Bike Tour 2022 – Walden, Colorado to Saratoga, Wyoming

It was the best of winds; it was the worst of winds.

We knew what we were getting into. The weather forecast called for light tailwinds in the early morning followed by strong gusty winds in the afternoon. The route called for us to descend from Walden, Colorado at 8,099 feet to Encampment, Wyoming at 7,277 feet. Downhill yay!

We left Walden around 8 and had a nice tailwind. The road wasn’t exactly downhill but we were cruising along without a care heading north.

Then the road, the very bad road turned west and we felt the power of a crosswind. Bad.

Soon we were once again enjoying a tailwind. La di da.

Somehow somebody put a honking big hill in our way and a mighty crosswind began blowing us all over. No fun. Corey thought the hill was harder than Hoosier Pass. I think I agree.

After way too much wind and four stops by yours truly the big bad hill was defeated. Mark had been waiting a long time at the top so we didn’t linger very long after I crawled to the crest.

Back on the road, Mark took off. Corey and I did not give hot pursuit. Corey is tall and I am wide (plus my panniers act like sails).

Here we are being good bike tourists getting blasted all over the place when we came to an 11 mile stretch of road maintenance. Crews had milled the pavement for re-paving. Of course, it was downhill.

It was scary riding. The tread on my tires did not agree with the milling. Add in some strong gusts and you have Danger Will Robinson!

The milling stopped at Riverside, a town adjacent to Encampment. After conferring with a vintage barkeep, we decide to ride on to Saratoga.

Turning north, we caught a tailwind to die for. Corey zoomed ahead. Dang. Mark pulled ahead of me but he stopped to talk to two eastbound TransAm tourists. We heard interesting things about Jeffrey City which we will ride through soon.

The last few miles to Saratoga were a slog through truly brutal crosswinds. We caught up to Corey who had been waiting 20 minutes at a grocery store. After shopping we rode to the St Barnabas church in town where there is a hostel for bike tourists.

In a sense we were fortunate that temperatures remained in the 50s for most of the day. We started to see more wildlife. I watched four redwing black birds in a dogfight with a crow. I also saw a seagull snatch a small rodent (alive) off the roadway. There were several pronghorns and cattle from time to time. Corey saw a bald eagle perched on a roadside fence post.

Oh, and The Mule turned 66 today.

And, Wyoming became the 35th state I’ve ridden in.

Total miles: 68 Tour miles: 1,572.5

The Chicks sang about this.
Too bad my camera couldn’t capture the wind
Wyoming: we have rocks
The Mule turns 66

Bike Tour 2022 – Hot Sulphur Springs to Walden

Last night I self medicated: vanilla shake, gas station junk food, and three Advil PMs.

I slept for about ten hours. When I awoke, I felt infinitely better. A motel room breakfast of PB&J on a mini baguette and some of Corey’s oatmeal and I was ready to roll,

The first seven-ish miles had us continuing east alongside the Colorado River. Dang it was pretty.

At 7 1/2 miles we turned north to follow Willow Creek. After stripping off my cold weather layers, I felt as if I had never been sick. I remained wary that my body could betray me at any moment but the moment never came.

The route took us through an extensive area of forest fires that happened a couple of years ago. It was interesting to see how the forest is recovering. So many colors red, yellow, blue, green.

As we rode up the gradual climb to Willow Creek Pass, we benefited from a strong tailwind. For once I could climb and enjoy the scenery instead of looking at the road in front of me as I churned away on the pedals.

For about 15 miles the climb seemed weirdly level. Clearly we are acclimated to the elevation. The brisk tailwind didn’t hurt one bit either. The last few miles to the summit required some work but nothing like our previous two passes.

We stopped for the obligatory summit photos then had the joyful experience of descending with a tailwind. For ten miles we descended, with only a few short uphill sections now and then. We stopped at a funky bar in the town of Rand for lunch.

