Denver to Chicago


Fall 2006


Denis Kertz, ©2006


Day 1: Sun, Sep 03, 2006 Ė Naperville, IL to Boulder, CO [54.3, 4:19:16, 12.6 mph]

It was a long day.I got up at 4:15 for my limo pickup by my friend Dave at 5:00 who was right on time.We made it to Midway Airport with time to spare.I waited just a couple of minutes and was attended by a very helpful ticket agent.Maybe she was helpful because there were few customers demanding attention at that time in the morning.We chatted for a few minutes and I was hopeful but she didnít forget to charge me $50 for the bike, unlike the Southwest agent last year.


Although Southwest was a pretty good deal, $90 for the trip plus $50 for the bike, I would have preferred traveling by train.I could have gotten a ticket to Denver for $88 plus a few dollars more for the bike.Amtrak even stopped in Naperville, just a little over a mile from my home.I would have gotten on the train at 2:30 pm and arrived at 7:30 am the next morning.Everything was perfect, except I couldnít get my bike on the train.The Naperville station could only handle carry-on luggage and the bike had to be boxed and handled as checked luggage, so I would have had to pick up the train in Chicago and that was a deal killer.


When I went through terrorist screening I could tell the X-ray operator had stopped when he peeked at my single carry-on, a front pannier with my fragile items like my camera.So it was hand inspected but that went fine.I was able to get an Internet boarding pass yesterday morning, 24 hours in advance, so I was in the A boarding group, the first group, and got a good seat.I was surprised the flight was pretty packed but learned later that the flight continued on to Las Vegas.Only a few of us got off at Denver.


When I got off the plane I ducked into a restroom to slip on my cycling shorts under my pants.There I was treated to a guy describing his vacation on his cell phone while attending to business.I guess when you have to go you have to go and when you have to talk you have to talk.These days it seems more folks have to talk than go.


When I got to the baggage claim area I started searching for an idle luggage cart. However, at the early time in the middle of Labor Day weekend there werenít many passengers around and fewer opportunities to find idle carts.I was loath to pay $3 for a cart so I checked out the baggage claim where my other 2 bags were already delivered and the bike box followed shortly.It was a short distance to an unobtrusive corner location so I was able to carry everything without needing a cart.


I had a nice corner location behind a bank of elevators so I hoped I wouldnít get harassed by anyone as I assembled my equipment.It took a good 2 hours to assemble the bike, partly due to my new rear wheel.After last fallís trip I discovered I had 2 loose spokes in my rear wheel.That was because a piece of the hub flange broke off.This necessitated a new wheel.At first I was going to duplicate the old wheel but then decided to convert to a Rohloff internal geared hub.


This hub had some distinct advantages, in particular making it relatively easy to convert the gearing from my normal road bike gearing to my lower touring gearing.I simply replaced the 52-tooth front chainring with a 38-tooth chainring and magically I had low gearing for touring.By contrast previously I had to slip on a different rear wheel with a 12-34 cassette, switch the front chainring to a 24-34-46 set, and then adjust the front derailleur to accommodate the smaller chainrings.


The other advantage of the Rohloff wheel was it was a stronger wheel even though it had fewer spokes, 32 versus 36.Thatís because its spokes were symmetrical rather than the asymmetrical spokes of a standard cassette wheel.


Of course, the Rohloff had a couple of downsides.First, it was much more expensive compared to a standard wheel.And then the Rohloff is a non-standard equipment item.Fortunately, the Rohloff has proven extremely reliable so the chance of needing service in the field is almost non-existent.


Since this was my first tour with the Rohloff, I had to adapt the installation of my rear rack and fender to account for the gear changing mechanism on the non-chain side.I knew pretty well what I had to do but doing it the first time necessitated some trial and error.


After the bike assembly I had to repack my panniers.So even though my flight got in a little early at 8:30, I didnít actually hit the road until almost noon.But that really wasnít a problem since I figured Boulder, at 50 miles, was the farthest I would go and there was plenty of time.


As I left the airport there was a No Bike sign.When the airport was first opened bicycling out of the airport was not allowed, a rule which has since been rescinded.In fact, there was no good reason to disallow cycling.Pena Boulevard leading out was much like Interstate riding, with lots of noisy, fast traffic but a wide, safe shoulder.Only access traffic at entry/exit ramps were a cause for concern.


After 6 miles on Pena I headed north on Tower Road, which had a nice shoulder most of the way to Barr Lake State Park.When the shoulder disappeared over the last few miles so did much of the traffic.Tower ended at Barr Lake and I skirted around the lake to the east and then north to pickup Highway 7 the rest of the way.Originally I thought Barr Lake might be a good camping opportunity but it had no camping facilities.


