Thursday, August 23, 2012

August 14---If Grand Mesa were a burrito, I'd eat it instead of riding up it


We had arrived at our campsite so early in the afternoon that on the following morning we felt more than rested and ready to continue our trek north. It felt strange to be turned around and retracing our way back to Montrose. Now that we've reached the farthest point that we'll be from home--down in Mesa Verde, where we started to program our minds that the trip was winding down---it's a little anticlimactic to go back over familiar ground.

We're saying a lingering farewell to Colorado.

As we neared Montrose, a woman on a heavily loaded touring bicycle passed by heading south. She looked as if she wanted to stop and exchange words with us, but Brock and I were both more excited about our rapid pace and the imminent promise of coffee than a chat with yet another touring cyclist. I felt a little sorry, as we're probably the last long-distance cyclists she'll encounter for days or weeks on this lightly travelled (at least during this season) Adventure Cycling route.

We stocked up on food at the Safeway in Montrose, planning to live in the National Forest over the span of 5 mealtimes. Loaded with refried beans, canned tomatoes, lettuce, potato salad, fruit, bagels, and cream cheese, I felt satisfied that we wouldn't starve up on the Grand Mesa. And we proved once again that you can wrap up anything in a tortilla and call it a meal. For lunch we consumed potato salad and lettuce wraps. Not bad at all.

We rode an easy breezy 21 miles following the subtle downhill curve of the earth into Delta, where the road connived to tilt ever-so-slightly up towards the highlands. A road like that makes you feel as if you should be pedaling faster but aren't. Devious.

Grand Mesa is the largest flat top mountain in the world. It stretches for dozens of miles across the plains, planting long tree-clad fingers into the drier lands below.

As the sun beat down inexorably on our un-helmeted heads (yes, the helmets have taken a backseat since Ft. Collins) the road finally showed its true colors and bent upwards in earnest. We spent the next 3 hours battling uphill to reach the National Forest Boundary.

Our stomachs informed us that it was dinner time before we reached our day's end, and so we opened cans of food and laid a decent spread in some ranch pullout. An outcrop of earth sheltered us from the still-hot evening sun, and we made plans to sit by some lake the next day and bask in the heat.

At last we pedaled into National Forest. There we easily found a spot to set up our tent, with a prime view of the land below that stretched out to the jagged peaks of the San Juans we'd recently left.

August 15-16: We are Lilliputians: in Grand Mesa and Grand Junction


We had hoped that our last day in the mountains would be one spent luxuriating by an alpine lake lined with wildflowers, our skins soaking up the strong sun in the thin air before we returned to the land of pale Oregonians.  (Oregonians don't tan, Brock joked once; they rust.)

To my dismay, Wednesday morning dawned gloomy, the low clouds dripping rain like a leaky bathtub faucet.  Together we shook out, folded, and rolled up the tent, performing the pas de deux that after 8 weeks on the road we knew so well that we could almost do it with our eyes closed.  Certainly with one eye closed. 

The clouds lowered stubbornly close as we made our way up to the top of Grand Mesa.  Despite the fact that we'd climbed for hours before setting up camp the night before, we still had a few miles to travel uphill before we reached the Visitors' Center.  In the fly fishing shop there we purchased coffee, and I improved its taste with generous doses of International Delight creamer shots.  We had planned to fill our water bottles as well, but all the water at the facility had been shut off, due to a lack of funds needed to suitably chlorinate the water.   Grand Mesa seemed to be one of the less frequented mountain recreation areas in Colorado, and so must been one of the first to fall victim to budget cuts.  Our dwindling supply of water would just have to last a little longer.

A Visitor Center employee informed me that the weather forecast called for steady rain throughout the day.  This was not the Colorado I'd become accustomed to! All-day rain sounded blasphemous, but we'd just have to cope.  Another 1,000 ft. of climbing finally brought us to more level ground high up on the flat top mountain.  Only a few cars passed us during this time, making for some of the most peaceful riding of the trip.  We traversed the top of the mesa and coasted downhill and began to keep our eyes out for a flat place off the road to set up camp.  The perfect hideaway soon presented itself, and we trundled our bikes down a rocky unpaved road and into a grove of pine trees that partially protected us from the slow rain.

We'd been able to refill all of our 8 water bottles at a campground pump, and so we settled into our pine grove to wile away the afternoon and evening.  It felt strange to have so much time to relax, and we almost didn't know what to do with ourselves.  The cool weather sent us layering up in our long underwear instead of basking by a lake.  I read a few hundred pages of "The Mists of Avalon" which I'd picked up for free in Ridgway, while Brock read on his ipod and warmed himself with occasional shots of Black Velvet whiskey.  The quiet of the woods was frequently shattered by chattering squirrels and falling pine cones.  I half hoped that we'd see a bear; after all our time spent in wild areas, we had yet to see one!

As darkness fell I lit the stove one last time and stewed some apples with peach jam; we filled tortillas with peanut butter and the comfortingly hot mixture.

Thursday morning came, and with it the sun.  As we broke camp, I sentimentally remarked that this morning would be the last time I shoved the tent into my pannier; that evening we planned to stay with warmshowers hosts in Grand Junction.  We ate our last bagels and cream cheese in a day use area beside a clear blue lake.  An elderly couple strolled by with their dog, coffee cups in hand---I eyed them, envious of their caffeine.  Luckily, we weren't too far from the tiny town of Mesa.  A Fred woo-woo speed (ask Brock) downhill run dropped us at the doorstep of a new-looking coffeeshop where we relaxed for a few hours.  Our hosts in Grand Junction weren't expecting us till the early evening, and with a short 50 mile day, much of that downhill, we had all the time in the world to relax.

We rode through a narrow canyon that eventually led out to the Colorado River.  The broad river and high cliffs on either side reminded me of the Columbia Gorge, where we began our journey 2 months before.  The valley wherein lies the towns of Palisade and Grand Junction is irrigated, and we abruptly entered an unexpected land of green fields and orchards.  Palisade Peaces are legendary in Colorado; the peaches were at their peak, and we could see thousands of golden orbs bejewellwing the rows of orchard trees.  We stopped at a roadside farm stand and purchased 2 flats of the fruit; one for us, and one to take to our hosts.

The last few miles of riding into Grand Junction were not pleasant.  While I'm sure there were more hospitable ways to cycle into town, we came in on the highway lined with big box stores---it was the quick and grimey way, although it made me angry.  I soothed my frazzled nerves as we sat by the Colorado river and devoured almost the entire flat of peaches. 

