact that the thing are just everywhere on the sides of these roads. Now what I do know right now is this: Stay on main gravel and dirt and NOT the dbl track stuff where there’s a high amount of vegetation….and sandburs. 

Got going on 11 Rd west back in Ulysses, and it was great, big dbl lane gravel all the way to Johnson City. Then went L, south, on L Rd and took this past Johnson City. Before Johnson City, 11 Rd just deadened at this local airport, where I had to do a bike-hike across about a quarter mile of airstrips to get back on 11 again - carrying the bike so as not not get sandburs in the tires. I mean the bullshit never ends! Once back on 11 I did a small 1 mile berm section there on the west side of town, and then the road went total gravel again south of town. Went R, west, on 15 Rd, L, south, on P Rd, and then R, west on 17 Rd…and be damned if 17 Rd just died out into nothing. And once again, gazetteer and gps says there’re a road there. So I rode back to Manter Grade Rd, went south on berm and took that to 19 Rd…WHICH DIDN’T FREAKING EXIST AT ALL despite them showing up on gazetteer and gps. Hell, the gps showed the road going west into this fallow field? Turned around, rode back to 18 Rd, and went west on that to the junction with S Rd so I might be able to junction with 19 there. 

Again, this one looked shady, where it was just a pair of dbl tracks going down into a corn field. Oh, yea, and I forgot to say that this was all a bit more tenuous because I’d left my backpack with Judy in the van at our last support stop. You see there are these freaking flies, like house flys, that are just biting the hell out of me, so I get in the van and eat and drink for my support stop to stay away from the flies. Well, I always take my pack off and stash it between the two front seats. When I’d realized it she was just starting to drive away, and I hammered it back to the van yelling and screaming but she never heard me. Had all my flat fix-it tools, tubes, pump, etc. in that pack. 

So I decided rather than backtrack, to just be really careful and ride the dbl track in the hopes of intersection with 19 Rd. I was ok for about a half mile and then it just died out into nothing. So there I was with no flat fixing gear, in the middle of sandbur country and I had no phone, and nothing but my Edge gps. Took the dbl track back to the good gravel road, and then did a big check on my tires. I pulled 5-8 sandburs off of both tires. The burs were totally impregnated in the rubber. Now I’m sweating a bit, wondering if I just made one of the gaffs that was dogging me last night when I couldn’t sleep well. Got going back on 18 Rd west and was hoping I’d find the next junction, T Rd, to be my savior. Well, as I’m riding towards T I see Judy off in the distance driving north on T. 

Man I was waving like hell, hoping she wouldn’t pass the junction with 18 and keep going without ever looking to the east to see me coming up the road. Thankfully she did see me. She’d driven down 19 to meet up with me for the next support stop and realized that 19 just turned into a field, as I had found, and then realized that all my gear and the cell phone was in the van. So she began driving around on these gravel roads trying to figure out how the hell I was going to change up the route to get the the junction of 19 and Rt 160. We were pretty lucky I have to say. So I stopped for about 10 min, got some good metal tweezers, and picked the broken sandbur thorns out of both tires. I mean I was just meticulous in checking for the broken thorns. Must have pulled about 10-15 of these. But still, the tires seemed to be ok, as I heard no air leaking, and when I put spit on a couple holes, there was no bubbling. 

Got the gazetteer out and figured an alternative to the mess. Yet again, we had no idea if the roads were actually thru or not, but at least I had the van and my gear with me if they to fell through. So we took T south to 20 Rd, went west on 20 Rd and took that to the CO border. Went R, north, on 57 Rd, and then L, west on Rt 160. There is where we Xed into CO, and I rode berm on 160 for a mile to our first CO gravel rd - 56 Rd. Went L, south on 56, to R on GG west, to a L, south, on 51 Rd, to a R, west, on DD Rd. Took DD into the town of Walsh, did a mile of berm on DD through town west. Then Xed over Rt 160 and carried the bike across RR tracks and about 100 yards of vegetation and got back on DD again. 

At this point you’re head is probably spinning on all the dag gone road changes and mishaps ets.? Yea, mine is to. Ditto for Judy. I probably had 5 junk miles in from turning back and turning around. Ok, so I got back on DD and took that west as it paralleled Rt 160. Sent Judy six miles west on 160 to meet me at the junction of 37 Rd and DD. And this was the end of the day. Whoope, as I made 95 total miles for the day in sandbur country. Just crazy how those little thorns can so impact this trip. Thanks to Steve Thomas for picking some great 29er tires (despite the fact that they’re horrible to get off and on) and putting in the liners. They had to save me today. 

