Monumental day today! I went up over the highest pass on the route, Hoosier Pass. At 11,539 ft it’s the tallest hill on the route. After that it was insane weather, wind, climbs descents, and everything else. I’ll start from the beginning.
I got up at 5:45 because I’d heard the traffic up Hoosier was bad and wanted to get an early start. I got packed as quietly as I could (sorry to my roommates if I woke you up). I had a quick breakfast and rolled out around 6:30. The air was cold enough that my breath fogged up after every pant, and left a cool mist on the ponds I passed
In particular I knew I had a 10 mile climb with 2000ish feet of elevation up to the top of the pass. I tried not to think about it, keeping myself entertained with the views and by singing songs in my head
I reached a 180 degree switchback with a 10 mph limit and knew the climbing was starting. There was a second one immediately after and the road mostly stayed steep for the next several miles. Traffic was mostly light and though there wasn’t really a shoulder the road was at least wide. I kept climbing and occasionally had to shield my eyes from the bright sun
I got back on the bike to enjoy the descent I’d earned. What I failed to do was put on a jacket, and that descent was coooold. It was shaded (whereas the climb had been in the sun, why is that always the case?) and the air was still quite cold, I just hadn’t felt it due to the climbing. It was probably a 3 miles descent and I was shivering at the bottom. I was having a hard time working my shifters. I pedaled hard up the next few hills to warm up. I rode through the town of Alma, which is apparently the highest incorporated town in North America, but doesn’t wake up early enough for my tastes. I rode a few more miles along a bike path to the town of Fairplay (awesome name). It was too open: there were long lines at all the coffee places so I kept going.
I got on route 9 and was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is also bike route 76. Unfortunately it had no shoulder, which seems like it should be a requirement for a bike route. I was entering wide well irrigated valleys, much like I’d seen on the other side of the pass
I rode through the valleys here for many miles of shoulderless riding. A word about elevation: technically I was losing elevation for the entire day, as it was mostly downhill from Hoosier Pass. However, that doesn’t mean there were no climbs, and most of the elevation was lost in large descents rather than gradually. This meant that what I had assume would be mostly downhill coasting was more difficult than anticipated.
Along this stretch I ran into another cyclist. He was doing a custom route and headed up over the pass to stay at the hostel I’d been at the night before. He’d done the transam 7 years prior. We shouted at each other across the busy roadway, it was funny.
Anyways, I arrived at the town of Hartsel and went into a cafe for breakfast. The pancakes were amazing, everything else was just alright. I talked with a big group of motorcyclists about my ride and they were super interested, and met a cute dog who was super friendly.
I rolled out and after a few miles saw this straight ahead.
I didn’t feel like turning around so I forged ahead. The air got colder and the wind stronger as I got nearer the storm. I started climbing which stressed my poor legs after Hoosier. The rain started to come down gently and it was actually quite pleasant. I reached the top of this climb and got a view of more weather ahead.
The gentle rain continued as I made my way across this valley and up a super steep hill on the far side. The grass was vibrant and green, blanketing the hills
As I climbed I heard thunder in the distance. I didn’t see the lightening, but I was worried as the road was exposed, not in tree cover. I just hoped my luck held out.
I got to the top of the pass (9485 ft) and descended into another valley where the clouds looked even scarier, and it was raining hard straight ahead.
I pushed on and man that rain was heavy. It was falling fast and getting caught in the wind and smacking into me as I rode through it. Combined with my speed each droplet felt solid. There was the rainy road smell as I passed through. The roads were getting very wet so I tried to take it slow, I wasn’t sure how much control I’d have to react to drivers or other obstacles. For some reason the cars picked up through here which was unfortunate. Soon enough the heavy rain came to an end and it was just a drizzle. Then the drizzle came to an end and I even got some sun to dry me out. I hadn’t put on rain clothes because it’s a hastle, which isn’t a great reason.
I rode for a few miles as I entered a steep canyon. The wildflowers were blooming
I passed a bike on the side of the road which was advertising lodging run by a bike tourer. It would be about a 1 mile detour, but I was considering calling it for the day anyways, it looked like the rain was catching up with me. I rode up the steep road to Guffey, where the lodging was. First I got some hot food at a restaurant (shrimp, holy shit they were good), then I went and tried to find the lodging. I found it, it was this garage with all these crazy sculptures and art in the yard
But I couldn’t find the owner. After a few minutes of looking I just left and got back on the road. That meant another 30 miles to the nearest camping and lodging, but I was in the mood for it. Right as I rejoined the route I experienced hail for the first time on the trip. It cracked into my forearms and legs, anything uncovered, and hurt. Again, combined with my speed it was brutal. I pulled over to find a jacket and by the time I’d pulled it out and put it on the hail had stopped, but there was still a drizzle. It actually looked like there was worse to come so I pedaled hard to outrun the storm. I was immediately stymied when I hit a massive hill. Then descended it, and ran into another. We were on the edge of the valley and I guess that these ups and downs were the only way to build the road, but man was it tough. Luckily after that there werent any more large hills, just smaller rollers. I continued down the valley trying to outrun the storm
Luckily I mostly did, there wasn’t anymore rain for this section. There were unpredictable winds though that could grab you and blow you off course if you weren’t careful. Those winds got stronger as I hit a massive descent. Crosswinds while doing 30 mph with traffic are not fun. The cars were impatient because I was taking up a full lane to avoid being blown off the shoulder. It was crazy.
I entered an arid valley blanketed by sunflowers.
I had one more large climb with erratic winds then I dropped down to highway 50, next to the royal gorge. There was no shoulder and loooots of traffic on this road. The rain also picked back up. I was not having a good time so pulled off asap, to a KOA. It’s a nice facility with free showers and good wifi, but expensive. I cooked up a meal to get rid of some of the food I’ve been hauling for a thousand miles. When I went to wash my dishes I ran into a cyclist who’s doing the great divide trail and finishing tomorrow! His name was Charlie from Michigan and we talked for a while, complaining about traffic. Now I’m sitting inside avoiding rain and writing this. I’m gonna go get some sleep for an early wake up to avoid traffic on 50. Night!
- Odwalla juice
- Shot blocks
- Cliff bar
- Honey stinger
- English muffin with cheese
- Hash browns
- Louisiana shrimp
- Tortilla soup for 4
- La croix (!)
- Ice cream
- Orange juice