Ride The Divide 2
Miles — 53 Total Chapter Miles — 53 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 609
TFTD: Cattle Guards
We flew into Albuquerque yesterday. And, we were picked-up at the airport by Kim’s cousin, Jennifer and her husband, Daniel – with ALL the gear they stored for us after Chapter 1, in their pick-up. Then, they drove us to the bike shop, where the tandem MTB was repaired and stored, and then they drove us back to Abiquiu. We had a fun, early, dinner at the Abiquiu Inn, where we had reservations, and then Jennifer and Daniel started their drive back to Albuquerque.
After a quick overnight, breakfast at the Inn, and loading-up the bike, we started pedaling. Again. More and more and more of New Mexico. Again, plenty of climbing, lots of the surroundings looking like the Sierra, and terrific rocks. We did our first stop in El Rito, and stopped at a small café that wasn’t yet open. There was a person inside, getting ready for the diners, so Kim asked if she could use the restroom. He said sure, and gave each of us a bottle of McCafé Frappuccino. Very nice! Back on dirt roads, with numerous cattle guards, we actually came across a “team” of cattle that were “guarding” the guard… we had to slow down, and were allowed to pedal across the guard.
When we were off-dirt and on-pavement saw and talked with 4 Divide Riders, the North-to-South (South bound or SOBO) riders, who were looking forward to completing their adventure in about 700 miles. Not too far, since they started in Banff, Canada. They were pretty worn-out, but friendly and still smiling!
Later in the day, when we were back on pavement, we saw a tiny place called Summer Store, and decided to stop for “lunch”. It was about six feet by six feet, with a sign to “Honk” for the owner to come down from her house. We used our bear horn, and she and her very young grandson (maybe about 5 years old) arrived and welcomed us into the store. There were plenty of food and drink options – similar to a mini-mart – along with a couple of chairs so we could sit in the shade, escaping the sun.
Back on the bike we started pedaling up hill. Up. Up. Up. Back on dirt road. When we reached the top of one of the hills, we thought about camping there, but decided to pedal on. Plenty of downhill cruising, with more climbing, we eventually made it to the next paved road. It was a VERY steep climb, so we took our “break” walking the bike for about a quarter of a mile.
And, then… the thunder started, the sprinkles started, followed by real rain. Very glad to have the Showers Pass jackets to keep us, at least partially, dry. Fortunately, it was intermittent, and not a full storm. We arrived in the mostly non-existent town of Tres Piedras, and found our way to the Chili Line Depot. It was an old adobe bar, where Glen Campbell played when he was a teenager. It also had “lodging”, so we decided to stay there instead of camp. We got to meet one of the current owners, Deb, who shares ownership with her husband. She stopped by our table and chatted with us about our ride, and her adventures.
Staying there turned out to be an interesting, and a good decision. Interesting because our room was located next to the dining area and kitchen and public restroom. Our bathroom/shower was just off of the dining area, too, with a door from our room that didn’t lock. And, good because not too long after we got there, it started to rain again, and it kept raining through most of the night. Quite the wrap-up for Day 1!
Miles — 30 Total Chapter Miles — 83 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 639
TFTD: A bit off route, but dry!
After being the only people in the Chili Line Depot building, and hearing rain all night, we were able to wake-up early. We were also the first people to make coffee (which they’d told us we could do), and then the first people to order breakfast. Then, just a few steps away from our room, we loaded-up the bike, got it outside, and started pedaling.
Our destination for today is Antonito, CO, yep, the second state for this adventure, after wandering through over 600 miles in New Mexico. After pedaling some extra miles yesterday, we turned this into a short day, with about 10% as much climbing.
Upon arriving in Antonito, we stopped at a B&B. Unfortunately, her house was already full, but she did give us suggestions for alternate places to stay and dine. Back on Main Street, we stopped at the Steam Train Hotel. It was originally built in 1911 during the gold and silver mining heyday, and housed lawyers, accountants, and assay offices. The street-level area is the dining room and shops. Our room was on the second floor, and there were no stairs available for customer use, so we had to carry all the gear up stairs outside, and then navigate the bike up the stairs, too. Quite an adventure!
