Day 17 Foolish Buffets, and High Passes. I woke up in the chilly morning air to the sun about to peek over a mountain range in the distance. I fumbled out of my bag, and downed my usual Excedrin extra strength and other liquid caffeine in the sort of morning ritual it had become. Packing everything back up always seemed to be the slowest part. I need to work on a better system for future trips. I made it out of camp before Sara and made my way down the pass. I saw a cross bike leaning up against a tree with a guy who appeared to be packing up camp. I was going to give him shit for stealing my Nano 40c tire from Steamboat Springs. Upon closer inspection he didn’t have the Nanos on his bike and as I got closer I could see he was not in good shape. There was diarrhea all over his camp and on his sleeping bag and vomit everywhere. I asked if he wanted any drugs. only had Ibuprofen and Excedrin on me but I thought they might help. In a thick German accent he said he didn’t want anything and was just going to cycle to the nearest town… over 50 miles away. I told him good luck and suggested he get down to the road and take pavement instead of dirt. I got to the bottom of the hill where it T’d into 114 and I ate breakfast on the smooth paved road while I rode. There is definitely an art to it. It’s not as easy as one might make it look. I turned onto yet another loose washboard road and soon ran into more bike people. I saw the guy on the singlespeed, Morgan Allen, Gabes Mak, Mirko Hacker, and another rider. I shed some layers, grabbed a bite and set off with them up the next pass. My pace was a bit faster uphill than the rest of the group giving me time for a food break at the top in the aspens with giant ants. On the way up we passed camps with motor homes and trailers. As we got higher the road got worse, deeper ruts, and loose sand. I had a jeep pass me going up and dusted me so much I had to stop and wait for it to clear. I finally made it to the top of yet another pass and stopped for lunch. I still had an egg salad sandwich from Salida. A few of the guys and Sara caught up while I was eating. We descended from the top and I passed a runner and a couple trucks. The road was dusty with deep ruts and cuts across the road that I had to slow way down for. Eventually the road smoothed out as we got lower and it got more use. We rode down this valley with steep hexagonal lava rock. I could definitely see how the terrain was rough on tires. The route had us head towards a natural arch through a park. The route had all the right turns and I was getting more and more excited about riding through an arch. At what looked like the last turn, the path diverged from the arch and I was kind of bummed. I switched to my secondary bladder and rode to the “sweet bermy doubletrack” that descended into Del Norte. The doubletrack turned down a wash that I followed until I was within sight of Del Norte and I came to a gravel road. Oh shit! My Garmin had froze and I thought I had been following the route. It had turned away from the wash at one point and my path didn’t match what my GPS now said. It was hot out, but there were storm clouds blowing in. I attempted to ride backwards on the course so that I could meet back where I went wrong and not get relegated. On my 3 mile trip back uphill, Morgan Allen, Gabes Mak, Sara Dallman, and a few others passed me. I warned them about the deep soft sand in the wash below and the sharp rocks ahead. I got back to the spot where I went wrong, turned around, and attempted to catch the other riders. I had a couple close calls in the deep sand and ruts of the wash on the way down. I was careful to avoid sharp tire slicing rocks and eventually made my way back to relatively smooth gravel roads on the way into Del Norte. It was the first and only time along the Divide that had signs “Great Divide Mountain Bike Route” I rolled into Del Norte, resupplied at the gas station, and rolled down the street to the all you can eat Mexican buffet. Those fools! Morgan, Gabes, Mirko, and a few more guys were in there when I arrived. I grabbed a plate and feasted. I went back for 2nds, 3rds, and 4ths. All of us had more than $9 worth of food that it was for the buffet. When I filled up, I went outside to enjoy that momentary pleasant feeling. There were some bikers outside checking out our rigs. Bikers as in Harley Davidson riders who wanted to know what we were doing and where we were going. I told them the usual bit and their response was different than the usual. One said “Damn! You guys are real bikers. We’re just a bunch of pussies in leather!” They then went over to their motorcycles and rode off. The group of us went to the gas station again for some more supplies before we pushed to wherever we were going that night. By that time is was mid afternoon and it looked like a wall of storm clouds were heading our way. We were trying to decide between staying there or pushing on and potentially getting rained on. I thought Sara had already left town and