August 22, 1992 Walden to Kremmling (61 miles, 1980 ft, $51)
We were up and on the road by 6:45. We have the packing thing down now, hotel or not. It looked really stormy as we started and unfortunately, we had the headwinds from the start. So much for that theory of quiet morning air! Turned out that it blew all day, headwinds the whole way. At times, particularly in some of the saddles of the mountains, it was very strong. We rode over Muddy pass at 8700 feet and another crossing of the Continental Divide. On the other side of the pass, we actually had to pedal to go downhill, so it was some wind!
As we got closer to Kremmling traffic picked up and the road narrowed. We stopped for lunch and a mental break, PB&J beside the road. The last 13 miles to town were hard, the wind gusted from both sides and several times blew us into traffic. Any thoughts of going beyond Kremmling were dashed by the wind and traffic. With a rest day tomorrow, it looks like an interesting enough town and a good place to take a break. Splurged and got a motel even, a whole $29 per night! Severe thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow, good day to take off.
We had a great pizza at the local bakery, drank some coffee and watched the rain come in. Stopped at the store for rest day snacks and hit the sack.
August 23, 1992 Kremmling rest day (0 miles, 0 ft, $73)
No alarm and we slept until 7:30. We are getting better at being able to sleep in a different place every night. We had breakfast in a little coffee shop across the road – biscuits & gravy and coffee. Read the Sunday paper (what there was of one in Kremmling). About 11AM, the big storm came through. It didn’t last long but it was nice not being on the road. We walked the entire town, which didn’t take long.
For lunch we went to the Wagon Wheel Café. (No relationship to other Wagon Wheels from earlier in the trip – it seems just about every western town has a Wagon Wheel business of some sort). Dave had the “Goatroper” special, steak, salad, toast and fries! I had a cheeseburger. After lunch it was back to the hotel to read, hang out and take the obligatory rest day nap. Dinner was cereal, popcorn and bananas in the room.
Tomorrow we are aiming for Hoosier Pass. It’s 60 miles from here to the top. It could still be raining as the storm is lingering. Hopefully there won’t be snow on top of the pass.
August 24, 1992 Kremmling to Silverthrone (38 miles (13 by car), 1320 ft, $127)
Boy what a day! We got up early and left the hotel by 6AM. We walked over to the café for breakfast – thick blueberry pancakes. It was raining when we started out and it only got worse from there. At the start, the rain was just a sprinkle, the kind of rain you think is going to end soon so you go out and ride anyway. As we rode, it started to rain harder. The drops got bigger and since we were climbing, the air temperature started to get colder. The little downhill sections became rides through the deep freeze. Instead of getting lighter as the morning came, it actually seemed to be getting darker and the rain was beginning to turn to snow. We were hoping that the cars could see us. It wasn’t long before we stopped and put on our long fingered gloves, our fingers were frozen. We were now wearing every piece of riding clothing we had with us.
Within 25 miles we’d pretty much given up on the pass and were just trying to figure out a way to make it to next town, 16 miles to Silverthrone. We really couldn’t go back as it was mostly downhill and we would freeze doing that. We were probably already approaching hypothermia. With nothing more than the occasional ranch house, there really was no place to stop for shelter.
Just as we were running out of options, we spotted a pickup pulling out the drive of a nearby ranch house. Dave jumped off the bike and waved the driver down. In the cab we found a couple genuine cowboys headed in the big city (Denver) to “trade some of their guns”. They were more than happy to give us a lift. The tailgate of the truck was broken so we had to lift the tandem over the back – not sure how we did it but we got everything loaded and climbed in the front. I’m not sure how happy they were to have a couple of soaked rats squeezed between them but they were polite. They even shared the homemade chocolate chip cookies one of their wives made for the trip.
It was 16 miles to town. We were there in what seemed like an instant. By 10AM we were checking in the Super 8 motel and our cowboy friends were headed to Denver with puddles of water from our gear in their front seat. We never got their name or details to send them a thank you note but we were sure grateful to have met them.
