Friday, June 25, 2010
Riding from Pueblo, CO to Canon City, CO was when the scenery started to really change. There were better-sized hills for the first time in hundreds of miles:
Then, after cresting a hill outside Pueblo Lake, I caught my first good glimpse of the Rockies out in the distance:
I was a bit sluggish riding that day and eventually Nick and his group of boys caught up with me. We ended up riding for a while but parted when they went 3 miles off-route to a convenience store and I just kept going toward Canon City. By the time they caught up with me again, I'd made it to just outside Canon City and stopped at a laundromat. There was a liquor store next door to the laundromat so I went over and bought a 22 oz. beer (New Belgium's 1554 Black Ale...delicious, by the way); I was half-drunk and my clothes were already in the dryer by the time the boys arrived. While waiting for my clothes to dry, Zach showed off his Rubik's Cube skills; literally, it was astonishing how this boy could solve the thing. I messed it up as best I could and then gave it to him. He took 15 seconds to just look at it, and then I started a timer...he solved the cube in one minute and nine seconds flat!!!
We then rode into town and secured permission with the police to camp at the City Park (it's not legal here like it was further east, but because of the fire nearby, many campgrounds were closed so they begrudgingly let us stay). We had to wait a few hours to pitch our tents while a pretty bad folk duo played an evening concert in the park. The wait was a bit boring but relaxing. Here's a picture of the boys on the last night we were all together before Nick and I split off on a different trail for the rest of the trip:
After the torture was over, we made camp. Three of the five of us chose to pitch our tents on the concrete under the covered pavilion so our tents didn't get wet with dew or ground moisture (thus allowing us to take off earlier without having to wait for a tent to dry before packing up), but Will and Nick didn't. That really strange sound I kept hearing in the middle of the night didn't wake me up for a while, but when it finally did, I realized it was the park's sprinklers...and Nick and Will's tents were getting completely DOUSED. I tried to get a decent photo in the dark, but this is all I could get of Nick's tent with a few droplets of water scattered about:
In the morning I took off after saying goodbye to all the boys (they're continuing to California on a different route). I found a delicious breakfast at a small Canon City cafe, finally getting real wheat bread, real cheddar cheese, and an omelette filled with really good meat and veggies. It seems I may finally be getting away from the land of white bread, pasteurized process cheese, and Miracle Whip. Thank god!!
The long 78 mile ride from Canon City to Fairplay, CO was essentially one long climb, rising about 4300' vertical feet over that distance. The scenery changed significantly with the elevation change and it was a day of significant physical effort. Various pics from the ride are below (I turned onto a different road before the fire became an issue):
I'd ridden a long way and climbed a lot so I was starving...therefore a pitstop in Hartsel at Dorothy's Homemade Tamales was in order. The tamales were spicy and amazing!!
Hartsel's jail looks like an old gas station, doesn't it??
Nick and I had earlier made arrangements to share a motel room in Fairplay when he caught up to me that evening; this was the view of the sunset in Fairplay that night!
Leaving Fairplay (elev 9800') together the next morning, Nick and I had to climb through the town of Alma (North America's highest incorporated town at 10500') before hitting the short but steep four-mile climb up to Hoosier Pass (elev 11572'). Hoosier Pass is the highest point on the TransAmerica trail and the point at which we cross the Continental Divide. Nick got a flat tire on the way out of Fairplay so we stopped at a coffee shop (for me) while he changed the tire. He couldn't find the leak so he just put the tube back in the tire and pumped it up again. Well, that was a bad move because the tire was flat again another mile or two up the road. Fortunately, stopping in this absolutely gorgeous country is not really a bad thing, so it was a minor annoyance at worst.
Flat tire #1:
A further up the hill we saw a fox hanging out in the grass:
Fox up close with the camera zoom:
Flat tire #2:
Me, in Alma, as we get closer to the top of the hill:
The view heading up to the summit:
MADE IT!!! (and beat 20 y/o Nick by 3-4 minutes...not bad for the old guy!! Sorry, Nick!)
When I arrived at the top, there was this Dutch guy (Walter) there waiting to greet me. Seriously. He actually ran across the road to shake my hand!! Turns out that he had done the TransAmerica route way back in 1979, three years after its conception, and this was the first time he'd been back to the U.S. since that ride. He was thrilled to coincidentally meet another Transammer after driving there to relive his accomplishment of 31 years ago.
After Nick arrived, we're tired yet excited and energized after reaching the top:
After hanging out for a bit and enjoying the summit, Nick actually left in a car because his uncle came to pick him up and take him to Denver to visit the family for a day (he'll get driven back up to the top of the summit in two days so he can continue the ride from the same place). I rode the 11 miles down to Breckenridge...really, really fast too, averaging around 30-35 mph. I had a beer in a pub in Breckenridge but didn't feel like sticking around there because the people didn't seem too friendly. I headed down the road about 9 miles to Frisco, CO and it was there that I had several great experiences with super friendly and generous local folks. Unfortunately I am out of library computer time so I will have to save the Frisco tales for the next blog post...sorry!!