Day 48: Brush, CO

Monday, 6/24/2019
Miles: 79.7
Average speed: 13.8 mph
Vertical gain: 788 ft.
Current Elevation: 4,239 ft.

Today was my first day in the Plains, and it was a rousing success! I hope it is the first of many days such as this: mostly flat, tending to downhill, good tailwinds. What climbs there were, were very long and gradual and not at all difficult, especially after what I’ve been through. Not only did I not walk today, I did not even have to put my foot down to catch my breath.

I started pedaling at 8:25 am, after finishing breakfast at a restaurant in Platteville. I finished my day when I checked in to the Rodeway Inn here in Brush, at 4:43pm, for a total elapsed time of 8:18. That is a reasonable riding day.

So it was an easy day. Still, 79 miles at an average speed of 13.8 mph (second only to yesterday’s 13.9, which included a fair amount of high-speed descent) is a pretty good day, by any reckoning. We will see tomorrow if I can maintain this pace. At the moment, I am tired, but I feel good.

The scenery today was very interesting. The first 40 miles or so were high desert, with a lot of cattle, barren desert uplands, and not a bit of shade to rest in.

The remaining 40 miles had more trees, and endless cornfields. Although I will not be in Nebraska for two more days, it felt like I was there already.

Of today’s miles, subtract 3 from overall progress because I missed a few turns. Also, my hotel is a mile and a half off the route.

My target average is now 65 miles per day. Days like today, where I can beat that number, is like stockpiling time.

Tomorrow, my goal is to ride to Wray, Colorado, a distance of about 80 miles. If I need to stop before that, the next option is Yuma at about 55 miles. the weather tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful, so I’m hoping for an early start and a good long day.

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Day 47: Platteville, CO

Sunday, 6/23/2019
Miles: 42.2
Average speed: 13.9 mph
Vertical gain: 473 ft.
Current Elevation: 4,820 ft.

Today today I rode out of the Rocky Mountains and onto the Front Range, finishing my day in Platteville, CO.

When I woke up at the Busey’s house this morning, it was snowing outside. June 23. It wasn’t sticking, but it was in the 30s.

Nonetheless, I prepared to ride, and after having breakfast, Buzzy drove me and my bike to the end of the dirt road, and then 1/4 mile further to the top of the hill. The precipitation had stopped, and the conditions were okay, if chilly. I was dressed pretty warm, with both tights and leg warmers, and many layers under my Gore-Tex jacket.

The 10-mile ride down was thrilling! At one point, I entered a turn too hot, and thought I was going to crash. But I was able to maintain control and come to a safe, upright stop. No harm, no foul, but it was a good lesson and a reminder to be more careful.

The weather was very overcast, and occasionally spitting rain. After I got to the bottom of the hill and continued across the flatland, the rain picked up.

By the time I got to lunch at Mile 33, I was somewhat damp and thoroughly chilled. It felt good to linger over a cup of hot tea at lunch. (I have not had any coffee for several days now. It was really tempting today.)

After lunch, the rain stopped and the weather was actually kind of nice. I rode the final 10 miles to Platteville, where I am staying with a WarmShowers host.

The weather the next several days is finally looking pretty good. My route is mostly downhill, and I hope to get some big miles in.

I analyzed my current status, and determined the following: if I average 45 miles per day for the remainder of the trip, I will miss the PMC by a week. If I average 65 miles per day, I will have five days to spare. I do not know at this time how many miles per day I will be able to average for the remainder of the trip. I’m still hoping to make the PMC, but I’m not betting on it. I will know more in a few weeks.

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Day 44 through 46: Busey’s House

Note: This is written on Saturday, 6/22/2019.

Day 44 – Thursday, 6/20/2019
Miles: 12.4
Average speed: 5.9 mph
Vertical gain: 1,853 ft.

Days 45 & 46 Miles: 0

Thursday, Day 44, my last day of riding in the Rocky Mountains, was the first day of this trip where I just did not feel like riding. I was feeling fairly beat up after climbing Loveland Pass the day before, and was just looking forward to getting to the Busey’s house to rest and recover.

