I was itching to leave this morning...
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...