Tour Divide Journal

The Tour Divide is a 2700+/- long bikepacking race from Banff, AB to Antelope Well, NM. For most it takes a month or more to complete, but it has been done in just under 14 days by the late Mike Hall. This is my Tour Divide Journal, from my 2017 race.

I did not keep this journal as I raced, as most nights I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow. I recorded them after the fact. The Tour Divide was the first of three bikepacking races I did in 2017 (the Colorado Trail Race and Arizona Trail Race make up the other two). Together they make up the Bikepacking Triple Crown.

Race Data

2732 miles
Banff, AB to Antelope Wells, NM
June 9th – 8am to June 28th – 2:56am
20 days 18 hours 56 minutes
Position: 14th out of 198 starters
Average daily mileage: 131.4
Moving average speed: 9.3 mph
Route average speed: 5.5 mph
Moving Time: 12:05:22
Stopped time:  8:14:37

Day 1

June 9th

8:00 am to 10:27 pm (14:27)

113.6 – miles

Banff YMCA to Koko Pass, BC

What a crazy day. 

Had I known how hard the next 20 days of racing were going to be, I would have approached the situation differently both physically and mentally.

From the very start of the race I was probably within the top 30 riders. I would stay there throughout the entire race.

Throughout the entire day it rained/sprinkled off and on, and the riding surface conditions weren’t much better. They ranged from beautiful crushed gravel paths to muddy single track, back to muddy logging roads and finally a very rocky Hike-a-Bike (HAB) up Koko Pass. If I’m being honest there was some pavement too.

The conditions didn’t bother me, as I was so blown away at the landscape I was surrounded by. The Canadian Rockies were stunning. The excitement of just being in the race after dreaming of it for so long was like a shield from the misery I was putting myself through.

Just getting to the Boulton Creek Trading Post seemed like a long day and it was only at mile 52. There was at least 20 of us at the store when I got there. After I left I saw very few others. The pavement section on either side of the store was nice but short lived.

Getting over Elk Pass wasn’t too bad, but around mile 75 or 80 the road turned to shit. It had saw heavy logging traffic and combined with all the moisture the road surface was all tire ruts, deep mud and standing water.

By the time I got to Round Prairie, Mile 97.7 I was blown away I had just ridden a few miles short of a century. Knowing the Koko Pass was just up the way I took my time starting the climb. I got water at a creek with some others, right where the trail got insanely steep. Some stayed there but it was all rocks and very damp.

I pushed on and I mean pushed on. Over the next 3+ miles I barely rode my bike. My arms were as tired as my legs by the time I stopped. I was joined but a young kid on a cross bike. He and I found a flat spot without brush just off the trail and got in our bivies.

Day 2

June 10th

5:30 am to 8:41 pm (15:11)

128.9 miles – 242.5 total miles

Koko Pass, BC to Wigwam CG, BC

Waking up in the dark only to have to put on wet riding clothes wasn’t very fun. My hands and feet were so cold it was painful. They didn’t warm up until the sun finally came up hours later. The high for the day was around 50.

The day started with a very steep descent off the pass, which some of I choose to walk. It was way too early to crash out. At the bottom I had to cross a stream and got my already cold feet wet. Shortly after that I missed a turn and wasted a good 15 minutes trying to find the route.

After finding the route I road a very nice logging road the whole way into Fernie. Along the way I saw a cow moose with a calf.

Despite easier riding than day 1, the stop in Fernie, BC cut into my miles. I wasted a lot of time ordering food at a sit down dinner and food shopping. Don’t get me wrong it was nice to get warm but it was a time suck.

I recall the second half of the day dragged on. I was definitely feeling the effects of day 1 during the afternoon. Leaving Fernie meant a long climb up Cabin Pass. The results was my achilles started to hurt. 

As I climbed the pass with another rider, we came across a mother bear with a cub. Mommy stood up on her hind legs and smelled the air before dropping to all four and scurried of the road. They might have been grizzlies but I’m not sure.

The day wouldn’t be complete without more rain. Just before I started the last descent off Cabin Pass to Wigwam Campground the skies opened up. I stopped on the descent to put my rain gear on and almost lost a rain mitt. 

Luckily, I was the first the small group I was riding with to reach the campground, so I had my pick of camp spots. I found a nice dry soft one under a fur tree.

The smell that came from under my rain pants was out of this world. It literally shocked me. All I could think was how badly I smelled after only two days!

I saw also saw a deer today.

Day 3

June 11th

2:47 am to 11:47 pm (21:00)

143 miles – 383.5 total miles

Wigwam CG, BC to RSC between WhiteFish and Columbia, MT

This day broke my earlier record for the most miles in a day, which was 142. 

