I found a saloon/bar/grill that was only cooking burritos at that time of night. Beggers can’t be choosers.
I spent the next day in Steamboat for two reasons. 1) My ass sores. They were bad. 2) My lovely friend, because, why not? I’m not out to win this thing, I just want to finish. And if I can spend a day in Steamboat Springs playing and enjoying my new-found lady’s company, why not? We ate awesome food, swam in hotsprings, ate food, went hiking, and ate more food. Or at least I ate food. I usually finished half her meal and two of my own.
The rest was needed. I was back rolling the day after and she went back to Denver for work. Out of Steamboat I rode on paved roads for about twenty miles. It was a beautiful day, getting warmer and warmer each pedal stroke, and my spirits were high. I finally made it to dirt at the end of the twenty mile stretch of highway. An old gated road met me here. It led up through and between the mountains. It was shaded at first and very beautiful to look at.
Getting the theme of the Tour so far? Beautiful. If there’s one unifying theme, it’s that the entire course is beautiful.
And long. That too.
I took my time that day, easing back into riding and not pushing myself too hard. I stopped and took pictures along the way of a large dam I crossed. I even saw an old, abandoned ski resort that overlooked a large lake reservoir. Around this area I ran into a few individuals with bikes laden with touring gear. They were riding it at a slower pace, around forty miles a day, and had started nearly a month before me. We talked for a while before I pushed on ahead. It was good to see people touring the Divide. I think that would make a fantastic trip.
My endpoint that day would be Kremmling, CO, a blue-collar industrial town with a great local restaurant. But between me and it was a countryside that was growing more and more arid as my wheels turned. My roads were all dirt and rock today, and I had numerous steep climbs. Luckily, though, none were over 1,000 feet. I rolled through more beautiful aspens, descended through arid hills and climbed/pushed my bike until I was in Radium, CO. Radium is basically a tourist attraction for tubing on the Colorado River, some camping, and… nothing really. There is nothing in Radium. There are no business, housing, or anything. Just a sign that says Welcome to Radium.
It was also at the bottom of a valley that I had to climb out of in order to make it to Kremmeling before nightfall.
I met some campers while on my way out of the steep valley and decided to stop, chit chat, and get something to eat. Apparently one of them was from San Antonio. Just two guys in their late 20s who’ve been best friends for years that, every few months, need to get away from their lives and wives and go out to the country. Sounds good to me!
I bid them farewell and began climbing. I felt strong now, especially for being stuck in my 32 tooth ring, and pushed hard. Yep, hadn’t gotten that fixed yet. None of the bike shops in Steamboat had what I needed, so I was on my way to Breck to find the right shifter. There were two nasty asphalt climbs before I had my downhill into Kremmling.
The first climb I made, but when I stopped at the top to rest, I was absolutely assaulted by killer mosquitoes from hell. They swarmed me so thick I couldn’t breathe without inhaling one of the bloodsucking bastards. They were big mountain mosquitoes. I had no bug spray, and the only way I could get away from them was on the downhills.
But I had a huge climb coming up that I knew I was too tired to push in my big gears. At least for most of it.
So I was stuck to walking, slapping, having fits of rage, desperation, and annoyance. They bit right through my jersey, my shorts, my socks, everything. I had them all around me. They bit my face, arms, hands, chest, back, legs, everything.
It was the most miserable experience of the entire trip, if that tells you anything.
I finally made it to the top of the last climb through the mountains, whispered a quote from Firefly (“Here’s something you can’t do…”) and absolutely booked it downhill at 35 MPH for a good six miles.
As miserable as this section was, I do have to concede that it held some of the most breathtaking views of the whole trip. This had to be one of the reasons it was so damned annoying: It was beautiful, but I couldn’t enjoy it due to the blood loss.
Rolling into Kremmling to get away from the mosquitoes, I hit up a local bar full of rough individuals and tight bloused bartenders. All they served at this time of night was burritos.
All I really needed. I tipped the waitress/bartender well and headed to the hotel.
I slept in Kremmling that night, slept past my alarm, got out by 9 AM, and hit the road. Wasn’t too sad seeing Kremmeling disappear behind me. Not much in that town.
I followed the Colorado river out of the town for a few miles after leaving the town. Today was going to be a tough one, but which day wasn’t?
This was Tour Divide, nut up or shut up.
I had Ute Pass between me and highway 9, which led right to Silverthorne. Ute pass was going to take a bit of time, however. I rode on a combination of dirt and pavement through national forest land, at some points surrounded by trees and other times pushing through large open fields. It was a fairly warm day, as evident by how quickly I was going through my water supplies. While climbing up through a paved road, I passed a fairly clear, running stream. I stopped and climbed down to the water to refill my Camelback. I didn’t trust the stream, so I used one of my water purification tablets on it. These little guys were real life savers.
Water full, I continued my climb. The road gave way to dirt as the climb got steeper and higher. There was a huge mining operation on this mountain, and I was riding through the heart of it. Huge cement processing plants pushed high into the sky, almost matching the peaks. I had to push my bike up the hardest and final part of the climb. At the top was an observation point where a man with a Subaru, a mountain bike, and a map stood against his car. He had been taking pictures of the scene.
It was a beautiful scene, like always. The more south I went, the more green the views became. I could see for miles and miles. But the only thing on my mind after a grueling uphill was the fantastic coast that awaited me.
Cruising down mountains was becoming my reward for the climbs. The views were just icing on the cake at this point.
