Jon & Carla's Great Divide Mountain Bike Adventure
(or, Two Tails on the Trail)

In 1998, we rode across the United States from Oregon to Virgina with our children, Jodie, age 15 and Todd, age 12.  Read about our trip using the links below.  Now  the kids have grown up and left home, so we we are taking the dogs.  This time it's a mountain bike trip through the Rocky Mountains, roughly following the continental divide, called the Great Divide route, mapped by Adventure Cycling.  We are driving  from our home in Gaylord, MI on July 29th for our starting point in Rooseville, MT, on the Canadian border.  From there we will travel roughly  2470 miles to our destination of Antelope Wells, NM, on the Mexican border.  The route will be about  85% dirt and gravel roads, 10% pavement and 5% singletrack trails.  We will carry all of our gear for camping in two "BOB" trailers, plus panniers.  We hope to average about 40 miles a day and have three months to complete the trip.   Lander and Afton, our English Cockers will run about 20 miles per day and ride in the trailers the rest of the time.  We will experience wilderness, scenery and wildlife.  There will be many hard times, but many exhilerating moments as well.  Why do we do this?  Because God has given us a wonderful country and this is the best way to be thankful for it.   

We will be posting blogs as often as we can get on the internet at a library.  Check in frequently to see how we are doing.  Feel free to post a comment as well.  We'd love to share our trip with you.

Jon and Carla Elenz,
Lander and Afton (aka, Two Tails)                      

PHOTOS  We will be posting photos periodically from the road.  Check back often.  Be sure to scroll to the bottom for the latest ones.

FAQ Everything you've always wanted
to know about bike touring.

Summit Daily News article

The end that almost wasn't
Oct 10 and 11  Days off in Silver City, NM.  Planning for the trip home.   We made arrangements for a shuttle from Silver City to pick us up Saturday afternoon at the border and bring us back to Silver City Saturday night, then take us to Las Cruces Sunday, where we could pick up a rental car Monday morning to drive to Michigan.

We are staying at the home of Jamie, a avid cyclist.  He often welcomes cyclists to stay here.   It always amazes me when things work out this way.  We were standing outside the University Library when one of the roommates in the house saw us and directed us to Jamie's office.   Other people living here include all types from students to retirees.  Did some sightseeing of the local Silver City attractions, including the original Main Street, which sunk 30 ft below grade due to erosion and is now a river/park, and Billy the Kid's childhood home.

Oct 12  39.5 miles to Thorn Ranch (aptly named)
After two days of rest, the dogs were very antsy to get going.  What are they going to do when there is no more?

We are entering the land of thorns, rattlesnakes and wild pigs.  In fact, I had a flat tire inside the house when we got up this morning.  Not a good omen.  We are in the true arid desert, and were warned about rattlesnakes and Javelina, the only wild pig native to North America.  We had heard they could be quite agressive, kinda like a bear.  The advice was to make lots of noise to warn them we were coming and to act big and mean if they attacked.  So the bells went back on the dogs and they were firmly tied to the trailers all day.

After 18 miles of pavement, we hit our last stretch of gravel roads.  The terrain is as flat as flat ever gets on the road.  We rode up onto the Continental Divide and followed it for several miles (Cd crossing #22).  There were some nasty spots, but we were generally making good time.  Until we stopped for our afternoon snack.  The sign said 1.5 miles to Thorn Ranch.  As we were eating, Jon's rear tire went flat.  While he was fixing that, his front tire also went flat, then my front tire, and for giggles, we also found a thorn in my rear tire.  Texas tacks, or goatheads, as they are more appropriately called.  Not just one puncture per tire, but multiple.  Took Jon over two hours to patch all four tires.  By then it was 6:30, with dark coming at 7 PM.  We coasted a short distance to the flattest spot we could find with no cacti and hopefully no thorns and started pitching our tent.  Just then, a pickup stopped (we had only seen two other cars all day), with the manager of the ranch upon which we were trespassing.  He didn't mind if we camped there, but though we'd be much more comfortable at his ranch, Thorn ranch, just up the road.  So we followed Oscar to his ranch and he put us up in the house where the ranch hands would stay.  A cute adobe cottage inlaid with spanish tiles and with wooden beams on the ceiling.  Oscar spoke limited English, but it was much better than our Spanish, which is non-existant.  From what we gathered, the ranch is owned by a Mexican company, and he is the foreman.  He has been here for 20 years and has a 15 year old son and a 9 year old daughter.  He was going to Mexico tomorrow to pick up his wife and children, who were there visiting family.   Oscar's offer of housing was a wonderful blessing after a horrible couple hours of fixing flats, however, when we got there, we had picked up more thorns in the short 1.5 miles.  Jon spent all evening fixing more punctures, on the order of 15, to the point where he was running out of patches.  We had left the last bike store on the trail, and indeed the last real city, behind at Silver City.  Without patches or spare tubes, what were we to do?  Knowing Oscar was leaving early for Mexico, we asked if he could give us and our bikes a ride to Separ, which avoided the last 10 miles of dirt.  Maybe on pavement, the thorn problem wouldn't be so bad.

Oct 13  27.9 miles to Hachita Community Center

We left with Oscar at 6 AM and got dropped off in Separ at 6:30.  Separ consisted of two closed gas stations, a souvenier shop and a questionable tire repair shop, none of which was open at 6:30.  So we stood there in the dark with our bikes and our dogs and all of our possessions on the side of the road.  We weren't sure what to do.  The closest bike shops were back in Silver City (60 miles) or Deming (40 miles).  What to do?  When the tire store opened, he suggested that his daughter, who was going to Walmart in Silver City, could pick up some hard rubbler tire innertubes, which were guaranteed not to puncture.  So we waited for two hours for her to return.  We sat outside the souvenier shop (the owners were quite nice people, as we got to know them fairly well).  We watched train after train go by.  It was really a main route for train traffic.  Afton also devised a game of playing with the grasshoppers.  She would jump at them, then they would jump, then she'd jump again, etc.  Finallly, she would pounce on them and eat them.  Yuck. 

By 11 AM our tubes came and we replaced my front tire, which was by now flat.  These innertubes don't have any air-they are just a solid piece of rubber.  They didn't fit very tightly inside my tire, so every time it went around, my tire went slosh, slosh, slosh, like a pair of old goulashes.  It was extremely hard to pedal, like a half inflated tire, making it a hard day for me.  We were on pavement the rest of the way now, and stayed well away from the edge of the road where the thorns might be.  We were lucky to have no more flats--at least while we were riding. 

As we turned south towards Antelope Wells and the border, we entered the Chihuahua Desert, a vast arid land shared by US and Mexico.  It is land of yucca, mesquite, cacti, and various other succulents and woody bushes.  We crossed the continental divide for our 23rd and last time, at 4520 feet, also our lowest crossing.  The most frequest vehicles we saw were border patrol vehicles going back and forth, patroling or returning illegals, we didn't know. 

