Redstone-Crested Butte: Let the climbing begin! - Expanded Slumgullion Tour 2009 - CycleBlaze

July 8, 2009

Redstone-Crested Butte: Let the climbing begin!

Lodging: International Hostel 615 Tecucali 888-389-0588 Private Room/shared bath Queen Bed. $88.13 includes tax. If you have a group, ask about the apartment. It was very reasonably priced. I couldn't get a commitment from our group in time to book the apartment.

We were all doing our own thing for breakfast. I chose to eat oatmeal in the room. Jacinto was sleeping in and eating at the restaurant. It takes several cups of coffee before Jacinto is ready to face the day. He's a fast rider - I knew he would catch up with me in no time.

As I rode through town I saw John packing up at the church gazebo. I continued on, deeply breathing in the fresh morning air. The sky was clear and bright. Looks like a good day to be cycling in the Rocky Mountains.

John climbs McClure Pass. He didn't stop with us. John is the type who likes to go from the bottom of the pass to the top without stopping.
Heart 0 Comment 0

The road continued gently uphill and upstream. It's very, very scenic here. Lots of trees, flowers, and the occasional waterfall. Finally I hit the sign at the bottom of the pass - McClure Pass 3 miles. Ken caught up with me here. We rode together a short distance and stopped after a mile. While we were catching our breath, John came along. He didn't stop - saying over his shoulder that he never stops on the climb as he has trouble getting going again. I took my typical pass climbing mode - ride a mile, take a break. I've climbed many a tough pass in the manner. If the climbing is very steep, I have been known to stop on the half mile. McClure is short but very steep. It's quite an introduction to Colorado climbing for the flat landers.

Ken took off ahead of me and I didn't see anyone else the rest of the climb. I waited at the top, eating my peanut butter and jelly. I thought Fred or Jacinto might come along. Ken had said that Moni left very early. No one showed up and I started the downhill. Down, down, down. There is a reward for all of the agony of the climb. Ah! This is the life. Too bad we have another pass today. It would be great to stay on the downhill all the way to camp.

Soon enough I arrived at the turn to Kebler Pass. I was surprised to see John,Ken and Moni all waiting there. Moni had had an upset stomach all night long and hadn't slept well. She was a real trooper - riding when she could, walking when she couldn't. So far her peanut butter sandwiches had stayed down today. The day was tough cycling, much less with intestinal issues. Moni is a tough cookie.

A group rest stop before starting the dirt road to Kebler Pass and Crested Butte.
Heart 0 Comment 0

The guys took off down the dirt road, Moni and I followed along. I looked at the forest service campground. It was far improved from the last time I had been in the area. Grass, covered picnic tables, a permanent pottie. Looks very nice. Perhaps they made the improvements when the commercial campground next door went private?

I was happy for a photo break on the hard part of the climb.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Moni and I weren't far down the dirt road when Jacinto cycled up. He said he had passed Fred way down the road. Fred said the gears that served him well on the Pacific Coast weren't up to the Rockies - that and he couldn't use the last two gears of his granny. Ouch. Moni walked periodically and fell further and further behind. I was very pleased with the road surface. It didn't have any wash board, was firmly packed, had little gravel or dust. Moni said it was as nice as the county roads in her area.

Dustin and Tim had hidden four gallons of water for us at mile ten. John was ahead with his GPS and promised to leave an obvious sign so the rest of us could find the water. The road took a definite tilt upwards, complete with the occasional switch back. Fred caught up to us. We played leap frog with Fred and Moni, depending on who was stopping when. It was a hard climb - hot and sunny (better than wet and rainy). I was ready for the water stop and a lunch break. I kept watching the mile markers. Mile 10 came and went. Where was our water? I would probably be okay for water if I conserved - but sure could use a rest break. Finally, finally there was a gallon jug sitting right out in the road. Yes, John, that was an obvious sign! Fred, Jacinto, and I pulled up. Filled our bottles and pulled out our sandwiches. We had almost finished when Moni came in. She's a true gourmet. Moni fixes her peanut butter sandwiches fresh rather than making them ahead in the morning.

I was very reluctant to get started again. I did not want to go back out in the heat and tackle the climb. Dustin and Tim had said the top was at mile 24 - but I was sure my Road Bicycling Colorado book said the top was at 13.4 miles. I tried to talk Jacinto into going ahead and finding the top, then coming back to tell us. For some reason he didn't think that was a good idea. Imagine that!

Jacinto took off after our break, never to be seen again. Moni, Fred, and I plodded along in the heat. Moni still not trusting her stomach and not being quite up to snuff. Fred and I rode together for some distance. He poured water through my helmet vents and over my shoulders. It felt SO good. Thank you, Fred. The scenery was spectacular. I told myself to quit looking at the road and enjoy the vista. This is about the most beautiful road I've ridden in Colorado. Tall, tall aspen trees with lush, heavy ferns and flowers. I was really happy when we got into the forest-the shade made the ride so much easier. I just do not do heat well. Especially since there have been only a few warm days this summer. I haven't acclimated at all.

