Day #42) July 24, 2011. Maybell, CO to Dinosaur, CO: 60 miles in 5:08 hrs.
Last night watched stage 20 of the TDF. And like I always say: You have to be able to TT if you want to win big stages races. Congrats to the Aussie who just destroyed the climbers in GC. Ok, that’s it for my TDF analysis. I had a Fosters Oil Can stashed in my yak – for emergencies of course, and I’d call watching that stage 20 a definite situation to pop the tab on old Mr. Fosters. Then Woody and I BS’ed for a bit and he led me into the kitchen to have the run of the regrig. It was the mother of all refrigerators, just stuffed to the gills, whereupon he told to take whatever I wanted. I ended up picking out some steak he’d just grilled that evening and it was spot on super. Hell, I could have just sat there and sampled all sorts of stuff, but I wanted to at least appear courteous – not a walking garbage gut! So I had about 8 pieces of grilled rib-eye steak.
Woke at about 5 am, and went to work immediately on answering emails, and then packing gear upstairs to then move to my bike and yak downstairs. Woody had set the coffee machine for 5:30 am, so I scarfed down a box of Sweet & Salty bars in my room, then moved all the gear downstairs and had a cup of great tasting java. I was the only soul up at that time, and tried to be as quiet as possible as I loaded all the gear on bike and yak. Watched a quick bit of morning news and then wrote Woody and his wife a thank-you note on a napkin. Then it was out the door and on the road at 6:15 am. Funny, the more I work my way west the sooner dawn is coming. This morning it was light out at 5:30 am. Good to know in case I have to pull a super early ride in the future.
So Woody had given me the lowdown on my ride today – HILLS! Heck, I’ve been riding for 6 weeks now and that’s been the operative word for almost the whole trip, no matter where I’m at there are climbs – climbs in WV, VA, IL, MO, KS, CO. The plains on this route – climbing! Not at all like the pooltable flatness of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Nope. Now those Great Plain provinces are truly flat. The route I’m doing now, NOT flat. Now I’m not complaining, but let me tell you, this being my third Trans-American crossing, I’ve done way more climbing than the other two combined! And I don’t figure things to go any different in UT and ID and OR. Just going to have to get used to not banging out these 80-90 mile days. I mean 50-70 with the heat and climbing and I’m just cooked by 11 am.
So getting back to the route today, Rt 40 W, and Woody had told me that I’d have 14-15 climbs on the way to Dinosaur. With that said, when I got ready this morning I already had the mindset to climb the better part of the ride. Got on the road amidst a cloudless, beautiful 49-degree morning, and right from the gun a had a bloody wall to climb on the way out of Maybell. This pup was like middle ring to little ring within 10 min. And then it took another 10-15 min to get to the top in the little cookie. So you get to the top and look to the west and the road just looks like a sine wave rolling off into the horizon. Once I topped out I could feel the sweat in my gloves, my earwarmer, and under my poly pro top. But I wasn’t about to take those off and totally chill out on the descent. So I just had to put up with the sweating, even with the cold temps.
The other piece of beta that Woody had given me was the fact that I’d likely be doing 57-60 miles of just pure desolation. There was only really one place along this stretch of road that may have a little diner, but this being Sunday Woody figured that it was closed today. So I needed to be sure to have enough water and food to get me through the whole ride. Made sure to have a couple of energy bars and 4 bottles of liquid.
So I got over that first climb and descended, did a minor whoop’tee in the middle and then climbed again. And it continued like this ad infinitum. Some of the climbs were just total killers, like little cookie and up to 20-25 min long, while others were gradual middle cookie climbs that were 10-15 min long. Then there were the little whoop-tee’s in the middle of these things that I could do in the big ring. So I was certainly giving my front derailleur a good workout. Now I think expecting today to be a bitch was kind of good, because I was just content to do my best to not kill myself as I had yesterday riding like a bat out of hell. And let me tell you, I bloody well counted each and every climb just to see if Woody know that the hell he was talking about. He’s not a rider and climbs in a car sometimes just don’t equate to climbs on a bike. In a car you just might not even notice. On a bike you notice everything, especially when you’re dragging a trailer up and over every inch of roadway.
The landscape was changing more today than in the previous several days in CO. Today I was noticing more of the stark, desolate and blank hills and mesas, and the small canyons and draws type of topography, very similar to the topography we envision when we think of UT. This was like desolation at it’s best.
Now a couple of times I’d get a stretch of several miles where I could big ring it and just cruise, but inevitably I’d come to a big descent – and I mean BIG – that would lead right back down into the base of another climb. Now somehow, someway I was maintaining like 11-12 mph for an average. Had to be the zipping down those descents at like 35 mph because my speed going up the climbs sometimes dipped to like 4-5 mph. I’m telling you they were freaking roller coasters. A couple of the climbs were just so big that I couldn’t even see the end. They’d just curve and stretch off into the horizon. And I’d watch cars to kind of try to see just where the climb was going, and most of the time the cars would just disappear. I timed one of these monsters and it took 27 min to climb!
