June 08, 2010
After breaking camp this morning, as I was walking my bike to the road, I found an unopened can of beer buried in the dirt. “It’s good calories,” Mathieu said, so I put it in my pannier.
We rode on pavement to Canon Plaza where our maps say “Snack stand on left may be open.” It was not open…this was just the start of a bad day. Auke posed in front of the stand while Mathieu took a picture.
The pavement turned to gravel and we started to climb switchbacks, giving us a good view over the valley town.
I found the guys waiting for me at the top of the climb. We decided our next meeting point would be 8 miles ahead. Soon enough, I was riding alone again. I simply cannot keep pace with Mathieu or Auke on the climbs.
I really do not mind riding alone – I am not forced to push myself to stay with a stronger rider or slow for a weaker one. I can stop when I want, pee when I want (which is often since I drink so much water), and there is no one around to see the frustration on my face from a tough climb, bad road, lack of energy, headwinds, etc.
At our meeting point, I found the guys waiting again. I ate a granola bar and drank the beer – it was 9:30.
The next section was a tough uphill to the first of two 10,000 ft summits. Close to the top, I passed a cool looking ranch. Just beyond it was an old abandoned cabin, presumably used my miners. There was a mine going into the mountain, hidden by overgrown shrubs. I looked inside (and wanted to go in, but didn’t) and continued on my way.
I had to walk the next section to the top. As I was pushing, I saw other bike shoe footprints in the gravel – so I wasn’t the only one struggling.
At the top, we again decided on a new meeting point – the Hopewell Lake campground, 13 miles ahead. This was a very tough section for me. I arrived at the campground 45 minutes after the other two.
I made stuffing and chocolate pudding to re-energize. It was too much to eat and I was uncomfortably stuffed for the next few hours.
Out of Hopewell, we descended on the paved US 64. I reached 40.2 mph! We turned off the highway and soon started climbing uphill at 5 mph. What a difference! One minute, 20 mph feels slow…the next, 6 mph is fast.
It was a difficult climb to the top. My stomach was overstuffed (borderline uber-stuffed) and it was quite warm outside. I rode slowly and stopped to rest often in the shade of pine trees.
We met at the top and I informed they guys of my exhaustion. I did not know how much further I could go.
We rode a short downhill, then continued up again. The landscape changed from forest to high plains. In the distance, we could see the snow-covered peaks (presumably across the CO border).
We turned west and descended. The road was loose gravel and we had a strong headwind. We had to pedal hard to go anywhere. When we crossed the Rio San Antonio, I stopped to filter water. The mosquitoes were horrible!
Shortly past the river was a steep climb on more loose gravel. When I got to the base of the climb, I could see Auke at the top and Mathieu pushing his bike up the last 100 meters.
After such a tough morning, I couldn’t muster the strength to mash the pedals uphills. It was a long walk to the top. There wasn’t even a descent to enjoy. We stayed level on the frustratingly loose gravel and still had a terribly headwind.
Mathieu and Auke were nowhere to be found, so I continued. I was getting increasingly frustrated with everything. I really wanted to stop and pitch my tent at every patch of flat grass I passed. But my partners were up ahead somewhere, so I had to continue.
Even at my breaking point, I had a huge smile on my face when I turned a corner and saw Auke sitting by his bike. Unfortunately, this was not going to be our campsite for the night. We rode another painful mile to the campsite. We assembled our shelters and cooked much-deserved meals.
While eating, we heard strange grunting/growling noises in the nearby woods. It wasn’t anything we had heard before…could it be bears?
It made us nervous for a while until we figured out it was cattle. I slept easier knowing that.