Days 55-60: Days in Denver and the Ride Into the Sky
9/17 Day 55 Ordway, CO to Pueblo, CO 52 miles (2735 miles)
It took us a long time to get on the road today. We slept in a touch, since we had stayed up late, and we had a hard time leaving the driveway as we got pulled in to interesting conversation with our hosts, distracted by picture taking, and I gave Sean one of our tires since his back tire was worn all the day down to the tread and wouldn't last him too long before it was totally useless. We set out around 11 or so, and found it tough going right away. The wind was strong, and blowing right in our faces. We gutted out 12 miles down the road to a small town next door where we stopped for hot dogs and fries to fuel us up for the rest of the day. As we ate, another cyclist, James Weitze, pulled up just to chat with us. He is a west to east cyclist and had been on the road about 6 weeks when we met him. We talked around our food as we traded stories and advice, but we were in a bit of a rush- since it was already around 1 in the afternoon- so we ended up having to cut our conference short. I had a feeling the next 38 miles we had between us and Pueblo would be very slow and miserable, judging by the speed of our progress to that point, and I was proved correct.
|Getting ready to leave the tiny trailer village at|
Gillian's house in Ordway.
We slowly made our way to town, where we found Ben and Mandi had somehow convinced the bike shop owner to keep the place open an hour later until we arrived. Also, the owner was going to let us store our bikes there for the next two days, and do a quick maintenance check, while we took some time off in Denver with my family. We deposited our things and then walked down the street to the bar where Charlie was waiting. We had some much needed beers while we waited for my cousin, Lauren, to drive down from Denver. She had agreed to drive the 140 miles south to Pueblo to pick us up, and even agreed to ferry us back in a couple days- thanks Lauren, you're the best. When she arrived we ate some things called "sloppers" which are basically open faced cheese-burgers put into a bowl and then covered with green chili, cheese, fries (if you want), and onions. They were delicious, and totally bizarre. Afterward we bid our last farewells to Charlie (Good Luck, Charlie!) and we sped off to Denver. Being in a car for the first time in many weeks was a bit strange, but we quickly got over it, and passed the time chatting with Lauren and looking out at the city lights as we zoomed by. Our first stop was Arvada, a small suburb outside of Denver, where we had a couple beers and snacks with my Aunt Karen and Uncle Wes. We didn't linger long, since we were fading fast, and it wasn't too long til we were at Lauren's house in Westminster having our first showers in days- after which we promptly passed out.
9/18 and 9/19 Days 56 and 57: Sightseeing and Visiting my Awesome Family in Denver and Boulder
|The view from a ridge in Boulder with Ben, Mandi, Me,|
and Cousin Lauren.
On our second day, Lauren had a job interview to attend, so we took the bus to Boulder. Our first attraction in town was yet another REI, where Mandi picked out a jacket, and then we went to Best Buy (very scenic and exciting). Then we walked back down the Pearl Street mall and checked out the shops, people, and the view for a couple hours until the brewpub we wanted to eat at- Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery- opened up. Lauren caught up with us around then and we ate some extremely tasty burgers and drank some extremely tasty beers. We headed back to Arvada and went over to my Aunt and Uncle's house for a grill out and some quality time. My aunt, uncle, and cousin showed us a great time in town and it was great to see them, since they are such generous, fun people (who also spent a fair amount of our visit trying to convince us to move to Denver instead of Portland). Thanks so much guys, love you very much, and we will come visit again soon.
9/20 Day 58: Pueblo, CO to Starlite Campground, Canyon City, CO 50 miles (2785 miles)
We woke up in Lauren's living room around 7 something, and shared the realization that today meant we had to get back on our bikes. We gathered our belongings reluctantly and boarded the car that would take us back to where our bikes awaited us. Lauren graciously ferried us all the way back to the bike shop and we said goodbye to her and hello again to our rides. The techs at the shop were a totally awesome pair of guys who addressed all our concerns from true-ing wheels to greasing cranks and swapping tires (I bought new tires for Erin and I since I hate mine, and they were very worn out). As we were putting the bags back on our fixed up rides, who should walk in but Charlie! We knew he had been having trouble leaving Pueblo because we'd heard that the day after we parted ways he broke his rear rack and was stranded for a day- since the bike shop is closed on Sundays- but we assumed he'd addressed the issue. However, there he was, with a brand new broken rack. He was pretty steamed and waited relatively impatiently as the shop guys handled all the work we were putting in front of them. While all this was going on, another cross-country cyclist, Mike Weaver rolled his bike in. Mike left Bar Harbor, Maine with Astoria as his goal the day before we left Sandwich (July 23rd) and had stopped in to true his own wheel with the shop's equipment.
