Moab’s wind and rain brought us to Salt Lake. It was a good time to visit with my family — overcast and cold for several days. Very little temptation to go outside and play. We played inside, with nieces and nephews, instead. It was fun.
The skies began to clear over the west, and the Sports Van drove south like it had a mind of its own.
just enough daylight to get a taste of the white rock before a blustery night in the tent
It pulled us to another mountain bike mecca. Another rare expanse of rideable rock. Another classic area that I have neglected too long.
I love that I live in a world where a trail system like Gooseberry has become official and protected, despite its roots as an unofficial / underground.
In the late 90’s we happened to stumble into the creators/explorers/builders at a shop in town, and they were kind enough to show a bunch of college racer dorks around their stash.
We were duly impressed, and at that moment, the Slickrock Trail was suddenly old hat. Yet despite coming to visit St. George many times over the last decade+, I rarely get out to ride it.
Luckily the Sports Van righted that wrong and took us there.
Luckily we had a couple weeks of riding in Moab under our belt, and chunk confidence was approaching levels not seen in years.
Ez, in particular, was killing it out there. I’d be challenged by a section, then turn around to be surprised by her riding it first try. She also climbed a couple sections before I did, or in less tries. My girl can ride tech!
It was a glorious day on the white rock, grunting up steeps, trying not to peer off the cliff edges while riding along them, and basking in the desert sun. We covered nearly all of the trails out there, returning to camp pretty worked over.
Evening was spent reading, computerizing, and sitting by the fire. In the morning, Goose called again. We covered the sections of trails we’d missed and felt the magic of the place again. It was completely empty on a Monday morning.
A certain place, seen visible in the background of this and many of the photos above, also called us.
We had one more day of good weather, so haste was made to the other side of the mesa, through the park entrance station and into Zion!
The goal? Angels Landing.
New to both of us, we’d long heard of it, but never made it happen. The route is along the wall behind Eszter in the photo, luckily protected with lots of steps and chains.
I LOOOOOVE the trees out there and all their crazy roots
Into the white rock layer and the top! A little breathing room here.
Eszter conquered some fear out there, claiming to be a member of ‘Team Vertigo.’ She got very quiet and focused the whole way up, while being more relaxed on the way down.
I was really only scared watching people coming back down at us. The biggest danger, I think, is someone slipping and knocking other people over. Choose your waiting spots carefully.
Floating down ‘Wallys wiggles’ — switchback attack!
Maples and oaks still changing color. This canyon made me miss Tucson, strangely enough.
all fed from water coming out of cracks and weeping from walls
Soon, soon, we’ll make it back ‘home’ to Tucson for the cold and dark months.
We motivated for another hike up to the Emerald Pools despite what we realized was a good case of being completely drained in the adrenal department. Gooseberry and Zions will do that to ya, apparently. I’m really grateful we were able to squeeze these days in. Both need return visits.
At last the snows did come to the mountains. It piled up in a slushy mess, up high and on the roads down low. We were lucky to get out safely when we could.
The destination? Fruita / Grand Junction – the desert.
Eszter and two Bec(k)s were bikepacking the Kokopelli Trail over the weekend. I was tracking four events, including one with hundreds of lines of untested code. I snuck in a loop on Moore Fun after the girls headed off. I felt like a fish out of water, realizing I hadn’t ridden in the desert (i.e. chunk) for a long time. It was humbling, and incredibly fun.
I met the girls in Rabbit Valley for a water fillup, then proceeded to what I hoped would be a quiet campsite. It was anything but quiet, but I was working the entire night anyway. Motos and buggies circled all around me, alternately flooding my campsite with light, or with umpa-loompa music. I watched in the morning as my camp neighbors pulled out whole junipers with their ATVs so they could continue their daytime bonfire.
I went riding. Mike and Jeny had no shortage of difficult and cool moves to throw at me, for which I was sorely unprepared. I was firmly in the non-participant category, but I knew that going in. I was just happy to see them both riding so well and thriving in their natural environment.
I drove the Koko shuttle to Moab for the girls, then waited at our new campsite for Eszter to return with the van. Unfortunately this one wasn’t that much better than the one before, with a 4-year-old stuck in a man’s body, screaming at his wife and kids pretty much the entire time. For a while I was wondering if I was going to have to call the police. If I had a car, or any energy, I would have moved somewhere else.
