Tag Archives: great divide mountain bike route

Tour Divide: New Mexico

Our first morning in New Mexico began with a dark climb up and over Brazos Ridge. Seb pointed out the spot where his fork broke, where he camped and had to hike out. It was remote and wild and I didn’t envy him having been stuck out there in a thunderstorm at all. We bumped into the kiwis (again). I was riding along enjoying the morning and then realised I was falling behind the guys. Then struggling. Then feeling a bit dizzy. What was wrong with me? I could see Seb cringing at the pace.

When I stopped and thought about it, I realised I was really really hungry. I’d only had half an old burger for dinner and a sugary fruit bun for breakfast. I had absolutely bonked for the first time on the divide. I was starting to make bad judgements, especially about food and water. My mouth was blistered from continually eating. From sugar. Gross muesli bars. If I never had to eat another another sweet and salty nut bar in my life I would be happy. But I had nothing else at the moment, so I stopped and reluctantly forced down nut bars and snickers. Seb caught me letting go of a few tears while muttering something about muesli bars. But the food worked and after an hour or so of easy riding I had managed to dig myself out of my bonk hole.

IMG_2239As we approached Vallecitos the thunderclouds were rolling in and starting to grumble. We rejoined the kiwis for the ride through town, hoping that a group of four would be safe to combat the aggressive dogs which live in the town. We slipped through unnoticed, but not by the storm. Large drops started hitting us and as we climbed higher into the forest, the air started to feel static. Seb and I kept pushing but eventually a huge front of hail came through followed by a downpour of rain. We took shelter under some trees and crouched next to each other grinning. It was a wild storm and nice to have someone to sit it out with. Unfortunately the rain turned the top of the pass and the entire downhill to sticky brown goop which covered and clogged everything. We washed our bikes at a ranger station and got aero for the downhill to Abiquiu.

IMG_2241We stopped at the Abiquiu Inn to see if there was a room for the evening but it was all booked out for a wedding. We were fortunate to meet Cricket Butler and Keith Brodsky sitting out front and they invited us to eat with them. It turned out they booked what appeared to be the last room available in the town. We shared some laughs and stories. They were riding North and meeting up with Dave Nice who I had bumped into in Del Norte. Such amazingly cool peoples, they got me smiling again and told us if me rode up less than 10km we’d be in the national park and would be able to camp and tackle the Polvadera Mesa fresh(er) in the morning. This sounded like a plan and so we headed off into the mountains again. We stopped earlier than I think Seb liked but I was spent. I hate riding into the night tired and would much rather get up at 3am and see dawn from the bike seat.

IMG_0809Polvadera Mesa was pretty evil. The start was tough going: sandy, slab rocks, bumpy. Maybe any other time it would be a rad climb, but not with the previous 16 days in the legs. It was dark, I was grumpy and it was pretty much like sucking big hairy balls. I winged and cried my way up the freaking long climb. I was dropping-my-basket and not enjoying any single part of the day so far. Then when we caught up to Marshal. That made me at least stop complaining out loud as I told myself to HTFU. 11269484_10153475049739459_4704379765928150408_oEventually, though, the sweet downhill came. We meandered through some spectacular countryside and as we got closer to town we passed through some sweet campgrounds full with people enjoying their Sunday.

IMG_2255It was getting HOT!

After a slight water-point miscalculation (ended up drinking from a cattle dam…. yuck), we rolled into Cuba on sticky tar under a scorching midday sun. I hadn’t eaten a full ‘bikepacking’ size meal since Del Norte, so all I could think about was McDonalds. As we rolled up there were lots of racer’s bikes lined up out the front. Seb ordered us a family pack (2 x burgers, 2 x chicken nuggets, 2 x large chips, 2 x thickshakes), and laughed at how gross that all sounded. We quickly realised we were going to need more, and ordered another family pack between the two of us…

mcdonaldsEveryone was debating about the best strategy: go now or wait until it cooled down a smidgen. Outside it was close to 40 degrees Celsius and we had a 125 mile stretch of tar across the desert to Grants. Everyone else left to give it a go, and we did too. I wet my buff and covered my face with it. Leg warmers on, arm protectors on. An hour later, riding in intense heat on the tar, my McDonalds got to me, stomach cramps!!

IMG_2259As we rode along the Navajo Route 9 through the canyon, the sky darkened and a huge electrical storm came in. We skirted the edge for hours and I started to get really worried. Knowing that our buddy JC had an incident with lightning a few years ago, I felt it was a bad idea to keep going, but there was literally nowhere else to go. It was a vast desert.

We rolled into Grants at midnight and got a room at the first accommodation at the Crossroads. A shower and bed was just what the doctor ordered after a big 180 mile day. I rinsed my disgusting stinky clothes and passed out, the alarm set for 5am.

The mission for the next day was Pie Town. It closed at 4pm (?) and we agreed we MUST get there! After a fantastic, hot, big breakfast was woofed down we rode through the beautiful El Malpais National Monument, an area of basalt formation made by volcanoes and lava.

