TABR16- Day 13

I woke to my alarm after 3 hours of sleep on a gravel pile in Eastern Colorado. I was hungry and cold, but anxious to get the day going. I had made good strides the day before and needed to double down and have another good day. The bright side was that I was now in the flat area of the route and wouldn’t have the quad-crushing climbs of the Rockies to deal with anymore. I got moving and set my sights on Ordway.

I rolled into Ordway a little after 6:00AM and rode down the main street of town looking for a place to grab some food, but nothing at all was open. I got back on route and found a gas station at the edge of town. I scarfed down a couple burritos and some coffee, loaded up with snacks and drinks for the morning and headed back out.

My next stop was in Eads, the advertised halfway point of the Trans Am. I had made it half way! Of course, like most of the milestones on the Trans Am, there was nobody around at the monument and sign board in the middle of town. I snapped a quick selfie for proof, texted it to my wife and carried on. Before leaving town, I stopped at a diner to grab some lunch. I was 83 miles into my day and it was really starting to get hot out. I was ready for a break from the heat.

When I parked my bike, I noticed two other bikes there. Inside was the Italian pair, Stefano Gamper and Michela Ton. Stefano’s English was limited, so I had a hard time communicating with him. Michela’s was a notch better. We chatted a bit as they finished up their meal and filled bottles. I got my food and ate quickly hoping to get back out and stay close to them. I wanted to keep “race mode” in mind and not spend too much time stopped. Before I could finish my meal, in walked Enrico Comunello, another Italian racer. His English was pretty good and we enjoyed some conversation. I wrapped up my meal and he ate quickly. We ended up leaving about the same time.

Enrico and I rode near each other for awhile, chatting off and on, but overall, we were riding different paces so it wasn’t for very long.  We leapfrogged each other quite a bit. At one point during the day, near the tiny town of Brandon, the heat was getting to me and I was getting tired. I would have loved to find a place to rest in the shade, but the land was truly flat as a pancake and there were no trees for miles. As I rode through the little town, there was a grain elevator with a little scale house next to it for weighing trucks that haul grain. In front of the scale house was a small porch and what seemed to be the only square yard of shade for miles around. I rode over and laid down on the concrete porch, resting in the shade for a bit. I slept maybe 15 mins or so, just long enough to feel a little better and then got back to riding. In the mean time, Enrico had passed.  When I started riding again, I soon passed Enrico. I think he had stopped as well. This leap frog thing took place over and over again.

In Sheridan Lake I stopped at a gas station, more than anything just to get out of the heat. Soon after, Enrico came in. We both were getting smoked by the sun. Ice creams and drinks were the refreshments we chose and they were oh so good on such a hot day. It was funny to think that just 24 hours before I had been trying to stay warm in the mountains!

I left the station first and had my sights set on 15 miles ahead- the Kansas state line! I crossed into Kansas and was elated to knock yet another state off the list. I only had 4 more states to go, but still had over 2000 miles left!

As I made my way across the extremely flat landscape, I could see for miles and miles in every direction. Tribune, the next town ahead, was visible on the horizon for what seemed like eternity. The old joke about flat lands that “you can watch your dog run away for three days” comes to mind. There is literally nothing as far as the eye can see except for crops. Flat and tree-less also means that when the wind blows, it really gets after it! As I approached Tribune, that is exactly what was happening. A strong wind was kicking up from the Southeast, giving me a quartering headwind. There was nothing to be done about it but ride.

I stopped in Tribune at the truck stop there. I sat in the dining area eating, drinking and cooling off. Enrico came in shortly and loaded up on food and drinks. He was quick and got back on the road. I hit the road soon after and set out to catch up. I soon did, but not wanting to get too close, I stayed back, keeping him within a hundred yards or so. The wind was really starting to get difficult to deal with, but my shadow was getting longer and evening would come soon. Hopefully that would mean the winds died down as well.

About 10 miles outside Tribune I crossed the Central Time Zone line. It was another milestone to check off. Every little delineation counts. It would however mean that I “lost” an hour. Not a big deal in the grand scheme, but it can make a difference when you are trying to make it to small stores in sleepy towns where the sidewalks roll up at night.

I rolled through Leoti a little before 8:00PM, passing Jay and Mark, who had who had gotten in front of me a few days before somewhere. Enrico stopped in Leoti as well, leaving me to chase after the Italian pair.

As the sun set, the wind stayed steady, but didn’t build, so it was manageable as I chewed on the 27 miles or so to Scott City. I rolled into town about 9:30PM and had to make a decision. The little towns of Western Kansas don’t have a lot of businesses that stay open all night, so finding places for food and drinks would be a challenge. A check of the map showed Dighton 24 miles away and Ness City another 32 miles beyond that. I decided to get a room in Scott City, eat well, supply up and get an early start on the next day, hopefully pushing to Newton. That would be about 240 miles- a very doable chore in the flat terrain.

I found the Lazy-R Motel on the Eastern side of town and much to my surprise, the owner was out front. She had been watching the race unfold online and knew I was coming. She gave me a great rate on a room and pointed me in the right direction to go find food. She was a treat! I rode off to the Subway a couple miles away to pick up dinner, then grabbed supplies for the next morning at a gas station and headed back to the motel. It was a little after 10:00PM.

For the day, I had ridden 189 miles. I was a little disappointed with that because it was quite a bit short of my 250/day goal, but it had been a rough day in the heat and wind. I sold myself on the idea that it was ok because I would get an early start on the next day by going to sleep sooner. It was the best that I had to give for the day and thats all I could do. I ate, showered and called my wife, then set my alarm for 3:30AM and went to sleep about 11:00PM.

 

TABR16- Day 12

My opinion of how the previous five days had gone was:

  • Really bad
  • Pretty good
  • Decent
  • Pathetic
  • Sub-par

Leaving Kremmling at 4:00AM, I fully intended on my day being above average, if not stellar. I was done with mediocre and bad. I really needed something to spark my race back to life. I hit the Kum & Go for some things on my way out of town and headed off into the early morning darkness.

