Havre to Glenwood Springs via Black Hills
Denis Kertz, ©2019
Because of the forecasted hot weather I wanted to get an early start. So I stopped at the foodmart for a couple of egg sandwiches and a cinnamon roll. I wanted milk but was told they didnít have any which was a surprise so I had a cup of coffee.
When I was packing, I discovered my sunglasses were missing. I remembered I wore them to the No. 3 Saloon so I was pretty sure I must have left them there. They didnít open until 7 am but when I showed up a little early they let me in. Unfortunately, we couldnít find the sunglasses so I rode back to the foodmart and bought a $20 pair of sunglasses. Then as I was leaving town I rode by the No. 3 Saloon again and I got flagged down. They found the sunglasses and my hat, which I had forgotten about. Someone had laid them by the window near the door. Now I could lose a pair of sunglasses.
There was another surprise as I was leaving town. Just past the Centennial Park was a another park. This one looked like I could have camped overnight. There was a guy in a car at the park so he must have camped or slept in his car overnight.
It was another great morning with cool temps in the low 50s and bright sunshine, perfect for cycling. Today was a day of shoulders. It started out with great shoulders, wide and smooth with the rumble strip next to the white line. Then the shoulder deteriorated some but was still okay except somebody got the wise idea to put the rumble strip in the middle of the shoulder. Then the shoulders were repaved with good, smooth pavement and the rumble strip next to the white line. Only problem was the dark pavement soaked up the heat and radiated the heat back, making a warm day warmer. Finally, the shoulder reverted to the old uneven, cracked shoulder that made riding in the traffic lane the sensible idea and bailing out to the shoulder when traffic approached. This last setup actually turned out to be good because the pavement was light colored and made riding cooler.
One other problem with the dark shoulders was grasshoppers apparently loved them, apparently because of the heat that they absorbed. They were everywhere on the dark shoulder and once the dark shoulders disappeared the grasshoppers disappeared too.
The other wildlife to put in an appearance were antelopes. I saw them several times throughout the day, a couple times in herds and other times in twos or threes. One time there was group next to a water hole by the fence along the road. They seemed a little reluctant to abandon the water hole. Another time there were 3 antelopes and one was on the road side of the fence where the fence was about 50 feet from the road. Then I saw something amazing. Supposedly antelopes donít jump but this antelope ignored that and took a couple of steps and leaped over the fairly short fence, maybe four feet high.
After riding for 25 miles, there was a Mercantile convenience store. I stopped for my second breakfast but they didnít have any milk. So I bought a bottle of cold water to use with my powered milk and that was okay. Unfortunately, the place didnít have any pastries so I bought some cheese crackers just to throw a little more money their way. I also bought a second bottle of cold water to guzzle just before I left.
That was the only services along the 71-mile ride. Things were pretty warm around noon when I was riding on the black shoulder. After the black shoulder gave way to light colored pavement it was somewhat cooler and then there was some cloud cover that helped as well.
I rolled into Belle Fourche at 3 pm and immediately stopped at a Cenex where I had another Hot Stuff Pizza. The soda fountain also had lemon-lime Gatorade so I got a 52 oz cup of that which hit the spot since I had been drinking warm water.
Then I found the Ace Motel, which was a couple blocks off the main route. I was pretty sure it was going to be about the best rate in town and I got a room for $69. Unfortunately, the WiFi was crap. I couldnít connect in my room but I could connect outside. The motel proprietress suggested I would be okay going back in the room once I had connected. However, after I took a shower I noticed the WiFi had dropped. I was reluctantly moved to another room where I did manage to connect but with a weak signal. It would drop and then reconnect and then failed to connect at all. As soon as I stepped outside I could connect but with a weak signal. I went back and forth with the motel proprietress and I donít think either of us was very happy.
Later I walked back to the Cenex where there was a Subway and got a foot long, half of which I ate there and took the other half home. I also made a reservation at a motel in Deadwood for tomorrow for $58. Most of the motels are expensive in Deadwood so this should be a good deal if the WiFi works. The motel is a little off the beaten path but should be okay location wise.
When I got up in the morning, I had to move my laptop outside to get it connected to the Internet and then it maintained a very weak connection in my room. I had planned to eat breakfast at Basic Bobís but they didnít open until 7:30 am so I opted for the Crossroads restaurant in the Cenex travel plaza since I was sure they were open at least by 6:00 am. I had their pancake breakfast with 2 pancakes, 2 eggs, and bacon and it was fine. The good thing was I was on the road by 7:30 am.
