Prints from the Middle East, For Sale

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For sale are over a hundred small prints from our time in Israel and Jordan, mostly taken on or near the HLC route in Israel. There are scenes of camels in the Judaean Desert above the Dead Sea, images of Lael racing the HLC, portraits of Israeli bikepackers, scenes from Jerusalem, and lots and lots of incredible dirt roads and trails from all across the country. A series of larger images from the same set are also available. Smaller images are 4×6″, larger images are 8.5×6″. Individual postcard sized (4×6) images are available for $10, three for $25. Larger images are $25. Contact me if you’d like more. Additional donations would be greatly appreciated. Add $1 for international shipping.

Please leave your request for images (number of images, content) and your mailing address in the comment field at the time of donation. Select to “Leave a note to the seller” when you confirm the payment. Payment via credit and debit cards is simple and secure; or, transfer directly between Paypal accounts. Contact me directly at if you have any additional questions. Feel free to request the content of the images your receive, such as camping or singletrack, and we’ll do our best to find a good one for you. We fly to Vegas on Monday, and ride out of town at the end of the week.  Act now!

As we pack our things in Alaska and regroup after a summer of working and racing, I found this shoebox of prints from our “Bikepacking Night in Israel” event this spring. Lael and I are greatly moved by the images and memories and want to share these physical prints with friends of the blog. Check out my HLC route resources at and Tour the HLC route at any time, or sign up to race the HLC in April 2016.

Donate to fund Lael’s two Tour Divide rides this summer and help support her racing into the future. We’re hoping to be touring for a month in Arizona this fall before settling into another season of work in Texas to pay for her summer of riding. We’d like to be touring again in the spring, internationally, although Lael is already dreaming up some big race plans for 2016. Help keep this blog healthy with your donation. With limited support from a few companies, everything that happens here is sponsored by the work we do in the off-season, at restaurants, bicycles shops, and elsewhere. Thanks to Revelate Designs, Intelligent Design Cycles, The Bicycle Shop of Anchorage, and our friends at SRAM for helping Lael through 8600 miles of fast touring and even faster racing in the last three months. Her equipment worked marvelously, without exception.

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 Smaller images are $10, or three for $25.  Larger images are $25.  Contact me if you’d like more.
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Lost Lake Trail, Seward, AK

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A disconnected network of singletrack trails on the Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska comprise the greatest resource for mountain bikers in all of Alaska.  Despite expectations– and there are enough riding opportunities to occupy both major seasons– there isn’t much rideable singletrack in Alaska.  This is a big state with few paved roads, fewer dirt roads, and even fewer trails.  However, there are many off-trail opportunities including a vast arrangement of frozen backcountry trails and more miles of coastline than any other state.  Counting game trails and overland traverse the opportunities are endless, although the list of trails you can recommend to an out-of-town guest or a customer at a bike shop are limited   

Last Thursday, about two weeks since Lael finished her second run down the Divide and my first day out of town since May (New Mexico notwithstanding), we traveled down to Seward to ride the Lost Lake Trail with Christina, Amy, and Hobbs.

The Lost Lake Trail is a classic on the Kenai and travels from the small coastal town of Seward to the Primrose Trailhead on the south end of Kenai Lake.  We traveled out and back from Seward in an afternoon, leaving time to lay in the sun on one of the last days of summer.  It is possible to connect a round trip from the Seward TH to the Primrose TH on the Lost Lake Trail by returning on the old Iditarod Trail.  Our ride was less than ten miles in each direction, out and back.

Lael and I leave for Vegas next Monday.

For more from Lost Lake check out the recent feature by Dejay Birtch in Dirt Rag Magazine, or the Specialized sponsored Trail Hunter video series with rider Matt Hunter.

Spotting several pods of beluga whales coming in with the tide on Turnagain Arm, en route to Seward from Anchorage.

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Hobbs’ brother works at Great Northern Cycles in Whitefish, MT, and is the recipient of many of his little brother’s used bikes.  The latest is carbon Yeti SB95.

I’ve stopped in Whitefish a few times, and once bivvied in the backyard of Great Northern Cycles between live music at the Great Northern Bar and a morning swim in Whitefish Lake.

