Acknowledgments

VeloViewer

IMG_7876This race would not have been possible without the love and support of my family and friends. Special thanks has to go to my parents, Ellen, and the array of other folks that made this race possible.

Without the support and sponsorship of BCA, I would have had a challenging time to make this race happen, and it would have been a hardship that would have been hard to justify.

I have to thank both of my parents for staying up late at night following my dot until they knew I was done for the day. I know they had to of been worried sick, because it was all so new to them and wasn’t a normal activity to be a part of. Especially since I know it must have introduced frustrating scenarios –

“We are looking on our Ipad and our road atlas. What do you see?”

My reply, “It is pitch black, but I think I am going by a forest, or a factory, or actually it could be a big lake. Hard to say, it’s really dark. I think it is just 50 miles to where there is a place I can stop and I should be there by 2am.”

They also made the special effort to surprise me in Yorktown, and worked with Ellen to coordinate meeting me, even though it was a moving target of finish date and time.

The other special thanks has to go to Ellen for her support leading up to the race and during the race as well. She endured many hours of me sitting on a trainer in our cramped apartment, riding outside for miles and miles, and talking me through what I should be preparing myself for. She also was able to give me the motivation and mental support I needed to push on through the pain and go as hard as I could. She sacrificed a lot of time and her own ambitions to allow me to achieve this dream. I will never take her support for granted.

I also have to thank my other family members that called, messaged, and were thinking about me. Aunt Susan, Kim, Jonathan, Justin, and April were all helpful in getting me across the country.

I also have to thank Matt Moore and District Cycle Works for taking care of my bike, Chuck Harney and The Bike Rack for getting me the gear I needed, River City Cycles for putting me back together in Portland, Newton Bike Shop for tuning me up at the halfway point, and Jimmy at Eurosports in Sisters Oregon for fixing my spoke.

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Day 0: Astoria to McKenzie Bridge

Day 1

Astoria to McKenzie Bridge – 16:27 moving time and 18:23 elapsed, 281 miles, 10,236’, 17.1mph, 172w

Astoria Bridge

The race start was somewhat as expected. There was a group meeting until 6am in front of the Maritime Museum and there was neutral rollout to the first bridge. Once the group got to the bridge I decided to have my 10 minutes of glory and went off the front. I was actually in the lead and had a gap for the first 10 miles or so, but then I decided to chill out and take advantage of the group of 10 that had formed behind me and were drafting. I was glad to see the likes of Rod from Australia that I had met in Astoria, Rob English, Ben, and a few guys that I could tell were strong but had no clue who they were.

April, May June 2017 Bike Race 152

When we got to Seaside and went on the beach path one guy went off the front and kind of out of sight. Then a few of the other guys went off solo, but those were brought back into our little group. It made it easy to count and say, “I am top 15” because there are 2 guys off the front and then 10-12 of us riding in the group.

It was also easy enough of a pace, even though we were going mid 20s on the long coastal stretch of 101, that I could ask some of the other guys if they had raced in the TABR before and where they were from. When we got past Cannon City I felt like I had to stop for a natural break and thought the hills along that stretch would allow me to stop and then catch back up, but unfortunately it just meant I was dropped and riding solo, or with a few other dropped/caught up riders. I ended up riding with Rod and Bo and had a few other riders joining in and out of our group. When we got to Otis and turned inland I was still in the top 15 and was doing pretty well. Well enough that I could see that I could easily surpass my goal of making it to Coburg to camp and had to think more about my first day/night options.

Our little group made our first stop for water and snacks at a little store called Roselodge Market, and we ran into either Steffen or Evan at the store fixing a mechanical. I didn’t know anyone’s names so I don’t know who it was, but Bo knew them and chatted with them for a second. I bought 2-3 Gatorades, 2 bean burritos, and some cliff bars. While we were stopped I saw Janie pass us and I went off after her and a few others that had passed us. Eventually Bo caught me and we rode together for some of the afternoon. I was having issues comprehending my Garmin file and there were a few times that we went off course and had to double back. One of my favorite moments from that day was when Bo and I crossed the Willamette River in Corvallis and there was an older couple that was cheering us on, holding signs for TABR Racers and throwing rose petals into the air at us as we went by. I got goosebumps and a rush of adrenaline every time we saw or heard people cheering us on.

By the next time I stopped in Harrisburg for dinner I was in 7th place and if I had known anything about the need for fast stops, I would have not stopped at Subway, but rather gone to a convenience store and been in and out. By the time my 30-minute stop was over I had dropped in the rankings to the low 20s, and I watched people pass me out the window as I ate and spoke with my parents on the phone. Once I got through Coburg I started passing people on the road and made up time on the long false flat toward McKenzie. By now it was getting dark and my first night of racing was underway. I had done well to pass Danicha and Sofiane on my night ride, and seeing Danicha with two pieces of fried chicken in his front cup holders told me a lot about how eating on the bike needed to happen.

I was lucky to get to Vida before the store there closed at 10, since I got to shop there and use the restroom and so did Sofiane, but Rod, Ryszard, and anyone else was left outside locked out. Most of them stayed in the post office there because they had no food or drink to make the summit. In hindsight, I wish I had researched the McKenzie Pass area a little more, so that I knew where camping spots were up the climb, or that I had been able to call Ellen to know that she was staying in Sisters that night. I know I would have ridden further up the road to camp or may have tried to summit and descend into Sisters that evening. Instead I camped at the Methodist Church lawn there. It was fine, but knowing that the first day was the only day that I would feel fresh, it would have been strategic to go to Sisters and sleep in a hotel. That being said I would have also been better served to not have packed the bivy and sleeping pad I packed. I stopped a little after midnight and slept until 4:30 and was back on the bike by 5. It was exactly what I had planned and then some, since I had ridden farther than I had expected and was ready to hit the climb early.

