Biologist on a Bike

Day 33: Prospector’s RV Resort, CO (outside of Cañon City) to Pueblo, CO

6/23/18

 

Stats:
Distance: 58.94 mi
Average Speed: 12.1 mph; Max Speed: 37.4 mph
Elevation gain: 2,125 ft
Average Temp: 88.2 F; Temp Range: 64.4-102.2 F

Reflection:

Before I get to today’s narrative, I want to acknowledge the passing of a friend, a 67 year-old retired priest from my church. He had a stroke early on in my trip, back when I was still in Oregon, had heart surgery, battled a massive infection, and suffered a number of other related issues. The updates from family indicated that the road to recovery would be long, but seemed hopeful, yet he passed this morning. It will be strange to return home to find him absent. I don’t want to get into personal details, that is his family’s story to tell and isn’t the point of this blog. But I did want to take a moment to acknowledge the loss.

My life right now is untethered. I have a destination, but I’m drifting along under my own volition with no more responsibility than keeping myself cared for and making it to the end point before I have to be back at work. But life in other places doesn’t stop just because you’re not there to witness it. Babies grow up, life-changing decisions are made, major events occur, and in general life continues. I’ll be coming home to a place that has changed and it’ll be up to me to adjust to the changes everyone else has had time to make. I’ve done it before, having lived abroad in Costa Rica for a year and later in Thailand for nearly a year and a half, but it’s always a shock to return and find things different than they were. Change is inevitable. Change is hard.

Story:

Last night was windy around bedtime, rocking the tent a bit even with me in it, but it settled down soon enough and I was able to drift off without much problem. Not an unexpected event given my 105 mile ride yesterday. The plan for the day was to ride to Pueblo, a distance of only around 60 miles, so I took my time eating breakfast and packing up. While I ate, a hummingbird came by and checked out the bright green bandana I had draped over my handlebars to dry. Then it whirred over to me and stared me in the face for a few seconds from a distance less than an arms length away. I held very still, not even considering going for the camera, until it zipped off. It’s chest was pale but back and wings looked to be green. Possibly a female rufous hummingbird, but I can’t be sure.

Where I woke up, Day 33

This was the first morning all trip where I got out of my sleeping quilt and wasn’t cold. In fact, I had sweated a bit overnight. I get the feeling I’m not going to be needing my quilt too much in the near future.

The grossest part of the morning was when I went to heat water for breakfast. Last night I had washed out my pot and cups and had, as I often do, left them in the vestibule under the rainfly. When I pulled the cups out to fill the pot with water, this is what I found.

Earwigs, earwigs everywhere. Ick!

I washed them out, tossing the bug-filled water on the ground rather than washing the offending insects down the sink as I wanted to. Other than that little hiccup, though, the morning was lovely. As was the view from the campground

I’ll soon be leaving views like these behind me.

I noticed a group of three cyclists as I was walking out of the campground. They were headed west, and told me that a bike shop in Pueblo suggested they take the river trail and Route 50 instead of the rote on the official maps, because 50 had a better shoulder and the river trail was pretty. They also warned me that a car show was going on in Pueblo and the hotels were booked nearly solid and using special event rates. Good information, which I thanked them for.

Within a mile of getting on the road, I spotted a snake and prepared to add it to my mental roadkill count before noticing that it wasn’t flattened or desiccated looking. Sure enough, as I passed by, a tongue flickered out tasting the air. Cool, my first live snake of the trip!

Soaking up the morning sun. I think it might be a bullsnake, but correct me if I’m wrong.

There wasn’t a lot between Cañon City and Pueblo, and the road was more downhill than up, but the sun, the heat, and the headwind all piled up to make the day more strenuous than I had expected. Or maybe that was fatigue from riding 32 days in a row, including 195 miles in the last two days. Nope, definitely the weather’s fault.

When I got to the turn that the cyclists warned me about in the morning I considered a moment before deciding to stick to the original path. Route 96 didn’t have any shoulder for long stretches, but it also didn’t have much traffic. From what I could see, rote 50 would have had more cars. I’ll take an empty shoulderless road over a busy road with a shoulder. It turned out to be a good decision as far as I’m concerned, because I was able to cross paths with an Adventure Cycling group riding west. They were doing a self-supported group ride of the TransAm trail, where the stops and distances for each day were pre-arranged by the group leader. The group didn’t always ride together, so I first met up with three men, one of whom referred to the group as “old farts having fun.” I told him he should write a book with that title.

