How lucky am I? I put out the call on warmshowers for a place to stay and I have had the pleasure of staying with the Kramers for the last two nights. They are networkers in the best sense of the word – you know how some people or couples are hubs around which many people orbit? That is the Kramers. I’ve had the pleasure of staying in their lovely home in Telluride and sharing the best of everything they have for the last two days. They have been absolutely wonderful hosts and I’m very grateful to them for welcoming me into their home and their circle of friends.
Having a place here has allowed me to explore Telluride in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and have a little window into life here among the rich and famous. That’s not hyperbole here, it’s just a necessary condition for living here, unless you’ve been here a long time. And I’m not trying to attach t any other adjectives automatically to that. Everyone I’ve met has been warm, welcoming, attentive, caring – perhaps I’ve been lucky but if there is something real about a place having a positive vibe, this place has it – because my encounters with folks have been overwhelmingly positive. Two thumbs up for Telluride and the people that call it home.
I can’t be here though and completely put aside race and class. Having had this wonderful experience here, you notice a lack of diversity (and I mean economic diversity), you can’t help but contemplate “how does it change a town when the entry level house is $1M and $3 or $4M is the norm. It misses some ethnic diversity too but misses more the rounding out of a population with non-millionaires. What’s missing? It’s lovely, but… and what comes after that “but” is more of a void than an answer – at least at this late hour.
The town has unparalleled mountain beauty. It’s surrounded by mountainsides and canyon walls on three sides. Every little 1200 sq ft house in town has been updated, painted in lovely, matching tones and most have lovely yards and gardens. Most were built in the late 1800s or early 1900s and have classic Western high-pitched roofs to shed the snow. I spent hours today just wandering the town and looking at the homes and thinking that my own home is in serious need of some sprucing up. Not sure we’d make it in the gates here.
Here’s a random sample of spots I noticed today. The other thing about Telluride is that its a pain to get to from anywhere in the world but if you get the chance, check it out.
My eyes were on the weather forecast early today because I’d heard we were expecting early storms today. Many thanks again to Glenn, Jeff, Jim, Tommy, Monika, Jesse and Adam for hosting me last night. Since I didn’t have a tent to dry out I was on the road pretty early – hoping to get over today’s pass before the rain fell.
In Colorado a day’s progress is no longer measured in miles – it’s all about passes. So far I can do a pass a day – any more I think would be too much climbing. And today was tough because it was more like a pass and a half. I hadn’t expected such a climb up to Telluride (though I should have I guess – it is a ski resort after all).
After leaving the cabin I made the quick run back down to Ridgeway where I got distracted by the local farmers market. I picked up a delicious pastry and loaf of bread to take with me on the road. That will be lunch, or a gift for a warmshowers host.
Leaving Ridgeway I had about a 10 mile climb to the Dallas Divide. As I was checking my map I was passed by three women cyclists who offered help if I needed it. I didn’t and thanked them (I think or did I just say I’m good which is a poor substitute). The climb was the typical Colorado style one – easy grade but long so I settled in and just enjoyed the scenery. The climb had an awesome view of the Mt. Sneffels range, a good shoulder, and sun on my back so all was good with the world.
I couldn’t help but push myself to keep up with their group. Ask my buddy Will but whenever I have a rider “in reach” in front of me I can’t help but push to keep up, even if its foolishly done on a 70 lb bike. I stayed with them for a bit and we stopped and chatted for awhile. They even offered to host me if I didn’t find a place which was very kind. Again this luxury of the cross country cyclist – so many people have reached out to help me on my way.
They lost me near the summit and I stopped to take pictures. When I got back on the bike I found I was more tired than I thought. The good news was I literally had a 13 mile descent with no need for pedaling. That’s the big Colorado payoff.
By the time I reached Placerville at the bottom of the hill, the storms were closing in and I was still 20 miles from the Telluride area, where I hoped to spend the night. I hunkered down at the store, had a veggie sandwich and fell promptly asleep as the rain came down. Megan and Jonah will tell you I can sleep anywhere after lunch and I had a lovely nap while the storm played out.
It cleared enough to get back on the bike and I made another long slow climb up the valley toward Telluride. After the rain the. San Miguel River made this amazing transition, in a matter of minutes, from clear and green to deep muddy red, and then back to clear and green again. The showers must have dumped a lot of the local red dirt in the river and when it stopped, the river color returned just as suddenly. I’ve never seen a river do that so quickly before.