After lunch another 22 miles of downhill brought us to Walden. The only thing keeping us from laughing the whole way was the expansion joints in the roadway. Every 20 yards: THUD.

All day long we could see ominous storms in the distance so we took a motel room. It proved to be a good choice because one heckuva wind hit town in the early evening.

After checking in I did laundry for the three of us. Our clothes are now squeaky clean except for my arm warmers which were once white and are now a dull brown. They will be sacrificed to the bike gods later on the trip.

Early morning scenery
Burn area
Matt, eastbound on the TransAm, on an ebike
Suman , from New Haven, racing the Trans Am
Check out the keyhole in that massive rock
Snow capped mountains in the distance

Corey dined in the room. Mark and I went to the River Rock Cafe for salads that turned out to be humongous.

My steak salad. Colorado beef is truly tasty

The town of Walden is thick with TransAm riders and racers. Some are headed west so maybe we’ll see them along the way.

We expect tomorrow to be our last day in Colorado.

Miles today: 61.5 Tour miles: 1,504.5

Bike Tour 2022 – Silverthorne to Hot Sulphur Springs

We stayed at The Pad hostel in Silverthorne. We had a 4 bed (2 bunk beds) room with just the three of us. It was spotless as was the communal bathroom. Corey’s bed was made up inversely. The sheet was on top of the bed spread.

The lobby had a bar and a pizza company set up outside. They made 10-inch pizzas to order. I had a pizza and two Viennese amber lagers. Just what I wanted. Or so I thought.

We retired to our room early because the lobby bar became very crowded mostly with locals gathering to listen to the live band. (This hostel really does have it all.)

As for sleep, I was up all night with tummy problems. Was it the beer? The runny huevos rancheros? The exertion at altitude? Covid? Monkeyrotovirus?

We had places to go so my tummy woes and sleep deprivation had to take a back seat to forward progress.

We rode to a local diner that Corey and Mark ate at in 2019. It was quite good. After a quick stop at Target for Clif bars for Mark and Pepto for me, we – clad in our cold weather gear – headed west along the scenic Blue River

The first thirty miles were downhill with a tailwind, except for a hilly (as in not mountainous) ride on a side road around a reservoir. Prior to the reservoir, we stopped to commemorate the site of Mark and Corey’s 2019 TransAm abandonment. From that point on we were all in unfamiliar riding territory.

The water level in the reservoir was shockingly low. I stopped at a high spot to change out of my cold weather gear. It took me 20 minutes to do, I was that wiped.

Not long after we rejoined the main road. I felt much better in shorts and a shirt. I managed a decent showing getting to the town of Kremmling.

We ate lunch (maybe the best cheese burger I’ve had in a decade) and verified that camping was unavailable in Hot Sulphur Springs, our planned destination. Mark worked his magic and secured us a two-bed motel room. Corey volunteered to sleep on floor.

On the way to Kremmling we lost 1,700 feet in elevation in 41 miles. The 17 1/2 miles to Hot Sulphur Springs seemed like a net downhill but we actually gained 300 feet from Kremmling.

The scenery did its best to keep my mind off my misery. Tall mountains with snow drooling down their faces were followed by scenes of meandering rivers, replete with fly fishermen. We crossed the Colorado River and the impressive Green Mountain dam. We even saw two TransAm racers and were duped by a third eastbound rider who appreciated our enthusiastic cheers.

Every five miles gave us a different landscape to admire.

I managed to pull myself together for about ten miles but the last five were not much fun.

If you are on Strava, you should follow Corey Kapteyn and Mark Ferwerda. They are taking scads of pictures.

The Pad – it’s actually much bigger but I didn’t want to fall in a creek to get a wider shot

Tomorrow we plan on another 60-mile day, this one featuring our third mountain pass and our second crossing of the Continental Divide.

Miles today: 59. Tour miles: 1,443.

Bike Tour 2022 – Fairplay to Silverthorne over the Great Divide at Hoosier Pass

Last night’s motel was kind of scuzzy, but after spending a night in the hellhole at Guffey it seemed like the Ritz.

