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CANA

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U.S.

The Last NorthboundeR HELENA

A -Mostly- Truthful Account Of JohnfromDenver Riding a Bike 1504.5 Miles to Canada

- No, I didn’t see any bears

wRITTEN BY JOHN KELLER

CHEYENNE

DENVER


Revision 2.2 First Published May 15th, 2016 (C) Copyright 2016 by John Keller All rights reserved


The Last Northbounder A -Mostly- Truthful Account Of JohnfromDenver Riding a Bike 1507.1 Miles to Canada

- No, I didn’t see any bears

- John Keller -


Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Part I : Introduction Part II : Questions From The Readers - The Trip

- Portion of the Ride - Miracle - Rider - Evening at a Campsite - Piece of Gear - Bear Protection

The Worst... - Injury - Hill Climb - Piece of Gear - Thing I Hauled from Denver to Canada and Didn’t Use - Campground

14 18 22 28 30 34 39 49 55 58 63

The Most... - Desperate Time - Unexpected Interaction with Other People - Scary Night - Weird Sign - Desolate Section of the Trip

Topics I Considered but Didn’t Actually Write About ... Maybe in the future? -Best Library -Best Motel -Best Rest Area -Best Pizza

Part IV : The Profound

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- The Logistics - The Personal Stuff

Part III : “Est” Awards The Best... - Scenery

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65 70 77 79 88

90 93 102 105 108 109

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Part V : The Prosaic

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Part VI : Epilogue

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Appendix A - Gear Checklist

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Appendix B - Journaling

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Appendix C - Journal Template

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About the Author / Illustrator

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Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank everyone who assisted me in making my journey a success and enabling the publishing of this travelogue. Thanks to: Jim for inspiring me. Therese, Garry, Matt and T who gave me valuable advice on what to bring. Special thanks to Matt for lending me gear vital to the success of the trip. Vance who agreed to come get me if I ever got in trouble on the trail. He edited my blog entries and added entries on the days I couldn’t reach the Internet. He’s given me valuable input on the content of this document. He’s been my friend for 37 years … Barbara for her generosity, friendship and support through this too long process. All GDMBR riders want to thank her for her support of the tour, too! Nick for volunteering to make this document more legible. You should have seen it before Nick got a hold of it! Rich and family for caring for the house and following nearly every pedal stroke, offering help if Rich ever detected even the smallest hint of a problem And of course, thanks to everyone who I met and helped me while I was pedaling North including, but certainly not limited to: Vance’s mother-in-law, Amanda, Cole and Cindy, the man that tried to find a bolt to fix my bike when the pedal fell off, Hoyt and Cathy, Toni from the Ski Haus, Margot and Frank, Ben the World Traveler, Adam the Unicycle Guy, Scott from Fenton, Wild Bill’s Gun Shop in Atlantic City, Cranky Belgian Woman, Greg, Wes, Jason, the woman from Idaho Mountain Trading (I still owe you a tube!), 71 year old Doug, Kendall, Scott and Sylvia, Johnny, John and Erin and Fawn, Rosanne, Don and Greg, Richard from the Netherlands, the entire Coukill family, Nicola, George, Frontier Adventure, Andres, Shelly, Seth and Wes and Matt, Justin, Tom from Alaska, the man who gave me trail mix and 2 Mountain Dews, Dave and Chris, the old guy in Lima, MT, numerous ATV hunters, Tomas and Rick, Man who lent me a Philips head screwdriver, Man who lent me wire cutters, Sam and Andy and Claire, Rachel and Chris and Shane, Leighton and Missy, J.D., Beth and Mike, the woman at the Berkley Pit Mine Visitor Center, James and Dave, Stephan from France, Max and Reiner and Tina, Sanjay, the librarian in Helena who let me spend hours on the public computers, Alex and Carmen and Lonnie at the Helena Super 8, Darryl, Charlie the greeter at the Helena Costco, Connie and Rich and Janis and Donna and Joane (already thanked Barbara), Mo and Meganne, Jim, Simon and Chris, Brian, everyone at the Ovando Gran Fondo, Skylar and Brian and Terri, Erin and Nick (also thanked above!), Ron and Jean, Tina Seeley, The Marshal, the librarian in Eureka, Maureen and Terry and, last but not least, Noose and Gorge and Joyce.

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Part I - Introduction

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Introduction

1,624,299 That’s the approximate number of times I pushed a pedal down on my bicycle trip from home to Canada. That’s a figure that stuns me and certainly explains some of the chafing problems I experienced … This document is the final update of my trip from my home in Thornton, Colorado, to the Roosville, Montana, border crossing between the United States and Canada. I pedaled away from the cul-de-sac on August 24, 2015, and completed the bicycling portion of my trip on September 23, 2015, ostensibly following the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) as proposed by the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA). I rode my bike towards my goal on all but 3 days (1 day in Pinedale, Wyoming, to get a replacement tire, a patch kit and spare tube, 2 days in Helena to wait out the rain) which means that I rode 28 days. This last update covers a broad range of topics. While I always try to make my stories interesting in a vain attempt to keep the reader engaged, I think it’s hard to really get the juices flowing with respect to discussing what items I didn’t really need to haul all the way from Denver to Canada. These sections of this final update are more intended to document some of the minutia of the trip so that, if this document is the only thing that survives whatever fate awaits mankind, at least the alien archeologists will know that hauling a schrader to presta valve adapter from Denver to Canada was a complete waste of energy. What is Denver? What is Canada? What is energy? Actually, I’m not doing it for the alien archeologists; rather, I’m doing it for others who might be considering making this trip and might find some of this information to be useful in their planning. Some of this information is simply “archival” (as Vance calls it), i.e. it documents some of the details of the trip in the most boring way possible, but still might be useful to future GDMBR travelers. There’s a lot of stuff here. This is the longest document I have ever produced in my entire, brief life, but it pales in comparison to the longest book which comes in at 1,954,300 words.

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This is only about 42,000 words. Generally, I’ve tried to keep the entertaining material towards the beginning of this tome, the “archival” material in the appendices, so you might have success reading from the start down to where you start dosing off. Another strategy might be to look at the table of contents and pick out the subjects that you might find interesting. And for those of you who have the misfortune of not reading this on an electronic device connected to the Internet, the web address for the blog is: http://before-the-singularity.blogspot.com/ OK, intro over, put this song on a loop in the background and let’s get on with the Final Update!

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Part II - Questions from the Readers I had asked people if they had any questions about the trip that they would like me to answer in this final update. Here are their questions that arrived in my inbox, and my insightful answers.

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Questions From The Readers The Trip

Q

What about the beavers?

A

Sometimes I think the questions are funnier than my answers. What about the beavers? I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t stop at the numerous ponds created by beaver dams (mostly in Montana) and wait to see an entire beaver family working in concert to repair the dams, fortify the lodge, harvest the aspen branches and, oh, gosh, there goes big brother in search of a partner to start his own family. In other words, I did not see a single beaver on my trip, either while on the road or during my tour of the Montana State Capitol tour.

Q A

How much Mountain Dew does it take to get to Canada? Trick question: the short answer is none. Many people have ridden to Canada Dew-less. And I could have made it without that potent elixir, but one day I stopped at a convenience store and downed a Dew, a chocolate milk and a slab of jerky and I just felt great for the rest of the afternoon in spite of the hills and the wind in the face thing. I decided right then and there that I was going to Dew it for the rest of the trip. One, 20 ounce bottle per day: about ¼ for breakfast with a delicious protein bar, ¼ for lunch preferably with a Safeway meat deli sandwich (whose bread will stick to your front teeth if you’re not careful) and the remaining 10 ounces spread throughout the afternoon, particularly useful at the bottom of a long, against the wind, disheartening hill on a crappy, dirt road. In town I’d drink Mountain Dew like it was going out of style which may have affected my sleep patterns at various hotels and terrible campsites.

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Q A

Did you brush your teeth and say your prayers each night before bed? Generally, I tried to brush my teeth every night, what with my teeth coated with Mountain Dew and all. At campsites where there were people around I would brush then spit into the fire pit, figuring the next group of campers would incinerate the residue; at campsites where there were no people around, I would clip a clothespin on my nose and brush my teeth in the pit toilet, spitting into the unspeakable, odiferous mound of don’t make me describe it. I figured that bears would not be attracted to my campsite if I spit in the pit toilet rather than the fire pit. Did I say my prayers every night?

Q A

Were you concerned about pulling a hammy?

Not so much a hammy, but I was subconsciously concerned about pushing it too hard which might result in either a muscle strain that might lay me up for a long time or blowing out a knee and cancelling the trip all together. I had some odd moments where various body parts would act up and I’d think, Oh, gosh darn it (keeping this PG-13 … in reality I probably used adult language), this is it: my <various body part> is about to be destroyed, ending my trip!” I had an incident right outside of Pineville where my left knee got tweaked. On a few occasions I had a very strange and pronounced clicking in my lower back that occurred on every pedal stroke, but that was it with respect to “the engine” suffering some sort of mechanical issue. See 2015.09.03 Pinedale for a discussion of “the engine”. Also see the “Worst Injury” section below.

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Questions From The Readers The Trip

Q

Did you bring a pillow?

A

That was a question that my neighbor, Beth, asked before I left. I scoffed!!! The key to ultralight travel is to use an item in multiple contexts. In the pillow case, I used my down jacket as pillow and the sleeping bag stuff sack as pillow case: stuff the down jacket into the stuff bag and, voila, instant pillow. That it flattened out significantly by the end of the night was of no consequence: I was packing ultralight!!!

Q A

Did you ever get dressed outside? Were you bare in front of a bear? No. No. This wasn’t out of any sense of modesty, though. Recall that I stayed in a number of locations where I was the only human being around for miles so it would have been no big deal to bare my Adonis like physique. Rather, this was simply a matter of warmth and convenience. When I set up the tent, I’d throw all of the clothes I needed for the night and the morning into the tent. When I finally retired, I rolled into the tent, stripped off the biking shorts, pulled on some underwear and, if it was really cold, pulled on sweatpants. In the morning, I’d strip off the underwear and, if it was really cold, sweatpants, pulled on my leg warmers and bike shorts and I’d de-pillow, slipping on the down jacket. Sorry, this trip was rated PG-13. No full frontal nudity, no full backal nudity (but I’m excited to announce that this document has full backal nudity later on!!!).

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Q A

Did you get me any souvenirs?

Boom! There’s the question everyone wanted to ask but was too embarrassed to ask! No. I think I brought back a bunch of very odd, bark like beetles, but they escaped in my rip off HoJo hotel room and I think I killed most of them. The next guest is in for a creepy surprise if I failed to kill all of them.

Q A

How much did you lose? Gain?

On the morning of August 24, 2015, the day I pedaled across the cul-de-sac to start this trip, I weighed 172.2 pounds. On September 28, 2015, the day after I got home, I weighed 160.8 and over the following 3 days, my weight continued to drop until I reached a low of 158.0 pounds. I don’t know why I lost 2.8 more pounds after getting home, but that’s the weight I’m using for my final weight. Thus, saving you from doing the math, I lost 14.2 pounds and gained nothing but tan lines and a mountain of memories.

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Questions From The Readers The Logistics

Q A

Did you have a budget? How did you fare? No budget. I was thinking of keeping an account of everything I spent, but that’s a lot to manage on a little bicycle. Most expensive were the hotel accommodations, least expensive camping in the middle of nowhere (free!). Whoa, John! Wouldn’t someone have to carry a tent, sleeping bag, etc. to camp outside for free? Don’t those things cost money? So, really, is camping in the middle of nowhere free? Let me answer those questions I just posed to myself in the order in which they were asked: -No. You can sleep outside without a tent, sleeping bag, etc. -Wouldn’t recommend it in frigid Montana, but you could sleep outside without a tent, sleeping bag, etc. -Yes. Still could be free: you could borrow that stuff from a friend (thanks, Matt!).

Q A

How did you dry your wet shoes?

Atmospheric desiccation. The only time my shoes got really wet was when I rode my bike through a stream just short of Lynx Pass in Colorado. I thought the stream was about 1 foot deep, but it turned out to be 1 ½ feet deep. That extra ½ foot was the difference between dry and wet shoes: those 6 inches caused me to dip my feet in and out of that freezing water as I pedaled across the 15’, pebbly expanse of that stream. Totally soaked. When it rained, the top portion of my body, hunched over the bike, acted as a human umbrella to keep my shoes mostly dry. Thank you, back and shoulders, for getting soaked to protect my unwary shoes and socks.For the record, I had a good rain jacket so, in reality, my back and shoulders didn’t ever get soaked … the jacket did. Thank you, jacket, for getting soaked to protect my unwary shoes and socks.

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Q A

What might you say to someone contemplating making the trek? Just do it! Many non-riders I encountered along the way said that they couldn’t do it, but, save for those with real disabilities like bad knees, I think everyone could do it. But, John, I’m in terrible shape!!! Thing is, you would get in shape as you rode. You could double your mileage each day as your legs and lungs grew stronger: Day 1: 1 mile Day 2: 2 miles Day 3: 4 miles Day 4: 8 miles Day 5: 16 miles Day 6: 32 miles Day 7: 64 miles Day 8: 128 miles Day 9: 256 miles Day 10: 512 miles Day 11: 482 miles - since in the previous 10 days you would have gone 1023 miles, and you only need to go 1505 miles total. You would kick my butt: it took me 28 days of riding, you only took 11!!!! The last 4 days would be a little tough, though …Yes, there are a lot of logistics to tend to, but you could consider doing a supported ride, either through some commercial operation or with your friends/family. For instance, Skylar and her dad, Brian, rode the route while mother, Terri, drove the truck with all of the gear to the next campsite. This freed Skylar and Brian from carrying anything other than water and snacks and left Terri to sightsee while they were riding. Of course, you could go solo (more gear to carry) or team up with other, liked minded riders. The only thing about the second option is you need to be like minded. Recall that Tom from Alaska split from his two buddies and set out solo (who got the tent????), unhappy about something that was going on (I think Tom wanted to cover more ground per day while his buddies just wanted to party in Lima, Montana). 19


Questions From The Readers The Logistics

Q A Q A

What might you say to someone contemplating making the trek? (cont.) Many two person teams seemed to be doing OK and, of course, my favorite group, the Coukill family (mom, dad, 10 year old sister, 12 year old sister), who did the ride as a family unit, demonstrated that even a real Canadian family could do the trip together.

Did you get leg cramps? How did you deal with them? To the first part of the question: no and yes. I didn’t get leg cramps for the entire trip! I’m not exactly sure why, but perhaps my balanced diet of protein bar, meat deli sandwich, jerky and Mountain Dew did the trick. Ironically, I did get leg cramps during the couple of days I spent in Helena after completing the trip when I wasn’t riding all that much. This might have been classic “delayed onset leg cramp syndrome” wherein the legs know that they can’t cramp up due to the possible need to outrun a bear (or at least sprint to the outhouse and, well, might as well brush your teeth while you’re in there), but once the trip is over, the legs are free to cramp up without fear of serious, bear mauling repercussions. My approach to dealing with leg cramps is fairly straight forward: yell out in pain and wait for the cramp to subside. When I was on the computer in the lobby of the rip off HoJo at the end of the trip, a cramp struck and I think fellow patrons thought that I had just looked at my stock portfolio collapsing in light of recent events (which I wasn’t following at all during the trip).

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The Last Northbounder John keller

Q A

What question would you like to be asked of you? That is some kind of meta-question, don’t you think? It’s a clever way of asking me to question myself! I guess, in the broadest sense of the question, I’d like someone to ask me if it would be OK to give me $10M. My answer would be a qualified yes … I’d have to understand the tax consequences before giving an unqualified yes.With respect to the narrow confines of the trip, I wish someone would ask me how the trip changed me and I would then struggle to answer the question … … ironically, after I wrote that paragraph, someone did ask me that question! See my mind blowing answer below.

Q A

Will you never be able to drive past another bicycle rider without having a flashback? The use of the word never is throwing me in this question. I think it should have been ever … But, to answer the question as posed, no. I think I have already driven past another bicycle rider without having a flashback ... … but … … I have had flashbacks, particularly when I’m riding up a steep hill against the wind. Nightmares of Day 10 flood back. More on Day 10 below …

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Questions From The Readers The Personal Stuff

Q A

Did your wife give you a victor’s welcome? Or did she complain that you forgot to put the trash out before you left and you forgot to pick up milk? No. No. For the record, my neighbors, the Masons, agreed to put out the trash. With respect to forgetting to pick up the milk, she never asked. I would have picked up the milk had she asked.

Q A

Did you do that - and if so, what was your reaction???

This question doesn’t really make much sense unless you get the preamble, so here it is: You had told me that you weren’t going to pay attention to any current news that was happening -- that you would catch up on it all at once when you got home. Did you do that - and if so, what was your reaction??? No. I’ve caught bits and pieces of news, but I’m going to try to maintain my isolation from the news of the world for as long as possible. During the first week home I made the mistake of listening to NPR here and there until it dawned on me … this is news! Stop listening to that! I am going to listen to certain podcasts which might sneak in some news items (e.g. Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me) so I’m not going to be “pure” with respect to my boycott of world news. I am also going to stop watching movies every night. The occasional movie might be OK, but watching a movie a day was just too much time mindlessly watching the big screen. All that being said, I have learned through others some important news. For instance, Tom Brady is playing football. Take that, NFL!

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The Last Northbounder John keller

Q

Are you still married? No mention of the Mrs.

A

Yes. She didn’t ride with me…

Q

What did you miss most and least?

A

Damn, these are good questions that get me to thinking more deeply about the trip. Miss most? Maybe it was the normal security that we take for granted each night. Camping alone in the back country is an exhilarating experience, to get up in the middle of the night and be palely illuminated by the untold trillions of stars streaming ancient photons on my little campsite. But the uncertainty with respect to potentially grumpy, mean spirited bears just taking a whack at me and the tent for no other reason than they wanted to be alone, kept me awake for too many hours. Miss least? Civilization. I really had no desire to know what was going on in the world. I liked the back country respect that I had earned by being this insane solo bicyclist, climbing up some impossibly steep dirt road. People would stop, we’d happily chat about whatever made sense to talk about and then I was back in my solitude for sometimes hours at a time. To be clear, I absolutely looked forward to and enjoyed my infrequent encounters with back country people, but rolling into Lincoln, Montana, population 1013, I felt like it was just too busy and chaotic. Thanks for the pizza, Pit Stop restaurant, but I’m outta here!

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Questions From The Readers The Personal Stuff

Q A

What next?

Again, another very broad question. With respect to riding, in the summer of ‘16 I will probably complete the US portion of the ride from the Mexican border to Horseshoe Campground north of Silverthorne, CO, where I joined the GDMBR from Thornton. According to my calculations, it’s a mere 1079.5 miles on the GDMBR. Piece of cake!!!! Note, though, that it’s uphill from the Mexican border to Horseshoe Campground north of Silverthorne, CO; my ride to the Canadian border was downhill … I would still ride the GDMBR “backwards”, i.e. south to north versus the official north to south direction. Why? Because I’d get to meet all of the southbounders! If I rode southbound, I’d meet just a few of the southbounders when I caught up to them or they passed me. As I have discussed the next ride with friends and family, it was pointed out that I might not run into any southbouders depending on when I leave the Mexican border! Why? Because they have the same dilemma with respect to avoiding adverse conditions as I do: they have to start late enough in the summer that the snows of British Columbia and Montana have melted. Quoting from the ACA logistics tab:

This route can be ridden anytime from early summer to mid-fall. Be aware that snow can occur at any time along the route. If it is a heavy snow year, high-elevation roads in the north may not be open until late June or early July. So, if I start at the Mexican border in late June/early July and the southbounders start in Banff in late June/early July, I may get to Horseshoe campground before I meet any southbounders. What am I supposed to do? Hang out for a few weeks? Keep riding north? Maybe the right answer is to start riding at the end of August like I did for this portion of the trip, taking the chance that the weather will not be too bad, i.e. not too hot in New Mexico in August, not too cold in Colorado in September. Hmmm … a lot to think about during the winter months here in Colorado. 24


The Last Northbounder John keller

Q

What next? (cont.)

A

BTW, here’s the next paragraph from the ACA logistics tab:

We discourage you from attempting to ride this route solo; in fact, a minimum group size of three is strongly recommended. If a rider is debilitated in the backcountry, you will want to have at least one person to stay with the injured/sick rider, and another to go for help. I guess I missed the memo on that … Back to the question at hand, to answer the question in the broadest context, I’m not sure what’s next. That’s been a problem for a while …

Q A

If you were the funniest in the family how would you compete this sentence, “ each morning when I broke camp I thought about …” Bob Keller, the funniest in the Keller family.

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Questions From The Readers The Personal Stuff

Q A

What was your biggest surprise?

Wow! That’s a great question that requires a complete review of everything that happened on the trip and the question itself can be interpreted a bazillion ways, but .. … I guess the biggest surprise were all of the “miracles” on the trip. I lead a charmed life, that’s for sure, but I had no way of anticipating all of the coincidental, low probability events that occurred during the trip. Those of you that have read every word of my updates know what I’m talking about, but for those of you who have picked up this narrative for the first time, see the 2015.09.05 Colter Bay Campsite update for a couple of the most spectacular miracles on my trip. Also, miracles are discussed in the Est section below.

Q A

Did you change as a person? Fill in “I’m now more … Or I learned … About myself” Yes. Every day we all change as a person. I was on the road for 31 days so I had 31 days to change … But more to the spirit of your question (which is another great question by the way. Who asked these questions??? Is there a journalist amongst my readers?), I’m a bit more untroubled with respect to the way things are. I think this change has come about due to emergence of the aphorisms that inhibited the Keller Worry Gene:

It is what it is You’ll get there when you get there See 2015.09.03 Pinedale for a discussion of these aphorisms. 26


The Last Northbounder John Keller

Q A

Did you change as a person? Fill in “I’m now more … Or I learned … About myself” (cont.)

I don’t think I learned anything new about myself; rather, many things about myself were reinforced/accentuated by the trip. I am optimistic. I am self-confident. I am an extravert. I can give a good hug if someone will let me. For mysterious, cosmic reasons beyond my understanding, people open up to me and talk to me about very deep issues in their lives that they might not share with those in their lives. And, doggone it, people like me. Speaking of which, maybe I did learn that dogs enjoy being petted by me.

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Part III - “Est” Awards In this section I give awards for best XXXX, biggest YYYY, etc. Thus, I have named this section the Est Awards. You’ll see what I mean in just a second.

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“Est” Awards Best Scenery

Best Scenery “The Turn” Before Huckleberry Pass On Day 26 I had been biking west on a bench road above a valley for maybe a mile or so when I turned 180 degrees on a switchback and saw this vision that had been at my back the whole time I had been riding that bench: an austere peak, jutting skyward, the afternoon sun spotlighting its flank, the mountain range framed by the aspens and pines clinging to the side of the mountain I was climbing. It was very striking and this picture doesn’t begin to do justice to what I saw that afternoon.

Red Meadow Lake On Day 30 I arrived at this lake in late afternoon and the sun just lit up this scene perfectly for me. I love the reflections on the lake, I love the autumn colors up the hillside, I love the mountains in the distance. It was a calm, warm, beautiful afternoon when I reached this lake. I wish I could go back there right now …

Park Lake I don’t have a good picture of Park Lake and it seems hard to find one on the Internet. What gives???? It had been a long, 12 mile climb on Day 22 to get over the high point and then down to Park Lake. The road was maybe a hundred feet above the lake, but the trees were so dense that I couldn’t get an unimpeded picture. The setting in a bowl was very pretty amidst the aspens changing to their fall colors. 30


The Last Northbounder John Keller

Mountains Along North Fork Road Just after my exhilaration at Red Meadow Lake, I raced down to the North Fork Road and got a better view of the mountains that had been in the distance at Red Meadow Lake. These sedimentary mountains seemed to be honed into sharp, steep knife edges. You can see in this picture that some of the peaks had been dusted with snow. Rugged.

