Day 27- Idaho Springs, CO

Posted: August 24, 2010 in Colorado


Leaving Denver was hard after a week of relaxation, fun, and riding around a real city. But the road was calling and our budget was getting stretched from all of the indulging, so it was time to carry on.
The rain that had been following us since entering New Mexico had abated during our stay in Denver, but started up again the day we left. Typical. It was gray and drizzly, and made for a very annoying climb out of town. The winds were the real culprit in slowing down the ride- if there’s one thing I absolutely can not stand, it’s a strong crosswind when there is no real shoulder to ride on.
There were some wonderful downhills once we started getting further from the city though, including a marked 6% grade.

The sign over the highway showed the grade and length, we were on the frontage road.


As soon as we finished up the most awesome of the downhills we encountered that day, we got to jump onto a bike path that would take us all the way into the next town. The path was awesome- it was the beautiful, unruly cousin of the Platte River Trail that we took on the way into Denver. Slightly less maintained, more overgrown, but completely empty the entire way.

We made it into the outskirts of Idaho Springs right as the first few raindrops started to hit us. We ducked into a gas station and Jon asked where we could find some good, cheap, local food. This would be the question that would lead us to meeting one of the coolest people I have ever met, Brian. He told us to hit up Mangia!, the Italian restaurant where he works as a cook. We headed down that way, but detoured to a bike shop before eating. The shop was closed, so we hung out for a minute before going back to the restaurant.

While hanging out, Brian popped up again and we talked more in depth with him about the trip and what we were up to. He offered us a place to crash for the night, which ended up carrying another hidden benefit- it would give Jon the chance to climb Mt. Evans (which is the highest paved road in America, leading to the top of a 14,000 ft. peak). Brian’s house was just up the road from Echo Lake, the entrance to Mt. Evans Rd. We thought that he had missed the chance once we left Denver, and here it was, literally falling in his lap. We accepted, and Brian told us to hurry up and get down to Mangia! for happy hour, and that he would see us in a bit.

Full, happy tummy.


Our meal was delicious, and right as we finished up, there was Brian again, ready to escort us to his mountainside house- he lives somewhere over 10,000 ft. in elevation, so high up that you can see Denver at night when the city is lit up. Riding up the mountain to get to his place was a blast. The mountains rise up rapidly on all sides, and there’s even evidence of old mining shafts in certain places. We also got to see this:

Up at the house we got to meet his wife, Jackie, and the three dogs: Andrew, Berkman, and Chloe. We hung out for awhile, and then the neighbor came over so we headed over to his place, which was even further up on the mountain. Once we got up there we got to meet Beaker, a very vocal (and old) parrot. Unfortunately none of my pictures came out, but let me tell ya, he is a hoot. I hung out with him for a long time, having a blast listening to him talk. Somewhere in the midst of hanging out pictures were taken, but they have disappeared for some reason.
The hospitality and drastic rise in elevation really did a number on me, and Jon needed rest if he was going to conquer the hill the following day. We wrapped it up and went back down to Brian and Jackie’s, and crashed out on the couch. It had been an unexpectedly awesome day.

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Denver, CO

Posted: August 21, 2010 in Colorado

Before I get into this entry Jon and I would like to give a big thanks to Bike Snob NYC for his snarky comments, I’m sure our sponsors and friends we’ve linked are extremely happy about the increase in site traffic we are experiencing.