Day 1: McKenzie Bridge to Prairie City

Day 1: McKenzie Bridge to Prairie City – 14:07 moving time and 16:55 elapsed, 211 miles, 11,157’, 15mph, 149w

Day 2

 

McKenzie River OR

One of the hardest parts of the TABR is that you race in such a bubble that I had no idea that about 10 riders had made it over McKenzie Pass. Riders like Donicha that I had easily passed earlier in the night had passed me while I slept, and was now in 2nd place and was already in Redmond when I started to wake up and ride. I was able to break down my camp and get riding in 30 minutes and as I started the sun was starting to rise. I could spot several good places to camp along the gradual ascent up to the gate that marked the beginning of the steeper climb, and I kicked myself a little for not pushing up the mountain a little before stopping. Especially since I was camping and could have stopped anywhere.

The climb wasn’t too difficult and I passed a few riders as I went up to the summit. The snow was not near as deep or as much of an issue as I had pictured, since the road had just been plowed and opened on Thursday two days before. The summit was similar to what folks had described. It was a vast lava field and almost a moonscape of old calderas. There was an overlook that was made from old lava rocks, but I didn’t have time for that. There were a few riders also taking pictures and using the restroom at the top.

Dee Wright McKenzie Pass

At the summit was a sign and I played tourist to get a picture and I leaned my bike against it to get a good shot. Of course, what I didn’t know was that I had leaned my back wheel against a lava rock during my picture time and had scored a spoke. As soon as I started to descend I started to hear a clinking sound that about made me sick. I didn’t know if it was my derailleur hitting spokes, my chain or cassette having fits, or a broken spoke. After riding a mile or so I decided to stop and check it out. It was a broken spoke on the back! I thought I needed to fix it right then and there and started to unpack my seat post bag to get my spare parts and tools. I truly didn’t know what I needed to do and was going to go through the steps that Matt Moore had taught me briefly. At a minimum, I thought I needed to remove the dangling spoke so that it didn’t keep making noise and didn’t mess anything else up.

Fortunately, my bike mechanic skills were still poor and even though I got my spoke wrench out I was only spinning the spoke and nipple together and wasn’t doing anything. Frustrated I stopped and bent the spoke around another spoke and secured it between other spokes so it wouldn’t cause any damage. I also could get a cell signal to tell Ellen my issue and she was already coming up the road to meet me on her bike. I met her at the bottom of the descent and she rode with me to her hotel. It was Sunday morning and only 8am, so I was dreading that every bike shop would be closed for four more hours and I would be doing spoke surgery in her hotel room. I looked online anyway and to my surprise, and best luck, there was a shop that had just opened.

We got back on the bikes and rolled into town to Eurosports and met Jimmy who had taken my call. He was putting bikes out on the shop front and immediately came inside to help me out. Luckily, I had a spare set of spokes and luckily with my poor mechanic work I hadn’t removed the broken spoke and nipple. Jimmy and I were able to hold the nipple in place, remove the broken spoke, and put the new one back on without removing the tire, tube and rim strip. All steps that I assumed were necessary and would have done if I had done it on my own. It would have taken me a long time to figure it out and it would not have been done very well. With the help of Jimmy, I was in and out in 30 minutes.

The whole spoke situation probably cost me an hour, but I was so relieved that it hadn’t been worse and now Ellen was riding with me on the false flat out of Sisters to Redmond and then to Prineville. I stopped in Prineville at noon to hit the restroom and restock on Gatorade and snacks and we said our goodbyes until Yorktown. It was an emotional exit, but I knew I would be seeing her in a few weeks and the faster I rode the faster I would get to see her again.

Leaving Prineville I started the long climb up to Mitchell and then Dayville. The scenery was changing to the upland dessert and it was dry and really windy. The slope of the climb wasn’t too bad, but the headwind made it feel like it was taking me forever. For someone that was used to climbing relatively fast and easy, the headwinds made my speed in the single digits and it was a tough grind. Plus, I had planned on stopping at Spoken Hostel for food and drink, and the swirling winds on the descent made it seem technical and I was ready to stop when I pulled in.

John Day river Valley John Day OR

I had caught up to Ryszard on the climb and descent and we ate spaghetti together and I spoke to the folks at the Spoke’n Hostel. I was able to get Gatorade powder, bars, and candy for a small donation. Ryszard took off and he didn’t feel like riding together, and I was cool with that because I didn’t care for descending in these winds while chasing someone or being followed. As I descended the second climb, the views of the canyons, the John Day River, and wide-open spaces were amazing. I stayed just behind Ryszard and rolled into John Day at around 8pm to get some dinner at Dairy Queen. It was my birthday and they screwed up my blizzard, but fixed it and just took a little longer than it should have to eat. Then I was freaking out because there were no gas stations and I needed food for the night and morning, and luckily, I could backtrack a little through town to a grocery that was open until 9 and I was their last customer.

I then rode to Prairie City and stayed at the Hotel Prairie. Janie and Jose were staying in the same hotel, and when I checked in at 10 it felt late and felt so good to shower, clean my kit, lube my chain, and get some sleep. By this point in the trip my knees were starting to hurt from my seat height that was either too low, or my shoe cleats that were in a weird position, or from riding so far. I also had developed saddle sores and was trying to keep everything clean and dry as best I could, but it wasn’t working. Bo and Max slept in the post office there too. The top 10 ahead of me were staying in Baker City, just 67 miles farther down the road.

