Thursday, 3 August 2017
This blog was going to head off into a completely different direction... with some stats and kit list/review... but that is being left to part 2 of this blog which will pitch up next week at some point.
Instead I'm going to let you in on the post challenge world... assimilation back into Absolute Reality... or not as the case may be.
I arrived back having been up a long time... had a long sleepless flight... arrived back to a cold grey London Heathrow in a state of sleep deprived unreality.
A visit to the parents to prove I was alive and then home. And so began a week of sofa surfing.
It was more than that though... I had been overcome with a general can't be arsedness and my body was slumped ... my get up and go had well and truly got up and gone.
My sleep patterns were well and truly screwed up. I was wide awake at 3am and dozing lifeless on my sofa at 3pm. I couldn't be bothered to unpack my bike... wash my kit..... talk to anybody...
You get the picture..
I was ruined...
Wanting to curl up...
Aside from the sleep deprivation and general energy overexpenditure...
Was my body and brain just rebelling ...
But it felt more than that.
And here is the thing.... I felt devoid of purpose...
Totally rootless... aimless... devoid
Maybe just devoid..
Is this the life I dreamed of...
Maybe this is why I end up planning a new venture even before I'm finished with the old...
It's addictive ... the open road life....
Space ... freedom... solitude.. fresh clean air... and a purpose to every day... a goal to achieve everyday... hurdles and challenges to overcome everyday...
Which makes it difficult when reality returns.... especially a not quite reality... one in limbo... not back at work... but back to normal life...
I'm sure the fact that I had pushed my body to limits day after day was a factor...now that I had a chance to rest.. my body had said 'thank fcuk for that' and done just that but without consideration of the new time zone I had returned to.
Adding to the detached feeling is the fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE to explain to others who ask how my soul feels now that it is back in reality... it's missing something intangible... like when I breathe and the air feels different ....
Yes there is pain and suffering and exhaustion so great you feel like you can't move one inch further... but it enhances by juxtaposition the breathtaking beauty and isolationism of such an undertaking...
I miss that...
And then .. back to work...
Getting up in the morning was a bigger challenge than the Re-route! And cycling to work... on a bike unencumbered with bags... a light fast roadbike... .
Back on a bike and it felt good... legs felt good... breathing the (rain filled) air... battling the headwind...
I was in a bike heaven haze all the way to work...
And then hit the ground running... still feeling slightly dreamlike but gradually fazing into real- like... a bit like a cross fade transition between scenes in a movie ...only I feel a bit bit stuck half way through the cross-fade...
Cycle home... wind and rain as is typical of British Summertime...
It became a challenge... how fast could I go... head down... just hearing my breathing... legs turning... the rythmn of the road returning ... smelling the fresh rain soaked earth...
...The dream returning... is this the life I dreamed of...
or the hope I hoped for....
...the mind wanders to new dreams as the black tarmac disappears under my wheels...
and whilst my dreams may feel blown around like plastic carrier bags.. one thing is certain...
One adventure has to end before the next one can begin
And one only has to peek around the next bend in the road to glimpse the possibilities that can await for those who dare to dream...
Meanwhile... whilst I peek around the next bend... I must complete the cross fade back into Absolute Reality for a while... which is easier said than done and takes time.
In a few weeks I will wake up without that longing to feel the breath tearing at my throat and the pain hitting my side...
I will have stopped comparing my 14 mile commute with an ever constant noise of cars rushing by, with the fresh breeze and the noise of the birds singing in the trees...
I will have cross-faded....
The scent of pine pervading my senses...
just a memory
Reaching for the plastic carrier bag....
Monday, 24 July 2017
I had literally no underwear and 1 pair of filthy shorts. The 505 bike shop had kindly supplied me with 2 clean t shirts but the rest had to be shopped for.
Once the different sizings were sorted it took no more than 10 minutes (I dont like THIS kind of shopping) to achieve the first goal of the day!
The next day Mark had happily (with his arm possibly twisted behind his back) agreed to take me out on a little ride on the desert trails. I hadn't yet got to cycle through the desert and this was an opportunity to put a little tick in another box. This was PROPER desert. The Cacti here are like you see in the movies... tall and imposing and of proper cactus shape! They are protected round here and this is one of the only areas they grow in... the Sonoran desert (Mark and Louize feel free to correct me if I have any of this wrong).
The trail was fantastically technical with quagmires of sand ... lots of rocks and the odd small cactus to avoid running over.
The trail started to stretch up and even with a days rest in a car... my legs just weren't gonna do uphill. They staged a rebellion and so we turned the bikes around and chose a gentle downhill instead.
On the ride several lizards skittered out in front of us ... so swift in movement that it was impossible to see what they looked like.... beyond the blur.
It was a short ride as I have been informed that round here people just don't go out in the summer cos its too hot. And it was starting to get warmer. I was used to cycling in well over 30 degrees C as that's what I have essentially been doing every day for the last month but it was probably just as well we stopped after 1 hour as although my brain is eager to keep moving and doesn't yet get that I have now stopped riding... the rest of my body has had enough and needs a little rest and recuperation. It just seems a shame to waste this sunshine!!
The evening brought a new kind of fun... critter hunting... in particular scorpions and spiders. Mark and Louize have a black widow spider living in their gardrn that is out most nights so we first managed to grap a look at that. Its small and appears do insignificant but bites from that little thing can cause huge problems and dead flesh on the bitten limb. It was really cool to see it not more than 30cm away from my hand... the red patch on it's abdomen clearly visable. Result! Then out came the UV light... and almost as soon as that had been switched on ... glowing there in the gravel was a scorpion. This one had very small pincers which meant that it's bite (sting) was most definately worse than it's bark! When the UV light was removed it was almost impossible to see it amidst the gravel... showing how easy it would be to get stung. But very cool.
Louize and Mark had friends round for dinner and it was a lovely evening. At some point it was mentioned that I was dying to see a rattlesnake in the wild. They mentioned that they had had a couple at their house recently... whereas Louize and Mark have never had one in their garden.
Apparently they are not that common a sight so I resigned myself to not seeing one on this trip.
The following morning... the phone rang. Snake at the front porch!! Literally charged out of the house to the friend's house a few doors dowm... there ... hiding in the corner behind the plant pot was a real live Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. He was perfectly calm... no rattling going on... his tongue flicking in and out a little more perhaps as he caught our scent on the wind but no agistation at all. I was less than a foot away from this magnificent reptile... with no glass to separate us. It was one of the highlights of my whole trip as I love these creatures. I wasn't worried about getting bitten because as with anything in the animal world... if you leave them alone... they will leave you alone. I was just so chuffed to get so close in the wild!!!
The plan for today was to go to the gun club in the morning. A typical recreation for many families in America. I love shooting... I love the competitive aspect of it greatly... BUT being British I baulked when I realised that Mark kept his weapon at home (in a safe). A discussion ensued... if you keep a weapon at home.. it is woth the expectation that you may use it in defense of your home... and this is where British and American views differ. I can understand liking shooting... because I do... but my mind is only prepared to go to the point of shooting for competition. Round here people learn to shoot with the expectation of carrying it for their personal safety and shooting anyone who threatens that. Given that most criminals in America carry weapons this seems resonable to them but was hard for me to stretch my brain to that extent to accept that as a good thing.
At the range there were a variety of nice... seemingly normal people... with all kinds of weapons including semi-automatic. The weapons you could buy was insane... weapons that would put holes in building never mind people. It was terrifying.... more because this was normal. And the weapons weren't that expensive either. A reasonable glock pistol sets you back around $500. One of the aforementioned building destroyers around $5000. Not that much for a weapon that could kill a lot of people.
Classes on self defence ... womens classes ... instructor classes... just like our local gym only with deadly intent.
Its a scary thing for me that this is normal...
Despite that I did enjoy trying to hit the target. I have shot .22's and SA80 rifles but that was a while ago so it was particularly satisfying to hit the target and get a reasonable grouping by the end of our time there. But then Mark packed up the Glock and took it home.... it doesn't seem right... as a Brit.