Today was only about 30 miles to Deadwood but it required about 2,200 feet of climbing since Deadwood was in the Black Hills. I could have just stayed on US85 all the way to Deadwood but I would have had to get on the Interstate for a bit. So I opted to take SD34 to St. Onga and then take St. Onga road south where it hooked up with US85 just after it passed under the Interstate.
SD34 had a good shoulder but also a fair amount of big truck traffic so a good shoulder was needed. The wind really picked up at one point that had me somewhat concerned but then it abated. The turnoff to the St. Onga road was confusing since there was no sign but riding just a short ways on what looked like the road showed it was the expected road at a crossing street sign.
There was some gradual climbing on SD34 and St. Onga road but nothing significant. The significant part was the awful shoulder when I reconnected with US85. At first, the wide shoulder had horizontal v-groove rumble strips that are often used to warn motorists when there is an upcoming stop sign. However, these v-groove strips were only on the shoulder. I guessed that they were intended to warn that the shoulder was narrowing to a 3 foot width but they continued. In fact, they continued the rest of the way to Deadwood and were a real nuisance. They werenít disasters to ride across like regular rumble strips but they werenít something you wanted to ride for miles. So I pretty much rode on the white line to avoid them and traffic avoided me. Traffic probably thought I was a clueless cyclist and unaware of the rumble strips.
Then there was about a 4-mile stretch where there was some serious climbing. Within this stretch, there was a stretch of 8 and 9% that was the hardest of the trip. I was only able to do 3
to 3.5 mph during this stretch. After that, there was a 7% downhill to Deadwood with a good view of Deadwood nestled in the foothills of the Black Hills.
In town I stopped at the first foodmart and got a Hot Stuff personal pizza and a cold drink which I needed. From there I had maybe a mile to the other end of Main Street where I had a reservation at the Gold Country Inn. This motel was about a 1⁄4 mile from the main tourist area and the reason why I was able to get a room for $58, a real deal in a town where the motels were running $90 to $100+.
I stopped at the motel at 12:30 and had to wait another hour for my room to get ready. So I rode back to town to the Visitor Center where I got some useful information on the Mickelson Trail.
When I got back to my motel at 1:30 I was able to check into my room. I had the afternoon to sightsee but I didnít want to do a lot of walking and kill my legs. So I opted for a narrated tour that cost $12. We only had 10 riders on our school bus when we left at 3:00 pm. It was an interesting tour taking us through the history of the downtown area and then we climbed far above Deadwood to the Mount Moriah Cemetery where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane along with other notables were buried. Unfortunately, it started drizzling when we were high up on the hill. It would have been nice to see Deadwood from that elevation on a clear day.
The cemetery was pretty much the end of the tour as we rode back to our starting point at 4:00 pm. It was still drizzling off and on when I walked to the Bullock Hotel only to find that it was mostly a casino inside. Turns out gambling is legal in Deadwood and part of the proceeds are used to maintain the historic nature of the town.† In fact, Deadwood was somewhat disappointing with the downtown area dominated by casinos.
I had a hamburger at Deadwood Dickís, which was mostly a huge antiques store, because it was off the main street and I figured it wouldnít be much of a hassle and it wasnít. Then I went back to my motel to plan the start of my Mickelson Trail adventure tomorrow.
It was very convenient that my motel had a little cafť in the office building and I was there shortly after it opened at 6:30 am. I had 2 pancakes, eggs, bacon, and coffee. It was a good breakfast and it came to less than $9 so it was the breakfast value of the trip. This got me on the road by 7:30.
From my motel, I basically had to do a U turn to get to the Mickelson trailhead. I rode down my street, took a right on Pine Street, and took another right on Sherman Street. After a short distance there was a sign pointing to the start of the trailhead. Yesterday I had bought 2 one-day passes at $6 a piece but the self-sign in at the trailhead said a one-day pass was $4. So I donít know if the travel center mischarged me or marked up the price. In any event I was underway.
The trail is 108.8 miles. The obvious option for the first day was to either stop at Hill City or go a little further and stop at Custer. There were 3 climbing sections up to Custer. After Custer the trail was almost all downhill to Edgemont, the trail end. Stopping at Hill City was about the halfway point in terms of effort. Stopping at Custer would make a fairly hard day and tomorrow an easy day.
It was a cool morning with a forecast high of 71. The trail climbed about 1600 feet over 13 miles, descended 1400 feet over 19 miles, climbed another 900 feet over 9 miles, and descended 550 feet to Custer. None of these climbs were particularly steep which was no surprise since the trail is a rails-to-trails conversion of the old Burlington Northern railway route from Deadwood to Edgemont.
