La Junta to Grand Junction

 

Fall 2022

 

Denis Kertz, ©2022

 

Sat,Sep 3 - Amtrak

My trip this year was planned for starting in La Junta, CO and finishing in Grand Junction, CO.  La Junta was the starting point because I could get my bicycle from Chicago Union Station to La Junta on the Amtrak Southwest Chief.  The Southwest Chief actually stopped in Naperville but Naperville doesnít have baggage service so I had to take the Metra commuter train to Union Station to get my bike packed up for the train.

 

The Metra commuter train allows some bicycles on the train, using the designated handicap spot on the handicap car.  This meant you could get bumped off the train if the handicap spot was needed somewhere along the way.  So I ended up taking the 9:25 express because there was only one stop after Naperville and that minimized any chance of getting bumped.

 

There were 5 bicycles on the train, just about all that could be handled.  While I was waiting for the train I met a Swedish woman who was taking her bicycle on the train for the first time so I was able to offer some help.  Then we talked on the way to Chicago.  Her husband is a physicist who worked in Los Alamos but now worked at Argonne and she and her husband lived in Naperville.  It was interesting to learn about their journey from Sweden to the US.

 

When I got to Union Station I faced the most stressful part of my trip.  Amtrak allows bicycles on the train without boxing but they have a limited number of slots.  When I made my train reservation a month in advance there were no slots available so I had to box up my bike for the train.  Thatís not a problem since Amtrak provides large bike boxes that only require turning the handlebar sideways and removing the pedals.  However, I was concerned with supply chain issues that they might not have any bike boxes and there was no way to reserve a bike box.  So I showed up and trusted/hoped a bike box would be available.

 

The baggage agent was apparently unaware of bike boxes but he inquired and I was greatly relieved when he pulled a bike box out of a closet.  I packed up my bike and rearranged my panniers so I had my 2 rear panniers strapped together along with my duffel bag for 2 carry-on bags and I used one of my front panniers for carrying my sensitive equipment to my roommette on the train.  I splurged for a roommette to minimize my exposure to other folks on the train.  A benefit of having a roommette was I was able to use the Metropolitan Lounge for Amtrak customers.  This lounge had beverages and snacks and was great for people watching, as people came and went while waiting for their trains.  The lounge also had a big screen TV so I was able to kill time watching NCAA football.

 

When our train was ready for boarding we got an announcement for our boarding track.  I was surprised that I ended up with a roommette on the lower level since I wasnít aware there were lower level roommettes.  There were a couple of advantages to a lower level room.  First, our rooms were effectively in a cul de sac with 4 rooms and a larger room at the end of the hall.  That meant we had more privacy since only folks in those rooms had any need to be in the hall.  The other advantage was that the restrooms and the baggage area for carry ons were on the lower level so that was convenient access.  The main disadvantage was the upper level provided better views.

My roomette also included meals in the dining car.  Dinner was by reservation only so I took a 5:30 reservation, the first time slot.  I was paired up with the couple in the large room next to my roommette so I got to meet my neighbors, a young couple from Minneapolis on the way to Santa Fe to visit family.  After Santa Fe this couple was driving a rental car back to Minneapolis.  I provided some suggestions for Colorado sightseeing on their way home.

 

Sun,Sep 4 - La Junta, CO

I slept well in my roomette, better than sleeping at home.  Breakfast started at 6:30, no reservations, just show up.  I was the first person to show and I needed to show early since the train was scheduled to arrive in La Junta at 7:49 am.  This time I got paired with another couple who were on a scheduled tour to the Grand Canyon.  However, they were very quiet so after some initial inquiries I left them to their food.  Itís not often that Iím the conversationalist in a group but I felt like an extrovert by comparison.

 

Surprisingly, the train was essentially on time, arriving shortly after 8 am.  The last stress of my train ride was making sure my bicycle arrived.  When I got off the train I expected to see someone with a cart to bring my bike box to the station.  Not seeing anyone I told the station agent that I had a bike box and they went and retrieved it.  Then it was a simple matter to straighten my handlebar, re-attach my pedals, and organize my panniers for the bicycle.

 

I had a reservation at the Mid Town Motel that was only a couple of blocks away.  I didnít expect I would be lucky enough to be able to check in right away but I thought I might be able to get in before the 2pm check in time.  No such luck.  The motel office wasnít open and when I rang the doorbell the proprietor curtly pointed to the 2pm check in time sign and pretty much slammed the door in my face.  So much for good customer interaction.

 

So I had about 5 hours to kill.  I rode the 2 main streets to check out the services and then I found a coffee shop on a side street.  I was able to get a coffee and WiFi access but there was no cook on this Sunday so I wasnít able to get any food which was disappointing.  I chatted with a local who told me the Highway of Legends (Highway 12) was the right route to take from Walsenberg to Trinidad as I planned.  Then he started spilling out his life story.  Some of it was interesting but not so interesting that I wanted to kill the rest of the day that way.  So after some polite listening I started up my chromebook and wrote up my adventures so far.

 

I killed a couple of hours at the coffee shop then I killed a few more hours at the city park.  Just after 2 pm I checked into my motel and got a floor room. It was a spacious room and good value for the money, only missing a desk so I had to use the lamp table by the bed as my desk.

 

Later I did some grocery shopping and then got a foot long sub at Subway which was a little further outside of town than I realized.  I ate half of the foot long and saved the other half for later.

 

Tomorrow will be the real start of my trip as I ride to Walsenberg which is 70 miles away with some gradual climbing. This is a harder start than I wanted but there are no services along the way.  The temperature is also expected to reach a high of 95F with the only saving grace that an ESE wind is forecasted which will help.

 

Day 1:Mon,Sep 5 - Walsenberg, CO [75.6, 8:52:05, 8.5 mph, 30.8 max, +3,317', -1,211']

Today promised to be a long day and very warm so I wanted to get off to a quick start.  I thought the convenience store would have egg sandwiches but they didnít.  Then I checked the Carl Jr fast food place which was supposed to open at 6:30 but no one was around.  So I went back to the Copper Kitchen Cafe which was open.

 

There were about a dozen customers already there, mostly the older guys who probably congregated there every morning including the guy I met yesterday in the coffee shop who tried to tell me his life story.  I ordered an omelet with a pancake instead of toast.  I was sitting in a booth facing the kitchen and another guy facing me, who turned out to be Jim, mentioned something to the waitress and seemed to gesture towards me.  Then the waitress told me Jim was paying for my breakfast which was really nice.  I managed to thank Jim before he left the cafe.

 

I was on my way around 7 am with a little over 70 miles to Walsenberg with an elevation gain of 2,200 feet and no services along the route.  So it promised to be a hard day and I wasnít disappointed.  The first 50 miles were a gradual climb and the last 20 miles were mostly flat.

 

The first 10 miles passed through mostly hay making country and then the rest of the way was open range with some grazing cattle but no homes.  The day started with cool weather in the 60s, perfect for cycling, but it was very warm by noon.  It was a cloudless day with no protection from the sun.  There wasnít any good place to rest so when there was a turn out with a loading chute I pulled in for a second breakfast of granola and cinnamon roll.

 

By noon I was halfway to Walsenberg but the hardest stretch was still ahead. At this point I was really dragging.  I normally carry 3 large water bottles and one regular water bottle.  With no services I carried a water bladder that was equivalent to 2 large water bottles.  That turned out to be about right and I ended up with one unused large water bottle but only because I was rationing my water to make sure I didnít run out.

 

There were times I seriously thought about hitching a ride which probably wouldnít have been that hard since there were a fair number of pickups passing along.  Mostly there was little traffic and the lack of any good shoulder most of the time didnít matter with the little traffic.  If someone had stopped and offered a lift I doubt I would have turned it down.

 

Finally, after about 55 miles I reached the high point of the route and started a couple mile descent.  That seemed to rejuvenate me and let me catch my second wind and I was okay after that.

 

One thing that kept me going was the thought of getting a cold drink in town.  Even though I had enough water it was warm water and not very appealing.  So when I finally approached town I was disappointed to not find any convenience stores as I rode into town.  So when I got to Main Street I just headed south to the Anchor Motel where I have stayed a couple times before.  It is most likely the least expensive place in town but they donít take reservations and it is first come first served.  But I didnít have any problem getting a room for $77.  I was a little concerned about the WiFi which was marginal when I stayed there last year.  So the first thing I did when I got into the room was break out my chromebook to make sure I could connect.  I was surprised when I booted up that my chromebook immediately connected.  Then I realized it still remembered the WiFi from last year.