Hachita was the only sign of civilization on the 65 miles to the border, so we hoped to find a yard or someplace to camp there.  Our guidebook had warned us about illegal aliens and drug smugglers along that road.  Hachita may have been a thriving town once, but the only open businesses were a bar and maybe a gift shop, as well as a Post Office.  We weren't even sure how many homes were still occupied.  As we were cruising town, we noticed some activity at the community center, so stopped to ask about camping. They said we could camp anywhere around there.  This was actually the weekend of the biannual Hachita reunioun, for anyone who ever lived in town or was related to anyone who ever lived in town.  We are getting really good a smoozing.  We hung around the community center for awhile talking to some very wonderful people.  They offered us food and petted our dogs and were amazed by our trip.  We joked about being adopted as honorary citizens and they welcomed us to join their reunioun.  Lander and Afton were the official welcoming committee, and every time someone new came, they ran to greet them.  "Oh boy, more people".  Eventually we asked if we could sleep in the center, and by now, we were almost family, so it was not a problem.   Let's see, how many days can we go without pitching our tent?  Later, we asked if we could leave most of our gear there the next day so we could make a fast dash to the border. 

The only problem--Jon got two flats (more goatheads) just pushing his bike into the building!

Oct 14  45.8 miles to the Mexican Border at Antelope Wells

We woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of wind and rain on the community center roof.  Not on our last day!  We left at 8:20 in a steady rain.  Sky was dark and it looked like we'd be socked in all day.  But we were determined to perservere.  The road was mostly flat and we could smell victory.  After about an hour, the rain let up to a drizzle and eventually quit.  The clouds hung around, but actually made it cooler and more pleasant.  The mile markers were counting down to the border, so we could count how many miles to the end.  At 20 miles, we could see the beginning of the end.  19-18-17.  At 10 miles, single digets, it was like watching the ball drop on New Year's Eve.  We put on the custom t-shirts and bandannas for the Dogs that Jodie made us.  9-8-7  The butterflies were really going in our guts.  4-3-2.  It had to open up and pour again about 1/2 mile from the end.  Why not?  We let the dogs run the last 2 miles.  They had no idea what a momentus day this was.  Not only are we completing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail, but they are, we believe, the first dogs to do the whole trail.

We were relieved, yet meloncholy about the end.  76 days and 2381 miles worth of experiences.  The border patrol was extremely nice.  We stood right on the border and took photos.  We had our journals stamped with their seal.  Then, that was it.  It was over.  Our shuttle was waiting, so it was time to go. 
Posted by Carla Elenz at 10/15/2006 3:50 PM | View Comments (7) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Take me home, Country Roads
PS to Sept 30:  Forgot we had one Continental Divide crossing (#14)
PS to Oct 1:  Also had at least 5 CD crossings (#15-19).  We wiggled back and forth across it so it was hard to count on the map.

Oct 2  Grants, NM (update from last blog)
After we blogged in the early afternoon, we had some time to kill, so we went to the New Mexico museum of mining.  Found out that the mine we camped by last night was a uranium mine, but it, and all the others are being reclaimed (closed down and the land restored).  Uranium was found here in the 50's and Grants suddenly was a boom town as everyone and his brother was out staking claims.  Then in the 80's the price of uranium fell and the companies could no longer afford to pay the workers what they had, so they they went out of business, and the town of Grants went bust, so to speak.   All the uranium now comes from Canada and Australia. 

The main street of Grants is the old historic Route 66.  For you young people, Rt 66 was the first east-west paved road, going from Chicago to Santa Monica, CA.  It was completed in the 20's, and was not an interstate, but a 2 lane road through all kinds of tiny towns.  At that time, driving across the country by car was quite a feat, and thus has inspired numerous movies and songs.  Much of the route has been torn up, but some, like here in Grants, is a historic road.  You can still see numerous motor courts (the forerunners of motels) and cafes that served the traveling public.

Another milestone--we turned 2000 miles today.

Oct 3  28 miles to El Malpais National Monument Dispersed site
El Malpais Nationa Monument means "the Badlands".  Riding down the highway, to one side was the Monument, which consisted of huge fields of lava flows from volcanoes which have erupted as recently as 1000 years ago.  The vegetation is sparse, short and squat junipers eaking out a living on the dark volcanic surface.  The other side of the roadway is wilderness, which contrasted with the stark lava beds with sandstone cliffs carved into wild and grotesque shapes by millions of years of wind and water.  Camped near a spot called "the Narrows", where sandstone cliffs and lava beds come together and touch the road on either side. 

Oct 4  41.8 miles to Nita's porch in Pie Town, NM (pop, about 60)
It was a long hard day that ended with a blessing.  The first 10 miles were paved, but the last 31 dirt, which was often soft sand, so that we had to push our bikes, even when it was flat.  The usual assortment of ups and downs all day.  At 6 PM, when we were almost to Pie Town, we were stopped on the road by Nita, the (un)official Pie Town welcoming committe and Trail Angel.  Whe was on her way to a friend's for dinner, but she had in the back of her car--guess what-- none other than PIE!  So we at a piece right there on the side of the road.  She invited us to camp on her porch, so we found the house and made ourselves comfortable. She had some old car benches on the porch that made a comfortable, if narrow bed (especially when the dogs joined us). She had a fascinating home.  She was a collector, even on the outside, and we entertained ourselves by looking at her collections. 

Pie Town, for it's small size, is the crossroads of the Great Divide Mountain Bike trail, which we are on, and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, the hiking trail.  It has also seen the Race Across America (a bike race from the west to the east coast, usually completed in 6-7 days).  Nita is known as a Trail Angel, for helping out hikers/bikes, like us, accepting packages they've mailed ahead, providing a box where we all can exchange stuff (we picked up a map and left a gel saddle cover we didn't like), and of course, feeding us pie. 

In the morning, Nita took us to an interesting site in Pie Town, a VLA radio Tower.  That stands for Very Large Array, and is used to pick up radio signals from celestial objects in space.  There are a number of these huge towers spread across the US from New Hampshire to Hawaii.  They are all controlled remotely by a lab in Socorro, NM.  While we were there, the tower rotated 180 degrees, on command from headquarters.  If I am correct, all the towers work together to "look" at the same object in space at the same time, so presumably all were moving at the same time.

Then we had breakfast with Nita at "the Daily Pie" restaurant.  The other restaurant in town is "the Pie-O-Neer".  I guess you have to serve pie to operate in this town.  We just missed the annual pie festival.  That would have been something to see. 

One more story about Pie Town.  There was an eccentric, but harmless character named Sundown Bob who lived/traveled in a wagon pulled by a mule.  He had come to Pie Town for years and camped in the city park for several months, and then move to the next town.  Everyone knew and liked him.  Anyway, he died last week right there in the city park.  Too bad.  We saw his wagon, still sitting where he left it. The city is thinking of putting in front of the local museum.

We got a late start out of Pie Town that morning, but a very enjoyable experience in a tiny town that we didn't expect much from.  Looks can be deceiving.

Oct 5  31 miles to dispersed site in Apache National Forest
After the enjoyable morning, we decided to take the pavement instead of the gravel.  Plus, they were predicting several days of rain. The field we camped in was full of tiny little prickers, not much bigger than the point of a thumbtack.  They aren't strong enough to puncture our tire, but sure stick to our socks and shoes and the dogs fir, and cause an irritation.  We had a herd of elk grazing on on the hillside across a valley from where we camped.  Heard them bugleing at dusk.  Wonder if they had prickers.