The initial climb wound its way through the forested hills with not much to see because of the tree cover. Along this first climb there was a switchback to get higher in the hills. At that point there were some nice scenics including a view of Deadwoodís sister town, Lead, on the other side of the valley. It was also nice riding through the thinner forest at the higher elevation with the sunlight filtering through the trees.
After the first climb there was a long descent where easy pedaling kept me going at 15 mph, half coasting the way. There were some nice meadow views while the trail followed along a stream.
There were trailheads every 5-15 miles where there was an outhouse and one or more picnic tables and usually a water source. I was looking for one of these trailheads for my second breakfast but I never saw a couple of the trailheads. They must have been a little aways from the trail. Eventually, I just stopped at one of the benches along the trail for my second breakfast.
The second climb of the day peaked at the Hill City trailhead where I had to decide whether to stop or continue on to Custer. When I checked for motels in Hill City with Google Maps the motels shown were very expensive so I was inclined to stay in Custer. When I checked, I thought it was just another 10 miles to Custer although a good part of that was climbing. However, I learned later that I misread the trailhead and I need to get to trailhead 10 rather than 9 and that added another 5 miles.
So I pushed on figuring I only needed to ride another 10 miles. This ended up being a pretty hard grind at the end of a fairly long day. I was able to maintain a 5 mph or better pace but it was still a grind. When I reached trailhead 9 that was the end of the climb, the rest of the way was downhill to Custer and my legs were rejuvenated. This last section also had a couple of the best scenics with granite mountains along the way.
I made Custer just after 5 pm. I turned down Mt Rushmore St looking for a motel. I had found a Dakota Cowboy Inn on Google Maps that looked reasonable and I found it at the south end of
town. I got a room for $66. After cleaning up, I walked up the street and found a pizza place where I had a 12Ē Canadian Bacon pizza and it was good.
Later, I had a bit of panic. At one of the early trailheads I saw an add for a Mickelson Trail Trek, an annual event, that was scheduled to take place Sept 20-22. I assumed the ride would start in Edgemont and head north. And I thought Sept 20 was tomorrow so I thought I would see a lot of cyclists passing by. Then I realized that Sept 20 was the day after tomorrow and then I envisioned everyone staying in Edgemont tomorrow night when I would be staying there as well. However, I found I was able to get a room reservation for tomorrow night in Edgemont. Then I checked the event website and found the ride was based in Custer with shuttles to get everyone around aside from the actual cycling. In short, it looked like the event would have no effect on me.
It was a great day of cycling with the exception of the last climb to Custer, which was a grind.
The motel had a continental breakfast starting at 6:30 so I was there shortly thereafter. It was a good continental. I had a waffle, bowl of cereal, and a microwavable ham and cheese omelet.
I left the motel shortly before 7:30. First, I rode up the street to a grocery store to get some cereal since I wasnít sure what I would find in Edgemont. Then it was just a little further to pick up the Mickelson Trail where I left it yesterday. Turns out the trail through town paralleled the main drag so I ended doing almost a 2-mile loop before actually leaving town.
There was a 200 foot climb leaving town over 3 miles and then it was a 2,000 foot descent over 40 miles with just a little climbing in that interval. I viewed the day as almost a rest day.
The trail was much more open than yesterday although there were some stretches through pine trees. The closer to Edgemont the more the trail passed through farms. The most scenic part was about 8 miles from Edgemont where the trail passed through Sheep Canyon. There was a trail stop there called, unsurprisingly, Sheep Canyon Trail Stop where I met a trail ranger. We had a good chat for about 30 minutes talking about the trail and touring. He noted that the Mickelson Trail Trek that starts tomorrow had 630 cyclists, which I was glad to be missing. This guy also lived in Boise not too far from my niece. So we talked some about cycling in the Boise area as well.
By this time it was quite warm, warmer than I had expected. When I reached Edgemont the temperature was in the upper 80s. I was expecting low 70s but I didnít account for the 2,000 foot elevation difference between Custer and Edgemont. After leaving the trail ranger it was an easy 8 miles to Edgemont. However, it was rather confusing how to get to the end of the trail in town. Once I reached the intersection of 18/18S it appears you were supposed to know to follow the Edgemont Trail sign although there were still some Mickelson Trail signs.
After I reached the end of the trail I doubled back to the Cowboy Inn near the highway. I had a reservation there because I was worried about the Mickelson Trail Trek starting in town with no accommodations available which turned out not to be the case. My room normally cost $66 but they give first time users a 10% discount so my room cost $58. In addition, I got 2 cold bottles of water and a cold can of soda. There were also some snacks in the office but I would have felt like I was stealing had I taken advantage of that as well.