 

I was in serious need of re-hydration so I headed out before cleaning up.  There was a 7-Eleven a few blocks away and I got their largest fountain drink along with an ice cream cookie sandwich which I felt I earned today.  There was a Safeway grocery store across the street so I picked up a few things.  Then I stopped for a burger at a Carl Jr that was along the way back to the motel.  I would have preferred the Subway in town but it was at the other end of town and I was in no mood to hike that far.  I got another large drink with my meal and got a refill as I left.  So I ended up with 3 large fountain drinks that pretty much took care of my re-hydration needs.

 

Then I planned my route along the Highway of Legends route to Trinidad.  I had some concern about how well I would recover from the dayís ordeal.  Fortunately, this part of my route had several options for short or long routes.

 

Day 2:Tue,Sep 6 - Cuchara, CO [28.6, 5:02:19, 5.7 mph, 22.8 max, +2,720', -404']

I didnít sleep very well which was surprising given yesterdayís hard ride.  However, my legs felt fine.

 

I rode to the 7 Eleven where I had 2 egg sandwiches and coffee. Then I left right around 7 on busy US160 as a lot of large trucks were on the way to wherever they needed to get to for their dayís work. I rode 11 miles where I picked up CO12, the Highway of Legends, that traversed  Spanish Hill Country on a scenic byway to Trinidad.  It was 70 miles to Trinidad so it would take me 2 days to reach Trinidad. The first 22 miles climbed, mostly gradually until the last 4 miles or so, to the peak at 9,940 feet and then descended mostly the rest of the way to Trinidad.

 

The good news about this route was it offered services whereas yesterday there were none.  For the day I had 3 options - La Veta, Cuchara, and Monument Park on the other side of the pass.  La Veta was only 5 miles from the start of the highway and was a perfect opportunity for my second breakfast.  I was able to get real milk for my granola and top off my water supply.  

 

As I was leaving the convenience store clerk asked me if I had seen any tarantulas.  Then he told me about the annual tarantula migration that occurs this time of the year.  The male tarantula, after 7-8 years, reaches sexual maturity and embarks on a search for a mate.  They end up crossing roads during their search and I had seen a couple on the road.  This area and La Junta in particular is prime migration territory.  For whatever reason, the male tarantula usually dies within about a year after mating but the female can live 20 years or so.

 

When I left La Veta I felt fine but that didnít last long. It was 11 miles to Cuchara but it gained 1400 feet on an average 2.5% grade.  It wasnít long before I was really dragging.  This wasnít that difficult a climb so I think yesterdayís hard ride was taking its toll.  I suspect this was worse because I didnít sleep very well.

 

This made my route selection easy - I would stay at Cuchara and postpone the climb to the pass until tomorrow morning.  With this decision I concentrated on minimizing the pain as much as possible.  When I found some shade along a bridge over a creek I pulled over on the left and rested a while.  This wasnít the best place for a rest with cars passing by while I was on the shoulder.  I eventually laid down on the shoulder.  This caused one driver to stop and back up to check if I was okay but I waved him on.

 

Eventually I resumed riding the few more miles to Cuchara, a mountain town at 8,650 feet,, which was just a small place off to the side of the road.  I was surprised, expecting to find something more like La Veta.  In particular I was looking for a convenience store where I could grab a large fountain drink.  Instead there was a general store that wasnít even open.  There was another shop that had some grocery items and I was able to get a gatorade and an ice cream cookie sandwich.

 

Next I found the only motel which was a pricey $200 for a room that wasnít all that great.  I had hoped they would have breakfast but the room didnít even have the typical microwave/refrigerator setup.  I walked across the street to the Yacht Club for an uninteresting chicken sandwich, the only restaurant open on this Tuesday. Most restaurants were closed Monday-Wednesday.

 

Day 3:Wed,Sep 7 - Trinidad, CO [55.1, 6:04:28, 9.1 mph, 42.0 max, +3,189', -5,272']

There was no breakfast available in town so I had my cup of granola and a banana in my room. I was off by 7:15 facing the 6 mile climb to the pass.  This was a good time since I was fresh - I slept at least 10 hours last night - and it was cool in the upper 50s/lower 60s.  The climb to the pass gained 1450 feet with an average grade of 5%.

 

There was virtually no traffic but the scenery wasnít great because it was wall-to-wall trees and no vistas.  I made reasonable time and reached Cuchara Pass at 9,995 feet at 9 am and the hard part of the day was already done.

 

When I reached the pass it was a wide open scenic view, a reward for the climb.  The other reward was a fast initial descent.  The pavement was so good I didnít realize how fast I was going until I glanced at my bike computer and saw 41.5 mph.

 

It was mostly downhill from the pass to Trinidad.  An initial 7 mile downhill, somewhat flat for 4 miles, and then a gradual downhill the rest of the way.  Yesterday I had planned to stay at Monument Lake Resort.  When I reached the resort today I was tempted to see if I could get breakfast but the resort was a little off the road so I continued on.  This was just as well since 6 miles later I stopped in Stonewall where I was pleasantly surprised to find a small store with a small restaurant that was still serving breakfast at 10:30.

 

Fortified with a good breakfast and re-hydrated I continued the easy pace of coasting and easy pedaling.  10 miles later I stopped for another cold drink in Weston and yet another cold drink in about another 10 miles.  Every day should have spacing like this for a cold drink.

 

On the southwest side of Trinidad there is the Trinidad Lake formed by an earthen dam.  There is a road, CR18.3 that passes over the dam and I rode that across the dam to the Interstate where there were several motels and a good place to stop for the ride over Raton Pass tomorrow.

 

There were several motels in the area but I stopped at the Quality Inn motel which was the first one along my way.  I got excited when they quoted a price of $129 since that sounded so good compared to yesterdayís exorbitant price.  The motel was a little cheaper with my AARP discount and the motel was in a fairly good location.  In addition to the price, this motel was better in every other aspect compared to yesterday.  It had a desk, a microwave/refrigerator, better lighting, and a larger bathroom and included breakfast.

 

After cleaning up I walked across to the other side of the Interstate which was a mess due to road construction.  I ate at a Mexican restaurant and stuffed myself with a Super Burrito.  There was also a Walmart near my motel where I was able to refresh my cereal supply.  And if I had wanted to get high there was a marijuana dispensary next door to the motel.

 

Day 4:Thu,Sep 8 - Cimarron, NM [60.1, 7:15:52, 8.3 mph, 30.4 max, +2,979', -2,805']

The motel had a pretty good breakfast and I was one of the first in line at 6am.  I had 2 waffles, some potatoes, and a mini cheese omelet.  All in all this was a good motel choice except for the price.

 

I left shortly after 7am.  The highlight of the route was the climb to Raton Pass at 7837 feet in the first 12 miles.  This was similar to the climb yesterday to Cuchara Pass except it was a 12 mile climb instead of 6 miles.  Otherwise, the difficulty was pretty much the same.  The last 2.5 miles were an average 5% grade with a max grade of nearly 8%.

 

However, this entire climb required using the Interstate.  The entry to the Interstate was right next to the motel.  It was a cool 59F to start and stayed mostly cool since it took a while for the sun to come over the hills on the east side.  This was a good thing since the cool weather was great climbing weather.  The biggest concern with the route was the chance of picking up a radial tire wire in the shoulder and getting a flat.  Fortunately, that didnít happen.  There also wasnít all that much traffic.

 

There was a sign for traffic construction for the last 1.5 miles to the pass and a single lane.  This was actually good since I was able to ride to the right of the pylons that closed off the right lane, since there was no construction underway.  Effectively I had the right lane to myself.

 

I reached the pass at 9:30 and started the descent.  At first there was a good shoulder for the 6% descent but then the shoulder deteriorated into probably the worst Interstate shoulder I have ridden on.  Then pylons were used to close off the left lane and I moved over and had half of the left lane to myself. Then my plan was to take the 2nd Street exit to Raton, the first opportunity to get off the Interstate.  Of course, the exit was marked closed with pylons but I ignored them since there was no construction.

 

Second Street was the business trek through town.  I stopped at a couple of convenience stores but they didnít have any milk for breakfast.  As I continued on I stopped at a hardware store that I had googled for.  My front fender was giving me problems with the right fender stay.  The stay is length adjustable but the screw for adjusting had stripped.  As a result, every time my foot brushed the fender, which happens when climbing slowly and wobbling while trying to maintain balance at low speed, the fender would start rubbing the tire and I would have to stop and manually adjust the fender.  This was getting real old and I was looking for something to stabilize the right stay.  I picked up a couple of things at the hardware store that I hoped could fix the issue.

