Central Colorado bicycle tour, page 3

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

Friday, July 13, 2012

Distance: 29.9 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 53 minutes
Average speed: 7.7 mph
Maximum speed: 29.2 mph

Our plan was to bike to Twin Lakes today so that I could hike to the top of Mt. Elbert tomorrow. Twin Lakes is on Highway 82, five miles off the main loop that we are biking. Our plan didn't work out.

We didn't have any terribly steep hills to climb - just a steady incline as we rode north towards Leadville. We climbed slowly, even with a tailwind, and we weren't sure why. I thought, "Am I still sick? Have we been eating poorly? Are we low on sleep? Is this road steeper than it looks?" All those things were probably true to some degree. The weather and scenery were fine, but hard to enjoy.

When we reached the turn for Twin Lakes, Kathy asked, "Are you sure that you want to climb Mt. Elbert tomorrow?" I wasn't - I felt too weak. After sitting down to think for a few minutes, we started riding north to Leadville again, where a host has offered to let us stay for three nights. If I can recover in Leadville then maybe I can climb Quandary Peak (a mountain about the same height as Mt. Elbert) later on during our trip. Leadville is the highest city in the United States at 10,152 feet, so we climbed more than 2000 feet today.

Playing on the camp playground while Mom and Dad eat breakfast.

Snack break under a rainbow cloud.

Maggie disguised herself with her blanket.

Kathy reads about an 1800's stagecoach road, which is still visible on the hill in front of her. Early passengers wrote that the trip was very rough, with one reporting that the coach tipped over three times on the stage to Buena Vista.

Leadville is a high-altitude town surrounded by even higher mountains.

When we reached the house of our host, Rob, things got a little awkward. I had previously told him not to expect us until tomorrow, and he wasn't home when we arrived, though his front door was unlocked. He wasn't answering his mobile phone, so I left a message and we sat down on his front step to make and eat some dinner. Daniel and Maggie walked around his yard collecting ladybugs for fun, with Daniel holding up to 20 in his hand at once. Eventually it became really cold outside, so we stepped inside and tried to decide how to behave in the house of someone that we'd never met. Should we take one bedroom or two? Is it OK to use his kitchen utensils to cook something? This went on for about an hour until Rob called me back and told us to make ourselves at home, to our great relief. He arrived a little while later and we all ate together.

Kathy makes dinner on Rob's front porch.

Daniel and Maggie hunt for ladybugs in Rob's flower-covered yard.

Maggie shows us some ladybugs.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Distance: 4.9 miles
Riding time: 38 minutes
Average speed: 7.7 mph
Maximum speed: 23.3 mph

Leadville has a neat downtown of brick row buildings built in the late 1800's during the gold and silver mining boomtown days. I've wanted to tour the town ever since I biked through it a few years ago with no time to stop. This morning we ate breakfast with Rob at a newly opened restaurant in one of the old downtown buildings, and then went out to learn about Leadville history.

We first visited the Tabor Opera House, built in 1879 by Horace Tabor, who was one of the first people to become very rich from the silver mines. From there we went to the excellent Leadville Mining Museum. Several large mining companies help fund the museum, which has large mineral displays, walk-through mock-ups of an 1800's mine, detailed scale models of the mining process, and even large bronze art sculptures in praise of mining. It's a great museum for a town of less than 3,000 people.

After touring the museum we biked to the edge of town to visit the Matchless Mine that gave Horace Tabor much of his wealth. It's amazing that a relatively small operation (only about 25 miners worked each of the two shifts) yielded more than $7,000,000 of silver in a time when miners were paid only $2/day. And it's only a little less amazing that Tabor spent that money lavishly more quickly than he earned it, and immediately went broke when silver prices crashed in 1893.

After our good day in town I'm feeling pretty good myself. I think I've recovered enough for us to bike to Breckenridge tomorrow. We've packed up as much as we can tonight, and will try to start riding early in the morning.

Breakfast downtown with Rob.

Maggie's teddy bear pancake.

Downtown Leadville.

Tabor Opera house. At the time it was built, Leadville and Denver were the two largest cities in Colorado, so famous performers like Harry Houdini gave shows here.