Big Sheep Creek It had been a bad start to Day 18 with the road being very difficult to ride thanks to the fresh layer of pea gravel, the temperatures being so cold, the wind not cooperating in the least. But the road improved, the sun climbed higher in the sky, the winds calmed and the vistas in Big Sheep Canyon were just spectacular. My spirits were lifted while riding through this canyon.

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“Est” Awards Best Scenery

Lower Mesa Falls on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway out of Warm River I had just completed a hellacious climb out of the Warm River basin on the morning of Day 16 and was exhausted so I decided to take a break at the Lower Mesa Falls Overlook. Man, I’m glad I did … the waterfall itself cascaded down several levels, leaving a steep canyon as the waterfall clawed its way upstream over the eons. I was very surprised at how steep the canyon was, how stepped the waterfall was. It really helped that the sun was at just the right angle to brightly illuminate the canyon and the falls.

Tetons What can you say about the Tetons that hasn’t already been said? I was out early on Day 15 when I took this photo, getting this shot across Jackson Lake. It doesn’t begin to capture the grandeur of the Tetons, but it’s a wonderful memory for me.

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Backside of the Tetons Who knew that Tetons had a backside? I have always approached the Tetons from the east. After I crossed the backbone of the Tetons on the afternoon of Day 15 and looked back, I was surprised at the beauty of the western side of the range. I really shouldn’t have been surprised …

Inspiration Point On my first day on the GDMBR, Day 3 of my trip, I came screaming down a steep, relatively narrow canyon, made a 90 degree left turn and, voila, the world opened up into this huge vista, carved over the centuries by the Colorado River. Vast and surprising to encounter this panorama so suddenly.

And The Winner Is … Red Meadows Lake But you knew that, didn’t you? 33


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Best Portion of the Ride Single Track in the Swan Lake Region On the section of the GDMBR that I rode from west of Denver to the Canadian border, there were only 4 sections I might call mountain bike trails and I had to bypass one of them. This, therefore, is only one of three sections of the trail that I would characterize as being a true single track, mountain biking trail. This trail rolled gently through the forests in the Swan Lake region of Montana. The riding was easy and I was glad that I wouldn’t be sharing the trail with any vehicles. You can see from the picture that this must have been a two lane trail at one point which was fine with me: I liked a bit more visibility just in case a bear happened to be using the trail, too.

Lava Mountain Trail Another single track mountain bike trail. Rocks, roots, rolling terrain. In a word: fun! There were a couple steep uphill sections that I had to walk the bike over, but I rode all of the downhill. The dynamics of riding are a bit different with the bike more heavily loaded on the rear tire due to my extra gear, but I quickly compensated, searching out the best line through the challenging terrain. At this point in the tour I didn’t have the GPS track loaded into my GPS, just the waypoints, so when the GPS suggested that I turn in the middle of the trail, I scoured the trail, searching back and forth for that turn. It wasn’t there. F it, I’m just going to ride and sort it out later. The saving grace was it hadn’t rained for a while so I could see the bicycle tire tracks in the dusty soil (including the tracks of the Coukills?), giving me some reassurance that I was on the right trail. Of course, the tracks could have been laid down by some other riders, not on the official GDMBR… ...when I finally popped out to a forest service road, the GPS indicated I was back on track. Phew! No hard work to figure out where I needed to go next. One more thing about this trail. As I started the climb up Cataract Canyon earlier that day, I met Stephan from France who was coming down out of the mountains. 34


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He had ridden this trail the day before. He told me it was the worst part of his trip so far. He didn’t have a mountain bike and I think he didn’t have any mountain biking skills. Funny how one man’s worst trail could be one man’s best trail …

Trail outside of Island Park to Henry Lake The first of the three mountain bike trails I rode. I almost didn’t ride it. Earlier in the day I had gotten lost trying to find the infamous rail trail and this section of trail was also very confusing to figure out by reading the trail description in the ACA map. Fate stepped in to save me: I met Southbounder Andres from Germany who had just dropped off that portion of the trail. He assured me that in spite of the confusing trail description, the trail was actually easy to follow. OK. I’ll give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen? I could become hopelessly lost and be headline news when they discover my bones next year … Well, I should not have worried one little bit. The trail was part of the local Island Park Community Trail system: the Harriman to Henry’s Lake Trail. There were blazes marking the trail so I could not get lost!!!! This picture shows one of the blazes. I was so relieved about the trail being marked, I forget to take a picture of the real trail! The trail itself was a mix of forest service roads and very primitive trails, more designed for snowmobiles/ATVs than vehicles. I didn’t encounter another vehicle or biker on that entire section of trail as it wound through the trees on a beautiful, still, sunny day. Wonderful riding on a slow climb up to Henry’s Lake.

Great Basin in Wyoming When I started riding north and encountered Southbounders, I would ask them what was the best part of their ride so far. I was surprised when Cole answered The Great Basin. From everything that I had read, this sounded like a difficult and desolate section of the ride. How could this be the best section, given all the beauty of the Rockies in Montana and Canada? And, months later as I write this final chapter, The Great Basin is in my top 10 list. Why? Because in that treeless, rolling basin I got the rarest sense of being alone in the world. In our connected world it is so difficult to feel any sense of isolation. Here you can see the horizon in the far distance and feel as insignificant in the day time as you can feel looking up at the vast universe at night. This was truly tough riding.

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On Day 9 I had to cover 58 waterless miles from the A&M reservoir to the Diaganus well on the dirt road crossing the basin. As I did my research prior to the ride I was really concerned that I would get lost as there are dozens of roads that cross the road, but, save for one intersection, I need not have worried: all of those other roads were clearly less travelled than the main road I was on. Saying that, though, at one point the main road became just two ruts, obviously very lightly travelled. I might have been concerned that I had lost the trail, but there weren’t any side roads intersecting the main road when it became less and less of a main road. I was on the right road, no matter how meager it was …

17 mile, 6% Grade into Moran Junction Day 14 I had a difficult climb up to Togwotee pass, 9584’, just east of the Tetons. It was the first morning where the ponds were skimmed with ice. My feet were similar blocks of ice as I slowly climbed sections that approached 14% grades. It took me nearly 2 ½ hours to cover those 10 miles to reach the pass. But when I did reach the pass, I was rewarded with a sign that indicated that it was downhill for a whopping 17 miles at a 6% average grade! What a lengthy pay off for that difficult climb! I covered the next 18.3 miles in about 1 ½ hours, topping out at a maximum speed of 33 miles per hour. This was the only section where my hat blew off my head as I was descending and I had to stop and ride back uphill to retrieve it. The other nice thing about this section was that I got my first glimpse of the Tetons: another scenic bonus for that cold, lengthy climb.

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Northern Montana I can roughly divide the route into 3 sections: Colorado, sage country and Northern Montana. I would NOT do sage country again, but Northern Montana? I was really fortunate that I was in that section of Montana just as fall was turning the aspens from green to gold. The weather settled down and for the most part I had clear skies with little wind. Temperatures were cold in the morning, that’s for sure, but by the time noon rolled around, I had usually changed from my cold weather outfit to my warm weather outfit. The forest service roads were typically empty; the few cars or ATVs that went by sometimes stopped, resulted in nice conversations where I usually learned something I hadn’t known. At the end of the trip I encountered the austere and sharply carved peaks in the Glacier Park area, many of them dusted with snow already. If I had one complaint about that section of the trip it would be that the forest service roads were hewn right through the dense forests and often times there were no vistas, just a corridor cut through the trees. And if you would allow me another complaint about that section of the trip it would be that this was grizzly bear country. I sure wish I didn’t always have the fear in the back of my mind of encountering a bear as I rode this peaceful and beautiful section of the GDMBR. Had I known that I would never encounter a bear I would have relaxed more and enjoyed the scenery, rather than always scanning the road ahead for bear.

The Day the Wind Was at My Back There were only a few days when the wind wasn’t my nemesis. Wyoming and the southern section of Montana presented some of the toughest headwinds I faced on the trip. But when I climbed out of Pinedale, Wyoming, on Day 12, the winds shifted for one solitary day to drive me northward. You can’t imagine how that feels after a week of always being constantly pushed backwards by headwinds. Finally, a tailwind … And it was a massive tailwind for most of the day. I encountered a southbounder who was struggling against my tailwind, now her headwind. She did not stop as is the usual custom, but sped by, shouting, “Lucky You!”. I don’t think she meant it …

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Every Downhill We’ll deal with the Coukills in more depth in a bit, but when I asked the Coukills what the best part of the trip had been so far the 12 year old daughter replied without hesitation: “The downhills!” Man, I cannot argue with that. It took a while for this realization to creep in, but for every uphill, there’s a corresponding downhill. When the southbounders were anxious to tell me about the difficult climbing that lied ahead for me, I didn’t say anything about the difficult climbing that lied ahead for them. Their past blistering downhills were my future challenging uphills, my past ear-toear grinning downhills were their future grind-it-out uphills. I eventually learned to take some solace in knowing that every lung crushing, leg draining, back breaking uphill would be rewarded with an equally long downhill run where all I had to do was get off the seat and ride the bumps all the way to the bottom. For the most part I hit speeds upwards of 35 MPH, but on the section just south of Rawlins with a surprisingly strong tailwind at my back, I reached the highest recorded speed on the trip: over 48 MPH … … on a dirt road. When the tailwind suddenly shifted to a crosswind, trying to push me over, I finally applied the brakes to haul down the speed a bit, but for the most part I rode the downhills with very little braking. One southbounder complained that his brakes got too hot on the downhills. My advice: don’t use your brakes!

And the Winner Is … Tough call, really, and one which I’m just not going to make here. Every special section had some aspect that made it unique: scenery, terrain, weather. Except for maybe The Great Basin I would ride any of the sections noted above again; riding the Great Basin once is more than enough for a lifetime.

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Best Miracle I am of two minds with respect to miracles and so is The Google, providing this definition:

mir·a·cle mirək(ə)l/ noun 1. a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency. “the miracle of rising from the grave” 2. a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences. “it was a miracle that more people hadn’t been killed or injured” As a rationalist, I think miracles really are improbable events, but the probability of the events occurring is not zero. So, as improbable as an event might be, it could happen. But isn’t it nice to think that the universe/supreme agent is looking out for us and others, that these improbable events were actually zero probability events but the universe/ supreme agent stepped in to make the miracle occur? You make the call …

The Ride from Hoyt and Catherine to Steamboat Springs And I start out with something I wouldn’t really classify as a miracle … On Day 4, my left pedal fell off. In this picture you can see it strapped to the back of my bike rather than being connected to the bottom bracket where it belongs. I had reached the Lynx Pass campground and was hoping to continue on for another 20 miles, but suddenly my left pedal seemed a little wobbly and then I found myself with the pedal, clipped to the bottom of my biking shoe, dangling just inches off the dirt road. What the??? Believe me, it’s hard to ride your bike with only one pedal on dirt roads, going up and down. Disheartened, I pulled up short for the day, staying in the Lynx Pass campground. The next day I single leg pedaled/walked the bike the 0.3 miles to the top of 9078’ Lynx Pass then it was mostly downhill to 7400’ for the next 20 miles, but … … mostly downhill: 39


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there was still 1526’ of climbing required as the road sometimes dipped into a ravine then climbed out. So, on those climbs I’d either have to pedal with just my right leg or walk. As every car went by I stuck out my thumb to hitchhike, but no one stopped. I finally got down to the main road where there were more cars. As Hoyt and Cathy drove by in their empty pickup truck, I stuck my thumb out, they slowed then drove by. Why didn’t they stop??? I threw both hands up in a gesture of “Why not stop????”, but they continued on down the road. But, something about what I did caused them to turn around. They asked if I needed a ride and I told them I did. As Hoyt helped me load the bike into the back of his pickup truck I was almost in tears: so many cars had passed me by and now, finally, I had a ride into Steamboat Springs where I might be able to find parts to fix my bike. They dropped me off at the Ski Haus and continued on their way after I profusely thanked them for saving me. As I secured my bike and prepared to talk to the bike techs, I realized that I had left my Camelbak in the cab of the truck: my credit cards were in that pack!!! I let out an expletive and Toni, an employee at the Ski Haus who was putting out some merchandise racks, asked what was wrong. When I explained that I was in deep financial distress, she asked how she could help. Well, I remembered that Hoyt was taking Cathy to the hospital for some tests and I asked Toni if she could give me a ride to the hospital to see if we could find the pickup truck. She agreed! She drove the company van to the hospital and had a nice conversation about how she had moved to Steamboat and loved it. At the hospital, we went up and down a couple aisles of the parking lot and there was Hoyt’s pickup truck! As a matter of fact, Hoyt was in the pickup truck! I recovered my Camelbak and my credit cards and got a ride back to the Bike Haus. Phew!!!! So, not so much a miracle that Hoyt and Catherine picked me up (someone probably would have picked me up … eventually), but the fact that the Ski Haus employee was putting merchandise out just as I needed her help? Was that a miracle?

Pinedale OK. I admit that my planning was a little lax in spots. In this specific instance, I didn’t think about the possibility of having multiple flat tires between major metropolises… From Thornton I carried a spare inner tube and probably figured that there’s no way that I could have two flats before I reached a city where I could get some replacement inner tubes. This strategy worked for 11 days, 501.3 miles. The first flat was on Day 8 on the Mineral Exploration Road, a few miles short of reaching the A&M reservoir. The picture on the next page shows sealant from the inner tube, which is supposed to plug a hole in the inner tube, spewed out on the asphalt. The hole was so big that the sealant could not seal it and the sealant just blew out of the tire. 40


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Not to worry! The replacement inner tube is self-sealing and I’ll get another tube or two at the next town. But I had another 150 miles to go before the next city. I should have worried …Another 115 miles of incident free riding, but just as I’m pulling up to the campsite at the end of day 10 with 501.3 miles under my belt (1/3 of the way there!!!), my rear tire started hissing: hole, air escaping!!! I rolled the tire to position the hole so that it was touching the dirt road. This causes the sealant to flow downwards towards the hole and, after a few seconds, the leak was plugged. Phew! But as I rolled the bike to my camping spot, the tire started hissing again. I rolled the hole to the bottom position, waited, the hole sealed. Phew2! I really shouldn’t have been phew-ing. The next morning I was out before the sun had peeked above the eastern horizon. I rolled the bike onto the dirt road and immediately realized that the rear tire was flat. I could not pump it up. No other spare tire. No patch kit. The day before I realized as I was struggling up hills against the wind on the Lander Pass road that I had no choice but to move forward. I couldn’t just stop in the middle of nowhere. So, I started walking to Pinedale. It was “only” 48 miles away. At 3 MPH I’d get there in 16 hours. Hell, that’s less than a day! But I didn’t have to walk that far. After pushing the bike for two miles, the first vehicle going in my direction stopped: Wes was heading to Pinedale and was happy to take me there in his pickup truck!!! First vehicle! Going to Pinedale!

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Wes had a choice that morning of either taking the highway or the Lander Cutoff. He took the cutoff and, as a result, I was rescued. Miracle? I really enjoyed talking to Wes for the entire trip to Pinedale and was grateful as he pulled away from the hardware store parking lot where he had left me. They didn’t have any real biking gear, but there was a bike shop several blocks north. I walked there and was very disappointed to learn that they did not have any 26” inner tubes! What kind of bike shop is that???? I bought a patch kit and was outside the store, patching an inner tube when Jason pulled up. We started talking and he said that maybe he had a spare tube back home. Jason drove back home and came back with an old tube he found in the far recesses of his garage. Miracle that I needed a tube and Jason delivered one to me? That day I had two miracles: a 46 mile ride to Pinedale from Wes, an inner tube from Jason. When I needed help, I got it …

Union Pass The next day I climbed out of Pinedale with the patched tube mounted in my rear tire and the inner tube that Jason had given me in my pack. About 35 miles outside of Pinedale, I flatted out. F!!!!! I used the inner tube that Jason gave me and continued on, now worrying that I was going to get another flat. And, sure enough, I got another flat 10 miles up the road. Damn!!!! Because I didn’t have a spare inner tube, I had to pull the flat tube out of the tire and patch it. Not the end of the world, but if the hole was too big, a patch won’t work. As I was starting to take apart the tire, the only car that I had seen on that section of that road for the entire afternoon went by. When I noticed that they had mountain bikes on the back of their car, I frantically signaled for them to stop. Did they have a spare tube? Well, it turns out that their bikes were equipped with tubeless tires which don’t need inner tubes.

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The woman said that she’d search her gear to see if she had an inner tube, but it was highly unlikely. Unless we’re talking about miracles … … in the seat pack of her bike she found an inner tube that she had been needlessly hauling around for years in order to deliver it to me! What are the odds that I would run into these mountain bikers and they would have a spare tube to give me in spite of the fact that their bikes had tubeless tires????

Moran Junction/Jackson The flat hits just kept on coming … … I rode 13 more miles that day and camped just short of Union Pass. The next day I rode 35.7 miles without incident, but on day 14 I rode another 28.6 miles and got another flat. A total of 77.3 miles between flats … The front tire flat occurred on a downhill section and as I wobbled to a stop, a Subaru immediately pulled over a couple hundred feet in front of me and backed up. The driver got out and asked, “Are you in trouble?” “Yes, how did you know???” “I saw you wobbling and thought there was something wrong.” It was a miracle that Scott and Sylvia stopped, but in the category of “It’s a small world after all”, Scott and Sylvia were from Colorado and lived about 5 miles from my home!!!! They agreed to take me to Moran Junction which was on their way to Yellowstone. They put the bike up on the bike rack on the roof, but I was crammed in the back of the Subaru since the car was overflowing with gear. I was sitting with my feet up in the air, my back resting on the rear deck of the station wagon; no proper seat for me. As we were driving to Moran Junction, I floated the proposal that they take me to Jenny Lake so I could set up camp, patch my tire and ride down to Jackson to get new tires and new tubes. Jenny Lake was 12 miles south of Moran Junction in the wrong direction with respect to Yellowstone which meant that they would have to drive 24 miles total out of their way.

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I didn’t hear them discuss what to do, but as they pulled to a stop, it was clear that the miracle ended there: they weren’t going out of their way. Damn! A partial miracle. Still, better than nothing … But as I was starting the process of patching my inner tube, a driver going in the other direction stopped and called across the road, “You in trouble?” I told him that I needed to get to Jackson to get replacement tires and tubes. Johnny called back, “Get your stuff in the truck. I’ll take you down to Jackson!” Another miracle! Later I realized it was a compound miracle: I needed Scott and Sylvia to take me to Moran Junction and no further so Johnny could take me all the way down to Jackson. Want to keep compounding the miracles coming? Two more to come … … while I was in the bike shop in Jackson with all of my gear splayed out on the showroom floor, someone walked up to me and asked, “How’s it going, mate?” It was Ben The World Traveler (see Ben The World Traveler below). Last I saw him was 430 biking miles and 8 days earlier. What are the odds that we would be in the same bike shop at that same exact time, especially considering Jackson is 30 miles south of the official GDMBR? The second additional miracle was that I got a campsite at Colter Bay late on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Usually the national parks are packed to the gills. Johnny drove me all the way back from Jackson to the Colter Bay campground. He worked for a concessionaire in the Grand Teton National Park so, in addition to getting a campsite late during the Labor Day weekend, I got a discount on the campsite! What a day of miracles: Scott and Sylvia took me to Moran Junction Johnny took me to Jackson I met Ben the World Traveler I got a campsite in a national park late on Labor Day weekend … with a discount! Can anyone begin to compute the odds of all of that happening to me?

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The Marshal Short of Red Meadows Lake I ended Day 28 at Wayfarer’s State Park because I was too cheap to stay at the Timbers Motel. I had put in a long, 70+ mile day coming from Holland Lake and was looking forward to getting a shower after 4 days on the road. When I rolled into the lobby at the Timbers I was really beat. “How much for a room?” “$86” “Can you do any better than that? AARP? Anything?” “No” There’s no one here. It’s after Labor Day. It’s Sunday night, the weekend is over. “$86” I don’t know, I just didn’t want to pay $90 so I rode away and found Wayfarer’s State Park just a few blocks south on the shores of Flathead Lake. I had set up my tent when the campground host rode up in his golf cart. “Did you know that this is a $28 site? The $10 tent site is down by the dumpster and the garage.” I had ridden by that area when I entered the park and it really stank thanks to the dumpster. Oh, shit, if I want to save money I’ll have to break down camp and set up in a veil of odors. I stood there for a minute trying to figure out what I wanted to do when the campground host volunteered, “You know, it’s the end of the season, there are plenty of open sites, I’ll give you the tent rate.” THANK YOU!!!! No, that’s not the miracle … patience … I thanked the campground host who went by the nickname of The Marshal and suggested I would take him out to dinner. He agreed. I rode my bike down to his fifth wheel, put my bike in his pickup truck and we drove out to the main road, crossed it and grabbed a bite to eat at Burger Town, Home of the Flathead Monster! I got a Flathead Monster (think Big Mac), fries and a milkshake. 45


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The Marshal thanked me for buying him dinner, but he took his meal back to his trailer because he was still on duty. I finished my meal and rode my bike back to my deluxe but cheap campsite as the sun set on Flathead Lake. Fast forward two days and 138 biking miles later. I am just short of Red Meadows Lake when I reached this intersection. I stopped to take a picture which I did sometimes when I encountered road signs just in case I got lost: I could review the last sign I saw and try to determine which road I was on. I heard a car coming up the hill so I decided I’d wait for it to go by before I continued… … but it was no car; rather, it was 6 geezers, each on their own ATV. You’ll never guess who was in that senior rat pack? The Marshal! He recognized me, we shook hands and, once again, he thanked me for buying him dinner a couple days ago. He and his posse were out on their weekly ATV cruise. They had opted to take this route to look at some of the fire damage in the area. What are the odds that we would cross paths again? What were the odds that I wouldn’t stay at The Timbers Motel and stayed at Wayfarer’s State Park instead? What were the odds that The Marshal would accept my invitation to dinner? What were the odds that I would be biking on the day they were doing their weekly ATV ride? What were the odds that they would take this route? What were the odds that I would stop and wait for them to approach? Had I continued on or I had just a one minute head start, I would have completely missed the opportunity to greet The Marshal again. It’s a small world after all?

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Tina Seeley At Red Meadows Lake Second miracle of my second to last day of the trip except this wasn’t a miracle for me; rather, it was a miracle for Tina Seeley. I talk about Tina Seeley in the Most Unexpected Interaction with Other People section. When I wrote about her in this section of the document, it hadn’t dawned on me that I had already described what had happened. I wrote a few hundred different words here, describing what happened. Should I throw these words away? I’m sure any editor would delete this redundancy, but I thought I’d leave it in as an example of how a different day of writing results in different writing … It had been a long, 22 mile, 2731’ climb up to Red Meadow Lakes. There was very little traffic on the road, just me, the afore mentioned ATV rat pack and one other car. I planned to eat lunch at Red Meadow Lake because the southbounders had told me that it was a beautiful place to stop and it was just on the downhill side of that long climb. When I arrived, that one car that had passed me was there and a woman was standing next to that sole car. I sat down on the picnic bench next to the lake and invited her over for lunch. She accepted my invitation and started munching down on ¼ of my Safeway megameat deli sandwich with extra horseradish sauce. She introduced herself as Tina Seeley and told me that she had come up to this location to consider her future. Particularly, should she return to this area from her current residence in Sarasota, Florida? I had brought my “The Line” talk (see The Profound section below for a discussion of “The Line”) with me and told Tina Seeley about the concept. I think she drove all the way up there to hear this talk. She needed to hear it. I don’t know what Tina Seeley decided, but what are the odds that we would meet as the only two people at Red Meadow Lake to discuss her future?

Wire Cutter on Montana 278 This is a minor miracle and I had totally forgotten about until I transcribed my journal notes where I had written:

another miracle. I had broken my rear derailleur cable while flying down a hill on Montana state highway 278 on day 19. I had been lugging a spare cable all the way from Denver (okay, they don’t weigh all that much) so I was prepared, but it took quite a while to do the repair on the side of the road as cars buzzed by, traveling close to the speed of light as those Montanans tried to get from point A to point B in this vast, western state.