The climb up the valley was more tafficky than I like it but I just slowly ground my way up the valley until Telluride was in site.
The wealth of the area starts to show a few miles from town and I was treated to the first bike path I’ve seen in ages – complete with underpass for bikes to cross under the main road as you enter town. It’s immediately clear too why the place is so famous – it’s cute as hell, lined from one end to the other with cool restaurants, bars, shops, breweries mostly done in old historic buildings, and with the mountains providing a beautiful backdrop to it all. I only stayed a little while because it was getting late, the horizon was looking stormy again and I still had no idea where I was sleeping tonight. Turns out Telluride has a city campground but on the Friday night it was full.
Then two of my requests for lodging answered at once and tonight I’m staying with the Kramers, Don and Eileen, and their family who are super hosts and have an amazing mountain lodge that they share with friends and cycling travelers. They’ve even welcomed me to take a rest day tomorrow and explore Telluride – an opportunity I’m glad to have.
Thanks Eileen the cyclist too for the offer of a place. I’m so greatful and overcome with all the good will and welcome that I’ve received here already.
Oh dear, it looks like I hardly got anywhere today. Oh well, I enjoyed it.
I don’t know exactly what “be careful” means but it reminds me of the woman who came up to me in a parking lot in Missouri. “You have a lot of guts to be riding on these roads.” The way she said it did not express care or compassion for me or my ride. What she meant was “get the hell off the road, this is no place for you.” Her demeanor communicated the message clearly.
I know that people generally are trying to be helpful, and often they are showing genuine concern when they say “be careful”. But I’m up to here with “be careful.” What set me off was I pulled into a campground on my route today because the clouds were darkening and lightning was approaching. I had my lunch in my bag and thought this campground would be the great place for it.
I found a covered spot, complete with an electric outlet – perfect spot. My self charging hub stopped working for my phone though it still runs my lights, so that puts me always on the make for juice for my phone and backup battery. Anyway, the spot was also occupied by 4 guys who were cleaning the restrooms (4 guys? I know). One of them starts with “hey be careful, there are a lot of crazy drivers out there” which kind of says to me – “hey be careful out there because I drive like an idiot” or “hey get off the road because you really shouldn’t be on the road anyway.” Then he launched in to story after story about cyclists getting creamed by drivers. “Hey, can we talk about something else?” says I. “I pretty well acquainted with crazy drivers. On average, one cyclist a day is killed in the US. I know because I looked it up.” To which one of his buddies says, “that’s really not that many.” Ahem, I’m still here.
Does he stop to notice that I have two running lights, a mirror so I can see idiots approaching? I am constantly scanning that mirror and every car that approaches I ask; is that car going to hit me? Is he moving towards the middle? Is he slowing down? And 3 times in the last week the answer hasn’t been clear so I drove off the road to avoid the possibility of getting hit. Does he notice the big goofy dayglow vest on? A helmet? Motorcylces here don’t even use those. No.
He launches into one more story – but it’s different. This time it’s about the time HE was hit by a car as a teenager. He ran a red light, got knocked under a car, clung to the bumper as the car came to a stop and was relatively unscathed (physically) though clearly there are scars. He went on to say that the guy driving the car bought him the nicest bike in town but after a couple of years he gave it up anyway. Oh dear, this guy has suffered some serious trauma on a bike.
OK so finally I get it. I’ve missed the point of the stories altogether. Once again I thought it was about me, and it was about him all along. Mental note; it’s not about me. Set my iPhone for this time tomorrow; it’s not about me. Next month; still not about me.
Last night I was woken by the sound of drops falling on my tent. Shoot – I was so sure it wasn’t going to rain tonight that I forgot to cover my bike seat. See it’s a leather Brooks saddle – the model most often chosen by touring cyclists. But it has one major defect in my eyes – it can’t get wet or it softens and changes its shape. The whole appeal of the Brooks is that it molds to fit your butt but you don’t want it going all soft and getting saggy on you. So up an at ’em, I need to dig out my trusty high tech low-weight untra-compressible seat cover (aka plastic shopping bag) and get that seat covered up before I end up riding a saggy seat the next 1000 miles.