The “room” included two beds, a few chairs, a dining bar, a full-size refrigerator, stove and oven, microwave, a double-sink, and, lots and lots of dishes. The best part was that we had our own bathroom and shower. A definite improvement from yesterday… The hotel had about 8 rooms, and we were the only customers, so we got plenty of help and attention from Wade, the manager. He made suggestions for places to dine (out of three options), which turned out to be fine.
After walking around town, which had some lovely murals on the outside of several buildings, dropping some postcards at the Post Office building, and catching-up on a bit of reading, we went to bed early to be ready for early breakfast and early departure tomorrow.
Miles — 45 Total Chapter Miles — 128 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 684
TFTD: Rocks, rocks, and rocks
With a less than peaceful sleep, due to dogs barking and people yell-chatting outside, we did wake up early and were ready for our breakfast, cooked by Wade, at 6:30. He even provided yogurt for Kim, which was much appreciated. After dining, we got everything ready to go back down the outside stairs. Luckily, Wade also volunteered to help with that, which was terrific. It’s a heavy bike and it was a long straight flight of stairs.
We were on the road before 8:00, headed to another very, very small town, Platero, following the picturesque Conejos River for nearly the whole day. We were on paved roads for about 22 miles, then we turned onto Forest Road 250 towards Platoro at the cluster of houses known as Horca, and saw Red Bear community center. We pulled into their parking area about 9:45, and saw a sign that said it would open at 10:00. So we sat on the deck noshing on Gatorade and trail mix until the person arrived. She let us know that the center was created and funded by the lovely Catholic church next-door – providing a library, a mini-gym, a kitchen, and a meeting place. She let us refill our water bottles, and then we were on a dirt road still along the Conejos River for the rest of today.
The scenery was lovely. Beautiful views, some snow still on the mountains, 3 SOBO Divide riders, the full river (with more than a few fishermen), very friendly drivers – it was actually kind of surprising how many there were, in both directions – and SO many rocks. Kim is wondering if there’s ever been an estimate/projection of how many rocks are on planet earth…
With plenty of climbing, we arrived at our home for the night, the Skyline Lodge, and were given our “room”, a restored Airstream travel trailer. We were given a discounted rate, which they do for Divide riders, of $60, and even quarters so we could wash our bike clothes in their laundry facilities. We had late lunch and dinner in their café, and will have breakfast tomorrow.
It’s a family owned and operated area. Originally, the dad took his four kids here for vacation, then a son and his wife purchased it about 10 years ago. And now, three of the “kids” run the place – two brothers, one sister, and their spouses. It was great to meet them and talk about their adventures!
Tomorrow we will hopefully reach the highest point on the Divide Ride, Indiana Pass at 11,910 feet. Stay tuned. We’ve heard only country music for the last 3 days. That could be the most difficult portion on this leg.
Miles — 48 Total Chapter Miles — 176 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 732
TFTD: Rocky Mountain High
Well, sleeping in the refurbished Airstream went pretty well. We were awake around 6:00, got everything packed-up, walked back over to the Lodge and sat on their front deck until they opened the door at 7:30. We had yummy French toast and scrambled eggs, and were ready to start the day.
Back on the dirt road we turned off of yesterday – for dining and sleeping – we climbed about 750 feet to Stunner Pass. Nice smooth dirt roads, a bit of a foggy morning, and cool temperature: perfect day to ride in The Rockies. When we got to the top of Stunner Pass (10,541 feet) we could see Platoro (yesterday’s destination) far below us. Then we got a 3-mile downhill coast to the Alamosa River. All the rivers are super-full this year, and there was a nice campground near the Alamosa.
Then we started our 1,800 foot climb from the river, to 11,500 foot elevation, and into beautifully stunning scenery – huge meadows, streams, aspen trees, lots of snow, and epic mountain views. As were climbing, there was, much more than expected, traffic – ATVs, campers, trucks, etc. When we reached the summit we even saw a herd of sheep, with two guys on horses “supervising” them, along with at least three herding dogs.
