Journal May 29-June 7--Colorado

May 29 Colorado Springs, CO
We met Dr. Steve Below at Dr. David Beyer's office in Colorado Springs. The local TV station was there and filmed us riding around the neighborhood. Steve had flown up from Alabama to spend a few days with us and bring us to a ranch in the mountains of which he is part owner. First we had great adjustments from Dr. Beyer, and we were treated to a tour of local natural wonders. Our host is a wonderful guide and entertainer, and we enjoyed seeing his favorite back-country roads and waterfalls, while listening to his tales of rock climbing and mountain biking in this area. At dinner, several patrons came up to say they saw us on TV, and we got a lot of good wishes and encouragement from them.

If dinner in a natural-foods restaurant wasn't enough to remind us we were in Colorado, a midnight hot tub at Dr. Beyers (Dave by now), complete with stories and philosophy, did it.

May 30 Woodland Park, CO
Although Steve is part owner of the ranch in Woodland Park, the lodge was reserved for today, so we got a room in town before spending the day at the ranch. We drove back to a remote corner of the ranch, then hiked and climbed to a beautiful overlook above the Platte River. The hike with Steve in that beautiful, classic Western landscape is sure to be a highlight of the trip. Only Ellie missed it; she was in her own kind of heaven riding horses back at the ranch's stable. Later we rode our bike around the area for a bit, feeling our lungs at 8000 feet.

Spending time with Steve Below, whose organization, Preferred Chiropractic Doctor, is our main sponsor, was valuable. He is a guy who knows how to have fun, and has plenty of great ideas for the trip. Since we are not raising money for a charity or campaigning for a cause, it is sometimes hard to make our message clear to the media or to an individual without a long explanation. Steve helped us to put our message into focus:


The ascent

The descent

May 31 Up To The Continental Divide
Steve dropped us off in Salida, Colorado, at the approach to Monarch Pass, our biggest challenge of the trip. Monarch Pass, Route 50, climbs from Salida, about 7200 feet above sea level, to the Continental Divide, at 11, 318 feet, then down to Gunnison on the western slope, about 8000 feet.

After shopping and waiting out a rainstorm, we started climbing shortly after noon, planning to camp part way to the top, maybe even at the top. The approach was not too steep, but was full of Memorial Day traffic, much of which included trailers and campers. The highest winds we have encountered so far swept off of the snowy slopes above and slowed our progress to a crawl. About halfway to the summit, before the really steep part, we stopped at Monarch Shadows, a ski-condo and lodge establishment. After hearing our story, Dave, the owner, decided that we should stay, no charge. That is how we found ourselves in luxurious accommodations once again, while our tent and sleeping bags remained packed. It was good to have another night at these altitudes to acclimate to the thin air. Brother-in-law Scott drove over from Gunnison to see us and take our heavy gear back in his car so we could climb more easily tomorrow.

June 1 Down the Continental Divide to Gunnison, CO
Instead of calm weather we awoke to howling winds and clear blue skies, the kind of blue that only the Rockies seem to have. The wind made our task more difficult, but the cool, sunny weather was enjoyable anyway. We started out in a low gear and soon found ourselves in the lowest gear our bike had to offer: 20x32. Our brisk spin gave us about 3mph, but occasionally we were able to shift up and go 5mph for a few hundred yards. The last six miles offered no such break as we slowly ground the pedals around in circles at 2mph, inching our way toward the treeless, snowy pass. We rested often, ate and drank the right amounts, battled wind and gravity, and achieved our goal in the early afternoon. The ski area at the top offered a tram ride to the summit, so we ate our lunch at 12,000 feet, Henry on the western side of the Continental Divide and the rest of us on the eastern side. We nearly froze in the wind, which had gusted to 70mph earlier that day on the summit.

Donning tights and wind jackets for the descent, we posed for a picture at 11,318 feet and started down. Too windy and too many sharp curves to break any speed records, we nonetheless had a thrilling 9 mile descent, with several stops to cool the brakes and climb on rocks for spectacular views. Even after the main descent, the road sloped gently down toward Gunnison, and the next 30 miles went fast despite the still-stiff headwind. Scott and Marie served us elk for dinner, and we had no trouble sleeping that night!

Scott is an artist and outdoorsman, a guide and outfitter. His artwork graced the room where we slept, and the kids learned a lot about the techniques of fine art in his studio. Although they have made their home in Colorado for ten years, Scott and Marie are planning to move back east, to be near family and enjoy (and paint) the outdoors in New England and the Seacoast.

June 2 Layover in Gunnison, CO
Gunnison is in a high desert at 8000 feet. The surrounding hills and mesas have sagebrush and little else growing, and the fields and pastures in the valleys are green only because they are irrigated with water from the Gunnison River or other snow-melt creeks and rivers.

I spent the afternoon at a neighbor's house using his computer to catch up on the website updates and write a newspaper article. I am still without a laptop computer since we decided that mine was too heavy for a trip like this, way back in Virginia. The afternoon and evening was spent in our now-familiar routine of laundry, packing, talking, eating, and poring over maps, getting information on the following day's route and topography. We have found that bicycle enthusiasts are the only reliable source of information on the hills; motorists who sincerely believe that the road to the next town is dead flat are often wildly mistaken.

Uncle Scott gave Henry a short, short haircut out in the garage, but it was still longer than he had hoped. So Dad took his razor and shaved Henry's head so close it was shiny. He looks like a little Buddha.

