Saturday, July 14. Just north of Ordway, CO to Mile Marker 53 just south of Timpas, CO. 44 miles of riding in 2:40 hrs.
This was one of my two easy days today so we could do a side trip to Pueblo to get all my bike crap so I can do dirt when available. Up at my customary 5 AM and had coffee, two bananas and a salami sandwich for pre-ride. Loaded up the van and Jude drove me back to the 37 Mile Marker north or Ordway for my start. Judy went back to Ordway to get a run and workout in while I rode towards town. Right from the get-go I could tell I had gas in the tank, so I just big ringed it out and up to about 18 mph. I figured on riding 3 hours max today to get a good jump on the ride to Trinidad tomorrow and so we could have plenty of time today for me to buy the gear, install the gear, and get some grocery shopping done. So anyway, I was feeling ecstatic with the possibility today of getting 45-50 for those three hours of riding. No wind this morning, pretty much just dead calm with about a 70-degree temp.
Man I was just flying, and I kept the pressure on the pedals enough to get through Ordway in 36 min and continue south on 71. Now there were a few gradual risers along the way, and a few gradual descents, but all in all it just felt flat – quite a contrast from the ride west on I-70 where you’re climbing a false flat all the way to Denver. I still kept looking to my right at the gravel roads that I couldn’t ride on, and that was a bummer. But with the speed I was getting on the pavement, I didn’t shed too many tears! Got to Rocky Ford in great time, like 1:30 hrs in – and I blew a turn, riding about a mile past my turn before I realized that I screwed up. Now I was madder because of the potential of Judy driving the right way and not seeing me, and then just driving way too far looking for me, in addition to us not having coverage on the phones. So I turned it around and found my mistake, then tried to give Jude a call. Luckily we had reception. And she had indeed made the turn while I was riding the wrong way.
Just a minor blip here, so no harm. Felt so good that when she did get caught back up to me that I just motioned her on for another 5-10 miles. I had such a good rhythm going that I wanted to keep riding despite the fact that the temp was getting into the high 80’s by then. We finally did a support stop just before Hawley. Only did an ice water and I was back on the bike like a NASCAR pitstop. That final stretch between Hawley and the jcn of Rt 350 was just one lonely stretch of highway. Just nothing anywhere but grazeland and scrub brush. Hell, there were even weeds growing on the berm of the road.
Got to 350, hung a right and off towards Trinidad. This was the gateway to Comanche National Grassland – and zero in the way of east-west trending gravel roads. So even tomorrow I’ll be on pavement despite the fact that I’ll be sporting new skin on the wheels. Now you want to talk about desolation – this place personifies that. You will see a ranch now and then, and I’m amazed that people live their entire lives out in places like this. The only trees you see are the cottonwoods that grow along creeks, draws and rivers. That’s it. So when you see clumps or groves or long lines of trees, you can bet that water is or was there. The only vertical plant life is the yucca plant and the tumble weeds and the sage brush. That’s it. Now I’m sure a biologist would give me a good reaming on all the other plant life out here, but that’s kind of nit picking – it’s freaking barren!
By this time I was feeling a bit of a headwind out of the northwest, and it was definitely affecting my speed. Plus, the terrain was gently rising up towards the mountains that are some 60 miles away from that point. Still couldn’t see the silhouette of the Rockies off in the distance yet, but I could feel the approach each and every pedal stroke on Rt 350 southwest. Met Jude at the top of a climb with just 2:40 hrs of riding and 44 miles traveled. But I was good with that because I wasn’t’ sure just how far Pueblo was from that end point. Still, I was just about a 60-mile ride away from making Trinidad, and that makes tomorrow, what with our 1.5 hr drive back, all the easier. I wouldn’t want to get up at 4 AM to get back there to ride at 6 AM and face a 80-100-mile day – uphill!
So as I was changing, buck naked out in the middle of nowhere right alongside the road, outside of the van, I see this massive tarantula creeping towards me through the sand. I mean it was heading right for the passenger door…and me. Quickly jumped into my cargo pants and changed my shoes and called Jude over to see this thing. It was a big daddy for sure, about the size of a woman’s hand actually. And I got this piece of belt on the side of the road to try to move it the hell away from the van. God, you could just see these massive fangs and jaws on this thing when it turned upside-down like a turtle. I finally got it to cling to the piece of belt and then set it down well away from my changing area and the van.
I drove us back up 350, 71 and eventually to jcn with Rt 50 west to Pueblo. Made the trip in just under 1.5 hrs. Found the address of the bike shop and there we were on Santa Fe Ave at the bike shop. I ended up getting: 2 Armadillo tires, 4 thorn resistant tubes, and a roll of Kevlar skin that goes between the inner tire and the tube. Cost - $162 bucks. This dirt road cycling crap ain’t cheap!! And the guy who was waiting on me in the shop was like: “are you sure you don’t want 2 more tires?” At 45 bucks each, “yea, I’m bloody well sure!” I told the guy if that set-up wouldn’t get me the 1000 miles to San Diego then I need to find a different way to have fun. I’ve cashed in my IRA, spent my bank account, and charged up the wazoo with VISA already. I’m done!!
Now we happened to meet two cyclists (husband and wife) here in Pueblo at the cycling shop who had stayed at the same place as us last night. They are from the Netherlands and are taking the summer cycling across the US. He too was buying some extra tires. They gave us a lead on a cheap place to stay that’s just 3 blocks from the bike shop – the motel offers a “cyclist’s special.” So they’re just next door to us now. The gentlman and myself spent the first 1.5 hrs outside of the motel room changing tires and tubes. I had all my tools and pump and gear spread over the sidewalk as we got all the mechanical crap done.
My tires are now the best I can do for going back to the dirt. If this is a bust then I’m just done fighting the flats. Now the guy at the bike shop told me that the sandbur thing is very common out here, and I feel like a dope that I didn’t do more research on this topic. I mean I put so much research into this and then the sandbur comes along and I’m down hard. But anyway, he just wasn’t sure that doing as much gravel as I was intending on doing, he wasn’t sure that I’d have a bombproof set-up. Most of the guys, he tells me, do more of the single track up in the mts where the sandbur isn’t as prevalent.Oh well, at this point I can’t say I didn’t try to rectify the issue. It is what it is. Well, that’s about it for today. Time to work and then we’ll walk around a bit and do some shopping for groceries. I believe that I can wrap this trip up by the end of July. Lat……….Pete