Monday, April 27, 2009

Road Magic and more

first some pics from the race in Fruita, then to the cycling jazz:
nice light at sunrise to put everyone in the right mood

the mighty, murky Colorado...

and on a bike:

not a bad site to wake up to from my campsite along the CO Riv...

Fishers Towers. Canyons. La Sal mtns. Dizzying view, and all before getting into Moab.

The shadows were just sick.

who knew it could be so brilliantly green in the desert?
Incredible mesa that I rounded to reach Hurrah Pass
and yea, thats the pass and my bike before it failed me.
best hitch ever!!
nice lookin' road, eh??

here in Lockhart Canyon I got the first chill bumps of the trip
a bit dirty....

lots and lots of rock

duh, that's an arch. Druid Arch
Awesome light in the morning from the Needles to send me off

So many mesas with awesome cliffs on the ride west toward Monticello
fixin' up the bike during the Zero in Monticello's Memorial Park

I'm really not even sure where to begin since it seems like so much has happened in the past 5 days or so when I updated last...

So I tried to leave Moab, was that Wednesday???, and my bike made it 25 miles before the rear rack broke. Luckily that WY couple gave me a lift, a very uncomfortable lift, back to Moab where I affixed a new rack to my frame using random parts from the hardware store. When I left that morning, the rack stayed on, and lasted through the entire 60 mile stretch of rough rough jeep road. Riding that rode was surely one of the best adventures I've had in my life. The road was incredibly beautiful. Remote. DIFFICULT. This was my first time really mountain biking, and I had to establish what sections I could actually ride, which I had to push the bike on, etc. The first 3 miles were primarily uphill, with a few gulches where I had to push the bike uphill over boulders the size of me. Impossible to ride, but that was okay. When I got past that stretch, the road was littered with football-sized rocks that made it hard to ride for longer than a tenth of a mile at a time. Eventually I crested an unmarked pass and could see The Needles of Canyonlands and all of the seemingly infinite canyons below. After eating a lot of cookie dough, I hopped on the bike, and was THRILLED to be able to ride for at least a mile before getting bogged down in sand. Whereas I was only able to ride 20% of the time and pushed 80% of the time before, the numbers had now reversed, and I couldn't have been any more pleased.

After pushing and riding for 35 miles, I got completely exhausted. Leaving Moab, I loaded up on 9 Liters of water, 5 of which were on my back. This made me use my entire body in a way that I hadn't done yet in this trip, and this really drained me. I wasn't really to stop yet since I wanted to take advantage of the cooler nighttime temps, but I found myself pushing the bike on nearly any uphill since I couldn't find the energy to ride it. Somehow I could find the energy a few times and managed to ride a bit. When it was time to get out of the saddle and push, it was a struggle to remain balanced. Keeping the bike balanced while stepping over the crossbar became pathetically challenging and I actually fell once trying to get off the bike!! Luckily no one was around to se me. For 40 miles on Lockhart Basin Rd, I saw no one aside from a group of dirtbikers. This was definitely the most remote road I've been on, and finally felt like I was surrounded by nothing but wilderness and a slim trail which backpacking provides.

It shouldn't be much of a surprise that I hated the asphalt when I finally hit it to get into Canyonlands Natl Park. It felt rough for some reason, oddly sluggish, and completely boring. The road was suddengly flat. I didnt have to look out for rocks, guage the surface to determine if sand was coming up to prepare for or anything. Where I was engaged fully before taking the ride seriously, I was now bored and felt like the bike was only crawling. Luckily I only had to put up with less than 10 miles until I got to the vistor's center.

Here, after dropping $20 in fees (!!!!), I met Cyndi at the Backcountry permit office who allowed me to store my bike gear in her garage since the Park service wouldn't allow it on their premesis. She gave me directions to here house, 1.5 mi away, and I rode there to leave my junk. Her husband Brad was home, and we chatted about my trip down Lockhart Basin since he was hoping to ride it himself and other jeep roads out of the park.

