South Fork-Saguache, CO: Queen of the day. - Colorado Independence - CycleBlaze

July 7, 2014

South Fork-Saguache, CO: Queen of the day.

This was our last morning to wake up at 5 AM. Some things I won't miss. :) I had told the guys this road was so flat that I thought we'd all average 15 mph and be to town by 10 AM. Ah, oh. I set a bar for myself. I tried to hurry the morning routine some, so I could get out front and have a shot at that 10 AM arrival time. I was first away. There was a strong tailwind from the west. Yes! It would last until Del Norte, where we made a slight turn north. Then one more turn and the helpful tailwind became an annoying side wind and eventually a headwind.

I pushed the pedals hard all morning. The road was flat, flat. I stayed in the big chain ring all the time. This is NOT my typical operating practice! One thing I did discover about cruising at 18ish mph is that I can't see and identify objects in the grass at that speed. I also have to make snap judgements on photo taking. If I didn't decide right away to take a photo and downshift directly in preparation of stopping, the photo opportunity was soon behind me.

With the nice tailwind, it was easy to cruise at 20-25 mph on the first piece. There's a small hill/climb right outside of South Fork that I distinctly remember whining about on other tours. This time, I had to shift into the middle chainring (as opposed to the granny gear) and powered right on up.

The first 30 miles to the gas station on Hwy 285 was easy and fast. I beat the guys! At least this far. I debated stopping at the gas station. I knew this was the only remaining resupply since I'd pass through DelNorte so quickly. I'd better stop. There was still 25 miles to go. I should get more ice and mix another bottle of Spiz so I'd have fuel for the tank.

Some things never change. Sure enough, in the back booth next to the restroom, is a group of farmers discussing water. Same topic as last time I was through here. I didn't stay to hear the conversation, but I think they must be happier this year as we had a good snow winter.

I looked and looked for V-8 and finally asked for help. The clerk said their supplier didn't offer V-8 any longer. I looked for a non-sweet drink alternative. That was tough. I ended up with coconut water, which I don't particularly like. My friend Cathy does like it so I decided to give it another try.

I debated backing off on the race to town. I was probably the only one racing, which explains why I was ahead. But it was amazing to me to see the 18.0 mph average. That's a foreign average to me by close to double! Typically, I'm very happy with anything over 10 mph. People think I'm joking, but it's the total truth. I was feeling my oats today. Last day of the tour, strong legs from all of those mountain passes, no reason not to see what I've got.

I made the last turn and the wind quit being my friend. I struggled some to keep my current speed above 15 mph. My average slowly went down. I debated calling Jacinto to tell him he'd better get on the road. Soon he called me. Yes, I will beat you to town. Hurry up!

I passed by the waterfowl preserve. I always stop there at the potty - not today. Got to beat the guys. Just pass there I saw a big silver vehicle in my mirror. I thought it was Jacinto and gave a big 'thumbs up' as I didn't want to stop. The vehicle didn't pass. I stuck my thumb out again. Ah - it wasn't Jacinto. It was someone yelling out the window asking me the brand of my blinky light. I loudly spelled D-I-N-O-T-T-E. I got a thank you back and they sped off. It is a very bright light. I think people give me extra room on the road because of that light. Perhaps some of it is because of the funny looking bike. Whatever it is, I almost always feel drivers give me as much room as possible on the road. There's the occasional yahoo - but in the almost three weeks we've spent on the road right now, there's only been a couple of times someone has honked at me or passed too closely.

I kept looking for clumps of trees - otherwise known as windbreaks. They did help with the wind. Close to Saguache there's two giant spots where the road was carved right through the middle of hills instead of going over or around. I thought those would also be windbreaks, but instead the headwind funneled right through. I made it to town and stopped at the nice shaded park. I rolled over to the potties. Ugh. Not so nice, but I was desperate. I sat down on the swing, feeling very smug about being first to town. I called Jacinto to see how far behind he was. I hadn't really been there long before Jacinto arrived and then the riders. One, two, three, not far behind each other.

Ken wanted to eat at the Oasis instead of trying the new place. He had fond memories of the breakfast burrito last year. We all ended up ordering omelets smothered in green chili. One plate was enough for two. Two normal people that is. Cyclists can polish off platters of food with only a belch or two!

Bill said he was feeling strong and wanted to try for a century day by riding in to Salida. Jacinto decided to join him since a pass was involved, even though it was a wimpy pass. There was some talk of rain, but at only 30% chance, we didn't give it much credence. Just a small mistake there.

Bill and Jacinto took off. Ken and Oren organized our bikes in the back of the truck. We loaded up and took off driving. It certainly felt strange to go highway speed in a car rather than bicycle speed.

We got to Poncha Pass. The clouds were looking more and more threatening. On the downside, it was raining pretty good. Ah, oh. All of this time with no rain and they decide to do bonus miles and they might get wet! We did see several cyclists on that side of the pass - wet.

We got to the Gateway Motel and divided up the gear. Oren gave me a big hug and a thank you and took off. He was driving to Dodge City, KS tonight. Ken was going to see if Bill wanted to stay in Salida or drive a few hours. Lucky us, we were only 3-4 hours from home. We would sleep in our own beds tonight!

Ken thought we ought to drive to the top of the pass and check on the guys as it had started sprinkling in town. He was still getting organized, I said I was going to go on up. I got there in pretty good rain. It was dry at the top, so I thought the rain hadn't traveled as far as Bill and Jacinto.

When Ken got there, we chatted a bit and then drove down the other side to see where they were. They were further out than I thought and they were wet! How had that rain skipped right over us? Worse, we had assured Bill he'd go barreling up the poor excuse for a pass in his middle chain ring, if not the big one. Wind from the south in the afternoon, I said. Oooops - that storm changed everything. They were fighting a stiff headwind and the rain. What a finish to an otherwise delightful tour!

Jacinto got to the top first. We loaded his bike up as the big rain drops were just starting. Here came Bill - wet but smiling. He still had that century ride in mind. I told him the downhill was quite wet, his brakes would be slick, but he was all in.

We were ready to head home - more hugs and goodbyes and see you next times and we were off.

It was an excellent touring season this year! Thank you, guys for making it even better by joining us.

Early morning photos frequently have interesting lighting.
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Two bygone eras - buffalo and the old truck.
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I hadn't seen buffalo in this field on Hwy 160 before. They look very happy grazing in the lush grass.
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Blooming potato fields in the San Luis Valley. All is right with the world when I see potato plants here. It's a tradition.
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My mantra is to finish each day in good enough condition to ride the next day in good condition. This almost always means I am last to town. Slow but sure wins the race. Today was our last day, so I burned the fuel in the tank and was first to town by almost an hour. This NEVER happens.
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Oren is first to the park. Oren did both tours with us. His legs are Colorado Certified!
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Here's Bill. He's feeling hot and wants to go for a century ride by riding on over Poncha Pass to Salida.
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Jacinto joined Bill for the last leg to Poncha Pass. Unfortunately, they got caught in the only rain we had in both tours. Worse than the light rain was the accompanying headwind after we promised Bill a southern tailwind.
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Bill still has enough energy to joke around after 80+ miles on the bike. Wow!
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Photographic evidence of what we all thought was impossible. 16.5 MPH after 52 miles. Those aren't numbers I usually see. I had fun today seeing how fast and far my legs could run.
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Today's ride: 52 miles (84 km)
Total: 443 miles (713 km)

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