A few miles later we arrived at Summitville, which used to be a mining town, but now is a Superfund site with signs that say “do not drink water”. There were lots and lots of old cabins and wood buildings, mostly on the verge of collapse, showing how big the town was during the mining days.
As we looked across the valley, we saw what we thought were beautiful hillsides, which we realized were, instead, enormous plies of mine waste. So, we didn’t stop. Then we had a couple of short, steep hills to climb, which were very difficult since the air was quite thin.
Then, we began the final (a least for today) 800 foot climb to Indiana Pass, the highest point on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, 11,910 feet. There was plenty of hike-a-bike (walking and pushing the bike) over some very steep portions, thin air, and a rocky road. Fortunately, the last mile wasn’t as steep, so we could, actually, ride to the summit, where we were well above tree-line.
Then, the downhill began. About 25 miles, dropping 4,000 feet, on rocky dirt roads with lots of curves and turns. Ultimately, we cruised into Del Norte, in the San Luis Valley. From mountains to high-desert valley – with no trees – back to scrub-brush. In Del Norte, we stopped at a hostel, which turned out to be only one room with a few beds, and we woke-up a current occupant. Sooooooo, we researched other options, and found Mellow Moon. WOW, it used to be an almost crumble-down motel, but the current owner, Jessica, bought it and has remodeled-rebuilt it, into a lovely and comfortable place. If you’re ever in Del Norte, stay there!
We walked into town for dinner and found Three Barrel Brew Pub, which made delicious, woodfired pizza, and had very kind servers and cooks. A terrific reward for a tough day.
Miles — 38 Total Chapter Miles — 213 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 769
TFTD: Wonder Dog!
After a relaxing stay at Mellow Moon, we were up early, packed the bike, said bye-bye to Jessica, and pedaled down Del Norte’s main road to Perks. We’d seen it when we walked to dinner last night, and thought it would be a good place to try for breakfast. Turned out we were correct! Everything was baked there – scones, muffins, etc, etc. The coffee was also well made.
Then, we were back on the road, for a short-ish day, to help us recover from yesterday, and prepare for tomorrow… Almost as soon as we left Del Norte we road across the Rio Grande – for the second time! The first time we crossed it was when we were being driven to Abiquiu to start this chapter. For the first 25 miles we were on a combination of dirt and paved roads, seeing lots of fields of what looked like wheat or barley being watered by the huge center-pivot irrigation systems.
As we were accomplishing this, all of a sudden, a white dog started running along side us, in the grass. And, he stayed with us, for about a mile, sometimes switching sides of the road – as we were going 14 miles an hour (yes, really!). Finally, as we pedaled by the gate of Moonlight Farm, he turned into the driveway. Apparently, he’d arrived.
After a few more miles, we turned onto a real highway, 285, which was our last road for today. There was a nice, wide, paved shoulder, not too much traffic, and those that did pass us were very friendly. We could see some interesting cliffs and rocks, and a full mountain range, Sangre de Cristo, on our right. A lovely way to wrap-up our “recovery” day.
We arrived in Saguache (pronounced Suh-watch), and checked into the only place to stay, and got the last available room. Yippee! After showers and bike maintenance, we walked to 4th Street Diner for lunch, where they created a hummus-veggie plate for Kim – another Yippee! Back to our room, we did some catch-up work and planning for the next few days, then we walked to the Village Pub for dinner. It turned out to be another great spot with yummy salads, more homemade pizza, and, also homemade cheesecake with caramel-apple topping. Another day enjoyed!
Miles — 44 Total Chapter Miles — 257 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 813
TFTD: Surrounded by mountains
After an ok sleep, we were up early and headed to breakfast at the 4th Street Diner – where we had lunch yesterday. We had the same waitress, and were surrounded by tables of men with seriously big beards. Breakfast was good, and then we were back on highway 285 for about 18 miles. Then we arrived in Villa Grove – a nothing-place on the map, but a GREAT coffee shop and “Pottery Retreat”. We shared a BIG cinnamon roll, got a couple of Gatorades to fill the water bottles, and… got to listen to “real” music (the theme song from Flash Dance – “What a Feeling”). Then we were back on the road, enjoying beautiful, snow-capped views as we left the San Luis Valley.
