Saturday, June 26, 2010
After leaving the pub in Breckenridge, I headed north toward Frisco and Silverthorne, CO on the bike path along the river. This is some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen, with tall, rugged, snow-capped mountains and clear, fast-moving streams bounding downhill with reckless abandon.
Frisco is a mere 9 downhill miles away from Breckenridge, and Silverthorne is about another five downhill past that. I was unsure of whether I wanted to stay the night near/in Frisco or Silverthorne, given that I know nothing about either town; but, as I was riding the beautiful bike path toward Frisco, just before I got there a nice woman on a bicycle pulled up next to me, introduced herself, and asked where I was going. She was really friendly and we chatted for a few minutes as we rode; she said that Frisco is a really great little town and that I should stay there, so as she peeled off onto a different path, I thanked her and I rolled on down the 10% grade into Frisco.
The lady on the bike path had given me a couple of recommendations for a good place for dinner/beer, so I pulled into the very small (and lovely) town and slowly rode along the sidewalk scoping things out. As I perused the town, I was stopped by an older gentleman who wanted to know where I was traveling. When I told him I am going to Astoria, OR and that I live in Portland, he told me he owns a home in Aurora, OR, just 20 minutes outside of Portland. He said he and his wife spend part of the year in their condo in Frisco and part in their home in Aurora. He introduced himself as Frank Berger and we continued chatting for 15 minutes or so, realizing that we are both avid cyclists, and that we've both ridden in Cycle Oregon (although he's ridden in about 15 of them and I've ridden in one). He gave me directions to a great campsite on a nearby lake on the outskirts of Frisco and had several suggestions for good places to eat dinner. Then, quite abruptly, he said he had to make a phone call and he stepped away for a minute. When he returned, he said, "you're coming to my house for dinner tonight. My wife is a great cook." Far be it from me to turn down a dinner invitation from a nice local fellow so I took down the address and directions to his house, which just happened to be only a few minutes ride from the campsite he'd suggested as well. He said to show up for dinner at 6:00 pm.
It was only 4:30 at that time and I had some time to kill. I rode around the quaint town a little bit, noting where the good bakery/breakfast place was, as well as a pub that was having karaoke starting at 10:00 that night.
I found a Safeway grocery store that had a WiFi seating area where I could relax, charge my phone, and make a phone call; and, it was just minutes from Frank's place. While sitting in Safeway, I made a phone call to my dad and was telling him about recent touring experiences, particularly about meeting Frank and being invited over for dinner. After I got off the phone, I turned to a woman sitting a few chairs away from me who was wearing a Safeway hat. I asked her if she lived in town and she said yes. I asked her if the karaoke place was any good and she said she'd never been but had been wanting to check it out. I told her that I might check it out later and that she ought to meet me there if she was interested. She told me that she'd overheard my conversation about the guy inviting me over for dinner at his house, and then went on to offer me the couch at her house if I needed a place to sleep for the evening. I couldn't believe it...two totally generous offers from local folks in one little town! Sheila and I exchanged phone numbers and I told her I'd call her after dinner.
I then rode to Frank's condo where he greeted me and introduced me to his wife Carol and their sweet, shy boxer named Ginger. We had the most wonderful dinner and conversation for the next three hours or so; Carol made some delicious meat pies (the recipe for which she had learned from a chef in New Zealand) as well as a large plate of fresh pineapple, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Ice cream and cookies followed for dessert. By the end of the meal, I was so stuffed I was afraid I wouldn't be able to ride my bike back to town to meet up with Sheila!
Frank and Carol had very interesting stories to share about their lives. Frank worked in the insurance business and at least half of his business was in Alaska. He therefore frequently piloted a Cessna airplane to Alaska from Oregon/Colorado to conduct business. Carol owned a B & B in Breckenridge for years. Both are avid cyclists, hikers, and fisherpeople. I also learned that Frank is EIGHTY years old (while he really only looks about 65 to me) and he still rides his road bike every single day for many miles around these crazy, 10000'-high Colorado hills. (I can only hope I'm as good of shape as Frank is when I turn 80!) Frank gave me his contact information in Oregon and we agreed that when I get home from my tour, we will go out for a ride in Oregon together! What interesting and generous people Frank and Carol Berger are and I am honored that they invited me into their home.
I hopped on my bike for the several minutes' ride to Sheila's condo. Frisco is so small that everything is really only a mile or two apart, and it's really beautiful with the huge, snow-capped peaks looming closely as the town's backdrop. I arrived and was introduced to her roommate Jesse and her two children, Jordan and Roman. Sheila had baked a shortcake and had fresh raspberries and half-and-half as a topping; I was absolutely stuffed from eating with Frank and Carol, but there's always room for a homemade raspberry shortcake, right?!
We all chatted for a while and then Sheila offered me a shower (which any stinky touring cyclist will readily accept at any time) before karaoke night started. After showering we rode our bikes down to the bar and we had a few beers, I sang a few songs, and we just hung out and chatted for a couple of hours. She is such a sweet and genuine woman and she told me stories about all of the careers she's had (law enforcement, mortgage broker, meat cutter, and a couple more that I can't remember). She's got three grown kids from a first marriage and the two younger ones that I met from a second marriage.