It rained hard most of the day. We stripped off all of our wet cloths, turned the room heater on high and took turns in the hot shower until our skin pickled. We went to Wendy’s for lunch, then hit a bike shop for a few supplies and warmer gloves for Dave. By the time we got back, it was probably 90 degrees in the room and our cloths were starting to dry. We crawled under the covers and took a nap, getting warm for the first time since morning.
By late afternoon, the rain stopped and the clouds cleared. Not more than a 100 feet up the foothills from where we were, the ground was covered in snow. We heard that the pass had 6 inches. Tomorrow, the morning shift clerk at the hotel will give us a first hand report of the road. She lives on the other side and comes over the pass at 5AM. Once we get to the top of this pass, it’s all down hill to the Great Plains. Hope we can make it and are not stuck here for the winter, our own little Donner Party!
August 25, 1992 Silverthrone to Current Creek House (78 miles, 3950 ft, $22)
We didn’t leave Silverthrone until 9:15. We wanted to give it a chance to warm up before we tried the pass. It was only 38 degrees on the McDonalds thermometer as we walked over for breakfast. Our clerk friend told us that there was snow on the pass but the road was clearing fast, and that it should be clear by the time we got up there. There were no clouds and the sun was starting to warm things. Boy what a difference from yesterday morning!
We rode up Dillon Dam Hill, up to the snow line of yesterday afternoon. All the snow was gone by the time we got there. We picked up a nice bike path that took us all the way around Dillon Reservoir in to Breckenridge. From Breckenridge, it was 10 miles to the top of the pass, all of it very much up hill. There was snow on the sides of the road and the peaks were all covered as we climbed but the road was clear. It was a hard climb but very scenic. Our highest point on the trip and our last crossing of the Continental Divide, Hoosier Pass, 11541 feet.
At the top of the pass, it was already starting to cloud up. We did not linger much past the quick photo shoot. We put on long gloves and jackets for the ride down. It was quite cold – I can’t imagine what it would have been like yesterday!
After 15 miles of coasting off the pass, we came to the town of Fairplay. It was starting to look stormy but it was too early to stop for lunch and certainly too early to call it a day. We had a quick snack and headed for toward Hartsel, 18 miles of mostly down hill. Hartsel turned out to be nothing more than a dot on a map, no food and no place to stay. By now, it was starting to look pretty stormy and we were not sure how long it would stay dry. According to our map and guidebook, there was a hostel 23 miles further. They did not have a phone and we were not sure if they were open. Riding back to Fairplay was not an option as it was back up the hill. We had little choice but trying to outrun the storm and hope the hostel was open.
So we had another quick snack and hopped back on the bike. The storm was closing fast, we had our work cut out for us. About 15 miles beyond Hartsel, we ran out of luck. The storm caught us as we crossed a high mountain meadow. And boy did it catch us, hail, rain, lighting, thunder and gusty wind. All the while we rode through this meadow, with us being the tallest and only metal object for miles! The next 8 miles we peddled as fast as we possibly could. At one point the hail coated the road so thick it was like riding through fresh snow. A couple times lightening struck so close there was no delay on the thunder. We hung on and some how made it to the hostel. As we arrived, it stopped raining and the sun came out! We were frozen and thrilled to find the hostel open.
The hostel is nice. Very rustic and in the middle of nowhere. A couple of hippie holdovers and their kids run it. We get to sleep in the bunkhouse, should have it to ourselves. Dave negotiated a hot shower of sorts. For $2 extra, they heat a kettle of water on the stove, pour it into a 5 gallon bucket of cold water hanging in a rough cut timber framed purpose-built outhouse-like shower building. To shower, you turn a spicket on the bucket and let a little water out. All the while the breeze blows through the cracks in the building’s walls. I think it was the coffee that Warren, the hostel owner, gave us that finally took away our chill. The shower was more for atmosphere!
