Saturday, 16 July 2011

Day 44: The only way is up (and up and up...)

Day 44
Canon City to Guffey 32miles

Another early start today, on the road by about 7am. I wasnt really sure how far I would make it today, but I knew it would be uphill!

Reverted back to having the panniers on the back of the bike today. The mountain roads can be quite twisty, so need to be able to bank into my turns. Cant really do that when there is only a couple of inches of ground clearance! The main problem with having them on the back is that bike isnt very balanced. My stand doesnt work because the bike just falls over! Will have to find places to lean it up against for the next few weeks.

Set out and pretty soon I was heading uphill, the first little section took me up to the top of the Royal Gorge. The view over the mountains was spoilt a bit by lots of big billboards advertising rafting, zip wires and even helicoptor tours. Then after 10miles I turned onto route 9, and the real climbing began. The prevailing opinion is that the Rockies are easier than the Appalachians. After my first days experience, I would say that probably seems to be the case. The climbing was pretty much relentless, but it was never so bad that I couldnt manage it. I spent most of the time in my lowest few gears, but never had to get off and push. Todays climbing, based on the elevation profile on my maps, actually looks to be some of the worst for a while so Im hopeful my time in the Rockies wont be too traumatic.

About 15miles in I met up with a couple, Dan and Denise, from Colorado Springs who were out on their bikes. We had a bit of a chat, and talked about my route and where I might stop. I had already thought that I might end up doing a short day today and stopping at a place called Guffey, about 1mile off route. The problem is that after Guffey, there was no where to stay for around 45miles, so if I got tired or caught in a storm I would be a bit isolated. Dan and Denise were doing a ride which took them through Guffey and they told me about a couple of places there to get food/drink.

We agreed to meet there, and I assumed they would be much faster than me, what with not having a whole load kit and all, but actually we all rode up together. It was nice having people to chat to whilst heading up the hills. Traffic was fairly light, so mostly we could ride side by side and chat, apart from when the odd car came past. They were clearly very active people, who did a lot of running, biking and cross-country skiing. One of the advantages of living at around 9000ft, which they do, is you get plenty of chance to ski in the winter!

Whilst climbing I took in the views, and the Rockies are pretty breathtaking. Literally. I did find myself quite short of breath at this altitude. Obviously air is a lot thinner up here (I climbed 1000metres in the space of 30miles today), and Im not used to exercising at this sort of height. The only time I've been at this sort of altitude before is when skiing. And obviously you get taken up the mountains on a chair lift, gondola or a big old cable car. And then you shoot own pretty quickly. Having to to strenuous exercise at over 2500m above sea level was quite tough. But there are some pretty amazing views, and Im sure it will only get better.

A rare, but short, downhill section

So we pulled into Guffey and went to Rita's cafe. I had a very nice soup, and then a rather decadent oreo chocolate brownie. Unbeknownst to me, Dan paid for my food – just the latest example of the kindness shown to me by people.
Dan and Denise: Lovely people

When they set off for the rest of their ride I sought out the local lodging. Tonight I'm staying in 'The Hole' – an old undergound cabin. Pretty basic – no electricty – but should be fun.
The entrance to 'The Hole'

Guffey also has some weird displays, such as this one.

Tomorrow I hope to get out and climb over the Hoosier pass – the highest point on my route. The good thing is that once over it, it's mainly downhill and the towns are quite close together. So I can just keep rolling down until I get tired or if a storm comes in I'll never be to far from the next place.

I've had a bar suggested to me in town, so might check that out for dinner later.

But a good, if slightly short, first day in the mountains proper. If most of the climbs are like today then it should be challenging without being unfair (Hayters gap, I'm looking at you!)  

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