Central Colorado bicycle tour, page 2

Page 1: Colorado Springs to Gunnison
Page 2: Gunnison to Buena Vista
Page 3: Buena Vista to Breckenridge
Page 4: Breckenridge to Manitou Springs
Page 5: Manitou Springs to Colorado Springs

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Distance: 25.8 miles
Riding time: 2 hours, 54 minutes
Average speed: 8.9 mph
Maximum speed: 21.3 mph

You would think that the convenience of a hotel room would help us start our day earlier, but we barely got out before the mandatory 11 a.m. checkout time. Maybe we were slow because of our long, late ride yesterday.

Once we did get out, at least we were in the right place. Across the street from the Holiday Inn is the Gunnison Pioneer Museum that I'd been hoping to visit. The Gunnison Historical Society has been relocating artifacts and buildings to this place since 1930, and it's pretty big now. There are 18 buildings, including a train depot, post office, school house and even a moderate size two-story home. The exhibits weren't interpreted well, but the quantity of artifacts was good. Maggie ran across the lawn from building to building to look inside, and both kids liked ringing the bell of the narrow gauge locomotive. I think Daniel's favorite exhibits were the weapons displays, ranging from stone arrowheads and Civil War muskets up to World War 2 rifles.

We biked downtown for lunch, and found a perfect place to eat. The last time Kathy and I were in Gunnison was eight years ago at the end of a bike tour. We had finished our ride after dark in a pouring rain. While repacking our bike and gear into our car (a long process,) we briefly took shelter in a nearby pizza restaurant, but didn't have time to eat there. Today we found the same restaurant and ate lunch there, telling our kids the story of our previous visit before they were born. As a bonus the restaurant had crayons, which the kids have been begging us to buy for three days. We brought coloring books with us but forgot to pack crayons.


Daniel surveys the Gunnison Pioneer Museum.


A restored, narrow gauge train at the museum.


Daniel rings the locomotive bell.


Pretending to eat lunch in the caboose.


Walking across the museum grounds to the schoolhouse.


Lunch at Mario's Pizza & Pasta.

From lunch it was on towards the highest and hardest climb of our trip, Cottonwood Pass. After so much time in town we rode only a small portion of the climb, and that included eight miles of wet dirt road due to road reconstruction in Taylor Canyon. We can't complain much because the canyon was beautiful, traffic was light, and we had a tailwind for an amazing 4th day in a row. We pitched camp in a national forest campground.

The public out here seems to love us. Every day people have cheered for us as we pass (or as they pass us,) taken pictures of us, and struck up conversations. We've never had this much positive attention before, and it's very encouraging.


Taylor River.


Setting up our tent at a forest campground.


Kathy makes our dinner while Maggie pretends to make our dinner with pinecones.


Coloring pictures before bedtime.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Distance: 15 miles

A slight feeling of nausea yesterday turned into genuine illness for me last night. I never had to vomit, but I was awake most of the night with stomach pain and diarrhea. By morning I was dehydrated and weak, and Kathy and I wondered whether we should move camp at all, or just stay put until I felt better. I decided to ride partway up to Cottonwood Pass to make crossing it easier tomorrow, but I was so sluggish that we didn't start biking until noon.

We rode very slowly, took several breaks, and walked all the steep hills until our late lunch at Taylor Reservoir. Although I was miserable, the kids had a great morning because they had more time to play in camp and during our breaks. Even while sick, I appreciated the scenic canyon and the extremely low traffic on our road.

At lunch I felt even worse. I laid down on a bench in front of a small convenience store and wondered when I would have the strength to sit up, let alone ride a bicycle. We were there for about three hours. Our options were to either stay in a campground beside the reservoir (after just 9 miles of bicycling,) or to continue up towards the pass and camp in the forest. I didn't like the thought of being sick in the middle of nowhere, but I still chose to continue riding. We're going to need every advantage to cross the pass tomorrow, and every mile helps.

Once we started riding again I didn't feel so bad. The weather became cloudy and cooler, helping me feel less nauseous. After a while my legs felt stronger, and when we stopped to camp around 6 p.m. I was ready to eat dinner. Maybe I'll be my normal self in the morning.


Morning in Taylor Canyon.


I was so sick in the morning that we had to walk up most hills.


Butterflies like the bright stuff sacks on our bicycle.


The valve house below Taylor Park Dam. The dam is just over 200' tall.


Taylor Park Reservoir and the Elk Mountains.

We have a great campsite tonight in an open forest with views of the Elk Mountains to our west. The road is gravel for the 11 miles between Taylor Reservoir and Cottonwood Pass, and there is almost no traffic to disturb us tonight. The kids ran around playing with sticks while Kathy cooked, and whenever they heard an occasional rumble of thunder they tried to scare the storm away by screaming, "Caw-caw! Caw-caw!" It seemed bizarre until Kathy told me they were imitating cartoon superhero Dark Crow from the kids' movie The Good, The Bad and the Eggly. Now that it's dark and we're all quiet in our tent, we can hear elk bugling.



Building an "ant bridge" near our campsite.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Distance: 36.2 miles
Riding time: 4 hours, 11 minutes
Average speed: 8.6 mph
Maximum speed: 48.2 mph

When Maggie woke up she smiled and said, "The bears didn't get us." On a previous camping trip I accidentally made her scared of bears by teaching her all the precautions we take, like storing our food in bear-proof canisters and never eating in our tent or spilling food on our clothes. Now Kathy and I have to reassure her that we're safe so that she can sleep at night. We took longer than usual to pack up this morning because camping in the wild is always more time consuming, but the kids enjoyed the extra playtime.

Our first 10 miles were steep gravel road leading up to the 12,126 foot summit of Cottonwood Pass. We knew it would be difficult, and we ended up walking the last 5 miles to the top. I towed the bike with ropes and shoulder straps while Kathy walked behind me and kept the bike balanced. We've used this technique on a couple other trips, and it's the best way we know for tackling very steep climbs. We reached the top shortly before 4 o'clock, and in our rush to avoid thunderstorms we hadn't eaten lunch on the way up. We didn't want to linger near storm clouds at the top, so we never ate lunch at all.

Rolling down from the pass into Buena Vista went quickly. The road and switchbacks near the top look so steep that Kathy said, "I'm getting butterflies in my stomach just looking at the road." But it wasn't scary to ride. It was fun to go downhill after more than two days of climbing.

We had hoped to ride to a campsite in Twin Lakes tonight, but we were much too late. After cooking dinner in Buena Vista we rode about four miles north of town and checked into a private campground.


Our campsite near Cottonwood Pass.


Breakfast in the mountains.


Looking down at Taylor Reservoir from the road to Cottonwood Pass. The shoulder straps and rope lying on the ground in front of the bicycle are what I use to tow the bike up very steep hills.


View of the Elk Mountains from Cottonwood Pass.


Taking a break on Cottonwood Pass, 12,126 feet above sea level.


Steep switchbacks leading down to Buena Vista.


Daniel follows me through the wildflowers.

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Page 1: Colorado Springs to Gunnison
Page 2: Gunnison to Buena Vista
Page 3: Buena Vista to Breckenridge
Page 4: Breckenridge to Manitou Springs
Page 5: Manitou Springs to Colorado Springs