Leading up to the launch of my memoir Hangry: A Startup Journey, each month I’m releasing a state-by-state recap.
For the original post, click on any Day number heading.
Day 37: Scott City, KS to Sheridan Lake, CO
Yesterday’s beautiful day evolved into a relaxed evening. We admired the pride and care that the people of Scott City took in their city. Clean and tidy. No vacant businesses. Art along the broad sidewalks. It was great to see a prosperous town after the last few.
After a bizarre night at a make shift hostel (you can read all the details HERE), we dashed out before the girls gymnastics team showed up at 6 am. Grabbing a quick breakfast, we started peddling our final few miles of Kansas. The first 30 miles were real chore, likely from a lack of sleep.
Finally, we found an oasis of joy and happiness – a gastropub for lunch! Elliot’s Gastropub of Tribune, KS. Bitter IPAs and a magnificent chopped salad. Turns out two hoppy IPAs make the perfect cycling fuel! Not long after lunch, I crossed into the mountain timezone and then, FINALLY, into Colorado. Woohoo!
The celebration was short lived as a massive storm was building in front of us, so we hightailed it to the church in Lake Sheridan we’d be staying at for the night. As bikers crowd into the space, I just sat and watched the coming violent storm approach.
Day 38: Sheridan Lake to Ordway
The thunderstorm last night provided clean, fresh, and cool weather for today. I need a shower, but the next decent camping or lodging isn’t for about 90 miles. We got going pretty early and started tacking on the miles.
Traffic was light and conversation was good. About 30 miles in, we pulled over for some breakfast. As we lingered with full bellies outside the diner, Paul showed us his mascot.
Eads is also the official half-way mark for the ride across the US. Did you catch that?
I HAVE CYCLED HALFWAY ACROSS THE US ON THE TRANSAM TRAIL.
The plains of Kansas and Eastern Colorado are done now as we enter into a parched landscape that is turning into a serious desert. The cacti are flowering. I was lucky enough to see a hummingbird happily proboscising about.
Day 39: Ordway to Pueblo
Last night’s sleep was pretty rough. Jess and I setup our tents in the city park. The kids hanging out left by 10 pm. But city hall neglected to tell us the sprinklers come on at 3:00 am. One was directly under Jess’s tent. So we moved to the concrete pavilion, dozing fitfully until the sun came up.
Today’s plan was a short ride to Pueblo and an afternoon of rest to prepare for the climb into the Rockies tomorrow. That just sounds awesome to me. The front range of the Rockies rises up sharply from the arid plains of Colorado. Yesterday was when we saw our first hints of purple mountain majesty in the distance. They gradually show more detail as we approach at 10 MPH.
We did see three coal trains rumbling along with their blacker than black cargo. Train number five was also transporting a different kind of energy production: 30 gargantuan windmill rotor blades on a long train. Every two blades took three train cars. Super cool.
Other than that, the day was mostly uneventful. Mostly we were all content to enjoy the beautiful, sparsely populated, arid countryside in silence.
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Day 41: Pueblo to Royal Gorge
The evening before my rest day, my two British mates showed me a proper pub crawl in Pueblo, including graffiti murals and English telephone boxes. Pueblo grew out of several smaller towns, so it has three distinct, cute downtowns. Not sure if you are aware, but Pueblo is a wonderful town.
Saturday’s forecast was for 45 MPH gusts and dust storms. Lots of cyclists hunkered down for the day. We heard reports coming in from those who went on that it was pretty horrible. Chuck arrived to join me and we took the day to get his bike ready, have a good meal, and enjoy relaxed conversation.
When we finally got going, after a pit stop a mile and half in at The Daily Grind coffee shop, we started on our climb of the Rockies. Just past Canon City, the climb towards Hoosier Pass begins. This climb will take three days. We ticked off about 1/3 of the climb today.
We were rewarded for our elevation with a campsite out in nature. The views are beautiful and we wanted more. We decided to check out Royal Gorge Park. Once we got our tents set up, we climbed about 500 feet to see the Royal Gorge suspension bridge.
Perfect views as the sun set over the Rockies. Life is good.
Day 42: Royal Gorge to Harstel
The stay at Starlight campground near Royal Gorge was wonderful. Chuck got a fire going and we all sat around chatting about nothing in particular for longer than we should. It was exactly the kind of relaxed evening that has been hard to come by.
