Sunday, July 27, 2008

7/27/2008 - More biking fun!

We've had a fun week though Dave has been working quite a bit. During his free time, we've been climbing and riding. Thought I'd highlight one of each outing. We went into Boulder Canyon and climbed at Dream Canyon a couple of days ago. This area has a lot of fun climbing and it is relatively isolated. It is quiet except for the creek below. No car sounds. No screaming beginning climbers. Just a nice time climbing. I'd heard of the reputation of Dream Canyon - gay hook-up area. I thought maybe that was an older reputation, but our trip there the other day proved differently. As Dave and I were climbing, I notice a completely naked grown male (except for tennies - he must have had sensitive feet) watching us climb. And, uh, well, I guess he REALLY liked how we climbed.


We finished our route and got the heck out of there. Freak! I so wished I had a camera to take a photo for here (with the appropriate small black bar). Perhaps it's one of those times where it was best I didn't have a camera. :) Maybe I should draw a cartoon? haha!

Today we got up early and drove to Lefthand Canyon. We then hopped on the road bikes and rode to Lyons, Riverside, Raymond and Ward, Colorado. In Lyons, Dave revealed the secret to his non-stop stamina.

Part of this ride goes on the Peak-to-PeakHighway which has really beautiful views and moderate traffic. Dave grabbed a photo of me at one of the many crests on the ride. Check out the beautiful scenery behind me! Wow.

We stopped in the fun little store in Raymond and enjoyed a drink. It's a beautiful little area.

I finally got a photo of Dave riding toward me on the road bike. This is rare since he's always in front. I took advantage of his pitstop to race ahead and get a shot of him riding near Raymond, Co.

Ward is a funky little place. We especially like someone's house - a bus. Whoever lives there has an unusual yard decoration style that involved shoes, croquet mallets and other assorted essentials.

At Ward, we enjoyed a cookie before heading down Lefthand Canyon back to the car. It was about a 50 mile round trip with a decent amount of elevation gain. We were home by 1 pm and spent the rest of the prepping for our next trip to the Sierras. Our plans are a bit in flux since a large fire just broke out near Yosemite and very near our planned first stop of the trip (Tuolumne Meadows). We'll watch the news to see if we end up somewhere completely different. Either way, we leave Tuesday for two weeks of extreme leisure baron living!

Friday, July 25, 2008

7/25ish/2008 - Rainbows, Parrots, Cat-in-a-bag and dog poo!!!

We've been enjoying our time home. We've been climbing in Boulder Canyon, Eldo and hitting the road on our bikes (we rode to Jamestown this morning for fun). Not only are we leisure barons, but I designated us today as EXTREME leisure barons. Life is great!

The parrots continue to love their life here. They get out of their room, play, visit and are really enjoying themselves. Recently they hung out with us in the kitchen while we prepared and ate breakfast. Happily, breeding season is over so they are not each (the males at least) vying for Alpha-male all the time. Peace is again with them all.

Though we've been in the midst of a heinous drought, we did finally get a tiny bit of rain last night. In lieu of any measurable rain in months (it's really quite bad) we were treated to a full, double, spectacular rainbow. They were so huge that we couldn't capture them in the camera frame. They lasted at least an hour - disappearing only because it got dark. Amazing.

Another bit of 'extreme' living has been something called dubbed "cat-in-a-bag." If you have a cat, you know how they get into everything. Pente recently "helped" with the unloading of groceries. It was quite funny! She wrestled the plastic bags for some time before becoming bored with them.

One thing that we do that we are not psyched about is picking up steaming piles of dog poo out of the front yard. What is up with that? About three times a week we are greeted with a new horse-poo sized mass in the front. If you own a dog, pick up it's poo (unless it is in your own yard and you like it)!!! I know people think that everyone loves *their* dog, but when the beast is leaving huge piles in someone else's front yard, I can assure the owners of the yard DON'T love the crapping-dog... no matter how "cute" it is.

Oh, we know what's up with offending dog owners - because we've caught the them in the act at night. They come out under the cloak of darkness to let their dogs unleash an ungodly steaming pile in our yard. Yeah - we caught one offender last night. She hurriedly bolted from the front yard before the deed was completed. Gnarly!

