Monday, June 29, 2009

Lamar CO to Garden City KS 104 miles - 1,709 miles cum

Today we entered another state,Kansas and another time zone, central. We are getting close to the halfway point. It will be someplace in Kansas.
We had breakfast at the hotel at 6:00Am and loaded our luggage at 6:45Am and got on our way. There was a group of us riding together for the first 5 miles or so and then the hammers pulled away. Bruce, Meiri and I rode together for about 15 miles and then I threw my chain off. Ed came by while I was struggling to get it back on and said I wasn't using the right words! Pretty funny! I finally got rolling again and eventually caught up with Bruce and Meiri again. We got into the first Sag stop and luckily Sean the mechanic was there. He has been working on my shifting for a few days and I told him the chain came off again. He took a look at it and discovered the front derailleur was bent. He straightened as best he could so I could keep riding and promised to do a complete repair when I got in today. I was getting ready to leave when he looked my rear tire and noticed a bulge in the sidewall. The tire had a cut and was ready to blow. He put a new tire on the bike and finally I was ready. By now Meiri and I were pretty far behind.
We rode to the state line and Brian was there so we all took pictures. After 50 miles, it started to really get hot. We stopped in the town of Syracuse for a cold drink. As I took my sunglasses off, the lens popped out. The screw had come loose. The clerk inside said there was a drug store about three blocks down where I could buy a repair kit. We sat on a bench outside drinking our pop when one of the locals came out and asked what we were doing. After we told him, he said he had moved here from Las Vegas three years ago. He was the local plumber and seemed like a really nice guy. He jumped into his pickup truck and left while we jumped on our bikes and headed for the drug store. I bought a kit and fixed my glasses and we were back on the road.
Shortly before the town of Lakin, where our Sag stop was to be held, my new back tire went flat! I took it apart but could not find anything in the tire to cause the flat. I finally decided that it was a pinch flat and put in a new tube and set out for Lakin. The Sag stop was supposed to be at a Dairy Queen but it had gone out of business. Bitter disappointment, no Blizzards today!!!
Meiri and I decided to go across the street and have lunch at a Mexican restaurant. It felt good to sit down and get out of the heat. The temperature was now around 100 degrees. About an hour out from the hotel, we ran into rain storm. The rain actually felt good. It rained enough for us to get wet but it really cooled us off. I was completely dried off after 20 minutes or so but the clouds remained so the heat never built up again.
Kansas is really flat although we did have a total of 1,434 feet of climbing today. We crossed the Arkansas river several times today. It does not look like the raging torrent we saw a couple of days ago in Colorado. I am sure it is because it is being used for irrigation. There still are interesting things to see even if it is not all mountain scenery.
For dinner we ate a Golden Corral buffet. These places lose money on us. Everybody goes for two or three plate loads and then finishes up with desert. I hope I can cut back from the 6,000 calories or so I am eating everyday!!!
Tomorrow we are only riding 51 miles so we get to sleep in and load at 8:00Am!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pueblo to Lamar Co 122 miles - 1605 miles cum

Today was our longest day of the ride, 122 miles. It was mostly flat with a couple of small climbs. The wind could have been better, it was pretty much a cross wind although we got a bit of a tail wind now and then. I was a total of 9 hours in the saddle and 11.5 hours total. A very long day!

The day started out a little cool but it was sunny. I didn't wear a jacket because it was supposed to warm up quickly, it did! It eventually got to 95 degrees. We were in the desert for about 10 miles then it changed to farmland for the next 112 miles. I started out with Bruce but eventually he moved on and I started riding with Meiri. We were riding along through the town of Manzanola and passed a market with a sign outside that said cold cherries. We immediately turned in and bought about a pound which we ate on the spot. Delicious!! We passed our first of three cattle feed lot at about mile 51. I did not take a picture because it is pretty sad to see all the cows just standing around waiting to get fat enough to be turned into hamburger. This is truly flat land out here. After three weeks of scenery with mountains all around, it takes a little getting used to seeing nothing on the horizon. I guess I better get used to it.

We passed some interesting abandoned houses along the way and an old school house which was built in 1899. They are trying to raise funds to restore it.

At about mile 85 Meiri and I stopped at a Dairy Queen for ice cream. We figured we had earned it by then. Marilyn, Bob and Carole soon joined us. It was a great treat!

We soldiered on towards the town of Hasty and our last sag stop of the day. It was outside a little grocery store. I went inside to use the facilities and there was the strangest collection of local characters you would want to see sitting around a table doing nothing on a sunday afternoon.

We left the sag and rode the final 20 miles into Lamar. We are staying at the Best Western - Cow Palace. Not sure why it is named Cow Palace, no cows!

