Day 16 Into and Out of Salida. ps. HERO DIRT! (Header by Norman Jolly) I woke up with the sun starting to peek over the mountain range to the east. Miles and I packed up gear up and headed down the block to the breakfast diner that connected to the bar from the previous night. We ate our massive plates worth food and listened to the ranchers talk. There were two other riders in there who were touring on their way east. I used Miles phone to update Facebook while we waited for breakfast.
Dear Colorado, I know we’ve only known each other for a couple days but I have something I need to tell you, I think I’m in love. I’m pretty sure it was love at first sight as I rolled over the top of a rolling hill in the barren wasteland called the great Basin and saw your beautiful mountains. You’ve treated me to the nicest people and he most beautiful mountain passes. However I tried to buy a new rear tire in Steamboat Springs but a rider a day ahead of me bought the last one in Colorado. Naturally I have to chase him down now. Not last night but the night before, I slept in the driveway of a meat market in Kremmling. When I woke there was a bag of fresh jersey by my bike. Thanks for letting me stay. Silverthorne was a real treat and I had my first Chipotle in a few weeks. I climbed to the top of an 11.5 k pass and descended some sweet singletrack. I got down to the valley to admire the view right as it started to sprinkle. Then it down poured. A rancher was kind enough to let me warm and dry up by his wood fire stove in his barn. The next few days are going to be tough.
Dear California, we need to talk…
After breakfast, I filled up my water and we headed out at our own paces. It was foggy out, but the sun was coming up to burn off the fog layer. The valley south of Hartsel was pretty flat with just some smoothly rolling hills. Sara had stayed in a lodge just outside of Hartsel the night before and managed to get out down the road while I was eating breakfast. I managed to catch up with her and ride with her for a while. When the route turned uphill, she slowly disappeared behind me. It was a quiet morning out there. There were cows and I even saw some bison off the side of the road. There weren’t that many, and they were kind of small. They watched me get off my bike to cross a little muddy stream. I wound my way up to the top of the pass before dropping into Salida. The view from partway down the hill was spectacular.
I stopped and met NoBo rider, Norman Jolly. I told him all about what he had to look forward to. All of my super fun descents were going to be his climbs and vica versa. He warned me about how New Mexico was going to eat through my tires and the rough conditions ahead. Of course we had to get a sweet picture of the massive mountain range on the other side of the valley. After chatting for a while, Sara Dallman and I headed south and Norman headed north. He didn’t have that much further to go to the top of the pass. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2,600 foot descent. It was fast, the gravel was a little loose, and it was a good challenge to find the most traction while having the most fun. The further down I got however, the warmer it got. I dropped down, across the bridge over the muddy high flow Arkansas river and rode up to the Salida Golf Course to ask a local how to get to the bike shop. He was kind enough to give me directions and I headed into town. I stopped in at Absolute Bikes where they treated me like a king. I rolled in, told them my troubles, and asked if I could upload my Garmin. They took my bike and got straight to work and I finally got a chance to upload to Strava again. They had me ready to go in under 20 minutes. I stopped at a Safeway a few blocks away and and got a big package of fruit, a sandwich, and coffee. I sat in the AC and enjoyed my half watermelon. It’s the little things like that that make your day. I made sure I was stocked up enough for the next section and headed out in the 90+ degree weather. I made it a few miles when I saw High Elevation Brewing to the right. The course went right by the driveway so I stopped in to cool down. I was obviously pretty smelly at this point and I could tell by the funny scrunched nose look the bartender gave me. I sat as far in the corner as I could and downed a 4oz sampler of their blond ale which was pretty good and 2 wine bottles worth of water. A local started talking to me and I apologized for the smell. Apparently they thought it was just sunscreen. Cool, better than I expected. I saw Sara Dallman pass by outside and quickly paid my tab and started the chase. I caught her just outside of Poncha Springs and we climbed towards Marshall Pass together for a while. She stopped for a break and I continued up the hill. The mosquitoes were thick but it had cooled down and storm clouds were moving in on us. As I climbed the railroad grade of a pass I looked back every now and then to see the oncoming thunderstorm. There was a clearing even with the bottom of the cloud line that I had to stop and take in the view. There was a nonstop rumble of thunder that resonated in your chest. I watched lightning strike the mountains on the next range over and marveled in just how dark the clouds were. I decided that not being under the cover of trees was not the safest place to be and continued up the pass. The road was in pretty decent condition and i was able to keep a good burn going as it got cooler and cooler out. I got to the top to find that a storm had already hit the other side of the pass and the clouds had cleared. Hero Dirt! I wish I had a camera. The road was smooth with super tacky Velcro mud. The sun was low in the sky, I checked in on my SPOT, threw a windbreaker on, and started down towards Sargents. I was grinning from ear to ear and had to sing. “Riding hero dirt that feels so good!” to the tune of “Reunited” by Peaches and Herb. You know that sort of thing happens when you’re by yourself for a long time. I caught up with and passed a few cars heading down the pass. I aired out some smooth water bars on my fully loaded bike and scrubbed speed on a few others. The traction was incredible and I was stoked on life. On the map Sargents is a full service town. What they mean is, they have a gas station and some small cabins you can stay in. I got in just as the kitchen closed but they still made a pretty bomb Texas sized sandwich for me and I loaded up on more gas station food. Sara came in shortly after me and was able to get a sandwich too. At that point I thought David Schlenker was a couple hours ahead of me as he had been since the Basin. Sara and I pushed on and rode off into the sunset that night. We turned onto a wide dirt road in the moonlight. I turned off my light except for the short descents. We watched the landscape change around us as we climbed up towards the next pass. I saw a red tail light way off in the distance but it was impossible to tell just how far away it was. It gave me some motivation to push a bit harder and I grew more tired. The temperature dropped as we climbed. I stopped to put every layer on and the nitrile gloves over my summer gloves. My nose was running in the cool mountain air and we finally caught that red light. It was a guy on a singlespeed trying to put on his thermal pants without falling over. I stopped to down a 460 calorie pack of gas station chocolate covered donuts and then pushed on. The moonlight was so bright I didn’t need my light as I climbed into the night. We passed some cows that were alarmed by our presence. There was one bull that was particularly not amused with us riding there. He stood across the road and stared me down. I stopped and talked to him as he snorted and I reached for my pepper spray. It would have been embarrassing to have to use pepper spray for the first time on the trip on a bull. He eventually walked to the side of the road and let me pass right as Sara caught up. We finished the day at a campsite at the top of an 11k pass in aspen groves. I was cold. I threw down my pad, bag, and bivvy and climbed in. I ate an egg salad sandwich from Salida and kept my pepper spray within reach in case I had to fight a bear. Day 16 complete with 140 miles and 9.2k feet of climbing.