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I had just finished the repair, but there was a maybe 1 ½ feet of excess cable hanging down from the rear derailleur. I was trying to figure out how to keep that cable from tangling in my spokes when a car pulled over, a man got out and asked if I needed help. Do you have wire cutters by any chance? Yes, he did. I clipped the cable, preventing the cable from getting caught in the spokes. I needed wire cutters. The universe delivered. Can you believe it? Thank you for stopping and helping me!

And the Winner Is … Moran Junction/Jackson The way those events interlocked, resulting in my getting new tires and tubes, meeting Ben The World Traveler and getting a camping site at Colter Bay, seems more impossible than anything else that happened to me. Divine intervention? The Universe looking out for me? Low probability events coming true? My heart likes to think that the universe cares about me, but me head knows the universe has other, more important problems to deal with. Which perspective is right? I like the way the heart feels …

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Best Rider I didn’t take pictures of any of the people that I encountered on the trip. I don’t know, I guess I just felt that it objectified the person: Hey, I’m taking this picture of you to put in my scrap book. There was one exception to this guideline:

Ben the World Traveler By Day 6, I had only met a handful of southbounders, but somewhere in the conversations I had with them, I had heard about this mythical rider who was riding his bike around the world and was currently on the GDMBR. WOW! So, as I pulled into the Clark General store north of Steamboat Springs, this guy rides up and it takes but an instant to realize that it’s Ben the World Traveler! I was honored to be in his presence. He was the kindest, gentlest most unassuming rider I had encountered. As we were putting our bikes into the bike rack, we were already engaged in a lively conversation about his trip and his goals. At this point, he had ridden from Patagonia up through most of Central America. He then flew to Denver and started on the GDMBR with the intent of rendezvousing with his family in Montana in September. After that, he hoped to bike up the Pacific Coast into Alaska, jump to China, bike through China and ultimately bike through Turkey, fly down to South Africa and bike all the way north, home to England. And, he hoped to do all this on $5 a day. After hearing this incredible story, I told Ben the World Traveler that I would buy him anything, anything at all in the Clark General Store. Without hesitation, Ben said, “I’ll take a cup of coffee …” Really? That’s it???? I ate my slab of jerky, knocked back a chocolate milk and started into a Mountain Dew as we sat warming on the veranda outside the Clark General Store while Ben the World Traveler told me about his plans to produce a video of the trip.

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I don’t know exactly why, but I really enjoyed living, however briefly, in the shadow of this kid who was taking on such an ambitious journey. Ben the World Traveler had some Internet business to take care of, so we bid each other adieu and I rode off to Steamboat Lake. Ben caught me within 13 miles and we rode together for a couple miles. Hey, I’m riding with Ben the World Traveler!!! Just shy of Steamboat Lake, we parted ways: Ben the World Traveler did the more difficult and longer “official” section of the GDMBR to the west which climbed another couple thousand feet while I wussed out and took the official bypass. I don’t remember why I opted for the bypass, but even if I had gone west, Ben would have dropped me and that would have been the last I’d see of him anyway. Actually, wouldn’t be the last I’d see of Ben the World Traveler … … as you know from the Best Miracle section of this magnum opus, I ran into Ben the World Traveler in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, some 270 miles (as the crow flies) from where we parted and 8 days from our good-byes at Steamboat Lake. I met him inside Hoback Sports. I had just purchased the tires and tubes that would save my trip and I had all of my gear splayed out on the floor of the bike shop when Ben the World Traveler walked up and greeted me. For a second I didn’t recognize him, but as soon as the facial recognition neurons fired in unison, I was thrilled to see Ben the World Traveler again. Those of you who have seen the slide show, know what I said next, “Ben, I will buy you anything in this store!” Ben’s humble reply, “Well, I need a tube and a patch kit …” I love that guy! You can find more information on Ben the World Traveler at this link.

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The Coukills On Day 15, I was climbing out from the Grassy Lake basin and ran into the Coukills. They are a Canadian family consisting of Mom, Dad and their two 10 and 12 year old daughters. They all had BOBs (Beast of Burden trailers) so everyone was pitching in to carry their gear. Being Canadians, they were very friendly and talked my ears off, but I could tell the 12 year old was anxious to get going. I asked, “What has been the best part of the trip so far?” and, without hesitation, the 12 year old answered, “The downhills!” Best punchline of the entire trip! So good in fact, I put it into this document twice!

As I continued north while they continued south, I’d often see bike tracks in the dirt roads and wonder if those were made by the Coukills. If the route got difficult due to some hellacious uphill climb, I’d calm myself by reminding the Keller Worry Gene that if the Coukills had done this, I could do this. Psssst … don’t tell the Keller Worry Gene that this wasn’t exactly correct: in the sections where I was struggling to climb to some high point, the Coukills had been going downhill. Still, just thinking of sharing that section of the route with them made me feel better.

James and Dave From Australia I already loved these guys even before we stopped to chat. They were decked out in Hawaiian shirts and both had earbuds in their ears. I’m a sucker for the Australian and Kiwi accents. It was their intention to do the entire GDMBR then continue riding south through Central America. To that end, Dave was listening to Spanish lessons as he rode.

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“Est” Awards Best Rider

Stephan From France We’ve already encountered Stephan from France in the Best Portion of the Ride section. Once again, I’ll tell the story, slightly differently … Stephan was the only Frenchmen I had encountered on the entire trip. I met him early on Day 22 as I was about to climb up Cataract Canyon. He was very agitated because the day before he had ridden the Lava Mountain Trail and, given that harrowing experience, wanted to ride the bypass on I-15 rather than take the “official” dirt road route to Butte. Now, granted the Lava Mountain Trail was strewn with rocks and roots and was only one of three true single track trails I encountered during the 1504.5 miles I rode, but, come on, Stephan, it’s the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. You’ve got to expect some mountain biking here and there, don’t you? I convinced him that the dirt roads I had ridden on the previous day were just fine and he shouldn’t opt to ride on I-15. I think he chose the dirt, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he took the easy way out down to Butte …

Nicola From the Netherlands The import of Nicola from the Netherlands only became apparent several days after I had met him on the route on Day 15. As we passed each other, we stopped and had the usual 5-10 minute northbounder/southbounder conversation. Nicola had crazy, wiry hair and seemed filled with exuberant energy. Nice guy, didn’t think much about our encounter until … … a few days later I ran into some southbounders who asked if I had run into Nicola. They told me that Nicola had ridden through the fires in Montana!!!! Huge sections of the route had been shut down due to the fires, but evidently Nicola ignored the closures and rode the official trail while the forests burned around him. The southbounders told of him being covered with soot when he finally exited the fire ravaged regions. Trail lore or truth? I like to think it’s true …

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The Last Northbounder John Keller

The Unicycle Guy I totally screwed up my encounter with the Unicycle Guy on Day 6. As I was arduously climbing up to Columbine north of Steamboat Lake, I saw this weird vision up the road, wobbling back and forth. It took a while for my pattern recognition to realize that this was a guy on a unicycle! He had a huge pack on his back, but I mistakenly thought he must be a local. We didn’t stop to chat because he just yelled out to me, “Not far to the top!” and this reinforced my thinking that he was a local. All I said, stunned by this vision was, “WOW!!!!”. Well, that night at the Ladder Ranch, they told me that the Unicycle Guy had stayed the previous night there and was riding the GDMBR! Rich, my neighbor, having read my update, used the Internet to learn that Adam was riding to raise money for the International Justice Mission. See this link for more information. Months later, Barbara of FAB and free cabin fame (see Unexpected Interaction with Other People below) told me that The Unicycle Guy had stayed at her cabin. I crossed paths with the Unicycle guy more times than I thought. Just one other note here. Earlier in the day I had parted ways with Ben the World Traveler, taking the easier bypass route. Had I followed Ben I would have missed my encounter with The Unicycle Guy …

And the Winner Is … Really, you don’t know? Hands down, Ben the World Traveler. I am just in awe of his ambition, courage, good natured humility.

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“Est” Awards Best Evening At A Campsite

Best Evening at a Campsite Above Eldora I was lucky. Hell, I was lucky for the entire trip, but on my first day, climbing the most I’d ever climbed in a single day on the trip (7369’), I ended up in this informal campsite just west of the Eldora ski resort. Yes, there were a lot of rocks at the site which made finding the right place to locate the tent a “camper’s challenge” (I put quotes around this phrase to make you think campers use this term all the time … they don’t), but there was no wind, there was no rain, the temperature was cool but not cold. It could have been so much worse … It was so quiet (save for the microwave repeater tower generator kicking in throughout the night …), I was all by myself, the universe looking down on me. I didn’t even put the rainfly over the top of the tent so the starlight gently caressed me all night. Peaceful, quiet …

Lynx Pass I didn’t want to stay at the Lynx Pass campground as I had only put in only 24 miles on Day 4, but my pedal fell off and that was that for the day. As I was searching for the bolt to secure the pedal back on the bike (I never found it), southbounders Cole and Cindy rode up. Cole generously rode his bike down the road to look for the bolt, of course coming up empty. That night I joined Cole and Cindy for dinner. I had a wonderful time talking to them about their adventures so far. We didn’t light a campfire which was just fine with me. A nice evening with good folks. Later that night, though, a storm passed over the campsite, complete with rain, lightning and thunder. Once again, the Big Agnes tent kept me high and dry.

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Upper Lake Campground This camp site was the location of the scariest night of my life, but prior to those series of events it was also one of the best nights on the road. Day 16 had been a particularly long day, 72.3 miles, 8 hours and 41 minutes in the saddle. I had lost the route earlier that day, causing me to ride more than an hour and 8 miles without making any real progress towards reaching Canada. At the end of the day I had to climb over 7,120’ Red Rock Pass, leaving Idaho and entering Montana. I thought it would all be downhill to the campground, but the road dipped in and out of small creek drainages: fun riding down, just exhausting to have to ride out of the drainage. Adding to my misery, the relentless afternoon winds just kept pushing against me, slowing my progress. With all of that fatigue as a backdrop I was so happy to roll into this formal campground around 7 PM, the sun low on the western horizon. There was a group of three southbounders already at the site: Seth, Wes and Matt. These post college grads had known each other for years, working at a summer camp together, and decided to ride the GDBMR together. After I set up my tent, I joined them around their campfire. I gave each of them a slice of pizza from the leftover pizza I had purchased at Pond’s restaurant way back in Island Park (seemed like such a long time ago … it was only that afternoon!). They shared their favorite crackers and peanut butter. We entertained each other with stories of our rides, stories of our lives. Easy back country comradery. I didn’t want to hit the hay, but we all had another hard day on the road the next day. The sky was so dark, the stars so intense miles from any large city. I crawled into my tent, happy and sated. Little did I know what was in store for me just a few hours later … the scariest night of my life.

Union Pass I had put in nearly 60 miles on day 12, doing a 1457’ climb out of the Green River valley, repairing two flat tires on the way. The map had suggested that there was an informal campsite in the area. I saw a faint track across a hillside and I followed it up to the edge of an outcropping of trees. I rested the bike up against a tree and walked around the area, looking for a good place for the tent.

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“Est” Awards Best Evening At A Campsite

Not only did I find a nice level, clear spot for the tent, I found an outhouse about 300 yards from the site: I had facilities to use if needed! I had a nice view across the valley and the steep angle of the setting sun brought out the sharp contrast of the hills and mountains in the area. The wind had died off and it was very peaceful. This was bear country so after eating dinner I suspended my pack from a tree, only the second time I’d done that and, unknowingly, it would be last time I would do that. I was really tired so I hit the hay early. A couple hours later I was awoken by the absolute worst storm I’ve ever experienced in a tent. See the Scariest Night section for a detailed description. Is it odd that two of the best campsites were also the sites of the scariest nights? Is that the price of goodness, i.e. there has to be some serious badness thrown in?

Colter Bay Campground As a general rule, I don’t like staying in national park campgrounds because there is sooooo much smoke from all of the campfires. It’s some sort of rite of passage to travel a long way to a pristine location then throw tons of carbon into the air to de-pristine the area. I fully appreciate how “back to the land” it is to have a campfire, just like the original explorers that traipsed through this very area, but come on! But that night I must have needed some human company with the requisite campfire because I wandered over to the campsite behind me and had an enjoyable evening with John, Erin and Fawn, discussing what we should be doing with our lives. An oddly common theme for this trip … I must have felt more secure with all of those people around me. What are the odds that a bear would single me out? I slept very well that night … 56


The Last Northbounder John Keller

Little Joe Campground Selecting this campsite was a mistake that turned out just fine, thank you. I had just finished a long, long, long 35 mile, 5028’ climb out of the Grasshopper Valley, doing 63 miles for the day. But when I reached Little Joe campground, it was only 4 o’clock: I had another 3 hours of sunlight if I wanted to use it. I didn’t … The reason this was a problem was the next day: I had 31 beautiful miles of downhill but it was sooo cold that morning that it was hard to enjoy that fast, easy ride with wind chill factors that approached absolute zero. That night I joined Missy and Leighton at their campfire (see Most Unexpected Interaction with Other People for more detail on that gathering). I think I slept well that night, knowing that the bears might chose to harass Missy and Leighton rather than me …

And the Winner Is … Upper Lake Campground Boy, that Upper Lake Campground is really taking the awards in this section. At the time I had no idea that it would be the best and worst night of the trip!

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“Est” Awards Best Gear

Best Gear This section is probably only relevant to those that might have a technical interest in what worked well on the trip. Not going to be too humorous … for more humor, skip down to Best Bear Protection.

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Tent From the point that I decided to do the ride to the point I left was only a couple weeks so I didn’t have much time to consider every possible tent option. As a matter of fact, I basically limited the choices to tents that I could get at my local REI … … maybe not the best approach, but turns out that in this case it worked just fine. I was trying to choose between a bivy sac, 1 person or 2 person tent. For less than two pounds I could have a 2 person tent which I figured would afford me the “luxury” of having more room if I was stuck in the rain/snow for several days and, of course, I could use it in the future if I camped out with another person. This tent performed flawlessly, most importantly keeping me dry when it was raining outside. I had trouble with it blowing across the prairie at Diaganus Well but on that day I learned that I had to be cognizant of the wind direction and align the spine of the tent with the direction of the wind; that strategy provided a small enough profile that the tent didn’t blow away. I liked the light weight, but also the attention to detail. There were 3 pockets inside the tent that I used to store small items like my glasses and the headlamp. The straps with grommets had a line on one side so I knew if I was assembling the tent right side up rather than upside down. The rainfly had extra material around the door to create a vestibule where I could leave my shoes outside the tent but ensure that they would still stay dry. The rainfly door had a couple a tie backs so that I could leave the door wide open on those warmer nights. The tent parts stuffed nicely into the dry bag. Set up and tear down was easy, not exactly quick, though. My installation required driving 8 stakes into the ground to hold the corners, sides and vestibule in place. I was usually able to find a large enough stone to aid in the driving of the stakes (see stone discussion below in the Best Bear Defense section).

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Specialized Crossroads Tires I started the trip with lightly used Panaracer Smoke mountain bike tires which I have been using all of my mountain biking career. Turns out they just aren’t great long distance tires. They lasted about 400 hundred miles but after that I sure wish I had these tires that I purchased in Jackson, Wyoming. I flatted a half dozen times prior to Jackson (a total of 622 miles from my home) then did not flat for the remaining 883 miles of the trip. I was still riding those tires 7 months after the ride and got a single flat when a goat thorn was able to squeeze itself between the treads. Wonderful tires and I will certainly use them again on the Mexico to Denver run next year!

REI Novara Express 2.0 Bike Jacket I was uncertain about purchasing this jacket based on some owners suggesting that the jacket didn’t actually shed rain, but when I went to REI to look at all of the options they offered, this jacket seemed to fit the bill the best: reasonably priced, zippers in the right places, good fit. What can I say? It worked. When it rained, I pulled on the jacket and I was dry. Take that, disgruntled owners. The other plus for this rain jacket is it acted as a wind break on those extremely cold days where the layers of heavy jersey and down jacket weren’t enough: throw on this jacket over the other layers and, voila, extra warmth.

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Headlamp Not recommending a specific brand, but this was my first camping experience with a headlamp and I loved it. You can get light where you need it AND still have your hands free to do whatever you need to do. I almost didn’t take a headlamp, figuring I could use my cellphone as a flashlight. I’m glad I didn’t go with that bonehead idea …

Warm Gloves Again, not recommending a specific brand, but I had started the trip with some lightweight polypro gloves and ended with some much thicker winter gloves. The thickness made it a bit more challenging to shift gears, but I sure loved having the extra insulation to keep my hands warm on those cold Montana mornings.

Down Sleeping Bag I took my old North Face down mummy bag and, in conjunction with the insulation from the tent, I never got too cold. On a few occasions I just opened up the bag and used it more like a blanket on top of me while I rested directly on the air mattress, but there were many nights that I had that down bag zipped all the way up with a small breathing hole in order to keep warm! I don’t like the snug fit of a mummy bag, but shaving a few more ounces off the sleeping bag budget was worth it.

Air Mattress I have an old Thermarest pad that I took with me. It has a foam liner but you can also blow it up for more padding … which I did. My pad was only a ¾ length pad, i.e. it went from my shoulders down to my knees and my toes rested directly on the tent floor, but that was just fine: my toes didn’t complain about not being coddled. I think the pad provided some insulation from the colder ground in Montana.

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Power Link I broke my chain twice on this trip. Each time I had to use a chain tool to drive the rivet out of the broken link to remove the broken link from the rest of the chain. The first time I did the repair, I reconnected both ends of the chain then I had to drive the rivet back in place using the chain tool. This is a reasonably difficult thing to do because there’s a lot of force involved and you must keep both ends of the chain in the chain tool while keeping the drive pin perpendicular to the chain and right in the middle of the rivet. Bike mechanics know what I’m talking about.. The second repair was much easier because the replacement chain had a power link: just put the link between the two ends of the chain and pull. You’re all done! The difficult work of driving the rivet with the chain tool is not required at all. On my next trip I will be sure to carry some spare power links!

Panniers I really feel like I lucked into these panniers. There were other panniers available at REI, but these panniers had plenty of volume and were very waterproof. I was able to carry all of my gear except the camping gear (tent, sleeping bag and pad) with room to spare, i.e. I didn’t have to compress things to make it all fit. The right pannier had my clothes, the left pannier had everything else. There is a mesh pocket in each pannier and I used the pocket in the left pannier to carry my smaller food items like power bars and jerky. In the morning I would put the bear protection kit and headlamp in that pocket, too, so that at the end of the day they would be readily accessible. The panniers reliably clipped on to the bike rack and they never, ever flew off in spite of my taking some serious bumps here and there on many epic downhill runs.

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“Est” Awards Best Gear

Garmin Etrex 20 GPS I almost failed to mention the GPS because it was such an integral part of the success of the project, it was almost like air: it’s critical to life but we just take it for granted. I would have been lost without this device. The ACA recommends that cyclists use a calibrated bike odometer to help in following the route on the map, but I really think this is penny wise, pound foolish. Decent GPS’s run for about a hundred bucks and I think it’s definitely worth the investment and the learning curve to effectively use this tool. See the Using the GPS section below for further discussion on the merits of the GPS. Why not use a phone GPS? There’s a real issue with power. With lithium batteries in the GPS I could ride 6 full days without changing out the batteries. You’d have to find a way to charge your phone every day. I also think the GPS screen would have better visibility.

And the Winner Is … Big Agnes Tent and Crossroads Tires What? A tie? The tent was great in that it remained warm and dry throughout the entire trip and the tires saved me from so much worry, uncertainty and delay associated with getting a flat tire. The other candidates in this category have nothing to be ashamed of; I will definitely be taking each and every one of them on my next long distance ride!

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Best Bear Protection Like our national defense which is built on the three legs of the nuclear triad stool (air, land and sea based delivery systems), the Keller Bear Defense System (KBDS) consists of three elements, each in its own right capable of fending off the largest ursa arctos (grizzly bear to you and me) should any of the other legs fail to deliver the necessary knockout punch. Each leg is described in excruciating detail below.

Air Horn The picture shows 2/3’s of the KBDS in the right inner corner of the tent, just below the zipper sliders. The object to the right is a small air horn that I purchased at the Sportsmans Warehouse in Helena (if you click on this link, you’ll get a street view image taken in June of 2012. Since that time, Wholesale Sports was converted to Sportsmans Warehouse. Really.). This potent, defensive system is a binary weapon, similar to some nerve gas delivery systems that consist of two elements: the red horn and the white compressed air canister. This aurally lethal weapon is transported safely during the day by not connecting the two elements, but just prior to hitting the hay, the two elements are screwed together, resulting in a powerful weapon of mass bear deterrence. I tried it out in the parking lot of the Super 8 for a brief instant and it nearly blew my ears off. The bear defense concept was that should a bear attack, I would grab the air horn and fire it off. Unlike a pepper spray canister, I really don’t have to aim it, but one hopes that I would NOT point it at my own ears. The marauding bear would simply have to release my scalp because it couldn’t withstand the sonic blast from that little contraption. I think it just might have worked as long as I could find the air horn and its vital button in the dark as the bear ripped through the tent. BTW, here’s an article investigating the literature on using air horns as bear deterrents.

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“Est” Awards Best Bear Protection

Pocket Knife Inside that black pouch is one of the utility tools I use for bike repair. In addition to the always vital bottle opener, there’s a 2 ½” knife blade. When I got into the tent, I’d unleash the knife blade and cover it with the pouch so I wouldn’t inadvertently slice my face up when I thrashed around on my luxurious stuff bag/down jacket pillow. The bear defense concept was that should a bear attack and the air horn fail, I would grab the knife and plunge it into the bear … somewhere. Not likely that this would do anything more than enrage the bear, but if I miraculously deflated a lung or ripped into the heart, the bear would continue to maul me until it collapsed right on top of me. If I were still alive, all I’d have to do is push a ¾ ton dead bear off me. Unbelievably, this is NOT the weakest element in the KBDS.

Stone When I was done with the tent staking I would place this rock inside the left side of the vestibule, right next to the zippers of the tent door. The bear defense concept was that should a bear attack and the air horn fail to deter the beast and the pocket knife didn’t strike home, I would be able to unzip the door, grab the rock and smash the unsuspecting bear’s skull as it tried to rip my scalp off with its massive claws. Yah, right …

And the Winner Is … There is no winner in this category. If a 1400 pound grizzly tore through my tent I suspect my puny counter measures would have had no effect.

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Most Desperate Time The Great Basin

I both loved and loathed the Day 9, 58 mile ride across the Great Basin in Wyoming. The love part was being out there all by myself. It is so rare that we can have that sense of isolation from everything. The loathe part was all of the hills, the wind and the road condition. It was grueling to bike this section, especially at the end of the day as the temperature rose and my stamina waned. See 2015.09.03 Pinedale.

The Lander Cutoff On Day 10 I had (turned out to be false) hoped that my ride through the sage and sand was over when I finally reached my first tree in about 70 miles of riding. Atlantic City and South Pass, small towns on the fringe of the basin, further enhanced that sense of relief. Wrong. Once I turned northwest on the Lander Cutoff I was smack dab right back in the same arid terrain with the same problems I had faced the previous days: hills and hills and hills, wind and wind and wind in my face. The temperature had risen, too, and combine that with breaking my chain, it was really quite a miserable time.

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“Est” Awards Most Desperate Time

I ended the day putting in 58.7 miles (good), but requiring 10 hours and 8 minutes to do it (bad … average speed of only 5.8 MPH), the longest “seat time” of the trip. I also got into camp at ≈7:21, the latest arrival time for the entire trip. Thing is … Day 10 changed my life. That brutally hard day taught me a couple very important, amazingly simple lessons:

It is what it is You’ll get there when you get there All of that desperate pain with a marvelous payoff … After that day I was a much better long distance bike rider and maybe a better human being. See 2015.09.03 Pinedale.

Flatting Before Union Pass What a day that was. For the first time on the trip I had a strong tailwind helping me so the riding was relatively easy, but I had a flat tire on the flats then another flat tire as I climbed up to Union Pass. Was I going to have a flat tire every 10 minutes for the rest of the trip??? Fortunately, I had a purchased a patch kit in Pinedale the previous day, but it meant finding the hole, patching it and hoping that the patch held. Very worrisome. See 2015.09.05.1633 Lava Mountain Lodge.