Then, we climbed over Poncha Pass, at 9,010 feet, and had a high-speed descent (max of 47.6 mph) to Poncha Springs where we rejoined highway 50 – which we pedaled on our Sea to Shining Sea trip in 2011. There have been lots of changes – updated restaurants and hotels, including ours – although the most notable was the new, giant Walmart.
We arrived before the allowed check-in time, but were allowed to leave our paniers and other bike gear in the small check-in office, and then biked to lunch in downtown Salida at the Boat House restaurant, overlooking the Arkansas River. While talking to our waitress, we learned she lived in Grass Valley for a year and went to Bear River High School! After lunch, we walked to a store nearby for ice cream, and saw lots of cool stores.
Then we pedaled back to the hotel and caught-up on emails, yippee for wi-fi. We had a terrific, yummy dinner at a great new restaurant, Uptown Grill, next door to our hotel. On to Fairplay, CO tomorrow!
Miles — 58 Total Chapter Miles — 315 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 871
TFTD: Sun to… thundershower, and hail
We started today with an early wake-up and a quick breakfast. Then as we were pedaling out of the motel parking lot, a dad and his young son were also there. The son said, “what a crazy bike!”. Good instincts that kid has, he’ll go far. We agreed and then started pedaling, first on the bike path we used to go to dinner and ice cream yesterday, then into the farmlands of Salida. We saw a giant smelter which looked inoperable, but probably was very active during the mining heyday.
Then we received excellent encouragement as a motor-scooter passed us, and he gave us many fist-pumps as he zoomed ahead. A fun way to start today’s journey. We made our way for about 10 miles following the beauti-full Arkansas River to highway 285, which had much more traffic than anticipated, but a good shoulder and good temperatures. We followed the Arkansas River for about 20 more miles, until 285 took a righthand turn and we crossed it for the last time.
After the turn, it was up, up, up to Trout Creek Pass at 9,346 feet, where we stopped for a short photo-break. Then we cruised downhill for a couple of miles, back into the valley, where our destination for today Fairplay, CO will be – eventually.
It was a very challenging day, plenty of miles, lots of climbing (all day), high elevation, heat, thunderstorms here and there, lots of road construction, and traffic. Oddly, we didn’t see any other bikes on the route….?? Finally, we could see Fairplay in the distance, yippee! And then the skies opened, the thunder started, and the rain (along with a bit of hail) started dropping on us. A lot, a lot, a lot. We got soaked, but finally made it to our home for this evening, The Riverside Inn. It turned out to be a good choice, especially since it had a restaurant, Asian Fusion, about 100 steps away. So, another day on the books. Tomorrow we are back on the GDMBR route, back in the dirt, and will hopefully cross the Continental Divide over Boreas Pass at 11,482’ Then it’s downhill to Breckenridge and civilization: ice cream shops! Yippee! Looking forward to being a tourist if it means good ice cream.
Miles — 49 Total Chapter Miles — 363 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 919
TFTD: Trains, dams, and Boreas Pass
We again had a nice, early start. We dined on the breakfast items we purchased from the nearby grocery store last night. After packing and loading, we were pedaling by 7:15. It was a beautiful morning, with sunny skies, low winds, and cool, but not too cold, temperature. We started pedaling, for about two blocks, on the same path we walked to the grocery store. Then we arrived, again, at highway 285, and headed to Como.
Beautiful mountains all around us, nice paved shoulder, and… a surprising amount of traffic for early Sunday morning. The drivers were, as they’ve been for this whole trip, kind and patient, giving us plenty of room, and even slowing down if there were cars in the other lane.