 

Then I really wanted to find milk for breakfast.  I thought I might have to turn around and look for a grocery store but I rode on a little further and finally found a convenience store with milk.  After a cereal breakfast and banana I guzzled a large gatorade since there were no services for the 40 miles to Cimarron and this was the last opportunity for a cold drink.

 

The remaining route was mostly flat with some ups and downs.  Most of the route was on US64 but I wanted to avoid the Interstate for the few miles before the US64 exit.  Google had shown me a route using a frontage road that would have avoided the Interstate.  However, when I took the frontage road it ended at a gravel dump.  Fortunately, that gravel dump had an exit to the Interstate and I was able to jump on the Interstate for about a mile before taking the US64 exit.

 

The rest of the way was just a matter of grinding out the miles.  There wasnít that much to see with grassland and the hills on my right.  And it was very warm again except that some clouds were building up.  Around 2:30 the clouds occasionally hid the sun and riding was much more pleasant.

 

I pulled into Cimarron a little after 3:30 and stopped immediately at a convenience store for a large, cold fountain drink.  I rode on and found the Cimarron Inn in the middle of town and the only real motel option.  I was surprised when I was quoted $85 for a room since the motel looked somewhat decrepit from the outside.  Worse, the proprietor then said he made a mistake and didnít have a single room available.  Instead, I would have to pay $100 for a room with two beds.  Reluctantly I took the room.  Then I was surprised when I discovered the room was much nicer inside than the outside had led me to believe.  It was called the fishing room and was decorated with photos and plaques of fish - not your typical cookie cutter room found in most motels.

 

After cleaning up I walked to a pizza place on the other side of the road and discovered a place that didnít look inviting.  There was no obvious entrance and it had an order window.  So I bailed on that option and got a chicken sandwich at a drive in that had indoor seating. It wasnít the greatest meal but it sufficed.

 

Back at the motel I decided to address my front fender issue and see if my hardware purchases could fix the problem.  However, I keep a stash of various bolts and nuts that Iíve collected over the years and I was surprised to find a bolt that I was able to use to replace the stripped bolt.  Now I had a couple more things to add to my stash of bolts/nuts since I didnít need to use my hardware purchases.

 

Today was encouraging.  I followed up yesterdayís pass climb with another one that was at least a little harder.  Then I rode essentially continuously from Raton to Cimarron with only an occasional stop for a drink or to take a photo.  And I didnít seem any worse for the wear.  This suggests my body is adapting and getting stronger.

 

Day 5:Fri,Sep 9 - Eagle Nest, NM [26.4, 4:16:09, 6.2 mph, 28.7 max, +1,355', -135']

The breakfast restaurant I wanted to go to didnít open until 7 am so I rode to the convenience store at the edge of town and had 2 egg sandwiches, a cinnamon roll, and coffee.  Fortunately, the store had a couple tables inside which I used since it was fairly cool in the 50s.  As I left the restaurant I had hoped to use was just opening.

 

The original planned route was to ride to Taos.  However, there were thunderstorm possibilities in the afternoon so I decided to ride only 24 miles to Eagle Nest which I could do in the morning.   Since my legs felt a little stiff when I got up, an easy day wasnít a bad idea.  On the other hand, it was a 2,000 feet elevation gain so it wasnít all that easy but it was a gradual uphill climb until one steep climb near the end.

 

It was only a few miles outside Cimarron that I entered the Cimarron Canyon, formed by the Cimarron River.  At the start there were steep hills on my right as US64 wound its way to Eagle Nest.  Although there wasnít that much traffic the traffic was more precarious because there werenít long sight lines for the traffic to see me.  With the curvy road traffic could come up on me just around the bend in the road.  Fortunately, there were only a few times where there was 2-way traffic.

 

About half way between Cimarron and Eagle Nest I found a little shop in Ute Park where I was surprised to find milk for my second breakfast.  This was one of those general stores that had a little bit of everything, in particular hunting and fishing supplies in addition to some simple groceries.  The guy who ran the place was some kind of redneck - he flew a ĎDonít Tread on Meí flag and packed a revolver.  Anyway, I was happy to find the place for a convenient second breakfast.

 

Shortly after leaving I passed through the Cimarron Canyon State Park.  There was no fee for traveling through the park as long as you didnít stop and park, or use the day facilities or campgrounds.  Passing through the park was nice - it was an interesting, scenic route highlighted by the Pallisades Sill. The weather was also great with temps in the lower 70s.

 

A few miles before Eagle Nest the road climbed steeply for a mile as it left the canyon.  At the top of the climb there was a panoramic view of Eagle Nest Lake and the town.  From there it was a steep descent to the town.

 

By this time I was set on staying in Eagle Nest to avoid the potential bad weather in the afternoon.  So I looked for motels as I passed through town.  There was an Econo Lodge on the edge of town that I thought might have the best price.  Further in town I there were 2 other motels, one which required reserving a room online.  Unfortunately, I couldnít check it out because my phone complained when I tried to make a phone call saying - Your phoneís not registered on a network, so you can only make emergency calls.

 

So that left the Econo Lodge and the Laguna Vista Lodge.  I rode back to the Econo Lodge where I learned it was booked.  So I got a room at the Laguna Vista Lodge for $115.  Unfortunately, it was about the farthest from the office and I found I couldnít access their WiFi in my room but I could access their WiFi outside.  So I complained and got re-assigned another room closer to the office where I was able to access WiFi although it was still a rather weak signal.  One would expect better access in a $100+ room.  On the other hand, aside from the weak WiFi this was a really nice room.  It had good lighting, a nice desk, and a big bed.  I guessed this was a more expensive room than the one I was initially assigned.

 

While I was in town the clouds started showing up and looking somewhat threatening.  There were a few drops in town but it looked like it was raining in the distance in the mountains.  Some of this was happening around 2:30 pm which was about the time I would have been climbing Palo Flechado Pass.  The last place you want to be during a thunderstorm is on top of a mountain and I was glad I wasnít there.

 

Surprisingly, there werenít all that many eating choices in this town.  I ended up eating at a small restaurant and had a good burger but rather pricey at almost $20 including tip.

 

Day 6:Sat,Sep 10 - Eagle Nest, NM - Rest Day

I had to decide whether to stay in Eagle Nest or ride to Taos.  The weather forecast showed okay weather in the morning but thunderstorms starting around noon.  I was sure I could make Taos by noon but I didnít have a place to stay and I couldnít call for a registration since my phone wasnít working.  The last thing I wanted to do was arrive in Taos and then have to ride around looking for a motel in the rain.

 

So I decided to stay since I had a place to stay.  I walked to the convenience store only to find they had no egg sandwiches because they didnít have any eggs.  So I waited until 7am and ate at the Eagle Nest Cafe. I just had an egg sandwich and coffee since I didnít expect to need a lot of energy today.  I did have some interesting conversation with a guy who showed up with his young son.  He did a variety of things including bicycle repair.  He was able to give me some insights on the route to Taos.

 

Back at the motel I took a nap and did some reading.  Then I decided to wander the streets and was surprised to find the weather was rather pleasant.  I walked to the top of the town where there was a museum.  There I saw there was a lakefront trail along the lake that led back to town.  So I picked that up and then regretted that I didnít have my camera with me because there were some interesting photo opportunities.

 

I spent a good part of the afternoon watching NCAA football and also cleaning my bicycle chain.  During this time the weather was fine and the weather forecasts shifted their thunderstorm warnings to late afternoon.  So as it turned out it would have been fine to ride to Taos.

 

The Lodge also had a saloon and they offered pizza.  So I had a pretty good pepperoni pizza that I took back to my room.

 

The weather looked fine for the next few days but my big worry was my phone.  I had a sinking feeling that there was something wrong with my phone.  When this problem first started in Cimarron I assumed it was a network issue that wouldnít work with my tracfone.  Tomorrow is going to be the real test in Taos.

 

Day 7:Sun,Sep 11 - Taos, NM [32.4, 3:16:02, 9.9 mph, 25.9 max, +1,453', -2,661']

I was in no hurry in the morning because I had a short day and it was fairly chilly in the upper 40s.  I was first in line at the cafe at 7am and was joined shortly by the same guy and his son as yesterday.  I ordered the 2 pancakes and I knew it was the right choice when the waitress asked if I knew how large they were.  The pancakes were large and very good so it was a good breakfast.

 

I left town shortly after 8:00 with just a little over 30 miles to Taso.  There were 3 parts to the route.  The first part was 11 miles to Angel Fire on an essentially flat section with some undulations.  Then there was a 2 mile 5.5% grade climb to the Palo Flechado Pass.  After that it was an 18 mile gradual descent to Taos with the loss of 2,300 feet.