made her way up the hill. I downed two Starbucks Doubleshot cans and headed out with Gabes Mak. We were about to ascend the highest pass of the entire route at 11,910 feet above sea level. Gabes and I faced a strong head and cross wind until we got further up the hill. I started out feeling slow, sore, and over filled, but I got better as I rode. The first few miles out of Del Norte were paved but then as the road turned to gravel it got steeper. At the same time, I started to digest lunch and the caffeine hit. After a few bends in the road, Gabes was back out of sight and I was feeling warmed up and good. The temperature started to drop as I got higher, and the caffeine hit stronger. Before I realized what was happening, I was climbing the tallest pass of the Divide at race pace. I started thinking about how there was no way Sara could be that far ahead of me and then about how hard I was working and about how relatively good I felt. I came up with an equation while climbing that pass. My performance was equal to the amount of caffeine I had consumed over the temperature I was riding in. P=C/T-288 or mg of caffeine over temp in Kelvin minus 288K. Meaning that as the temperature approaches 288 degrees Kelvin, my performance is optimized. Obviously more work is needed on that equation but that’s what I had come up with by the top of the pass. It was the most anticlimactic pass of the Divide. I was a little disappointed. There was a small little sticker with the elevation on a sign that said how many miles away a radio tower and Summitville was. There was no big sign for Indiana Pass. As per usual the views were amazing and I wish I had a camera. The golden hour was gleaming on the other nearby peaks and it was beautiful, but anticlimactic. At the top the sun was getting low and storm clouds were moving in. My summer kit was just fine for climbing but rather cold for descending. I spent 20 minutes at the top just trying to put on layers. I couldn’t grip my zippers strong enough to zip them. I resorted to using my Gerber multi-tool with pliers to grab my zipper. It was a sad sight to see. After half an hour at the top working with incompetent hands, I was layered up. I descended a ways and started climbing again. I had put on too many layers. I was sweating so much so I stopped and grabbed my pliers again. As I fidgeted with my zippers I heard a loud crunch in the trees on the side of the hill near me. I heard another large crunch, and another. I suddenly decided that I didn’t need to unzip more and I traded my pliers for my whistle. I suddenly had much more energy for climbing this short hill that I was on, exhaling through the whistle and making as much annoying noise as I could. I’m not sure exactly what I heard, but it sounded large. I had no intention of meeting whatever it was face to face. I rode through Summitville where I was finally able to unzip a bit more with the help of my pliers. I rode down in the ever increasing darkness of the night when finally in the distance I saw some lights in the distance. The road was fairly smooth but full of ruts and loose rocks. I was worried about rim strikes and slicing a tire so I was being careful. I came around a switchback and saw a knee high ball of black fluff with two yellow eyes in my beam of light. My first bear sighting on the Divide was a black bear cub. I didn’t see or want to find out where mom was so I let off the brakes and rode as fast as I dared. I came into the next switchback a little hot but saved it. I was heading right back below where I saw the cub. I hit that switchback as fast as I could muster, and flew the rest of the way down towards Platoro. It was completely dark out. The clouds had covered the moon and the temps had dropped. I wasn’t sure how much there was to this “town” called Platoro and I wasn’t sure where I was going to stay for the night. I rolled up to the first lodge along the road, checked out the sign, and my light died. I tried to turn it on, but it flickered a few times before turning off again. My decision was made for me. I rolled into the lodge and checked in. They asked how much I wanted to spend and me, being me, said as little as possible. They made me a few PB&Js, got me a glass of milk, and a key. I hobbled over to my cabin in the way that you do when you’ve forgotten how to walk. It was one of the jankiest cabins I stayed at. It was like they build it with spare parts from all the other cabins. The shower floor was cracking and the toilet was touching the side wall so you had to sit sideways. The cabin did have a bed though, and a heater fan. I unpacked my sleeping bag, bivvy, and all my wet stuff to dry out. As I was getting ready for bed I got a knock on the door. Gabes had made it in. I showed him around and I went to bed certain that I would wake up with the sun. ACA map 4 was complete and I only had two maps to go. I had come so far, only a few days of riding to go. Day 17 complete with 118 miles and 9.2k feet of climbing. It’s all downhill from here.