Our hosts, Ed and Maggie and their golden retriever Terra, welcomed us warmly when we arrived at their house located in a pleasant development on the outskirts of town.  As we sat down to a delicious dinner of barbecued chicken, rice, and, yes, peaches and whipped cream, the couple regaled us with colorful tales of their recent bicycle tour in France.  The Normandy Beaches! The trains! The Champs Elysees! While Brock and I also interjected with stories of our own, I found it a nice change to hear other peoples' adventurous anecdotes.  We admitted to Maggie and Ed that at this point, we actually slept far better in our tent than indoors, and they could completely understand.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 10-11 - Slowing Down


There was a lot to love about Telluride. I realized this when we made the decision to stay there three nights instead of two. Upon arrival, I was fully prepared to write the town off as a resort for rich Coloradans and Texans, but we learned that it was more than that. It WAS certainly a resort town, make no mistake, but one that we could exist in affordably and relaxedly without feeling too out of place. We rode the free gondola late at night and surreptitiously drank inexpensive stout from our water bottles while strolling through the deserted streets of Mountain Village, we day-hiked to the falls in Bear Creek Canyon, and we drank lots of coffee while sitting in the bakery or the coffee shop or the library (sans coffee for that last one); in short, it was like living in a miniature Portland, except it rained more in the summer and we lived in a tent on the edge of town.

Many people poured into town as we prepared to leave in anticipation of a large mountain bike race happening this weekend. We met Richie, who was looking for a place to set up his tent, and we explained that while we occupied the site, there were plenty of places to pitch camp in the wooded walk-in area of the park, and there was a free parking space where our car would be, if we had one. He happily obliged and we spoke together about living in Boulder and adventuring in this great state between shifts.

We broke fast at the coffee shop on the main street this morning and sat on the sidewalk with less expensive fare from the bakery down the street. I found half an earwig in my peach, and then I found the other half, but fortunately it was all inside the pit and the meat of the fruit was still good. Tiny birds fearlessly approached us as we sat cross-legged on the pavement and snatched up our crumbs from the baguette with honey. I happened across a full take-out box of chicken and potatoes with a few cookies wrapped in napkins, and tried to figure out the state of mind one would need to be in to discard a full meal's worth of leftovers into the waste bin as this person had apparently done. Then again, I'm the kind of guy who notices take-out containers in waste bins, so maybe I'm not speaking from a high moral authority either. I'll leave that up to the discernment of the reader; free food, however, is free food, kind of like the shot of Bailey's that someone ordered into their to-go coffee before realizing that the coffee shop couldn't make that kind of drink to-go, and when the disheartened patron asked the entirety of the shop if anyone wanted the spare shot, I volunteered. Free things need to be taken before the moment passes.

We cruised out of town on the highway to Placerville, riding through some mud-turned-dust that had sludged into the road in the past few days' rainfall. There was just enough there for me to feel nervous about my traction, and I pictured myself flying from the bicycle as tires lost their grip on the road, but nothing came of this and we proceeded on through the humorously named town of Sawpit, population 25.

We waited our turn to pass through a blasting and construction zone before turning onto the highway to Ridgway. A trucker noticed us on the shoulder preparing to climb over the divide and offered us two ice-cold bottles of name brand water, which we gladly accepted. Even in cool mountain air, our water bottles often gather the sun's heat early in the day, leaving them tepid and unsatisfying though no less good for our bodies. Cold water makes a difference to the brain, however, and we bolstered our morale with the kindness of a passing strnager on sixteen wheels.

The climb was gradual compared to other passes we have crossed, and we were happy to sail into Ridgway with minimal effort expended. The town park was busily blanketed with tents and people for some kind of festival while clouds threatened behind us, so we bought groceries and stopped only at the library for bathrooms and used books before beating the storms to the state park.

We are camped out on the hillside across the Uncomphagre River from most of the park, below the dam wall of piled stone that holds the reservoir at bay, so to speak. We pitched camp early after a 40-something mile ride and have been ducking out of thunderstorms all afternoon. It's nice to have a tent in situations like these. Adele resourcefully made a fire from downed wood and we heated our tins of ravioli and steamed some broccoli for a filling dinner. Crickets now chirp in the distance and we'll retire early to prepare for a longer day so we can reach National Forest land again for more free camping.

I am still thinking about a sandwich I saw in the waste bin earlier, though. I should have grabbed it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

August 8-9 - Monsoon!


Well folks, it's a pouring wet Portland kind of afternoon here in beautiful Telluride. Brock and I blame it on the arrival of the Portland band Blind Pilot, who are playing tonight at the Opera House. They bring the curse of the wet. (Granted, Colorado needs rain, but selfishly, I don't!)

Brock and I have taken shelter in a bakery where we can sit for an indefinite amount of time without hassle. Like Powells---I feel so at home! Our tent is out there doing what tents do, that is getting really soggy in the monsoon. And here in Colorado they actually do call rains this time of year "monsoons."

We'd planned to live it up in Telluride today in any case and temporarily divorce ourselves from our bikes. Give them some therapeutic space. So really, being here in town is the best case scenario considering the weather.

Since there's not a whole lot to fill you in on regarding adventurous cycling play-by-play details, I thought I'd let you in on some of the behind-the-scenes elements of cycle touring. Namely, how Adele finds her motivation.

This may be a little TMI, so stop reading here if you just wanted the newsreel. But again, feel free to indulge me as there's little else to do this afternoon but write something!

Motivation #1: There are 2 reasons I've gotten this far, and I'm pedaling on both of them.

No, not my shoes. My legs. As I crank up 12,000 ft. mountain passes and pain slowly invades my body, my lungs can't seem to find oxygen, and sweat makes me feel like a hot mess, I glance down at my legs.

"Ah, there you are. Lookin' good," I tell them. "Tan, chiseled, strong...don't worry, I'll keep pedaling out here in the sun so you'll never be pasty and flabby again."

I know this sounds terribly narcissistic, but I see it as healthy narcissism. Allow me to explain:

It wasn't always this way. As a pre-adolescent, I watched in dismay as my former slender self was replaced with something...stockier. At family gatherings I would look around and envy the waifish figures of my siblings and extended relatives. The females on my mother's side are by and large slender types (albeit rather flat chested), who look as if they might drift away like dandelion fluff in the slightest breeze. My dad's side of the family tends to be slightly more curvy and built like soccer players.

The genetic die was cast and I ended up with the upper body of the Williams (mom's side) and the lower body of the Galebachs (dad).