After ten miles we arrived at Como and saw the Roundhouse, which was built in 1881 to serve as spot for repair supplies for the narrow-gauge railroad running from Denver over Kenosha pass, Leadville and Breckenridge via Boreas Pass, which we’ll climb to today.
After pedaling through the town of Como – about half a mile – we started following a creek and getting back into Aspen land. Another beautiful area! We made a sharp, righthand turn and started on a dirt road which used to be the railroad grade, until 1938. Then, in 1952 it was “remodeled” into a motor-vehicle road. They kept the same grade, about 3.5%, that the train track had.
And, the climbing began, and continued for about eight miles, with amazing views – lots of Aspen, a view back into Como Valley, then views of snow-capped mountains surrounding us, as we inched above tree-line. Despite the recent rain, the road was great, and the number of SUV drivers that passed us (at least one or two every five minutes) were very friendly, patient, and kind.
Ultimately, we reached Boreas Pass, at 11,482 feet. There were several cars at the summit, some that had passed us, and asked how we were doing. There was also a cabin and an old railroad car, neither of which were open (apparently only for special tours) which had been there since the railroad crossed the Continental Divide in 1884.
Then we began our downhill ride, for about four miles, on a road that was mostly bumpy and rocky, quite different from the side we climbed up! About half way down, we came across Bakers Tank, where water was stored for the narrow gauge steam-trains from 1880 to 1937.
A couple miles later we stopped at a bench to honor Frank Stanley, which overlooked a big reservoir, and met a family from Orlando that was hiking – mom, dad, and three kids under twelve – as part of their excellent vacation, which will, ultimately, end in Seattle. Back on the bike, we continued the downhill adventure, and then came to a paved road that delivered us to Breckenridge, and… lunch!
The Blue Moose restaurant was adjacent to a bike shop, so, in addition to dining, we got the tires aired-up and they let us park the bike there while we dined. Blue Moose was really full, and very active, and the food was delicious. A perfect stop. After we finished, and gave the couple next to us our remaining pure maple syrup (super yummy!), we were back on the bike and took a wrong turn – which caused us to miss the ice cream shops on Main Street, and lead us to a paved, recreational bike trail which tied in with the amazing bike trail system around the Breckenridge/Copper Mtn/Vail/Key Stone ski areas and also to Silverthorne.
For the next fifteen miles it was an amazing ride, with lots of other bikers and a few walkers, all the way to Silverthorne. The trail was also part of the Dillon reservoir dam, with the paved road at the top of the dam, and the bike trail a bit lower and on the lakeside of the dam.
We made it to our home for today, and could walk to a restaurant – a bakery and a brewery – which had good food and friendly servers. Looks like we’ll make it to Steamboat Springs (our stop for Chapter 2) day after tomorrow.
Miles — 38 Total Chapter Miles — 401 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 957
TFTD: Perfect weather, and….smooth roads
Well… today went much faster than we thought it would! After another early start, we pedaled along the Blue River, which was beauti-full and big, like the Arkansas River was a few days ago. There were plenty of happy rafters, but not so happy fisherman, and terrific bike paths.
We did pedal away from the beautiful mountains of Summit County, still with plenty of snow. We rode into more prairie-like territory, where we saw a couple more pronghorn antelope and rode along the Green Mountain Reservoir. We saw a couple of other Divide Riders on the other side of the road (SOBO instead of NOBO) so we couldn’t stop and chat, but did wave to each other.
With a lovely tailwind, a 1,500 foot net-descent, and only 38 miles, we arrived in the town of Kremmling after 2 ½ hours on the bike. Just as we rolled into town, we got to cross the Colorado River, for the second time – the first time was on our “Sea to Shining Sea” bike-journey back in 2011.
We stopped at the 9 & 40 Café, which was very close to the intersections of highway 9 and highway 40, and had an excellent brunch, in a very nice spot. We flirted with continuing our pedaling to Steamboat Springs but decided to relax instead. We were fortunate that the general manager of our home for today, the Allington Inn, let us check-in early – around noon instead of 3:00.
