July 11, 2006
It was a usual late start for me. I had breakfast at a gas station in Pueblo including coffee, a loaf of wheat bread, and coffee cakes. I didn’t ride out of town until close to noon.
But what a ride it was! As soon as I was out town, I found myself climbing a low ascent along open, stony hills similar to the ones I passed yesterday, only bigger. The real “Oh, wow” moment occurred at the top of this climb, where I saw a wide valley stretched before me, a mountain ridge in the near distance, and the road stretched as far as I could see. Ah… Colorado.
There were spacious ranches with horses and cattle, and a few unidentified hawks soared in the breeze. They sure weren’t your typical vultures. A classic rock station had a double-shot Tuesday, where they play two in a row from every artist. I heard some good Jethro Tull, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh, and other staples. The riding was excellent.
It’s funny, because when I first saw the Rockies rear up on the horizon, I thought, “Huh, I thought they’d be bigger.” Well they are big, it’s just that they were still at a distance, and that distance was deceiving.
Far to the north I could see a peak among the ridges that was higher than the rest. Two hundred years ago, in 1806, a man was exploring the western boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase, and he saw the same peak. It looked to be a day’s journey away from his fort, so he set out with some men to climb it. After two days they had not yet reached the mountain, and were forced to return to camp. The man’s name was Captain Zebulon Pike, and to this day it’s called Pike’s Peak – one of the more popular 14ers in the Rockies.
I was stopping often to take pictures, and before long some storms assembled over the mountains. I came to the very small town of Wetmore – more like an intersection – and it looked like a storm was headed my way, but not quite yet. The next town, Florence, was pretty sizable, but it was still 11 miles up the road. There was really nowhere comfortable to hole up, and nothing to do in Wetmore, so I opted to push on for Florence before the storm.
I was cruising along this mostly downhill stretch at a good clip, watching the clouds, getting lightly rained on, and making good time. I heard thunder, but I could clearly see what section of clouds was shooting the heavy rain and lightning… and I was a fairly safe distance from it. Then seemingly all of a sudden these gale force winds started blowing, and wow, it’s not very often that I’ve ever felt wind like this. Let’s just say it was quite a chore getting to town after that wind started. I had to pedal hard while going downhill to maintain 15mph at best, on slopes that I could coast at 30-35mph in normal conditions. Fortunately, the heavy rain and bad stuff remained at a distance, and I finally made it into Florence after some hard, invigorating work.
I ducked into a Hardee’s to wait out the seemingly imminent storm I’d seen, but it must have just missed town, because it barely rained in there at all. Then I stopped at the library, but the computers had all kinds of user restrictions, so I couldn’t upload pictures or even right-click to cut and paste an entry.
Outside the library I met a woman who had rode across the country a few years ago, and she offered to let me camp in her yard… but it had turned into a beautiful evening, so I opted to go on to Canon City for the night.
I ended up regretting this, because the ride to Canon City was a short 8 miles – easy and not especially scenic – so putting in the extra miles didn’t make much difference. Then I discovered the listed camping was not the usual free town park, but a private campground, 3 miles off route, out of town.
I saw a motel that said $34 in big letters, and my discipline caved yet again. I’ve been so bad about this lately. There’s something I don’t like about the commercial campgrounds – paying $10 for a spot to camp, a bathroom, a crappy shower, and that’s about it. You pay money just to get a 10×10 tent site and running water. Okay.
Tonight I got some macaroni and cheese and Vienna sausages, and cooked in my room. Life is good.
I lost my camera in Colorado, so there’s no pictures for a few days. 🙁