No Name Tour: Day 24 – What a Difference a Day Makes

I crashed hard last night after a burger and a beer at a Westcliffe bar.

This morning I pulled a pair of bike shorts, a pair of socks, a shirt, a book, and two Adventure Cycling maps. I mailed them back home to lower the weight on my bike. I also tossed my jar of Nutella. I’ll have to do laundry more often and get used to straight peanut butter on my tortillas but I had to cut weight.

I also went to Candy’s Coffee for, well, coffee. Emily made me a mocha and a breakfast burrito. Thanks, ma’am.

Emily makes a fine mocha java

My motel did not have a vacancy for tonight but I thanked Mo and hit the road for Salida.

Within five miles I hit a hill that my legs wanted nothing to do with. I thought that this would make for a long day. I persevered and my legs finally kicked it. It helped that I had a decent tailwind and the terrain was gently rolling. I was riding with the snow capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains to my left and a dry rocky ridge live to my right.

The curvy road made for a fun ride. I’d come around a bend and get blasted by a side or head gust. Then things would calm down and I’d grind away.

After about 25 miles I hit a fantastic downhill that reminded me of my scary ride around Square Butte in Montana last summer.

I was buzzing along at 35 mph when I saw some bike riders waving at me from the opposite side of the road. I hit my brakes gently so as not to overheat the rims. I had a long talk with Tom and Stephanie who were riding from San Francisco to Key West supported by Stephanie’s brother in law John who was towing an Airstream style trailer.

They told me tales of horrible weather and scary mountaintops. Cold, snow, rain, and hail. They were glad to be nearly done with the Western Express.

Tom, John, and Stephanie

I bid them safe travels and pointed The Mule downhill. This descent went in for a few miles and over 700 feet of elevation loss.

It turned out that I lost a little under 800 feet in elevation today nearly all of it on this one descent.

It ended at a stop sign where I took a left on good old US 50. The winding two lane road followed the Arkansas River through a gash in the rocky landscape. The river was running fast, probably fed by snow melt. River raft companies were doing big business today.

As I was going upriver I was gradually climbing. My legs handled the grade without complaint.

On arrival in Salida I went to a bike shop. The mechanic was swamped but referred me to the Sub Culture Bike Shop around the corner.

I’ve been having trouble with my rear derailed since I had a new chain and cassette put on in Pueblo. Cam, the bike mechanic, fixed it in five minutes. Then I mentioned that I could use a lower granny gear. (This is the smallest, easiest to turn gear used in climbing.) Cam dug out a chainring they had two fewer teeth than the one on The Mule.

In ten minutes he installed the ring and I took it for a test ride. Shifting into and out of the chain ring is clunky but it works. And those two teeth will make a big difference in my climbing.

Cam the Gearman

It turns out that Cam used to work in a ski shop in Incline Village, Nevada at the north end of Lake Tahoe. He remembered that Don Kanare, a friend from my college days, bought skies from him. Small world.

I have to admit that I had some trepidation about riding at all today considering the fact that yesterday was one of my worst days on a bike ever. What a surprise that despite my fatigue today was one of my best days on a bike. I had enough energy to enjoy the beautiful scenery I was riding through.

I took a room in a renovated old motel just outside Salida. Depending on how tonight goes, I might stay here tomorrow night too. In any case, I’m not leaving Salida until Monday. I need to rest.

Then I’ll begin the climb to Monarch Pass. I plan in going up six miles and camping. If I feel okay, I’ll do another six and camp. I seriously doubt I can get over the top in one day. We’ll see.

Miles today: 52

Tour Miles: 1,484.5

Top Speed: 36.8 mph

No Name Tour: Day 23 – Let’s Ride over a Mountain, Not!

I began the day by riding to a WalMart north of Pueblo to buy supplies. Then I rode to the Post Office to mail something.

I was on the road pretty early, well before 8. The route began by wending me through a city park and some nice neighborhoods of modest, well kept single family homes. One of the homes was apparently owned by a whimsical artist.

I love the glasses

After my tour of Pueblo, I headed west on Highway 96. Again!

The terrain immediately switched to rocky desert. There was a two-mile hill leaving town that I didn’t pay attention to when planning the day. It wasn’t hard but, having not taken a day off in over three weeks, I felt like my legs were full of lead. Not a good sign.

Leaving Pueblo

About 25 miles into the day I was caught by Yoni Doron Peters who’s doing the Western Express with a friend whom he’s meeting in Canon City. He was loaded even lighter than Corey and Mark. How do they do it?

After 37 miles I met two men who were finishing up the Western Express Route. Jagdish and Steve told me of a place a mile ahead with water and bathrooms. Steve is ending his ride in Pueblo; Jagdish is headed for Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

It turns out that they ran into Corey and Mark there! It’s located in the town of Wetmore where the Western Express and the TransAmerica Trail diverge.

Of course, Corey and Mark we’re gone by the time I arrived. I stayed about 15 minutes then rode out only to spot one of Jagdish and Steve’s riding partners, Warren. I told him about the bathrooms and water. He was all smiles having descended from over 9,000 feet in 14 miles. He said the hill would be no problem. I noted that all three riders in his group had mailed home lots of gear to shed weight.

Jagdish and Steve
Warren, all smiles.

I bid Warren goodbye and began the climb he had just flown down.

Since I was not acclimated to the thin mountain air I decided to take it easy. The scenery was beautiful, conifers and aspen trees all over the mountain slopes. I didn’t see much of it as I had my head down, grinding away.

After three miles of nonstop climbing my heart was racing so I stopped on the side of the road until it settled down. I did this again at 6 miles, 7 1/2 miles, 8 miles, and 8 1/2 miles.

A woman in an SUV rolled to a stop as she was coming down the mountain. She asked if I was okay and offered me water.

This hill was the hardest climb I’ve ever done. And 8 miles into a 14-mile climb my legs were kaput.

Rather than risk a heart attack or a crash from the extreme fatigue, I decide to swallow my pride and walk. And walk. And walk.

From time to time I got back on the bike but my legs were gone. At one point my right leg muscles went into a cramp whenever I pushed down on the pedal.

Walk. Walk. Ride. Walk. Walk.

I had allocated 3 hours for what I originally though was a 10-mile climb. Suffice it to say it took more like 4 hours.

An ascent as pretty as it is painful
14 Miles of Up

My problem was a combination of not enough rest, too much weight, not eating and drinking enough, and age.

At the top the road gently rolled. A storm approached blowing me all over the place. Then I reached the descent. Wind howling, Mule flying. I saw a curve ahead with a 40 mph warning sign. I looked down and saw 37 and rising on my speedometer. I tapped the brakes to keep me from shooting off the road into the scrub and rocks.

It’s hard not to admire the landscape as you zoom downhill. Dead ahead loomed the ominous snowy peaks of the Colorado Rockies. Getting over them will be brutal.

I rolled into Westcliffe and looked for a motel that Jagdish and Steve recommended. The Courtyard Country Inn is a funky place with rooms arrayed around an outdoor courtyard with fountains.

Mo, the co-owner greeted me, and told me that there were no vacancies and probably none in town.

She took pity on me since I looked like I was about to keel over. She asked the Air B&B next door if they had anything. Only a $200 room. Then she remembered that some friends had booked tonight and tomorrow at her motel but said they might not come tonight. She called them and, indeed, they weren’t coming tonight. So I got their room!

Mo says they of anybody cancels for tomorrow night, I can have their room. I hope so; I like this place. Otherwise I’ll ride to Salida and get a room there.

Miles today: 63.5

Tour miles: 1,432.5.