Fred gives a cheerful wave on the downhill section before the last climb up Kebler Pass. It's just not right to have 1,000 feet left to climb when it seems we've already crested the climb.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Fred vowed to stop at the first bike shop and put lower gears on his bike. He muttered something about taking a hack saw to his rack as it was preventing the derailluer from shifting over. I mentally shuddered at the thought of the hack saw and hoped he knew what he was doing.

I felt 100% more energy after we hit the welcome shade of the aspen grove.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Moni makes her way through the lengthening shadows up the last section of Kebler Pass. We were on the road 12 hours this day. It was agreed this was the toughest day of the trip.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Moni caught up with us and I rode off, much refreshed in the shade. Would this climb never end? It was a tough, tough day. Not a nice thing to do to these visitors. I hoped no one would quit after this day. It's extra beautiful - and there's plenty of time to enjoy the scenery on the long, long climb. I kept watching the altitude on my GPS - wishing the top were closer, knowing it wasn't. We were on a nice plateau - felt like we'd done all of the climbing. But the GPS said we had 1,000 feet to go. I hoped against hope that the GPS was wrong. But mile 24 was no where near - so I knew there was plenty of climbing to go. Finally the road started up again. It was almost a relief. Let's get this climb over with! Several switch backs, I quit climbing based on miles and started climbing based on feet climbed. I allowed myself to stop every 100 feet. My water was going fast. Good thing we'd had that resupply. Sure was beautiful - but my brain could hardly process more than keeping my legs going round. Please, please let this climb be over soon. Moni and Fred were no where in sight. I was SO, SO happy to arrive at the top. I pulled out a day old burrito to eat as I watched down the road for my companions. Fred came along first - just as tired as I was. Moni followed. I never wanted to get off of the rock I was sitting on. There was a tent camping area right at the top. Sure wish I had a tent and water - I'd stay right there. Forget the downhill, I was done.

Fred's last push up Kebler Pass. The dirt road had a very smooth surface topped with mag chloride to keep the dust down.
Heart 0 Comment 0

According to the sign, it was four miles to town. Fred left first - said if he didn't go now, he'd never make it. I was hoping Moni would want to linger at the top, but she wanted to go also. We had gone no distance at all, when we saw a sign that said 11 miles to Crested Butte? What? What? Four miles - the other sign promised four miles - I want four miles to town! Don't these road engineers know about tired bicycle riders and how long it takes to cover a mile when you're under your own power? Grumbling to myself, thankful that it was downhill - I continued along. Evening was fast approaching and the shadows were lengthening. We saw a deer cross the road. Wait? What is this noise? My phone? Darn - there are some things about civilization that I don't miss. I ignored the phone, but it rang again. Sighing, I answered. It was Jacinto - concerned about us. He had been in town two hours. Most of it he had spent standing at the street corner waiting for us to appear, trying to decide if he should hitchhike back to the top to look for us. How nice of him. I told him we were on the downhill, should be to town in no time. I requested a cold V-8 to be waiting when we arrived.

Sure enough - we could see Jacinto's bright orange shirt from far, far down the road. I slurped down my V-8 while we discussed dinner. Jacinto said he didn't know what John and Ken were doing as he'd been standing on the corner waiting for so long. Moni and I agreed we didn't even care to shower or check in at the hostel - we wanted dinner NOW. Jacinto gently said he thought I'd feel better if I showered first - but there was no deterring me. FOOD!

We stopped at the second place we saw (the first restaurant had Prince Edward Island mussels. It sounded a bit fancy for our cyclist budget). We had Mexican food in the bar of a restaurant - started out in the dining area but they had a large, loud party going on in the dining area. Ironically, the bar was quieter.

We walked to the hostel in the dark. It was nice. Much more hotel like than the typical hostel. I've never been to a hostel where they furnished towels and shampoo. We sat around in the living room area discussing the day. I was relieved that John and Jacinto also thought it had been a tough day. I could hardly convince myself to climb the stairs to shower. Jacinto was correct - it did feel good to shower. I found a Bicycle Camping book from 1980 downstairs. I leafed through it with interest, to see how cycle touring had changed.

It had been a long, rewarding day. I was very happy we had an easy downhill cruise tomorrow to Gunnison. I wasn't worried about getting up early with only 28 miles to ride.

The gang hashes over the day at the International Hostel in Crested Butte. This is the first hostel I've stayed at that furnished shampoo and towels. A private room with a bath down the hall was $75., about half the price of a hotel.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 58 miles (93 km)
Total: 118 miles (190 km)

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