Afton seems to have developed a preference for running right on the white line, when we are on pavement.  I can move my bike back and forth within the length of her leash, and she stays plastered right there, all 4 feet on the line.  I don't know if she has discovered that the white line is cooler than the black pavement, or if it is smoother, of if she just knows that if she follows it, it will take her somewhere.  Lander, however, stays about equal distance from Jon's bike.  He likes to run off the side of the pavement, if it is grass or soft sand.

Oct 6  44.8 miles to Reserve, NM (motel)
Climbed pretty steady for the first 14 miles, then mostly downhill the rest of the way.  However, a cold/hard rain whipped up just as we were flying down the steepest part of the hill.  Let up later in the day, but started up again just as we got to a motel-rain/hail/lightening/thunder.  Good thing we were inside.

Afton saw a jack rabbit that we kicked up when we stopped once.  It was the highlight of her trip.  The vegeration is mostly dry grass interspersed with Yuccas.   We also are in the land of many grasshoppers-big ones.  I try to run them over with my tires.  It makes a nice crunching sound.  Oh the things we do to amuse ourselves after 7 hours on the bike.  We have seen large (1.5 inches) black spiders as well.  They are smaller than the tarantula I used to have for a pet, but it might be another species.

Oct 7  37.4 miles to Glenwood, NM  (motel)
Woke up to a dense fog, which was starting to lift as we started riding.  Went through several steep canyons and crossed numerous dry washes, or arroyos, as they call them here.  There must be alot of water around here at some time of the year.  We finally saw a river that actually had water flowing in it--took a photo, as I think it's the first one in NM.  More dark, ominous clouds all day, but the rain held off.  It started getting darker about three miles from Glenwood, so we were pushing it.  Then I ran over a branch with thorns and flatted by front tire.  So we patched it as quick as we could and pushed on.  1/2 miles more and whoosh, flat again.  Found two more holes from the same thorn bush.  Another quick patch job, rushed down the road--I just pulled in to the first motel in town and bingo,  flat again.  In all, we patched 5 holes from that one incident.  The motel actually had no rooms--none in town did because of a bluegrass festival.  While debating what to do, we met a group of cyclists who were doing long day rides and hikes in the area.  One of them was leaving that night anyway, and offered us his room.  We are very thankful, as I wasn't going very far on my tire.  It actually never rained that night, as nasty as the sky looked.  Can't tell about this southwest weather.

Oct 8  49.8 miles to dispersed site in Gila (pronounced Hee-la) National Forest
It' s 8 PM. Had to ride late to get to public land on which to camp.  We had hoped to make it to Silver City, but just could not do 15 more miles.  We were sitting in the tent as a thunder storm just kicks into full gear.  It's been ramping up for an hour.  Black sky and impressive lightening.  We stopped at a home on the way down the side road towards national forest land and asked if we could sleep in their barn.  The wife was receptive, but he was not.  So we had no choice but to weather the storm in our tent.  He did drive out to our site a little later and brought some water.  Either he felt guilty or his wife got to him. 

Anyway, did PB&J for dinner and hunkered down for a long night.  Wave after wave of storms went though the area.  Lightening so bright it hurt our eyes, even when shut.  Thunder so loud it made the dogs jump.  I don't know of any tent that would have been water proof through this.  Water started seeping in from all sides.  Lander was actually drinking from the bottom of the tent.  Either he was thirsty or he was trying to bail himself out.  We kept the dogs between us as we tried to snuggle together as close as possible so stay away from the wet walls.  As the floor got soaked and we curled up on the mattress pads, I could not help but think of Noah in the Ark after he landed on Mt. Ararat.  He was on the only high and dry spot surrounded by a wide sea. 

This went on for who knows how long.  The stomes quit someting in the middle of thei night, and we finally got some sleep.  Everything--sleeping bags, pads, clothes--was wet in the morning, but the sun was out, which at least made us feel better about packing up.

Oct 9  16 miles to Silver City (motel)
Another wave of storms was coming in as we pulled into town.  Just enough to soak us before we found a motel.  The motel had a laundry for guests, so we threw all our wet stuff in the dryers and washed our clothes. 

It should have been a short, easy day, but it was uphill all the way to a continental divide crossing just before Silver City.  (Elev 6230 ft, crossing #20).  Plus we had the headwinds which we've had every day since we got to NM.  Afton seemed to be limping, so Jon pulled her all the way and I ran Lander. 

Silver City is the beginning of the end.  It is about a 3 day ride through the true desert to the terminus of the Great Divide trail at Antelope Wells.  We are taking at least a day off to consider our options about finishing up and getting home.  The next blog should be after the end.  It's a bittersweet feeling to know we are so close to the end, yet excited about reaching our goal. 

In honor of the occasion, and in the spirit of late night TV, we have developed a list of the top 10 reasons for bike touring.

10. No watch, no calendar, no schedule.
9. Crawling into my warm sleeping bag at night.
8. Tailwinds.
7. Downhills
6. Cleaning the house means shaking out the tent.
5. Three months off work.
4. You get to spend 24/7 with your significant other, for better or for worse.
3.  What better way to get to know America-the mountains, the plains, the vistas, the bugs in your teeth, the smell of roadkill, the potholes in the pavement.
2.   You can eat anything and everything you want.

and the number one best thing about touring is...

1..  The people we meet.

Till later...
Posted by Carla Elenz at 10/10/2006 12:38 PM | View Comments (0) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Looking for a ride home!
It appears that our friend who was going to pick us up has some logistical problems and will not be able to come pick us up as soon as we hoped.  So we are looking for someone, who would like to be spontaneous, to come pick us up in New Mexico, leaving Michigan on Monday, the 9th, or as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, we do not have any cell phone coverage, so please call Todd to make arrangements.  The plan is to use one of our vans for this long trip, so Todd can help make plans to get the van to whoever.  We would like to know by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.  Thanks!
Posted by Carla Elenz at 10/8/2006 3:38 PM | View Comments (3) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
New photos, Northern NM

Put some new pictures on.  Check them out. Just realized some of my former pictues got overwritten. Don't have time to fix it now. The newest ones are still at the end. Sorry.

Posted by Carla Elenz at 10/2/2006 3:23 PM | View Comments (0) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Navajo Country
"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40: 29-31.  (A good passage as I was riding through Native land on Sunday.

Sept 30  48.2 miles to Chaco laundromat
This could be fairly lengthy, but I need to set the stage for you.  For the next 120 miles we will be riding through land that is primarily Navajo.  There is some BLM land, 1/4 and 1/2 sections, but they are very difficult (ie impossible) to find.  So the maps tell us that finding a place to camp is the primary challenge.  Some bikers, they say, have been able to camp behind the couple of little markets on the way.  The first store was at 27 miles, and the next not till 48 miles.  We were hoping to make the second one, but a nasty headwind came on and slowed us to a crawl.  The road is basically "flat", but that means you go up a hill and then down.  WIth the headwind, we were stuggling to pedal downhill.  At about 30 miles, a nice young Navajo man stopped and warned us to be careful if we were camping on the side of the road because it was Saturday night and all the revelers would be out looking for trouble.  That concerned me more than the bears and mountain lions.  A couple more miles, we came upon a Baptist church.  It was a short day, but it was already 3:30 and we were beat because of the wind, so we pulled in, hoping maybe to camp behind the church.  We figured that would be safe.  The church was in a little fenced in compound with a couple trailers.  We had seen a woman go into one of the trailers, so we knocked on the door.  No answer.  She didn't answer after we knocked repeatedly.  Either we looked really scuzzy (which we probably did) or maybe she didn't even speak English.  Anyway, we sturck out and continued down the road.

