Gunnison - Crawford, CO: My favorite road in Colorado - There Ain't No Air In This Air! - CycleBlaze

July 9, 2013

Gunnison - Crawford, CO: My favorite road in Colorado

During our evening map meeting I had given the guys the pep talk about what a FABULOUS road they would be riding today. Hwy 92 is a cyclist's dream - low traffic and high scenery. What's not to like? Perhaps we would have a bit more climbing than preferred. It was agreed we would be up and riding by 6 AM given the distance and climbing involved. Plus, I think this is just a group of early birds!

I was first down the road at 5:30 AM. Gunnison was deserted. It was just me, the crisp morning air, and the sunrise.

Looking at the elevation profile, it is a slight uphill out of town, but it always feels like a fast run along Blue Mesa Reservoir. The water level is much lower than last time I was here. That wasn't keeping the fishermen away, I was surprised at the number of boats on the water.

There were construction warning signs along the highway, luckily for us it was work on Hwy 50 and not Hwy 92.

I was nearing the turn when Cal caught up to me. All riders except for Jaicnto were on the road. That would be typical for the trip. Jacinto sleeps in, waiting for it to warm up, then he rides fast. Cal and I were still chatting when most of the guys rolled in.

I knew there was a restroom at the dam, so stopped. A man was readying his bike. I thought he was a local who could give me some insider tips. A heavy southern drawl quickly dispelled that notion. He'd been driving for 1,400 miles and not taken the bike off the rack once. A friend had told him to be sure to ride Hwy 92. He was hoping to ride 10 miles out, then back, provided he could get enough oxygen to manage the climb.

While we chatted, all of the guys passed me. Ah, well. I knew it would be a long granny gear kind of day with lots of time for photo stops. I enjoyed living vicariously, listening to the crew talk about what a great ride this was. At the trips end, everyone (?) agreed this was the best day of the trip.

Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Heart 0 Comment 0
A herd of mountain goats were right next to the road. They didn't seem too concerned that I stopped 10 feet away to take their photo.
Heart 0 Comment 0
My Magic Carpet Ride - so called because I am (almost) never tired when I ride it. A RANS Stratus XP in Titanium - the K style frame. Oooh, la, la! The Dillion Pinnacles are in the background.
Heart 0 Comment 0

There were a couple of long descents down the side of one mesa where we could see the long ascent up the next mesa. It kind of takes the fun out of the downhill . . . . I kept plugging along. I knew the grades weren't unbearable, just long and plenty of them.

Spoon and I were riding together as we neared the top. There wasn't a defined peak, despite all of our climbing. I knew Hermit's Rest pullout at MM 55 was roughly the end of the climbing. The top undulated for a few miles, then finally dropped into a downhill. We were on the rolling section through a pretty stand of aspen trees. Spoon was just ahead of me. Suddenly a HUGE bear comes crashing out of the underbrush RIGHT, RIGHT in front of Spoon. Any closer and it would have been riding on his handlebars! Luckily, it kept right on going. So did Spoon. I thought he'd stop to catch his breath, but he continued on a ways before stopping. I wasn't even the one who nearing hit a bear, but I could hardly speak I was so excited. WOW! That was CLOSE.

An especially attractive ranch entrance.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Our own Jerry Witherspoon climbing strong at 78 years old. We should all be so fortunate to reach that age and be cycling at 9,000 feet!
Heart 0 Comment 0

We caught up to the SAG - Bill was there having a snack. I didn't know what to talk about first - the bear incident or Bill's snack. Bill was eating cold Chef-Boy-R-Dee right out of the can. The orangish/red sauce in his mustache did not appear to be a normal food color. I decided as quick and convenient canned pasta might be, I would have to be VERY desperate to give it a try.

Spoon, Bill, and I were the tail of the pack. We spread out on the downhill. Why is the down always so much faster than the up? I could feel the heat as we lost elevation. As fun as this day is, I was ready to get to town.

I was stopped for a break when Spoon caught me. It felt as if the terrain had leveled off, but a check on the elevation profile showed that we had actually been going uphill. Soon we were zipping along again downhill. We passed the reservoir and did the zippity do downhill/uphill right before town. Uphill is UP. That is a nasty surprise for legs tired from the long day.

I had given the gang advance notice that this was very basic lodging, we were lucky to have a bed. It's a little general store with a bit of everything, even cattle feed. The motel is on floors two and three. No one complained. The Missouri group was sharing a small apartment with a kitchen. I made arrangements to use their microwave in the morning for my oatmeal.

There was one restaurant in town, The Boardwalk. It was conveniently owned by the same folks who owned the general store/motel. I had a Navajo taco (a disc of fried dough with chili, lettuce, tomato, and onion on top). It wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. IMO, the dough was too thick and doughy (a couple of inches thick).

We were all trading tall tales of the day when the waitress overheard our bear story. She said they'd had a young bear hanging around town eating out of the dumpster, to come back in the morning to see it. In our area of Colorado, the DOW (Department of Wildlife) is very particular about bears hanging around town. Apparently that isn't true in Crawford.

We had a fair amount of discussion about tomorrow's routing. It was on country roads. Excellent riding, but more challenging as the riders had to pay attention to turns. I wanted to go out and mark the route with paint, but that didn't seem to be a popular option. Instead it was agreed we would sleep in since the cafe didn't open until 8 AM and we had a short riding day. Cal would go slightly ahead of us and mark the route with chalk that Ken had brought for the trip. This meant we were expected to stay together so Cal would be sure we'd seen his markings. I wasn't so sure about that part - but that was the plan.

I was asleep early, with the early start and the strenuous riding day.

Today's ride: 69 miles (111 km)
Total: 134 miles (216 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 1
Comment on this entry Comment 0