I worked on cleaning my chain and trying to fix a few annoying shifting problems. Mark used Corey’s screwdriver to lower the chain catcher (it’s designed to keep the chain from falling off to the inside). I cleaned and lubed everything I could. It did not pass Corey’s cleanliness inspection so I wiped the chain down with my bandanna in the morning. The bandanna died a hero.

Last night’s dinner was Asian fusion. Corey had drunken noodles with jalapeño slices. Mark had broccoli stir fry. I had a disturbingly large bowl of chicken fried rice. Thumbs up all around.

Corey had oatmeal in his motel room for breakfast. Mark and I went across the highway to a diner. Mark had the basic eggs, hash browns, and toast. I went for huevos rancheros. Note to self: order the eggs scrambled or you get a near liquid breakfast.) I also had coffee for the first time above 7,000 feet. It didn’t give me a headache which tells me I was pretty well adapted to 9,900 feet of elevation.

After breakfast the fun began. We rode six miles uphill to the town of Alma. Once again I expected tough climbing and once again I was treated to false flats. I handled them fine.

The weather could not have been better. Tail breezes, comfortable temperatures, low humidity, and sunny skies. And scenery that improved by the mile.

Alas, the ride to Alma was a mere warm up for the next five miles up another 1,100 or so feet to Hoosier Pass.

Just shift into your granny and start pedaling. There was only about 60 feet of descending so the climb was very nearly relentless. Head down. Breathe. Try not to wobble.

I stopped intentionally three times. After about a mile and a half I had to get my heart and lungs under control. Then I did another three miles before stopping where Mark was taking a break, I stopped one more time about a half mile before the top. I stopped a couple other times to bail out from the vehicles going uphill. The road had a sandy unpaved shoulder and a jagged edge to the pavement. And did I mention beaucoup traffic?

The summit came a bit earlier than I expected. Corey and Mark we’re waiting. I took a selfie at the summit sign and a couple of day hikers took a picture of the three of us. (We reciprocated, of course.)

The three of us put on windbreakers and gloves and began the descent. It’s a good thing there were occasional bumps in the pavement or I’d have zoomed right over a guardrail into the unknown.

There were switchbacks at the top then gentler curves. I feathered my brakes, aware that rim brakes can overheat and cause a blowout. (Mark and Corey had disc brakes.) No worries. I’ve done this before.

For family, the descent reminded me of Deepwater Mountain in West Virginia but much, much longer.

For the life of me I have no idea how west to east riders on the TransAm make it up this hill. When I think about the people who rode up this on ten speeds in the 1979s and 1980s, I am flabbergasted.

On the way down we entered a construction zone. A crew was painting new center lines. This meant that traffic couldn’t pass us for several miles. The shoulders were unusable so we took the lane and kept a steady pace over 30 mph.

We returned to Planet Oxygen, after 11 insanely fun miles, in the town of Breckinridge. The place was swarming with touroids. We didn’t stop. We found the very nice paved bike trail that would take us downhill all the way to Frisco.

What a treat to leave all that traffic behind and cruise along at 20 mph.

In Frisco there was a BBQ festival going on but we needed to sit and recuperate a bit. We had lunch in a brew pub, sans brews.

Over lunch we decided to book beds in a hostel in the next town of Silverthorne. We booked three beds in a four bed room, the hit the trail again.

We needed to buy some provisions so we pulled into a Walmart right along the trail. A squall line came through so we ended up hanging out. Five hikers on the Great Divide Trail were there so we had an entertaining conversation.

We took the bike trail all the way to Frisco. Several times we had navigational issues but the trail led us to the front door of the hostel. It’s called The Pad. It’s brand new and could not be a nicer place to stay.

There is a bar in the lobby. I think I could do with a celebratory root beer. Or maybe skip the root part.

Miles today: 40.5 Tour miles: 1,384.

