For those travelers who lack the funds to head to the nearest hotel at the end of the day, camping is your best and only option. Even if money were no object, sometimes your travels will take you to places that lack accommodation. Although we certainly fit into the meager funds category, our first month on the road was punctuated by hotel stays. Often, luxuriating in a hot shower then falling into the downy comfort of a clean bed after a day covered in bicycle grease and dust and exerting one’s muscles to the burning point is almost too delicious to pass up. When our credit card bill came, though, we quickly changed our tune and have spent nearly every night since dozing on good old terra firma.
That being said, the night after our last post was spent in a motel. Once we had finished stocking up for the next stretch without a grocery store and were packing up outside the City Market the first raindrops started to fall. Unlike some bicycle tourists who go go go no matter the conditions, we are fair weather travelers who would rather see the sights and enjoy the ride than race through the elements.
One of the benefits of our now infrequent indulgences in hotel stays is access to a television. Although at home we only plugged in the TV for half an hour a day it is nice to see what local stations consider newsworthy and for the one show we want to tune in for, Jeopardy. In Arizona, we couldn’t find it at all and in the subsequent states it was on at weird times. So alas, we are severely lacking in the trivia department.
The next morning we were thrilled to be taking the Glenwood Springs bike path for the first part of our day’s journey. The path is removed from the rush of passing cars which is always a plus and snaked along beside the Colorado River. In the past few days the landscape has begun to resemble what we imagined this state would look like – rolling hills blanketed with greenery set against a backdrop of snow capped peaks. The trees are getting taller and thinner and there are chipmunks everywhere. Birds chirp and sing whenever the sun is out (their songs begin with the first rays making for an effective and unobtrusive alarm clock).
As the morning wore on we began to see more cyclists on the path. We have often observed on this trip that cyclists, especially those who have toured anywhere, have a special kind of commonality, a secret language and set of experiences that allow us to relate best with one another. Fellow cyclists tend to seek us out more readily and listen to our stories with the rapt attention of someone who actually knows and can relate to what we’re talking about. Besides, nobody but another cyclist can give us an accurate picture of what we’re about to face on the road, especially as it relates to topography and road conditions.
On the Glenwood Springs Bike Path we rested and stretched before hoping back on our bikes.
Once we’d ridden the trail’s 16 mile length we were sad to leave that riparian paradise to rejoin traffic on the highway. At Dotsero we left Highway 6 to go north on Colorado River Road. We had learned from checking Google Earth with John that most of this road is treated dirt so we were glad for blue skies on the day we set out to tackle it.
A few miles up the road that in places was packed dirt and in others it was loose gravel we stopped for lunch at the Lion’s Head Gulch recreation area. It was serene.
With the river shining in the clear sunlight, chipmunks swaying from the branches of surrounding bushes, and cars going by so infrequently that the only rushing to be heard was of the mighty river we divulged to one another yet again that we had never been happier. We ate our sandwiches, drank our juice boosted with a heaping dose of chlorella, took our calcium supplements (it helps with muscle soreness, cramps, and maintaining bone density) and sat appreciating our surroundings and our company. We thanked each other for the opportunity to go on such a wild adventure together.
We had the road to ourselves for most of the ride. It is almost surprising when we see other cyclists on such seldom used stretches so when we do we attempt a conversation, which can be tricky between panted breaths. Usually we only see other cyclists on flat or especially scenic areas like the bike path but when the two cyclists we met said they were training for the race over the Rockies it all made sense.
Climbing up steep grades on a bike isn’t for the faint of heart, let alone being weighted down with fifty pounds of gear (or more in Kelly’s case), so we were especially pleased with our efforts when we learned that this road was a training ground for such a strenuous race.
We rode about 48 miles that day and as five o’clock approached we started looking for a place to camp. As Kelly is the stronger and more experienced rider, she generally scouts out a good spot. Throughout the day we had seen numerous signs announcing our passage in and out of public lands so once it was getting to be stopping time we needed only to get back to public land to find a camp spot.