I remember one year I was with my family at some sort family retreat center with a bunch of other folks. We were playing a group game when an awkward youth (to be fair, I suspect he had some sort of subtle mental condition) actually pinched my calf and exclaimed "Wow! That's HUGE!"

You couldn't say anything more effective to ruin a 13 year old girl's body image. Although I picked up the shattered pieces of my pride and moved on, this comment has lurked in my subconscious for years.

But now, cycling gives me reason to be proud of those shapely Galebach calf muscles. I love them because they are dang strong and they get me places. I've come to grips (99% of the time) that I'll never look like a wispy willow wand.

Motivation #2: Every day is an eating competition against myself.

I love to eat. If it were physically possible, I would be chewing something every second of the day, savoring the flavor and texture of each new occupier of my palate (with the exception of mushrooms).

To recount another anecdote from my past: I've always loved food. I taught myself to bake at the age of 6, and from then on I could be found every afternoon in the kitchen mixing up cookies, bread, pies, cakes, and even weird recipes that I made up myself.

Again, when puberty hit, things changed and suddenly I couldn't eat half the bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough and not expect unflattering results.

I remember one afternoon when I was 12, my mom gently pulled me aside and, trying to be tactful, suggested that I pick less at whatever I was baking for dessert that evening.

I tried to do this, but the siren song of baked goods continued to tempt me, and I hadn't yet figured out how to balance the food intake/exercise thing.

Fast-forward to now.

On some days of our bike tour, I put away as much food as Brock does Take yesterday, for instance. For breakfast, I consumed 3 bagels loaded with cream cheese and peach slices. For lunch, I devoured a plate of falafel bigger than my face, as well as a side of fries. And I still had room for 2 burritos by dinner time. Brock pulled ahead at the finish line by consuming 3 burritos.

As any touring cyclist knows, the real glory of the tour lies in the gift of being capable of putting away mountains of food while still slimming down.

I'll have to cut back once we return home in less than a week. It's going to be hard. But for now, I'm enjoying every guilt-free bite of intensely caloric food that I eat.

There you have it. A few of my top motivators. Who doesn't want to be in shape and eat without limits? Go on a bike tour.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

August 7 - Turning North


It's just a little past 8 pm and we've already emphatically zipped ourselves into the tent for the night. Let's make this entry short and snappy; I've got some Huck Finn reading to do (after finishing "War and Peace", I snatched this up from a Gunnison bookstore because a) it was cheap b) it was ultralite and c) I know I that I SHOULD read this classic but will never get around to it unless I'm trapped with it on a bike tour. It's like prisoners making friends with rats in the Bastille. Except not quite as unsavory.)

By 6:30 this morning the impatient sun had risen high above the hills surrounding our Mesa Verde campsite. Vacationing families bustled about making lots of noise, but I refused to lift my head from my rock hard "pillow" (a bag with clothes fastidiously rolled up inside) for another hour. An adolescence spent sleeping in despite the auditory onslaughts of intruding younger siblings has hardened me into a champion sleeper-inner.

After packing up and casting a farewell glance over the beautiful mesas, we cruised luxuriously downhill to the applause of spectacular mountain views. We rode westward over broad plains until we reached Cortez, then
we abruptly turned north and east. Cortez marks the southwesternmost point of our travels this summer.

I was relieved to bend back north/ The farther we ventured towards New Mexico and Utah, the hotter it became and I can't help but imagine the scorched wasteland that would await us should we have followed through on our original plan to end in Albuquerque. You could come looking for our blanched bones lying in a ditch by the side of the road in a few months.

We stopped in the small town of Dolores for groceries and to take advantage of all of the library's amenities, save the most obvious one of actually borrowing books. Libraries are on par with Safeway for the benefits they offer to the touring cyclist: internet, water, bathrooms, shade, air conditioning, comfy chairs, picnic tables. And no one gives you the stink eye if you've been there for 2 hours and haven't spent a dime!

The road out of town followed the Dolores river up into the hills. We're almost tracing our tracks back to Ouray, but this time we're on another side of the San Juan range.

After cycling about 60 miles, I was feeling ready to find a place to land for the night. The perfect haven presented itself in the form of a grassy knoll surrounded by high bushes beside the Dolores river. This is once again National Forest land and free camping options abound.

We feasted on refried bean, tomato, lettuce, and cheese burritos. I had a food epiphany the other day and realized that we could easily carry these ingredients with us until needed for dinner. While the after-effects may not make one the best of tent companions, it's certainly the tastiest and most all-around satisfying meal we've made on the trip.

Monday, August 6, 2012

August 5-6 - Mesa Verde


We woke late after our sleepover with the Americorps workers, and Jacob led us into Durango for some coffee. After we had relaxed and eaten, we followed him westward out of town on the highway towards the famed Mesa Verde National Park.

The climb was steep and we were groggy, and so at least a thousand feet's worth of climbing was brutally hot and slow despite an initially easy grade. We rode slowly and chatted with our host about bicycling and what comes next for our travels. We reached a summit at last in the scrubby brushed desert landscape, and Jacob peeled off to return to his home. We plunged down the other side of the San Juan Skyway to the town of Mancos.

Mancos offered water and shade in a nice standard city park, and groceries from a little market in the highway-bifurcated town. We snacked on junk food and chocolate milk to distract our brains from the protests of our legs, and then hopped onto our bicycles for one last push to the park.

Lightning was striking the horizon as we approached our quarry; the clouds were dark but they seemed to be skirting our location, making for an entertaining show with great white bolts leaping to the ground from the angry skies to the north. We arrived at the park entrance, and, having paid our fees for entrance, bolstered our resolve for one last climb to the campground which lay far higher above us than we would have liked.

We were greeted at last by an entire village of commerce at the Morefield area atop Mesa Verde's ridges: grocery and gift shop, laundry facilities, free showers (which we took a massive advantage of), wireless internet and tge promise of an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast in the morning at a reasonable price.

We plunked down more money than we would usually dream of spending on overnight lodging and slept soundly through the night. In the morning we ate and prepared to bicycle to the cliff dwellings that make this location popular.

The one road through the park is hilly and in arid desert, yet the views are spectacular and the vegetation is plentiful and green. We made it to the Balcony House group of structures and followed Ranger Pete, a retired high school history teacher, through the brick buildings constructed into the caves in the sides of the canyons. We climbed several ladders and squeezed through tiny doorways and tunnels to view the multiple stories ancient humans had pieced together from the stone and mud around them. Kivas, the religious and social hub of the dwellings, sat as circular depressions in the built floors, designed to revere the feminine nature of all that comes from the earth and its interactions with the masculine things of the air.