You can debate all day about the rights and wrongs of gun ownership but it is a fact that the right to bear arms is deeply entrenched in the American psyche and hard as it is to understand for a British person... it is their way. And so endeth this debate 😁
The afternokn was ringfenced for drinks with some friends of mine who live just north of the city and were able to randomly meet up onve again.
I met Alan and Marissa first when I flew over to Vail, CO for a weekend to climb Vail mountain with Mike Peters and the Love Hope Strength family. I knew very few people but came off the mountain with hundreds of new friends... 2 of those being Alan and Marissa.
Fast forward a few months and they came to the End Of Ride Gig in L.A at the finish of my Route 66 cycle journey. Alan .. who had participated in Everest Rocks with Mike Peters... gave me his commemorative Everest Rocks medal which I have treasured ever since. And so when it was suggested we could randomly meet up here I jumped at the chance. It was lovely to see them again at the end if another ride and they are catching up with Beki and Randy for meeting up with me randomly. I love Random!!
Evening consisted of a very nice take out pizza and sitting down to watch 'Man in the Camo Jacket' ... the documentary about Mike Peters and his Fight against Cancer... released in the U.S on 4th July. I watched it with tears threatening many times. It summed up the reason for my journey over the last month... summed up why I dedicate part of my life to following Mike around the country (and sometimes to other countries).. it completed the story of my journey somehow... providing a book end. I cannot find the words to express what I am trying to say but hope you get my meaning.
Love Hope Strength provides those three things for everyone involved in the charity who then work to spread it across countries to people who need it most. My bike ride once again provided an opportunity to go out there and try to do my own small part. I received much more Love Hope and Strength in return and it reaffirmed my faith in the human race and humanity as a whole. Meeting up with Alan and Marissa is part of that family. Because of LHS I know that I can come here and find friends... people like them... and Beki and Randy (who are slightly ahead in the random meeting stakes 😁) and Louize and Mark (catching up fast) who did not know about LHS before but have provided support and friendship once again. This then stretches out to people I literally meet on the road... people like Faith and Tom that I met on Route 66 have now been joined by people like Megan H who I spoke to for 5 minutes out on a dusty road in Montana and Michelle McDowell who invited me to their family's 4th July celebrations. LHS is spreading and I am so proud to be a part of it.
My just giving page remains open for a little while longer so if you feel you are able to spare a little... please click the link below... Together We ARE Fighting Back!!
Life is so very short and so very fragile.
Life speeds by like a falling star
Is all we have is Time
Grab hold of Life and Squeeze every last drop of it out.
Make your own chances.
It's all there in the lyrics!
And of course...
Fight The Fear... Embrace the Randomness but above all ... as always....
Go With The CraZy!
Thursday, 20 July 2017
I woke early on today... the day after the day before when it all ended. 06:30 or so I thought... at least that's what my phone said. My watch was confidently stating that it was 07:30 and the hotel receptionist equally confidently stated that it was 0830. Somewhere between Colorado and New Mexico I had either lost 1 hour or 2...
It turned out to be 2 and so my plans for this morning were already on the backfoot.
Plans!! I hear you say incredulously. Yes... well you didn't possibly think I was going to sit in my motel room all day until Louize and Mark got here to pick me up did ya??
Breakfast done and all the bags taken off my bike leaving it light and unencumbered and unfamiliarly responsive. And out I went into the bright sunshine and blue skies of New Mexico. Instead of taking the main road and risking life and limb I headed to the off road trail by the river. Literally 2 seconds off the road and I was transported back to a peaceful and silent journey. As I sped down the gravel path enjoying the freedom of just riding my bike the river sped along with me... bubbling along as if enjoying it too. I could hear birdsong and once again little furry creatures darted in and out of burrows and across my path.
It really was an oasis of calm amidst the car roaring noise that Farmington appeared to be made up of.
I reached the end of the river path and was faced with a push up a gravelly sandy hill reminiscent of the wall ... or backtracking in order to get onto the road. Needless to say I took on the wall .. mark 2!
Once there I peddled furiously in order to stay ahead of the road hogging traffic. A few minutes later I finally found the bike shop that had been recommended to me by the hotel manager.
I wheeled my bike up to the door... more in hope than expectation after the bike shop in Durando.
I was immediately welcomed in and taken to the workshop... explaining what I had done... where I had cycled from and please was it possible to fix my brakes so that maybe I could go trail riding in Arizona with Mark and Louize 😁
No problem was the reply. Any chance you have some t shirts for sale ... here is a couple you can have (with a very cool logo)
Would you like a coffee?? Ooh and try this... its a beet drink... very healthy. What a fantastic place. I spent around 2 hours there... chatting about bikes... the ride.. my brakes... and all other bike related stuff. It was a fantastic way to spend the morning. Mike (who fixed my brakes) and Josh who sorted clean t shirts and the beet drink are absolutely awesome and it was a right crack. And my brakes work!!! Woohoooo.
So another big shout out to 505 Cycles in Farmington for anyone doing TransAm or simply passing through!
I swooshed my way back to the hotel... with working brakes and went back down by the river... happily meandering along... when across my path ... wagging its stripey tail... was a skunk! An actual... live... skunk! I fumbled for my camera... zoomed in as it waddled towards taller grass... snapped the shot.. and seemed to have missed it! Dammit!
Then it was CNN time until Louize and Mark came. Full of the OJ Simpson parole and the repeal of Obamacare it made interesting watching... particularly as last time I cycled through here it was all about the introduction of Obamacare... politics hey!!
The knock at the door finally came and Louize and Mark came through the door brandishing balloons and.... a tiara... hmmmm. Unfortunately there is photo evidence.
The small bottles of totally questionable alchohol were brought forth and I offered them the choice... apple... watermelon or banana!
The banana was actually better than expected and it was a good way to toast the end of yet another journey of a lifetime.
Then it was shopping time!! Mark excused himself (apparently there was some golf on) and left me and Louize to search out some underwear (I hadn't brought any) socks and a new pair of shorts for me to wear. We went to Target and despite my hatred of clothes shopping it was all accomplished pretty swiftly even accounting for the delay whilst trying to work out British versus American sizing! All this was done with me chatting 19 to the dozen... maybe even 20.
It was soooooo nice to be amidst friends and much as I like chatting and debating and arguing with myself out on the road... you get funny looks when you do that in company. It was just nice to be with friends... people from home. Louize and Mark weren't new to the 'rescue Lydia from the road' role. On my Route 66 trip... they had picked me up from Williams and taken me to the Grand Canyon... a place I couldnt have got to otherwise. Then... as now... they good naturedly put up with my incessant chattering and slight adrenaline high.
So replete with new clean clothes and having also dragged Louize round an outdoor shop (well it was just next door) we went back to the hotel.... meet in 15 mins for a drink before dinner was my suggestion... make it 30 mins said Louize... for a bit longer of peace and quiet methinks 😉😉 lol.
Given that I have found Pasta extremely hard to find... they suggested we head to Olive Garden for dinner... a pasta restaurant essentially ... and what a great idea that turned out to be....
Its the little things in life right!
Over dinner we discussed healthcare in America... the difficulties in just ordering fried eggs.... in fact ordering anything without further questions being prompted.. Charlie Gard.... POTUS (otherwise known as The Donald) and all manner of differences between the U.S and the U.K.
We have also made plans for ways to keep me entertained over the next few days ... having got that annoying tendency to get restless... including a scorpion and rattlesnake search ... some trail shredding in Arizona and a few other interesting experiences!!! Cant wait!!
And so the Rock n Rolling may have gone temporarily but....
It still burns in me.
Kit appraisal for tomorrows blog for those that are interested in the why's and wherefore's of the most important bits and pieces ... as I journey into Arizona and travel a part of the Route 66 route that I cycled several years ago.
Nn all... LHS X
Wednesday, 19 July 2017
It was the last morning that I had to get up and peddle to a destination set by my own reckoning.