Considering that we spent about half the summer camping, to only have a couple bad neighbors is not bad, I’d say.
We spent our recovery day working at the coffee shop and dorking around Arches National Park. I love having a Parks pass! From here on out, camping in the desert was nice.
Amasa Back recovery ride!
Energy was limited, but riding focus was high. It’s Moab! Ez rode several new sections on Ahab — such a fun trail.
We were supposed to be recovering from a looooong and glorious alpine season, or something like that. A weekend of Kokopelli, and sub-ideal camping/working didn’t exactly add to the energy pool. But Eszter had the bright idea of a big day on the bikes. And I couldn’t say no.
We left from camp just before sunrise. Halloween days are not long, and we knew we’d need all the daylight we could get.
Dropping down to the Green River, there’s a small sense of commitment since the bailouts are few, and the miles are long to complete the loop.
Hum, I wonder if the White Rim ever gets muddy?
It was a pretty ideal day to spin around the loop, with mostly cloudy skies and cool temps.
Oh no, some hike-a-bike on the last bit of Murphy’s Hogback! I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging the riding is on the White Rim — it’s not hard riding, but you have to pay attention most of the time. It’s 4×4 roads, not graded dirt.
And yet, there is much easy cruising. The miles float by, and we sung “cyclotouring, cyclotouring, we go cyclotouring!” You can really just sit back and watch the scenery roll by, in true cyclotour style.
There is much to see out there. Just keep peering down below the rim, or stop to eat fried chicken at the edge, like we did, several times.
I suppose at times it gets busy out there, but we only encountered a few groups of smiling and stoked mountain bikers, going the other direction with support vehicles. Some were wearing Halloween costumes, others were under 10 years old and loving it. It was hours between seeing groups, giving it a nice ‘out there’ feel.
We definitely need to go back with more time to hike and explore the side canyons and trails. There are some primo campsites out there, too.
Just another incredible view into Canyonlands.
Yep, another, sorry.
The sun did fail us, but our legs and energy did not. You do finally have to pay the piper with a hefty climb up the Shafer Switchbacks at the end. I expected a climb about two or three times as long, so it was really no big deal. The pavement we rode in the dark, however, seemed about two or three times longer than I expected, so we did dip a little into the suffering piggy bank.
Back at the van, camp was already set up, and the warmth of the big fire we started felt better than anything in the world. We rarely make fires when camping, but this one was so good we didn’t want to leave it to crash in the tent. Sunrise to sunset rides are something special, and though it was long dark, we didn’t want this one to end — it was that good.
So glad I finally got to see the White Rim.
The next day we attempted to focus in town at our computer screens. It was somewhat futile, but what needed to get done got done. Luckily Eszter’s brother, Andras, was en route to Moab, and was keen to ride. We took him to Amasa/Ahab — since it’s clearly a recovery ride, and clearly a good ‘intro to Moab’ ride.
Recovery move, recovery power.
First ride in Moab for Andras, first visit to Moab, period. He rode impressively well.
He even rode down one section that I continue to balk at. It was very fun to see him picking it up so quickly, and to have his eyes opened to the uniqueness and wonder of the Moab style of riding. I remember that happening to me many years ago.
Milt’s. Proper Moab recovery food.
Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch. You have to see Arches if you visit Moab, even if you have bikes and the trails call loudly.
Pipe dream is a new trail to me. The less said about the resources and energy available for this ride, the better, perhaps. It was pretty, though.
Tomorrow is another day! Back in the saddle for a figure eight around Navajo Rocks, also new to me.
“I’m going to go practice my wheelies.”
Monitor/Merrimac in the background.
“Punch it Chewy!”
Ah, the classic uphill endo! I haven’t had one of those for a long time, likely a sign that I’m just not trying hard enough.
Sovereign singletrack has some hard stuff on it, and we were able to ride it from camp.
That camp, yep. We found many a good night’s rest there, despite it being probably the most popular place to free camp in Moab. I think the off-season started the day after we got there.
Hashtag coffee outside.
It may have been offseason, but the weather had been decidedly on-season and perfect…. until we rolled up to Slickrock to attempt to ride a lap. The wind was pretty out of control up there, so we settled for the practice loop and some dorking around.