The road to Alma. The side trail was unusable, for the most part
Climbing to Hoosier Pass. Yes, it was steep.
Some knucklehead at Hoosier Pass
Mark, me, and Corey
Going down. Oddly, there weren’t any runaway bike lanes
The bike trail ran along this amazing lake
Two of the hikers we met at WalMart. Trail names: Grand Perambulator and Shady Grove

Bike Tour 2022 – Guffey to FairPlay

It was tolerably cold last night; temperatures were in the high 40s at dawn. We started our ride with a steep 1.3 mile descent. It woke us right up.

Heading north on Highway 9, we came across an interesting scene right out of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. In a field to the left of the road a coyote (or perhaps a wolf) was chasing a small deer. For a while the canid had the deer by the throat. The deer ran and fought eventually shaking the attacker off and making its escape.

A short while later we stopped along the road to peel off our warm layers. The early morning’s work involved climbing to Current Creek Pass at 9,404 feet. We bombed down from the pass, rode through a valley, then climbed right back up an unnamed hill of the same elevation.

The serious business behind us, we enjoyed a 13 mile ride through Buffalo Gulch to second breakfast in Hartsel.

The 18-mile ride that followed featured a view of mountain valleys and snow capped mountains. My map said that there would be a series of short climbs on this stretch but what we experienced was more like an 18-mile false flat. A false flat looks level but actually ascends gradually. It’s just enough elevation gain to be demoralizing. We arrived at Fairplay dog tired.

We had discussed continuing on ten miles to Alma but we were toast and we knew it. We checked into a dumpy motel and called it quits.

I’ve been having mechanical problems with my drive train. I switched chain lubes in Kansas and the chain has become a mess. At the motel I methodically cleaned and re-lubed the chain with my old lube. I hope this fixes the problem.

We are now at 9,984 feet. Tomorrow we will climb to 11,515 feet to ride over Hoosier Pass, the highest point in the trip. After taking some photos we get to descend through Breckenridge to either Silverthorne or Frisco.

We continue to closely monitor the situation in Yellowstone where massive flooding of the Yellowstone River has destroyed infrastructure in sections of the park. We are more than a week away so we hope to luck out and get to ride through the southwest corner of the park.

Miles today: 48 Tour miles: 1,343.5

The view from Current Creek Pass
Buffalo Gulch
The approach to Fairplay

Bike Tour 2022 – Cañon City to Guffey

We broke camp at the abbey around 7:30. The abbey dorm was an excellent deal. We rode to Mugs for breakfast. I ate there 4 times including dinner last night. After brekkies, we headed west on US 50. It was a bit hillier than I had anticipated. Luckily the temperature was in the low 60s and we had a tailwind.

We were at about 6,000 feet after ten miles when we turned north on Colorado Highway 9 and the fun began in earnest. I gave myself a puff of albuterol in the hopes that it would help me breathe. To my surprise it did.

Up and up and up again. At one point we cycled a 9 percent grade to over 7,000 feet. I had to stop multiple times to get my heart rate down and my breathing under control.

Mark and Corey were usually well ahead of me with their young legs (they’re 65, I’m 66) and lighter bikes. One day I’m going to show up with a titanium bike filled with helium and kick their asses.

Our misery was interrupted by two competitors in the TransAmerica Trail Race. They were enjoying the downhill from Hoosier Pass.

We were laboring on the climbs. Thank god for that tailwind and cool temps. I had an annoying noise coming from certain gears. At the end of the day we each looked the bike over and couldn’t find anything wrong.

We arrived at the turn for Guffey after nearly 34 miles. We regrouped in a surprisingly nice coffee shop. Root beer and a muffin plus some Fig Newmans. Then we did the final mile up to Guffey at 8,891 feet.

I am feeling a little lightheaded but I’m pretty happy with the day. We’ll sleep in an unheated cabin. No running water. No shower. An outhouse. We’re going to freeze our asses off overnight.