When I was assembling my bike I discovered I had left my small adjustable wrench at home.So I stopped at several places along the way to replace it.First, Ace hardware had one for $14 but that was ridiculous.A Wal-Mart had a more suitable price but a rather clunky one that I didnít want to carry.I was sure Home Depot would work but what they had was a bit pricey and a bit clunky.When the Home Depot guy suggested the nearby Sears, I found a variety of offerings from $19 for a professional unit to a $4 unit.For my application I expected the $4 unit to be more than adequate.


When I was at the Home Depot I ran into another cyclist but one working on this particular day.He noted how the surrounding developments had just sprung up over the last 2 years.The area was in a wild development stage and that explained why I had seen several people hawking development signs along the road, trying to lure me into buying a home when the tent on my bike was going to be sufficient.


I continued on west on Highway 7 towards Boulder, seeing some prairie dogs along the way.When I reached Lafayette, the last town before Boulder, I thought I had lucked out when I saw 2 motels.I was pretty sure Boulder would be expensive so I hoped to stay in Lafayette.However, the owner of the first motel was on vacation and the other owner said he was booked through the week.


So reluctantly I headed to Boulder.However, when I saw a sign for Louisville, 2 miles south, I headed there because someone had mentioned that as a motel possibility.There was nothing there but I queried 3 locals and they suggested I continue west on South Boulder road to where there was a Days Inn.I wasnít convinced that Days Inn would be all that great but they were convinced it would be better than heading into Boulder.


At this point, around 5:30, I didnít have many options so I continued on.I rode past the motel when I didnít see the Days Inn sign and eventually was directed back to it.Then coming from the west the motel sign was clearly visible, whereas I would have had to glance backwards when I was heading west.


As I suspected, it wasnít a great deal at $76 but that made me wonder what prices in Boulder were.After checking in I walked across the street to a Subway for dinner and then retired for the night.


It was a relatively easy first day, as I wanted it to be, over mostly flat terrain.But getting up so early to make a 7:10 flight made it a long and tiring day.

Day 2: Mon, Sep 04, 2006 - Boulder, CO to Nederland, CO [31.7, 4:20:11, 7.3 mph]

It was a cool morning, not quite 50F so I wore my tights and jacket.I backtracked about a mile to a road I saw yesterday that was labeled a bike route.I took it north to Arapahoe and west into Boulder.When I reached downtown at Broadway I started looking for a breakfast place with no success.I started asking around and eventually found Dotís Diner which was defined as a funky place.It was a small place with a counter right by the grill and the cook.There were no pancakes so I had French toast on whole wheat bread sprinkled with cinnamon.A nice down home style place.


Then I headed out on Canyon Boulevard to Nederland, 17 miles of climbing as it gained 2,900 feet.My elevation profile looked like the first third was moderate climbing, followed by a third of steeper climbing, and then easing up on the last third.Thatís pretty much what it was.


The road followed a stream through a canyon.For the first third I climbed at a comfortable 6-7 mph.Then the road steepened considerably and it was a strain to maintain 4 mph.At the half way point I took a break to see the conveniently located Boulder Falls, a couple hundred yards from the road.


When I resumed climbing it was a real strain before the road eased up.Just before Nederland I stopped at Baker Dam which formed the Baker Reservoir with Nederland at the western end.Then I road into town and was fortunate to find an open tourist bureau.There I learned there was a National Forest campground about 5 miles north of town.I stocked up on food at a grocery store and had a bean burrito at a convenience store.Then I headed out in early afternoon.


There was an initial fairly steep, short climb out of town followed by a nice run out.Then I started another longer climb that was almost as hard as the hard morning climb.This looked to be the hardest climb on the way to Estes Park so it was nice to get it out of the way.


Just a little over 5 miles out there was a side road.Had I not been looking for a camp site I would not have noticed the camping sign that was set off from the road.I rode back a little ways and found a site where 2 guys with dirt bikes were packing up to leave.Since there were no services at this site there was no fee.

I didnít see any signs of water either so I asked the guys and they gave me a gallon container that was a little over half filled with ice in it so it was nice and cold.I chatted with the guys who were in no great rush to return to Arvada and Golden, a little over an hour drive.


When they left I finished setting up camp.Although short on mileage this was a pretty hard day with mostly climbing.I hoped this was preparing me for the bigger climb through Rocky Mountain National Park.

Day 3: Tue, Sep 05, 2006 - Nederland, CO to Rocky Mountain NP, CO [47.5, 4:59:37, 9.5 mph]

It was a cool 39F in the morning.I had cereal for breakfast using powdered milk.My new tent, a Sierra Designs Baku 2-person, performed well.It was a single wall tent with 2 large side doors and 2 vestibules.The vestibule covered mesh siding so it had good ventilation.I left my vestibule open so I had lots of ventilation and no condensation.