Nonetheless, I awoke and rode a half a mile to breakfast at a local diner. It was good. Then I continued on to Central City, the destination I had wished I had attempted the previous day. However, the 10 mile climb into Central City turned out to be extremely difficult, and so I’m glad that I did not do it last night.

That is I-70 down below, looking east.

I finally made it to Central City just before noon. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, there is casino gambling in Central City and its neighboring town of Blackhawk. So I found a casino that had blackjack tables and a restaurant, and had lunch. Then I spent an hour at a $5 table, where I came out slightly behind, but had fun.

Then I got on my bike and rode downhill 3 or 4 miles to Blackhawk. I really did not feel like riding the rest of the way to Nederland, where I was originally going to meet Buzzy, let alone all the way to his house. It was a big climb to Nederland, then an even bigger climb to Buzzy’s house, with the final three miles being a rough dirt road.

So I called Buzzy to discuss. Being the great friend that he is, he readily agreed to come pick me up in Blackhawk, about 40 miles from his house.

I locked my bike, and went into one of the casinos to play a little more blackjack. Then, with time to spare, I moved my bike to a location where it would be easier for him to pick me up, and waited. Fifteen minutes later, he showed up, we loaded my bike & stuff into the car, and we were driving. What a relief!

Buzzy and I have been friends and schoolmates ever since fourth grade, all the way through Penn State. We have stayed close, despite only seeing each other very intermittently. By coincidence, when I rode my bike to Harrisburg, 7 years ago, he and his wife Kim lived about 10 miles from my route. I stayed with them on that trip, as well.

They moved out here to Colorado about two years ago, after they retired, to be closer to their kids, who live in this area. So of course when I planned this ride, it was only natural to include a visit. I’m so glad I did! They have been wonderful hosts.

On the way back to Ward, where they live, we stopped briefly at the James Peak Brewery and Smokehouse in Nederland, where their son, Kyle, is the manager. (We had dinner there Friday night, and it was really good.)

We chatted with Kyle a bit, then drove on to the Busey’s house high up on a rugged dirt road, at a little under 10,000 feet elevation, where Kim was waiting.

They have an incredibly beautiful log cabin house in the pine woods, with views of mountains all around.

Hummingbirds buzz around incessantly, along with many other birds. They are hard-pressed to keep the hummingbird and grain bird feeders full every day.

Unfortunately, the weather during my visit was unusually cool and wet. In fact it rained most of the time, so most of the time we could not see the mountains. But when the clouds parted, there they were, covered in snow. It was the first day of summer.

As I write this, it is Saturday evening. My plan is to leave tomorrow morning, and ride down and out of the Rockies. I have a Warm Showers host lined up in the town of Platteville, about 50 miles away. Hopefully, the weather won’t be too miserable, but I’m planning on riding no matter what. We’ll see how that works out.

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Day 43: Idaho Springs, CO, via Loveland Pass*

Wednesday, 6/19/2019
Miles: 51.1
Average speed: 10.4 mph!
Vertical gain: 2,704 ft.
Max Elevation: 11,990 ft.
Current Elevation: 7,526 ft.

Today was mostly a very good day, despite the asterisk in the title. More on that later.

Today was a big day, Loveland Pass, probably the biggest climb of the entire ride, and at high elevation, to boot. So I planned and executed my morning carefully to get an early start. I was ready to go at 8:05 a.m., breakfast and all.

The only problem was the weather. Despite a good forecast, it was raining and the sky was filled with dark clouds. I was undecided whether to start riding or wait until tomorrow. Finally sunshine and blue patches appeared as the clouds started to move away. Then a magnificent double rainbow appeared, almost right over my head in the motel parking lot. That was it, I was riding.

The first 10 miles or so was either flat or slightly uphill.

Then, at about the Keystone Ski Area, it started to get steep, and stayed steep the rest of the way.

