Central Colorado bicycle tour, page 4

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

Monday, July 16, 2012

We took the day off in Breckenridge because I wanted to climb a mountain during this bike tour, and a suitable mountain is nearby. The trailhead for 14,265' Quandary Peak is just 8 miles up the highway. Warren volunteered to drive me to the trailhead, so by 7:30 this morning I was hiking up the trail under a beautiful blue sky. Quandary is one of Colorado's easier fourteeners, but I still felt out of breath as I slowly walked. Why? I've spent the last three nights at an altitude of about 10,000 feet, and I've spent more than a week above 7,000 feet. I thought I'd be acclimated to high altitude by now. On weekends this trail is often crowded with people, but on this Monday foot traffic was light. The trail was also being used by several mountain goat families, who often blocked the trail while they stopped to munch on the tundra.

Mountain goats and a pika on Quandary Peak.

Views from the top of Quandary Peak.

Hiking back down.

When I hiked back down I easily hitched a ride into town with another hiker, and then radioed Kathy. She and the kids had spent the morning downtown shopping, riding a ski gondola, visiting a museum and playing at a park. We ate lunch together at the park and let the children play a lot more.

Daniel found a map of Breckenridge at the visitor center today, and helped Kathy navigate around town. He loves maps like all boys do, and is proud that he is starting to understand them. During bike trips he sees me consulting maps every day.

Kathy cooked our dinner at Warren and Annette's house, which gave us plenty of time to talk with them. It's fun to hear about their life in Breckenridge and all the different careers and adventures they've had here. Their latest "adventure" is really this house, which they bought in a foreclosure sale about a year ago. When they finish renovating it will be a neat house. Annette played games with the kids and even taught them to dance a little bit. I'm glad we all had time to share the evening.

Playing in downtown Breckenridge.

This display at the Breckenridge Museum shows how boats dredged the Blue River to look for gold. The dredging made a mess of the Blue River, though the river has been somewhat restored in recent decades.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Distance: 69.3 miles
Riding time: 6 hours, 1 minute
Average speed: 11.5 mph
Maximum speed: 47.0 mph

It rained a lot yesterday evening, but early this morning the sky was pure blue again. We packed up and ate breakfast as quickly as we could, and started riding at 9:30. Our kids had become very comfortable talking with Warren and Annette, so as we were leaving Maggie scolded Warren for wearing pinkish-purple pajama pants. "It's a girl color - give them to your wife!" she told him.

Our ride from Breckenridge to the top of Hoosier Pass went better than I expected. At 11,549 feet, it's the second highest pass of our trip, but our 11-mile climb was manageable. We had a helpful tailwind, and we walked the last 1.5 miles to the top. Beyond the pass we ate lunch in Fairplay, an old town with a museum complex called "South Park City" made of 1800's buildings relocated here from nearby ghost towns. The kids would have liked it, but we had to hurry out of town because thunderstorms were bearing down on us.

For the next couple of hours we rode at high speed with thunderstorms on our left and right and a strong tailwind behind us. Every now and then the rain hit us a little bit, but didn't slow us down much. We could see the mountains to our left and right getting drenched. Eventually the storm turned around and became a headwind as we were climbing Wilkerson Pass. We were in no hurry to bike uphill into a headwind or to enter the dark storm that had moved in front of us, so we walked the last two miles to Wilkerson Pass and the storm gradually dissipated before it could rain on us. Through all of this the kids cooperated well, making our day smoother. Daniel helped by pedaling and walking, and he didn't ask to ride in the trailer until the very end of the day.

When evening came we were near the town of Lake George and I didn't see any campgrounds, so I knocked on the door at a National Forest work site and asked if we could camp on the property. The rangers told us that we could as long as we leave before 9 a.m. tomorrow, prior to when their top supervisor arrives.

This was the longest mileage day of our trip despite crossing two mountain passes. The strong tailwind helped a lot, and it was a thrill to zip across South Park at 25 to 30 m.p.h. while lightning bolts flashed to our left and right.