I left at 8:00 and finished the climb I was on yesterday when I turned off for the campsite, about another mile.I was told Ward, a very small town, had a restaurant but it wasnít open for breakfast.I had a couple nice run outs as I pedaled through tree covered hills with a good shoulder and little traffic.Towards the end of 72 there were several stables for horse riding.


After 15 miles, 72 ended at Highway 7 and I took 7 to Estes Park.7 had a wide shoulder for a while and the horse stables continued only to be overtaken by conference centers.Apparently, the mountains were inspirational settings for conferences.I passed along a good view of Longís Peak, which I had climbed once some 30 years ago.


There was some more climbing and then a descent to Estes Park with a great view of the town from the top.I rode into town around noon and stopped at the tourist bureau.I had pretty well made up my mind to lay over a day and rest my legs.They were doing fine but the climb through Rocky Mountain NP looked to be grueling and it seemed to make sense to give them a dayís rest after a pretty fair amount of climbing over the last 2 days.


At first I looked at a couple of private campgrounds which cost $25-28 per site, compared to a minimum of $75-80 for a motel.I was told high season continued for about another month and I couldnít wait that long for motel prices to drop.


As I headed into town I stopped at the Egg & I which offered breakfast all day.I had thin banana walnut whole wheat pancakes which were good.However, it was only a single 10 inch pancake when 2 would have been about right.As I ate I perused a RMNP brochure and noticed the Aspen Glen Campground at the northeast entrance to the park and at $20 looked like a better deal than the local campgrounds.


So I headed to Aspen Glen after eating since it was first come, first served and I wasnít totally sure space would be available, but there was a fall back to a nearby private campground.It was 5 miles to the campground with some moderate climbing.I paid a $10 entry fee for a 7 day park pass for a cyclist and the campground was just past the entrance.The campground had several walk-in sites but they were all taken.So I opted for one of the tent only sites and paid $40 for 2 nights.


After setting up my tent I rode back just outside the park where there was a restaurant.I had a so-so buffalo burger and fries for $9.When I got back to camp I had a sponge bath because there were no showers at the campground, even for $20/night.I was also expecting to rinse out my clothes in a shower.Instead I walked to a nearby stream and rinsed them there.Then I settled in for the night.


This day was a more balanced day of climbing and descending, with a little more descending.

Day 4: Wed, Sep 06, 2006 - Rocky Mountain NP, CO [16.8, 1:52:41, 8.9 mph]

I got up early just after 6:00 to do the loop out to Horseshoe Park and to Estes Park via the main entrance.The hope was to see some wildlife in the early hours.I strapped some minimal gear on my rear rack and my shoulder bag with camera on my aero bars.


I left around 6:30 and headed west on some climbing.The Fall River Entrance near my campsite was 8,240 feet and the campground a little lower.I climbed most of the way around Horseshoe Park and up to Deer Ridge Junction, the turn off to Trail Ridge Road, at 8,930 feet.So I climbed about 700 feet, but it was a little easier without a fully loaded bike.


From Deer Ridge Junction it was all downhill to Estes Park.There was a nice view of Longís Peak and then I saw a half dozen mule deer but no elk.


It was about 9 miles to town and I looked for a breakfast place as I passed through.I saw only one place with no one around so I passed until I reached the Egg & I again which was filled with cars.Since I wasnít planning anything strenuous for the day I had a regular omelet rather than bothering to carbo load with pancakes.Afterwards I perused a bookstore to get something to read during idle moments, particularly at nights.I saw a Colorado Bicycle Ride book which labeled Trail Ridge as probably the premier road ride in Colorado with the exception of the Mt Evans climb.It also categorized the ride as ďvery difficult.Ē


Then I waited for the library to open at 10:00 and took care of my email.I checked Estes Park weather which forecasted possible afternoon thunderstorms for the next 3 days.The library was nice with about 12 Internet PCs and a nice collection of newspapers and periodicals.Next I did a little food shopping and found some sunscreen in an outdoors shop.Heading back to camp it started to drizzle and I pulled off under a cottage overhang for 15-20 minutes to wait out the rain.


I stopped at the Fall River Visitor Center and ate the last half of a Subway sandwich I picked up in town.I learned at the visitor center that there was a ranger talk at 6:00 in Horseshoe Park, just a couple miles from camp and decided that was a good idea.In camp, I replaced the battery in my bike computerís transmitter.I noticed the computer stopped after leaving town.Since I had replaced the main unit battery a month or so ago I figured it must be the transmitter.