Flatting Before Moran Junction So, the previous day I had had two flat tires and now I had another flat tire. It was really getting to be too much! See 2015.09.05 Colter Bay Campsite.

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Losing the Rail Trail I was concerned about finding the trail and riding portions of it so maybe it was a selffulfilling prophecy when I couldn’t even find the trail. Nothing made sense with respect to the GPS and the description from the map. I rode about 45 minutes then turned around and took a different route to bypass the rail trail entirely. Very depressing that I had wasted precious “seat time” and had come up empty. Plus … it was a very steep climb out of the Warm River … See 2015.09.09 Lima, Montana.

Section after Union Pass to Lava Mountain Lodge On Day 13 it was cloudy nearly all day, I had been sleeted on and it was raining on and off as I had to climb steep hills on poor roads. Don’t forget I was also feeling uncertain about the bike as I had had two flats the previous day. I later figured out the obvious: I’m happier riding in sunshine rather than the rain … See 2015.09.05.1633 Lava Mountain

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“Est” Awards Most Desperate Time

The Squall Day 3 of my trip started out sunny and pleasant as I climbed out of Fraser and finally joined up with the official GDMBR. I had reached a decision point: head off route to Kremmling to get supplies or continue on. I continued on … … but not far. No sooner had I climbed the ¼ mile to the next turn I was blasted by strong, gusting winds, swirling up the sand and dirt of the next county road I had to ride. To the south a solid wall, ground to sky, of purple clouds drifted my way.

Holy sh*t! I continued down maybe another ¼ mile to the Colorado River, but that was that: the wall of water reached me and I was inundated by a powerful driving rain. I found a little ditch next to the road and hunkered down for 45 minutes, waiting out this unexpected squall. When the rain subsided, I started riding again, but the road now had a thin layer of mud, making riding all the more difficult. In two words … not … fun. Recall that this was Day 1 on the actual route. Was the rest of the trip going to be wet and soggy? See 2015.08.28 Day 5 Steamboat Springs.

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Rain at Radium Campground The morning of Day 2 of my ride on the official route and it is raining very steadily when I woke up. Man, I hope the whole trip isn’t this wet and soggy. I waited out the rain and fortunately, it subsided enough for me to break camp and get on my way. Dry Spot Where The Tent Was Set Up

See 2015.08.28 Day 5 Steamboat

And The Winner Is … The Lander Cutoff I think it was the heat, hills and headwinds that just ground me down that day. I’d ride up and over a hill, only to encounter yet another hill with a repeat of the same scenario. The additional problem with climbing such steep hills is that you are moving very slowly so the end objective seems like it is further and further away.

It is what it is You’ll get there when you get there Can’t change the route. No sense in worrying about arrival time at the desired campground: it will take as long as it takes.

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“Est” Awards Most Unexpected Interaction With Other People

Most Unexpected Interaction With Other People Prayer Session with Missy and Leighton It had been a hard Day 19, climbing out of the Grasshopper Creek valley past Maverick Mountain ski area, then flying down the back side. I should have continued down the road as there were other formal campgrounds noted on the map, but I had already put in 63 miles (7+ hours of seat time) and it was getting dark, so I pulled up short at Little Joe Campground. I was the only person in the campground until Missy and Leighton showed up. Things didn’t start too well between us as I walked over to their truck and jokingly told them the campground was full and they had to find another campground. Leighton didn’t think that was funny. After Leighton had backed their 5th wheel into a camping spot, I invited myself over to their campsite and we sat around the campfire where Leighton regaled me with gruesome grizzly tales until I pleaded with him to stop! With the conversation steered away from scaring the bejesus out of me, I talked a bit about all of the help I had received from so many people, allowing me to bike nearly 1000 miles at that point in the journey. I told them that, as an atheist, after I got the help, I felt bad that I couldn’t extend a wish that God would bless them for their help. This was a call to action for the devote Missy and Leighton. They asked if they could pray for me, I said yes, but I guess I didn’t expect them to pray right then and there. It was an odd moment: a devote atheist being prayed over by devote Christians as the fire crackled, the smoke rose and the grizzlies somewhere in the distance told gruesome tales of attacking humans …

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FAB Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would be attending the FAB (Food, Alcohol and Books) confab in Lewis and Clark County … I had reached Barbara Nye’s free cabin that she makes available to the riders on the GDMBR around 3-ish in the afternoon on Day 25. I had heard from the southbounders that this was a great place to stay, but I was there too early. I took pictures of the cabin then went up to the house to thank Barbara for being so generous to the riders.

What a strange first meeting we had! When I knocked on the door, Barbara was walking through the living room, her hair dripping from the hair dye that she had just applied. Thinking that I had seen her walk across the room (I hadn’t … she could have ignored me!), she felt it rude to just ignore me, so she answered the door in spite of the dye dribbling down her hair and on to a towel she had hastily wrapped around her neck. Undaunted by catching her at this awkward moment, I thanked her profusely for helping us riders.I think she was blushing beneath the dribbling dye … 71


“Est” Awards Most Unexpected Interaction With Other People

I told her, though, that I wasn’t staying and with that, turned my bike up the road and started the climb towards Stemple Pass. As I was riding, though, I really felt like I was making a mistake and should stay at the cabin. About 4-5 miles from the cabin, it really started to rain but I intuitively knew that this was just an afternoon squall which would blow out quickly. I made a deal with myself: if I was within 4 miles of the high point of that section of the route, I would continue on. I was 4.3 miles from the high point. A sign from the universe that I should turn around? Per my agreement with myself, I turned around and raced downhill back to Barbara’s house. As I pulled up to tell her that I was going to stay the night at the cabin, she was just leaving. For reasons I don’t understand to this day, she offered this muddy cyclist an option: either I could stay at the cabin OR join her for the monthly FAB gathering. Obviously, you know my choice … Clad in my stanky biking gear (I should have thought to suggest that I change into my Sunday go to meeting jersey and sweatpants that I had just washed the previous day in Helena …), I drove with Barbara to Connie’s house, picking up Donna on the way. At Connie’s house, I was greeted warmly and I pitched in to help prepare the meal and set the table. We ate a sumptuous meal then briefly talked about the book of the month. People ask me, “What was the title of the book?” and, frankly, I don’t remember, but the irony was there was only one person at the table that had actually read the book. In spite of the fact that I hadn’t read the book, I was in the majority! After dinner I helped clean up and got a warm hug from Connie as I left. What an odd, but wonderfully surprising experience to share with the FAB conclave. BTW, when I present the slideshow of my journey, I show the picture above and ask, “Which woman is Barbara?” Make your guess … (answer at the end of the section). One other thing to note here. Months after the ride, I looked closely at the GPS tracks of that day and, to my horror, discovered that when I turned around, I was only 3.91 miles from the pass!!!! I had agreed that I would continue and not stay at the cabin if I was less than 4 miles from the top. Rather than turn around, I should have continued. One of the best mistakes of my life!

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Atheist Discussion with Jim at 7 AM The next morning, after staying the night in the cabin, I headed out shortly after 7 AM. Not a quarter mile from the cabin, Jim was standing at the end of his ranch road. I stopped and told him that his border collie had done a good job of guarding their ranch as the previous day, when I raced downhill back to Barbara’s, the dog had chased after me and stayed right at my heel until I cleared their land. Jim was surprised to hear about that kind of behavior, but we continued to talk and somehow the conversation drifted to Jim’s closet atheism. He’s in the closet because, evidently, the population of the Prickly Pear Creek area is very religious. Sorry, Jim, I just outed you! It’s very odd what people want to tell me, but talking about atheism before morning coffee?

Counseling Tina Seeley Second to last day of the trip, I had climbed over 2000 feet from Whitefish and stopped to eat my second to last deli sandwich lunch at Red Meadow Lake, an achingly beautiful setting with autumn colors running up the side of the hill, massive austere sedimentary mountains off in the distance. A woman who had passed me in a car earlier was standing next to her car at the small parking area to the side of the lake. I invited her over to the picnic bench where I was preparing lunch and she accepted ¼ of the deli sandwich I had offered to her. She introduced herself as Tina Seeley and told me that she had come up to this spot to think about what she should do: stay in Pensacola or return to live in Montana? We talked about The Line (see 2015. 09. 15. 1140 The Line, The Zone, and Other Topics and the discussion of The Line below) which is a metaphor for taking control of your life and Tina Seeley really appreciated the discussion. What are the odds, though, that Tina Seeley and I would meet on the placid, still, mirror like shores of Red Meadow Lake to discuss her future? As I rode away, I told her I was the ghost of John Denver (since, as was my custom by that point in the trip, I was introducing myself as John Denver) and started singing “Rocky Mountain High, Colorado”. Since the odds are extremely low that Tina Seeley will ever see me again, I may well have been the ghost of John Denver.

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“Est” Awards Most Unexpected Interaction With Other People

Joining the Ovando Gran Fondo The Ovando Gran Fondo is an annual charity event to raise money for the Missoula Symphony. Upwards of 250 riders take to the dirt roads around Ovando, Montana, to ride various loops, the longest of which is 55 miles, earning pledge money for each mile they ride. The night before the Ovando Gran Fondo I was riding my bike to the Harry Morgan Fishing Access site along the North Fork of the Blackfoot River. That night and the next day I came across numerous signs for the Ovando Gran Fondo, but I had no idea what it was all about … … until I got up and out that next morning and crossed the start line for the event in downtown Ovando. What was very odd to me was riding past the parking lots filled with bike carrier equipped cars, cruising through the gathering of mountain bikers as they assembled their bikes and donned their gear, but not being challenged for one second as I ultimately rode my bike across the start line. I was the first rider to ride in the 2015 Ovando Gran Fondo! I started about ½ hour before the official 8 AM start of the event: at 8:24, the lead riders had already reeled me in! I urged the riders to come join me on my trek to Canada, only 300 miles to go, but there were no takers. At one point I stopped to talk to a volunteer who turned out to be the woman who had initially suggested the ride and has been organizing the event for a number of years. It was very cool that I had the chance to talk to her about the event. The happiest part of all of this was the realization that no one cared that I was “on the course”; rather, everyone laughed when they learned that I wasn’t really participating in the Ovando Gran Fondo and I enjoyed the company of other riders for a brief moment that morning just outside of Ovando, Montana. Maybe I should ride the fund raiser next year???

Old Man in Lima, MT After the scariest night of my life, I puttered into Lima, Montana, on Day 17 intent on getting a safe and secure motel bed. On the outskirts of town, as I was waiting to cross on to the main street, a man pulled up in a beat up car and started talking to me. Clearly he wasn’t the mayor of Lima with what must have been all of his worldly possessions in the back seat of that old sedan. As he lit up a cigarette, we talked about long distance riding, how the motel was ripping everyone off. After maybe 15 minutes of a pretty much one way conversation, he bid me adieu. The next morning …

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… as I was gathering meager supplies at the convenience store (the nearest real grocery store was, what?, 50 miles away?) at 6 AM, the old guy was in the convenience store! I should have bought him a cup of coffee. I returned to the motel, ate breakfast, packed up and set out… the old guy was sitting in his car on the other side of I-15, waiting for me(?). I told him I was hoping I’d do more than 80 miles that day, we chatted for a few minutes and then I was off. It just seemed so odd that I crossed paths with that probably homeless man 3 times in Lima, Montana.

Old Man, Blessing Me On day 7 I had dropped 300’ (and by dropped 300’ I mean I lost 300’ elevation … if I had actually dropped 300’ you probably wouldn’t be reading this) to the bottom of a gulch to cross Sage Creek and had started climbing out when an old blue pickup truck came down around the uphill switchback. The geezer inside slowed and made the sign of the cross over me and called out the window, “Good luck!” I think he was blessing me because he knew what was in front of me: a short (1 mile), but intense (413’ elevation gain, average slope of 7.8% with peak slopes of 12.3%) climb. I think he thought that I needed divine assistance, but all I really needed was my secret formula for hill climbing: “Push the right pedal down, then push the left pedal down, then push the right pedal down, then push the left pedal down …” This hill didn’t even get an honorable mention in the Worst Hill Climb section. When I finally crested the hill after nearly a half hour of pedaling, I decided I would name that section of the route “Gook Luck Hill”. BTW, as you know, this wasn’t the only time that someone asked for divine intervention on my part. Should I change my affiliation from atheist to blessed atheist?

Mountain Dew and Trail Mix Man After the scariest night of my life, I was cruising in the middle of nowhere Montana when I stopped to chat with a man in a pickup truck who was taking his wife into town. Very friendly, older man who said that over the summer he had talked to a number of riders riding the GDMBR. At the end of the conversation he said he’d see me again and asked if I needed anything. I jokingly told him that I could always use another Mountain Dew …

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“Est” Awards Most Unexpected Interaction With Other People

Fast forward to later that same afternoon. Down the road I could see a pickup truck and a bicyclist stopped in the middle of the road, both carrying on a conversation. Turns out it was the man I had met earlier that day and Tom from Alaska who I had heard about from other southbounders. The man was, once again, chatting with a GDMBR rider! As I pulled up to the confab, the driver reached over to the passenger seat, pulled out a plastic shopping bag and handed it to me: 2 Mountain Dews and a bag of trail mix!!! That was so kind and thoughtful! I asked the man his name so I could honor him in my journal and, uncharacteristically, I immediately forgot his name. Thank you for your kindness to me and the rest of the GDMBR crew, man whose name I have forgotten. After he drove off, I gave one of the Mountain Dews to Tom from Alaska. Tom from Alaska and I talked for quite a while about our journey then we pedaled off in opposite directions. Later that evening I bought dinner at Jan’s for Tom’s partners whom he had ditched …

And the Winner Is … FAB Every time I tell this story, people can’t believe that I attended this gathering, garbed in my biking shorts and jersey. Weeks earlier, as I planned my trip back in Thornton and thought about what might lie ahead, I never would have predicted that my adventure would include participating with this social club. BTW, the answer to the question “Which woman is Barbara?”? Barbara is the woman at the far end of the table. The woman in pink, whom you no doubt chose to be Barbara, is actually Connie.

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Most Scary Night Upper Lake Campground Unidentified wild animals racing, crunching, moaning through the campsite all night. The scariest night of my life as I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know what these animals were and if they were interested in eating me. See the 2015.09.09 Lima, Montana for a more complete description.

Tuchuck Campground A campground I rode a long way to reach on my last night in the backcountry, figuring that other people would be there to help fend off the wild animals that night. Didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go down that way: I was the only human being in that campground that evening. It was dead silent, the first quarter moon casting an eerie glow on the scene. I was in deep grizzly bear country and my mind raced from all of the accumulated bear horror stories people were more than happy to dump on me. See the 2015. 09. 23. 2226 Three Improbable Events blog entry for a more complete description. 77


“Est” Awards Most Scary Night

Union Pass Union Pass was both a candidate for best campsite and scariest night. I had stretched to reach that site because the ACA map suggested there was a nice informal campground there. It was nice: from the ridge I had a great view of the surrounding hills and it was within walking distance of a pit toilet, a luxury on the road. Problem was that a massive storm arouse while I was bedded down. Roaring wind, lightning, thunder. I was really worried that the trees around me would be blown down on top of me, not to mention the possibility of being pummeled to death by softball sized hail. See the 2015.09.05.1633 Lava Mountain Lodge blog entry for a more complete description.

And The Winner Is … Upper Lake Campground When you are shaking uncontrollably with fear, that’s got to take the cake, right? The Union Pass campsite was probably the next most dangerous in that I could have been hit by lightning or had a tree blow down on me. I asked for a great adventure and I got it …

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Most Weird Sign I had decided that I wouldn’t take pictures of landscapes mainly because A) the resulting pictures never look as good as the real thing since I wasn’t carrying a professional grade camera and B) you can usually find much better pictures on the web somewhere (e.g. pictures of the Grand Tetons). So, I ended up taking pictures of things that just struck my fancy. Like signs … … what gets me is that every sign I took a picture of was created by some well-meaning human being, manufactured and installed. And yet, they seem odd/funny to me. If this update isn’t financially successful, I’m thinking of doing a coffee table book of the world’s oddest signs. I suggest you first look at the pictures then read the explanatory text. Without further ado, weirdest signs:

Deer Xing On day 29 between Wayfarer’s State Park and Whitefish, Montana, I encountered many rafters of turkeys. This was the only day that I encountered turkeys on the entire trip. I have no idea why there was such a turkey concentration in this section of Montana.

John, this section isn’t about turkeys, it’s about weird signs. What’s so weird about this picture? Well, if you look to the left side of the picture, you can see an orange triangle. The sign says: DEER X’ING This either proves definitively that turkeys can’t read OR it validates their outlaw persona.

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“Est” Awards Most Weird Sign

Hanging Station Someone looked at this changing station and thought, “I could make this more fun if I could somehow peel off the ‘C’.” So they very carefully sliced the stencil to the left of the “H” then removed it, leaving a Hanging Station in its wake. Nice work! This was in the bathroom at Wayfarer’s State Park. You might ask what I was doing with my camera in that bathroom.

Priest Pass Many passes have signs right at the pass so that you know you’ve finally topped out. Here’s one such sign … On Day 25 it took me 1 ½ hours to climb the 1676’ from US 12 west of Helena to 5994’ Priest Pass. When I finally got to the pass I wanted to document my successful climb. I found this sign … … blown to bits!!! I think the sign is supposed to say: PRIEST PASS ELEV 5994 But someone got out their 50 caliber rifle / howitzer and blew two massive holes in that sign. BTW, I don’t think there was a single sign in the backcountry which was free of some sort of gunshot wound. Yet another reason to lobby for gun control: Save Our Signs (SOS)™.

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If Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s In Stock We Have It After a couple day rain delay, I was finally riding west out of Helena. I had to cruise through the city and as I passed the Sunset Liquor Store, I saw this sign. Just cracked me up at 7:30 in the morning. So I turned around to take a picture, but this proprietor had programmed up dozens of similarly funny sayings: I had to wait several minutes for this saying to come back around.

Property of State of Montana Penalty for Theft

Er, where is this property of the - STATE OF MONTANA??? I thought that maybe this is just a sign that says that it belongs to the STATE OF MONTANA and, if you steal this sign, there will be a penalty, but, during the slide show, some audience members have suggested that maybe whatever was behind that sign was already stolen!

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“Est” Awards Most Weird Sign

Welcome to Divide Gateway to the Big Hole Think about it …the Divide City Council got together and spent several weeks evaluating several different concepts for the sign that every single driver will see when they drive into Divide, Montana. After much heated debate, they finally unanimously agreed that this was the perfect sign. They paid someone to build the sign. They paid someone to install the sign. Did they fully appreciate what they had just done?

Here to Serve You Sign at Polaris Post Office Polaris, Montana, was a significant milestone in my journey on the GDMBR: it got me on to the very last map I needed to complete the journey. I had started out with 3 maps and now I only had to carry 1 map! So, I figured that I would mail Map 2 back to Colorado so I wouldn’t have to needlessly carry it to the Canadian border. And what better place to mail it from? The Polaris, Montana, post office. Unfortunately, it was closed … … as a matter of fact, the residents of the greater Polaris, Montana, metroplex need to get all of their postal needs completed in the 3 hour and 15 minute window between 9:15 AM and 12: 30 PM. Here to serve you …

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Next 10 Miles WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE NEXT 10 MILES??? IS IT GOOD OR BAD???? … Why did someone break off the top of this sign? I would think it would be a lot of work to snap that post in two. On Day 15 I encountered this sign just west of Grassy Lake which is nestled between Yellowstone and the Tetons. There are bear and moose in the area. The road is dirt and not in great condition. The road winds through the forest with some switchbacks and ruts here and there. It was about 10 miles to the Idaho border. Any of that have anything to do with the next 10 miles? I never did figure out what was so important about the next 10 miles such that there would be a sign warning me and my fellow travelers about it.

NOV-MAY Bear with me for a second here … This is a sign that simply says NOV – MAY. What kind of sign is that??? Information content seems very low. If you look closely, you’ll see a very complicated sign above the fixed NOV – MAY sign. The upper sign is hinged and there’s a wire/pulley system that is probably used to unfold the upper sign, revealing to the driving public something very special and secret that can’t be exposed until NOV-MAY. For some reason the State of Wyoming went to a lot of trouble to ensure that you don’t know about what will happen in NOV-MAY outside of NOV-MAY. What harm could there be knowing this information outside of that time period? Now, I could have solved this problem by sneaking up to the sign and unhinging the sign a bit to have a look see at the terrible secret, but I didn’t. Why? Because maybe there’s some curse associated with knowing what’s on that sign outside of NOV-MAY. 83


“Est” Awards Most Weird Sign

Nipple Peak Trail # 1147 Is this self-explanatory or what?

Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be at Vehicle Owners Expense Am I the only one who is curious about what will happen to unauthorized vehicles? Someone designed this sign and hung it but didn’t notice that it isn’t quite complete? Maybe this is a general purpose sign you can get at Ace Hardware and you’re supposed to fill in the blank after the UNAUTHORIZED VEHICLES WILL BE: TOWED IMPOUNDED CRUSHED SHOT UP WITH A SHOTGUN

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Alcohol at the Butte Library Man, do NOT get caught with alcohol at the Butte Library! The consequences are pretty dire! And, just so you know, there are NO WARNINGS You have alcohol, we catch you, no library privileges for you! Evidently this was a big enough problem at the Butte library that some committee designed this sign, had it printed out and posted it. Is this telling me something about the patrons of the Butte Library?

Caution Forklifts Entering Why post this sign? If Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m standing on the street, wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t it be obvious to me that forklifts are entering this door? Do I need an additional sign to inform me that forklifts are entering? Maybe this sign should have read

CAUTION FORKLIFTS EXITING Perhaps this is a warning to all forklifts: you can enter, but you can never leave.

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“Est” Awards Most Weird Sign

Up What are you trying to tell me? Should I look up? Is there something ahead on the road? This was the only sign of its kind on the road out of the Warm River valley. If there were many like it, I might think that the sign is just one of series of signs helping me to follow some secret route the locals know about, but this sign was the only sign like it on this road. What is also interesting to me is, on closer inspection, this isn’t the original sign. You can see that some other, larger sign had been removed and replaced by this arrow. I wonder what that sign said?

User Contribution I love when people who see my work are inspired … No, I didn’t take this picture, but I sure wish I had. Another clever sign modification. Thanks for the picture, Noose!

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And the Winner Is … Big Hole I present many of these signs in my slide show and without a doubt, the biggest laugh I get is the Welcome to Divide Gateway to the Big Hole. In the slide show I set up the slide like I describe in this document then I show the slide … 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … HUGE LAUGHTER The second most popular slide seems to be Nipple Peak Trail #1147. When I do the slide show, I don’t even set up the slide; I just show the slide … 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … HUGE LAUGHTER I go on to explain that the west was settled by horny explorers without much imagination.

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“Est” Awards Most Desolate Section Of The Trip

Most Desolate Section of the Trip The Great Basin It really depends on where you want to start the accounting for the number of vehicles that I encountered, but I like to pick the Day 9 crossing from A&M reservoir to Diagnus well. On that day, I encountered just one vehicle. That’s what I say in the slide show and it’s true, but the fact of the matter is that I also encountered three motorcycles and one southbounder on the GDMBR. In addition to this more correct accounting, I went by the Bison Basin Oil Field Camp which spanned several square miles and I clearly saw people working there. When those elements were not around, though, I was so alone in the midst of the sage and rolling terrain. At one point the road narrowed to just a couple ruts which heightened my sense of being in a place few people visited. The howling wind in my face, working hard to keep me trapped in this desolate region, added to my sense of loneness. See 2015.09.03 Pinedale.

Whitefish Road / 9899 to Tuchuck Campground Once I got out of Whitefish, I encountered just a couple vehicles on the road up to Red Meadows Lake. I did, of course, run into The Marshal with his 5 other ATM buddies and Tina Seeley who drove by me before I found out who Tina Seeley was, but that was it. I had to traverse the relatively busy North Fork Road then back on the 9899 up to Tuchuck. I did not encounter a single vehicle on that road. With the exception of the traverse along North Fork Road, this was a very lonely day.

