Distance: 105.28 mi (still not a typo)
Average Speed: 13.4 mph; Max Speed: 41.2 mph
Elevation gain: 4,888 ft
Average Temp: 71.2 F; Temp Range: 46.4-89.6 F
I woke up for the day around 6AM and packed as quietly as I could to not disturb the other person in the room. I had two roommates last night, but one left the room around 3AM. The one who left in the middle of the night had moved all my bags around last night before I came up to go to sleep. I didn’t realize that I shouldn’t have put my bag in the unoccupied space under the bed. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a little annoying since I had to find my things in the dark so as not to wake up the person who had moved them. I’m going to blame the crankiness on the early hour.
Nobody else was downstairs when I got there, so I made a fresh pot of coffee and then went about cooking breakfast: 3 eggs and two pieces of toast. After that, I spent some time recording the receipts from the last week or so before deciding to make a peanut butter sandwich as well. And a second sandwich to pack for later.
While I was eating, a guy named Al came down to watch some TV. After a bit of channel surfing, he started chatting with me. Most of it was mundane, but then he asked me how many “wackos” were in eastern Oregon. Now that’s a very vague question to have to answer if you don’t know that person’s definition of wacko. Is it politically based, in which case I would have to know where on the political spectrum he stands. Or maybe he was talking about recluses and misanthropes. Or maybe something else entirely. I went with the safe answer of, “There are wackos everywhere.” It’s true enough, I think. He pressed a bit harder, still not defining what he meant by wacko, and I eventually told him that the people I met in Oregon were very kind to me and that was the end of that.
Last night, shortly before I retired, a man came into the hostel and welcomed me with all the authority of an owner or a long-term resident (I’m assuming the latter). He introduced himself only as Tiger, and gave me some tips about the hostel and the town that, given the fact that I planned to leave early the next morning, were not relevant. I thanked him for his thoughtfulness, though.
This morning, Tiger came downstairs in his bathrobe. Today was going to be his modeling debut, he told me. I hope it went well for him. He also complimented my glasses, saying he often wears clear lenses. The glasses I’m wearing on this trip are not, in my opinion, very stylish. I bought them for functionality. They’re sports glasses with heavy black plastic frames, and prescription photochromic lenses. I more or less told him as much while accepting the spirit of the compliment (at least, I hope it came off that way. That’s how I meant it in any case).
I got on the road a bit before 8 with an ambitious goal of getting as far down the mountain as possible once I conquered Hoosier Pass, the highest mountain pass on the TransAmerica Trail. I spent the latter half of yesterday climbing, and today the climb began right away. From Silverthorne up to Breckenridge, most of the riding is on a cycleway, which was awesome. It’s either removed from the road or on an extended shoulder, more the former than the latter, and offers some lovely views of mountains and lakes. I think I even spotted the state flower, rocky mountain columbine.
The cycleway had occasional steep sections, but they tended to be short, and the ride to Breckenridge wasn’t that bad. It was, however, enough of a challenge that I don’t regret not attempting it last night.
Although I had been climbing all morning, I considered the real climb to begin after I exited Breckenridge. Not because of difficulty or grade. It was more a mental thing than anything. Breckenridge was a large town and after that point the houses began to spread out more and more.
My asthma decided to aid and abet the altitude in stealing my breath away, so my climb was marked by numerous stops to catch my breath. Even after nearly a month in relatively high altitudes (for somebody who lives in Chicago), the air was thin. The bonus of this was that I had more time to appreciate the views.
I encountered only one other cycle tourist today, Gary, who lives in Arlington Heights, not that far from Chicago. He was on his way down from the pass while I was still working my way up. He called out across the road that I was doing better than he was and I asked if he was sure. He crossed the road and said that he was indeed sure, since I was still riding the bike. He walked a bit on his climb. Had I not had at least some time to acclimate to the altitude, as is the case for people coming from the east, I expect I would have had to walk as well. After talking and trading info about what was to come, we each continued on. Bonus, the talk gave me time to catch my breath again.
The climb from the west has a number of switchbacks. Some were lovely and smoothly graded. Others were evil, with steep climbs on sharp turns, making me feel like I was mashing a high gear even when riding in my lowest gear. Still, I made it in the end, exhausted, exhilarated, and ready for a snack break.
On the other side of the pass, the landscape changed dramatically, dominated by wide open dry-looking grasslands dotted with trees. There was a long descent from the pass, but it wasn’t always lovely. The wind was mostly behind me, but every so often a gusty crosswind would spring out of nowhere and push me sideways a few feet. One time it was more than a few feet, and by the time I had control of the bike back, I was closer to the left shoulder than the right. I can only be thankful that there was no oncoming traffic, because I would have been blown right into it. When I dismounted, the wind continued to make spirited attempts to blow me and Erebus over, and I decided to walk a bit until it calmed down. There’s some irony for you: the climb didn’t reduce me to walking uphill, but the wind made me walk a bit downhill. The gusts died down after a few minutes and I could continue on my way.
At 84 miles into the day, I came to an intersection. Guffy was to the left, 1 mile off the trail. Cañon City was 30 miles further along the trail after a right-hand turn. I looked at the clock: just after 5 PM. I looked at the elevation profile: almost entirely downhill. And the wind was at my back. Thirty miles of mostly downhill would set me up to reach Pueblo early tomorrow. I decided to go for it. There were a few short and steep climbs, but none much more than 200 feet of elevation change. More often I was breezing downhill at 20-35 mph, pedaling only occasionally. Of course, all good things must come to an end, and with about 4 miles to go, my tailwind deserted me and a headwind made an appearance. My legs were tired, my upper back even more so from being tucked in the drops for much of the descent (the lower position gives you better control, and the hand position is more stable if you hit an unexpected bump). When the RV Park/Campground came into sight, I was more than ready to be done for the day.
Prospector’s RV Resort is not a cheap campsite, nearly costing as much as my stay at the hostel last night for a site without water or electricity, but there was no way I was going any further. Tomorrow, thank goodness, should be a shorter day, and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, I can even secure a Warmshowers host for the next day or two.
Roadkill: 1 bird, 1 deer, 1 unknown mammal