They warned me that there was no water for the next 30 miles (thankfully the library next to where we were talking was open and I was able to top up) and spoke a bit about the sudden storms which could be encountered on the open plains. One night a storm popped up unexpectedly at 2:30 in the morning with winds so strong that it rolled a tent—an OCCUPIED tent, filled with person and panniers—several times over ultimately depositing it upside-down in a pool of rainwater. The woman involved spent the rest of the night in the safety and shelter of the park’s bathroom, and I can’t say I blame her. They also had a day with great tailwinds that they later learned were caused by a supercell that dumped massive amounts of rain on the town they had just left, resulting in major flooding. The moral of the story, if there’s a non-zero chance of a storm in the forecast, do you best to sleep indoors. I would have liked to repay their knowledge of places to stay and warnings about things like that, but they had a ride leader for that kind of information. Instead I told them about the upcoming climbs and descents (some of the switchbacks I climbed up to Hoosier Pass have the potential to be difficult to navigate going down.

After I left those three, I ran into most of the rest of the group sitting on the porch of an out-of-business store and having a snack. They gave some of the same information and some new, and I told them that the library was open and they could stock up on water there. I passed the rest of the group on the road after I left, slowing down enough to shout a greeting across the road, but not stopping completely. Part of me wonders what it would be like to be in a group like that and not have to worry about arrangements for where to sleep, but I think I’m enjoying the challenge and independence of determining those things for myself (with the help of the maps, of course).

As I continued in the midday heat, I watched the mountains fade further and further into the distance. Today is likely only a small taste of what awaits, with the sun and the wind draining more and more of my energy.

Goodbye mountains.

Mid afternoon, I received the text informing me that my friend had died. I relayed the information to my parents, who also knew him, albeit mostly from visits to me, exchanged a few texts, and then did the only thing I really could do at the time: keep riding.

In Wyoming, I mentioned that I didn’t think I could live in a place so isolated. As I rode through this part of Colorado, I decided that this is the first place I’ve encountered on this trip that I don’t think I could live because of the environment. It was so dry that if I went more than about 30 minutes without a sip of water, the back of my throat started sticking when I swallowed.

Cacti such as this one were frequent

The grasses, such as they were, were mostly brown and dreary. And painful to sit on when I took a break at the side of the road.

I had hoped to do a few things in Pueblo, including getting my rear derailleur adjusted—the second-lowest gear slips a bit before catching—mailing home my winter clothes, and buying a pair of swim trunks and shorts, since I forgot to back a bathing suit or any shorts suitable for off-bike wear. The problem was that it’s Saturday. It was only around 2 PM when I rolled into town, but the post office was already closed. The bike shops would close around 5, and I figure they’d likely be busy on a summer Saturday. Instead of running a bunch of errands, then, I stopped at a Walgreens to buy sunscreen and a few other little things, and then headed to the home of my Warmshowers host.

Sally lives in an awesome old home filled with art (much of it hers), and with a very friendly cat. Pitch loves attention and is almost as soft as my kitty, but less prone to cuddling.

Pitch

I settled in, unloaded the bike, and took a trip to the grocery store for things to cook. Tomorrow is going to be my first rest day, so I got some things for tomorrow’s lunch and dinner as well. And since I skipped the bike shop detour, I plan to clean up the bike tomorrow on my own.

Sally is into bats and recently bought a detector that picks up the ecolocation noises and drops them to a range that is audible to the human ear. We went on a bat walk around dusk last night and it was awesome. I’ve seen bats swooping around on occasion when camping, but the detector lets you know when one is close so you can look for it. There were even times where you could hear the steady pulse of the call speed up to a near buzz as the bat narrowed in on its prey. A great evening diversion.

I wonder if tomorrow I’ll feel restless or grateful to not be moving.

Roadkill count: 2 birds, 1 bat, 1 deer, 2 unknown mammals, 3 snakes

Map Day 33

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