 

The stretch through the Moreno Valley to Angel Fire was scenic and pleasant.  Along the way I kept hearing this chirping and I kept looking around to find out what bird was making that sound.  Finally, I realized it was prairie dogs along the side of the road who were trying to warn their friends and neighbors that some strange dude on a funny looking contraption was approaching.  Typically these prairie dogs would scamper to their hole and look around to see the danger.  I managed to get a few photos before they ducked into their homes.

 

After about an hour I came to the base of the climb to the pass where my friend at breakfast warned me that the road was curvy and I might have to bail out at times because traffic wouldnít have a lot of time to see me.  As it turned out, I never encountered much traffic and never had to bail out.  I think I was helped by the fact that I was climbing on a Sunday morning.  This turned out not to be that difficult a climb.  I didnít need to stop along the way and I never needed my lowest gear.

 

From the top of the pass it was a relatively easy 18 mile descent to Taos.  The descent was never that steep and pedaling was generally fairly easy when I wasnít coasting.  Interestingly, I had to bail out several times on the descent whereas I never bailed out on the climb.  Sometimes folks wouldnít pass me when they had the opportunity and sometimes it was a large RV that was afraid to pass.  Then a line of vehicles would queue up behind the first vehicle and I would feel obligated to pull over and let the group pass.

 

When I got near Taos, rather than take US64 all the way to downtown Taos I took a left on NM585.  That brought me into south Taos where I had a reservation at a Super 8.  Even though I couldnít call to make a reservation I realized in the morning that I could make an online reservation on the Super 8 website.  So I knew exactly where to go to get to my motel.

 

When I got to the Super 8 the receptionist worked to get me into a room shortly after noon even though the official check in time was 3pm.  While waiting for my room to be made up I rode to a nearby Speedway.  There wasnít any interesting food but there was an ice cream cookie sandwich that I snagged along with a cold drink.

 

There was also a guy sitting by the store entrance who looked like he could be a homeless guy.  While I was sitting outside admiring my sandwich I heard him ask several people if they could spare a dollar.  He never asked me and I thought maybe that because I was on a bike he assumed I didnít have enough money to travel any other way.  In any event I donated an unsolicited $1 since I could easily afford that.

 

When I got back to the motel my room was ready and I checked in.  This room cost the same as my room in Eagle Nest but it wasnít nearly as nice.  My room in Eagle Nest was really nice with a nice desk for my PC. This room was barely wide enough for me to get my loaded bicycle in and I had to use an end table as a desk.

 

After cleaning up I headed downtown.  My friend at breakfast said the Taos Plaza was a great people watching place.  However, it was 2.5 miles away, too far to walk, so I unloaded my bicycle and rode downtown.  There was a good bike lane for at least half the way and then there was construction and things got messy.  It wasnít too much of a problem navigating the mess on an unloaded bike but I expected tomorrow would be different when I would have to maneuver my loaded bike through the mess.

 

Nevertheless, I made it to the Taos Plaza which was a circular group of shops and restaurants with a pavilion in the middle.  I grabbed a coffee and a chocolate muffin from a coffee shop and retired to a bench in the shade in the pavilion.  As it turned out there was a auto show with about 8 autos, including a 1957 Chevrolet, put on by the TACO (Taos Auto Cruise Organization).  This attracted pedestrians and enhanced the people watching.

 

After about an hour I headed back to the motel.  When I rode to the plaza I was sure where I was going to be eating when I saw a Subway.  However, on my way back I discovered the Subway had temporary hours where it was closed on Saturdays and Sundays.  When I got back to my room I started checking out restaurants on google maps and I found a surprising number of them closed around 3pm.

 

Eventually I found the Guadalajara Grill within walking distance and I picked up a burrito for takeout.  Normally, a large burrito is filling for me but not this time.  Thatís when I realized that I hadnít eaten anything since breakfast except for my ice cream cookie sandwich.

 

So I walked back to the Speedway in search of more food.  Thatís when I saw I had made a mistake when I got an ice cream cookie sandwich earlier.  Thatís because a single one cost $3.29 but you could get 2 for $5.  To rectify that mistake I bought 2 ice cream cookie sandwiches and reduced my average cost from $3.29 to $2.80, a big improvement.  With that purchase and a large fountain drink I headed back to my motel and settled in for the night.

 

This turned out to be a pleasant day with a good ride in the morning and then enough time to enjoy the Plaza in the afternoon..  Then to top it off I learned my phone wasnít broken after all - it worked in Taos. Finally, I tried to use the TV in my room and eventually learned the TV didnít work so I got a $30 discount for my room.  Most of the time I would gladly take a $30 discount for no TV service. 

 

Day 8:Mon,Sep 12 - Hopewell Lake, NM [55.0, 7:49:05, 7.0 mph, 32.7 max, +4,065', -1,237']

The Super 8 included breakfast and I had 2 waffles and some oatmeal, an okay breakfast.  It was cool in the 40s but I left around 7:30.  I stopped along the way to get some groceries.

 

As yesterday there was a bike lane for 2 miles and then I had to work my way through road construction.  It was about 5 miles from the south end of town to the north end.  Just on the north end I saw a post office so I stopped because I needed 2 stamps for birthday cards and this was really convenient.

 

There was a line of mountains to my right as I headed northwest.  14 miles from town I stopped to view the Rio Grande Gorge from the bridge that crossed the gorge.  I started to ride the sidewalk on the bridge but there was a big drop off from the walk to the street so I dismounted and walked my bike, checking out views from both sides of the bridge.  At the other end of the bridge there was a rest area where folks set up merchandise stalls to try to entice the tourists.

 

Shortly after I left I realized the rest area would have been a great second breakfast location except I had only gone 14 miles and didnít need a second breakfast yet.  Ahead there were some strange looking buildings in an earthship community that demonstrates passive solar architecture, thermal mass construction, renewable energy, and integrated water systems.  Then I saw a lone tarantula crossing the road, another entry in the tarantula migration.

 

Shortly after this the US64 deteriorated somewhat.  I was a bit rough chip seal road with some unevenness and no road striping.  This was sage brush country with no shade.  Eventually when I stopped on a rise I noticed rocks on the other side of the road that offered a place to sit so I stopped for my second breakfast shortly after 11.

 

I continued on where I stopped in Tres Piedras after 35 miles.  This is where US64 and US285 intersected.  There was the Chili Line Depot just up the road so I stopped for a cold Coke and filled my large water bottle.  I could have stayed there but that would have made today a short ride and tomorrow a long ride so I opted to continue on to make tomorrowís ride to Chama an easy ride.

 

As soon as I continued on, US64 became a noticeably better road.  It was still chip sealed but smoother and it had road striping.  It was 5 miles up the hill at this point.  A guy in a truck stopped after he passed me by and then backed up some and offered to give me a ride.  I thanked him and said I was okay, wondering if I would regret not taking this ride later.

 

At the top of this climb there was a nice descent to a long valley.  The road followed this valley for about 10 miles with a gradual ascent.  Then at the end of the valley the road started a hard climb out of the valley to the Hopewell Lake Campground where I planned to stay.  It was at this point that I wished the guy offering a ride had come along.  It was a hard climb that I covered at 3.5 mph.  It was most likely harder because it was at the end of a long day.  I started taking a short break after every half mile.  I was relieved when I saw the sign for the campground turnoff in Ĺ mile.

 

When I took the turnoff I had to climb a little more to get to the campground which was above the lake.  The campground had a host who came by to collect the $24 fee, which should have been $12 except I left my Senior Pass at thome.  Then I got the bad news that there was no water in the campground.  I still had 2 large water bottles but that would have really been stretching it. That really worried me but then I remembered I carried a mini-Sawyer water filter that I had never used.  I was able to walk down to the  lake and filter enough water to fill my large and regular water bottle.  This filter had a 16 oz bladder so I mostly filled it and hiked back to camp with my water supply under control.

 

By this time the sun was going down and it was getting chilly.  I broke out my food supply and had an adequate dinner of beef bites, string cheese, and tortillas with nutella.  Normally I would have written my notes using the picnic table but it was getting dark and I was very tired.  So I retired to my tent and went to sleep around 8.

 

A rather hard day especially with the hardest 5 miles at the end of a long day.

 

Day 9:Tue,Sep 13 - Chama, NM [44.2, 4:30:38, 9.8 mph, 36.3 max, +1,919', -3,986']

Since the Hopewell Lake Campground was almost 10,000 feet high I expected rather chilly weather in the morning but it wasnít particularly cold.  I had breakfast in bed in my tent and packed up to leave.  Just before leaving I decided to write up my notes for yesterday before I forgot.  By the time I left it was about 8:30.

