Day 12 - 6/1/11 (71 miles)
The final day of Chapter 2 wasn't as celebratory as the last day of Chapter 1 due to very strong winds, high humidity, and temperatures in the 90's. We left Lyons at about 8:30, after stopping by the local cemetery and locating the headstone for Kim's grandparents, Charles and Vivian Tyrrell, who had lived in the nearby town of Chase.
Depending on our energy level, we were headed to either Hutchinson or Newton, both of which are southeast of Lyons. Given that the wind was coming out of the southeast at about 15 - 20 mph, it was pretty slow going. We made it to Nickerson, took a break, and decided to make our final destination decision in about 8 miles. That's where the road split for Hutchinson or Newton. As we pedaled towards this decision point, we met a very nice, local cyclist from Hutchinson, who gave us some helpful info about the roads ahead, potential food and lodging.
When we reached the corner, we decided to go for the farther destination of Newton, and bid our new friend good-bye. We got a special treat of riding north for a mile, with a tailwind that made it feel like flying. Our next turn took us onto a road lined with trees which really helped break-up the crosswind, and made us applaud our decision to choose the longer route. Then, we spotted some railroad construction across our road, with huge “Road Closed” signs in our path. Andy negotiated with the railroad workers who then helped us shuttle our bike across their construction zone and continue on the desired roadway.
We arrived in Buhler about 4 miles later, and when we didn't see a mini-mart, we stopped at another construction zone for the new town water plant. Rather than send us back the mile into town, the supervisor went into their supply trailer and came out with four bottles of water, apologizing that they weren't cold.
We continued 19 miles towards Hesston, rejoicing every time there were trees bordering the road. Our arrival was rewarded with spotting Skoops, a local, 1950's rock-themed diner. The owner was a terrific host and crafted excellent root beer freezes for us. After a relaxing time, and hearing about his life in Hesston, we departed for the final 9 miles of the day.
This section included 6 miles directly into the wind. Yet again, persistence paid-off and we arrived in Newton, the final stop for Chapter 2, after almost 5 and-a-half hours of pedal time, and 12 straight days on the bike.
Because it was right on the route we stopped first at the home-based bicycle repair shop of John and Carol Sue Hobbs, Great Plains Cycle Repair. They're going to tune-up the bike, replace tires, and store the bike for us until the beginning of Chapter 3. As another kindness, John drove us to the local Hertz office, whose owner he happened to know, and dropped us there to pick-up our rental car. The Hertz folks were amazing, helping us with locating a hotel near the Kansas City airport, printing directions, offering suggestions for dining, etc.
The list of kindnesses from Kansas residents all across the state, and especially today, makes them the obvious choice for MVP!
We're THROUGH with Chapter 2!!
Day 11 - 5/31/11 (97 miles)
Well, what a difference a day makes! Yesterday, our top speed was 19.6. Today, our average speed was 18.3, the highest average speed on the trip so far. The difference was not terrain, but the direction and intensity of the wind. We went 40 more miles today, in only 26 more minutes of pedal-time.
We woke-up to silence, which we'd not “heard' for a few days. No trees were in danger of being uprooted, or buildings blown off their foundation! We had a quick breakfast at our B&B and got an early start to take advantage of the calm.
We glided out of Ness City, and enjoyed our amazingly quick trip to the next town, Great Bend, traveling 60 miles in 3 hours. It felt like we were back on our bike again. Just a few miles out of Ness City, we encountered The Quadzilla. That's the nickname for a four-person bike ridden by Chris, Evan, Vickie, and Lydia - a dad, a son (about 12), a mom, and a daughter (about 10) - pedaling their way across the Bike Centennial route over the course of 6 summers. Vickie's mom is serving as gear transporter. They hail from Colorado Springs, and it was a pleasure to talk with them about their adventures, and snap this photo.
We stopped for lunch in Great Bend at Braum's, which is best known throughout this section of the country for their ice cream. While we were enjoying our nutritious lunch, we talked with several people who were interested in our bike journey. We also learned why Kansas is so windy, from the woman at a neighboring table. She said, and this is a direct quote, “it's because Nebraska sucks and Oklahoma blows”. Then, she clarified that this is the direct result of college football rivalries.
Fueled by this enlightening revelation, we headed back out on the road towards the town of Lyons. We'd originally planned to stop in Great Bend for the night, but with the forecast for another windy day, we thought we'd give ourselves some extra miles today, and fewer tomorrow. We really enjoyed the beautiful countryside, with lots more trees, and wonderfully smooth roads.
A couple of hours later, we checked into the Celebration Center Inn & Suites. With Pizza Hut delivery only a phone call away, it should be a great evening.
Day 10 - 5/30/11 (57 miles)
This was the day of “-est”, as in hot-est, humid-est, snakey-est, smelly-est, and, most significantly, windy-est. Andy also dubbed it a “Parrot Head” day, as were being Buffeted around, from start to finish. We woke to the sound of strong winds blowing dirt against the window of the hotel, and the sight of street lamps rocking back and forth.
After breakfast, we decided to give the next stretch a go, and continued due east on Highway 96. The wind, as forecast, was a consistent 39-44 mph, with gusts over 50 mph from the south, with some periods of southeast, and a few (too few!) from the southwest. Again, who knew that the longest “climbs” would actually be in Kansas!
We saw many fields of green wheat, just beginning their transition to amber waves of grain, passed numerous (at least 10), large snakes, Gopher or King by Andy's guess, in various stages of squished-ness, and one that looked to be just crossing the road. (No, Kim did not attempt to carry him). We also passed many feedlots, and small oil pumpjacks (hence the stinkiness).After about 24 miles we arrived in Dighton, and took a break at yet another mini-mart. Again, the attendants were friendly and helpful, and although there was not a milkshake machine to be found we did enjoy a few treats before getting back on the road.
After an additional 12 miles we began the section of the ride that we were least looking forward to, a 3-mile stretch that veered almost directly into the wind. Our speed dropped to 7 mph. amazingly, with continued pedaling, we made it through, and passed the historic mile marker for the homestead of George Washington Carver. And, 10 miles later, we wobbled into Ness City, today's destination. To honor the Memorial Day holiday, and to give you a peek at the windiness, we snapped this photo.
We checked-in to our “Elite Suite”, a small apartment-sized section of a historic home that was converted to a B&B. We walked to the recommended restaurant, Los Dos De Oro, and had an excellent Mexican lunch-dinner. If you're ever in town, it's definitely worth a stop!
The wind continues to be very strong, and we'll evaluate the options for tomorrow's section, depending on wind speed and direction, tomorrow morning.
Day 9 - 5/29/11 (48 miles)
For our “rest” day, we got up extra early, had breakfast at the truck stop where we had dinner last night, chatted with some locals about places to stay in Scott City, and hit the highway by 7:15, to try to beat the wind.
Fortunately, the wind had calmed a bit, but, at the outset, it was still a headwind. The entire area was blanketed in clouds, but it didn't rain, and the clouds began to clear about 20 miles into our ride as the wind began, slowly, to move from directly from the east, to the south east, to south. This adjustment made this a lovely ride. As the sun came out we witnessed some remarkable cloud formations which appeared as stripes in the sky.
We also came upon a wind-farm power generation station with about 32 wind turbines. We feel as if we've reconnected a bit with civilization as we are going through occupied territories - farms, ranches, towns, etc - rather than the miles and miles of absolutely empty, moonscape land of eastern Colorado, as far as you can see.
This was the warmest day since we left San Francisco, and the first one that Kim was able to ride without the extra layer of thermal tights over her bike shorts. Alert the media!
It was a lovely, smooth road. Without the headwind, we felt as if we were able to glide through the wheat fields into our destination. We found the brand new Best Western the folks in Tribune had told us about, had a great meal, some DQ Bilzzards, and let our leg batteries recharge as we prepare for the last few days of Chapter 2.
Day 8 - 5/28/11 (57 miles)
After breakfast at the K & M Ranch House, which was the same place we had dinner last night, due to its proximity to the motel - “Travelors” Lodge - we headed east on highway 96. We started out going into the wind, and kept going into the wind - for the next 5 hours of pedaling. It was like climbing a hill for 5 hours, without any downhill bonus at the end.
About half way to our destination was an oasis, the town of Sheridan Lake. The standard gas station/mini-mart had a very friendly attendant who kept the bathrooms very clean, had a good supply of snacks (including Starbucks bottled Frappuccino), and gave suggestions about where to stay, or not to stay, in the upcoming towns. We also had an interesting conversation with a local man about the possibilities for wind power generation in eastern Colorado. On our way out the door another local showed us the dead baby rattlesnake he'd discovered.
As we continued on our way, the smooth pavement we'd enjoyed changed dramatically. About every 30 feet, a 3 to 4 inch trough ran completely across the road. One or two of these wouldn't be too bad, but this “bump-bump”, “bump-bump”, “bump-bump”, of first the front wheel, and then the back wheel crashing into the trough went on for the next 13 miles, until we arrived at the Kansas border. Yes, we've made our next state line crossing.
A few miles later, we met two men riding recumbent bikes on a westbound cross-country ride that began in Virginia and will end in Oregon. The wife of one of the men was carrying their gear in the camper-van. They looked as if they were in comfy recliner chairs, and were thoroughly enjoying the tailwind (which was pushing them while it was thwarting us).
After that we encountered our first combine, driving towards us on the highway. Driven by a young man, with his girlfriend at his side, they looked to be enjoying themselves. Just a bit later, Kim noticed a turtle crossing the road, so we stopped and gave him a quick flight to the side of the road he appeared headed for. Later, we saw a large pheasant in a field.
We continued our slog with the wind unyielding and undiminished, until we came to the very small town of Tribune. There were a few sheds, some shanties, and, finally, our lodging for the night, the aptly named Trails End motel. “Motel” is actually a very generous description. The owner/manager remarked that he'd tried riding tandem in Germany (we're guessing this was during WWII, given his apparent age), and that he hadn't really liked it.
The highlight of the day, the trip, and, perhaps, our lifetime came when we ventured across the highway for dinner at the mini-mart-truck-stop. We encountered the “F'real” milkshake machine. We cannot believe we've not seen one before. They're totally brilliant. The customer selects a cup from the freezer section of the machine which is pre-filled filled with ice cream. You then remove the lid, place the cup into a metal holder on the machine and select your desired thickness from three options. The metal holder is then retracted into the machine, a few minutes pass, interesting noises are made by the machine, and the customer has the option of making selections on the touch screen video display to learn more about F'real, and, 30 seconds later, voila, your milkshake appears. Kim had the standard mint chip, and Andy had a mango smoothie. Magic, pure magic! The best machine ever.
Day 7 - 5/27/11 (62 miles)
We woke up this morning to the sound of howling winds knocking against our windows in the Hotel Ordway. We'd planned an early start, at the recommendation of Tom, to stay ahead of the winds. This was, apparently, not going to work. We headed out anyway, pre-breakfast, planning to dine at the Café in Sugar City, about 5 miles away, also on Tom's recommendation. Apparently this was not going to work either, as the Café was closed when we arrived.
The receptionist at the City Hall next door, told us that it was always closed on Fridays and Saturdays, so we had some trail mix and a banana, and headed on towards Haswell, about 34 miles away. The headwinds were ever-present, and fairly strong. After about 15 miles we met another cyclist, headed west. We stopped to talk with him. He's from Australia, and started the trip in Virginia, and has given himself 4 months to make it to Oregon.
On our way again, we marveled at the completely empty countryside. No hills, no buildings, not a cloud in the sky, and very little traffic. The headwind seemed to follow us, remaining a headwind even when the highway would make a turn to the right or left.
We arrived in Haswell, and, again thought Tom's prediction of a gas station/mini-mart being located there might also fail. It turned out, however, that we just needed to pedal to very edge of town to find Haswell Propane waiting for us. The proprietors, Paul and Glenda, were very friendly. They also provide auto repair and antiques. Their mini-mart area included a couch, a couple of comfy chairs and a TV (showing The Young and The Restless). We enjoyed sandwiches, Gatorade, cheese sticks, cashews, candy and a Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino for our lunch break, as we talked with them about the numerous bike riders that stop there during their cross-country tours, including one woman riding a unicycle!
After a great rest, we headed back out on the road for the remaining 23 miles to Eads, our stop for the day. After just a few miles, we met a group of three cyclists - Dustin, John, and Mark - also making the cross-country trip, and following the BikeCentennial route. We talked with them for quite a while, sharing tips with each other about the areas we'd already seen. We also let them know that Paul and Glenda would be glad to see them.
After just under 5 hours of pedal-time, we arrived at Travelors (yes, that's the way it's spelled on the sign) Lodge, which is almost in a complete tie with Middlegate regarding the quality of the lodging. Please, see the photo to help you cast your vote. Still, it's better than camping, and the only accommodation for the next 60 miles.
Day 6 - 5/26/11 (54 miles)
We departed Pueblo at about 8:30 into our first urban setting since Market Street in San Francisco. We had to navigate construction and lots of traffic to rejoin the Adventure Cycling route. We actually needed to use a real highway on-ramp to merge onto Highway 96. This was quite an experience, but it went well, and we were on our way towards Ordway, our destination for today.
The hoped-for, ok, longed-for, Blessed Tailwind, did not appear. Instead we had a moderate headwind, and some rolling hills. The horizon held only fields, no mountains, no boulders. The highway paralleled a train track with culverts dated from the very early 1900's.
We passed 3 additional correctional facilities which appeared to be various levels of security, from minimum (complete with orchards), to maximum (with zero windows and lots of guard towers and wire). We made a few stops including one in Crowley where we rested on a bench outside the local Post Office to enjoy some snacks. As we were preparing to leave, the postal worker came out and asked if we needed any water. After we told him that we were ok, he went back inside, only to appear moments later with two water bottles, and said, “take these with you just in case you need them.”
We continued on the journey, passing through a couple of very tiny towns with just a few buildings.
After about 4 hours of pedaling, we arrived in Ordway, and our lodging at Hotel Ordway, which is about to celebrate its 100th birthday. Our host, Tom, was born in Ordway, and his mom was a cleaning lady at the hotel for about 28 years, and ultimately purchased the building and owned it for 30 years before selling to her son and his wife, Carol. The hotel was one of the stops along the BikeCentenial route in 1976, which was the beginning of Adventure Cycling. We heard many stories of his days as a sous chef in LA, Phoenix, and San Francisco before moving back to Ordway.
We had dinner at the only open restaurant, Bits and Spurs, home of chicken-fried steak, meat, and more meat. It was a small, store front location with about eight tables. Two of the tables were occupied by members of the family that owns the establishment. The dad was the cook, and he disappeared into the kitchen to prepare our food, and the rest of the family became the “entertainment” for our meal. We were treated to a full history of their family issues, current events, job transitions, dating, upcoming high school graduation, and community events. Wow!
Before our dinner was served, the son of the cook talked with Andy about the lack of beer available except at special places. At the end of dinner, as we were headed out the door, the mom brought us a “To Go” bag. When we seemed confused, she said, “it's from my son, and it's yours”, and shooed us out the door. On the sidewalk, we opened the bag to discover two bottles of Colorado Native, an only-in-Colorado brew. Very nice!
After returning to the hotel, we chatted with a couple of other guests who are in town to begin filming a movie about a bank robbery (in which“artifacts, and not money will be stolen”). They're going to close down the town tomorrow when the crew arrives. One of the guests was “Michael”, the film's director, who, according to his assistant, is “one of the big names”.
All in all, a very full day, with interesting characters completely replacing interesting scenery. We're going to try for an early start tomorrow when the winds are expected to be calm. Keeping fingers, and toes, crossed that that comes to pass.
Day 5 - 5/25/11 (95 miles)
Following the standard breakfast buffet at the hotel, we got off to an early start, leaving Salida at just after 8:00 AM. We do need to mention that the trip must be having a rejuvanating effect on Andy as he was actually carded at Pizza Hut last night when he ordered a beer!
We followed Highway 50, which, apparently, is not lonely for this section, and the Arkansas River, through a relatively narrow stretch of red-rocked canyon that looked a lot like Utah. As we passed through the town of Howard, we noticed their welcome sign - “Welcome to Howard, Colorado, home to 1201 friendly people and a few old soreheads”. We decided to continue to the town of Coaldale for our first break. While there, we talked with the country store (another one that sells everything)/rv park owner about our potential deviation from the Adventure Cycling maps.
The maps had us leaving Highway 50 at the upcoming town of Cotopaxi, which would add about 15 miles to our already-long day. He described the upcoming section of highway, and we decided to give it a try.
About 23 miles later, as we crossed the river (just to remind us that we were still in the Rockies) we noticed that the highway began to climb. A lot. We quickly had to move to the lowest gear, which thwarted our prediction that this might be the first day of the trip that we would not use the little ring. Kim counted over 2400 pedal strokes in lowest gear as we climbed about 700 feet in 2 miles. Yuck!
After about 6 miles of rolling hills, we enjoyed a brisk, downhill coast into Canon City, with the first building we encountered being the Colorado State Correctional Facility - Canon City. It appeared to be a very old facility, with the original walls built from rock mined from the cliff directly behind it. We cruised through the larger-than-expected town, and into the first McDonald's of our trip. Apparently the unexpected climb had affected Andy as he ordered a Big Mac and a huge Mr. Pibb for lunch.
We had a brief conversation with a group of retirees enjoying their lunch. They were very interested in the ride, our progress, destination, etc. After their departure, we talked with the group of young moms and kids, who took over the retirees seats, about adding child-stoker kits to tandems and hauling kids in bike trailers. Then it was time to continue on.
The remaining 37 miles of our journey, along a divided section of the highway required that Andy keep us outside (to the right) of the rumble strips and inside (to the left) of the rubble, glass, nails, pieces of metal, etc, which was quite a challenge, and earned him MVP of the day. There were lots of rolling hills, some with quick, but steep climbs, and a brisk headwind.
We stopped a few times for breaks, and snapped this “Farewell to the Rockies” photo of Pike's Peak - yep, you can see it from this far away. We enjoyed watching the antics of the huge number of prairie dogs along the side of the road, listening to them bark - which sounds more like a “cheep” to Kim -and watching them sit up on their hind legs to look around, and then take-off, with their tails wagging, as we came near.
Finally, after 5:47 of pedal-time, we rolled into Pueblo, our home for the night. We enjoyed dinner at the Cactus Flower, and made reservations for the next two days' lodging. One day at a time.
Day 4 - 5/24/11 (33 miles)
After a hearty breakfast, cooked by Ross at the Tomichi Trading Post (where they sell everything) we left the Tomichi Cabins at about 8:15 this morning. After about a half mile, we began the major climb of the cross-county trip. We know we've said this before, but, this really was. We climbed 3,000 feet in 9 miles, at the blistering pace of 5.4 miles per hour, with several stops to stretch and breathe, and reached the Monarch Pass summit of 11,312 feet, which is the Continental Divide. This is our highest “achievement” ever!
We enjoyed the world's best coffee and a Big Gulp size hot chocolate, bypassing the ice cream (just to give you an idea of how cold it was). The temperature was in the high 30's, and there were even a few snowflakes on the last half mile of the climb. Since business at the summit restaurant was a bit slow, we got to talk with the workers, and learned that one of them is a member of the four families that settled the Sargents valley, in the 1800's and still maintain a cattle ranch and do a bit of mining on the property.
After about an hour of relaxing and chatting, we decided to head towards our destination for the day, Salida. Just as we were preparing to leave, it started to snow. Not just a few flakes, but a mini snowstorm. We decided to keep moving, and hopefully, get below the snow level. Less than a mile down the hill, we came upon another construction zone. We waited with the big rigs and RV's, and chatted with the traffic monitor, being snowed on all the while, until the pilot car returned. We then allowed the other vehicles to start the decent, waiting to be last in line, so they wouldn't have to pass us on the narrow, two-lane road. Brilliant, Andy!
It was a very cold decent of 4,000 feet in about 23 miles. We were glad we loaded up on the winter gear, yet were still cold. We did leave the snow and wet pavement behind as we approached the town of Poncha Springs, and with a final left-hand turn towards Salida, The Blessed Tailwind returned for the last 5 miles, propelling us at about 32 miles per hour, right to the brand new Hampton Inn. Welcome to Salida!
Day 3 - 5/23/11 (75 miles)
The major ascent of the day began directly out of the driveway for Cimarron Lodge, into a brisk headwind, and climbed 1600 feet in just under 6 miles. It was a long first hour of pedaling, and quite the way to start a 75-mile day. We did see lots of happy sheep and cows in the green valley. As usual, there were plenty of friendly drivers, giving us room on the narrow road, and one who stopped to check on us as we took a break about a half a mile from the summit.
Once we reached the summit Andy snapped a photo of Kim with her most favorite sign. We then enjoyed a welcome downhill which ended up in a very narrow canyon which was under construction. Traffic was only allowed in one direction. We worked our way closer to the head of the line of vehicles waiting for their turn, and, once the pilot vehicle started everyone moving, we were able to keep up with traffic, that is, until there was a steep section uphill. We were, ultimately, last in line, with about 200 yards to go.
The pilot car held the downhill line of vehicles until we crossed the “finish” line, and we waved at each vehicle to thank them for their patience, receiving huge waves from some, and courtesy waves from others. Then we had a bit more steep climbing to do up to the plateau where Blue Mesa Reservoir is located. We followed this large lake, which looked as if it hadn't been full at least as long as Lake Powell, for about 17 miles.
We arrived in Gunnison just as the isolated showers began, and decided that Taco Bell would be a perfect place for lunch. It was the best Taco Bell anywhere. We enjoyed our lunch, and had a great conversation with a local cyclist who rides centuries (over 100 miles) “for fun”. He and his friends also do rides up to the top of Monarch Pass, the summit of the continental divide, and then back to Gunnison, “for fun”. We followed this large lake for about 17 miles. It looked as if it hadn't been full at least as long as Lake Powell.
With the rain over, we headed out towards our destination for today, the “town” of Sargents, and the Tomichi Creek Cabins (and everything else). There were several steep, but short climbs, and the wind, which was not Blessed Tailwind, at all, continued to impede progress. We also (sort of) saw the first tandem since we left Sacramento. It was in a much better position than ours, as it was strapped to the back of an RV. Yes, we made note for future reference.
With about 4 miles to go, we turned into a narrower canyon which blocked some of the wind, for which we were very grateful. We've also been grateful for the reduced weight we need to carry, by virtue of the towns being closer together allowing us to refill our water bottles, instead of carry so much water all the time.
After just over 6 hours of pedal-time, we arrived at the cabins. Because we wanted access to our own shower, etc, we chose the large cabin that sleeps 10. It was much nicer than expected, with a loft that sleeps 4, a fold-out couch, and a bedroom with one queen bed and a bunk bed - which adds up to 10. When he was walking us to our cabin, the manager, Allen, mentioned that there was another couple staying in the cabins that are also riding tandem. He said they were doing mostly back-roads. We hoped to meet them at dinner, but didn't see them. Hopefully, we'll get to say hi in the morning.
As the only patrons at the restaurant for dinner, we had great service, and the food was tasty. Since they've just opened, and are only serving breakfast on weekends, the cook offered to make us breakfast burritos that we could heat in the cabin's microwave. We gladly accepted.
