Radium to Steamboat Springs

June 16, 2010

As we broke camp this morning, we heard loud grunts of cattle in the distance. They were being herded down the mountain we soon had to climb. We switched from packing hurriedly to being more relaxed.

Immediately out of out campground, we crossed a bridge over the Colorado River. We were stopped on one side. The herd of cattle was on the other. They acted stubbornly and did not to want to cross the bridge. After watching the ranchers struggle, we crossed and started climbing.

The road became steep right away. Based on the map elevation profiles, this was the easier section of the climb.

Part of the way up, Mathieu realized a part of his odometer was missing and went back to check the campground. I’m not sure if I would have turned back no matter what I forgot.

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I managed the less-steep part of the climb decently. That changed when I reached the more difficult section. I stopped at a section of road that seemingly went straight to a mountain then switchbacked steeply up it. I saw Auke stopped high above me, likely taking pictures from his vantage point.

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I turned around and looked back at Inspiration Point, which we descended yesterday. We already were at the same elevation and had more climbing ahead.

A look back at Inspiration Point

I tried to ride further, but my legs wouldn’t do it. Mathieu slowly passed me just before I started walking. I pushed my bike up the the switchbacks for the next few miles – my longest walking stretch yet.

When I finally reached the top, I was in awe at how much I had ascended.

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Even though I reached the top of the epic climb, there was only a short downhill. 1,000 feet of climbing followed in the form of quarter to half mile short ups and downs. They were steep and rocky and the descents usually ended in sharp turns, killing all momentum.

As I left the rollers behind, my water levels neared empty. I was very far behind the others so I decided not to stop to filter water. I was mentally beat from walking so long. I also had not payed much attention to my odometer or where I was on my map.

At one intersection, I was at a complete loss as to which way to turn. I stopped and tried to rationalize which crossroad I was at. Without the odometer, I was guessing. I dismounted my bike, and scanned the rocky road for mountain bike tires, though there were none to be found. I made up my mind to go in one direction. Before I left, I filled my camelbak bladder straight from a stream just in case my guess was incorrect. The water was quick and clear, so I didn’t bother filtering it…

Minutes later, I noticed my bike feeling very bouncy – indicating a leak in my rear tube. I decided I would ride it out as long as I could. I had a feeling I was approaching a highway the route intersected.

About a quarter mile before it, the tire was too flat to ride on. So I walked the remaining distance. Mathieu was waiting for me there. Auke had ridden ahead. He had ridden the entire climb! I felt embarrassed to appear out of the woods walking my bike.

Mathieu waited as I fixed the flat and ate some quick energy. We rode on the highway together for a few miles before turning off road again. I needed to stop for a proper meal, so we agreed it was best to meet 45 miles ahead in Steamboat. Since I would undoubtedly be very late into town, Mathieu and Auke would leave instructions in the Subway where we’d be staying.

Mathieu rode ahead at his stronger pace and I was left alone again. The hard part of the day was almost over – a few more miles to Lynx Pass, then 40 miles and 2,000 ft down to Steamboat. Just before Lynx, I stopped for food and rest. I felt relieved knowing no one was waiting for me.

Summiting the pass was easier than expected. I sung aloud as I coasted down the other side. The miles went by quickly.

The route rejoined pavement 15 miles before steamboat. A strong tailwind pushed me into town. Cruising easily at 25 mph felt good!

Once into town, I rode directly to the Subway. Mathieu and Auke were still there. I ate a sandwich before we searched for a hotel. We picked a LaQuinta for one night – the rates were too high for tomorrow night due to an event in town.

I had a taste for fresh fruits/vegetables, so Mathieu and I walked to the Wal-Mart. There was no produce section…so I bought junk food instead. I ate too much of it and went to bed with a stomachache.

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