We walked to the local grocery store, which was very well stocked, to get some snacks and pre-dinner items, and returned to the hotel to catch-up on reading . Later, getting close to 5:00, we walked around town to drop postcards at the local Post Office, and stopped at Los Amigos for dinner.
A terrific day, and some relaxing prep for the last 52 miles tomorrow.
Miles — 52 Total Chapter Miles — 452 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 1,008
TFTD: Mosquitos, mosquitos AND a beautiful (last) day!
We, again, woke up early, had breakfast (yogurt, DIY waffles, and hard-boiled eggs), loaded the bike, and started pedaling. It was a glorious morning – cool, no wind, and blue sky. The breakfast and the weather provided us with the “fuel” climb to Rabbit Ears Pass (elevation 9,426) today.
We were back in arid, high desert, with lots of sage brush and rolling hills. We followed Muddy Creek for the first 20 miles, up to Muddy Creek Pass, which appeared to be a Continental Divide point. As we climbed, every time we stopped, we were attacked my mosquitos, which continued for the whole day.
As the mountains began fading into the distance, we encountered two road construction zones, for which we had to stop and wait until we could follow the line of cars and trucks, since it was reduced to single lane. We got a cow bell ring on our first one (encouraging) and a requisite heckling from a construction guy on the second one: “Is that all you got!?” Yes. The construction zones did work well for us – smooth road, and traffic packed into groups so we simply pulled over when a string of cars and trucks went by, then we had the road, mostly, to ourselves.
Rabbit Ears Pass, although it is a Continental Divide, turned out to be several “passes”, plus a “West Summit”! We finally cleared the West Summit, and were treated to a 7-mile, 7% downhill, with no traffic. We zoomed into Steamboat Springs, and stopped at the Shack Café for lunch. Great stop!
After lunch we pedaled our last ¼ mile, for this trip, to the Nordic Lodge and met Grzegorz, who’s Polish, and who introduces himself as “Greg”, to make it easier to pronounce. His family owns the Lodge, did the complete remodel themselves, and built all the wood furniture in the rooms. This is the only hotel we’ve seen that has a full-blown wood shop on-site. He told Andy there would be “really good dark coffee for breakfast, not that cheap stuff.” We dropped the panniers and other bags in our room, then dropped the bike, about three blocks away, at Wheels Bike Shop, with Hazen, who is sure to take good care of it until we return for Chapter 3.
Back at the Nordic Lodge, the Uber guy, Neil, picked us up and drove us to the Hayden airport, about 30 minutes away, to pick-up our rental car, to Denver tomorrow for our flight home. Neil had great stories to tell about being a sales rep for K2 (the ski company) and Jansport during the ‘70s. Andy’s new hero: a professional ski bum. The Corolla we were first “assigned” turned out to have low-pressure on the rear tire, so they gave us an Explorer instead, and we had a beautiful drive back to Steamboat Springs along the Yampa River, yet another stunningly gorgeous, high elevation, Colorado river valley.
We parked the Explorer at the Nordic Lodge and walked back a few blocks to take some photos of the Welcome to Steamboat Springs sign, trying to catch us in the pics, too. After the photo op, we walked to dinner along the Yampa River, and Kim collected her Colorado rock, a sure sign this leg is done – she’s only allowed one rock per state. On our walk, we ran into two guys from England that are NOBO (north bound) on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Ride. They started in El Paso, TX and picked up the trail in Silver City, NM. Great kids (millennials) and they said everyone in the US is “super friendly”. We agree.
We had an excellent dinner at the Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill, then we made our way to the gelato store. Great way to finish the ride! Don’t know if it’s post-ride delirium, but Steamboat Springs seems like a great little ski town. Emily, at the front desk of the hotel, lived in Tahoe for nine years, and says that Steamboat Springs is a “very chill ski town”. We’ll definitely be back, at least to start Chapter 3, and, maybe, just to pedal around town, float down the river, or ski for a few days.
After ten straight days of pedaling, all we could do was get back to the hotel, do laundry (there’s always laundry), and go to sleep. Chapter 2 is complete!