Not far after crossing the Colorado River, I found the road construction that I had heard about. Racers and touring cyclists had been talking about how rough the area was. Some had called it gravel grinding and others had said it was full on off-road. It wasn’t smooth, that’s for sure, but I wasn’t about to let it get me down. I had no wind and a full day ahead of me!

I made it passed the construction and soon found the turn to go around Green Mountain Reservoir. As with my other trips through the area, this one didn’t disappoint for views. The lake was really low compared to other times I had seen it, but the mountains around it are spectacular. I took it all in and soaked it up.

The sun came up shortly and with it, the wind started to blow. Ugh! More headwinds were in my future. I came off the lake road and back on the highway to busy traffic and a stiff breeze in my face. I kept my head down, stayed on the aero bars and kept rolling best I could.

Soon I started seeing cyclists on the other side of the rode. They were in an event of some sort- may have been Race the Rockies. There were literally hundreds of them along the way, all riding down hill from Dillon and with a tailwind. Many of them wanted to wave, but eventually, it was just too much for me. If I was to reciprocate I would have had to have my arm in the air wagging constantly. Before long, I was getting frustrated by them. I don’t have a logical explanation as to why, it just was. I tried to ignore them and just ride.

When I got to Dillon, I started looking for a place to get food and settled on a McDonald’s just a block or so off route. I ate a huge breakfast and got back to the road. Right away, the route becomes a bike path that takes you from Dillon to Frisco and then Breckenridge. Normally this path would be a nice serene ride along the Dillon Reservoir. Not that day! It just so happened that the route for the racers I had seen earlier was the same path. The path is plenty wide for bikes to go both directions, but many of the hundreds of riders were riding side by side, way too fast and super rude. About a half dozen times I had riders almost hit me despite  their other racing friends continual cries of “RIDER UP!!!” as they passed me. Most weren’t paying attention. I was beyond frustrated.

In my sour mood, as I started the climb that goes up the dam, I soon saw chalk writing on the path in front of me.

GO Stephan GO!!!

GO Lael GO!!!!

GO Sarah GO!!!

Many of the top racers out in front had messages of encouragement drawn on the path. I found myself very jealous of those racers at that moment. As I rode on so frustrated with everything at that moment, I looked down just in time to see “GO Brian GO!!!” on the path….. WHAT?!?!? I did a big double take and emotion ran over me. Just then someone shouted my name. I looked up to see a man and his wife cheering me on!!! I was floored. They were from St Louis, in the area on vacation and wanted to make sure they came out to see me and Jason Kulma as we were “home town boys”. They gave me an apple and a water bottle and made my day. Sadly I can’t remember their names. It was such a special moment to me, I literally cried. To think that total strangers came out and cheered me on was just amazing. They probably will never know how much that meant, especially in that very moment when I was feeling the exhaustion and frustration of the race. Thank you!

With an uplifted mood, I rode on, still dodging the racers from the other direction, but with a bit less indignation. I made it to Frisco and continued on the path toward Breckenridge. Soon I saw Jason. He had camped near Green Mountain Reservoir and said he nearly froze! I was glad I made my choice to hotel in Kremmling. We chatted for just a bit and soon I was feeling the pull to go faster and rode on ahead. I still had big plans for the day and didn’t want to be encumbered by staying too close to anyone.

The ride to Breck was uneventful. When I got to town, I was specifically looking for a bike shop that I had stopped at the year before, as it is on the route. I found it quickly and went inside to buy two tubes and a new repair kit. Fully stocked up on repair items, I hit the road, stopping at a gas station for a super quick pit stop and supplies before leaving town.

Leaving Breckenridge in my rear view, I started the climb to Hoosier Pass, the highest point on the Trans Am and the last Rocky Mountain pass for East bounders. I attacked it with a vengeance, settling in with a big gear and eating the climb. Along the way, I passed Luke who had gotten by me riding through the night. I rode with a fierceness and intensity, digging deep in the well… probably too deep. In a 4300 mile race one should manage their resources. I wasn’t managing anything except competitive flame. I summited the pass right about noon. It was the first full day of my 44th year and I had never felt more fully alive. Mastering the mountain with nothing more than the power of my body and the will of my soul, I was now ready to descend from that peak and reclaim my race.

I descended the pass and made my way to Alma, where I grabbed some snacks at the general store. I then hit the road again, aiming to get out of elevation and well onto the prairie before I was done with my day.

The winds played a little havoc with me later on around Fairplay. It wasn’t a full-on headwind, but rather a quartering wind off my right side. I marched on and made good time to Hartsel. I had thought fully about what I would do when I got to Hartsel and stuck to my plan. First was a stop at the gas station for some select snacks and beverages, then quickly to the bar and grill for a big burger and fries. I got tripped up a little at the grill with some slow service, but overall I made it quick. Right before I left Hartsel, a check of Trackleaders showed Jason, Luke and Jimmy not far behind and closing.

Having had a very poor experience between Hartsel and Canon City last year, I was very focused on getting down out of the mountains before dark. I left Hartsel about 2:30PM with the hammer down and didn’t look back.

I got to Canon City about 6:00PM and was smoked. I had been riding hard for hours and it was hot down there!!! The heat was fine though as I had made it. Canon City is where I had DNF’ed the year before. Not this time!!! Finally I had put my demons from TABR15 to rest. I found a restaurant to get inside and cool off while eating. The food was sub-par at best, but served its purpose. I grabbed supplies before leaving town and rode off into the evening desert, happy to be out of the mountains and looking forward to what I planned to be my last Colorado sunset for the race.

I rode on in search of Wetmore and found it right about dark. I stopped for a nature break along the road and Jason caught me up. We rode on near each other for awhile, chatting off and on about the day.

