I crashed hard last night after a burger and a beer at a Westcliffe bar.
This morning I pulled a pair of bike shorts, a pair of socks, a shirt, a book, and two Adventure Cycling maps. I mailed them back home to lower the weight on my bike. I also tossed my jar of Nutella. I’ll have to do laundry more often and get used to straight peanut butter on my tortillas but I had to cut weight.
I also went to Candy’s Coffee for, well, coffee. Emily made me a mocha and a breakfast burrito. Thanks, ma’am.
My motel did not have a vacancy for tonight but I thanked Mo and hit the road for Salida.
Within five miles I hit a hill that my legs wanted nothing to do with. I thought that this would make for a long day. I persevered and my legs finally kicked it. It helped that I had a decent tailwind and the terrain was gently rolling. I was riding with the snow capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains to my left and a dry rocky ridge live to my right.
The curvy road made for a fun ride. I’d come around a bend and get blasted by a side or head gust. Then things would calm down and I’d grind away.
After about 25 miles I hit a fantastic downhill that reminded me of my scary ride around Square Butte in Montana last summer.
I was buzzing along at 35 mph when I saw some bike riders waving at me from the opposite side of the road. I hit my brakes gently so as not to overheat the rims. I had a long talk with Tom and Stephanie who were riding from San Francisco to Key West supported by Stephanie’s brother in law John who was towing an Airstream style trailer.
They told me tales of horrible weather and scary mountaintops. Cold, snow, rain, and hail. They were glad to be nearly done with the Western Express.
I bid them safe travels and pointed The Mule downhill. This descent went in for a few miles and over 700 feet of elevation loss.
It turned out that I lost a little under 800 feet in elevation today nearly all of it on this one descent.
It ended at a stop sign where I took a left on good old US 50. The winding two lane road followed the Arkansas River through a gash in the rocky landscape. The river was running fast, probably fed by snow melt. River raft companies were doing big business today.
As I was going upriver I was gradually climbing. My legs handled the grade without complaint.
On arrival in Salida I went to a bike shop. The mechanic was swamped but referred me to the Sub Culture Bike Shop around the corner.
I’ve been having trouble with my rear derailed since I had a new chain and cassette put on in Pueblo. Cam, the bike mechanic, fixed it in five minutes. Then I mentioned that I could use a lower granny gear. (This is the smallest, easiest to turn gear used in climbing.) Cam dug out a chainring they had two fewer teeth than the one on The Mule.
In ten minutes he installed the ring and I took it for a test ride. Shifting into and out of the chain ring is clunky but it works. And those two teeth will make a big difference in my climbing.
It turns out that Cam used to work in a ski shop in Incline Village, Nevada at the north end of Lake Tahoe. He remembered that Don Kanare, a friend from my college days, bought skies from him. Small world.
I have to admit that I had some trepidation about riding at all today considering the fact that yesterday was one of my worst days on a bike ever. What a surprise that despite my fatigue today was one of my best days on a bike. I had enough energy to enjoy the beautiful scenery I was riding through.
I took a room in a renovated old motel just outside Salida. Depending on how tonight goes, I might stay here tomorrow night too. In any case, I’m not leaving Salida until Monday. I need to rest.
Then I’ll begin the climb to Monarch Pass. I plan in going up six miles and camping. If I feel okay, I’ll do another six and camp. I seriously doubt I can get over the top in one day. We’ll see.
Miles today: 52
Tour Miles: 1,484.5
Top Speed: 36.8 mph