jeudi 4 septembre 2008

I made it !

That's it, I am in Banff, Canada !
And I am super cold as well. Canada greeted me with the first snowfall of the year, and the last 3 days were epic, biking with basically all my clothes on. But now I am there, safe, sound and happy to have completed the 5 000 km journey.
A good diner is in order, and a few rest days as well. Stay tuned for some pictures as there will a few.

End of the trail !

jeudi 31 juillet 2008

In Jackson again

Last week has been great, with 4 days at the climbers' ranch in the Grand Teton National Park and 3 days of hardcore biking, looping back towards Union Pass and Togwotee Pass.

I needed to be off my saddle for a few days, and Jackson didn't seem like my kind of town, so I stayed at the american alpine club climbers' ranch about 25 miles north of Jackson, in the middle of the National Park. The location was perfect for me: on the foothills of the huge mountain range encompassed in the park, so I was able to make hikes straight from the ranch up the mountains. Many high lakes, good weather and a lot of snow still up there. On my last day there, Matt took me to hike Teewinot peak. Now that's a big boy, at 3200m, and steep as well, but the word was: no climbing involved... you just need an ice axe!
So there we were, at 7 am, looking at the huge peak in front uf us, not exactly sure where the trail started. and it was a straight shot once we found it: going directly towards the top. The ice axes were meant to safely cross a few snow patches on the way, but boy did it take long to reach the top! As the slope's grade gets steeper, the time to advance each additional step is exponentially difficult since there is more climbing, more wind and less oxygen. Right before reaching the top, Matt and I got separated, each going on his own side of a ridge, and when I reached the shoulder on my side of the ridge, a fantastic view was the reward. How steep was the west slope ! It felt like sitting on top of a climbing wall, only a 1500m high one. My legs were shaking !
Must I add that getting there was just the easy part, since we then had to make it back down safely, and that was no small deal! My rental shoes were killing my feet, and I was out of food. On top of that, going down the snow fields without a rope is a freaky experience , all I could see was the boulder field waaaay below the snow patch, wondering how long it could take to stop if I slipped on the snow... better be before the rocks !
Happily enough, Matt and I finally killed our fear by discussing politics, and that was all we cared about until we got back to the parking lot. 10 hours after starting ! So we were safe, and celebrated with a good diner.
The next day I headed off in order to go back to the green river valley, where I had been the week before, but via a singletrack this time. It took me all afternoon to get to the start of the singletrack, along Gros Ventre River and a beautiful valley bordered by red rock mountains. The alternates of green and red were just great, and I camped on a great spot that night, rediscovering the pleasures of campfire along the river. The singletrack ended up being just tough, with not much route finding challenges, and tough I can handle. Still took me the whole morning to cover those 10 km. And when I rode along kinky creek towards union pass, it was past my lunch time, but I needed some shade to rest, and there was none in sight. So I pushed further, and finally stopped right by the side of the road, where a lone aspen protected me from the sun while eating my sandwich. That was somehow miserable, but then luck struck : a ranger drove by, and invited me for dinner if I could make it 25 km further. The diner was a good motivation, and I ended my day further than planned, eating a great diner in the charming company of Robert and Maria who inhabit the FishCreek Guard station south of Union Pass. The fried trout was lip smacking, and the conversation was followed by a nice campfire where we discussed memories of central america with Maria- the granddaughter of the British ambassador in Panama - and got to shoot some .44 magnum with Robert. The most powerful handgun in the world, he keeps loaded for the most feared predator in the area : the grizzly.
The next day was tough but short, and I was very relaxed as I knew I was staying with Dave and Jo-Ann in their lovely home in Aspen Meadows. Again, the menu was fantastic, and I got a first on baseball watching the Cubs beat the Brewers. That made me completely relaxed for the next day, and after a huge breakfast ( Jo Ann, your blueberry pancakes are a keeper for France!) I set off to climb Togwotee Pass. In spite of the headwind that accompanied me the whole day, I got on top ahead of schedule, got a great view at turn 34 that I had missed the week before due to the bad weather, and ever had time for lunch at the mountain lodge down the road. The wind is mental, but my spirits were good. Still it was late when I finally pulled in at the climbers' ranch and I got the last spot there ! This place is definitely unique, I like seeing everybody cooking on their own little camping stove, and it's always the fathers who do it, because you see, climbing is a boys thing. They cook for their kids and for their wives, and then they proceed to clean the dishes... as if they did it every day... or not .
So here I am, back in Jackson, enjoying some civilization before I head north again. Montana, here I come!
Time for some stats , and one good pic sent by Meris as a reminder of New Mexico where I saw my first cowboy.

Bad ass girls like bad ass toys

Average biked per day, last seven days : 43 km (including 4 days' rest, not bad!)
Weight : 71 kg
Number of times continental divide crossed : 22 out of 31

mardi 22 juillet 2008

Survived the desert

I made it accross the Great Divide Basin, so I should be done with the arid landscapes now. I got some more passes under my belt as well, last 2 were Union Pass and Togwotee Pass. With that last one I resumed the bad Colorado habits of getting rained on when cresting a pass. And when I got to the first restaurant after the pass, it was only to learn that the kitchen had just closed. The only thing they were able to serve was hot coffee!
I am now in touristy Jackson, steering my bike between SUVs and RVs, and looking forward to a few hikes before I try to complete a harder mountain bike loop back to Union pass.

From lush, vibrant green Colorado...

...To the dry, arid great divide basin in Wyoming

mardi 15 juillet 2008

Rawlings rawlings rawlings

I am in Wyoming ! Leaving Colorado made me sad, and now I am back in semi-desertic landscapes... that means travelling with 2 gallons of water, seeing antelopes instead of deer, and avoiding rattlesnakes ! I got to meet my first one early this morning, it got me chilled !