We were making such slow progress that we were sure we wouldn't make it to the "store" at 48 miles, if it even existed (our maps have been known to be wrong).  We were actually looking at gated trails to private property, thinking maybe we could knead out of site of the Saturday night troublemakers.  We were exhaused but pushed one, not having any other choice.  We were both praying for a safe place to stay, thinking of something off the road with alot of vegetation to hide us.  About 5:30, a car of young native people slowed down and handed a can out of the window for us.  My first thought was that he was giving us a beer and that the partying had begun.  But it was a Dr. Pepper, so we thanked him very much.

It was now 6:40.  It starts to get dark at 7 PM.  Time for drastic measures.  We saw a church, with a house and vehicles around.  Great.  But it turned out to be a LDS (Mormon) church.  Of all the churches I'd like to knock on the door of that would be the last.  However, it was better than being attacked on the side of the road.  I waited there a minute while Jon pedaled up one more hill to see if he could find the 48 miles store.  What he found was a laundromat.  So we tried it.  We called the owner, Herman, and he said "no problem".  So we set up camp behind the laundromat.  The whole place was fenced in and locked up at night.  Plus it had pay showers and bathrooms that were open till 9:30 and again at 7 AM.   Our prayers were answered.  Not only did God provide a safe place, but He provided a locked and gated yard with hot showers and flush toilets to boot.  What a blessing.

To go back--about 5 miles before the laundromat, we were picked up by two puppies, maybe 4-6 months old.  Cute with brown/black/white mutts, not very big, and almost identical.  Jon saw a third one, but it ran for the bushes as soon as he saw us.  These two followed us the whole 5 miles.  We tried to get rid of them by yelling, bopping them on the nose with our flag and throwing pebbles, but they would not be deterred.  Afton also tried chasing one away.  I hate to be mean to an animal, but if we were hiding out in the bushes on the side of the road, all we needed was two stray mutts giving us away.  I'm sure they were strays or the litter was dumped on the side of the road.  They followed us to the laundromat, where there were about a half a dozen other stray dogs of all sorts.  The attendent says that strays hang out there and he feeds them.  They hung around us all evening and in the morning.  During the night, we were disturbed several times by  them or the other dogs getting into disagreements.  One dog chewed the top off of the water bottle we use to mix Gatorade.  Probably tasted good.  We were afraid the pups (I called them Cheech and Chong) would follow us the next day, but they decided they had a better life at the laundromat. 

There seems to be alot of stray dogs in this area.  I feel bad, because they have to fend for themselves and have no one to really love them.  I thought of this as my dogs ride along in their trailers, get their feet treated and their hair brushed, and snuggle in our sleeping bags at night.

Oct 1  48.6 miles to somewhere on the side of the road
Today was much like yesterday, only no laundromats to camp behind.  In fact, the landscape is empty, dry and brown.  The rivers are dry gullies.  We ride through canyons of rock formations and come out onto dry grassy plains with scattered small bushy trees.  The temperatures have warmed up again-high 70s to 80.  Lander and Afton grew their winter coats while we were in Colorado and now they wonder why.  Lander's is soft and wispy, sticking out from underneat his silky overcoat.  Afton's is coarse, clumpy and curly, so that with her color, she looks like a little buffalo.

This afternoon, we met a Navajo man who stopped and gave us cold water and watered our dogs.  His name is Galen Pinto.  His ancesters traded in Pinto horses, thus the last name.  He is a big game guide was was out scouting elk.  We learned alot out the Navajo nation from him.  They believe bears are their relatives, so they will not kill them.  He will guide white people on bear hunts, but they have to gut and clean it themselves.  The Navajos have about 19 million acres of land-one of the largest in the US, and about 300,000 people.  They have so much land because they have always been peace loving, so when the white people came, they did not fight and thus were given large pieces of land.  Some of the more militant tribes back east were either relocated or given very small reservations.  We are seeing the homes and people that are better off.  Many Navajos live way off the road with no water, no electricity, no cars and no jobs.  Proverty is a big problem.  The young people are leaving for the cities where there are jobs.  We wondered why there seemed to be so many local people using the showers and the pay phone at the laundromat last night.  They just don't have them at their home.

We couldn't find any BLM land and no stores to camp behind.   All the land was fenced in and the gates were locked.   So we pulled off a side road-one of the only ones we saw, and camped just off the shoulder of the road.  There were only a few trees, we we were not hidden very well.  We were right across  from a "mine" (I think Uranium).  Come 6 AM, all the workers started coming in.  If they looked very hard, they could see us.  I'm sure those crazy bikers were the topic of the breakroom discussion.

Oct 2  25 miles to Grants, NM
Just got into town and have not found a place to stay yet.  Internetting at the local community college. Grants is a larger town than we have seen in a long time-11,000 people.  Kind of a culture shock.  I hear there's even a WalMart in town.  I was hoping to go the whole trip without seeing one of those.  I'll have to shut my eyes.
Posted by Carla Elenz at 10/2/2006 1:09 PM | View Comments (3) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Out of the Mountains
Sept 26  57 miles to Abiquiu, NM (Catholic Church)
It was a wonderful scenic ride from Chama to Abiquiu, NM, right from the picture books, with red and gold sculped sedimentary rocks and formations.  Yesterday we were in the snow on top of the mountains and today, in the desert. 

We were having a good ride, so pushed all the way to Abiquiu.  We cycled up a steep hill and right into old Mexico.  I felt like I missed the rest of the US.  The buildings were all adobe, in a spanish style and the roads were dirt.  Right in the middle of town were the library and a Catholic church.  We used the library and while there, checked on motels or campgrounds.  It's feast or famine.  Last night, the motel was $39.  Tonight, $140--Out of our budget.  As we were standing at the library debating what to do at 6 PM, a very nice young woman, Isabelle, came to our rescue and made arrangements with the Catholic Church (I'm sorry I don't know the name-it wasn't on the building) to stay at a small apartment they have there.  What a wonderful thing for her to do and the Priest to allow.  Just one of the many reasons that we enjoy traveling by bike and meeting America.  Thank you Isabelle and the Abiquiu church.  Isabelle also told us that Abiquiu is a Pueblo, built on the site of the original Pueblo of many years ago.  The church is over 100 years old.  I'd like to know more about the history of Abiquiu and the Pueblo, so if anyone from Abiquiu is checking in, please fill me in.  If not, I'll do some research when I get home. 