Canyonlands is incredible. Phenomenal. Mind-blowing. etc etc etc

Without question, hiking for 3 days here was some of the best hiking I have ever done. Within the first quarter of a mile of hiking I was using my hands to scramble up some slickrock, and I knew this would be a fun trip. Typically hiking would be like this: start at the bottom of a canyon, hiking on sand around random bushes trees etc with cliff walls hanging overhead. Cross into a parallel canyon via scrambling on a lot of slickrock. More sandy hiking along cactus, brush, etc, repeat. I came to really start looking forward to scrambling from canyon to canyon.

After setting up camp in Squaw Canyon, where I would be the only camper, I set out to hike the Peekaboo Trail. This trail got up high in a canyon, and stayed up on the slickrock for miles...very different from the other trails. This country is so so strange. The rocks were mushroom shaped. One layer would be white. The next would be red. Then gold. As far as the eye could see. The rock was so fascinating that it became hard to actually hike since I wanted to sit and gawk and try to figure it all out. Finally I got to a really cool arch which I had to hike through. This window in the rock is why the trail was named Peekaboo, and a fitting spot to turn around. My foot was starting to hurt and I needed to rest.

The next day was even more fun. Climbing up into Elephant Canyon without a soul around in the early morning light was unforgettable as was the fun scrambling over more slickrock and the introduction of ladders into the hiking game. I had to squeeze through some slots. Finally got to Chesler Park where there is loads of flat ground, greenery, and surrounded by the famous and multi-colored Needles. After pitching my tent in my incredibly windy campsite, I took off for the Joint trail. This was a really fun trail that had you hiking through a narrow slot for at least half a mile. Good stuff.

The wind was really picking up and dropping the drizzles of rain promised by the ranger the day before. I considered going to hang out in the tent for a bit to see if it would clear, but decided to go for Druid Arch. Who knew if the rain would get worse and go through the night or what, so I decided to hike while it was still decent out. The lighting was garbage and flat, so I didn't take too many shots from this time. Needless to say, the 5 miles of hiking were worth it. I met a really great couple from Boulder who I hiked on and off with thru this section, giving me the company that I was beginning to crave. There was a ladder to climb and a bar to help traverse a final section of rock before finally getting a view of Druid Arch. Although I wasn't able to bike in Arches Natl Park due to warnings from people in Moab, I finally got an arch here. And I"m pretty darn sure that this experience was better since I earned it, there weren't cars buzzing by my bike, etc etc. The arch was enormous and towered above us. The wind was also howling and made me leave faster than I wanted to. Still, I saw the arch that I had wanted to see and was humbled by the size of it while standing beneath...

That night I spent a lonely and cold night camping before waking up to a beautifully calm morning with great lighting and more views of the Needles. The 5 miles back to my locked up bike were sublime and left me feeling refreshed and ready to get on my bike again. Once my bike was reloaded, I was ready to be hiking again. The bike was sluggish, asphalt crappy, and I was in a bad mood. I wanted to be hiking, not biking. Although I assumed my mood would change once I realized that this was my new mode of transport, it never did...not for 47 miles to Monticello.

Sure the scenery was incredible. Sheer cliffs in every direction in what I later found out is a climbers paradise. Near Newspaper Rock, where I found literally hundreds of petroglyphs on a large mural, I saw over 20 people climbing in an area that probably had over 75 routes to climb. With only 18 miles to go, I got excited to begin the cut-off road into town, where there was less traffic and views of mountains. Going through these hills would surely provide me with climbing then descending ,etc etc to keep me happy, right? Well, not really. I had to bike 13 miles, 99% of which were uphill before getting to a descent. I don't normally mind climbs all that much, but 13 miles started to seem insane. Then I realized that in a couple of weeks I would begin climbing out of Utah and into the San Juans where there are passes over 12,000 ft and decided it would be healthiest not to think of it. Halfway through the climb, a white car pulled over on the side of the road. It was Meghan who I met at the Visitor Center in Needles, offering me a place to shower and sleep!!

Oh my god this was great news and pure magic. I was tired. My clothing was completely red from the sand of the previous 5 days, drenched in sweat, socks crusty and painful, and I was lonely. Oh what sweet perfection.