Day 2: Prairie City to Mesa

Day 2: Prairie City to Mesa – 13:37 moving time and 15:58 elapsed, 192.6 miles, 11,715’, 14.1mph, 147w

Day 3

When I woke up at 4am, Jose had left at 2:30am and Janie had left at 3am, Ben only took a nap in Baker City and was already to Richland, Danicha was 2nd and Evan was 3rd. The day started with a morning full of 3, 1000’ climbs and descents. Speeds were again in the single digits and in most cases were in the 5mph range. I made it to Baker City and went a little off course to get to a McDonald’s. I hadn’t had any outside contact and when I called to check in with my parents and Ellen I was told of the race ahead of me and the health issues that were starting to plague the folks that had gone out so hard. I ate a Big Mac meal and then got two breakfast sandwiches to go. I learned that ordering breakfast food outside of breakfast hours (after 10am) takes a little more time, and I should have stuck with the burgers. I just wasn’t used to starting my day with a burger and this was my first real food after six hours of riding and I felt like I skipped breakfast.

By the time I reached Richland for “lunch” at 1:30pm, unknown to me, all the racers in front of me skipped that stop and were going up the next climb. I stopped at the Shorthorn Bar and Grill for a burger and tots since the Hitching Post Grocery didn’t have any hot food or sandwiches. Again, in hindsight, I would have stuck with the grocery and loaded up and been on my way, but chose to sit and eat.

After this meal, I started the ride through Hell’s Canyon and along the river and reservoir from the Hell’s Canyon Dam on the Idaho state line. Before the canyon was a nice 2000’ climb and by the time I got to the state line I had passed a few riders that were stopped at a gas station with a mechanical or health issue, and had caught and passed Jose. I also caught Bo on the climb and we rode together up the climb and I left him on the descent. I rode into Cambridge at 7pm and rolled up to Randall Rice sitting on the sidewalk with a messed-up Garmin file. Bo, Jose and I hit the grocery store before it closed at 7. I decided to go across the street to Bucky’s and eat another sit-down burger and figure out what I wanted to do for lodging for the night.

It was cold at night in the high desert and I wasn’t sure on what to do. I looked on the TABR app and saw a B&B that was a few miles up the road in Mesa and decided not to go on to Council or anywhere else down the road. Instead I decided to stay at the Elkhorn B&B and got there at 9pm. It was an unmarked gravel road with pretty good sized rocks in the driveway, but as the owner said “you aren’t a sissy are you”, and I was able to ride up to the gate, undo the gate in the dark when my light went out, and rolled up to the ranch house announced by a number of big dogs barking.

The owner met me with a glass of red wine in her hand and it seemed like she may have had a bottle of wine before that glass. Neither one of us were coherent enough to remember the other person’s name after our introductions, and she said there were three other park service firemen staying in the main house, so I would be staying in the goat barn. I was just relieved that she didn’t say that I had to stay with her. She briefly showed me around the house and told me to shower and meet her by the goat barn when I was finished. I showered and by this point my saddle sores had opened up and were open wounds that needed cleaning and treatment. I used whatever antiseptic I could find in her bathroom vanity, but my options were limited. I had to put my dirty kit back on because I had no other clothes to walk around in and went out in the house to be greeted by my host in the kitchen. She insisted on giving me a glass of wine and a glass of warm water to take my PM pills with. I prayed that she didn’t put a roofie in the glass of water. She also gave me a PB&J to take for breakfast and as we walked through the garage she gave me two strips of lamb jerky that were frozen.

We walked in the dark on a rock path to her goat barn and she showed me how to get in and out of the gate without letting her baby goat out and she showed me her new puppy, which was already a big dog, and was one of the big breeds of dog that would end up being enormous. The dog had a bell around its neck and the goats cried when they saw people, so I was beginning to worry that I’d have a rough, noisy night. She took me to her tack room where she had some mattresses stored. She explained that I would be sleeping on a double mattress that used to belong to her dead mother, and she had placed a sheet on it. I put my bag of clothes and gear on a second bed that was a bare mattress and tried to lay everything out so I could get out quickly in the morning. Luckily the goats stopped crying when the light went off, and I slept with the window open. Unfortunately, I slept from about 10pm to 4am and was passed by several riders, and the leaders were way down the road.

Day 3: Mesa to Lowell

Day 3: Mesa to Lowell – 11:21 moving time and 13:35 elapsed, 166.2 miles, 7313’, 14.6mph, 139w

day 4

By the time I woke up and started riding at 4am, Ben was already starting the Lolo Pass climb outside of Syringa, Evan was in 2nd outside of Grangeville, and about 5 riders were in Grangeville after climbing White Bird in the dark. Bo, Randall, Jose, and Ryszard were in or around New Meadows. The weather was nice in Mesa and was about 50 degrees, so I opted for no jacket, arm warmers, vest, or leg warmers because in previous days I had put all of those clothes on, but then got really hot and had to stop to take them off in an hour or so. Unknown to me was that the temperatures were 10-15 degrees cooler on the next climb and on the plateau into New Meadows that I was about to ride through.

I started to get the chills and I looked at my Garmin and it showed a low of 37, and I stopped by a lumber yard to get my jacket on and different gloves. I did pass someone rolled up in a sleeping bag next to a transformer, that I later found out to be Simone. I stopped in New Meadows for a Subway breakfast and tried to wake up and warm up. Out of New Meadows started the long descent down the Little Salmon River valley and after shivering for an hour or so on the bike, I had no power to get any speed at all on the false flat downhill along the river to White Bird. I stopped again in Riggins to get some more food, warmth, and drink, but was only helped by the clerk who said someone had a flat tire in their parking lot earlier that morning and had taken a while to repair. I later found out that it was Max who had blown his tire.

When I got to White Bird I stopped at Red’s River Café and saw that Pim was finishing up eating a salad. Pim said he was hurting from his own saddle sores and I knew I had to try and get some medicine at the general store across the street to get some relief. Luckily after I finished my burger I went across the street and got the only tube they had of Ora-gel, and I tried it out in the store bathroom and it worked.

