Tour Divide History: June 10-12

After a restful few days in Banff, my Tour Divide experience got off to an ignominious start, and I was rescued by strangers (hint: recurring theme).

The Tour Divide is both a race and a start date, although they’re not necessarily the same. People race the route during the summer months starting on a day of their choice, or get together for the Grande Depart which occurs on the 2nd friday at June. Crazy Larry presides, and I attended.

Nate Boxer and I drove a rental car up early that week to give me a bit of time to adjust to the high altitude of Banff (4,500 feet – almost as high as Mt. Rainier’s Paradise). After seeing Nate off, and lost of last minute shopping I was ready to go. At 8:00 Thursday evening, one of my 3 GPS units broke – so plunk it went into the box of crap I was shipping home. What the hell, I had 2 more.

I was up until 3:00 AM Friday morning screwing around with shipping things home and excitement. Not a great plan, but hey. I was even up early enough the next morning to get FedEx packages from a near by hotel. Not enough sleep but plenty of excitement.

A photo of Dave in a helmet, ear buts, and a buff.
Day 1 portrait

June 10 (Day 1): The race start was a mob scene of adventure cyclists. Use your imagination.

We pedaled off into the forests, with me in the middle of the pack. After a short while I found myself talking with a gentleman from the UK who’d just finished the AZT 750 (packing his bike on his back through the grand canyon) and figured the Tour Divide was a bit easier. I felt intimidated.

my tour divide ride
Clyde – my Tour Divide bike

I rode for a while with Tim Glover, 2 time veteran of the Tour Divide, and heard some of his stories of past tours. Tim shows up later in the story.

After stoping for a quick break, I got separated from Tim and the others and ended up riding along the Spray Lakes road basically alone. This is when I first noticed the ‘lump lump lump’ sound.

The sound was my tire sidewall giving way at the bead. The inner tube was bulging out, but not because of a side wall tear, just because the bead gave up it’s grip on the side wall. This is actually tricker than a sidewIMG_20160611_171554770all tear to repair, since the rim will slice the threads  you use to sew this back up. But sew I did. And boot. And tape. And zip tie, and sew and sew and sew again. The tire ultimately failed in 4 separate places, and I ended up loosing my needle in the forest underbrush (sewing with my Leatherman knife and needlenose) and running out of boots and thread before giving up repairs on Day 2. In the evening of Day 1, I made it to the Bolton Creek Trading post and a camp site with Randy Neil, and lived through my first bear encounter (juvenile grizzly Randy thought). Compared to the self-destructing tire, this was no big deal.

Day 2: Randy started off ahead of me while I sat down to repair my tire again. The path up to Elk Pass was really steep and the weather was pretty crappy (snow, rain, hail), but on my newly repaired tire things were going pretty well. I saw Bear 2 up on the pass, a larger bear who was definitely interested in speaking but because of my foul language decided to pass on speaking to me. This is when the snow really hit. Not deep snow, but definitely enough to turn things white. I got cold. Really cold.

I was still feeling pretty good about scaring off the bear when I hit the elk pass Cabin, and found about 3 people inside. They all scampered off and left me to tend to my business with the still warm cast iron stove, which I did by taking a short, shivery nap.

After the nap I discovered my tire had bulged out yet again. This particular repair used Zip Ties.

Zip ties on my tire
Zip Tie tire bulge repair

I was so distracted by the tire bulge and zip ties that I left 3 pieces of clothing in the lodge (gloves, knee warmers and warmer glove) drying on the stove when I rode away in a daze. Ugh.

The zip ties worked well, but periodically rubbed against the chain, chain stays and other metal parts. Very annoying. Ever kilometer I rode became a struggle, and I took to cheering myself off with each passing sign post. IMG_20160612_163522188Eventually they gave up the ghost (no needle, no thread, no boot material) about 10 miles out of Elkford. I was near a reasonable place to camp and since I had nothing else to do, I settled down to setup camp and make a fire.

Then Randy Karsten happened by. He lent me thread and a needle, and I got to sewing again and got my tube re-inflated. Not but 2 miles later my tube was leaking and my tire was flat. Major mechanical – I was done.

I flagged down 2 motorists, the 2nd of whom (Christian F.) gave me a ride into Elkford. The first of the trail angles – Christian and his nephew were super helpful and tried to get me to the correct hotel. However, I ended up in the Incorrect Hotel – the one with the Metal band playing in the basement (just underneath my room). Thus began restless night #3.

The next morning, the hotel manager said that Albert Wen, the Designated IMG_20160612_175556980Driver for the hotel, could drive me to the nearest town with a bike shop: Fernie. After a very long shopping trip, I had a new tire, new needle and new thread. I was back in Elkford by 4:00pm and raring to go. That evening I rode from Elkford to Sparwood, with a tricky single track section (I got lost twice) and an amazingly lovely long descent into Sparwood. Tim Hortons is open late, and the hotel I stayed at that night was really much nicer than the one in Elkwood.

