Great Divide

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The Great Basin & Beyond

It’s been a few weeks (months, perhaps?) since I last posted. I know.

For better or worse, after leaving Banff and picking up the Great Divide I was under a bit of a time crunch. With three weeks in September carved out for work, and a little off-the-bike play, I needed to push the pace to make it as far south into Colorado as I could. My fear of an early winter in the Rockies kept me in the saddle — and off the computer.

While I relish the physical and mental challenges that come with setting lofty goals, I’m also aware of the potential for burnout. This time was no exception. After a month of pounding pedals on limited rest, my legs were drained, my ass sore and I was in deep caloric debt. When mid-September rolled around, I still felt motivated to ride. Then I hung up the bike for a few days; up went the bike, down went my motivation to get back on it.

Wrapped in the comfort of the world of Backroads, replete with three weeks of abundant food, soft beds and familiar friendly faces, I’m left softened like a couch potato. Two extraordinary weeks with Erin hasn’t done much to refuel my motivation, either.

I’m currently waiting out the early winter storms I feared would halt my progress along the Divide, holed up — on a couch — in Denver with my cousin Stephanie. The good news: the weather forecast is for sun and warmer temperatures next week. The need to push miles has passed. The luxury of slowing down has returned.

Into the Great Basin after a few days of rest in Jackson.

Dinner along Little Sandy Creek.

Jim rejoined us out of Jackson.

This stretch of winding road straddled the Continental Divide, offering sweeping views of the Great Basin to the south.

Favorable winds and gently rolling terrain made for perfect riding conditions.

Jim waiting patiently. At 60, he had no problem "finding his groove" and riding us off his wheel, effortlessly plowing ahead while we struggled to keep pace.

Riding at dusk proved the best way to beat the heat. With endless opportunities for camping, we had the luxury of riding until sunset, my favorite time of day.

Aspen Alley, a gateway of sorts from the rolling hills of the Basin into the mountains of Colorado.

No bikes here. In Steamboat I hopped a ride with Greyhound to rendezvous with my good friend and climbing partner, Nick. We bee-lined to Jackson, WY where the weather window for the Grand Teton welcomed us with open arms. Here, we're midway between the Lower and Upper Saddles. Parking lot to summit and back in a one-day push is no easy feat, but now that the pain of a 26-mile, 17-hour day climbing 7,000 feet is behind us, mostly good memories remain. The highlight of the day: Nick's first lead placing his own gear -- at 13,000 feet!

Then it was on to Connecticut to support a 450-person charity bike ride with Backroads where I was lucky enough to spend a second straight birthday with 64 friends and co-workers. Panda says hi. (Photo courtesy of Erin Barr)

Plaid on plaid -- on plaid! The collision of bicycle and girlfriend has the wheels turning for a possible change in plans. Last I checked, Erin has a pretty solid touring bike...! (Photo courtesy Sam Pope)

In the few short weeks off the bike, Autumn settled in nicely outside of Steamboat Springs, CO.

The hills ablaze with yellow Aspen leaves.

The chase is on. A friendly reminder that an endless summer can only be found south of here.

Muddy, leave-covered dirt can be expected for the next couple weeks. Here's hoping for an Indian Summer!


Big Sky Country

Here’s a photo recap of the ride through Montana, a slice of Idaho and over the Tetons to Jackson, Wyoming.

The town park was crammed full with tents, bikes, random assortments of gear, a six-pack of Deschutes paired with chips and salsa. For the night, Eureka, MT was host to a mini reunion of Divide riders, all slightly surprised by the number of late-season dirt seekers.

Bruce, Dave and Jim stayed for the night, lured by juicy burgers, beer and a shower. A speedy Kiwi had passed through earlier in the day, eager to cover more ground southward. There was the burly Dane, hauling the kitchen sink in full panniers and trailer, just days from finishing his ride in Banff. Greg and Sadie were sipping cold beer and dining on gourmet vegan food, resting for the day while Greg’s achilles soaked in ibuprofen.

The weeks ahead were bound to be fun.

The Great Divide continued to impress from the border through the Whitefish Mountains, along Glacier National Park and into the vibrant mountain town of Whitefish. The road was wide open descending Whitefish Divide; under sunny skies I rode 25 miles without seeing another soul, a perfect morning on the bike.

A lighter, cleaner Troll, courtesy of the Backroads leader house in Whitefish.

If you find yourself on the Divide in northern MT, a night at the Arnone's is a must!

Tom and his wife Pat have been hosting cyclists as long as the Divide has been around. A frame builder (notice the decal?), former racer and all around avid cyclist, Tom is still riding strong just shy of his 80th birthday!

Tom had cold beer waiting when I arrived and Pat walked me through the garden to whip up a fresh salad for dinner. A pot full of fresh raspberries was the perfect dessert. The following morning I was woken by the sweet sound of Pat grinding spelt for pecan pancakes and before I could finish unzipping my tent Tom was halfway across the yard with a glass of OJ in hand! These folks know how to treat a touring cyclist!

Tom gave me a tour of his shop, showing off his motorcycle collection and a few of his favorite bike frames, along with a house full of hand-carved rifles, furniture and other decorative wooden pieces.

This little Italian job looked like a blast to whip around. Before I could finish breakfast Tom was down the road, riding with the spirit of someone half his age. I nursed my coffee, soaking in the sun and chatting away the morning with Pat, in total admiration of their life on the farm.

Sunset behind the Mission Mountains above Seeley Lake. Not long after, I spooked a massive elk while rounding a corner, rounded the next and launched into a game of hide-and-seek with 3 wolf pups.

Soaking up the Big Sky sun on my way out of the Swan Mountains.

I reconnected with Greg and Sadie a week after meeting them in Eureka.

Sadie crushing it on her 700c Specialized CrossRoads.

With similar paces and laid-back styles, we were happy to join forces against the brutal terrain of Montana. Try as we did, we quickly discovered these mountains were beyond conquering.

Through all of the jello-legging, we were treated daily to blue skies, quite roads, lush forest, expansive views of uninhabited wilderness and nights around campfire wrapped in the blanket of a radiant Milky Way.

Thanks, but I'll walk.

Resupply in Basin, MT.

A dream deferred.

Since when did Interstate rest areas stop stocking cold soda? The 2-mile diversion for an icy, caffeinated beverage at least provided a shady retreat from the midday sun.

The LEGENDARY Fleecer Ridge. Warning: Ride at your own risk!

More downhill hike-a-bike.

Greg and Sadie live in Duluth, Minnesota where they've helped form the Bike Cave Collective, work closely with the Catholic Worker movement and ride bikes year-round. And yes, that means in -30*F weather, too. Greg also sews with Black Rose Bags, a collective of cyclists crafting beautiful handmade bike bags from recovered materials. Check 'em out!

Idaho, for a day.

Jackson, Wyoming

Ah, the comforts of town: shade, soft green grass, beer from a bike bottle...

...and a couple nights with a Warmshowers host. No better way to cap a blissfully grueling run through Montana!