But it was no different... I packed up with the same routine that I had done for the last 22 days... I answered fb messages and comments... I filled my water bottles... I pulled on my cycle shorts and added chammy cream to saddle sore prone areas... I switched on my GPS...I started my SPOT tracker tracking....
I took a deep breath... and headed out into the now expected bright sunshine and blue skies.
My plan this morning was to head to the bike shop to see if they could fix my brakes(I couldn't as I had no brake fluid with me) only they didn't open until 9am so I went and had breakfast in the greasy spoon diner next door.
Some could have considered it a bad omen when I unwittingly poured VANILLA milk into my coffee... WHAT?? WHY?? NO FAIR!!
Being British.. I said nothing and sat as drank it and even nodded politely and said thank you when the waitress refilled my cup!
At 9am I walked into the bike shop... they were sympathetic but could only promise to try and look at my bike in the next few hours. I understood completely because at 9am the shop was heaving (EMPTY) and they clearly had loads (NONE) of work to do. The customers lining up with their bikes (TOTALLY EMPTY SHOP) clearly precluded them having the time.
So I walked out.. and set off to my final destination for this trip. Durango was a wonderful town to cycle in... with clearly marked bike lanes... signs everywhere for 'Share the Road' and generally felt very safe and cycle friendly. It reminded me of Duarte going into L.A.
Today on paper was pretty flat. The reality confronted me straight away. No sooner than I had left Durango and the 550 turned South did the road climb up out of the river valley to a plain on an escarpment. It was a proper climb... with barriers and everything... but with a bit of 'soft peddling' (see day 22) I got up it no problems. In the grand scheme of things it is barely worth mentioning.. only my legs would put it into a mountain stage category.
Once up on the plain it flattened out. To my left stretched green .. irrigated fields.. to my right a spectacular view hidden by trees and houses. One house had the name Eagle's View and was for sale. If I had been unconvinced about the worth of that house before... the view when the trees receded would have stamped the paperwork firmly.
Stretching out ... a view over the whole valley.. the river (which I will come back to) winding far below and the yellow brown fields beyond. On the other side of the valley a similar escarpment as the one I stood on. Way in the distance were the mountains I had done battle with. They still call me... trying to tempt me back into their clutches once again. No doubt they will eventually succeed for the calls and the whispers pervade my life as an ever present rustle in the background of my life. My love of the mountains... whether scrambling on foot or crunching the gears on my bike.. will always ensure that I challenge and push myself as far as I can ... and no matter how much it hurts or how much sweat it entails I will always answer the call.
I contemplated this as I stared at the horizon. Unwilling to move... to break the spell. For to move was to bring the end closer and I wasn't sure I was ready for it to end. My body hurts but my mind is strong and already even at this point was missing the open road.. the silence... the fresh air... the independance... the simpleness of it all.
But for a journey to begin... another has to end and so I reluctantly turned my back on the mountains... promising to return... and set myself Southwards once again.
I freewheeled as the road headed downwards back towards the river. The Animas River... a fitting river to run alongside on the final day of this journey. Anima ... meaning soul or life force...
My soul has been fortified by this journey... more force brought to my life from the challenges and the hardships. The remainder of this journey would trace a path alongside the Animas River providing a parallel.
I crossed the river and settled in for a stretch of minor ups and downs.... the dusty road stretching out in the distance towards my final destination. A gas station loomed and given the heat... which must have been pushing 100°F (in old and U.S currency).. I needed more refreshment. One carton of banana nesquick and 1 gatorade later and I was ready to hit the road again. V shortly after I crossed the border into New Mexico.
Almost as soon as I did that the rock by the side of the road turned into sand and cactus appeared suddenly. Birdsong had been replaced by the chirruping of crickets and the heat radiated off the black tarmac in a heat haze.
The straight roads meant I became vulnerable to that most dastardly trick of the cycling gods... the headwind. It wasn't severe (I didn't have tumbleweed heading straight for me this time- see 'Putting the Metal to the Pedal' available on Amazon for that story) but it sapped the energy somewhat. I had earlier determined to enjoy every lasting minute of today and the headwind served to make it that little bit longer but my body is short on reserves and is easily tired ... so now I wished to be there... the end... finito.
I eventually came upon tbe town of Aztec.. and decided that food was a necessity for fuel should this headwind continue. McDonalds it was... free wifi and a place to sit. I sat there... tired... but still not wanting it to end. When I got on the road again ... it would be the last leg of so many legs.
But I wouldn't get there at all if I didn't get moving.. my mantra still being uttered out loud...
I was now riding through Ute and Navajo Indian territory ... a history and a people that fascinate me with their love and understanding of the natural world. I wish I had more time here to explore... but there has to be some adventure left for next time.
And then I was there ... Farmington... or at least the outskirts of... and suddenly traffic started shoving past me... jostling for the space on the road... forcing me to rely on my cycling wits once again. ..
It was not a pleasant 20 minutes as I fought my way through. In fact I had probably more close calls in those 20 minutes than in the whole of the rest of the journey. Farmington surprised me... I was expecting a small town... unhurried and laid back. It was not to be. However I found myself crossing the Animas River for the last time and arriving at my final destination... The Hampton Inn, Farmington, New Mexico.
It wasn't my original intended destination but at least I had cycled into New Mexico and totting up roughly the journey of 2 parts... I have cycled over 1000 miles. More details of exact figures will be given in the next week or so for anyone still interested.
As for how I feel now that my cycling jersey is hung over a chair .. not to be worn again until WASHED!! (It might well walk off on its own)....
The answer is... I don't know yet... and I haven't told my bike yet so shhhhhh.
There will be a few more blogs to round off this adventure... some information about the kit I took and what I would never have been without and some thoughts once my pedals have stopped turning. One question which has already been asked... which may be answered... is What's next?
There are some things I do know...
This journey is in memory of my Phoenix.. who I carry with me always and forever.
I do know that without the support... messages... comments... shares... likes and above all ... donations to the cause at the centre of all I do... I would not have been able to get as far as I did. Heartfelt thanks to every single one of you. Love Hope Strength x
I also know that every one of you is also capable of a journey like this... if you choose to step out over the edge of the comfort zone... Fight the Fear... Embrace the Randomness and above all Go With The CraZy!
Thirdly I know that I have the scars to testify to this wonderful... breathtaking... wearing... soul destroying... soul building... renewing... rebuilding... rearming journey and I wouldn't change a single thing... not a thing.....
Except perhaps the mosquitos... yup them... I would murder every single one of the little Fcukers!
If you have enjoyed following the journey and want to help Fight Back against Cancer with me... please go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/OneChallengeAtATime by clicking on this link and donate whatever you can.
To find out more about Love Hope Strength Foundation and its founder Mike Peters...my inspiration. ..
Please click on the link below
www.lovehopestrength.org if you are in the U.S.A
My rest day had been necessary as my knees had brought my LLFF score down to a 9 or 10... but it left me restless... wanting to be on the move... the rythmn of the road shouting from my soul.
And so I was up early... out the door into the bright sunshine and back over to the bear cafe for breakfast... pancakes... my staple in New Zealand... rare to find here it seems. The pancakes in NZ were topped with loads of fruit and cream... not so here but still filling and hopefully providing fuel to the legs.
Today ... on paper... wasn't that bad.
Given I was already over 9000ft.. and google maps informed me that the pass out of here was just over 10000ft... thats not bad right???
The cycling gods howl of laughter could be heard echoing around the valley as I set off with that expectation.
Almost immediately the switchbacks started. The knee wasn't too bad ... the legs ..LLFF 8... and today was the first time that I felt a bit winded... altitude style. Maybe it was because I had ignored the old adage ... 'climb high.. sleep low' and had slept higher than I had before for two days in a row.
Whatever it was the achey leg pain was back although it was possible to pedal through it by what I have now termed 'soft peddling'. This is where I turn the gears right down and spin the legs through the pain... when the pain subsides it is then possible to turn the gears up a few notches.
