Day Fifteen – Squirrel Creek Campground to Jackson – 94 miles – 1,101 miles total
We didn’t have the best night’s sleep – it was pretty warm in the tent which didn’t help, I’m sure. We woke up and got packed away in time for a fantastic breakfast – just what we both needed. I was feeling much much better, even despite the poor night’s sleep.
We got out onto the gravel road nice and early and the weather was pretty good for us, a little cooler than the previous couple of days. I felt like I was racing along, but Marco was still up ahead of me as we crossed over the state border out of Idaho and into Wyoming.
The trail was in good condition until we started to climb up along the edge of Yellowstone National Park. I kept my eyes out for bears, but didn’t spot any, perhaps they were staying out of the way of the mosquitoes that were swarming all around us and feasting on our flesh.
We stopped for a short break alongside the Grassy Lake Reservoir, but couldn’t hang around too long for fear of being eaten alive! After a steep climb, the trail flattened out a bit and then we descended down to Flagg Ranch, where we got a drink and a bite to eat, having completed about 35 miles in double quick time.
At the ranch, we met group of cyclists who were riding the TransAmerica trail; a 4,000 plus mile ride from Oregon to Virginia. It was interesting to hear their tales from the road and they seemed pretty interested In our route too.
We had a big hill to climb coming out of the ranch, but it was along the paved road, which made it a little easier on the legs. Down the other side, we had great views over Jackson Lake, which we rode around the edge of.
We arrived at Colter Bay Village in the bright sunshine and sat outside the gas station eating sandwiches as we decided what to do next. We had hoped to meet back up with Ollie here, but received a text message that suggested he was going to carry on without us. We decided then that we would take a diversion off the route down to the town of Jackson. It would take us 40 miles off of the route, but we’d heard that the road down to the town was supposed to be amazing. We would also be able to buy supplies and parts for the bikes, and maybe even have a rest day. I was pretty keen on this, and the idea grew on Marco as we went down the road to Jackson.
The ride alongside Jackson Lake with the Teton Mountains behind it, was simply stunning. We stopped many times to take photos of the amazing scenery, especially near Jenny Lake.
In the small village of Moose, we stopped for a cool drink and Marco started to feel pretty unwell – it seemed as though he had the same thing that I had had a few days earlier – not pleasant.
The weather began to close in a bit and we saw some lightning in the distance and so decided to take the slightly shorter route into Jackson, straight along the main highway. We got almost all the way into town before the rain came pouring down, but were able to take shelter in the information centre.
We found ourselves a motel room in town (no mean feat as the place was full of people here for the 4th July weekend) and rode through the rain to get there. We had to wait for the owners to show up and Marco got worse the longer we waited. By the time we got the room key, Marco was in bad shape and felt very ill, so took a shower and went straight to bed.
Day Sixteen – Jackson Rest Day
Marco woke up feeling better, but still not 100% and so we decided to take the whole day off. We spent the day visiting bike shops, picking up spares, got our laundry done and cleaned and fixed up the bikes. I also bought a tent as we decided that it would be better for us to have a tent each, especially as it got warmer as we travelled further south.
Day Seventeen – Jackson to Union Pass – 91 miles – 1,192 miles total
After a rest the day before, it was good to be back on the bike again. That might be an odd thing to say, and it felt a bit weird at the time too! The feeling didn’t last very long though, as within 20 minutes I had to stop at the side of the road to fix a flat!
Once that was fixed, we set off along the road again. The bad thing about taking the diversion off the route was that we had to ride back much the same way to get back on track. The road was still pretty awesome though, even if it was steady uphill all the way.
We took an early lunch at a lovely little cafe with views of the mountains and then got back on our way. All morning, I’d had the feeling that I was fighting the bike a little bit and my newly-fitted brake pads were rubbing against the brake disc, meaning that I had to work harder. I’d thought that they would ease up the further we went, but it soon became apparent that they were still pretty tight.
We stopped and tried to fix the brakes and ended up putting the old pads back on which made things a little easier.
We turned back on to the road and began to climb up over Togwotee Pass. The road was being repaired and was not in such a great state, but we made it to the top and then began a steep technical downhill section, which I really struggled with. The reward was a stunning view of the mountains and a short section through a beautiful deep canyon.
A downhill section on the road took us to a campground and RV park where we stopped for a barbecue dinner, complete with live entertainment.
Then it was back onto the road for a long, steep climb up towards Union Pass, as the sun was going down. The views were simply amazing, but because it was getting darker and darker, we couldn’t hang around for too long.
We arrived at the top of the hill in the dark and rode a couple of miles to a primitive campground. Pitching my new tent in the dark wasn’t too easy (thank goodness I’d practiced in the motel room!) but we got set up and into bed quickly, happy with the day’s mileage.
Day Eighteen – Union Pass to Boulder – 90 miles – 1,282 miles total
We had a bit of a disturbed sleep, thanks to so inquisitive cows getting a bit too close to Marco’s tent for comfort. He woke in a panic, thinking that a bear was sniffing around and in turn, woke me by shouting at the cows!