IMG_2274 IMG_2278 It would have been nice to look around, apparently there are lava tubes, caving and other cool structures; but we were on a mission for PIE! The heat was back and we struggled into Pie Town desperate for some shelter from the sun, and some pie. At the Good Pie Cafe we presented our Salsa top caps and put the order in for two pieces of pie. I had lemon coconut followed by a yummy burger followed by blackberry pie. We had a great chat to the cafe owners and also Kathy, the Toaster House owner. Then we each got a solid burrito to take away and headed back into the sun.

IMG_2283Later that evening we munched on those burritos at the church by the highway, made famous in the Ride the Divide movie. We also restocked with water here – indeed a ‘god send’ of a spot. We bumped into Ryan Correy who was also on the search for water.

IMG_0822IMG_0823As we rode up towards  the canyon we passed an enormous herd of elk. We don’t have many animals back some in such huge groups. In the fading light, thunderstorms full of lightning ahead, gazing back across the grassy basin, listening to the eerie elk calls, I felt quite insignificant. Partway up the canyon, the walls closed in and darkness came, and so too did the rain. I wanted to stop, Seb wanted to continue. We stopped under some trees, had dinner, sleep and were back riding by 3:30am.

IMG_2289Day 18.

As we got to the top of the pass, all of a sudden I felt like I was riding through quicksand. Gross, all encompassing mud. We shouted and yelled at each other, Seb annoyed we hadn’t ridden through the night before. Shmeh! It turned out to be (just) possible to ride on the bumping sage brush type ‘grass’ on the side of the road, which he did for a looooong time until we intersected a more rideable road and were able to continue. This turned out to be our last ‘day’ on the divide, as we technically didn’t sleep now for about 30 hours. And this turned out to be the first of many dramas in our journey across the Gila Wilderness.

IMG_2291We entirely miscalculated the amount of food and water required for the huge stretch through to Pinos Altos / Silver City and the Gila was tough. It was spectacular country but hard riding. Hot, dusty, dry with constant undulations that wouldn’t allow you to get any respite or easy miles.

IMG_2294 IMG_2296We were both struggling big time. Seb says he saw a huge bear running fast through the trees, I never saw it. Maybe he just had the heat crazies? The CDT was a tricky little section made all the more trickier by me being afraid of heights, crap at singletrack and tired.  We got through faster than I had hoped though and in no time we were cruising the tar again towards Pinos Altos.

IMG_2298 IMG_2299 IMG_2300Then I spectacularly almost ruined my entire race trying to copy Seb’s mastery. Turns out he can turn off his red flasher on his rear seat stays by unclipping and using his foot; I on the other hand, cannot.  After sticking my foot in my rear wheel and almost breaking my toe, I got going again, amazed I hadn’t fallen off or broken any spokes. Very lucky. Very stupid.

At McDonalds in Silver City we decided to keep going. To be honest, my reasoning was simply that I didn’t want to have to wake up again and put on clammy, stinky knicks. I just wanted to keep going and get this thing done. The one thing that got me out of that chair was that if I kept going, I could beat Eszter’s old record. Of course Lael had already beaten it days before me, but it meant something I could push for to get me to the end. And so we went!

We had been riding since 3:30am that morning so it was fair that when dark settled in I got the sleepies. We weren’t far out of Silver City and had to pull off the side of the main highway and I slept for 15mins. Feeling refreshed we pushed on to the dirt turn off. Riding Separ Rd at night was a very cool experience. It was a perfect temperature, no wind, lots of stars. The riding was easy, fast. At around 1am we stopped for a 45min nap. No bivy or tent, just sleeping bags on the dirt. It was so good. I dragged myself off the ground and packed things slowly. Seb and I were riding a bit separate after this point. He was keen to get it done, I was showing obvious signs of exhaustion. He said he’d wait at the turn off of the final road. And there we met. We got aero and started the final countdown to the finish. As the sun rose it was a bizarre landscape. A few cactus, some distant mountains. This place was so incredibly different to the place we started from 19 days ago and I disliked it very much. I like trees and water and mountains.

IMG_2315 IMG_2319After sunrise I started to bonk incredibly. We were running out of food and I was running out of energy. At 19 miles to go I had eaten every last thing I had. I was doing about 7 miles per hour and getting slower. I had to sit down under the ‘shade’ of a salt bush twice. By now it was hot. I told Seb to go ahead and I’d see him at the finish. When he rode off I was crying at how crap that would be to finish together, but not together. I totally lost my shit! I felt sick to my stomach and considered calling it quits and trying for an ambulance or something. I spoke quietly and calmly to myself. Talked myself through every inch of about 10 miles. It was truly terrible. Eventually poor Seb appeared on the horizon and said he had to wait. What if I never made it to the finish??

Then something happened. Something kicked in and I swear it was pure adrenalin that got me to the finish. It was one of the most emotional moments in my life. Everyone says how they breezed into the finish. But for me, this was THE hardest part of the entire ride. Having ridden about 35hrs straight with a few nanna naps, it was terrible.We crossed the line, had obligatory border photos and then pretty much passed out in the shade with some of the other riders still there.


