Dork on single-speed, coming through

Six flags over Texas, five discs over Dillon, four days over too soon, three eggs over easy, two episodes over at Kristen’s, one gear over Colorado’s passes.

I was traveling in style: In lieu of a boring old suitcase, I had brought a snazzy brown paper bag with clothes and toiletries on the plane. However, to stay classy, you need to adapt and change your looks regularly. To that end, I destroyed the paper bag and spilled said contents all over the floor when trying to get off the aircraft. That earned me a free upgrade and I was now sure to be the most fashionable traveller in all of Texas.

Austin is hot. It is the spicy-food-kind-of-hot, it is the sexy-people-kind-of-hot, and it most definitely is the smelly-armpit-kind-of-hot. A place where a graffiti wall has a board of directors and students open carry dildos. I spent four days with Gary and Anne, and yet I barely scratched the surface of this fascinating city. Hill country wineries and honky-tonk bars, busy BBQs and natural springs, ubiquitous food trucks and rare presidential libraries, scenic campuses and even more scenic porches, good times and great people. As always, Gary extended my Trivia knowledge (six flags over Texas, funk band that starts with a P) and had some meaningful conversations with Professor Butterscotch.

It had been a long night and I was duly tired and hungover when I carried my bin liner back onto the plane. I fell asleep in my seat instantly and only woke up when people around me started to get up and leave. It wasn’t until I was in the terminal that I realised we had never left Austin. Apparently something was wrong with the aircraft and we had returned from the runway just before take off. A mechanic later reported that they had “found two pieces but don’t know how they interact”. I suppose that is why I only paid 30 dollars for the flight. Three hours later, we were allowed back onto the plane and made it to Denver without further issues, the two mysterious pieces interacting harmoniously. At the airport, I randomly ran into Pavlos, who was traveling to Amsterdam and had a delayed flight as well.

I arrived at Frank’s place in Boulder fairly late and passed out on his couch soon after. The bike had survived the break without the usual tire deflation and so I set off to regain some altitude the next morning. It was a tough but pretty climb through Boulder Canyon into Nederland, from where I continued on the Peak to Peak highway. The weather was glorious and the route provided sweeping views of the mountains and the many shades of green all around me.

Ignoring several “no cycling” signs, I made it into Idaho Hot Springs. I had hoped to find a campsite, but was out of luck. Tempted by the included hot spring pool, I splurged on a hotel room and justified the expense by skipping dinner. Instead, I had the biggest breakfast portion known to man and started to slowly pull my heavy belly upwards, in the direction of Loveland pass. The route mostly followed a busy interstate road, but much of the way was on beautiful bike paths through aspen forests, with great displays of autumn colours. The pass itself was challenging, but what goes up must come down, and I was soon flying towards Dillon, unerringly making my way to the local brewpub.

I stayed with Kristen, who I had met a week earlier when she had given Spencer and me a ride into Granby. Although I had planned to leave in the morning, I was easily convinced to stay another night when her housemate Mike suggested to go disc golfing. A few more people joined and I got my ass kicked, since the four other guys all knew what they were doing. I achieved my personal best score tough, not bad for the first time. We went back to cook dinner, play video games and drink beer, and I finally got to watch the last two episodes of Game of Thrones.

The next day was bound to be successful. I had gotten up nice and early, the air was crisp and clear, the short morning ride into Frisco was beautiful and quiet. I went to a cafe for an excellent breakfast (skillet with three eggs over easy), and took the bike path towards Leadville. The sun was starting to warm up my cold fingers and I felt confident I could make the 150 km into Poncha Springs.

My bike did not. A few kilometers outside of town, the gear mechanism snapped and I was left with only the highest gear. I returned to Frisco and looked for bike shops. The first mechanic gave up instantly. The second one couldn’t help me out either, but he spent over an hour trying to diagnose the issue and phoning around to see if any other bike shop would be able to fix it – he didn’t even charge me. In the end I called the Rohloff distributor in California, and ordered a replacement part to be delivered to a bike shop in Salida. 

That left me with a single-speed bicycle, 150 km to go, and a major mountain pass between myself and my new destination. I returned to the route, now standing up and pushing hard where I had previously been pedalling relatively effortlessly. The bike path dead ended into a highway and the gradient soon became too steep to ride. It was a long walk up to Fremont Pass, and the strong headwinds made even the downhill into Leadville tougher than it should have been. It was 3pm when I got there, and I only had covered about 50 km, but I was ready to call it a day. 

I’m staying in a hostel and am writing this in an attack of insomnia, as it’s approaching 2am. Of course, my story of bike troubles and uphill struggles was instantly trumped by the next cyclist walking through the door with a torn jersey and bleeding wounds all over his chest, arms, and legs. In other news, I got to do laundry for the first time in three weeks. The hostel people even give you spare shirts and shorts, so that you can wash all your clothes at once. They don’t fit me at all and I look super dorky. No photos. What happens in Leadville stays in Leadville.

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