Conclusion - Passes Around the San Luis Valley 2019 - CycleBlaze


Another successful trip. 731 miles (1170 km) including 49 miles (78 km) of unpaved roads.

No illness or injuries. No mechanical problems, not even a flat tire.

I saw snow every day during this trip. During the 20 day bike tour and 7 days of driving a car.

The weather was colder than normal most of the time. I was cold much more often than I was hot. I stayed covered up and used very little sunscreen. I carried less water than usual and insects were almost never a nuisance.

The spring 2019 snowpack in Colorado was 400% of normal. The result was that all the rivers and creeks were overflowing. I enjoyed seeing and hearing so much water flowing out of the mountains. The deserts had more green grass than usual. The exceptional wetness may be what I remember most about this tour in years to come.

The elevation of the route is very high but it only bothered me the first 3 nights in Salida (7083 ft), Saguache (7707 ft), and South Fork (8209 ft). I felt fine after that. I wonder if the sulfury hot water at Pagosa Springs helped me adapt to the high elevation? High elevation bothered me for much longer during the previous tour.

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Most of the route is bike-friendly. US 50 is the busiest highway and 20 of the 30 miles have no shoulder. US 160 is less busy and mostly has a paved shoulder. Traffic is awful in Taos because the highways go through the middle of town with no bypass. The entire route is 2-lane roads. The only multi-lane roads were in towns, 2 miles in Salida and 1 mile in Ranchos de Taos.

I saw only one other touring cyclist. A Great Divide mountain biker in Antonito who had to leave that route because of deep snow. The day before the tour started I saw a loaded touring cyclist at Valley View hot spring.

The route gave me a satisfying combination of mountain and high desert scenery, New Spain history, and charming small towns. Pagosa Springs and La Veta were my favorite small towns. Saguache deserves an honorable mention but I wouldn't want to spend a rest day there. Taos is awesome but it counts as a large town on this tour.

New Spain, Mexico, and U.S. history is a dominant theme of this tour. I stayed overnight at 3 interesting historic properties: Chili Line Depot, Ojo Caliente, and La Veta Inn. I visited ancient Taos Pueblo and several historic Catholic churches. I visited many towns founded by Spanish settlers, but ended the tour with 4 towns founded by American settlers: Fort Garland, La Veta, Westcliffe, and Salida. I enjoyed the cultural contrast.

The Denver & Rio Grande railroad is one aspect of the region's history that wasn't on my radar screen. It was fascinating to encounter the railroad in so many places during the tour. I developed a better appreciation for the large role the railroad played in the region's early development.

This was my first time to take two consecutive rest days during a tour. It worked out well for me because Taos is such an interesting destination and because I was extremely tired after adding a strenuous 3 hour detour to Stagecoach hot spring. I don't regret taking 5 rest days during a 20 day tour. I needed the rest days to succeed in such mountainous terrain.

In retrospect I can think of 2 things I should have done differently. First, instead of spending 2 nights in Questa I should have stayed in charming Red River the first night, then pedal 13 miles downstream to Questa on the rest day. Second, because of the weather pattern I should have skipped the rest day in La Veta in order to pedal to Westcliffe while the weather was good, then take a rainy rest day in Westcliffe. That would require last-minute changes to lodging reservations, but it was doable.

I have a new cell phone on this tour, a Samsung Galaxy S10E. The camera is so much better than my old cell phone that I ended up taking most photos with the cell phone instead of with my Canon G7X camera. The Canon camera has optical zoom which is significantly better for telephoto shots, but most of my photos are wide angle views that tend to be just as good from the cell phone camera as from the big, heavy, and expensive Canon camera. I still plan to carry my Canon camera on future tours for the telephoto capability, powerful flash, and low-shutter speed capability.

I don't expect to have the ability to do such mountainous routes for very many more years. I bike as many mountain routes as I can, while I can, but know those days are numbered. Future tours will probably be shorter than this tour. 10 years ago I felt gradually stronger during long tours. Now I feel gradually weaker during long tours.

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Comment on this entry Comment 9
Scott AndersonGreat journal, Wayne. I’ve biked some of the southern part of this, including the Angel Fire loop and over to Ojo Caliente; but not north of that. We were planning to pick up some of it on our planned ride last year from Saint George to Albuquerque that was scrapped due to Covid. I suspect we’ve aged out of being able to do this as an unsupported tour any more, but maybe we’ll come back with a car and take day rides some year.
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2 years ago
John HenryThanks Wayne, your journals are great.

Sorry to hear you lost the digital copy of your "Tour de Cascadia" journal from the other site. We might be able to help - the bike journal backup project did succeed in backing that one up, and we can provide a digital copy e.g. for transferring here.

You can take a look at our extract at (this isn't publically listed at the moment - it can be if you like though, and no problem to take it down - the content obviously belongs to you!).

Thanks - JH
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2 years ago
Wayne EstesTo John HenryWow John! You are a real life-saver. I didn't know the existence of the backup project. Are you trying to keep it a secret from Neil? I'm sure he would claim copyright infringement. After I discovered the missing journal I went to the "Internet time machine" site for the first time and discovered that Neil de-registered CGOAB. I see that your backup displays the small images. That's okay because I have the large images and can replace them. The most important thing that your backup offers is the text. The version I see online looks perfectly usable for copying to CycleBlaze. I won't mention your backup project without your consent.
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2 years ago
Wayne EstesTo John HenryJohn, using your content I have re-created the first 8 of 44 days of the Cascadia bike tour. It's awesome that you got .GPX files of all the maps which are not in the download from CGOAB. That allows me to add the local maps that I made for every 1 to 3 days of the route.
Is there any way for me to see backups of my other journals? After I finish re-creating the Cascadia journal I could start restoring the local route maps from several other journals. I just need to know how to find your backups.
Thanks for preemptively doing all the backups. Neil Gunton has been so unstable for so many years, I'm glad somebody took the effort to back up the content just in case.
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2 years ago
John HenryTo Wayne EstesNo worries, glad it helps! Yes that's right - the CGOAB site was delisted from the Internet Archive, as well as all the search engine caches, so part of the impetus for the project was the worry that content really would be lost forever - especially in the event of CGOAB going down completely (unstable is definitely the right word). Glad you've got the original images and can reconstitute it in all its glory. No problem mentioning the backup project - Neil is aware of it, as far as I know.
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2 years ago
John HenryTo Wayne EstesHi Wayne, that shouldn't be a problem - the map extraction is something others have found useful too, it gets the maps from the highly idiosyncratic form Neil uses and creates standard GPX. The quickest thing is probably for me just to run the converter for your other journals (it's pretty easy and automated), and then serve them up from the bikejournalbackup website - then you can download the GPX at your leisure. When you're done, I can take them down (or leave them up as a further backup - never hurts!).
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2 years ago
John HenryTo Wayne EstesOK, those are all converted - you can find them at the usual URL, substituting the name of each journal. Here are the list of journal names:
They've all converted pretty well, particularly the maps (a couple have missing cover images). Let me know if you have any problems!
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2 years ago
Wayne EstesTo John HenryFantastic. Thanks for the detailed reply. I should be able to find the semi-daily maps where they exist, mostly in my longest journals. Thanks for doing the backups and being so helpful.
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2 years ago
John HenryTo Wayne EstesNo worries, thanks Wayne, happy to help!
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2 years ago