I started in the rain at 2:47 am, in complete darkness. The air was so thick with moisture it was like dense fog.

Getting up and over Galton Pass meant pushing, dragging, carrying, and sometimes riding Phillip. The base of the pass was single track and muddy as hell. It was so greasy and steep I had to pull myself up by grabbing trees. The sections is call “The Wall”. My arms wore out so fast on it.

I froze my ass off on the 10 mile descent to the US/Canadian border. My hands hurt so bad from the cold I thought I was going to crash Phillip. It was a painful descent.

Once again I wasted too much time in Eureka eating and getting food.

The first two days caught up to me as I left Eureka. I called multiple people until I got someone to pick up. I needed to hear myself tell them I was okay to believe it. I made it out of town but as I started to climb up Whitefish Pass I was forced to take a nap on the side of the road. I was so tired I just needed a few minutes off the bike.

My achilles pain was quite painful and my bottom was sore as well. This made my afternoon and the two passes I had to go over very hard. It was both hard to stand, and hard to sit. 

Between Whitefish and Red Pass I had the most amazing view of the surrounding mountains. They really took my breath away.

Red pass involved pushing Phillip through two miles of snow. On the descent Phillip’s shifter broke, which meant I had to ride him as a single speed the last 15 or so miles into Whitefish.

I ended finding a pizza place that was one of the only places still open at 10 pm. While there I mentioned my broken bike and the guy at the counter said the guys at the shop stay late. I saw the shop next door but figured no one would be there. 

I order my slices then ran next door to knock on the door. Sure enough the mechanic was still there. He invited me in and fixed Phillip while I ate my pizza. He actually sold me the shifter off his own bike since he didn’t have a new one in stock!  The mechanic told me about a great campsite between White Fish and Columbia, which I stayed at with a rider I met on the way out of town.

Over all it was a very tough day. My body felt like it wasn’t going to make it. I had to push hard.

I saw two more bears, and a baby fawn.

Day 4

June 12th 

5:45 am to 10:10 pm (16:15)

139 miles – 522.5 total miles

RSC between WhiteFish and Columbia to Seeley Lake, MT

Today was the first really warm day of the race. The result was it quickly drained my energy levels.

I woke up early and hit a dinner in Columbia Falls and once again wasted a bunch of time. Getting out of town meant lots of pavement and dirt roads through farm country. As we entered the woods the temperature rose and the day heated up. The road went up hill as well.

At a nice creek I went for a swim with a bunch of other guys. I took advantage of the creek to risen out my chamois and shirt. I ended up  ridding a lot of the day alone, which made it mentally tougher. 

At Holland Lake I procrastinated on whether or not to go to Holland Lake Lodge for food. I sat on a bridge inventorying my food in an attempt to make a decision. I decided I had enough and started the climb up Richmond Peak. Unfortunately, this meant the guys I was near were ahead of me and I had to climb alone.

The scenery was spectacular, with lots of wild flowers and views on the climb. I ended up catching the guys from earlier on the descent. Shortly after it started to rain, then pour. 

I was forced to seek shelter at a hotel in Seeley Lake, which was 2 miles off route. I had a burger at a bar and then luckily got the last room in town. The shower handle fell off when I got in the shower. In hindsight, I should have just set up my bivy instead of dropping down in to town.

I saw my fifth bear and various other small creatures.

Day 5

June 13th

5:00 am to 4:49 pm (11:49)

65.9 miles – 588.4 total miles

Seeley Lake, MT to Ovando, MT 

This was a miserable day! I woke up less rested than I had hoped for. It was pitch black when I got up. I packed up and rode off back up to the race route in heavy rain. The rain had made the road very soft, which greatly increased the effort needed to make forward progress. It was much harder than it should have been. They were in the process of grading the road which didn’t help either.  

As I rode the 30 miles to Ovando, I was already thinking about stopping for the day. It was so cold and miserable on the bike. When I got to Ovando I went to the restaurant right away and got hot chocolate and some food.

After getting some food and thawing out I was able to dry my clothes next door at the mercantile. I also got a soda and some more snacks. I finally left town right as the weather broke making good time and my mental attitude started to come around. I made short work of Huckleberry Pass on the way to Lincoln. At the hotel I gave Phillip a bath, as he needed one bad.

I felt terrible in the morning and then in the afternoon I felt great! It’s amazing how quickly your mood and energy levels can change during a race like this. If it hadn’t been for the warm meal, drying my clothes and the weather breaking, there was a good chance I would have stopped for the day right in Ovando.

I got a room in Lincoln but I really should have pressed on. This was my second hotel and second in a row.