So what do I see when I drag myself out of the tent? The sky is half stars – brilliantly clear stars – interspersed with clouds and lightening. I’ve never seen anything like this stars and lighting? I wish I had a time exposure camera because words fail me but it was spectacular.
Today I was a bit slow out the door due to the rain last night. Had to wait for the tent to dry out and, being in a bit of a canyon, it took awhile to get the direct sun on my camp. But soon enough I was on my way.
I’m lucky that my buddy Glenn and his friends are staying a short hop from my route, just south of Ridgeway. Thanks Glenn and your friends for hosting me to dinner and a roof over my head as the storms come down tonight.
I woke up at 8:00 AM, two full hours after I’m used to getting up. I hadn’t set my alarm because I knew I needed some extra rest but I didn’t expect to sleep that long. The climb yesterday must have taken more out of me than I thought and not only did I wake up late, but I’ve felt kind of like I’ve been in a dream all day long. Have you ever had that experience after a nap, where you couldn’t quite figure out if it was the same day or another day and you were still groggy? It was like that but from morning on through the whole day.
My trip today felt like a dream too. Am I really here out in the high country of Colorado, surrounded by buttes, pinnacles, rushing streams and sage? Is the sky really that big? Look it’s raining over there but not here. All these thoughts seemed to swim around me today and I’m appreciating how phenomenally lucky I am to be able to do this. It is a wonderful luxury to travel slowly through the landscape, appreciating its beauty, without rushing. Just soaking it up, breathing it in.
I did opt for a hotel last night after all which felt sort of like wimping out but I was cold and exhausted. Given how much I slept I must have needed the rest but I’m really getting sick of hotels, even when they’re perfectly comfy, which this one was. The cheapskate in me opted for the free breakfast which was a mistake that I paid for all day. They had this machine that I can only describe as a pancake printer that doles out 2 pancakes at the press of a button. Kind of amazing and yet horrifying at the same time. Anyway I ate them and it will be the last time. Heavens my gut has felt bloated all day, like I swallowed some angry pancake that refuses to be digested. I couldn’t even eat lunch today because of it. I’ll get some calories in me later but right now, not eating feels like what my body needs to tame the angry one inside.
I felt like I was moving in slow motion all day which was actually wonderful. As I pedaled out of town I stopped to take lots of pictures and chat with people I met. I wasn’t trying to get very far today which was good because I don’t think I could have if I’d wanted.
I rested for a long time at Sapinero, at a little store looking over over the Blue Mesa Reservoir. I made a new friend Rosie (how did I not take her picture? Duh), an old golden retriever, and chatted with the store owner. She loves the place, especially in the winter when all the tourists are gone. She mentioned they’d moved around quite a lot so I asked her if she had a favorite, one that was special. She said they were all special in their own way which sounded wise to me.
I kept having the sense today of being connected to the continental divide by an elastic band. For the whole trip, up until yesterday, that band has been pulling me along, speeding me towards the West. Now that I’ve crossed the divide it feels like it’s pulling me back, slowing me down, tying me to the present.
Road construction also slowed me down a lot today. There were three long construction sites where they had traffic down to one lane so that they had to let through a bunch of cars one direction, then a bunch the other. Being the only one there on a bike, of course I get pulled aside and told that I have to go last. So everybody at the other end has to wait for me to huff and puff through the construction zone and make it to the end long after the cars have zoomed off. Most folks gave me thumbs up and didn’t mind the wait but I got one “hey put a motor on that thing” which I thought was an exceptionally stupid thing to say. Either if you’re for me or against me, you can surely do better than that.
The last construction zone presented a bit of a tough choice for me to make. As I waited at the traffic control flagger, she informed me that the zone would be about a mile and a half, uphill, and on gravel and that they would like to give me a ride if I would accept it. Apparently they’d encountered cyclists before who have refused a ride on principle or for whatever reason. It didn’t take me long to decide that I’d take the ride. I’m not that much of a purist that I will make a long line of cars wait for me to climb a hill at 3 mph in the gravel. The added emissions of that event alone might obliterate any carbon I’ve saved by traveling across the country by bike. It was a long line of cars (cue song of same name by Cake here).
I settled in Cimarron tonight, in a camp near where the Cimarron river meets the Gunnison in the Black Canyon. It’s beautiful here with steep rocky walls to one side and smooth sage covered hills to the south. But I have to admit that I just wanted to stay in a place called Cimarron. Isn’t that about the most Western-named place this side of the Pecos?
