June 27, 2019

Tour Divide '19: Day 14 - Cora to Atlantic City

The sunlight cast a warm glow over our chilly campsite. I peered out of my tent and nary a tree to be seen. It was reminiscent of my camp location on the east side of Lima Reservoir a few days earlier. We were now on the fringe of the Great Basin of Wyoming, a place where rivers go to die. Today's ride would mostly be a journey across the northern edge of the Basin, getting a taste of what it's like in the void. For now, Justin and I were 20 miles away from breakfast and resupply in Pinedale. We had been tracking the wind forecast and had a feeling we were about to get blasted. The key would be to ride early and ride late when the winds often died down.
Another prime informal campsite.
Once again, Justin was packed up and gone while I finished getting ready. It was now a pleasant morning, steady breeze blowing in from the southwest. To my surprise I was able to settle into my seat fairly quickly. This simple act put me in a great mood to start the day. I was already hatching a plan for the night: reach Atlantic City hopefully before last call at the mercantile and then press on into the Great Basin as far as I can. My cue sheets were showing 108 miles from our campsite to Atlantic City. If I could pull that off, I'd be almost back on track for daily mileage.
Heading south I was taking in the lay of the land. Last time it was light, I was still in the trees.

Plenty of shoulder room on WY352.

Real life cowboy rounding up the herd.

Rolling by the tiny community of Cora.

The Wind River Range would be the dominant backdrop for the next day and a half.

I loved seeing the different designs & creativity of the ranch entrances.

Coming into Pinedale, I was a bit surprised to find a nice paved bikepath.

Pinedale qualifies as a large town in Wyoming.

First stop in town was chocolate milk at the gas station behind the sign.
I inquired about a good place for breakfast and was directed to the Wrangler Cafe down the street. I had been craving a solid sit down breakfast for days, this really hit the spot. It was also one of the only meals I couldn't finish, granted it was two large plates full of food. I topped off my electronics and made good use of the bathroom & saddle sore care before making my way over to Geared Up bikes.

Justin tracked me down after he ate someplace else. He said he ran into Hal resupplying down the block. I wondered if this would be the day I caught back up to him. While chatting with Justin I convinced him to finally call in to MTBCast:

MTBCast Day 14 Call-ins: http://mtbcast.com/site2/2019/06/27/mtbcast-tour-divide-19-day-14-morning-calls/

He had already used the free bike wash station at Geared Up Bikes and was ready to head out of town. I figured I'd probably catch up sometime that evening.
Left side dirt.

Right side dirt.

It was a really nice shop, stop by if you're in the area.
I scrubbed the bike cleaned and replaced my loose zipties on the eTrex from the Union Pass fiasco. Other than that, the bike was riding flawlessly. So far, my hands & feet were issue free, my butt was the only thing bothering me except the occasional leg swelling although that wasn't bothering me, just not normal.

I made my way over to a convenience store and stocked up for the long haul. I was a bit bummed, no bean & cheese burritos. I had one other option, the store in Boulder, some 13 miles down the route.
Downtown Pinedale.

The wind had intensified, now blowing a steady 30 mph, mostly crosswind here.

Not a bad view to the north.

I've seen more Llamas on this ride than my entire life!!

It was tempting, especially after the road turned into the wind. (See flag)

It may be small, but...

The Boulder store had everything!! Including huge Don Miguel bean & cheese green chile burritos!!

I came equipped with a burrito holster. Too bad the zipper sucks, took almost 5 minutes to open it this far.
I must've been too excited when I scored a massive calorie gut bomb burrito and managed to wrangle it into that near useless downtube bag that when I left the Boulder store I failed to notice the route turned off the main road. D'oh! Beep!! The GPS alerting me to my gaffe in timely fashion.

I was glad the route turned as I left the headwind in favor of crosswinds. I rode by a series of homes on large plots of land as I gradually left civilization.
The landscape was vast in every direction.