So today begins chapter one (and hopefully the last chapter) in the war on pooing dogs. I purchased a sign. And I added my own artwork (see poo, pile and steam). It is now proudly displayed in the front yard. We'll see if this helps a bit. At the minimum, we feel it will give a passer-by a giggle.

P.S. Since this entry is a catch-all of sorts, I figured I should update you on the mama bear that has been coming to the neighborhood. Seems they relocated here a LONG way from here, but she kept coming back. So sadly, she has been euthanized. :( The story is here if you are interested:

Monday, July 21, 2008

7/20/08 - Long and Steep - Day 5

We got up and headed to get a delicious breakfast at the Gunbarrel restaurant. As an added treat to the regular meal a blueberry turnover (made there) made it's way to our table.

The turnover never stood a chance.

A little packing and bike cleaning and we were ready to hit the road. This was going to be another long day mileage wise PLUS we had a mountain pass to tackle. Dave had never been on this stretch of road before so we weren't sure what to expect.

The road proved to have very little traffic and shoulder enough to ride on. More shoulder is always better, still it was good since the traffic was so light.

As with all the days before, the views were beautiful. Nice flowers and vistas. So gorgeous.

Today's mountain pass was called Cochetopa Pass (elevation 10,032'). It is found in National Forests between Gunnison and Saguache on the Continental Divide. According to Wikipedia, is named after the "Cochetopa Hills that it lies within with Cochetopa being the Ute Indian word for "pass of the buffalo". I read a pretty interesting story about when early settlers tried to find a pass through this area. Suffice it to say, it got cold, they got hungry, they ate one another. Nice.

This pass, though not as high as the earlier ones was still work. First, we were tired, our behinds ached, it was broiling hot and those flies. Those pesky, biting flies were everywhere. How is it one can be peddling about 20 mph and those things are still zooming circles around a person? And biting. They never stopped.

Before the pass, there were many rolling hills to keep us entertained and our legs working hard. The summit of the pass was 31 miles into the ride and I was worked when I got to the top. I had the mental capacity to speak single words only. Dave fed me a power bar and gave some water and I started to come back to life.

Now that we had summitted, we had only 40 more miles to Gunnison and several more miles to the car to go.

Neither of us wanted to say anything and jinx ourselves, but happily our tires were looking good. Hopefully no more flats would grace the trip!

The ride down was the best section of road biking I've ever done. No cars, good grade, lots of turns, clean and smooth pavement. I got up to 42.4 mph (Dave was going over 51 mph - he's even faster than me DOWN hill!). All of this in the confines of a rocky canyon. It was amazing.

We stopped 18 miles later and enjoyed the view and a snack. Happily a lot of traffic went by then. It was nice not passing them on the road since there is no shoulder on the downhill part of this road. That combined with continual curves is a scary thing for a cyclist.

After about 20 miles of fun downhill, we got into rolling hills once again. This provided many beautiful vistas (as if we could possible see anything new vista wise). With ten miles remaining, we turned west on Hwy 50 and headed to Gunnison. This road had some decent rollers but was largely a gentle downhill ride. We stopped when we got to town and enjoyed some tea.

Two more miles to the car and we were loading everything up for the drive home. I think our smiles are bigger on the return than they were on the departure. It was a great bike ride - one that we'd both recommend to anyone!

Here is a cartoon I drew of the uphill + man-eating flies portion of the ride. It captures the feeling of it. Heh heh. Enjoy!

7/19/08 - The day of the flats (tires and roads) - Day 4

We were up a bit early today to head out. We opted for another complimentary continental breakfast at the hotel. It was not your ordinary continental breakfast though - it had homemade cowboy coffee cake! Yummy! We enjoyed multiple pieces of the cake, some cereal, tea and apple juice before prepping the bikes, packing up, and heading out.

Again we had beautiful weather. There were some low clouds initially, but they burned off pretty quickly. It was the coolest morning yet so we rode about 20 miles with our leg warmers and jackets on.