The sun was out, it was hot again, and for the first time in two days I was not in terrible pain when I was sitting down. I quickly passed Pim on the White Bird climb. The climb was really pretty and was very high. There were cows that were open range and were all over the road. There were also fire jumpers that were training jumping out of a plane. I first saw a group of them coming down the mountain on foot and wondered what they were doing. There were a few vans in a curve at the bottom and then I noticed parachutes gliding down to a point on the hillside. As I climbed I saw 5-6 different rounds of jumpers out of the plane that were all circling down to the target on the hill.

By the time I reached the summit, I was so far ahead of Pim and anyone else that I couldn’t spot them on the switchbacks, and I was high enough to be above the jumpers coming out of the plane. Very cool sensation to be above a plane. The descent of White Bird was perfect and had great corners to roll through. Once I reached the bottom it opened into a huge flat valley that met Grangeville, but then extended down long straight roads through farmland toward Sites and the Lolo base.

The straight roads out of Grangeville had short punchy rollers that made the ride just hard enough, and made it where I was starting to get tired and hungry by the time I got to Kooskia. My fatigue made me again wonder what my night plans should be. Do I eat and roll on up Lolo Pass to camp or stay in a motel early? I had no idea where other racers were behind me or in front of me, but I assumed that the climb had worked the others hard, and if it was hurting me then it was killing them.

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I rode through Kooskia without stopping, even though my bottles were empty and I was hungry, but I had lost an hour with the time change and things would start closing soon. My plans were to stop in Syringa, even though it was 7pm and I would eat and stay at the River Dance Lodge. Unfortunately, their dining room didn’t open until 8 and they were out of rooms. Luckily, their front door was unlocked and I could sneak into their bathroom, fill my bottle with water, and then come out to the bar top to see if I could speak with staff. My phone had no reception so I couldn’t call anyone. Their staff allowed me to use their landline phone and I called the Wilderness Inn a few miles down the road. I had not researched Lolo Pass much, so I was unsure of what was on the road for services from that point to the town of Lolo over the pass. All I knew was that it was marked as wilderness on my spreadsheet and I assumed there was nothing, but road, trees, and climbing for miles.

I pulled into the Wilderness Inn and all I could think about was eating. I had an open-faced meatloaf plate and a huckleberry milkshake. There were three guys that came in next to me and saw my food and ordered the same thing I did. They had been kayaking all day and we all traded stories of what we were doing. Before I left, a woman handed me a post card that she had signed and wished me good luck. I then went to the hotel room and showered and set my alarm for 3am. I slept like a baby, but while I slept I was passed by several racers. Unknown to me, five riders I had been around and passed before White Bird had made it to the summit of Lolo and camped in restrooms on the summit.

Day 4: Lowell to Jackson

Day 4: Lowell to Jackson – 16:10 moving time and 18:30 elapsed, 237.8 miles, 8737’, 14.7mph, 104w

day 5

When I woke up to start climbing Lolo I felt good. I was rested from the cold and hard previous day, and I felt ready to make a push for a good day in the saddle. I was ahead of schedule to finish in 20 days and felt like the previous night’s rest was worth it. As I started riding down the road it dawned on me what had happened in the night. By not having any cell service or wifi I was unable to connect and see what was happening around me or hear from Ellen or my parents on what was happening. I passed six riders while climbing up Lolo Pass and I didn’t recognize any of them as being people I had been passing on previous days. It slowly dawned on me that these riders were not riders that were in front of me before I stopped, but rather were behind me and passed me while I slept.

Lochsa River ID

I finally got cell service when I rolled into Lolo at 12:30pm and stopped at the McDonald’s. Ellen immediately filled me in on what had happened, which was as I had assumed from the people I was passing. She also let me know how far folks were ahead of me and I knew I had to do some work to get back what I had lost. She questioned my thinking on sleeping so early like I did, and I thought getting up early like I did made it fine, but I had slept about 7 hours and later in my race that would be unacceptable and it didn’t feel acceptable at the time. I was judging myself on the schedule I had planned, and not what was happening live in the race. I should have been putting miles in the bank instead of just meeting the bare minimum. Was I racing or riding?

By the time I left at noon my rivals that I had passed on the climb were about to roll into town, and Max and Randall Rice were in Hamilton and Bo was past Darby. Hamilton was two hours ahead of me, so I was behind 2-3 hours in the race, and only from too much sleep. Before the race I had worried about losing time to mechanicals or weather, but instead I was losing time to sleep.

Twin Bridges MontanaOld Hwy 95 Grangeville ID

The stretch of I-93 was a false flat and it was over 90 degrees, and it had a trail on the side. The trail was there because it was a four-lane highway with a shoulder and rumble strips, and the traffic was driving fast. I chose to ride in the shoulder or on the road when I could, since it was so much faster than the trail would have been. I met and passed Randall Rice when I stopped at a gas station to refuel in Hamilton, and he had stopped at a Super 8 to sleep and push on. I passed Rob English in Darby while he was deciding to ultimately abandon the race.

Once leaving Darby, I started the 2000 foot climb up the pass to Sula, Powder Mountain, and the Montana state line. I then descended a little, and rode on a long flat plateau through the Big Hole National Battlefield. When I saw the expanse of the large plateau and rode down through it, I must say that I felt a strange energy or chill come over me, that you could feel something monumentous had happened there. I knew it was a Native American reservation, so I assume the battles referenced on the historic markers were tragic and Native American eradication in nature, but I really wasn’t sure. It wasn’t until talking to people later that I heard a little about how the tribes were driven over the same passes I had been over, and hence their names are from the chiefs that led those tribes at the time. The battlefield area I was riding through was where one chief and tribe tried to fight back, failed and was driven up to Canada.

