Within a mile or two of leaving the Jackalope, Steve Large caught up to me on the bike path outside Pinedale. It was great meeting him and finding out he is from a town near Birmingham, England. I told him I was from the other Birmingham – the one in Alabama. I also told him I was so glad to have someone to ride with explaining the “bonus miles” situation from the previous day and how frustrated I would be riding this same stretch of road for the third time if I was all by myself.
Steve needed to change layers before Boulder so I rode on ahead passing the disappointing gas station / lodge experience from the previous night. Steve caught back up to me and rode on ahead in a good rhythm. Not long after Steve pulled away, I saw Zoé, who must have left before us, stopping to take off her jacket because it looked like it was going to get hot.
I also stopped and took off my knee warmers and jacket because it was starting to get warm with the sun out. But then the sun went back behind clouds, and the temp didn’t continue to increase like it felt like it would. I stubbornly didn’t want to stop again for another clothing change, so I rode on quite cold with the temp never getting out of the mid 50s and then tanking down into the 40s once the first rain storm hit, at which point I scrambled to get all my rain gear on before it hit.
Riding a motorcycle in the rain
That first rain storm came after we made it to the end of the paved state highway and turned left onto the first of several dirt roads leading to Atlantic City – the last outpost before crossing the Great Basin. Thankfully, the dirt we were on was relatively unaffected by the rain, i.e., no peanut butter mud! And other than it raining pretty hard at times while still being pretty cold, there were periods where it was not raining with an absolutely ridiculous tailwind. There were times where I would crest a hill and feel the wind start to accelerate me faster than it felt like it should have. I’m guessing this is what it must feel like to ride a motorcycle. This was good because this stretch before Atlantic City was full of steep roller after steep roller, a short busy section of a US highway, more dirt and a longer climb from South Pass up and over a ridge before dropping back down steeply into Atlantic City.
There was yet another nasty storm building off to our left I was worried would hit us, but it ended up missing Atlantic City to the north. We dropped down into Atlantic City where the sun stayed out. It was so incredibly windy, though, that it was tricky to even get the bikes to stay put while we went inside the saloon to “resupply”. Since it was a restaurant, this meant eating a lot there and then ordering a couple things to go. The couple running the saloon was great and very helpful getting us ready to cover the nearly 100 miles between Atlantic City and the Love’s truck stop in Wamsutter with no resupply or water.
Racing a storm in the Great Basin … and not winning … sorta
Zoé was first to arrive at the saloon. Steve and I came in not too long after. But since Zoé’s food had already come, she was ready to leave just a bit before us and took off first. We knew that the wind was favorable, and that it wasn’t raining, so we needed to take advantage of that while it lasted. So not long after her, Steve took off. I was delayed because as I was packing a few things in the bike, a huge gust of wind blew a lot of my stuff way down the dirt road. I had to run after it, retrieve it, and then make my way back. This put me a few minutes behind Steve who was out of sight as I climbed the super steep hill leaving Atlantic City into a nasty headwind at first, but with the course making a nearly 180 degree turn at the top, having mostly a tailwind afterwards.
On top of the hill, the Great Basin lay in front of me extending out to the horizon. I continued forward on the rolling terrain occasionally able to see Steve in the distance. As I got farther into the basin, I realized at some point that if anything happened to me I would be all on my own for quite some time as nobody else would be coming this way for a long time. This motivated me to hit it hard to catch up to Steve again. We rode together for a bit and fairly soon realized that there was quite a storm forming off to our right. It seemed like it was pretty far away, but it wasn’t long before we realized it was getting closer. This motivated us to push the pace VERY hard. So hard that we were wondering why on earth we hadn’t caught Zoé yet.
As it turns out, Zoé saw that same storm and was pushing it even harder than us to stay ahead of the storm. We found all of this out right before the storm hit us when we saw Zoé flagging us down from beside a huge structure that had miraculously appeared out of nowhere. I hadn’t even seen it as I was distracted by an oil well on the left side of the road. When Steve said “there she is”, I looked over and was astonished to see Zoé waving to us from in front of this huge enclosed shed-like structure. She was standing next to some sort of storage unit outside the main shed, which had a door open. We were trying to figure out if we could all fit in there when we saw that there was a fairly large truck nearby. We were thinking maybe we could leave the bikes in the storage area and climb in the truck. The truck was next to the back door of the oil shed, and it was totally unlocked. Saved.
We quickly grabbed the bikes and got them inside right as the storm hit. Inside, we found that the shed had electricity, was super warm from being in the sun for a good part of the day (it was still cold in the 50s and 60s when the sun went behind a cloud) and even a sleeping area for when the oil workers get stuck because of mud and have to spend the night. Meanwhile, outside it was pouring rain and thundering, but it didn’t last long – maybe 30 minutes. But it was enough. Steve went outside to see if maybe the road was still rideable since it was still a couple hours until sunset. But this was certainly not the first storm this area had seen in the crazy monsoon after monsoon hitting the whole area, so this rain was more than enough to “melt” the crust and turn everything into sopping mud. He stepped into the road which looked fine and when he picked his foot back up, his shoe had a good solid inch of mud just from one step.
