Thursday, July 16: Had another stomach gremlin thing (eating attack) going on last night, and I had to fire up the microwave again and nuke some spicy sausage dogs. This climbing and altitude is really messing with my metabolic rate for sure. Seems like I’m just always hungry since we began doing the mt pass thing several days ago.

Well, got up at 4:40 AM, and be darned if I didn’t beat Bill to the draw this morning. Got the coffee brewing for Jude and then I settled into work for a bit. I like working early, as that’s my MO at home, so hitting it really early while on the road gives me a jump on working after the ride in the PM. My breakfast was a full Subway sub that I’d bought last evening when we did Subway for din-din. We’d have no support for pretty much the full length of today’s segment, so I really wanted to have a big breakfast to get me through the day. 

Packs were loaded and about 6:45 AM we took off out of Gunnison east for the 1 hr drive to where I left off yesterday. The drive was especially slow on Rt 114 what with all the twisting road up canyon. 

Got to KK14/FR 788/C50/Los Pinos-Cebolla Rd (yes this road is called any one of those, depending on which map, gazetteer or gps software you use!) and Bill and I got going exactly at 8 AM. Temps were cool, in the 50’s, and the sky was blue and cloudless. I had my polypro long-sleeved top on just to take the chill our of the air. My riding pack right now is a good 15-18 lbs what with all the warm weather/rain gear I’m carrying for the higher altitudes. Add the tools for the bike, camera gear and you’re talking about a pack that you can definitely feel as you’re riding.

And it wasn’t long before we began doing just a little bit of climbing on some false flats. The scenery is just stunning out here, and I was digging it from the get-go. Bill and I separated early so I was on my own for the rest of the trip. Slowly worked my way southwest along the Los Pinos Creek and entered the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre Gunnison National Forest, where I got into this wonderful pine forested foothills. Now our first pass, Los Pinos Pass, was about 11 miles up the road to the southwest, and the riding was actually just about like the riding we did up to Marshall Pass, low angle and very comfortable. Was quite easy to maintain a good 7-8 mph on  good portion of the climb while in the middle ring. There were some rollers where I’d descend a bit, but the following up more than compensated for what I’d lost. Peeled the long-sleeve polypro and just enjoyed the cool air with this super thin Underarmor top on (I’ve worn this pathetic thing for the whole trip, something I’m famous for when doing X country trips). 

This continued for most all of the climb…until the last 2 miles. Then it got real, where I had to shift down into the little ring and drop down to about 4-6 mph. Have to say that this last portion leading to the pass really took some gas out of the tank. Made the top in 1:24 hrs. The top-out wasn’t really that stellar, BUT the descent was just amazing! I turned on my GoPro and let it rip. Have to say this descent was a winner on so many accounts, from a scenic standpoint, from controlled speed, from great dbl track road, to it’s length. Man, I was just loving it all the way. Took the tangents and moved from turn to turn and switchback to switchback. The descent lasted about 26 minutes, this I know from looking at my watch at the top to see how long the video would be on. 

Ended the descent in a canyon in this little place called Cathedral. Went L, southwest, and stayed on the litany of road names I listed at the beginning of the blog. Down at Cathedral it was listed as FR 788. Now down there at this 3-way junction is a sign that says Rt 149 is 16 miles away, and that’s where we had to ride to, all the way to Slumgullion Pass at an elevation of 11,530. So pass number two was another 26 hundred feet higher than Cathedral. Got rolling through a beautiful canyon along Cebolla Creek, with red colored cathedral rock formations and red rock foothills. The first 5-6 miles were a gentle up where I could do anywhere from 7-10 mph, a very comfortable ascent as was the initial phase of the Los Pinos Pass climb. And again, this was through some spectacular red-colored cathedral rock formations and walls.

But once I started climbing along Mill Creek, this really changed. Then the grade got stiffer and the pace got slower. I went back to the little ring and had to bounce in and out of the saddle on a regular basis just to stretch the hammies out now and then. This steeper climb was going to be a solid 9 miles. As I got higher and higher the temps really cooled down and the high mt winds began to appear. And something else appeared…a mushy rear tire! Yea, I began to notice that the rear tire was making a whirring sound, something you don’t hear when it’s fully inflated. And then there was that very subtle soft feeling of the rear tire over rocks. I’s stopped several times to check the tire by squeezing it with my hand, and it appeared to be ok. 