The 6:00 ranger talk about elk was good.While the ranger was talking a bull elk wandered out into the meadow, occasionally bugling.RMNP has about 3,000 elk, which is too many.This is a result of the elk having no natural predators in the park, such as wolves.The park would like to cut that number about in half.I saw 2 young bulls while riding the 2 miles back to camp so it was a good evening.

Day 5: Thu, Sep 07, 2006 - Rocky Mountain NP, CO to Grand Lake, CO [49.4, 6:03:07, 8.2 mph]

I broke camp and left at 7:40 with close to 4,000 feet of climbing ahead of me.The first 5 miles were a duplicate of yesterday and then I turned right at Deer Ridge Junction to take the Trail Ridge Road.There was an almost immediate descent and then it was all uphill.I quickly decided to use my lowest gear almost exclusively to ease the strain on my legs.And I was glad my new Rohloff setup with 38/16 gave me one lower gear than my old setup.


It was a cool and cloudy day but it was also hazy, due to smoke that had drifted down from Montana forest fires.Still the views were great if not as pristine as desired.There were several views of Horseshoe Park and a great view of Moraine Park from Many Parks Curve.Rainbow Curve provided another great view of Horseshoe Park and also showed a good part of the road and just how much climbing was involved.


Beyond Rainbow Curve the road was above tree line with many views of the tundra.I kept plugging along at 4-4.5 mph, using the various scenic turnouts as rest points.The section between Rainbow Curve and Forest Canyon seemed a little harder climbing with altitude a possible contributing factor.


At Rock Cut I stopped for the half mile hike up the tundra.Unfortunately, there appeared to be some rain to the east to obscure the view.It was also much colder and I put on my jacket and heavy gloves.I also got pelted with some snow flakes on my return.Since the forecast included possible thunderstorms, I just hoped I didnít get caught in one at this elevation.


Continuing on, the road was wet, apparently from some rain as the road descended a bit before it climbed to its high point of 12,183 feet, the highest paved continuous road in North America.As I climbed to the apex, about 8 women zoomed past me in the other direction with big smiles on their face, probably due to the downhill rather than seeing me.I also had a guy pass me on a bike.He was in shorts and not riding much faster than me.However, none of these cyclists were loaded tourists, a fact I smugly noted.


It was disappointing that the high point was not marked, or at least I didnít see a mark.I would have liked a photo of my bike there.On the other hand there was little room for a bike to stop.


From the top it was downhill to the Alpine Visitor Center.I spent at least a half hour there warming up and resting a bit although my legs felt fine and the rest was downhill.When I took off I was ready to lose altitude and gain some warmth.There were fewer scenic turnouts and that facilitated the downhill run, not having to agonize over whether to continue the downhill or stop for a view.I did encounter one stop where folks were watching a bull elk graze while the elk inconveniently displayed his rear, despite the clamoring of the bystanders who hoped the elk would turn around.


One stretch of the downhill was very winding with several near U turns.As I reached this stretch a vehicle caught up with me but I quickly out distanced him through the winding stretch.After that the downhill eased and I did some easy pedaling.My goal was Grand Lake and I made it to town around 4:00.In town I learned the nearest campground was near the park entrance and the cheapest motel appeared to be $65 Ė one without a vacancy.So I rewarded myself with a pizza and headed back 2 miles to the park entrance and turned off to Winding River Campground, which was not a steal at $28.In fact it was a rather shabby campground whose only salvation was it had a shower in a nice, clean restroom.I also had some light drizzle returning from town and it drizzled more after I was in my tent.

Day 6: Fri, Sep 08, 2006 - Grand Lake, CO to Kremmling, CO [45.1, 3:21:47, 13.4 mph]

It rained yesterday evening but apparently not overnight.Still the tent was wet and I did my best to dry it off before packing up.I was glad to leave this overpriced, unattractive campground whose only redeeming point was a clean restroom.


I rode the 3 miles back to Grand Lake and ate at the first breakfast place I saw.I had the ďPapaĒ pancakes, a stack of 4 medium sized pancakes.The waitress said she had never seen anyone eat the whole stack but they werenít particularly large.


The route south to Granby was mostly a slight downhill so it was easy pedaling past Grand Lake and Granby Lake, formed by damming the Colorado River to form a reservoir to collect the Westís most precious resource Ė water.About 7 miles south of Grand Lake I passed a National Forest Service campground that, had I known about, I would have stayed at last night.Iím sure it would have been a much better value.


At Granby I head west on 40 towards Steamboat Springs.Since 40 is the major northern Colorado route I was concerned about the road and had considered a possible alternate route up towards Walden and across on a gravel road near Rand.However, 40 had a wide shoulder so I stayed with it as it followed the Colorado River.