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USFS feels like home.

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Within an hour, we’re climbing out of the trees.

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Carving a line across the alpine tundra on durable trail.

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A short traverse to a gravelly beach on Lost Lake.

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Descend, back to sea level.

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Back down Box Canyon, into the forest, and back to the trailhead.  I chased Hobbs all the way down.  Chasing a former downhiller on a hardtail is loads of fun.  

This is one of the last rides on the Krampus.  It has been a good bike.  

Anyone in Anchorage looking for a Large Surly Krampus frame?  It comes with a very well used but functional Fox Talas and an unused rigid steel fork.

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Meriwether Cycles Bikepacker- RAL 3014

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The color is RAL 3014, borrowed from select Schwinn Mirada and Raleigh Seneca Mountain Tour frames from the mid 1980’s.  To a lesser extent, the flavor is taken from a series of Specialized Stumpjumper Team bikes in the mid ’80s, although those were more Barbie, and this bike is all coho and rose petal.  The color is most often called Antique Pink in RAL charts. 

The frame will receive a new bottom bracket, headset, and seatpost clamp, as well as decals and a head badge before shipment to Vegas.  The 120mm Rock Shox Pike fork has arrived in Alaska, along with endcaps to convert my Hope hub to 12x142mm thru-axle.  We plan to ride out of Vegas after Interbike.

Follow Meriwether Cycles on Flickr and Instagram

Meriwether Cycles Bikepacker Goes to Paint

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My new Meriwether Cycles chubbyniner, made for 29×2.4″ tires on 35-40mm rims with room for mud.  The frame also clears a 27.5×3.0″ tire and a double crank.  It goes to paint this week.  Keep up with Meriwether Cycles on Flickr and Instagram.

That’s my bike, built by hand by a guy in California, the result of years of thinking about bikes while riding, several weeks of detailed conversations, and just over a week of cutting, bending, and welding.  

Thanks to Whit Johnson of Meriwether Cycles for putting the pieces together in the last few weeks.  Things happen fast since we first talked about this project just over a month ago.  I’m flying to Vegas on the 14th.  If the bike doesn’t arrive in Anchorage before that, I’ll receive it in the mail in Vegas and install my pile of parts in the backyard of a rented house.  Come visit with me and Lael at the Revelate Designs booth at Interbike!  Also, check out the new  “Dial Your Ride” feature on the Revelate website.  We’re excited to have been Revelate ambassadors over the past year of riding, and are featured alongside some of the greatest people in bikepacking on the new site.  

Eric and Whit are inspiring people who share a lot of the same qualities.  They listen, they consider every suggestion thoroughly and seriously, and they rise to design challenges with new, creative solutions.

How is this bike different than my Surly Krampus?  Well, it isn’t all that different.  I’ve enjoyed the Krampus and would recommend it to anyone looking for a hardtail 29er with room for big tires and mud and gears, a featured design element in the new Meriwether as well.  The Krampus is simple, steel, and solid.  It will hold you parts and gear for a year and never complain.  I never rode it with 29+ tires, and for now, don’t have much interest in anything without a suspension fork.  The new bike is based upon my time on a Surly Krampus, a Raleigh XXIX, a Salsa Mukluk, a Surly ECR, as well as a detailed study of a handful of other bikes on the market. 

A 120mm Rock Shox Pike in the mail this week for the new bike.

But sometimes the Krampus feels like a big bike, like a pig on tight singletrack or when climbing.  The top tube is long and low, great for descending, but not the position I seek for all day pedaling efforts.  And on steep technical climbs, the long top tube and long chainstays mean my body weight is forward of center and rear traction is a challenge, which requires some pedaling acrobatics to keep the front end grounded and the rear end hooked up with the dirt.  