That was enough to decide that we should definitely wait things out there in shelter while hopefully the mud would dry/harden and become more rideable. So that’s what we did – setting our alarm for 2:30am to be out the door by 3:00am to make up for stopping so early. We also plugged in all the devices to charge everything up.
Peanut butter mud in the Great Basin
We had no nasty headwinds to deal with (only a moderate crosswind after sunrise) and no blazing hot temps to deal with. So in one sense, we were lucky. The Great Basin still proved challenging with peanut butter mud after the storm we were lucky to find shelter from and then freezing temps by sunrise. This was the first stretch of peanut butter mud where all of us at varying times had to stop and clean mud off the tires to allow the wheels to spin and also clean mud off the chain and chainring to keep it from falling off with each pedal stroke.
Fortunately, not too long after the oil shed, we veered from the main dirt road onto double track and single track that climbed up a bit and was a bit more rocky so that it had less mud. Unfortunately, it wasn’t consistent and would periodically have a deep section of peanut butter mud in one of the tracks (double tracks). Since it was still long before sunrise, you had to see these stretches and no whether to hop up into the middle (it was a hop because of how deep the tracks were presumably from ATVs / 4WD cars driving through the course when it’s muddy. In any case, it wasn’t easy navigating or riding until we finally made it past the range of whatever storm had hit and made it onto a good, legit gravel road (see pic below).
The gravel road went on for a while, but eventually you could see I-80 in the distance and buildings, which meant that we were getting close to Wamsutter and the Love’s truck stop that everyone looks forward to while they are crossing the basin.
Finishing the basin and artificial peanut butter mud
The Love’s truck stop was great, and I had made a list of things to get and was able to get them all except for hand warmers. The clerk at Love’s told me to check with his uncle at the gas station on the other side of the interstate, which is what I did after first enjoying coffee and food at the Love’s.
Unfortunately, I would find out shortly that even though I had made it to Wamsutter, I wasn’t finished with the Great Basin yet. Zoé and Steve had taken off before me from the Love’s so I was on my own again when I saw storms building as I bike along the mostly flat dusty and now a bit busy dirt road. I stopped and put on all my rain gear when it was evident that a storm was going to hit me. Hilariously, distances are so hard to judge that the storm not only crossed the road in front of me, it was pretty much long gone by the time I made it to the road. The gravel road was indeed wet, but because there was so much gravel there was no peanut butter mud.
No peanut butter mud, that is, until I mysteriously came across a very wet and muddy section of road. It was puzzling because I hadn’t noticed a storm. And then I saw a huge tanker truck coming towards me spraying some sort of chemical on the road to keep the dust down. He was spraying so much that it was turning the gravel road to mud and there was spray coming off my wheels all over me. He passed me going one way and then a couple miles later of me negotiating the nasty road, he passed me again going my same way this time before turning off his sprayer and leaving the area. Ugghh.
Also, at the same time there was a real storm building and from the look of how it was moving it was going to be close if I could make it far enough south before it hit. During this point I pushed it hard and caught back up to Steve who had stopped to put on rain gear at it had started raining. I could see the edge of the storm, though, and decided I would just push it hard to ride out of it – which is what I did. After that, it was quite a bit more climbing on roads that were more dirt than rock. There were some DEEP tire tracks both from other TD racers and trucks/ATVs so I was thankful that it had all dried out and was fast riding almost like pavement.
Towards the top of all the climbing Steve caught back up to me and said he was pushing the pace hard to make it to the Savery museum before closing time. That sounded like a good idea so I upped my pace to keep up with him. As it turns out, we didn’t need to hurry because they were staying open late with a great selection of food in the kitchen of the museum/community center for us to buy at great prices. I bought a burrito, warmed it up in the microwave, and it was awesome. I also bought a few snack bars not knowing for sure what I would find at the Brush Lodge since we were told it would be closed, but some northbounders had revealed that it was actually open.
Knowing that I couldn’t make it much farther past Brush Lodge, I was planning on sleeping under any shelter I could find there. But amazingly, the amazing and awesome Kirstin was there. After laundering clothes, showering, and making a ton of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Theo arrived! So that meant it was a reunion of the Pinedale Four. We all decided to get up early to head out the next morning since we were going to be so early (8pm). And that’s what we did … but more on my favorite day of the entire race tomorrow!
Maps and data
Pickuta photo album
See even more pics from the entire race along with the exact time/location where each was taken on the tracking website I created called pickuta.com. If you are on a phone or small screen web browser, click the “hamburger” triple bar icon in the upper left to slide out the photos and turn on/off the tracking markers: https://pickuta.com/album/258