Salida-Gunnison, CO: Wind, ugh! - There Ain't No Air In This Air! - CycleBlaze

July 8, 2013

Salida-Gunnison, CO: Wind, ugh!

I wasn't so excited about riding Monarch Pass. Not because of the pass itself, but because it's on busy Hwy 50. My plan was to start early and beat the RV's. I hadn't gotten any distance before I saw a road sign saying the highway is closed because of an accident. Not much further down the road a CDOT employee was turning vehicles around. He waved me through without comment. I imagine we both figured the road would be open before I got there.

Although I felt sorry there was such a serious accident, it did work in our favor that traffic was greatly reduced. It was a nice morning to be out for a ride, blue skies, sunshine, and wild flowers. Lucky us.

Other riders in our group caught up and passed me. I think everyone was anxious to get the first big challenge of the trip behind them.

Jacinto caught up with me on the climb. Monarch Pass is a tough one. We had done four miles of six percent grade (according to the sign on the opposite side of the road, warning the truckers to watch out on the downhill) before we even reached the six miles to the summit sign.
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Six miles from the top there was a warning sign "six miles to summit". Looking back downhill on the other side a big yellow sign announced "warning truckers - 4 miles of 6% grade ahead". Ha! No wonder I was already so sweaty! It's actually a 10 mile/6% climb.

I knew I was one mile from the summit when I saw the ski area.
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Finally I reached the top. I took the required photo at the pass sign. I think this mist be the only pass in the state that has a store and ice cream shop at the top. I opted to snack out of my pannier. Dry McDonalds breakfast sandwich. Yum.

Jacinto had been waiting for me to arrive. He was getting cold in the sharp wind. He left. Bill and I didn't wait long. We wanted out of the wind also. Just as we prepared to leave semi trucks and RV's that had been parked in the lot started to leave. Darn. We missed our chance at riding down the pass traffic free. We waited for the lot to clear before pulling out.

While at the top we learned the pass had been closed because a semi tipped over and lost it's load of pipe. They needed a wrecker for the semi, another semi to load the pipe onto, and machinery to do the loading. I'm not sure how long the road was closed, but it was at least six hours.

Finally the summit! Monarch Pass was our highest point of the trip. On the first day . . . what a way to break in the lowlanders!
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Bill and I descended the steep downhill together. It was no fun at all. Backed up traffic from somewhere down the mountain, plus strong, gusty winds. Yes, just the wind I had been anticipating. I hoped the wind would lessen as we descended. It did not. This would be a long slog into town. 43 miles of relentless headwind. Not a good start to the tour.

I finally crawled Into Gunnison, one of my favorite Colorado towns. Gunnison has managed to take on tourists without losing it's country soul. I collapsed into an outdoor chair next to Ken. Jacinto shortly appeared and handed me a Gatorade. It wasn't my preferred V8 juice, but it would do.

When I finally stirred myself enough to go shower , my legs would hardly move. Ah oh. Not a good sign. I decided it was time for the elevated legs against the wall trick to drain the lactic acid out.

There was a huge debate about our dinner spot. Gunnison. Has too many choices. Mario's for pizza or the Gunnysac for a burger. The Gunnysac had a waiting list so we went across the street to the Miner's where Ken had eaten before. Oren came along, although he had already eaten. He asked how we managed to eat so much. (!). Oren had been raised in South America by missionary parents. Food was not plentiful and gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. Needless to say, Oren is slim. Let's be polite and just say I am not slim. I did know to fuel for the next riding day.

Bill sent me this unique photo. Below is his commentary: I have attached a photo I took while in Gunnison, CO. I could not sleep well, so I left my room and took a long walk. I balanced my camera in a rock crevice and took a picture of the Milky Way. Below is some information about the photograph. Time: 1:30 AM30 second time elapse picture at f4 and 1600 ISO. The orange haze in the lower left hand corner is reflected light noise from low-lying clouds or air pollution (undetected by the unaided eye) over a small town southwest of Gunnison.
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Today's ride: 65 miles (105 km)
Total: 65 miles (105 km)

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