After passing through Hot Sulphur Springs the shoulder disappeared as 40 meandered through the scenic Byers Canyon, with the road on the left, the railroad on the right, and the Colorado River in the middle.There was room to bail out on a gravel shoulder but that wasnít necessary with the light traffic.After passing through the canyon the wide shoulder returned.


Then about 10 miles from Kremmling it started to drizzle so I stopped and put on my rain gear.Riding was still okay in the light rain and the trucks courteously eased over to minimize the road spray.But then about 4-5 miles from Kremmling the wide shoulder disappeared.At that point I had to watch traffic closely for simultaneous 2-way traffic where I might have to bail out.


Traffic was light enough that I only bailed once.Still it was no fun to cycle under these conditions.Moreover, after Kremmling it was 27 miles to Rabbit Ears Pass and then another 8-10 miles to a campground.With no bail out options in between I decided to call it a day in Kremmling.


Just as I entered Kremmling I stopped at a BLM office to see if I could find more information on campgrounds.The receptionist also suggested motel options in town and mentioned a hotel and a motel.The motel was apparently full so I stopped at the hotel where I got a room for $32 with a shared bath, a big improvement over last nightís campground for only $4 more.The only bad point was the hotel wouldnít let me keep the bike in the room.This was surprising since it was a no frills room.Iíve had my bike in much nicer rooms including a couple Marriott Courtyards.So it was disappointing to have to lock it outside in a backyard.On the other hand, without my bike in the room I was able to pitch my tent in my room to let it dry out.


After cleaning up I walked to the library for Internet access.The local weather forecast was not encouraging for tomorrow so there was a chance I could be staying over.More encouragingly, the rain had stopped and the skies looked better after the library visit.


It was an opportune time so I did laundry as the rain came and went.I ate at a Subway where 2 young guys pulled up on bicycles, one towing a trailer and the other with 2 rear panniers and a handlebar bag.Both appeared bicycles to be regular road bikes.They were doing the Transamerica route from west to east and had just come down from the pass I would hopefully climb tomorrow.They had started from Portland on 8/9, west to Astoria, and down the coast to the Transamerica starting point.


While at the Subway I also met a guy from Steamboat Springs and I was able to glean some information on my route through Steamboat.

Day 7: Sat, Sep 09, 2006 - Kremmling, CO to Hayden, CO [74.9, 7:02:35, 10.6 mph]

When I got up the barometric pressure had stayed steady overnight which was promising despite the cloudy skies.I ate at the Moose Cafť and had 2 Moose (large) pancakes.While I was there another cyclist rode up on his Surly Long Haul with thin tires towing a Bob trailer.Although he had a triple chainring his cassette didnít look very low.He was doing the Transamerica from east to west and needed to be done by early October, which was going to be a bit of a challenge.He had spent the night camping with 4 other cyclists including the two I met yesterday.The other 2 cyclists were doing the Continental Divide trail.


After breakfast I did a little food shopping and then walked back to the motel and packed up.I was off around 8:30, hoping to make 2,100 feet climb to Rabbit Ears Pass before any rain came.The road to the pass was mostly without shoulder and I didnít want to be watching traffic and getting wet Ė either by rain or car spray.After the pass, the road had a wide shoulder the rest of the way.


Starting out there was a fair amount of traffic on a Saturday.There were also a lot of bikes getting miles on, but they were doing that on the top of cars.Later at the junction of 134, I met a race official who asked if I wanted to race.All the bikes were turning in for registration just ahead at Woolford Mountain Project for a 43 mile out and back race to Toponas.


For most of the morning the rain gods played mind games with me, threatening to dump on me.At one point the hills ahead were obscured by rain so I turned off to a roadside park that I thought I was amazingly lucky to stumble across.As I pulled in I felt a few drops but after 15-20 minutes the rain moved north and I continued on.Several times I was sure I would get dumped on.Once I stopped and bagged my camera in plastic but by the time I got my rain gear out the sprinkle had stopped.


Although the road was mostly climbing first to Muddy Pass and then a few more miles to Rabbit Ears Pass, it wasnít that hard until the last 4-5 miles.When I got to Muddy Pass the rain gods tricked me again, showing me some sun and then starting an off and on drizzle. At one point I even got some small pin head size hail for about 30 seconds.Nevertheless I continued to Rabbit Ears Pass at 9,426 feet and the Continental Divide and took a quick photo of my bike at the divide sign.


Then I donned my rain gear mainly for the descent knowing wind chill would be a problem.I even put on my heavy gloves.I continued some up and down riding along the summit and then began the 7% descent to Steamboat Springs, averaging in the mid-30 mph.I had to estimate the speed somewhat since my computer went bonkers.It went to zero and occasionally registered the real speed for a few seconds and a couple of times registered an impossible speed like 96 mph but mostly it didnít work on the descent.This didnít seem like a battery problem.I considered that there could be some stray transmitter interference near the pass but it didnít seem likely it would last all the way down the descent.And after the steep descent ended the computer started functioning normal again.