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Road after Big Sheep Creek Once again, I found myself crossing sage country. I met a couple of ATV drivers out there, but that was it until I got close to Swartz Creek where a road maintenance crew was working on improving the road.

And The Winner Is â&#x20AC;Ś The Great Basin I could see for miles in that locale and I could NOT see any indication of humanity short of the road that I was traveling on. A truly profound sense of isolation. I loved it â&#x20AC;Ś

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“Est” Awards Worst Injury

Worst Injury Sunburned Lips OK. I admit that sometimes I’m slow to realize that there’s a problem developing and by the time it dawns on me that I’m in trouble, I’m in trouble. Not exactly sure when my lips became a problem, but I think it was on the long haul from Ladder Ranch to Rawlins with 8 ½ hours in the seat under sunny skies and very windy conditions. I had been slathering the sunscreen on my face and neck, but didn’t think to do something about my lips. Bad decision … My lips dried and cracked and I fought that problem for the next couple weeks, uncharacteristically using an assortment of lip balms to A) hydrate those crispy, dry lips and B) to protect them from further damage. By the end of the ride, my lips were back to their normal, voluptuous, sexy selves, but it took a while to get back to that state.

Tweaked Knee Outside of Steamboat Springs I stopped to take a picture of the Cora Post Office in Wyoming on my way out of Pinedale and when I got back on the bike and took the first stroke, my left knee really hurt. Wha???? How did that happen? Was it something about how I stood to take the picture or something to do with the angle of attack on that first stroke or had my left knee been slowly degrading and I just noticed it then? For the rest of the day, I was worried that the ride might end prematurely because of whatever silly thing I had done starting up my bike. Fortunately, the next day the pain evaporated and I didn’t have any knee problems for the rest of the trip. Phew!

Clicking Back I think something odd happened at the Sundance Motel in Pinedale because the next day as I climbed out of that basin, my back started to “click” on every stroke. It was almost as if some vertebrae had been dislodged and was sliding back and forth across the other vertebrae rather than just properly seating and staying put. And this was a very pronounced “click” with each stroke. Wasn’t my bike, wasn’t my pedal, it was my back. I could feel the movement with each stroke. The odd thing was it didn’t hurt at all, just click, click, click, click … I didn’t notice when the symptoms cleared up and my back went back to its normal silent mode of operation, but I was grateful that nothing came of the clicking back incident. 90


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Split Right Thumb My bike has two derailleurs. For those not familiar with bicycle components, a derailleur moves the chain from one gear to the next gear. This gear movement is required so that I can keep “the engine” spinning at around 80 RPM across a wide variety of terrain: use lower gear combinations when climbing, higher gear combinations when going downhill. See 2015.09.03 Pinedale for a discussion of the engine. My left hand shifts between the three big gears (AKA chainwheels) directly connected to the pedals. For the most part I only shift between these gears when making a big transition: going from riding downhill to riding uphill, going from riding uphill to riding downhill. My right hand shifts between the 9 gears on the rear cassette. These gears “fine tune” the ride to ensure that “the engine” is always spinning at 80 RPM. Road goes up a little bit, downshift; road goes down a little bit, upshift. Back and forth, forth and back, seeking the right gear to ensure that the engine is happy. For the most part, this shifting is “unconscious”: I automatically shift to the desired gear as “the engine” lugs (shift down, dammit!) or spins too fast (upshift, now!). The right thumb downshifts, the right index finger upshifts. For the sake of argument, let’s say that I have to shift every two minutes so everyone is happy. Half of the shifts will be done with my right thumb (the other half, as noted above, are done with my index finger) and with a seat time of 192 hours, that’s about 2880 thumb shifts over the course of the ride. Evidently, my right thumb didn’t like all that pressing and eventually the skin split. The odd thing is that I really didn’t notice any pain associated with the split … just looked kinda ugly.

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“Est” Awards Worst Injury

Saddle Sores Gratefully, no pictures of this injury … About halfway through the trip, I noticed that I was developing painful blisters on both sides of the derrière region which contacted the bike seat. To this day I’m not sure of the root cause: was it the seam of my underwear or just the contact point with the seat? Regardless of the cause, those blisters were … … painful. And unavoidable. If I was going to ride, I would have to ride sitting on those blisters. I dreaded getting on the saddle each morning and tried to find riding positions that would minimize the blister contact with the seat while not putting my knees in some awkward position which might blow out my knees in the process. For the most part, I was unsuccessful in finding a pain free riding position. I stopped wearing underwear and that might have helped a bit, but this remained a problem for the entire second half of the ride. When I attempt the southern portion of the GDMBR, I will A) not wear underwear and B) drop some baby powder into my biking shorts every morning in the hopes that the talc will provide sufficient lubrication to prevent the blistering.

And the Winner Is … Saddle Sores As I was writing this section of the final update, I thought it was kinda humorous that my problems were just split lips or cracked thumbs. When I was racing downhill on dirt roads at speeds approaching 48 MPH, the slightest mechanical problem could have locked up the wheels, I’d be thrown over the handlebars and I’d be eating dirt for a couple hundred feet. Major skin abrasion, possible broken bones, possible concussion. Didn’t happen … I had started this ride with symptoms of sciatica and structured the ride the way I did (i.e. starting from Denver rather than the Canadian border), figuring that if I had back problems, I wouldn’t be that far from home when I had to call for a rescue. Rather than getting worse, within a few days of riding, the sciatica symptoms disappeared. WOW! Every morning my lower back was stiff and it took a while before it felt normal (and by “normal” I mean a constant, low level of pain), but it did return to normal. At the end of the day my back hurt, but no more so than I would expect if I were hunched over, riding for 7 hours. I had that weird clicking incident as noted above but nothing came of that, either. I was really fortunate that my back held up. Maybe sleeping on the ground and hunching for 7 hours is good therapy? I had heard from southbounders about fellow riders that had to bag the ride because of injuries. I was really fortunate in that I didn’t sustain an injury that forced me to retire early. As for the winner, my tush is still tender … 92


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Worst Hill Climb If my GPS is to be believed, I ended up climbing a total of 109753 feet. That’s almost exactly 4 times the height of Mt. Everest. I climbed Mt. Everest then went back to sea level then … I climbed Mt. Everest then went back to sea level then … I climbed Mt. Everest then went back to sea level then … I climbed Mt. Everest, waited for a helicopter to take me off the peak To put it another way that we can all relate to (HAH!), that’s like climbing One World Trade Center 62 times. I climbed One World Trade Center then took the elevator back to the first floor then … I climbed One World Trade Center then took the elevator back to the first floor then … I climbed One World Trade Center then took the elevator back to the first floor then … (repeat 58 times!!!!) I climbed One World Trade Center then took the elevator back to the first floor, stopped at the drinking fountain in the lobby and got a much needed drink of water Man, that’s a lot of climbing … The climbs below represent the most memorable, “worst” hill climbs of the trip. There might have been climbs that were actually worse (steeper, longer, technically more challenging), but these are the climbs that stick in my head … The elevation plots are clipped from GPS data displayed in Google Earth Pro. The red area represents elevation and the blue area represents speed.

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“Est” Awards Worst Hill Climb

Climb Out of Divide Day 19, northeast of Divide, Montana, I started this hellacious climb. The dirt road had pretty good traction but there were spots that were rutted with some areas of loose gravel/small rocks that made it difficult at times to get a good bite with the rear tire to keep the climb moving forward. In the steeper sections I found myself zig-zagging back and forth, from one edge of the road to the other, in an attempt to reduce the pitch of the climb. I got so tired that I had to stop to regain my strength and eat lunch. This 15 minute break affected the total time and average speed, but, honestly, I was not going to set any records on this climb even if I hadn’t stopped for lunch.You can see from the plot and statistics that this climb did NOT give up: it was 1381’ straight up with only 1’ of elevation loss the entire 3 miles. Sometimes climbs will have little plateaus where I could catch my breath and get some sugars back into my legs, but not this climb: 100% uphill! Distance: Elevation Gain/Loss: Max Slope: Avg Slope: Climb Time: Average Speed:

3.17 miles 1381,-1.08 feet 14.7%, 8.1% 1:47:07 1.8 MPH

I almost rode this thing all the way without having to push, but I got right near the top and spun out. At that point it was so steep I could not get restarted and had to walk my bike about 30 feet until the pitch was low enough that I could get restarted again. It was sunny and getting warm as I took nearly two hours to go 3 miles, but, fortunately, there wasn’t any wind to speak of so I wasn’t also fighting a headwind. What I didn’t show here is that I wasn’t done climbing for the day: I still had another 826’ to go that took me another 1 ½ hours to get through. Total climbing for that day was 4286’.

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Climb Up to Old Bannack Road Distance Elevation Gain/Loss: Max Slope: Avg Slope: Climb Time: Average Speed:

30.2 miles 2662, -780 feet 10.9%,-7.7% 1.9%,-1.7% 6:11:46 4.9 MPH

It’s not so funny seeing these climbs represented as mere statistics. This climb doesn’t look that bad at all! You should have been out there with me … Desolate, scrub brush, wind in my face, slightly rolling terrain, decent dirt road. Every little uphill dropped my speed below 5 MPH which was very depressing.

Took me 6 hours to do this climb. The worst part was that super steep climb at the very end of this segment. I thought I was done at the 26 mile point and was flying downhill, but was really bummed out when I realized that not only was I losing elevation that I would eventually have to make up, I’d have to make up that lost elevation in a very steep climb. That little climb at the end was 460’ of nonstop climbing with an average slope of 7.0% and a maximum of 11%. Took me nearly a half hour to cover just 1.2 miles. That was one of those climbs where I just put my head down and only looked at the next 10’ in front of me. If I had looked up the slope I would have been so disheartened. I had to zig-zag that portion of the climb, but the very cool thing was I rode all of it and was totally surprised when I reached the high point: wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be!

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“Est” Awards Worst Hill Climb

Climb Out of Warm River Distance: Elevation Gain/Loss: Max Slope: Avg Slope: Climb Time: Average Speed:

12.0 miles 1137,-247 feet 8.3%,-5.3% 2.1%,-1.4% 2:01:04 5.9 MPH

Oh for cryin’ out loud, these statistics are making me look like a total wimp for putting this climb into the climbing hall of fame. But take a look at the blue speed profile and you get a hint of what I was facing. See those low speed spikes? I was going less than 2 MPH at times!!!! I had just “lost” the rail trail and had to drop back into the Warm River valley and climb back out. I think I was really unhappy about not finding the rail trail AND losing 45 minutes of seat time so that didn’t help my mood as I started my second long climb out of the Warm River valley. This was the climb where I stopped at the Lower Mesa Falls Overlook to catch my breath. Some other sightseers were there and they remarked, “We just couldn’t believe that you were climbing those hills!!!” I, of course, gave them my little tutorial on how to climb hills: “Push the right pedal down, then push the left pedal down, then push the right pedal down, then push the left pedal down …”

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Climb to Togwotee Pass Distance: Elevation Gain/Loss: Max Slope: Avg Slope: Climb Time: Average Speed:

9.85 miles 1871,-121 feet 14.7%,-5.1% 3.9%,-1.8% 2:21:42 4.2 MPH

Hmmm … looking at these statistics I don’t feel too bad. When I made this climb I thought I wasn’t moving at all! This day started after being up most of the night with the loud neighbors adjacent to the Lava Mountain Resort.

It was so cold that the ponds along the side of the road had ice on them and, in spite of this tough climb to start the day which required a lot of exertion, I could not get enough blood flowing to my toes to keep them warm. I felt like I was biking with two big blocks of ice clipped into the pedals. Again, if you look at the blue speed chart, you can see that most of the climb was done at less than 5 MPH with some spikes lower than 2 MPH That’s slow …

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Lander Cutoff This was the long, hot, against the wind climb on the Lander Cutoff. Statistically it doesn’t look too bad: just 1758’ of climbing with an average grade of 2.1%, but it was those 9.8% grades, the rolling terrain (hard climb up, short ride down, hard climb up, short ride down …) and the stiff wind that made this very difficult. The dirt road was not a problem. Distance Elevation Gain/Loss: Max Slope: Avg Slope: Climb Time: Average Speed:

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20.7 miles 1758,-1050 feet 9.8%,-7.3% 2.1%,-2.1% 4:57:58 4.2 MPH

The rolling conditions are reflected in the speed graph (blue): long sections of chugging along at less than 5 MPH in the climbs, little spikes of zooming upwards of 32 MPH on the downhills. Five tedious hours of fighting the wind and gravity …


The Last Northbounder John Keller

Climb out of the Colorado River Distance Elevation Gain/Loss: Max Slope: Avg Slope: Climb Time: Average Speed:

11.2 miles 3341,-1075 feet 18.4%, -17.8% 7.5%,-6.3% 5:41:14 2.0 MPH

Now that’s a climb… I did this climb on day 4. It had rained the previous day and was raining on and off for most of day 4. At one point the road was so muddy I could NOT ride it because the mud was packed into my front fork.

My climbing resources (legs, lungs and mindset) were still quite green at this early point in the trip and I found myself actually pushing my bike up some small sections of this climb (maybe the 18.4% grades?). What’s up with that? What about the zig-zag technique??? The disheartening parts of this section were what I would come to call “creeking”: dropping all the way down to some creek then climbing all the way back out. You can see that happening in the red altitude graph starting around the 6 mile point: drop down, climb out, drop down, climb out. Sure, it was fun to do the drops, but then I’d reach the bottom and look up that steep hill I’d have to essentially reclimb and wonder, “Why doesn’t someone put a bridge across these valleys?”

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Climb out of the Grasshopper Valley Distance: Elevation Gain/Loss: Max Slope: Avg Slope: Climb Time: Average Speed:

10.5 miles 2109, -675 feet 13.7%, -13.6% 4.7%, -3.4% 3:03:38 3.4 MPH

Three hours to go 10 miles??? As I was in my sub granny gear (i.e. in my lowest gear but not cranking along at 80 RPM), I stopped and chatted with a 12 year old kid. He told me that I could go faster up the hill if I climbed in a higher gear. I explained to him that if I did that I would bog down and start crying. The climb out of the valley was on a switch backing, asphalt road. I could hear the traffic coming in either direction because the car/motorcycle was either immediately above me or immediately below me. Knowing when the traffic was coming, I was able to “cut the chord” around the curves: rather than stay in my lane on the outside of the curve, I would cut across the inside of the other lane to minimize the distance I traveled. Less distance climbing is a good thing.

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Day 1 Turns out that the most climbing I did in a single day was on Day 1. It was also the day I did the most pushing of my bike. This segment peaked at the second highest elevation of the trip. Steep, no air to breath! Distance Elevation Gain/Loss: Max Slope: Avg Slope: Climb Time: Average Speed:

24.0 miles 7982,-2851 36.5%,-23.0% 8.0%,-5.2% 7:41:05 3.1 MPH

The odd thing is I almost didn’t include this climb in this list. Why? Because I had ridden portions of the climb in the past and already knew it was going to be a serious climb so I guess it didn’t even register as a hard climb. It should have …

And the Winner Is … Lander Cutoff Boy, Lander Cutoff is really taking a lot of the “worst” awards. That hill climb really wasn’t the worst technically, but all of the elements that conspired to make it so long, hot and difficult made it the one hill climb I never, ever want to do again as long as I live …

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“Est” Awards Worst Piece Of Gear

Worst Piece of Gear Bike Chain I sure wish I knew what chain I had put on to the bike before leaving because I would avoid that chain like the plague in the future. I have never broken a chain while riding but I broke that chain not once, but twice. Very fortunate that my multi-tool had a chain tool on it; otherwise I would have been stranded in the middle of nowhere on the Lander bypass, miles from any town.

Underwear OK, I admit that I don’t know the true reason for getting saddle sores, but I’m going to blame it partially on my underwear. As noted at the very beginning of this unbelievably long treatise, I pumped my legs 1.6M times. Each stroke rubbed my tush against the seat and I suspect that the seam on the underwear rolled with each stroke, aggravating the pressure on that tender spot. As noted in the worst injury section, next ride I will do sans underwear and with baby powder.

Panaracer Smoke Tires It’s not exactly fair to blame all of the flats I had on these tires, but fact of the matter, these tires are for mountain biking, not forest service road/asphalt riding. They did the job for 350 miles, thank you, but after that they were problematic for the next 275 miles. Yesterday I bought 4 of these tires. Wha??? I love them for mountain biking! And yesterday I bought 2 Specialized Crossroads tires which I will use for the Mexico to Denver trip this year …

Toe Covers I was seeking a solution for my freezing feet when I started riding on those cold Montana mornings. While holed up in Helena due to the rain, I stopped in at the Great Divide Cyclery to buy a spare derailleur cable and, while I was browsing around, I found a pair of toe covers that seemed like they would work.

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Toe covers just put an extra layer between the freezing, morning air and my tender toes. The toe covers I bought were made of a stretchy, neoprene like material with another layer inside the cover. I was shocked that they were $30 when the clerk rang them up, but at that price, they must be good, right? Well, a few days later, the strap across the bottom of the right toe cover broke and that was all she wrote for that toe cover. Man, that thing didn’t even last a few days! But the left toe cover did survive the last week/400 miles of the ride. I just left it on my left foot, never pulling it on and off. Now, here’s the thing: I had my left toe covered, right toe “naked”. Was my left toe warmer on those cold Montana mornings? No. A total waste of money …

Cell Phone I took my cellphone with me so I could access the Internet and make phone calls as necessary. A few problems: 1) There was no T-Mobile service in Wyoming and Montana. I didn’t realize until late in the game, though, that I could roam for voice calls for free so, eventually, I did place a few calls while in Montana. Even if there were TMO service (and, to be clear, there was NO TMO service), I was in such remote areas that there wasn’t any cellphone access at all. I had to wait until I got within range of highways or cities before I could use my phone. 2) There was no roaming Internet access in Wyoming and Montana. Yes, I could roam for voice calls, but no, I couldn’t access the web through my phone. 3) The battery froze each night. Because of the problems noted immediately above, the main use of my phone was: alarm clock. As you may know, I found myself riding against the wind all too often, BUT if I got out early, I could get a few hours of still air before my old nemesis, the howling headwind, would build up. So, every night I would set the alarm on the phone and every morning, the alarm would go off. At least that was reliable! But each morning the battery level would be something like 5% when the previous night it was fully charged. How could it discharge overnight when it wasn’t doing anything: not connected to cellphone towers, not connected to Wi-Fi, not running programs to analyze SETI data, etc.? 103


“Est” Awards Worst Piece Of Gear

Cell Phone (cont.) It finally dawned on me that what was going on was the battery was freezing and the phone interpreted this very cold battery as being totally discharged. I should have put this together sooner since mysteriously the battery level was back to normal at the end of the day and I hadn’t charged the phone. I was able to find Wi-Fi hotspots here and there during my travels so I did occasionally use the phone to get to the Internet to check emails and send updates. So I guess I shouldn’t totally disparage carrying the phone.

And the Winner Is … Panaracer Smoke Tires Flat tires are a drag. Not only do I have to stop to repair the tire, the possibility of flatting injects a lot of uncertainty about reaching my goal for the day. Fixing a flat takes about ½ hour which can translate to upwards of 5 less miles of travel or, conversely, requiring riding later in the day to reach my goal. Also there’s a serious problem with stability, trying to ride on a flat tire. Fortunately, I didn’t get a flat tire while screaming down a hill at 48 MPH (note: at that speed, the tires aren’t actually touching the road …); had I flatted at those speeds it would have been a challenge to safely haul down the speed and stop. I’m up for that challenge.

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Worst Thing I Hauled from Denver and Didn’t Use When you’re moving yourself and your gear 1504.5 miles, up 4 Mt. Everests, you’d rather not move something you will never use. Here’s a list of things that I really didn’t need, but I hauled to the Canadian border and up 4 Mt. Everests.

Bike Lock I used this, what?, twice the entire trip in cities where I just didn’t know if someone might see an opportunity to steal all of my stuff, leaving me high and dry. The lock/cable I had weighed a couple pounds; a lot of weight for such little use. I still like the idea of having something to keep the casual thief from just peddling away with my bike, though. Next time I’ll find something lighter …

Buff This is a fancy bandana. See this link for a detailed description. I thought that with my long hair I’d be wearing this all the time to keep the hair out of my face, but the right formula turned out to simply be tying my hair back in a ponytail and then putting on my fluorescent marathon cap. I think I used this a couple times as a wash cloth.

Spork I thought I might actually eat out of cans or something. I did not. I just ate sandwiches and candy bars. Spork not required.

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“Est” Awards Worst Thing Hauled From Denver And Didn’t Use

Schrader to Presta Adapter The bicycle world has settled on two different types of valves for bicycle tubes: schrader and presta. Schrader valves can be found on the tires of almost any vehicle on the planet, presta valves are only found in fancy-schmancy bicycles. I have a fancy-schmancy bicycle; therefore, I have presta valves.. I carried a presta pump which I used too often to fill my tires after replacing inner tubes, but what if that pump broke? If I pulled into a gas station to fill up with air, I’d be out of luck because gas stations only support Schrader valves: I’d be holding the air chuck in my hand, cursing the bicycle gods that my pump had broken. Schrader to presta adapter to the rescue. Just slip this adapter over the presta valve and, voila, the gas station air pump will fill my tire. But, really, what are the odds of the pump breaking? And if it were to break, would I be standing next to a gas station when that happened? And if it were to break, I’d be definitely be buying a replacement pump in the next town because I wouldn’t want to be without a pump in the remote backcountry. I did not use this at all on the trip.

Matches/Fire Starter I only had one time when I wanted to start a fire: my last isolated camp site at Tuchuck campground. I spooked myself into being overly worried about grizz wandering through camp and thought that maybe I should start a fire to prove to those bears once and for all that I belong to the superior species and if they mess with me they might get charred before mauling me. Unfortunately, it was pitch black when I thought about starting that safety fire. I didn’t’ have any wood nor kindling at my campsite so I’d have to head out into the darkness and scrounge up the materials to get a bonfire roaring. What’s more dangerous? Hiding out in the tent or wandering around in the dark? I opted to hide …

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AARP Card I figured I might use it to save money at motels. Turns out that the biggest discount comes not from the AARP but from Expedia. I had called the Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge to get their best price but it was too high. I asked if they had an AARP discount; yes, but 10% off too high was still too high. I happened to be at the Whitefish library so I checked Expedia and the price on Expedia was about $50 less than the price I was just quoted. I called back and asked if they could match their price on Expedia and, oddly, they said no. So I just booked the room through Expedia; I saved money and they lost money paying Expedia a commission. That’s no way to run a railroad …

Zip Lock Bags I figured I’d want to keep things dry, but the panniers were so awesome that if I wanted to keep something dry, I just put that something into the panniers.

And the Winner Is … Bike Lock In my defense, my packing list said: _ Bike Lock (?) So, even before I left, I had an inclination that maybe a bike lock wasn’t required. For the most part, I didn’t carry too much excess gear. I have Matt and my sister to thank for that: I reviewed my packing list with them and they helped me to winnow the list down to the bare essentials. A couple of the couples I encountered were carrying special cushions just for sitting at picnic tables. Really?

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“Est” Awards Worst Campground

Worst Campground KOA in Butte Evidently this site was so bad I didn’t even take a picture? I straggled into Butte late on Day 20, nearly rode out of Butte before discovering that the KOA was in the flatland so I rode back downhill (yes, but the next morning …) and got a tent site at the KOA Journey campground for $30. Gads … • Right next to I-15 so I had semi tractor trailers roaring by all night • Right next to a bike path that was frequented by loud drunks; at least they knocked it off by 11 • An orange security light shone right into my tent all night Here’s the first entry in my journal the next morning: Slept with down bag over head to make it dark due to security light shining in tent. Not so pleasant … and I paid $30 for this torture! If I had to do it all over again, I’d pay the extra $30 and get a room somewhere.