While in the church apartment that night, I realized my front tire was flat.  After checking, we found a "Texas tack" or "goathead".  It's a little hard thorn with two "horns" like a goat.  We've experienced them before, and they are murder on tires.  I must have picked it up right outside the church, as the dogs also got some in their feet later.  We'll have to be careful when we take our bikes off the pavement.

Sept 27  19 miles to dispersed camping site on Polvadera Mesa
We started an 80 mile trek from Abiquiu to Cuba on dirt roads.  There is a 26 mile climb up to about 10, 200 feet to start and then more miles of bouncing up and down.  This should be our last major climb over 8000 ft.  It was slow going.  I started the day with another flat- this time we found a slit in the tire but don't know what caused it. The road went from bad to worse.  Gravel and loose rocks on a steep climb made it tough.  Halfway, we came up on the Polvadera Mesa.  I'm not sure if a Mesa is a geologic formation or just a road name.  THat section flattened out somewhat (I was able to ride as fast as 3 MPH).  It was all hard packed clay, with deep ruts on the edges of the road that I'm sure were made by cars sinking in fast when it was wet.  I'm sure it would be quite unrideable with any moisture.  But today, we were able to ride high and dry on the middle ridge.  We rode till about 5:30 and just found a spot on the side of the road to camp.  We hadn't seen any vehicles since about noon, and saw none all night.  We did see bear tracks, so made sure we kept our camp clean and hung our food high.  There was no water all day, so we made sure we carried enough for the night and beginning of tomorrow.  Hopefully we can go far enough to get to a stream. The dogs ran most of the day.

Sept 28 27.5 miles to dispersed camping site somewhere along FR315.
Today was similar to yesterday.  We finished climbing the 23 mile hill, then bounced up and down all day until we could go no further and found a camping site in a little meadow.  Early this morning, we found bear tracks within 1/2 mile of where we had camped.  Luckily we had no encounters last night.  Within two miles, we saw three trucks coming towards us-quite a surprise since we hadn't seen another human in so long.  THey were NM Fish and wildlife employees, going to do fish surveys.  They were fascinated by our trip, so we talked quite awhile.  They also replenished our water supply, so we don't have to worry about finding water tonight. 

It was interesting seeing the change in vegetation.  We started at about 8000 feet in semi arid, scrub, sagebrush country.  As we rode up, we moved into forests of small, bushy pinyon pine and jumiper, with heavy understory.  Later, we came into more stately forests of ponderosa pine, with little understory (but great for hanging bear bags).  Towards 10,000 ft, the landscape opened into wide meadows, covered with thick, green grass that looks like it could have been planted (but wasn't).  These are surrounded by aspen, half green and gold.  Scattered around the meadows are boulders of all sizes and shapes, like a haphazard rock garden, that must have been left by ancient glaciers. Coming down the other side (tomorrow), we saw the same change, until we were back in arid desert country. 

We followed two sets of bike tracks most of the road--at least one with a BOB trailer.  We wondered if it was Spence, who we met before the Great Divide Basin or Matt and Steve, who we met before Breckenridge or the Belgian, who we never met, but heard was a little ahead of us, or maybe someone else.

Sept 29 31 miles to Cuba (motel)
Heard elk bugeling last night, also coyotes, which we hear amost every night.  Finished the long haul over the mountains and into civilization again.  More bouncing up and down, till a nice, 5 miles downhill into town.  Just as we got back on pavement, we encountered a traffic jam of a different sort--a cattle drive right down the road.  The cowboys on horses were helped by herding dogs, keeping the cattle on the move.  We teased the dogs, as they were riding in the trailer, that some dogs have to work for a living. 

Posted by Carla Elenz at 9/29/2006 4:49 PM | View Comments (3) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
New Mexico
"The world is not flat", Christopher Columbus, circa 1492.  "He was right", me, 2006.

Sep 20  Day off in Del Norte
After such an enjoyable night at Cristi's in Del Norte, we spent the morning interneting at her Huckleberry's Cybercafe and eating homemade pastries.  A look at the weather for the next town told us it was to be 38 degrees and rain/snow mix in the mountains.  We could see the storm front coming in, so we decided to spend the day goofing off.  Del Norte is a nice little town.  We wandered through some little shops downtown and met some nice people.  A relaxing day.

Sep 21  45 miles to LaJara, CO (garage of city hall)
The weather looked no better for today.  Our route for the next two days was to take us up and over our highest pass yet...almost 12,000 feet and climb of 4000 feet over 23 miles, on gravel.  This would have been a major undertaking, but also the highest we'd ever been on a bicycle.  However, they were expecting over a foot of snow, and we would have to camp at least one night over 10,000 feet.  Common sense told us we would be smart to take an alternate route.  It wasn't too bad a ride through the San Luis valley to La Jara.  We saw a number of cars that had come down from the mountains with snow on them.  I guess we are glad we took the alternate.  We rode through an Amish community, where they were raking hay with horses.  There were four rakes with teams of two horses each.  We are starting to see more and more Spanish influence in town names (La, Del) and architecture.  The last ten miles, a headwind picked up and made riding very difficult.  I liken it to a bird trying to fly into the wind and not going anywhere.  We limped into LaJara, hoping to find a place to stay or camp.  There were winter storm warnings for the valley tonight, so we hoped for an inside place.  Finding no motel, we went to the police station/town hall.  We have had luck before getting space in a church, fire station or community center.  The city manager, Bill, was very helpful.  He told us we could camp in the adjacent, park,but because of the weather predicted, he said he'd ask the city trustees if we could sleep in  the garage.  Later,when he had secured permission, we moved into the garage with the lawn mowers and tools and other storage items.  It was not your usual place to sleep, but we threw our ground cloth on the floor and layed our sleeping bags on it.  We were fairly cozy, and out of the wind, rain and snow.  The dogs didn't care.  As long as they were with us, they were happy.  In fact, the garage offered some new smells for their delicate noses.  I guess if Jesus could beborn in a stable, we can sleep in a barn.

We appreciate the effort of Bill and the trustees in letting us stay there.

Sep 22 16 miles to Antonito (motel)
It didn't snow last night, but it was rainy and blustery, and supposed to be all day.  We decided we couldn't stay another day in the garage of the town hall, so we suited up and rode to the nearest town, Antonito, and got a motel.  Stopped at Conejos and saw the oldest church in Colorado, Our Lady of Guadelupe, founded in 1858, although the building itself has been rebuilt due to fire.

Sep 23  Day off in Antonito (steam train ride)
Someday we'll have to get back to biking.  Antonito, CO and Chama, NM are linked by the highest  (elevation) narrow guage steam train in the US, and today, they have rebuilt it and take passenger tours from one end to another.  It goes over Cumbres Pass (10,022 ft), which we are supposed to ride to get back on the trail.  However, they have 12 inches of snow, and we were doubtful whether we could ride it.  So we thought we could at least see it by train.  It was a beautiful day..sunny and clear.  The snow on the pass was gorgeous from the warmth of the train.  The train was oncethe only way to get between the two cities, and hauled livestock, lumber, oil, coal and passengers.  Today, just the latter. Although the snow was deep in the woods and valleys and coated the trees like a Christmas card, the roads were clear, and we decided that with this sun, would be ridable in a couple days.

