Riding the Great Divide is big adventure. Five thousand kilometers of mountains and plains and rocks and rivers, the scene changing with every pedal stroke. We’re over half way into it and most of it has been nothing short of incredible.
But a trip of this magnitude is not free of challenge. Not to say that challenge takes away from the value of the experience. Quite the opposite: an adventure without challenge is just a vacation. And if you know us at all, you know we don’t do vacations.
Two provinces and three states later we realized something peculiar about the Great divide Mountain Bike route: it is something you get done, not something you do. A lot of the riders we have met are racing toward Antelope Wells, New Mexico, counting days and measuring mileage while we decide to take another day off because the ice cream is just that good.
What I’m slowly getting at is this: lessons have been learned and decisions have been made.
We are leaving the Great Divide route and making our own way to Mexico through Utah. It is way warmer there at 4000 ft above sea level and I want to go to Moab. There, I said it. It’s a mountain biker’s right of passage, Leigh’s been, loved it, we have talked about going together, so it’s happening. The decision was also influenced by the weather. We are not confident about getting through Colorado at elevation without encountering snow. We’re heading to Mexico. We’re not prepared for snow. Other factors have come into play but the main reason for our change of plans is to get back to how we enjoy cyclotouring.
If you’re still interested, a summary of the day-to-day of how we got to Moab follows.
From Wyoming’s Great Divide Basin we battled rain and strong headwinds for days. Heading into Colorado, Wamsetter was a little wierd, Craig was a little red-necky and Meeker was a gem. We were forced to go out of our way to the KOA in Silt as Rifle had no where for us to put a tent so Rifle gets a bikepackers fail (still a nice city).
Google got us to the RV park near Mesa and said we could make it through from Mesa to Grand Junction on back roads, noting that there might be some restricted travel. After going up and up and up, the road ended at a private ranch. An employee stopped us at the entrance, gently but firmly declaring “You can’t go through here”. That, Mr. Google, is a leniant employment of the term ‘restricted travel’.
Back down we went. Options at this point?
1) take a very long and round-about alternate route with few to no amenities.
2) head the short route and hitch-hike the portion of the interstate (with two fully loaded bikes) that connected us to a more reasonable way forward. Again, if you know us, you’re betting on option number one. To credit Leigh, not only did she agree to try the hitch-hiking option, miles away from her comfort zone, she was the one pleading our case to the wonderful woman who turned her half-ton around and came back to check on us. All I did was help load the bikes.
Once in Palisade it’s as if the whole trip started anew. FIrst of all, there were peaches everywhere. Pie, jam, shakes, wine, mustards, hats and shirts. After peach pie we rode along the canal past orchards of peaches. Notably, every vehicle slowed or full-on stopped for us if we even thought about crossing the road. Colorado rules.
On to meet Sage, our Warmshowers host in Grand Junction, Colorado and what an amazing stay that was. You think we’re experienced travelers? It’s what she lives for and continues to do even in her (early) retirement. She knows cyclotourists better than they know themselves (Sage: wise).
And we got some kitty time with Charlie.
We took yet another day off (we can, now that we’re back with good weather) to tour the Colorado Monument. While gazing out at unbelievable vistas we met Ann and Will on their bikes, a chance encounter that has fruitioned into a natural friendship. More on that later.
Our arrival in Moab, Utah was, on paper, to be a challenging but quite do-able two-day ride. We rode to Gateway, the halway point with good weather and better spirits, restocked at the General Store and wild-camped in a spot with natural majesty I simply cannot describe. After a solid breakfast we pushed on to what would become our biggest daily effort yet in several measures. The distance was only fifty some-odd miles (our new norm) but we were on the route for almost twelve hours, climbed roughly fifty-five hundred feet, then had the descent of our lives as we headed down the other side of what we had climbed, through massive canyons of red rock towering up on either side of the Mighty Colorado River, finally showing up at our Warmshowers host’s house in the dark.
I am writing to you on day three of our Moab mini-vacay. After another wonderful Warmshowers experience we are camped between more canyon walls of red rock that guide the Colorado River. Mexico is about a month away and the route options are being discussed daily. We hope to find a Workaway placement in the Baja peninsula. That will determine where we enter Mexico, and what route we take to get there.
We are back to what feels right for us as cyclotourists.