 

My legs, not too surprising, were tired. I had a 4 mile moderate climb followed by a fast descent and then a 5 mile climb to the Brazo Summit at 10,528 feet which wasnít signed.  There was a great panoramic view from the summit where you could see at least 20 miles.

 

The descent was a fast descent for about 8 miles with several stretches of 30 mph. Then the rest of the descent to Tierra Amarilla was easy pedaling.  Just after US64 joined US84 there was a small store where I got a burrito and a cold drink since there was nothing until Chama.

 

The 15 mile route to Chama was mostly flat with some easy climbing but my legs didnít think it was all that easy.  I had hoped after the initial 10 mile climb to Brazos Summit my legs would be in great shape.  Obviously they hadnít really recovered from yesterday and that made me start questioning whether to take a rest day.  Plus the last time I looked at the weather the weather looked uncertain for tomorrow.

 

I had my eye on the Y motel because of its price but the motel looked somewhat decrepit where US 64 turned west and NM 17 headed 1.5 miles into Chama.  There was a Welcome Center at this junction and a receptionist suggested the Chama Trails motel which was across the street.  I got a room there for $106 but I could only get one night so I needed to find another motel if I took a rest day.

 

My room was a very nice room and there was a Subway nearby where I got a foot long sub.  There were also 2 convenience stores and a grocery store at this junction so it was a good location.  During this time the weather clouded up and cooled off.  Later it started raining so it was good that I got into town around 2 pm.

 

It rained for a while towards evening and the weather was uncertain for tomorrow.  So I decided laying over was sensible.  I would avoid any bad weather and give my legs a rest.  So I called the Y Motel that looked somewhat decrepit.  I got an answering service so I hung up and then got a phone call and a text message from Barb in response to my call.  So I called Barb back and signed up for tomorrow with a noon check in for $79 that included a 10% discount for a cyclist.  I wondered how Barb guessed that I was a cyclist and then I remembered my email address had Ďcyclistí in it.  This was a motel reservation where the room key was held in a lock box and you got texted the code to the lock box to get the key.

 

Day 10:Wed,Sep 14 - Chama, NM [5.1, 0:43:20, 7.0 mph, 16.0 max, +213', -220']

I slept pretty well and walked the short walk to Finaís Diner which supposedly opened at 6am.  However, when I got there shortly after 6 the place was still closed.  When a local showed up the door was opened about 6:15 but I could only get coffee since the cook had not shown up yet.  That was okay since I was in no hurry.

 

The cook showed up about 10 minutes later and I ordered 2 pancakes and bacon.  I didnít necessarily want pancakes today since I wasnít going anywhere but I wanted to see how large they were for tomorrow.  They turned out to be rather large and it would be a question whether I order 3 pancakes tomorrow.

 

Checkout time was 11 am so I had time to go downtown before then.  It was 1.5 miles to downtown which was too far to walk so I unloaded my bike and rode there.  I stopped at the Rio   Chama Espresso where I had a muffin and a bottle of water since I already had enough coffee for breakfast.  Then I rode to the Cumbres & Toltec railroad to see the train on its way at 10 am for the 64 mile ride to Antonito.  This is a popular train ride which I did in 2014.  The train had 2 engines and 10 passenger cars and one open car.  It was a cool day so there were only a couple of hardy folks in the open car when it took off.

 

After that I rode back to the motel and killed time until it was time to checkout.  I killed more time waiting for the code for my room to get in at noon.  Shortly after noon I inquired about my code and it was sent shortly.  I got the key out of the lock box and found my room was a basic room as I expected.  It was nowhere as nice as the Chama Trails Motel but it was almost $30 cheaper, a tradeoff I was happy to make.  On the other hand without the 10% cyclist discount the Chama Trails Motel was probably a better value.

 

The only grocery store in Chama was right across the street and they had some hot food.  When I spied the beef enchiladas I grabbed one and ate half in my room, saving the other half for later.

 

Day 11:Thu,Sep 15 - Antonito, CO [50.3, 5:58:45, 8.4 mph, 34.5 max, +3,261', -3,159']

I walked to Finaís Cafe for breakfast, understanding that opening promptly at 6 am was not their strong suit based on yesterday.  As I approached I saw the sign all lit up and I could smell bacon so I thought everything was good.  However, when I got close I could see no lights on inside the cafe.  I waited a little and then decided to walk back to the Speedway to see what they had.  Yesterday they had a single egg sandwich that I bought.  Today they had nothing.  My experience with Speedway this trip is they are pretty much useless for getting something decent.

 

When I turned back to the cafe I saw the cafe sign was off so I assumed that meant something happened that they wouldnít be open today.  Disappointed, I walked back to my motel and packed up to leave, intending to try another cafe downtown.  However, as I rode towards downtown I saw the cafe was now open so I stopped for breakfast.  I had the 3 pancakes and ham which loaded me up for the ride.

 

I learned a bit of great news while watching TV while eating my breakfast.  Yesterday, Amtrak announced they were terminating all long distance routes with the looming railroad strike.  This morning it was announced that the railroad strike was averted.  That should mean that Amtrak will resume its long distance routes.  This is very important for me since I plan to return home from Grand Junction on Amtrak.

 

I left around 7:30 for the 50 mile ride to Antonito.  My legs felt good and the climbing was in the morning with fresh legs.  There were 2 passes to climb, both right at 10,000 feet and not too far apart.  It was 14 miles to Cumbres Pass.  A few miles before the pass I crossed into Colorado.  There was a ďWelcome to Colorful ColoradoĒ sign that was rather listless with white lettering on a dark brown background whereas the New Mexico ďThank you for VisitingĒ sign was the colorful sign.  Hard to figure.

 

The scenery up to the pass was very nice, riding through valleys with green forested hills.  The final mile to Cumbres Pass at 10,022 feet was pretty steep at nearly 7% grade but the scenery made it worth the effort.

 

My 3 pancake breakfast powered me up to the pass and I didnít consider a second breakfast until I reached the pass.  However, it was a bit windy and cool and it was wide open so I didnít see a good opportunity for a second breakfast.  So I rode on through another scenic valley.  The road was cut into the side of the hill with the valley below.  The ride was mostly flat, slightly descending for 4 miles so it was great viewing.

 

Then it was another 3 mile climb to La Manga Pass at 10,230 feet.  After 20 miles I reached the second pass at noon with the climbing over for the day.  There was a 5 mile 6% grade descent with a 30 mph speed limit that I had no trouble exceeding.  About half way down this big descent there was a turnout for a great view of the Conejos Canyon.  There were also some large rocks that made this a good place for a second breakfast since there was some protection from the wind.

 

Just as I was finishing 3 touring cyclists - 2 guys and a gal - came up to the turnout.  They were riding the Divide Trail but had to use the road to get over the passes.  Just before I reached the turnout there was a touring couple making their way up the pass.  So this turned out to be a popular cycling spot.

 

I continued the steep descent until the road flattened out into an easy descent, following the Conejos River to Antonito. The scenery wasnít great the rest of the way but it was easy pedaling.

 

I pulled into Antonito at 2:30.  There was a motel on the south side of town that catered to the train riders but there was no vacancy when I checked yesterday.  So I had to get a room at the Steam Train Hotel that was in the middle of town.  The  hotel had no onsite presence so I had to call to get someone to check in but there was already a couple from Wisconsin who were calling for check in at the same time.

 

As I expected, my room was on the second floor.  We had to carry our luggage up a long stairway and I helped this couple because it was a bit much for them to carry luggage.  I was just happy that there wasnít any issue with keeping my bike in my room.

 

Antonito is a very small town with limited services.  Interestingly, there were 2 restaurants, both right across the street from the hotel, and they were both Mexican and they were almost right next to each other. Seems like a little variety would have been in order.  I ate at the Dutch Mill Cafe and had a good burrito meal.  I had 2 burritos with my meal as well as chips/salsa.  I tried to leave a little food to make it look like I wasnít a glutton but I donít know if I succeeded.

 

This was a great ride.  My legs held up well and this was the best scenery so far of the trip. This ride had been on my bucket list ever since I did the train ride in 2014.  The train ride was great but I wanted to experience the route on a bicycle.  However, I didnít realize that the road followed the train route for only about the first 15 miles and then the routes diverted.