The descent was blindingly fast, my legs went numb, but I was in town, and soon enough I would be showered, laundered, and with a Colorado beer in my hand. Meghan, Melissa, and their friend (what was his name????) were incredible company. We laughed a ton, had good conversation and enjoyed each other's company. It was sad to finally leave this morning, giving Meghan a hug and realizing that I had become good friends with people who I had only known for 3 hours. This is why I do this stuff....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


the jeep road out of Moab destroyed my rear rack today. The threads to the bolts got stripped so the rack would sway side to side. the road had just gotten really intense, tons of unrideable sections where I had to hike with the bike up steep sand and rock staircases and stuff. People take a jeep on these? christ? had to hitch back 20 miles to Moab on an ATV!!!!

reevaluating and waiting for hardware store to open tomorrow morning to fix a rack to my frame in some ghetto fashion. stay tuned, today was intense.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Desert R.A.T.S. report

First off, the Fruita library won't a,llow me to upload any photos, so all photos from my race on Saturday will have to wait for nearly a week or more until I get all the way to Boulder, in central UT.

Second: I finished the 50 miles!! I finished 3 hrs faster than I had planned, goofily running across the finish line in 10 hrs 6 minutes-ish...somehow placing me in 17th place. good enough...

Some vague details....

I stressfully packed up my things from my campsite next to the Colorado River, and rode my bike the 4 miles to the starting line. There were only about 30 minutes to go before the gun went off, so I had to rush to unload my bike, store it in the staff tent, lock the bike, and explain my story to people who were wondering how the hell a guy could show up on his bike like this.

After a lame round of stretching, the race started. There was a one mile dirt road stretch, not bad in the beginning, but would come back to destroy me at the end of the race. The trail thankfully switched to singletrack, and we began to climb 2 miles or so to the top of Mack's Ridge. The sun was beginning to come up, and it was peeking through the heavy cloud cover, shining a distinct beam of sunlight on Grand Valley below. It's really a shame that I can't hook up my camera here because it was a spectacular beginning to the race.

This was the start of my obsession with photographing the landscape, instead of running. Well, to be precise: I would run a bit, then step off the trail to take a photo, allowing a few people to pass, get back on the trail, pass those people, repeat. Things were starting to get goofy as I would pass the same people again and again as I took photos. One guy saw me taking a shot, and said 'I really need to start noticing these things more'. Well yea you do! It was beyond incredible out there.

The trail hung really close to the edge of some canyons, giving really sweet views of natural amphitheaters and alchoves below. I was able to keep a pretty steady pace, and passed through the first 3 aid stations with ease. These stations were stocked with Hammer gels, tasty electrolite drinks that weren't too sweet, Raw Revolution spirulina bars, salty chips, and P+J wraps. I met a few people running who had run the race before, and were running a few 100 milers this summer. It was fun finding out why they had failed to finish an ultra in the past, and I vowed not to let it happen to me this time.

Somehow I felt incredibly strong, and I had to force myself to pull back and not crash after the halfway point. Apparently riding a bike is sufficient training for an ultramarathon. who knew??? On the next big uphill around mile 15, I had to force myself to walk, and stayed behind two 25 milers who were doing the same. This kept me honest, and especially made me rethink my strategy when I realized that most of the people i was running around and passing were 25 milers. Rookie mistake: running a 50 mile race as if it were a 25. WEll, I should say it would be fine if I had run one of these before, but being completely insecure of my fitness level, I wanted to not push so hard in the beginning. So walk I did. At the top, I ran down to the last aid station before the turn around, and walked about 10 minutes up another big hill.

I nearly took a wrong turn at a parking lot. The trail was marked with yellow streamers around rocks, and I saw 3 rocks with streamers around them leading through the parking lot seeming to indicate the trail went that way. Luckily a woman saw me running, and said 'NOOOOOOO!!!! That way, downhill'. I wasn't totally sold, but did it anyway, and sure enough there was another runner downhill who she had seen before me.