In short order we were in Pueblo. Jason had plans to meet up with a Warmshowers host. I had no plan to stop. I had no interest in staying in Pueblo. Pueblo is the only place on the entire Trans Am where I have felt sketched out by my surroundings. It may just be me, but every time I have been there, I feel like I am seconds away from being mugged. I wanted to grab my stuff and go, so I did. I hit up a gas station, loaded up to the gills on supplies and rode on into the night, leaving the lights of the city behind me.

As I rode through the late evening, I was eating, drinking and watching the miles tick away. The further I went, the darker it got, until I was out in the remote areas of Eastern Colorado where the brightest lights are the stars. The road was merely a ribbon of dotted yellow paint on asphalt in front of me surrounded by my minuscule-in-comparison light shining a short ways out. My eyes got heavy and I started to fight sleep. I really had wanted to make a huge push, riding through the night to a sunrise in Kansas. With sleep looming, it didn’t look like that A goal for the day was going to happen.

In need of a place for a nature break, I found stockpile of rock chips along the side of the road. It seemed that the road would soon be receiving a new coat of chip-n-seal and this was the material for it. I went behind it for my business and afterward decided that the rock pile would make a great place to bivy. I climbed up on the pile of rock, rolled out my bivy and laid down. The sky was magnificent with billions of stars twinkling. It had been a monumental day for my race. I was out of the mountains, beyond where I had to stopped the year before and had made  240 miles on the day. That pleased me. I looked up in wonder at the big night sky, said a prayer of thanks and went to sleep.

TABR16- Day 11

When I went to sleep at 1:30PM in Saratoga, my plan had been to sleep the afternoon and then ride in the evening to try and minimize the effects of the winds on my progress. I was so sick of headwinds! It seemed like it was everyday. I got up with my alarm at some point in the late afternoon/early evening and the wind was still howling out of the south. I was hungry, so I went downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant and ate a big meal, then went back upstairs and went back to bed. I just didn’t have it in me to go.

Finally, I got up about 1:00Am. I had slept or at least rested and eaten for over 12 hours. I wasn’t real excited to get back out there, but I knew I should. I was beginning to get embarrassed for the amount of time I had spent down. Friends and family had been texting and calling, wishing me a happy 44th birthday, but also wanting to know what was up. I needed to get moving. I packed up, went across the block to the Kum & Go for supplies and headed out into the dark, cold night.

The winds were still blowing out of the south pretty good and progress was slow, but I had to keep moving. It was a slog for me to Riverside and I was cold in the night mountain air. It took me 2 hours to make the short 17 miles and I was already fighting sleep. Really?!?!? Frustrated with the situation and myself, I rolled into town. Across the street from where I was supposed to turn east onto Hwy 230, there was a community center and out front a teepee. I decided that would be a great spot and quickly opened the flap door, pulled my bike inside, rolled out my bivy and crawled in it for a nap. I slept almost 2 hours.

When I woke, the sun was coming up. I grabbed my things and quickly hit the road. It was cold and there was still a headwind, but I felt better about things and started to actually make some progress. I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, but progress is progress. By 10:00AM I made it to Walden, Co. I went to a restaurant on the main drag and ordered a big breakfast.

While I sat eating, in walks none other than Jason Kulma. Jason lives in Sty Louis, just 70 miles away from my home and he and I have done quite a few of the same events over the last few years. I was both happy and sad to see him. I was happy to see a familiar face, but if there was anyone in the race that I wanted to end up in front of, it would be him. I don’t mean that in a malicious way, just in a friendly rivalry sort of thing. This spurred me to finish my food and get going. As I was getting ready to leave, in came Jimmy Bisese, Janie Hayes’ husband. Jimmy sat with Jason and I hit the road.

I grabbed some things at a gas station on my way out of town and got going. Just outside of town I was met with more nasty headwinds. They were relentless it seemed! Fueled by competition and wanting to stay out in front of Jason, I stayed moving, making it across the valley to Rand and then up Willow Creek Pass. Crossing Willow Creek Pass was significant in my mind as it was the next to last pass in the Rockies. Next up- Hoosier Pass and then the mountains were done…for awhile.

A few miles after coming over the pass, as I passed a turnoff for a gravel road, I heard someone holler my name. It was JD, local bike mechanic and fellow TABR15 veteran! He had been coming out to meet all the racers and provide bike service if needed. I was in desperate need of some chain lube and he was happy to oblige. He also topped off my tires with his floor pump while we chatted a few minutes. It was great to see another familiar face! I didn’t stay long and hit the road right away, thanking JD for his help to me and all the other racers. What a treat!

Leaving JD, I continued on, making the turn onto US40 and then to Hot Sulphur Springs. When I got to town it was a little after 4PM.

I headed straight for a little roadside dairy bar that I had eaten at before. Sitting there was Luke Kocher and George Koefler. We chatted while we ate and discussed plans. Luke said he had ridden through the night and was exhausted. He was going to get a room in town and sleep for awhile. George and I both planned to go on. It was early still and despite the howling headwinds from the south, I needed to stay moving. The two of them left, I finished my food and then headed out of town.

The ride out of Hot Sulphur Springs was a slog. It is all down hill through the Colorado River gorge, but the winds were screaming up the gorge and there was zero coasting. Once out of the gorge and on the flatter sections beyond Parshall, riding was better, but the wind was something else.

I got to Kremmling about 6:15PM and had to make a decision. Kremmling is fairly high at 8000′ in elevation. It was pretty cool out that evening and I knew the temps would drop at night. I didn’t have the gear to bivy in the cold at that elevation and didn’t want to get stuck having to try to find a hotel room in the tourist traps ahead of Dillon, Frisco and Breckenridge. I decided to get a room at the Super 8 in Kremmling and get an early start the next day. I was disappointed that my mileage was so low. I had only made 148 miles on the day.

