No Name Tour: Day 30 – Two Rides in One

After motel breakfast I tried to leave early but was cornered by some guests who also stayed at my hotel in Montrose a few days ago.

After the chat I was off to the west on Highway 145. More terrific scenery, a generally downhill route, and a gentle tailwind. Finally!

Not photoshopped, I swear

Just before Naturita I turned onto Highway 141. It was time to payback the downhill. You’d think I could get one day without a climb but no!

So I climbed out of the valley I had ridden into and over a rather large hill into a basin, a vast valley bordered by mountains. It was quite pretty, particularly after the climb because I rode right down into the basin.

On the ride down I passed all kinds of cool rock formations. Many of the bluffs had caves. Some of the rock formations reminded me of people and animals.

This is movie cowboy country. You’re sure you’ve seen this place in a million TV shows or movies.

After about 45 miles of riding that couldn’t be beat, it was payback time. I had to ride over a range to get to my motel in Dove Creek.

Looking back from Slick Rock Hill

Ride is used loosely here. I made it a mile or two up Slick Rock Hill (Coloradans love to call enormous mountains “hills” because they have mountains that are whoppers everywhere you look.

To help things along the wind changed direction. Nothing helps push a bike up a mountain quite like a headwind.

Occasionally I got on the bike and rode to the next steep section. Then I hoofed it some more. This hill, I was told, was preferable to the hill I avoided yesterday by riding to Norwood.

Near the top I jumped back in the saddle and finished the climb. I was expecting a 20 mile descent to Dove Creek but mostly what I encountered was rollers: down for a half mile, up for a half mile. And headwinds.

After all the flooding I saw earlier in the tour it was a relief to find freshly planted fields.

I thought this was going to be an 80 mile day. I managed to go through two apples, a banana, a Clif bar, some mixed nuts, and five bottles of water. And it wasn’t nearly enough.

It was good training for Utah and Nevada which have long stretches without food or water. (Tomorrow I’ll fill my 2 2-liter bladders to make sure they don’t leak.)

Today’s miles: 74

Tour miles: 1,764

Top speed: 34.4 mph

Tomorrow will be an easy day as I enter Utah. The next day is up in the air. Natural Bridges National Monument has a first come, first served camping policy and only 13 spots. I may skip it and camp at Lake Powell.

No Name Tour: Day 29 – Off Route to Norwood

I stayed up to watch game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Not that I cared but game 7s are usually exciting. This one was meh, mostly because this is only the second hockey game I watched all year. Time management is my middle name.

After my hotel breakfast. I rode westbout of Ridgway to Dallas Divide, an 8,900 foot pass through snow covered mountains and lush meadows. I hate the climbs around here but the scenery is amazing.

I was about a half mile from the top of the climb when I realized that I was killing myself to go 3 mph. I dismounted and walked the rest. The smile is one of relief.

Thank god that’s over

The ride down the other side was not as fast as I expected. Mostly I kept my speed under 25 mph.

I pulled into a general store in Placerville. I talked to a cyclist who had just ridden from Telluride. This was the route on my maps. He reported that he couldn’t find camping in town so he settled on a $180 motel room.

That’s a bit rich for my blood. I talked to the store owner. She confirmed that road over the mountain from Telluride is a killer climb and that the road on the downslope going into Dolores Co was partially blocked by a humongous boulder.

It would be cool to see the boulder but the climb would be to 10,200 feet. She, as did the people in Ridgway, recommended that I ride off route to Norwood, Colorado.

So I headed west to Norwood. This means I will miss Dolores and Cortez, Colorado. I’m sure they are scenic but the ride down the San Miguel Canyon toward Norwood was truly spectacular. The San Miguel River was gushing with snowmelt. The hills were red rocks, all jagged and menacing looking.

The road into the canyon
I started the climb of this “hill” way down there
The canyon looking west from near the rim

After ten miles of easy riding I hit Norwood Hill. I was lead to believe that this was no big deal but it was a climb out of the canyon. After a mile or so, I was once again grinding away for 3 mph. Time to push. I passed a crew working to clear fallen rocks off the road. I kept pushing and peaking over the edge of the road. There was no guard rail just a drop of several hundred feet.

I kept pushing and the base of the canyon kept getting smaller, until finally I was over the top and could ride into Norwood with minimal effort.

Norwood has three hotels. The working class motel had no vacancies. The tony Inn didn’t either. My last hope was the Back Country Inn on the west end of town. There was not a single car in the spotless parking lot. As it turned out this was because the motel’s guests were all road crews working in the area.

I asked the owner if there was anywhere I could camp. She offered me a space in the lawn behind the motel for $20 with shower, towels, and breakfast included.

Sweet.

No it’s time to head into town for some vittles. Tomorrow I ride over the mountains 70 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing and 4,200 feet of descending. I booked a room in the motel to be sure I won’t end up in the woods feeding Clif bars to the bears.

Miles today: 42

Tour miles: 1,689

Top speed: 31.6

By this point in a bike tour I am normally getting stronger. Not this time. The mountains and the thin air are very tough.