wellnessbiking Go to Day Two's Ride
Go to Day One's Ride
Go to Pre-Ride
One of the cool things about the end of day two was that the motel had screwed up our reservations in Delta, Colorado.
Wait; this is cool?
Yep, because the manager said, "Well, you don't have a room for tonight and we are filled, BUT we have a house next door and you can rent it for only $25 more.
Now it's hot, 98 degrees, we're tired and I'm envisioning a sleazy old house with more dirt than substance, but, hey, there's little choice. I say, "OK," we gather our stuff and trudge to the little house next the motel, open the door... and it's all been redone inside, light wood, full kitchen, living room, two bedrooms; neat, clean, cooled with central air, bright new bathroom, tub and shower, pleasant deor. YEAH!
So I get a great night's sleep and get up early the next morning ready to ride. It's a short day through the countryside, through farms and ranches.
The day's ride was a short one: about 35 miles, sort of a quasi-rest day, but to me it turned out to be one of great beauty. I spent my youth in the Snake River country, on a wheat and cattle ranch in eastern Washington state, so have a soft spot for farms and nature. This ride put us right through irrigated alfalfa fields, wheat, sweet corn, pastures, cows, grass and pastures -- and all the smells, sights and sounds that go along with it. The fragrance of fresh cut alfalfa permeated me with memories of long, LONG, hot, HOT summer days baling hay, hauling and stacking it. Good memories, but better from a bike, I think, 35 years later and riding by somebody else's fields without all the worries and financial pressures that go hand in hand with trying to make a living farming.
At one point along the road, a bunch of bikers were standing, watching some horses; I blew by them wondering what they were looking at, then later learned that a mare had just delivered a foal who was up and struggling to get his first meal. Cool; wish I had stopped, but sometimes you just gotta make some miles, and I missed this one.
Art and I rode together this day and needless to say, we got into our destination, Montrose, pretty early in the day. Hung around the finish area, shot the breeze with some folks, laid on the grass and watched the riders come in. Then we went and found our motel for the day, a nice place with a little hidden courtyard and pool behind it. But the "hungers" were building we went in search of fuel at the nearby Quarter Circle Diner, one of those great little cafes found in every small town in rural America. The locals: workers for the country road crew, farmers, a local agricultural banker, the hardware store guy and couple of others, sat at their usual tables at the back of the cafe. Really nice folks, so we shared lies and tall tales with them as they marveled at all the lycra-clad strangeness pedaling up Main Street.
By one o'clock we had pedaled back to the finish area and caught one of two un-air-conditioned school buses to go out to see The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a spectacular, extremely narrow, extremely DEEP gouge cut out of the high plains over the eons by the Gunnison River.
This will be a side trip emblazoned into my memory by a lightning encounter a wee bit too close. While standing, listening to a Ranger talk about the canyon view from Pulpit Point, thunder storms were building five or six miles away, a little lightning far away, nothing too dramatic, when "BAM!" What sounded like being in the middle of a dynamite blasted all around us just as I was holding my camera out to take a pic of the canyon. The electrical flash, the explosion, hit absolutely at the SAME TIME. YIKES! And, my camera seemed to spark, giving my hand, particularly on the back side a sharp, painful shock. Art and several others who were wearing baseball caps said they felt small shocks of the lightning through the metal grommets in their caps.
Too Close, Dude!
Needless to say, we all quickly scurried back to the buses without anybody having to tell us to do so. Glad I hadn't been sitting on a metal bike when it happened.
After that excitement, the rest of the day went quietly, and the next morning, Day 4, saw us out on the road again by seven a.m.
We headed up the road directly into a 15-mmph head wind, on a morning that saw two long climbs, gaining about 3,500 feet of altitude in about 70-some miles. It was a tough day, but my legs had strengthened over the past four days, so it was simply a matter of maintaining patience and good spirit. The wind sort of grinds at you on a road bike; you feel like you should be making better time for the effort involved and the mileposts go by very slowly. On a climb, at least, you can look back and see the grade below you and know you are gaining on it. Wind, on the other hand, just beats you.
One cool thing was that one of the downhill grades was under construction. The asphalt had been torn up and we went zooming down it on rough dirt and graveled, well oiled to keep the dust down for about four or five miles. I whipped through it at a good clip, 20 to 30 mph. It was easy to tell who was really a mountain biker; we were grinning from ear to ear and letting the tar fly where it might; others were slightly more tentative. I passed one guy on a hand cycle (they sit right down on the ground,) and he was also boogying; his head, back and shoulders (massive) were splattered with so much tar and oil he looked tattooed. I'll bet they had to dip him and his machine in solvent for 12 hours to clean him off. Awesome.
We rolled into Gunnison in about five hours total time. My last 20 miles I hooked up with another old dude and we pulled together to make the miles go by more quickly and easily. The wind had died down, but thunder clouds were building behind us in the mountains, so we were glad to have arrived early. Later that evening and night nature presented us with an overwelming fury of lightning storms in the surrounding mountains. Made me very glad to be snug and safe in town. Another great day of riding. Tomorrow would be tough: Monarch Pass at 11,300 feet.