But things get tougher tomorrow with the big stretch of 120 miles with some remote sections of riding in sandbur country. But I’m feeling a bit better on this. I just have to make it to Trinidad and I think I’ve got a rest from these thorns due to our getting into the higher elevations where sandburs don’t thrive. So we’ll see. We hope to make Trinidad by Saturday late afternoon, and then we’ll drive north on I-25 to visit with my long-time bud and fellow Hudson classmate Andrew - Drew. Want to take at least a day’s rest there before going back down to Trinidad and continuing west from there.


Wednesday, July 1: Amazing to think that we’re just…and I mean JUST past the half way point in Xing the US! We’ve been at this about 2 full months at and we’re about 50-60 miles from the CO border. Going to be very interesting this next month, seeing that I have several passes to X in CO and at least one significant pass in UT. 

Well today was interesting, in three respects really: first, I came front and center with the dreaded sand burs today; second, I’m finding more and more that gazetteer, gps and maps are not without fault out here; and third, the heat is just off the charts. So Judy was awesome in that she really tried to help me get out there this morning early so we could be the heat - forecast is for 101-103 degrees later today. And I can actually say “we got out of Dodge” nice and early, with me getting on the bike at about 7:10 AM. I got rolling on Wildfire Rd west. The wind this morning was pretty stiff and gusty out of the west, so my speed was damned low, like about 8-10 mph max. Then there was that constant false flat thing going on, as I’m getting ever so closer to the Rocky Mts. I took Wildfire to 105 Rd, where I rode north for 3 miles of berm.

Now originally, in my itinerary, I had myself doing this south to west to north thing to totally avoid any kind of asphalt and berm, which is what 105 Rd is. But at this point, with us being about 3 weeks behind schedule, I have to try to trim mileage when I can. This berm move was just that. I did the 3 miles of berm north to avoid doing 8 extra miles of riding - this by having to go 4 miles south, then west, then 4 miles back to the north - just to pick up where I got off with the berm ride. I then picked up Warrior Rd west and took that to the junction with 24 Rd to meet Judy for a first check-in kind of thing, just to be sure we were both good. At that point we entered Grey Co and Warrior turned into CC Rd. 

I decided to make the check-ins much closer today because I knew I’d be meeting up with my old nemesis from my 2012 American Dirt effort - the sandbur (you can read my blog on this from 2012 by copying and pasting:  Yup, I now know what to look for now, and I was looking for it yesterday, but saw nothing. Today I really figured that I’d begin to see them, and with me riding on the 29er with just the liners inside, I don’t want to get too far out and flat with umpteen punctures. Go through one patch of those and tire and tube are shot. I have a second bike with me on this trip, a 26er that Steve Thomas had built special wheels and tires for the sandbur issue, but I want to use that when these pups really get thick and I get totally shut down on the 29er. That 26er is just an antique by today’s standards and it’s suspension is meager compared to my 29er… plus with those monster tires, liners and rims, this thing is a tank! 

I used that 26er last year on recon in CO, and purposely rode it through patches of sandburs to find out if Steve’s special wheels would work - and they did. So I’m comfortable with going to that Litspeed Unicoi when the situation dictates - but not quite yet! So anyway, I wanted to kind of check in every 10-15 miles in case I ended up with 2-100 of these bastards stuck in my tires. Got going on the next section on CC Rd and in a mile it just disappeared into a farm field. So again, my Garmin 810 WITH A FREAKING $100.00 MICRO SD CARD OF TOPO USA 24K MO/KS said that the road just kept going west. My gazetteer said that the road continued west…but let me tell you it does NOT continue west! So I had to go L, south on 23 Rd, R, west, on DD Rd, then R, north on 22 Rd, and then get back on CC Rd west. So there was an additional two miles of riding.

Got rolling again, and I’d been checking the vegetation on the side of the roads looking for those sandburs, and that’s when I spotted them. They’re these little plants that grows horizontally across the ground and they have these seed pods with spikes on them. The patch I found contained wet, or not dried out and dead, seed pods, which are a bit innocuous to the tires. It’s the dry, dead ones that are like tacks! But at least I knew I was now in sandbur country and to be aware of, and to look at my tires often - and to now Baha through highly vegetated tracks where the sandburs are as thick as briar patches. 