Day 6

June 14th

3:20 am to 9:36 pm (18:16)

142.3 miles – 730.7 total miles

 Ovando, MT to Butte, MT

The temperature was close to freezing when I started my day. As a result I had almost all my clothes I had with me on for the early descents. I had heard horror stories about Stemple Pass and the Priest Pass, but neither was terrible.

I climbed most of Stempe Pass in the dark. It was surreal. I caught some other racers after sun up and we rode together up Priest Pass and into Helena.

In Helena I got breakfast while Phillip got some more TLC (new chain, derailleur cable and shifter housing). On the way out of town I met Alex and Per, who I had came into town with. We rode most of the way to Butte together or close by to each other.

The section over Lava Mountain was beautiful and the riding was great. It was nice not to just be riding on dirt roads for once during the day. I recall the long stretch from Basin to Butte just dragging on forever. I was mentally having a hard time staying motivated. There were two great downhills dropping into Butte as a reward for all the boring road miles.

At Basin, I went into town and got some food at the diner but it took way too long. I should have skipped it.

Compared to Day 5, today was huge. Not just in how far I went, but also physically and mentally. I saw so much and had so many emotions throughout the day. By the end of it all you’re just burnt out.

We descending in Butte on a short section of single track then took surface roads from the West side of town to the Southeast. Alex and Per went to one hotel and me to another. We agreed to meet in the morning to ride together again.

I checked in and immediately went to the pizza place next door. I got pizza and I think bread sticks. It was more food than I could eat. You’d think I would have crush it all but my stomach wasn’t having it. Sometimes the extreme effort kills my appetite.

By the time I ate and showered, I didn’t get to bed until past midnight.

Today had around 13,500′ of climbing in it!

Day 7

June 15th

6 am to 10:08 pm (16:08)

128.3 miles – 859 total miles

Butte, MT to RSC after Bannock Road

Last night was my third hotel in a row.

I met Alex and Per at 6 am but on the first climb Per wasn’t doing well so I left them behind. In retrospect I should have forged ahead sooner but the idea of riding alone for the whole day kept me from doing so sooner. I wasn’t feeling great to start but once on the climb I felt better. I wouldn’t see either of them ever again. 

The first half of the day was 95% dirt roads, while the middle was mostly paved, and the end was dirt again. Overall it was good riding.

The climb to Fleecer Ridge started as a dirt road then became double track towards the top. I had caught a guy name Miroslav Novak and we traded positions on the way up. Fleecer Ridge with its insanely steep descent added a bit of spice to the day.

I also met back up with Brett Stepanik towards the Wise River. I first met Brett on day 1. Throughout the race he was always the most cheerful. We all ate food in Wise River at the small diner.

We were blessed with pavement until Old Bannock Road, which was about 60 miles away. Along the way I stopped at High Country Ranch for my second meal of the day. I got batteries and a few bites of food to go. Brett and Miro stopped with me.

Old Bannock Road was long and at the end of it the mosquitoes were terrible. Of course that is where I had to stop and change batteries. I got eaten alive. The three of us pushed on as the sun went down but soon after hitting the next dirt road Brett dropped up. Miro and I finally stopped and made camp in an open field right next to the road.

Today was more mentally tough than physically. The riding wasn’t that exciting and it got boring.

Day 8

June 16th

6 am to 9:09 pm (15:09)

147.3 miles – 1006.3 total miles

RSC after Bannock Road to Macks Inn, ID

I was up and going in the dark once again.

The moring was filled with open country, tons of sage, and long lonely dirt roads.  While the second half of the day was quite muddy and like most afternoons seemed to drag on forever. It also rain for a good portion of the afternoon.

Miro and I made descent time in Lime where we had lunch. This was the town where I met Lott and Toast on the CDT in 2015. While there in 2015 I met two guys touring the GDMBR. Now I was now the Tour ride instead of the hiker in town.

The stretch between Lima and Mack’s Inn was so long, boring, and by the end muddy as hell. Miro and I caught Brett before the Montana / Idaho state line. We all descended from the small pass together but we lost Brett at some point.

As we approached Mack’s Inn I enjoyed the route a little more. The last few miles were wooded, which was a nice change from the 100 or so miles of sage fields we had ridden previously. I was enjoying myself so much so, that I was going a little too fast at one point and did one of the biggest two wheeled slides of my cycling career. Some how I didn’t crash or end up with a face full of mud.

When Miro and I finally got Mack’s Inn we headed straight to the hotel. I was crushed and just wanted to eat and slept. Once to the room we both showered and cleaned up. While we showered we did laundry as well. By the time we were finished the room was thrashed.

Finding food was another test in of itself. The had lost power and no one was sure the bar across the street was serving food. They were and we fueled up. It was another late night to bed and my fourth of five nights standing in a hotel.