I think it was the elevation that got to me more than the climb itself. I was terribly dizzy, whether pedaling or walking. (And I was mostly walking for the final 10 miles.)

So I broke. About two and a half miles from the top, after passing Arapahoe Basin Ski Area (where I skied about 30 years ago, and got stuck in a white out above the tree line), and while trying hard not to fall over while gasping for breath, I stuck out my thumb at an approaching pickup truck.

This was the second time on this trip that I have tried to hitchhike. The first time, there were maybe six vehicles in an hour and a half, and none of them stopped.

Today, the first one stopped. I unloaded my bike, put everything in the back of the truck, and climbed into the cab. He drove to the top of the of the pass, and parked, as he intended to do anyways. He had work to do from his “office”, and his “office” was wherever he was parked. This was a very nice spot to park.

I unloaded my stuff, put my luggage back on the bike, and walked across the road to take some photos at the monument. I didn’t stay long, maybe 15 minutes. It was cold. Blue sunny skies, and not much wind, but it felt really cold, although my thermometer said about 60°.

Even though I didn’t ride the entire way up, it was still a pretty significant ride for me – 21.5 miles, 2,100 vertical feet, all uphill, at an average speed of 6.1 mph, to an elevation of around 10,000 feet.

I’m sure that if I had been a little bit tougher mentally, or if no one had stopped to pick me up, I would have made it to the top without incident. But you never know for sure, and I was feeling pretty knackered. Especially considering my medical history (minor heart attack 17 years ago), sticking out my thumb seemed like the smart thing to do.

Several times during the climb I tried the Boost, the canned oxygen mentioned in previous posts. It didn’t seem to make much difference. Maybe I needed to breathe more of it.

The ride down was pretty thrilling, a good solid 16 miles to the town of Georgetown, many of which were done on Interstate 70. There I had a late lunch, a hamburger at 3 in the afternoon. What a huge mistake! I think the lack of oxygen has addled my brain.

Then it was an additional 13 downhill miles to the town of Idaho Springs, where I checked in to the H&H Motor Lodge, from which I am now writing this post.

This was my second big mistake of the day. For some reason, I was confused and thought that Central City, my real goal for today, was an additional twenty miles, when in reality it was only seven. No way am I doing twenty more miles today, but 7 would have been reasonable. I wish I’d gone on to Central City. Oh well, I’ll deal with it.

So here I am in Idaho Springs. Buzzy & Kim live in Ward, which is only 46 miles away, but with over 6,000 feet of climbing. Also, I’m very concerned with actually finding their house, considering the lack of cell signal in the area.

So the plan for tomorrow is I’m going to ride towards Nederland, which is about 20 miles from their house. Buzzy is going to drive out and meet me either in Nederland or somewhere on the road. In any event, I should be at the Busey’s house tomorrow night.

I can hardly wait.

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Day 42: Frisco, CO

Tuesday, 6/18/2019
Miles: 9.5
Average speed: 11.8 mph
Vertical gain: 242 ft.
Current Elevation: 9,097 ft.

Today today was a perfectly pleasant, moving, rest day. I road for about an hour, mostly downhill, on a bike path, from Breckenridge to Frisco. It was cold, in the low 50s, heavily overcast and spitting rain. But I was dressed appropriately, and was comfortable, so it was not a problem.

The rain picked up just as I reached Frisco. I stopped at a visitor information center, and found a motel to check out, the Snowshoe Motel. They also assured me that the bike path up to the summit of Loveland Pass tomorrow is totally open, and not obstructed by any avalanches. That had been a concern.

As I stepped outside to go to the motel, I bumped into another bike tourist, who was actually participating in the Race Across America. We talked a very short while, because he was desperate for a warm lunch, and I was desperate to check into a motel. It turns out that he was also staying at the Snowshoe Motel, so we agreed to talk later. Unfortunately, that never happened. I tried to find him, but with no success. It would have been really interesting to compare notes.