Lava Mountain Lodge I think I paid $18 for the privilege of staying here. I got a hot shower and a great brisket dinner (that was extra) so I was feeling pretty good … until 1 AM when one of the nearby residents decided to demonstrate how loud his stereo could be … through the wall of his house. For another hour and a half, country western bass ump … ump … ump … ump’d through the valley. Sorry about that, rutting elk, if that messed up your mating calls. Meanwhile, there was a party going on at the house next store and every hour they’d come outside to smoke, laugh, make inane comments and flirt with one another. I was hoping that when a car drove away around 3 AM that the party was over. Gratefully, it was.

And the Winner Is … KOA in Butte, hands down. Fellow bikers, find somewhere else to stay if you’re stuck in Butte!

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“Est” Awards Topics I Considered But Didn’t Actually Write About … Maybe In The Future?

The Last Northbounder John Keller

Topics I Considered but Didn’t Actually Write About ...Maybe in the Future? As you can readily tell, I’m no professional author. It has taken me several months to put together this document and there is so much more to write about. A professional author would have done a much better job of editing out the noise of their work, simplifying, concentrating. The goal of this document is to entertain but also to enlighten anyone who might want to follow in my tread prints. As such, the latter goal requires writing about some mundane, boring and tedious topics. Hard to be motivated to do so as the months drift by without publishing this work. So, in the interests of getting this document out before the Singularity hits, I am not writing about the following topics. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll flesh these things out, but, really, is this document the worse for not having these topics addressed?

Best Motel

Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge in Whitefish Vance’s Mother-in-law’s place in Fraser

Best Library

Fraser Pinedale Eureda Helena Butte Steamboat Springs

Best Rest Area

Outside of Atlantic City Closed Rest Area on I-15

Best Pizza

Island Prairie Lincoln Costco

Funniest Moment

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Part IV - The Profound Just a few larger, less specific thoughts about some big, spiritual(?) concepts that happened during the trip.

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The Profound The Line

The Line Can anyone tell me why things happen the way they happen? The concept of “The Line” which I think may have had a serious impact on the lives of several individuals I encountered on the trip was all due to a cranky woman from Belgium … … if it hadn’t been for that woman, the lives of many individuals would be different today. The world would be different today. If your life was changed by our discussion of “The Line”, you have this cranky, Belgian woman to thank. Thank you, cranky, Belgian woman. On day 10, winner of the Most Desperate Time award, I ended the day at an informal campground at Spring Creek. An eclectic group of 4 other southbounders had converged on that site: a solo American man, a solo Norwegian man, a Norwegian woman and a Belgian woman who were travelling together. We gathered around a small campfire and ate our dinners. I asked my standard, icebreaker questions, including “What’s been the worst part of the trip so far?” Cranky, Belgian woman piped up that the road conditions were awful, making for very difficult riding. Her Norwegian partner quickly rose to her defense, suggesting that in spite of the difficult road conditions, they had ridden every single inch of the official route. But the damage had been done in my head. Why was she complaining about the road conditions? This was, after all, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and one would hope that some part of the route would actually be mountain bike trails. Note to the uninitiated: mountain bike trails are not paved, it ain’t easy riding. There are often rocks and roots and sand and loose soil that take a certain amount of skill to ride successfully. At that point in my ride, I had ridden 498.7 miles and hadn’t come across any part of the route that I would consider to be mountain bike trails. Even the dirt roads I had ridden on were just fine, thank you very much. What was this cranky Belgian woman talking about??? The seed was planted … … over the ensuing days I got to thinking about what this woman had said and eventually it became clear to me that she was not a mountain biker. If she were a mountain biker, she would have understood that every trail has a line, a path through the trail that is the optimum track for traversing that section of the trail. If you ride the line, you are doing the best you can; if you are not riding the line, your bicycling life can be hell! Now, nearly 100 miles of riding down the road and hours and hours and hours available for reflection, I thought about that encounter with the cranky Belgian woman and I realized that I had been riding the line for the past 596.0 miles without even thinking about it. As I did the long climb up to Union Pass, I ran into southbounders “71 Year Old Doug” and Kendall who both complained about the road conditions. 112


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What are you talking about??? They weren’t riding the line. Very few of the roads I rode were uniformly terrible riding: for the most part there was a path in each road that made for easier riding. It dawned on me that I had an opportunity for a “teaching moment” with these people. The lesson?

At any moment while you are riding there is an optimum path you should be riding. That path isn’t always a straight line: sometimes you have to cross some difficult terrain to get on the line. Once you are on the line, you will know that you have arrived because riding will be so much easier than not being on the line. Find the line, ride the line, life will be better. So, your job while riding, is to A) find the line and B) ride the line. Now, granted, doing A) and B) is sometimes difficult. Often times it’s hard to find the line amidst all of the jumble of loose rocks and sand. Sometimes the line is just the width of a bicycle tire which takes a lot of precision riding to keep your bike in that narrow slot. The picture here shows “the line” on Idaho 47 (AKA Mesa Falls Scenic Byway). You can see that the builders of this road laid down a strip of fine asphalt on top of the coarser asphalt. Incredibly, if I could hold my bike on that narrow strip of fine asphalt, I could upshift and ride about 2-3 MPH faster than if I weren’t on that line. When I rode on that strip, it just felt right. This section isn’t supposed to be a tutorial about how to ride your bicycle, but the picture to the right illustrates the concept of the line on a dirt road. When I’m riding on a dirt road, I’m always looking for “concrete”: a section of the road that has been so compressed that it’s like concrete and doesn’t have rocks and sand on top of it. If you can find these sections, riding on a dirt road is just like riding on a sidewalk! You can see to the right of my shadow, in the middle of the picture, the hard packed surface of this dirt road. I need to ride there! If I rode all the way to the right in the sand and rock, it would be tough riding! Ride the line of “concrete” and it’s (relatively) easy! When you’re riding solo for 7 hours a day, you have a lot of time to think. So I was mentally thinking about the line and preparing the little speech above when it suddenly dawned on me that The Line is also a metaphor for life: 113


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At any moment while you are traveling down the road of life there is an optimum path you should be following. That path isn’t always a straight line: sometimes you have to cross some difficult terrain to get on the line. Once you are on the line, you will know that you have arrived because life will be so much easier than not being on the line. Find the line, follow the line, life will be better. Wow … where did that come from? As I thought about it, I realized that there are 4 kinds of people in the world with respect to The Line: 1) People who aren’t looking for the line. We all know people like this. These are the people who are always getting f’d over. 2) People who are looking for the line, but can’t find it. I think I’m there … 3) People who see the line but won’t ride it. These are the people who are in the wrong place in life and know what they should do (i.e. they see the line), but they won’t veer off their current path to get to The Line. After talking to a number of people about this concept, I’ve come to believe that the people who know where to go but won’t get there are trapped by fear: getting from this bad line to The Line means plowing through some tough territory first which might be worse than the path they are currently on. In some respects, the inability to get off the bad line feels like a lack of self-confidence. If I veer from this path I’m on, will I have the ability to navigate the tough transitions to finally reach the place I should be? Will I just make things worse? If you believe in yourself, the answer is: in time your life will be better because you will keep changing your life until you are where you should be. 4) People who see the line and ride it. These are the people I envy. These are the people in the world who have their shit together. I really think this is an extremely small group … I carried the message of The Line with me for the rest of the trip and discussed it with anyone who seemed ready to receive the message. For instance, we now know that Tina Seeley was ready for the message. I wonder how her life is different because she heard about The Line? We all have the cranky, Belgian woman to thank for changing our lives. Thank you, cranky, Belgian woman. For the cynics I’ve just lost who don’t think you can boil down what we should do with our lives into such a simple minded analogy, stick with me for just one more section …

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The Back Country MAS When I got back to civilization and tried to preach the gospel of The Line, I was often times met with derision. St. John preaching in the wilderness? My sister, Therese, helped me understand what might be happening, but first … Over the years I have developed the concept of a MAS: Mutual Admiration Society. This is a group of people who admire one another. The group could be as small as two, as large as possible. If you think about the people in your life, there are those that bring you joy, those that you’d rather avoid. Those that bring you joy are probably part of your MAS. When I was biking in the backcountry, I instantly earned admiration because of my apparent insanity: riding a bicycle solo on dirt roads, grinding up impossible passes, fighting rain/sleet/heat/cold/wind. For the most part, those in the back country shared an ethic of respect for nature, a desire to get away, a generosity of spirit, a desire to explore. An instant MAS. Thanks to this MAS I think people were more open to discuss what was going on in their lives: John, Erin and Fawn at Colter Bay Jim at Marsh Creek Tina Seeley at Red Meadow Lake Wes on the ride to Pinedale Barbara and the FAB Johnny at Moran Junction Seth, Wes and Matt at Upper Lake Campground Dave north of Swartz Creek Nick and Erin at Holland Lake Maybe this instant MAS is what makes doing something like this so worthwhile. We move through life interacting with so many people every day, but we so rarely encounter an instant MAS. I kinda miss that …

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The Profound Pay It Forward

Pay it Forward When Johnny picked me up at Moran Junction, drove me to Jackson and back, got me a discounted camping spot at Colter Bay during Labor Day, I asked him if I could pay him for all that he did for me. He simply said, “Pay it forward …” I normally look for opportunities to do nice things for strangers, but Johnny’s adjuration just amplified my desire to help others. He had done so much for me to save this trip. I just had to step it up to make a cosmic payback for his generosity. If I ever see Johnny again, I will proudly tell him that I never finished a pizza: I always gave away the slices I had taken from the restaurant to fellow, starving riders. You know who you are, Seth, Wes, Matt, Simon and Chris.

Hope and Desperation and ... Hope Just one more Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy. As I rode through so much desolate land, it was actually pretty rare that I wouldn’t see some sign of human habitation. Mankind has settled in so many dire locations, hoping to eke out a better life. Abandoned structures were so much a part of the landscape that I didn’t give it much thought … until I did think about it. At one point these buildings were new, their builders anxious to start a new life in a new place. Hope That they are now abandoned is sad … something went wrong … Desperation … having to leave the dream behind. Funny, as I write this, I just realized that maybe it’s not so dire. Perhaps abandoning a building is also a hopeful sign: the builders were so prosperous that they could abandon that drafty, leaky old building and construct a better place! I’m going to think about it this way from now on, even though I suspect that desperation was more likely the case. 116


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Part V - The Prosaic Woke up Fell out of bed Dragged a comb across my head … Somebody spoke and I went into a dream … (Yah, after I typed in those lyrics, I wanted to listen to the song, too, so here’s the link).

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The Prosaic A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life This section chronicles what a day on the road typically looked like. It’s pretty boring, but there is a nude photo further down! I include this unimaginative description for those who might be considering doing the ride and for those voyeurs who wonder what life might be like without a known address to return to every night. Early in the journey, I would just get up when I woke up, but when it quickly became painfully obvious that I would be fighting headwinds for most of the trip, I decided I would force myself to get up using the alarm clock app in my cellphone so I could ride in “calm air” before the sun warmed said air and set it in violent motion against my head (AKA headwind). This probably afforded me only an extra hour of “calm air”, but the predawn muster was definitely worth it. The earliest departure time was 6:23, latest 8:13 (waited for the rain to subside outside of Radium, CO …). As noted above in the question section, I would pull on my shorts and leg warmers, don the down jacket (if it was cold outside), strap on my biking shoes and exit the tent. I’d eat breakfast (see below), brush my teeth then break down camp: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6)

Stuff sleeping bag into its stuff bag and put into dry bag Deflate mattress pad and put into dry bag Put maps, clothes, headlamp, bear deterrents, etc. into their respective panniers Stuff the tent rainfly into the tent stuff bag Unhook the tent from the pole, fold up the pole and place it into the dry bag Stuff tent and ground cloth into tent stuff bag. Place tent stuff bag into the dry bag.

With the tent now in the dry bag, I would mount the dry bag onto the bike rack with bungee cords. I’d start the SPOT satellite tracker to let the rest of the known world know that I had survived the night, reset the GPS, pull on the Camelbak (a drinking fountain … on your back!) and any warmer clothes as necessary, take a look around to ensure that I wasn’t missing anything and pedal off for the day’s adventure. From alarm clock to first pedal stroke “about an hour”. While riding I’d stop after every couple hours just to take a breather. These breaks were timed out by the GPS which kept track of distance, total time, riding time and elevation. At these breaks I’d usually down a small Slim Jim jerky and Mountain Dew (if I was depressed and there was Mountain Dew still available) or … boring water. Around noon I’d stop and eat lunch (see below for a fascinating description of lunch). I’d knock off riding as the conditions demanded. Sometimes the day would be short because I reached my destination for the day early, sometimes the day would drag on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on as the weather and terrain conspired to keep my as far away as possible from the day’s primary destination.

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I carried my Lumix DMC-ZS15 camera in a small carrying case, clipped to the strap of the Camelbak. This arrangement kept the camera at the (near) ready for those all-important end of life photos of a charging grizzly. “Man, Dave, that body is pretty badly mauled. Let’s check out the last few pictures on the camera to see if he got any good action pictures of a charging grizzly”. As you know, thankfully I have no such pictures …

When the destination was a campsite, I’d set up the tent. The process: 1) Scope out the site to find an area free of bumps with a slight incline. I tried to set up the tent on a slight incline so my head would be above my feet. It’s surprisingly difficult to judge this and often I’d find some root or rock that I missed when I was scoping out the site for bumps. This is why God created air mattresses, to smooth out the bumps. 2) Lay out the ground cloth and secure it. In order to do this, though, I would find a small, fist sized stone around the site to use as a hammer to drive the stakes into the ground. Mysteriously, there would always be such a stone around the campsite. The only time I struck out and had to use a smaller stone was at the informal campsite short of Union Pass. Maybe I was the first person to actually set up a tent at that site??? 3) Lay the tent on top of the ground cloth then install the poles. The pole consists of three legs that hook into grommets at the two front corners of the tent and at the foot of the tent. See picture to the right. 4) Hook the tent to the poles. 5) If cold or rainy, drape rainfly over poles then secure with stakes.

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With the tent up, I’d take the sleeping bag out of the stuff sack and throw it into the tent to air out a bit. I’d throw in the down jacket, a change of clothes, sweatpants, warm clothes for the next morning, maps/journal plastic bag, bear deterrents and headlamp. With the tent ready to roll, I’d eat dinner (see below), brush my teeth then get in the tent. As darkness fell, I’d put the headlamp into the handy ceiling pocket at the top of the tent which created a sort of ceiling light. I’d write down the events of the day on my journal paper (see below for journal entries) then plan out the trip to the next resupply location using the ACA maps. Usually this meant projecting out 100-150 miles which was 2-3 days of travel. It took a couple weeks of daily planning before I realized that the distance I could cover was dramatically affected by the amount of climbing in these 50 mile segments. Lots of ups and downs implied that I couldn’t cover as much ground as I’d hope. I finally learned to look at the elevation plots on the maps to help figure out how much distance I might be able to cover. The ACA had some recommended daily distances, but I was going in the opposite direction … With the planning done, I’d make one last bathroom stop, set the alarm on the phone then snuggle down for a night of worrying about bears. For the most part, I was in the sack no later than 9 PM. If I were staying in a hotel, there was no tent management, but I still had to plan for the upcoming days. Hotels imply showers, clothes washing, eating at restaurants or TV dinners, provisions for the coming days. Not sure that a bed was a plus (you see, I have a bad back and some beds just torture those bones in the sacral region. I’ve included this picture not so much to educate you on the finer points of the spine, but, rather, to add some gratuitous nudity to this magnum opus. BTW, this is exactly how I looked at the end of my ride, except I had a pony tail and generally I wore clothes), but it was certainly nice to be clean and slip between clean sheets. The next day I would repeat this process … 27 times until I reached the Canadian border.

Hygiene Really? I’m going to get to this level of too much information? I share this one trait with the astronauts: some readers wanted to know (well, one reader actually) how I went to the bathroom. But before we get there, let’s address some more mundane issues. As noted in the question and answer session, I tried to brush my teeth twice a day. I NEVER brushed at lunch, giving the lunch time Mountain Dew a full 7-8 hours to rot my teeth. I’m pleased to say that I didn’t get any cavities, but I also caution the reader to realize that I haven’t been to the dentist since the end of the trip …

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On the road I did not bathe or wash in any way. Generally, the best facility I’d encounter would be a pit toilet, perhaps the occasional hand pump which would inevitably pump out some discolored liquid posing as water. In Montana or Colorado I would frequently cross a stream during the course of the day but there was no guarantee that there would be a stream near the campground. Even if there were a creek/stream near the campground, I didn’t rinse off, courteously not polluting the water for downstream users with my unique blend of sweat, dried sunscreen and dirt. It’s odd when I think about that now: didn’t I feel grungy at the end of a 5 day stretch between showers? Evidently not. What about people I encountered? How did they react? Hmmm … I hadn’t thought about that, either. Perhaps this explains why my encounters were so brief??? OK. Ready? Here we go … Those who do not want to know this should skip down to the Eating section. For number 1, as required I generally went by the side of the road, Tour De France style. But, John, weren’t you concerned that while you were doing your business someone would drive up and be disappointed that you weren’t seeking out government approved lavatories? Have you been reading this document? I was by myself for 99.9990507% of my riding time! It never happened… For number 2, I am shocked to announce that in the 31 days of my travels I only had to do a “back country” … er … procedure 3 times. For the most part my bowels cooperated and, when I encountered any sort of toilet facility, I would take advantage of it. While I will NOT include a picture of any of those 3 “back country” procedures, I will include this picture from the slide show which shows a true miracle: a backcountry pit toilet with 9 rolls of toilet paper. Usually, all I would encounter is one or two rolls of cardboard (i.e. NO toilet paper). I did carry a small roll of TP for my personal enjoyment and, of course, an absolute necessity: baby wipes. Baby wipes are not just for babies … 123


The Prosaic Eating

Eating Early on in the planning stage I decided I would not carry a stove. Carry a stove and a whole fleet of other necessary items will follow in its wake: a fuel bottle, fuel, pans, scrub pads. That’s extra volume and weight that I’d have to carry over 4 Mount Everests! When I encountered stove carrying southbounders, they all decried my decision, fundamentally because they wanted their coffee in the morning! I had my Mountain Dew which, I admit, I had to lug around in lieu of pumping out water from a stream then using that questionably filtered water to make a caffeinated beverage. On the road, my diet squeezed down to this: a deli sandwich from a previous town, Mountain Dew, power bars, jerky and Snickers bars. In the morning I’d eat a power bar and crack open a Mountain Dew. At lunch I’d eat ¼ of the deli sandwich and wash it down with more of that Yahoo Mountain Dew. For dinner I’d eat ¼ of the deli sandwich and a Snickers bar. While riding I would take breaks and eat a small jerky stick if I was hungry between meals.

When I rolled into a decent sized town around lunch time I’d usually stop at a restaurant and order a real meal. Normally oscillated between cheeseburger and fries or pizza, but in Helena I went crazy and ate Mexican and Chinese food. I was there for a couple days so I took advantage of the diverse ethnicity of that metropolis (sixth largest town in Montana, weighing in at 45,055 in 2013) … You will note a complete lack of fruits and vegetables. This trip shortened my life span by several years …

Using the GPS Prior to leaving I had downloaded topo maps of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana into my Garmin Etrex 20 GPS, tragically failing to download the topo map for Idaho. I also downloaded the way points for the trip from the ACA site, but I had failed to find the actual track for the route. See the gear checklist below for the link to the actual track. Because all I initially had was the waypoints, the GPS didn’t show the actual route, but, rather, it drew a purple line running from the last waypoint to the next one. Usually this was good enough to keep me on track: generally try to keep next to the purple line! But sometimes the waypoints were so far apart that I couldn’t figure out the proper route to next waypoint. I finally found and downloaded the track when I got to Helena, but by then the trip was ¾’s over and I had bypassed a couple sections of the GDMBR because either I got lost or I was unsure that I could use the waypoints to follow the trail. 124


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When I was riding, I used one of two primary GPS displays: trip computer or map. On the trip computer page I showed speed, trip odometer, elevation, moving time, bearing, total time and time of day. The map display showed the map, trip odometer, speed, elevation and moving time. I primarily used the map display since this would help me to make the correct turns and follow the route, but I did switch to the trip computer when the route was obvious and I wanted the time of day. You will note that I did NOT display average speed; way too depressing to have that continual display of poor performance. Moving time is the time I was actually pedaling. I tried to keep this to no more than 7 hours per day. When I didn’t have the track, I was very meticulous in computing the distance to the next turn using information I had received from the ACA. When I neared that next distance, I’d be looking for a junction and trying to ensure that I turned in the correct direction. This was really too bad because I spent too much time monitoring my progress on the GPS to ensure that I didn’t make a wrong turn. When I finally got the track, all I’d have to do is glance down on the GPS map display and if I wasn’t on the track, I’d have to figure out how far I’d have to back track to get back on route.

Having the GPS was fantastic because it helped keep my effort in check, ensuring that I didn’t overdue it on any given day. My longest one day distance was just short of 78.1 miles, my longest time pedaling was 10 hours, but my objective was 50-60 miles per day with no more than 7 hours of seat time. The GPS gave me all this information and helped me to figure out when it was time to start looking for a campsite. I used lithium batteries and they lasted 6 days before I had to replace them. That was fantastic! If I had used my phone as the GPS for the trip I’d have to recharge it every day. Not so with the GPS. A couple other advantages for the GPS were 1) it was waterproof and 2) the display was easy to see in all kinds of lighting situations.

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ELEVATION GAIN

52.8 0

29.4 1

64.8 2

DAYS AND MILEAGE 126

23.5 3

20.2 4

59.1 5

74.0 6

58.5 7

57.7 8

58.7 9

02.6 10

58.9 11

36.7 12

29.0 13

64.2 14

15


Part VI - Epilogue

72.3 16

57.0 17

54.2 18

63.3 19

78.1 20

49.5 21

56.8 22

00.0 23

24

00.0

47.5 25

61.4 26

64.5 27

74.9 28

41.0 29

62.1 30

31

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Epilogue

This document turned out to be the longest piece of (mostly) non-fiction that I have ever written. That you’ve stuck with it to get to this point in the document is certainly a gratifying miracle. Gratifying for me in that you found the work entertaining/informative enough to stick with it. Miracle because the odds were very low that when you reached the “when will this thing ever stop????” cusp in your reading, you kept on slogging through it, hoping to get to some good parts again. We don’t get to sit over the shoulder of an author and observe the creative process (unless, of course, you sat behind J.K. Rowling in the cafes where she wrote her famous books about an orphan who (spoiler alert) made the world a better place). I don’t know any famous or infamous authors so I didn’t have mentors guiding me through this process. Essentially I sat down in front of the computer, did the outline and then started filling it in, willy-nilly, writing words like willy-nilly as required. I used my fallible memory, journal entries, maps, photos and the Internet to ensure that the telling was mostly true. I was inspired by many of my readers who found the blog entries wildly entertaining/ funny to try to at least meet the blog level of entertainment. It should come as no surprise that this is the last section of the outline that was transformed from an outline entry into sprawling text. In some respects, I don’t want to put the final period on this work, but all good things must come to an end and, well, here we are. Thank you for sticking with me through the thick and thin of my trip and these 42,000+ words. As is always my hope for my loved ones, I hope that all goes well for you and your loved ones. May your lives be filled with happy miracles. OK. The final period.