So far this trip was off to a very, very rough start. The tire trouble had cost me 2 days of a race that I was only 3 days into, and my sleep had been really bad. No wonder I felt like quitting.

 

Tour Divide = Scratch. Tour Davide = Success!

I’m back in Seattle after exiting the Tour Divide in Steamboat Springs, Co. I made it 1546 miles in 28 days, more than half way on the Tour’s 2,745 miles, and decided to honor my time commitments and come home. There’s a teeny tiny sliver of disappointment that I didn’t figure out how to finish, and a huge wedge of pride at how far I came. Instead of talking about finishing half of the Tour Divide, I’m saying I finished All of the Tour Davide.

RideItRight

Tour Divide, scratching, and disappointment: 

I really liked what Diana Nyad said about endurance athletes who succeed: “We’re so afraid of failure, we can’t”. I thought about Diana a lot, and I’d love to count myself in her company. Certainly her achievement (swimming Cuba to Florida at 60) is singular, but I would like to hold a tiny candle up to her huge flame and the Tour Divide qualifies I think.

Sadly, that’s not this year. Pretty early on in the race I did the math and figured out that with my tire being destroyed on day 1, I really didn’t have a huge chance to catch up unless I put in mamoth days (like many 100+ mile days in a row). Given my relatively low level of fitness, it just didn’t seem believable.

I think that was a failure of imagination. I could have turned it around at a couple different points, but basically decided to ride a different race. Honestly, I’m a bit sad that I didn’t and also happy that I didn’t. It would have meant a *vastly* different experience, and I’m pretty happy with the experience I had.

The Tour Davide

So what, exactly, do I have to be proud about anyway? After all, I barely made it half way along the longest, hardest mountain bike ride in the world!

Well… there’s that: I made it more than half way on the longest, hardest mountain bike race in the world. On the first try!!! In the face of serious obstacles! By myself! Given that the chances of even finishing are 50/50 even on a good weather year, I’ll take it. It’s a huge accomplishment, and something to be proud of for sure. What’s more – I didn’t quit because I couldn’t go on (mechanical failure, medical issues, boredom). I quit because  had my priorities right:

  1. Stay married
  2. Stay Alive
  3. Finish

In those terms, I think I finished at exactly the right time.

But really there’s something more. Once you realize you’re not bound for Antelope Wells, there are quite a few options open to you. Honestly, I’m pretty proud that I stuck to the race route, kept at it, and prioritized seeing things and meeting people above speed. The image above is right: I finished behind the leader, but me with my pastie sitting in the grass in Montana is actually winning.

The folks who win this thing basically don’t sleep. Sleep is how our brains make memories. I’d hate to go through all that effort and miss the opportunity to remember the things I saw and the people I met.


For those not on facebook – here’s what I wrote there a few days ago:

Well, the time has come friends – I’m headed back home! My trip on the Tour Davide is complete and I think a success. Mixed emotions for sure, but I am incredibly thankful and happy to have had this adventure.

This won’t be my last update on this topic, I’ve still got some thinking, writing and organizing to do before I’m tapped out.

One of the things I’m proudest of is finishing strong, on my own terms. I’m not out because of poor preparation or mistakes – I’m done because I know what my priorities are, and have from the start. Very much looking forward to seeing my family. Hopefully I get a chance to catch up with you soon too!

P.s. special thanks to the trail angels and riding companions – it was a joy meeting you, the very best thing on my adventure. You know who you are

Protips

Not that I’m a pro but I have some experience in this area.

  • Don’t bring what you need for the entire trip. For example bringing a whole trips with us unblock is a bad idea. You will find what you need on the way.
  • Exceptions to this rule are clothing spare parts prescription medication phone call
  • Full fingered gloves.
  • Wool. jerseys, undies and base. Full zip nice not necessary.
  • Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are best used as prophylactic medicines – take them bwfore you hurt. Daily is not a bad plan.
  • Make agreements w/ yourself and keep them. For example, on descents I always have helmet on, gloves on, and all bags zipped.

    More to come I’m sure, talk soon.

    Things that worked: Sea to Summit evac stuff sack

    Technically, this didn’t fully work as I doubt it’s still waterproof, but Dang has this thing done its job. This sack holds all my sleep gear plus whatever else I can an cram in.

    It never, ever complains. In a 13l sack I can fit: tarp, poles, stakes, down bag, bivvy bag, sleep pad and pillows and a bit more.

    This bag is mounted on the front of my bike, so if I take a tumble it takes the brunt. Even with sharp things inside, the bag has only developed a few minor holes, easily patched. 

    Super pleased with this.