There were two foodmarts in the next street and I checked them both out. I first checked out the one that advertised Hot Stuff Pizza but it wasnít so hot since there was no pizza. When I checked the other foodmart across the street I found that it had a grocery store and I could have skipped the grocery shopping in Custer. Better yet, it had a small restaurant and the place never closed. This was because Edgemont was a train stop for a crew change. I ended up with a mushroom/swiss hamburger that was good.† I also planned to eat breakfast there in the morning and I could eat whenever I wanted although I figured 6 am would be the earliest for me.
Later, I cleaned my bicycle chain and reviewed my route to Lusk, WY, tomorrow with potential rain in the afternoon.
An easy day that made me glad that I pushed yesterday to get to Custer to make this an easy day.
There was a forecast of possible afternoon thunderstorms so I wanted to get on the road as soon as possible. The cafe next door was open 24/7 so I walked there for breakfast at 6 am. I ordered the single pancake, eggs, and bacon where the pancake was advertised as 10 oz. I donít know what it weighed but it was huge, filling an entire 10Ē plate. I almost didnít eat it all but that would have been disrespectful.
I left town at 7 am heading west on US18. The landscape was very different from the last 2 days. It was rolling brown hills with some gullies and other landforms that I found to be scenic. There was some initial climbing and some late climbing to get from Edgemont at 3459 feet to Lusk at 5038 feet but nothing particularly steep. I saw a number of antelopes but, as usual, they were skittish.
After 12 miles I entered Wyoming. Then I was looking for Old Highway 85 that cut over diagonally to US85 but I never found it. I did see a sign for Co9 and thought that might be it but when I checked it was a gravel road. This cut off would have saved about 5 miles. Instead, I rode on to the junction with US85 and found a rest stop at the junction. I stopped there for my second breakfast and to reload my water bottle with cooler water.
Not too long after the junction I got my answer to the Old Highway 85 question. I saw another sign for Co9 and this time I also saw it was signed as Old Highway 85.
The scenery along US85/18 was less interesting than earlier. The Sun continued to play hide and seek with some clouds and the clouds provided cover most of the time. That was the case until a 3 mile climb about 14 miles from Lusk when the cover would have been the most useful. The climb wasnít too bad as I climbed in the 5-6 mph range.
I reached Lusk right at 3 pm, which was my goal since that was when the thunderstorms were most likely to start. I could see some clouds to the southeast that looked like they could be trouble but the trouble seemed to just miss Lusk.
I stopped at the first foodmart for my favorite pizza and drink since I hadnít eaten anything since 10 am at the rest stop. Then I rode to the south end of town where I got a room at the Rawhide Motel for $64 which was probably the best deal in town, although there were a couple of motels to the west that I never checked out.
Later, I had a chicken sandwich at the Outpost Cafe, which was just down the street and where I expected to eat breakfast in the morning. The clouds still looked a little threatening but they appeared to have moved northwest and skipped Lusk.
A good riding day that was helped by some good cloud cover until late in the ride.
I ate breakfast at the Outpost Cafe down the street - 2 pancakes, eggs, bacon/sausage. The 2 pancakes were nothing like the single pancake I had yesterday morning.
The big issue today was the wind - it was forecast to be 10-20 mph from the west with gusts possible to 30 mph. So I wanted to leave early because the first 10 miles were due west. I managed to get on the road just before 7 am.
There was some moderate climbing in the first 10 miles but the wind wasnít much of an issue even with the temperature starting around 48F. There were a lot of antelopes in the fields on my right.
After 10 miles, I stopped at Manville because there was a convenience store. I hoped I could get some milk for my second breakfast later but nothing was available unless I wanted to buy a gallon of milk. I thought I was carrying too much stuff as it was so I passed.
From Manville I took WY270 south to Guernsey. It was another 8 miles of moderate climbing to reach the high point for the day at 5,795 feet. Then it was descending almost all the way to Guernsey.
WY270 had been an okay road. It had no shoulder but traffic was infrequent. Then when entering a new county the road had horizontal cracks there were a pain in the butt, literally. It was just one thumping after another, about every 50 feet, and that quickly got old.
I found a place for my second breakfast around 10:30 when the road went between two hills. One of the road had rocks and I found a rock that I could sit on and that was kind of out of the wind.
Not too long after my second breakfast a miracle happened at mile 33 - the cracks disappeared and the road was fun to ride again, helped by the gradual descent. Then 10 miles from Guernsey the road descended quite a bit and I flew the rest of the way to town.
In Guernsey I had a breakfast burrito and a cold drink. I left town at 1:30 pm with about 25 miles to go to Wheatland. I rode US26 west for 13 miles, much of it a gradual uphill. There was a good view of the Laramie Mountains and Laramie Peak to the west. Then I took WY320 south the rest of the way to Wheatland. It was mostly downhill so the miles went quickly.