By the time I’d gotten to about 34 miles into the ride I could really feel the climbing. It was just non-stop, relentless, and grueling. Now I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, because there was definitely a plus side to the day….great, fantastic weather and temp, amazing scenery, very low traffic levels, and finally, I was riding a bike through NW Colorado. Riding a bike = wonderful day, no matter how hard the terrain. And this morning riding gig that I’ve kind of stumbled into since last year’s ride, I just love it. Riding in the morning is usually otherworldly for a good hr out of the day. It’s cool, refreshing, and the morning light just does wonderful things to the landscapes. It’s a true kick in the ass to get on the road early and finish early before the sun just starts to cook the landscape like a pan on a griddle.
With 20 miles to go the steep climbing kind of gave way to these long, gradual guys that would go for miles. I could do several of them in the big cookie, but man, they’d just keep stair stepping up and up and up. Now Woody was right on the diner, that pup wasn’t even in what I’d call a hamlet. It was just this little place out in the middle of nowhere, and it was closed. No worries though, as I had plenty of liquids on board. By then I was starting to feel the heat of the day, round about 10 am. Went through 2 bottles by then and felt good that I’d have enough to make Dinosaur. And I’ll tell you, there was pretty much zero initiative in my head by then to go on to Vernal, UT, 33 miles W of Dinosaur.
When I saw Dinosaur in the horizon, wow it looked like NYC compared to Maybell. I mean there were a bunch of buildings, this despite the fact that the population is…….300! That’s how small Maybell was! So I rolled into town and saw two little motel/efficiencies – the one even had this carry-out cabin/kiosk for chinese food. They both still had a bunch of cars in their lots despite it being 11 am which kind of worried me. So I went straight over to a store/gas station for hydration to see if maybe it was still a bit too early. Got this 22 oz blue “slurppy” which I nearly guzzled and then went back in for a 22 oz fountain coke. Next stop was the CO visitor’s center, since Dinosaur is just 1-2 miles E over the UT line. Got a free UT map and inquired about the section to Vernal, with the folks telling me it was pretty good, with negligible climbing. And oh yea, there were exactly 15 big climbs. Woody was right on.
Then it was time to check out the efficiencies. The one was full for the night with oil/gas workers – which is big business out here. I damned near turned right out of the little gravel driveway and headed off to Vernal, with sore, dead legs and all, but I figured I’d give the other place a try just for the hell of it. I mean by then it was nearly 90 degrees and cooking. Turns out the lady had just one room available. Turns out this is kind of a boom area just as I’d found out in ND. Many of the workers just book out rooms for weeks on end. She told me it would be about 30 min before I could go in, so what did I do? I went to the chinese carry-out, which the lady and her husband also owned. I mean it’s right next to the motel. Got a lunchen special of Mongolian Beef with egg roll, rice and soup – 6 bucks! This stuff was awesome. So I sat under a little tent top and ate lunch while they readied my room. This is dinner for sure!
Once in the room did cell and wifi check – good to moderate - answered emails, and then the shower/kit wash thing. Ever just taken your cloths into the shower with you? I do it damned near every day. I soak the kit at the bottom of the tub/shower, pour shampoo on it, and then squeeze wash and clean. Then it’s onto the outside for sun drying on chairs, windowsills, fences, grass, damned near anywhere. Often I ask the owners of the establishments if there’s a place where they prefer me to hang my raunchy cycling cloths. Nine times out of ten they don’t care where I hang the stuff.
Next up micro brew! The selection of the day is Black Butte Porter from the Deschutes Brewery of Bend, OR. Great stuff! Been working here for a while just nursing my brews and pecking away at the computer and listening to either the TWC or the Cooking channel. No Versus here so I can’t watch the final stage of the TDF.
According to my UT map, I’m going to stay with Rt 40 W for a bit longer, maybe all the way to Salt Lake City. I’ll try to get some beta from the locals after I get west of Vernal. Tomorrow I’m thinking very seriously of just doing a noodle day to Vernal, and that sets me up for about 3 60-70 mile rides in a row. That because I’ll be climbing across more mts once I get west of Duchesne, UT. So just doing a little 33-miler to Vernal, I’m in a good spot to time out the next 4-5 days through UT, as I then head N into ID. We’ll see. Somehow I always seem to get some good beta from folks to kind of make the route become crystal clear.
That’s it for today. Right now it’s just a scorching dry heat outside. It almost looks like desert to the west in UT, so my early start strategy will remain as is. Until tomorrow……..Pete