I can’t believe it’s been over 10 years since I’ve ridden up there. I have some deep MTB memories and stoke for the place that was reawakened by the quick ride we did there.
The same can be said for Moab in general. I’m not sure why I haven’t made it a destination and a priority to visit. I spent so much time riding and dreaming of Moab in high school and college, I guess I felt like I moved on and past it after settling (term used loosely) in Arizona. Since then it’s either been bikepacking or just passing visits. That’s got to change — the riding there really is like nothing else, and it was really fun to share it with Andras.
In short, I can’t wait to go back, and Slickrock will be at the top of the list.
The view from my ‘office’ was superb. Gold aspens, blue sky. Trails from the door. Easy access to the alpine. A cozy place to stay.
Why leave such paradise? Why jump back in the van and sleep in a tent for two weeks, working from campsites and libraries, constantly on the lookout for wifi, power, and spigots to fill up on water?
Mt. Princeton segment of the CT
Because there are other gold and orange leaves to seek out, each configuration unique and beautiful in its own way.
Because sometimes you win — big time — and find a free hippy hot spring just as the rumor on ‘the trail’ (CT) had said.
Because friends come to visit. J-bake declared the Monarch Endarno [sic] to be the “best race ever.” Despite great endarno fatigue, he joined us for a loop on North Backbone in Salida, shredding it with more gusto that we ever do!
Because you don’t experience sunsets like this from indoors. Camping on the mesas above Salida can be sublime.
we go up there!
From there, Mt. Shavano towers over you, calling with its siren song. Climb me! Climb me! You can’t spend weeks camping here, looking at me, without joining me for a day in the sky.
I love fall. We took a lazy morning at camp — reading a little, working a little, sipping coffee. “Is it about time to go climb a 14er?” “Yes, I suppose so.”
First we had to explore the CT a little. Besides Shavano, we’d been staring at all the color we knew was bisected by the Colorado Trail.
We ditched bikes and began the ascent in earnest. We found yellow leaves as high as 13,000 feet, carried by the wind above treeline, and even further above aspen-line.
Shavano really stands out on its own.
Leading to vertigo-inducing views.
I had a bike up here once, and can confirm this qualifies as ‘dream riding’ at 13,000 feet.
I was happy to not have one though. Riding Shavano was one of the best descents of my life, but perhaps the only time I’ll attempt it, too.
Bikes were waiting, for a little CT, a lot of color, and an easy coast back to camp for dinner.
Dinner and a sunset.
The banana belt loop was our ‘recovery’ ride.
Trails paved in gold! If you stop and admire the leaves, that makes it a recovery ride, right?
Swoop swoop! Banana belt features the Rainbow — a Salida classic. A recovery ride, it is not, though.
We met Chad and Kendall in town for pizza, then led the way to our campsite. In the morning we were obliged to show them some of what fall has to offer in Colorado.
I shot for a hike that might combine changing colors *and* high altitude revelry. We were skunked on leaves up by Monarch, but once we got up on the Divide, on high and lonely trail, there was no disappointment.
let me show you the proper way to use those hiking poles….
The CDT. I can’t believe we bikepacked this section, what with its copious hike-a-bike and all. The views and far-dreaming make up for it, I suppose.
“Look, there’s where we dropped off the divide to the first clump of trees we could tie the tarp to, and where we spent one of the most beautiful and most lacking of sleep nights of the CDT.”
Look, there’s a 32 degree glacial lake, in October. Beautiful. Maybe I should jump in?
Yes! Gotta love my hippy lover.
A campfire and sunset shared with good friends.
In the morning, colors were sought out, and found. Naps were taken. We ran in terror from blizzards of falling leaves. Just a lazy day spent exploring the woods, perfect.
Friends headed back to Tucson, we started scheming for a big day in the mountains. One that was a little terrifying, to me, and one that Eszter had been hoping on all season.
High pressure was strong for a few more days, so we schemed for a few adventures to do on the way. First our sights were on Mt. Princeton. I must admit that it was partly on the list due to the fact that we could hit up the hippy spring twice while camping by it. But it’s also a mountain we are always looking at, and one that I failed to summit with my bicycle some years ago.
So there was a bit of unfinished business. First we rode up to the ‘Chalet’ at treeline, just to check it out. Pretty cool structure up so high.
Then we ditched bikes at the last clump of trees, switching to non-poofy running shoes.