Big Hole Valley Wisdom Montana

I made it to Wisdom by 8:30pm and pulled into the Hook and Horn Trading Post to find several other bikes outside. I failed to see the sign on the window that said “No bikes on the porch”, and I left mine leaned on the front wall on the porch, oops. The restaurant had a cool western décor, lots of old pictures of the town in its heyday when it was vibrant, and in the restroom they had a picture called “The Gathering” from in front of their old theater where 15-20 of the most influential western names that I knew were all there to see someone famous sing. It was from 1883 and had Wyatt Earp, Teddy Roosevelt, Doc Holiday, Morgan Earp, Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid, and then a few others that I am sure are famous and I just didn’t know. It left a mark on me to think of how busy a place can be and then it can dry up to nothing but a one restaurant and motel town.

I could see that everything was happening in the bar since it was closing at around 9. Max was behind the bar filling his bottles with water from the tap. Randall Rice arrived minutes after me and was ready to order food like I was. Max was so surprised to see me and couldn’t believed I had rode so fast to make up the two hours to catch their group. Four other touring cyclists and dot watchers were also at the corner of the bar and they were taking pictures and asking questions and would have bought me a drink if I had wanted anything other than chocolate milk and sparkling water. I got the fried fish and chicken strip entrees with the cheeseburger soup. Max left while we ate and said he’d see us later. Randall and another racer were both complaining about stiff necks and were wanting to go to a chiropractor in Dillon the next day. Randall cashed out and said he was going to sleep at the Lodge in town and left.

North Park

I had decided to push on to Jackson to sleep there and the other guy said he would join me. We started riding and I could not keep the slow pace he was having to go because of his neck. I was nice and said I would ride ahead to get the rooms sorted out and the place open since it was after 11.  I pulled up to the front of the Bunkhouse and the town was very dark, it was getting below 50, and we were both tired. We rolled around in the street trying to look in any of the other buildings to see if anyone was awake and I heard the sound of AC/DC coming from a Mexican restaurant/bar next door to the Bunkhouse hostel. In my tired state of mind I wondered if someone in the bar knew about the Bunkhouse and where the owner was. Seemed very logical and sensible at the time, until I grabbed the bar door and it was locked.

I waited for the song to end and the few seconds of silence before the next one started and banged on the door loudly three times. I stepped back and waited. The next song didn’t start up and all of a sudden the door swung open and a large figure of a man’s silhouette filled the doorway. All we heard was “Who wants to know?!” Of course, the other guy and me in our bike clothes were about the most unimposing figures I think you could come across. I explained that we were looking for someone to let us in next door at the Bunkhouse. He looked over at the Bunkhouse and then back at us and gruffed “supposed to let you boys in huh? Well let me tell you about the situation at the Bunkhouse.”

I started to get a little nervous as he started to tell us what was happening there, since it looked like a functioning hotel that was just sitting empty. Apparently the owner’s father had a stroke the previous week and the owner had to leave town to stay with his dad. He didn’t leave any instructions with anyone and people in town were helping out as much as they could, but no one really knew what was happening at the Bunkhouse. He asked us how much we had arranged to pay to stay there and I said $40 each and that we had cash. The man looked at us and a few seconds of thought later replied that he would get us in and to wait out front. A minute or so later the man came through the front door from inside. I don’t know if he knew where the spare key was, or if he broke in the back door, but either way we were in and we handed him cash. He turned on some lights and showed us around for about 5 minutes, but essentially we had the entire upstairs area of the hostel to pick out a bed and to take a shower. The other guy said he was sleeping in and joining the man for breakfast next door in the morning before trying to fix his injured neck, and I said I would be getting up at 4:30am and out at 5 and hitting the road again.

When I started riding at 5am Ben and John Lester were already in Yellowstone, PA was in West Yellowstone, Evan had passed Sofiane in the night and there was a cluster of 8 other riders between me and the lead group. I wasn’t too worried because the next day my plan was to get to West Yellowstone, it was going to be less than 200 miles, the hotel had my first package of resupply stuff, and I was almost 1/3 of the way finished.

Day 5: Jackson to West Yellowstone

Day 5: Jackson to West Yellowstone – 15:45 moving time and 17:55 elapsed, 190.6 miles, 7804’, 12.1mph, 117w

day 6

I woke up and left without waking the other guy, but it felt so early and was dead quiet with just two of us in the entire building. I was being cautious and polite to not make too much noise and wake the other guy, and it seemed to take a while to get going. All I knew was that there were two punchy climbs and then a long descent into Dillon, and then a major climb out of Virginia City and then a long false flat to West Yellowstone.

Twin Bridges Montana

The climbs were indeed steep and it was cold and there were winds to fight as I climbed. I was really glad we got to sleep inside the previous night and I was trying to do the math of my placement in the race with the top people dropping out, and me passing them and others on the previous day. I made it into Dillon before 9am and I checked the tracker and saw that Max was also in town at a gas station.

I went to McDonald’s and did my usual thing of getting breakfast to eat and food to go. I took all my cold gear off, since it was starting to warm up, and I applied sunscreen to my arms, face, and legs. A WW2 vet was in the restaurant talking to anyone that would listen about his time in the war, and when I left he and I shared a look and a nod of appreciation. It was one of those moments when I realized how lucky I was to be doing something like riding a bike across the country for fun, and not being in a war or being in some other situation that was more dangerous than what I was doing.

Fort Washakie WY US 287Beaver Rim US 287 Wyoming

Max stopped in Alder, but I waited until Virginia City to stop, so I got to pass him on the road again and we chatted about the upcoming climb and the previous night. He had camped out in a ditch after trying to climb out of Jackson, and said he had a cold miserable night. Virginia City was a “Disneyesque” western town with all old timey facades and western themes. I couldn’t tell if anything was real or just an act. For some reason, the café selling pizza sounded better to me than a burger or sandwich, so I stopped to have overpriced pizza slices and Gatorade.