 

Day 12:Fri,Sep 16 - Monte Vista, CO [43.9, 4:25:50, 9.9 mph, 14.9 max, +466', -666']

The hotel had some food stuff for breakfast but I decided I wanted more so I walked across the street for breakfast at the Dutch Mill Cafe.  It opened at 7:00 and I got there a little early and was surprised to see it already open.  As usual, there was a group of local guys sitting at one of the tables drinking coffee.

 

I ordered the pancake sandwich which wasnít that much food but I expected to augment it with some food at the hotel. When I asked the waitress for the check she went to the register to total it up.  However, rather than just totaling mine she totaled everyoneís even though I was the only one waiting for a check.  Then she went into the kitchen and delivered some more food.  Then she went around offering coffee refills for the first time and I wasnít interested by then.  Seemed like she was looking for every excuse to give me my check.  Finally I parked myself at the register to make sure she finally delivered the check.  She lost some tip money with her lack of attention.

 

Back at the hotel I grabbed some coffee cake to augment my breakfast and then packed up to leave.  This meant dragging my panniers down the steep outside stairway in 3 trips.  Finally I was off about 8:15 when it was still cool in the low 40s but not a problem.

 

There were some interesting murals on the building as I left town.  Normally, routing on this trip is easy because thereís normally only one way to go.  Today was different since there were several country roads that could be pieced together for the route.  I used Google Maps to create a bike route to Monte Vista.  However, I forgot that Google Maps doesnít care about the road condition.

 

So I was a little surprised when I turned off US285 onto County Rd J and it was gravel.  That was for less than a mile but then I turned north onto County Rd 13 for 12 miles.  These gravel roads were pretty good but still a little rough in places.  I should have used RideWithGPS because it shows when roads are not paved.  Had I realized I would have stayed on US285 until La Jara because the shoulder was good and wide.  On the other hand the tradeoff was virtually no traffic and no noise.

 

Next I took CO 15 west for a mile and then CO 371N for 10 miles, then CO 370W for 6 miles, and then CO 15N for the final 10 miles to Monte Vista.  This was flat riding through the San Luis Valley but still scenic with mountains in the distance.

 

Just as I turned on to CO 15N I noticed what looked like a coiled baby rattlesnake so I stopped to inspect.  It looked like something had injured the snake.  It didnít move when I checked it out so I donít know whether or not it was dead but I didnít feel like checking more closely.

 

On the way to Monte Vista I passed the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge.  This refuge is noted for the Sandhill Crane migration where the sandhill cranes and flocks of waterfowl stop here to rest up before continuing their migration.

 

When I reached town my preferred motel was at the intersection but I learned it was full, not surprising since it was the least expensive and it was a Friday.  Just a little east was the Monte VIlla Hotel where I stopped to check.  No one was at the desk but there was a number to call and shortly after I called a Chinese woman, the owner of the hotel, informed me that electricity was off in town for another hour or so.  I tried to glean some information from her about availability and whether my bicycle would be a problem.  She hemmed and hawed and offered no useful information.

 

So I headed further east towards the edge of town and stopped at the Sandhill Inn & Suites.  They had the same problem with no electricity but the receptionist told me they would have a room for me once the electricity came back on, and it was a reasonable $99 with AARP discount plus breakfast.  I ended up waiting across the street at a park for about 20-30 minutes when I got a call that the electricity was back on and I got a room on the first floor.

 

While cleaning up I rinsed out my shorts and jersey and hung them outside to dry.  The motel had a wooden fence around the perimeter.  I hung the clothes on the fence thinking they were somewhat unobtrusive but I was wrong.  Later I remembered to check on them and they were gone.  I looked everywhere for them but there was no sign of them.  I couldnít imagine that someone would want to steal them but thought maybe someone would do that as a prank.  Finally, I checked with the front desk and the receptionist said someone had noticed them and he had picked them up.  He thought they might be junk but kept them in a bag just in case and I was able to reclaim them.  It wouldnít have been a catastrophic loss since I had an extra pair of shorts/jersey but it would have been disconcerting.

 

When touring Iím always leery of the weekend because you never know what may be going on.  Tomorrowís destination was Creede and it has limited accommodation.  So I started calling around trying to get a place to stay.  Then I learned there was an auto show and I knew it was unlikely I would find anything.  So I resigned myself to having to camp tomorrow somewhere outside Creede.  Not ideal but thatís why I carry a tent and sleeping bag.

 

This was an easy, flat day of cycling.  I would have liked to have gone on to Del Norte but it was a smaller town with fewer services.

 

Day 13:Sat,Sep 17 - South Fork, CO [30.9, 3:51:28, 8.0 mph, 15.6 max, +686', -417']

Breakfast was served at 6:30 so I got there at 6:20 and there were already a half dozen people there.  I had 2 waffles and some scrambled eggs so I got my moneyís worth.  With my AARP discount and this included breakfast the most expensive room in town was about as good as the least expensive room in town.

 

I left around 7:30.  It was about 60 miles to Creede and, with no accommodation available in Creede this weekend because there was an auto show in town and everything was booked,I expected to have to camp in a campground just on the other side of town.  This route wasnít particularly hard with a gradual uphill and an elevation gain of 1,000 feet.  However, as I was riding I realized this was going to be about an 8 hour ride.  That concerned me that my legs might be tired for the ride to Lake City which had some significant climbing with almost a 3,000 foot elevation gain.  So I decided to break the ride to Creede into 2 days to keep my legs fresh.  So I decided to only ride to South Fork today, only about 30 miles with a moderate uphill.

 

This ride up the San Luis Valley was very scenic as I remembered from last year when I rode in the other direction.  There were fields, often hay fields, that were bounded by the hills on both sides.  There was a great shoulder that was almost as wide as a traffic lane.

 

Around 11 am the wind picked up and I had about a 10 mph headwind.  The wind was expected to get stronger but it was supposed to shift to the southwest.  Once I reached South Fork I would have been heading northwest so this wind would have been a cross wind at that point.

 

I pulled into South Fork at noon and immediately noticed that the motel I stayed at last year showed a No Vacancy sign.  I managed to get a room at the Rainbow Lodge but all the motel rooms were filled and I had to settle for a more expensive cabin.

 

When I got in the cabin I immediately checked for WiFi access and discovered I couldnít access the WiFi.  Once I stepped outside I could access the WiFi but the signal was too weak inside the cabin to be of any use.  So I got switched to another cabin where the WiFi was a little stronger.  It was still weak but I could access it from within the cabin.  This reminded me of last year where I also had WiFi problems in my motel room and eventually got a credit because the WiFi wasnít usable.

 

There wasn't a lot of food access in town but I was right next to a grocery store.  I was told there was a breakfast place a mile or so back down the road but I didnít want to backtrack so I grabbed some ham/cheese sandwiches for breakfast and a couple of burritos for dinner.

 

An easy day as I hoped and tomorrow should be even a little easier which hopefully will give me fresh legs for the climbing on the way to Lake City.

 

Day 14:Sun,Sep 18 - Creede, CO [22.5, 2:55:56, 7.7 mph, 21.1 max, +1,496', -850']

I wouldnít be able to get into my room in Creede until 3 pm so there was no hurry for me to leave.  I heated up a couple of Jimmy Dean ham/cheese sandwiches along with a cinnamon roll for breakfast since the closest breakfast place was at least a mile away in the wrong direction.

 

I ended up leaving at 10. It was 21 miles to Crede, gaining 600 feet of elevation along the way.  The road crossed the Rio Grande River on the way out of town and followed the river all the way to Creede.  It was a scenic route with craggy hills on my right and frequent warnings about falling rocks.  There was no shoulder and some traffic so I had to watch out for oncoming traffic.  However, folks were very polite and only in one instance did someone try to pass with oncoming traffic.  I also saw a doe with her fawn cross the road ahead of me but she did not cooperate for a photo.

 

When I reached Wagon Wheel Gap after 14 miles the scenery changed.  The craggy hills disappeared and it opened up into a wide area with rolling hills, still very scenic.  At this point a decent shoulder appeared so riding was safer.  I crossed the Rio Grande and then crossed it again just before Creede.  At times there was a burst of headwind that never lasted too long.  Just outside Creede there was a disturbing sign warning of road construction for the next 21 miles.  Tomorrow is a significant climbing day and the last thing I wanted was to get delayed while waiting to get through construction areas.

 

Creede is an old mining town. It backed up against hills and the road did a sharp U-turn in the middle of town.  The Snowshoe Lodge was well located, just outside the historic downtown area.  Since I arrived around 1 pm I had a couple of hours to kill.  So I rode through the historic area where there were a number of tourist attractions.