The non-poofy ones are good because you need a lot of control and traction on this “trail.”
It’s not so much a trail as a pile of rocks. Back when I was young and dumb (arguably I am still both, especially the latter) I took my bike all too far on the ‘trail’ hoping it would get semi-rideable, even if only briefly. Eventually I yielded. After hiking it, I can confirm that it is pretty much entirely unrideable. Hats off to those that took a bike up it anyway. It’s a slow hike, even without a bike.
I called my Dad for his birthday, from the bikes, then we loaded up for a tiny bit of ‘dream riding’ before hitting the main event: the road descent.
You see, the descent is littered with erosion diversions that make *perfect* Scott-sized jumps. Once you pop, you can’t stop. Pop, pop, pop!
After a rejuvenating soak, we camped on the Vapor Trail course again, with sunrise views of the “Cliffs of Insanity” (Chalk Creek Cliffs). Then we took the minivan over Cottonwood Pass, stopping for a favorite but hard-to-access loop.
Texas Creek, back on the CDT!
This would have been pretty OK a week or two ago, when erupting with yellow.
Timberline is full of rowdy good fun, and a fair bit of hiking.
But it gets you to this: Texas Ridge Trail, closed to motos.
Dream riding of a different sort — pine needled, soft, well-graded. It makes me miss the ponderosa pine riding of AZ and NM, badly.
The trail is a rare find in Colorado. We’re stoked that we were able to squeeze this one in.
Whether or not it was a good idea, is another issue entirely. We were both feeling it towards the end of the ride, and tomorrow was the big day. We organized everything in the sun next to Taylor Res. Bikes were loaded with shoes. Packs filled with water, food and warm clothes. Batteries swapped out. Water filters found. Maps studied, briefly.
We’d grab a burrito in Crested Butte, head to camp, and hit it at Oh-dawn O’clock.
“There’s nothing romantic about alpine starts,” says Ez.
There’s nothing warm about them either. I fought with my hands all the way up the pass, finally succumbing to the ‘screaming barfies’ as they rejoined me climbing singletrack on trail 401.
A stupid early start was the only way we were going to pull this off, given that it’s mid-October and daylight is a scarce commodity. It’s been a while since we’ve had such a start. It’s been a while since I’ve attempted something that scared me a little. We aren’t hikers, but we wanted to hike somewhere between 28 and 32 miles, in a day. That’s routine for thru-hikers (on a good day) or ultra-runners. But neither of us have approached that distance in a single day. And it was almost all above treeline, with four big climbs.
The Four Pass Loop (usually done without bikes and from the Aspen side, not the CB side).
I have to admit that watching the world slowly turn into the sun’s influence, from the seat of a bike and from my feet, was an experience that I do miss about bikepack racing. So many sunrises. So many slow turns of awareness and extreme gratitude for the sun’s presence and warmth.
Ez gets her first taste of sunlight for the day — finally!
We didn’t actually get any direct sun until well into the morning, when we crested the first pass — West Maroon. It was hard to regulate temperature until then.
Down toward Maroon Lake, we started seeing people, and all sorts of signs of over-use. It’s a beautiful place, and frequently visited. Once over the next pass, it was empty again, other than a handful of people backpacking the Four Pass loop (which is arguably the smarter approach than what we were doing).
I can certainly see why the Maroon Bells, and this loop, are so ‘popular.’
It’s a place that defies description. And we got to spend all day immersed in it — sunrise to sunset.
We kept the pace steady, with minimal stops and determined movement. Marching speed on flats, occasional coasting downhill. Oh yeah, the downhill — my shins made their sore presence known on the first descent. I remember thinking, “this can’t be good, at the start of a 30 mile day.”
even a little fall color to go along with the high revelry
There’s a beautiful simplicity to walking all day. I’ve experienced similar feelings with focused riding, but it’s a little different on foot. It feels more like a ‘migration’, even though we were actually hiking a loop. It feels like our bodies were meant to do this, occasionally, to move great distances when required. Even when your muscles are already sore, sleep is minimal, and you’re tired. You just keep walking.
“Retired from suffering, my ass!”
Ez likes to claim she is retired from suffering (along with racing). But I called her on it as we crested Frigid Air Pass, our fourth and final one. Legs were still moving, but definitely lacking pizzazz. Suffering, perhaps, but well worth it, of course.
