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