Tuesday, July 27, 2010

At Home in the Mountains

Issaquah Washington, the town in which I've chosen to live, is located in a valley at the base of the Cascade foothills. Tiger Mountain dominates the view from my kitchen window and when I ride east, I ride up, into the high country. Over the years my friends and I have explored a few of the tiny dirt roads that ultimately dead-end high on some impassable peak. I always think that dead-end is the wrong term, for these are the places where the wild still lives. When we get the chance, we go there.

On my big trip in June, the ride to Banff and then south along the Great Divide, I found myself telling people about my local mountains, the Cascades. The Divide is wonderful and amazing and I know I will return there again, but at a slower pace. Back home in Issaquah I can only rest for so long before I become restless. Fortunately, I am blessed with friends willing to wander with me, slowly up the steep mountains, to climb into and ultimately past the clouds, to camp beside a small lake.

Early in July Mark Canizaro and Mark Vande Kamp joined me for such a trip, a quick overnight trip to visit lakes SMC, Nadeau and Moolock. Our friend Brad Hawkins and his children accompanied us out of town. My Monocog was still enroute from Wyoming so on this day I rode my fixed gear Stumpjumper. I rode very slowly and the route was steep enough that we all wound up walking for at least a bit.

The pictures tell the story. It's a beautiful world and wild places are only a bike ride away.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tour Divide - Stuff That Worked - Ergonomics

Even though my 2010 Tour Divide ended with a blown freehub in the Great Divide Basin instead of at the Mexican border at Antelope Wells, the trip was wonderful. Including my 850 mile ride to Banff and the 1,358 miles of the Tour Divide that I did complete, I got to spend much of the month of June riding over 2,200 miles of some really pretty country.

I didn't suffer the pains and problems that afflicted some of the other racers. A good part of my luck can be attributed to my slower pace. Riding a fast 150 miles per day is a heck of a lot more stressful than my turtle average of 100 miles per day. But I also spent a year dialing in my bike fit and I've spent decades figuring out what it takes for me to be comfortable on a bike. Some of my equipment choices are a bit unusual, but they work well for me.

My bike is a steel Redline with no suspension. I find I don't need suspension. 29 inch WTB Nanoraptors, the little bit of flex inherent in a steel frame, plus bent elbows and knees give me all the suspension I need.

I am very fussy about fit and the three contact points I have with the bike: my hands, butt and feet. I know exactly where I want my bars and how wide they should be. I know the kind of saddle I need and where it should be in relation to the bars and bottom bracket. And I know what kind of shoes and pedals work well with my feet and knees.

Ergon GC3 grips continue to be an absolute joy. While the Ergon grips and my Ergon pack were key parts of my kit, it wasn't until after I crashed into an unfortunately placed barbed wire barrier that they really proved their worth. In the hours and days after that crash, when the adrenaline wore off, it became obvious that I'd cracked a rib and broken a bone in my hand. It turned out that I was most comfortable when riding, using the Ergon grip as a virtual splint on my hand. The pack's harness system kept the weight off my bad rib.

While some other Divide riders were plagued with saddle sores, my system of padless shorts under suplex pants combined with my faithful WTB Rocket V saddle was trouble free. My saddle did get a bit scuffed up on the trip and I had to fix up the saddle nose with duct tape, but in terms of comfort the saddle was first rate. I used a wear one & wash one strategy with the shorts, but things were so damp on this year's Divide ride that I wound up wearing the same pair of shorts for several days in a row. It is important to keep your lower regions clean on a ride like this and I carry baby wipes in my pack instead of toilet paper.

I have no knee or Achilles issues and I attribute my good fortune on that score to the single most controversial thing I do on a bike. I ride with flat pedals. I know all the arguments in favor of riding clipless. I've ridden clipless. I know about the advantages. And I also know that, for me, flat pedals have more advantages. This year on the Divide, the mud and the snow made for a lot of walking and I was very glad to have my plain old Keen Voyageur shoes.