First things first, I went to the Kum & Go across the street and loaded up on food. Then I went to the hotel, checked in and started my laundry. Jimmy Bisese got to town not too long after me and stayed in the same hotel. He came down to do his laundry as well and asked if I wanted to have dinner and birthday beers at a Mexican restaurant across the street. I declined and said that I was going to sleep and get an early start the next day. I really regret not accepting his offer. It would’ve been a great way to celebrate my birthday and I know I would’ve enjoyed the company. I finished my laundry, ate my gas station burritos and went to bed.

 

TABR15- Day 14- Guffey, CO to Cañon City, CO

Post offices. Not made for sleeping really, but what a Godsend when you need it. I woke to the sound of the alarm on my phone. It was 6:30AM and although the sun had come up, it was still cold. Too cold for me. Scott was packing up and getting ready to hit the road. I told him I would wait. Temps were still really low, as low as they had been just hours before, and I didn’t want to go through that experience again. He finished packing and left. I went back to sleep.

An hour later, my alarm went off. I reluctantly got up and packed my things. Once outside, I realized that it was going to be a rough ride down to Cañon City, even with the extra hour I had taken. Just get it over with. Down the road I went.

The mile back to the route was just shocking to me. Everything from the night before came back in a rush. I made the turn back onto the route and set my mind on the next turn about 23 miles ahead onto Hwy 50. The road was almost completely downhill so there was no chance to warm up by cycling. The sun would do the job. Eventually.

At one point, I checked my phone and noticed a bit of service. I had a text from Scott. He was hoping that I was well and said he had found a good place for breakfast, right after the turn onto 50. I stopped and replied, saying I was on my way. I was really hungry and looking forward to a good meal.

The farther I went, the warmer it got and by the time I reached the left turn onto 50, I was no longer freezing, just a bit chilly. I made my way up toward the restaurant Scott had mentioned and before I could turn in the lot, I had a flat. Bugger. Frustrated, cold and hungry, I said screw it and just went inside for breakfast. I would attend to it later.

Scott was gone, making hay and putting the miles down. I sat down, ordered coffee and breakfast, then called my wife. I told her about the past 24 hours. It had been a whirlwind, but I just couldn’t focus on the good at the time. I was pretty low mentally. As we chatted, I asked if she could give me a rundown of where we stood with finances. I had some savings and a credit card that I had been using, but I had hardly a clue how much I had spent.

Her answers were like hammer blows. The balances were low. I sat at the table with my head in my hands, staring into my coffee cup. “Ok, well, how much have I spent so far in total?” It should have been easy math, but my brain was fried. As she tallied, I waited, praying the overall picture was not as bleak as I thought. She gave me the figures and did a bit of math. I had been spending at a rate per day that was much higher than I had planned on. Add in the fact that I was behind what I expected as far as mileage was concerned and you had a perfect storm of failure. With what it was costing me per day, I had zero chance of being able to finish. I had 5 days worth left and I was at mile 2056 of 4406. I didn’t even have enough to be able to continue on and make it home (I live in Farmington, MO, which is along the route.)

I was crushed. I told Jeneen I would mull it over and call her back later. There was nothing where I was at and I would need to get to some sort of civilization if I was going to make an exit from the race. With 8 miles to Cañon City, I would call her from there after I thought on things. I finished my breakfast and headed outside to fix my flat.

Once back on the road, I just ambled along. Admittedly, I cried a bit. Emotions were flaring. I had come so far and was proud of that, but the very last thing I wanted to do was quit. As I rode, I gained peace. The answer was simple- I would pull from the race. The simple fact was I had 2 options. Option 1- I could carry on, deplete all of my families reserves and go into debt to finish. This option would also mean that I would be returning home at least a week past when I told my employer I would be back, leading to loss of income as well. Option 2- I could bow out in Cañon City and go home. I would stop the financial bleeding and regroup for the 2016 race. There was no real choice. Being a husband and a father, I had to go home.

I made my way down to Cañon City and checked into a hotel. I called Jeneen and explained my decision to her. We then started discussing how to get me home. After a bit of discussion, we decided that she would drive out and pick me up. Being a weekend, she was off of work and free so she sorted everything quickly and left right away. I sat in the hotel room throughout the day and ruminated on everything. I texted Nathan Jones to let him know I was out. Texted Scott with the same info. I also called into MTBCast and made my withdrawal report. All those things made it very real. I got Dominoes delivered to the room, ate and slept.

 

What an incomplete way to end this tale, but I think it is appropriate. The adventure was incomplete. I have had a lot of time to think on it all and I realize that my failure was in planning and preparing. TABR15 was a great adventure and so many things about it will live on in my mind forever. Of course, right now, I am knee deep in TABR16 prep and although writing this has been a bit of a drag as I dig up all the bad, it has also been rather cathartic to purge it all. For 2016 I have a plan. Not all will go according to it, I am sure, but one thing is for certain- I will give everything I have to finish and reach my goals. Oh, and one other thing is certain. You’ll get to read about it. 🙂

TABR16logo

Photo credit:  Joseph Boquiren

TABR15- Day 13- Kremmling, CO to Guffey, CO

Scott and I had shared a room at the Super 8 in Kremmling. After getting in pretty late, we slept a little late and had the continental breakfast by 8:15AM. After checking out, we went back across the street to the gas station for supplies, then hit the road.

I was pretty excited about the day. After 12 days of temperature ups and downs in the mountains, today would be the day that we left the Rockies and made our way to the plains. With 160 miles to Cañon City, we shouldn’t have an issue getting there.

Out of town and down the highway, we came across road construction. It wasn’t the first stretch of dirt/gravel along the route, but I remember it being pretty chunky. Soon we were through it and came across the turn to go around Green Mountain Reservoir. I love that stretch of quite road. It is a nice respite from the busy main highway.