I have always disliked the Surly rear-facing dropouts in use, although I appreciate their utility on paper.  They give you a way to singlespeed you bike in the backcountry, tension a chain on an IGH, or adjust chainstay length for different wheel and tire sizes.  In actuality, I only ever rode with the wheel in the forward position, and with tubeless tires I did not find reason to remove the wheel more than a few times in a year.  But on my Pugsley I ran the wheel rearward in the dropouts and constantly battled brake rub and a mushy BB7, also the fault of the Pugsley’s famed offset.  Reinstalling the rear wheel requires some finesse.  Give it to Lael and we’ll be sitting around all day until the rotor is bent and the QR skewer is lost in the dirt.  It is not the easiest task for a first-timer, although it is not as bad as Manitou’s 15mm HexLock system.  

However, I wanted to retain some time-tested features, including a threaded BSA bottom bracket.  The replaceable Paragon sliding dropout plates allow me to build the bike with a 12×142 thru-axle, or with a 10x135mm QR.  If and when this bike travels outside a certain radius of civilization for an extended period of time, I may choose to revert to QR wheels front and rear (with a rigid fork, or perhaps an older QR Reba).  In a worst case scenario, you can slip almost any QR or bolt-on wheel into a standard dropout.  Thru-axles would leave you waiting for parts.  Is this a major concern?  Not really, but a considered part of the design.  The rear dropout interface is vertically oriented, enabling simple rear wheel removal and installation.  

Paint is RAL 3014.  Look that one up. 

I’ll be riding this thing in two weeks.  Come see it at Revelate booth 21186 in Vegas.

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Building a Custom Meriwether Cycles Bikepacking Frame

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Whit Johnson, the creator of Meriwether Cycles, has sent a series of process shots of my new frame.  Our conversations about this bike have spanned several weeks, and even in the first days of fabrication, some details changed.  Some changes are the result of my indecision, others the result of evolving design goals.  As the torch nears the metal, like diving into a body of cold water, there is a moment of reflection.  The basic details:

29×2.4″ tires on 35-40mm rims or 27.5×3.0″ tires on 40-45mm rims

434mm chainstays with Paragon Sliders in forward position

Drive-side chainstay clearance for above wheels and tires, 2x drivetrain (36/22), and real world mud clearance

Long-ish top tube but about 5-10mm shorter than the Krampus, 68.5deg HT angle built for 120mm Rock Shox Pike fork, 50-75mm stem

Maximum framebag volume, minimally sloping top tube

3x bottle mounts, two with three holes to accommodate Salsa Anything Cage or similar

Rear rack mount, seatstay bridge mount for taillight, simple zip-tie cable guides, all cables under TT and along seatstays

Portage handle 

Below are a series of photos directly from Whit’s shop in Foresthill, CA, some are borrowed from his Flickr or Instragram, both highly recommended.  Two other frames have recently shipped to Anchorage including Sean’s singlespeed fatbike and Zach’s rigid singlespeed chubby-niner/27.5+ bikepacking machine with internal dynamo wiring.  Check out the awesome segmented fork on Zach’s bike.  Whit has also recently shipped a bike to Mike Curiak in Grand Junction, CO, built for his partner Jeny and pictured in Mike’s most recent blog post, Summerish.

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From Whit:

“That’s the seat tube collar before being fused to the lower bent seat tube. It’s a thicker walled piece that slip-fits into there so you weld the top tube and seat stays to that piece instead of the thinner walled lower part. The darker section is the color of the covering it comes in (and all 4130) and you have to use emery cloth to get to the bare steel to clean and then weld.  The hose is the argon purge going to the heat sink inside to keep it round and free of oxygen while welding. The magnet there is nice to be able to rotate the tube with my left hand while holding the torch with my right for the fusion pass (no filler is added). 

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Bent seat tube, mitering.

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Compound seattube miter at bottom bracket junction.

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Drilling the seat tube slot over which will be fitted a seatpost clamp.

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Seattube to bottom bracket weld.


Seattube to bottom bracket welded, downtube mitered and in place.

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Custom half-yoke, basically a steel plate used on the drive side instead of a conventional chainstay tube to make more room for big tires and a double crank with short chainstays.  If you ask for all of these things at once, some kind of wizardry is required.  Look at the custom yokes used on the Surly Krampus, Niner ROS 9, or Kona Honzo.  Trek engineered an elevated drive-side chainstay on their Stache+ hardtail (27.5+/29/29+) with 405-420mm chainstays, while the Specialized Fuse uses a custom diamond-shaped gap in an oversized chainstay, where the gap coincides with the location of the single chainring and the maximum tire width.