We met a woman at the visitor's center in Antonito who offered to take our dogs while we were riding the train (they would have loved to go with us, but unfortunately, not allowed).  So thank you, Lorraine, for being so nice.  In fact, we found Antonito to be a very friendly little town.

Sept 24 24.5 miles to Horca,CO (private campground)
It was a short day just to the base of a LaManga Pass.  The pass is 10,230 ft, and climbs at 7 percent grade for 5 miles.  We didn't want to tackle it late in the day.  Early next morning we will get up and over it.  It gets cold early up at high elevations, so we climbed in the tent at 6:30 to stay warm.  Spent some time journaling and looking over the maps.

Sept 25  27.9 miles to Chama, NM (motel)
It was very cold this morning, with a heavy frost and the sun doesn't come over the mountains till 9 AM, so we slept in till 7:30.  Our campground neighbors, Tommy and Judy from west Texas invited us over for bacon and eggs in their 5th Wheel.  I hope I can pass on all these random acts of kindness we have been receiving someday.  After some good food and visiting in their warm camper, we got on the road and headed up the hill.  Although LaManga Pass was slow going, it didn't seem as bad as we had imagined.  We got to the top in 2 hours.  There was still snow there, maybe 6 inches, so we let the dogs play in it.  They had a ball.  Then we gently bounced up and down through snow country until we crested Cumbres Pass, which we had done on the train.  We followed the train tracks much of the day, but missed seeing the train. 

We are expecting about 3 more weeks on the road, if all goes as planned.  We have about 3 more days in the mountains, and then it will be much flatter, although still at 7000-8000 ft elevation.  The last major towns we will be going through, if you want to look them up, are Cuba, Grants and Silver City, NM.  About this time, we start thinking of the first thing we want to do when we get home (besides unload the van, of course).  I want to put on some jeans and a sweatshirt..3 months is a long time to go without wearing jeans.. and cook a full course turkey dinner.  I don't care what season it is.  A turkey dinner represents the ultimate in home and family.  Jon says he wants to listen to some good music. 

Posted by Carla Elenz at 9/26/2006 6:01 PM | View Comments (6) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Photos in Colorado
We've put some photos from Colorado on the picture link.  Check them out.  Remember that the new photos go on at the end.
Posted by Carla Elenz at 9/20/2006 11:09 AM | View Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Escaping the snow
General comment:  The weather in Colorado is quite cool and snowy this time of year, at least at the higher elevations.  The natives assure us this is unseasonably cool.  Either way, when they were predicting snow down to 8000' elevation and we were riding and camping at 9000' and higher, we made the intelligent decision to book it south quickly.  We decided to bypass some of the Great Divide trail and hop on paved roads, some of it part of the TransAm Trail, some of it our own doing, to make time.  Basically, this was from Kremmling to Saguache. So far, we have avoided any of the white stuff, and are hoping to make it out of the mountains before it catches us.  We are back on the trail now and still at higher elevations, but the weather for the last few days has been dry, although very cold at night (below freezing).

Todd had sent us a care package which we picked up in Kremmling.  Included in it were a Belgian flag, which I now have flying from the back of my trailer and some Belgian chocolate (right from Belgium).  It was a little surreal sitting on a rock on top of a mountain in Colorado eating real Belgain chocolate.

Also, as to read these journals, take note of all the wonderful people we have met.  The best part about bike touring is meeting people.  So far, Colorado has been one of the friendliest states we have encountered.

Sept 13 44 miles to Frisco, CO (home of Jack )
Rode the paved TransAm.  The last part was actually bike trail along the Dillon Reservoir.  As we were stopped for lunch (and Jon to change a flat tire), we were caught by Matt (from Los Angeles) and Steve (from PA) who were doing the Great Divide Trail.  They only had 29 days to do it, so, like us, had taken some shortcuts.  Enjoyed talking with them and comparing notes about the rigors of the trail.  They had heard about the "people with the dogs" and were hoping to meet us.  At the end of the day, as we were headed towards a campground on the reservoir, Jack, who was doing a day ride on the bike trail, struck up a conversation with us and eventually invited us to his home in Frisco.  Not to turn down an inside shelter, we jumped at the chance.  His whole family is into biking, so we shared some good stories.  Also had our first shower in 6 days!

Sept 14 33.5 miles to Fairplay, CO (Motel)
This was a day of ups and downs, warm and cold, wet and dry and meeting people.  We had a short 12 mile ride up a bike trail from Frisco to Breckenridge, a big skiing resort town.  Then we were to climb Hoosier Pass, at 11,539', the highest point we will cross on the continental divide.  The day started out warm and sunny.  We talked for awhile to a woman out riding on the trail who said we were living her dream.  We stopped at a small furniture store on the trail to use the restroom and when we came out, there was a reporter and photographer for the Summit Daily News standing by our dogs in the trailers.  He had seen lots of bike tourists, but never any with dogs.  We agreed to an interview and photos.  You can read the story at .  By now it was past 11 AM and we had only come 8 miles.  In Breckenridge, we stopped at a couple bike stores and while we were there, the weather did a complete 180.  The sky turned black and opened up and poured.  By the time we left for our 2000' climb up Hoosier Pass, it was 1 PM and sleeting.  We desparately wanted to make it over the pass before it turned to snow.  It was 11 miles to the top.  We had done this pass 8 years ago when we rode across the country, so knew what to expect, but now in such wintry weather.  We put all our rain gear on. The dogs ran all the way up to stay warm.  We did not stop for very long for fear of hypothermia setting in.  Halfway up, some hail was added to the mix.  That was a nice touch.  Three miles from the top, the road was closed down to one lane for construction.  The closed lane was paved-they were just seeding and blowing straw on the shoulders, so they let us ride in the closed lane.  That was actually a blessing, as it gave us a very wide lane all to ourselves away from the traffic.  With the wet straw, it smelled slightly like the Otsego County Fair livestock barn.  The last mile, the trees opened up and the wind really whipped down the pass.  At that point, we were really cold and thinking about hypothermia and how we were going to get down the other side.  We took a few quick photos.  The last time we climbed this pass, we celebrated.  11,539 ' is almost 2 miles above sea level.  For comparison for those back home in Michigan, Gaylord is probably about 1000' above sea level.  This is 11 times higher.  This time we were in a delimma about how to get down safely.  The dogs were shaking from cold.  We could pick them up and make it the 12 miles to the next town quite fast, but they would be even colder riding in the wind.  If they ran, they would be warmer, but we could only go about 7 mph.  We were freezing too and anxious to get down.  Enter three very nice ladies who stopped  to take pictures at the top as well.  They saw our poor freezing puppies, offered to drive them to the bottom, scooped them up, and they were gone.  That allowed us to hustle to the bottom.  When we got there, the ladies had the dogs all warmed up and had even found a motel for us that welcomed dogs.  What a blessing.  BTW, Hoosier Pass was surrounded by several peaks that were much higher-over 14,000'.  When were started up, there was little snow on them.  At the end of the day, the snow on top was thick and down to a much lower elevation.

We went out to dinner at the old, historic Fairplay Hotel.  While there, we met Blaise, who was road bike touring.  He is a traffic engineer from Geneva, Switzerland.  He is riding from Jasper, Alberta, Canado to Albequrque, NM.  He has toured in the Rockies before, and indeed, knows more about the passes than we do.  Enjoyed sharing stories about touring in America and Europe. 