Many many thanks to Doug from Wisconsin who collected us from the finish in a huge RV. Also thanks to for Lukas for the fun chats and companionship throughout the race and for your company for those few days after the race where we spent the time sleeping, swimming and showing off our tan lines in the middle of the dustbowl that is Lordsburg.

IMG_2326 IMG_2329This was the adventure of a lifetime. Maybe I have made it sound hard or horrible, maybe not. It was indeed that sometimes, and I asked myself plenty of times why I was doing it! But the best part is that I got through it. I saw amazing sights, met amazing and courageous people, witnessed firsthand my strengths and weaknesses. I can now say I rode my bike across America and that’s one hell of a story to tell the grand kids one day. IMG_2334Thanks for reading!

Tour Divide: Colorado Capers

Day 12 on the Divide started with a long climb from Savery and into Colorado. After crawling past Brush Mountain Lodge in the dawn light, we pushed on and towards the next pass and  Steamboat Springs. IMG_0792The aspens started to become more common in this area. It was quite spectacular to ride through large stands of white trunks with a huge green canopy overhead. Also fields of yellow and white flowers. I don’t know why I didn’t get any photos.  Maybe the fact that we were cruising around 3000m at the top of the pass and I was gasping for air! Here is one I found from the same area and is pretty much what it looked like.


Photo: Jay Potts Photography

A very bumpy descent popped us out at Steamboat  Lake. We cruised along the tar to Clark and then through to Steamboat Springs. I stopped to grab an iced coffee and found Josh sitting next to the ice-cream stand with a bag of ice on his knees, looking in much pain. He was on the phone so I didn’t stop.

Closer to Steamboat Springs it seemed a popular cycling road. There were groups of cyclists and triathletes riding the undulating road into town and we got lots of cheers. In town it was tricky to follow the GPS track along the bikepath, weaving in and out of streets, but eventually it brought us right to Orange Peel Cycles. I could finally get someone to look at my fork which was a wobbly nightmare. While the bike was getting a once-over I kitted myself out with new gloves, white sun-protection arms (no more black arm warmers!!!) and a feed bag full of Pro Bars. I hadn’t had them before but they were a great change to sugary muesli bars and cliff bars. Organic, chia, matcha, all the yummy stuff and over 300 calories each. Yes! I also went around the corner to the organic deli and loaded up with bananas, handmade organic muffins and date logs. Heaven!


Bike fixed and a ton full of great food on board I smiled my way out of town. The next section was around 80km of generally uphill. It was hot hot hot and I stopped at Lake Catamount to jump in the water, fully clothed! As Simon and I rolled out of town Dave Meissner caught up to us on his road bike. We had met him at Wamsutter truck stop where he was driving through and said hi at Subway where he saw our bikes and weary faces. He lives in Steamboat and was out for a ride to meet another friend who was racing this year. We chatted for ages, Dave had done TD in 2012. Must have been so hard to ride through his home town in the middle of the race!!

After Lynx Pass, Josh caught up to Simon and I again. This seemed to be a daily occurrence now. We rode long and steady, he rode fast but stopped longer. As we got down and crossed the Colorado River a guy drove up next to us and said the shop back across the river was open, he had seen us riding around looking for it. We popped back there and filled our bellies with ice-cream and gatorade then headed up and over the tarred pass towards Kremmling. Josh planned to stay in a motel he booked and we thought that would be a plan. I was a bit tired and didn’t realise how far off-route it was. By the time we were riding through town it was too late to bail, we were already committed. Simon and I found an $18 motel room (bargain!!), where we set our alarms for fours hours and easily crashed into a deep sleep. It was nice to have a shower, although four hours was definitely not enough time for my washed knicks to dry. In fact they were nearly still dripping. Gotta love soggy shorts at 3am in the morning.

In the morning we rode past a great little toilet block closer to Ute pass. In hindsight I should have kept riding to here, I had enough food but the lure of a bed sucked me in. TD is a learning experience, and I had already learned I was a sucker for a bed and a shower.

At the top of Ute Pass Simon’s tyre made a big HISS and started going down fast. Sealant was coming out and he was madly spinning it to make it seal. We rode a bit but it went down again. I kept going and said I might see him at a bike shop in Silverthorn, I needed brake pads.


I got to the other side of Silverthorn but had struggled to find a bike shop on the route. I got yoghurt, strawberries, ham and cheese croissant and other delicious goodies and the Seven Eleven and kept moving. The crazy bike path express through the busy, posh and up market ski towns of Frisco and Breckenridge was way too much to handle and I rode as fast as I could to get out. Boreas Pass was lovely and as I was enjoying my peanut M&Ms  a new voice said hello. It was Marshal Bird. I had finally overtaken him as he admitted to stopping at too many cafes along the way through the last three towns. He rode just ahead down the Gold Dust Trail, through Como and into the horrendous headwind to Hartsel.


I had dinner with two Northbound riders and headed out into the wind and rain, thinking I might make Salida. Simon pulled up just as I was leaving but he was staying there for the night. Again, in hindsight, I should have stayed. I was cold and as dark surrounded me I began to flip out. All I could think about was Josh’s warning: he had seen a few mountain lions in this section a few months prior when he was hiking his bike through mud. Great. Dark, cold sleepy and now might get eaten by a mountain lion.