There were people cheering at the bottom of the hill, and I ran pretty fast to the 'finish line' . This was the starting point, ending point for 25 milers, and the turn around for 50 milers. The route was two loops, one reversed. Here I had a drop bag with sunscreen and a new shirt waiting, so I changed into a shirt that was temporarily sweat free, put sunscreen, and sat on the ground to do some stretching. Chowed down on all sorts of food, refilled the water bottle, and took off with some peanut MMs in my hand.

Those M&Ms would haunt me for the next few miles. But first I was really fueled by my decision to finally start listening to my mp3 player. Hendrix's guitar had really never sounded as beautiful. I was feeling incredibly strong, as if I was just starting the race. Muscles nice and loose after the stretch and fueled by rock and calories, those first few miles flew by. Then I started the climb that I had just descended and I was feeling nausious. I knew not to eat simple sugars like that, but assumed the sugar rush would do me good. It did do me good, and I was happy when the unpleasant feeling passed around mile 30.

Around mile 31 I started to deal with a new problem: fatigue. My legs didn't really want to move. From mile 31-38 or so, I was really struggling. I passed a few people, but once I did, I could not climb any uphills. Flat sections even became a problem and I'd begin to walk after only being able to run for a few minutes until my energy waned. Again, the views were too good. Views of the Colorado river. Red rocks. Different colored strata. blah blah blah...if you're into that sort of thing.

All of the mileage numbers are starting to blur at this point, but I remember rolling into an aid station around mile 40ish and telling the guys that ran it that those last 7 miles were the longest of my life. I had run out of water halfway and was DYING for some water. When I got it, I coudln't believe how cold and refreshing it was, and I thanked the volunteers sincerely. I drank 20 oz of water at the stop, then filled up on another 20 for the next 4 mile stretch. The guys had told me that this coming section was flat, so I ran it as hard as I could. This may have been the sweetest section of trail in the entire race. Ran along the lip of a canyon for a while, gawking at the winding trails hundreds of feet below.

A woman passed me at the aid station where I was lingering for way too long, andI could see here on the other side of a canyon, making me run harder than I thought I could to catch her. After a mile and a half I got to her. Then passed another guy shortly after that. At this point I was forgetting how tired I was and had my eyes set on a guy(??) in red shorts at least a mile ahead. I'd seen him on and off for the past 10 miles, and didn't think I could actually catch him. Irregardless of whether or not I could, I decided it was a good goal and would keep me pushing myself. I had long since become completely in love with the aspect of competition, causing me to go way beyond what I thought possible. There were many many times where I wanted nothing more than to stop running and sit down. Better yet: lie down. I knew that if I did that I would never start up again.

I walked a bit up to another aid station, took off and ran okay to the last aid at mile 46. On the half mile descent to the stop I noticed that guy in red again up ahead filling up at the aid station. Here I decided to make my aid stop really quick, wasting no time at all like I had at other stops. Water bottle was already opened and made the aid station guy fill it for me while I loaded my pockets with calories. Everythign looked disgusting, but I forced down a banana piece and PB+J wrap, as well as some gel and spirulina in my pocket. Took off and felt like I was gaining some ground. After a mile I passed him, ELATED. I couldn't believe that I was able to catch him and I was feeling invincible. Any sort of pain and fatigue I felt before was gone and I was running the final climb. There was another guy half a mile ahead who seemed to be going slow uphill, so I decided to see if I could catch him as well. I was shocked at my strenght of the climb, and passed this guy quickly. Here I grew incredibly paranoid that he would pass me on the final descent, and decided that I couldn't let this happen. If he passed me I'd never forgive myself, and the race would probably somehow shift to a failure in my mind.

He never caught up. I crested Mack Ridge, did the rocky and rough descent. Let some mountain bikers pass....slowing me down, but not enough for him to catch me. The last mile was all on the dirt road that we started on. This absolutely killed me. It was a boring and hardpacked road and all of my inspiration just drained out of me and into that goddamned road. I kept pushing, because again, I was soooooo scared of letting the guy behind me pass.