The turn onto Hwy 9
TransAm racer descending
Mark preparing to launch after a roadside break
Parts of an animal skeleton on the side of the road.
Extreme fire hazard.
Our cabin (white door) at the “hostel” in Guffey. If the zombie apocalypse happens, this will be the place.

Miles today: 35. Tour miles: 1,295.5

Bike Tour 2022 – Second Day Off in Cañon City

We are chillin’ here at 5,300 feet hoping our bodies are acclimating to the altitude.

We hit breakfast at Mugs then rode west a couple of miles to Royal Gorge, an impressive bit of geological work by the Arkansas River. The Tunnel Trail begins with a 100-yard steep, paved climb. I was discouraged by how hard it was until I later rode down it. It was way steep.

Royal Gorge. Many more pix on my Instagram account

The remainder of the trail was unpaved and well maintained. There were four tunnels. The first three were only ten or twenty yards long; the last one was about 100 yards from end to end.

Longest tunnel on the trail

Words fail at how spectacular the scenery was. Pictures don’t do it justice either.

After the out and back Tunnel Trail we headed back to Cañon City. Corey suggested we take the River Trail along the Arkansas River. It was flat and calming.

Mark and Corey at the turnaround point

We stopped at WalMart on the way back to the Abbey. Mark bought fruit for tomorrow; I bought bungee cords to replace my failing cargo net.

River Trail is n Cañon City

Back at the Abbey we cleaned and lubed our chains. Each of us had different methods. Bike people are like that.

I tried to used the bungies to tie my dry bag onto my rack but after much effort I realized that the cords were too long so I returned to Walmart to exchange them for smaller ones. After much finagling and astute advice from Corey, I think the load on my rear rack will be much more secure and aerodynamic.

I hope this will be more better.

We ate PB&Js for lunch. It’s weird how much grape jelly weighs. My jar weighs a pound, so it’s being left behind to save weight. I’ll miss it.Corey’s solution to this is to buy peanut butter mixed with jelly. When I finish my small jar of Peter Pan, I’m going to try it.

Did I mention that the weather here is absolutely perfect: 65 – 80 degrees with low humidity and a cooling breeze. Do we have to leave? Yes, the assault on Hoosier Pass begins tomorrow.

We rode to dinner at a place called Mugs. I’ve eaten there three times already. We’re going there for breakfast before we start to climb.

Drivers here in eastern Colorado are impatient jerks. I’ll be happy to get out of here.

Miles today: 24 Tour miles: 1,260.5

Bike Tour 2022 – Cañon City day off

As usual I slept fitfully in my tent. It was a comfortable campsite but I neglected to take any Advil PM so I never really conked out.

At 9 a.m. I called the Abbey and lined up room for Mark, Corey, and me in the dorm.

I struck camp, said goodbye to my human hosts, Dwayne and Stephanie, and their three canine overlords, Raven, Eddie, and Daisy, and rode down into Cañon City for a late breakfast. I was following Dwayne’s directions (or so I thought) when I heard my younger sister’s voice. “Are you alright?!” I had butt dialed her while riding with my cellphone in my hip pocket.

By the time I arrived at the restaurant it was closed so I went to a second restaurant that was meh. I did drink a staggering amount of coffee so there’s that.

Next was a trip to the post office to mail home some maps. I was attempting to shed weight in anticipation of the climbing ahead. Between the maps, a dead backup battery, and a punctured bike tube, I think I slashed 3/4ths of a pound.

Mark texted me that he and Corey had arrived from Colorado Springs, after fighting a fierce headwind all morning.

We checked into our dorm rooms. We split the cost three ways even though I am getting a room of my own. The cost was $53 a piece for two nights.

1950s era dorm room. Beats sleeping on the ground any day.

Next up was the urgent matter of getting food into the new arrivals. We rode to a burger place that was as acceptable despite the limp fries. The milk shake and the conversation were good.

They returned to the dorm and I rode to a sporting goods store in search of straps to hold my camping gear to my rear rack. I’ve been using a cargo net but it’s best days are long gone.