In this way I was making progress. A sign informed me that the summit was 7 miles... a distinct improvement on the 13 miles and 5000ft climb of the other day... but this climb was with that one in my legs.
And then came the roadworks!!! Down to one lane... I passed the lady holding the stop/go slow sign. Go slow!!! Haha... nothing else I could do! She informed me that there was no one waiting at the other end so I crawled up... tapping away... getting higher and higher above the Silverton valley.
I eventually got to the end of that stretch of roadworks to find a whole queue of cars waiting for me... I grinned... it was kinda funny. The gentleman first in the waiting queue shouted at me... jumped out of his car and handed me a fresh peach for my efforts... bless him. And as I continued up past the line of cars... everyone was waving... putting their thumbs up at me and generally being understanding and supportive of the effort! So nice. I got a small insight to what a mountain top finish on the Tour De France might feel like 😁
Once I had passed the line of cars I stopped and looked back... wow ... what a view! I carried on up... tapping away... through the achey pain... getting into a bit of a rythmn and already overheating... it was only 09:30!
I came out of the initial uphill struggle into what I could describe as a high alpine valley... The pine trees filled the air with the fresh scent and the green scrub and grasses stretched out beneath grey rocky peaks... some like pinnacles... others more tradition mountain top shapes... all capped with flecks of white. It was beautiful and serene... because of the roadworks there were long gaps between streams of cars... and so the silence in between was blissful.
I took some photos... the bike propped up against a rock... standing triumphantly...
Yet my work was not yet done for the day. I got back on and continued up as the sun beat down mercilessly.
Google maps be damned... just over 10000ft my a£$@. I sweated past 10500ft and still the summit wasn't in sight. Eventually it did appear and it was with relief that I stood victorious at the top ... gazing out over the mountains.... my playground.
And so all down from here?? Haha ... nope!! I knew that the road dipped in order to climb for a final time but I was unprepared for the sight of the road switchbacking sharply up... next to the sign for the second summit..3 miles! 3 sodding uphill miles!! I was almost done in and then ... with absolute abject horror I saw another queue of cars signalling another single lane issue. No way!! I would struggle to climb this at my own pace... let alone that of the line of cars.
I crawled up to the front of the queue...
'You are going to have to get taken up in that truck' were the words uttered by the gentleman in the hard hat directing the stop/go slow sign... 'it's not safe and you will hold up the flow of traffic'
The cycling gods must have seen fit to reward me for my efforts...
And so my bike was loaded in the back of the truck and I was driven up the final climb! Guilt... nope! I felt I deserved this for sure and it given the gear the truck was in... it would have taken at least an hour to go those three miles on my leg power.
The chap driving told me about his work year round... snowploughs and how it was a good job... how he had moved from the city and much preferred this.
Looking at the drop dead stunning views surrounding us as we drove up I could immediately understand and envied him a little.
Dropped off at the top of the climb... all I had to do was put my gears into the big ring and drift down the mountain. Given my lack of reliable braking and the recently installed chipseal... it was a little hairy... the sidewind gusts not helping in the slightest.
The descent was glorious... punctuated by the odd uphill bit which made my legs scream ... but otherwise just speeding downhill. As I had a wide shoulder I was able to concentrate less and look around.
The valley I was plunging down into was wide and seemed pretty green in this part.
Rising up at the sides were great lumps of reddish/ brown rock... looking like they had just been plonked down there. As I got into the flatter part of the valley it became hotter and headwind sprung up.. the last straw for my legs which were close to imploding. But it didn't matter as I had made exceptionally good time and it was barely 1pm.
It was drier down here on the valley floor and now instead of little furry creatures scurrying out of the way... crickets and locusts were springing out of the path of my front wheel. One type of cricket made me think loads of butterflies were flying through the air as when they opened up their wings to jump they had black and white undersides and looked like butterflies as they flew through the air.
At one point I was plodding along and on the other side of the road was this lump of rock with water flowing out of it. I screeched to a halt (literally) and headed over. It was a hot spring and the minerals in the water had turned the rock a beautiful red orange colour.
As I was there a lady about to drive off came and checked that I had enough water which was typical of the people I have met here.
Not much further.... it can't be much further... please let it not be much further...
Of course there was another rise in the road to surmount.. inconsequential in comparison to some of the stuff I have been over but it felt like Mount Everest at that point!!
Of course the town soon came into view and the budget motel loomed up... perfect.
I checked in and promptly crashed out for a couple of hours.. completely missing the thunderstorm apparently.
I went for dinner at a mexican version of subway... nachos it is then! Esentially it was right next door to the motel...
Today would have been my last cycling day but I decided that my trip would only feel complete if my legs carried me into the state of New Mexico. I liked New Mexico when I cycled through it on Route 66 ... it was my favourite state of the ones I cycled through that time and so it seemed fitting to end my journey there.
Louize (who is picking me up) also pointed out that it wasn't far from where they met me last time...life in full circle.
This journey has been one of two halves and in so much as it has been a solo journey... my shadow has been the only one that walked beside me.... however on this journey my shadow has been made up of many parts.. each and everyone of you who has liked and commented and shared in this journey with me has become part of my shadow.... so thank you.
Final day tomorrow... not sure how I feel about that...
Monday, 17 July 2017
Having crashed out last night early without blogging (gasp!!) and then waking up this morning with a pounding head... and knees that feel like they belong to an 80 year old... it was confirmation that today would be a good rest day day! I had already spoken to the owner of the hostel... Im fine with a mixed dorm... but a bit of privacy and my own electrical sockets were too good an opportunity and I sorted out a private room for another night here.
I was determined to explore Silverton... it had seemed like a wierd kinda place... however my pounding head told me to lie down (now in my own room) and I once again crashed out... for another 4 hours!!
Awoke again at 12:30 ... headache gone but still not feeling quite right.. dehydration I think and so I set out to look around ... explore a bit... and get lunch!
The town is old.. that much is clear. Also host to one of the earliest railways from what I can gather. A history of gold and more importantly Silver mining in its background... despite all the tourists it somehow manages to retain that frontier town feel
Yes... there are gift shops ... and restaurants but equally there is the old jail... and the restaurant once housed the courthouse... and that place over the road was where the last whorehouse in Silverton was!! Lots of history... linked to the railroad and the mines.
Somehow it mixes the old and the new in a wierd kinda blend that normally I'd be determined to dislike but actually secretly think is kinda cool.
Lunch was at a disappointing 'McDonalds like' place only it seemed to take them forever to get the order sorted. Near the end of my lunch... the train arrived... so I jumped out to take a photo. Quite impressive even for a non-train lover... this engine looked like it had been hauling loads up the mountains since the railway was built here.
Having walked round town and finding nothing to buy (woohoo) I did stop briefly at one shop that would be illegal in the UK.
Colorado is one of the states that legalised Cannabis and there are shops right along the main street that sell it! This was almost as wierd as gun shops for a brit like myself!!
(And nothing whatsoever to do with this blog's title!)
Then I went back to the hostel to do some needed bike maintenance... chain clean and oil and bike brake clean (back brakes only.. can't sort the front ones) As I was doing that... the clouds gathered... the sky darkened... and Hail began to fall... yup HAIL!! It certainly speeded up bike maintenance!!
A few hours later I made my way back into town for an early dinner... back to where I had eaten yesyerday evening. Today as perhaps is fitting for a wild west town.. I was served by a middle aged lady with two teardrop tatoos beneath her left eye! Now I know what they are supposed to represent and was desperate to ask... but didn't! It just seemed like (stereotypically) of all the people in the restaurant.. she would be the last one I'd put those tattoos on... interesting!!
I feel kinda wierd not being on the road today... bit restless... not moving! Tomorrow I'm off again... on the road to Durango... where the train starts... and only around 55 miles away. There will be some up of course but mainly down so hoping that my legs (and knees) are back in working order.
Thank you to everyone that has sent in messages... comments... has liked... and shared and sponsored. I try and answer everyone but if I dont please be aware that I'm very thankful and appreciative of all the support and generosity.
Back out on the road tomorrow!!