I had noticed a similar failure on my descent at Rocky Mountain National Park but that was only once and for a very short time.Eventually I decided that the transmitter might not be detecting the magnet at high speeds in the upper 30s.


I encountered a variety of scenery for the day.The ride up to the pass was mostly through sage brush covered hills with occasional green and yellow hay fields that provided a stark contrast.At the summit it was tree covered.And the descending from the summit revealed the ranch land of the Yampa Valley Ė a stunning panoramic vista on the descent.


It was about 50 miles to Steamboat Springs and I considered stopping there for the day.I talked to a local when I stopped at a food mart.He knew only of a Kind Of Awful (KOA) campground on the outskirts and said $80 would be a minimum motel bill.He suggested a campground just outside Hayden, another 27 miles, as had the guy at the Subway last night.


My first inclination was the KOA but as I started riding again I decided Hayden wasnít that far, particularly since the road lost about 500 feet along the way.And I hadnít done anything over 50 miles yet so I decided it was time.


It was mostly easy pedaling to Hayden and it helped that once I got off the summit I had fairly nice weather.It was also nice that the ride through the Yampa Valley was very scenic.


I rolled into Hayden just before 5:30, a small town with one restaurant, one pizza takeout, and a food mart.I grabbed a mini-pizza and drink at the food mart and continued the 2.5 miles to the Yampa River State Park where I was happy to finally encounter a reasonable camping fee - $12.The tent sites were off in the corner with only one other occupant along with the 6 RVs in the park.I set up camp and showered for $1.


In addition to the dayís scenery I also encountered some wildlife.I saw one antelope that wouldnít stand for a photo.Later, 3 antelopes posed for me and didnít race away until I did.I had a coyote race across the road a couple hundred feet in front of me, unwilling to stop for a photo.And I saw a herd of 6 deer that fled after I captured them in a photo.


All in all a better day than I probably had reason to expect so I was glad I didnít hang around Kremmling another day and glad I bypassed Steamboat for Hayden.What I didnít particularly enjoy was a steady stream of road signs during the day for F.M. Light & Sons, a western wear place in Steamboat.For a while I thought I was back in South Dakota seeing the Wall Drug signs every mile or so.

Day 8: Sun, Sep 10, 2006 - Hayden, CO to Meeker, CO [52.3, 4:54:51, 10.6 mph]

Last night I was pleased to see some stars when I went to sleep.Unfortunately, a few hours later I heard the pitter patter of rain on my tent.It didnít last long but it was enough that my ten was wet in the morning when I packed up.I only ate a banana since I was only about 14 miles from Craig and breakfast.


I left a little after 7:00 for the easy ride to Craig.However, my computer started acting up again so I knew it wasnít a speed issue.This looked more like a weak battery.


In town I passed up one breakfast place and rode to the other end of town.There I broke my breakfast rule and ate at a Village Inn, a franchise place.I had an omelet with mini pancakes which was fine but cost almost $10.I also had an unfriendly waitress.While at breakfast I changed the battery in my computerís main unit, hoping that might fix the problem although the battery still should have been fine.


When I left I saw my computer momentarily stop and then it was okay for the rest of the day.I also noticed a little moisture under the display and wondered if moisture was the culprit.With the weather looking good, I hoped any moisture would dry out through the day.


My next destination was Grand Junction.The logical car route was to drop down to I70 but I didnít want to ride the interstate.So I intended to head to Rangely and then down on 139.I could have continued west on 40 but decided to take what I was told a more scenic, if a little longer, route to Meeker and then Rangely.


So I headed south on 13 for the 48 miles to Meeker with a fairly significant climb of about 1,200 feet to 9 Mile Gap Summit.This turned out to be a nice scenic ride.The first section to Hamilton was through a desert-like canyon with lots of sage brush.When I rode through Hamilton I almost missed it as it had only a post office and a community center and a closed market building closed up for sale.


After Hamilton the landscape broadened into a scenic valley with more sage brush and ranch land.I took a lot of photos in this area.Then the passage narrowed as the moderate 1,200 foot climb to 9 Mile Gap Summit began.During this climb a mildly threatening cloud formed and I heard a few rumblings of thunder.I wasnít too concerned as I was near the summit although I was gaining altitude still.


When I reached the summit I thought I was in good shape but as I rounded the corner at the top I could see it was raining on the other side.I decided to wait it out and put on my rain gear as the rain with some small hail moved in.I waited 10-15 minutes until the rain tapered off to a few drops and continued to Meeker on a descent that took me the 10 miles to town with almost no pedaling.