 

I stopped at a coffee place, not particularly wanting coffee but it was a good place to kill time and people watch.  There was a park next to the coffee place and they had a ĎMusic in the Parkí event.  This apparently is held throughout the summer and this was the last event of the year.  There was a lone singer accompanied by his guitar who started singing at 2 pm.  He was pretty good and I killed another hour there.  Interestingly, the singer mentioned that he had driven up from Alamosa yesterday and that he had to fight the wind while driving.  That made me glad that I had decided to stop at South Fork yesterday rather than continue on to Creede.  If he had to fight the wind with his car I could only imagine what that would have been like on my bicycle.

 

Then it was time to check into my motel.  I got a decent room for $125 that included breakfast. I was also surprised there was a guest laundry which just happened to be 2 doors from my room.  So I bought some soap at the nearby convenience store and quickly did a load of laundry.  The washer required $1.50 in quarters which used up most of my quarters.  The dryer required $2 of quarters but for some reason the quarter slots were already filled with quarters, so my drying came for free.

 

After that I started looking for food with google maps.  Several places would have been candidates but they were closed on Sundays.  There was a grill not far down the street so I walked there only to find they were closed even though they were supposedly open.  Rather than hiking all the way downtown I grabbed a sub and some chips from the convenience store and made that a meal.

 

Just as I was getting ready to walk to the closed grill I discovered I had lost my motel key.  In a panic, I looked everywhere and couldnít find the key.  It had to be either in the laundry room or my room but I couldnít find it.  The last thing I remembered was that I had stuck the key partially in the waistband of my cycling shorts.  It was a typical motel key with the plastic dongle showing the room number.  So I had the plastic dongle inside my waistband and the key hanging outside my waistband.  Finally, I stuck my hand down the leg of my cycling shorts and discovered the key had managed to slide down my leg.  It was a great relief to find the key.

 

This was, as planned, an easy cycling day.  I hoped this would leave my legs fresh for tomorrowís challenging climb to Lake City.

 

Day 15:Mon,Sep 19 - Lake City, CO [50.6, 7:02:24, 7.2 mph, 39.2 max, +4,177', -4,213']

The motel served breakfast but not until 7:30.  That was later than I wanted but it was worth the wait.  This was probably the best motel breakfast I ever had.  I had egg/sausage quiche, steel cut oats, and 2 kinds of pastries - cinnamon rolls and sticky buns.  I loaded up for the day ahead.

 

It was chilly so I didnít leave until 8 but once I was in the sun on the other side of town the temperature was fine.  Today promised to be a challenging ride of 52 miles to Lake City with 3 significant climbs.  First, it was 20 miles of slight uphill, then a 4 mile climb, a 6 mile climb, and a 5 mile climb with the last climb the steepest at about a 5% grade.

 

The first 20 miles were easy riding with a slight uphill and nice scenery.  The route started out southwest to get around the hills and then it turned north to make its way to Lake City.  There was road construction where they have been repaving sections of the road all summer.  There was a 2 mile section of the road that was one-way.  This was right at the point where the road turns north.  I only waited a couple of minutes and then we were sent on our way.  However, they waited for me to ride the 2 mile section before they released the other direction.  This didnít make much sense since after about a quarter mile we were past the paving section and the rest of the way had no activity.  I could have ridden the left lane as it was unused.  Instead, there were a dozen vehicles waiting to come through by the time I was through.  Fortunately, this 2 mile section was a little downhill so I got through faster than normal.

 

Shortly after this road construction section I stopped at the Freemonís Store.  I got a Coke and milk for my second breakfast.  I hoped the coke would give me a caffeine fix to help me along and I saved the milk for later.

 

Shortly after this the climbing started on the first climb.  It was pretty hard climbing but there was some great scenery along the way including the Rio Grande Reservoir.  I promised myself I could have my second breakfast when I finished this climb which I did around 12:30.  Then there was about a mile descent and the start of the second climb which was noticeably easier.

 

However, this section had a poor shoulder with cracks that gave a butt thumping and the traffic lane wasnít much better.  There was a steep descent after this climb but the road was too rough to turn the bike loose.  Then magically the road got better about half through the descent and I turned the bike loose.

 

At the bottom of this descent I stopped for a short break and inhaled a pack of vanilla wafers.  At this point there was a sign noting that it was 4 miles to the Slumgullion Pass.  The first 2.5 miles were steep and then the remaining 1.5 miles eased up a bit.  Along this way there was a great view of Mount Baldy Cinco.

 

From the pass it was 10 miles to Lake City on a steep 7% descent.  Much of it was a curvy descent so I had to work the brakes to stay under control.  About half way down I thought I smelled rubber so I stopped and noted my rear rim was rather warm.  So I waited about 5 minutes to give the rim a chance to cool off.  I also passed the scenic Lake San Cristobal on the descent.

 

I finally pulled into Lake City at 4:30.  I had a room reservation at Bushwhack Lodge.  What I didnít realize was this was an online motel where they text you the key to the door.  Problem was I had the problem with my phone again where it wasnít working, just like it failed in Cimarron and Eagle Nest.  It had failed in Creede and again in Lake City.  So I had to get the guy in the store next door to call the owner who gave me the code to the room.

 

Since I was very hungry after a long day I immediately walked the short distance to the Packer Saloon & Cannibal Grill - thatís how hungry I was, thinking this was named for the Green Bay Packers.  I had a great chicken sandwich but it should have been great for $15.  Later, I learned from my friend Kelly that this place was named for the infamous Alferd Packer, ďThe Colorado CannibalĒ.  In 1874, in winter Packer went into the San Juan Mountains with 5 other prospectors but only he emerged a couple months later, having spent all their money and looking well fed.  Later, the half-eaten bodies of his fellow prospectors were found and Packer was arrested for their murder, which he denied, but spent time in jail.

 

Then I learned my WiFi was free but it was in ďlimited supplyĒ according to the motel handout.  Not exactly sure what that meant but occasionally the Internet access would stop and resume again later.  This was very frustrating.

 

Overall, though it was a hard day with over 4,000 feet of climbing my legs held up very well.  And the scenery was just outstanding throughout the day, justifying the hard work.

 

Today was the start of the 3rd week of this tour.  During the first 2 weeks I didnít have any dangerous incidents.  Then I had 2 dangerous incidents within 30 minutes of each other, both involving careless passing. First, as a vehicle behind me was passing me the vehicle behind passed this vehicle, causing simultaneous traffic when waiting just a few seconds for the first vehicle to pass me.  Much worse a little later, there was a line of traffic behind an RV coming in the other direction.  Just as I was coming around a curve, the vehicle behind the RV impatiently accelerated from behind the RV to pass.  I had no option but to run off the road.  A very dangerous, unforced incident.

 

Day 16:Tue,Sep 20 - Gunnison, CO [56.2, 6:24:39, 8.8 mph, 36.8 max, +3,104', -4,016']

There werenít many breakfast options in town but there was a place a block away that served some basic bagel and egg sandwiches.  They opened at 7 and I was there waiting.  I got their breakfast burrito which was okay but nothing to get excited about.

 

I left at 8 on my way to Gunnison 55 miles away.  Today would be a test of my legs after yesterdayís hard day.  There was a 20 mile easy downhill start followed by 2 almost identical climbs and then a long descent.

 

The first 8 miles or so were scenic following the Lake Fork Gunnison River out of town.  After that the scenery opened up.  After 20 miles the first climb started.  It gained almost 1,000 feet over a little more than 3 miles.  I was able to make this climb without stopping.  At the top I stopped for my second breakfast.  The route then lost all of the elevation from the climb and descended to a bowl area of farming.  Then the second climb was mostly a repeat of the first climb, reclaiming the elevation that was lost.  When I got within a mile of the top I stopped for a quick break and to check the view.

 

The route was mostly flat for a couple miles and then there was a big descent of 1300 feet over 8 miles.  The initial descent was steep but then it moderated to a 20 mph descent which was just fine.

 

CO149 ended at US50 which I took east to Gunnison, another 10 miles.  I had a reservation at Rodeway Inn but I was surprised how far outside Gunnison it was, almost 2 miles.  I knew it was on the outskirts of town but didnít realize it was that far.  I continued riding on into town until I reached a convenience store and stopped for a cold drink.  Then I returned to my motel and checked in.

 

There was no food nearby so I ordered pizza for delivery for Marioís Pizza which was recommended by a couple people.  It was great pizza and I managed to devour a medium size all by myself.

 

The plan for tomorrow was to ride to Crested Butte.  However, there were no reasonable accommodations available unless I wanted a motel with a personal chef.  The ideal accommodation would have been the Crested Butte Hostel but it was booked, not surprising since it was the most economical accommodation in town.  There may have been accommodations in the ski area but it was several miles outside of town and I wasnít interested in that.