The route wound its way around a few of the topographical features like Fremont Butte.
The road out of Boulder was paved and mostly easy spinning in spite of the wind resistance. The early afternoon was heating up, turning into one of the warmer days of the entire ride. I was beginning to have difficulty keeping my eyes open, I was spent. I pedaled on hoping it would subside, but it only grew worse. I spotted one of the few taller trees in the area and decided it would make a great spot for a siesta.
Is it one tree or 50?? Can't tell, but it cast a nice shadow.

There was a sloped embankment to lean on, but most of the area in the shade was swampy, so I covered my face and set my alarm for 15 minutes.
Similar to my Montana experience, simply closing my eyes for a few minutes did the trick. The pavement continued as the miles began to stack up.
Entering this area after Boulder, I didn't expect to see so much water. It was everywhere.

Point & shoot.

Here, water was gushing from the hillside, still a lot of snow up high.
I stopped to filter water when I crossed over the East Fork River since it was a bit on the warm side. I knew there were two more river crossings before Atlantic City, might as well chug away.

The pavement coming to an end at the far climb. I was ready to get back on dirt.

One of the last structures I'd see for a while.

Aside from battling the crosswinds, I really enjoyed this swooping terrain.

Looking south into the void of the Basin. Absolutely nothing for as far as the eye can see and beyond.

Our route would skirt by the southern end of the Wind River Range.

Cool Oregon Trail history about a famed water crossing here at the Big Sandy River

The original crossing was to the left of the dirt road alignment.

The beautiful Big Sandy River.
The first in a series of punchy climbs.

High desert junction at the Lander Cutoff Rd.

I was constantly trying to guess where the distant road would take me, would it go over the hill? Around it? What's on the other side? Pedal on and find out.
I was on one particularly steep grade, off pushing my bike, and not really feeling the greatest. The afternoon heat was wearing on me. The seated riding was touch & go at best. I could see an SUV approaching and as they neared, slowed down and the guy driving asked how I was doing and if I needed anything to drink? I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I wasn't about to let this good deed go unfulfilled. I said sure, I'll take something cold to drink. He responded with: 'What do you want, we have all kinds of stuff. How about a Mango Kombucha?' I'm thinking, are you kidding me? Hell yeah, I'll take a Kombucha. He and his wife excitedly jumped out and began rummaging through three coolers in the back of the SUV, digging, digging....here it is!! I was handed an ice cold glass bottle of fizzy mango heaven. They wished me luck and drove off. This was trail magic at it's finest. Normally, we bikepackers are obsessive at times about unnecessary weight, but I had no issue lugging a glass bottle 40 miles to Atlantic City!! I chugged it on the spot it tasted so, so good. Lacking real estate on the bike, I took full advantage of my mesh netting on my seat bag and squeezed the bottle in. Perfecto.

Patches of trees were a nice surprise.

The endless ups & downs in the wind were wearing me down, forward progress was feeling sluggish.

At least I had scenery like this to occupy my mind and the road opened up every once in a while.

Not surprising? Fun fact: The sage bush is the state shrub of Wyoming. #truth

Where's Waldo?? In this case: water. See it?

Ride the snake as the shadows grow long, giving the landscape a more dramatic appearance.

The wind was really ripping up on this ridge. It was tough going in spite of the relatively flat road thanks to the deep gravel.
Somewhere in this area the lead northbound rider passed by. We exchanged waves and I didn't feel so bad knowing I'd be hitting the ride's halfway point early the next day.

By this time I was really laboring and knew I wouldn't arrive in Atlantic City before the mercantile closed. It was't a big deal, I had plenty of food, but a burger & brew sure did sound enticing. I pulled over to take a 5 minute break. I decided to see if I had service and wouldn't you know, 4G?? Seriously? Out here? I took the opportunity to call home as it had been a few days since I last talked to K. It was so good to hear her voice at that time and I began to choke up as I described my saddle troubles.

These rides really mess with you, not just physically, but the mental toll and emotional rollercoaster you often find yourself on can be intense. Sometimes it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I had been feeling good and taking in the sights, but simply talking to my wife brought everything out. I told her I was sticking to my plan to ride beyond Atlantic City that night no matter how late I arrived. Time to go.

The days final rays as the Lander Cutoff Rd. comes to an end.

This had the feel of an album cover. WY Rte28.

Cool sunset grab, but I like the top pic better.

