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!

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