Just prior to the race I got to hang out with several racers around town. There was quite the energy. Many people met up for Crazy Larry’s Question and Answer session. Crazy Larry is quite the character and by race day, has an entire year’s worth of energy and enthusiasm saved up and spilling out.
Racers I met were from a host of backgrounds, some fellow Michiganders, a EE formerly at Intel, a guy whose bike got lost in the plane luggage… one guy said he was really interested in sea kayaking next year. I’ll be keeping in touch with him. I also met a BASE jumper from way back in the early days of the sport who lives next to the PCT and his wife likes to help out hikers. That evening I also got to hang with a cool NZ girl in the hostel bar.
Finally, race day arrived. I woke up pretty early to get my stuff packed. After it was all on (for the first time), I rode on down to the YWCA for the group photo and the Grand Depart! About 180 people on bikes rolled out after the photo to the start of the Tour Divide.
I kept toward the back since we were asked to self-seed.
After only a few miles I found someone’s iPod. I’m still trying to get in touch with them to return it. It wasn’t long before the predicted rain kicked in. And it was damn cold. Crazy Larry had warned everyone about hypothermia and I hope everyone was taking it to heart. I thought my shifting problems were over, but I threw my chain twice. Once in the front that got wrapped around the crank and once in the back into the spokes. Both times really sucked and required a fair bit of effort to get unstuck. At one point in the day I was ready to call it and just camp. I had just been chatting with a guy who was now talking to someone else on the other side of an overflow drainage. I was too embarrassed to set up with him in sight so early in the day and so early in the race. I finally decided they were actually waiting for me while I was “taking a break”. Well screw it, I’ll keep going! There was plenty of rough single track after that. Most of it was me pushing my bike. Later in the evening I had a van pull up next to me as I was pushing my bike up the road. It was Crazy Larry! He chatted for a bit and was clearly concerned about me being overly cold. I assured him I was OK and eventually got on my way. I was elated to reach Boulton Trading post that evening. They had some microwave food available and I just started grabbing stuff. Once fully stuffed I rolled down to the campground. I shared a site with a mother and son, the youngest racer (Ben), and another guy from Texas.
On the morning of day 2 I had no motivation to get out of my tent. I was sore and I could hear it sprinkling. Shamefully, it was after 9:00 and everyone else had gone. My GPS was having issues, so I followed another guy as he passed by. After a few short miles on pavement, it turned to a power line trail. It started off with a massive uphill, surely unrideable by anyone. I wish I snapped a photo on my phone, I think I just got one on my camera and no way to transfer it. The power line trail was rough riding, and shortly after I got up there, a few guys were walking their bikes north (it’s hard to win that way). They had just come across a young grizzly, about the age they separate from their mother. We armed our bear spray and did a little tango as he eventually circled around. That was too close for comfort. It was maybe a mile later before the lead guy saw another. This one had run into the woods before I saw it, so we all just proceeded cautiously. Finally we came on some proper gravel roads and I could just pedal. Oh, the icy rain returned too. I took a break in a little cabin on along the road. Parks Canada is kinda awesome like that. Also, finished up with Alberta, first Province/State done!
British Columbia welcomed me with another bear, this one was more curious and walked towards us a bit. Once we grouped up and yelled a little he got the hint. Shortly after I met my first NOBOs. They were going backwards! Who in their right mind goes north? They were Germans I suppose. The afternoon brought my first long gravel downhill. I was riding the brakes, but still went at a pretty good clip. This mountain biking thing isn’t so bad…
Once in Elkford I saw a sign that said pizza and I was done. I probably could have pushed to Sparwood, but my stomach was now in control. I checked in to the local motel and enjoyed the night trying to get my GPS to dry out and be more reliable. The key was taking out the SD card and drying out the slot. Even then, so much sand was in the buttons that I couldn’t start the timer (which also means it won’t navigate). Much fiddling got it working.
In the morning I headed off to Sparwood. It starts with a massive paved uphill. And did it follow the nice pavement back down? Not a chance. It went back into private logging roads with some tough loose over hard. Then it got more fun when it switched to single track that I couldn’t pedal. Once it rejoined road the real fun began. I mean that seriously this time. It was all cruising downhill dodging potholes and bigger rocks.
Next up was some beautiful pavement miles on the way to Sparwood.
Sparwood had some tasty lunch and WiFi. Then it was more glorious pavement for many, many miles. Along this stretch I saw an animal in the distance. It was sorta deer-like. It was a moose! I spent over a month in Maine last year and never saw one, BC gives me one on the second day. Maine, you were pretty, but you just didn’t meet my needs.
Later in the evening I began the long push up to the top of Flathead. I was tired, so pedalling wasn’t an option. There was still bits of snow at the top, baffling to see in June. I started downhill and it wasn’t long before the trail became a creek. No joke, the creek and the “trail” coincided for miles. My feet were soaked and freezing after walking my bike through the water for all the way.
I think I finally got to McLatchie road around 1 AM. It was time to stop and sleep.
Day 4 started off with mostly downhill with a few rolling hills mixed in. Shortly after lunch I came across a sasquatch junction.
It rolled on pretty easy until early afternoon which I started up Cabin Pass. The grade was too much for me so I was pushing. Again. I swear, if there is a hike-a-bike record for the Tour Divide, I’m going to win it. Can someone look that up? Coming down Cabin Pass though was pure awesomeness. It wasn’t great views, but high speed pothole dodging was plentiful. There bad part of coming down though is that you reach the bottom. I ate some ramen for dinner and then cycled a few rollers followed by a long flat. I got my first views of the US! It switched over to some single track, if you use the term loosely. Now a stream crossing when my shoes are finally dry. I awkwardly tried to roll my bike across and ended up dunking everything in the stream instead, complete submersion. My next tactic was to throw all my gear across, which worked better. The bike was still awkward and was more like a flop to the other side. I did a long jump and managed to make it. I put my gear back in and proceeded. Then it hit me, The Wall. Not the wall when you run out of energy or “bonk” as cyclists like to say, but the trail feature known as The Wall. It was straight uphill bullshit. Of course it was completely dark too. It involved at least 60% grades, downed trees, water draining down the path and so much frustration.
Afterwards I was done. I only had one pass left in Canada, but my energy was spent. I camped right after The Wall.
I woke up to more rain, but it stopped so I got out and packed up. It started out with some easy gravel rolling hills. I met another NOBO. Then came the climb up to Galton Pass, rather, the 5 mile push uphill. The rain came back around halfway. It was slowly turning to snow as I gained altitude. Seeing it across the valley among the fir trees was just beautiful. But let’s remember, it was snow, on me. By time I got to the the top I was freezing my butt off. Once I started rolling down the wind cut right through my gloves. When your fingers go numb you can’t feel how hard you’re squeezing the brakes… No bueno. I had to stop and warm them every few minutes. As I got farther down I could go further due to the rapidly increasing warmth. The bottom was pure blissful warmth and pavement! Did I mention I love pavement? Only a few miles and I rolled into the port of Roosville, the US port of entry. Home!
After biking through the car lanes, I stopped for lunch at the Duty Free/bar right across the street. Good thing too because I missed the pea sized hail by about 5 minutes.
More updates to come as I make my way across Montana, Big Sky Country.