Down the paved hill to the Sweetwater River.


More Old West history. This route was like riding back in time.
There was a rest area just beyond the river crossing so I opted to take advantage of the water fountain and restroom for more saddle care. I had been carrying a spare 3L bladder in my Camelbak for two key areas of the route: The Great Basin and southern New Mexico. I topped off my bottles, put about 2 1/2 L in the framebag bladder and another 2 L in the Camelbak. This was the first time I really wished I had brought my Osprey pack. It's much larger, 25 L capacity, and fits a little better although my old skool Blowfish model wasn't bothering me fit-wise. The Osprey would have let me carry what I needed without the threat of rupturing a zipper or two, the Blowfish was stuffed!! Anyway, I managed to get everything loaded and settled into the climb away from the rest area on rte28.

A few minutes later northbound rider #2 came flying down the road. A quick wave and he was gone. Those two ended up being the only two northbound finishers in the race. Congrats fellas.

The climb seemed to drag on and my backside began to relent once again. So frustrating, but I was able to keep pedaling...for now. The route turned back onto dirt and wound it's way towards South Pass City, a typical mining boom & bust story.

A few minutes later I felt something cold against my back as I rode on and it became more prominent. Ahh, crap. My spare bladder had a slow leak. Gah!! My jersey and puffy jacket were soaked. Fantastic. The bladder was leaking at the top, at the seam of the lid, due to the snug fit in the Camelbak so I drank it down to relieve pressure. It seemed to help, but so much for carrying plenty of water through the Basin. I vowed to buy a new bladder in Steamboat Springs as this one was bound for the trash bin.

South Pass City isn't much of a town these days, but a few hearty souls call this place home. I kinda wished it was daylight as I like seeing these places. There were a few sections of road that I had to walk, then as I made my way through town towards the lit up Carissa Mine the road became stupid steep. There were a few vehicles parked next to the mine and I could see some guys walking around, it was probably after 11p. It all seemed strange until all the lights at the mine went dark, must've been the caretakers as the mine is now a designated historic site.
No, I didn't hang around to read all these signs!! It was getting cold!!

It's amazing how many of these towns are scattered throughout the west.
A few more hills stood between me and Atlantic City, rode some, walked some. There was a final downhill cruise into the tiny town where I was positive I'd be the only thing stirring.
A far cry from the Jersey Shore, thank goodness!!
It was right around midnight when I arrived in Atlantic City and I was feeling the pull of my sleeping bag. The fire station was lit up, so I took a few minutes to consult with my maps, etc. It was cold, temps hovering in the mid-30's and I wasn't too motivated to continue on but I had made a promise to myself earlier in the day to get as far into the Great Basin as I could that night.

I had to change clothes, removing my wet jersey in favor of my cozy wool baselayer, knee-high socks, knee warmers, arm warmers and a damp puffy. All was well. Now, where's that monstrous burrito?
Midnight feast!! Don Miguel + Red Bull.
Filled with fresh calories I pedaled out of Atlantic City into the Great Basin. Okay, not really, I pedaled for a block or two then pushed up a steep hill out of town. What was with these grades around here. Oof. At the top I paused to soak in the Milky Way in all its glory. What a stunning sight. Absolutely zero light pollution and a billion stars dotting the otherwise ink black sky. I really love night riding, especially solo. Roads & trails are quiet, senses on high alert. It's just you, the route and the critters of the night. It's a different world.

The route slanted downward and I could finally ride at a steady clip with ease. I passed by a real estate sign and saw a tent, it sure looked like Hal's, but I was wrong before. My eyes finally had enough about 8 miles south of Atlantic City. I noticed a sign on a fencepost when I stopped to consult my ACA maps. Upon further inspection there was a clear area next to the fence, perfect camp location. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, so tonight would be a cowboy camping night, my favorite way to bikepack. My legs were only slightly swollen after the big day. I was happy with my ride in spite of all the hike-a-bike, wind and general slow going. I needed to rise early the next morning in order to beat as much of the wind as possible, but it was already past 1:30a.

Stats: 115.11 miles & 3,904' gained.


Here is a full Tour Divide Index from each day on the route.

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