Well I finished to the announcer saying "Can you feel the Payne?". Nice pun dude. My name is indeed Eric Payne. I was hurting a tiny and scared to sit down.

Later I realized how swollen my feet had become, and the big blisters that I assumed were hot spots. The second toenail on my right foot is blacker than after Salida but somehow it hasn't fallen off yet. Sitting down and standing up was incredibly difficult for two days, and I was walking around Fruita like an old man.

Now I'm healed enough, and will be taking off on my bike in less than 30 minutes and will probably cross state lines into Utah sometime this afternoon.

Thanks for reading this nonsense!!

Friday, April 17, 2009


So apparently I'm signed up to run 50 miles tomorrow in my first ultramarathon. This is pretty laughable really considering I've squeezed in maybe 30 miles of training total in the past month since the Salida marathon. This race was going to be my main focus, and the Salida run was really just a training run to get ready for it. Tendonitis (???) in my left foot threw a wrench into that machine, so I had to keep the weight off the foot and on the saddle of a bike.

Maybe all of this is a good thing. No longer do I have delusions of grandieur about finishing in the top I just want to finish the 50 mile race. All of the pressure is off, and I just need to put in a smart race with a solid walking strategy to stay a bit rested to finish the absurd 50 miles in 13 hrs.

The weather down in the Grand Valley has been cloudy and slighly chilly at an uncharacteristic 40 degrees everyday. Tomorrow is supposedly to be mainly sunny, with highs in the 60s. Should be perfect running weather with a breeze blowing throughout most of the day.

I'm going to leave this comfy setup I've landed in Grand Junction and ride my bike out of here and near the starting line in Mack in a few hours. It's going to be a cold night, near freezing to sit around in insomnia waiting for the start at 6:30 to roll around. I'm really nervous, but extremely excited about running the legendary singletrack on Kokopelli's Trail and through all of the canyons tomorrow morning. It's amazing that its' so close.

Photos and a writeup may follow Sunday or Monday

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wind explained

Grand Mesa back behinds those dry hills
Nice "road" to follow here to escape the wind

It felt like raw wilderness back there, but I just couldn't hang with the wind. Wimpy I know...

back on the road, wind at my back and mesas ahead

Is this Colorado or Iceland

The nature of wind

Since it was only 30 miles from Delta to Grand Junction, I took my sweet time sauntering through the town on a flawless day. Since my map-reading skills are garbage, I didn't realize that it was actually 40 miles to GJ. The day wouldn't be quite as lazy as I had envisioned...

The pedaling started off innocently enough. Since I was now riding on Hwy 50, the main road connecting Montrose to GJ, traffic was much heavier than I had experienced in the previous 130 miles and on a 4 lane divided road. Luckily the shoulder was ginormous, so I was constantly glancing at my nerdy rearview mirror out of terror. I left the blooming trees behind for dry dry hills splashed with the colors of gold and grey. Behind these hills, the amazing Grand Mesa was still looming high high above, a natural feature I will never forget after having cycled past it for 2 straight days.

About 25 miles into the ride and across from the Uncompaghre Plateau on the other side, to the south, I was blasted by constant sidewinds. Ah, this is part of the wind advisory I had heard on the radio before leaving Delta.

Note to self: never cycle if you hear on the radio that there is a high-wind advisory for the entire western part of the state you are riding in...

At first I didn't care too much, if it's not a headwind, who cares??? Well after I got a sustained blast while flying downhill at 25 mph, I changed that tune. The bike started to wobble nearly uncotrollably, probably not helped by the fact that I had a huge compression sack lashed perpendicularly to that wind. I slowly applied the brakes, and had to stand still in amazement. If the wind continues this way, I knew I needed to be a bit more cautious on the descents. Note taken. No the wind didn't stop. Sometimes I'd go around a bend and it would turn into a fun fun fun tailwind. Then crosswind. I decided to take a break from this insanity at a pullout complete with an interpretive sign about a visible wagon road, when the wind blew my bike completely over from it's resting place. sigh. time to ride a bit further, find a safe spot for a tent, and get the hell out of the wind.