We were up very early and ate breakfast sheltering from the early morning chill in the toilet!
We started with another steep climb up over Union Pass, which had us stripping off our warm clothing very quickly. We then had a long section of undulating track before we reached the paved road again. We had to ride through a bit of a storm first though. I was knocked off my bike by a strong gust of wind that came from nowhere. I managed to get my feet unclipped and escaped without any injury, but the wind got stronger and more consistent and by the time I reached a roadside cafe, I was pretty tired and looked forward to a big feed.
Whilst I was in the bathroom, a large storm started raging outside, with rain pouring down and soaking the horses that were tied up next to our bikes. If I’d been ten minutes later, I would have been completely drenched!
We had a long road section next, but fortunately the rain had stopped. The wind however was blowing strongly as we undulated our way to Pinedale, where an amazing coincidence awaited us.
Before leaving Banff, we had sent a number of requests for places to stay via the website couchsurfing. As we rode into Pinedale, I had the thought that we had made a request for somewhere to stay here, but we hadn’t seen a reply -the lack of internet access hadn’t helped either.
We stopped off in the outdoor shop in Pinedale and picked up some supplies before we got chatting to a local biker who recommended the local pub as a good place to eat – we were desperate for some pasta – so we went along. We were met at the door by Amy, who recognised us from our couchsurfing request and website. She was our host and had accepted our request for a place to stay, but we hadn’t seen the email confirmation. What an amazing coincidence!
It turned out that the pub had no pasta, so we went back up the road to a pasta and pizza place to carbo load. It turned out that Amy (and Joe) were staying in a cabin on a campground along the road to Boulder, which happened to be on our way.
We rode the 15 miles or so to Boulder in the dark along the highway – possibly the scariest and most dangerous part of the route – and got a shower and headed to bed after a long chat with Joe.
Day Nineteen – Boulder to Atlantic City – 101 miles – 1,383 miles total
Joe woke up early to see us off and we coasted the couple of miles into Boulder where we stopped and had some breakfast and stocked up on snacks and drinks for the day. We also had a look at the route for the day and prepared for an uphill day.
Despite being uphill most of the way, I think this was one of my favourite days of the trail. We rode up into a huge basin, with vast expanses of flat(ish) land all around us, framed by the Continental Divide inn the distance. It was a very special place to be riding through.
We made good progress and took an early first lunch before starting on a long section of rollercoaster-like trail. It was a little daunting to ride to the top of a rise and look up to see the trail stretching ahead as far as the eye could see, up and down all the way. But I just got myself into a positive frame of mind and decided that I was going to ride all of the ups and downs, riding hard down hill to try and coast up the other side as much as I could.
We climbed up and on to the Divide and then rode along the top of it for a couple of miles, giving superb views out across the basin. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and we saw almost no other people for the whole way.
We had a short section on the road before taking the trail up to South Pass City, which was little more than a small village. We took a bit of a rest in the shade and filled up with ice lollies and cold drinks before the short up and down ride to Atlantic City.
In Atlantic City (again, only a village) we ate a good dinner and ordered some pizza and pancakes to go. We also filled up all our bottles with water, as we were heading into the desert and wouldn’t have a reliable water source until we got to Rawlins, some 120 miles away.
We made a foolish map reading error coming out of Atlantic City and started to climb the wrong hill. We only went about half a mile out of our way though, and had to ride back through the village, hoping that nobody noticed that we’d gone the wrong way!
The correct hill was ridiculously steep and I had no other choice than to push up to the top, but from the top, we had a great long section of downhill ahead of us. We had entered the red desert which was looking exceptionally beautiful in the evening sunlight.
We were however, battling with a side wind which seemed to grab hold of the trailer and flag and making the bike feel very unstable. The track was also a tricky one to ride along, as it was very bumpy and washboarded indeed. My hands were very sore from the jarring of the handlebars and the loss of sensation in them was starting to give me real concerns.
We rode on until the sunset and set up our camp by the side of the trail, where we munched down a bit of the pizza we’d carried from Atlantic City. A fantastic way to end an fantastic day; a 100-miler too!
Day Twenty – Atlantic City to Rawlins – 112 miles – 1,495 miles total
Waking up in the desert was simply wonderful. We felt as though we were in the middle of nowhere, which I guess wasn’t too far from the truth. Our target for the day was to be the town of Rawlins, over 100 miles away. The last 30 miles or so would be on the road though, which in our minds made things a little easier.
The trail was bumpy but otherwise pretty good. Heavy trucks had clearly been using the roads though, as their tracks were visible throughout the day. We saw a few of them along the way, serving the mining that seemed to be taking over sections of the desert. We were lucky that the weather was dry, and had been for a few days – it would have been very hard going if the trail was wet and muddy.