I happened to see wild horses standing in the trees on our way out. Also, a coyote ducked out of the thicket and onto the road in front of us, running with a diagonal gait and yet not seeming to be in any hurry.

After ice cream at the park's cafe, we rode back up the hill to the campground for freezer burritos from the store. Now, crickets sing our lullaby and we anticipate warm showers for the second night in a row and a restful night's sleep.

August 4 - If I had a million $$$...I'd build a highway


"You know they make motors for those things," a pale, unathletic-looking man announced as I pedaled slowly by him and his parked car halfway up the third mountain pass of the day.

I was short on oxygen let alone witty retorts. I managed to blurt out before he was out of earshot "But...(gasp) wouldn't...(gasp)...have half as much fun!"

I'm sure that convinced him.

Ever since the Canadian guy gave us bacon by the side of the highway near Lander, Wyoming, I fantasize that every vehicle that slows down to "woo-woo" or otherwise cheer us on will also pull over and shower us with treats. Gatorade or dark chocolate, or pizza, maybe.

The runner-up to Canadian bacon man in roadside angel benevolence turned awkward (now, we've been the recipients of amazing hospitality in more circumstances than I can count by now, but I'm talking about spontaneously pulling your car over to fly to the aid of cyclists).

We were climbing through a canyon nearing Estes Park when an SUV ground to a halt in front of me. "You look exhausted! Do you want some water?" a man peered concernedly out of his window at me.

"You look exhausted" is the worst thing you could possibly tell someone who's trying their honest best. Seriously, is that what you'd say if you were cheering someone on at a race? No, you lie if you have to and say, "You look GREAT! Keep it up!"

I decided I should accept the guy's offer of water so that he wouldn't feel useless, and so I propped my bike on its kickstand and walked over to the SUV. Suddenly, my bike crashed to the ground, to the stranger's dismay more than mine, and he seemed even sorrier for me in my perceived plight. I filled up my water bottle and hurried back on the road.

The moral of the story is this: if you accost a touring cyclist, just hand them bacon. And don't tell them that they look tired.

Our journey from Ouray to Durango was, alas, bacon-less, although I did preface the ride with consuming a hefty breakfast burrito at the Backstreet Bistro.

The Million Dollar Highway snakes torturously for 13 miles up from Ouray until it reaches Red Mountain Pass, where it plummets down again to Silverton. The canyon through which the highway winds is so precipitous that switchbacks almost double back on themselves.

I heard someone say that the Million Dollar Highway is one of the most dangerous roads in the country, and I believe it. I snapped a photo; my front wheel is in the left of the frame, then a few inches to the right, the road disappears and a waterfall hurtles hundreds of feet below. No guardrail.

As we summited Red Mountain Pass, endless spines of rock flanked by green forests unfolded before our eyes.

We had tried to leave town earlier than usual to beat the midday heat, and we were rewarded by miles of shade as the sun had not yet climbed above the eastern ridges.

After descending into Silverton, I was unhappily surprised to discover that we had yet another pass to climb. I had made a deal with the road: I'd chill out and climb up past 11,000 ft. peaceably, and then I'd get to descend the 60 miles all the way to Durango. Roads don't make deals; just because we'd reached the highest point we'd attain that day didn't mean that we could fly downhill for the remainder.

I grudgingly climbed the 7 miles to the next summit and an even more incredible view. Lo and behold, after gliding downhill for a bit, the highway again sloped upwards and I almost fall off my bike at seeing the sign, "Next summit 3 miles"!

By the time we crawled triumphantly into Durango, we had set a record for toughest day yet: 80 miles and 5,000 ft. of climbing!

Jacob, who we'd met at the Ouray Brewery, put us up for the night. We camped by the farmhouse where he's working and living for the summer. We were joined by Thor and Abby, 2 other Americorps workers who entertained us with crazy stories of hitchhiking in Wyoming and leading crews of highschoolers into the wilds.

As the night chill deepened, Tom Petty warbled on the speakers and I had to agree that "even the losers get lucky sometimes."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

August 3 - Two-ray (ha!)


We woke early and packed our bandit's camp, cruising our bicycles down into Ouray's main street. After a turn up and down, we hadn't yet seen a coffee shop to procure breakfast from. A lady stopped and asked us how far we had traveled and where we had come from, a question often asked that deserves a prepared response, and yet I still haven't learned to spit one out cohesively. Adele snapped to action and gave the basics: from Portland, about 2000 miles. We ask if there's a coffee shop nearby, and while she thinks, a passerby chips in with a location half a block away.

The bistro is busier than any place we've been for months. A long line of customers stands in a queue along the narrow space between the wall and the counter surveying the many options listed on seven chalkboard panels. As we near the register to place our order, the passerby who had recommended the place materialized near us and chipped in again, "I'd like to buy your breakfast. I admire what you're doing."

Scott is a schoolteacher and athletics director like my father is, but works on the opposite corner of the country at a boarding school in Georgia. We swap stories of adventure while eating; we're on a bicycle trip through Colorado, he's on a road trip before school starts, we camped in the hills last night, he drove past us and the Volkswagen van parked on the shoulder there this morning. We talked for what seemed to be lovely hours about the things we had in common. Adele explained the basics of Montessori schooling philosophy, and Scott asked a poignant yet not too pointed question about how we balance ambition and simplicity in our lives.

Scott bid us farewell and we wished him luck on the rest of his journey with a grateful thanks for the meal. We moved to a two-seated table on the wall to get some office business done, and while Adele typed, I read a novel until I was approached by an old man with a cane, about four and a half feet tall and wearing a cap and pearl snap shirt. He had been making the rounds through the shop meeting strangers and ribbing folks he knew, and began telling me tales of his boyhood in Ouray as a cook's helper feeding 700 miners every day, black coffee and pancakes. Known to the workers as "Shorty," he was the butt of many practical jokes such as shoes nailed to the floor or long woolens stretched out to twice his length until the foreman threatened to fire anyone else who messed with the boy. I asked his name, and he gave it as Gilbert, a native american and cousin to Geronimo, as he claimed. He turned to a posse of motorcycle travelers at the next table as we prepared to leave. The whole time he spoke, he nursed a cup of homemade wine that he carried with him. Gilbert was a long talker, but not unpleasant and good natured. He knew a lot of jokes, one about the devil and Chief Joseph... we saw Gilbert again later in the day as we were making sandwiches on a street bench. "Why didn't you get me one?" he laughed as he slowly walked across the street.