This half-yoke is expected to be less stiff than a conventional chainstay, although a reinforcement may be used to strengthen the region.  If using a conventional chainstay, it would require extreme crimping or dimpling, which is a process used on many metal bikes with bigger tires.  The non-drive side uses a mostly unmodified Dedacaai ZeroUno s-bend stay.  

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Chainstay jig.

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Chainstays hooked up to the BB, not yet welded, checking tire clearance, simulating the location of a Shimano double crank and 36/22 chainrings.

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Waiting for seatstays.  Note: 44mm headtube, Paragon Sliders, True Temper bent downtube for fork crown clearance, custom seattube bend, 3x water bottle bosses with a series of 3 holes on the top and bottom of the down tube for big cages.  I like to us a 64oz. Klean Kanteen under the downtube.

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Chainstays welded, 29×2.4″ Maxxis Ardent tires on 41mm Ibis rims installed.  One centimeter of clearance on either side.


Shimano XT double crank installed with 32/22 chainrings.  Note, there should be an additional 2.5mm spaced behind the BB cup, which will improve crankarm and chainring clearance.  Tire clearance with 27.5×3.25 Vee Trax Fatty, which measures almost exactly 3.0″.

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Guess and check the dimensions and orientation of the portage handle, a first for Meriwether Cycles.  I first saw such a feature on a custom Sam Braxton ATB touring bike at ACA headquarters in Missoula.  It hung above Sarah’s head in the Cyclosource corner.  I asked Greg Siple why the bike had that extra tube.  He asked me to guess.  I didn’t know, and at the time it didn’t mean much to me.  I have since pushed and carried my bike for many miles and hours, and when looking for a better hand position, the memory of the Braxton frame came to mind.

Sam Braxton was a Missoula, MT framebuilder for many years, and also the owner of a local bike shop.  ACA has named an annual award after him– the Braxton Bicycle Shop Award— recognizing bicycle shops which provide outstanding service to touring cyclists in America.

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XL hands fit fine.  Larger diameter tubing might be more comfortable.  A little handlebar tape might help.  I’m thinking an ESI silicone grip could be really comfortable.  

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There are a few more details left including cable guides, a front derailleur mount, and paint.  Any suggestions on paint?  RAL numbers would help.  After some consideration, I am not interested in pursuing any raw finishes.  The bike will go to paint next week.


Lael Wilcox completes Tour Divide ITT in 15:10:59

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Lael takes her helmet off at the finish.  She arrived in Antelope Wells at 4:59 PM MT, for a time of 15:10:59.  Below, pushing to Antelope Wells.

Lael Wilcox raced the Tour Divide in June.  Arriving home in May from an extended period of bicycle travel, she prepared a bike for the race and rode from her home in Alaska to the start in Banff, over 2100 miles away.  She finished the Tour Divide in 17:01:51, setting a new women’s record despite battling bronchitis for the first week, with lingering symptoms to the finish.  The previous women’s record of 19:03:35 was set by Eszter Horanyi in 2012.

Returning home to Alaska in July, Lael decided that she had the time, energy, and equipment for another fast ride down the Divide, in the same summer.  Again, she prepared her bike and body and left Anchorage for Banff, taking a ferry from Whittier, AK to Bellingham, WA to shorten the distance to the start, this time only about 850 miles of riding.

Following a few days of rest and preparation in Banff, Lael departed on an individual time trial (ITT) of the 2015 Tour Divide route on the morning of August 8, at 6AM.  She finished in Antelope Wells, NM on August 23 at 4:59PM for a total time of 15:10:59.  This establishes a new female course record and the fifth fastest time down the Great Divide Route (Mike Hall’s asterisked 2013 ride notwithstanding). To provide some context, this is five hours faster than Jay Petervary’s 2012 record time of 15:16:04, which stood for three years until the latest record-breaking rides earlier this summer by Josh Kato (14:11:37), Jay Petervary (14:12:03), Neil Beltchenko (14:12:23), Dylan Taylor (15:03:01), and Alex Harris (15:12:09). The six fastest times on the Divide were all recorded this summer.

