June 29, 2019

Tour Divide '19: Day 16 - Wamsutter to Brush Mountain Lodge

First light was breaking over our camp and it unveiled another dose of barren landscape. For some reason in my ignorance I thought the Great Basin ended at the I-80 crossing. Not so. We still had plenty of miles of oil fields to pedal through. Hal had stealthy gotten up and packed, he was about ready to roll out at his normal 5:30a while I was just poking my head out of my sleeping bag. It had been a clear night and I took advantage of another night of cowboy camping.
Dawn breaks on Day 16 south of Wamsutter.

The simple life.
Today was a big day, one I had been looking forward to, well...since the start. Today I would reach the Brush Mountain Lodge, BML. Every ride report, I mean every single one, mentions how fantastic this place is. The owner, Kirsten, caters to riders every need. It's been heralded as the best stop on the route and warnings come as well: It's hard to leave!! I hadn't necessarily planned to spend the night there, but if it worked out that way then I would. The day would dictate my plans.

Hal headed out after another rider had gone past. I was finally ready to go about 30 minutes later. The gravel road was straight as an arrow, relatively flat, had that crappy large gravel chunk and oil field workers speeding up & down the road every few minutes. No close calls or anything, just dust shrouds.
The Great Basin continues. Quick, snap the picture before the oncoming truck fills the sky with dust.

Another antelope sighting.

There's hope on the horizon...the mountains of Colorado!!

Justin and Jason caught me while I stopped for breakfast.

It's amazing how much of a difference a little bit of gravel chunk makes on the ride experience.

I was beginning to feel this way about Wyoming: rundown.

The road finally curved and the landscape began morphing into something a bit more exciting.

Almost 30 miles south of Wamsutter.
The gravel had finally relented and turned to packed dirt. I rounded a corner and could see a rider up ahead at the rte789 crossing at the extinct town site of Dad, WY. A car had pulled over and I figured it was Hal and some Trackleaders dot watcher who had come to greet him. Despite what Hal says, he's a Tour Divide Legend!! As I got closer I saw he was getting his picture taken...holy cow, it's Josh Kato!! Josh was one of the four riders who managed to get over the Watershed Divide during the snow storm a few days earlier. He had either been in the lead or second for most of the ride, but had some health concerns near Del Norte, CO forcing him to scratch. His brother was driving him home after a stop at the Brush Mountain Lodge. They just happened to be crossing the route when Hal appeared, then myself. How lucky was I?

Hal, Josh & me. Josh sporting the now infamous officially non-official 2019 Tour Divide tee.
What were the odds? Both Josh & Sofiane needed clean clothes, both were in different towns. Both happened to grab the same shirt at a local Walmart unbeknownst to each other until they met up at the Brush Mountain Lodge. The rest is history... Josh & Sofiane setting a new Tour Divide fashion trend. Photo by Josh.

The route then began a series of long undulating climbs into the wind. Would this wind ever cease?? I was having my doubts.

This section really wore on me. The combination of headwind and decreasing saddle comfort was sapping all my energy.

At least the views were opening up the higher I went.

The Colorado border still seemed so far away at my snail's pace.

Brown's Hill vista.

I must've miscalculated my mileage until the downhill, I was expecting it here, but my elevation profile told a different story. Still 2 miles to go and more climbing ensued, including plenty of walking.
I was really looking forward to grabbing an ice cream of some sort in Savery, WY at the museum. They have limited hours and food options, but I was arriving at the perfect time. I thought it would be an easy coast into town once I reached the end of the plateau. The Divide gives no free passes.

The start of a brake burning descent.

This appears to be the section of potential death mud leading into Savery. Glad I missed it!!

The oil rigs had died down significantly, this was one of the last I saw.

The hill didn't look too bad from this vantage point.

It was much worse up close. I walked most of it. Here, near the top looking back down. Where's my ice cream?!?

Lush green valley along Savery Creek.

Finally!! The downhill into town.

A high desert oasis: Little Snake River Museum.

I met up with Justin as he was headed out.
Inside the door was a top loading freezer: Ice Cream sandwiches!! I grabbed a root beer and headed down to the lower level.
Not a bad spread. Simply write down what you took on the notepad and put cash in the jar.
There was a kitchen as well, I topped off water & electronics while I ate a light lunch.