I woke up this morning with the knowledge that I was in for a hard day.
This day is what could be called in cycling terms... The Queen's Stage
The hardest of them all. Would I be equal to it?
This day was basically an uphill day from the very start to the top of the pass.. starting from 5500ft and rising once again to over 11000ft in just over 60 miles was going to test my physical and mental strength in a big way.
Once again it was already pretty hot by the time I got on the road... having stuffed down a few bagels and a make your own waffle type thing for breakfast.
The first 10 miles were on what is called 'false flat'... looks like a flat road... especially if driving it... but actually you are gaining height all the time. It saps the strength from your legs and mind. .. and that's all before the real climbing starts.
After about 10 miles I stopped at a coffee shop... seemingly randomly planted in the middle of nowhere. It had a steady stream of customers however and as I sat there with my banana smoothie and 2 bottles of gatorade I was thinking about what I had to accomplish today.... with more than a little trepidation.
Smoothie finished and procrastination done I set off again... the next destination was Ouray... the last town before the big pass. This road essentially wound up a couple of thousant feet ... the mountains always in the distance... beckoning... calling... challenging. My brain was basically repeatedly going 'oh shit' as I got nearer and nearer... the scale of the climb was being revealled and it didn't look pretty... well it looked pretty... stunning in fact... but not pretty to my legs!
I eventually got to Ouray and looked for a place for food. I was already knackered from the constant drag upwards to get to this point and one part of my brain was looking longingly at the motels... vacancy... vacancy....
The other part of my brain was saying .. I WILL NOT be defeated. .
If I was going to do this... I had to get on my bike...
A fact I kept telling myself as I walked up the main street of Ouray... known as the Switzerland of America!
Stretching up above the town I could see the cars struggling up a series of switchbacks... cmon then... lets do battle!
And so it began... the first switchbacks surprisingly ok... lulling me into a false sense of security... just 13 miles of this then... thats ok... said my head...
But the altimeter told a different tale... still over 3000ft to climb in only 13 miles was a huge undertaking. Immediately I was high above the town and the view just got better and better. Surrounded by mountains it was justifying its name as the Million Dollar Highway for sure. My main problem was that there was no shoulder and no safety barriers... with loose gravel at the side leading to a very steep... very long drop off.
The wind was now buffetting me a little as well and I don't mind admitting that I was petrified at times...so much so that on many an occasion I was cycling in the middle of the road... just to feel safe..
I am not exaggerating the danger... if a car forced me to move a little to the right and I hit a rock or skidded... it wouldnt be hard to imagine skittering over the edge.
And so I progressed slowly up... the series of switchbacks switched for a 7-8% gradient which sapped energy like a fan heater... fast!
I passed some people getting their ATV'S ready to go up a dirt trail... a woman smiled at me as I passed and said 'I dont know how you do it'... my reply... Im not sure at the moment either...
I was gulping down gallons of water and gatorade but still felt like I was becoming badly dehydrated... the sun still out and relentless... though once again storm clouds were building. Much as the heat was bad... climbing this was bad enough when the cars had good visability....
Another series of switchbacks... and still it kept on coming... by now at 9000ft and still 2000ft to go... this was hurting. My knees were aching badly especially after a stop and my mental mood was sinking lower and lower... playing tricks on me...
Why don't you stop and thumb a lift to the top.... pretend your bike is broken... pretend your knee just popped.... anything to end this suffering ..
The scenarios being created by my brain were all plausible ways I could get out of this... and I think actually helped my resolve... bear with me....
I work better... i.e my stubborness works better if I think I have a choice. My brain was telling me that there was a way out of the pain and misery I was currently undertaking and therefore I was choosing to continue...
In the back of my mind... there was NO WAY that I would not get to the top of this under my own power unless I physically collapsed. But the body can take waay more pain and punishment than you think it can... just as you think you can't go on any more... it steels itself to once again move upwards and onwards. Whether that is because the mind is strong that the body follows I have no idea.... but somehow I kept going up... the pedals kept turning.
I came out of the scary... no barrier... big drop section into a high plateau.. once the preserve of mining companies that led the way across America...
I was struggling up and suddenly a mental boost appeared in the form of one of those 'crazy fools' or touring cyclists...
I crossed to the other side of the road to meet him...
Jason was a low budget nomad... touring and occasionally working...
It was a real boost just to see someone who knew how hard this pass was... who understood the rigours of the road. We chatted a while about the road to come... safety... sh!##!ng ourselves with the road and the drop off and no barriers... bears came into the conversation as they often do... it was just nice to chat
Thanks Jason for the mental boost and I hope you made it safely down the pass!!
So onwards and upwards....
To keep myself going and not just sitting by the road and breaking down... when I stopped I often looked at the altimeter and rounded up... only another 1500ft... thats nothing... already done waay over that...
If I felt I had been stopped too long (over 1 minute) then I would say out loud... 'not going to get anywhere just standing here Lid... time to move'... my little mountain mantra.
To say my LLFF score was approaching 11 would have been underplaying it... my knees were causing me some serious bother and I could feel that there wasn't much left in the energy tank... not just in the legs... body.. mind... FCUKED!
With about 1000ft to go (not sure re distance) I was trying to convince myself I was nearly there... so every time I went round a bend... only to see another series of bends ... it was a bit demoralising. Now however.. I noticed lots of drivers giving me a thumbs up ... or a wave and you have no idea how a)that boosted me and b) how that falsy made me think I was very close... turns out I still had a couple of very painful miles to go...
Somehow I still had a sense of humour... either that or the heat and dehydration had sent me a bit doolally... but I was laffing that I might still be on the mountain by christmas... I know but it kept me going by laughing at myself and my exhausted state.
Another ... yes... another series of switchbacks and as I wound round them ... I saw a car approaching... uphill... had I actually got there... the final big pass of this ride... or was there another bend and more switchbacks...
No... this was it... it was actually finally the top of the pass...my legs spun round to take me and my bike over to the summit sign...
Shakey legs got me off the bike...
I leaned it carefully against the sign...
And burst into floods of tears...
Relief... exhaustion... stress (physical and mental) ... sheer overwhelming happiness...
Sadness and pain in my soul missing those who can no longer follow the journey... the pinnacle of this journey starting to sink in to my being...
All of the above hit me at once
As I was sitting there head in hands .. a car drew up... two lads and their dad ... asked if I was ok...
Yeah... I was ok...
Tried to explain... probably badly about the journey...
Gathered for a photo... strangers no longer as they are now part of the story and the journey...
Chase and Brian.. (wearing the Who T shirt) joined me for a summit photo..
Then Larry came from his car and held out to me an old dollar coin.. for me to keep.. part of the journey...
I protested... but he insisted saying it was worth more to him being given as a gift to me...
Stunned and touched from this gesture I shook his hand... trying not to be overwhelmed again. It somehow meant so much... this gesture of togetherness I guess... especially in a world which at times sedms so full of apart- ness...
Larry... Chase..Brian... thank you so much... for making me smile and being part of this journey.
And then it was downhill..
Yeah my brakes still not working great...
Somehow the rumbling thunder to my left hand side had failed to materialise into the promised downpour and so it was on dry roads with shafts of sunlight through the greyish clouds accompanying me on my descent... which in places was sketchier than the ascent... but the cars were good... patient in overtaking. They didn't always have a choice when I was sat in the middle of the road but it ensured I was seen.
The mountains seemed less forboding and the red earth that gave the mountain pass (Red mountain) its name vividly shone out as I wound my way down... so little effort now required .. it seemed to make a mockery of the exertion required to get up.
I rolled into Silverton... relief the overwhelming emotion. I had booked in a hostel... a mixed dorm room... and made my way there... gaping open mouthed at this wierd.. quaint.. old-new... cowboy... town.
But exploring can be left for tomorrow.. as it was now firmly set in my mind that my knees and body required a rest day and this strange place was as good a place as any!
I got food... and a most delicious ice cream sundae... and then collapsed. Blog... photos.. unwritten. That can be done tomorrow
I will fight back till the day I die...