I left Steamboat Springs sunday morning, heading north towards Steamboat Lake (I got used to the lack of imagination for names), and got into the hardest pass so far. It does not even have a name, because it is so steep and rocky you could not honestly call it a pass. At first, it was just an uphill road, a bit too sandy and rocky, and suddendly I was struggling with every stroke of the pedal. Those rocks with white sand in between kept bumping me around, and I was struggling to get any traction at all. I was on lowest gear, dodging 2 or 3 rocks, then getting my front wheell stuck on one, one pedal stroke to get it over the rock, then another pedal stroke to get the back wheel over it, and repeat until the next sand pond. But that was not even entering my mental strength... I was on unalterable mode, going very slowly but peacefully for the pass, my mind was playing this Sublime song "early in the morning, riding through the streets...", I had all the time I wanted to get there and nothing was going to stop me. Sure enought, after 2 hours, I sat on top of the pass, looking down at a lovely valley beyond me, still peacefull and amazed at the view.

That was the last of Colorado's passes, but not the end of my day : after a couple hours more on the saddle, I reached this lodge that my instincts told me was the place all the racers had recommended : pine something lodge, with this fantastic hostess, great food and hot tub with a view. Sure enough, that was the place, and I got in just in time for sunset, a good diner and conversation with my hostess. A great stay that was just the logical ending for Colorado. Thanks Kirsten!

Enough said, let's get some pics online:

Stay put for the picture dude!

The last pass in Colorado ...

... and the first pass in Wyoming

Some more Colorado hills.

My stats are still strong

Good average for the last 7 days considering there is one rest day !

I have crossed 15 of the continental divide crossings planned, and for some reason the widget won't get it right, so here I am : halfway !

No news on weight either... it think the beard is hiding a lot... still eating a lot though: usually 2 breakfasts, lunch, afternoon diner and late nite diner... getting bored of the dehydrated pasta though.

jeudi 10 juillet 2008

Boreas Pass and faded colors

Another great pass cleared this morning: Boreas Pass between Cobo and Breckenridge. Unlike yesterday, I felt wonderful this morning, and had this song in my mind "passez votre amour a la machine, faites bouillir, voir si les couleurs d'origine peuvent revenir...". Totally out of scope, but that's how my mind seems to react to oxygen deprivation. Above 3000m, it is able to concentrate on the spinning and completely sideline any mental activity, except for the song part. So when I want to calculate how many kilometers are left to the top, I have to pause, get my breath back, and then perform the 20 - 12, ok, still 8km to go, then get back on the pedals.

Colorado is fantastic now that the thunderstorms are a memory of the past. Colors are everywhere and there is this fantastic light in the high country. I still have a few days toying in here, and after that it will go back to lower elevations, with an occasional pass. I will also leave the touristy towns behind me, meaning less occasions to connect to internet. Checking my maps let me foresee nothing but long stretches with no services for 200 or 300 km at a time. Too bad, I loved being able to pop in a restaurant for lunch and diner, now it will be back to pasta, rice and fish steaks.

Boreas pass before ...

... and after

colors not so faded

So where did you say you wanted the lake ?

Yesterday's climb, with the "14ers" valley in the back...

mardi 8 juillet 2008

A few passes later ...

17 days later....

I am now in Salida, and this is my second computer stop, and my second rest day. Since the last post, I have ridden through arid and service less stretches in New Mexico, crested several passes above 3000m and biked my way into Colorado. Weather is quite a bit cooler here , and I usually have to hide from a thunderstorm every afternoon, usually when I get on top of a pass (murphy's law I guess).
Tomorrow, I will head to Breckenridge, and continue on north towards Wyoming.

Marshall pass is the last of the passes, it greeted me with a huge thunderstorm and some hay on top.
That one was on top of Carnero pass
Ahhh mountains ...
Indiana pass, still snow ridden
The pass after Brazos ridge... was this one the highest ?
Another one you for your kitchen door Fred :

Xav, this one is for you, in memory of all this Fire in the hole nights spent kicking terrorists' asses:That was the best part of New Mexico, the stretch between Grants and Cuba was like biking the Grand Canyon. Well worth the sand storms.

before I take off, here are the latest stats :

Considerably more than I thought I would be riding ... I should try and take it easy a little bit.

After crossing the divide four times in a single day before Pie Town, NM, I spent a while East of the Divide and only got to cross it again yesterday.

samedi 21 juin 2008

Hello From Silver City

After 5 days riding in intense heat, I am in the first real town since El Paso ( I mean more than one street and even some traffic lights ). I started from the border crossing at Antelope Wells on thursday afternoon and since then I have ridden roughly 165km. The nice rolling hills of yesterday's desert have turned into big hills as I gradually climb into the rockies, and honestly I welcome the climb since the higher I go, the fresher the weather. I am now preparing for a long stretch of offroad with no services, and that means I have to carry lots of food and I will be pumping my water from the cattle reservoirs along the way... Time for some pics :

New Mexico desert near Antelope Wells
Speciale dedicace Fred :

The fully loaded bike :
The high desert south of Silver City, starting to climb :

Catch me if you can:
First crossing, and lanscape below :

Speciale dedicace Caro, vado made in US :

Speciale dedicace pour Marmotte :

5 days worth of food, with some meals taken along the way :

My stats now look like this :
Which means riding lots, fleeing the heat ( initially planned to cycle only 40km per day the first week ). Crossed the divide twice yesterday. The first time I was greeted by a squad of real cowboys, the second was the perfect camping spot.