Our first full day in Denver was also the one-year anniversary for Jon and I, so if there was going to be any day that we went out and hit up the town, it would be that one. We started with tea at Saint Marks Cafe. Then went for breakfast at Charlie Brown’s, a really classy bar that is on the ground floor of a Section 8 housing hotel. Kerouac evidently spent a lot of time at the bar and lived in the hotel when he was Denver, as he was having relations with a waitress from CB’s. Anyway, we went in hoping to score the infamous pork chop and egg breakfast, but it’s a weekend special so we were out of luck. Our server was an awesome guy though, and he even went in and checked to see if there was any way the kitchen could swing it for us. Even though he couldn’t get that pig for us, he did tell us about the Friday afternoon happy hour, with free hot wings (DELICIOUS) and pig roast (even more delicious). Scotty joined us after a little while and we sat around for awhile longer until he had to meet up with Lucy.
After breakfast we went down to Track Shack to see if we could run into some more old friends of Jon’s. I got to meet one of the shop proprietors, Jeremy, but the other is currently out on tour as well. We hung around the shop for a bit, met a few more people and talked more about our gear and the trip. Lunchtime and local brews were calling our name though, so we set back out to see more of Denver.
Since Flying Dog doesn’t have a location in town anymore, we headed over to Breckenridge as our first stop. I had the Agave Wheat, Jon tried the pilsner. Both were delicious, and while it was tempting to sit there and indulge in them all, there were still a lot of other places to see. We hit up Falling Rock Tap House (75+ on tap, 130+ bottled) and sat for a little staring at the couple of thousand bottles that line the walls. If there was a place that we could end up lost at for hours, it would definitely be this one, but there was still more to do that day.
When we left Jon wanted to show me Denver’s public skatepark, which is evidently one of the nicest and largest of its kind in the country. It’s also completely free, all you have to do is walk up. We watched some kids screwing around and having fun, but as had been our luck almost every day, a storm was blowing in (at least we weren’t out in the middle of nowhere, for once). Since the skatepark was just a stop on the way to Opal for their killer happy hour and our anniversary dinner we decided to go on down that direction.
We got there right as they were opening for dinner/starting happy hour, and took up a spot by the window to watch the rain while we relaxed. The service was good and the food was awesome, and before we knew it happy hour was over and we were feeling the effects of an indulgent day. Miriam called so we finally got ourselves together to head over to her place, but about halfway there started getting hungry again so we stopped in at Tuk Tuk (Jon had a craving all day, and Thai wraps make better drunk food than sushi).
We got to Miriam’s and kicked it for awhile, until we made him run back out to pick up our stuff from Scotty’s and grab some necessities from 7-11. I passed out while he was gone and when he got back it was lights out in a split second, as we were both tired from a long, wonderful first day in Denver.
Day two was a long, fun, wet one. We went to Elitch Gardens, an amusement/water park right in the middle of town. IT. WAS. AWESOME. The very first thing we did was ride the Minderaser, and my love of rollercoasters came back immediately. After that was the Halfpipe, then the Twister 2. There was some arcade time and lunch, then we headed for the water side, rode some slides, and lounged around in the water.
By then it was getting close to 6 and hunger was setting back in again, so we left the park and went back into town. We got to see Miriam’s studio in Cherry Creek, and then went back to her apartment to recoup from the sun n’ fun. She left to go to dinner with some clients and friends, and Jon and I got hooked up with her Groupon for an 18″ pizza from Abo’s. Absolutely delicious, I highly recommend the Central Park.
Since Elitch Gardens took up so much of our day, time and energy-wise, lethargy took over once we finished up eating and there was nothing else for the day except laying back and watching some Daily Show.
The following day we got a chance to hang out with another of Jon’s old friends, Andrew. We stopped by his work to say hi and made plans to meet up later than night. The coffee shop we met at was kind of busy, so we headed back to Andrew’s place to see the new house and meet some of the new roommates. This was on Wednesday, the first night of the Perseid meteor shower, and while hanging out on his upstairs balcony I tried in vain to see the show but the clouds just wouldn’t go away. After awhile it was getting pretty late and Andrew had to be responsible and wake up in the morning, so we said goodbye and went to check out a couple of bars on the way back to Miriam’s.
We hit up Barracuda’s and Club 404 before calling it a night.
We lounged around until Friday when it was time to hit up the Charlie Brown’s pig roast, the deliciousness that I mentioned earlier.
The heavy food and stiff drinks made for a short night though, and once the food was starting to settle we skipped going out on the town in favor taking it easy at Miriam’s. We made up for it on Saturday though, and took a trek through areas of town I hadn’t been to yet. We headed into the Highlands to look for another of Jon’s old friends, who unfortunately we never found. During the search though we got word from Andrew about an art showing with complimentary wine, so we decided to head over in that direction. On the way we came across a man riding a 36″ unicycle.
The showing, for us at least, was much more about socializing than art, particularly because we arrived shortly before close. Everyone hung out for awhile, then started wandering out to do other things. Andrew and a friend of his invited us to head back to his place to hang out again, but we hadn’t had a chance to really spend time with Miriam yet, so we turned back towards her place again.
On the way back however, we got a message from Scotty saying that if we were in the neighborhood then we should stop by for a few. We figured why not and hung out with him, Lucy, and some of the roommates/friends. Their beer started to run dry a little while after we showed up, so Jon offered to go pick up some more. He and Scotty had been talking about our PAC’s, so Scotty put forth the challenge that if Jon could fit and carry two 30-packs in the PAC, then he would pay for it. The night was already becoming a long one for us and we still needed to spend time with Miriam, so about halfway into the first 30 we had to split. We spent the rest of the night hanging out back at the apartment with Miriam and her friend.
Sunday would be our last full day in Denver, and the day to finally take care of some business. After sleeping off the previous night’s fun, we headed down to Cycle Analyst, the shop where Scotty works. I needed to pick up a new chain before we headed west into the mountains, and Scotty had suggested also that we come in and show his boss our bags. We hung out at the shop for a little past closing, shooting the shit. We went back to the home and had dinner with Miriam, and got ready to hit the road in the morning.

