Tuesday, July 7: Left Drew’s today around 8 AM for the long drive back down to Trinidad. We just had a super time there in Denver with Andrew, and we - Judy, Bill & I - were feeling a bit sad to hit the road. But I had to get this show going again, and I am really hoping that Drew can steal away for a weekend and join us for some riding while we’re here in CO. On the way back down I-25 to Trinidad we stopped at a Performance Bike in Colorado Springs so I could buy some backup tires and tubes, and get a new rear tire for Judy’s 26er. I also got a new pair of mt biking gloves to replace the one I lost way back in Illinois. Those darned gloves really take the sting out of a long bumpy day. 

The whole ride down was in this kind of white-out of low cloud cover. Sometimes we were in a light drizzle, and other times it looked as if the day would clear up. This just continued all the way to Trinidad, and then once we turned onto 160 east to head to where I left off last Saturday, a light rain began. Was looking like this was going to be a battle just to get 40 miles in today. Then, when we turned south on 389 to Branson, the darned rain dwindled off to nothing. By the time we got there the weather actually looked way more promising. 

Now I’m not fond of getting the ball rolling on a ride starting at nearly 2 PM, but I really wanted to get this section out of the way so I could kind of get back on a schedule here. We needed to be done with this so tomorrow we can begin climbing into the mts. So this ride today was more out of necessity than anything else. And I really did NOT feel like getting on the bike after spending 4+ hrs in the car and catnapping along the way. But the good thing is that I’d have Bill as company today, so that would hopefully make the ride go faster. 

On the way down I’d checked out the weather report for Trinidad, and it wasn’t too promising, calling for 60% chance of rain this afternoon, with the winds out of the SE at 8-10 mph. I knew that the elevation gain/loss for today was net loss if we went from east to west, and gain west to east. BUT, the wind out of the SE, I thought it would be faster to go back to Branson and ride west just as in the itinerary, so we went with that plan. We changed there at the beginning of the ride, 6.8 Rd, and downed a couple muffins, a PBJ, and some Fig Newtons and got rolling. Judy would drive back to Trinidad, get a motel and some supplies, and then come back to our end point at the junction of Rt 160 and 81.5 Rd. Bill and I got rolling at about 1:50 Pm. Right from the get-go we were cruising, and I do mean cruising, at like 15-18 mph with that tailwind. 

Our route was just out in the middle of nowhere. I mean this was a remote section for sure - 40 very remote miles. Bill was loving it from the very start. And I was pretty jazzed what with the fast start and the great road. The past several day’s on and off rain had wet the dirt/gravel down a bit, so we had to ride in these tire tracks for a bit. Then when we got 4-5 miles in, the road dried out well enough such that it looked like it had never rained out there. That’s when we were able to just crush it at over 20 mph. So for a day where I just didn’t feel like riding, I was loving it. And to make it even better, we were actually riding down elevation for a good portion of this, with a roller in there just to keep us honest. Went through this little nothing of a town called Trinchera where the road changed to 8.8 Rd. This town was more of a ghost town, with old vestiges lingering like a condemned filling station and several commercial buildings. There was a PO, but that appeared closed. 

Our first hour’s average was nearly 15 mph. That’s when we hit a pretty long little climb, round about 2 miles of gradual climbing up and over a small ridge, and then back down to fly again for several miles. By the time the road had changed yet again to 105.5 Rd, we looked as if we were going to be finishing this thing way quicker than the 2.5 to 3 hrs that I’d told Judy. And right about then I made a gaff on the directions…when I came to this T where 105.5 junctioned with 22 Rd. I knew we were to get on 22, but not by going right. But right we went, and it dogged me to such an extent that I stopped several times to check my gps and my hand written directions. 

Those directions said nothing about a right on 22. Rather I should just be going straight, as if 105.5 turned into 22. So I stopped a second time, and now it was raining a light rain, so each time I tried to manually use the touchscreen to check the directions, I couldn’t get the screen to move with all the rain droplets on the touchscreen. So it just kept rebooting back to the original spot, rather than allow me to scroll up to where I needed to go to check out the eventual tracks next junction. I knew I needed to junction with 81.5 Rd. 

So I decided that we should at least go back on 22 to this ranch we’d past to maybe see if someone could confirm or deny my suspicion. When we got back there a gate was chained shut, and it had a “Beware of Dog” sign on it. Nope, not jumping that puppy!

So I got my cell out and luckily it had a signal so I could use the map app. Found that I was right in turning back, and that 105.5 turns into 22 going NW, so we should have gone straight at the T. That cost us a good 3+ miles and way too much stop time. So we went back to the T and continued on 22. The rain kind of died out for a bit, but the tailwind was gone and we began this long gradual false flat climb towards Trinidad. 

Again, the weather began to look threatening, with this low hanging crap looming right in front of us to the northwest. It was at this point, with about 10 miles to go in the ride that I decided to put it down and try to beat any potential rain. Dropped down to the middle ring for this climb along the way, and then for some reason I was not able to shift back up to the big ring. It was if the shifter had locked up on me. I jiggled the cables, jiggled the shift lever, and I kind of tapped the front derailleur with my toe, but nothing. It was just locked up. Now with the rain looking imminent, I kind of started to get a bit antsy there, wondering if the actual shift system was buggered up. I finally got off the bike and kind of fiddled around with the rear derailleur manually with my hand, and be darned if there wasn’t a pebble lodged in-between the spring mechanism. Got it out and the shifter was as good as new. And that was a major sigh of relief. 

I waited for Bill at the junction of 22 and 81.5 Rd. Told him I was going to put the pedal down to beat the rain, because the drizzle had already begun and the low cloud cover on the horizon was looking even worse. Did the last several miles at about 17-18 mph, with the road surface getting tacky, throwing sand and gravel in my face. Got up to near our meeting point with Judy just about the time I saw her pulling out and going east on 160. At that point we were about 15 minutes later than the worst case arrive times I’d given her, so I was guessing that she was going down 160 to a different place. 

Caught her just in time as she was indeed going somewhere else. She’d already drive 5 miles down 81.5 Rd, and hadn’t seen us, so she we worried that she was in the wrong meeting spot. Thankfully I caught her in the nick of time, cuz the drizzle had turned to a steady rain, and the road was just getting even muddier and tackier. 

We drove back down the road a mile and picked up Bill, and that was the end of the ride today. I finished with 42 miles, 3+ of which were ‘wrong turn”miles. Went back to Trinidad and went straight to this little barbecue place, ate some dinner, and then came back to the Super 8. It’s looking pretty bad out there right now, with the same low hanging cloud cover. 

Really hoping that this rain system stops fast otherwise my ride on dirt and gravel tomorrow could be muddy, slow and ugly. Really want to make La Veta on Wednesday, and Westcliff on Thursday. Then take the weekend to make it over Hermit Pass west. I’ll be Xing my fingers tonight!