I ride my bike because I like to ride my bike. By carefully picking my gear and taking the time to find out what works for me, I find I can go pretty far, pretty comfortably. I'm not the fastest guy out there, but I have fun and most of the time I manage to keep rolling.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tour Divide - Stuff That Worked - Communication

The Tour Divide route traverses some rather remote parts of Canada and the United States. Before leaving, I wrote this post detailing the various ways I intended to communicate back to the outside world. As the huge number of posts and pictures here illustrate, in general, the redundant communication strategy worked. Some of the devices and strategies worked better than others.

All the racers had SPOT Trackers. When I first got my SPOT back in Issaquah, I had trouble setting it up. Satellite signals have a hard time with the dense tree-cover of the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, when you first set up a SPOT, you should let it sit for about half an hour in a clear, open space so it can lock onto the satellites and figure where in the world it is. SPOT's tech support did not impress me but Matthew Lee provided me with excellent guidance and once I got my SPOT working, it worked great.

In general, the SPOTs worked wonderfully for the racers and gave fans all over the world a terrific view of the race. My own SPOT told Christine, Mark and my other fans when I got lost near Atlantic City Wyoming. The following day, my very slow SPOT track let Christine know something was quite wrong as I crawled across the Basin with a broken freehub.

When Matthew Lee was refueling at a McDonalds in Grant's New Mexico, some jerk stole his bike. In a bit of high tech drama, using his SPOT tracker and trackleaders.com, Matthew had his bike back in less than an hour!

As he's done every year, Joe Polk did a great job assembling the racer's call-ins into a daily MTBCast. Some racers called in more than others. I tried to call in daily but it wasn't always possible. My cell phone refused to call the 888 number and often the phone booths along the route looked like this:

My cell phone, a cheap, pay as you go Samsung from Verizon, was less than brilliant on the trip. Despite what the Verizon commercials say, coverage was poor and when the phone did connect, the call quality was bad. On rare occasions I was able to post pictures from the phone, but my camera took much better pictures. Mailing SD cards back to Mark or waiting until I was home to post the good photos proved to be a better strategy.

The phone also sucked power at a rapid rate even when I turned on the airplane mode to keep it from uselessly hunting for a signal. The ergonomics of the phone are poor and the damn thing would get jostled when it was supposed to be off. The mute button is also way too easy to hit accidentally. Christine tells me she wound up swearing at the phone when she did this, something I didn't hear because, of course, she was muted. And Christine rarely swears. I'd tell you the model number of this phone so you could avoid it, but I've just spent five minutes going through obscure menus and I can't find a damn model number. Bottom line, I definitely won't be taking this particular phone with me on future trips.

I might not be taking a phone at all because I have something that works much better for me, my Peek Pronto. I've posted previously about this 109 gram gadget that only does email. While my phone over-promised and under-delivered, I had the opposite experience with the Peek. Officially, Peek doesn't work in Canada yet I was able to post blog reports from various Canadian locations including Banff. I posted Twitter updates using TweetyMail, got weather and news updates via AskPeek, and a wealth of other info via Charles Childers' brilliant service Ent.

The Peek stayed off when I shut it off, sips power when it is on (like all my devices, I charged it via an "emergency" cell phone charger and solar charged NiMH AA cells. The Peek didn't connect everywhere and there were a few places (Eureka MT was one) where I the phone connected but not the Peek. Even without a signal, I could compose emails and blog posts on the Peek and when it would later connect, the Peek would send them off. But more often than not, I'd find I had no signal on the phone but the Peek would have a signal. My Peek connected in some unlikely locations including the ghost town of South Pass City, Wyoming and the near-ghost town of Jeffrey City, Wyoming. By the way, here's a Tour Divide tip: if the "city" has "City" in its name and you are in Wyoming, it is a safe bet it's not a city, it's a ghost town!

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tour Divide - Stuff That Worked - Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket

Issaquah, Washington, the town where I live, is right at the base of the Washington Cascades. Issaquah gets a bit more rain than Seattle and the spring of 2010 was extra wet. In March I splurged and got myself a Patagonia Torrentshell jacket.

My friend Mark Thomas has observed that any garment that claims to be waterproof and breathable is usually one or the other, but not both. Fabric can only vent so much, so I've learned to look for jackets with big arm-pit zippers. The Torrentshell has such zippers and while the jacket is light (about 12 ounces), it's tough and very well designed.