Day 19- Denver, CO

Posted: August 15, 2010 in Colorado

When Jon and I left the next morning to head for Denver, we discovered the unfortunate side-effect of our little trek through the pastures the day before. The screen on our camera had broken, and there was no regular viewfinder, which renders each picture we attempted to take a complete shot in the dark. This means two things: what few pictures there are will be coming from the camera on the phone, so obviously expect them to be of lesser quality, and the second is that you will have to deal with that lack of pictures with an increase in dialogue. Sorry in advance.

Anyway, the ride. There were supposedly camels at the ranch closest to the road around where we had stayed the night before, so we looked for them first thing. They didn’t feel like making their presence known when we went by, though. The first ~17 miles were gorgeous, the same perfectly picturesque countryside we had been riding through the day before. Lots of rolling hills, with an overall descent. The road itself, while only two-lane and with no shoulder, contained an extraordinarily large amount of bike traffic, as it was extremely smooth, the motorists were very patient and considerate, and thus it was full of roadies on training rides. Jon and I discussed how it we lived out anywhere along that road, we would be out here all the time because it’s so quiet, such a great ride, and very pretty.

We got onto onto the highway, and took it to the outside area of town where 470 and the South Platte River Trail connects. The trail is awesome- the total length is around 19 miles, all paved, with signs and road markings. We took it for about 13-14 miles, all the way from a Denver suburb to close to downtown. We made it in around 1:30, and headed for the spot Jon had been talking about for the last few days, our reason for trying to be in town by Sunday around noon: bottomless Mimosas at Sputnick! It wasn’t exactly that ($5 carafes, actually) but it was still a good deal. We hung out and Jon talked about all the places we had to visit. When 3:00 rolled around we left to take a small tour of downtown, through the Sixteenth St. open-air mall, and back around to Bocaza, where we got something to eat. It started sprinkling as we finished up, and I was extraordinarily lethargic, so we skipped going to kickball and headed in the direction of Miriam’s apartment, Jon’s friend that we would be staying with for the week.

When we cut through Cheesman Park, we ran into Scotty, and really cool guy that Jon met when he lived in Denver before. We told him what we were up to, and it turns out that Scotty and Lucy (who we meet later) are getting ready for a tour of their own. We grabbed some drinks with Scotty at Wyman’s #5 and hung out for a few hours, until heading back over to his house. The guys hung out and talked while Lucy and I made friends, and after awhile it was so late that they invited us to crash for the night. We took them up on it, chit-chatted a bit more and made plans for breakfa

Day 18- Larkspur, CO

Posted: August 13, 2010 in Colorado


We got moving early out of Pueblo as the park we were in was in a nicer, calmer part of town, with old ladies powerwalking along the outside trails. We figured someone might disapprove soon, plus we really needed to get into Fountain and replace our broken memory-card adapter.
When leaving Pueblo we wound our way through some lazy neighborhoods on the way out to the highway. We ran into a llama farm and I finally got a chance to try to pet one.

