I woke up at 1:00AM this morning to clear skies – looking good for today’s ride. I made the early morning trek to the RV-land restrooms with my eyes upward, enjoying the clarity of the high altitude night sky.
Westcliffe announces itself on it’s “Welcome to” sign as a “dark skies” city, meaning basically that they only allow outdoor lighting that points down and avoid fixtures that leak lighting horizontally or up to the night sky. It’s a great thing for a city to strive towards and I was surprised to see awareness of the issue out here in such a rural area. But of course that’s the best place to take it seriously.
When I got up for real just after 6:00 it was with a raging headache that I attributed to the altitude. But nothing 2 ibuprofen, water and coffee couldn’t fix. I actually think coffee helps up here – something about opening your blood vessels or some such thing. I’ll have to check when I get to wifi.
Today’s ride was really wonderful, especially the first 20 miles or so. The country here is beautiful, the weather was perfect and I had some long coasts downhill that let me take in the scenery without passing out. I passed old homesteads, ranches and a few scattered homes as I descended through the Wet Mountain Valley. Then after a short traverse I dropped down to the Arkansas river (yes again) where I turned upriver through the deep canyon that it follows.
It’s frustrating taking photos here. I find landscapes really hard to capture – they look so huge in person and then you take a picture and all the detail that excited you is crammed into this little narrow band that looks as flat as a wall. The scenery here is all about vastness to me, and the iPhone doesn’t do vast so well. Or maybe I need to be more creative.
One thing that I’ve learned on this trip is how much better I feel when I take the time to do things right. This comes up a lot with pictures because I find that if I rush it – don’t get off the bike, just take one shot – it comes out less than I expected. It really matters to get off the bike, slow down and think about it. So often in life I rush too much to try and do more and I’ve really enjoyed the space to allow my life to open up, talk to strangers, and smell the roses (or the bay leaves as fits better here – I forgot to mention all those bays coming up Hardscrabble canyon yesterday – simply overpowering). That not-rushing is something I hope to hold onto after this trip.
I enjoyed the views but I had about 20 miles up the Arkansas that were too trafficked to enjoy. Most of the time people are considerate but this road had a poor shoulder and whenever a truck came from behind and in front of me at the same time I had to move off the road. It makes me angry to cede my right to the road but as a practical matter I need to stay alive to fight that battle. I got a good road shoulder back before reaching Salida so I could enjoy the rest of the ride in.
Salida’s a cool town – very hip and left oriented. I feel right at home, like I could be in, say, Grass Valley? One of the first things I saw coming into town was a retail marijuana store with solar panels on the roof. What struck me was that it’s the 1st weed store I’ve come upon in CO though I have to admit I wasn’t looking for them. I cruised through town and it has lots of older homes all fixed up prettily with multicolor trim to highlight the various architectural details – shingled walls, scrollwork, window trim and the like. Very cute but I think there’s a correlation between the cuteness of the homes and the downtown businesses and the fact this is the most I’ve had to pay for a hotel room the whole trip. Well I’m splurging because I’m meeting my buddy Chuck here tonight.
I’m a little nervous about tomorrow’s climb. It’s the highest elevation on this trip by far. I feel much better today after a good night’s rest and an easy day, but the air’s going to be pretty thin up there. I may need another day in Salida to acclimate, especially if Chuck keeps me up late. Yeah, it’ll be your fault Chuck. Nice thing about writing your own blog – the historian wins all arguments.