Tuesday, July 14: Man I was a wreck last night. I’m just flabbergasted as to how sore those pups were. And then I get up this morning and it was a kind of paralytic soreness - that’s a deep, paralyzing sore, the kind you get when you do a crazy long & hard squat workout when you haven’t squatted for months to years. You wake up the next day and can barely haul your arse out of the bed. Man, that was me. I just couldn’t fathom getting on a bike and riding up Marshall pass today, some 3K of gain in 12 miles of cycling. But Bill was up at 4:50 AM, and I followed suite getting my poor old wreck of a body out of bed at 5:10. Poor Judy, just lays there and covers her eyes in exasperation knowing that she could sleep another hour or two with no trouble. 

First thing I do is to make Judy coffee, and what we’ve been doing at the Big Valley Motel is to microwave water to a boil in our pyrex measuring cup, and then pour it into our coffee press. It takes 2 cups, so that’s about 10 minutes of prep time for a cup of really good joe….BUT it’s worth it, cuz the coffee’s just great. We’ve been brewing this Sumatran stuff. Once I get Judy the coffee she’s in a really good mood. But prior to that - ouch! So I turned on the local morning news to see what the weather looked like for today, and the forecast was not good. Round about that time a cell was rolling through Gunnison, our intended end point for today. But really the whole state of CO was expected to have bouts of heavy to severe thunderstorms throughout the day. Our start point, just southwest of Salida, that was forecast for storms around noon. So we would have storms moving in our direction from the west from Gunnison, and have storms building to our east from Salida. Wasn’t a very good forecast for a couple of guys who had to ride up to and over the 10K high Marshall Pass. 

And I’m not going to lie…I was really hoping that the forecast would be so bad that we’d just have to bag it for the day. That way I could just lay in bed and go back to sleep, and not have to use my catatonic legs today. But there was this 3-4 hr window we could work with and actually get the ride in between storm systems. Bill was getting all prepped to ride, and Judy had had enough of the Big Valley Motel and the town of Sagauche, where everything closes at 3 PM. Bill and I just love the motel and could stay there even longer and just soak up the ambience of such a small town. So anyway, I was not going to be the kill-joy and insist we just stay put for the day and use the weather as my excuse. And when I think about it, that was probably really good that I had a little pressure on me to get my butt in a bike kit, get on a bike, and ride the heck to the west. 

So I worked for a bit as Judy and Bill kind of pulled up camp, then I got dressed to ride, made a couple sandwiches for breakfast and we loaded into the van. Stopped at the little cafe and grabbed a couple breakfast muffins and we were on our way to Marshall Pass Rd, CR 200, where I ended the ride I’d done on Sunday. We got going on the bikes at just before 8AM. I briefed Judy on the route she’d have to take around the mts to meet up with us when we got to the end of CR 200. With all that done, Bill and I took off down a main road for the first two miles before the Marshall Pass turn-off. I swear I felt as though I was peddling squares with 15-lb ankle weights around each leg. Man did I feel like crap. And I told Bill not to wait for me, and visa versa, because we had a very small window to ride in what with the weather forecast. Plus, the road before and after the pass really had no major junctions, which meant that there was no way to get lost on this route. So it was a done deal, just stay on the main gravel road and end up in Sargents, CO where the road dead-ends into Rt 50. 

Well, Bill looked pretty good as we started out, and I had this sneaking suspicion that I’d be OTB on today’s ride because that little 2-mile false flat just felt miserable. BUT, the only thing I could hang my hat on was the fact that having been through this same dead-leg malady across some 4 prior X-country rides, I knew there was a chance that I might get my legs somewhere down the line. Main I was praying for that. 

Another thing was that was really dogging me, and kind of worrying me this morning was this left medial knee joint thing that I’ve had bugging me on and off for the whole trip. Well, yesterday’s hike just inflamed the heck out of that knee joint. It’s just a bit swollen this morning, and I can’t help but to limp when I walk. So I had all sorts of junk going through me mind on that 2-mile run up to the beginning of the Marshall Pass climb. So as I said, Bill looked smooth and I looked like a first time mt bike rider with ankle weights. We got to the turn onto Marshall Pass Rd, 200, and it just went straight up. I knew what was coming because I’d reconned this segment last summer in an SUV rental, so this was no surprise, and really that first mile is the worst part of the climb because it’s so bloody steep.

Dropped into the little ring and just spun. My breathing sucked, and my legs were rebelling, but I just peddled on at 4-5 mph, knowing the agony of this initial pitch would end soon. Bill was a bit behind me, and I was quite surprised. I just kept rolling. Made it through the steep section and then was able to move up to the middle ring and get the ball rolling at 7+ mph. That was good! Now we did this big, sweeping switchback and I saw that Bill was about a half mile behind me, and that’s the last time I saw him on the ride. I just continued to move along at that 7-8 mph pacing as the switchbacks went by like 1/10 mile markers on the freeway.

