Day 69 – 67 Miles

Canon City, CO to FairPlay, CO

Total Miles: 3912

I woke up this morning at 5:00 and holy shit was it cold. I laid there, warm in my sleeping bag for a good 10 minutes trying to mentally prepare myself for getting up. Once I got my cycling gear on, got out of the tent and moved around a bit I realized it wasn’t as cold as I had thought it was, and I was just being a wimp. I made myself a peanut butter and honey bagel for breakfast, got Forrest all packed up and we hit the road before the sun had a chance to peak over the mountains. The first few miles of our ride was a nice and easy downhill, only instead of being the normal pleasant experience it was a tortuous nightmare of freezing misery. By the time I got to the bottom of the first hill I didn’t even bother to wait for the rest of the guys before beginning my ascent of the next, I needed to get my extremities warmed up, like right now! By the time I got to the top I as feeling a bit better so I waited for Sebastien. Since we’ve gotten into the mountainous country we’ve taken to just riding as a duo for most of the day since we both ride around the same speed. When the terrain is flat I don’t mind slowing down at all, in fact, I kind of liked it. It made for some fun and easy days through Kansas, but now that the terrain is no longer flat I physically can’t prolong the pain and make myself go uphill any slower.

It was freezing but definitely worth the pain

After another long and chilly downhill at about the 5 mile mark we find ourselves at the bottom of this gorgeous valley, it’s like something out of Lord of the Rings: small stream running through the center surrounded by grasslands and huge mountains. It was absolutely stunning! I kept thinking to myself that this, this right here is why I set out on this journey, to be surrounded by these beautiful landscapes and just pedal my happy ass through them. I felt on top of the world. Until the road started moving upwards and I found out that getting to the top of the world requires work. It was weird, I didn’t really notice it at first, the climb started so gently and the only sign that I was moving upwards was how out of breath I was getting. I was pushing and pushing and pushing and it didn’t make a bit of difference to my speed. By the time I reached the top I was more out of breath than I’d ever been in my life, I seriously couldn’t suck the air into my lungs fast enough. I knew going into these mountains that the elevation would affect my performance but I guess I didn’t really believe it could have that big of an impact, the whole way up it felt like my legs were made of lead and my muscles were only just able to muster the strength for one more pedal stroke. We were less than 10 miles into the day and I was having serious doubts as to whether I could actually finish.

The next 10 miles took us through another beautiful mountain valley that was mostly flat, but, even so, we were struggling to keep a 10 MPH pace. My legs felt like they do at the end of an especially long day where I didn’t eat enough food. Every little rise in the road slowed us down to a snails pace, it was really demoralizing to want your body to push harder, to know that it’s capable of more but to not be able to achieve it. There were a few good moments though, after a particularly long and tortuous climb we were rewarded with one of those signs depicting a truck traveling downhill and man what a downhill it was! I don’t have a speedo but I would guess we reached an easy 45MPH, it’s moments like that which almost make those climbs worth it. Almost 🙂

Room to make a big mistake

At the halfway point for the day the road forked and the map told us there was a small town with a restaurant about a mile up the other way. I was absolutely famished at this point and in serious need of some second breakfast while Sebastian was wanting to keep on pushing. I believe his exact words were, “If you’re gonna go get some food then I’m gonna love you but leave you!” Little Brit bastard 🙂 James and his Bike go solo once more! About halfway through that one mile I was seriously regretting my decision to get some breakfast, not because I was suddenly not hungry but because that road was so fucking steep! I had to get off my bike and push near the top, and that’s not something I do lightly. But once I made it to the cafe it was all worth it. I ordered a giant plate of scrambled eggs with veggies and hash browns which were oh so good and was treated to a free piece of pie by the owner of the place! If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this trip that will stick with me forever it’s to never turn down some free food!.

After filling my gas tank I pushed on feeling much better. My legs were still not pushing out 100% like i’d have liked but I didn’t feel like giving up and living on the side of the road forever either. It was nice to ride by myself again for a while, I wouldn’t go back to doing it again full time by any means but it was relaxing to just be alone with my thoughts again. I arrived in the town of  Hartsell at about 11:30 and found the while gang already there. Sebastien had arrived an hour earlier but the other 3 had only just gotten there, so even with my hour long breakfast detour I still made it to the finish line at around the same time. Only, as it turns out, this wasn’t going to be the finish line.

South Park, Colorado exists!

The map told us we would be able to camp in the city but to check in with the restaurant staff as to the specifics. The bartender told us there was a pavilion in the park we could camp under or that we could pitch our tents behind the “rubble pile” across from the bar. Ummm, yeah, no to the rubble. When we went to the park, though, there was a sign on the pavilion that said, “No Camping”. Sensing defeat we decided to move on to the next town and try our luck there. It was a long 18 miles and none of us were feeling very energetic at that point (the couple beers we’d had for lunch didn’t help) but we made it. It started pouring rain right as we got into town so we decided that tonight would be a motel night. Tomorrow we conquer Hoosier Pass and reach the highest elevation on the trip so far at 11000 feet. Stay tuned for the next edition of James and his Bike!

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Too Drunk; Didn’t Read (TD;DR)

-James is wildly unprepared for the cold weather

-The mountains are amazing. The lack of oxygen, not so much

-Second breakfast is the best breakfast

-Also it’s totally ok to accept pie from strangers

-If the town of Hartsell were to burn to the ground the world would be better off

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