    I am the luckiest man alive

    I suppose it all depends on your perspective, but I gotta say I think my perspective is right.
    Here’s a rundown of good luck/bad luck incidents as evidence.

    Bad luck:

    • Bike shop broke my derailleur hanger 
    • Tire completely destroyed itself on day 1 and 2
    • Not all of my tire repairs worked as well as I wanted
    • Lost my sewing needle in the woods 
    • Motel in Elkwood was above a music venue
    • New pedals develop annoying squeak after, oh, 200 miles
    • Saddle looses a rivet
    • Saddle rail breaks
    • Saddle sags a lot
    • Left my gloves and knee warmers in a cabin
    • Lost a replacement glove on the rail trail
    • Big tumble on the rail trail
    • Lost my wallet in Sweet Lake
    • Lost my phone at high Country L odge

    Good luck

    • Got my wallet back through the amazing kindness of about 10 people
    • Invited to dinner and a cabin bed in Swan Lake
    • Invited to dinner and a luxury cabin stay in Holland Lake
    • Ralph K. Stumbled across me when I was out of options for tire repair and gave me a needle and thread
    • Christian F. gave me.a ride to Elkwood 
    • I arrived at the High Country Lodge without even knowing it.
    • Excellent traveling companions for many days 
    • My family, friends and job supported me in this amazing adventure
    • Eric and Jo found me at a convenience store and took me into their home
    • My trail repairs basically worked
    • Tom gave me his GPS when he scatched so I could continue.
    • I’ve seen many, many amazing things

      By the numbers I may be behind, but I know for sure I’m the luckiest man alive.

      When things go south…

      A wise man once said “When things go south, address the foundation”. So, today is new socks, undies and jersey day. Not really sure why, but today is definitely a low energy day. I feel like I’ve been out drinking with Clif Renberg, and just want to get back in bed.

      But, there’s really not much to do besides ride on, so ride on I will. Today: Wyoming, and with luck the Togwotee lodge.

      I took a close look at my scrapes and bruises. More bruises than scrapes, and only one of the scrapes is really noteworthy – not serious but annoying. Fortunately when looking for new socks I discovered my backup gloves – warm gloves for the passes, but they’re better than no gloves (which is what I have for my left paw after losing one on the rail trail yesterday). That’s a real yay. The weather is lovely, so lovely ill need more sun block soon.
      The ranch I’m at is a strange mix of beauty and janky. The shower matches anything I’ve seen in Honduras or Guatemala. Still. It’s a lovely spot and I’m happy to have stayed.
      One more sip of Foldgers Black Silk and I’m on my way.

      P.s. sorry if this sounds like a pity party, it’s not, just trying to be honest.

      Rail Trail mishaps

      Today’s route is pretty flat, but the map is decieving. The route is an old rail trail, so the grade is easy, but the surface of the trail is a weird combination is bead sized sand and washboard road. The wash board seems to be cased by the ATVs  that use the trail all the time. No big deal for them, but really difficult for cyclists. It’s like a spanking machine!  The sand is also really soft, it sucks your wheel in and sucks the inertia out of your bike. The worst part is crossing between either side of the dual track. The last time I crossed that lost control of the front wheel and wiped out. My gloves were off, and I landed pretty hard on my left hand, knee and side. Seriously disappointed that I could have avoided that crash but didn’t.

      So a recovery evening, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

      Idaho!

      Trying to keep my site more up to date (many of my notes are on Facebook, if you want the real time updates friend me there).
      Lovely ride from Lima to Sawtell yesterday. The cabin I Stayed at in Lima seemed like a fire trap, but I sure slept well. My saddle, now broken in 3 different ways, is holding up ok. The road here was quite bumpy – bad gravel, washboard and potholes. But the route went through a lake valley, lots of birds, more mosquitos. I definitely have Zika.

      The best thing was talking with people: Gary Macferson, Nick Wagers, Nolan and Mekela. Once again, lovely people brought me dinner. More stories later!

      Sticks and stones, rocks, roots and rutts

      Got a good start out of Helena from Eric and J’s house yesterday. Quick stop in downtown to try and get some cash, but the ATM machine decided to eat my card. Ever onwards, I rode up nice graded roads until I stopped for water and met Nolan and Mekela. We rode together for the day.

      Most notable experience – the “technical” section of the pass. Totally unrideable by me. N and M seemed.to levitate right over it. Fortunaltey my fast walking g technique kept me pretty close to their pace. I had to repack after my seat bag kept hitting my wheel. Took a tiny spill.

      Saw Gregor, Mark and John – still setting a mean pace! Nice long descent Into Butte with just one seriously wrong turn.

      Butte is weird! Old buildings, not many people, lots empty or unoccupied. The cafe open the earliest served me breakfast, but was a card only joint. 2 hours of screwing around later I finally paid. What a waste!

      Now: Gamers for pastries and pasties.