Day 1(44mi/71km): Headwind, hills and a lost iPhone
With my new freedom of not being confined to a route I really did not know where to go. I've heard about Arches National Park, so that was a worthwhile destination for now. Although I was rested, my bike was laden with extra food and spare parts, as well as the second sleeping bag. The headwind did not help at all.
It really boggles my mind how one can lose a phone on the highway, this one is the second I've found. Note: If you plan on losing your phone, please leave it unlocked or have a note with a # to call!!! (Luckily I got in touch with the owner of this one!)
Day 2(57mi/92km): End of the divide
One mountain pass later I got to Buena Vista where I left the lost iPhone at the grocery store customer service. Then it hit me: I was not on the divide but that didn't mean I can't take the backroads. I've grown accustomed to quiet rides. The angry highways although tolerable are no longer the best way to go.
Salida, home to a lot of deer (bot left), the world's smallest park (mid) and the state renowned wildlife police: enforcing speed limits since the dawn of time! (bot right). After unsuccessful attempt to find a place to stay in Salida I rode out to the local BLM campground for some free camping. Found a great sheltered spot but decided last moment to stake my tent. Good thing that I did because although it was not cold, those were the strongest winds I've ever had to camp in.
Day 3(73mi/117km): Monarch Pass
At 11 312 ft (3448m) Monarch Pass is hardly the easy way out. Pavement and that constant 6-7% grade was easy but the wind was unbelievable. At time I had to stop and wait for the gusts to end. The only cover I found was a forestry sign.
I reached the top at 3pm and I still had 40 miles to go. Gunnison seemed like an unreachable target but after the descent the wind stopped. It felt like downhill all the way to town.
I just love the expression on people's faces when I ask them about where I can find a payphone. Those things are getting harder and harder to find. Sometimes I feel like a caveman.
Day 4(22mi/35km): A day out with bear
I stayed with a warmshowers host in Gunnison. In their back yard is the 160 acre Hartmans Rocks: a biking/hiking paradise. I decided to take their dog "Bear" for a walk. Although I admit that I was that one that was being taken out, Bear was always in front!
day 5(47mi/76km): the Black canyon
A beautiful and snowy ride took me to the Hwy 92 turnoff. I had two choices: The long way around The Black Canyon (North rim road is closed in winter) or a direct route to Montrose. I sat at the junction for 15 minutes thinking about it, looking at the map and looking at the clouds. I didn't see a single car come out from the #92. Well then, I guess I'm going that way.
"It's closed but you can bike to it." Said the park ranger who stopped to check on me. I still had to decide if I wanted to ride in the dark to reach the north rim or set up camp somewhere before that.
day 6(43mi/69km): the north rim
A long climb on a dirt road led me to the North rim. Photos don't do much justice of the Black Canyon's high vertical walls, you have to be there to see it. Just looking down makes me dizzy.
day 7 (69mi/111km): back on the backroads
It rained/snowed all night. The dirt road that I took up was now full of mud. After 30minutes of unpleasant clinking and clanking down the road I got to Crawford. Parking my bike at a restaurant I saw a senior coming out.
"Do you know where I can find wi-fi around here?"
"Umm... I don't know... maybe at the bank? I don't even have a computer."
I should have known better!
day 8 Rest day
Tony and Amanda, with whom I've stayed had a house out of town and I was happy to see sustainable technologies applied in such setting. The house was built using blocks of recycled Styrofoam, windows facing south to maximize heat during winter, solar power, collecting rain water for the garden and solar heating & hot water. Designed and built by them, this was a great place to live.
day 9(72mi/116km): goathead maddness
Tony decided to ride out of town with me and I offered him to try Deadhorse. Until...
...Until he got a flat tire. 5, to be exact! After having his privileges of riding Deadhorse revoked we reached Delta, where we parted ways.
Tony warned me earlier about goat thorns, I didn't pay attention until now. One flat. Two flats... I had to pull out those little pricks from my tire and look for the tiny hole in the dark. The third flat, just to keep things more interesting was from a shard of glass... even the cops came to check on me.
day 10(49mi/79km): Colorado National Monument
Ed and Maggie found me very easy to convince to check out the Colorado national Monument. On the way we saw an expedition RV with Northwest Territories plate so we stopped to check it out.
I've been planing to take the John Brown Canyon into Moab, Utah and the owner of the RV said that just yesterday there was somebody who had to turn back because of the road. Oh well, I guess I will worry about that later.
The views were amazing and as usual I ended up riding back in the dark. Those narrow steep roads weren't as fun when the opposite lane traffic shines their headlights at you.
day 11(55mi/89km): John Brown Canyon
Today's plan was to ride to the John Brown Canyon and see what information about the road conditions I can get. A construction worker riding on the back of the truck yelled out:
"You need a motor on that thing!"
Right before the John Brown road I stopped to see about getting water, the firefighter let me fill up from the bottles at the back of his truck (I felt bad using up so many - reminds me of a TV ad for reusable grocery bags and somebody is putting BOTTLED water in them!).
A guy from Denver approached me and gave me a bag of chips.
Neither of them knew much about the road. I don't think I would have turned back anyway...