Once I left and started the big climb I realized that this was one of the steeper climbs we had done so far, it was getting windy, but the summit was breathtaking and overlooked a huge valley surrounded by snowcapped mountains. On the climb, I was pumping 100-200 watts and was over 5% slope for a few miles. When I hit the summit, I was hit square in the face with a 30+mph headwind. It was one of the worst descents I had on the whole race, since it was exposed, winds were swirling hard in several directions, and cars and trucks were passing in both directions. Unknown to me, until later in the day when I looked to pack things up, my vest, arm warmers, and cap blew out of the bungee on my seat post bag. Fortunately for me, Hippy Hippy found them while riding and held on to them through the race.

For a small stretch before the town of Ennis I had a tailwind and I was looking at the way the road was bending in the distance to see if it was going to remain that way and if I was going to get to Yellowstone so early that I could pick up my package, eat, and continue through the park. Unfortunately, as I studied the road and the way the grass was blowing, I saw that the road through town made a hard-right turn, then another right, and that the road in the valley was going to run due south and be a solid headwind for 60 miles.

View into Ennis

I made it to Ennis by 2pm and passed Max as he got some drinks in town. He caught up to me and we tried to talk and ride, but the wind was so strong that we couldn’t hear one another. We rode within sight of one another until we got to a small place called Cameron that had a store. I needed water and food since it was 3:30 and I hadn’t had anything since Virginia City. Max stopped and decided to stay in Cameron and wait until nightfall to get slower winds and less heat, since it was up in the 90s again. I thought about my options and the desire to get to Yellowstone and get my package, get miles and time on rivals while they were taking a break, and being willing to ride when others might not fueled my desire to push on in the wind.

The headwinds were the strongest winds I had ever ridden in and were close to the strongest of the whole ride, but I think some crosswinds in Kansas may have been stronger. If I didn’t pedal I immediately stopped and fell over. I was only able to pedal at 5-6 mph for hours on a 1-2% incline. Crazy miserable. It was between 7 and 8pm before I got to the stretch of road that bent to the east again and got more cross wind instead of head wind. I was fortunate that I got to ride along the Madison River and see Quake Lake while the sun was still up and I could see the beautiful and unique landscapes on the outskirts of Yellowstone.

In my mind, I felt that I must have been getting close to the park and town, but I still had a way to go yet. Bugs were out in full force along the river and lake and it started to cool as the sun went down. Fortunately, I called and ordered a pizza in West Yellowstone and I was able to go in before things started to close and I made it to the hotel before the staff left at 11pm and I could get my box, empty what I needed, and hand it back with my bivvy and sleeping pad, since I had decided that I would do hotels from then on and stop lugging the extra gear. It would save weight and space in my bag. I also only took a few days’ worth of supplements from the shipment, because all the powder was just too heavy to pack.

I got in my bed after a shower and ate all but 2 slices of pizza so I could eat some for breakfast and set my alarm for 5am. Of course, at that time Ben was already passed Sweetwater Station, Jon Lester and Evan were in Lander, Sofiane and Michele Wacker were a few miles behind them, Janie was in the Tetons and Ryszard, Bo, and Jose were all in Yellowstone Park. When I started riding at 5:30am, Max had passed me in my sleep and was in the park, and 2 other guys had made it to West Yellowstone. I was pretty beat after what felt like climbing real mountains all day, and then fighting the headwind all afternoon.

Day 6: West Yellowstone to Dubois

Day 6: West Yellowstone to Dubois – 12:28 moving time and 14:31 elapsed, 155.4 miles, 7817’, 12.5mph, 103w

day 7

I woke up at 5am and got out the door at 5:30 and felt stiff and sore. My saddle sores had opened more, and spread larger from shifting in the saddle to relieve the pain a little, and pushing so hard to get through the wind. My Ora-gel solution was still working, but it was difficult to make sure I was hitting every spot, and as I started to ride through the park I realized I had not gotten enough coverage and was going to have to stop and re-apply on the side of the road. Luckily there are plenty of pull offs in the park, it was still early, and I could fix my situation while looking at a hot spring with a few elk in view. It was about 40 degrees out, and I just couldn’t get comfortable, warmed up, and felt no power.

 

I was riding through some incredibly scenic areas and the tourist traffic was low because I was out so early. I was so early that the park gate didn’t have an attendant, and I didn’t have to pay to enter the park. There were bison right next to the road, elk, big horn sheep, and of course lots of geysers and hot springs to ride by. I was hoping to not need to stop until I got farther through Yellowstone, but once I saw that the Old Faithful sign had food on it, I felt like I had to stop again to eat and warm up and address my saddle sores. It was 9am and I was not about to quit the race, but this was a tough moment, and I really had to come to grips with whether I was racing or riding, and had to dig deep and keep going and racing. I called Ellen when I got to Old Faithful and it was good to hear her voice. She encouraged me and raised my spirits a little while I was in pain physically and really needed my emotions to take over and propel me.

I continued through the park and was really struggling to find a good space in my head to dig deep into. The scenery was breathtaking and I stopped again at about noon at one of the few gas stations in the park, and was taking my time, but being methodical and trying to find my own pace at riding and stopping. In two places, I came across cars stopped in the road to take pictures of a grizzly bear and her cubs. The second set of bears were very far into the distance, but people had their super lens cameras to get the perfect nature shots. I could weave through the slow and stopped cars and keep pressing on.

 

I was finally feeling better and entered the Teton portion of the parks. There was snow on the ground and it was beautiful to be riding in a winter wonderland in June. Going by the lakes and mountains of the Tetons helped inspire me to push hard, and I really had no idea how long and steep Togwotee Pass was going to be when I left the Teton Park. I had crossed the Continental Divide three times already that day, and they were descent climbs, but Togwotee was the last one of the day and was imposing. Luckily the wind wasn’t as much of a factor on the climb and I just had to push uphill. The views behind me of the Tetons were breathtaking, and the climb had several false summits that I kept thinking had to be the top, but the mountain climbed on. The descent was pretty long and straight and it seemed that the more tired I became, the more I didn’t mind the descents and was able to relax into going that fast downhill.

