Saturday, 29 September 2012

At the game last night.....


At the high school football game (American football) last night, between the Monticello Buckaroos and Summit Academy, I had a small glimpse into the American way of life. It was rather touching. Played under floodlights (It finished after 10pm), it seemed as though most of the town had turned out to support their team. Whole families were around the touchline having picnics, from toddlers to grandparents, most of the young ones oblivious to the actual game, preferring their own playground antics. The cheerleaders were suitably 'cheery', youthful and enthusiastic, although their energies appeared to have little connection with the match. The home crowd did not seem to mind though. It was a real community enjoying itself. But with cheerleaders.

Suddenly one of the Buckaroos did not get up from a scramble on the pitch. When a doctor and various paramedics were called out, the atmosphere in the ground changed. I recalled reading the week before of a high school kid who had been paralysed on the pitch after a tackle. I noticed that the cheerleaders had dropped to one knee, that all players from both sides had lined up, again on one knee.

As the moments went on, a grandfather and another relative ran onto the pitch, and those around the sidelines all drew breath. I noticed a few praying. The young lad, named Austen, was clearly known to many if not all of the locals. It was collectively emotional.

After some time he was stretchered off the pitch, and the game resumed. (Occasional announcements throughout the game proclaimed that it was not considered serious after all).

The Buckaroos were losing with only 1minute 50 secs on the clock when they took possession of the ball. Suddenly a surprise pass out to a tubby youth, who then ran like the wind with it, taking them to the 15 yard line. The crowd went crazy. After a shaky attempt a touchdown followed, which was also converted, to give them a 3 point lead. At least that's what I think happened.

The opponents attacked again and were close to scoring when a pass was intercepted. This time the home crowd really did go crazy. And so did I, albeit in a quite, British kind of way.

Way to go, Buckaroos!


From Gucci to Peacocks.

We left Telluride, crossing over Lizard Head pass at 10,222'. We realised we had been at quite high elevations for some weeks, if not months, and this moment felt as though we were leaving the mountains.

Sarah had another way of saying it -

"From Gucci to Peacocks" (Editor; for US readers, think Dollar Store).

It was true. The impact the ski 'industry' has on a town or area is immense, economically speaking, for better or worse.

The scenery wasn't effected by the economics, though, but it was to change drastically the further we travelled west.


A typical lunch stop. Over 4 months in the saddle enables Sarah to sit on nails if necessary.


Friday, 28 September 2012

The Last Dollar and Telluride.

The Last Dollar and Telluride. 17.09.12No, not our last dollar, but The Last Dollar Road, a dirt road which took a 'short-cut' by crossing over some high-country on our route to Telluride. I had also read that it was a beautiful road. I checked with a sports outfitters reference the route. He said that it was a doozey (Editor; American for easy) as far as the turnoff for Sawpit, then it gets interesting.

We climbed over one pass on the normal Tarmac road, then turned onto TLDR. He was right, it was easy at the start. What he meant by interesting is that after the Sawpit turnoff you climbed up another 2500'+. On a rather rocky, steep, dirt road.

And that was interesting.

Some short-lived storms blew through, enought for Sarah to bunker down beside a fallen tree for shelter. It may not look like it, but it was actually quite cozy.

Sarah suffered her 5th puncture (Me = zero). As I was fixing it our guardian angels appeared in the form of Sephen & Adele, brandishing a track pump. Thank you.

However, the views were more than ample compensation. (I would ride The Last Dollar Road again without hesitation).

Tom Cruise has one of his houses there, and he can afford to choose well...... We knocked, but he wasn't in.

Telluride was a place that we had both visited many years ago, before we knew each other. It sits at 8,793' at the end of a dead-end road up a box canyon, surrounded by mountains towering over 13,000'. It takes some beating.

Usually it is a mistake to go back like this. This time it was not, and some nights of luxury were enjoyed by us both (A late birthday event for Sarah).

Towns like Ridgeway and Ouray.

Mountain towns like Ridgeway and Ouray were enjoyed for various reasons. The settings were stunning, but it was the unexpected moments that will be remembered.