Maggie plays a drum in the Tabor Opera House.

A train model at the Leadville Mining Museum.

Many large sculptures decorate the Mining Museum.

A series of detailed dioramas tell about the discovery and excavation of different mining claims around Leadville.

Daniel walks through a mock-up of an 1800's mine.

Fluorescent mineral display.

Daniel learns to pan for gold at the Matchless Mine.

Touring the Matchless Mine, where Horace Tabor earned much of his wealth. The mine is named after "Matchless" brand chewing tobacco. Miners chewed tobacco because flammable gas made it too dangerous to light a pipe or cigar in the mine.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Distance: 40.6 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 49 minutes
Average speed: 10.6 mph
Maximum speed: 54.8 mph

Our ride seemed easy, mostly because we started riding at 9 a.m. An early start can make everything go better, especially in the mountains where weather is often clear in the morning and stormy in the afternoon. After saying good-bye to Rob we began our ride up to Fremont Pass.

Leadville is such a high altitude town that we had only 1100 feet to climb to the pass. Traffic was light this Sunday morning even though the road was serving double-duty - nearby Tennessee Pass is closed due to rockslides and a large sinkhole, and all its traffic has been redirected to Fremont Pass. From what we've heard, much of Colorado has been hit by heavy rainstorms, but we've been fortunate and none of those storms have hit us. In fact, today we had yet another tailwind while we were climbing.

At the top of the pass we saw the massive Climax Molybdenum Mine that we learned about from an exhibit in the Leadville Mining Museum yesterday. The mine reopened in the past year after about 30 years of being idle, and the mining company has built a new outdoor exhibit on the pass right across the highway from the mine entrance. It was informative but a little too positive on mining and dismissive of the resulting environmental problems. I balanced out the propaganda a little bit by showing Daniel the gigantic tailings field that has filled in the headwaters of the Eagle River for miles and miles.

Climbing out of Leadville along the east fork of the Arkansas River.

Taking a break on Fremont Pass to look at displays by the Climax Molybdenum Mine.

We set a speed record for our trip as we rolled downhill to the Copper Mountain ski resort to eat lunch. Near the resort bicycles were everywhere because the Triple Bypass ride is this weekend. Several riders asked us what we were doing, since our loaded bike train looked different from all the carbon fiber road bikes that were zipping around.

During lunch Daniel and Maggie found visitor guides with maps of Copper Mountain and the surrounding towns, and they were suddenly excited to bicycle along the route that I showed them on the map. They grabbed extra maps for all the members of a secret club that they decided to start, and then they began telling all the strangers walking past us about their new secret club. We all liked the route from Copper to Breckenridge because it was entirely on 15 miles of paved bicycle path. Although the path generally follows the highway, much of it is well separated from the highway by forest. It was much quieter and more fun to ride the bike path, though perhaps a bit hillier and a steeper than the highway.

We turned off the path in Breckenridge at about 4 p.m. to meet our hosts, Warren and Annette. They live just a few blocks from downtown in a house that they are renovating. They've biked all over the world and they've hosted many bicyclists, but they seemed particularly excited to host a biking family like ours. We arrived so early that we had time to walk back downtown, tour the streets and eat dinner at the Jade Garden Asian restaurant. Asian food with lots of rice has always tasted good to us during bike tours.

Putting the kids to bed was a challenge. They are so tired that they are acting silly and frantic, and they refused to calm down and go to sleep for hours. It's hard to make an excited little kid believe that he is truly tired, and that going to sleep right now will lead to a much better day tomorrow. Bedtime has been a struggle with our kids every night of this trip, but tonight was tougher than most.

Between Copper Mountain Resort and Frisco we rode on the 10-Mile Canyon National Recreation Trail.

Near Breckenridge we saw this unusual situation - houses with driveways connecting to a bike trail instead of a real road. These were huge, fancy houses with 3 car garages, and there was no other access to the houses. I wouldn't want to share a narrow bike path with cars, but I suppose that these are vacation homes that are rarely occupied anyway. Farther up the trail a post blocked cars from continuing, so only about 1/2 mile is shared with cars.

Walking through Breckenridge to get dinner.

Downtown Breckenridge.

Dinner at the Jade Garden.


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