Back on the main road and headed toward Silverthorne, I found my stride and was rolling. Very soon Scott was nowhere to be seen behind me. I recognized that I was pushing a bit and wanted to make sure I had plenty to climb Hoosier Pass, so I backed it down a notch or two. Before long, I found the city limits and a gas station to stop at. I figured Scott would be right along soon, which he was. We then headed out in search of the post office.

With the impending summit of Hoosier Pass just down the road past Breckenridge, we would be getting out of the mountains and thus getting away from the cold temps. The prior year, I had watched Facebook and seen how most of the riders sent all their cold weather gear home in Pueblo. All along, I had planned that if I got to Silverthorne early in the day, I would send my cold gear back there, loosing several pounds of weight nearly 200 miles before others intended to send their stuff home. I had the idea that this would be a pretty good advantage.

To the post office we went and I sent it all. Coat, gloves, sock hat, balaclava, leg warmers, shoe covers- everything went, plus a few miscellaneous things like maps that I was done with and so on. If I remember right, the package weighed nearly 3 pounds. I was ecstatic! This would make me fly! The only clothing I kept was my base layer shirt and my rain jacket. I did hold on to my sleeping quilt. Good thing.

On through Silverthorne and down the trails around Dillon Reservoir we went. Then the trails to Breckenridge. By the time we got to Breck, I was famished. I also needed to find a bike shop and get a new tire- my back one was shot. Scott had a pedal problem and needed the shop as well. We found a shop and took care of our business. It seemed to take quite awhile, but we got it done. Being mid June, Breck was bustling with tourists. We needed to eat, but I really wanted to just go. I wanted to make sure I put some space between me and upper elevations before it got too late (read: cold). We found a burger joint on the main drag, Downstairs at Eric’s, that a friend of mine had raved about before.

The restaurant was fine. I ate well, but found myself frustrated with the service. I am sure it was just me and my desire to get moving. Soon enough we were done and leaving, but the day was slipping away from me. It was now 4:00PM.

As we left town, we found a gas station for supplies. That is code for candy bars, soda, gatorade, beef jerky, peanut butter crackers. Namely anything you can shove in your pockets or bags. We got ready to leave and it hit me- I needed to hit the john. Scott took off and I went inside to heed the call. After doctoring up my bum, I left and started climbing, looking for Scott. I found him quick, just a mile or so up the road. He had stopped again to adjust his gear. We settled in riding together, headed over Hoosier.

The climb up from Breck is only about 10 miles. It is a steady, easy grade for the first 6-7 miles, then it turns up for the last 3 or so, gaining roughly 2000′ in total. Compounding that is the fact that Breck is at about 9600′ to begin with, so the climb to the top takes your breathe. At 11542′, Hoosier is up there.

I soon found myself in a groove and started to pull away from Scott. I had started the climb in a similar gearing to his so that I could try to keep pace with him. I was amped up though and just kept making ground. I wanted to make this last climb of the Rockies count so I kept on the throttle. My legs and lungs burned, but I was determined. Head phones in and jamming to some hoppin tunes, I used what Scott had taught me about finding a rhythm and sticking to it to cruise on up the climb. I never slowed down or put a foot down. When I made the last turn and saw the summit, I roared out loud like a beast!!!!! I felt so accomplished in that moment. It was certainly a highlight of the trip.

Shortly Scott came around the corner and I cheered him on and videoed him as he rode up the final pitch. We shared high fives and smiles, then got some great photos.

TABR setupTABR setupWe didn’t stay long at the top and began our descent. I was all conflicted. On one hand, we had just  summited the highest pass on the Trans Am. What a cool thing! On the other, I had no cold gear and we were 90 miles from Cañon City. If the winds were favorable and we stayed on it, we could cover that distance in about 5-6 hours. If things didn’t go as planned, it could be longer. Either way, it was after 5:00PM and we needed to stop for some food at some point. It would be a late night. Hopefully the temps would hold up after dark.

We screamed down to Alma and stopped at a shop in town. We grabbed some food, filled bottles and asked the keeper about the bar & grill in Hartsel, about 30 miles down the road. We thought that would be a good spot to grab some food, not a midpoint, but about as close as we could find on the map. She called them and verified that they would leave the grill on so we could eat when we got there. Nice!

We started busting it down the road, headed for Hartsel. We flew through Fairplay and at the turn just outside of town toward Hartsel, the wind picked up. Unfortunately, NOT a tailwind. Another demoralizing headwind blew and blew. The inclination of the road was trending downhill, but we were pedaling for all we had, just as if we were climbing. The source of the wind, a storm that was pushing over the ridge from the west, looked to make things difficult for us in more ways than just the wind. All we could do was hustle and hope to stay dry.

We rolled into Hartsel about 7:45PM, just as it started to sprinkle. There isn’t much there, but the first thing we saw was a gas station. We stopped in and grabbed supplies for what was obviously going to be a very long night ahead. Then we went down the road a bit to the bar & grill to grab some food.

The Hartsel bar seemed like the kind of place that could be a bit seedy. Locals sat around a couple tables, sipping their beers. Not much goes on in the little town, so we were fodder for people watching. The young man behind the bar was also the cook and knew what we wanted right away. He got us cokes and took our orders, then went to the back to get things cooking.

Food showed up and we ate. Soon another cyclist came in. He was a northbound Tour Divide guy. The divide crosses the Trans Am here and he was doing the same as us- loading up on food and waiting out the storm. We chatted a bit and got his story. I hate to say it, but I don’t remember much of what he said. I was too wound up thinking of the 60 miles ahead added to the impending rain and dropping temps outside.

Soon enough, Adam showed up too. He had stayed in the saddle and closed the gap on us, only to be in the same predicament. He ordered food and drink. We all sat together and chatted, discussing the radar and what to do. In the end, we decided that since we didn’t have cold gear, or at least some of us didn’t, we would hole up for a few hours and wait out the storm. The radar showed that if we left right then, we would get hammered just south of town a ways. The Divide racer went his way, Scott, myself and Adam headed to the post office to pull a Mike Hall.