I've pretty much lived in this jacket since I got it. It's a good wind jacket and a GREAT rain jacket. I rode into Banff in pouring down rain in this jacket. I've weathered snowstorms in this jacket. This jacket has been caked with Montana mud and washed clean by Montana rain. When the weather finally turns sunny, the jacket doesn't take up much room in my pack.

Like all Patagonia stuff, it's not cheap, but it's worth every dime. I'd say the same thing about the Patagonia Capilene Long Johns I bought in Helena. Worth the money and worth the weight in my pack. Yvon Chouinard and the folks at Patagonia make good stuff. Tough enough for the Tour Divide but I know one reason for that. One of Patagonia's product testers is John Stamstad, the original Great Divide racer.

Tour Divide - Stuff That Worked - Hydration

On a wilderness trip like the Tour Divide, water is essential. I had a multiply redundant system for carrying and purifying water. While the whole thing worked great and I never ran out of water and I never got sick, on future trips I'll use what I've learned to streamline my kit.

I described my modified Ergon BD2 pack here and while the pack did the job of distributing the weight of the load brilliantly, the zipper on my pack did fail part way through the race. Ergon has since redesigned their pack to fix the problem. On the trail I used a stuff sack and some parachute cord to work around the broken zipper and now that I'm home I've grafted an old REI hydration pack onto the Ergon frame. The resulting pack has the great Ergon comfort and a certain sense of turtle style.

The Sawyer Inline Water Filter worked perfectly. I never had to back flush the filter and the flow through the filter was fine. I'd estimate that about 80% of the water I drank came through that filter. It's been a damp year on the Divide and I was able to find clear running streams in Canada, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

I used a bottle to dip into the streams and pour the water into the pack. The final bottle of water I'd put on my bike and I'd purify that final bottle using my SteriPEN. The SteriPEN also worked perfectly. I used UltraLast Green Solar 2 AA Chargers to keep the NiMH AA batteries charged up for my various gadgets, including the SteriPEN. I never used the Chlorine Dioxide MicroPur Tablets but on future trips I may opt to travel lighter and just use the Sawyer filter, leave the SteriPEN at home and take a few MicroPur Tablets as an ultralight back-up.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tour Divide Photos - Day 15 - June 25, 2010

Photos from day fifteen of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 25, 2010. South Pass City, WY to Jeffrey City, WY.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tour Divide Photos - Day 14 - June 24, 2010

Photos from day fourteen of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 24, 2010. Pinedale, WY to South Pass City, WY.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tour Divide Photos - Day 13 - June 23, 2010

Photos from day thirteen of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 23, 2010. Brooks Lake Road, WY to Pinedale, WY.

Tour Divide Photos - Day 12 - June 22, 2010

Photos from day twelve of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 22, 2010. The second Calf Creek crossing on the Ashton Flagg Ranch Road, WY to Brooks Lake Road, WY.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tour Divide Photos - Day 11 - June 21, 2010

Photos from day eleven of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 21, 2010. Near Red Rock Pass, MT to the second Calf Creek crossing on the Ashton Flagg Ranch Road, WY.

Tour Divide Photos - Day 10 - June 20, 2010

Photos from day ten of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 20, 2010. Sheep Creek Divide, MT to near Red Rock Pass, MT.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Tour Divide Photos - Day 9 - June 19, 2010

Photos from day nine of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 19, 2010. Parker Creek, MT to Sheep Creek Divide, MT.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tour Divide Photos - Day 8 - June 18, 2010

Photos from day eight of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 18, 2010. Uncle Sam Creek, MT to Parker Creek, MT.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tour Divide Photos - Day 7 - June 17, 2010

Photos from day seven of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 17, 2010. Empire Mine site, MT to Uncle Sam Creek, MT.

Tour Divide Photos - Day 6 - June 16, 2010

Photos from day six of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 16, 2010. Seeley Lake, MT to the Empire Mine site, MT.

Tour Divide Photos - Day 5 - June 15, 2010

Photos from day five of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 15, 2010. Crane Mountain, MT to Seeley Lake, MT.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Tour Divide Photos - Day 4 - June 14, 2010

Photos from day four of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 14, 2010. Tuchuck Campground, MT to Crane Mountain, MT.

