Day 49 – Westcliffe to Salida CO

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.

The stop sign in Westcliffe. That’s it. Last night after the town was cleared out around dusk there were teenagers skateboarding down Main Street, enjoying the fresh new smooth pavement.

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.

Frank Kennicot homestead, 1869.
The Beckwith Ranch. It was settled in 1869 and later expanded. The Beckwith brothers were  one of the influential families in early Colorado, one was a state senator, and the home was described in the 1880s as “one of Colorados mansions in the hills.”
This is why you hire an architect. Lasting design.
Kanasas doesn’t have a monopoly on zephyr mills.
I bet you thought we were done with decorative manure spreaders.

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.

Yup, we’re still on the Arkansas for one more day.
Rafting is popular here. Fishing too but it’s too muddy right now for the fish to see your bug.

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.

If you zoom in you can see a mountain goat drinking at the river, and several behind. Just by the fence you can barely make out the curled horns of the ram in the group. Odd, I thought they stayed separate.
So many places around here have these kind of cliched, Colorado names; Antler Creek, Piñon Ridge, Bighorn Valley. I’d just decided to name my Colorado spread “Flamingo Grove” when I saw this. It’s been awhile (Illinois maybe) since I’ve seen a “pallet flag” too, this one of the Old Glory variety.
Looking back down the Arkansas.
Sadly, the motorcycle museum was closed. This is the first veteran’s memorial mortocycle sculpture I’ve come upon. Points for uniqueness.  Damn telephone wires get in the way every time.
Western buggies. Back in Westcliffe I saw Amish or Menonites riding in more modern carriages with tires for wheels. I suppose that’s more comfortable.

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.

Cool old building

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.

10 thoughts on “Day 49 – Westcliffe to Salida CO”

  1. Coffee definitely helps me with altitude. You can order a double espresso and take it with you on the road. I’ve done a few distance swims in Lake Tahoe where without that espresso I’m not sure I would have made it. Drink coffee and get into a slow rhythm! What a great thing you are doing!!

    1. A double espresso can be found in Salida but not in 95% of the places I’ve stayed. I like the idea though. I have a stash of Starbuck’s Via instant which is better than most of the coffee I’ve had lately.

  2. Did you go swimming in the Hot Springs pool in Silida? We always stopped and stayed overnight in Silida on our annual CO vacation. As a kid, we loved that pool but it sure made you tired. I think that was part of my parents plan.😉

    1. Aww shoot I missed that. It sounds awesome and you have smart parents.

      I guess you figured out I chose not to detour to Greenburg. It would be interesting but was going to be 100 miles or so out of my way and I was craving new scenery.

  3. I think your pics are splendid, esp. when they’re enlarged! Gives an extra dimension of interest. Esp. loved seeing the mtn. goats and rams, Old Glory, & motorcycle museum (despite wires). I hope you had a great time w/Chuck & decided to stay there another night. Good not to rush thru life, acclimation sounds good to me.

    1. Thanks, Joanne. I think I mislabeled the critters though – given the curled horns they must have been bighorn sheep. I saw a sign earlier in the day warning about them on the road but misfired at the keyboard.

  4. Hey Jim-check this out:

    “Before a headache or migraine, blood vessels tend to enlarge. Because it contains “vasoconstrictive” properties that cause the blood vessels to narrow and restrict blood flow, caffeine can aid in head pain relief. When caffeine is added to the combination of acetaminophen and aspirin, the pain relieving effect is increased by 40%.”

    Drink up and take it slow up there. Enjoy the moment.

    1. Oh thanks for looking that up. So I had the pro-coffee thing right but the mechanism all backwards. Typical physicist. Sign error? Pish posh!

  5. Great to see pictures of the West. Your’e making great progress. We did Armstrong Woods (portobello burgers don’t attract so many bees) and pee-wee golf (they’re open till 10 pm and the kids are old enough for evening activities).

  6. Already in Colorado! Wow! You’re moving fast. You’ll be home in no time. The only thing that fixes altitude is lots of water and lots of rest to acclimate.

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