Saturday, July 9, 2016

COLORADO, part 1

 (A note: iPad apps come and go, app developers update and change...and this sometimes creates huge problems.I have had to use a new blog app. The blog may be a little confused until I learn the program.)               
The change in plants, landscape, topography, use of the land changes noticeably within a few miles of the Kansas border. Gloriously...after seven days of flat land in Kansas, and even more if including western Missouri, there are hills and curves in the road; even gained enough altitude to look out over the rolling land. From the eastern line to the western, Kansas topography only rises 3,000' across the state. I gained that much altitude in just one half day of riding from Canyon City to Guffey, a distance of 35 miles. A friend asked facetiously if I had climbed the highest mountain in Kansas, Mt. Sunflower, topping out at just over 1,500'. 
Trans America Route is signed as US Bike Route 76 (for 1976)
From the town of Ordway, CO at Gillian's home where she takes in cyclists, offers beds with fresh bedding, showers, use of kitchen, and somewhat controlled composure during evening board games, we caught first glimpses of mountain peaks, including Pikes Peak, backlit by the setting sun. I shared another night with the Pennsylvania bicycling group...but had to say farewell for the last time as our next day of riding would take us to a split in routes as they head toward Nevada on the Western Express bicycle route.
Bicyclists from Phily, Chicago, West Coast
Pikes Peak to right
Bill's Place in Guffey, CO...Forty years ago Bill began constructing a collection of eccentric cabins and support structures to accommodate travelers. This is a most unique place to stay, and Bill is very gracious and hospitable. My shower and bunk house cabin cost $15. There are also several restaurants/bars, a school, library, and post office in this small mountain town of 200 that sits at an altitude of 8,658'. It's remarkable to have such services in a small, remote community.
For those who prefer outdoor sleeping
It was pointed out to me that those are real human bones driving!?
Robbie's shed for the night
In town of Fairplay, CO is remnant of original town of South Park that mostly burned in 1873. They rebuilt the town slightly east. In the 1950's fifteen of the surviving buildings along with several others from the Colorado mining boom era were moved and restored to create a histories late 1800's inning town. The buildings are extremely well furnished as people searched their attics for period items.
Blacksmith shop (for Larry)
Late 1800s standard Colorado school
Students, teacher, parents in 1905
Drug Store (for Jenny)
Most well furnished pharmacy of 1880's
Rolled into Alma, elevation 10,578, to late (I thought) to check in at the town hall as I understood was necessary to camp in their city park. There was a citizen's group of twenty meeting so the building was open. I stopped the meeting discussion as I entered the room. The moderator asked me in and welcomed me to camp, relaying where all facilities were. Another man at the table, Andrew, offered a shower at his communal house across the street. Yea! Based on house rules and certain art work and stickers, I surmise that Andrew is among the anarchists of the world. Andrew did not return before I needed to leave to prepare my dinner so I did not have the occasion to pursue this with him.
Old mining town of Alma continuing through today
Alma was my set up for a relatively easy climb to my first Continental Divide high mountain pass...Hoosiers Pass, elevation 11,542'. The rest of the day was 48 miles mostly descending, passing through Breckenridge and following the Blue River on a nearly 20 mile greenway that was crowded with locals and summer families on holiday. Further down road from Breckenridge I pulled over to speak to a stopped bicyclist studying the turn that would take me to that night's was Carl who I shared a small United Methodist church curtesy of Pastor George back in Palmyra, VA nearly six weeks ago. He had detoured to St. Louis and I for a recuperative return to Asheville, and here in the eastern Colorado mountains we reconnect for an evening ride together. A pleasant surprise for both. Carl appreciates the Virginia mountains and the Colorado Rockies more than other aspects of the route...I concur.
Hoosier Pass at Continental Divide el 11,539'
Blackie hanging with his groupies
Guardians of gravel pit entrance
Somewhat more welcoming down the road
Typical night's lodging
I have been excitedly anticipating meeting a friend midway on this cross country ride. I meet Bart Cohn in 2013 on a greenway following the Columbia River. He left the Oregon coast May 10. I departed the Virginia coast May 14. We are on the same charted route. Somewhere our paths will pass. Pueblo, CO is signed as the TransAm mid way point of 2,125 miles, but I passed through Pueblo with Bart still in Wyoming. Then seven weeks from my Virginia departure, while riding into Hot Sulphur Springs, CO, standing by the side of the road in front of a roadside burger and ice cream stop, Bart was waving me over. I did not have time to unclip my riding shoes before Bart is giving me a big hug. Enduring and experiencing a coast-to-coast bicycle ride is perhaps a once in a life time event. Bart accounts me as the inspiration for him to undertake this life-changing experience. "I must have read your blog thirty times," says Bart. This encounter meant a lot to Bart and me. There is a separate blog post "East Meets West" that shares more of this meeting.
East meets West
Bart at Colorado River gorge
Robbie and Ian
Because of the July 4th weekend, Bart, his riding buddy Ian whom he met back in Oregon, and I decide to celebrate the holiday with several nights stay at Hotel Eastin in Kremmling, CO with hosts Walt and Maryann. They purchased the hotel as a life-long dream three years ago and are working to bring back a wonderful soul to the building. They are perfect for the job.
Hotel Eastin, Kremmling, CO
Proprietors Walt and Maryann
Robbie and Swiss couple Heinz and Rita discussing routes
Kremmling artwork
We say goodbye...the road calls
Rocky Mountain National Park is my first national park visit on this trip. I leave the charted TransAmerica route to swing into RMNP and then descend into Boulder and Denver to visit my sister-in-law and her husband. RMNP is the highest I will ever likely ride a bike, at 12,183'. Afternoon storms usually build up between 2:00-4:00 and I timed my ascent with that in mind so to be off the above tree line high mountains. Weather had other ideas. Along the 12,000' high mountains, I stopped for a side hike to see many Alpine flowers and weathered rock formations, and enjoy the views. Nearly at the end of the hike, dark clouds overshadowed the mountain ringing out a clap of thunder. Most people immediately turned back for the safety of their cars. Another hiker and I continued a short distance to a rock formation and took in the view. Then commenced a hail storm. We sought refuge under rock overhangs. I was becoming wet, cold, and shivering when a streak of lighting, followed by clap of thunder, indicated it was past time to be off the high rocky mount. Beginning to run back to the road on the hail covered trail, a crack of lightning followed immediately with booming thunder put more energy into my high 12,000' altitude run back to the seeming security of a public pit toilet structure that had a covered entry space. Fifteen motorcyclists made room for me as they too sought some sense of greater safety. The afternoon descent to the eastern side saw the temperature rise from the low 40s back to the low 90s.
Gray trees in background are Lodgepole Pine effected by pine beetle. Thus used to be a fully shaded campground
Last view of Colorado River
Early morning beginning climb; 7:00 AM
Sunrise and rising mist; 7:30
Continental Divide at Milner Pass el 10,758'; 8:00
el 11,000'; 9:00
Highest point at el 12,183'; 11:00
High trail at 12,000'; 11:30
High exposed rock
All hail breaks loose; 12:00
Temps in low 40s
Blackie chillin' out
Back below 10,000' and temps in mid 80s

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