Meeker was a nice sized small town of 2,200 with several motels and restaurants.I stopped at a food mart and queried about camping.It was hunting season so the motels didnít necessarily have vacancies.There were a couple of camping possibilities just outside of town but then I learned that camping in the city park might be possible.Later I stopped and asked the police for camping permission with no problem.I set up on a nice grassy area under big pine trees.


A relatively easy, scenic day with only one big climb.

Day 9: Mon, Sep 11, 2006 - Meeker, CO to Rangely, CO [64.1, 5:10:57, 12.4 mph]

I enjoyed my free camping in the town park that had everything except showers although the restroom was less than pristine.I stopped at the Meeker Cafť for breakfast for their 2+2+2 breakfast with good pancakes.I took my time since I expected the day to be relatively short and didnít get on the road until shortly after 8:00.


The route to Rangely was 55 miles with the loss of almost 1,000 feet.For the most part the road, 64, had virtually no shoulder and mostly large truck traffic.However, there was good line of sight and rarely simultaneous 2-way traffic.


It was a beautiful cloudless day with pleasant temperature.The road followed the White River through a fairly narrow valley with sage brush and small cedar and pine bushes dotting the rocky hill sides.This contrasted with the irrigated hay and grazing fields for cattle, horses, and sheep.It was a scenic and fairly easy ride.I rode the route essentially non-stop with one 5-minute break but frequent photo stops.


There was one significant climb of a couple hundred feet that slowed me to 5 mph.Otherwise, it was easy idyllic pedaling on the slight downgrade.Since there were no services along the way I wasnít tempted to stop until the Kenney Reservoir but it was only 5 miles from Rangely so I passed on by and arrived in Rangely, a town of 2,100, just before 1:00.


When I arrived in town after almost 60 miles I had only had a single granola bar so food was the first order of business at a food mart, a mini pizza.Then I checked the campground on the outskirts of town that cost $12 including showers but the shower stall was filthy.I wondered if I might be able to camp again in the town park.


I spent nearly 2 hours on the Internet at the library.The police were in the building next door so I asked the officer if I could camp in the town park along the road.I wasnít surprised when he said no but he said I could camp at the Elk Park, 2 blocks south of the road.This was even better than the town park since it was away from the main road.


Later I ate at the Subway and then retired to the Elk Park which was nice.

Day 10: Tue, Sep 12, 2006 - Rangely, CO to Colorado National Monument, CO [87.0, 8:35:29, 10.1 mph]

Sometime in the morning I heard a few noises around my tent.Then I heard a whoosh across my tent and knew I had incurred the bane of city park campers Ė automatic lawn sprinklers.The spray only occurred about every 2 minutes and the sprinkling didnít seem to last too long so I hoped my tent would dry by morning.


In the morning I started packing when it started getting light.I should have started 5 minutes sooner.Just as I was wrapping up by rolling up my tent another set of sprinklers kicked on and I caught a little spray.I hurriedly got out of there and rode to the Cowboy Corral for breakfast Ė the only place that appeared to serve a real breakfast in town.I had the 3 pancakes which were fine.Better, the bill came to just over $5, the best value breakfast so far.


After breakfast I picked up a little food at the market including a somewhat sorry looking banana.The cashier asked if I really wanted it and I said no but it was the only one they had.Then I left town a little after 8:00, heading about 2 miles east to pick up 239 south to Loma, 74 miles with a climb of Douglas Pass, an overall climb from Rangely of 3,100 feet and then a bigger descent to Loma of 3,800 feet.


The first 20 miles included Pintado Canyon with some rock art along the way due to the Fremont culture.I tried to pay attention to possible sightings but it was hard on a bike.So I saw only the last example right next to the road.Even better, another couple from Colorado stopped and I got some good information about camping.I was considering a state park 5 miles north of Loma with an outside chance that I might try for the Colorado National Monument.They told me there was also a campground right outside the Monument in Fruita.That was a better option because even if I didnít make the Monument I would be just outside it.


I continued on towards the pass.Even though I was gaining elevation it was gradual and the riding wasnít hard.Then just over 2 miles from the pass the real climb of 1,100 feet began.I was immediately in my lowest gear and it was a 4 mph struggle.That didnít seem right so when I stopped for a break I checked and, as I suspected, I was missing my lowest gear.I had had this happen before and thought I knew why but this case blew my theory to pieces.I knew how to regain the lost gear but to do so I would have had to search my front pannier for my hex wrench and then remove my rear left pannier to get to the external shift cable box on the left side of my Rohloff wheel. Rather than fiddle with that I elected to struggle on my 2nd lowest gear.And it was a struggle as I stopped several times on the 3 mile steep climb.But a couple of turnouts showed why I struggled as I could see how much altitude I had gained when looking back.