I have been wanting a haircut and beard trim for a few weeks now. I prefer my hair and beard short, especially on a sweaty endeavor such as this. Normally, at home, I give myself a haircut every two to three weeks, cutting my hair and beard to the shortest setting on the clipper. It’s now been 6 weeks since my last haircut.

So I was thrilled today in Frisco when I saw a barbershop on Main Street, and I had all afternoon available. After lunch, I stopped in. There were two guys in front of me. So I went for a walk and came back 20 minutes later, and she sat me in the chair 5 minutes later.

The barber was a bubbly woman named Alex Porter. She told me that she was a co-author, along with two other women, of a book called “Open”, about open adoptions. She herself was a birth mother who gave her daughter up to an open adoption. The other two co-authors are the adoptive mother, and the adult child. It was very interesting.

Lunch was a delicious veggie breakfast burrito at the Log Cabin Cafe. Dinner again was pasta & meatballs at another Italian place. I’m trying to eat well today in anticipation of tomorrow.

My plan tomorrow is to eat breakfast here in town, get a good early start, and climb Loveland Pass. I’m not sure what my final destination is – hopefully Central City, but maybe Georgetown or Idaho Springs (I swear I am not making up these names). I just found out today that there is casino gambling in Central City, so there is an added incentive.

We’ll all find out tomorrow.

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Day 41: Breckenridge, CO via Hoosier Pass

Monday, 6/17/2019
Miles: 21.8
Average speed: 8.9 mph
Vertical gain: 1,682 ft.
Max elevation: 11,539 ft.
Final Elevation: 9,600 ft.

I was really nervous about today. I had to go over Hoosier Pass, at 11,539′, and the weather forecast did not look at all good. Rain starting at 12:30, which was more than the usual afternoon threat out here.

I had planned on getting an early start, which I sort of did, but then dawdled, agonizing over whether or not to stay an extra day vs. tempt the weather. I finally decided to go for it, so I packed up and left the hotel at about 7:50, in search of breakfast.

I rode down “Historic Front Street”, where I had a nice chat with a local shop owner. Amongst other things, he directed me back to the same place I had lunch yesterday, the Java Moose, as a good breakfast place. Maybe the only breakfast place. In any event, the breakfast burrito there was delicious.

After finishing my breakfast burrito and coffee (yes, I am back to drinking coffee almost every morning), I sat there an extra 20 minutes, switching between the weather app and the Boston Globe. I did not know what to do. Finally, I decided to go for it, so I started riding at 8:25am.

This decision was based on rather optimistic logic, but in the event, it all worked out okay.

The climb was 10 or 11 miles, for which I figured about 3 hours, max, even allowing for a lot of walking. That would get me to the top at about 11:30, and the forecast for rain was 12:30. What could go wrong?

At around 11, I saw a rain clouds on either side of me, but no thunder, lightning, or raindrops on me. I kept riding.

At 12:05, after 11.3 miles of climbing, the dark clouds were close at hand, the top was not, and big raindrops started to fall. Again, just like yesterday, I found a clump of pinon trees to take shelter under and prepare for the rain. Once again, I put on my booties, and this time an extra jersey. (It was cold, much colder than the indicated 63° on my thermometer.) And once again, just like yesterday, as I pondered whether to hunker down or ride, the dark clouds moved away and the sun came out. I continued to ride. Dan’s Law!

Five minutes and four tenths of a mile later, I was at the top, in bright sunshine. If only I had known.

I stayed at the top less than 15 minutes. I felt good – much, much different, and better, than at the top of Monarch Pass four days ago. But time was of the essence. I knew the rain would be a threat before this day was over.

The rest of the ride to Breckenridge, about 10 miles, was almost all downhill. It was great.

Then, 3/4 of the way down, the sky darkened and I could see rain coming. So I rode as fast as I could to town, found a place to eat, The Canteen, and had a Reuben. Boy, did that hit the spot. Not two minutes after I entered the restaurant, the skies opened up and it poured. Didn’t matter to me though. I was dry and comfy and eating lunch.

By the time I finished lunch, the rain had stopped. I rode through town, and checked into the Breck Inn.