I actually got into a good rhythm, except for the fact that I just could not get comfortable out of the saddle. When I went out my legs would damn near cave in on me. I mean they were just that sore. So I’d do this only to stretch the hammies out on occasion. Just climbed and climbed and climbed as the switchbacks ticked by. I was actually really happy at the 4-5 mile mark in the climb that we were getting this thing done today. The weather looked good one hour into the climb, so I was able to relax a bit and just enjoy this amazingly great gravel road mt climb. It’s a low enough angle that you can settle in and go steady-state through the whole thing above that initial steep section. I was passed by a few trucks and SUV’s, but really the traffic was just about zero. What a wonderful way to go in the CO mts when you’re the only one out there pedaling across a mt range. 

I hit the pass, 10,842 feet, at 1:52 hrs into the ride. And that was good. With the 2 mile start up to the climb that put me 14 miles into the ride. The bad part of all of this was what I saw when I topped out - bad weather to the southwest looking real dark and threatening. I didn’t even stop to take pics or put on some warm descending clothing. I just threw it into the big ring and shifted down a few cogs to get the speed up for a super long descent. I also activated both shocks and I was rolling at a comfortable 21 mph. Now the descent had some rutting from all the rain, and it had these whoop-de-dos where it was almost like going off a ramp, so that’s why I activated the shocks. 

The descent was just like the climb, kind of low angle such that you weren’t doing some kind of out of control freefall. It was very comfortable and manageable. And it went on forever! I was just loving the fact that my day was coming to an end and that I was actually having fun when earlier I’d figured I’d be in misery the whole time. I think I had about 4 vehicles pass me either way during the whole descent. It was just stellar. My only negative issue was that I’d just coast for a mile or two, and then when I wanted to pick up some speed and begin pedaling, my legs were just frozen in place from the inactivity. They’d tighten up and were a real bear to get moving again, especially that left knee. It would seize up like a pillar of ice on each and every coasting session. 

The descent took nearly 1 full hour! And it was a total blast. I reached the junction with Rt 50, where I saw Judy parked at this little gas station/campground/store/eatery in the very small town of Sargents. I’d done the 32 miles in 2:51 hrs. Man was I happy to have gotten that done on what I thought would be my day from hell. Judy went in this multi-faceted little place and orderd a couple burgers & fries for the both of us while we waited for Bill. Meanwhile we watched a X-country cycling couple come in from the west where they stopped in Sargents for food and drink, and we watched a couple of young Norwegian women pull in on their fully loaded bikes, having pedaled from the Atlantic Ocean in VA. Their end point is in San Fran, CA. 

Now in the meantime, the weather up at the pass really looked bad from our perspective down in Sargents. We were hoping that Bill had gotten well into the descent before the cell engulfed the whole mt range. And really, the weather was just like yesterday, a mix of all these converging cell systems surrounding us. We decided that if the weather really turned for the worse, we’d drive up 200 to try to get Bill. But the problem there is that a lot of that back side of the Marshall Pass road, especially down near Sargents, that was dirt. And if we got the van up there in a downpour we could very well get the thing stuck. So we were really crossing our fingers that Bill would make it down before the deluge. 

Turns out he did. He told us he did experience some very light rain at the top of the pass, and that he got a couple in a jeep to strap his bike to their vehicle and take him down a piece where the weather appeared to improve. That’s when I got back on the bike and finished the ride. So all was good.

My initial plan was to end the day in Sargents, but I felt that I could get a few more miles in for the day such that we could make tomorrow a really mellow day, so I decided to ride more. The next section was this super great gravel berm along Rt 50. I removed the 15-lb backpack I’d carried up and down the pass road, threw it in the van, and began riding with this super sweet tailwind out of the east. Was able to do 14-16 mph as I rode west towards Gunnison. Ended up doing an additional 12 miles to the junction with CR 45 and Rt 50, about 18 miles east of Gunnison. And that was the day. I ended up with 44 miles for the day - not much mind you, but a far sight more than I bargained for early this morning. We got a little motel here in Gunnison and right now, at about 4 PM there’s a thunder storm outside. Been watching the weather channel since we go here, and it looks as if numerous places in CO are experiencing some kind of severe weather issues. Man, we were lucky to get anything in today. I’m icing my left knee and just listening to the thunder and lightening outside as I work here and do the blog. 

5 PM: We went just across the street to Micky’s Pizza, and they offered fabulous thin crust specialty pizzas. Jude and I split a 16-inch za, one half veggie for Jude and one half ham, pineapple, mozzarella cheese and diced jalapeño peppers for me. Bill got a wonderful fried eggplant dish, but it was just not the kind of volume he needed after a good mt bike ride, so he ambled over to Sonics for a sandwich. I was a spectacle to behold, as I walked over and back from there. Now mind you I was simply crossing the street from the motel, yet I hobbled miserably across that dbl lane highway, looking like I had nearly lost control of my leg muscles. THAT is how sore these legs are right now. I just cannot believe it.

Hoping for a MUCH better leg day tomorrow.