I was fairly crushed at being on the bike so long. The second half really tested me both physically and mentally.

Day 9

June 17th

7:02 am to 10:30 pm (15:28)

130.1 miles – 1136.4 total miles

Macks Inn, ID to Togwotee Mtn. Lodge, WY

I’d love to say the stay in the hotel was great but it wasn’t.

The day started with the 25 mile long “rail trail” section that is famous in the Tour Divide. It was pretty whooped out at times but I powered through it without letting it get me down. It was definitely one of those times where it’s mind or matter. Or in this case, mind over rough trail.

Miro and I stopped at Warm River Campground for water and a snack. While there two other riders caught us and we left as a group. On the next pavement section I dropped back on the first climb. My legs just didn’t have it in them.

By the time I got to Squirrel Creek Elk Ranch the rest of the group was miles ahead of me. I stopped for a Coke and Snickers, and lost more time. On this day, it was the middle of the day that had me down. Between the Idaho/Wyoming state line and Flagg Ranch I was dragging ass.

I got passed by a bunch of Side by Sides and motos during the section between Squirrel Creek and Flagg Ranch. I stopped for a short break at the top of the climb and on the descent caught all the Side by Sides, who got stopped by snow. I just pushed Phillip by them and was gone.

I found Miro and the two other guys at the bar just finishing a meal. I ordered food then shopped at the general store there. I definitely spent too much time there. I would catch the others on the road headed toward Jackson. 

I stopped one more time at a gas station for more snacks and that was my last stop until I stopped to sleep.

Th second half of the day went well. I rode alone from the gas station to part way up the climbed up to Togwotee Mtn. Lodge. I caught the other two riders from earlier. As it turned out, Brett was catching all of us.

By the time we got to the lodge the sun was well down and the temperature dropped drastically. After a bunch of procrastination about getting a room or not and whether there was food to be purchased Brett and I decided we didn’t want to get a room. 

Outside we shared our ideas on where to sleep and finally we ended up sleeping in a miniature log cabin a few hundred feet away from the lodge. I barely could stand up or lay flat in. 

As it was so cold neither Brett nor I wasted much time getting in our sleeping bags. Brett was asleep and snoring like a bear within seconds of his head hitting the pillow.

On a side note, the Tetons were amazing but like most scenery I wasn’t able to really take them in. 

Day 10

June 18th

5:30 am to 11:18 pm (17:48)

144.7 miles – 1281.1 total miles

Togwotee Mtn. Lodge, WY to RSC just south of Boulder, WY

Last night I froze my ass off!

The morning wasn’t much warmer, my poor hands and feet were numb for the first two hours. It didn’t help that we were on the road and had no protection from the wind.

When we finally got up and over Togwotee Pass we turned into the woods and got some reprieve from the wind. Luckily for Brett and I the snow of this section was frozen and we were able to ride on top. The exception was when Brett went over the bars when he his a soft spot. The result was he submerged his right arm up to the elbow in freezing water. A little further up the road we saw a moose in a small marshy area.

Brett and I stoped at Lava Mtn. Lodge to get something warm. While there we saw Lee Craigie and the three guys behind caught up. We left as a group but once again I started to struggle as the route went uphill. The group dropped me quickly.

I caught the group at snow line and passed all of them. The snow and steepness made the going hard. I think I did well because it was so much like hiking. As we got closer to Union Pass the snow wasn’t as deep but it was very muddy. The wind had blown most of the snow away.

Brett and I teamed up and rode together to Pinedale. Along the way we stopped for lunch at a road side bathroom, and the other guys passed us. It was an extremely long windy ride into town. I felt bad for Brett, as he was on a single speed.

When we got to town, Brett and I got Subway. The guy making our sandwiches asked what we were doing and when we told him he gave us our second subs for half price. Next up was resupplying at the grocery store down the street.

Brett had to make some calls so he told me to go on without him. The ride to Boulder went by fast. I got there just in time to grab snacks at the store. While there I was blessed with an amazing sunset.

I rode alone in the dark for what seemed like forever and it was such a surreal experience. Just around the time I was starting to think I wanted to camp, I found the guys from earlier camped on the side of the road behind some rocks.

I made camp with them and it was lights out within no time.

Day 11

June 19th

6 am to 10:38 pm (16:38)

150.3 miles – 1431.4 total miles

RSC just south of Boulder, WY to Wamsutter, WY

Today I set another personal record for the most miles in a single day.

It was like the day I rode through Lima in that there were almost no trees. Just a long day of sage and wind.

