No Name Your: Day 27 – Three Pieces of Eight

The Wanderlust Hostel in Gunnison worked out great. I walked to dinner at The Dive, a not at all divey open-air bar and grill.

I slept well which is attributable to me being super tired, wearing earplugs, and taking a little something to help me sleep. About a week ago I bought some chewy edibles at a weed store. I bought them as s lark to see how high I would get. I barely felt a thing out of the ordinary the first night I took one but I slept hard and woke up with zero pain in my wonky left knee or anywhere else in my body. As a pain reliever, edibles worked much better than ibuprofen.

After a humongous gut bomb at a Gunnison diner, I headed west on US 50. I left my bike in the backyard of the hostel, not knowing that it has a sprinkler system for the lawn. My helmet and gloves were the only things that got wet. Do I began the day wearing my floppy hat and the long fingered gloves I bought for descending mountain passes.

I couldn’t finish this beast

The ride from Gunnison was virtually flat and the wind was low. This allowed me to enjoy the scenery in the Currcanti National Recreation Area. The scenery is amazing here. I took a bunch of pictures, too many to fit on this post so check out my Instagram page (Search for Rootchopper, of course).

About 19 miles into the day I came across Dan Hurwitz who is riding east from San Jose. Dan was at a pull out along the road. He was using a compact luggage scale to redistribute the load in his panniers, because his bike was wobbling during descents.

We exchanged info. He gave me his card. His blog is bikerdan.wordpress.com.

Speaking of blogging cycle tourists, my friends Mark and Corey have abandoned their TransAmerica trip after riding well over 2,000 miles from Yorktown, Va. I don’t know quite why they packed it in but I’m pretty sure thin air didn’t help. They were a real treat to ride with. I was hoping to meet up with them in Oregon.

He told me the hills between Sapinero and Montrose were difficult. I was amused when he said, “It is what it is.” This should be the touring cyclist’s mantra. He reports that today and much of his tour featured a tailwind.

Oh joy.

After Sapinero about 900 feet of climbing would take me to 8,500 feet in about 5 miles. That hill was hard and the headwind was no fun but the scenery of the Blue Mesa Resevoir at least took my mind off the misery.

After a short descent, the road rose up again taking me to 8,700 feet. Okay, that was hard too. A week ago it would have done me in but my wee granny gear and wicked awesome scenery got me to the tawp.

A ten-mike descent followed. The headwind was no match for The Mule in full gallop.

Snow melt filled the creeks all day long

Near the base of the descent I pulled into a general store. They had no restrooms or WiFi for dining customers. I would have walked out but my body needed something more than another apple. The sandwich, fries, and Gatorade hit the spot. I paid without leaving a tip, which is highly unusual for me.

He died waiting to use the restroom

A sign in the store said I could find a restroom 1.8 miles to the west. And, thankfully, the pit toilet at a pull out met my rather urgent need.

Then began climb number three. Oh joy. This one was about 900 feet in five miles.

I stopped every mile to let my legs and lungs recharge. The top came and I posed from the obligatory I-climbed-this-motherfucker photo. (Should I have hyphenated motherfucker? Discuss.)

After my selfie moment, I gradually descended over 19 miles to the city of Montrose. I passed by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. From what I saw it has a lot of hills that look to be made out of adobe.

When I arrived in Montrose I discovered that I was now at 5,807 feet; this was the first time since Pueblo that I’d been this low. I also discovered that it was 89 degrees. I can’t complain. Other than the headwind it was a very good day to be on a bike.

Miles today: 64

Tour miles: 1,619

Top speed: 33.1 mph

No Name Tour: Day 26 – Conquering the Monarch

It was 39 degrees outside when I woke up. Not gonna happen. I ate breakfast of sorts on my room then hit the road at 7. Before even leaving the parking lot, I took off my long pants and my jacket. It had jumped to the 50s and I had a tailwind.

I was heading to Monarch Pass in US 50. A few days ago I utterly failed on a 9,000 foot mountain. How’ll I ever get over this 11,300 foot beast?

Don’t get too excited. The first four miles were a false flat, an almost imperceptible incline to the road. I gained 400 feet in elevation on what looked like level ground.

At Poncha Springs, the fun began: 18 miles and over 6,000 feet of climbing. I surprised myself by doing the first six miles in my middle chainring. The tailwind surely helped.

But at about 8,500 feet I started to feel the effort. I took a hit of albuterol to see if it would clear my lungs. No dice. Thin air is what it is.

With 12 miles to go I implemented my climbing plan. Stop when I get tired. Drink lots of water, eat something. Start again when my heart rate comes back to normal.

I did this five or six times. Once I stopped because a family of mountain goats were coming out into the road. I gave them lots of room.

As I climbed riders on (mostly) road bikes we’re flying down the mountain. Go ahead; make my day. The road very much reminded me of US 60 in West Virginia at Hawks Nest.

My itinerary called for me stopping 2 miles

Ride the Rockies riders descending
Hours of this

My itinerary called for me stopping 2 miles from the top and camping. When I got there I thought “Why waste a tailwind and eight hours of daylight?” I was prepared to walk the last mile, which had switchbacks that looked brutal. After a five minute break, The Mule and I managed to find a nice pedaling rhythm and went right to the top.

The parking lot of the general store was filled with hundreds of bikes and their riders. They were participating in Ride the Rockies, an annual event in these parts. They had just arrived at the top from Gunnison about 45 miles to the west.

I went into the store and bought a cup of coffee. It was about 55 degrees outside but I was shaking. The coffee helped with my body temperature but made me nauseous.

I was starting to feel the elevation big time. I got my picture taken at the pass sign then took off down the western slope of the mountain. It was a thrill ride comparable to last summer’s descent from Washington Pass.

My summit picture

There were hundreds of Ride the Rockies participants crawling up the mountain. I dropped from 11,300 feet to 8,450 feet in ten miles. All the curves were banked and the road was clear of debris. And, yes, I rode in the middle of the lane. I was passed four times on the way down.

At the base of the mountain I stopped hit lunch. A BLT, fries, and three glasses of ice water took me and hour to eat but it revived me.

I am Groot

The shop owner offered me a camping spot by the creek out back. I was tempted but decided to ride 32 miles to Gunnison.

Looking back toward Monarch
Bizarro rocks along the road to Gunnison

Stupid me. The wind had changed direction on this side of the pass. A strong headwind beat me numb the whole way. Once I got a cellphone signal, I called The Wanderlust Hostel in town. There I will stay until the morrow.

Apropos of nothing, I saw more dead deer between Sargent and Gunnison than I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Miles today: 64

Tour miles: 1,555

Top speed: 37.9 mph