But this... for now... is the Swansong... the pinnacle of this journey.
I have decided to at least cycle into New Mexico... so 2 more days of the ups and downs of life on the road.
Today... I truly #sufferedforsponsorship.
Everything I am was left on that pass...
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LOVE HOPE STRENGTH
Sunday, 16 July 2017
So make them the best you can...
I woke up this morning not wanting to get on the bike. I was stiff and sore... the inevitable toll of the previous 18 days catching up with me. Also... there comes a point in any journey like this where you find yourself racing to the end without thought of how you will feel when you do indeed reach the end. On previous challenges the 'end' has not been the moment that I put my feet down following the last pedal stroke but often hits days... maybe even weeks later when the journey has sunk in a little and become part of the fabric of my life. Each challenge I have faced and overcome strengthening my inner self and contributing to the person I have become... for better or worse... part of me.
But maybe I reach too far into the future because although my thoughts this morning were of ending and home... I still have a couple hundred miles to pedal before I get to a point where I have satisfied my inner self.
All we have is time.. so rather than wishing it away .. one needs to make the most of it... make the best of it... and an example of that was shown to me today.
Todays jaunt was around 65 miles with 4000ft of climbing. The cycling gods had listened to my plea and the sun was out (Sorry Colorado!). There wasn't a cloud in the sky... Awyr Las ... to borrow a welsh phrase (and give a nod to the charity that LHS has partnered with over the last 3 years!) .. Blue Skies ahead.
I made a bit of an error this morning... the campsite I was staying at had no food for sale and no cafe in the vicinity... so I headed on down the road ... no breakfast and no supplies. Uh oh!
The first 20 miles ran alongside a lake or two and in the early morning sunshine which sparkled off the surface of the still blue water .. it seemed like an idyllic place. There were many campsites and recreation spots alongside the lake and you could see how it would be easy to stop and just sit here for a few days.
Because of the prolonged drought that has hit Colorado... there was little green to be seen. Small scrub bushes clung to the parched stone coloured landscape and outcrops of rock jutted into the sky becoming more and more impressive as I wound my way round the lake. I crossed over several bridges as I progressed up the lake... each crossing giving a good view of the scenery around me. As I cycled along.. I passed an RV park and screeched to a halt
.. it had a shop... and I needed food. It was distinctly possible that this was the only one I would find... it was going to be a long day and I would need fuel. Fuel consisted therefore of processed cheese.. m&m's ... peanut butter and cheese crackers (??) and a muffin. Not the best but choice was limited. I found a good spot for breakfast/lunch and sat there watching all the little fishing boats sitting in the water.
I continued my way around the lake came to a spot near the end of it where on the other side rose two forms of rock... impressive pinnacles... the strata in the rock revealling the millions of years in the making. I sat there... almost speechless. It took my breath away.
And yet... I hadn't wanted to get up and go out this morning... look what I would have missed if I had stopped today as I so desperately wanted to do earlier. Its a good life lesson .. you never know what is around the corner for you to experience.
I reluctantly left this spot... I could have stayed all day... but I still had 40 miles to go. The road started winding up out of the valley and it felt as though I was truly heading towards canyon lands .. the scenery reminiscent in places of the Grand Canyon area. In fact... this was Black Canyons National Park and as I passed the sign I looked back to the impressive view once again. Beyond the lake were more and more impressive rock walls stretching out to the occasional white capped peak.... STUNNING!
The climb out of the valley hurt like hell. It was now really hot and the sun was beating down. Near the beginnjng of the climb ... a gentleman on a nice light road bike caught up with me and slowed to my very slow pace to chat . He was part of a club and was planning to take part in some kind of race in Leadville where you ran 100 (?K) and cycled 100. Sounded like absolute madness!
He was interested in my ride and we spent some minutes chatting as we rode up... only I was struggling to talk snd cycle so I let him continue on and he had disappeared within minutes.
My left knee was complaining badly... as was my right achilles... and I went from happy and confident to a headspace mess within minutes. Suddenly reaching Silverton tomorrow was out of reach... I wasn't going to make it today let alone tomorrow... I would have to ask Louize and Mark to come a little further to get me... I couldb't go any further...
But of course I did and continued literally grinding up. The gradient seemed slightly more severe than the Monarch pass and every foot forward and up was a struggle.
I did of course get to the top eventually and then transferred to other worries. My brakes! Front brakes not working and without brake fluid..unmendable. The back brakes however sounded like a pig was being slaughtered whenever I tried to brake... not only that but the vibrations were hugely uncomfortable. So I stopped at the edge of the downhill and set about looking at the brakes. I cleaned the disc as best I could and then removed the pads. There was plenty of pad left so I cleaned off the surface of the pads and replaced them. It seemed to do the trick as they no longer screeched and I was able to take on the downhill with some measure of confidence that I would be able to stop if needed. The road down wound its way through an impressive gorge and then once again took an uphill turn. Unfortunately the road had been dug up for roadworks and there was no shoulder so I kept stopping to let the trucks and RV's past.
Eventually though the road turned downhill properly and I freewheeled my way down to 5500ft. I groaned as I did so because I knew that tomorrow I would have to climb up from 5500ft to back over 11000ft. It was going to hurt!
As I descended ... the heat rose... that fan oven effect again. But at least I didn't have far to go. Fortunately the motel I wandered into had just had a cancellation and I gratefully sank into an air conditioned room.
It had been a hard day... beauty and pain in juxtaposition.
All we have is Time... just trying to make the best of it that I can. Roll on tomorrow!
Friday, 14 July 2017
I left Poncha Springs this morning having had a very nice cheese toastie (grilled cheese sandwich here) and some 'tater tots'. Very nice and not an egg in sight... which hopefully my intestines will be grateful for. I left knowing that it was going to be a long hellish morning with a climb up and over another 11000ft pass... only this time I was starting from 7500ft instead of 9000ft. Double the hell of last time.
Now I know from previous experience that the first 10 miles always hurts badly... but even accounting for that... my LLFF score was 8-9 this morning. Was it the bike?? I checked the chain... was shifting ok... brakes... could be rubbing a little bit... so I adjusted those. It made not a jot of difference... this was just going to be an almighty grind.
Frankly I didnt pay much attention to the scenery... I was in my own little world of pain and hurt... and I hadn't even got to the pass proper yet... this was just the prelimb... the softening up!! It was working... a summary of some of the thoughts going round my head may help you to understand...
Shit... only at 9000ft... how much further to go??... 8 miles to the top... 8 MILES!!! Shit... I'm never going to get there... god my legs hurt... oopphh... that truck was a bit close (fcuker) ... I'm a bit hot... just gotta get to that bend.. then I can stop... I'm at the bend.. go a little further.... shit they are painting the white line today.. maybe I will catch them up... stop for a break.. drink.. shall I eat yet... no not yet... oohhh deer... only 9300ft .. really?? Shit!!!
And so the narrative went on... pretty much the same as that over and over and over again. It was a neverending grind but whenever I did stop to look... the road stretched out both above and below me in a measure of how far I had come and how far I still had left to go... a life metaphor... totally lost on me in that moment.
There were a couple of other issues I had today...
Firstly... although it appears to have adequate padding... my arse felt as though the bones were directly grinding against the seat... even the two cheek shuffle could not save the day. I tried shuffling forward and backward but that tended to just transfer the pain. And when I stopped and lifted said cheeks up off the saddle... the pain when the blood flow returned was equivalent (I imagine) to having a white hot branding iron pressed against the same area (Cowboy theme going on! 😁)... those poor cattle!
The other issue was the hands which were struggling with hanging on tightly to the bars... cramp was setting in on a regular basis and a howl of pain emitted once as my finger straightened and wouldn't go back without some serious massaging....