I was out of camp first and rode almost all the way to South Pass City without seeing another racer. I punctured my rear tire a few miles before town and a few of the guys caught me. I would have to roll with a tube until Steamboat Springs, CO.

Early in the day I was passed by two couples who were riding the GDMBR northbound.

In South Pass I ate with the guys from last night and we rolled out of town together. The Great Basin awaited us. Sun, wind, dust, and no water for almost a 100 miles. We rode within sight of each other for the first 1/3 of the basin. Miro took off and I continued to ride with the other two guys until one of them flatted.

The Basin was a monster. Towards the end of the Basin I was really hurting. The sun was going down as fast as my energy levels. I definitely didn’t have enough water and ended the day dehydrated. On the way into Wamsutter I was really hurting.

I had Subway at the Love’s truck stop in Wamsutter, WY and I also took a shower thinking I was going to camp or move on. When I was just about to leave the guys from earlier rolled in. I ended up sharing a hotel with them.

I was really feeling my longest day ever and with three people in a room, which was very warm I couldn’t fall asleep.

Day 12

June 20th

6:30 am to 11:16 pm (16:46)

133.5 miles – 1564.9 total miles

Wamsutter, WY to Steamboat Springs, CO

Wow, another long mostly treeless and hot day!

After crossing the Great Basin yesterday my body wanted an easy day, but it wasn’t in the cards. The first half was just like the Basin, exposed and hot. I spent the morning riding with Brett and we had a really good time.

Around the Colorado state line we started climbing and the trees came back. After a long climb up to Brush Mountain Lodge I was ready for food. When I was told there was pizza I almost cried. They even had a miniature brick oven on the deck to cook the pizzas in. Kristen who runs it was nothing short of amazing. She even gave me a hug, which ironically I had joked to Brett earlier whether or not hugs were on the menu.

I left BML with two riders, one was David from Australia. I would ride with David to the finishline. We climbed Mendon Peak and descended to the Clark Store together. On the descent the other rider with us had a mechanical. His rear derailleur was pretty much toast.

When we got on the pavement David and I dropped the other rider but a wrong turn up hill for two miles on the way into Steamboat almost brought us back together. Once to Steamboat David and I got separate rooms at the same hotel I stayed at during the CDT.

We rode a long way in the dark to get there but it was worth it. It meant I could hit the bike shops first thing in the morning.

Day 13

June 21st

12 pm to 9:37 pm (9:37)

86.1 miles – 1651 total miles

Steamboat Springs, CO to Williams Fork Reservoir 

The only good way to describe this day is to call it as it was, a shit show.

I looked up the hours to the bike shop, only to get there and find out they were wrong. They had opened an hour earlier than listed. If I had know this I would have gone to the Post Office first thing instead of sleeping in.

Once to the shop I had to do most of the work myself since they were slammed with other racers. Everything took longer than it should have. I was constantly having to wait for assistance when I need a tool or part.

On top of all of that my stomach was upset and I didn’t feel like eating. I went to a deli and stood there with this lost look on my face. I final got a sandwich and took it to go. When I did stop to eat the sandwich it was nothing short of heaven. I really wished I had gotten two of them.

Later in the afternoon David caught me  and we teamed back up. As we tried to out race a storm David pulled ahead of me. I came around a turn to find David on the ground and missing a shoe. The wind blew a tree down right in front of him, and David crashed hard into the tree. He said the tree missed him by inches but he couldn’t avoid it.

We busted out some first aid and tended to David’s road rash and collected ourselves before moving on towards Kremmling. We experiences some big downhills and long climbs on our way there.

We tried camping just past Kremmling, Co but the mosquitoes were some of the worst I’ve ever experienced. We both got water but as we were trying to filter it we agreed that sleeping here wasn’t going to be relaxing.

We left in a hurry and rode on into the dark. We looked at one camp spot under a large oak tree but kept going. Finally we ended up next to a pooh shed at Williams Fork Reservoir.

Day 14

June 22nd

6 am to 10:05 pm (16:05)

130.5 miles – 1781.5 total miles

Williams Fork Reservoir to RSC north of Salida, CO

Today was my lowest point of the whole race. 

The day started fine and I felt decent, but when we started climbing I hit a major wall.

The wheels almost came off. I suffered through the rest of the morning hours over Ute Pass and into Silverthorne, CO. Some how I managed to keep David in sight.

We hit a convenience store on the north edge of Silverthorne and debated where to eat. I had already decided before the race started that if Chipotle was open I would eat there.

As I sat at Chipotle I was physically and mentally exhausted. The idea of another week of racing was almost too much. Even my dirty clothes were starting to bother me. The idea of finishing and not having to put them on again was motivating in of itself. I really didn’t want to ride my bike.