 

I rolled into Dubois and had decided to stop there for dinner, but then I decided to stop for the night because a large windstorm seemed to be brewing and I recalled that it was desolate land between there and the next town. This was again a point that in later parts of the race I would have pushed on to the next town, but I wasn’t in my groove just yet. I stopped at the Superfoods to resupply my cliff bars for the next day, Powerade, and Ora-gel. I rolled down the middle of town and picked the Cowboy Café for dinner. They had outdoor seating and I was starting to smell even in my new kit from my package. I ordered their bacon cheeseburger special and got a chocolate milk. To my pleasant surprise that meal came with a piece of pie and the peanut butter silk pie I ate was the best pie of the whole trip.

 

I chatted with two different couples at neighboring tables, and could tell them what I was doing. One couple with a small child was from the next town of Lander, and they had passed me on the big climb before coming into town. They couldn’t believe it, and as they left the husband went in and spoke with my server and paid for my bill. I didn’t know what he was doing until I went to pay for myself, and they said that my bill had been taken care of. I had to get up and move indoors because the wind was starting to gust, and sand and dust was blowing down the street. It was getting dark and looked like rain so I decided to get a room at the neighboring Stagecoach Inn. It was still early, but I figured it was best to skip the harsh weather, recover, and go out early in the morning.

Grand Tetons Togwotee Pass

Luckily the weather did get gnarly on the climb and no riders passed me in the night, but the gap to myself and the next riders had already grown to Lander when I woke up and started riding at 4am. Janie was staying in Rawlins that night and the top three were already in Colorado.

Day 7: Dubois to Rawlins

Day 7: Dubois to Rawlins – 14:14 moving time and 16:53 elapsed, 202.7 miles, 7940’, 14.2mph, 106w

day 8

For the first time in the race I was officially behind the schedule that I had planned to complete the race within 20 days. I knew that this day included a 125 mile stretch with limited services after I got to Lander. Lander had lots of services and had a Kiwanis pancake breakfast happening in their Wal-Mart parking lot, and I wondered how many pancakes I could have eaten at that moment. Instead I pulled through town and stopped at McDonald’s at the far end and did my usual breakfast inside and breakfast to go. It was already getting warm and was in the 80s, so I took my jacket off and sun screened up.

 

I then started the long stretch across the long, flat and desolate prairie towards Rawlins. I had noted that Sweetwater Station and Jeffrey City had places for water, but as I passed them I was not seeing anything promising. After the race was over I heard that a bar in Jeffrey City was open and there may have been an option in Sweet Water Station, but they looked really desolate, and that was from someone that was hot and thirsty and was looking for any signs of activity. I knew my notes had Muddy Gap as a spot with a convenience store, and even though I ran out of fluids a few miles outside of that intersection, I was confident that I could restock there.

 

When I pulled into the parking lot of the store my heart kind of sank and I almost freaked out. A sign on the store door read “Temporarily closed, Rattlesnake”. I didn’t know if this was real, a joke, or if the store had been closed for months. All I knew was that the door was locked. A RV was filling up water bottles at a hose spigot on the outside of the store, so I was at least relieved to be able to get water. I saw movement inside the store and a woman came to a window on the front and slid it open. She explained that a snake was in the store and I’d have to wait to get food or use the restroom (equally as important because I needed Ora-gel badly).

IMG_7810

A snake wrangler pulled up in his truck and he went into the store with an ax and a long pole and snare. I figured I might as well wait and see if they would open soon and be able to get provisions before venturing on for the 45 miles to Rawlins. Luckily he was out in a minute or so and had the rattlesnake caught and coiled up on his pole. I snapped a picture and went inside to get some much-needed food. It was 4pm when I left the store and unknown to me was that Max was barely ahead of me and 3-4 riders were in hot pursuit behind me. I didn’t have any phone reception so I hadn’t spoken to anyone all day and had no way to see what was happening with the race around me.

Beaverhead mtns into Dillon

I made it to Rawlins by about 7:30pm, and it was a welcomed sight. The route had us loop around the town and ride through their downtown. At the far edge of the town they had several hotels, a Walmart, and fast food. I pulled into McDonald’s and my phone finally got cell service and my parents call came through. I had complete cell service and 3G blackout for the day and only had the bike, rattlesnakes, and some Spotify music to keep me entertained. I had planned on moving on to sleep at Saratoga to try to get back on schedule better. I was hoping to be in Colorado that evening, but that wasn’t happening. My mom proceeded to tell me about the spot watching action of the day, and how several people had dropped out of the race because of health problems and the heat. Of course, a couple of them I was anticipating because of the sore necks that Randall Rice had complained of before. I also thought that the heat would start to take a toll.

I didn’t have a way to check the race around me myself, and in my tired state I decided to go to Walmart to get more drugs for my saddle sores, get food, and check into the Holiday Inn next door. I got a buffet of Ora-gel, Cortaid cream, Neosporin, and Desitin to try to attack my saddle sores. They all seemed to help, but a lesson learned was that Cortaid stings like hell on open wounds, and stung like burnt skin until I added Ora-gel again to numb the nerves again.

This was another instance where later in the race I would have pushed on, but I chose not to. The bad part about my decision for this stop was that I didn’t set my alarm early enough, and I slept longer than I should have. I set it for 5am and didn’t start rolling until almost 6am. By this time I had been passed by 2-3 riders, and Max was almost to the state line when I started back up. John Lester was leading the race and was passed Canon City, Evan was not far behind him, Ben had dropped out and Sofiane was in 3rd.