Naturally, for a race which takes two weeks and covers over 2700 miles of mountainous terrain, comparing rides which happened at different times is not easy, or fair.  But records are kept, and the spirit of an ITT is to achieve a personal goal on the route, and if desired, to record a time which relates to other riders or an overall record. 

Lael reports the biggest challenges of the most recent ride were wheel-clogging mud north of Lima, MT, regular rain showers and thunderstorms all along the route, longer nights, and staying motivated while out on the course alone.

For both rides this summer Lael rode a Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon World Cup with carbon Chisel fork, with Revelate Designs luggage, SRAM XX1/XO1 gearing with 36T chainring, and an SP PD-8X dynamo hub with Supernova lighting.

The details of her ride are recorded on the 2015 Tour Divide Trackleaders page, or link to her personal ride history on the LW ITT page

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LW ITT Update: Silver City, NM

Pushing out of the Gila back in July, under clear skies.  Photo courtesy of Mitchell Clinton, a local Silver City photographer.

Lael pushed hard yesterday to get to Pie Town early, to get through the Gila, over the 8 mile section of the CDT, and into Silver City.  But the weather had a different plan when a day with barely a 10% chance of rain  turned dark and stormy late in the day, sounded the public warning system via cell networks, television, and radio.  I received an automated message to my phone– the first ever– warning of heavy rain and hail, flash floods, winds up to 60 mph, and lightning.  The warning area reached up into the Gila and south toward the border.  The storm arrived to obscure a classic NM sunset, continuing until about 11PM and turning local roadways into rivers.

I watched Lael continue through the Gila roller coaster at night, knowing that most of those roads through the pines are underlain with granite, rocky and sandy, and generally well drained.  Lael reached the pavement and turned up the CDT about midnight, presumably in continuing rain showers.  Her progress was predictably slow, she camped late, woke early and descended the pavement from Pinos Altos to Silver City at about 6AM.  

The airport in Silver City reported just under 3 inches of rain on Saturday evening.  Regular lightning strikes persisted for hours.

I passed Lael on the paved road south of Silver City on my way to I-10 and the border, slowing to take a photo out of the window of my rented Hyundai.  She was riding a series of rollers in the aero position, the back of her black t-shirt faded to a dirty blonde.

I have a cooler full of drinks, a big sandwich, two gallons of water, a bag of grapes, bananas, nectarines, and a box of cookies from the grocery store in Silver City.  I will meet Lael at Antelope Wells later today.  She will finish in less than 16 days, as long as the Separ Road– the final stretch of dirt– doesn’t hold any surprises from the monsoon.

Follow the yellow LW bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.

LW ITT Update: Pie Town, NM

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Lael stopped at the Toaster House this morning in Pie Town.  I spent a night there with three CDT hikers back in 2011

Lael camped on the climb out of Abiquiu two nights ago, reporting that as she pushed up the steep technical climb in the dark she fell a few times, once landing on he rib without injury.  Shaken, she stopped for the night and resumed at a faster pace in the AM.  Once descending to Cuba, she hammered the pavement for the rest of the day, covering a total of 220 miles to camp just before midnight.  She began riding at 4AM today along a wide gravel road to Pie Town.  

Daytime temperatures are warm in southern New Mexico, and nights are warm.  Seasonal monsoons– manifest as afternoon thunderstorms– are still in force, although they ebb and flow on a daily and weekly basis.  There may be several clear days followed by several stormy afternoons.  Lael reported minor precipitation on the last few days in NM.  In fact, I think she has seen some precipitation on more than half of her riding days since Banff.  There continues to be a low risk of thunderstorms today, Saturday, while the threat of afternoon rain returns in force on Sunday and Monday.  Lael mentioned several freezing nights in Colorado, including one night when her water froze outside Doyleville and she shivered through several hours of sleep.  That morning she began riding before 4AM to warm up.  I suspect last night was more pleasant, with forecast low temperatures around 50F now that she has left the high mountains.  Daytime temperatures are forecast in the mid-80’s today.