I reluctantly rode towards Frisco and as I went I started to feel a little bit better. I didn’t need to but I took a side trip to the 7/11 in Breckenridge. I found my legs climbing up Boreas Pass. It’s amazing what a decent meal will do for you.

The pass was followed by an amazing single track descent (Gold Dust Trail), one of the few on the whole route. Though at first I missed the single track. I saw the trail but figure it wasn’t the route but something didn’t feel right. I stopped a few hundred yards down the road, checked my GPS, then climbed back up. 

When I got back to the Gold Dust Trail I decided it wasn’t the race route and went back down the road again. Still not convinced I was going the right way I kept my eye on my GPS. Sure enough the Gold Dust Trail was the race route. I climbed up to it once again and finally started making forward progress.

I stopped in Hartsel for food which was painfully slow, and David caught me. He wasn’t going to stop but after seeing my bike we came in to find me. We ate together and regrouped once me.

We traversed endless dirt roads as we headed south. As we did we got to see an amazing sunset. It was probably one of the best of the race. We rode late into the night and slept just off the dirt road we were on.

Day 15

June 23rd

5:22 am to 10:45 pm (17:23)

133 miles – 1914.5 total miles

RSC north of Salida, CO to RSC just south of Rt. 114

Headwinds were on the menu today!

David and I were up in the dark and didn’t stop until it was dark. It was another long day in the saddle and included two extended stops. One in Salida, CO and another at Sargents, CO.

On the way into Salida I saw my first ever mountain lion. It crossed the road in front of us. I stopped and pointed it out to David as it watched us from the woods.

When we got to Salida we got sit down breakfast, then went to the grocery store. David encouraged me to not wait for him as he had more to do.

I rode out of Salida alone and made it to Sargents before David caught me. The climb over Marshall Pass was extremely long, dusty, and hot. I doused my head multiple times on the way up. The ATV’s and Side by Sided kicked up so much dust and left me envious of their engines.

I had hoped the descent would be a blazing one, but there was a terrible headwind. From the pass all the way to eight miles pass Sargents the wind was just brutal. After leaving the pavement after Sargents the route was super hilly and wore me down.

There is a spot where the CDT, CTR and Tour Divide cross paths. In 2015 while on the CDT I met two Tour racers at this spot. I made a promise with myself on that day, that I would do the Tour and be back to that spot on my bike. Today I reached that same spot and I made good on that promise.

Despite having stomach issues in the later afternoon David managed to stay with me and we rode into the dark as we climbed Cochetopa Pass. As we rode further into the night the temperature really dropped. We hit Hwy. 114 and luckily not many cars passed us. I was wary of being hit.

We turned off Hwy. 114 and climbed a short way up County Rd. 41 G along Holding Creek. We found a flat spot right next to the creek, washed up and it was lights out.

Day 16

June 24th

5:45 am to 9:58 pm (16:13)

113.3 miles – 2027.8 total miles

RSC just south of Rt. 114 to Spectacle Lake GC

Like most mornings I was up and going before the sun.

The morning was spent riding through more rolling hills filled with sage and there was no shade. At one point I realized we had missed the turn for La Garita. Without inventorying our food or looking to see how much further it was to Del Norte we turned around. After about two miles we then turned around again after we realized how far back it was and that it wasn’t worth it. A time killer for sure.

In Del Norte I got Subway and resupplied at the 7/11. Our next test was the very long and steep climb up Indiana Pass, which is the highest point of the race at 11,913′. I didn’t feel good at all on the climb and David dropped me quickly. Fortunately, I was able to catch him on the descent. The views were amazing, even if the climbing was hard.

I think it was more mentally tough than physical. I went into a dark corner of my mind for most of the climb. It took most of the climb to dig myself out of that hole and not get lost within it.

We climbed the next pass, Stunner Pass, to reach Platoro, and I felt great compared to Indiana. We got dinner at the Skyline Lodge. Peter Craft and I think one other racers joined us as we at. During dinner the staff at the lodge loaded our GPS units with the fire reroute that was in place. 

The road out of town was so rough I had to pedal downhill! Riding into the dark once again, we finally called it a day at Spectacle Lake CG.

Day 17

June 25th

5:58 am to 9:47 pm (15:49)

110.9 miles – 2138.7 total miles

 Spectacle Lake GC to El Rito, NM

It was a cold morning for sure.

In Horco, CO we stopped at the Conejos River to get water. There were no supplies in town so we left right away.

Leaving the Conejos River meant climbing up La Manga Pass. Luckily it was all paved but it still proved to have a punch. After the pass we descended to the point where I came out of the woods on the CDT. We dropped off the pavement and climbed back into the woods.

