After resting for 2 days in Pueblo I expected to easily best the next several days of riding but I had not taken the increasing altitude into consideration. Climbing from Pueblo into Westcliffe on my first day back on the bike was tough. The foothills of the Rockies were noticeably harder than the Rockies themselves. I found myself huffing and puffing despite the fact that the grade wasn't quite as bad as the Appalachians or Ozarks. For a little while I was feeling nauseous and had to focus on my breathing technique to get more oxygen into my lungs. It was hot out also and that didn't help much either. After a while, though, I finally caught my first glimpse of the snow capped Rockies and knew that the tough ride had been worth it for this scenery. I ate lunch at a pizza place in Silver Cliff which is so close to Westcliffe I honestly don't know why they don't just merge the two towns together and call it Silver Westcliffe or something. There's literally no distance between the communities. After eating, I pedaled the 1-1/2 miles to a campground and RV Park. The scenery was simply spectacular as the tiny community lies right before a long span of snowy mountains rising up into the sky. I charged my phone outside of a Dollar General and then went to sleep shortly after dark.
The next day's goal was Salida, an easy 48 mile ride. It was a Saturday. The day was going great until I rolled into town. It was hot. There was a river festival going on and all the motels, campgrounds, etc. were either booked or charging outrageous rates to stay overnight. In addition, my handlebar bag was damaged. The zipper was in really bad shape and I needed to either have it fixed or replaced. I went to a local bike shop to find out what was available for cyclists in need of lodging and where I could get my bag fixed. One of the shop workers told me that if I couldn't find anything else he'd put me up for the night but it would be after 11 when he finished his other job. For the bag, they pointed out a vinyl/luggage repair place nearby so I headed over there next. They were out for lunch so I hung out at a coffee shop for a while. When I came back they told me the disheartening news that it would cost at least $40 for them to fix the bag. They recommended another establishment in town that makes bike bags and might be able to do it for cheaper. As I stepped out the door and started heading over to the other shop a friendly, hippyish looking guy on bicycle asked me how my day was going. I explained my situation to him and he really empathized with me. I noticed some signs on his bike reading "Jesus can set you free." and "Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." I told him I loved his signs! Turns out Will and his wife Theresa have been on tour for a LONG time. This is their lifestyle now. They left Sacramento, CA on foot and not knowing Jesus and they met him on the way as he supplied all of their needs and brought them into communities of faith on a fairly regular basis. They've been all over the place and crossed huge distances in the past 3 years and have declared the mission of their ride to be pointing people to Jesus and serving wherever they can serve. They'd been in Salida for the past few weeks and had gotten a place to stay right on the river. They offered to let me camp out in a disused RV adjacent to their place. Of course I jumped at the offer and we pedaled across the small town to their little patch of ground. After getting situated I headed off to the bag shop and the nearby bike shop which offered showers. I dropped the bag off with two of the friendliest people you'll ever meet. Lane and Monty own Oveja Negra Threadworks in downtown Salida and we really hit it off. The initial estimate was actually higher than the other place but when it didn't take nearly as long as they'd thought they took $5 off the other places estimate. AND get this! This is crazy! These people are so generous! They threw in an extra top bar bag that was marked $50! If you're in Salida, go to these people and buy things from them! Such a great couple! That evening I had dinner with Will and Theresa and went to bed early. The next day I would be riding over Monarch Pass on the way to Gunnison, CO. This is the continental divide; the highest elevation I would attain on this trip.
The next day's ride was great! Grandeur, snow capped mountains, some really good climbing but nothing too difficult until the last half mile of the climb. I took a gondola ride to the top of Monarch Mountain and saw the Rockies stretching out for as far as my eyes could see; a real highlight of the trip. Arriving in Gunnison I looked up the Wanderlust Hostel (a fantastic place to stay, BTW) and spent the evening discussing my route after Cedar City, Utah with a fellow boarder named Demming. Everyone at the hostel was so friendly and curious to hear about what I'd seen on my adventure so far and where I was headed in the coming weeks.
