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El Camino

September 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I wanted to ride from Como to Salida in one day, which would entail about 120 kilometers, with some climbs and headwinds to brave. Still, I was going to do it: the day’s ride would involve crossing South Park. The South Park of TV fame is actually a ghost town — THIS South Park is a big piece of “flat”land,  resembling Wyoming more than anything else. Ah well — what can you do but ride? Click on the “Read More” to learn more about my revelation today…

Como in the distance. Bye-bye, densely forested mountains… for now.

What’s a guy to do but climb?

September 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm

September 18th marked the day of departure from Boulder. Huybert and his wife Rebecca drove me to Silverthorne and after a late start the three of us would ride together for a bit towards Breckenridge. Then it was all up to me to conquer Boreas Pass, the second highest pass on the Great Divide route (11.492 feet or 3.503 meters above sea level). Soundtrack by Enslaved – Heir to the Cosmic Seed, because of the extraordinary altitude and the otherworldy views. It’s a gentle track, just like the climb itself.

As always, click on the “Read More” to continue… Be warned though: I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

View from Dillon reservoir after a short but steep climb.

25 square miles surrounded by reality

September 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm

The title of this post is used by friend and foe alike to describe Boulder, Colorado. It is a most peculiar town, very progressive, almost as if in a cartoon. People doing yoga on the street and all that. Lots of “spiritual gift shops” around and what not. In the sixties it was a real hippie-town, but these days, the yuppies come flying in as well. It is hard to find a decent living place though: there is a dedicated sales tax in Boulder of 1% and the city uses it to buy and maintain the surrounding lands. So the city doesn’t really grow anymore. There are awesome mountains (the Flatirons) right in the backyard. There is a big university (about 30.000 students on a total of about 100.000 inhabitants) so you can imagine the kind of place it must be.

Boulder is a hippie town so I’m playing you two tracks of hippie music:

Dragontears – Two Tongue Talk

Dragontears – Masters of War (Bob Dylan cover)

(this band is led by the same guy as the band Baby Woodrose, of which I played you some stuff earlier — check their stuff out, it’s very uplifting and the world needs more peace & loving anyway).

I really, really liked it. Especially downtown proper, with lots of bike lanes and pedestrian-only streets. And I lucked out with my timing: I arrived at saturday evening and sunday there would be a big street festival! Click on the “Read More” to, er, read more…

How you doin’ ….

Going slightly mad

September 20, 2012 at 9:11 pm

The rest day in Steamboat Springs proved to be just the thing my muscles needed. Mat & I met up with Colin & Jeff and we visited the Old Town Hot Springs. It looks like a normal swimming pool but it’s fed by the hot springs. I would love to visit the place in winter, when there’s snow all around and you can sit in your swimshorts outside in these hot pools.

View of downtown Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat Springs is a really nice town; there is a ski-resort but it’s located a ways from downtown. It also had a great selection of outdoor stores which proved to be pretty handy. I was losing so much stuff, it was crazy. There is this song that played in my head all the way from Steamboat down to Silverthorne. Not something I would normally play at home, but out here, I guess I am going slightly mad. A very fitting soundtrack to this post. Click on the “Read More” to learn why…

A cunning plan

September 13, 2012 at 12:04 am

This post describes my hardest day so far. The recurring theme is wind. Wind, wind, wind. Murderous, furious headwinds. Still, I’m writing this up in cosy Steamboat Springs, so we evidently made it. But I sure had a hard time…

Waking up in the hotel room in Rawlins, I was really hungry. Where did all the food go? I looked into the mirror. Barely any fat left on my body. Where did it all go? We shopped and I ate an entire foot-long sandwich at the Subway’s for breakfast. I finished it with ease. Where does it all go??
Riding out of town, we faced the wind. A headwind. I knew it was going to last, because I had checked out the weather predictions. Ah well. Lots of uphills, facing a headwind. What’s a guy to do but climb, eh?