Jordan, the 12-year old son I met, is autistic but you'd never know it by hanging out with him. Sheila told me that when he was a child, doctors told her that Jordan would never be functional and that he would need to be placed in some kind of institution to live. Sheila said "no way" to that and has obviously done the most amazing job of raising her autistic child, working tirelessly with Jordan herself as well as getting him into excellent schools where he could get the best help possible. When I was with Jordan, he was engaging, sweet, intelligent, and thoughtful and had no problem interacting with any of us in a normal way. I'd have honestly never known of his autism had Sheila not told me.
Sheila mentioned that she and her kids have lived in Hillsboro, OR; Port Townsend, WA; Liberty Lake, WA, Coeur D'Alene, ID; Denver, CO; and now Frisco, CO. Additionally, she had checked out cities in Arizona to live in as well. I wondered what had made her move her family around so much, but I didn't ask because I didn't really want to pry into private matters. Later, however, I learned that Sheila's 7-year old son, Roman, apparently has some serious and somewhat rare asthma issues. Sheila has uprooted her family multiple times in search of better places to live for her children, places that had the right schools/facilities for the autistic Jordan and places that had the right dry climate for the asthmatic Roman. She's done this with little regard for herself, and that explains a lot about why she's had so many careers. It seems that each time she's chosen to move for her childrens' sake, there hasn't always been a job available in her current field so she's had to accept a job doing something different to make ends meet. She's a real renaissance woman now, I guess, and a hell of a mother to boot!!
The next a.m. when Sheila got up for work, she said that I could go upstairs and continue to sleep for a few more hours on her bed (the couch downstairs was in the middle of the house where it would soon be loud with the kids and her roommate getting ready to leave). She sweetly told me to stay as long as I liked, and that when I awoke, everyone would be gone. She told me I could fix myself some breakfast and do some laundry if I liked and that I could leave whenever I wanted. I'm still shocked and touched my the trust Sheila showed in me leaving me alone in her home.
On my way out of town, I stopped off at the bakery/breakfast place. It was delicious!!!!!! I picked up fresh-baked ginger snap, chocolate chip, and peanut butter cookies and headed over to Safeway as I left town. Sheila took a break from cutting up Frisco's meat (yes, she's the Safeway meat cutter) and came out to share a break and a cookie with me. While I unfortunately never got a photograph of Sheila's family and her roommate Jesse, I was able to get this awesome photo of her hard at work in the meat department (and yes, she knows how to wield that knife):
After a hug from Sheila, I was on my way out of town. I had a leisurely ride because a) it was downhill all the way, and b) it was the most gorgeous country I've ridden through thus far on my trip. The ride from Frisco to Silverthorne took me on a bike path, not a highway, and right along the gorgeous Dillon Reservoir.
After waiting out a brief rainstorm under the awning at a Target store in Silverthorne, I hit Highway 9 North with a goal of camping about 30 miles away at the Green Mountain Reservoir.
When I got there the mosquitos were so fierce and swarming that I didn't even want to stop. At one point, however, I did have to stop on the road to talk to a local motorist about a road closure that I wasn't sure if I could get through or not. In only three or four minutes' time of standing there while he tried to call a few people for road information, if I didn't keep my hands continuously swatting (literally) at all parts of my legs/face/torso/arms/back/head, within a millisecond I would have 86 mosquitos having landed on me and looking for a convenient place to eat my blood. The guy couldn't get a hold of anyone with info, but by that point I didn't care anymore. I knew I didn't want to camp in mosquito hell and that I was getting back on the road, riding away from that reservoir an extra 19 miles to the high-desert town of Kremmling. The mosquitos in Kremmling are moderately better, but camping is limited here and I need a day off after having ridden for about 12-13 straight days...so here I sit at the Allington Inn, having arrived last night and ponied up the cash for a nice motel room and a much-needed relaxation day. Here's the view from the motel in Kremmling:
My longtime, fabulous friend Diana from Denver is arriving later this afternoon and we'll spend today together in Kremmling before I hit the road again early tomorrow morning for a long, 78-mile day with a 2000' climb in the middle of the ride.
I am having such a good time on this trip!! I have seen wonderful places that I would love to return to and a bunch of places that I'd never go back to if you paid me. But, the adventure of it all is exhilarating and I always love a challenge and taking that new road that I've never been down before. Still, I do get homesick and I definitely miss my friends and family back home.
The strength in my hand is returning, though it is not back to normal by any means, and I'm just trying to do the best I can to avoid compressing the ulnar nerve in my wrist, as well as starting to do some hand/wrist strengthening exercises now that the nerve function is returning. I was a bit scared a couple of weeks ago and thought then that I may have to cancel the trip because of the hand issues, but the self-treatment seems to be working so I'm encouraged. I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that I am still excited to finish the trip, and am excited on most days to be on the bike. Some days feel like a chore, but I persevere...
Oh, and here's another random photo that really requires no caption, one of those "am I really seeing this?" pictures:
PS: I didn't go there. See, I don't fish.