Colorado provides ample possibilities to sharpen my skill set: mountain biking +1, waterproofing houses +1, fixing flat tires +20. The mountains are high and the slopes are steep, but when the going gets tough, someone’s sister or girlfriend will come to the rescue.
The feeling wasn’t exactly mutual, but Wyoming was clearly sad to see me go: Before Spencer and I could even leave the Riverside campground, I had to deal with another flat. It was a freezing cold morning, and we both were wrapped in a plethora of layers – onion style. We made slow and steady progress towards the state border, where I decided to top up the tire which had already deflated again. Meanwhile, Spencer pitched his hammock and watched my valve explode on me. It was with much relief and no spare inner tubes that we entered Colorado.
Our surroundings became more scenic almost instantly, but our velocity didn’t improve much. We reached Walden in the afternoon, which represented the halfway point of our planned route that day. I considered to call it a day and camp in the local park, but Spencer offered a better alternative. His girlfriend Kristen was going to pick him up and I could catch a ride into Granby with them. Seeing as this was a town with a bike shop, and the weather situation looked dire, I was very happy to shortcut a few miles. We cycled on for a few more hours before Kristen found us and we squeezed into her car. I shared a motel room and generous portions of Mexican food with the two that night.
The aforementioned bike shop was the first port of call the next morning. The owner, VJ, who strangely also sells Bison meat, set me up with a couple of inner tubes and threw in a puncture guard to reinforce the tire, which is probably getting a little old. Spencer was homebound from there, as he lives in Colorado, while I headed up into the heights of Rocky Mountain National Park. It turned out to be the 100th anniverlsary of the National Park Service and entry was free that day, which meant more traffic on the road and less value from my annual pass. Happy fucking birthday.
It was a beautiful ride up Trail Ridge Road in gorgeous weather. For the first time on this trip I really felt the effect of the altitude though, as I had to catch my breath for longer than usual at close to 4,000 meters of elevation. What followed was a spectacular descent all the way into Estes Park.
I made my way to the house of my warmshowers hosts Larry and Becky, where delicious dinner, bike chat, and a much needed washing machine awaited. I was a little ahead of schedule and hadn’t had a real rest day since Missoula, so I decided to stay put and spend most of the day in a local coffee shop. In the afternoon, I grabbed a bottle of wine and made my way over to Marc’s and Diana’s place, who were my hosts for the second night in Estes Park. My tire had gone flat once again, so I installed VJ’s puncture guard along with a new inner tube in their garage.
When I left the next morning, it was only for a 50 km ride along the scenic Peak to Peak highway. I reached my destination in the early afternoon: The small mountain village of Ward, advertised on its website with “isolation, cold, roads that don’t get plowed, the constant hyperawareness of the possibility of wildfire, power that goes out, internet service that is at the mercy of the elements”, and other reasons to visit. I stayed with Pavlos, his sister Amme, and her husband Mike in the Old Depot, a former train depot and restaurant, that now serves as a very cosy cottage in the mountains.
Pavlos gave me one of his mountain bikes and we hit the trails that evening. It was a very technical descent in the pouring rain and I was frozen solid by the time we got back to the road. It was also pitch black by then. Amme saved the day and picked us up, deservedly mocking us for going out in these conditions at all. There was a hot shower, wood fire, dinner, and board game waiting back at the cottage though, so all was good. I spent most of the next day helping to install a new siding for the building, in order to waterproof it for the winter. There wasn’t a lot of cycling to do that day, and it was fun to hang out with the three for a bit longer.
In the afternoon, I set off for my onward journey. It was a short downhill followed by an extremely steep climb into Gold Hill. From there, I followed Sunshine Canyon, a brilliant dirt road descent taking me out of the Rocky Mountains and straight into the bustling university town that is Boulder. That’s about 2,000 meters of elevation I will have to go back up next week, but that’s future Philipp’s problem really. I met Frank, who will be hosting my bike for a few days, and went out exploring for a while. Frank’s house almost certainly represents the eastern most point my trusty steed will go on this trip.
As I write these lines, I am sitting in a plane bound for Austin, Texas. Luckily I have been winding down my mileage over the last few days to prepare for the binge resting about to commence. Phew.