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