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Appendix A Gear Checklist

Here’s the gear checklist I developed to prepare for the trip. Not very exciting, but remember the dual mission of this document: entertain AND inform. This is the dull, informing part. Some notes: • I found topo maps to download to my Garmin Etrex 20 GPS at this site. I missed two very important maps: Idaho and the actual track for the GDMBR. Here’s the link from the ACA for the waypoints, but this wasn’t the file that I used that had the actual track. I didn’t get that until I got to Helena. Sanjay from SoCal (Southern California) gave me the link to a site that had the track. I wish I had this track when I started! • I used lithium batteries for the GPS. These lasted about 6 days! • I took 3 USB cables for 3 devices which all had different USB connections: cellphone, GPS and camera. Come on, boys, couldn’t we agree on a single USB connection and save me from hauling extra grams to Canada? • I had two, 26 oz. water bottles from REI. I got the water bottles with red polka dots which matched the red color of the sidewalls of my tires! • As for a ground cloth, I ended up using this ground cloth which I borrowed from Matt. Maybe a poncho would be a better option because I could have used it both as a poncho and ground cloth. • I brought duct tape, wrapped around the bike pump in such a way that I couldn’t actually use the pump. On the first flat, I had to unwrap the duct tape then rewind it around the pump so I could actually pump air. Sheesh … • I did not bring a specific knife/scissors; rather, I had the small knife that was one of the tools in my utility tool. • I did bring a cap with a bill and I’m very glad I did: I used that almost exclusively while I rode. • I did bring a pair of sweatpants. I’m glad I did because it made it a bit more comfortable around the campsite on cool nights, but they were really a small luxury, not really required. • I brought 2 pairs of wool bike socks. One sock got a hole in it. Really? • I had carried Olay® 4-in-1 daily facial cloths for 323.8 miles but I only used one during that first week so I ditched them. The only other time I washed my face when in the backcountry was at Diagnus Well when I used the bandana as a washcloth, the only time I used the bandana.

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• DO NOT FORGET THE BABY WIPES! • I did bring TP and hand sanitizer. I didn’t make much use of either, but I’m glad I brought them. • I brought a compression bandage and antibiotic in case I had a massive crash. I could slather on the antibiotic then wrap the wound with the compression bandage. This wouldn’t have worked if I had cut my fingers/hand, so maybe bringing a few band aids might be a good idea. Fortunately, I never had to use my micro first aid kit. • I never found zinc oxide at my local Walmart so I didn’t bring any … guess who got sunburned lips? • I brought the shock pump and did pump up the shock a few times. Probably would have been better to just replace the shock with one that didn’t leak to save the weight of carrying this pump. • I did bring a bike lock and probably will bring one next time, but I’ll find a lighter one with a combo lock to save some weight and not have to keep track of a key. • I did not bring any trash bags, accumulating bags as I went along. • In Rawlins I shed a few grams: I traded for a smaller roll of toilet paper, got rid of many plastic bags, a bungee cord, the facial clothes and the whistle/compass/thermometer. I added the following items along the way: • Inner tube patch kit … doh! Why didn’t I think of that! • Warmer gloves • Warmer hat • A “Smart Water” 1 liter bottle. I used this to pump water through the Sawyer Mini Water filter. • Shower shoes. Yes. Shower shoes. I found some very light weight, Croc-like shoes at a Walmart in Steamboat Springs. I felt much better about taking showers at public showers from that point forward. I did not get athlete’s foot in spite of showering in some pretty funky places … Also nice to wear around camp at night, getting my hot feet out of my bike shoes and letting both the shoes and feet air out. • Chapstick. Man, I really badly blistered my lips and it took a lot of therapy to heal them. • Air horn. Take that, grizzly!

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Appendix A Gear Checklist

Possible Packing List _ GPS with street/topo maps _ AA batteries for GPS _ cellphone _ AC charger and USB cables _ 3 L Camelbak _ Water bottle(s) _ Sawyer Mini Water Filter _ down, light weight sleeping bag _ sleeping pad _ ultra light tent _ ground cloth/tarp/poncho(?) _ cotton balls, soaked in petroleum jelly _ duct tape/”tenacious tape” _ nylon rope (50’?) _ knife/scissors _ spork _ matches _ headlamp _ dry bag _ bandana _ helmet _ water proof cap with bill(?) _ polypro face mask _ glasses _ clip on sunglasses _ 2 long sleeve biking jerseys _ biking jacket _ down coat _ biking gloves _ polypro gloves _ bike shorts _ 2 pair underwear _ leg warmers _ backup tights(?) _ socks _ shoes _ tooth brush/toothpaste _ tongue scraper _ facial cloths(?) _ baby wipes _ vitamins 132

_ sunscreen _ comb _ hair tie back thingy _ compression bandage _ antibiotic _ hand sanitizer(?) _ TP(?) _ zinc oxide _ dish soa _ bike _ rear seat rack _ tire pump _ shock pump(?) _ spare bike parts _ spare tube(s) _ presta to Schrader adapter _ hanger _ rear derailleur cable _ lubricant _ bike tools: multi-tool and pliers _ panniers _ bike lock(?) _ tie wraps _ Passport _ Credit cards _ license _ health care card _ AARP card _ Cash ($200 in handle bar?) _ camera _ small thermometer _ maps, including turn by turn descriptions _ bungee cords(?)/tie down straps _ journal paper _ pen _ earbuds … new(?) _ spare zip loc bags _ trash bag(s)


The Last Northbounder John Keller

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Appendix B Journaling

At the end of each day I would write down what happened on that day on the special form I created for just that purpose (See Journal Template below). I had purchased a notebook to write into, but it dawned on me that I could save some weight by just printing out a few sheets of paper with the journal template. For the most part there was enough room to document the day if I wrote small … This section contains the actual transcript of those journal entries. Lucky you! Because of limited space, this isn’t my flowing prose; rather, it’s more like bullet points, small snapshots of what happened. Sometimes the entries don’t even make sense! If there is some clarification to the entries, I’ve added [] entries where appropriate. Remove those [] entries if you want to read what was actually entered. Start time is the time when I make my first pedal stroke, leaving the campsite/ accommodation, not the time that I wake up. End time is when I stop pedaling. Moving time is the actual time that I was pedaling as determined by the GPS. I transcribed the journal entries here so that if I lose the actual, precious pieces of paper on which this momentous journal was written, it will still exist somewhere in the cloud for all time.

Day 1: Monday, 8/24/2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

1 8/24/2015 7:40 AM Clear, hazy, cool 7:56 PM Clear, hazy 52.8 miles 7:57

Rich took pictures, everyone going to work, I’m going to Canada. Bungee cord broke, used dry bag clip to hold to seat, remaining bungee to keep in place, side to side. 14 miles, same route I took to see jim reid. First time down boulder creek trail. Back tracked to UMC for subway. Talked to 24 year [old] physics freshman. Back to trail, got direa [diarrhea] & had to stop at boulder library. Very long ride to Nederland, choco milk & jerky, bout sandwich. Library for WIFI & H2O, NOTMO [????]. places muriel & I have been. Talked to geezer @ Eldora, talked to pro mtn. biker, heading to winter park. 3-4 fire fighting planes flew overhead @ Eldora. Saw beautiful golden stag near top of Eldora. Quiet except generator that kicks in on microwave relay tower about 200 yards away. Can hear train whistles in the distance. Saw gray bird, “mockingbird”, squirrels, chipmunks. Rocky/sloped, have to learn camp routine. No fly on tent. Cansig [????] SPOT. 134


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Day 2: Tuesday, 8/25/2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

2 8/25/2015 7:22 AM Clear, cool 6:28 Mostly cloudy 29.4 4:27

Dreamt baby bears then ton of bears crossing street. People came & started to shoot with heavy weapons. Slight wind ≈ 3 [?] & now. Sweat but face cold. I put sleeping bag in dry bag… too much … ripped around the collar. GPS battery full up at the end of the day. Can’t open windows … duffy [?]. Taking shower, washing clothes. SUNSET: 7:47 pushed bike to railroad grade. Harder than I remember. Walk 20’, rest. Startled by gas inspection crew. Saw 2 cars, one trail bike on the way down. Had to climb out of 2 creek drainages, I think 2nd was google error. Some uphill before fraser. Found library phone died. Used their computer for 45 minutes. Safeway for milk jerky. > mile uphill to vance’s. phone charging, no TMO. Found iPod. Door locked, found lock box. Planning next 2-3 days. Down to safeway for pizza. Woman blessed my trip. Gave piece [of pizza] away he minded [????]. TMO edge allowed email communication, aaser [???] ride back here. Can get edge at corner of hottub.

Day 3: Wednesday, 8/26/2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

3 8/26/2015 6:54 AM HIGH LIGHT CLOUDS COOL 5:51 PM Mostly cloudy warm 64.8 7:33

Breakfast – 2 donuts, choc milk Lunch – 1 “sandwich” with EXTRA Bungee chord [sic] = ACE HARDWARE, 2, 24” My “godmother” told deli worker to add meat for free. SS=7:46 at GDMBR ≈ 11:19. 4 marmots off trail. OD [odometer]=22.5[miles] more or less down hill to Williams fork. Could see fire to northeast google map was wrong, but heavy equipment driver gave me a map: stay on 50. Had to climb ridge. Steady climb from there @≈9900’ then bom downhill to horseshoe CG & GDMBR. I was thrilled! 135


Appendix B Journaling

All roads in good condition, UPS truck played hopscotch, H2O’d road before willams fork. Follow around WF, rast [past?] one car! Saw birds of prey in nest. At 8, bagged side trip to Kremmling. Just as I turned on 1, wind came up, rain fell crossed Colorado then found grove of willows for protection!! Guy asked if I wanted a ride into town. Hunkered down 45-60 minutes. Rode in a little rain & tail wind but stopped after 50 min. road was mucky due to grading. Long climb out. Spectacular downhill, partially paved. Then long climb out again. Saw train across valley. Passed camp [there was in informal campground called out in the ACA map], proceeded to radium CG. Lost dogs, owner tooting horn. Nice site near stream some mosquitoes. Lost headlamp already debating putting up rainfly. Finished GPS segment 1. Sage brush, warm night, rain, patch of clear.

Day 4: Thursday, 8/27/2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

4 8/27/2015 8:13 AM RAINING 5:25 Partly cloudy 23.5 miles 5:47

Up at 6:30, really raining, waited for ≈ hour & it subsided. Tried to filter H2O but couldn’t get bag to fill. Packed tent wet, had bar for breakfast. Down to radium, asked camper re H2O, check at Colorado river run. Cow hand gave me two snickers, filled water, started climb out. Road closed due to cleaning cattle grate. Muddy, had to walk. Long climb, stopping frequently, walked ≈ 3 times. Down/up drainages. Sage grouse, spooked cows. Talked to bow hunter with 2 horses. At lunch break 2 motorcyclists. Gave me a cliff bar. Met Amanda, 1st GDMBR’er. 1 month on the trail, from philly. Now cycling solo. Another squall, sat it out behind pine tree. Climb to lynx pass. At campground, left crank fell off. Cole and cindy arrived, cole went to look for bolt. Tried jury rig with tape. Asked other camper for help. They drove off to find bolt. Set up site 4, $10, set up tent while big storm to north came up, but headed east. Dinner with cole and cindy from no. Carolina. Cole gave me a protein bar. Gunp [???] could not find bolt. Licensed massage therapist. Strobe lights. Big storm, trees crashing.

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Day 5: Friday, 8/28/2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

5 8/28/2015 7:42 Foggy/clear ≈1:30 Clear 40.9 (car) ≈ 17 on bike 3:39

Up around 6:30 with sound of cole packing up, went over to smell the coffee. Tent was soaked, packed it wet into dry bag. Walked to pass then mostly downhill ‘til after reservoir. About 4 cars passed me on 11/16. Took alternate route to improve chances of ride. Hoyt and cathy drove past, came back! I almost cried! From lousiana [sic], moving back. Dropped at ski haus, but I left camelback in car. Toni, employee, gave me ride to hospital; hoyt still in car. Ski haus gave me 2 bolts for free. Rode west on 40 to KOA. $38 for tent site! Took free shuttle bus to library. > 1 hour there. Bus to subway, Walmart, city market. Back took shower, rinsed top and undies. Feels good to be clean. Dinner with margot and frank from the Netherlands. Cool night, yampa next to site, cars on 40. Noisiest site of the trip. Frank says track on website!!! Saw a fox on way down. Shower stall had a bench. One foot biking like side stroked. Defunct stage coach ski area – nice homes. Love new headlamp. Full moon. “my” star look up on my back. Campfire smoke.

Day 6: Saturday, August 29, Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

6 8/29/2015 7:58 Clear skies, cool ≈5:30 Clear 59.1 7:08

Tent soaked. Mist off yampa.oiled and pumped bike. Climb out seemed easier. Met geezer rider. At clark store met ben, traveling around the world starting in Patagonia, bought him coffee, me choco milk jerky & mountain dew. Climb up to steamboat lake. Ben caught me 1 mile before split. Hard climb to columbine where I pulled off nd ate sandwich in shade of shed. Uni-cyclist! [sic] mostly downhill with usual drainage. Felt better today climbing. Wedding party. 2 guys from Tennessee. Desolate, sage brush section. Ladder ranch. $40 for cabin, but H2O not work. In cook house with couple who are friends. Sent update. Red, full moon. Probably hit hay ≈10, up at 6 … saw 2 fawns just outside steamboad. Megann [managed my stay] - Kathy and Jim Mosely [guests] 137


Appendix B Journaling

Day 7: Sunday, August 30, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

7 8/30/2015 7:01 Mostly clear, mild temps 16:30 Cloudy, windy, spitting rain 74.0 miles

Dogs barked all night. Set alarm for 6 AM. Didn’t know what it was when it went off. Saw many deer, some rabbits and chipmunks. See email update for more. On sage creek, rode to bottom of gulch when geezer in blue pickup made the sign of the cross & said “good luck”. It was a long climb out, but not worst. When I finally crested, I called it “good luck hill”. The rolling route was very depressing & the crosswind was bad, tail wind like someone pushing me up the hill. At end the side was like a very smooth bike path. Parts of Rawlins I rode through seem poor/shabby like this Travelodge. Had a huge meal & several mountain dews, then diaera [sic], showered, washed all clothes, tents drying. Tested mountain dew bottle for H2O purification, works okay as long as I can reform it after crushing it. Need to plan next few days. [ran into a trio of southbounders from California. I think they all had BOBS: Beast of Burdens, i.e. trailers behind their bikes. They talked about their adventures bypassing the great basin.] Nice site near stream some mosquitoes. Lost headlamp already debating putting up rainfly. Finished GPS segment 1. Sage brush, warm night, rain, patch of clear.

Day 8: Monday, 8/31/2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

8 8/31/2015 7:08 Partly cloudy ≈3:30 Windy, clouds, storm 58.5 miles 6:52

Didn’t sleep well, 2 nights in a row. Up at 5:45. Tossed some gear. Available breakfast was 2 donuts raison bran, honey nut, milk, OJ, toast. I had cereal. Used hair dryer to dry clothes. Stole smaller roll of TP. Got lost but figured it out. City market “deli” only served fried chicken. Got 3 sand, 1 burrito, H2O 1L, 4 AA batteries. Met scott from fenton, mi, [outside city market]. He was getting breakfast. Climb out of Rawlins with wind at back. Big trucks in my lane helped, other lane bad. After CD [Continental Divide], downhill to mine road. Fantastically paved. At 30 miles, rear tire gushed sealant, hole too big. 138


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Didn’t find object, tear in tire, slice on inside. Carefully did repair in road, using 2 20’s to line tire. Strong wind from SW, couldn’t make turn on sooner road soon enough. Tail wind, jammed chain again. Prong horn watching me. Herd of pronghorn. Had to turn right for A&M reservoir. Sign had fallen down so I biked by. Lots of nice looking H2O. storm did not hit. Too warm in tent with fly. Looking at maps to plan tomorrow. Family drove car on dam & caught fish? Orange sunset. Woke ≈10PM, dead silent. Almost scary. Duck dive bombed

Day 9: Tuesday, September 1, Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

9 9/1/2015 6:38 Clear, cool ≈4:30 Windy, cloudy 57.7 8:38

Cars driving by at 5:30 AM, benus. Took 1st primitive dump. 1st filter H2O using mountain dew bottle. No wind, cool. Long shadows, estimated distance to well wrong: 11 miles further. Met couple with falcon 5th wheel parked middle of nowhere. Most beautiful place in the world. Places were [where?] very little was growing. Lots of prong horn: safe distance ¼-1/2 mile. saw 2 grouse 5 miles from falconers. She said she had cell coverage. What??? Met german who had flatted. He was heading to A&M reservoir, 41 miles away. Passed well, zoomed track & found turn. Not obvious, pipe sticking out of ground, H2O flowing at good rate. I filled up, no filter. Sign says non-potable, but old rider outside steamboat said he didn’t filter. Tent blew away, flinging stakes 20’. Re-aligned with end facing wind. Saw rainbow started to spit so put out rainfly.

Day 10: Wednesday, 9/2/2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

10 9/2/2015 6:23 Clear, cool ≈7:21 Clear, windy, cool 58.7 10:08

Slept well, alarm set for 5:25, cool, not cold, no moisture on tent. Wind didn’t come up until 9:30 then howled all day. Long climb up to Atlantic City. Crossed Oregon trail. The “last/first” tree. Wild bill’s gun shop: mtn dew, fruit drink, choco chip cookies snickers. Talked for a while. Hard climb out of A.C., hard climb out of south pass. Used rest room 1 mile before lander cutoff. So barren. 139


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Thought I was out of scrub, but bad on lander cutoff, too. Plateau between valleys, spectacular views. Chain broke; link got bent. Took out 2 links & repaired. Couldn’t find camp, but found group at little sandy creek; greg from Oregon, dutch guy, Belgian & dutch woman traveling together. Wanted me to hang my bag across the road. Tent with no rainfly. Puncture rear right at little sandy.

Day 11: Thursday, September 3, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

11 9/3/2015 6:28 Overcast, cool ≈8:45 Overcast, cool ≈ 2 miles ----

Up ≈5:10. Went to get bag. When I got back, alarm had been ringing for 1 min in spite of powering down phone. Is that the lowest power mode. Pumped up rear tire, but pressure did not hold! Started walking got ride from wes after walking > 2 miles. Dropped me at cece [??? It was the super store in Pinedale]. Didn’t have any bike stuff. Walked to A-Z. bought chain, tire&patch kit because no presta tubes. While doing repair, Jason started talking. He went home & found tube!!! Went to visitor center & reserved at sundance motel, ready in 45 min. rode back to aquatic center, library, ate burrito (terrible). Got room, walked back to grocery store: 6 bars, envelopes, razors, . sent pages to vance, burger at western wrangler where muriel & I had a huge breakfast. Adjusted front derailleur. Planning next few days. Adjust front derailleur…nope. UofM lose to Utah. Had TV dinner.

Day 12: Friday, September 4, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

12 9/4/2015 7:02 Partly cloudy, 50o 5:39 Mostly cloudy, cool, windy 58.9 7:46

Alarm @ 5:45. Rode bike to OBI deli. Bike is so light. Got 2 deli sand rip off. Ate 2 pizza sticks, chocolate milk. Stapled route pages & said goodbye to proprietor of sundance motel. 140


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Rode bike path out of town, school bus 7 oh, it’s Friday. Dog followed me Hurt left knee at cora P.O. back clicking lower right side. Sage again! Wind at back, made great time on pavement. Aspens! Pine trees! Hawks wheeling overhead! Off grid house with 3 panels & 2 wind generators. Huge valley. “the place” was closed. Road turned to dirt. RR tie manufacturing & shipment down green river. Past green river, racing GDMBR female rider yelled out “lucky you” because of huge tailwind. Did not stop. Long climb out of valley but cool & felt good <-> flat!! Replaced with jason’s tube. Big vistas of “winds”. Aspen turning gold. Huge, marshy park. Flatted! < 5 minutes Subaru with bikes goes by & I urge them to stop. She has 1 tube she’ll never use! From Idaho mountain trading, Idaho falls. Met 71 year old doug who lost maps @ colert bay. Lost jacket. Met kendall who had chain problems. Set up camp off road. Outhouse 500’ away! Met 4 from iowa on ATVs. Hung food. Ready for cold night.

Day 13: Saturday, September 5, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

13 9/5/2015 ≈7:30 Cloudy, cool, windy 3:23 Partly cloudy 36.7 6:09

Roaring wind, thunder, lightning night, but didn’t rain. Wore polypro face mask & was quite cozy. Slept through most of storm. Hung bike bag OK. Dump in nearby outhouse. Water in fish creek using keegle method. Climb to union pass (unmarked) & continued to climb to > 9600’! saw teton [turns out this was not true …]. Got hailed on. got hit by squall which I sat out. Roads muddy after that. Climb out on 532 seemed like it would never end. Almost hit deer. Strange, lion fish like bird on ground. Elks ATV convention. Rear tire low but holding out. Wore down/rain jacket to keep warm. Muddy, 4 mile decent. Way points not lining up. Tenting at lava lodge. Ate huge brisket, did update, planned out next couple days. Took shower with free towel! Woke @11:30 by 3 couples who came out every hour or so until after 3. Another cowboy played super loud music until after 2. Went to bathroom, starts were unbelievable!

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Day 14: Sunday, September 6, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

14 9/6/2015 7:07 Clear, calm, cold ≈4:30 Clear, cool ≈29 miles ???

Frost on ground cloth. Ice in ponds. Long climb to pass@9500’. GPS was within 10’. I was freezing & had down & rain coat on. there was campsite ≈ 45 minutes from lava lodge after pass. After pass, 17 miles downhill, 6% grade. Hat blew off. Crouch position for speed. Met brian from CA who had biked 120 miles & ultimately slept in P.O. at bottom of hill got flat & scott & Sylvia from Westminster took me to park entrance. Johnny took me to Jackson bike shop. Bought 2 tires, 2 tubes and installed, pumping to 60 PSI. met ben in shop, bought him tube & patch kit. Bought mountain dew at dollar tree($1 no tax!), ate ½ sandwich in Jackson square. Johnny took me to colter bay, got discount for campsite. He said pay it forward. Got cheese burger@cafe, sandwich & mtn dew at store. Did update, talked to john, erin & fawn at next campsite.

Day 15: Monday, September 7, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

15 9/7/2015 7:37 Hazy, clear, cold ≈5:46 High haze, cool 64.2 7:13

Woke up ≈5:45, checked phone, down to 1%. Walked to laundry room to charge. Plug behind desk but as leaving, 4 plugs for charging! Sent update, drank mtn dew & ate power bar. Broke camp w/o incident. Took photos for folks @ teton sign & lake. At flagg ranch resort met don & greg, biking from Helena. Met N.Z. Roseanne. Got jerky/cheese, mtn. dew, choc milk, chap stick…took dump. Good road to grassy lake. Ate lunch@east end then climb up then back down to dam at my 21.9 miles, gravel road difficult to find line, worst surface yet. Met richard from the Netherlands, met coukill family, 2 daughters. Met Nicola from Belgium. Great relief to hit paved road @ 33.9. great vista on ridge @32.1. could see backside of tetons from the hayfields. Wind from SW, but paved road made it bearable.. crossed falls river that had Maryville canal running right next to it. No big animals. Camp at warm river CG: $15. George camphost & bow hunter. Site T3 right by river. CG almost empty. In Idaho!!! 142


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Day 16: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

16 9/8/2015 7:24 Clear, cold, frost 6:53 HIGH CLOUDS WINDY 72.3 8:41

Osprey takes fish from water! Rode ≈ 4 miles up on route & no way points aligned. I rode back down, lost ≈1 hour seat time & 8 miles. Long climb ut on 47/??? Visited lower mesa falls & folks from OK said they were impressed with my climbing. Falls was cool as well as carved canyon. Got to super busy 20 wind @ back! Stopped at frontier adventure who gave me maps & recommended his grocery store 12 miles away. Stopped at pond’s for pizza & mtn. dew. Biked up to robin’s roost, bought 2 mtn dew. Met andres from Germany. He urged me to follow route & I’m glad he did: some nice trails through forest plus there were orange & island park blazes which added to confidence. Realized that I hadn’t loaded Idaho topo & that’s why things were odd this morning. Got to red rocks RV ≈ 4 and decided to press on. trouble shifting into granny 1. Hard to find line. So happy to get to red rocks pass!! Talked to shelly hip bout being nice. Saw deer with long (18”) white tails. Road turned due south against wind then small climbs before camp. Had dinner with seth, wes & matt who are doing trail, san diego, central/south America. I shared pizza. Walt from seattle brought booze. Stars were great, saw satellites.