We still had five or so miles to go, and the sun was nearly gone (damn short days!). The out/back portion from the CB side is pretty long and has its own 500′ climb up to the Wilderness boundary. It pushed us to a full 30 miles of hiking. Then we had to find our bikes in the trees, put on every stitch of clothing we had, and start riding in the frigid and pitch dark night. It was fun. And not all that cold. A tent with warm sleeping bags awaited down by Gothic.
What a day. It was the perfect way to put the nail in the coffin on our spectacular fall alpine season. We were almost hoping that the forecasted snow and general arrival of winter would actually pan out, and soon.
be Hippy, be Happy, and the view from S Mtn in Salida
The snow didn’t arrive immediately, but cold temperatures did. We thought we’d go for another recovery ride on the ‘other’ section of Rainbow Trail. But we woke up to ice on the van and a very slow and grumpy morning as the sun rose and didn’t hold much strength.
We opted for a day in the relative warmth of Salida, then a pathetic spin on North Backbone. It gave concrete confirmation to what we should have already known: we were worked. Stick a fork in us, we’re done. In the best possible way. Lucky us. Time to rest up and pray for snow. Or something like that.
Our addiction to high places and to places where trees cannot grow, continues.
run! the storms are building!
Sometimes that just means getting in the car, driving up high, and walking for a few hours. (We were also hoping to catch a couple of CDT hikers and ‘perform’ some trail magic of the egg/bacon/bagel variety).
Sometimes that means cranking out 3000 feet of climbing on granny gear roads.
Leading to ridgeline riding of the ‘dreamy’ variety.
Cranking out rideable trail above 13,000 feet? Surely a dream.
Back to reality … a little hiking now and then.
The Jones Pass section of the CDT is rarely ridden by mountain bikers. It was perhaps my favorite section of the entire four months on the CDT last summer. I was anxious to go ride it again — unloaded, and in the other direction.
I love places that make you question whether you’re still on planet earth. So outside the norm of what our eyes are used to seeing. So different than the usual routine.
Arizona is like that, too.
Can’t believe more people don’t ride this.
Well, the most direct access, from Herman Gulch, is kind of hike-a-bikey. We know, we went that way last summer. Going down was a piece of cake.
We continued on the CDT, replete with color and coasting. The CDT *is* the bikepath here.
We rolled into Georgetown on the path. But how can you loop this?
Eszter had a trick up her sleeve: a closed road turned trail through Empire Pass, climbing right above I-70. The perfect connection to make the loop. The connection also brings you to a place of great happiness: Lewis Sweet Shop!
Great sadness! No malts, sweet potato fries and candy for us.
On the remaining 1000 foot climb to close the loop we felt something rare for late September in the Mountains — scorching heat. Gentle tailwinds will do that to you, even with air temperature in the 60’s. We were dripping with sweat, and it kinda felt good.
We still had a couple of bike to hike adventures in mind, rolling from the door in Winter Park. There are lots around here, actually.
So we started on trails paved in gold, climbing away.
We took a new-to-us trail on old railroad grade. Very ‘alpine tunnel’-esque, nearing treeline.
Neither of us had made the full climb up to Rollins Pass and the divide yet, this season.
At the top, the pass is hemmed in by Wilderness. Ditch the bikes and get to walking, even if I forgot the inserts to my running shoes, fighting rolled ankles with every step.
Fellow divide travelers, crossing late in the day.
We made it out to Devil’s Thumb, sat a while, then began the slow walk back as the sun began its own slow descent.
Golden hour above treeline. Pure magic. We haven’t seen much of it, being too cowardly to camp in the ‘cold’ and generally starting so many unknown and new adventures with (what we hoped was) plenty of daylight.
This one was a little different. It was Eszter’s brilliant idea to watch the super moon eclipse from the divide. So we packed lights, puffy jackets and some slices of pizza.
The evening was incredibly warm. It was warmer than you’d expect even in the middle of summer. But once the sun’s influence was only detectable on the fading slice of moon low in the sky, it did get cold. We shared Eszter’s sleeping bag, then about halfway through the red moon, we packed up to start riding down.
point and shoot attempt to capture the blood eclipse
A fair number of other folks had the same idea as us — Rollins had some dozens of cars parked along it. Chairs were set up. People yelled, “you guys are hardcore” as we coasted down past them. We turned onto Broken Thumb to descend singletrack. We both had the same realization. Night riding is fun! We don’t do enough of it.