I was fully aware that the Colorado New Mexico state line was coming up. I knew exactly where it was from memory. I was so happy to finally see it and gain my last state line of the trip.  What a great feeling!

Brazos Ridge was as amazing as when I thru-hiked it. It was a lot easier as I was going downhill instead of up. There was also no snow like there was when I did the CDT.

David and I made good time and before we knew it we had reached the fire detour. The fire detour took us out to Hwy. 285 and by the Chili Line Depot.  Of course we stopped for food and I pigged out. There were at least six of us racers there at the time.

Shortly after the diner we caught Miro, who’s crank was falling off. David and I help fix it and we moved on as a group of three.

The descent on the road into Lamadera, NM was so fast! As expected we climbed after that but luckily on the road. We dropped into Vallecitos which was a ghost town and surprisingly we didn’t get chased by any dogs! It’s known as dog alley. As we left town it was already getting close to dusk.

The last climb of the day lay between Vallecitos and El Rito. The climb was quite nice. David spotted a porcupine in a tree near the top. It was almost dark by the time we started the descent.

The descent itself was amazing and considering how dark it was we flew down the mountain into El Rito, NM. Because of the wild fires there was all kinds of fire trucks in the area but no other signs of people. We asked on of the crews where we could sleep but they weren’t much help. We finally backtracked to an outdoor stage we saw next to the road. With no one around we just pouched it.

Day 18

June 26th

5:45 am to 10:23 pm (16:38)

125.8 miles – 2265.4 total miles

El Rito, NM to RSC just south of Puebo Pintado

Our night spent on the outdoor stage was good. I was sure someone would wake us up and tell us to leave in the middle of the night.

We made good time to Abiquiu, NM, where we got breakfast and supplies to get us to Cuba, NM. The climb out of Abiquiu was very long, with so much pushing, and full of ledges. Personally it was one of the harder climbs of the trip. One highlight was I got to see a bobcat walk across the dirt road in front of us.

After just being the only one to cleaning a very technical climb I was feeling frisky and attacked the next descent. Just about the time I thought to myself that I should take it easy and that I could easily get a flat, I did. It was my second flat of the race and ruined the tire. 

The descent into Cuba got pretty rough and took forever. There were multiple little climbs along the descent making it seem like you weren’t ever going to get there. Worst of all it lacked water.

In Cuba we ate and resupplied for the long stretch to Grants, which was all pavement! We left Cuba late in the afternoon and rode well into the night. Once again I was wary of being hit by a car. I felt safer as there were three of us in a group, instead of it just being me along.

It was hard to find a spot to camp in the dark. The wind was picking up and it really limited our camping options out of the wind. 

It was nice to be on some pavement after the climb from Abiquiu. It wasn’t my longest day but it felt like it was.

Day 19

June 27th

5:23 am to 10:11 pm (16:48)

141.3 miles – 2406.7 total miles

RSC just south of Puebo Pintado to RSC north of Pie Town, NM

Today’s sunrise had amazing colors.

The road to Grants was long, hot and very windy. The whole ride to Grants, NM was into a nasty headwind.  I felt the best out of the three of us and amazed myself I didn’t let the wind get to me mentally. Miro and David wanted a break at the tunnel for the mine. They yelled at me to turn around and come sit in the shade.

The heat we experienced would stay with us until the finish. It was a draining heat that sapped your energy. I had gotten ahead of Miro and Davide so when I got to the edge of town I tried to run into a Love’s truck stop to grab everyone sodas. They caught and passed me so I had to sprint to catch up. I caught them and we drank cold Cokes in a park in some shade.

We beat the heat of the day, by stuffing our faces at Pizza Hut for two hours. The boys took loads of leftovers with them. Going back out into the heat was tough after being inside with air conditioning.

Just like on the CDT we stopped at the convenience store on I-10 to resupply for the stretch to Pie Town.

The wind had only let up a little as we headed south through the El Malpais National Conservation Area. We stopped at a picnic area I remembered from the CDT. Unfortunately there were ants all over which was a bummer. They made it hard to sit and relax.

After our break as the sun went down we came by a large group of elk in some fog. It was something out of a movie. The sunset was just as beautiful as the morning sunrise. 

Like most nights we rode into the dark making a spot to camp hard to find After the sun went down I faded fast, which was common for me. The guys pushed me on and finally we all decided it was time to camp. 

Day 20

June 28th

6 am to 10:09 pm (16:09)

135.3 miles – 2542 total miles

RSC north of Pie Town, NM to RSC near Hoyt Creek

We woke up not far off the road and with the little bit of light available could see we were the tallest thing for miles. We had pretty much slept right in the open with no cover.