The Ourayle House Brewery, otherwise known as 'The Mr Grumpy Pants Brewing Company'.He had a simple ethos; he only opened when he wasn't brewing or doing something else, and didn't worry about consistency in his beers - "There is always a dark, a light, an amber and a stout beer on. Except sometimes there may only be one beer to serve. Nobody ever complains, though". A refreshing and fine idea. As was the beer.

Note the landlords suspended, sliding chair. Economy of effort in action.
At Ridgeway we were nudged by a local towards a large basement which houses the home of the Billings Artworks, where the Grammy awards trophys are made. John (and now his team of three) has been making them for the past 40 years, and was happy to show us around some of the history in his workshop. His skill was in making metal moulds for casting. This entails actually carving a mould in the negative, a skill which will probably not exist past his generation. That is a shame.

John - a true gent and passionate craftsman.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

On leaving Salida we headed over Marshall Pass, where the weather turned decidedly cold, as demonstrated by this rare photograph of myself.

When I almost slipping over some unexpected mud made Sarah laugh. Personally I have never found simple slap-stick that funny. At least not when I am the one slipping.
I do not recall when I first heard of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, but it was several years ago. However, I had never been there, so when our route west from Salida took us within a mere 6 miles of the south rim campground (On a dead end road) it seemed an obvious decision to pay my respects.

After a days ride with three good-ish climbs in it, we turned off quite late in the day towards the canyon campground. We figured it would involve a climb; we were not wrong, the whole 6 miles were an uphill grind, the scenery barely getting looked at. As it was my call to go there I just hoped it would be worth it.

Our only consolation was that in two days we would be bombing back down the steep hill. However, the campground at the top was just right, the water pure and cold, and the area quiet. We set up camp just before sunset and waited till morning to check out the canyon itself.

Blooming' heck, what a sight. A short walk in the morning light put us right on the edge of a wondrous void, created by 2000' cliffs of sculptured rock. The nature of the forms meant each moment the changing light transformed the shapes in front of us. American swifts swooped around, sometimes only feet away, gorging on the insects brought out by the warmth of the sun. I think I was actually mesmerised for quite some time.

With 2000' plus cliffs, the highest in Colorado, towering over the river below, and constantly changing light forms, it would have been easy to stay for many hours. And I did.

Another gem to my mind.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

An evening in Salida and the definition of class.

An evening in Salida and the definition of class.

Warmshowers is a web based network of people who offer hospitality to touring cyclists, and touring cyclists looking for local hospitality. Although we had signed up as members, we had not sought out a local host during our travels. However, in early September we made our first phone enquiry of a host in Salida, Colorado.

Hence on September 10th we knocked on the door of Evan & Abbi, and were quickly welcomed into their home by Abbi. All the more remarkable as that evening they actually had a small dinner party in their garden to celebrate Abbi's birthday the day before.

Their guests (Of retirement+ age) could not have been more delightful.

Chris, a very successful businessman, now building their home (And totally hands-on, mainly Chris and the craftsman, Evan) and Rita, his very beautiful, intelligent, witty wife;

Dom, a recently retired astronaut (No, he was not wearing the silver nor the orange suit. And yes, he has more letters after his name than I actually have in my first, middle and last names) and his wife, Wendy, a person who gave me more joy to be sat next to than anyone I can think of for at least the last decade.

What set them all apart was sheer class; not class as in social standing or monetary terms, but class defined as the ability to put someone at their ease, a phrase I recall from the distant past.

All these people had class in abundance. I suspect that evening will remain a highlight of my trip. I thank you all, especially Evan & Abbi. It was a fine birthday.


The Three Musketeers.

Some quite tough cycling saw us pass through remote 'communities' (Editor; the term used when the community equates to 3 houses, a dirt and a tired dog) like Radium, seemingly there only because of the enormous coal trains that pass through. Radium is yet another candidate for the back-end-of-nowhere nomination.