Lael just checked out of Pie Town, arriving 32 hours ahead of the pink LW bubble, and over and hour faster than the male record set by Jay Petervary in 2012.  She has been behind this pace since stuck in the mud before Lima.  If she pushes hard to the border she may stay on pace with this time, finishing sometime on Sunday night.  If she pushes hard, she may be into the Gila by this afternoon if and when any rain falls.  The roads around Pie Town present a high risk of clogging when wet due to the nature of the soils.  The Gila is rocky and sandy, underlain by granite.  If she pushes hard to the border she may stay ahead of Sunday thunderstorms as well.  There is one final section of dirt south of Silver City that could get messy when wet.  From Pie Town, Lael is just over 300 miles to the border.

Follow the yellow LW bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.

LW ITT Update: Jemez Mountains, NM


Lost in a burn on the south side of the Jemez Mountains with Joe and Cass, October 2012.  

Lael pushed 3000 ft up from Abiquiu last night, climbing fast to catch the final light of day. She continued on the increasingly technical track in the dark, recording similar speeds to many less technical climbs from days past.  She camped early around 11PM after a long day which began at 4:30AM.  Rising at 3:45AM, she finished the climb even faster than she had been moving the night before– still in the dark– eventually connecting to higher quality Forest Service roads on the north side of the Valles Caldera towards NM 126, and Cuba.  Over a hundred miles of pavement extend beyond Cuba toward Grants, an authorized paved alternate to the official Great Divide Route and the de facto Tour Divide route for many years.  From Cuba, there are only 500 miles left to the border.

The climb out of Abiquiu is the tallest single ascent on the entire Great Divide Route, and marks the final major mountain section on the way to the border.  The Gila and a brief section of CDT singletrack near Silver City are notable challenges in the remaining miles.

Lael called very briefly while riding into Abiquiu, the rushing wind of 20mph obscuring most of our conversation.  She said she was feeling good, ready to be finished, and still carrying enough food from Del Norte to get to Cuba, augmented with a few bags of Cheetos from the snack shack in Vallecitos (notably, not much of a town in the middle of nowhere).  Buying cheese flavored puffed corn from tiny roadside shops will always remind me of Lesotho and South Africa.

I’m in Salt Lake City en route to Tucson and Silver City.  I’ll be at the border when Lael finishes.

Follow the yellow LW bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.

LW ITT Update: Brazos Ridge, NM

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Cruising through the Land of Enchantment, circa October 2011 on the Great Divide Route in El Rito, NM.  Lael was riding a Surly Long Haul Trucker at the time, recently converted from drop bars to an On-One Mary handlebar in Santa Fe at The Broken Spoke.  

Lael camped just short of the NM border yesterday, reaching up and over Indiana Pass from Del Norte as daylight faded, and descending to Platoro and beyond into the night.  She woke early this morning to begin riding up Cumbres Pass, then onto dirt and into NM.  We spent a winter living in Albuquerque and like everyone who has heard the jokes about the “Land of Entrapment”, we love New Mexico.  As the miles pile up, I know that Lael is reaching deeper and deeper to find the physical energy and motivation to continue.  Crossing into New Mexico is a homecoming, and also the begging of the end of this ride.  I watched her crawl up to Brazos Ridge this morning on Trackleaders, knowing the kind of chunky New Mexico roads she was riding, and knowing that she was still warming up for the day, in a sense.  But she has found her stride this morning as she descends from the second to last big mountain on the route.  The last big climb and the tallest total ascent on the route is south of Abiquiu en route to Cuba.

I leave tonight at midnight to arrive in Tucson on Friday morning and Silver City by Friday evening.  Lael should be passing through Silver City on Sunday, most likely.  Any ABQ or Santa Fe people want to visit Silver City for the weekend?  My friends Tim and Chloe are playing music in town on Saturday afternoon, I should have a bike to ride, and we can sleep outside.  John, Jeremy, Nancy, Cass, Rusty, Melissa, Wyatt?

 Follow the yellow LW bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.