This was to be our second day of climbing from Canon City ~5,000 ft up to Hoosier Pass ~11,000 ft. The general feeling of the trail has been that the Rockies would be longer but gentler than the Appalachian and Ozark ranges. Although the steady grade helps, what really makes these mountains more climbable was the beautiful views and cool, crisp air.
At 8,500 ft we hit the town of Guffey. Linda, who works in the post office, helped us out with some water and shipping some of our stuff back home – like old maps and now obsolete granny gear.
Then we met Bill, an incredibly friendly and gracious guy who gave all the bikers a free beer. He was also crazy as a soup sandwich. Over 40 years, he’s shared his hospitality and unique brand of art with untold number of cyclists.
We pulled away from town and started our long climb to Currant Creek Pass. When we finally crested the pass, we were rewarded with an amazing view of the snow-capped Rockies and the broad, fertile valley of South Park, CO.
We started down towards Harstel. Connie, a friend and follower of my journeys, greeted us with a hand written sign. After her unexpected welcome, she joined us for a meal and I was able to spend a few hours relaxing at her cabin the Potterado Ranch, and catching up.
Day 43: Hartsel to Frisco
Morning dawned over Hartsel as we prepared for our third day of climbing up to Hoosier Pass. After a great breakfast at the Hartsel Saloon, we shifted into a slow grade climb with shifty winds.
I had a nice surprise in Fairplay as I finally met 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.
Coming out of Fairplay on a gentle climb, we passed by the Colorado Cattleman’s association and Alma (where we stopped for lunch). The serious final push of the pass begins with a four-mile 8% grade. Although the roads were narrow, the views made up for any traffic challenges.
“Woohoo!” I yelled as I crested the Continental Divide. A guy 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. The rest of the day passed in a blur. We tore down the other side of the mountain at speeds between 30-45 MPH.
As we make it into Frisco, we stash our stuff in a hotel and find a local brewery.
Day 44: Frisco to Hot Sulpher Springs Wildlife Refuge
The story in Frisco has been all about food and drink. The Brits were craving some curries, so we made our way to The Himalayan Restaurant. I have become accustomed to questions from waiters at Indian restaurants when I order a dish “as spicy as you can possibly make it.” Yes, I was sweating profusely by the second bite of my fiery Rogan Josh, but that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it. The evening continued as we made our way to the pub.
After a sleep of what felt like 10 minutes, I roused myself with the quest of a lingerable breakfast spot. I made my way to Milhouse, the perfect lingerable bakery. Just next to the bakery a bike shop turned out to be exactly what I needed to replace a critical bolt and nut for Persephone’s hindquarters. Bergin, the mechanic was a wizard.
Finally getting around to the biking part of my day, we rolled out of Frisco to enjoy another 10 miles of twisty-turnsy, upsy-downsy bike paths.
The rest of the ride to our campsite had a lot of variability. Traffic ranged from gentle to rough. Sometimes headwinds but mostly downhill tailwinds. Amazing mountain views. The beauty changed from Epic to Grand.
The day started Epic and ended Grand.
To top it off, the real treat is my campsite for the night. We entered Hot Sulpher Springs State Wildlife Area and set up camp just above the Colorado River. There will be no lights that we can see from our camp. We finished early. A perfect spot.
Day 45: Hot Sulpher Springs to Walden
Overnight, we had freezing temps and a moderate rain, but otherwise didn’t cause any drama. With no breakfast to slow me down, I got rolling out of the wildlife refuge just before 7:00 to be greeted by an unexpected gorge. The Hot Sulpher Springs Gorge is breathtakingly beautiful.
Coming out of the town of Hot Sulpher Springs, each of us set our own pace up the mountains towards the two passes for the day. The first pass we reached was Currant Creek pass. This moderate climb was followed by a steep descent.
The second pass of the day was Willow Creek Pass. This 1,500 ft ascent over 7-8 miles would have nearly killed all of us a month ago. But today words like “easy” and “manageable” were followed by insane assertions that we all wished the climb would go on further.
The final 20 miles of the day were forgettable flatness combined with poor roads. Chuck and I pushed through some tough headwinds to arrive at Walden. Our original plan for the night turned out to be restricted, so we headed over to the city park to set up camp there. Alas, several armed divisions of mosquitos drove us from the damp park. A motel it is then. It wasn’t high alpine camping, but I’m clean and warm and find it easy to drift to sleep.