I thought I had found this spot when I noticed a cattleguard defending a shoddy road onto some ranch property that looked like it had the first nearby hill oriented in the right direction that I could hide behind. So I crossed the cattleguard, carefully parted the barbed wire fence, and hopped on this "road". ha, some road. It was incredibly rough with volcanic rocks in shades of black complete with bubbles in them from their formation and punctuated with tiny cacti. yikes! Time to push the bike and not risk putting pressure on the tires and getting a flat from evil cactus spines. Although the road meandered to the right, I needed to head left to try to find some leeward action behind the hill and pitch my tent. Leaving the road, I pushed my bike over uncountable amounts of rocks trying to find a flat spot for the tent. The wind was still howling, and I had to get quite a ways away from the hill to find a flat spot to rest. That meant away from wind protection and onto flattish ground. After tossing some rocks around to clear out a spot, I had to fight the wind to get the tent pitched. This was without question the worst conditions I had ever tried to pitch the TT in, and it caused lots of cursing at the wind. Finally I got things together enough to use the wind to my advantage, got the stakes in the ground, and took a triumphant victory breath.

And then the wind yanked all of the stakes out of the loose soil.

What a joke, right. It didn't take very long at all to decide that I wouldn't camp here. Even if I had the tent pitched, the wind would have caused me to lose my mind. I lost a tent stake, an absurdy overpriced Titanium one, packed up, and got the hell out of that spot. It was a really beautiful spot though, even with a few spots of trees along an area where water obviously flows from time to time.

I had no clue where I'd be able to find a spot to camp after this. The hills were all wimpy, or all really really far away from the road an on private property. I had long since passed all of the BLM access points, so I was wondering if I'd have to go all the way in to Grand Junction. And then I came across a big cross on top of a building. My positive experience camping inside of the church in Haines junction last year made me think that his would be the spot.

Apparently the Mormons don't like to leave their churches unlocked. With the wind still raging, I knew I didn't want to go further, so started to stalk the area looking for flat ground and wind-protection. Found it on the front side of the building, sort of visible to the traffic on the Hwy, and didn't care. Despite the incessant traffic, I had no problem slipping into sleep after a good cup of ginger tea...

Now I'm taking a few days off at Randy and Nancy's place in Grand Junction. I found these guys through Randy actually started this website as a community of hosts for cycle touring folks like myself. Both nancy and randy just returned from Argentina after cycling there from Arctic Canada. Naturally they are planting all sorts of seeds into my head about travels in south america: Southern Patagonia, the rough roads of the Bolivian altiplano, the Salar de Uyuni, Guatemalan hospitality, etc.

Tomorrow I'll do chores around town and get all my stuff lined up for the race in Fruita on Saturday. Can I even complete 50 miles in 13 hr (cant figure out question marks on this spanish keyboard!)...I really hope so.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day 3

There was surpisingly a climb out of Hotchkiss. A climb, no shoulder, AND lots of traffic. Not a fun combination by any means. After about 6 miles of stressing about the traffic, the number of cars flying by mellowed out, I passed a desert "pass", and I was into badlands and no grass. Incredible out here. There was quite a bit of road work going on, and as I was flying downhill, I heard one of the ladies holding the 'slow' flag radio ahead and tell another construction worker that "a bicyclist is coming". When I got to the next woman holding a flag she told me that she was expecting me. Down down down to Delta, where the desert ends and the green again begins.

Last night was a really incredible night, with one of the most memorable pieces of scenery I've seen in a while. Really quiet setting around the lake, where I was the only soul (human, that is). To get to this Sweitzer State Park, I had to climb a few hundred feet out of town, and it left me on an incredible plateau. To the south I could see the San Juans, the east the West Elks, the north was snowy Grand Mesa, and west was canyonlands as far as the eye could see. A good night indeed...