The next day I was headed for Cimarron, only 45 miles away. I headed to a local bike shop called the Double Shot Cyclery which had a couple of breakfast items and a nice selection of coffee. I ended up leaving around 12:30 or so and arriving in the tiny little town of Cimarron around 4:30. There was a campground right on the route so I stayed there that night. Not much to report from this place.
The following morning is where things get really interesting. I was intending to reach Ridgway, CO, another 45-ish miles. Right after leaving Cimarron there's a nice climb up to Cerro Summit followed by a long downhill into Montrose. The climb went fine but as I was coming down into Montrose one of my bags somehow became detached from the back of my bike. When the bike becomes *that* unbalanced it doesn't matter if you have good reflexes to balance yourself. I started wobbling all over the place and there was about 10 seconds where I knew I was going down and was essentially waiting for it to happen. I was going about 25 mph I think. The resulting fall gave me some nasty road rash on my shoulder, my elbow and on my belly. My helmet (thank God I was wearing one) sustained major damage. If I hadn't been wearing it I would not be writing this blog post right now. I was stumbling around in a daze for a minute or two trying to get my things together when a guy in a pickup truck pulled off the road. He'd been heading away from Montrose when he saw my accident so he had turned around knowing I needed help. We loaded my bicycle and gear into his truck and headed into town. Now I don't want you to think I was bleeding profusely or anything like that, I didn't need to be taken directly to an emergency room or anything. I knew I was pretty scraped up and needed to see a doctor but I wasn't on death's doorstep. We drove into town looking for a bike shop. I knew the owner of a bike shop would pluck me into the cycling network in town and I'd have access to the resources I needed there. There were 3 bike shops in Montrose but I didn't know where they were. We just drove down Main Street hoping that at least one of them would be there. There was. Papa Wheelie's Bike Shop is a one-man establishment owned by a guy named Kent Schmidt. We wheeled Fledge through the front door and after telling me where the nearest urgent care was he set to work looking to see if there was any significant damage to the bike.
I walked the 0.7 miles to the urgent care and got looked at by the doctor. They didn't have an x-ray machine so they advised me to simply keep an eye on my wrist which was rather sore. They prescribed some burn cream to apply to my road rash and some pain medication for the coming days. Returning to the bike shop, I was pleased to hear that Fledge hadn't really suffered any significant damage. I booked a room at The Briarwood Inns on Main St. This area of Colorado is horrendously expensive so I paid a lot for that room even though it was probably the cheapest in town.That evening, a gal named Sarah with connections to some close friends from my home church got in touch with me and offered to bring me along to a dinner with her and a couple of her friends. We had a great time and it was comforting being around someone with ties to Hanover.
The next morning a guy I'd gotten in touch with on Warm Showers came over to the motel and helped me load my stuff into his truck. I would just be spending a few hours there as he had no bed to offer me. I would be staying the night (and the next couple nights) with the owner of Papa Wheelie's but he didn't leave the shop until 6 pm. I had lunch with Sarah at her place and then she dropped me off at a store to pick up more bandages and I walked back to the little farm I'd found on Warm Showers. That evening my host for those few hours dropped me off at Papa Wheelie's and Kent and I drove to his home in Delta, CO which lies north of Montrose. On arriving at Kent's house I make the heartening discovery that he and his family (His wife and kids were away visiting relatives in Kansas.) were Mennonite believers! We had many good conversations over the coming couple of days and even though I was in a bit of pain it remains a highlight of my trip.
The following day I decided to take it very easy and spend time resting and relaxing. Nothing really to report. The day after, though, I was invited to dinner with Kent and his pastor's family. Had a wonderful time, enjoyed delicious food and more good conversations and left in high spirits. We swung by Walmart after dinner as I needed to buy some new clothing since a couple of shirts were not in good shape after the accident. The next morning was my planned departure so we wanted to make sure to get home so I could get a decent sleep.
