Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Day 18 - Montrose, CO to Gunnison, CO
Today was "scenery day" in Colorado! But I suppose every day in Colorado is scenery day. The weather was looking great when we got ready to depart the hotel. Unfortunately, my day started with what we call a "hotel flat." I woke up, checked my tires, and noticed the front tire was D.O.A. So, Sean our mechanic, did a hotel parking lot flat repair. About three others were in line for his services. We all had hotel flats. I guess you could say we were suffering from *flatulence*.
Our route was on Highway 50 all day. But it was a fabulous route. What wasn't so fabulous was the crazy headwind we had all morning on our climb to Cerro Summit. We were once again riding with the Bicycle Tour of Colorado cyclists. They didn't appear to be enjoying the headwind any more than we were. The only good news was that we heard the wind would diminish once we reached the summit... four more miles away. So, head down, legs moving, iPod music playing, BTC cyclists passing, and soon the summit was in sight. The best sign to see to indicate your nearing the summit is "Trucks Use Lower Gear Next 2 1/2 Miles"!
After a brief stop at the summit we descended into wonderful scenery. The lush green pastures, meadows, and hilltops were to the left and to the right. The Cimmaron River flowed by and farm houses and ranch houses dotted the landscape. We passed through the town of Cimmaron. I wondered aloud if I were to climb one of those hills and do somersaults all the way down, would that be a "Cimmaron Roll"? (I've been waiting all day to write that!)
We began climbing our second, longer climb. Fortunately, the headwind was gone, but the sun was hot and the elevation was higher. We were climbing up to Blue Mesa Summit, 8730 ft. One of the most amusing cyclists I passed was a guy on a Schwinn Stingray. The kind you had as a kid with a banana seat and ape hanger handlebars! He outfitted it with a rear derailleur, but I could still tell he was suffering up this climb. The price you pay for novelty. I filmed him with my camera and he said, "Schwinn be nimble, Schwinn be quick!" More power to ya, Crazy Schwinn Guy!
The rolling landscape with mountains and mesas in the distance kept my mind off the heat and climbing. It actually wasn't too bad, just slow. I was mentally preparing for tomorrow's climb over Monarch Pass at 11,000 ft. The altitude wasn't hurting me too bad. Some huffing and puffing here and there, but overall, I was doing pretty well. At the summit, I stopped at our SAG stop where both ABB vans were parked. Bob Lang from Virginia rolled up just after me. I call him "Young Bob." I'm "Younger Bob." He's in his seventies, but the guy is in amazing shape. He climbed both passes today all on his own. I'd be content to have half his energy when I'm his age. Give it up for "Young Bob"!
The descent from Blue Mesa Summit was were the scenery really became attractive. The rocky cliffs, vibrant green conifers, mesas in the distance, and bright blue sky with white, puffy clouds all coalesced to make a postcard day of cycling. Portions of our route were where "American Flyers" was filmed. If you're a cycling nut, you've probably seen it or at least have heard of it. It's one of Kevin Costner's early movies and about a cycling race in the Colorado Rockies.
From there, we rode to Curecanti National Recreation Area and Gunnison Lake. The sparkling blue water and the surrounding red cliffs, mesas, and blue sky just made me trigger happy on my camera. Too many great scenic shots. Soon we were riding through the Gunnison River Canyon and, if possible, the scenery got better. More cliffs, rocky hillsides, bordered by the Gunnison River. Fly fishermen were enjoying the scenery, too. As well as some bait fishermen in a motor boat. I took my time pedaling through here and soaked in all the scenes around me. I thought about my dad who would have so enjoyed today's scenery.
Gunnison was just ahead. Plenty of BTC cyclists were rolling through. They had another 40 miles and another climb to go until they reached their day's destination. I'm not at all jealous. I grabbed a photo of the Welcome to Gunnison sign and found the hotel just ahead of that. I sat on a bench outside the hotel, drinking some chocolate milk, waiting for the luggage trailer, and enjoying the fruits of my labor. I like Colorado.
Tomorrow is the big dog. We'll climb over Monarch Pass, cross the Continental Divide, and be at our highest elevation for the entire journey at 11,000 ft. Our destination is Salida, CO. Pray for good weather on the Pass and that the altitude doesn't hamper our efforts!
For more photos of amazing Colorado scenery, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100199
For more information about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org
Cumulative Miles: 1326 ft.
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 4584 ft.
Max Elev: 8730 ft.
Avg Climb: 3%
Max Climb: 8%