We made short work of the remaining miles into Pie Town. Though the route had lots of ups and downs, which meant it wasn’t all easy. When we go to the Toaster House we had it to ourselves. Lots of sodas and food were consumed. None of us were super motivated to leave, but finally we left to tackle the next section to the Beaverhead Ranger Station.

The landscape between the Toaster House and Beaverhead was very rolling and open. This meant sun, wind and monotonous riding. We did meet 2 guys touring the GDMBR northbound. We exchanged beta and wished each other luck.

By the time we got to the station we were hurting and so hot. We used the hose to douse our heads multiple times. The soda machine didn’t work but we already knew that. It didn’t sit any better with us though.

After the work station there were trees again which gave us some late afternoon shade. There were a few short climbs too. We tackled the last few climbs in the dark. As we climb the last hill there was a debate about when to stop. Miro was beat but I encouraged him to push on.

On the descent I was going a little too fast and got into a rough area and almost crashed hard. By some miracle I saved it and Phillip and I stayed upright. David was behind me and was amazed I didn’t crash.

When we got to camp there was a debate on whether this night would be our last or if we’d have to camp before reaching the border. All I could think was how crazy it was that we were a day away from finishing. As we went to bed there was heavy smoke in the air from near by fires.

Day 21

Day 21

June 29th

5:10 am to 2:56 am (21:46)

190.2 miles – 2732.2 total miles

RSC near Hoyt Creek to Mexico

I gave Miro and David a 15 minute head start to get ready, and I still waited 15 minutes for them. Even worse it was really cold too.

It wasn’t long after getting up before we rode through the area where the smoke from the night before was coming from. There were actual flames on either side of the road and everything was burnt. It was crazy.

We made it to Sapillo Campground fairly quickly, then had a little trouble following the route through the campground. The CDT alternate was burley, between the heat and steepness there was a lot of pushing. Miro took a wrong turn at one point and then crashed. It wasn’t his day. The whole section was an ass kicker.

We exited the CDT alternate on to pavement, which raised the spirits are what we just went through. We climbed to Pinos Altos and felt every pedal stroke.

On the descent into Silver City, NM, Juan a friend of Miro’s passed us in his minivan. Turns out he was Dot stalking us. He had lunch with us in town while Phillip got some last minute TLC at the bike shop. As we ate we made the decision to go for the finish.

On the way out of town while riding Hwy. 15, we saw Jeff, another trail angel/shuttle driver who had 3 guys who had just finished. They gave us encouragement then we were off.

The section between Hwy. 15 and Separ was all dirt roads and lots of sun. At times it got really sandy. It was an area you felt like you were the only one around for miles. It was just desert.

Night fell on us between Separ and Hwy. 146. This was also our last dirt of the race. From Hwy. 146 to the finish was all pavement.

When we got to the store in Hachita, the 3rd place finisher was help out by running the store. We stayed way too long and left the store at 11 pm for the border!

The ride to the border was crazy. We saw 3 cars in 45 miles, I rode on the left shoulder, Miro on the right and David on the center line. David had the only working light. There were so many rabbits. 

At this point in the race nether Miro or I had working lights on our bikes, but just headlamps. David had a working light so that is why he was in the middle. I had the only tail light, so when the three cars came I was in back, Miro was in the middle and David was in front.

With 3 miles to go I sprinted away from David and Miro. I wanted to finish alone. I worked so hard for this finish. As I came up on the border David’s wife was there and she yelled to me to ask where he was. I turned to answer her and this distracted me to the fact there was a chainlink fence across the road. When I finally saw it I barely had time to stop.

Finishing blew my mind, but even more so was the fact that I had just rode 190.2 miles in a single day and was on my bike for 21+ hours. David and Miro were not far behind and my alone time at the border was nonexistent.

Final Thoughts

I can’t really describe my emotions or how I felt at the finish. It didn’t seem real, even though I had actually just did it. 

One of my first thought was, “I never want to do this again!” Of course a year later I look back and see areas where I could save time or be faster.

Up to the time of doing the Tour Divide, it was the hardest single thing I had done. I thought I was prepared for the long days, or riding through the night, but in reality those things beat me. Without the mental support of others I rode with, my race would have been much different.

The Tour Divide is an amazing race filled with incredible people. It offers views that will stay with you for a life time, but most of all, it will test you.

I’m glad I did it and I’d like to think I grew as a result of it.

MORE RESOURCES

Read these next or checkout the main resource page.

Gear lists from the AZT, TD and CTR; Pros & Cons; Things I’d do different; and Tips.

More Journals

If you enjoyed this, more journals of my adventures are below.

US / Mexico Border Tour Divide Finish bikepacking lessons - press release
Nap Time -Craig Fowler - Hayduke Trail