Sept 15  40 miles to Nathop, CO (private campground)
Had lots of traffic on narrow roads with no shoulder all day.  Plus a headwind slowed us down and almost blew us off the road at time.  Had some beautiful scenery of the Collgiate Peaks, as they are called- Mt. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia, all named for Ivy League schools.  All were now snow covered due to the storm a couple days ago. Met up with Blaise again for a roadside lunch.  He travels much lighter than us, with a road bike and no camping gear-he stays in motels exclusively.

Sept 16  33.5 miles to Dispersed site just past Poncha Pass
Several stories about today.  First, we had decided some time ago that the dogs needed some kind of warm coat with all this wet, cold weather.  We contacted our friend Marti at home, who is a dog lover, and asked her to research jackets, which she did.  Thank you, Marti.  With her information, we orded them a couple days ago, then needed a place to ship them to.  Enter Mike and Bill.  We met Mike a couple days ago in Silverthorn, before Frisco.  Talked to awhile, and he gave us the number of his business partner, Bill, in Salida and told us to contact him is we needed anything while there.  Both are big bike enthusiasts.  So we called Bill, introduced outselves, and asked if we could have a package shipped to his house, where we could pick it up.  So we had the jackets shipped to the house of a person we had never met before.  What would we do without the kindness of strangers.  When we got to Salida, we made contact and got the jackets just fine.  We will try to get photos of them on the web.  They are a little "cute", but warm, quilted material, and do the job fine. We put them on the dogs to sleep when it's sub freezing. 

Something to laugh about-on the way to Salida, I was drying my shorts on my handle bars.  We wash our bike shorts every night and if they don't dry overnight, often hang them on the bike to dry the next day.  They had been there for 18 miles with no problem.  All of a sudden, for some reason, my shorts got sucked into my brakes on my front wheel, stopped the bike dead, and I went over the handlebars.  I was not hurt-only a scraped knee and a few bruises, but my shorts were shredded in places you don't want them shredded.  Luckily, Salida had a good bike store, and I was able to buy a new pair.

It was lunch time, so we hit a local cafe.  While there, with the dogs parked outside, a couple came in and asked if we were the people in the Summit Daily News article.  This was two days later and 100 miles south.  We felt like celebrities.

With the delays, we were late heading over Poncha Pass-elevation 9015'.  Almost to the top, a lady stopped to talk to us.  She had seen us almost a month ago in the Tetons, then a few days ago in Buena Vista.  She said, the third time, she just had to stop and talk to us.  She herself has done quite a bit of riding, including parts of the Tour de France route.   We crested the pass at 6:30, then just went down a couple miles to camp on public land.  It was almost dark.  We ate, set up the tent and headed to bed as quickly as possible.  At almost 9000', it was cold that night.  The water bottles froze almost solid.

Sept 17  33 miles to Saguache (Sa-watch), CO (motel)
Mostly downhill on pavement.  Riding through a basin which reminded me of Wyoming,with sagebrush and antelope.  The surrounding mountains are scattered with patchwork quilts of gold aspens and various shades of green pines. We met Alan, from Jasper, Alberta.  He is road touring the lenght of the Rockies.  He had heard about the "people with the dogs" and he also had met Blaise, from Switzerland, when he started in Jasper.  Small world.  He met Alan again for a mid morning breakfast in Villa Grove.  We also met a woman in Villa Grove who had seen us several days ago.  After telling her daughter about us, she was sorry she didn't talk to us.  Was glad to find us again and called her daughter right away. 

Saguache was pretty much a dead town, at least on Sunday afternoon.  Rode through the business district and saw no movement.  Saguache is famous for being the town where Alfred Packer, the only person convicted of cannibalism in US history, came after spending the winter in the mountains around town.  He and 5 buddies went into the mountains in the fall in the 1800s and he is the only one that survived, well fed and fit.  A bit of sordid history of the American West.  These are the mountains we are riding through.

Sept 18  31 miles to Storm King USFS campground.
We got back on the Great Divide trail today.  Carnero Pass (10,166') was a beautiful ride.  Tall aspen and pines lining the road, interspersed with wide, grassy meadows.  Saw an old "line shack" where ranch hands would spend the winter with any cattle that had missed the fall roundup.  Going down, the canyon was lined with unique rock formations in various shapes.  We were the only ones in the campground.  Some hunters stopped and gave us dire warnings about the bears in the area, but we had no problems.  It was very cold in the morning-it was shady in the campground, so the sun didn't warm us up.

Sept 19  33 miles to Del Norte (staying at Cristi Larsen's apartment in downtown)
Started the day with a flat tire for Jon.  Couldn't find a hole, so pumped it up and it seemed to hold all day.  Nice downhill to LaGarita, where we stopped in the LaGarita restaruant/grocery/gas station/campground/the only business enterprise in LaGarita for lunch.  It was very busy and only had four big tables.  The thing to do is to share. We sat with an older couple-I think farmers, and two women on their lunch break.  Great burgers.  The rest of the road to Del Norte was the most round about way you could ever take, across open plains and 4WD trails, through river bottoms and through rock gaps.  The maps said "very primitive road".  That's and understatement.  We wonder how they ever found these routes. 

Once in town, we were headed for the city park, where supposedly, we could camp.  Cristi stopped us and asked if we were looking for a place to stay---sure, we never turn down inside lodging.  She owns a large space above some downtown stores, and has converted some of it to apartments.  It is a wonderful and cute place to stay.  We do so enjoy the generosity of strangers.  On top of that, she owns an internet cafe underneath the apartment, the other thing we needed. 

So far, we have come approximately 1631 miles and have less than 1000 miles to go.  Thanks for following us and for all your supportive comments.

Posted by Carla Elenz at 9/20/2006 9:25 AM | View Comments (3) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Colorado Rocky Mountain High
Sep 6  Rest day in Rawlins.  Groceries, library, laundry and a good lunch at Sandborn's diner.

Sep 7 47.8 miles to dispersed site in Medicine Bow NF
Left early hoping to do 54 miles, but just pooped out.  Too many ups and downs all day.  The CD crossing this morning wasn't really too bad--Middlewood Hill (7965 ft elevation).  Our 12th CD crossing.  Had a short, cold rain early this morning, but rest of the day was sunny.  We were passed by 7 empty cattle trucks, then an hour later, they came back, full of beef destined for the slaughterhouse.  We started out in sagebrush, like we've been riding in for several weeks.  Then, when we hit the National Forest, we suddenly entered forests that could have been in Michigan-hardwoods, pines, green understory.  It was like a welcome home for us northerners.

