Redstone-Crawford, CO: What's not to like about a 30 mile downhill? - Colorado Independence - CycleBlaze

July 2, 2014

Redstone-Crawford, CO: What's not to like about a 30 mile downhill?

We left the window open last night. I was cold and kept getting up to push it a little further shut, a little further, until I finally just closed it. Isn't it refreshing to be cold at night in July?

I woke up when the birds started chirping outside, about 4:30 AM. I had the alarm set for 6 AM, but got up early, as usual. I took care of the morning routine and was out the door at 6:45 AM.

I hadn't cycled over McClure Pass this direction since 2009 with Moni, Fred, and Ken. It certainly was pretty, riding uphill alongside the stream. It was 41 degrees when I left. I could see my breath at a couple of spots as I cycled along.

I didn't get any distance at all before Oren caught me. We chatted a minute about how cold it was and how beautiful. Oren was happy that the road had a gentle uphill so far. I stopped for a photo and here came Ken. Bill was still getting ready. Jacinto was asleep. Jacinto's plan was to cycling up and over the pass, turn around and cycling back up and over. He did accomplish this with 35 miles and 4,4422 feet of climbing. He was happy with his day and how his leg held up.

We got to the three miles to the summit sign. There was also a road construction sign. Ah oh. Around the corner was a portable stop light. Hmmm. We couldn't see any obvious reason and no workers. There were many giant boulders off by the side of the road. They reminded me of Wily Coyote and the Road Runner.

I'm still suspicious, but appreciative of Oren and Ken cycling along with me. I announced that with my previous experience, I knew this was a 'stop every half mile' pass. I don't usually do that, but the grade on McClure is stiff. In the area with the boulders, my Garmin was consistently between 10 and 17 percent. Oren disagreed, saying in his opinion it was more around 8%. Whatever the grade was, I was panting heavily, but getting in plenty of air and my legs were strong. It seemed we were to the top in no time. Oren and Ken were just in front of me. As I took the last curve to the top, here came Bill charging up. He had ridden all the way from Redstone without stopping once. He had spoken to a 70 year old man in Redstone last night who claimed his best ride to the top was 51 minutes. We couldn't decide if that was the truth or not, but gave it a try. Bill said it took him 59 minutes. Jacinto said it took him about an hour, but he didn't pay attention.

We had a photo session at the top, a quick snack, and a bush stop and were off. I told the guys it was a wonderful downhill in both beauty and ride quality. The screen saver on my computer is from this downhill. I was cruising along, enjoying the reward of my work, when I glanced down at the computer. Holy, moly! The speed said 38 mph. That was out of my comfort zone. How did that happen? I didn't feel as if I were going fast. I tapped the brakes a time or two. Ken said he got up to 46 mph. I had told the guys to stop for a photo or two, but only Bill took my advice.

We felt as if our morning was over, but we still had over 30 miles to Paonia. They wanted to stop at the store for breakfast items as we knew the one restaurant in Crawford opened too late. We'd need to leave early for our long day.

Down, down we went. I took a photo or two, but mostly enjoyed the downhill. We've had a notable lack of traffic this tour. Today was no exception. The road conditions were excellent. I approached Somerset, where the mine coal. I didn't see a single coal truck, but the generous shoulder had assorted debris. I rode mostly in the roadway, keeping my eye open for cars in my mirror.

I had warned the guys multiple times about the railroad tracks crossing the road at an angle. Reminded them how Spoon had taken a spill on a similar railroad track on the Slum and that on these exact tracks a cyclist had been killed a few years back. Did they pay attention? No. At least they were honest in admitting they rode across.

We regrouped in town at a cafe that had outside seating in the shade. It was conveniently located across from the grocery. The waitress came outside and offered to fill our water bottles. A subtle reminder to order food if we were sitting in their chairs? We ended up ordering. I had the special, a turkey, bacon, and avocado sandwich. It was delicious, and inexpensive at $7.95 compared to other meals we'd had this trip.

Finally all the guys did their shopping. Oren bought me the requested honking size apple. I don't think I've ever seen an apple that large before. I have it ready now, filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins for the big trip tomorrow.

But I'm getting ahead. We had finished up in Paonia, but still had 14 miles/834 feet of elevation to climb. It didn't sound like much. Jacinto insisted it was flat after the honking hill. I was suspicious. I remembered what a fun downhill run this road is going the other direction.

We stayed together getting out of town on the country roads. It was well marked, but I'm always afraid I'll get lost. Soon we were on Crawford Road and climbing the short honking hill. Well. That wasn't so bad. The bad part was all of the rollers. Not only rollers, but the green irrigated country disappeared, to be replaced with lots of dirt and the occasional sagebrush. The temperatures were going up and the ice in my bottles melted. Ken and Oren pulled away. I could see Bill behind me, but he slowly gained. He caught up with me on one extra long roller and asked if it were the last one. Later recounting the story, Ken and Oren both laughed and said they had thought exactly the same thing at that spot.

I had been watching the mailboxes, thinking that the address corresponded with how many miles we had to go. It did seem that they counted down appropriately. It got down to 3812 - which I thought meant we had 3.8 miles to go and was consistent with what I expected. Suddenly the numbers jumped up to 4900. Wait? That's too many miles. I don't want five miles to town. I want to get there now. I'm hot and sweaty. I almost wished for a wind. We had so much wind the first trip - but this trip have been lucky. No wind now.

Ha! Look the road is ending. Time to turn left and go to town. Even that took a bit longer than I wanted. We pulled up to the general store/motel. Oren and Ken were still checking in. It seemed to take an exceptionally long time to get everyone checked in and sell a patient teenager a hose washer (25 cents) and an ice cream. I think his ice cream had partially melted by the time she noticed him waiting. I downed a V-8 in a few gulps while I waited. I must have looked pretty rough. When I asked where to get ice for the rooms she originally told me to go to the convenience store (up a steep hill). Then changed her mind and gave me a bag from the back.

Poor Bill got a room upstairs in the sunshine. We were downstairs on the shady side. Ken and Oren had been here previously, but Bill had to be warned in advance just to be happy we have a bed. a $65. bed.

Jacinto showed up and we chatted about the day. I took a nap (!) - it was great. We went to dinner early at the only restaurant. They had one table with three people and us. There was a very young waitress who said the waitress hadn't shown up and her mom, the cook, had drafted her to work. It appeared that the cook had her teenage son and daughter helping. It was worse than a Chinese fire drill. We all eventually got our food except Bill. They had missed his order. Three people ordered teriyaki chicken and didn't seem too excited. Bill definitely thought his wasn't good. My steak was fine. Ken's hamburger was fine.

We discussed the tough day ahead of us tomorrow. We decided not to leave early, since the high temp here is forecast to be 84 and in Gunnison 81 - so shouldn't get too hot.

Ken and Oren have the microwave, so I'll be knocking on their door to cook my oatmeal.

I am looking forward to the day off in Gunnison. It has been an excellent ride so far. My legs are really strong from the week we spent touring with Spoon.

The old coke ovens outside of Redstone. The photo is dark because the sun wasn't up enough.
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There's the sun. I could see my breath in spots, but was happy for the cool temps when cycling uphill.
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We all made it to the summit at the same time. How fun!
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Wow. This is one of the most beautiful roads in the state.
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Today's ride: 57 miles (92 km)
Total: 192 miles (309 km)

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