Tomorrow is another long day, 107 miles!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pueblo Rest Day

Today was our rest day in Pueblo Colorado. I woke up at about 7:00AM,it was good to get to sleep in. Bruce was already up and getting his shower. I laid in bed and watched TV for about an hour and then got up and did my laundry. I went to breakfast in the hotel. This hotel does not have a complimentary breakfast but they do have an excellent restaurant. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while reading the paper. After breakfast, I sorted out all of my cold weather gear and packed up to ship back home. I needed some packing tape so I walked over to the Office Max and wound up buying a new camera. It is waterproof and I bought a one year extended warranty which covers everything that could happen to the camera. Now I won't have to worry about dropping it while I am on the bike!
My niece, Heather Larson Loomis came down from Evergreen CO to visit with me. It was wonderful to see and visit with her. We went down to downtown Pueblo to see the sights. We had a drink in an old bar and then walked around the river walk. It was funny to see how deserted the area was on a Saturday afternoon. The riverwalk was very interesting. There was a hot rod show in town and we saw a lot of the cars around. Some of them were staying at our hotel. We went to the Texas Roadhouse for dinner and then Heather had to head for home. It was good to see her!!!
Tomorrow we head for Lamar Colorado. It will be our longest milage of the trip.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Salida to Pueblo CO 94.4 miles 1,483.6 miles cum

It is hard to believe that I have to continue to find words to top the previous day's ride. Today is no exception. This may have been the best day yet! We loaded our luggage at 6:00am, I hate that, and then went about a 1/2 mile up the road for breakfast. It was a very good breakfast place. After breakfast, we went out to get on our bikes and we ran into two young girls who were going into the restaurant. One of the girls commented to Meiri that they had identical bikes. We started talking to them and they told us they were biking from New York to Eureka CA. They were carrying all of their gear and camping along the way. They left New York on May 21 and expected to get to Eureka around July 20th. I must be getting old as they looked awful young to be doing something like that.
We started out and after a few miles entered the Arkansas River Gorge. It seems strange that The Rocky Mounains are now to our backs. As I previously mentioned, this is the headwaters for the Arkansas river. We rode downhill for around 37 miles to the first Sag. Yes I said 37 miles of continuous downhill through the most gorgeous canyons you will ever see. We paralleled the river for the whole time. They were multiple rafting trips taking place along the river. The water was up but the rapids were not as large as the ones at home on the Yough.
After the sag, we went down another 5 miles or so then we had a six hundred foot climb over 2.5 miles. Of course this was nothing after climbing up Monarch Pass yesterday. We then had another five mile descent into Canyon City where Bob, Meiri, Carole and I stopped in Big Daddy's diner for lunch. We were there for about an hour before we left. We had about 20 miles to go before the last sag. We began to hit hills with about a mile down hill then a mile uphill. We also started to pick up a tailwind. We could get up enough speed to carry to the top of the next hill. It was a lot of fun. We were averaging 20 mph or so. About two miles before the Sag my rear tire went flat. I told the others to keep going and changed the tire. Bob stayed back to help me. By the time I got to the Sag, A thunderstorm was coming up fast behind us. I pumped up my tire, filled my water bottles and took off after the others. By now the wind was really starting to blow. It was probably 35 to 40mph. It was a direct tailwind. We had 20 miles to go to get into Pueblo and we started to average 30mph. The wind would blow me so fast, I couldn't pedal fast enough to go any faster. I was cruising along on the flat at about 30mph when Gerard passed me going about 40mph. He has a giant chainring that enables him continue to pedal at that speed. He said he was able to get up to 50mph at one point. We were out running the storm when I got my second flat. I did not have a spare tube as I had already used mine. Luckily, Carole came by and gave me on of hers. I quickly changed the tube and took off again. We covered the 20 miles from the Sag into Pueblo in 45 minutes on a bike. That was the fastest I have ever gone for a sustained time. Fantastic!!!!!!
Well we have gone from the Rocky Mountains to the high plains. We are back in the desert. We began to see cactus along the road. Only one more riding day in Colorado!

