8/27/2012 to 9/2/2012 – The Great Tour started as one of the most tossed together plans imaginable. About a week and a half before the end of an unfortunately short rafting season in Colorado, and before Jonny’s Leadville 100 race, I was wondering what I was going to do with over 2 months of shoulder season and limited financial resources to afford a wandering life for so long… then I talked to Dave. Dave was on the final leg of his first tour of the summer, Ukiah, CA to Seattle, WA (along the Cascade volcanoes), and claimed that bicycle touring was the absolute cheapest way to live. He mentioned he had been craving pedalling the Great Divide Tour for a long while. Dave had influenced me earlier last summer, in another great way, with his glorious adoration and descriptions of his Surly Moonlander fatbike, and I took the leap and bought a Surly Pugsley fatbike. Conveniently these bikes are built for touring, amongst their multitude of other incredible uses. The final piece of the puzzle came when Jonny explained he had NO plans for after the Leadville run until mid-September , had picked up a Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike the previous spring, and was itching to get out on it for some extended adventures. Couldn’t have lined up better huh?
After meeting a fellow fatbike tourist, Nicholas Carman, in a Kremmling, CO coffee shop, going for a great trail ride, and discussing touring options, the Great Divide Trail seemed like the perfect ride for our motley crew. Nick loaned me all of the maps, Dave and Jonny liked the idea and we where set.
Jonny ran his 100 mile race (like a boss), we bummed and recovered for a week at our buddy Casey LeFever’s apartment waiting for Dave to return to Colorado, and (half-assed) prepared our bikes for the ride. Then, on August 27th, we packed everything up at Dave’s family place above Golden, CO and started pedaling… at about 2pm.
Straight to Coors Brewery for some beers.
Had to start off the ride in the most authentic cyclist way, right? After a short tour of the factory (pounded a couple free beers), we headed out to bike up through Golden Gate State Park to the Peak-to-Peak Highway to camp for the night, and we made it before dark!
Using that first day as a little shake-down, we tightened up everything the next morning and headed north on Peak-to-Peak highway. We camped that night near Allenspark, then headed for a side-mission from our good buddy Andrew Steger in Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park the next morning.
The mission was a complete failure and possible waste of most of the day…
but we did get to bike in the rain and see a rainbow!
The next morning, we initiated “circle of death” style eating. I would only recommend this on bicycle tours or heinous backcountry expeditions.
Then, after consuming an insane amount of oatmeal, we biked to Estes Park, and it was beautiful.
In Estes while waiting for a brief rainstorm to pass, an attractive young coffee barista gave us a heads up on free camping above Estes Park, up Pole Hill Rd. So after a full day of biking, late in the afternoon we headed up for camp… little did we know how much of a mega-slog steep jeep-trail that was going to be!
The camping was beautiful and cookies were consumed.
We woke up bright and early the next morning to attempt free-passes at RMNP (early morning winter style) and charged for the park. Unfortunately, an agressive Park Ranger (aka Betty Crocker) turned us back to the pay stations about a mile into the park and made us pay just to ride through that day. We pedaled the long climb up Old Fall River Road enjoying the creek and views the whole way.
The descent off the backside of Trail Ridge Road was glorious, until we again were confronted by another park official claiming that we “were riding recklessly and the public felt endangered by us.” I guess we were going too fast on that descent… So we left RMNP biked through Grand Lake and headed into Forest Service land for the night.
The next day we biked near massive redneck gypsy encampments, by Gravel Mountain, and through the booming town of Rand to a nice little gazebo in Walden’s city park. Along CO125, Dave had the first flat of the trip… and boy were we happy we brought that floor pump!
Our final day on this leg of the trip took us over Buffalo Pass and down into Steamboat Springs.
This ride is really beautiful, especially the Buffalo Pass area. We rolled into Steamboat that night and took a couple rest days at another good friend’s place. During our down days, we hung around Steamboat Springs with our host, Shawn Cole, and watched the Steamboat Stage Races (the criterium was AWESOMELY FAST) with another buddy Corey. Solid first week of biking.