The alarm startled me, always a good indicator of having been in the midst of a solid snooze. I woofed down my sandwich whilst kitting up and dismantling and rolling up the bivvy, and packing everything into its place. Another cold morning and a headwind to boot. That's one thing that hadn't let up thus far - the cold!
The first pass of the day, alongside Medicine Lodge Peak and over the Sheep Creek Divide takes one through some stupendously beautiful country - bare alpine hills up gentle slopes, but with a sting in the tail at the top, where I stopped to take some pics of majestic distant peaks. Shortly after Bryan and Nic arrived, having stayed at High Mountain Lodge the previous eve, as had pretty much everyone else. I didn't care. I was enjoying the freedom of marching to my own drum. The left achilles, ankle, and right knee and undercarriage were holding steady, and I was starting to believe I might survive a little longer.
The descent was a long but shallow affair, eventually taking us down a spectacular rocky gorge before spitting us onto a road with another headwind to deal with. I let the aero boys do their thing and I caught up with them in Lima where we ate the house down. Pete turned up a little later having suffered on the previous climb - one of the rare times I hit a target before him. After resupplying at the gas station we left en masse for the long afternoon march up a wide valley towards Lakeview and ultimately Sawtell/Big Springs. The only problem with the plan concerned distant rain squalls washing across the vista in front of us. Soon we hit their natural aftermath in the form of approx 20 km of seriously boggy trail. One had to assume tractor mode, for a long time! It was a miracle we got through with derailleurs intact. I passed Eddie on the side of the road struggling to get things turning again. Even the odd 4WD that passed was having issues keeping trajectory straight. The speedy ones among us, Nic and Bryan, pushed through but when I arrived at Lakeview I decided that was enough. Just sufficient light to throw down camp and get the drive train washed and lubed.
At Lima I'd purchased a new toothbrush to replace the sawn-off one I'd originally brought with me to save weight - my hands were so useless I couldn't use the damn thing. But given the state of the bike the new brush was immediately employed for chain and cassette cleaning duties. My teeth would have to wait a little longer.
Peter also turned up, followed by Tyler, and eventually Eddie, having got his chain moving again. Tyler had the smarts to commandeer a miniature horse float which doubled as the bear food cage, at the very least keeping his kit dry. Both Pete and I wished we'd thought of it first. Bonus dirtbag marks to Tyler! Despite everything, niggles, weather and the prospect of another night sleeping in my own filth, I dare say I was starting to find my groove. Lights out!
(221 km, 1766 m)
Nic (above) and Bryan (below)
I was feeling pretty handicapped at times so parked accordingly
Bryan (above) and Nic (below)