It was close to midnight when I crashed to the ground, completely shocked and disorientated. I had fallen asleep and lost control in a big wheel rut. Lying on the dirt with pain in my wrist I started sobbing. Silly choice Beth. Silly.  Josh rode past not long after I had regathered myself. I wiped away the tears and thought I might be able to ride with him. He said he was going all the way to Salida and that we were close to the top off the pass so it would be all downhill. I was completely exhausted and decided that such a long downhill after midnight in the freezing cold was a very bad idea. I stayed at the top of the pass and rode down early the next morning.


Photo: Eddie Clark Media

But tomorrow was another day. People say not to make big decisions night. Sleep it out. And it was true, the next day was fantastic. I got up early and rolled downhill to Salida. I had a HUGE breakfast next to Absolute Bikes, where my bike was getting a new rear rotor (apparently the old one was thinner than paper) and new brake pads. Josh and I chatted to Eddie Clark, who took some photos of us said he’d hope to catch us at the top of Marshall Pass. The tar climb up to the beginning of Marshall Pass was horrible. It was so hot the road was bubbling and popping. I wished I hadn’t stayed so long at breakfast. Over the top of Marshall Pass, Josh Marshal and I donned our rain coats and sped downhill, trying to outrun the huge thunderstorm brewing above us. We made it, just.


Photo: Josh Daugherty

The thunderstorms were rolling past thick and fast. As fast as you could out run one the wind would change or the route would swing around and you were facing another black menacing cloud. I overtook Josh and Marshal having a dinner stop before we descended to the State Highway. I had ridden within my limits and was feeling good so I started pushing a little harder. Maybe I could make Del Norte tonight? The shape of a person appeared on the horizon. As I got closer and stopped to ask how they were I realised it was the Swiss rider Lukas Aufschlager. I hadn’t seen him since we had dinner together in Bigfork. He looked at me and said in a very surprised voice “YOU”RE GOING FAST”! He was fixing a flat so I continued on. I was thinking back to Eszter’s rides and said zzzzooooommm a few times aloud. I was feeling good. As the sun set partway up the Cochetopa Dome, it got cold. Eventually I was tired and knew I would not make it to Del Norte. Plus, nothing would be open even if I did make it.

Photo: Eddie Clark Media

Photo: Eddie Clark Media

I knew there was a campground partway down the hill after the summit, and I wanted that toilet block to keep warm. I could see Marshall’s light slowing getting closer and I knew he also liked staying in the toilet blocks. I wanted it, I needed it. I raced up the final part of the climb and over the top. By the time I reached the campground I was wrecked. I hadn’t eaten food or drunk water while speeding up the hill. About 20min later as I was setting up my sleeping gear on the toilet floor there was a knock on the door. Marshal. I offered to share the small warm space but he decided to put on all of his warm gear and sleep lower down the hill. I was smiling on the inside that I had made the effort to get here first.

Four hours later I was back on the bike, speeding down the mountain in the freezing inky darkness. I passed Marshal’s campsite towards the bottom. He would be up soon too. As the sun rose I could see Del Norte on the horizon so I decided to call my parents now that I finally had some reception. My phone was going crazy with messages. When I spoke to my parents they informed me that Seb was in fact IN Del Norte. I rang him straight away. Sure enough as I pulled up in town he was there to greet me. We had breakfast together and it was very surreal. I was wrecked from using too much energy the night before and not having any dinner. I was off with the fairies and even refused a coffee. If you know me, this is a big deal. I was so exhausted that I actually went and slept on someone’s front lawn while Seb watched over me. He was staying in town until he could fix his fork later that morning. He asked if it was OK to ride with me? It would be nice to have someone to ride with again. I missed riding with Simon and the uber-competitiveness between Josh and Marshal was rubbing off on me in a bad way.


As I rode out of town towards Indianna Pass I was in a daze. It was strange riding away from Seb after not seeing him for 14 days. Over the top of the pass it started to pour with rain. I had two blood noses in a row and started to feel pretty dejected. Riding over the ridge to Platoro I got poured on. I sat in Skyline Lodge munching on a burger. Cold and wet I was at a very low point of my ride. I asked for a room, they didn’t have any. I asked them to ring around. No one had a room. I went to my bike to get my map to find somewhere to stay but all of a sudden it was sunny. That was all I needed to get me back on the bike. As I rolled along the valley smiling I laughed about how I had almost pulled out of the race but now it was spectacular weather and I was cruising again, nearly in New Mexico. The highs and lows of TD.

I wasn’t sure where Seb was but I decided to head up La Manga Pass and camp near the border. As I turned onto State Highway 17 and headed towards the pass, a woman called out loudly “Are you the Australian woman???” Kinda weird I thought, but answered yes. “Oh great, your husband is inside eating a burger!”. Seb walked out waving. This day was getting more and more surreal.


He had had his fork  fixed and ridden part of the way there but decided he didn’t want to ride Indianna Pass AGAIN so had a lift to here. We decided it would be fun to ride to the border tonight and make our attack on New Mexico together. It was the end of my 15th day on the Divide and Seb and I were reunited.

