“Fucking horses” were the first words I uttered early this morning as I went outside to pee. Apparently, horses don’t sleep very much at night, or at least this particular one didn’t. The stupid bell rang on and off throughout the night.
After Brian, Ryan, and Rob struggled to close and lock the behemoth metal door, we hit the trial at 8:10 AM. It was somewhat disappointing because we had to backtrack 3 miles back to Uranium Road. Since those 3 miles were downhill yesterday, they were uphill today. We actually backtracked a bit further past Uranium Road so that we could refill our water at the campsite again.
Uranium Road presented more uphill and it seemed sandy which made pedaling tougher, especially with the trailer. We slogged up the hill, and when we reached the top, Judy decided to continue on to the long downhill while the rest of us rested and fueled up. This headstart set the stage for some interesting drama.
Brian left next, an estimated 20 seconds or so behind Judy, and the rest of us soon followed. The downhill was a lot of fun – not too steep – and was a refreshing change from all the climbing we had done that morning.
About 3/4 of the way down, we met back up with Brian who was concerned about the whereabouts of Judy. Brian had raced down “at downhill speeds” and was not only unable to catch up with Judy, but was not even able to get close enough to catch a glimpse of her. He feared that Judy may have crashed further up the hill. Since we were all behind Brian and did not see Judy, the only way Judy could have still been up the hill is if she had fallen off the side of the road.
Brian and Ryan decided to ride back up to look for Judy while Rob would continue downhill in case Judy was actually in front of us. They would each bring a Talk-About in order to communicate. Since Dave and I had the trailers, there wasn’t much we could do but sit around and wait. To help pass the time, Dave was gracious enough to show me his proprietary, patent-pending, Farmer’s Tan Removal System. I’ve gotta admit that the market opportunity for such a product is potentially enormous.
Time ticked by. Partway back up the climb, Ryan heard Judy’s voice on the Talk-About. Unfortunately, it didn’t come across very clearly and all he heard was “I’m on top of a hill” in what sounded like a disoriented voice. Uh oh. They continued climbing back up the hill.
After they had climbed back all the way to the top, Judy came in clearer radio contact and indicated that she was OK and was in fact ahead of everyone. It was a line-of-sight oddity that Rob could talk with Brian and Ryan and Judy could talk with Brian and Ryan but Rob and Judy couldn’t talk with each other despite being much closer to each other.
Not only did Brian, along with Ryan, climb all the way up the hill for nothing, but Brian had a crash coming back down when his handlebar case popped loose. As he tried to save it, he took his eyes off the road, got caught in a rut, and crashed. It was nothing serious, but he did get some cuts and scrapes on his arm.
We joked that this escapade called into serious question Brian’s downhill riding skills. The reality is that Judy’s new bike has improved her downhill riding considerably and it probably improved even further just on this trip. The main lesson learned is that nobody should let themselves get too far ahead of the group.
After regrouping, we continued on. The fun downhill was more or less over and we began climbing again, and boy did it seem like a really long climb. The hot sun only made the climb seem even longer. We would hope to see the end of the climb at every turn, but were instead greeted with another stretch of uphill. I don’t think any of us had heard so much foul language come out of Dave before!
Compounding our uphill woes was the fact that Rob started noticing a clicking sound in his bottom bracket. We had been pretty lucky with mechanical issues thus far. Could this be our first major one? There wasn’t much we could do about it at this point so our best best would be to take a closer look once we got into the small town of Gateway.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally reached the top of our ascent. It was about time! We looked forward to an easy downhill, but alas, that was not to be. The descent was extremely steep and while the road was fairly wide, you certainly didn’t want to slide out and fall over the edge – the exposure was pretty serious and it was a long way down. In order not to overheat the brakes, we tried to pull over and stop on a regular basis to give the brakes a chance to cool down. As an example of how hot the brakes got, Ryan burned his thumb on the adjustment knob of Judy’s brakes.