They were so lazy and disinterested that when I threw the grass, the closest one stretched out his neck and ate the one piece of grass that was closest to him, then ignored all the rest.

When it was clear the llamas weren’t going to entertain us we got going again. After a few more miles the neighborhood ended completely, and the road abruptly changed to hard packed dirt. Since there was no other choice, we just got riding again… and I can honestly say that it wasn’t the worst road we have ridden on. This went on for about 10 miles, until finally turning towards the highway.

We made it to Fountain for lunch, still hurting from the descent the day before. The riding had only loosened us up a little, but we had to push on through to Colorado Springs, then Monument, and finally to Larkspur.
We spent very little time hanging out in any of the cities, and consequently, very little time taking pictures. We did get to the see the NORAD facility, we had a beautiful climb through some perfectly picturesque countryside, and saw, once again, a storm and a rainbow.

Around the 7th or so rainbow since starting the trip. This was the first one in which we could see both sides, but we were too far back to get the whole thing.


When trying to navigate from the outside edge of Colorado Springs into the Monument suburb, we received some bad directions and had to tramp our way through a couple of soggy pastures. In the process of jumping fences and hauling our gear, I ended up breaking the screen on the camera, which we would not realize until the next morning.
When we finally reached our destination, at the house of Jon’s friend’s parents, we had warm showers, a comfortable bed, a washer and dryer, and a wonderful homecooked meal waiting for us. After camping out the last few days it was a huge relief to be able to end the day knowing we could rest easy for the night.

Day 17- Pueblo, CO

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Colorado


The next morning Jon went down to the beach for a cup of coffee with David, the friendly camper from the night before. I slept in, because I am perpetually lazy.

The camping had been fun and relaxing, but we had some business to attend to that day. We were going to be climbing the Le Veta Pass, and it was nice knowing this time that we were going to be on a long climb for awhile.
It was flat and only the slightest bit uphill as we approached the pass. When we reached the sign at the bottom, we decided it would be a good time to flip our wheels around and use the 18t cog instead of the 15t.

About halfway up the pass I had to stop and de-stress myself because I was becoming increasingly frustrated with how quickly winded I was getting. I was tired and sore from the previous climbs and we were also moving up to our highest elevation yet. Jon offered me a break for about 15, and then I steeled myself for the rest of the climb. Jon even offered to let me lead so that I would feel less upset about how far behind I was.
The break helped and I just forced myself to power the rest of the way up. I was so euphoric as I watched this sign pull into view:

We took another break to chill, take some pictures, and flip the wheels back around.

The descent was pretty hard- a 6% grade for 4 miles (which we conveniently know because of the sign informing us). It was the first true test of the strength we had built up, and our tires. Both legs and tired performed wonderfully, and we made it down with no incidents and minimal stops.
Walsenburg was our next stop, a really nice town that wasn’t quite as small as I had imagined it to be. We checked out the library, hoping to work on the website, and discovered that our card reader was broken. We were just going to have to wait until we could get a new one the next day.
Since there wasn’t anything else to do, we decided to head out since we needed to get into Pueblo before it, once again, dropped a heavy storm on us. And, once again, we weren’t so lucky. In an effort to make time we tried to take the frontage road instead of riding on I-70, until we saw this sign:

which means watch for bikes on the interstate. It was awesome, especially when the shoulder opened up.
Just as the storms started intersecting with our section of the highway, we were seeing lots of motorcyclists pulling off to watch the storm and change into rain gear. We took that as a sign that we were going to get caught up in it soon.

The Taylors, stopped to take pictures of the storm.


Evidently roadside hanging out is not ok. The cop was really nice about it though.


