(old bridge crossing of San Miguel River near Atkinson Creek)
Andrew and I rolled out of Grand Junction about 5pm. The wind had died down and conditions were great for an evening ride. We worked the back roads to Loma and did some Kokopelli Trail.
(Andrew on some hike-a-bike)My new shoes and cleats were giving me fits in the single track and I had visions of taking a tumble off a cliff. Later down the trail, after dark Andrew took a small digger in some rocks while trying to save battery life on his main light. I was happy to have my dynamo powered Revo and headlight. My lighting system for the TDR might be overkill but it is going to be nice knowing I have unlimited handlebar light. Later we resupplied with water and ate dinner at the Westwater Ranger Station/ Boat ramp. It was cold down by the river and we moved on back up the trail and found a nice warm desert style camp spot. With my Z-pak tent, full pad and warm bag I was comfortable, warm and slept picture-perfect.
We were taking it easy and I did not set an alarm, woke up at 5 rolled out about 6:00 am. Andrew was setting a nice pace, yesterday and today.
(Andrew has strong ST skills--as well as a strong TDR style rider he would do great on the CTR and AZT)
To hold Andrew's pace I had to push myself a bit higher than my normal. It felt good to ride slightly above my normal limit. I can tell my conditioning is coming around just in time for the tour. From the Kokopelli we transitioned to Hwy 128 and rolled it into Moab. I had to laugh when we hit the bike path. Andrew went flying by a mountain biker out for a day ride and he sped up and tried to match pace. I tailed along behind them and watched as this would be racer slowly fell off Andrew’s wheel. I think he was totally demoralized at not being able to hold the wheel of a fully loaded mtn bike, maybe even more so when I said hi as I went on by………..
We were both fantasizing about real food and stopped at Denny’s and loaded up. Andrew had been experiencing knee pain and asked the waitress for some ice. Ha, she thought he wanted ice for a cooler and brought out a bag with about 10 lbs. I ate way way too much and was lethargic and sluggish till about 7:00pm. Note to self, just eat normal amounts during TDR restaurant stops. As we left Moab it became obvious that Andrew’s knee was not going to cooperate and he was risking real damage by continuing. So he pulled the plug and hitched a ride back to his car in Grand Junction. I felt bad but he made the right call. It had been nice to have a riding partner pushing my pace.
I quickly reverted to my normal plod along pace and enjoyed the solitude. The forecast was for rain and as I rolled thru Bedrock it started. By now it was 9:30pm and I planned to stop about 10. Timing was perfect as I found the ideal camp spot just off Y11 road, right next to the Dolores River. I set camp between rain squalls and climbed in my bag. I fell asleep wondering how my sleep system would do in full blown storm. I woke several times during the night to the sound of hard rain, even hail. In the morning all was still dry.
However as I was packing up a final hail burst with high winds got some light moisture sideways into the tent and onto my gear. All in all my sleep system gets a pass. It’s more than many will bring for the TDR but I hope it will give me the confidence to ‘ride in to the storm’ vs stopping short at the hotel.
With more rain in the forecast I knew I would be confined to pavement all the way back to Grand Junction. I had a nice meal and Gateway Canyons Resort and then pushed on up Hwy 141 (note to self—don’t eat so much as it only slows you down for 2-3 hours). As the afternoon progressed it slowly became a ‘take it off put it on’ day. Rain gear on, rain gear off, on, off etc. As I topped out the last climb around 7000 feet I knew it was mostly downhill to Whitewater. By now the rain is pounding down and I get a real full on ‘rain gear test’ with an extended nine mile 25mph descent. Even though my body was no longer working hard I basically I stayed warm & dry with the exception of my feet. Guess I might need to add a pair of Gore-Tex socks or bring some better shoe booties.
Shake Down Summary:
I got the full on severe rain check out of my sleep system and riding gear. All in all I feel confident I have the right TDR combo for extended harsh conditions. Guess that means the sun will be shinning the whole time…..My conditioning is about right, although my weight is going to be about 2-5 lbs more than target. My ongoing battle with saddle sores is not won but much better than what I was working with back in 2010. The bike and gear are just about dialed with only a few minor revisions still needed. Mentally I feel both weaker and stronger. To simply ‘finish’ is not as important this time so I am worried I may lose motivation if/when things go south. On the other hand I truly know that every weak moment, when one wants to toss in the towel, will always be preceded and followed by sudden almost unexpected moments of pure delight.
So “Final Countdown” has now commenced. I have ordered all my replacement drivetrain parts. Will soon have my wheels trued up. Will soon round up a bike box for shipping, and so on with all the final details and prep………