We hiked the perimeter trail around the city, climbing to high points in the hills around the canyon and getting spectacular views of the small town. A few hours later we paid our admission into the city's pool system, fed by a natural hot spring, and gloried in the relaxation of hot showers and warm water to lounge in. We stayed for several hours and then dropped by the town's other brewery, a quirky one-man operation with enormous steins.

We camp on a ridge above town tonight with our bicycles sitting behind a big rock in the parking lot below. With any luck they will still be there in the morning when we plan to leave to Durango through the Red Mountain Pass.

Friday, August 3, 2012

August 2 - Ouray


We retrieved our panniers from the restroom building this morning safe and sound from bear marauders. I found Brock's declaration of our tent as a "bear wonton" unsettling but apt. Still, I haven't seen a bear on this trip yet and so I still don't believe they exist. I'll sooner run into a chupacabra.

Brock and I emerged from the only store in Cimarron with our breakfasts of choice: he, with a can of Nallee chicken chili, and I with a danish and a banana.

Before the sun grew too hot we started up the winding road to the top of another pass. 5 miles uphill rewarded us with a gorgeous 15 mile descent to Montrose. We passed the entrance to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison State Park, but we decided to forego a visit since we'd already encountered amazing vistas of the Canyon from the North Rim on the previous day.

Boasting a population of 12,000, Montrose was the biggest town we'd been to since Ft. Collins. We found a coffeeshop where we recharged our systems with caffeine and our technological devices with electricity.

The highway led us easily out of Montrose through a broad valley towards the jagged peaks of the San Juan mountains. This range, tucked away in the southwest corner of Colorado and away from major population centers, receives far less visitors than the ranges in the east portion of the state that we've travelled through.

Right on schedule, an afternoon rainstorm breaks over our heads. We can see trails of lightning strike the high peaks, but luckily we're still in the valley and only rain attempts to impede our progress.

I don't bother to don my rainjacket. I know that the shower will pass quickly, chased by sun and wind that will dry me in minutes. In the Pacific Northwest, I would never hazard such a thing. There, the rain can last for hours and it's imperative to put on raingear at once before the wet saps your precious reserves of body heat.

Our leisurely pace brings us to Ouray as the sun sinks below the steep stone walls of the surrounding mountains. If you've been dying to visit the Swiss Alps but can't quite make it, just come to Ouray. It's a mining town turned tourist destination, as all old mining towns must be or fade into oblivion. The few streets are squeezed between the terraced ledges of a canyon. Countless hiking trails leave right from downtown, winding up to waterfalls, alpine lakes, meadows, and 14ers.

We roll up to the only grocery store in town just as the owner turns the sign to "Closed". Unconcerned, we find the Ouray Brewery just up the street; we needed an excuse to sample the local beer anyway.

A friendly server comes to our table and informs as that a wild strain of Belgian yeast has infiltrated all of the seasonal brews. New Belgium brewery whet my taste for Belgian beers, and so I'm delighted to hear of this mishap.

As we settle into our booth, greedily perusing the food menu, a young guy pops his head over the adjacent booth.

"Are you biking the Trans-Am?" he asks. Accustomed to this inquiry, we explain that we're "doing our own thing...circling through Durango."

"Oh, I live there," he responds. "where are you staying?"

"With you!" Brock answers boldly.

The young man introduces himself as Jacob and joins us in our booth with his co-worker Meagan. The two are leading Americorps conservation crews for the summer, corraling youth to build trails in southwest Colorado. Jacob's lived in Portland and even knew of our neighborhood which has historically been referred to as "felony flats". We joke about the "hipster trail" connecting Portland to Colorado to Austin to Asheville.

By the time we stumble out onto Ouray's Main Street, the setting sun is painting the terraced cliffs glowing shades of salmon, violet, and gold. We know we have little light remaining and we have yet to find a place in the surrounding National Forest to camp.

A gravel road south of town leads us up and into Box Canyon, and we follow it into the woods. I'm hazy with 2 beers (the server had given us a free pint "because we were so sweet") but the road rudely jolts me from my happy place as it switchbacks steeply up the mountainside.

"Don't think the worse of me if I walk this" I manage to gasp as I feel my resolve waning with each turn of the cranks. I tumble off the saddle and commence to haul my titan load through the ever-deepening darkness as Brock zigs and zags a little ahead of me, stubbornly still astride his bicycle.

We find a trail going up to a grassy promontory high above the road. We 're not sure if we have reached the National Forest Boundary, but we are too tired to care and quickly pitch the tent.

Brock seems tense but this craziness makes me feel young and reckless in a great way. It transports me back to the time when I was 21 and my sister Annie and I bandit camped for 2 days in the Tiger Mountain Reservation in the Cascade foothills outside of Seattle. That experience was just illegal enough for me to be excited, but it involved little danger of getting caught and penalized.

I drift off to sleep in the immense stillness of the alpine night. The stars wink above and a creek chatters down in Box Canyon. Although we are a mere 1 1/2 miles from town, I feel as if Brock and I are the only 2 people left in the world.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August 1 - The Black Canyon of the Gunnison

This is one of those days in which I'm sure much happened, and yet I have a hard time distilling anything into a narrative. I suppose that means that it went by relatively happily and there were no major shakeups, but it doesn't make for very good reading.

We awoke at Crawford State Park this morning, the sun beating mercilessly at our tent and warming us to the point where we abandoned hope of sleeping in any longer. Usually, this is how we decide when to wake up and exit the tent, when the sweat inside the sleeping bag becomes too intolerable and we burst through the tent doors into the cool embrace of the morning air. This makes me think that:

1) we could wake up earlier and avoid this unpleasantness if we went to sleep a little earlier in the day, and,

2) we really ought to take advantage of the next town large enough to have a Wal-Mart and buy one of those little foam-bladed battery powered fans, our disaffection for Wal-Mart be damned.

While we had quite a lightning show the night before, we hung our damp laundry on the wire cage around the young trees in our camping area in hopes that the weather would change for the better and the clothes would dry by the time we finished breakfast. They did, and we packed freshly washed laundry (done in the bathroom sink with castile soap) into our bags as planned. The sun is a miraculous ball of incandescent gas.

We spent most of the day on Colorado's highway 92 climbing to the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. When said with a pirate's inflection, the words are a joy to the ear. This canyon sits unassumingly in the southwestern part of the state, and yet its steep slopes are some of the most beautiful things we have seen in recent memory. Rock walls descend into the greenish water at the canyon floor, flanked by lush green cliff-dwelling vegetation that gives it a velveteen appearance. We spent quite a bit of time climbing to the north side of the canyon rim, but then enjoyed countless twists and turns down to the bridge across one of the dams on the river. My momentum was such that I nearly missed the turn over the water!