When I reached the top there was a dramatic view of the descent into a valley.Seeing that I was glad I wasnít climbing from the south.My elevation profile appeared to show that the south climb was as steep as the north climb but twice as long.


After a brief break I started the steep descent.It would have been a wild descent if I had let go but I took my time to appreciate the views.Then I reached a point where I turned it loose.With some tight turns I was pretty sure no vehicle could have kept up with me.In fact, one vehicle came close but when we hit the turns I left the vehicle behind until the road straightened.At one point I scared a deer who I saw climbing out of harms way up the steep hillside along the road.But I was only able to afford a quick glance since the road demanded my attention.


After about 10 miles the descent leveled off enough that I had to do some pedaling.I had reached the pass around 1:00 and then the afternoon got very warm, probably mid-80s.I donít normally drink that much but I used 3 of my 4 water bottles and was saving the last one.


The desert was particularly scenic at the top and then again 10 miles or so from Loma where all of a sudden I left the hills behind and I was riding through rolling land of sagebrush.Then about 10 miles from Loma the land was transformed into irrigated farm land.


When I rolled into Loma about 4:00 I was pleasantly surprised that it had a food mart and quickly downed a 32 oz soda.I also found they had real bananas and grabbed a much healthier specimen than the one I got in the morning from the ďrealĒ grocery store.


I figured the campground in the Monument was still a possibility so I rode the easy 5 miles to Fruita and stopped at a Burger King for a quick bite and continued a few miles to the Monument entrance.The issue with the Monument was the campground was on top of the plateau about 4-5 miles and an unknown altitude, so I didnít know how hard the climb was, particularly after already riding 80 miles.I was going to ask at the entrance booth but it was closed for the day.With no one to tell me not to ride I rode.But first I took the 10 minutes to restore my lowest gear.Then not taking any chances I stayed in the lowest gear climbing all the way.


It was a great climb and not that hard although it was 1,300 feet over about 5 miles.It was a good time of the day, cooler with nice lighting.There were some great views up and it ended at a nice campground for $10, missing only a shower.From my site after dark there was a great view of the long valley below lit up by the lights of Fruita and Grand Junction.A great end to a pretty hard day.

Day 11: Wed, Sep 13, 2006 - Colorado National Monument, CO to Fruita, CO [43.0, 4:47:30, 9.0 mph]

I got up before the sun did because I wanted to take advantage of the morning light.After a cereal, banana, and pastry breakfast I was off a little before 7:30.


Rim Rock Drive was 23 miles and I had already done about 5 miles to get to the campground.The next 7 miles were a dazzling display of canyons and sculpted rocks along a winding road.It was hard to go more than a couple hundred yards without stopping for another photo.The first 7 miles took 1.5 hours.


After these 7 miles the drive eased its assault on the senses.There were still some dramatic sheer walled canyons; they just werenít as frequent.The road also was a mess in places with short gravel sections and a couple stretches under repair.


The Rim Rock Drive is a popular bicycle route, once a stage of the now defunct Coors Bicycle Classic (1979-1988), once the 4th largest bicycle race in the world.I saw a half dozen road riders, most of them an organized group.They were doing okay but a lone rider was struggling so hard he didnít notice as I passed.Then there was the loaded tourist who was pushing his bike and didnít look to be having fun and I couldnít imagine that would be fun.Most likely these struggling cyclists were suffering from inadequate gearing.


The last few miles were a steep downhill switch backing that led me right into Grand Junction, named for the junction of the Colorado (formerly called the Grand) and Gunnison rivers.Although I had breakfast I was hankering for another breakfast, and that was a challenge since it was after 11:00.I spent a fair amount of time getting located in this city of around 50,000.


As I was making my way I encountered 3 guys sitting near a curb.They were apparently vagabonds waiting for the nearby charity (Catholic Overreach) to open for a meal.They were also passing a bottle around.I declined their invitation to join them for their meal.


Eventually I found Main Street and a bicycle shop owner suggested a place that might still serve breakfast and it did.I had a good 2+2+2 to satisfy my culinary delight.After that I made my way to the library for Internet access.The library looked like a good one but it was a little hard to tell since it was undergoing renovation.


After that I rode 10 leisurely miles back to Fruita and the state park by the Colorado River where I got a tent site for $12.I enjoyed my first shower in 4 days for another well spent $1.


Now I was facing the dilemma of when to head to Moab, which was almost 100 miles away.It looked like there was a campground 20 miles or so before Moab so I wouldnít have to do the entire trip in a day. But it appeared I would be hitting the weekend which I would have preferred to avoid.






Copyright Denis Kertz, 2006. All rights reserved.