The plus side to the hairy descent was the spectacular views along the way – truly beautiful! After the descent, we reached a long, slightly downhill stretch of sandy wash. This was a flash flood zone so we wanted to move through as quickly as possible. The sandy section was kind of fun as your bike slipped and slided around beneath you. Judy cruised through the section like a pro!
Soon we reached the main road that leads into the very small town of Gateway. Fortunately, they had a cafe where we stopped to get some cold drinks and some real food. Most of us got burgers (which were delicious!), Brian got a turkey sandwich, and Judy got some hash browns and fruit.
Using some tools borrowed from the cafe, Rob, Brian, and Ryan disassembled Rob’s bike to see if they could identify the problem. Unfortunately, there was nothing obviously wrong and they didn’t have the right tools to troubleshoot further. The cafe informed us that there was a bike shop just a ways further down the road so we decided to head there to see if they could help.
Based on what we had seen of Gateway, we weren’t really hopeful that the bike shop could help. We were afraid that the “bike shop” would be nothing more than a gift shop that sold inner tubes. When we reached the bike shop, we were very pleasantly surprised to find that it was indeed a real bike shop. In fact, it was part of a newly built shopping center.
The guy (Lucas?) and girl at the bike shop were very friendly and eager to help us out. We found out that the shopping center was owned by the same person who owns Team Discovery, the cycling team that just helped Lance Armstrong win his 7th Tour de France. A bike shop at this location is a perfect place to catch riders of the SJHS. The shop sells lots of brake pads, a fact that surprised us very little considering the steep descent into Gateway that we just experienced.
The shopping center also had rooms available and apparently many SJHS riders end up staying in one of these rooms rather than the hut. Soft pansies! In addition to catching riders of the SJHS, the intent was to expand the town to become more of a travel destination. One of the concepts they’re thinking about is to combine mountain biking and water rafting into some type of package outing. Seems like it has potential.
With the help of the bike shop and their tools, we were able to find the problem with Rob’s bike. Somehow, a piece of debris had found its way into Rob’s bottom bracket and lodged itself underneath a label that was attached to the BB. After this was removed, the clicking sound went away and everything seemed to return to normal. Just to be safe, however, we had the bike shop order an extra bottom bracket (BB ES50). It turned out that the husband of the girl at the bike shop was in Durango, CO and was returning that evening. He would be able to pick up the right part and then they could drop it off at our hut that evening.
It was quite a relief to have Rob’s bike fixed because it would have been a real bummer had he not been able to finish the ride. We stopped by the grocery store to get some cold drinks and ice cream (mmmmm…..), and then hung out for a bit in the shade in front of the grocery store. There was, after all, no rush to get to the hut. It was nice relaxing in the shade waiting for the sun to go down a bit and for things to get a bit cooler.
We rode back up the road to the turnoff for the hut. The directions warned of potential flat tires due to “goat-heads”. Nobody knew what a goat-head so we approached cautiously. Goat-heads or not, we didn’t see anything on the trail that might puncture our tires.
Conditions had been pretty dusty that day and since we knew that we had the most grueling day of climbing the next day, it was probably a good idea to have another bike lube fest. Later that evening, the gang from the bike shop showed up with Rob’s bottom bracket as well as Piper the Explorer dog, a springer spaniel who bounded all over the place in an endless pursuit of sniffing. Although they had actually picked up the wrong bottom bracket part, it looked like it would still work if required. Hopefully, we wouldn’t have to use it.
Tomorrow would be the most grueling day as we’d be climbing over 4,000 feet in a single day. Since it was much hotter at these lower elevations, we decided to try to get as early a start as possible. We aimed to be on the trail as soon as there was light.
Cumulative miles: 145.61
Daily miles: 34.1
Mechanicals: Rob’s bottom bracket starting clicking.
Casualties: Brian crash while trying to save water bottle case.
[Go to Day 6 trip report or go to pics.]