Mike Hall is a very accomplished endurance racer who, among many other races, won the inaugural TABR in 2014. One of his tricks was to carry light gear and sleep inside when possible, however, not always in a hotel. Mike is known to have slept in vault toilets in bear country (because they are secure. You can lock yourself in) and quite a few times he has been found in US post offices. They are always open and seem to be fairly secure.

The three of us found the modern facility all lit up, open and deserted. We brought our bikes in, leaned them against the walls and proceed to crash out in our sleeping gear on the floor. It wasn’t exactly comfortable and certainly brighter than I preferred under the ample fluorescents, but we weren’t wet or cold. We laid down about 9:30 and set our alarms for 2 hours.

I didn’t sleep well at all. My sleeping system was flawed from the get go on this trip and I was just not able to find a way to sleep much on the concrete floor with my 1/4″ foam pad. I got a little bit of rest and woke before my alarm went off. One of the other alarms went off and the three of us got up, packed up and headed out into the cold night. I put on all I had- my base layer and my ultralight rain jacket. Fingers crossed.

It didn’t take long to realize what we had in store. Now near midnight and still at a fairly high elevation (8864′), it was cold. My guess is upper 30’s. I had hoped that I would warm up as I rode, but the route was heading downhill. Every once in awhile there would be a little incline, but not enough to warm up with. I was freezing. I stopped at one point to put a spare pair of socks on my hands. I then took a rag I had, cut it in half and shoved a half down in each of the socks to act as some insulation. Back on the road, I quickly found that it wasn’t going to work. Scott had stopped with me and Adam had ridden on. Each of us just wanted to get down.

Fifteen miles out of Hartsel, Scott and I stopped along the side of the road and got out our sleeping stuff- he his bag and me my quilt. I needed to try to get warm. It didn’t work. My 45 degree quilt just wasn’t enough to make a difference in temps that were headed toward the freezing mark. I would not get any colder with it around me per se, but I couldn’t warm up. Frustrated, we took off again, hoping to tough it out. After about 6 miles, I was shivering and couldn’t feel my hands. We stopped again and I tried to warm up with the quilt, once more to no avail. My mind started having thoughts of what was going to happen. How cold was I? Was hypothermia a potential risk? I didn’t want to over-dramatize the situation, but I wanted to be real. This wasn’t good.

A check of the map showed that we were still 40 miles from Cañon City. Another look and I noticed the little burg of Guffey, just 7 miles away. Although a mile off route, we decided to head there, realizing that there was a high probability that we wouldn’t find anything available at 2:30 in the morning. I felt like I needed to take the chance and see if I could find shelter.

Back on the bikes again and downhill toward who knew what. It only took a second for the cold to go through me. Shivering and aching from it, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to hold onto the bars and crash. As the minutes and miles ticked away, I was barely surviving. Finally we saw the sign- Guffey 1 mile. We turned up the road that direction. It was a long mile! Eventually, we saw a few lights ahead. Rolling into the little one-horse town at 2:30AM, it seemed like no one lived there. No signs of any shelter at all.

Then, there it was- US Post Office. Hallelujah! I was never so excited to see a bunch of metal boxes in my life. We quickly got inside and found that is was nice and warm. Like manna from heaven. Just like we had at Hartsel, we strung out our sleeping gear on the floor and tried to sleep. This time, sleep found me. Not great sleep, but sleep, none the less. 130 miles was all we made on the day. Highs and lows were had, both in reality and figuratively. It was nice to be past Hoosier, but the reality was I was now another 70 miles behind. What to do, what to do.

TABR15- Day 12- Rawlins, WY to Kremmling, CO

6:30AM- My alarm went off and I’m was up, getting dressed and packing my things. After a great night of sleep, I was feeling pretty good. I hit a gas station on the way out of Rawlins for some supplies and breakfast. The last two days I had caught Scott late in the day. My plan was to make up that ground earlier. Time to make hay.

As I rode out of town, I checked Trackleaders on my phone. Scott was bedded down in Saratoga after having gotten there a little after 2:00AM. Adam showed bedded down in Sinclair, just a few miles ahead. His tracker showed he went down about 11:15PM. I was on the move before both. Good.

I rolled through Sinclair and saw a city park where I expected to find Adam. No Adam. I didn’t look too hard. Just glancing around as I rode by. Maybe he was out of view somewhere. No matter. It looked like I was back in front of him. Get going!

I left Sinclair and started the section of I-80 on the route. It is only about 15 miles of interstate shoulder, but still not much fun. Lots of debris to dodge and 80 MPH traffic a few feet away. It’s a must though as it is the route. I made quick work of it and was happy to see it end.

Back on two lane roads and headed south toward Saratoga, I was warmed up well and feeling good, ready to put in a good day. Just a couple miles up the road, I started a climb and had my head down, chugging along. I looked up to see a cyclist not far in front of me stopped along the road. As I neared him, I realized it was Adam! He was fine, just readjusting some things, but looked surprised to see me. As I passed, he got moving. I went on and kept the hammer down, leaving him fairly quickly. I never asked, but I assume he just wasn’t feeling it that morning.

I made Saratoga and stopped at a gas station for some grub and to refill bottles. Gas station pizza and ice cream with a chocolate milk chaser was on the menu. It did all I needed it to do. I checked Trackleaders and saw Scott was about 20 miles ahead. I figured I could make that up pretty quick. Looking back at Adam’s, I realized that I had been mistaken earlier when I thought he was bedded down. It hadn’t updated on my phone. He had actually gotten up and left a few minutes before I got up. Strange how the trackers and the system work sometimes. Certainly not an exact science.

Down the road I went, into more rollers as I went through Southern Wyoming. Although it is a bit bleak and arid looking, it has its own beauty.