I entered Wheatland on 9th Street which was on the east side of town, opposite the west side with the Interstate. There was a motel along the way but the only food appeared to be a grocery store. So I continued to the west side of town and got a room at the All American Inn for $70 where the next door Motel 6 advertised an $80 rate which probably didnít include tax.
I walked to a nearby Subway for dinner and then started planning the next dayís trip to Laramie.
This was a fairly long day but the wind was not quite the factor that it threatened to be.
I walked up the street to the Western Sky for breakfast at 6 am. It was dark when I got there but I was a few minutes early and it opened exactly at 6:00. I had the ham and cheese omelet with 2 small pancakes and it was a good breakfast.
When I got back to the motel, my magnetic key didnít work. I called the motel and someone came by in a few minutes. My key was reprogrammed but it still didnít work. Then a new key was programmed and I finally got in my room. This wasted 15-20 minutes and I didnít leave until almost 7:30.
The day promised to be a challenging ride of almost 80 miles to Laramie with no services in between. The route climbed from Wheatland at 4,751 feet to Morton Pass at 7,391 feet to Laramie at 7,165 feet. What was a killer was the 15-25 mph wind out of the west.
I headed west on 9th street which turned into WY312 that I took south until it junctioned with WY34 that headed west into the Laramie Mountains. It was a very scenic route but the wind was pretty stiff. Heading west was the worst until WY34 veered southwest and the head wind became more of a crosswind. However, as WY34 climbed it wound between hills and the hills appeared to channel the wind into a headwind since there was no place else for the wind to go.
There were quite a few antelope sightings during the day. Then there was another wildlife sighting that could have been a disaster. As I was riding the shoulder, I just happened to notice at the last second that I was riding right past a coiled rattlesnake. I quickly elevated my feet or I could have been struck on my left foot. After passing the snake, I turned around to get a photo. I wanted to get a photo of the snake coiled but I couldnít get him to coil again and I never tried too hard. He seemed determined to get off the shoulder and just slowly slithered into the grass. A little later, I saw another rattlesnake on the shoulder but this one was dead. It looked like a vehicle ran over him and then a vehicle occupant cut off the rattle for a souvenir.
I had my second breakfast around 11 am. I was looking for a convenient place to stop when a dip in the road crossed a bridge. This had some protection from the wind and the guardrail provided a place to sit. Other than this second breakfast, I had a couple of bananas and a couple of granola bars. I could have used a third breakfast and perhaps a fourth on this difficult day.
It was great scenery climbing through the hills and would have been more enjoyable without the incessant wind. I finally reached Morton Pass just before 4 pm. After the pass, the hills disappeared into a flat landscape. Without hills to channel the wind, the wind became mostly a crosswind.
When WY34 finally ended at US30, it was 5:45 and still 18 miles to go to Laramie. Fortunately, it was flat and the south heading finally changed the wind into a tailwind. I had many doubts throughout the day that I could make Laramie during daylight and thought I might have to hitch a ride. With the tailwind it became a race with darkness.
I thought I was going to win the battle but the sun set a few miles before Laramie. I turned on my rear blinkie light and made my way through town to find a motel. I had my eye on a couple that were at the south end of town but I was almost ready to take anything. I ended up at a Motel 8 where I got a room for two nights for $99 but it wasnít a great location. There was a Mexican restaurant next door that I almost missed because it closed at 8:30. I noticed this when it was about 8:15 so I raced over to the restaurant and got a burrito because I needed a lot of food. The burrito along with chips and salsa filled the bill and I ended up pretty well stuffed.
A pretty brutal day mostly because the stiff wind turned a challenging route into an ordeal. I was debating whether to take a rest day in Laramie or in Walden. I would have preferred Walden but the dayís ordeal made it clear I needed a rest day tomorrow.
I ate breakfast at the C K Chuck Wagon restaurant across the street. I had a ham and cheese omelet with a pancake and it was a good breakfast.
Back at the motel I discovered the motel had a guest laundry so it was very convenient to do a load of wash. After that I took a nap. Despite yesterdayís hard day I didnít sleep all that great but a 2 hour nap helped a lot. Then I rode my bike downtown, which was a little too far to walk at 1.5 miles, and mailed my maps and travel info that I no longer needed to myself and then did some grocery shopping.