As usual, after 1.5 or 2 hours, night riding gets a little old, and we had the same realization: riding during the day is better, duh. We joked about the world ending, and that maybe only those above treeline, or in federally designated Wilderness would be saved. Isn’t it about time we start believing in things that are real and that actually matter, instead of fairy tales? Maybe we could believe in ourselves, and the human race in general.
We climbed the ‘hill of doom’ back to the condo just as the moon was getting its full shape completely back.
The next hike+bike adventurita started just as before, climbing aspen laced trail.
We climbed roads that are closed to cars and hid from hail under trees.
We patiently waited for mom and calf to yield the trail.
How kind of them to install a bike rack, just below treeline.
The combo of bikes+feet can take you some amazing places. Our goal was the pile of rocks just visible on the ridge above Eszter.
That one! Supposedly it is a monument to a shepherd that died in a snowstorm up here. Quite a view from the monument.
Wide open tundra running. So much fun.
We had to make some haste, with a 5pm deadline to pick up the van from the shop. Good thing we can sorta run.
Ez directed us to some primo trails, dropping all the way down into Fraser, arriving with 20 minutes to spare. Pizza was ordered, disbelief was uttered, at how well the adventure went and how lucky we are to be able to do this, together. Scanning the mountains above us for where we had gone, and the area we now have intimate knowledge of, we realized you can see the shepherd’s monument from town! Too cool. I love it that I can look around at so many of the ridges and peaks around Winter Park and know them.
It’s October now. Much longer will the high country be open?
I’ve been meaning to write this code for a while. It would dig through the trackleaders archive, and do a little counting. The results are a little staggering, at least to me.
That’s a lot of tracking, a lot of adventure covered. 6 million miles!
It started back in 2008 or 2009. I was still finishing up my PhD, and working on TopoFusion when I could. Matthew Lee was keen to promote ‘the’ Tour Divide, and bring home the experience of the race to friends, family and fans. He put together a small fleet of SPOT Gen1 devices, and tracked the (then small) event with the help of Kevin Montgomery.
Matthew offered to track my event, the Arizona Trail Race. I turned him down! I felt like it changed something fundamental in the race, and like it might give some indication that it is a ‘real’ event (it’s not). I was resistant to new technology, just as I had been when I first starting riding with a GPS — back in 1999 (when Selective Availability was still in effect). I don’t need no stinking GPS! Map and compass has always worked just fine! Silly me.
Somewhat ironically, it was my friend Mike Curiak that pushed me towards tracking. The next winter he was heading out for another go at his fully unsupported Iditarod expedition. He was carrying a SPOT device. Jill Homer and I took over his blog and were tasked with writing speculative updates as he hauled his 100+ pound bike across Alaska. Our primary source of information? SPOT tracking data.
I started writing code inside TopoFusion to read and analyse the data. Soon I had the pieces I needed to create a tracking system. It sounded like a fun distraction from my PhD work, which I was trying to draw out until they kicked me out of school for taking longer than the 10 year (!) limit. Of course riding bikes was the main distraction….
Matthew saw that I was building the system he wanted, and quickly got in touch. I agreed to track the next Tour Divide, a little hesitantly. You see, at this point I was still the webmaster and a co-organizer of the Great Divide Race. The GDR was the original divide race, and though it was quickly dying, the dust had not completely settled from the ‘divide wars.’ That Matthew and I were able to see past any previous differences and work towards a common goal is something I’m still proud of.
We had a lot in common — a passion for mountain biking, camping, bikepacking and racing. We wanted to share bikepacking passion with the world and get more people into it. We also were looking for a way to make all the time we had for years been volunteering towards the sport be… more justified, at least in our heads. We knew there wasn’t an actual *living* to be made from bikepacking (and there still isn’t) but we could feel better about the time spent answering thousands of emails and zapping SPAM on bikepacking.net, if a little bit of actual rent-paying dollars were coming in.
And that’s how it started, more or less. We had a small fleet of trackers sitting idle most of the year, so it was only natural that we look for other events for them to participate in. The goings were very slow at first. People were resistant to technology, resistant to change, just as I had been. We had to ‘seed’ events in the beginning — working for free, or for peanuts. There were lots of late nights working on the code, with very little reward. Race directors had lukewarm responses to tracking. There was no room in their budget to pay for it.