We met Cam, an Australian who was hiking the Continental Divide Trail as part of a gargantuan, 15.000-mile-trek (that’s 24.000 kilometers) in 18 months across the Northern America’s. Having done already about 11.500 miles, he was planning to finish the CDT in October and then fly up to Maine to start his last hike: the Appalachian trail, southbound. How he is going to survive that, I do not know — it gets COLD up there in October! What an amazing feat though. He was doing 40 miles (64 km) a day. Had been doing so for a year, with a pack on his back. It blows my mind. The Nijmeegse Vierdaagse is like a sneeze for this guy!
Meanwhile, Mat and I were suffering. This was no fun at all. We did about 7 km riding about town and we knew that 24 km downroute, there was going to be a campsite at Teton Reservoir. We decided to just call it a day. It was a pathetic attempt at making any sort of mileage, but the next campsite was about 60 kilometers ahead of Teton Reservoir and after four days of desert, we just didn’t feel like it. In fact, we still were in the desert.

At the campsite, which looked more like a scene from Mad Max than anything else, the wind kept whipping around us. Our stoves even got blown out once while cooking a meal! I was in a bit of a morbid mood, recalling that Alice in Chains song, “Would?“, adding my own twist to the lyrics:

Am I wrong
Have I rode too far to get home
Am I wrong
Left you here alone?

It wouldn’t leave my head for the coming few days, and therefore it’s the theme song to this post.

The campsite. Completely exposed, buffeted by the unceasing winds.

Trespassing

September 12, 2012 at 10:28 pm

The next two days would comprise of the big haul towards Rawlins. I really went overboard with the water, taking about 7 liters extra for a grand total of 10 liters of water. I felt like a camel! Doing 100+ kilometers was draining a lot of my energy. The emptiness of the landscape was getting to me as well. It all felt very hostile, as if I was an intruder. I can think of only one tune that adequately evokes this feeling. It might be a tad heavy and abrasive for most of you folks, but this is how it felt to me: hostile, tough, and very lengthy. Yob – Burning the Altar

My feeble attempt at picturing the sunrise at Sweetwater River Crossing.

Towards the Basin

September 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Between Pinedale and Rawlins is 220 miles (about 350 kilometers) of sagebrush desert. I couldn’t really think of  a reason why Rawlins would actually be there. Everybody warned me about how rough of a place it is. The state prison is in Rawlins and apparently it isn’t as hospitable as the rest of the West. At least, that’s what people told me. I was eager to find out. Just the little problem of 350 kilometers to cover.

The guidebook says: “start thinking like a serious backpacker”. I don’t consider myself a “serious backpacker” at all (more a buffoon who happens to ride a bike) but I did take the desert, and especially the Great Divide Basin, very seriously. It is a flat area where nothing grows. And with “flat” I mean it in that weird Great Divide way of course, i.e. going up and down all the time. Any water from precipitation flows neither east nor west, it just evaporates. It is miles and miles of sagebrush desert with water sources few and far between. A surprising amount of animals live there though: wild horses, pronghorn, chipmunks, birds, snakes…

Well, there was nothing to do but stock up and start pedaling, while playing some appropriate tunes: Alice In Chains – Them BonesI feel so alone, gonna end up a big ol’ pile o’ them bones…

This would be my view for the coming hundreds of kilometers.

A shortcut to deserts

September 12, 2012 at 8:56 pm

After my stay at Dawn’s place it was time to move on. I was off-route and, despite my improving mood, still a bit bummed about the fact that I would have to ride 40 miles back up north and then have three additional riding days before hitting Pinedale. It made me feel pressed for time so I decided to do a shortcut instead: ride along Highway 191 straight towards Pinedale. I fancied having a rest day there at Tara’s place, someone I met at Dawn’s place who offered me yet another guest bed and roof over my head! I was going to get so chilled out, so I decided to listen to some more Brant Bjork (waiting for the coconut to drop).

Actually, the ride along Highway 191 turned out to be a really nice one, with canyons, streaming water, tailwinds (I felt like I was entitled to tailwinds!) and I zipped towards Pinedale in what felt like was no time.

Another nice bike lane in Wyoming.

Reflections and whatnot

September 9, 2012 at 12:15 am

I’m sitting here at a very windy campsite at Little Sandy Creek. I figured to try and make sense of a couple of thoughs that have been bouncing about in my head the past few days.

Listen with me to “Bleeding Muddy Water” by the Mark Lanegan Band and let’s contemplate a bit. You, the audience, can fill in the role of my therapist.
Picture a skinny blonde guy with ridiculous tanlines, in tight-fitting clothes, looking like a vagrant, lying on your therapist’s sofa. Say “hmmmm-mmmmm” a lot and please occasionally tilt your head up and down slightly, in an affirmative fashion. Just let me do the talking.