Later I took another shorter nap. Then I decided to walk to another convenience store to see what they had and on the way my left sandalís sole came loose. I had this happen before on another trip so I was carrying shoe goo.† I was closer to the convenience store than the motel so I continued, figuring I would find some kind of tape that I could wrap the loose sole until I got back to the motel. Surprisingly, I couldnít find any tape but I found a reading glasses strap holder and used that to tie my sole.
Back at the motel I used my shoe goo to cement the sole back and used some duct tape to wrap the sole while the shoe goo was curing.
Then I settled in for the night to watch Monday Night football with the Bears vs the Redskins.
I had the same breakfast again as yesterday at the restaurant nearby. It opened at 7 am and I was first in line. I left town just before 8 am.
I had to get across the railroad tracks to pick up WY230 to Walden. Google Maps seemed to think I could cross the tracks on Garfield Street but railroad cars were blocking the way. There was a pedestrian overpass that I might have been able to use but I took the car overpass on Snowy Range Road to get to West Laramie. Then it was just a matter of following the road out of town.
It was 64 miles to Walden with one big climb to get over the Medicine Bow Mountains, a 1,650 foot climb that didnít look so bad. What was bad was the wind, which was forecast at 20-30 mph from the west, the direction I was headed.
The route west was just a slight incline until the big climb but I could only manage about 6 mph due to the wind. Just a couple of miles before the big climb the wind started gusting and blowing me into the traffic lane. I was wondering if I could make Walden with the wind but when it became a dangerous wind I decided it was time to hitch a ride.
The third vehicle that came along stopped to give me a ride. Adam was an archery hunter on his way to the final week of elk hunting near Steamboat Springs and was going to pass through Walden anyway. It was only 40 miles to Walden when I was picked up and I ended up in Walden by 2 pm whereas I likely wouldnít have made it by cycling. The scenery was great but would have been better on a bicycle.† Unlike where I got picked up where there was a good shoulder, much of the way had little or no shoulder which might have been a real problem with the wind.
Motels were a problem in Walden since it was hunting season. The first 3 places I checked were all full so I was stuck with the most expensive place in town - North Park Inn & Suites - where I got a kitchenette for $103. I couldnít get my room key until 3 pm so I wandered around town a bit. When I checked in again at 3 pm there was a sign in the office saying no vacancy so I apparently got the last or one of the last rooms. Had I tried to ride the entire way I probably would have ended up with no place to stay other than camping some place.
Another problem was the town chose today to work on their water system in the area around the motel. The water was supposed to be back on by 3 pm but I had to wait until 7:30.
It was disappointing not to be able to complete this ride. There was some great scenery in the Medicine Bow but it just isnít the same racing along in a vehicle rather than the much slower paced bicycle. On the other hand, if I hadnít hitched a ride I would have most likely wasted myself and needed another rest day.
There were 2 options for breakfast - Moose Creek Cafe and River Rock Cafe. They both opened at 6 am. I checked their online menus and River Rock Cafe looked like it was a couple of dollars cheaper so I walked there at 6 am. I had their ham and cheese omelet but their price didnít match their online menu so it was probably about the same as Moose Creek Cafe. It was a nice interior with log siding and huge tree trunks for supporting structure.
It was just above freezing when I got up and when I left breakfast the bank sign across the street claimed 43F, which I didnít believe. I walked back to the motel and was still surprised that it showed No Vacancy. Based on the cars in the lot it looked like it might have been a third full.
I left town at 7:30 am and the temperature was probably in the upper 30s but didnít feel bad. The route for the day was first 35 uphill miles on CO14 to US40 and then 28 downhill miles to Kremmling on US40. The climbing and descending were mostly gradual. The wind was much calmer today but it was still a headwind to US40 but maybe 10 mph. It was a tailwind to Kremmling.
Walden sits in what is called North Park, which is surrounded by mountains. The mountains on the west were highlighted by the morning sun. Later there was a lot of fall color showing.
I had my second breakfast around 10:30 when I finally gave up on finding a good spot to stop. I just stopped at a turnoff and sat on the pavement.
I encountered another cattle drive along the road controlled by two cowgirls on horse and a guy on an ATV. Traffic moved carefully through the small herd. I moved over to the left side of the road to give the herd some space. Most of the herd freaked out a bit when they saw me. They shifted from the road shoulder to between the shoulder and the fence. One guy was playing the outcast and moving down the left shoulder on a collision with me. He couldnít seem to decide what to do. It would have made sense for him to simply move to the right side with his compatriots. Instead, he veered off between the left shoulder and the fence.
As I got closer to US40 more fall color showed up. This looked like about the peak of the fall color.