The forecast for tomorrow is the same as today, that is, rain starting late morning/early afternoon. I don’t want to attack Loveland Pass in the rain. I was lucky today, but I can’t count on that tomorrow.

So tomorrow will be at 12 mile, all downhill, rest day, to the town of Frisco. Then I will go up and over Loveland Pass on the next day, Wednesday.

Stay tuned.

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Day 40: Fairplay, CO

Sunday, 6/16/2019
Miles: 34.9
Average speed: 8.8 mph
Vertical gain: 2,707 ft.
Elevation: 9,954 ft.

Today was a good day, an encouraging day. It was a challenging day, with a single big climb (Trout Creek Pass at 9,346′), but it was not near as tough as I feared. That bodes well for tomorrow and the next day.

I think staying for 2 days at the KOA was a real good idea. Not only did it poor buckets yesterday, and I would have been caught in it, but the extra day of rest did me good.

This KOA offers breakfast at 7 a.m. at an outdoor cafe called the Cook Shack. Yesterday, I got there at 7:05 and there was no line. The breakfast was very reasonably priced and very large. My goal this morning was to be pedaling by 8 a.m., in order to beat the rain forecast for 12:30. So I got all packed, and was at the Cook Shack by 7:05. Unfortunately, there was a large group of high school kids camped out, and about 20 of them were in line in front of me. Oh well, there goes my early start. As it was, I started pedaling at about 8:30. Not too bad.

The ride profile today consisted of an initial, relatively steep, 11.9 miles to the summit of Trout Creek Pass, at an elevation of 9,346 feet.

This was followed by a couple miles of descent, followed by 20 miles of gradual climbing. My destination, the town of Fairplay, at 9,954 feet is actually at a higher elevation then Trout Creek Pass.

I reached the summit of Trout Creek Pass in a very respectable time of 2:20, at 10:50am. I pedaled almost the entire way, walking only one very short little stretch. The weather was beautiful – around mid-60s, sunny, late breezes. No threat of rain yet.

I stayed the top for only 10 or 15 minutes, then pushed on. I was still worried about the rain that was sure to come later in the morning.

Sure enough, at about 11:30, the sky darkened off to the left side, and raindrops started to fall intermittently. At about 11:45, the intensity started to pick up. So I stopped under a couple of pinion pine trees, and prepared to either ride in the rain or hunker down until the storm passed.

I put on waterproof booties, a helmet cover, a Goretex jacket, and a warm beanie under my helmet rather than my white hat with the neck curtain. Then, as I was pondering whether or not to sit here under the trees until it passed, the rain stopped and the sky lightened. I resumed riding.

Dan’s Law of Sincere Intent was in full effect. Since I was deathly afraid of getting caught in a thunderstorm, and had geared up accordingly, of course it never happened. I did get a few raindrops on me, and I rode on some wet pavement. There was thunder and lightning on all sides. But it all missed me.

I did not stop to eat lunch on the road, because I did not want to get caught in the rain. I finally got to Fairplay around 2:00 and had lunch at a little cafe. Then I checked into the 96 year old Fairplay-Valiton Hotel.

This is a cute little town, with a lot of really old buildings housing shops and such. For the first time on this trip, I found an Italian restaurant, and had pasta and meatballs for dinner.

Tomorrow, I once again go above 11,000 ft, climbing over Hoosier Pass. However, aside from the elevation, it should not be that tough of a day. It is basically the same profile as today, except at a higher elevation. Since I am already at close to 10,000 feet, the climb tomorrow will only be about 1,200 feet. It will be very interesting to see how tomorrow’s climb compares to today’s, as well as Monarch Pass 3 days ago.

The next day, I climb over Loveland Pass, at 11,900 feet, the highest paved road in the US. Then two more days in the mountains, and I will be at the Busey’s house in Ward, CO.

After that, it is all downhill to the Mississippi. I am not sure if I am happy about leaving the Rockies, or sad. In any event, my mileage should improve.

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