I arrived yesterday evening in Pinedale, pretty much in the heart of Wyoming. Its a great little cowboy town, no chain stores, no Starbucks or McDonalds, just old style bars and diners (with one excellent brew pub) and where the traffic stops to let deer cross the road. I intended to stay a day, but as its so nice, and as I’m so tired from a few days of very tough riding, I’ll take a two day break to get ready for the push into Colorado. I think I deserve a break, I’ve had one day off the bike since Butte, which seems a very long time ago.
I have a big decision to make as its pretty clear by now I am not going to be able to complete the whole route. I have about four weeks left of riding, but at the (slow) pace I’m going I calculate that I’d need at least 35 riding days to make it to Antelope Wells on the Mexican border. There is also the issue of weather – I’ve been very fortunate so far. I managed to get down from Canada to Montana in what has been one of the wettest and coldest summers on record without too much trouble – more due to luck than anything else I hit the best weather window. And right now the weather now is great – its very hot here in fact, and the forecast is for good weather for a week into Colorado. But from October, the chance of snow on high ground is very high, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to clear the high ground of central and southern Colorado in time to avoid it.
So, I have a number of choices:
1. Keep riding until the weather closes in, then go off route onto lower level roads, catching up on the route again in hotter New Mexico. This way I might be able to make Antelope Wells or possibly another border town such as El Paso in Texas, but it wouldn’t be by following the ‘proper’ route. I haven’t looked closely at the road options, but i suspect that it would mean following some quite busy and possibly long, straight and tedious highways through Arizona (if I veer west), or New Mexico/Texas if I veer east. But I would be able to join up with the ‘Southern Tier’ bike route which passes El Paso, on the Mexican border. I would probably have to go to El Paso anyway at the end of my trip in order to get the train or a flight back to the east Coast in time for my return flight home in November.
2. Ride to Steamboat Springs or Silverthorne in Colorado, and start a new route there. According to the Adventure Cycling Associations route map, I can pick up one of two routes from there, the Western Express, which runs west into Utah and Nevada, ending in San Francisco, or the Transamerica, which goes into… well…. Kansas. The first one sounds very intriguing (if difficult), but I’m confident of making much better progress on tarmac than the upland trails I’ve been on so far. I doubt I’d make San Francisco, but it would be fun to try.
3. On the suggestion of Cass, I have the option of doing more or less what he did last year (photos in that link) when he got caught by early snow, and setting off to Utah and the Moab area, famous for its epic trails. From there, I could strip down the bike into lightweight mode and do some single or multi-day trips into the mountains along the famed singletrack in the area. Or I could just sit all day in bars and coffee houses in Moab pretending to be a real mountain biker (or more likely, a mix of both!).
I’ve a few days to think the options over – I’ll probably keep going until Colorado anyway, and make my decision based on how my legs are feeling, how the bike is standing up to it, and the weather. But any suggestions are welcome!
*Addendum* Ok, I’ve had a sleep on this and done some more research. As the weather looks good for a week I will definitely ride direct along the main Divide route into Rawlings in south Wyoming and then Steamboat Springs, Colorado, maybe going on further to Silverthorne. From there, it seems I can pick up another road cycle route (not a cycle way, just a series of minor roads mapped out by the Adventure Cycling Association as good for cycling), down to Pueblo. From there, I can find my own way over the 250 miles or so down to Cuba, New Mexico, picking up the Divide Route again. Hopefully that way I’ll pick up on time (road riding is much faster than on these off road tracks), and avoid the highest passes as the snow comes. From there I will try to ride to Antelope Wells, the border crossing, or if time is pressing, I’ll go to El Paso in Texas.
So thats my current plan – always subject to alteration of course!