Saturday, June 27, 2009
Day 20 - Salida, CO to Pueblo, CO
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” - G.K. Chesterton Today was an adventure. We left Salida, CO with 96 miles ahead of us to reach Pueblo, CO and have our second rest day. My wife, Susie, was meeting me in Pueblo, so I had an extra motivation to safely reach that city. But, my motto on this ride was and continues to be, "More miles, Better stories." So when Gerard, our ride leader, mentioned a side trip to the Royal Gorge Bridge that would add another 10 miles and an extra climb, I was all for it. Most of the other riders heard "18% grade" and said "No way." I thought, why not? Royal Gorge Bridge is the world's highest suspension bridge and is positioned 1,053 ft. above the Arkansas River. It's mostly a tourist trap with no real reason for being there other than to drain Colorado tourists of their vacation dollars. But, I love a good tourist trap. So, I again, was all for it.
Our route out of Salida would follow the Arkansas River for 40 miles. The morning skies lit up the the surrounding Rocky Mountain peaks as we navigated to Highway 50. Soon we were hugging the Arkansas River and watching every twist and turn it made past rolling green hills, smaller peaks, and then taller peaks in the far distance.
Within a few miles, we were in the Arkansas River Canyon. Steep, rocky canyon walls were on either side of Hwy. 50 and as the sun rose above them, they were illuminated with warm, summer light. I felt like I was taking a thousand photos. Every turn of the road revealed another perspective of the river, canyon, sandstone walls, and green vegetation. I managed to shoot several other cyclists' photos as I passed each one. The route was nearly all downhill for these 40 miles and with a tailwind. I gave in to temptation despite the incredible scenery and enjoyed rocketing through the river canyon at 25 mph while gazing at all the sights around me.
Our SAG stop was on the river in a small recreation area. Everyone was all smiles as we exchanged greetings and shared how much fun we were having. A few miles after the SAG stop, we turned inland and then crossed the river. The Arkansas River is one of the wildest rivers we've seen and its frothing rapids in places made this a popular whitewater rafting river. We saw busload after busload of weekend warriors getting ready to ride the rapids. As we crossed the river, we saw raft after raft heading downstream.
After crossing the river, we climbed a few miles in the hot afternoon sun and then I found the turnoff to the Royal Gorge Bridge. All but four of us kept straight ahead, but Hans, Sean our mechanic, Brian, and myself enjoyed the visit to the RGB. We rode our bikes across the bridge, taking photo after photo. We stopped for ice cream, then toured an Old West mock town. We went down the Incline Railway to the river valley to see the Arkansas River up close and gaze up at the bridge 1,053 ft. above us. After two hours playing tourist, we decided to hit the road again. Sean had left an hour earlier. Brian wanted to ride across the bridge one more time, so Hans and I left together.
We rocketed downhill into Canon City and soon noticed huge dark clouds several miles behind us. Hmmm. Looks like more adventure. The tailwind increased and soon I was flying toward Pueblo at 30 mph with little effort. I kept gazing in my rearview mirror and beside me to see how the storm was progressing. It looked like I was losing the race. Hans was now a couple miles behind me and the storm caught me. Wind and dust blasted my right side nearly throwing me off the bike. I turned into the nearest building I could find: The Penrose Trading Post--a junk shop.
I stood under a porch while the rain fell sideways. Within moments, Hans was pulling into the same parking lot. I screamed into the wind so he could find me. He had no idea I had pulled into the same shop. We waited out the storm after calling our America By Bicycle staff. The stopped by with water and food since the second SAG stop had actually blown away in the storm. Now the weather had moved northeast of us and the skies were relatively clear. We pressed on toward Pueblo.
Now our tailwind was really blowing. We sailed over the remaining 25 miles as the wind actually blew me uphill, coasting at 35 miles per hour. Hans and I smiled at each other when we stopped at a traffic light and realized how fast the wind was moving. We entered Pueblo's city limits, navigated the side streets toward our hotel, turned left and left again. The last mile of our ride, we were biking into the wind and discovered how good our fortune was. This would have been torturous if we had to battle this headwind all day. The hotel was in sight and as we entered the lobby, we shared our tales of adventure with the other riders--most of whom had arrived hours ahead of us. But, you know, I think we had a better story.
Tomorrow is a rest day and Susie has arrived to spend the day with me. We plan to relax and explore Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs and wander around town. On Sunday, we will hit the road for our longest stint yet: 120 miles to Lamar, CO. We've left the beauty of the Rockies and are now in the Great Plains. We'll pass our first cattle feedlot (I'll capture the image, but can't capture the smell), and we will pray for a tailwind.
For more photos from today's ride, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100214
For more about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org
Cumulative Miles: 1502
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 3321 ft.
Max Elev: 7419 ft.
Avg Climb: 3%
Max Climb: 18%