As we left Creede, the first thing we passed was the RV town outside of town. Dave estimates about 1,000 RVs there. It was enormous! Okay, I've got to ask - where does all the human waste go? No matter the answer, my response is "Ewwwww!"

Like everyday, the views on this day were beautiful. Though the riding was mostly flat, the surrounding terrain was not. At every turn there was a new and beautiful view. Lots of high cliffs, trees, birds and other assorted mammals.

This day had the worst traffic of all the days. Where were all these people (primarily with Texas Plates) going? And why is it that when a car buzzed us, they were always (no exceptions here) from Texas? My own people trying to kill me. I keep wondering are they ignorant (and don't know how dangerous - and deadly - that is to a road biker) or just mean? I really believe the same drivers would give a dog trotting down the shoulder more space than some gave us. Would they drive the same way if it was their daughter or son on a bike on the side of the road? Many of these drivers made me really sad wondering when people became so hateful or lacking in any consideration for other humans.

We stopped occasionally to have a drink and enjoy the scenery. Times like this water tastes so delicious!

We arrived in South Fork to see that it was Logger Days. This may have explained the volume of traffic we experienced heading in that direction. We stopped to check out the fair. It was odd that the biggest attraction was a stand to "Pet ID Tags Made While You Watch". Maybe it was the heat - but both of us found that pretty funny for some reason.

A bit further, we stopped at a convenience store and enjoyed a drink. We were able to do some good people-watching as well. We were in any hurry since we knew that Sagauche is a tiny tiny town and there would be little to do once we got there.

The gas station was a riot. People drove up in all sorts of vehicles. At least the gas is a bit cheaper in South Fork than it had been in Lake City.

Later we stopped at a tiny market in the middle of nowhere and had an ice cream cone. Again, everyone here was from Texas. I think Dave was one of the only non-Texans in the state. Ha! I asked the guy at the counter how it came to be that so many Texans were in the cities in this area. His response: "Colorado is Texas' largest state park". Pretty funny!

Shortly after leaving South Fork, I started thinking how squishy my rear tire felt. It took a second to snap that that feeling was because it was flat a pancake. I have no idea what I ran over - but this innertube was history.

Dave circled back and changed the tire while I did important tasks such as take photographs and water the roadside vegetation. Happily we had a decent shoulder to repair the tire on. Had it been on the portion of the road before South Fork, it would not have been so pleasant. There was about a 6" shoulder there and the road was lined with haters. Glad it happened when it did.

Also glad I had a new innertube in my bike bag. I never really thought we'd need it. We road to Del Norte and found a convenience store. While I went inside to grab some drinks, Dave waited with the bikes. As he stood there, he heard a peculiar sound: Psssssssssssssssss...... He looks at his bike as the front tire flattens before his eyes!

He changed it easily, but we had a problem in that the town had no place that sold innertubes. Should we continue with the remaining 100 miles of riding (in the least populated portion of our trip) with no spares? Or do we go in a different direction to a town that *may* have innertubes?

We opted to press on and hope the flat tires were done for the trip. If they weren't we would have a lot of walking in store for us.

Happily, the remainder of the ride was stress free. No more flats. We were able to get on some roads barely traveled. On these roads we saws lots of raptors. At one point on Hwy 285, we saw two large baby raptors in a nest next to the highway! At one point, a baby deer trotted along side Dave for about a half mile.

Saguache (population 595) was the smallest "town" on our tour. And the hotel in Sagauche worried us the most. When we made reservations, there was no choice. It was merely staying at the Saguache Creek RV Park and Cabins or nothing. When making reservations, we were told there was no phone and no tv. After the cabin in Lake City, we wondered what something 1/2 the price would get us. I was going to be angry if I got bitten by knarly bed bugs!

Our fears turned out to be baseless. Our cabin was really a room and it was nice. There was nothing else anywhere near us so we watched the weather for a while after checking in. From this hotel, we could see the Great Sand Dunes in the Distance.

We walked over to the only restaurant (the Gunbarrel) for dinner. We were scared. What would be on the menu? To our surprise, the menu, though limited, had great options. We got a chicken breast dinner and a Tempe dinner. Both were really delicious. I thought it to be the best meal of the trip without a doubt! The woman working there even wrote down the Tempe recipe and gave it to us.