We waited for the typical rocky mountain afternoon thundershower to pass at a campground, and then began retracing our journey along the canyon's south side. We climbed quite a bit, and then another glorious descent towards lower elevations blessed us with a reprieve from exertion and a cool breeze to dry our sweat-soaked clothing.

We arrived in our target ending point of Cimarron to discover several closed businesses and a car graveyard to rival any city's junkyard. Disappointed, we reconciled ourselves to cold and uninteresting food at our campsite that night, but then hope shone in the appearance of a legacy business a few hundred feet ahead; its sign boasted that it had been in business since 1940. The grey old man inside appeared to be the person who had started the business those many years ago, assisted by someone I assume was his son and a quiet dog. The old man rang up our purchases but accidentally charged me 30 dollars more on the credit slip than we had rung up on his till. The son came to the rescue and corrected the paperwork, and I thanked him for being in business.

We camp tonight at a National Park Service campground for which we paid only twelve dollars, our cheapest official camping for quite some time. Planning to stash some panniers in the bathrooms since there are warnings against bears and yet no steel boxes for tenters to store their belongings in. We hope to reclaim them undamaged in the morning when we emerge, sweating and groggy, from our bear wonton of a tent.

Tonight, I'm staying up to watch more of the lightning show.

July 31 - Give Gravel a Chance


As we studied the map at camp this morning over bagels, cream cheese, and peach slices, we concluded that the day's ride looked easy enough.
"It's going to be mostly downhill once we get over the pass," Brock observed.

We had detoured from our route to experience the delights of Crested Butte and the 30 mile long Kebler Pass which lay west of town. I'd found a glowing description of Kebler Pass as I languidly flipped through an outdoor adventure magazine at the coffeeshop in Grand Lake---under the heading "10 undiscovered/secret must-go destinations" or somesuch. At any rate, the article convinced me.

While Kebler Pass has clearly been discovered and is no secret to many Colorado residents, I thrilled at the chance to digress from the 2 lane highways we've been frequenting. Our campsite last night, on top of being free, entertained us with one of the most glorious mountain views of the trip thus far.

Fortified with bagelly carbohydrates, we clicked into low gear and cranked our way up through the mountains on the wide gravel road. To liken us to slow lumbering oxen would not be amiss. Vehicles passed us every few minutes, but cautiously, as the road was fairly rough and windy. I found that I could look around and take in the scenery more easily than when we're on busier throughways.

After a few miles we reached the top of the pass---at about 9,000 ft., it was thankfully lacking in stature compared to others we've climbed. To our surprise, we found a small cemetery at the summit which housed the remains of at least 50 inhabitants of the nearby ghost town of Irwin. The grandest tombstone marked the grave of a young woman who had died 130 years ago on this very day of the year, July 31. Good set-up for a horror movie.

The descent was long, much longer than I'd anticipated. For most of our journey, we've used Adventure Cycling's maps which douse you with information: elevation profiles, detailed mileage, etc. Now we consult a Colorado State road map which, while sufficient, leaves out many of the details I've become accustomed to.

Maybe ignorance is bliss. I've become less obsessed with elevation profiles and I take the ups and downs as they materialize.

At any rate, we descended a solid 4,000 ft. and 20 miles through Kebler Pass. On a paved road this is lulling bliss, but on gravel, even the firm gravel that we rolled over, you can't sit back, feather the breaks once in awhile, and relax. By the time we reached the bottom, I had an arm-aching case of shaken biker syndrome.

The tranquil road, luminous aspen groves, and closeness of the peaks trumped my physical discomforts, however. I'd do it again.

The heat intensified as we entered a valley dotted with coal mines. A merciful post-lunch splash into the north fork of the Gunnison River temporarily washed away our sticky coatings of sweat.

By the time we reached Paonia, we were hot and weary. Dazed by the heat, I grabbed the first thing that looked good in the frozen section of Dan's Market: a big box of orange sherbert. As Brock and I sat on a bench outside mechanically spooning out the icy treat, passersby glanced at us curiously. Too tired to invite conversation, I avoided eye contact.

Reluctant to hit the road, we waited out the heat under the shade of a few large trees in a tiny park on Main Street.

An elderly man approached us as we walked into the shade. "I want to say something to the young lady here, " he said. I braced myself, waiting for some sort of accusation. "I saw you stop at the 4 way stop sign back there," the man continued. "I've never seen anyone do that. Thank you for setting an example for the rest us."

I knew that Brock was truly exhausted when he turned down some locals' offer of beer and opted to sprawl, eyes closed, on the green grass.

After about a half hour, large sheets of cloud shrouded the sun and we felt rested enough to move on.

I'm glad that I didn't see the elevation profile for the homestretch 12 miles of the day, or else I may have been tempted to admit defeat. Unaware that the road only went up, I held out hope as I crested each hill that that one would be the last.

It never was; we ascended steadily past pastureland, fields, and a few vineyards until we came to Crawford State Park and our home for the night.

I'm excited for tomorrow's destination: the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Say that with a "yargh" and a pirate sneer and see what happens.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 30 - All Schwinns Go To Heaven


We awoke within the boundaries of the San Isabel National Forest, where, as permitted by law, one may legally camp in the wilderness if at least 250 feet from any established roadway or stream or somesuch. We had driven ourselves somewhat against our will uphill against a gravel county road to the limits of private property and into the area that our tax dollars had proven were ours to camp in without dispute. After a quick breakfast of a toaster pastry each, carried from the mini mart at Hot Sulphur Springs and forgotten in my front right pannier, we quickly broke camp against the influx of mosquitoes and coasted downhill to the highway.

After 8 miles of paved riding we encountered the one-man dictatorship of Parlin, CO, an RV resort with a post office attached. The owner was from New Jersey and peppered us with questions about our bicycle adventure, to my taste a tad too long before ringing up our purchases of iced tea and packaged muffins. I opened mine and took a swig while he asked us about our travels. He was good natured enough, but I was ready for breakfast and wasn't entirely prepared to outline out travel plan before eating what little could be found in his shop. As a conciliatory gesture I made grand theatrical thank-you speeches as I returned through his western kitsch shop to fill my water bottles.

Another ten miles or so down the highway was Gunnison, home of Western Colorado University and a fine coffee shop in which we spent a few hours catching up on our communication and enjoying coffee and bagels. Afterward we dropped into a bookstore to gather a new set of novels for our entertainment when each other's company ran short. I also dropped into the local bicycle shop to replace a bolt that had been slowly loosening on my front rack.