Breakfast at Warren and Annette's house.

Warren tells Daniel goodbye before we depart.

Pausing in front of Quandary Peak on our way to Hoosier Pass.

Hoosier Pass.

Part of the large South Park City museum that we didn't have time to visit.

Eating lunch on the grounds of the Fairplay library.

Waiting out a storm over Wilkerson Pass.

View of the clearing storm from Wilkerson Pass.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Distance: 35.1 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Average speed: 10.8 mph
Maximum speed: 42.4 mph

I'm glad that we covered so many miles yesterday, but we paid the price in discomfort this morning. My arms and legs didn't want to move and were tired and aching. We left our improvised campsite before 9 a.m., as the forest rangers had requested, but we stopped just four miles down the road at a gas station/general store to use the bathroom and put on sunscreen. After resting on the front porch for a while I asked Kathy to buy us a large chocolate milkshake. I think the calories and chocolate turned our morning around, since my body began to feel better after a few more miles. We had only one climb today, up to relatively easy Ute Pass (9165 feet.)

As I've said before, the public has been very encouraging during this trip, often cheering for us from the sidewalk or from their cars. We found a big exception on our way up to Ute Pass when a pick-up driver slowed down and yelled, "You're kidding, right? Get the f--- off the road!" He turned onto a side road and I didn't think much more of him until 15 minutes later when two sheriff's deputies pulled off on the highway next to us. "How are you guys doing today?" the first deputy asked. "Fine," I answered, wondering how this was going to resolve. Luckily, the deputy was already biased in our favor, and doubtful of the complaint that his office had received. He asked if we'd had any interactions with passing cars, and when I described the truck driver he said, "That must be the guy that called us." The deputies asked us to ride carefully and then left. It felt good to have law enforcement on our side.

It also felt good to get paid for biking today. We're not professionals, but shortly after our visit from the deputies I noticed coins scattered all over the shoulder of the road. We stopped and picked them up, netting $10.45. Not enough to pay for lunch, but it helped.

The final ascent to Ute Pass isn't steep, but we were tired so we still walked the last 1/2 mile to the top. That means we've resorted to walking on all six mountain passes of this trip, so either we are weak or our touring load is extremely heavy. After the pass our ride was easy - we rolled down into Woodland Park for lunch and then rolled down even faster into Manitou Springs.

Pausing on top of Ute Pass, the easiest pass of our trip.

Fountain Creek canyon above Manitou Springs.

In Manitou Springs we looked for a campground, but found that the only campground in town no longer accepts tents (RVs only.) The closest option for tents is Garden of the Gods Campground, several miles east and downhill from downtown Manitou. I didn't feel like biking up into town for the next couple of days, so... hotel credit to the rescue! I had enough credit left to cover all but $10 of a two-night stay at a cheap hotel in Manitou Springs. It's convenient, comfortable and includes breakfast. This trip will end up being a 14-night vacation, but we've spent only 5 nights in our tent. We've spent 6 nights in homes and will spend 3 nights in hotels.

Downtown Manitou looks like a mix of Aspen, Colorado, and Ocean City, Maryland. The 1800's era buildings on Manitou Avenue are full of restaurants and art galleries and clothing stores like Aspen, but there is also a loud outdoor arcade and shops selling funnel cakes and cotton candy like on the boardwalk of Ocean City. There's a lot of history here that I'll want to learn about tomorrow, but tonight we just ate dinner at a pizza parlor and went back to the hotel to rest.

Playing outside our hotel cottage. The kids are flying a helicopter toy that they got at lunch at Wendy's Restaurant.

Downtown Manitou Springs

Bicycle sculptures near the downtown arcade.

Large murals on opposite walls of the Crystal Wizard Gift Shop. I never entered the store (it sells incense, tarot cards, magic wands and such) but I thought the murals were impressive. There are several other large murals scattered around downtown.


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