Neither the sporting goods store nor an adjacent WalMart had anything useful.

Back at the dorm Mark gave me a new set of maps so my mailing was for naught.

We walked to dinner about a half mile. My stenosis pain made me feel every step despite a cane I fashioned out of a downed tree limb. (On the return the pain was negligible. My body is a medical enigma.)

Mark had a chicken enchilada that he quite enjoyed. Corey and I had beef burritos that were pretty much inedible. My kingdom for Chipotle.

Tomorrow is a rest day for all of us. Then we begin the ride to Hoosier Pass, about 6,000 feet of climbing over the next few days. Our first stop is the eccentric mountain stop of Guffey. It will be only 33 miles or so but we’ll gain about 3,000 feet of pain. We are praying for tailwinds. There’s a chapel down the hall; maybe they will help.

Miles today: 11.5. Tour miles: 1,236.5 or 53.8 miles per day

Bike Tour 2022 – Florence to Cañon City

Florence didn’t live up to its potential. No one escaped the SuperMax prison last night.

This morning I contented myself with the motel continental breakfast: coffee and granola bars. That’s all they had. I wonder if they feed the SuperMax prisoners like this.

Super 8 offered a not-so-super breakfast

I called the Warmshowers host in Cañon City and left a message. Then I rolled into Florence at the civilized hour of 9:30.

In town I stopped at the Copper Kettle for a real breakfast. Two eggs, hash browns, and two pancakes. Perfecto.

My plan was to ride the 8 or 10 miles to Cañon City to check out the possible shelter situation. If all else failed I could return to Florence to camp in Pioneer Park.

After breakfast I biked to the park to check it out. It was quite nice and verdant with some standing water here and there, the result of its sprinkler system. Okay, this would truly be the last resort.

I took my time riding to Cañon City. The road was narrow and quite busy. One classy Colorado dude in a big black pick up coal rolled me.

In Cañon City I rode past the Warmshowers house. It looked shipshape. Next I rode downhill to town and busy US 50. I found the abbey but it was closed for the weekend. It’s mostly a winery and assorted other ventures these days.

The Abbey. There are several other buildings on the campus

After the Abbey I went to a Walgreens to refill my glaucoma eye drops. Wonderful people.

As I was leaving the store, the Warmshowers host called and told me to come on up and camp at his house.

I made a quick stop at a Safeway for dinner (PB&J and an orange). A sign said it was 96 degrees at noon. I made a bee line to Mugs, a bar/cafe. After my chicken sammie and three tall glasses of ice water, I rode to the Warmshowers house, up a hill I had just descended an hour or so earlier. I was dreading the short climb but it was no big deal. Maybe I’m adjusting to the whole altitude thing after all.

Dwayne and Stephanie welcomed me warmly. I had yet another ice water and set up my tent just as a squall line came through. It was much more wind than rain. My tent didn’t budge.

While writing this post, Dwayne learned that the leader of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail race was cruising through Cañon City. We walked down the street to cheer him on. After five minutes we almost gave up, thinking we had missed him. Then there he was biking around a bend in the road. If you didn’t know any better you’d think he was just a local rider out for a quick spin. He started in Astoria, Oregon on June 5, a week ago.

Kraig Pauli, 56-year-old race leader in Cañon City

In a change of plans, Corey and Mark are coming to Cañon City tomorrow. Mark seems determined to stay in the Abbey dorm. I’ll check on availability in the morning. No worries; there are plenty of other options available.

The next couple of riding days will take us over Hoosier Pass, the highest point, over 11,000 feet, on the TransAm. Mark and Corey did this in 2019.

Miles today: 17.5. Tour miles: 1,225

Bike Tour 2022 – Pueblo to Florence

Last night’s dinner was trail mix and water. Yep, my lunch was so filling I couldn’t eat much of anything else. I must drink about a gallon of water every night. Very little of it sees the light of day.

I rode through Pueblo to get on the Adventure Cycling route but the digital map app I bought to guide me was useless.