I grabbed food and drink in Riverside, just 20 miles down the road. I knew it would be the last stop before Walden, CO some 50+ miles ahead, and quite a bit of climbing along the way. Scott was still 20 miles ahead of me. I had made no ground on him.

The climbs south and east of Riverside didn’t feel quite as difficult as I remembered them to be in 2011. My legs were feeling strong and I had slept well. I cruised on ahead and was nearing the Colorado state line. All at once, it hit me. Very near the border, I bonked.

I’m usually good about having some sort of food with me and have never really hit bottom with a calorie deficit before. It happened quickly and unfortunately all I had left to eat was a stick of beef jerky. It was food, but it would take way too long for my body to process it. I needed some carbs bad. Nothing I could do, I ate the jerky and lumbered along. My legs that had felt awesome all day went to jelly. No power. Nothing. As I tried to eat my jerky, I met a car that was taking pictures of me. If I had been in a better state, I might have realized it was the serial dot watcher Olaf Sorenson. He was a very long way away from his home in the Pacific Northwest, but had taken vacation to come out and see the racers in their element. I wish I would’ve said a proper hello. All I did was give a wave and continue moseying along.

I kept moving, albeit very slow. I crossed into Colorado and made my way the remaining 25 miles to Walden. I was famished and beat. I pulled into a gas station and found Scott there. He was happy to see me, as usual. I don’t think that guy ever gets down. He had eaten at a restaurant up the street and had just bought supplies for the ride ahead there at the station. He asked if I wanted to ride along with him, but I explained that I bonked out and needed to eat. He rolled out saying he would soft pedal and see me later. I told him I would do my best to catch up after I ate. I grabbed a chocolate milk and chugged it, then headed up the street to find real food.

The restaurant that Scott had eaten at was where I went. It was one of the places I had been to in 2011 as well. A monster cheeseburger with fries and coke helped. I ate dessert too. Once I finished, I went back to the gas station and supplied up. I actually bought too much. I didn’t want to run out again! I was feeling much better after having eaten and was ready to go chase down my little single speed buddy.

I headed south out of Walden. The first 30 miles were through the valley and a pretty easy ride. I rolled along well, keeping the pace up. As I started out of the valley, climbing up toward 9621′ Willow Creek pass, I naturally slowed, only to find out that the mosquitos were atrocious! Now being 150 miles into the day and having spent myself so completely earlier, my legs weren’t strong enough to keep my speed fast enough to stay away from the beasts. It was a long 5 miles or so to the top.

Reaching the top of Willow Creek Pass, I didn’t stay long. I slowed for a second, hoping to get a pick of the Continental Divide crossing, but the mosquitos swarmed and I bailed down the pass. Not worth loosing any more blood for it!

As I descended, the day was waining. I fully expected to see Scott any time. He might climb just a tad faster than me, but the flat areas and descents were where I made up ground. Around each turn I watched with no sign. The miles ticked off and I was concerned that I missed him somehow. Maybe he got off the side of the road somewhere and was behind me?

I kept moving and knew I was nearing the turn onto Hwy 40. It was now dusk and I had my lights on. There had been several stretches of open road where I could see quite a ways in front of me and I hadn’t seen any lights, so I figured I had either missed Scott or he was way in front. I was disappointed either way. I descended that last hill down to 40 and as I turned right, there he was on the side of the road. Sitting down, he was making a wardrobe change, adding a layer for the night chill. I did the same and we headed south together toward Hot Sulphur Springs.

Just a mile or so down the road, I had a flat. I made fairly quick work of it, but the time lost would come back to bite me.

We rolled into Hot Sulphur Springs a bit late- around 10PM. It’s a small town anyway, but the few shops that were there were closed. The last hope was a gas station with lights on, but when we pulled up, the door was locked. We were just minutes too late. The attendant was inside, but just doing after-hours chores. I was so thankful that I over bought at the station in Walden!

With a little less than 20 miles to go to Kremmling, we set out in the dark. We chatted as we rode. I explained how cool of a ride it was through that part in daylight. You descend into a canyon that has a river in the bottom with a railroad along side it. Great views can be had, but all we saw was black. The company was great though.

Chilled and tired, we arrived in Kremmling about 11:30PM. We both were tired and ready to rest, but needed to eat. We found a 24 hour gas station there and went in for the typical delicacies. I had a Bomb burrito the size of my head, chocolate milk and a bunch of other junk. It hit the spot, despite the lack of nutritional value. We checked out the ACA map for places to stay in town and ended up just going next door to the Super 8. Once again, we shared a room, however this time there were two beds. By the time I showered and rinsed my kit, then hit the sack, it was after midnight.

The mileage for the day was right at 200. It had been a great day overall. I had bridged up to Scott and met my mileage goal. I just wanted to keep that momentum going and make it out of the mountains the next day. Just one more day to the plains. There, with my gears, I would probably leave Scott and his single speed behind. I didn’t know what to think about that. Bittersweet I guess. I would worry about it when I got there. In the present, I needed to sleep.

As the wind blows

What a day! I started out early in Ordway. Hit the road at 7:00 and temps were cool, but the biggest issue was wind. Blowing 20-30 out of the ENE, which just so happened to be the way I was headed.

Out here there just isn’t anything to stop the wind. The first 4 hours were absolutely brutal. 40 miles in 4:05 for an average of 9.85 was like beating my head against a wall. I stopped in Haswell at the only place of business and had a microwave burrito, candy bar and a soda for lunch.

The wind died down to a less brutal 10-15 after lunch. The going got a little better. A 3:00 or so I reached Eads, which was where I had intended on reaching in my original plan. Being as I have been ahead of schedule, I wanted to stay that way and carry on. The issue- the next place to stop was Tribune, KS, 60 miles down the road. I REALLY wanted to get to Kansas. As grandma would’ve said, that’s no hill for a stepper!

I ate a good meal at a cafe (chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes), called a little motel in Tribune and got a reservation (so I would be committed) and set off a little after 4:00, knowing full well I wouldn’t make it before dark.