When I reached US40 at 1:15 pm I turned east to Kremmling, 28 miles away. Initially there was a fast 5-mile descent and then it was more gradual descending with a few little climbs. The bad thing was US40 had almost no shoulder. I had to ride inside the white line and keep an eye on when oncoming traffic could conflict with traffic behind me. Bailing out wasnít easy because it meant riding off the shoulder into a soft gravel shoulder. That was doable if I was going slow but much of the time I was going too fast on the gradual descent. It would have been a great ride if US40 had had a decent shoulder.
I reached Kremmling at 3:30 pm and rode through town to see what it had to offer. I had a couple pizza slices at a Kum & Go, which was a deal since Wednesday was $1/slice day.
Fortified, I checked out accommodations. The 2 motels were expensive but there was a hotel that was somewhat cheaper. When I checked the hotel, I found the shower and bathroom were shared and then I found I couldnít keep my bicycle in the room so I nixed that. So I got a $98 room at Super 8 with my AARP discount that included breakfast.
I ate at a Subway and later I had 2 more $1 slices of pizza at the Kum & Go.
This was the best scenery day of the trip.
Today was a good scenery day with a bad ending due to darkness.
I had a good continental breakfast at the Super 8 - cereal, waffle, and biscuits and gravy. I left town just before 7:30, heading south on 9 a couple of miles and then picked up Trough Road to State Bridge. Todayís route followed the same route the Amtrak California Zephyr takes. It was an ambitious route on mostly dirt/gravel and had some significant climbs.
The biggest climb was the initial climb of 700 feet over 3 miles that required my lowest gear as I climbed at 3 mph during the steepest part. Part of the challenge was finding the smoothest part of the road. Often that was on the left side of the road, which wasnít a problem since there was little traffic. The reward for this hard climb was the view looking back with Kremmling far below along with the surrounding mountains.
The difficult part of the climb was over sooner than I expected and then the road flattened out mostly. Then there was asphalt pavement and a big, fast descent that wouldnít have been possible without the smooth pavement. Then around a bend there was a big panoramic view of the Colorado River and the surrounding mountains. I mistakenly thought the pavement would continue but the pavement only lasted a couple miles and the gravel resumed. Apparently the pavement existed only to make this part of the route safe.
At 10:30 I stopped at a ranch entrance where a big rock gave me a place to sit for my second breakfast. I also had company as a couple of fenced-in dogs voiced their displeasure at my appearance. I just ignored them but they got the attention of the woman at the ranch. She had no problem with my seat choice but wanted to make sure I didnít try to drink some irrigation water next to where I was sitting.
After some more climbing I stopped at Rancho Del Rio, a campground, for a cold drink since I didnít know when I might get another opportunity. After another climb, I reached State Bridge, a place that rented cabins and yurts. They also had a small store but it was closed during what was now the off-season.† There was a number to call for service but I didnít feel like I could afford the time to wait for someone to show up.
At State Bridge I picked up CO131 north a few miles to just past McCoy. I was climbing past McCoy when I worried that I might have missed my turnoff but checking Maps.Me showed the turnoff was just ahead.
I turned south on the Colorado River Road and was immediately hit with a head wind. Up to that point, the wind was not really a factor but now it became an issue. This road was also gravel, which limited how fast I could go on descents.
There was one significant climb just before Burns and this climb opened up to another big panoramic view of the fields below and the surrounding mountains. From the climb the road descended down to the Colorado River and scenery was great the rest of the way.
Not long after this, it became obvious that darkness was going to be an issue. The Colorado River Road ended at Dotsero, a small unincorporated community with a population of 705, which was also at an Interstate exit.† It was surprising that there were absolutely no services at this location. If there had been a place to stay in Dotsero things would have worked out just fine. Instead, I started debating if I should try to hitch a ride so I could get to Dotsero with enough daylight to find a place to stay. I also started looking to see if there was a camping spot somewhere along the way that had a source of water other than the Colorado River.
There really was some great scenery that would have been more enjoyable if it werenít for the impending darkness. When I reached Dotsero I picked up the frontage road east to Gypsum, another 6 miles away where I thought there was a motel. I got to Gypsum just as it was getting dark and thought I had won the darkness battle. However, when I had trouble finding the motel I inquired at a store and was told there was no motel and I would have to ride another 7 miles east to Eagle.
At that point I pulled out my front light and turned on my rear blinkie light and just started riding, not knowing what else to do. It was no fun riding the shoulder on US6 since my front light was barely adequate. Then I was faced with the problem of how to find a motel. Google Maps showed 3 motels in Eagle. I knew the two expensive motels were near the Interstate but I didnít know where the less expensive motel was. So on the outskirts of Eagle I stopped at a grill and asked where a motel was and discovered I had just passed it, which I would have noticed if the motel sign had been lit.