I thought I was tired now. I thought I had done the hard yards and we’d roll to the border together. Oh no, New Mexico had some real treats lined up for us. I never really studied too much about the New Mexico section in my preparations. By the time I had gotten that far through the route notes I was often too flabergasted by the distance to even get there I paid little attention. Well, if you plan to do Tour Divide, here is my one piece of advice. Study new Mexico. Know it’s ins and outs. Be prepared. I wasn’t.

Tour Divide: Wide open space in Wyoming

Last blog Simon and I were in Idaho and had decided to skip Squirrel Ranch and continue on over the pass to Flagg Ranch. We arrived at Flagg Ranch, now in Wyoming, just as the front desk was closing around 10pm. The restaurant was closed and all they could offer was some muesli bars. The expensive cabin we got was a room with a bunk bed. There was no lights, no sheets or pillows. I hardly slept, I had so little food in my system I was shaking a bit. We decided it was worth staying until the breakfast opened at 7am so we could get some proper food, resupply our snacks and get a move on. A shame to miss the all-you-could-eat buffet opened at 7:30am but we needed to keep moving.IMG_0769The day started on the tar, heading alongside Jackson Lake with jaw-dropping views of the Grand Teton National Park. This is definitely on the list of places to come back and explore. It was early but already the tourists were out and about. After days on the gravel it made me a bit uncomfortable having huge RVs try and squeeze past and other impatient cars revving around us. The view made up for it but all too soon we turned East, heading towards Togwotee Pass.  After a pretty tree lined dirt climb up to Togwotee Mountain Lodge, we stopped for an icecream before heading back onto the tar for the climb. It was a gentle gradient and before we knew it the top came and went. I expected to go screaming down the other side on the road but instead, after a nearly missing the turn, we veered left towards Brooks Lake. The road was a little boggy but it was worth it, the views were some of the best of the entire Divide.IMG_0780IMG_0781

At Lava Mountain Lodge we stopped for a burger. Great place but we waited what seemed and age for our food. Enough time to charge my phone and get a message from Seb saying he was in Colorado having a blast and ‘just cruising’ now that he was ahead of record time. Ha! Here I was slogging my guts out and he was just cruising, nearly an entire state in front of me!IMG_0783

The alternate route, which deviates from the Warm Springs alternate towards Fish Lake Mountain, was another new addition to the route which was completely worth it. Instead of going over Union Pass we headed over the range further to the west. There was a bit of testing hike-a-bike but at the plateau at the top we were treated to views of mountain ranges in every direction. The afternoon sun was shining on the Grand Tetons far in the distance, proof that we had ridden a long way. The wind was picking up and at around 3000m it was getting cold. The Kiwis caught up and said they were off to at toilet block at one of the campgrounds along the Green River. That sounded like a plan to us! The maps suggested quite a few ‘unofficial’ campgrounds which meant that there were no toilets, just spots that were good to camp. We never found the one we were looking for and so camped besides a river with the cows, and awoke to frost covered bikes. Brrr!

The next morning we had a very cold ride into Pinedale for a much needed big breakfast. Mine was so big in fact, that even me AND the Kiwis couldn’t finish all the pancakes!


I rode the day mostly within sight of Simon but alone with my thoughts. It was vast, wide open country, quite intimidating to be out there on a bike. Simon caught up and we rode together into South Pass City where we found no supplies and nothing open except a small tourist office which was closing. The man was very helpful and rang ahead to Atlantic City for us to book a cabin. South Pass City is an old ghost town, most people moved away after the mining boom ended. The man reminded us that there was not much at Atlantic City either. We needed food and water for the basin crossing and hoped that we could find what we needed.IMG_0788

The bar / restaurant next to our cabin was serving food and we were also able to resupply with a few things before Wamsutter. I was scared of the basin crossing, mostly of running out of water. After so many days of sunburn I was now wearing my arm warmers and full length leg warmers all day for protection. I did not want to be out in the basin wearing those and decided I needed to make a very early departure.

If you look at the map, you can see that the basin is the desert gap between the ‘green areas’ of Atlantic City and Savery, quite a big stretch of nothingness!

Screen shot 2015-08-21 at 12.30.33 PM

By 2:30am Simon and I were riding out of Atlantic City. The basin crossing to Wamsutter was spectacular and nothing to be worried by that early in the day. We enjoyed a sunrise of magnificent oranges and reds and spend the first part of the morning riding through unique and beautiful desert flora.


Unfortunately after an epic lunch at the Wamsutter 24hr truck stop, the rest of the day to Savery was pretty foul. It was very very hot, there were no trees, just oil mining rigs every few kilometer or so. I was chased by a savage white dog guarding some livestock and ran out of water at the base of a hot and exposed climb of nearly 20km. For anyone riding this section in the daylight hours, do not underestimate how much water you need and how tough this section is!