But those two issues receded into the background when I saw a sign and it opened up my eyes (see what I did there) to the fact that I still had 6 miles to the summit of this pass. I felt like I had been climbing forever. On the plus side I was still in the big ring (just) my legs had warmed to the task and were now outputting LLFF 3-4 (terrain being taken into account) and I was kinda enjoying it in a very masochistic kinda way. Climbing passes ... if the gradient is reasonable (in this case a pretty constant 6%) allows you to get into a rythmn and its a bit like meditation with the breathing /wheezing in and out in time with the pedal strokes. If you continue at a steady pace you can climb for a lot longer than you think you can.
I was watching the clouds as I climbed... they were pretty grey but remained unburst for the moment. I felt a bit bad for Colorado in general as it was in the middle of a prolonged drout and here I am begging the cycling gods to stop the rain and bring out the sun... but yeah that is what I was doing. As I climbed the smell of pine wafted to me and awoke my senses ... how I missed that scent.. it will live in my memory along with that of open space and unspoilt nature... I breathed in deeply... aware that I may not get that again on this trip.
So I climbed... and I climbed... and
.. oh you get the gist! Fast forward a couple of hours and I reached first the sign for Monach and then the pass summit sign. As I had approached the summit.. I saw a bubble car going up the mountain to the left of the road and an idea formed in my mind... a bit cheeky maybe... but how cool would it be to see the road that I had left blood and sweat on (literally... the blood coming from the back of my leg where I had scraped my pedal studs!) from that vantage point. So I crawled up the 25% slope to the bubble car terminus... explained to the chap on duty what I was raising money for and that I had just cycled up the pass... any chance of a free trip up??? Bless him... he said yes and made my day... at least until I got into the swinging swaying piece of plastic held onto a cable by 2 small attachments... I could hear my mum's words echo in my ears.... "Don't worry... they've been going for years!" Precisely mum!! Precisely!!
Anyhow I got to the top without it tumbling down the mountainside and walked up the stairs (ouch my legs) to the viewing platform where the view literally took my breath away... partly because I was up at 12000ft but mainly because I could see the road stretching down towards the valley and now could fully appreciate why this pass had hurt!!
I also had the good fortune to meet Jim and Vivki who were on a trip to Denver to meet up with their daughter and grandchildren. I told them about Love Hope Strength Foundation and the ride and it was lovely to spend time chatting to them... we had first established that we had similar views on their new President. On that note... I have no TV tonight so the latest on Trump and the meeting with the Russian Lawyer and what he said to the French Presidents wife will be sadly missed... over and over and over again!
Jim and Vicki... it was indeed a pleasure to meet you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your journey!!
Whilst I was at the top... the cloud had burst... bigtime. So when I got back to the bottom I hurridly shoved on both my down gillet and my rainjacket with hood. It was a long way down... it was very wet and I was already a little cold. Plumnetting down a few thousand feet was not gonna help warm me up.
Now my worry turned from aching legs on the way up... to brakes not working on the way down... following the brake fluid leakage problem a few days ago .. my front brakes no longer work... yup... not at all. Leaving me to rely on very squeaky back brakes... in a downpour... going down a steep pass... where they have just painted the white line... hmmmmm. This is not going to be fun!! No it wasn't really... I held on to the brakes for much of the journey down the pass... sitting in the middle of the lame to ensure that I was seen by drivers... it was pretty nerve wracking. And where on the way up a pine scent filled my nostrils... on the way down that scent was exchanged for burning brake pads.
I didn't take many pictures on the way down as I was concentrating so hard but it flattened out a little and the valley opened up to reveal grassland... dotted with ranches.. horses and cattle ... flanked by greenish hills and light brown rocky outcrops. It was about this time that the thunder rumbled behind me... then I saw lightening flash to my right... the storm was coming ... and it was coming from all sides. Streaks of lightening hit the ground repeatedly in a display guarranteed to make you re affirm in your head the power of mother nature. It would have been mesmorising... if I hadn't been on a bike on a flattish road... totally exposed to the wrath. As it was I had 30 miles to go and a coridoor of sunshine was ahead of me whilst the malestrom gathering in increasing fury to all other sides. Time Trial time....
I put my head down... turned the music up... 'Whatever you Think you are today... you will be tomorrow' ... and peddled like FCUK!
Of course the cycling gods... seeing an opportunity for some mischief... turned up the wind ..(side-headwind for a change) making some bits of road disasterously dangerous. My left knee was starting to grumble about the extra effort to try and outrun the storm and almost put up a protest placard when the coridoor of sunshine shut firmly ... the slamming of the door demonstrated admirably by the ensuing clap of thunder. The rain came again... buckets of it. Feet soaked in seconds and the spray coming up from the road in torrents....
And I laughed....
And grinned out loud
Whooping with delight at running with the storm....
The lightening got close but that just spurred me on and those last 4 miles to Gunnison literally went by in a flash..
Hmmmm no where to stay
Apparently the rodeo is in town..
Pizza for dinner and then back on the bike in the pouring rain.... resigned to perhaps another 20 miles or more... perhaps bivvying out..
A campsite with space.
All is good...
All is forgiven of the cycling gods.
What a day.
Another pass... another test of the legs ... and yes ... another reminder that I am #sufferingforsponsorship
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Thursday, 13 July 2017
Leadville was above the dark grey clouds that hovered this morning. The sun was trying to shine yet it remained a slightly chilly morning. I negotiated the puddles left from yesterdays downpour and headed for breakfast. Apparently its impossible to avoid eggs wherever you eat so eggs... sausage.. toast and fried potatoes it was again.
I knew today was on paper an easy ish day. 60 miles ... on a downhill gradient... in theory and with an early start I was confident of a fairly early arrival into Poncha Springs. I also knew that the rest of the cycling days I have left are not going to be quite as straightforward so was happy for another 'easy day'.
I swept downhill ... unable to see the caps of the high mountains. The shoulder was wide and the tarmac pretty smooth and I wound my way down an impressive riber gorge. The sides of the gorge consisted of light brown rocky sides which reminded me once again of the New Mexico landscape that I have previously cycled through. The road then went up a little and revealed a breathtaking view back down the valley. On the top of one escarpment flew the stars and stripes... proudly fluttering in the light breeze.
It was a beautiful place... of course the fact that I was mainly going downhill could have affected my view of the whole place. Maybe I would have hated it had I had uphill the whole way😁
As I progressed through the gorge and came out the other side the view opened out into an enormous valley.. the kind that makes you feel pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. On one side.. white capped peaks. Known as the collegiate range I passed signposts for Mt Harvard.. Mt Princeton and Mt Yale... all over 14000ft in height and mainly hidden by cloud as I passed. It was like waiting at the foot of the Matterhorn for the cloud to clear to get the photo of the peak.
The land in the valley was some of the oldest that had been 'ranched' and one of the info boards along the route explained about water rights and how they had been sold from the ranches in the valley.
The fields that stretched up to the base of the mountain range were a mixture of yellow and green and looked so peaceful... even when viewed from the roadside. Such beauty and vastness. How lovely to go and get lost in there? Unfortunately I had to keep peddling and before long I was going through the outskirts of Buena Vista... I was watching the town sign get ever closer when I screeched to a halt... literally! The sign mentioned the fact that an olympic silver medallist called Matt Hemmingway used to live here... and I just happen to know him 😁 I met Matt... who is the brother of a good friend of mine... at the end of my Route 66 bike ride in L.A. Beki and Randy came to pick me up from the pier and the following day we went to see her niece (Matt's daughter) play a football match.
So of course I had to take a photo!!
I tagged Matt in it and he replied saying I should go and check out Noah's Ark Rafting place just down the road as he often went there. So in due course I popped into the rafting place randomly and asked if anyone knew Matt. Of course they did! Random but fun! 😁Its a small interconnected world.
I freewheeled further downhill through pristine countryside towards Poncha Springs. This was easy!! Uh oh! I had inadvertantly upset the cycling gods... as the dark clouds bubbled up with flashes of lightening behind me... the wind also sprang up and as any cyclist knows... it's only ever going to be a headwind.
Couple that with the fact that the road now took a sharp turn uphill and suddenly I was struggling. The last 8 miles seemed to take more effort than the previous 52 miles. With that the headspace took an immediate nose dive... it doesn't take much.
