Thursday, July 9: We all hit the hay at around 9 PM. We were collectively BEAT! Thanks goodness for Bill taking on the role of the “rooster” as he was up bright and early at probably 5:30 AM, while Judy and I lounged until about 5:45. So I had to push to pack and get us on the road so we could drive back down to Pryor, and then do the stint down 310 to yesterday’s end spot. I ended up not eating anything from breakfast, and just hoping a good couple cups of java would carry me through the first segment. 

Now today I was able to convince Judy to do this first segment and ride the 20 miles up to La Veta. She’s been a little hesitant about riding on these mt gravel roads, kind of fearing the climbing and descending that’s involved. But with a little prodding from both Bill and I we were able to convince Jude to give it a shot. So Bill dropped us off on this just stellar blue sky Colorado morning. Wasn’t a cloud in the sky, with temps in the low 60’s and zero wind. This was just beautiful, and my lethargy was soon replaced with a kind of vim and vigor for the day’s riding. 

We went R, west, CR 310 and did a kind of false flat climb up to the junction with CR 320. Went L, south on 320, and just floated along through a series of climbs and descents with this crazy beautiful scenery. Judy was on cloud 9, really loving the views. For this I was really happy. I’m kind of giving up a bit on the volume and distance, but it’s so worth it watching her enjoy this riding. I tried to just keep the pace mellow, especially on the climbing. Actually she was way better on the climbs than the descents. She’s pretty much of a chicken poop on the descending, so I’d be waiting for 3-5 minutes at the bottoms of the climbs. Again, no biggie there, as it was so worth it to get her out there experiencing what I experience each and every day. Now she did tell me that I was bloody crazy, not her exact words, riding X country on this stuff as we finished each and every climb 

So 320 kind of swung around to a westerly trend and then we junctioned with  CR340. Went R, north, along Bear Creek for more just stunning scenery. I’m telling you what, I’ve ridden either through or traversed CO on asphalt 2X now, and though this is just gut busting hard, this gravel stuff, the trade-off is just so worth it by doing the gravel. There is almost zero traffic, and the sights and sounds and smells are just awesome. So I was really happy to have Judy experience this. We stayed with 340 for a good bit, doing a really solid climb up to the junction with CR 350. We went R, west on 350 and took that for a nice, long descent into La Veta where Bill was waiting for us. That section was 20 miles, and took us about 2 hrs to complete. 

I just had to get a bite to eat, so I wandered over to a little grocery and bought some crab salad, went back to the van and made 3 sandwiches. Downed some water and then got the next section rolling with Bill as my riding partner. We had to do a 1 mile section of pavement on Rt 12 out of La Veta, which by the way is a pretty cool little town, climbed out of the valley, and then took a L on CR 410. This was s stiff little gravel climb up to the junction with Rt 160, where we went L on asphalt for about a half mile, and then went L on CR 520 north. 

This pup was a super highway from a gravel perspective, wide, dbl lane and so packed down that it was like riding on concrete for a bit. But whoa, the climbing was just ferocious, with some crazy hard little ring climbs. So some of the sections were super fast descents with long flats, and then you’d hit these long, gradual climbs with a nasty little ring kicker at the end. We kind of separated half way through this road, and I had my gps on, and I knew that we had a L on CR 530 somewhere up the road. So I kind of just peddled on. Must have been the line crew on the road doing some line work that distracted me because I just kept peddling. And then, like 2 miles down the road I ran into this herd of cattle, some longhorn, blocking the road. I had to get off the bike and kind of yell at them to move. I didn’t what to ride too close for fear of having the big guys with the horns come out at me. These guys were pretty freaked and just stampeding in every which direction. Did a long descent and that’s when I realized that something wasn’t right, because there was this sign for Bandito. So I got the map out and realized that I’d passed the turn. 

Was pretty bummed to tell Bill of my gaff, but we had no choice, we had to turn around, do the climb and pass the damned cattle herd again. The climb sucked because I knew we really didn’t need to do it, and I was so mad at myself that the cattle in the middle of the road again, well, I just yelled at them and rode on by. They were just crazy, running in every which direction. Poor Bill having to do that climb and then deal with the cattle again!

So we got back to the spot where we should have turned, on CR 530. Turns out that the guys were doing line work there and the sign, it was broken and set off to the side against a fence, so I’d just spaced it as I rode by. Made the turn onto 530 and began another serious session of climbing and descending. It was just getting tougher and tougher as we rode on. And one of the climbs on this road was just a ^$^# buster! Add to that the fact that we had to ride in these massive tire ruts from when the roads were muddy. They were just crusted and rock hard. Get out of the line, and buddy you’re headed for a biff! We junctioned with CR 531, and went R on that, a road that looked like a dbl track access road. This thing held another just crushing climb, followed by more “frozen” ruts you had to ride in. Now I didn’t mind the descents on this 531, but Bill ended up walking them. A couple of these were just super steep and rocky, where you really had to keep your butt way back off the rear tire so as not to do and endo. Welcome to American Dirt Colorado!

Now along the way, I ran into a rancher who was trying to round his cattle up on our wonderful CR 531. Talked to him for a short bit kind of confirming my intended route to Gardner, CO. I apologized for scattering his cattle as I rode by, and he was pretty cool, telling me it happens with trucks just the same, so no harm. He confirmed my route, and I was quite happy to hear that based on Bill beginning to fade a bit with all the climbing and the real ratty road surfaces. This was TOUGH riding indeed. Stayed with 531 to the junction with CR 540, then went L, west on 540. And just like the last slew of roads, this one to had some tough climbing and some wild ass descending. I’ve had my fastest speeds of the whole trip on this day, topping out at about 35 mph on a couple of the gravel descents. And this was some pretty rocky, rutted out crap. 540 eventually trended north with a really long false flat. Finally hit the CR 560 junction, where I got off the bike, and made this big arrow in the dirt pointing to the north for Bill, this so I could ride ahead, get Judy and then go back and pick Bill up. Went R, north on 560 and took this all the way down to the junction with Rt 69, just west of Gardner, CO. 

And that was the day, with me getting in 57 miles of riding and nearly 5K of climbing. Good thing was that all three of us got to ride, especially Judy. Very nice to share the experience with Judy and Bill. Wish I had more partners to ride with out here. It’s super hard riding but amazingly rewarding. 

So tomorrow is going to be a very long day….we cannot locate any camping or lodging at all in Westcliff, our endpoint for tomorrow, so we had to book a KOA way the hell up to the north along the Arkansas River. Turns out there’s a bluegrass festival in Westcliff this weekend, and there isn’t a motel room to be had. It’s just in such a remote location that we had to look this eve for alternative places, and this one, the KOA, some 40-50 miles to the north, is the closest we could find to Westcliff. Sucks!

So if I have no wifi tomorrow night and Saturday night you’ll know why - because we’re a gazillion miles from nowhere! Maybe the KOA will have complementary internet? 

Dinner….we cooked on the grill again (and I consumed about the same as yesterday), and we had to book the Anchor Motel again in Waldenburg due again, to nothing available in Gardner. Did the motel gig because of the weather, where it just rained and hailed like nobodies business from about 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM. And again, looks like another bout of storming is going to hit us this eve. The clouds just build over the day, and then all hell breaks loose in the late afternoon to early evening. Been watching for severe storm warnings on TV for the last 3 hrs. Right now just enjoying an ice cold Black Butte Porter. Cheers…….pete