Again, CC Rd kind of died out a couple times despite the fact that the road signs, gps, and gazetteer say that there’s a road there. This time it was a faint dbl track that I could ride on which was bare earth in two tracks and vegetation in the middle. I held my breath and began to traverse it, staying totally away from the vegetated part in the middle. I mean there were times where I just felt like I was riding right through the middle of a wheat field with nothing but this dbl track running down the middle for 1-2 miles. There were other times where CC just looked like this giant set of ruts running east west. But by God, every mile I’d come to the junction of a north-south trending road and the road signs. It’s just amazing. These roads are not maintained, and they’re more like farm access and that’s it. I doubt if regular vehicular traffic every even touches a road like CC. 

Well, I made it to the south side of Montezuma, where the road went asphalt for a mile, to which I road some very easy berm, and then it turned back to gravel. Again, I rode the berm section to eliminate another south to west to north to west thing, and that saved me another 4 miles. Met Judy at the junction of CC and Rt 56. Ate, drank 40 oz of fluids and got going again on CC west. And once again, I’d hit a mile or two where the road just went from sandy gravel, to earthen, to a pair of wagon wheel tracks through farmland. BUT still, I had bare earthen track to ride, and NOT the vegetative stuff I got into trouble with back in 2012. Back then I’d come out of a vegetative track with over a hundred sandburs stuck on my my tires. Xed over into Haskell Co, and CC turned into 110 Rd. 

Went L, south on WW Rd because 110 supposedly died out - and I didn’t want to test that one out - but then again, hell, maybe there was road there just like there wasn’t road where it was supposed to be in the other instances! So junctioned with 120 Rd west and took that. I was supposed to meet up with Judy at the junction of 120 Rd and Rt 83. But once more, 120 just kind of turned into this nothing of a little dbl track through corn and wheat fields. But I rode it, with the road signs and my gps saying that I was indeed on 120? I swear this is the funkiest riding. Seems all the east-west trending roads are just these earthen farm access roads, and all the north-south trending roads are more of main gravel roads that have farms situated on them. ZERO farms on many of the east-west trends out here.

At this point in the day, about about 12:30-1 PM, the temp was lost to 97-98 degrees, but the wind had changed directions out of the northwest so that made my riding a good bit faster despite the fact that I was riding on earthen roads almost exclusively. Now this final section was the kicker! I continued on 120 Rd after meeting with Judy and getting in another 40 oz of fluids, rode for a mile and the damned road just went into dbl track, and then it became a dividing line between wheat field and corn field. By that point I was a half mile into that 1 square mile quadrant, so I figured I’d just ride the dividing line for a half mile and see what the next quadrant would be. Go about 4 pedal stroke in and saw the front tire with about 8-10 dried sandburs stuck on it. Stopped immediately, pulled all the burs out of the front, pulled all the burs out of the rear, turned around and carried my bike out of that section back to the dbl track, and then rode like hell back to the east to the last X road. 

I was ok, as I hadn’t put any weight on the wheels to really force those burs deep into the tires. I got on TT Rd south and took that to the junction with Rt 160. Checked the tires for pressure and it looked like I avoided my first serious onslaught of the burs. Rode this totally crapass berm on 160 west about 3-4 miles, then got on GG Rd north, took that to see if 120 Rd would reappear, and it did. So I got on that, went L, west, and continued towards my meeting spot with Judy, the junction of CC Rd and 120 Rd. So I had CC thru GG to traverse west. It was great dbl lane gravel for about 2 miles, then it went back to the dbl track on earthen road bed. BUT it made it to the CC junction without another “drop off the face of the earth” thing. 

Judy was just amazed as she couldn’t believe that 120 at that junction was even a road. It just looked like this little dbl track that went out into this vast expanse of wheat fields. We called it a day there. I got in 66 miles, and I THINK no flats, though I’ll be checking those 29er tires the rest of the day and evening for slow leaker flats from the sandbur encounter. We’re at a little motel in Ulysses, KS basking in the AC as the temp gets ever so closer to 100+ outside. Must have drank another 140 oz of fluids again. My altimeter says were at 3110 ft, here in Ulysses, so I gained another couple hundred ft over yesterday. So I’m really looking at the route now, to do more improvising to avoid sandbur areas, and to trim some mileage. Could be a real nightmare if the roads continue to end mysteriously as they have today. I just don’t have any reliable information. Tomorrow we hope to cross over into CO, and begin the next phase of the trip. Time for din-din and a beer. Late!