 

Day 8: Rawlins to Silverthorne

Day 8: Rawlins to Silverthorne – 17:44 moving time and 19:21 elapsed, 226.3 miles, 10061’, 12.8mph, 119w

day 9

This was the most decisive day of the race and when I found myself as a racer in this race and seriously competing. It sucked that it took this long in the race to have a wake-up moment, but better late than never. I woke up and was mad at myself, and needed to talk to my parents to clarify what I was trying to do in the race. I called them as I was riding and knew that I had lost more ground, and had to stop sleeping as much as I did the night before. They of course were looking at keeping me safe and comfortable, and they thought I was trying to finish in 21 days, but I had to explain that I was shooting for 20 days and that I was having to work harder while awake to make up ground I was losing while I was sleeping. I equated it to the tortoise and the hare, and that I was going fast and doing well while riding, but sleeping for as long as I was, was putting me in a hole that was getting harder to recover from in the race itself. My parents got it, and I called Ellen next and she helped simplify things even more. I needed to not just wake up early, but rather, ride as far and for as long as I could, and if I had to sleep I needed to only sleep for 3-4 hours, and wake up four hours after my head hit the pillow. This is a race and it was time to act like it instead of sleeping as much as I would at home. I took her advice, motivation, and headed out toward Colorado.

Gore Range CO

In my state of mind, it was hard to process what I was physically feeling like and it made me question whether I was riding well because I was well rested, if I could reduce my sleep more, and how much to push during the day. All I knew was that I wanted to make up some ground that day, and make a big day of it. The day consisted of a long climb up Willow Creek Pass, and I knew I needed to get myself in a strategic position to hit Hoosier Pass the next day early and get back on track. I also had a nice “rabbit” ahead of me in Janie, since she was a day ahead of me, I could use her night stops as a guide to how far I could go and try to surpass if I could. I made a quick stop for provisions at the Trading Post in Riverside at around 9am and could feel riders just in front of me, and likely behind me, because the cashier said a rider had just been through there. My parents had told me that a few riders stayed at the hotel next door to me in Rawlins, and had left just before me and after me, so they had to be close.

The winds were steady at 10-20mph and at one point a dust devil blew across the road and hit me. It was scary to feel the gusts of wind and dust circle around me. I held on tight, shut my eyes and mouth, and tried to get low on the bike. It was only five seconds, but it could have been bad if it had been dark or if I hadn’t seen it to get myself ready for it.

There was a large moose on the side of the road by the creek outside of Walden, and it capped off my list of animals that I hoped to see on the trip. I rode hard until I got to Walden Colorado at 3pm, and I was out of water and food, but I had caught up to three racers and wanted to make it a fast stop to keep pace with them or pass them. I didn’t know it, but some of them were injured and wouldn’t be racing any longer. I had caught a guy from England named Andrew and we said “Hi” in the Shell station, but then he was gone. I rushed through eating and mostly put everything on my bike, and ate as I pedaled after him. I caught him on the flat just before the climb of Willow Creek. It was a weird sensation to see a racer far in the distance on long open roads, and inching myself closer to them. We chatted for a moment, but then he kept wanting to stay ahead of me, so I stopped to do a reapplication of Ora-gel where I had missed a spot earlier and let him go. This was the first spot where mosquitos were bad. They were bad enough that I tried to roll forward a minute and stop again to outrun the swarm, but they were on me. I made my stop quick and kept climbing.

Wyoming Colorado State line

The views were beautiful in the thick forest and the winding Willow Creek next to me. The sad part was the number of dead trees in the forest from what I assume was from a fire, or global warming related, or from either a disease or beetle. It was good to know that I had someone to chase down after the descent and I started wondering what my options were for the evening. Janie had stayed in Kremmling, and I figured I could get there easily, but that Andrew would also get there and may even push on. I also knew a slew of racers had passed me the previous night, and I would love to catch up with them or get closer.

Granby was on my list of places for food, but it was off course a mile, so I wasn’t willing to lose time for that. I rode past the Granby intersection, Hot Sulphur Springs, and passed Andrew in the flat. I was ahead of him and looked online for food close by before everything closed. The Parshall Inn was coming up and was about to close. I called them and ordered two quesadillas, a chicken sandwich, and chocolate milk. I pulled into the parking lot and it was gravel and I realized the Inn was actually a biker bar, but a really cool place. They had my food ready and the staff sat and asked me questions while I devoured my food. I took one of the quesadillas to go so I would have something to eat before bed. I knew I was passed by Andrew while I ate, but I knew he would eventually have to stop. Kremmling was 12 miles away, and I was hoping he would stop there since it was already 9pm when I left the bar, and getting dark. To my luck he did, and I rode through with Silverthorne as my goal for the evening. It was only 40 miles and I was hoping I could do that in 3 hours and be there by midnight. Little did I know that it was all uphill from where I was, and it had a tricky 16-mile detour around the Green Mountain Reservoir and through the town of Heeney.

Parshall Inn

It was almost 11pm when I made the turn from the highway and onto the old road that went around the big reservoir to Heeney. It was dark and the moon was starting to rise on the horizon to provide a bright reflection on the lake. Unfortunately, the road had no striping, no lights anywhere, was rough, and made me feel alone and a little dangerous because of the desolation of the area. Most of the race is on roads that are off the direct route and going through places that have very few people living in them or visiting them. It gave me a clear sense of “Don’t screw up and fall or anything, because no one will find you.” The route took me over a dam, across places with culverts and canals running water under the road, landslide areas, and winding descents and climbs. The disheartening part is that the 16-mile loop only put me back onto the original highway to Silverthorne that I had been on before.

I made it to Silverthorne at 1am and I pulled into the first motel I spotted, the Silver Inn. I rang the phone at the desk and a woman came out to get me a room. She said that another racer was in the hotel, and that she would put the continental breakfast out earlier than 6am if I was leaving early. I thanked her and told her that I would indeed be leaving early and would love some food to go. I checked online and saw that Pim was also staying in the town and Andrew was at the Super 8 in Kremmling, so my hard work and risk had paid off.