Kelly found a good one in a shallow valley next to the road where we would be protected from the wind and out of sight of passing cars. Given that we had been warned about the presence of bears in the area (it is the time of year when thirsty bears head for water and a meal so being next to the river gave us cause to be wary) we set up our tent and headed down the road to make our dinner. The number one rule when traveling in bear country is to keep your food away from where you plan to sleep, generally hung from a branch far enough away from the trunk to be out of reach. This rule carries over to anything that might smell like food so any toiletries and the clothes you cooked in must be stowed accordingly as well. So, we cooked our meal of cous cous, lentils, and vegetables at a turnout a quarter mile from our campsite.
Unfortunately we were not close to any tall trees so once we had changed and put everything away we cinched up our bags and hid them in a bush. Despite the incredible rumbling of Union Pacific trains chugging noisily by all night we slept well and by morning we hadn’t been eaten by bears, and neither had our stuff.
On the road again we went a few miles before reaching McCoy and the turnoff to HWY 131 S. We were on 131 for about 8 miles until State Bridge. At this point we were still using maps we had generated using bikemap.net and had written in the margin that if we crossed the bridge that we had gone too far. This would have been an easy mistake to make had we not scoured the maps ahead of time. Plus, there was a music festival planned for the arena near the junction so there were plenty of signs pointing us in the right direction. We stopped for a bathroom break (you will never know the joys of a toilet until you go without) and then proceeded onwards and upwards to Trough Road.
This is also an unpaved section but the dirt was not packed as well as the Colorado River Road so we had to contend with more potholes and gravel. Additionally, this section was steeper going up and down the rolling hills.
On top of that, it was windy, very windy; so windy that Kelly’s bike blew over, leaving her sprawled in the dirt, and there were sections where the gusts slowed us to a crawl, even downhill.
Tiny grains of sand and bigger pebbles pelted our bare skin. The rushing wind dried out our eyes making it all the more difficult to watch the road for potential hazards.
Fortunately the wind only lasted a little while so when we decided to stop for lunch the weather was mild again. Mi caught up with Kelly just as a lone cyclist was coming down the hill from the other direction. He had traveled from DC and was heading south before looping back up to Vancouver so naturally we were impressed and knew that his knowledge of the upcoming road would be sound. He told us that we weren’t far from the highest point of our day (8700 ft) and that the climb was paved.
Kelly has been anticipating the mountains of Colorado and treating the mountains prior to these as training ground. Even though the hills on the Trough Road were 5-8% grades, similar to others we have had to walk up earlier in the trip, she managed to stay on her bike, peddling every inch, no matter how steep. Even when a passing truck offered Mi (who was walking) a ride, Kelly declined in order to accomplish what she had mentally prepared herself for during the last 1600 miles.
At the top of the last hill the road turned back to dirt until we reached the intersection to HWY 9, which took us to the center of Kremmling. We hit the grocery store first and then rode the last two miles down HWY 40 to the Red Mountain RV Park where we are now. We set up camp on the designated grassy area, made a dinner of pasta and vegetables, showered and then went to bed. It started raining a few hours later. It rained most of the night and it was still raining when we woke up at 6. Being the fair weather riders that we are we took one look outside, checked the weather forecast to verify that the clouds were here to stay, and went back to sleep.
We had anticipated the rain and put our bikes under an overhang but the slats were too far apart to keep the water off completely so our stuff still got wet; yet another reason why we’re glad we shelled out for waterproof bags. This morning as we were bemoaning the damp conditions the family who own and live at the park offered to let us stow our bikes in their garage for the duration of the oncoming onslaught.
It has rained off and on today, with occasional growls of thunder. After a few failed attempts at arranging our tarp beneath our tent we have figured out the best way to keep the water from pooling under it so now we are dry and comfortable. As we have heard from multiple residents of the state, Colorado weather isn’t easy to predict as one minute it can be clear as a bell and the next the clouds can be slate grey, and vice versa. We made lunch at a picnic table beside our tent when the sky was blue and when we’d almost finished eating the sky opened up and tipped fat drops onto our sandwiches.
The forecast appears to be clearing up tomorrow so we will head toward Hot Sulphur Springs and beyond to Rand and Walden before making it to Rawlins in our next state of Wyoming.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out Action Against Hunger’s life-saving work!