Luckily, and this is another great thing about the trackleaders partnership, we are both very fiscally conservative. We kept our expenses to a minimum — trying for a sustainable business model. We know how to live like dirtbag bikepackers, and that mentality transferred over to our business, I guess. Keep it simple, carry only what you need.
We were also very self-motivated. The (then small) set of bikepacking races kept going every year, and we were as big of fans of them as anyone. I’d be following the Colorado Trail Race and wonder what the weather was like over Eszter’s head, over the ‘EH’ not-quite-yet-pink dot (pink came later). So I’d add a radar layer. We’d be following the leaders on the divide and want to compare paces and rest/run cycles, so the Race Flow chart was born.
Somehow we survived through the early years of almost no revenue coming in, while working our asses off. Slowly, things began to change. Race directors started to see tracking as essential. After a year or two of free tracking, adding it to the budget was a no-brainer. Other events saw that people were using tracking and said ‘me too!’. Our hard work in seeding had payed off. Whole new genres were opening up to us.
There are only two of us, so there’s really only so many events we can handle (sustainable business, or something like that). We didn’t need to go seek out new events, and seed them, after a while. We tracked some major ones that proved to be too much work and too much stress. Sleep deprivation is one thing on the bike, but I’m much less a fan of it on the computer. 3am phone calls get old, after a while.
And it’s working. I guess we’ve achieved some small level of ‘success’ in that we are making a living out of it, and have plenty of work. I’m very happy and grateful for that. It’s rewarding work in that it can be fun, and aligns with my interests and passions. It’s portable work, allowing Eszter and I to live our vagabond lifestyle that we love so much (even if there is a lot of uncertainty involved in how and when I need to work). Both of these advantages outweigh the ‘downside’ that I could maybe be making more money doing something else, or working for someone else. Time and quality of life are worth a lot, too — much more than money, in my humble opinion.
Along the way we’ve had some considerable luck and the kind and patient help of many. Dave Harris has offered many suggestions and wrote BlueDot for us! (Thanks Dave). Enthusiastic fans have offered all sorts of input and feedback that has shaped the software and the way we run things (particularly in the dog sled world). Eszter’s dealt with late nights, 2 am phone calls from Matthew, and sudden changes in plans (let’s ride! oh wait, maybe not!). Early race directors believed in us, and believed in tracking. Bikepackers offered their support, and kept renting devices from us, helping us stay afloat. Fans, family and racers alike have hit the ‘donate’ button to support access to ‘radio free’ tracking.
Brush Mtn Lodge – the legend
I’m very grateful for Matthew and how understanding he’s been throughout the partnership. I mean, I was a homeless bike bum for four months last summer, with only a shiny new smart phone and a cheap laptop waiting in strategic Post Offices. We tracked *a lot* of events during that time, and somehow avoided any major catastrophes. We work well together, even though we’ve only spent a ~week or so in each others presence, total. Matthew lives in North Carolina. We met at the start line of the 2005 Great Divide Race. He came to Arizona to race Coconino and hang out at my house for a few days. We spent a few more days at Brush Mountain Lodge, meeting racers and running TD unofficial HQ, one year. That’s it, that’s the total time we’ve ever spent together.
home cooking for TD racers
It’s been a bit of an unlikely and maybe an odd partnership, but it’s been a good one, even as we’ve made some mistakes. SPOTs get lost in the mail or held up in customs. Races have been delayed waiting for a shipment. I’ve fallen asleep with my phone on vibrate — unable to wake me. The server has crashed, overwhelmed with traffic. Bugs have prevented people from getting updates. I’ve torn my hair out over differences between web browsers and anything having to do with Internet Explorer. Then there was the time I got a text from Matthew saying he was on a last minute flight to Canada (!) to personally deliver a box of SPOTs that weren’t going to make it otherwise. Or the time we forgot to renew the trackleaders.com domain registration, and it happened to expire the very day Tour Divide started. Oh yes, there have been some funny ones. Or at least stories that are funny now, in retrospect.
same awesome logo – we are so PRO
But by and large, it’s been incredible. We’ve tracked many cool events, seen records blown away on our website, and provided additional safety and peace of mind to many. It’s fun work, and I hope it continues to be so for another 6 million plus miles.