This morning the first order of business once I got into town was a single shot of espresso. Oh yes. Then it was time to wander around main street in the 67 degree heat. I've driven thru Delta a few times to get out to Grand Junction, but have never gotten out of the car to feel it out. Turns out the town is pretty cool: bronze statues everywhere, nice sepia-toned murals, lots of benches to enjoy the sun, etc.
Today will be mellow, about 20 miles to camp in the BLM Badlands just outside of Grand Junction. Supposed to snow, so who knows what I'll get out there. Lovin' it...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sepia Onslaught #1

I'll miss you Crested Butte...

then thru the windy windy first canyon of the Gunni

a bit of blue

more blue, and deserty scenery

nearing sunset, storm ahead

ah, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison (now brown,sorry 'bout that)
Continually fascinated with the curves in the road...

The Black Canyon again with a bit of ice in the river

Tiny bit of snow up top

Sweet sunset near Crawford Lake

Into the desert, looking back at the West Elk


I'm only on day 3 of my trip, and already it's become the time of my life...again.

Day 1
When I left CB it was cloudy, 10:50, and hinting at snow. I tried to stare at the mountain as long as I could to imprint it in my mind, before realizing that was stupid and went downhill. My speedometer clocked me at 32 mph, which is fun on a bike, bordering on scary. Bye bye Mt Whetstone. Bye bye CB south. Near Almont I was struck by how beautiful the wintergreen trees were when covered with fresh snow.

In less than 2 hrs I was in Gunnison, getting day-old bagels at the coffee shop, and explaining my bike setup to a curious college kid. Nearing Gunni, I started to notice a crosswind blowing from the west. When I turned west, this turned into a headwind, but I wasn't cursing....yet. The clouds were dark, and I was just hoping to pedal thru it quickly and set up my tent to escape the oncoming rain. Within 5 or 6 miles, I was biking really closely to the Gunnison River, and going thru the first tight canyon carved by said river. This is where the wind turned absolutely insane, and the cursing began. Every single time I have driven this route, there has been terrible wind, usually accompanied by snow. No precip this time, but wind, more wind than I could ever notice inside the safety of a car. I rounded a bend, and was happy to find that the wind was relatively calm here. I laid the bike down against the guardrail, hopped the rail, and began taking pictures of the river and cliffs towering above it. The place was strinkingly beautiful under grey skies, and I tried as hard as I could to get it in my camera. I may have succeeded, but won't be able to tell until I see it on a screen larger than 2.5". A biker screamed by flying downhill as I hopped on the bike, into the wind again.

After I got thru that canyon, the terrain opened up, and the wind calmed since it wasn't being funneled thru such a tiny gap of earth any longer. The clouds were starting to break, and I got my first view of Blue Mesa Lake (er...reservoir). There were bits of blue sky between the towering cumulous clouds, and I had trouble putting the camera down and pedaling again. When I did get on the bike, there was a climb to be had. I was around mile 45 for the day when I noticed a downpour on the horizon. Luckily within a mile I noticed a turn to get to the Curecanti Rec Area visitor center, so turned in with a quickness. There was shelter from the wind, thanks God, and shelter from what I assumed would be hard rain within an hour. Once I laid the bike down, I realized I didn't want to pedal the 3 miles further I had planned on doing, so decided to call it a day at 4:00. NOw I realized that this would be a leisurely trip till the end, if I'm able to pedal nearly 50 miles on my first day, and not even take half of the amt of daylight. Good news indeed. I pushed the bike up the handicap ramp to the second floor of the visitor center, where there was windbreak from 4 sides, and I was conceiled from view of visitors.

I sat around for hours...napping, making tea, reading, snapping photographs of the light flooding through openings in the clouds. Soon the darkness came, the clouds parted, and I could see the stars. Things were turning around.

Day 2
When I awoke, the sky was clear, the surrounding mesas were golden, and I couldn't pack up quickly enough to get out into it all. The rain had come, but only for 20 minutes, and the roads were nearly completely dry. The wind had finally died, but I was absolutely freezing in the 45 deg weather on the downhills. On went the breadbags on feet and hands to my relief. The traffic had picked up since sunday, but the 3 ft shoulder had me not really taking notice. After about 10 miles I reached the turnoff for Hwy 92, going south toward Hotchkiss. I crossed the Blue Mesa Dam and started to climb. And climb. and climb. And climb more and more until I climbed out of the Black Canyon. The road was incredibly fun...winding all over the place while it climbing, never boring me. I saw about 5 cars per hour, perfection. the road clung to the mountain on the right, then a sheer cliff fell down to my left, giving me phenomenal views of the Black Canyon below and Cimmaron valley beyond.