From Gunnison, we rode north into the high country of the county and traced the road up to the vacation mecca of Crested Butte, a destination for those with resources form parts spread wide around. The only stipulation seems to be that you need to be able to afford the rent needed to live there in the summer.

We had an early dinner at a burrito shop recommended by the New jersey Man from Parlin that morning, a littel shop on the main drag through town that wrapped delectable ingredients in an enormous tortilla. Ten dollars worth of food weighed in for a satisfying stomach-filling meal.

I should note that in Salida as well as in Crested Butte, there are more citizens rolling around on old cruiser bikes than in almost any city I have been to that I can recall. I love the widespread acceptance of bicycles as a practical method of transportation, and yet the embodiment of my personal ideal has struck me as eerie or creepy, thinking that there must be something sinister just below the surface, even if that reality is the simple economics of wealthy leisure. I keep thinking of the 2009 remake of "The Prisoner," in which James Caviezel is trapped in a desert resort town he knows he doesn't belong in, and yet is assured is normative. Is this realization of an ideal so hard to believe in that I can't accept it when I see it?

Adele dropped into a few thrift stores while I spent an hour at the local brewpub, sampling their Cascadian Dark Ale and finding it to be sufficient for an afternoon's imbibing. We departed for the town park to listen to a military brass band performing for a crowd that seemed to number into the thousands. I dropped into the restrooms to wash the sticky off of my skin, and we found a large tub of peanut butter to coat our insides for the next few days at the local grocery.

As the sun sank into the western horizon, we pedaled into the hills west of town in search of free camping in the national forest. We alit on a hill above the stream along the highway overlooking the valley and the butte the town was named for. Lighting storms illuminated the eastern sky as we prepared to turn in for the night, proud of our accomplishments in mileage and free accommodations. They remind me of the storms I used to watch with my grandma as we pretended they were the forces driving the waves in the paintings on the wall.

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 28-29 - Salida and Monarch Pass


Our tent is an REI Taj 3. It's made to hold three people in a tight spot, and two comfortably. One person can set it up in a pinch, but two is better.

When I purchased it 6 years ago at the summer REI garage sale in Denver, snatching it from the grasp of other gearlusty hounds, I never imagined the places it would house me. I bought this tent because it was the first one I could grab from the cart an REI employee had just wheeled into the salivating crowd; I pressed it close and elbowed my way to the checkout line, rejoicing in my find.

Now, 6 years later, the Taj has acquired new smells and new stains, but the fly still stretches tight as a drum, keeping us dry through terrific downpours. This evening we dove in to escape hordes of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. Pitching the tent is the first order of business once we arrive at the day's final destination. Whether we end up in an aspen grove, RV storage lot, or town park, once we've set up the tent, I call the place home.

Yes, I love my tent. But I need to get on with recent anecdotes. Brock and Adele were last known to be wild camping on a bluff overlooking the rushing Arkansas river, 17 miles north of Buena Vista. From there, the road stretched lazily downhill and eased us into town on Saturday morning, where the Buena Vista Roastery awaited us. The town is a mecca for white water adventurers, rock climbers, and mountain bikers; it seemed as if everywhere I looked, someone was on a mission to go do something adrenaline-inducing.

Leaving Buena Vista, we rolled through the broad Arkansas river valley. To the west, the imposing Collegiate Peaks rose above the grasslands: Mounts Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton, all over 14,000 ft.

To the east I could see countless hills of reddish rock dotted with dark green pines. The Arkansas river flowed first sedately, then energetically as it tumbled through Brown's Canyon.

As an adventure camp counselor 6 years ago, I rafted down that 10 mile Canyon stretch with dozens of shrieking middle schoolers. Although the monetary pay that summer was negligible, the white water rafting trips helped to recompense me for my efforts.`

Eager to take a dip in the cool water, I eventually steered us down a gravel road that led to a small pebble-strewn piece of shoreline. I recognized the spot as where the rafting guides would pull out years ago. We waded in up to our wastes and lingered in the swirling current until quickening raindrops chased us out of the river and under the shelter of the outhouse.

By 4 pm we reached Salida. It's been the most talked-up town of the trip, and I have to say it lived up to my high expectations. The grid of streets were lined with old brightly painted buildings which housed artists' studios, beer gardens, coffeeshops, and boutiques.
We were pleasantly surprised by the number of folks cruising round on bikes. Brock surmised, however, that Salida was too perfect: "There must be some dark secret here," he declared.

As we leaned our bikes up against a storefront, a woman in bike shorts approached us and asked the predictable questions: where did we come from, where were we going. Although mountain bikers and road cyclists alike flock to Salida, we were somewhat of an anomaly with our hefty bags of gear.

On the woman's recommendation, we went to the Fritz and downed a few beers while taking in the Olympic highlights on the screen. Across the street, performers put on a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for onlookers seated on the city park's grass. This is the second time on our trip we've seen ambitious thespians perform Shakespeare in unlikely places; a few weeks ago, we passingly observed "King Lear" in Lander, Wyoming.

Our host in Ft. Collins, Aaron "the Professor", had given us a contact in Salida to stay with. Brock arranged to meet Andy in front of the Safeway, so we waited by the bike racks out front for our host to show up.

Soon enough, a guy with long dreads on a tan cruiser approached us. Our gaze met and he grinned; assuming this was Andy, I stepped forward, introduced myself, and stuck out my hand. "I'm Mark", the man responded, shaking my hand. "Good to meet you...Brock thought your name was Andy" I responded. Mark explained that he was just heading into Safeway, and I realized my mistake.

The real Andy showed up a few minutes later.

Brock and I spent the rest of the evening luxuriating in the apartment that he shares with Aaron's friend Annie, a fellow New Belgium employee. The apartment, on the second floor of what must have been a 100 year old building, was as quirky as they come. The decor was a physical ode to beer and bikes, with timeworn wooden beams, brick walls, and numerous plants adding character.

To enter the guestroom, you had to step up and duck down through a dwarf-sized door. I promptly cracked my head on the lintel and threw myself down on the bed as stars danced before my eyes.

On Sunday morning we roused ourselves from the cave-like guestroom and breakfasted on burritos and coffee at Cafe Dawn around the corner. An hour later, the paved multi-use path led us westward out of Salida. Two miles out of town, I realized that I'd forgotten my tank top drying on a chair back in the courtyard of the apartment building. Brock settled under a tree while I raced back---we've already forgotten numerous articles on this adventure, and I'd hate to lose more! I found my quarry still hanging reproachfully on the chair, as if to say, I'm dry now and I want to go with you.