We set up camp in the shadow of Mt. Shavano, and just outside of Salida. We needed a tiny bit of recovery after the 14ers and such, and Salida is the perfect place. We have friends to visit, there’s a friendly bike shop, a hot spring / rec center, and even my favorite …. [Continue reading]
descending off Huron — dream riding
I didn’t think it was going to happen. If you’d asked me a week ago whether I’d be riding down Huron Peak, after having summitted, I would have put the likelihood somewhere close to zero. Yet there I was, late on a Saturday afternoon, sun shining bright …. [Continue reading]
I feel so lucky to be able to experience prime alpine season here in Colorado. The monsoonal flow has settled down, days are still warm, and snow is a non-issue. It’s time to get high!
With this comes an appreciation for the freedom and opportunity we have, being mobile and able to live …. [Continue reading]
Look! Proof that we occasionally hit the trail early.
I was overly excited and awoke at an uncivilized hour. It’s not every day you have a new peak to climb, accessible by bike/foot right from ‘home.’ Alpine(ish) starts are a good idea when heading above treeline in Colorado, too.
did you know …. [Continue reading]
Let’s continue on with the second half of the photo reel. Part one left us at Oakridge, roughly halfway through the loop.
big tree went boom
The route hits some deep wooded singletrack, a very pleasant 98 degree ‘warm’ spring, and some roads, leaving town.
Paved roads aren’t the first choice …. [Continue reading]
The Hot Sisters Route came together we’re putting the route on the fast track to being published. There will much more info to come, but for now we have a page coming together over at bikepacking.net:
Hot Sisters Hot Spring Route
The route is ready to go — email me if you’d like GPX …. [Continue reading]
Eszter and I spent a few days scouting an alternate route for an exciting new bikepacking route that just came to life this month. It’s a five or six hundred mile backcountry loop highlighting singletrack, hot springs and mountain climbs (on foot) all through the central Cascades in Oregon.
Despite the fact that bikepacking and …. [Continue reading]
Done. A little more than three weeks, which is pretty much what we guesstimated. It all came together supremely well.
We got up lazily from camp at Devil’s Lake. I love camping in the same spot for multiple nights. A few miles climbing on the pavement back to the Metolius Windigo trail took us through …. [Continue reading]
It wasn’t an alpine start, but I did wake up earlier than normal, excited about the day ahead. We were camped at the trailhead for the South Sisters Climbing Trail. 6 miles and 5000′ up was the top of the volcano, one we have been looking at, and riding around, for the last 3 weeks. …. [Continue reading]
A few hours ago we pretty much completed the loop, reaching the top of the Mrazek trail, which is a heavily ridden and mostly downhill ride into Bend. We could have been done in a few short and easy hours.
But, we are not done! We have our biggest climb yet, and the centerpiece (literally) …. [Continue reading]
Coming into Sisters today, we both independently realized that the route had somehow ended up almost entirely singletrack for the last day or so. We hadn’t really planned on any from the end of McKenzie all the way to Sisters. Yet, that’s the way it played out, as we coasted at 10mph on smooth trail …. [Continue reading]
Today was almost entirely either sand, or singletrack. That wasn’t the way we thought it was going to go, but it was an interesting day. Making it up as you go has a way of keeping things interesting.
We started out on smooth singletrack along Clear Creek, heading to breakfast. Then more good trail to …. [Continue reading]
Today was another fantastic day on the bike. We got to ride the McKenzie River Trail. It’s a real gem, and in many people’s opinion, *the* gem in Oregon or maybe, anywhere.
I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it sure works itself well into a bikepacking loop. The lower half is lovely green circle …. [Continue reading]
Are you a camper, or are you a glamper? Bare bones, or do you carry the luxuries? There are many styles of camping, and bikepacking almost always falls far from the glamping side.
You have to keep things light or you can’t ride trail, and it’s just not fun. Services are often few and far …. [Continue reading]
What a nice night. We woke refreshed and ready to climb the rest of our bonus climb. The road down to the Aufderhide (FR19) was kind of interesting, with some views of sharp rock fins and a 2-track type of feel. I’d say it was a win, though someone wanting to save some leg strength …. [Continue reading]