Some of the structures on site.

For a tiny outpost of a town, the museum was really cool. Lots of regional history inside and out.

I told you it was a tiny town.

'Downtown' Savery.

Little Snake River.

Leaving Savery on rte70. It was about 4 miles to the Colorado line.

How appropriate. The best sign in Wyoming. There wasn't even a 'Welcome to Colorado' sign, they must've known you'd be more thrilled to exit that state.

As if on cue, the roads were more smooth and the surroundings more green.

Slater Creek carving through the canyon.
The Brush Mountain Lodge lies about 1/3 the way up the Watershed Divide climb. I was curious to see how friendly the climbing grade was.

The first few miles followed Slater Creek.

I was enjoying the mountain views, but most importantly: No wind!!!

Another cool isolated cabin.

Launch ramp? I had to dodge one of the massive sprinklers as it swept over the side of the road.

There were a few stout pitches on the climb giving me pause about the gentler grade claims.

I knew from past photos that there was a short downhill into the BML. I was on high alert. I had a feeling I was close, picking up speed I rounded a bend and there it was. Bikepacker heaven.

My legs were so tired that when I dismounted I caught my shorts on the saddle nose and ripped the crotch to shreds. Gah!!
I was greeted by cheers from fellow riders, it was quite the gathering. Kirsten came out and told me our friend, Chris, better known as 'Dirty', had instructed her to give me an awkwardly long hug. Fine by me as it was like meeting an old friend after years apart. Riders were offered beer only after drinking a couple glasses of water. This would be a good time to hand over your Tour Divide punch card and let Kirsten do the honors of punching #14 for the Brush Mountain Lodge.

I was getting settled and pulled up Trackleaders to see how Chris was doing at the front, holy cow, he was minutes from finishing & winning the whole damn thing!! Man, I can't imagine what he was feeling as he cruised into the border. Congratulations, Chris. You put in a ton of work and it paid dividends. Can't wait to hit the local trails with you back in AZ and hear all about it.

A few minutes later Hal arrived to more cheering. He was determined to refuel and keep going. The rest of us didn't know how he could not get sucked into the BML gravitational pull of awesomeness. Not far behind were Mikki, Larry & Becky.

I think Hal is blushing.

The gang's all here!! R-L: Larry, Kirsten, Mikki, Eric, Austin, Justin & Becky.
Kirsten kept the pizza & beer flowing. We all staked our claims on rooms, I'd be sharing a cabin with Larry & Mikki. Plenty of room for everyone. Soon after dark Bonnie arrived!!

There goes Hal, steadfast in his determination. Little did I know it was the last time I'd see him on route.
Grace Ragland was also at the lodge lending a hand to Kirsten. She offered to wash my dirty clothes while I found a Nirvana knock-off tee, Purrvana, and pajama bottoms to lounge around in. She also recently published a book about her Divide experience, it's titled Divide By One, check it out. Sofiane was also still hanging out. It was interesting to hear his account firsthand of that unnerving night caught in the blizzard.

We were settling in for the night and I was first up for the shower. Day 16 and shower number 2. I got everything ready, water spraying while I waited for it to warm up. And waited...waited...still ice cold. Hmmm. Perhaps the water heater couldn't handle the load? Too many hot showers in a short time? I reluctantly accepted the fact that it was going to be a cold shower. On the count of three...one...two...THREE!!! HOLY SH*T that's effin' cooold! The speed wash commenced & completed in record time. I'm not a cold shower guy, but afterwards it did feel good.

A few minutes later I broke the news to Larry & Mikki. The look on Larry's face was pure dejection. He really wasn't looking forward to it and went to see if Kirsten knew about it. When he came back, he said Kirsten apologizes, but the breaker had tripped. Should be good now!! Seriously?!? I took an ice shower for no reason?? Haha, jokes on me. Sure enough, Larry was treated to a hot shower.

After all the evening's excitement at the lodge it was time for some much needed shuteye.

Stats: 74.96 miles & 4,011' gained.

Full photo album for Day 16.

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