Marco went on ahead, which was pretty normal, and I carried on behind. We’d split up like this several times before, with Marco leaving signs for me at any turnings off the main track. We only had one set of maps between us, which in hindsight was a mistake.
I started up a slight drag of a hill when things suddenly got very hard for me, the back wheel started to drag. I’d picked up a flat and would have to stop to try and fix it. This flat coincided with the wind picking up, blowing the sand everywhere.
Rather than just changing the tube, I decided that it would make sense for me to change the actual tyre as well. It was starting to get very worn indeed, and I’d picked up a spare in Jackson on our rest day.
I unhitched the trailer and got the back wheel off, found the puncture in the tube and got that changed before starting on the tyre. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get the new tyre onto the rim – the fit was so tight, and it looked like it would never go on. With the sand still blowing all over the place and my patience running out, I gave up and put the old tyre back on.
All this had taken me ages and I was conscious that Marco would be waiting up ahead somewhere, so I tried to push on and catch him up. I think that was why I missed Marco’s sign on the road. He left a load of arrows marked in the sand, but somehow I didn’t see them and carried on, oblivious to the fact I’d taken the wrong road.
The trail was fairly rollercoaster-like and the surface was pretty sandy and tough going. Worryingly, I couldn’t see Marco’s tracks ahead of me, but the surface was such that there were hardly any tracks on there at all. I even looked back behind to see if I was making a track, and when I saw that I wasn’t, I carried on, pretty sure I was going the right way.
The feeling didn’t last though, and the further I went, the more sure I was that I’d gone wrong somewhere and when I reached the next junction, I stopped and dug out the guide book that was safely in the bottom of my trailer bag.
Here I found the news that I really didn’t want to see. I was way off course and had missed a turning just after fixing my flat. Fortunately, rescue was close at hand! I got chatting to Ed, an old fella working on the road and he offered to give me a lift back on to the correct track. It turned out I’d ridden about 15 miles down the wrong road and whilst I could have carried on and joined back up with the correct route fairly easily, I knew that Marco would be waiting for me somewhere along the way.
We found Marco by the side of the trail, underneath his space blanket, sheltering from the sun which was beating down on us. I thanked Ed for rescuing me and we got back onto the correct trail, heading for Rawlins.
More undulations took us down to the main road, which took us down towards Rawlins. It wasn’t downhill all the way though, as there was a huge climb up over the Continental Divide before going down again into Rawlins.
My legs were dead by the time I rolled into town, and the food couldn’t come out quick enough. We rode to the campground in the dark and got to bed as quickly as we could. Another 100 mile day under our belts and although the desert had tried its hardest to beat us, we had survived another day.
Day Twenty One – Rawlins to Slater – 86 miles – 1,581 miles total
After a good sleep, we were up and away from the campsite early and found our way to a local cafe for a good breakfast. We needed to stock up on groceries though, and so while Marco headed to the supermarket, I set off on the road, knowing that I would be caught before too long.
In fact, I made pretty good time and reached the end of the paved road before Marco caught me up – the supplies had obviously slowed him down!
We started up a massive steep hill, pausing only to chat to a walker who had stopped by the side of the road. He was walking part of the Continental Divide Trail and was running low on water, so we helped him out.
Back on the hill, the trail just kept going up and up and up and by the time we crossed over Middlewood Hill, it was definitely time for a first lunch. The afternoon turned out to be very hard work. A quite gravelly road was made more tricky by the constant headwind and occasional side wind gusts. I remember very clearly shouting out in annoyance at having to pedal downhill, just to keep going!
The road did however take us out of the open and back into the slight shade of the forest, which came as a very welcome relief. We’d been out in the open for several days now meaning that both the heat and the wind had made things hard for us. At least now we got a little respite from the elements.
By the time I caught back up with Marco, he had eaten his second lunch and filtered a load of water. I quickly ate my lunch and drank down some water before starting back on my way. Little did I know that I was entering a section that would test me to my limits. Fifteen miles downhill on the paved road sounds easy enough and in my mind I was looking forward to not having to pedal too hard for a little while. The maps don’t tell you anything about the headwind though, and the downhill never really felt like downhill – I never got any real speed up and definitely didn’t coast down the hill.
At the bottom of the hill, I crossed the border from Wyoming into Colorada, but barely took any notice of the sign, I was so tired. I found Marco in the shade just off the side of the road and hoped that he would say that he’d found it tough down the hill too. He hadn’t. I was dead on my feet and wanted nothing more than to just stop right there for the night, but Marco wanted to push on further. I knew it was the right thing to do, but didn’t think my legs would take me much further.
We managed just about six or seven miles along the road before Marco found us a good place to camp for the night. Exhausted, we got the tents up and got the dinner cooked – pasta and tomato sauce – hardly a luxury meal, but it tasted great right then.
I went to bed frustrated that we hadn’t got as far as we wanted to that day, but was looking forward to a shorter and hopefully, easier day ahead.