The downhill to Savery was a lovely reprieve. I wanted to continue on to Brush Mountain Lodge so much but I couldn’t face the climb. Day 11 had been 259km and that was enough for now. I had some packaged salmon, a bread roll, banana and a muffin for dinner. Surely not the same as Kirsten’s famous pancakes 😦

Simon, Josh and I camped in an open block in the middle of town. There was no shop or accommodation. We spoke to the woman who used to run the shop though it had since closed. She had two houses and it was time to sell up her Savery house. Apparently she had let ACA know many times that the shop was no longer operating, but it is still on the map. After a wash in the gurgling stream I fell asleep easily on the soft grass. Tomorrow morning we would cross the border into Colorado in the wee hours of the morning, and would pass Brush Mountain Lodge way too early to stop in. Next time through I’ll have to stop in to say hi to Kirsten!

Tour Divide: Montana Musings, Indifferent about Idaho

When studying for the Tour Divide (like a test!) I read books and blogs for as much information as I could get my hands on. I found there was a common saying about the North section: if you get through Montana, you’ll get through the Divide. Well Montana was tough, but I got through.

Day three started off with a nice climb up Whitefish Divide after Eureka. It was a bit frosty and cold but I was determined not to see a bear so I went about making my noise and playing my music loud. At the top I devoured some cold pizza for breakfast much to the delight of Brett Stepanik, who we met at the top.

IMG_0699 IMG_0700

The three of us rode together for ages, enjoying the delightful forest and gradient towards Polebridge. As we turned up towards Red Meadow Pass I went to shift into my little chain ring: nothing. Stuck. I jumped off and felt the cable, it was loose. I couldn’t find anything snapped at the bottom end and guessed it had snapped in the shifter where I couldn’t see. Luckily it was a steady climb and I tapped away in my middle ring, only needing to walk once near the top. The boys didn’t wait but I hoped to catch up with them at the bike shop in Whitefish. A local highway patrol officer (and apparently a divide racer himself in previous years) stopped me to see if I knew where everything in town was and gave me impeccable directions to the bike shop. Glacier Cyclery was buzzing with TD riders when I arrived. Turned out that there was a huge rock jammed in my front derailleur and after some coercing it popped out and the problem was fixed. Silly!

With a sub in my belly from Columbia Falls, I headed off to see if I could catch the guys. As day three drew to a close, things started to go downhill. My feet were in agony and swelling incredibly. I undid all the buckles and straps but there was no relief. As I caught up to Doug we tried to decide where would be open for food. Why hadn’t we gone to the supermarket in Columbia Falls? It was an epic day tomorrow and nothing on route before then was open. Silly again. The promise of food and a proper bed beckoned me off-route and before I knew it I was munching on dinner in Bigfork. In the motel that night I spent a good hour with my legs in the air trying to reduce the swelling, while researching what had happened to Mary Metcalf-Collier from Ride the Divide movie to make her legs turn into sausages. Eventually I decided it was my poor decisions on day one which had led to dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes. My body was trying to hold onto as much fluid as it could and it was pooling in my legs. This was my google-dr-diagnosis anyway. I drank plenty of fluids and got a great night sleep, hoping tomorrow was a better day.

And tomorrow was a better day! In fact, day four ended up being my favourite day on the divide. My shoes slipped painfully on but they fitted at least! I had to ride with all the straps and buckles undone, a small price to pay. The Swan Valley was a beautiful place. The sun was shining and I felt fantastic. IMG_0714IMG_0711

We saw Alice a few times that day: in the valley after the first pass and then in Seeley Lake where we stopped off route for some food and then again in Ovando. Richmond Peak was incredible. I must have stopped for about 50 photos, as we slowly worked our way higher and higher we were able to see further and further into the distance. It must have been such a change for people to experience it in the heat, as opposed to hiking bikes across avalanche debris with snow up to the tree tops. IMG_0726

I never said farewell to Doug, we just agreed that I wanted to get up earlier than he did in Ovando and I thought he would catch me up. After a terrible sleep in the teepee, I was up and moving by 3am and Doug never caught up to me. So thanks for your company over those first few days mate. It was nice to ride with someone who knew the route and also how to scare away the bears! I rode the next day by myself. After breakfast in Lincoln, the three passes of the day could not have been more different. Stemple Pass was just plain hard. It was steep and required a fair bit of walking, the scenery was also quite uninspiring. As I was hiking my bike up the top of the second pass I was getting a bit grumpy but then the wildflowers started. Reds, purples, yellows, whites.


Lush green trees, vivid green grass and thousands of wildflowers.  I took a few photos but they couldn’t do it justice, it was magnificent and made me smile again. IMG_0737

I stopped at the top to breathe it all in. A wheezing came from behind and Lael appeared! We chatted briefly but she was visibly struggling to breath. It was great to finally meet her but a shame not to be able to talk! She mentioned she was going to head to a hospital in Helena which sounded like a good idea to me.

As I rolled into Helena I was instantly uneasy. Trucks, people, traffic and way too many food choices. I refueled at the last chance possible and, after much deliberation, decided that 3pm was too early to stop, even after such a big day. I rolled up another pass to Park Lake campground to stay in the toilet block. When I arrived there after a spectacular sunset climb I found Simon Cross set up with his tent next to the toilets. After me bragging how warm it was we ended up sharing the floor of the deluxe shitter and slept soundly knowing we were safe from mountain lions and bears.