For dinner we had ramen. Then we watched the movie “Franky and Johnny” with the owners kids. Interesting place Current Creek, “Back to The 60s” might be a better name, but it was fun. Tomorrow we head for Pueblo. It’s supposed to be downhill the whole way!
August 26, 1992 Current Creek House to Pueblo (69 miles, 1640 ft, $81)
We rose at 6:45 to sunny blue skies. That was surprising given the rain of the past two days. But then again, it was sunny yesterday morning also and we still ended up with wet feet. We slept pretty good with the crickets on the bunk house floor. For breakfast we had cereal and chatted with Lynne and Warren. They were nice people. We hit the road around 9:30.
Not only did we have a nice downhill but we also had tailwinds to boot. For the first 35 miles, our average speed was over 20 MPH. We skipped off the Bikecentennial route and took the direct route to Pueblo, shorter on the map at least. The last 20 miles, we were out of the mountains and the wind switched. We had a strong headwind the rest of the way. Those afternoon thunderstorms were clearly building again. About a mile from town, another hailstorm got us. Luckily, there as a near by gas station with a large awning so we ducked under it to wait out the worst of the storm.
We stopped at a Motel 6 just off the freeway in strip mall, no real camping in the big city. Dave found a bike shop and bought a new rear tire. I stayed back and did laundry. For dinner we found another one of those all you can eat places and are now stuffed.
My feet have been sore riding lately so tonight I soaked them in the tub and got Dave to rub them. I’ll probably need to keep eating the Advil but they feel better tonight. Tomorrow we have penciled a 90-mile day but were learning not to trust the forecasts. We do know we are out of the mountains now and heading into the plains. It looks like a nearly flat ride.
August 27, 1992 Pueblo to Eads (113 miles, 830 ft, $31)
We slept pretty well. We got up early and went to McDonalds for breakfast – pancakes again – and were on the road by 7AM. We made great time today – by noon we’d ridden 80.3 miles. The terrain has certainly changed. It’s nearly flat with no hills, lots of prairie dogs and a very distant horizon. Just the kind of ride that is custom made for the tandem. After 3+ weeks of the western mountains, we were starting to feel fit and with the flat road, we were flying. Couple that with towns with very tall grain elevators spaced 20 miles apart (from the railroad days) and it was easy to see how we ended up riding further than we planned. You could almost see the next town from the town you were in.
We stopped for the day at 2:30, just because it seemed the right thing to do. The next town was sure tempting though. We bought an ice cream bar and figured out the scoop on camping. We set the tent up in the city park and headed for the local pool for a shower. Dave had to use the woman’s shower because the men’s hot water did not work. The only downside of our campsite is no bathroom. Guess I’ll have to find a tree in the dark. Of course, Dave is not worried.
We had some fun riding today. At one point Dave started shrugging his shoulders, first the right one, then the left one. I thought at first he was losing it again. By the third shrug, I saw the “Shoulder Work” sign and figured it out. Later we saw a big sign painted on the side of a run down, boarded up trailer. It read, “Think Positively…”. Guess we’re still having fun and avoiding the bug those Bikecentennial folks seemed to have caught by the time they arrived in Oregon.
August 28, 1992 Eads to Scott City KS (103 miles, 340 ft, $55)
We got up while it was still dark this morning. We slept well, other than the trains that went by at regular intervals. We had pancakes on the way out of town and were on the road by 7:10. Today we had straight, fast roads again. We hit the Kansas border at 40 miles and stopped for a photo.
The people in Eastern Colorado and Kansas are very friendly. Not a car passes going the other way without waving and those that pass going our way give us lots of room. Dave is getting a sore neck from bobbing his head at all the cars!
We moved into Central Time zone today, so we lost an hour somewhere. We arrived at Scott City at 4PM. We are staying at local heath club/youth hostel, sleeping on the gymnasium floor. They even have a Jacuzzi that we can use – very nice!. Tomorrow we are looking at doing 115 miles to take us to Larned. Depends on the wind but if we make it, that will be 3 centuries in a row!