Yes, this is a photo of Radium above.
Look closely for the railway line.
Sarah negotiating a ford. "No, it is not deep my Sweet"
"Well, it may get a little deeper......"
"Dave, which way now?". "Try down there, my Sweet".
It also saw us pass through Frisco (Great place), Breckenridge, etc. The ride from here over Boreas Pass (11,482 feet) was spectacular, and being a former railway grade was just how all mountain passes should be made. It was a pass designed by Mr. Cavendish himself.

Sarah so liked the aspens she actually asked me to take a photo. So here are some more.

And that most rare of images - one including me. You will note that as I do not have suspension forks my front end is very light so I have to lean on it to keep it down. I am also the first person in history to wear a white shirt cycle touring. Well, it was in the sale.


And another with me in it! Boreas Pass - 11,482 feet of pleasure and beauty.
What goes up must come down....

Other bikers.

During this trip we had met but a few other bikers, usually travelling in the opposite direction. But on this section we met not one but three bikers all headed our way on the dirt Divide route.

Ashley, a Manchurian, Rick the home-grown boy and Matthieu from Holland. Although they did not start out together Rick and Mathieu had joined forces to complete the Divide route, and Ashley sort of tagged along. Just like d'Artagnan. (Editor; yes, we all know there were actually four in the original story, so please don't write in, Dicky).

Ashley the so-called dilettant cyclist. He was making use of his riding time to perfect his new one-man stage show, 'Lawrence of Arabia on two wheels; the true story'.
Mathieu in a pre-drug stage of the day; Ie.,behind someone.

Rick in bike pack mode. (Editor; bike packing is light weight camping by bicycle, carrying minimal kit. It s very practical in off-road bike touring).

At first I was a little unsure of riding with others as it was so unfamiliar, but quickly the Musketeers warm-hearted and generous company proved to be enormously entertaining. Each had a story to tell; one, an addict to Mountain Dew (Editor; a highly caffeinated soft drink with suspected performance enhancing attributes) who would down a bottle and race off like Eddy Mercx; another a highly experienced 'ships captain for hire' to the rich - and the even richer; the third a retired navy Seal and plant laboratory owner. It should not be difficult to identify who is who.....

Although there was never an agreed plan we would all loosely ride together and end up in the same destination.

One such small 'town' we ended up in at the end of a days riding was Hartsel.


Always handy to have game processing provided at your cafe (See right of picture).

Unless you are the game, that is (See left of picture....).

Hartsel is a 'community' of one store, one bar and one small school. Camping was allowed in the nearby community area, where our new friends used a covered area to camp, allocating us the married quarters - a wendy house.

It was very comfortable, if a little bijou. However carrying Sarah over threshold was a little tricky.
I really liked Hartsel, and The Highline Cafe & Saloon were a hit with me. And I can vouch for the quality of the breakfast burrito. It deserves all the customers it gets.

I find myself really enjoying many of these very, very small communities; there is an honesty about them, the people are always friendly, and obviously tough and independently minded just to be there (Editor: or stuck). Authentic is the word that springs to mind, and in this day and age that is a good quality to possess.

All of this malarkey only added to the amazing scenery of Colorado.

Mountain Dew, I worship at your plastic bottled altar.

Again, someone was turning the landscape 'wow-dial' up a notch at every turn. To bike through such country with almost no traffic at all, simply the sound of bike gears and tyres on dirt felt rather special. This section of Montana was rolling open range land, which had an almost hypnotic effect, on me at least.

The surface was usually good, but there was a fair share of wash-board or gravel, the former particularly hard on my rigid setup. The weather was also in our favour; crisp, cold mornings, clear sunny days, but not the stinging heat in the day of the previous weeks.

As mentioned, we loosely rode together. It was very relaxed company. Good fun.

Rick bringing up the rear for once.
Where does the road go next?

I must admit that the Divide route is quite an experience. However, we decided to ride as far south as the town of Salida, then peel off west to head towards Utah and the Grand Canyon; a desicion now lost in the past somewhere. On our last night together we shared a take-out pizza and some 'growlers' from the local brewery.

Once again I have added another little highlight to my trip experience; riding with the Three Musketeers.