Tour Divide Photos - Day 3 - June 13, 2010

Photos from day three of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 13, 2010. Wigwam River, BC to Tuchuck Campground, MT.

Tour Divide Photos - Day 2 - June 12, 2010

Photos from day two of the 2010 Tour Divide. June 12, 2010. Elkford, BC to the ridge above the Wigwam River.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Aaron Teasdale's 2010 Tour Divide Photo Gallery

Aaron Teasdale's 2010 Tour Divide Photo Gallery can be seen here:


Wonderful shots, but the last one will make you cry.


Several of the high passes on the Tour Divide had snow on them as we raced south. Here are a few pictures.

This is Galton Pass in Canada.

In Montana, Red Meadow Lake was still snowed in.

(Doesn't the above picture look almost identical to the shot from Galton Pass? I just double checked. Different times, different mountains, different countries. Same slow going!)

Richmond Peak features snow, small trees growing in the trail and "don't slip to the left or you'll die" geography.

On the Lava Mountain Trail, fresh snow clung to the trees but the path itself was bare when I passed through.

The road to Brooks Lake had some more deep snow, but pushing through snow is easier than pushing through mud.

The snow forced us all to slow down and take in the beauty of the mountains. The thrill of clearing a snowed-in pass and then rolling down to the lower elevations and an open trail is one more treasure offered up by the Tour Divide.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson


Most of the Tour Divide takes place on unpaved roads and trails. 2010 has been a wet year, so that meant racing through a lot of mud. I didn't take pictures when it was actually raining and I never made it to the nastiest mud which is down in New Mexico, but these photos show a bit of what the mud was like in Canada and Montana.

The two pictures above show some of the Canadian mud. Sloppy, but not clingy. And at least I had plenty of tracks to follow.

This is the start of the Montana mud. Looks a lot like the Canadian mud, eh?

The Poorman Creek Trail is muddy

and rocky,

and rooty and steep.

While you'd expect something with a name like "Poorman Creek" to be kind of primitive, a name like "John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway" might make you think of limousines, town cars and wide lanes of smooth pavement. Think again. Think mud.

The road to Brooks Lake featured mud as well, up until the point it turned to snow.

But the worst mud in Montana was back on the old Bannack Road and the Sheep Creek Divide. You can't say they don't warn you.

This is the sticky mud, rich in clay. It jams in everywhere. Wheels don't roll. You carry your bike. Your shoes get heavy. Eventually, you get through it, the sun comes out and you knock enough mud off the wheels so you can roll again.

There are many challenges on the Divide: steep climbs, wind, rain, snow, bears, and distance. But ask any Divide rider to name the worst problem and I'll bet you get the same answer: Mud. That damn mud.

Keep 'em rolling. Rolling is something you don't take for granted on the Divide.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson

Bear Country

The Tour Divide passes through a lot of bear country, so on my recent trip, I took precautions. I had a Bear Bell on my bike which jangled with every bounce of the bike. I sang (badly) to myself and to alert any bears that I was passing through. I didn't bother carrying bear spray. I just couldn't picture a scenario where I'd be close enough to a bear to need it and still be calm enough to blast a load of pepper into the bear's face.

My precautionary measures did the trick. In Canada I caught glimpses of a couple of black bears and the US portion of my trip was bear free. I never saw any grizzlies.

I did see lots of signs of bears. I saw tracks. I saw lots of bear scat, which I neglected to photograph. I can tell you that it's really true. Bears really do that thing folks say bears do in the woods. They do it a lot.

Most of the bear signs I saw were signs placed by humans warning other humans about bears. In addition to the signs, you know you are in bear country when the garbage cans are built like bank vaults.

The main rules in bear country are these:

  • Don't mess with the bears
  • Don't surprise the bears
  • Stash your food away from where you sleep
I didn't have a big bear-proof case for my food, so each night in bear country, I packed my food and empty food wrappers in a nylon stuff bag and hung it up in a tree, away from my camp.

Bear country is beautiful country and I loved traveling there. But it's important to remember that humans are not the top of the food chain there. I was always very aware of that and I made it home safely.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson