Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tour de Colorado Part III - Blue Mesa Reservoir & Black Canyon

A lot of people have been asking me questions regarding my method to route planning and other things like that on this trip. I really don't have an answer for them. I didn't really plan a route at all. My only requirements were to travel through Colorado in a clockwise direction, to stick to as many dirt/back roads as possible (no cars), and make sure that I had an awesome place to party my balls off on Friday and Saturday nights. That's it. 3 things.

I always thought that planning didn't really matter that much as long as I was squared away physically. If I was in shape to pedal and had enough food and water, I could literally stop wherever and whenever I wanted, set up my tent, read my kindle and relax. Route planning as it were, could be done over a morning cup of coffee. I was carrying with me a full size Colorado Recreation map and could literally pick out a few back roads that morning or the night before.

This technique was highly evident on my trip through the Black Canyon. I literally didn't know it was there. The rec map gave me an elevation of the Blue Mesa Reservoir and the elevation for Crawford and they looked about the same. I honestly thought that this day would be an easy spin. I had no idea there was going to be a HUGE mountain between the two towns. I just started climbing. From what I can figure out this thing tops out at about 9500ft. Not the biggest (actually close to one of the smallest) climbs I did, but I added it to a lot of road miles that day. It's a weird feeling to be surprised by a mountain.

All of the lack of knowledge and planning aside, this was one of those days on my trip where I was awestruck by my surroundings every time I stopped to look around. Climbing up from the Blue Mesa Dam (where I had lunch) up the Colorado Scenic Byway highway 92 was UNREAL. The only way I can explain my ride is that periodically I would ride along side the guardrail looking 2000 feet down into the Black Canyon, and as I glided silently along it felt like I was looking down out of the window of an airplane. What a way to travel. A really beautiful ride. Although the climb seeming never-ending. Which was fine with me.

If you are keeping track of miles, this day was from Hartman Rocks in Gunnison to Revolution Brewing in Paonia. Great ride. The dirt road was just perfect too. Fuck concrete!

Blue Mesa Reservoir. I end up noticeably higher up than the water level by the time I climb to the top of the canyon.

Getting the climb started.

Crossing the Blue Mesa Dam

Climbing that ol dirt road...

...still climbing. Hot day...

...gettin there. That water is waaay down there....

...made it! Can you believe I had no idea that was there when I started out for the day? Crazy.

View from Hermit's Rest Overlook.

The rip down from here to Crawford was a blast. Thanks to the motorcyclists from Georgia that gave me a can of mixed nuts and some water. From here I blasted to Paonia which is another town I didn't know existed till I was in it.

As I rolled down main street I passed what looked like a house which is actually Revolution Brewing. As I slowly rolled by a group on the patio hollered at me to come and join them which I readily did. How AMAZING is it that coincidentally on Wednesday nights in Paonia (the night I breezed through) was the big party night at Revolution? There was a live band, gyro stand, bratwurst, and some of the best micro beer I've ever tasted in my whole life. This after a long hot day in the saddle. I was FLOORED. Blown away. I was so thankful for what was happening there that I proceeded to get drunk off all of their tastiest beers (the Cherry IPA is MIND-BOGGLINGLY GOOD) and stuffed my face.

Then the group with whom I was drinking on the patio, led by a real Colorado hippie named Obee, invited me back to their house after the festivities for more beer. They even let me set up my tent in the backyard. I fell in love with Paonia right there. What an amazing place. That morning Obee, his pals, and myself made a huge eggs, bacon, and coffee breakfast and I felt like a million bucks pulling outta there. One of the best days of my trip.

Revolution Brewing. Home of the Cherry IPA. The grey haired fellow in the foreground is Obee.

This was one long post, but it really was one of the best days and defined for me what tour biking is all about. Not knowing I was going to pedal through a canyon and over a mountain that day. Also not knowing I was going to have the best beers ever and make a ton of new friends. Speaking of that, it wasn't the last time I would run into Obee on my trip....

Thanks for hangin in there! More to come!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Swirling Galaxy of Dirt & Blood in the Shower Drain

Rag dolled down a 10ft cliff while riding today. Don't worry, the bike was OK!

(luckily that's all that happened)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tour de Colorado Part II - Buena Vista through Gunnison

Leaving the Hot Springs the next morning after breakfast, I was totally recharged. Looking back on it now, the worst of the trip was already behind me. With all the traffic and bullshit between Fairplay-Salida-Buena Vista it was still feeling like the front range. I had now vowed to take as many dirt/back roads as possible and traveling west out of BV I was finally by myself in the mountains (which was the whole point). Here's a few photos of my second mountain pass. Cottonwood Pass (12,200ft) west of BV down around Taylor Reservoir, down Taylor Canyon and into Gunnison. It was paved on the east side and dirt road on the west side. This is when I realized dirt road riding was the best.

During my trip I came across a lot of falling rock. I tried to build my karma and stopped at each one to move the rocks from the road.

The start of the climb.

It's starting to get snowy as I climb towards the top. The next two photos are hard to see, but they are of the switchback road near the top of the pass. There are trucks on the road in both photos to give perspective, but are nearly too small to make out. Big climb.

Surrounded by snow walls. So nice. As I was biking, I would reach out with my right hand and make snowballs to throw down the mountain.

Peak'd out.

Next I got to descend down this windy dirt road for hours through empty national forest. So wonderful and fun. At one point it got so chattery that my sleeping bag and tent came flying off and were bouncing down the road behind me.

Taylor Reservoir

They were actually releasing water out of the Taylor Dam into the river when I went by. BTW it was a really fast and balls-out downhill from this point on. Crazy.

Photos of the Taylor Canyon descent


There are 2 rock climbers in this photo.

I ended up pedaling out to Hartman Rocks to camp. Some of Gunnisons best mountain biking is here. It wasn't the first time I pedaled my loaded rig up single track (Flatirons Crossings). I rode a ways up and around the trails and set my tent up back behind some trees. A great place to camp, but out of all the towns I visited, Gunnison had the WORST mosquito problem. I had to wear a hoodie and pants and sweated my balls off while I set up camp and cooked dinner. Those little fuckers where still trying to bite through my hoodie.

This is the only photo of my tent set up. If you look way off in the background you can see the lights of Gunnison approximately 5 miles away.

Pulling out of Gunny, I was into a good rhythm of the road and was looking forward to heading farther west, literally not knowing one of my best days on the road was right around the corner...

Zness out.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tour de Colorado Part I - Gettin outta town (FC-Salida)

This will be the start of a long string of posts about my tour bike ride through Colorado. I figure I can segment it up and just go bit-by-bit. Most of these posts will be of pictures that I snapped along the way and maybe some short descriptions. I've got to try to keep it short though, or it'll take FOREVER. I'll just give the quick run down of the shit I was hauling with me. I had some shitty flat/clipless shimano pedals and shoes, Chuck Taylors, 2 rear pannier bags, 1 front handlebar bag, one-man tent, thermarest, bottle of Breckenridge Bourbon (thanks Matt!), sleeping bag, 3 bottles and cages, Jetboil w/ food, all-weather type clothes, tools, kindle, camera, an ipod, and a universal solar charger (thanks Nation!). I was more or less set for 4 weeks on the road. Oh yeah, and a chamios (which is highly necessary for long days in the saddle). Here's a pic of the rig.

The night before I left, Barry roundhouse kicked the potted plant. Quick with the Shop-Vac.

Naïve Kid. Leaving the house. Big Andrew was there to see me off. I got rid of that chrome bag before I left.

Asher & Schuyler were super fuckin nice to ride me outta town. So nice leavin with friends!

Oskar Blues in Lyons. On my own from there.

I actually rode this single track for a long ways in order to avoid 60 mile an hour traffic with no shoulder. Anyone who's ridden Flatirons Vista trails can imagine how nasty it was climbing out of the valley with a 90 pound fully loaded touring bike. The LHT (Long Haul Trucker) totally kicked ass though.

Kenosha was my first mountain pass conquered.

First night I slept behind the Golden Bike Shop. The second night I pulled into Fairplay at Sunset. Golden-Fairplay over Kenosha Pass (10,000ft) on that big ass rig was a long day in the saddle. One of my biggest days.

Next morning made a break for Salida. Headed into Fibark raft festival in order to party my balls off after a long ride.

The New Belgium employees had a Mountain Chalet on the Arkansas River and were nice enough to let me sleep in the backyard in exchange for volunteering to pour some beers during the festival. We partied our balls off during fibark. The highlights were the HUGE post festival bar tabs, singing country songs, the barrels of fun with Kyle and the joust with Keith at the carnival. SICK. Also, Annie from New Belgium was such a good host and really set me straight with the Salida scene. One of the best people I met on my trip.

Keith giving me a sweet barb-wire tribal tatt. He is also the artist that painted the garage door mural at Road34.

A nasty Nasty NASTY hangover stuck with me after Fibark. I was the last motherfucker to pull outta that town after the festival on Monday morning. I was hurting soooooo bad that I only made it to Buena Vista by that evening. I was dizzy, miserable, and pushing into a stiff headwind. I couldn't keep food down and could barely drink water. Cars were rushing by me making me nervous and neurotic. All in all, this part of the trip was the absolute worst. Lowest of the low. I almost lost it in a Subway. So I decided say "fuck it" and go straight to the Buena Vista hot springs. This paid off in dividends. I had a good 3-4 hour soak that evening, and another hour long soak at sunrise the next day. Completely refreshed, I was ready to pedal over the biggest mountain ranges in Colorado. I'll save that tale for next time.

Zness out.