Eggs and french toast in Basin was divine after a cold morning slogging away over Lava Mountain. Unfortunately five minutes after leaving town my water bladder tube fell into my front wheel and I came to a grinding halt. Bewildered and lucky to have not had a crash, I had to cut the tube and take apart my front brake to prise out the melted plastic with my pocket knife. MacGyver Beth!

Until Wise River nothing really happened except spectacular scenery! I would love to go back one day and explore around Beaver Dam and Fleercer Ridge, just beautiful. I met Simon again in Wise River but he was staying the night and I wanted to push on. I ummed and ahhed in my usual fashion until Alice Drobna showed up. Her seat rail was broken and she ordered a new one to collect at Flagg Ranch, a long way to ride with a duct-taped seat! We had a hilarious and sneaky shower upstairs at the hotel and then continued up the road together to a first campground. It was a lovely evening and I didn’t want to stop but I definitely wanted the camping company. Had I only known that a few hours down the road was the High Country Lodge. After another night in the toilet block because I couldn’t get my tent pegs into the rock hard ground, I stopped in there at 7am the next morning to be greeted by Russ, who gave me a huge hug saying “’that was from Seb”! What an amazing place they have there. As I scoffed down breakfast he explained that Lael had just left and that the lunch sandwiches would be ready quick smart so I could get back on the road and chase her. Fantastic hospitality! Chase Lael I did, and we caught up again on and off all day as we headed towards Lima. She seemed in much better health and as I stopped in Lima for the night completely and utterly exhausted, she rode off into the distance and that was the last time we crossed paths.

In Lima it was great to have a private room for some stretching, naked lounging around and queen bed to myself. I slept like a baby. I was rooming next to the two NZ riders Greg Gallway and his friend Evan and Simon was also staying a few rooms down. We agreed that who ever was out the front of the motel at 3am would leave together, and at that horrid hour it was just Simon and I who rolled out under the cover of darkness.

IMG_0756Simon and I had such a blast riding together. We were similar speeds and just chatted and chatted, it was so easy to pass the hours. He had some great stories incredible adventures and also of his partner Solveiga’s TD ride the previous year. Before we knew it we were climbing the final miles of Montana, reaching Red Rock Pass with huge smiles. I MADE IT. I got through Montana! It had been a long hard slog and my knees had paid big time, but it was done and there were now only four states left.


Idaho started in a beautiful way. A great downhill, a scenic cruise past Henry’s Lake and some fantastic single track taking us straight to the Subway at Sawtell. After that, Idaho had nothing much to offer except the promise of a visit to the Grand Tetons once we left the state. The rail-trail was an absolute mess. It was the weekend and the All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) were insane. They had turned the potentially awesome trail into gravel a foot deep and proceeded to whip around with little regard to poor cyclists attempting to ride through it. After 60km of unrelenting gravel and corrugations Simon and I were a bit delirious, joking about how the people in charge needed to go to Victoria in Australia and learn what a REAL rail-trail is. The worst part, even worse than the road surface of this section, was the fact that for most of it there was a perfectly good firetail running adjacent to the rail-trail. That was mean. Very mean.


Arriving at Squirrel Ranch in the early evening, we convinced ourselves it was a good idea to continue on to Flagg Ranch. The owners at Squirrel obviously wanted us to stay, mentioning that there were bears on route to Flagg Ranch, which they believed was closed for good and didn’t know if we would find anyone there. After battling incessant swarms of mosquitos over the final pass, we rolled into Flagg Ranch about 10pm. It was a resort! It was insane! How could they not have know if this place was ‘open’. Hahaha we nearly fell for that one Squirrel Ranch! We grabbed a cabin and aimed to get some shut eye before the shop and breakfast opened at 7am.

Idaho lasted one afternoon and that was all I needed thank you very much. We were in Wyoming baby, time to go see the Grand Titties!




Tour Divide: Alberta Adventures

How does a person sit down and write about a 2700 mile journey across America on a mountain bike, where the hours spent pedaling nearly equaled the total hours in each day? I always thought I understood the enormity of the adventure we were undertaking but it was always broken down into something smaller and easier to comprehend: two countries and six states, or the mountains and the desert, or even just the mileage between water and food resupply points.

The overwhelming number of memories which were created on the Divide are impossible for me to capture in words, or rather, it would be an incredibly long book of which I do not have the time to write. For me, racing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route as part of Tour Divide was a very personal experience. It was both uplifting and grounding at the same time, with many highs and lows. At the finish I was certainly more mentally and emotionally fatigued than physically. It is amazing what our bodies can adapt to given enough time, but the mind is something different. Over and above all the physical abilities and challenges, the mind must be willing to press on.

Unlike all other adventures I have ever written about, at first I decided I was not going to write about Tour Divide. It felt private and I almost wanted to say that you need to get out there and try things like this for yourself. However, after returning home and sharing our adventure with family and friends, I realised that these great stories definitely need to be shared. I made some marvelous new friends on the Divide, discovered wild and wonderful places and persevered through to the end with a determination that I didn’t know I had. I am not usually a philosophical person but maybe it is true, maybe the Divide can change you? Maybe these next few blogs are more for me than you: unpacking memories and making sure I have notes for the future in case my memory fails me. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures as much as I had making them!

