I would have loved to have slept in, in the lovely warm bed, but ended up setting off before the sun was up. The rest of the climb up to Union Pass was slow as expected, but also quite cold. As I passed over the summit it began to warm slightly and I had “This is the End” by The Doors stuck in my head, I think because I was trying to work out what a “blue bus” is? The 20 miles along the alpine plateau was a little boring- the cooler weather still affecting my mood. The wind picked up as I stopped at a campground/outhouse, but the downhill grade negated any influence. The high alpine areas are quite pretty though there are not many large mountain ranges to be seen.
I met two guys riding the whole trail in the opposite direction. We chatted and joked for a few minutes about the race, the trail, and something else I cant remember at the moment. After some more rolling terrain, a five mile rocky descent was a little suprising given the good quality of most of the trail so far. But, the descent was the least of my problems as I bottomed out into a red rocked, dry and sandy trail and the wind picked up. The combination of the trail surface and a very stiff headwind made the going quite hard, especially considering the road was meant to have a slight downhill grade.
I plugged on through some pretty bad washboard and eventually came onto pavement. Due to the cool morning, I was still wearing thick longsleeved top and bottoms, and as I cruised along I began to bake. It didn’t take long to reach “The Place” café and I was able to disrobe before I got some hot lunch.
You lose a few hundred feet along the 25 paved miles into Pinedale, but there are quite a few short hills and rollers. Even so, I was moving pretty quickly and enjoying myself. Turning off onto dirt just before Pinedale I met a German and another guy whose names I have since forgotten, but someone else took a picture of them and put it on the net. They told me of the fun I should expect in the Great Divide Basin and that there was no water in the “very hot” 65 miles between Sweetwater River and A&M Reservoir even though the map said there probably would be.
I stopped at the supposed bike/hardware store on Pinedales main road but they didn’t have any 29” tyres (they only have basic gear), and then at the big supermarket on the eastern side of town where I bought some freeze dried meals, powerbars, penut butter and water. It was around midday and I sat down over Chinese for lunch and worked out that to avoid camping in the Basin (and having to carry more food and water) and riding most of it during the day, I would have to ride through the afternoon and night, find a tree or some shade in the Basin (Retro- yeah right!) to get some sleep and then get to Rawlins by tomorrow night. I got some takeaway Chinese and then called in to a bar down the road. I called my parents for the second time and then set off.
The road to Boulder is fantastic- flat, slightly downhill and paved. Add slightly overcast and a tailwind and I was smoking. I stopped at the servo in Boulder to get a drink, but it was closed. Further on, I became a little worried when the map, my compass, the terrain and my computer didn’t add up. I flagged down a ute and asked if I was where I thought I was. They told me I was in the right place, offered me mosquito repellant (as soon as I had stopped I was swarmed), and expressed amazement that I was going to ride another 65 miles that day to Atlantic City. For some reason I told them I didn’t need repellant, even though I didn’t have any of my own, and so it began... I spent the next couple of hours fighting off an inexhaustible number of them. I worked out that they couldn’t keep up over 10 mph, but would cling to my packs and then be there as soon as I stopped. When it became cooler, I stopped and added long tops and bottoms and tried to fight a war of attrition. The leggings slowed them down and I was killing 10 for every time I was getting stung, but after 15 minutes I gave up. I just wanted a few minutes to sit and eat in comfort but ended up riding away, swinging my bottle at my bags to get the clingers away.
I stopped after a small climb and ate some fried rice as the sun went down. A cow came to join me but then ran away. For the next several hours I continued on into the dark, stopping every now and again to shine my lights onto the road signs. I didn’t get lost even without a moon. I got chased by a few dogs, one of them kept up for a few miles (Retro- it wasn’t until I was in NM that I came across the effective disperal means of spraying water from a bottle at them), but that was just an annoyance. The hardest part of the day was not the hot, dry and windy trail in the morning, but what was about to come. The 25 miles since I stopped for some food at sunset looked to be downhill on the elevation profile, and it did trend that way. However, it was the rollers that I didn’t expect that really hurt me more mentally than anything else. Other racers have mentioned similar things about this section, but I think they were lucky to ride it during the day where they could see ahead. For most of the 25 miles, the road rolls up and own (each roll being a hundred or more vertical feet high), with not much respite. By midnight I was pretty tired, angry at working hard to climb the things, then having to ride back down and do the whole thing again. I wanted to stop and camp by the side of the road, but I just kept on riding. I was disappointed that I was not going to follow my plan and ride through the night but I should have given myself more credit for continuining on that night (high standards?). Somehow I made it to the intersection with the highway, though the previous few miles had been hellish because I could see the lights of cars but wasn’t seeming to get any closer to them. I saw a rest area/campground lit up a few miles down the highway, but my imagination over the previous few miles of the trail had dreamt up my own highway-slasher-horror movie, so I just crashed a couple hundred metres off the road. I had saved a whole Chinese meal to eat before I went to sleep and though I cant remember what it was, it was fantastic. Juicy tomatoes and beef far outweighed the potential for gastric upset.