Alamosa-Villa Grove, CO: Flat and fast finish to our tour. - Climbing and Cruising in Central Colorado - CycleBlaze

June 27, 2014

Alamosa-Villa Grove, CO: Flat and fast finish to our tour.

Tip - if you are a steel cut oatmeal fan and are traveling, don't resort to those sugared instant packages of oatmeal. Instead, the night before put your oats and craisins in the bowl and cover them with water. By morning they will be softened up enough to microwave. That is acceptable, but not the same as stove cooked.

For the past two mornings I have not had to eat marginal oatmeal. We again had breakfast included with our room. This time it was eggs, potatoes, toast, and your choice of meat and drink. Not bad for $68./2 people. Room also - not just the food.

We went to breakfast at 6:30 and were on the bikes by 7:15 - hoping that yesterday's crosswind would reappear and become today's tailwind. We were now heading north. Where did the south wind go? From the start this morning it was blowing from the west. Very annoying. It didn't slow us down much. We've done so much climbing lately that our legs are made of steel!

Spoon's group left first and were long gone. I was feeling my oats and averaging above 15 mph (not a normal occurrence). Cathy was having trouble keeping up with me as she couldn't shift into the big ring in the front. That is one of the few adjustments I know how to make. We stopped at mile 10 to give the adjustment a try. First things first - bush break. I had hardly pulled my shorts up (!) when the SAG pulled over. Cal sent me on, saying Cathy would catch me anyway. She nicely gave me credit for being speedy (at least this morning) by saying her thighs were burning from trying to keep up.

I moved on. I thought my speed would drop off, but it gradually built back up so I was averaging 16 mph. The San Luis Valley is VERY flat. Imagine the speeds we would have had if the wind hadn't been blowing.

We have cycled through the area a number of times from Del Norte to Saguache on Hwy 285. Hwy 17 parallels 285 perhaps 10 miles apart. It is interesting what a difference in terrain. On 285 most of the land is irrigated and planted with potatoes. There are some wetlands and a wetlands viewing area. The highway is in similar condition, but has a wide shoulder the entire distance.

Hwy 17 has no irrigated fields at all and no shoulder on the road either. Road surface changed from new, to almost new, chip seal, to old stuff with big cracks. All types of road came and went. There wasn't near enough of the new stuff. We did have several very, very small towns on the way. Mosca, Hooper, and ??? - I will have to think of the name.

I stopped at mile 37 when I saw the guys' bicycles at a little coffee shop at an intersection. As soon as I walked in they all jumped up and left. Tom Swanson politely stayed a minute to chat. That was the last I saw of him this trip - other than his bright yellow jacket WAY down the highway as I followed him. The coffee shop/art gallery was an interesting little spot next to the unconventional post office building. I saw three post offices in the 54 miles between Alamosa and Villa Grove. I thought the USPS was in a budget crunch?

Both SAG's passed several times. They hadn't had much business today as everyone was moving along at a good clip. I had four Spiz bottles yesterday and that was just too many. Good energy, but too much for my taste buds. Today was a one bottle day and I didn't even finish it. Did I mention the route was flat? Very flat.

Jacinto called to check where I was. He was doing fine, but hating the flat and the headwind. Come and pick him up. ??? What's this? No knee trouble and he wants a SAG? No, not a SAG, he wanted me to go get him after I finish. That is really strange. OK.

Tom Newman and Cathy both passed me - I was the tail except for Jacinto. Even though I was averaging 15 mph! Oh - Spoon and CR got a warning from the State Patrol for dangerous riding because they were riding two abreast. Spoon was not slowed down much and asked for a photo with the officer. He's going to get it to me to post here. I warned them to be good and not get in any more trouble.

The wind came and went. Mostly blowing. It was the big event of the day as there sure wasn't any scenery to look at or passes to climb. Usually I am charmed by the San Luis Valley (over on Hwy 285) - but today, not so much. We've been through way too much pretty country and today I just wasn't into sagebrush and wind. Pedal faster, faster and get the day done.

Hwy 285 curved around and intersected with 17. Visually, it appeared that the curve in the road might help with the wind. No go. Except it seemed even stronger. A 5 mile to town sign appeared. Heck - it's not a 60 mile day -only 54. I wonder if anyone will be upset with me for false advertising? (Not a one).

I pulled in at the Villa Grove store and called Jacinto. He still wanted picked up and wanted it to be me. I loaded my bike in the car with Oren's help. Getting a long recumbent into an Audi wagon takes finis. Back I went, looking for a bright orange shirt. There he was. We quickly loaded his bike onto the roof and headed back to Villa Grove for lunch at the little cafe by the motel. I was hungry and went for the serve yourself chili and an order of onion rings. After I'd bragged and bragged about the cafe - I was disappointed in the chili. It had no flavor at all. It all honesty, we do spice ours up quite a bit. The onion rings were good and Ginny's hamburger looked excellent. There were several homemade pies in the case that were popular choices.

Tom Swanson had finished and gotten on the road. Ginny and Tom Newman finished eating. Ginny taped Jacinto's leg one more time and they left. We drove on to Salida and checked in at our motel. Luckily they were able to get us a downstairs room, although we were booked for upstairs.

Jacinto is off to the bookstore, looking for a hiking book and I'm in my jammies writing this. Spoon's crew and Cathy are meeting us for a last dinner at the Italian place in Poncha Springs. Then Oren, Jacinto, and I will have a day off tomorrow before the next tour starts. Ken Paulsen and a coworker, Bill, will be joining us on that tour.

I took exactly one photo today. Hopefully the others will get me photos to share.

We had a good trip - no rain, good to excellent road surfaces almost always, only wind the past two days. Scenery was top notch. My favorite day was the climb up Cuchara Pass.

If you are new to Colorado touring, Oren suggested this would be a good first tour. The passes are lower elevation (helpful for flatlanders with possible altitude problems). Lower passes also mean less sustained climbing. This route also alternates climbing days with downhill days, which gives your legs a break. Hwy 285 between Johnson Village and the turn to Hartsel was the busiest road. It did have a good shoulder, but there was heavy traffic. Our timing was off. 285 is a major connector for Denver folks to get to the mountains and we were riding it on Saturday.

So - one trip down - one to go. Aren't we lucky to tour so much in the summer?!

Villa Grove - back where we started seven days ago.
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Here's The State Patrol who told Spoon and CR, "I know you want to have a good time and I want you to have a good time, but you have to do it riding single file."
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Today's ride: 54 miles (87 km)
Total: 403 miles (649 km)

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