The wind seemed to pickup a little a I left Eads. I didn’t let it bother me though. I was resigned to make Kansas if it took me all night.

The sun went down about about 15 miles before the state line and it was fully dark with 10 miles to the line. The moon hadn’t come up yet and with some clouds in the sky, it was really dark.  It did give me an opportunity to view the night sky. As long as I had my light off, it was really spectacular. Just riding down the road in the dark admiring the sky, I almost missed the state line!

I caught a glimpse of something along the road, turned on my light and saw the sign. The pic turned out kind of cool, being dark and me shining my light up on the sign. From there, it was just 16 miles to go!

I rolled into Tribune just a few minutes before 9:00 mountain time. I checked in to the little motel, ran across the street to a little truck stop and got a burger, candybar and a soda for “dinner”, then crashed. I was beat.

Stats:
Mileage-120.76
Total-2425.01
Trip time-9:56
Avg speed-12.14
Max speed-23.47
Climb-1627

Out of the mountains and into the plains

After sleeping in because I stayed up too late, I rolled out of Canon City at 9:35. The break was nice though. I have plenty of opportunity to get up and roll at the crack of dawn!

Most of the way from Canon City to Wetmore was uphill. This disappointed me! I thought it was going to be downhill most if the day! Fortunately it was downhill or flat most of the day after Wetmore.

The scenery changed quickly. The first couple hours I was just outside the foothills of the mountains. Once I got on the other side of Pueblo, it went from desert to farmland fairly quick. I could still see the mountains in the distance though. By the time I reached Ordway, where I’m staying tonight, the mountains were all but out of sight.

Now it’s just flat. Really flat. The thing I see the most of is fire ant nests along the side of the road. Tons of them!

As of now, I am about 50 miles ahead of where I had scheduled to be. Going to try to extend that tomorrow. Plan on an early start. Hoping for favorable winds and strong legs.

I know I have the breath for it. After the last couple weeks at elevation, my red blood cell count should be elevated. I could tell it somewhat today.

You figure 2 days ago I slept at 9500 and tonight I am at 4400. Would love to go home right now and ride with the guys with these lungs, no extra weight on the bike and fresh legs. That would be fun!

With a decent day, tomorrow I’ll be in Kansas! 🙂

Stats:
Mileage-101.01
Total-2304.25
Trip time-6:42
Avg speed-15.06
Max speed-37.01
Climb-2165

Passed the pass

Last night I stayed at the Fireside B&B and Hostel in Breckenridge. I would suggest it to anyone who us going to be in that area. Very homey and I had the best bowl of oatmeal this morning that I have ever had!

It was a bit chilly when I pulled out today at 9:00. But the sky was blue and the views were spectacular. So it was out of town and up Hoosier Pass. 

The climb was not too bad comparative to some of the other ones so far on the trip. The idea that it was my last big climb certainly helped fuel me. 

Coming off the pass was a bit frightening. High speeds, nasty cross winds and unyielding traffic. So far on this trip, Colorado drivers have been the worst. I wish it wasn’t so, but it’s true. Today I had an oncoming pickup in the other lane honk and flip me off for no reason. I was on the shoulder minding my own. There have been numerous cars not giving me room and honking. Disappointing. 

I stopped in Alma for lunch at a coffee house. The day seemed to be getting away from me a bit. My original plan was to stop for the day in Guffey. My hope was to go farther. At this point it looked like Guffey would be the spot. 

After lunch, things started coming together. There was lots of downhill, the wind was at my back, and I was feeling pretty strong. The miles started clicking off pretty quick. I did have a few climbs, but nothing too bad. 

I found myself at the turnoff for Guffey at about 4:00. With only 30 miles to Canon City (pronounced canyon), I decided to go for it. 

As I continued on, I quickly realized that the terrain was changing rapidly. What once were snow capped mountains in the distance were now rolling foothills. What were once stately pines were now becoming shorter and scrubbier. I was leaving the mountains. 

This was bittersweet. Although I want nothing more than to be moving toward home at this point, I’ve spent the last month living in the mountains and I’ve gotten used to it. It’s beautiful up there. But the tour must go on. 

Late this afternoon, I passed Royal Gorge and started heading on down into Canon City. Right before dark and right before I got to town, I had a flat. My first since day 3 of the trip. Unfortunately it was the same problem as last time. Rim tape. I couldn’t find the exact spot that caused the issue. Just hoping it stays under control until I can get to a bike shop. 

So going the extra 30 miles puts me ahead of my schedule. Hoping to continue the trend and make more time as I get onto the prairie. It should be just 2 days and I’ll be in Kansas!

Stats:
Mileage-102.67
Total-2203.24
Trip time-6:41
Avg speed-15.36
Max speed-42.42
Climb-3968

The rain cometh

Had another morning where I didn’t want to get started. But I did. 

The first 12 miles were rough, only because there were no shoulders and lots of traffic. I was glad to get on a less traveled road. 

Once again, it was a bit chilly this morning. I bundled up, then started stripping down early. Then added back. Good grief. 

Most of the day it looked like it was about to rain. About 40 miles in, just north of Silerthorne, it actually started. Just light stuff for about ten miles, but once I got to Frisco, the sky pretty well opened up. Of course this all required more wardrobe changes. 

About 2 miles outside Breckenridge the rain stopped. The views didn’t get any better though as everything was completely socked in. 

I am staying tonight in a hostel here, the Fireside Inn. Quaint little place with some interesting folks. 

Tomorrow is the big day. I climb Hoosier Pass, which is at 11,542. It will also be my last crossing of the continental divide and should be my last day of questionable weather for awhile. I look forward to being able to just wear my bibs and jersey again!

Stats:
Mileage-60.52
Total-2100.57
Trip time-5:04
Avg speed-11.93
Max speed-33.10
Climb-3561