So I just rode on. But the sound, and the softness of the tire just continued to bug me. I ended up checking it each mile, and finally noted that it really was loosing air ever so slowly. Now with a slow leaker I kind of thought I could ride this thing out to the top where Judy was parked, some 6 miles up the mt. But the riding just got steeper and tougher, and that rear tire getting soft was doing me no favors. It was just plain tougher to ride with the air leaking out. I was counting the miles down, and at the 3 miles to go point I really thought I could pull it off. But by 2 miles to go I could really feel it bouncing, and it even looked mushy. Time to inflate. Got off and pumped in about 150 pumps of air and then got rolling again. Damn, what a difference, I actually felt like I’d been reinvigorated with a fully inflated tire! But that climbing just never ended. Watched the gamin like a hawk as the miles were counting down

With 1 mile to go I was really getting beat, not to mention getting cold with the wind and lower high mt temps. And then I saw Judy in the van coming towards me. She must have seen me, then stopped, backed up and went back down the road. That there told me I was almost done. Made the top with a total time of 3:47 hrs for 34 miles of riding. The elevation gain was app. 4K. Got in the car immediately and drank water and Powerade. Judy gave me a half a sub and a big wonderful muffin and I just sat in the car as we waited for Bill. Had to put my long-sleeve on, and then followed that with my goretex jacket. 

Ahhh, felt so good to sit in that big comfortable seat! Bill rolled in about 45 min later, just as the whole surrounding skyline was getting dark and threatening. The rain was on it’s way just like clockwork. Now I wanted to get this steep descent done today, and that involved riding on the asphalt of Rt 149 back down towards Lake City so I could set us up for tomorrow’s ride. Now there was probably a shot that I could have done this descent this on berm…BUT it would have been just dangerous as all hell what with this loose, sandy gravel and the nasty angle it’s on. The inside was just gnarly as hell, and the outside, well it had thousand foot drop-offs just below the angled gravel berm. Nope, zero guardrails here. So I knew from doing recon here, that I’d be riding the asphalt down for 6 miles.

I’m dumb, but not stupid! Judy was freaking that I was doing the descent because of the steepness, AND the black skies surrounding us. I had to get this thing done, and fast. It was a great descent, and thanks to those hydraulic disk brakes, it was a breeze. The turns and switchbacks were amazing. This pup was just plain fun! Made it to the junction of Rt 149 and Lake Fork Rd, just about 3 miles south of Lake City. And that was the day. I’d gotten in 41 miles for the day, and just as I stopped the rain began, and it followed us into Lake City for about another hour of precipitation. 

We got a little motel in the center of town called the Silver Spur Motel. These folks own the motel, and this grocery/souvenir shop/liquor store. We joked that they probably owned the cafe and half of town. All around us, especially up in the high mts the rain just continued for a couple hours. I changed out my flat, slow leaker by putting on a brand new, narrower rear tire, a Pisgah 2.2. Then we went to a little cafe across the street from the mote to eat a great dinner. The dark skies and threatening weather is appearing yet again as I’m writing this, so the monsoon continues as usual. That’ just made trying to camp out here a real drag. I mean you get done, than have nothing but the van for protection during the storms…+ you have to figure out a good weather window to cook on the outdoor grill. This has been pretty frustrating as of late, especially up here in the mts where camping is a blast. 

Well, tomorrow is a 12K pass called Cinnamon Pass, and it’s our biggie for the day. We’re hoping all will go as planned and we’ll be in Silverton tomorrow afternoon. Have to get an earlier start tomorrow just to make sure we’re out of the high pass area early. Hoping to hook up with Andrew from Denver there, where he’l join us for 2 days of riding. Only drag of the day tomorrow is for poor Judy, who will have to drive 160 miles around the high mts to meet up with us in Silverton. Our ride is a mere 31-34 miles, but it’s on some really rugged single lane dirt and gravel, with a bit of 4WD jeep track sprinkled in. Man, I owe this lady big time!!