Durango - Pagosa Springs, CO: I see pondorosa pine trees! - There Ain't No Air In This Air! - CycleBlaze

July 16, 2013

Durango - Pagosa Springs, CO: I see pondorosa pine trees!

I had only ridden this route once, fully self contained. This was early in my cycling career (and before google). I didn't do the research then that I do now. We didn't have a clue as to the terrain and left far too late in the day given what we were facing. The day stands out in my memory as one of my most Character Building Days ever. Translated that means really hard. I wasn't looking forward to the day at all. I tried to temper my trepidation during the map meeting. Psychologically, the guys do so much better when they don't have a pass to climb. It's interesting - if the day includes a 'pass' there were far more questions. If we had a day with lots of rolling climbs (like today) that had the same elevation gain as a pass day, the atmosphere in the room was still far more relaxed. So, I think my concerns about the day were not passed on and the guys weren't too worried on their own as it wasn't a 'pass' day.

Still, it was a long day and everyone agreed to be on the road at dawn. Ugh, this getting up early is getting old. I examined my feelings about this. I was getting up before 5 AM to be on the road by 6 AM. That's pretty darn early. Typically, I'd get up at 6 AM, be on the road at 7 AM and still be far ahead the rest of the group. I didn't feel I could leave later because of my slow speed. We had also been watching the weather. At my speed, I needed to leave early to get to town before the rain. Plus I really do enjoy cycling in the morning, it's the best time of the day.

So - I was on the road before 6 AM - I stopped at McDonald's for a breakfast sandwich for lunch. I received the only (?I think?) angry honk of the trip when I was in the left hand turn lane of the busy intersection to get back on Hwy 160. Sorry, Mister. I know you were going to work and I'm out here having fun - but this is where I need to be to make the turn . . . .

It had been raining and the road was still wet. The tires didn't kick back too much muck.

Wow - there was major traffic heading out of town. Where were they going? I had expected commuter traffic into town as Durango is an expensive town. The shoulder was almost (but not quite) adequate. Traffic lessened some at the turn for Ignacio.

Tom had passed me earlier then caught up with me again. He had stopped at a little burrito stand and had an excellent breakfast burrito. It sounded much yummier than my McDonald's.

The other side of this sign said 'old hogs are beautiful'. I'm sure there's a story behind that.
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Here's a nice little fixer upper outside of Bayfield.
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Skies were very thick and black. Occasionally I'd get a sprinkle or two. I kept looking at the odometer, mentally figuring out how long I'd have to ride in the rain if it started raining right now and kept raining. Do you do things like that? With miles and miles to go, the mind wanders many places.

We've had several cloudy days. Photos are much nicer with blue skies. This is still a pretty area.
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Ken caught up with me on a climb. He and Jacinto had taken the optional route out of town that added 5 miles and 1,000 feet of climbing. Typically he would have been long gone in front of me. We had a nice visit while eating a snack.
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I kept moving along. The scenery was excellent. Ponderosa pines grow only in this little corner of the state close to New Mexico. I enjoyed the rarity of cycling amongst the big,beautiful trees. The climbs were long, as were the descents. I didn't remember how pretty this ride was, only the suffering. I took plenty of photos, surprising myself at how I enjoyed the day.

I did read in one guide book, but not the other, that today's ride included an offical pass - Yellow Jacket Pass. There was no sign at the top, but I did see a Yellow Jacket Lake turn off sign just over the top. I read this after the map meeting, so the group didn't know it was a pass day. They were happy in their innocence.

Ken caught up with me on a climb. We stopped for a snack and chatted. He said there hadn't been rain, but heavy mist on the detour. Ken said it had been excellent riding with no traffic. Lucky guy. He had taken off around the corner, up the hill when I shifted into the granny and jammed the chain but good. Somehow the chain got stuck with the link up and down between the big ring and the middle ring.

Ken had no more than left and gone around the corner than I had a mechanical mishap. I shifted the big chainring and got the chain lodged vertically between the rings. No amount of pulling would get it out. I tried calling the SAG and Spoon. Got two voice mails. I called Jacinto, but he was at mile 108 and I was at mile 125. That would be a long wait. I ended up walking back down the road to a house with two men outside. They told me I was lucky as theirs was the last house for miles. In no time the chain was dislodged with a big screwdriver. I was some worried about damage to the chain or chainring, but all was well the remainder of the trip. The bike also shifted well the rest of the trip. Go figure.
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That little delay took about a half hour. My McDonald's was gone and I was reduced to eating the bars in my bag. How much longer to town? We had lots of smaller climbs and two big ones. I definitely remembered a long downhill into town. Yes - that's always a nice finish to the day.

Chimney Rock can be seen for miles and miles. It was a legendary marker for pioneers traveling by wagon.
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Old town Pagosa Springs is built up, squashed in between the river river and the mountains, there was no room left to grow. New development was outside of town on top of the hill. I stopped at Subway, very ready to eat and hoping for something green. I called Jacinto to see if he was close to catching up. Yep, he was less than a mile away. We split a salad at Subway, then went over to Taco Bell to get food for lunch tomorrow.

I think I've eaten a lifetime of PB&J already. We hadn't had a single one this trip, just buying food along the way for a big snack/lunch.

We bicycle through Pagosa fairly frequently while riding the Wolf Creek Loop. We always stay at the Pagosa Inn, it's reasonably priced and has an excellent location for departing in the morning. Plus, it's close to a little malt shoppe!

Once again everyone was in town early. They were eating lunch or taking a nap. We all got together and went to Kip's for dinner. I like their fish tacos, so made my traditional order.

Tomorrow was a big day, riding up Wolf Creek Pass. It's another early night.

Today's ride: 64 miles (103 km)
Total: 450 miles (724 km)

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