I can safely say already that doing this trip was the best idea of 2012. I often compare it to my 6-week tour through Norway. That was four years ago and it was the best idea of 2008. Some things are different though.
I experienced firsthand that a cycling trip gives you endless amounts of time to think. And boy, thinking I did on that Norway trip. I picked and scratched at emotional scar tissue, I relived my best and worst moments, all the embarassments, the successes and the failures. A lot of things I thought I had dealt with came back to haunt me during that ride. Sometimes I sat teary-eyed on my bike.
When that trip was over, I felt like a new man. It was as if I had flushed the toilet within my head.

Right now, it’s four years later and I have gained a couple of scars. I have similar enormous amounts of time to think and to reflect. But I tell you, there isn’t really much thinking going on, at least not of the picking-and-scratching kind. Sometimes I conjure up embarrassing moments or memories of bad times, just like four years ago, to see if they still affect me, but they don’t. I wonder why that is.
Is it that this country gives me so many impressions that I don’t have time to think? Or am I just a happier person compared to 4 years ago? Have I simply “straightened myself out”? I just don’t know. But I really like how this feels.

Before I started, I figured I would be thinking a lot about the recent past: a major project at work that I lost a lot of sleep over, a failed relationship that cost me a lot of sleep as well, that sort of thing. No such thinking occurs. In fact I ride around empty-headed most of the time. Completely vacant. I really recommend it.
Two cycling trips, four years apart, both of them giving me a spectacularly good time. Yet during one I am nearly contemplating my head off, and during the other there is virtually nothing going on up there. You never know though — it ain’t over till it’s over.

Well — I have been thinking about things I really like about cycling in the USA. Small things, and big things.

1. Big-ass breakfasts. You know, like the big-ass omelette stuffed with a big-ass amount of jalapeño, sausage, onions, served with a big-ass load of salsa on a big-ass pile of big-ass hash browns. Om nom nom nom nom.
2. All the little polite pleasantries and exchanges. The how-are-you’s, thank-you-very-much’s, have-a-good-one’s and all that. I know a lot of it is not meant but the intent doesn’t matter — I can’t read your mind when you wish me a good day! It’s the act itself that makes me happy! Dutch people especially, TAKE NOTE!! you impolite, blundering oafs: the world is so much nicer when you are polite and friendly to each other. And… it’s free, too!
3. Craft beers and microbreweries. Man, these US guys are brewing it up. At the Wind River Brewing Co. (a restaurant/bar in Pinedale) I had the most exquisitely palatable stout. I forgot the name, darn it! And the Sawtooth Blonde after a hot day is infinitely superior to almost any belgian pale ale you can think of.
4. The drivers here (in their big-ass trucks ;-)). Very considerate, very respectful of cyclists. Most of them slow down on gravel roads so I won’t have to eat as much dust.
5. Western hospitality. It’s humbling really. Why can’t we do this in Holland?
6. Eating like a horse while losing weight. 68 kilograms last week, that’s 3,5 less than a month before!
7. Tan lines! Gotta like my tan lines. Completely ridiculous. I’m thinking about having them tattooed.

Well, sorry for the endless banter, can’t have it all eh.

P.S. after succesfully crossing the Great Basin I finally found some WiFi to publish this. Welcome all new readers! Pleased to meet you. I have many new pictures but I won’t be able to put them online, I’m afraid, until my next rest stop in Steamboat Springs (3 riding days from Rawlins here, I presume). Had many adventures and lots to show/tell, so see you then!

Daybreak in Wyoming

September 5, 2012 at 2:22 am

After a bad day, usually a great day follows. It was no different this time.

Listen to this song while watching the sun rise: Russian Circles – Mladek

 

After the Yellowstone experience and being picked up by Elaine, I woke up in a very bright mood. I was going to ride along the base of the Tetons towards the house of Dawn, a friend of Lisa’s (remember, back in Helena?). The Grand Tetons are like the rowdy teenagers of the Rockies: relatively young mountains, with craggy peaks and no foothills, so they rise to a spectacular prominence. At least, that’s what the world wide web told me.

The morning was very chilly and very foggy. I wonder if I would be able to see anything of the purported spectacular views. Still, I was still alive, and my rear tire was still full of air. Time to ride!

A preview of the Tetons: this Mount Moran, viewed while still on the ride towards Colter Bay Village.