Monarch Pass was our goal for the day: a daunting climb up to 11,312 ft. We've tackled enough of these high passes by now that I've grown from thinking of them as my daily penance to just something I get to do, whether for better or for worse.

Andy had recommended the quieter and more scenic Cottonwood Pass 25 miles north; if this route hadn't involved backtracking to Buena Vista and climbing an extra 1,000 ft., we would have opted for it. After all, that's what Willy Weir and Clif Bar man would have done; but the Ditti are neither.

Groaning semi trucks and fast flying sporty vehicles shook me from contemplation (should my next tattoo be a fern? does my house need new curtains?) as I pedaled slowly up Monarch Pass.

As we obstinately gained elevation, I grew more and more dizzy and it became increasingly difficult to hold my front wheel to the white line by the almost nonexistent shoulder. More than once I swerved onto the washy gravel. I felt like I was drunk and trying to bike a tightrope. Still, we won the summit and once again crossed the Continental Divide, probably for the last time.

We rested and drank sugary beverages at the gift shop at the top of the pass, then donned extra shirts and rain jackets for the heart-stopping descent. 10 miles of weaving and winding and the wind rushing close and cold.

At the bottom we took refuge from a cloudburst in a gravel barn. I de-numbed my fingers and quelled my snappish sugar-low with a peanut butter and jelly tortilla.

The hope of free camping lured us far off the highway along a gravel road and deep into a narrow valley. My eyes played tricks on me as I didn't notice the ascending grade; only my tired legs told me the truth, and by the time we reached National Forest land six miles from the highway, both Brock and I were ready to collapse into our tent.

And that brings us back full circle to how much I love our little dome of poles and nylon.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 25-27 - Time off in a classy town

We left Hot Sulphur Springs after a breakfast at the gas station of toaster pastries and gas station coffee. The ride was mostly downhill to Kremmling, in which we discovered a coffee shop that caters to the region's many tourists, most of whom are rafting on nearby rivers. While in the shop for a second round of caffeine, the regular pattern of afternoon thundershowers accelerated to deliver the first round of raindrops early. We sat and waited it out.

That afternoon we traveled slowly upward in elevation again, riding more slowly because of the incline. We reached Silverthorne and the Dillon Reservoir by 6pm and watched more threatening clouds gather over the surrounding mountains. The rain didn't fall, and we made it to our hosts' home in Frisco with ease along a separated bicycle path that skirted the lake.

We had met Bob & Dorothy's daughter in Fort Collins while hanging out at the New Belgium brewery, and she had recommended that we give them a call to ask about staying with them when we arrived in Summit County. The parents were obliging, and so we went to their condominium right off of the main street in town to meet them.

Kind and open-hearted recent empty-nesters, the couple welcomed us warmly and showed us to our quarters after the initial explanatory chat that is customary to give all hosts about our trip, where we had been and where we were going to go. They gave us a suite on the second floor of four, including a dedicated bath, enormous bed and armchairs. We felt like royalty, and assumed the roles with gusto. Showers and laundry were the first priority, and then we went out to dinner with our new friends at a restaurant they recommended; we all decided upon the same entree, a piping hot dish of lasagna.

I am often struck at how easily some people will fold strangers into their daily routine, and am inspired to retain the same openness to others in my day-to-day life at home.

The next day, having been told by Bob that we could stay "as long as we liked," we decided to add another night in Frisco to our itinerary and take advantage of the many diversions Summit County offers. The transit system runs free buses between the major population centers, and there is a well-designed system of off-road recreation paths used by bicyclists, joggers, and longboarders. We decided to board the bus to Breckenridge, the acclaimed ski vacation destination, bringing our bicycles along on racks just as we would in Portland.

Bob & Dorothy own a frozen yogurt shop on the main commercial street in Breckenridge, and we dropped in to see what it was like. The building has a history that is logged by the government's register and consists of hand-hewn timbers restored to their original luster. The yogurt operation is self-serve with toppings hand-picked by Bob and sold by weight at the counter, often staffed by young employees happy to have a first job so enjoyable. Adele and I both finished off a bowl each with great enjoyment.

That afternoon we chose to ride the free gondola system that ferries folks between the town in the valley and the ski resort on the mountains. We forgot to factor in the amount of elevation we had gained so quickly, and by the time we reached the ski lodge both of us were feeling the effects. I was mildly ruffled, but this time Adele was the one who couldn't stomach the intense change, and so, after a little deliberation and a search for a bag to vomit into just in case of such an eventuality, we rode the gondola back down into town and ate a little food to strengthen our systems.

The bicycle ride back into Frisco was very relaxed; most of the ride was a clean and easy coast down a gentle grade that barely required any effort at all in the warm afternoon sun.

Adele headed back to the condo to rest up after her bout with altitude, and I hopped one more bus to Copper Mountain to see what the lay of the land would be for our departure route the next day. We would be climbing, but at the moment I would relish a long downhill coast on a similar path, along with about 7 longboarders who had been clued into the free lift up the hill.

On my descent, I ran into Bob, who was out for his afternoon constitutional on a light and speedy bicycle. I turned and rode to the trailhead of Vail Pass with him while we talked about the recreational possibilities of the mountains around us. I thanked him for the hospitality, and offered to reciprocate should he find himself in Portland someday. Bob was appreciative but emphasized that I should pay it forward to the next guests I encountered in need of a place to stay.

Adele and I had dinner at a brewpub that served a four meat pizza, and later added an order of the "9,097 ft. nachos" to our yet empty stomachs. An old friend of Adele's had made the drive west from Denver to reconnect, and we talked late into the night over pints of the brewery's fine products.

Finally, after a night of rest it was time to depart. We climbed towards Copper Mountain and stopped for coffee at the shop we found at the end of the path. A rainshower dotted with soft hail drive us and many other recreational cyclists into the couches and chairs inside the shop while we waited out the deluge. Once clear, we saddled up and rode uphill into the hills toward Fremont Pass on Colorado's highway 91. Lightning flashed around the surrounding peaks and we waited for the bolts to dissipate, but eventually we crested the pass and rode down into Leadville.

This evening we endure more rain while camping in a stand of trees just off the roadway. The tent provides a shelter from the rain and we will eventually get around to cooking some dinner once the patter of droplets oin the roof sounds less threatening. We were fortunate to avoid another lightning storm while in town, and there was a gentle downhill slope almost all the way to our landing point tonight.

We hope to sleep well and feel well-fed.