Day 17: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

17 9/9/2015 7:50 Scattered clouds, cold, not frozen ≈4:15 Clear, warm 57.0

2 animals trotted through camp. Large animal walked down camp road, huffing. Cf. update. Left mtn. dew bottle for boys. Met friendly man who said he’d see me again, told him to get me a mtn. dew. Rode over bridge of despair. Shag wagon, $7500 for trip, 1 free day/week. Talked to Justine who will leave in a couple weeks & solo. Scenery more just grasslands surrounded by hills. Nice man talking to tom from Alaska. Gave me 2 mtn dews and trail mix, gave 2 to tom. Talked at length with tom. Climb to lima dam then rolling down to lima. Old guy pullover, lights up, talks to me. Got room at mountain view hotel, $56. Dave and chris 2 doors down. Went to jan’s, I bought. Washed all clothes except sweats for $1. Reorg’d. rash developing on both butt cheeks, gaia.com 143 has bicycle maps.


Appendix B Journaling

Day 18: Thursday, September 10, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

14 9/6/2015 7:07 Clear, calm, cold ≈4:30 Clear, cool ≈29 miles ???

Restless sleep, but bed and room fine. Got up @5:45, walked to exxon and got 2 shitty sandwiches, 2 power bars, apple pie, muffin, choc milk. Old guy was there! I should have bought him something. Back at room finished packing while watching weather channel to arbbed [???] news. Old guy was on other side of I-25 [I-15]. Esy run to turn. Hardly any traffic on I-15. Road initially bad, headwind @ 8 AM! Climb up big sheep creek. Sun came out, wind died, scenery great with steep walls & following creek. Driver stopped and talked. Wife offered nect [???] bar; I had to take it. Turn off big sheep & it was difficult: sage, headwind, road bad. I stopped for lunch & took nap. Man asked if I was OK. Lost 200’ before having to climb last mile, steep, stopped once on front wheel spin out; otherwise, made it all the way. GPS not aligning with map. Saw 1st pronghorn in montana! Talked to hunters who were making sure I was OK. They recommended campsite ½ mile away. Encountered road repair operation at Schwartz creek but they were just ending day. No way I was going to make it to bannock. I stopped at Schwartz creek. Took back country dump, no underware [sic] today. Got H2O. hunters said no bears, hot/warm. Mtn dew for breakfast & lunch. Met toma and rick who started in whitefish, going to lima.

Day 19: Friday, September 11, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

19 9/11/2015 7:01 Clear, cold, calm 6:13 Hazy, cool 63.3 7:13

Out of tent at 6:05. Cool, calm. Thought I saw a kangaroo cross road. Bannock state park off route! Made decent time, downhill to 324. Sage converted to hay/grass by irrigation. Climb on rolling dirt hills. Talked to hunter while taking break. Paved after bannock. Broke rear derailleur cable after big downhill. Flagged cars to borrow phillips to get cover off shifter. Several passed by. Sam, andy & Claire from England stopped while I was attempting repair. Claire and sam going to south America. Took while to get slack out of cable. Man stopped, asked if I needed help: wire cutter for cable. Another miracle. 144


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Finally got rolling. Met Rachel, chris & shane (R,S from Australia, c Missoula); almost got killed crossing street. Shit, that was stupid. Polaris P.O. – closed. Crossed to last map! Another 3-4 miles to grasshopper inn for cheeseburger & fries. WIFI didn’t work. They had mtn. dew. Road [sic] across street to ma barnes: old woman running register. Reminded me to get water. I dumped H2O I had filtered. Long climb out young boy telling me how to ride. Cutting chords to reduce distance. Lots of cows, met hunger and girlfriend and talked for a while. Massively downhill to little joe CG. Could smell smoke on climb out! No one at CG, leyton and missing arrived with 5th wheel. Will leave bags in bathroom. Brown H2O from pump. Campfire with leiton & missy. GPS batteries died.

Day 20: Saturday, September 12, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

20 9/12/2015 7:02 Hazy, cold, calm 5:55 Hot, hazy 78.1 7:56

Ugh: downhill in the cold. I wish I had ridden another 10 miles yesterday because downhill & closer to butte. Deer bounding away. Got choc milk, muffin, mtn. dew, sandwich & power bar in wise river. Followed river all the way down, very nice. Smokey, got H2O at store…tasted like rubber. Met J.D. French guy [southbounder] & we traded secrets. Easy run to I-15 but missed frontage road & rode on I-15. Used porta potty at closed rest area. Went over where I had to be, exited then rode back, missed dusty road. Hellacious climb out. Walked ≈30’. Met walt from dutch as eating lunch. Met beth & mike, only going to bannock state park. Reached divide & mostly downhill. Could see butte in the distance. Coming down against the wind. Not fair!!! Hot on climb out. Missed turn for KOA & went to Berkley pit. Got help from attendant. Long way down to KOA which I’ll have to make up tomorrow. $30 right next to interstate; street light in tent. 82o when rode in. set up, ate at taco johns, milk shake@mcdonalds. Reset phone, slow downloads. Rode back on bike path back to KOA at dusk. Shower using handsoap, dried with paper towel. Washed bike shorts, fluorescent jersey7, hang to dry@campsite. Continue phone update. BTW, 1% phone reading due to cold!

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Day 21: Sunday, September 13, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

21 9/13/2015 ≈ 8:15 Clear, calm, warm 4:01 Clear, warm, windy 49.5 06:21

Slept with down bag over head to make it dark due to security light shining in tent. Woke up & got coordinates for park lake CG road. Charged phone for ≈ 15 min while sending emails, getting H2O. probably out by 7:30 but forgot to log time. Safeway < 1 mile away. Meat sandwich (1/4’d), 2 mtn dew, AAA batteries, 2 donuts, muffin, 9 oz. dish soap. Carrying that to Canada? Ate breakfast in safeway parking lot. Long uphill slog out of butte [I remember running over a lot of broken glass on the way out, ejaculating Fucking Butte! every time I ran over glass.] ≈ 45 minutes of seat time. Wonderful calm sunny gentle climb up brown’s gulch…wrong watershed! Verified with family nearby. He said 8 miles back, it was 10 miles; wasted 20 miles & 2 hours seat time. Up hail Columbia gulch, following stream all way to divide. Asked man (damn! Forgot name) if on right road. He also suggested rechargeable air horn for bear deterent [sic]. Neat to cross CTD trail. Hard slog up but yesterday worse; the intense part was relatively short. Easy run down backside. Met james & dave from Australia. Mine tailings for nearly a mile. Morman CG no sign, like a ghost town. No TP! Strong wind, just blew my hat 50’ away! Put bags in men’s toilet, but door not sealed. Wind in face on backtrack, at back by end of day drying tent like flag in high wind. No bugs so far.

Day 22: Monday, September 14, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

22 9/14/2015 7:33 Cool, thin overcast ≈4 High clouds 46.8 6:23

awoke@6:45 on my own, fitful sleep due to silence & coyotes, but after 2nd wake up, slept soundly. Packed effectively & out quickly, very close to I-15 but didn’t hear it. Cattle road in very good condition. Took wrong road to start. Cataract canyon steep in spots, nice homes along the way. Met Stephan from france & convinced him not to do the bypass; he described lava mtn. trail, stripped early. Met max, reiner, tina from Switzerland. 146


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Tina wanted to go as I asked about lava. Found path to lava. Lava mostly ridable had to walk twice, one difficult, steep 50’. GPS waypoint seemed wrong. I just followed bike tracks & popped out at road. Blazes on main road 175.[???] park lake looked nice, but didn’t want to ride up/down, downhill to 4000 but then long, unexpected climb up travis creek, missed turn to grizzly gulch. I could have ridden other gulch. Library right on way, left cords & maps & had to go back. Rode to super 8. Alex. Rode to taco times, raining, albertson’s cookies and chocolate milk. On super 8 computer, downloaded GPX for GDMBR. Seems to work. Damn! Washed clothes.

Day 23: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

23 9/15/2015

Stayed in Helena. Raining at 7 AM. Ate breakfast @ super 8 then walked in rain to Walmart. Rode bike to post office to mail “obsolete” map/journals to vance. Bought toe covers at great divide bike shop. Went to library & wrote long update. Back to bike shop for derailleur cable. Rode to arby’s then sportsman warehouse. Bought air horn & hat. Rode back to Walmart but no map solution. Bought TV dinner & bday card for marty. Lost stamp I bought at PO, walked to albertson’s for stamp & dr. pepper for carman at front desk. Mailed card at Albertsons. Back at super 8, answered bob’s question email. At end of day, partly cloudy. Worked on reverse itinerary, but supposed to really rain tomorrow. Ate chocolate, hitting hay ≈ 10, 6:30 wake up time.

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Appendix B Journaling

Day 24: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

24 9/16/2015

Woke around 6:30, raining. Ultimately opted to stay. Rode to staples & bought small clipboard, Velcro straps & sealed envelope. Lonnie was supposed to help modify clipboard, but asked to wait until 1 and I got the sense it would never happen. Just secured with Velcro straps. Got plastic bags to keep dry. Hopefully GPS will work. Went to lunch at Chinese buffet, met Darryl & bought his lunch. Rode to capitol & took 2 PM tour while it rained outside. A lot of art. Rode back, took nap while listening to Spotify. Stomach queasy when I woke up, walked to Albertsons’s for tv dinner, choc milk, chocolate bar for carman at front desk. Ate, sent update, preparing to leave tomorrow morning. Visited Costco, talked to Charlie at door. Skies started to clear at end of day.

Day 25: Thursday, September 17, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

25 9/17/2015 7:13 38 degrees ≈ 3:30 Cloudy, cold, rainy 47.5 6:59

alarm@5:55, showered, ate breakfast, packed up & left. Had new toe covers & double gloves. Rode to park then out to Euclid; carroll college. Long ride on 12 to forest road. GPS worked great. Blue birds led the way. Climb to priest pass slow but tolerable. Stayed in cold weather gear except hat; wore rain jacket most of the day. Sweating on divide. Train blocked passage for a few minutes. Seemed to be going really slow. Just before prickly pear, treed mountains to the west, “grassland” mountains to east. Met caleb only rider of the day. Looked at cabin, thanked Barbara who was dyeing hair. Rode within 4.3 miles of pass, really started raining. Went to book club with Barbara. Picked up donna. Connie host, joanie came, rich & Janice [Janis], got back & jake was here. Hugged Barbara & now spending night in cabin. I should have held her longer as I hugged her. I told her I needed that & she said she did, too. Should have let her start the fire. Another bedroom in the loft. [earlier in the day] met us forest worker, mo, waiting for Meganne. Later, I found megan [sic] & talked to her. 148


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Day 26: Friday, September 18, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

26 9/18/2015 7:03 Cloudy, cool 7:10 Partly cloudy, cool 61.4 8:25

I should have left a note for Barbara. As I climbed out, I talked to jim about his atheism & his dogs. Long climb to stemple pass, but had “recovery zones”. Talked to 2 hunters in ATV. Thick, green pines then beetle kill. Cold, windy. Missed turn & continued to needlessly climb. Fun downhill with trees across the road, trying to “necktie” me. Spilled out on good road & fought wind to Lincoln. Asked @ real estate office & he recommended pit stop, I ordered a pizza & tiny, $4 milk shake & I had a to go out of my way. I saw the fire watch tower they are restoring. 4 plastic bags for leftover pizza. 2 mtn dew@grocery store. Windy, cool, cloudy on climb to huckleberry pass. Talked to hunter in truck. Fire closures, but my road open, climbed then downhill to bench road. Views across valley of clear cut & sand layers. After switchback, views up valley of massive mountain, steep drop offs on 2nd bench road. Big vistas of other mountains from 3rd bench road. Few down hill, met simon and chris from new Zealand. Gave them pizza & clipboard. Got “spit out” into grassland, very dramatic transition. Windy & long slog to CG, off route south maybe ½ mile. Near river, dusk as I set up camp & ate. Brian in next site reminded me of … brian g. GPS batteries died. Ling, white tail deer pinging barbed wire fence. Streams running down side of mtn on pass road.

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Day 27: Saturday, September 19, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

27 9/19/2015 7:11 Cold, partly cloudy 5:50 Cloudy, warm 64.5 7:12

Rode to entrance of CG & had to switch to warm gloves. “crashed” ovando gran fondo, crossing start line ≈ ½ [hour] before start. They caught me in ≈24 minutes. Urged to come to Canada. Talked to 3 different people associated with the fund raiser, including founder. Got H2O as only had 1 H2O bottle in camelback. Finally hit crest & blew by riders going up. Finally turned off their route & talked to self to alert bears cottonwood lakes were nice surprise. I was > 6 miles off on distance to seeley lake. Went long way to terrible grocery store. No sandwiches got 4 burritos. Stopped at ranger station for fire info … closed! On weekends. Link disintegrated in chain; replaced on side of road with power link! Stayed on 83 rather than climb up 4353. Met erin and nick at overlook. Lots of snow in the mountains. Rode to Holland lake (3 miles), couldn’t find e & n, I’d [searched] all campgrounds. Set at #9, ate dinner, took bags to ron and jean truck after e&n found me. Walked down to lake, sun on peaks, light snow on peak. Doe and 2 fawns on next campsite. I grazed deer that other car hit. Ate @ hungry bear. Airport in the middle of nowhere, passed mom & daughter who did not stop.

Day 28: Sunday, September 20, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

28 9/20/2015 7:30 Mild, cloudy ≈ 6:15 Mostly sunny/??? 74.9 8:53

Got bags from ron & jean’s car; dogs slept through the intrusion. Mild, calm. Mostly downhill at start. Deer jumping barbed wire & pinging it. After new chain, bad shifting is back. In write ups, need to discuss GPS purple line. Met Skyler, brian & teri [sic] (shag wagon). They stayed at Holland lake, bay loop. Road cut through trees, unpenetratable [sic] forest. Deer would look at me then bound into dense forest. Few vistas due to dense forest. I sang & talked to self to help ward off bears. At end of day just bombed the road … talked to father who was adjusting scope on son’s gun [rifle]. 150


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Very losed [???] orue [???] single track…would have been lost without GPS. Sun in & out, but for 1st time in a while, wore “hot” biking outfit. Climb out to just short of 5k took a while to get to highway, then into big fork. Timber motel wanted $80. I waked out. Staying at wayfarers state park, $28 where I set up, marshal, camp host, gave me the $10 tent rate. Took him to dinner at burger place. I rode back to campsite. Mild evening. I’m hot. Saw grouse on trail. Some flies in tent. First time seeing “running grass”. Gun guy warned of wind, but it was fine!

Day 29: Monday, September 21, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving

29 9/21/2015 7:30 60o, cloudy ≈1:20 Rain, then clear 41 3:45

Set alarm for 6:15, didn’t get out until 7:30, not sure what happened. Saw turkeys at CG, in field at deer crossing. Took 35 north; changed to warm weather before leaving town. Hardware store didn’t have lube. Wind @back for a while, mostly paved. Had to wait6 for train; 2nd time on trip. Went wrong direction in whitefish. Fell over 1st time on trip. Talked to biker. Super 9 changed to stumptown motel. Booked room at library at best western for $90; later learned I could get it for $78. Why didn’t I try kayak??? Got room upgrade, rode back to town. Bike chop 1 closed, bought expensive lube, pumped up tires (down to 47), ate at loulee’s, poor service. Coulled Barbara earlier, left message while at loulu’s. back at BW, did update. Barbara called back. Might visit with her on Friday. Talked to mom & therese. Washed all clothes. Sent email to Barbara. Might not got to polebridge…we’ll see. Read my blog until 12:30. Jon denver’s “rocky mountain high” at ace hardware store. Don’t forget beer can mileage markers, bud light … Don’t forget: “heading north, nobody heads north!” Don’t forget: a lot of H2O in northern montana

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Day 30: Tuesday, September 22, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving Time:

30 9/22/2015 ≈ 7:10 Cool, cloudy 4:58 High clouds, cool 62.1 08:15

Didn’t sleep well. Finally got up ≈6, took shower, combed hair, ate breakfast, tried cranberry juice downstairs, mostly H2O. still got out relatively late. Paving held up traffic. I followed “girl” on bike path & said, “passing on your left, sweetie”. The woman laughed. Whitefish lake had fog/mist just on north end. Rode on pavement for 9 miles. Route in shade until 9 AM. Saw glimpses across valley. Stopped to check progress at intersection & marshal & friends arrived on ATVs. We were both surprised to see each other. Thanked me for dinner again. Slow climb to pass then quick run to red meadow lake. Very pretty. Gave ¼ sandwich to tina seeley who had come up to find answers. I gave them to her. Second miracle of the day! Quick run down to north fork rd. embedded stones. Poor “lines” due to poor reods. Tough slog to CG. Big view of razor edged, sedimentary mountains. Guy offered me a beer from firewood truck. “bench” prior to CG followed dry river bed with dead trees everywhere. At present, no one else at CG! Two buck chuck.

Day 31: Wednesday, September 23, 2015 Day: Date: Start Time: Weather: End Time: Weather: Distance: Moving Time:

31 9/23/2015 7:24 ? Clear, cold ≈ 1 PM Clear, comfortable 44.4 4:11

Frost on bike seat, top of H2O bottle frozen! Long climb to high point on shitty road surface. Thought I was heding down vally [sic], but continued up. Fast downhill on bad road then single lane, paved road for, what?, 8 miles encountered 1 truck on that road, a number of deer. Got spit out on flats between hills/mountains. Roade on 93 after taking break at the intersection. Rode past turn & had to turn back, rode under back hoe & talked to tech about bringing fiber to rural montana. Got buzzed on back road! Got dumped into eureka, went to small library to check email. Was going to eat first, but rode to border instead. The last hill! At border, asked people to take my picture. They got yelled at by Canadian customs to return to car. US customs called me over. Guy was a dick. Wanted to see last 10 pictures, recognized last hill picture. Wanted to make sure I wasn’t trying to skirt customs. Ate sandwich & hitch-hiked. Maureen picked me up, took me home, beer with husband terri [sic], drove me to airport. Got rental car & retraced much of my route from Helena. In Helena, tried HOJO for $5 more than super 8. Stayed up most of the night doing updates. 152


The Last Northbounder John Keller

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Appendix C Journal Template

This is the template I used for my journal notes. I printed several pages on both sides of each piece of paper. This was lighter than carrying a notebook. I could

have used my phone, but what if the battery was dead? Hard to believe, but pen and paper are more reliable!

154


Start Time:

Start Time:

Start Time:

Day:

Day:

Day:

Weather:

Weather:

Weather:

End Time:

End Time:

End Time:

Weather:

Weather:

Weather:

Distance:

Distance:

Distance:

Moving Time:

Moving Time:

Moving Time:

The Last Northbounder John Keller

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ABOUT THE author / illustrator John Keller - NICK GUERTIN


Author and Illustrator Meet John and Nick met on a Sunday at a scenic pull off on US-83, just a few miles southwest of Holland Lake in Missoula County, Montana. That Sunday was September 20, 2015, a date that will not live in infamy. Pope Francis was in Havana, Donald Trump said he loved Muslims, Jackie Collins passed on (*Editor’s note- Nick had to look up who Jackie Collins was after reading this). Just moments before this historical meeting, John had broken his chain along the side of the road and affected a roadside repair. Had that chain not broken, John had intended to leave US-83 and ride into the hills that rimmed the eastern border of Swan Valley. He and Nick would never have met save for a poorly manufactured chain. …John was nearing the end of a 7 hour day of riding so, naturally, when he saw an opportunity to take a break, he took it, crossing traffic to coast into that scenic pull off. At that very moment, Erin, the friend Nick was visiting in Montana, was taking pictures of the snowcapped mountains off in the distance to the west. It was a mostly sunny day, not much wind. A perfect Montana fall afternoon. They struck up a conversation and agreed to rendezvous at Holland Lake later in the afternoon then head out for dinner together. John rode around all of Holland Lake but couldn’t find them. Had they stiffed John? John set up his tent, ate his usual savory dinner of meat sandwich, water, Snickers bar and had just finished when Erin and Nick drove up! They had been hiding out at the lodge when John was looking for them earlier … Erin drove the trio to the Hungry Bear for dinner, but along the way, a car coming in the other direction obliterated a deer that forgot to look both ways, spraying blood and body parts on to Erin’s car. Nick gently soothed a shaken Erin as he and John wiped blood off her car … That small group had a fun dinner together and as they dropped John off at his tent site in that pitch dark Montana night, they agreed to stay in touch. Fast forward several months. John sent the working draft of The Final Update to Nick. When John visited Nick in Boston later that month, Nick suggested that he could clean up the dull Microsoft Word format John had chosen, making the book more readable. John did not refuse; after all, his book was improving for free!!! You have a broken chain and many late nights on Nick’s part to thank for the beautiful layout of this book.


About the Author Prior to riding the GDMBR, John never rode his bike further than 50 miles from home, but he’s always been a bicyclist. While attending the University of Michigan way back in the 70’s (before the iPhone), he often pedaled his bicycle at great peril on the “GET OFF THE ROAD!!!” roads of southeastern Michigan to his boyhood home of Royal Oak, Michigan, perhaps seeking a little spending money? He doesn’t remember why he rode home … while riding his bicycle on an Ann Arbor bike path, he lifted his front wheel to clear a large crack, the front wheel fell out of the fork, the next thing John remembered was looking up at the blue sky, the earth warming his back, people peering down at him, asking him if he was OK. He was not … John has the good folks, Mark and Susan Mobley, at the Mobley Entertainment Center in Norris, Tennessee, to thank for being injected with the mountain biking bug a few months after George Herbert Walker Bush attacked Iraq in 1991. John would also like to thank a particularly tricky section of single track in that Norris watershed for being just beyond his abilities at the time, resulting in him going over the handlebars and breaking his collarbone. Is this bio supposed to document every bicycle injury John has ever suffered? He only has 500 words! That’s not nearly enough words! Professionally, John worked as an engineer with the likes of your Environmental Protection Agency (AKA EPA), Hewlett-Packard, Cobe BCT, CTI and, last, but not least, The Bose Corporation where he spent 16 years working remotely from the very office where this bio was written. John developed software for a variety of products which you might be using as you read this, but he will be fondly remembered for his bass box software which was in every Bose home theater system and television since 1997 … Through good fortune, John worked remotely for several winters on the island of Maui. John tried to touch the vast Pacific Ocean every single day he resided on The Valley Isle. He was never attacked by a shark (interestingly, he’s never been attacked by a bear, either) and may someday live on that island, patiently awaiting The Singularity. John has hiked the trails of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Michigan, Tennessee, Hawaii, New Zealand. Downhill skied, cross country skied, you know, the whole outdoorsman thing. John is a musician whose main instrument (well, really, his only instrument) is the guitar. He has written and poorly recorded hundreds of instrumental songs, loves jamming with his friends in Ann Arbor and tries desperately not to embarrass himself when jamming with the accomplished musicians of the GT5 in Massachusetts. This is his first work of pseudo-nonfiction. He looks forward to some stranger buying this book because then he can say he is a professional author!


About the Other Guy Because this book isn’t written by or about him, Nick’s bio is much shorter than John’s. Nick is originally from a small town in Connecticut that you probably could not find on a map. [Editor’s Note: the Google could find it, but Nick will not reveal the name]. He currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts- working as an architectural designer and urban planner. Nick holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Architecture from Northeastern University, and is trying to figure out how to use them in a manner that does some good in the world. He serves on the Board of Directors for two community groups in his cherished neighborhood of Mission Hill. A lover of nature and traveling, Nick has hiked in twenty national parks and backpacked extensively in Europe and the United States. When in shape, Nick is an avid runnerhaving completed three marathons including Boston in 2015. He is a Black Belt in Korean Tang Soo Do karate and has never met a music festival he didn’t like. In his free moments, Nick can be found reading- currently splitting time between a biography of Lyndon Johnson and the Complete Calvin and Hobbes collection.

The Last Northbounder A -Mostly- Truthful Story of JohnfromDenver Riding a Bike 1507 Miles to Canada  

A wildly entertaining and informative account of one man's bike ride on the Adventure Cycling Association Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (...

The Last Northbounder A -Mostly- Truthful Story of JohnfromDenver Riding a Bike 1507 Miles to Canada  

A wildly entertaining and informative account of one man's bike ride on the Adventure Cycling Association Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (...

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