It’s a day for big milestones; 50 days on tour means I’m about 2/3 of the time I expected this journey would take, and, more significantly, I crossed the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass.
Chuck and I had a great time and I really appreciate him making the trek to visit and support my ride. Seeing him really energized me for the day ahead. I’m so glad that Chuck, Kent, and Adam have found me on the ride. The older I get, the more I value those connections with good, old friends.
Chuck and I had a huge breakfast at the local Mexican place before I started out of Salida under clear, blue skies. While we were seated there an older guy strolled in, said “Hi Chuck” to which his friend answered, “Hi Jim” we cracked up but I hope they didn’t think they were laughing at them. Anyway, with perfect temps, food in my belly, and Mariah at my back, it was a perfect opportunity to summit the pass.
I got an idea of what I was in for when, about an hour up the pass, a truck drove by with smoking brakes. And I’m not talking a little smoke, or a faint odor. I mean this thing was belching dark smoke from its brakes while 4 cars followed it down the hill. Why the guy didn’t pull over and let them cool is beyond me. I hoped I would’nt hear about him in the news tonight and pedaled on with a new view of what must be coming up ahead.
I climbed, slowly. For the first 15 miles or so it was a steady, gentle climb but when I hit the real climb I put it in an easy gear and spun. I focused on hydrating much more than the Hardscrable climb the day before yesterday, and I think it paid off. As I got higher and higher, I noticed the air thinning again but it didn’t seem nearly as fatiguing as before. Seems those days at altitude really helped. Near the top I took frequent breaks -I kind of had to. I found I couldn’t drink and ride at the same time at this elevation too often – it would leave me huffing and puffing.
As I neared the summit the temperature dropped by 10 degrees or so and some big dark clouds rolled in. The tough thing about summit rides is that you’re hot and sweaty as you hit the top, and as you walk around taking selfies and snacking on pretzels (no kidding at the summit was a mini-cafe and gift shop) you quickly get cold. You don’t want to do a 7 mile, 6% grade descent cold or heaven forbid wet, which I was because as I was noodling around at the top those clouds started to drop big freezing droplets.
It was an interesting scene at the top – an eclectic mix of tourists in shorts and tees buying ice cream and snacks, Harley riders doing their thing in chaps and full leathers, me – the only cyclist I saw all day, and a bunch of Colorado Trail hikers. Turns out the store there is a mail drop and there were probably 10 hikers picking up boxes of food that they mailed themselves for their journey along the Divide. They all looked lean, tan, dirty and unshaven but all seemed in good spirits as they joked to each other about the silly souvenirs for sale.
So I waited a bit more and started digging out my cold weather gear. But even knowing what I do about descending, I didn’t get it warm enough the first time so I had to stop and put on all my cold weather stuff; arm warmers, knee warmers, rain jacket, vest, buff (for my neck and nose), and full finger gloves. Finally I could make it down the hill without shivering and risking hypothermia.
It was a quick descent and I gave up the hard won altitude in a matter of minutes. Literally about 8 miles down the road and I had to pull over to take all that stuff off again, and before you know it I was down to the legal minimum again (at least for a guy my age) and it was getting hot.
Farther down the valley I was happy to be warm again and glad that I’d made it over this big pass. But I also had a strong twinge of loss and a desire to cling on to this trip as long as I can. You know the bites of the cookie often get more dear as you get down to the last ones, but really they’re all the same right? So I’ll take the renewed sense of appreciation for the opportunity to do this, and cherish the moments.
Gunnison was my destination for the day, which I expected to be an easy pedal. And it was that, mostly downhill, Mariah firmly at my back most of the way. But those puffy clouds on the horizon kept getting darker and darker and before I knew it, here come those big, freezing drops again.
Once again I had to pull over, suit up with warm stuff, before continuing down the hill in a continuous pour. Sun, rain, sun, rain – welcome to Colorado said a local when I described my day. The rain really wasn’t too bad but by the time I hit Gunnison I was ready for something warm and dry. So here I sit in the local cafe trying to see if the storm will abate and I can hit the local camp, or if I’m going to have to hotel it again. Frankly I was looking forward to sleeping under the stars but these skies doen’t show much sign of that.
"If I had my druthers, I'd ride a bike" Jim's low CO2 trans-am cycling trip