The next day's ride to Ridgway was only 25 miles and there were no major hills but it was still hard with my injuries. The sunscreen was running in my eyes also. I pulled into town and headed to The Adobe Inn which was both a Mexican restaurant and a hostel for travelers. The hostel had no rooms that night so I reluctantly got a room at The Ridgway Lodge which, with a 10% discount, was still eye-gougingly expensive at about $120/night. I needed a bed, though, and this was the cheapest after The Adobe Inn.
I thought that riding to Ridgway would move my body into the "ready zone" where I was able to continue riding but when I attempted to leave town the following morning I got very lightheaded and felt like I was going to pass out before I'd even made it out of town. The path to Telluride was going to involve a significant climb over the Dallas Divide so I knew I was in trouble if I was feeling lightheaded before leaving Ridgway. I made a u-turn and headed back to the Lodge where I reluctantly shelled out another small fortune (for me) on the room I'd just vacated. I'd intended to try the Adobe Inn again but got confused when a friendly lady told me that the Lodge was the cheapest place in town. I later found out that a lot of people don't know about the lodging at Adobe Inn. So I spent the rest of the day resting in my room, drinking a good bit of water and watching TV.
The next morning I packed up again, hoping to reach Telluride after a quick doctor's appointment at the local clinic. The first appointment they could offer me, though, was for 3 pm. I headed to the Adobe Inn and reluctantly paid a (smaller but still unfairly large) fee to stay the night. I'd lost so much money in the last couple of days that, on doing the math, I realized I would not make it to San Francisco on my budget. I lamented on Facebook that Ridgway looked like the end of the line for Fledge and me and I was going to start figuring out how to get back to the east coast unless large amounts of money started coming in.
That's when large amounts of money started coming in. The first wave brought $395. The second wave brought $300. The third and final wave brought in about $250. I was overwhelmed. I recalled a sermon by Pastor Drew back home where the message was that God's design in providing is that we would stop trusting merely in the provision and start trusting in the Provider. Deeply ashamed of my doubting heart, I wept as I meditated on God's love and the constant supply of grace that was mine whether the doubt was there or not. His grace is so much greater than my sin but my sin is still so black. I'm so prone to doubting grace and thinking as an orphan that I'm in this situation alone and that any real change rests on my shoulders and not on his. Okay. Enough sermonizing for now.
The doctor told me that I needed more time to rest. My scrapes weren't healed enough to start riding long distances again and I should take 5 days or so to recuperate. I just took it easy for the rest of the day as the Cascade Bicycle shop had already closed and I couldn't find where to stay the next few days until the following morning.
Early yesterday morning I woke up and wheeled my bike over to Cascade Bicycles. The owner, Andy, shared some options with me and recommended I reserve a spot at the KOA near Ouray, CO which was only about 8 miles south of Ridgway. So that's what I did. I arrived at the campground in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day relaxing. Nothing really to report besides that.
This morning I woke up from a somewhat poor night of sleep and headed into Ouray, whose nickname is The Switzerland of America. Nestled between gorgeous mountains, some snow capped and others densely covered in trees, Ouray is a fantastic little town. I ate breakfast at a Cajun restaurant named Cavallo's right on Main Street. I had never had an omelet with crawfish and shrimp before and it wasn't my favorite thing in the world but I might try it again if offered. After that, I headed over to Ouray Public Library where I'm typing this! Kent and his family as well as his pastor and pastor's wife are bringing dinner down to my campsite later on where we will all enjoy visiting a little bit more. On Friday I'm trying to reach Telluride again followed by Dolores, CO and Blanding, UT on subsequent days. Thanks for reading!
|Atop Monarch Mountain on the Great Divide!|
|Near Sapinero, CO on my ride to Cimarron|
|My helmet after Cerro Summit|