So, when everything was finally squared away, we said our farewells to Charlie, again, but acquired a new riding partner- Mike decided to join our group for a few days, until he wanted to go off route again. Mike has been cutting and adding distance the entire trip to be more efficient or see things that interest him; he's been doing things pretty much his own way, as far as I can tell, but seemed interested in having some company for a while. We finished up some errands in town and then there we were: staring down Highway 50 due west into the maw of the Rocky Mointains. We had ridden thousands of miles through uncertainty, injury, and pain, climbed every exhausting hill and beaten every element from driving rain to scorching heat to howling wind- and now here we stood at the doorstep of the gods. We stood before a place shaped long ago by primal, tectonic powers unfathomable whose heights were home to wintry forces we had no way of knowing- no prior experience with. We had a new challenge and what would be the final leg of our trip before us: the autumn and the mountains would do their best to keep us from the siren's song of the sea and the Westerly beaches we have been questing toward for so long. So, we rode.
|Sunset leaving Canyon City.|
9/21 Day 59: Canyon City, CO to The Currant Creek Hostel, Guffey, CO 37 miles (2822 miles)
|A cool, classic Dodge parked next to a matching trailer.|
After we made the ride back from the gorge it was nearly noon, and we had set our goal for the day pretty high. We had hoped to make it the 70 something miles to Fairplay, CO that day, but we shortly discovered that it wasn't going to happen. The views for the day only got better and better as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains. We chugged up some steep grades and ran through some stunningly picturesque valleys as we worked our way up about 3,300 feet total vertical gain for the day over about 30 miles (not counting the 8 for our Royal Gorge side trip) to a small town called Guffey. It was already about 3 or 4 in the afternoon when we arrived in Guffey and we were a bit discouraged about our 5 and 6 mph progress up these first Rockies. We decided to just settle for a stay in one of the nearby hostels recommended in a guidebook I've been carrying, and take a nice long lunch at Rita's Place- a really wonderful little restaurant in town. Rita was an incredibly sweet lady who chatted with us as she made our sandwiches in the open kitchen about 7 feet from our table.
|The beautiful view from Old Man Crazy's yard/campground.|
We were bummed, and freezing, so most of us skipped even eating dinner since we'd had a big lunch not long ago at Rita's and just got right into our tents. The night was a rude welcome to the climate; the temperature plunged down to somewhere around 30 degrees and we were lucky enough to get rain... make that freezing rain. We slept a little fitfully in the chill and none of us were sorry at all for the winter gear we'd purchased.
9/22 Day 60: Guffey, CO to Alma, CO 49 miles (2871 miles)
|Ice on the picnic table makes an|
The first segment was punctuated by the Currant Creek Pass, a 9, 400-ish ft. ridge through the mountains that offered up some very pretty views of the high valley that stretched out below us and Mandi even saw a little black bear. From Currant Creek Pass, it was mostly downhill with a goodly section of flat and slowly rising terrain until we arrived at Hartsel. This tiny little town is one of the only depots on the southern approach to Hoosier Pass and Breckenridge, which lays just beyond it. We stopped at their only restaurant in town and all ate ravenously. I had a double buffalo burger with onions, mushrooms, and bacon right after another peanut butter and chocolate milkshake. Neither Rita, nor the staff at this restaurant had ever heard of my strange request to add a few spoonfuls of peanut butter to a chocolate shake, and they wanted me to name it so they could put it on special sometime. I told them to call it the 4200 Mile Shake, because you need to eat a bunch of them to ride all that way. After we ate our huge lunch, we rolled onward and skyward to Fairplay.
|A sample of the epic scenery in the mountains.|
It was between Hartsel and Fairplay that we were most amazed by our surroundings. The brown-green plains stretched out around us, but were abutted on all sides by soaring, granite crags, some of which already had white caps from early snow. Small rivers and creeks, mostly forks of the Platte River, subdivided the plain with sparkling varicolored waters that seemed to reflect hues I'd never seen before. It was a majestic ride, and when we arrived at Fairplay, we still had a small 6 mile jaunt up the bike path to Alma. The bike path there is a bit bumpy, and not in the best shape, but it got us to where we were going and we pulled into town around 6 or so. Our plan was to camp by the town hall and maybe do some laundry at a guesthouse we'd been directed to by the woman at town hall. The guesthouse, it turned out, was our last stop. When we mentioned that we were headed up that way to one of the locals, they said, "Well, you won't get a whole lot of sleep, but you'll probably do a bunch of partying." This wasn't really what we were looking for, but we needed to get some laundry done, so we climbed up the hill to the big yellow house called "The Yellow Elephant" town-wide and knocked.
|We arrange our bikes in front of the unassuming looking|
Ben, Mike, and I ended up loading wood into a pickup truck, moving a shed, and cementing an ornamental peeled aspen into the ground of Hector's girlfriend's yard in exchange for our meals and lodging. We showered off, ate a huge pasta dinner, and hung out with the crazy crew that live in the big yellow house while we drank beers and they, plus a rotating cast of townsfolk who walked freely in and out, got baked. ("They call it Almsterdam here, man.") We finished up the laundry and found our way to our rooms just as the tenants were making their way out the door to the bar. These guys were super friendly and very interesting, and way too wild to describe entirely here. We slept well and warm inside- a nice change from the night before- and dreamed dreams of high passes and long descents.