It was a great relief to get a room at this place for $80. The grill next door had just closed but there was a barbeque place next door to the grill. I hurried there as soon as I got in my room before it could close. I had a good pulled pork sandwich that was piled high with meat. I also took multiple turns at the soda fountain to get re-hydrated.
Then back at the room I discovered my attempt to login to the motel WiFi was rejected as a bad password. When I stopped at the motel office, I was told the WiFi was down and service had been called. In the end I had no WiFi service.
A difficult day. The scenery was great but the riding in the dark was no fun and something I never wanted to have to do again.
There was no breakfast place nearby so I had my cereal breakfast in my room. I left just before 7:30. It was a fast trip to Gypsum, 7 miles away. Last night I thought the route was pretty flat but today it was obvious it was gradually downhill. In Gypsum, I stopped at a Kum & Go but their kitchen was not working for the day so I grabbed a chocolate milk and a pastry.
Riding on I got on the frontage road and then saw there was a bike trail next to it so I hopped on it. The trail ended about 3 miles from Dotservo and I got back on the frontage road. In Dotsero I continued on the frontage road on the north side of the Interstate that ended at the parking area for the start of the Glenwood Canyon Trail. The scenery was great and there were a number of cyclists coming from the other direction so I had to watch out for cyclists. Often my side of the trail was up against the buildup for the Interstate and the other side of the trail ran off into some rocks next to the Colorado River. That forced both directions to ride away from the edge, which meant the trail was effectively less wide than it looked.
It took 2 hours of easy pedaling to make it to the other end of the 12.5 mile canyon trail. Then the trail continued and ended near Glenwood Springs. I was looking for a coffee shop with Internet access and I learned I had to cross the river to get to the downtown area. There was a pedestrian/bicycle bridge but the other end ended in steps down to street level. Fortunately, there was an elevator to avoid the steps.
I stopped in the Sacred Grounds coffee shop where I had a breakfast wrap and coffee. Then I used Google Maps to locate the motels. Most motels listed by Google Maps were $100+. I identified the least expensive motels and started calling. Some motels didnít answer and a couple wanted over $100 even though Google Maps showed them as $70-80 rates. Finally, I connected with Affordable Inns on the northwest side of town and got something around $80 plus tax.
Eventually I packed up and rode across the bridge again to the motel where I got a $90 rate with AARP discount that included breakfast. Later I walked to a drive-in hamburger place where I got a really good elk burger along with fries.
It was nice to conclude the trip with an easy day plus the great scenery in the canyon.
I took advantage of the motelís continental breakfast, which was pretty good - waffles, sausage patties, and scrambled eggs. They also had biscuits and gravy but surprisingly didnít have any cereal.
I organized my packing a little more for the train and then rode the 2 miles back to town. I spent a little over an hour at the same coffee shop I was at yesterday and then headed to the train station a couple of hours before the train was due. Last year the train was over 3 hours late but this year it was on-time although technically a couple minutes late.
I had to get my bicycle to the baggage car just behind the locomotive so I ended up last in line to get on the train. As a result, I ended up with a seatmate much to my dismay.
I stayed in my aisle seat for the ride through the Glenwood Canyon and then adjourned to the snack car tables where I spent the rest of the time until we reached Denver. Normally I would have moved to the Observation Car but it is always packed by Glenwood Springs because folks are well aware of the great scenery in the Glenwood Canyon and beyond. On the other hand, in some ways the snack car was a good choice because I could move from side to side depending on where the Colorado River was. This was hard to beat scenery.
After leaving Denver I scouted out my car. Some seats had been reserved but I found an empty seat pair and commandeered it so I could sleep better. I had some difficulty adjusting my body to a sleeping position until I realized that I had forgotten that each seat had a leg panel that could be lifted up. This provided more real estate and made sleeping more comfortable.
At 6 am I gave up on any more sleep and adjourned to the observation car where I spent most of the rest of the trip. We were in Iowa at this point but the scenery was ugly on a rainy, dreary day and it didnít get much better in Illinois. Still, the openness and lighting in the observation car was preferable for me.
Unfortunately, overnight we had lost at least an hour and never made it up. We got into Chicago Union Station a couple of hours late, nearly 5 pm. After reclaiming my bike, I bought a Metra ticket to get back to Naperville on the 5:40 pm ride. As it turned out, the 2 hours late Amtrak arrival only cost an hour since if the train had been on time the best I could have done was a 4:40 pm ride.
Just like last year, it was raining in Naperville when I got off the train. So I had to don my rain gear for the 1.5 mile ride to my house.
Copyright Denis Kertz, 2019. All rights reserved.