Sunday, 16 October 2016

Tour Divide 2016: Day 15

Luders Creek Campground, CO to Lake Fork Campground, CO
Mileage: 190.2 km (118.2 mi)
Riding Time: 16 h 18 m
Standing: 12th place

Day 15 Map

I woke up to a nice morning and beautiful sunrise as I descended off the pass.  The rock formations were becoming more and more desert-like and it felt like I was riding my bike through a western movie.  I expected John Wayne to come riding his horse around the corner saying, “Howdy pilgrim, what brings you to these parts?”  If you are old enough to know who John Wayne is, you just heard that in a John Wayne voice. 

Sunrise on the descent

Western movie rock formation

Another sunrise picture - I loved this morning

The gravel gave away to pavement and back to gravel.  I was climbing again on my way up to Carnero Pass.  The terrain was absolutely awesome.   This was what I was looking forward to.  I had never ridden in this kind of rocky, sage bush, desert terrain.

Carnero Pass

I kept seeing tire tracks on the road and wondering whose they were.  I know with my new philosophy of taking things a bit easier I probably would not see Jose, David, or Tom again.  I was also wondering if anyone would catch and pass me. I kept getting blown away by the scenery as I rode on.  More farms and ranches, but things seemed to be getting a bit more run down, dry and dusty.

On the way to La Garita

Still on the way to La Garita…
Is that John Wayne in the bushes?

I got to the intersection of La Garita and had a decision to make.  Go into town for some food, or keep going to Del Norte.  I chose to go on.  I was doing okay for supplies.  I kept riding past some more ranch land and into some really cool sage bush and rock terrain.  I just loved this area…as I probably have mentioned already.

Happy to be in the desert

The trail passed by some interesting houses amongst the rocks and I wondered where they got their water from.  It was so dry.  The trail got more and more rocky and more fun to ride.  It was pretty flat and some slight downhill sections.  The trail was fun and meandered through the sage bushes and loose rocks.  I ran into a northbound rider and we exchanged greetings.  It had rained recently, but most of the water had been dried up except for a few puddles.  Every once in a while I would hit some mud and it would bring back memories of the Bannack Road.  Sticky!  I was very glad I didn’t have to ride this in a rainstorm. 

Puddles on the way to Del Norte

Civilisation in the distance...the edges of Del Norte

The grade was basically downhill all the way into Del Norte.  I got into town and stopped at a Subway-gas station for some food.  I called Kristin to touch base and get the much needed moral uplift.  I always felt so good after those phone calls.  Especially on days like today where I didn’t see any other riders.  I stocked up and got back on the road.  Indiana Pass was ahead and bad weather looked like it was rolling in.  It looked like I was going to get to the highest point on the Tour Divide in the rain.  Lucky me!  On the way out of town I passed a bison farm (or maybe it’s called a ranch).  Cool!

Growing some bison

As I made my way up Indiana pass the rain started to fall.  I ran into a couple who were riding north.  They said they didn’t like getting dirty.  They were certainly dirty going down a fast descent on a wet, muddy gravel road.  Their descent was my ascent so up I went.  The rain would come and go and sometimes it would be a downpour.  I had to walk a bunch, but was also able to ride some of it as well.  Not too bad of a ride considering the conditions.  Then I was at the top.  The rain stopped and the views went on for miles being that high.  I was a bit disappointed there was no “Indiana Pass” sign, but there was a radio facility sign that had the elevation. 

Almost at the top

Closest thing to an Indiana Pass sign

Another angle at the sign

I was at the top of the Divide and thought, “Great, it’s all downhill from here”.  Wrong.  It did go downhill through the slippery sloppy mud, but it also went up.  The road went up and down some rolling hills through rocky terrain. So much climbing.  Big slog.  I was hoping Summitville was a town that I could get a coffee or something, but to no avail.  All Summitville was was some sort of industrial site.  Maybe a mine or something.  I just kept riding past.  I took a look back at one point and saw a couple of riders. I was being caught.  I have to say it was a bit disheartening on a tough day to see someone ride by.  It was Bailey and Justin.  Bailey gradually pulled ahead and I rode with Justin for a while.  Justin and I leapfrogged each other as we went down to a valley and then up to Stunner Pass.  This was a long day with three big passes including the highest one on the route. 

Stunner Pass - not too stunning - I was tired

The road descended into Platoro.  I think I was riding a bit harder since Bailey and Justin passed by and my right quad started to act up.  It was just a twinge, but I feared the same cramping was going to happen on this one just like it did on the left side a few days earlier. On the way down a steep descent, I approached behind an ATV and to my surprise, I was going faster down the hill. I passed them, because I couldn’t bring myself to use my brakes when I didn’t need to.  I felt perfectly safe flying down the rocky slope at 50+km/hr.  I wondered what they thought. 

I rolled into Platoro and it was lodge after lodge.  Why do they need so many lodges here?  I passed the first turn into town and I probably shouldn’t have.  I took the next turn in and started rolling around slowly looking for a store.  Nothing but lodges.  I wanted to keep going a bit further since I figured Bailey and Justin would stay here for the night.  I was supposed to be taking it easier now, but the competitive spirit was still there.  I rolled by a guy in his driveway of, you guessed it, a lodge.  I asked him if he know where the store was and he said in a slurred voice, “we have a store”.  Great, I happen to ask the drunk guy for directions.  But he was a friendly drunk and they actually had a store with some cookies and crackers.  The owner of the store was less drunk and it turned into a very pleasant stop.  They had never heard about the race so I filled them in.  I stocked up on Ritz knock offs and cookies and they gave me some banana bread.  Nice drunk guys!  I was on my way.  I rode for a little while down the road and stopped at Lake Fork Campground for the night.  I found a nice place under a big tree and snuggled into my bivy.  I popped some ibuprofen hoping the cramp in my leg would settle down.

Little Fork Campground


  1. Great account of your journey. I've heading back for another round myself next year. Reading your story put me right back there:-)Even though I ride a single on occasion I am still impressed by what can be achieved. Not impressed enough to run with 13 less gears... :-)

    1. Thanks Rob! It's great to hear you are going back out there. All the best!