51 miles (82 km) – Total so far: 2,284 miles (3,676 km)
Morning dawned over Hartsel as we prepared for our third day of climbing up to Hoosier Pass. A great breakfast at the Hartsel Saloon was accompanied by frenzied catch-up blogging for yesterday’s adventure. I managed not to slow down the crowd too much and we got “out of the farmyard” as Terry says.
Much of the morning was a slow grade with shifty winds. The ride wasn’t particularly difficult at first, but as we approached Fairplay, the gravel trucks got a little insane. They don’t slow down for anything. Whenever a car was oncoming while I had a truck approaching in my rear view mirror, I had to shuffle way off to the side. I continue to be amazed at the insulation an enclosed car/truck gives the driver in terms of what a close pass feels like to a cyclist.
I had a nice surprise in Fairplay, finally meeting up with Bill and Kathleen. I’ve been dogging their tire tracks for the last 42 days and didn’t think I’d ever meet them. Their blog has been a source of valuable information about the trail immediately ahead, including lodging, food, and margaritas. Unfortunately, they have been slowed down tremendously by some bike issue and were waiting for parts to arrive that day. They are planning on tackling Hoosier Pass tomorrow, so I think it is likely we’ll meet up again in the next week or so.
Running out of Fairplay is a great bike path with a gentle climb. Along the way, we passed the Colorado Cattlemen’s association, which has all of the brands for… well… cattlemen, I suppose. The trail continues up through Alma (just a quick stop for lunch and half a football match). Just outside of Alma, the serious final push of the pass begins with a four mile 8% grade. The traffic was a little dicey on the narrow roads, but the views more than made up for any challenge that the hills presented.
“Woohoo!”, I yelled as I crested the continental divide. A guy milling about at the top replied with a hearty, “Right On, Man!” and handed me a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Another PBR was on offer for the Brits as they rolled up just a minute behind me. We fooled around for about 20 minutes drinking our delightfully refreshing beverages and taking every possible permutation of picture with the sign.
The rest of the day passed in a blur. We tore down the other side of the mountain at speeds between 30 and 45 MPH. I even managed 6.5 miles without pedaling. I probably would have made the whole 10 to Breckinridge if not for some traffic that required me to hit my brakes. The day’s second bike path meandered downhill along the Blue River out of Breckinridge. We covered the final 10 miles in less than half an hour.
Now, it is early evening. We’ve stashed our stuff in a hotel. Rumor of a local brewery is in the air. Smells like trouble (and hops).