At the bottom, it began to sprinkle. The sprinkle turned into rain, so I stopped and changed into my rain gear. I pedaled through the rain for 12 miles until I hit Silverthorne, CO. It was here I found a bike shop right next to a Chinese food restaurant.
I left my bike at the shop for a quick clean and asked them to see about a new Sram shifter to replace my front shifter that was FUBAR (and had been for days). I walked into the restaurant right before a big rain storm came through. I sat for half an hour gorging myself on General George’s chicken and rehydrating. Fried chicken is a fantastic thing on the Divide.
Back at the bike shop, I paid for their services, but they couldn’t find a shifter for me in stock. However, Breck was going to have numerous shops to check out. I thanked them and headed to Breckenridge.
This was a fun part of the ride.
I was refueled and relubed when I hit the road again. I was on dedicated bike paths from Silverthorne to Breck, approximately 18 miles of them! So no cars, flowy gravel and pavement all the way around Dillon reservoir and occasional glimpses of mule deer. I rode around on these tiny roads for a while, passing through Frisco where I was on main street for a while before banking hard right into the next bike path. This one was the most fun, as it wove through aspens at the foot of a huge hill. The path was carrying me up towards the 9000′ that is Breck.
All that fun had to end somewhere, though. It ended when the rain began.
I donned my rain gear and gritted my teeth. It wasn’t just a light sprinkle; this was a mountain hurricane. Winds blew me all around the tiny bike path, a perfect headwind anywhere I turned. Rain was almost horizontal and stung when it hit my eyes. It was also very cold. For the next 10 or so miles I rode through this onslaught. When I finally started to see the outskirts of Breck, I was riding next to a raging stream. The bike path would have usually gone under road bridges, but the water level was so high from snow run-off and storms that the bike path was completely submerged. I was navigating through the rain on highway at some points. The rain stopped as soon as I began to roll down Breck’s main drag.
I had a few hours before my now steady girlfriend (Let’s call her “Lucile”, for the sake of this writing) was to meet me, so it was my job to find a place to stay. Breckenridge is a neat little ski town, but it’s also a very presumptuous place. As in, it presumes you have a lot of money to spend.
I found a little bed and breakfast called The Fireside Inn that was a few streets up from the main drag. It was cozy, owned by a very nice British couple, and I was able to get the entire upper room for fairly cheap. I had about two hours to hang out, grab food, shower, and check my equipment before Lucile was to arrive. I had two crepes from a street vender. I had wanted to save one of them for Lucile, but I wasn’t able to. I simply did not have the willpower.
We went to bed soon after she arrived. The next morning, we dropped my bike off at a bike shop for repair and had an amazing hash breakfast at a local joint a buddy of mine told me about. The day was pretty fun, walking around breck, window-shopping, checking out cool bikes, and genuinely enjoying human interaction.
By the time my bike was ready, the weather had turned for the worse again. We took shelter in a small coffee shop and watched the rain for nearly an hour. Not all was lost, the shop had a fantastic chai latte.
Man, I was really roughing in this trip, wasn’t I? I can’t believe I made it out unscathed.
Once the rain lifted, we said our goodbyes and went separate ways. The road out of Breck wasn’t too bad. Boreas Pass loomed ahead of me. Climbing this one would be rough, especially at 3 PM between thunder storms.
Pavement fell to gravel which eventually fell to dirt. Entering the dirt, following the old pass road up between peaks, I saw incredibly dark clouds beginning to swirl on all sides of me. I was going to be hit with a storm again.
I put my rain gear on preemptively. No use in fooling myself. Hell in the form of thunder, lightening, and rain was coming.
Then I was hit in the head with what felt like a garbanzo bean from heaven.
Then lightening crashed, the sky lit up, and millions of these pellets began to rain on top of me.
Hail. Very painful hail. Hellish Hail.
I had to dodge off the road and take shelter under a dense, short tree to get away from it. Every hit stung. I waited here for ten or more minutes before the hail mixed with rain enough to make the ride not hurt.
Now I was riding through rain up an old railway road to the top of a mountain pass while lightening flashed all around me.
It was beautiful.
I climbed for another 45 minutes before cresting the pass. On top was an old train car set up as a monument to the railway. The rain had stopped by this time, but I was rather cold. My gloves were completely soaked, which didn’t help when I had a long extremely rocky and rough downhill to the bottom of this pass.
To call this pass rocky and rough wouldn’t do it justice. Water had eroded the dirt, showing only very nasty boulder-sized rocks. This road would be a 4×4 only option, and you had better have one hell of a lift job. I made it down, but my hands and body were feeling it. I had to peel my fingers off of my grips towards the end.
A dirt road at the end led to the small community of Como, CO, Population 23. I knew there was a place to stay here, and I needed it. I needed to warm up and get out of the cold and the rain. I found the Como Depot, a neat bed and breakfast owned by an older English gentleman who loved the Tour Divide and had many riders stop there.
I stored my bike in a shed and took my belongings up to my room. The service did my laundry and cooked me an amazing dinner. I had the old Depot to myself that night. During dinner the owner wanted nothing more than to speak to me about my race so far.
I wanted nothing more than to eat my warm food and go take a warm shower and sleep in a warm bed.
It was an hour later before I was able to break myself from his conversation. I took leave to my room, had my shower, lay in bed, and fell asleep watching a fox chase a rabbit across the steppe valley that was in view from my window.