Gunnison to Salida CO 69.2 miles 1,389.2 miles cum

The other day I was talking about the formidable Rocky Mountains. Today I said as I stood at the top of Monarch Pass (11,312’) “the Rocky Mountains aren’t so tough after all. To go back to the start, the day started out as another cloudy cool day. I broke the stem on my rear tube as I was pumping up my tires to start the day. If you are going to have a flat, the hotel is the place to do it. Gerard had a new tube in the tire and Bruce and I were on our way within 10 minutes. The route was fairly flat with no head wind for a change. Bruce and I made pretty good time as we rolled into the first Sag stop. Four miles after the Sag, the climb up Monarch Pass began. Bruce had left a few minutes early than I did as he is a much stronger climber than I am. Bruce lives in Estes CO, which is up in the mountains. The elevation at his house is 7920’, he is used to altitude and elevation. Anyway, I started out with Meiri. She and I ride at pretty much the same pace. We started up with gorgeous mountain scenes on both side of us. A lot of times, I could see 500' or more over the edge without any guard rails. I decided to stop every mile for a drink and something to eat. I was able to get to over 10,000 feet before I really began to feel the effects of the altitude. I think the Iron supplements I have been taken since April did the job. Meiri and I finally reached the top of Monarch Pass to the congratulations for Gerard and Michele. Meiri, Alex, Michele’s son, and I took the Tram up to the observation deck and the views were spectacular!!!!!. The amount of snow up there was amazing. The elevation at the top of the observation deck was 12,000’
About the time we went into the gift shop a thunderstorm began to come into view. After lunch, there was a lot of thunder and lightning so we waited for a hour or so for it to stop. Finally at about 3:30, Alex, Meiri and I started down the hill in the rain. Alex went first then Meiri and then me. Meiri and I held our speed to between 25 and 30 mph for the first 10 miles down the mountain. Alex was soon out of sight. I began to worry because I didn’t think he could have gotten so far ahead. I hoped that he hadn’t gone over the edge. Michele went past us in the van. She said later that she was really worried as she expected to see him within a mile or two after she saw us. She said that she didn’t catch up with him for seven miles. Alex said that he had hit 50mph on occasion. I think he was crazy to go that fast on wet roads but he is 22! After the steep part of the mountain, it was still all downhill in Salida. We averaged over 25mph for the last 23 miles into Salida
Meiri and I decided to go into the old section of Salida. It was almost 5:00 and the group was going to Pizza Shack for dinner. I obviously am not a Pizza Shack fan so we ate dinner at a restaurant on the Arkansas River. The Arkansas’s headwaters begin in these mountains. It was raging as a result of the recent storms. There were kayaks on the river while we ate. Pretty cool stuff. We would have stayed a little later but her boyfriend was meeting her at the motel, so we had to leave. I was amazed at all the Victorian houses in the town. I wish we had our rest day here instead of Pueblo.
I have beaten the Rockies and it is 1,000 miles all down hill to the Mississippi River!!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Montrose to Gunnison CO 64.3 miles 1,320 miles cum

Today started out as a bright sunny morning with mild temperatures. We started a gradual climb but after about 5 miles or so, a pretty strong headwind kicked in. By that time, the climbing became much steeper as we began to climb up to 8,734 feet before the day would end. This was also day 2 of riding the same route as the Bike Tour of Colorado. The riders on the bike tour were not as agressive as they were yesterday, mainly because the climb slowed them down as well. I talked to several riders as we climbed, most of them were curious about what we were doing. Our Sag stop was located at the top of the first big climb about 27 miles into the ride. I was out of water when we reached it. I drank a whole bottle after I got there. The ride down was through a canyon lined with trees and high rock walls. It was spectacular!! The second climb was not as long but it was high. When we started down the other side, we could see a lake in the valley below. It was a long ride down, pretty refreshing after the long hot climb. A couple of us stopped for lunch at a marina about 12 miles from town. It was very nice. We picked up a nice tailwind for our last 12 miles of the day along the lake and finally into Gunnison.

Tomorrow we reach the Rockies and climb over at Monarch Pass. 11,300 feet or so. Then it is all down hill to the Missippi River!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grand Junction CO to Montrose CO 72 miles 1256 miles cum

Today we got our first look at the Rocky Mountains. They are snow capped and looking pretty formidable, but that is for 2 days from now. Today started off warm and sunny with 12 miles along a beautiful bike trail which paralleled the Colorado river. Very nice! After we left the bike trail we merged with route being taken by The Bike Tour of Colorado. There are 2,500 cyclists on this tour and they were on our route to Montrose today and they are on our route for tomorrow as well although they will turn off before they get to Gunnison which is our destination. As for today, we had to work our way into their pace lines and try not to get run over. They have some pretty strong cyclists on the BTC. We rode through farmlands as well as the typical Colorado mountains and canyons. I saw farmers today for the first time since California. A corn field was up pretty high, my first corn field of the year. Sorry, I didn't get a picture. We all wore our America by Bicycle jerseys so we would stand out from the crowd. I met several riders who were familiar with what we were doing and they chatted as they rode by. We met a rider who was wearing the same jersey as we were. He rode the ride last year and just wore his jersey today not realizing our group would be here. He rode up with a couple of us to one of our support vehicles and Michele was wondering who the extra person was until he spoke and then she recognized him. Several of us stopped for lunch about 20 miles before the motel. After we left, a strong head wind started up making riding very difficult. To top it off, my right foot began to hurt to the point I could hardly stand it. I just wanted to get my shoes off in the worst way. We finally made it to the motel at 2:30PM just a little bit worse for wear.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Green River UT to Grand Junction CO 102 miles 1184 miles Cum