I ended up with a tour of Pueblo’s middle class neighborhoods. I passed many arts and crafts bungalows and other styles of one-story houses. Once you get away from the highways, Pueblo’s not half bad.

This bungalow caught my eye. Love the paint, the art work, the pergola, and the little Buddha on the approachy to the porch. The black fence, not so much.

I gave up on the Adventure Cycling app and switched to Google maps. I was going great until it led me to a 4.5 mile dirt road. I backtracked and got on the main road, having gone about five miles in circles between the two apps. Give me paper maps any day!

Highway 96, which I have been on for a week or so, goes straight to Wetmore where my Warmshowers hosts live. In the process I gained 1,400 feet of elevation to about 6,100 feet in 30 miles. Of course, that includes riding over a ridge east of town that must have been more like 6,400 feet. The climb up was a 9% grade. I gave up about half way. The driver of a pick up stopped, backed up 100 yards, and asked me if I’d like a lift to the top. I stubbornly and stupidly said no and pushed The Mule on foot all the way to the top. I did this climb easily in 2019 so today’s hike-a-bike was very disappointing.

The ride down the ridge was fun. When I got to Wetmore I pulled out my phone to get the address of my hosts only to find that my phone had overheated and shut down.

There are only 3 streets in Wetmore. I tried the first but a local resident told me it could not have been his street. I rode to the Post Office on the next street but the Postmaster was new and couldn’t help me. Next I talked to a couple of women who were chatting a few houses away. They immediately knew which house I was looking for.

It as the first house that I passed.

Arriving at the house, I was greeted by barking dogs on both sides of the street. I figured they would alert my hosts to my presence but no one came to the door, so I helped myself to some water from the canteen on the porch (as they had advised me to do). After a few minutes Johnny came out. 6 foot 2, shaved head, fit, long sleeved technical shirt with a hood, leather kilt, and lace up boots that covered his calves. And, as it turned out, as pleasant a man as you’d want to meet.

I knew I was unlikely to stay because Johnny’s wife Kristin messaged me last night with the news that their daughter had tested positive for Covid yesterday. Still Johnny and I had a pleasant chat. He let me use his phone to book a room in a motel near Florence.

I had heard that there was a 1,000 foot climb between Wetmore and Florence. Johnny explained that the climb was southward. I was heading north.

He’s a bike commuter. He once fashioned a bike with two chain rings and one cog. He’d use the big chain ring to ride downhill to work in Florence and the small one to ride back home.

With the imposing Hardscrabble Mountains to my left and the ridge I earlier had walked up to my right, I cruised ten miles downhill to my hotel.

This county is home to ten prisons, three of which are next to my motel. One of them is the federal SuperMax prison. It’s occupants include the World Trade Center truck bomber, the Boston Marathon bomber, the shoe bomber, the underpants bomber, the Unabomber, numerous murderous Mafiosi and drug dealers, and Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent turned Russian spy. Before he died, the father of Woody Harrelson was imprisoned here. He was a hit man who killed a federal judge among others.

After checking in and dropping my bags, I phoned home to wish Mrs. Rootchopper a happy 34th anniversary.

Next I rode a half mile downhill to a fast food burger place for lunch. The burger and fries were medium but to me they seemed huge. I also drank about a half gallon of soda. They lost money on me.

I confirmed that I can stay in the city park tomorrow. It has early morning sprinklers but I’ll think of some way to make it work.

The convenience store next to the burger place is called the Loaf and Jug. They did not have any loaves but, incongruously, they had junk food from Cumberland Farms, a New England dairy.

I bought some junk food and a huge can of Australian liquid bread and rode back to the motel.

The vegetation west of Pueblo was noticeably different. That’s the ridge I walked in the distance
Hardscrabble Mountains on the road to Florence
Two of the prisons near my hotel. The SuperMax prison is not visible from the road.

Miles today: 48. Tour miles: 1,275

Today marks three weeks of the tour