The storms that we had been seeing up in the mountains were scary and intense. But still, none of them was as spectacular as the one we saw outside of Pueblo. It was actually the second of two storms to roll through, except the first was quickly blown out of the area by the 30-40 mpg wind gusts. We were hoping the second storm would follow suit, but instead we got stuck under an overpass for a couple of hours while watching the most electrically active storm so far. It was awesome, with perfect horror movie-sky splitting lightning. The show could not do anything to ease our bind though, as it was getting dark and still very dangerous to travel. We finally agreed that we might as well hitch the last 5-miles or so the edge of town, so that we could at least get under the shelter of a convenience store roof.
We got picked up right as it got dark by a man named Kim and his nephew William. They were super nice, and Kim drove us a little ways into town. He had done a lot of traveling and hitching and so was a kindred spirit. He gave us travel advice and we swapped stories, and then he dropped us off and we all said bye. It was still kind of early so we grabbed a really good (and cheap) dinner at Ianne’s Pizzeria. After the delicious, large, fried chicken dinner, we got sleepy and decided it was time to find a park. There was one right up the street with a pavilion, but we were in the “ghetto” part of town on a Friday night, which was going to throw a kink in trying to get a good nights sleep. It sounded like the party was just getting started when we got into the park, so we headed off for the other edge of town.
We ended up finding the Mineral Palace Park, a considerably softer and quieter park than the previous one. We crashed hard, knowing that we had an 80-mile the next day that we wanted to finish as quickly as possible, since we knew we had a real bed waiting at the end of it.

Day 16- Fort Garland, CO

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Colorado


Despite the great night before in Questa, we had to push on the next morning. It was an exciting day though- we would finally be crossing the state line!
We only had about 22 miles to go. We made good time, it was a clear, nice day, and we finally saw it.

We were getting into the San Luis Valley area, and it was very flat on the way to the first town, San Luis.

We decided to eat lunch at a place called Sam’s Covered Wagon, which someone from the night before had told us about. It was really good, and really cheap. The woman who runs the restaurant, we learned, is also the mayor of the town. We also saw our first medical marijuana facility, which was right across the street from our lunch spot.
it started raining, of course, so we were in town for a little. We left town with no huge rush, knowing that we could get into Fort Garland with a little time. We had decided that we wanted to literally camp out that night, and made plans for finding a spot in the mountains. We learned about Trinchera Ranch, which has campgrounds around the reservoir. We had to bring wood up from the town, too, since it was going to be kind of cold that night and we needed to make sure we had enough. I took the food, and Jon took the firewood.

When we got up to the campsite we settled in and looked for more firewood. Jon enlisted the help of a fellow camper further down the way in moving some large logs, who would end up helping us a bunch and being a really nice guy.
Camping was amazing. I have never been able to see stars with as much clarity and in such great numbers before- the Milky Way was magnificent. It didn’t get nearly as cold as I was expecting, but I did sleep with a hat on. I tried to stay awake as long as possible to stargaze with Jon, but it was so peaceful and I was too tired. We did see a couple of extremely bright shooting stars, right before I fell asleep.

Day 15- Questa, NM

Posted: August 11, 2010 in New Mexico


We had a late start out of Taos since we needed to get our laundry taken care of. We hung out, ate some breakfast, and watched the news. We learned that, yet again, there was a good chance we would get hit with a storm sometime in the late afternoon/early evening. We still decided to try to push for San Luis, and cross the New Mexico-Colorado border that day.
The late start screwed us over, to put it bluntly. We got caught in a large cluster of very steep climbs, and made very poor time, arriving in Questa about 3 minutes before the storm did. We sat inside a Conoco on the edge of town and watched the downpour. About 10 minutes into the storm, it started hailing.
The storm lasted for a long time, not abating until a couple of hours until dark. When it was over, though, we saw a beautiful little rainbow blob nestled between two mountains in the distance.

We decided just to kick it in town, and went inside what looked like the only establishment with people hanging out. It was an absolute blast. We spent the entire night hanging out with a bunch of really cool people.

Archie


Motorcyclists, citizens of the town, truckers, random people that came in.

Andy and Ross


Someone even came in on a tandem, by himself.

It was a great night, and not only did we end up with a place to stay that night, we actually got two offers. We ended up crashing with Steve, the first person who offered, because it was on our way out of town the next day. We did need to get to bed, so after a great night of hanging out, we said goodbye to everyone and went home with Steve. It was a great night’s rest after an awesome day.