Just as I did when preparing for Tour Divide, and as everyday and every hour passed on the route, I will need to break it down into more manageable chunks. Bite size pieces to enjoy!


Having driven from Vancouver through places like Whistler, Lake Louise and the Icefield Parkway, by the time we got to Banff we were already blown away by the the majesty of the mountains. Compared to Australia… well you can’t really compare! I don’t think I could even name a ‘pass’ in Australia. Our mountains are more like hills that you drive over, not mountains that soar into the clouds which require a pass to sneak between a low point. More often than not, the pass was higher than even the highest point in our entire country. It was fair to say that by the time we got to Banff I thought we had seen it all. Oh how I was wrong!

Seb and I spent a few days exploring Banff, putting our bikes together and doing final preparations like confirming GPS routes and obtaining bear spray. There were dinners with newly made friends, test rides, nervous racers talking things out over pizza and eyeballing the bike setup of every rider which went past. After four days of what felt like a lifetime, slowly counting down to the grand depart, I couldn’t wait to get going. Seb and I said our goodbyes on the start line at the Banff YHA and after a fun group photo and a speech by Billy Rice, we were off! I was determined not to get caught up in the argy-bargy back of the pack but also not to blow myself apart in the first hour like Kiwi Brevet. I was soon at my own pace though, whizzing through lush and quiet forest and I was so happy. The sun was shining and I thought we couldn’t be luckier.

beth seb start

The first day turned out to be incredibly hard but I can’t complain too much because we didn’t have to hike over snowy passes or have five days of rain like previous grand departs are famous for. It was hard in it’s own way though. Not too long after we left Banff the sun disappeared and was replaced my menacing clouds. They threatened for a while and then got on with it, dumping cold rain which soon turned to sleet and then snow over the top of the first pass. The rain soaked through the first few inches of the road and created mud that stuck to everything. I tried very hard to limit my shifting but eventually I could not even shift into the little chain ring without chainsuck that ground me to a halt every time. I stopped to empty 6L of water onto my bike from my water bladder each time I reached a stream and this seemed to make it possible to keep moving forwards at least. Riders stopped talking to each other as the rain set in and everything seemed a bit more miserable. I found myself walking a lot of hills which I couldn’t ride in my middle ring, to save my knees. On most of these occasions Alice Drobna and I exchanged conversation as she passed me. She kept reminding me that I wouldn’t be walking if I only had one gear and no derailleur to fail. I kept thinking “Yes I would, how do your knees survive on that single speed?!”

Eventually I rolled into Elkford and met up with a bunch of guys at the supermarket. I was ready to stop but Simon Cross confidently declared he was continuing and everyone kind of followed his lead. A group of six of us started off towards Sparwood together. It was great to have a few people to look for and navigate the new Josephine Falls ‘singletrack’ section in the disappearing daylight. Doug Wenger and I rode into Sparwood together and decided a motel was a good option to get dry. We pressure washed out bikes at the service station and devoured subway for dinner. After de-mudding clothes and body, at around midnight I crawled into bed and tried to come to terms with the enormity of the day. I remember thinking “wow, if the whole Divide is this tough, maybe I need to back off already!”

I had been bitterly cold for most of the day and my ¾ rain pants had left my feet sodden and frozen. I had given my booties and puff jacket to a friend the night before the start, telling myself this was going to be a warm year! I had envisaged my Sealskinz socks being enough but they were not in this weather. I knew in two days I would have the worst and most painful chilblains from today’s suffering. I had also not drunk enough water at all. I did not pee all day until I got to Sparwood. I was so cold that there was no way I was stopping to take off ALL my layers to get off my stupid bib knicks to pee. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware then but my actions on day one made the next few days very hard on my poor body.

But day two brought sunshine and spectacular scenery and we never looked back. From such a horrid day one, day two could not have been more opposite. In the morning my knees took a while to warm up but as I got into the swing of things I began smiling and enjoying the climb up Flathead Pass. I felt really great and passed a few riders who were obviously not yet as warmed up or chirpy as me yet. I bumped into Jill Homer as we approached the ‘river road’ coming down the other side of the pass. I met up again with Doug and we ended up riding together for the entire day through to Eureka. We laughed our way through the crazy hike-a-bike wall and were awestruck by the Flathead wilderness. I felt so little and insignificant in that enormous and untouched place. Starting up Galton Pass I never saw more fresh bear poo than that day. We saw one black bear up the road who quickly disappeared into the trees as we yelled “Hey BEAR BEAR”. I had seen my first and last bear for the trip!

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After laughing at the camera crew at the bottom of the Galton descent, saying I was the first chick (hadn’t they heard of Lael??), we zoomed through the US border control to enjoy pizza in Eureka and set up camp for the night in the town campground. I went to sleep listening to a strange mix of sounds including a gurgling river, obnoxious cars revving in and out of the 24hr service station and young drunk kids enjoying their Saturday night.

Goodbye Canada, hello Montana USA!