Following dinner, we wandered around on the grounds. Here we were able to get a photo of the beautiful grass we'd been seeing on the roadsides for the entire trip. The stuff looked like silky hair. It was almost iridescent. Very beautiful.

We headed back to the room, and for the first time on the trip, we both slept very well. This is the place to stay if you find yourself in Saguache for sure.

7/18/08 - Hello steepness! Day 3

We got up early and walked down to a local diner that advertised a breakfast buffet. On the way, we couldn't resist the photo opportunity at the local gas station. I mean, how many gas stations do you go to that have a large trout out front? (Or gas at that price?).

The breakfast was marginal (and not really a buffet), but it would work. We went back to the room, prepped the bikes, packed up and hit the road. The uphill started immediately. And the beautiful views started immediately too.

As we took off, Dave said that the next two hours would present a "small uphill section". It took me about two hours - he was faster. It is funny how time stands still during these sorts of rides.

Our first mountain pass was the Slumgullion Mountain Pass. According to Wikipedia, the pass tops at an elevation of 11,530 ft. The north side (the side we road up) has the steepest grade of any continuously paved road in Colorado (9%). And it felt like it! Though steep, it was scenic. There were lots of birds, deer and other critters all around.

More from Wikipedia: "Slumgullion Pass is named for the nearby Slumgullion Slide or Earthflow, a gigantic landslide whose yellowish soil reminded early settlers and miners of slumgullion stew. The Slumgullion Slide began about 700 years ago when weak volcanic tuff and breccia on the southern flank of Mesa Seco slumped several miles down the steep mountainside. Approximately 300 years ago, a second earthflow started from the top of the mountain and is still active, moving as much as twenty feet per year. Trees growing on the newer slide are tipped at odd angles."

We got to the top but couldn't enjoy it much because of the pesky biting flies. They were vicious! I saw Dave as I approached and he looked to be in some sort of bad-dancing fit as he swatted and smacked the beasts off him continuously. Any celebration or break would have to wait. The insects were brutal!

We descended a bit. Generally, a descent is the reward - but on this day, I was ambivalent since I knew we had another mountain pass to ride. Every foot down meant we'd have to regain that elevation on the Spring Creek Mountain Pass.

The Spring Creek Mountain Pass tops at 10,901 feet in elevation (according to Wikipedia - you can see on the sign the highway sign people feel differently). It was work, but nothing compared to the Slumgullion Pass. It really wasn't bad at all. Or was I numb?

We continued riding and the weather started looking a bit twitchy. We could see it was raining nearby. Plus, booming thunder started coming from behind us. It was a race to town to beat the rain. Though we got sprinkled on a bit, for the most part we avoided the rain.

We arrived in Creede. Creede is most recently known as a silver mining boom town. The small seven-block downtown section of Creede abuts the Pillars of Hercules - volcanic cliffs that rise about 1,000 feet. They are quite a beautiful backdrop. People in my family will like to know that Kit Carson (a relative) spent time here.

We rode to our room at the Snowshoe Motel. The woman at the desk - Donna - was so lovely! She knew exactly who we were and got us our room immediately. She even called minutes later to make sure we had everything we needed. We napped, showered, then walked through town. We headed up the road to the Pillars of Hercules and walked in the some of the mines (now the community center).

An odd thing about Creede is that at about 5 o'clock, the place was a ghost town. When we arrived, it was busy - people everywhere. Then POOF! Everyone was gone. We surmised that that they went to the RV city (way larger than the town itself) on the edge of Creede.

We stopped for a drink at the Old Miner's Inn and the bartended told us that Creede has a population of 400, but during some times (4th of July) it swells to 15,000 people. Again, the place is loaded with Texans.

While at the Old Miner's Inn, it rained hard. Happily we watched it from inside. It would have sucked to be riding in that. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and slept. We had another big day in store for tomorrow. We both felt it would be really hot and we'd baked like pieces of beef jerky on bikes.

A cartoon illustrating a portion of the day. Enjoy!