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We awoke in Elko under the shelter of a picnic area in a campground. My poor planning the night before meant that I wanted some warm food in the morning. The gas station/convenience store didn’t open until 7am so we slept in a little. I rolled over to the store and used the bathroom, pretty nice, and then tried to find something warm to eat. Nothing! Only ended up with some nuts and a chocolate milk. We chatted with a truck driver for a little while that grew up about five miles from where I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley. What a small world. Then, as we were chatting, Mike Hall rolled up. WTF! The leaders had already caught us? Nope, the leaders PASSED us in the middle of the night. Mike was in 3rd place or so. That was a real eye-opener as to how fast these guys were. We had left eighteen hours before the Grand Depart and they had already passed us. Holy crap!
We cruised on towards the border and just before mid-day made it into the US. That was a weird feeling. For some reason it felt safer. I’m not sure why, but it did. Having said that, the drivers were instantly more aggressive. Just an observation. We stopped for lunch in Eureka where we ran into Mike Hall again. Before long Aidan Harding and Josh Shifferly (?) rolled in. It would be the last time we would see any of those guys.
We pounded the pavement south, making our way around the Whitefish/Red Meadow part of the course. By the end of the end of the day we’d be in the snow. I didn’t know what I was in for though. We rode around Dickey Lake, which I thought was nice but some people hated it. Then we started the climb up to the Striker Detour. The climb was long and slow. I was able to ride it all except for the final little bit. Then we hit the snow.
It was around 4pm or so, maybe later. I didn’t want to go into the snow that late in the day. However, it was too early to bivy. Decisions, decisions. Another rider told me that he heard that it was only a mile of snow. That was great news! Way less than we were expecting. So I decided to push on through, following him. Before I went in the snow though, I had to take care of my shoes. Back in Eureka I had bought a small roll of Duct Tape. I had the brilliant idea to tape the flaps of my shoes down. That way if I had to do any post-holing my shoes would stay on. After a couple adjustments it worked pretty well. So we started pushing.
And pushing. And pushing. And pushing. The other rider was wrong. Very wrong. The road went on forever. Snow as far as you could see. A frozen pond at one point. Luckily, enough riders had gone through so there was a somewhat packed trail and track for the bike. Two miles an hour for ten miles of snow. TEN MILES! Alone. I was nervous, at times scared. What the hell was I doing out there? Am I in over my head? WHAT WAS THAT! I must’ve looked behind me almost as much as I looked forward.
Just as the sun went down I got to the end of the snow. Finally! I put my gear on, rode about half a mile, just far enough for the sun to be completely down, and hit more snow. You’ve got to be kidding me! I looked at my GPS and realized I wasn’t as far along as I thought I was. Pushed on some more, now more nervous than before, and finally I reached the road that I had to turn to. Surely that road would be clear, right? Nope. MORE SNOW! Now I’m really bummed, it’s approaching 11pm, and I’m alone up on a mountain, in the snow. I have no idea how much farther the snow reaches. I’ve been pushing my bike non-stop for almost five hours. For the past two hours I’ve been thinking about the sandwich I’ve been carrying since Eureka. I’ve been telling myself, “just keep moving, the sandwich is the reward, once the road is clear”. That kept me moving forward. I was so hungry, but driven to get out of the snow. I was definitely out of my comfort zone.
The road finally started to clear, and way up ahead I saw a blinkie light. Someone was ahead of me! Mostly out of sight the entire time, but if they are turning on their blinkie, could that be a good thing? Before long I reached the road and it was clear. I can’t tell you how happy I was to get to the other side. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I rolled just a little ways and spotted a rider setting up his bivy in the trees. I asked if he’d mind if I bivy’d near by and he was cool with it. I was too cold and tired to ride the thirty miles down to Whitefish. I set up my bivy, ate my sandwich and passed out. I was in bear country, with food. It didn’t matter one bit. It was the best sleep I’ve ever had. Period. Bears, who cares. Get scared enough for a few hours straight and you can sleep anywhere. Trust me, I know.