Some highlights since Shawn left me in Del Norte on Tuesday:
- Indiana Pass is the highest elevation I'll be on the route at 11,910 ft and it's a long 22 mile climb from Del Norte that gains 4,000 feet of elevation. My plan was to stay at a cabin about a third up the climb, but when I called the guy said that staying there tonight was not an option. I didn't want to do the entire climb in the morning, so I decided to start up and then camp somewhere along the way. I met an older gentleman from Alamosa who was doing a 3 day loop. He said he was too old to being doing stuff this hard.
I found a nice clearing about 3 miles short of the summit. It was next to a road that led to private property. Usually, the people aren't home, but here they were. A very nice older couple stopped and asked me if I needed anything. They live in Corpus Christi, TX and spend their summers here at 11,200 feet and 8-10 miles away from their closest neighbors. They said if I needed anything to come to their house, about 1/2 mile down the road.
- Wednesday, after crossing Indiana Pass, I went around the old town of Summitville. Summitville is now an EPA Superfund site. Gold, iron and copper were mined here but left behind a scarred mountainside and contaminated water sources. There are gorgeous streams but the Adventure Cycling Maps say in bold that the waters are contaminated and not drink.
- This part of Colorado is all new to me and it's fantastic. The forests are gorgeous and green, great backcountry sites and magnificent scenery. I ate lunch at Platoro, a little community that caters to people heading into the mountains. The nearest paved road is 20 miles away. The Conejos River runs out of Platoro and was full of anglers and one of the most scenic descents. Road was in great shape and I could go fast. Maybe too fast...
- I have two sets of riding clothes and I like to "wash" one set each day and let them dry out by strapping to my panniers so that I have somewhat clean ones for the next day. Somewhere on that bumpy and fast descent, I lost my shorts. When I realized it, I was distressed. I biked back about half a mile and gave up, they could be anywhere. I was pondering how to get a second set so I wouldn't have to wear the same shorts over and over. Would REI or Nashbar ship General Delivery? Close to the end of the road, a guy on a motorbike pulls up next to me and yells, "You're losing clothes!" I had talked to Tim in the restaurant at Platoro and he saw my shorts, realized they had recently been dropped and picked them up and caught up with me. Crisis averted!
- Another cool people moment, I had just crested La Manga Pass, which is the next big climb after leaving the Conejos River. In this post I mention some guys from Boulder who are doing the Colorado section supported. Shawn and I talked to them a little. Well, their SAG driver recognized me and yelled at me as I was beginning my descent and he was about to go over. Then he turned around and caught up with me. He said I was hauling ass and wanted to give me something. He insisted, so I let him give me some food and a Avery's White Rascal. Forrest is a Colorado University student who got roped into driving support for a bunch of friends. They were finishing their tour but he told me to rock on to Mexico.
- Entered New Mexico on Wednesday also. Climbed to Brazos Ridge Overlook. It was such a tough climb. Had to push the last half mile, the rocks were too big and loose to ride over. Beautiful view into the Cruces Basin Wilderness. I camped near there, with cows around me and coyotes barking nearby all through the night.
- Thursday was a long day. Rough roads made for slow riding. Had to brake on downhills because the rocks and bumps jarred everything. My shoulder hurt from the ride. I longed for front suspension, though I'm not sure how much it would have helped. Also, had a rain delay. But I talked to Brian from El Paso, who is doing 5 days of the Great Divide.
- Also, met Brant. A real cowboy. He was looking for some cows in the Carson National Forest.
- Stopped and talked to Joel, who's wife runs a little snack shop in Canon Plaza. It was in the Ride the Divide documentary. Their kids started it years ago when they were young. Both are grown and married now but the couple keep the snack stand open. Neighbors stop by, hunters and fishers will drop in and, of course, Great Divide riders stop for a break. I sat and talked with Joel for over 20 mins. He called me tough for doing the ride and also jokingly (I think) called me spoiled for needing a tent (the racers don't). He was glad to hear I was an educator, he was a retired administrator. Worked at a school with 500 students in grades K-12.
- Between Vallecitos and El Rito was one more climb. It was a fun and fast descent into El Rito. I ate at El Farolito, which is not only the lone place in town to eat, but also quite famous. Brian talked about it. My friends Brent and Jessie in Raleigh messaged me about it. It's for real and it's great Southwestern food.
- A man getting takeout sat and talked with me a while. He offered me camping on his property and I almost took him up on it. I studied the map while I was eating and saw that it was all downhill to Abiquiu so I decided to do that. I crushed the 14 miles to the Old Abiquiu B&B. Wanda offers cyclists camping on her property next to the Rio Chama for a donation. Her place is really nice and even though I'd already eaten, she left me some fruit and frozen custard for dessert. Highly recommended if you're ever in this area.
- Glad I made the call to get to Abiquiu. Friday may be the hardest day of the ride. That or the day I rode from Steamboat to Radium. You immediately start climbing right out of Abiquiu. I feel like I'm a strong climber, but I could never get a good cadence. You're not so much spinning as you are picking lines and mashing the pedals over obstacles. The photo below is before the road deteriorates. This is fine for short stretches, but for 20 miles, it wears on you. It took me over 5 hours to go 20 miles. The roads were washed out and rough. In 30-40 miles I saw no other person. Rode a little with Chad from Indiana, who I met in the morning back in Abiquiu. When I decided to call it a day after 54 miles, Chad pushed on another 20 miles to Cuba. I didn't want to ride in the rain, it was getting dark and I was tired. I did climb over 7,100 feet this day and the net elevation gain from Abiquiu to the highest point was over 4,000 feet.
- Up early and made coffee. Picked a good camping spot, because just a few miles pass where I camped, the forest became busy. Lots of RVs and other people camping. I would have camped with neighbors had I gone farther. This side of the forests also had more streams and water. Fast descent into Cuba, losing almost 3,000 feet of elevation.
- In Cuba, saw Chad again. He spent the night in a motel and was riding on. I stopped for breakfast and to re-supply. Hit the trail about 10:30 and rolled into the desert. Talked to a ranger for a few minutes, the only ranger (not incuding Grand Teton) I've seen even though the Great Divide spends a majority of it's time on public lands managed by the US Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management.
- Man, the desert was beautiful. The scenery amazing. It was hot, but didn't feel bad. I made sure to reapply sunscreen. I suffered three punctures. I know because I feel sealant from my tires spraying on my legs. But the sealant seems to be doing their job and closing the holes. I made sure to ride more careful. Roads were rough, but still in much better condition than the last two days.
- Slept good at camp last night. Woke up early (5:30) and riding by 6:30. Morning thunderstorm. Not much rain on me, but the lightning worried me. Caught up with Chad, who turns out camped about 4 miles ahead of me. We waded through some mud holes together. When it was time to climb out of the desert and into the Cibola National Forest, I lost him. I'm a faster climber and I was looking forward to shower and doing laundry in Grants.