Despite that I plodded on and eventually made it into Poncha Springs.. found the motel and settled in. Despite not seeming much sunshine my arms were a little red and I was pretty knackered. I went to a Thai place for food and had a really nice pork and vegetable stir fry. Healthiest food I have had since I have been here.... so nice!
I fell asleep whilst blogging... hence the slightly later posting today. According to my schedule I have 4 more days of cycling and honestly I think it can't come soon enough for my body which is steadily breaking down with twinges of pain here and there in varying joints. The last 2 days were relatively easy days but I have some tough days in the 4 that are left... with one at least 10000ft pass to surmount. Which is why I groan when I lose altitude because I know that Im going to have to regain it all before the end!
On that note.. I'd better get ready for today!
Wednesday, 12 July 2017
I know I wished for less heat... but Im sorry... I didnt mean it... at all!!
I poked my head out this morning to be greeted by pouring rain. Now Im by no means a fair weather cyclist but this was again rainfall of biblical proportions..
I do love to feel the rain in the Summertime but this was ridiculous.. but I had no choice.. so packed up and headed over to the cafe next door for a bit of breakfast before getting back out on the road.
Breakfast consisted of the usual eggs.. fried potatoes.. bacon and sausage patty. Honestly though I think my stomach is starting to complain about something as my digestive tract is grumbling on and off... a little worrying when out on the road. Tom Dumoulin comes to mind! (If you dont know what im referring to... https://youtu.be/7fr90bkmmK8 )
I might lay off the protein overload and avoid eggs for a day or so!
Anyway... today I was navigationally blind.
I was no longer folowing (or close to) the divide route and was making it up as I went along. With a combination of google maps... off line maps.me and my Etrex 20X GPS I worked out a route that involved a bike path and avoided me having to go on the interstate. I dont mind cycling on the interstate as they have a wide shoulder but in the wet and gloom it didnt seem like the best idea... plus I think its illegal in Colorado (stoopid foreigner card aside).
By the time I had finished breakfast.. the rain had at least stopped and it wasnt cold despite all the low lying cloud obscuring the higher peaks.
In order to go forwards I had to go backwards a bit and circled round to Dillon and the dam road. I was hoping that google maps had got this route right as it was a bloody big hill up to the dam road. I started over the dam and was called back by a guard asking that I use the bike path. Im not always a fan of bike paths as they tend to wind round.. up and down when the road itself is straight and flat... however when I got up to the bike path on top of the dam I was greeted by a beautiful view and a lovely smooth path.
Ok so it did wind round a bit but it was quiet..the furry little things were back and the flowers were out amidst tje sapling pine trees. It was a breath of fresh air after the road riding of the day before. Best thing was that this path wound its way round the lake to Frisco where I hoped to pick up another trail which ran right alongside the interstate and the river to Copper Mountain where I would then hit the road again south to Leadville.
I passed joggers and cyclists and regular restrooms. It was a well thought out rec trail and I was reasonably impressed coming from a country where bike lanes often last 100 yards or so and then stop abruptly merging you into the path of traffic.
So this first bit took me to Frisco... a touristy town which seemed like an offshoot of the ski town of Beckenridge. It had gift shops and up scale restaurants and modern 'wild west' style buildings.. an interesting place but not my kind of place so I shot through looking for the start of the trail that would take me to Copper Mountain and the road southwards. I found the trail and once again was hugely impressed. Keeping the river between it and the interstate I could barely hear any traffic. A sign warning of moose reminded me of earlier adventures in wilder places. It was however steadily UP and having started off at 9000ft ... it wasn't going to get any easier. I knew that I had a mainly uphill day to Leadville. I also had an inkling that there was going to be a big pass to climb... but with no definative data ... I was essentially cycling blind... heading into the unknown and taking each pedal stroke as it came.
For now I was blissfully enjoying a bit of peace and quiet along the river.
At one point I came across a large furry creature... unconcerned by my presence he carried on munching on the grass. Am awaiting opinion on what he was but I do know that he allowed me pretty close and didn't turn a hair!
I was stopped catching my breath when another mountain biker came up on a very nice Marin bike. His friends call him Zeke and he was riding some of the Colorado trail essentially heading towards where I was going. He was unloaded... he explained that his cousin had offered to drive a support vehicle for this bit and was currently hauling his kit. I let him go ahead .. given that he was going to be faster. Eventually the trail ended... having climbed another 500ft at least and heading towards the 10000ft marker.
I love having an altimeter on my GPS as it provides a better forcast of suffering than the mileage. E.g the fact that you have 5 miles to the top of the pass to go means nothing really by itself. To know that you have 1500ft to climb in that 5 miles gives a good indication of how much it is going to hurt!!
I thought my LLFF score was around 7 today given how they felt at points on the river trail. I said cheerio to Zeke and headed for the road up the pass assuming that he was going a different way. As I started up.the climb... zeke popped out of the woods and began the climb a bit further ahead of me. It proved to be an imteresting barometer for my performance.
The climb was not a terrible gradient. I managed to stay in the big ring for 2/3 of it. Just tapping away... stopping every now and again for photos and catching breath... although given the altitude I was surprised at how well my lungs were coping. Once I got into the rythm of the climb my LLFF fell to 2-3.. technically... given the terrain... the best they had felt. Not only that .. but I was managing to keep Zeke within my eye range... pretty happy with that as I was on a loaded bike.
I was playing near the high mountains... snow capped.. and high elevation. Not only that but for the first time in a long time I was enjoying a climb. Probably because the gradient was manageable for me. I watched my altimeter ... 9800... 9900... 10000ft... steadily going up and up. Also I had no idea when it was due to end so I just kept tapping up.
The cars were all pretty respectful and most gave a very wide berth. I often wonder what they think when they see me on my bike. 'CraZy' ?? 'Fair Play'?? or do they not see me at all??
The higher I got... the more evidence of mining activities. Scarring the mountainside. Add to that a pipeline also running the length of the climb and it almost ruined the beauty. I say almost because at several points I stopped and gazed at the view. One such place was a valley where the world's highest Masonic Lodge used to reside. Then there was the lake.. surrounded by green flanked hills. And still I climbed.
At around 11000ft I got to a levelling off and celebrated getting to the top of the pass... 318ft prematurely it turned out but the sign for Climax mine gate #23 made me chuckle.
Eventually I did get to the top of the pass and it felt bloody good. But not as good as the long sweeping downhill felt after all that effort. Unfortunately... as often happens with downhills... it was not all downhill... I know the cheek of it. So at varying points I had to peddle. Add to that... my stomach had begun to gurgle and I didn't feel quite so good. So it was relief that I scooted into Leadville and found to my delight... that unlike Frisco.. parts of this seemed genuinely old... and althoygh there were some more touristy shops... it somehow seemed far more genuine than Frisco. So given the intestinal issue and the fact that I was pretty pleased with the days work... and that I was on schedule to meet up with Louize and Mark.. I decided to stop here. Found a motel and proceeded with my stopped schedule as detailed in yesterdays blog (accidently deleted... now recovered)
CNN has been ruined with the Donald Trump Jr email scandal... they are talking about /discussing/ arguing about NOTHING ELSE!!
I am soooo fed up of Don Jr.... Russian Lawyers... secret meeting... denials of knowledge about any of it. There is apparently NO OTHER News.
Shortly after I had holed up for the rest of the day.... the thunder rumbled and the lightening flashed and drops started to fall. Undeterred I ran out to get food. Turns out a pesto/spinich/garlic and caramelised onion pizza is actually pretty good. I also realised that whilst talking to yourself or the animals or birds may be acceptable when there is no one around to hear you... when you are amongst people however.....
I ran back to the motel and sat down to post pics and write blogs..
A reminder ... I am #sufferingforsponsorship to raise money for the fantastic charity Love Hope Strength Foundation. Please donate if you can if you are enjoying the journey... the photos and the blogs!! Help Fight Back against Cancer!