Day 2 - 5/22/11 (51 miles)
Today started with beautiful views of the San Juan mountain range as we left Ridgway. We enjoyed a nice, 27-mile downhill cruise into Montrose. We stopped there for some excellent coffee and mediocre breakfast burritos at the Coffee Trader.
We enjoyed our spot on their porch, as they were voted the “Best Decorated” business in Montrose for the last five years running. The weather was the best we've had since we left San Francisco - beautiful blue sky, green pastures, snow-capped peaks (receding in the distance), and temperatures that were actually warm enough for Kim to remove her jacket and over-gloves!
After we reluctantly moved ourselves off the porch and back onto the bike, we headed east towards Cerro Summit via a fairly steep 2,000 foot climb through lots of range land, happy cows, goats, horses, and a few llamas. We saw a few other day-bikers, including one who dared pass us on the final few hundred yards of the summit climb.
Then it was a downhill swoosh into Cimarron, and then a few miles further to the Cimarron Lodge, our home for the night. The innkeeper, Linda was very friendly, and gave us the largest of her four rooms, complete with full kitchen. While she did not have internet, and the Verizon services was non-existent, she called the owners of the nearby mini-grocery/restaurant/cabins & camp ground, who let us “camp” in their restaurant for a bit to have a meal and access the internet. The elk burger and grilled cheese sandwich with avocado hit the spot and the homemade pies were superb.
So far we have avoided the “isolated thundershowers” and hope our luck holds out for tomorrow's trip. So far we've had a couple of idyllic days of pedaling around Southwestern Colorado.
Day 1 - 5/21/11 (40 miles)
Well, here we go again! After staying overnight in the very comfy Hampton Inn near the Sacramento Airport, we (just) made it to our 6:00AM departure to Denver. After that, it was an uneventful flight, and easy transition to the tiny terminal to catch our Great Lakes Airlines 19-seat plane from Denver to Telluride.
On the flight to Telluride, we met a very nice woman from Australia, whose sister lives in Telluride. We really enjoyed talking with her and hearing of her work as a nanny/housekeeper in Aspen for a family building a 22,000 square-foot home, complete with the following amenities - art gallery, media theater, men's smoking room and poker lounge, wine cellar and tasting room, pool, and, of course, a ballroom. She volunteered that her sister would be glad to give us a ride from the airport to the bike shop to pick-up the tandem.
It turned out that Georgie was willing to give us a lift, and we had a great conversation with her about her life in Telluride. As a special bonus, her boyfriend may have an extra set of telemark skis he'd be willing to sell to Andy, which would move his ski gear forward from 1983. It was a great way to start the trip.
The tandem had been well taken care of by the folks at Paragon Bike Shop, and after a quick change of clothes and loading up the bike, we were all set to go. On our pedal out of town we got to see the field full of huge prairie dogs that Georgie had mentioned. Andy successfully navigated us around the pot hole noted when we scouted the route by renting a car for a day before our flight home at the end of Chapter 1.
Although the weather forecast had been for afternoon showers and possible snow, and indeed Telluride had snow last night, the weather today was mostly cloudy, with a few snowflakes as we headed out of town, but with patches of blue sky, light winds, and temperatures in the mid 50's. It was, by far, the best weather day since our first day of Chapter 1, when we left Fallon, NV.
The first 16 miles were rolling, but largely downhill. Excellent! Then we had to reclaim the altitude lost, by climbing back above 9,000 feet. The views of the snow-covered mountains, and the just-beginning-to-leaf-out Aspin groves as we followed the San Miguel River, were lovely and inspiring. The change from gray, wintery lack-of-color to green pastures in the valleys, blue skies, and leaves on the trees helped us joyfully roll along. We can certainly see why this area is known as the Switzerland of the United States. We saw several other cyclists, including another couple, going the opposite way, that appeared to have been on the road for some time.
We arrived in Ridgway after about 3 hours of pedal-time. Passing through downtown, we encountered our first “Shouter” since Sacramento. He called out “Cheater” to Kim, albeit with a smile, which we're counting as a “She's not pedaling!”. Then, we checked-in to our hotel, and had a solid dinner at Penny's diner nearby.