When I reached the top at Hermit's Rest, there was 4" of snow that I had to trudge through to get to to the picnic benches and overlook. At the overlook I had a great view of the San Juan mtns, which were covered with the amount of snow that I'm used to seeing on some phenomenal Alaskan peaks. A few road cyclists caught me as I was about to keep going north, at the top of their climb, and about to descend back to their car. From here it was all downhill, CHILLY CHILLY downhill. I was able to get up to 33 mph, nearly reaching the speed limit posted for motorized vehicles in this section. Before I knew it, I was down in a valley where my watch was reading 61degrees, and there were cows eating GREEN GRASS. This little valley reminded me of the southern AT, lets say somewhere in Virginia. To the west were really mellow hills, farms...but to the East were 12,000 ft peaks still shrouded in snow...the West Elks which surround Crested Butte. ALMOST like the south I guess.

The wind had traumatized me to the point that I thought a slight wind, that I was creating, was cold in 60 degrees. I was uncomfortable and was ready to stop. Lots of pictures to take, and finally I made it to Crawford State Park, my stopping point, 52 miles into the day, and at 3:00. I pulled into the park to find that I had it all to myself. Everything I needed was there, silence, squawking geese, chirping birds, running water, and green grass to take a much needed nap on. The running water was key since I had been carrying all the water I needed to be self-sufficient since Gunnison since I didn't know if I would find any. Now I could make all of the tea I wanted. Get well hydrated, etc.

An abnoxious boat motor, one that I can only assume was a piece of garbage, woke me up, sounding like a weedeater. Surely this motor was just scraing away all of the fish he was seeking, and scared me away from the lake. Time for a short run. Lots of sitting around, reading Edward Abbey, then watching the sunset over the lake. This park was beautiful, far more beautiful than I had imagined in my head. There was nothing overwhelming spectacular about it: no insane cliffs dropping into it, no snow covered peaks just behind...just a really serene spot.

Day 3
A really red sunset woke me up this morning. I laid around a bit more, still cold while in my 2 inch layer of down. when the sun had finally come down into the valley, I laced up and went for a jog. Packed the gear, and had a really lazy ride to the town of Crawford, some 2 miles north. As I passed the Country Store, I was afraid that I wouldn't get the omellete and COFFEE I had been dreaming of until the next town. NO worries, I found a few locals parked in front of a diner and walked in. Immediatly I had a mug of coffee in my hand. The omellete was good, covered in swiss cheese and stuffed with shrooms. More coffee until I was feeling jittery, which was greatly enjoyed while overhearing some local coversation about long-haul trucking, hunting sportsmanship ("I refuse to guide those damn tourists down to the river so they can get an elk, and spook all them deer." "I got a guy come down here who hunts with a crossbow secured to his wheelchair!"), and talk of Suburbia not making it to Crawford, and hopefully never will. Maybe I am back in the south after all...

I found a side road to Needle Rock, an incredible monolith I had seen from afar that really seemed out of place in the valley. Back on the main Hwy, I had mostly downhill to glide down to get to the town of Hotchkiss, 11 miles away. More ranches, views of the West Elks, etc etc. In town I stopped into City Market for a resupply, and now on this computer, typing this.

I forgot to grab my USB cable, and don't really wanna unpack everything to get to it. I stil have some lessons to be learned about packing things. I'm going to ride the 19 miles to Delta this afternoon, camping around the state park just south of town. Maybe I"ll upload some pictures at the library there, since I'll have all sorts of free time. Then I've got a lazy 1.5 days to get to Grand Junction, passing by the weird yellow hills that always remind me of photos I've seen of the Badlands in South Dakota.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


this is it....
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miss you. bye bye!