Sep 8  22.5 miles to Slater, CO (cabin)
I guess our luck had to change sometime.  We've have just beautiful weather for 6 weeks (one rain day and some heat, but who's to complain).  Well, it started out cloudy this morning.  Opened up and poured just as we left camp and rained most of the day. I don't think it got above 60 degrees.  We had rain gear and warmed up when we were riding, but the dogs were soaked and cold.  They ran most of the day, just to stay warm.  I wish we had a raincoat for them.  We rode through some nice areas--a 1 mile stretch of Aspen covering the roadway called Aspen Alley.  Would have been beautiful except for the rain.  Then a nice 10 mile downhill on pavement.  Again, it was too cold to appreciate it.  At 22 miles, we had to decide whether to continue on the route-30 miles away was the nearest city, or try to go off route and find a room to stay in.  Just as we were standing there in the rain, the generosity of strangers came to our rescue.  Bryan, who works for a large hunting and fishing resort in the area, offered to drive me to Savory, 8 miles away, to see if anything was available.  There was nothing, so he drove me back to Slater, 3 miles away, where a campground said they had cabins.  I reserved one and we went back to pick up Jon and the dogs, who had been standing there all this time in the cold rain.  Another stranger generously offered to let Jon sit in his truck until I came back.  So the two strangers loaded up our gear and drove us to our cabin, which had good heat and hot showers.  Nothing more to ask for.  Thanks to these kind people. 

Sep 9 31.7 miles to Columbine, CO (the city, not the school)
It was another long and hard day, for the short mileage.   It was cloudy and overcast when we got up, but only a few drizzles and the sun actually poked out in the afternoon.  We had to go back over that pass that we didn't do yesterday. At first, we more or less paralleled the Wyoming, Colorado border.  Ther border is straight and the road was curvy, so we went back and forth between states all morning.  Peter, another employee from the same ranch Bryan worked for stopped us early on and warned us that the road may be impassible, even to vehicles because of the rain.  It was all uphill, on gravel.  For the first 16 miles, the road was not too bad.   Then, there was a sign that said "road may be impassible when wet".  Great.  But the rain had stopped and with a little sun and some wind, we perservered.  It got quite steep at the end and we had decided to try to get one of the cabins that were supposed to be available in Columbine.  When we got there, they were all full and it 6:30 at night (it gets dark about 7:30 here).  Columbine is not even really a city.  There is the cabin rental business and there is Janice.  Janice, I'm sure, was sent to us from God. 

She runs a little roadside store that sells snacks, souveniers, fishing supplies, etc.  She is 75 years old, lives alone in the old one room school house next to the house she lived in during her childhood.  Her parents built the cabins back in the depression for loggers and miners and ran a little general store to supply their needs.  They moved away when she was a teen, but kept the school house and some property.  She moved back, in the summers, about 20 years ago.  Has electricity and phone, but no indoor plumbing, except a kitchen sink.  She rents an outhouse for her store and uses that, and drives down to the state park, 4 miles away, for showers.  She saw us standing on the side of the road in a delimma, asked us if we were Great Divide riders, and, she said, God told her to invite us to stay in her little guest house.  She loves dogs-has an old Golden Retreiver-so they were welcome.  Her guest house was orginally an old sheep herders cabin that was moved there in the 30's and fixed up.  Just big enough for a bed and a few other pieces of furniture.  But you can tell it was furnished with love.  No bathroom or water, she gave us a basin of warm water and we cleaned up the old fashioned way.  She made us the most wonderful dinner-nothing fancy, tuna casserole, fresh tomatoes, corn on the cob, cottage cheese, and warm bread- but served with love.  She told us to eat it all, which we did.  She also greated us with a hot cup of coffee in the morning and made us a heaping bowl of hot cereal (which we had to eat all of, of course).   She said she did it all in God's name.  We were late to bed and late leaving that morning because of talking to her.  It was definitely the best night on the whole trip so far.  We exchanged addressed and will definitely keep in touch with her.

Sep 10 46.6 miles to dispersed campsite on the Yampa River
They said it was all downhill from Columbine to Steamboat Springs.  THere's no such thing as all downhill.  But it was a pleasant ride, and we did the 30 miles by 2:00.  Steamboat Springs is another fancy resort town like Jackson Hole.  Lots of art galleries and outdoor adventure outfitters.   The guide book says Steamboat Springs is about halfway on the trail.  We're getting there!  Had a bike shop re-seat Jon's wheel that was whobbly and replace my brake pads while we picked up sandwiches for lunch.  Just as we were getting ready to leave, it started downpouring again (it was beautiful all morning).  It seemed to be clearing in the distance, so we left for another 15 miles to a small strip (.6 miles) of BLM land where we could camp.  One side of the road was river and the other was a hill, but we did find a small turnoff that we could tuck our tent out of the way.  THere were warning signs that there was mountain lion activity in the area.  So it's back to wearing bells.  Another fast and hard storm came by just as we got the tent up, so we all crawled in and waited it out and ate Oreos.  By the time it was over, we weren't hungry and didn't feel like cooking, so we skipped dinner.

Sep 11 27.3 miles to dispersed site along Big Rock Creek. 
HAPPY 3rd BIRTHDAY AFTON (yes, she was born on 9/11.  Maybe that's why she is such a stinker)

It was clear and warm again today.  Hopefully the storm front is past.  Someone said there was hurricane in the Pacific that was pushing this front on us.  We wound our way along the Yampa river, to the Stagecoach Reservoir, where we walked our bikes along the top of the dam, picked up a singletrack trail around the lake, then hit a gravel road up Lynx Pass, elevation 8737 Ft (not a cd pass).  Long gradual uphill. 

There are lots of hunters in the area-elk muzzleloader and archery season are open, as well as bird.  THey are camped all over the place, so it is hard to find a decent campsite.   Have heard a few shots, which can startle us, and the dogs, if you're not expecting it.   We camped on the river near the road.  ANother camper was further upstream from us.  The area we were in was open, with just a few bushes.  Later in the evening, a hunter walked up to his camper and warned us that he had seen a little black bear up in the mountain right above us.  At that point, we didn't have much of a choice.  We could hike up to the mountain, where the bear was, and hang our food, or we could just stay and defend ourselves.  We chose the later.  We took our bear spray to bed with us and hoped the dogs would warn us.  Didn't hear anything except some coyotes, which we hear quite frequently and I rather like.  They don't come and steal our food.

Colorado is full of trembling Aspen.  It should be their state tree, if it isn't.  It seems when we entered the state a few days ago, they were all still green. Not we seem to be able to see them change every day.  They are various shades of golds and yellows and are starting to fall and line the roads.  When you ride by, you can hear them "quaking" in the breeze.  Fall is coming quickly and it's time to head south.

Sep 12  21 miles to Kremmling, CO.  Camping behind the old volunteer fire station
Had jumped off the trail to hit some pavement.  Climbed over Gore Pass (elev 9527'-not a CD pass).  Then a nice downhill most of the way to Kremmling.  They allow camping by bikers behind the old fire station in the middle of town.  

Let me digress for a moment and talk about the ups and downs here in Colorado.  We aren't exactly riding along the top of the mountain range.  For example, Columbine was at the top of a hill at 8700 feet.  Steamboat Springs the next day was at 6700 feet.  The following day, Lynx Pass took us to 8937 feet.  Today we climbed to 9527 feet and now are back down to 7300 feet.  In a few days, we'll be over 11,000 feet.  Will keep you informed as to our "ups and downs".
Posted by Carla Elenz at 9/12/2006 3:12 PM | View Comments (4) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)