June 3 Gunnison, CO to Cimmaron, CO
What a beautiful ride today! Classic Colorado blue skies, and thirty miles of mostly flat riding along the Gunnison River and the Blue Mesa Reservoir. An afternoon wind came up and made for a challenging nine-mile climb once the road left the valley. Late in the day we barely made it to the top of the last climb, and enjoyed a breathtakingly beautiful descent into tiny Cimmaron. The campground there had cabins for just a few dollars more, so we enjoyed showers and beds once more. The kids go to row a boat around a pond there as the sun set behind a mesa. As soon as that happened, the temperature dropped enough to send us scurrying for our cabin, where Patti had prepared a great hot meal.

June 4 Cimmaron, CO to Delta, CO
Three more miles of descending brought us to a great breakfast place. Why was it great? Huge, dinner-plate sized hot cakes (Western for Pancakes), real butter (a rarity on the road), and real maple syrup (almost unheard of outside New England). Before breakfast the cook joined us as we watched two cowboys give their mounts a workout on the steep sage-covered slopes across the highway. They were coaxing the last few uncooperative steers of a mighty herd heading east to somewhere, probably summer pastures. Henry and Ellie enjoyed every thrust and dodge as the two cattlemen outsmarted their persistent tormentors. Dad was rooting for the steers.

After breakfast we took a one-mile detour down a canyon to a huge dam that makes a lake out of the Gunnison River. Then a climb, just five miles (but steep ones) brought us to Cerro Summit, at about 8100 feet. Fifteen miles away lay Montrose, at 5700 feet. No uphills blocked our way, and only a headwind made us work up a sweat. In Montrose we shopped for lunch, and decided to head out of town to eat it. Our route brought us to the north, and the wind shifted and rose, so we found ourselves with a 25mph tailwind on the gradually downhill road to Delta. Forty-five minutes later we were 20 miles down the road, where the tailwind turned to a side wind that nearly forced us into the weeds a few times. In Delta we found complimentary accommodations at a classic, old-style motel, knotty pine and all.

June 5 Delta, CO to Grand Junction, CO
The local paper had an announcement of an open house and pancake breakfast at the local airport, which was reason enough for us to get on the road by 7:00 and take a two-mile detour. An enjoyable, sunny morning was spent hanging around small planes, talking with some fine Colorado folk of all ages, and eating pancakes (excuse us if we get the real maple syrup out of our saddle bags). The kids took a fifteen-minute flight, and later Mom and Dad did, too, with a Baptist minister from nearby. Just in time, too. The weather changed as we got on the bike, and by the time we left Delta we had a blustery side wind/headwind, low clouds and cool temperatures.

Ten miles out we all donned our windbreakers and tights, and by lunch we were wet with sweat and COLD. We were between towns, 30 miles without a store, ranch, house or tree. We huddled at a roadside picnic table and ate a hasty lunch, then beat it down the road, which was a series of long descents and long climbs through a beautiful desert. We could see rain to the west, and rain again as the clouds hit the hills to the east, but no rain fell in the valley we were riding in until ten miles from our destination. We took shelter in a garage and enjoyed the company of a pair of retired "snow-birds," (full-time RV dwellers) on an old ranch, the first building we had seen in more than 30 miles.

The last ten miles into Grand Junction (so called because the Gunnison and Colorado rivers meet here) were downhill, and the wind had changed to our favor. Rain suits raised our temperatures, and we arrived at the home of John and JJ Rizzo with plenty of time for showers, laundry, health food store shopping and a great barbecue with neighbors and friends.

June 6 Layover in Grand Junction, Colorado
We decided to stay over an extra night because 1) John and JJ are so nice and their hospitality is so inviting, and 2) neighbors Ron and Diana Osborne are willing to show us some of the great natural features of the area. Ron works as manager of a mountain shop in Grand Junction. He is from Morrisville, Vermont and plans to return to Vermont some day. They and their kids Ben and Sam brought us to the Colorado National Monument, an incredible area of canyons and cliffs, just outside of town, where we saw the most beautiful red sandstone cliffs, and got up high enough to see the surrounding Book Cliffs and distant, snow-capped mountain ranges. We hiked a bit and explored some caves, and Ron ran down a trail to meet us at the bottom of the largest canyon. We shared lunch back in town, and then Patti and John and JJ went mountain bike riding west of town while I got on the computer and created this update. We had a pasta feast and fell asleep only after we were talked out. We made a plan for tomorrow that would include John riding his bike with us.

June 7 Grand Junction, CO to Moab, UT
Our original plan had us taking two days to get to Moab from Grand Junction, stopping at Cisco, UT one night. That plan didn't account for three factors: 1) There was a 25 to 35 mph headwind, 2) Cisco, although it looks like any other dot on the map, is a deserted ghost town with no water, and, 3) It is uninhabited desert between the two points, which would require us to carry two days worth of water and food (about 35 pounds).

What we did was load into John's van and drive to Fruita, where we visited the bike shop where he works. Then we drove across the desert to Cisco, where John dropped us off. He then drove to Moab and rode his bike back to meet us and ride with us. The road followed the Colorado River (muddy, debris laden flood-stage water, possibly drinkable if we had a good filter), through the most gorgeous and dramatic terrain we have encountered. Huge sandstone cliffs and bluffs and mesas and canyons. One problem: the headwind. It took us all day to negotiate the 35 mostly rolling miles to Moab.

Moab is the fabled cycling Mecca. We enjoyed the atmosphere from our outdoor table at a Main Street restaurant, and met a few fine people. The town was full of vacationers, some here to see the nearby Arches National Park, others to ride mountain bikes or run river rapids. We said goodbye to John, and stayed at a little lodge that had heard our story and offered us complimentary accommodations.

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