Today we made it to Colorado! Wahoo!!!! Another state down and nine more to go. The day started out a little cool but it was sunny, imagine that! Today's route was completely on I-70. I started out riding with Bruce again and we rode together pretty much until the first rest stop then he went ahead while I climbed the hill to the rest stop. His loss, the view up there was spectacular!! I made it to the first Sag stop in pretty good order although I was the last one there today. I quickly filled my water bottles and hydration unit which I was using for the first time today and got back on the road. I was riding by myself for a while and then caught up to Meiri after about forty miles or so. She had asked me to be there at the state line so we could take pictures so I rode with her to the state line. The scenery was spectacular as usual in the high desert. I have said it before but there are things you see on a bike that you aren't going to see when you travel by car. You have time to look at something for awhile to let it soak in and then take the perfect picture. I am trying to figure out how to upload all of my pictures to a web site so you can see everything. I managed to get my first flat of the trip just a few miles before the 2nd Sag stop. The 2nd sag stop was situated under an underpass along I-70. It was the only shady spot for miles. Of course no rest room facilities but by now everyone is used to finding a bush, including the girls. It is funny to be looking of at a distance and then one of the women all of a sudden pop up! But we all know now to not look!!
We left the Sag stop and rode 6 miles to the Colorado border. Since we missed the Utah Welcome sign, we went across the highway and took pictures there as well. As we approached the Utah sign, two young girls were taking each other's pictures. I offered to take their picture for them. One of the girls noticed my Pittsburgh shirt and said her father was from Pittsburgh. She is about the 4th person I have met who is from PA or knows someone from Pittsburgh.
As we entered Colorado, the scenery changed from high desert to mountains with green valleys. I said whoever created Colorado took the good parts and left the bad parts to Utah, New Mexico and Kansas.
We were riding along and came upon Marilyn who had a flat.Marilyn has had about 6 or 7 flats and does not know how to fix a flat. I fixed her flat and started back down the road. It wasn't three miles before I had my 2nd flat of the day. It turns out the group had over 25 flats today. I-70 was just full of little wires from the disintegrated truck tires which get embedded in our bike tires.
Meiri and I started talking about Starbucks and how we deserved a Frappachino for our ride today which was supposed to be a total of 97 miles. We agreed that we would keep riding until we found one. Her father had told her that there were Starbucks in Grand Junction. We had ride an additional 2.5 miles to get to one which meant a total of 102 miles for the day!
Grand Junction is named because the Colorado and Gunnison river join together here!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Arches National Park

After our ride today, we took a van about 45 miles to the Arches National Park. The rock formations there are fantastic. I have never seen scenery like this.The Park itself is huge. We must have drove 25 miles through the Park and still did not see everything. What we did see was pretty impressive. All you heard in the van was "Look over there", "Look at that", "WoW" etc. etc.. Everyone agreed that it was worth the trip.

Price Utah to Green River Utah 67 miles 1082 miles cum.

It was cooler than expected and the ever present clouds were still here when we woke up and got on the road today. My usual gang was ready to start riding when Bruce discovered a flat tire. I stayed behind and we finally got on the road after it was fixed. If you are going to get a flat, the hotel is the place so the mechanics can fix it while you just stand around. The delay in getting started probably kept us from getting rained on. The roads were wet and we picked up a lot of dirt as we rolled along for the first hour or so. The sky did get blue and the sun came out and it started to get warm. The fore casted headwinds held off until around 11:00am so we had an easy ride without a lot of climbing. Just before the first Sag, my bike stopped shifting into the big chain ring so Sean the mechanic worked on it while I got a little something to eat. Bruce and the rest of the group were ready to go when I discovered that my chain was off. Sean leaped into action and got it back on but by that time the group was gone. These guys don't wait around! I rode by myself for about an hour and caught up with Bruce who had stopped by the side of the road to take some clothing off. He said to go ahead as I had to get in to go to the Arch Park. I rode alone again for some time before I caught up with Meiri. We didn't actually ride together because first I would stop to take a picture and she would go ahead, then she would stop and I would go ahead. We did meet up and ride in together about 5 miles from town. We got to the hotel around 1:00PM a pretty short day on the road. Tomorrow will be a lot harder. 90 plus miles and temperatures in the 90's.
I am going to post my visit to Arch Park on another blog.