 

My legs held out well for the second day with significant climbing.

 

Day 17:Wed,Sep 21 - Sapinero, CO [29.2, 3:16:20, 8.9 mph, 25.3 max, +1,102', -1,001']

When I got up I tried again to see if I could find accommodation in Crested Butte for the next 2 days.  I hoped someone might have canceled at the last minute but no such luck.  So I decided to head west to Sapinero, about 25 miles.  I managed to reserve a cabin at Blue Mesa Outpost for $120 per night.  Then I took advantage of the motel breakfast at 7:00.  They had the usual - waffle, cereal, oatmeal plus scrambled eggs and sausage.

 

Then I packed up and headed into town for a grocery run since I didnít know what might be available in Sapinero.  This was a 4 mile round trip.

 

I was off at 8:30 for the 25 mile trip to Sapinero.  The weather forecast was okay for the morning with rain/thunderstorms moving in for the afternoon.  The road was mostly flat with undulations as it followed the Gunnison River along the way.  The defining feature of this route after 10 miles was the Blue Mesa Reservoir formed by damming the river at Sapinero.  This formed 3 basins - Iola, Cebolla, and Sapinero - named for the 3 towns that the reservoir submerged.

 

It was a scenic ride along the basins with the surrounding hills.  This area was one big Curecanti National Recreation Area with numerous accesses to the basins.  When I got near Sapinero there were the Dillon Pinnacles on the north side.  Viewing the pinnacles across the basin was very scenic.

 

Just before crossing the bridge there was the Sapinero Village Campground which supposedly had a store so I stopped to see what they had.  Unfortunately, the store was a work in progress and basically it was just a coffee shop at this time.

 

When I crossed the bridge I missed the turn for the Blue Mesa Outpost.  Instead I took the next turn which turned out to be a private road.  So I pulled out my phone and checked Maps.Me and realized my mistake.  I backtracked and found the office.  I got assigned cabin #3 which was the farthest from the office.  Supposedly, the WiFi signal was fine there but after experimenting I found I could connect outside the cabin but as soon as I moved inside I lost the signal.  So I got reassigned to cabin #2, one cabin closer, and then I could connect but with a weak signal.

 

I found a few things in the store but not much since business dropped off significantly after Labor Day and the place shut down in mid-October.  So they were not replenishing their supply.  I did find Red Baron French Bread and some almond milk for cereal breakfast.

 

Day 18:Thu,Sep 22 - Sapinero, CO - Rest Day

There was no breakfast place in the area so I had my standard cereal breakfast using the almond milk I was able to get at the camp store. There was a little drizzle going on but I decided to ride to the Sapinero Village Campground where their store was basically just a coffee shop.  I also took my chromebook along hoping for better WiFi access there.

 

I spent the morning at the coffee shop and learned later they had a banana nut muffin which I laid claim to.  A few people passed through the store including a couple from Holland.

 

At one point when it was just the owner of the campground and the coffee guy around, I asked if they knew what the cellular signal strength was.  Thatís when the owner told me there was just a single Verizon cell tower in the area and basically only Verizon customers got access.  That appeared to explain why my tracfone didnít have cellular access in this area and probably the reason I didnít get access in some of the other towns I passed through.  The owner also explained why most of the locals used WiFi calling.  That should have worked for me too but for some unexplained reason didnít.

 

Later in the morning the left lens of my reading glasses fell out and I discovered that I had lost the screw holding the lens in the frame.  I think I lost the screw right when the lens fell out so I asked for a broom and swept the area by my table but was unable to find the screw.  Back at my cabin I used some dental floss string to tie the frame together to hold the lens.

 

It drizzled most of the morning and started clearing up in the early afternoon.  Since I planned to ride to Crawford tomorrow I decided to get a room at The Hitching Post Hotel.  Since my cell phone couldnít make a call I borrowed the managerís phone but when I called I got a message that the number was not valid.  However, I found the website for the hotel and I went through the process of making a reservation.  I filled out everything but I couldnít do the final step of clicking the submit button.  Frustrated, I went back and borrowed the cell phone and tried calling.  This time the call went through and I booked a room for tomorrow.

 

Later I cleaned my bike chain and pumped up the tires.  Then I did some more route planning for the next couple of days.  Interestingly, the WiFi worked fairly well in the afternoon.  Then in the evening the WiFi turned fickle again.  I started getting prompts that I might need to visit a login page even though it was working fine before.  I had the same issue last night.

 

Overall, it was a reasonable rest day and I got a banana nut muffin to boot. And I had a great view of the Sapinero Basin from my cabin.

 

Day 19:Fri,Sep 23 - Crawford, CO [43.4, 5:22:44, 8.1 mph, 36.1 max, +3,225', -4,331']

Around 3 am it suddenly occurred to me that I should start thinking about my Amtrak ticket to return home from Grand Junction.  I kicked myself for not thinking about that yesterday when I had lots of time to check out train options.  Since this was probably going to keep me awake I got up hoping that this would be a good time to use the weak Internet access. I tried going through the Amtrak booking process to see what might be available but every time I set up my origin/destination and date I got nothing back.  Thinking it could be a weak WiFi issue I walked the short distance to the office (yes, in the dark) where the WiFi was stronger but got the same result.  So I went back to sleep.

 

I had another cereal breakfast in my cabin.  The good thing was this allowed me to get on the road shortly after 7 am.  It was 42 miles to Crawford on CO92.  To pick up CO92 I rode a mile west and then started riding on CO92 by riding across the Blue Mesa dam.  Shortly before the dam a doe ran across the road right in front of me.

 

For 7 miles CO92 paralleled the Black Canyon.  Most of the time you couldnít see deep down enough in the canyon to see the Gunnison River.  Then after 6 miles along the canyon there was essentially a large ravine, much too large and deep to just ride across.  To work around this the road headed away from the canyon for about 2.5 miles and then did a U-turn and came back to the canyon on the other side of the ravine with the road cut into the side of the hill.  This return of 2.5 miles was a major climb at a 5% grade.  Then the road kind of flattened out with undulations for 10 miles with the road sidewinding through the hills. After that the road veered away from the canyon and mostly descended 20 miles to Crawford with coasting and easy pedaling. 

 

There was a lot of great scenery today, particularly in the first 20 miles.  You just never knew when you might get a glimpse of the Gunnison River deep in the canyon.  Once the road started descending to Crawford the scenery changed totally.  The vistas opened up to ranching/farming country with mountains in the distance.

 

When I reached town there was a service station with a store  on the outskirts that served CHICHOís Burgers that have been well reviewed.  I stopped and had a regular burger along with regular fries that was almost more than I could eat.  Almost.

 

Unfortunately, the road into town was a mess with road construction.  There was fresh tar on the road which I couldnít avoid.  The Hitching Post - hotel/store/hardware - was impossible to miss.  My room there was the first room to cost less than $100 ($99) in quite some time.  They didnít allow bikes in the room but they put my bike in the storage room in the store which was fine.  I met half of a couple who were staying there also.  They rode in on electric bikes with 2 batteries each.

 

This tour has become frustrating with weak WiFi and no phone service.  I havenít had phone service since I left Gunnison.  This is worrisome.  I was only able to get a room at this hotel by borrowing the cabin managerís phone.  So while riding it occurred to me that I was only a couple days away from my destination, Grand Junction, if I headed there directly rather than the roundabout way I had planned via Ridgway/Naturita/Gateway.  So I decided to wrap this tour up.

 

I still couldnít get any Amtrak schedule information using my chromebook and the chrome browser.  Eventually, I concluded something was wrong with the browser. I ended up using the chrome browser on my smartphone to investigate Amtrak schedules.  That allowed me to get a ticket on an Amtrak train home with a bicycle slot on Wed morning while I expected to be in Grand Junction Sunday.

 

Day 20:Sat,Sep 24 - Delta, CO [34.1, 2:55:35, 11.7 mph, 33.6 max, +745', -2,221']

The only breakfast place in town was the Lazy J coffee shop that opened at 7 am. I was there promptly at opening and had a breakfast burrito, cinnamon roll, and coffee.  This was all very good if not a particularly large breakfast.  But I didnít need a large breakfast since it was just a little over 30 miles to Delta and downhill, an easy day of cycling.

 

I retrieved my bicycle from the storeís storage area and loaded my panniers.  The 2 Specialized electric assist bicycles for the couple were also sitting outside now but I never got to see how much stuff they were carrying.

 

I left town at 8 am and started flying down the hill towards Hotchkiss.  This was farming and ranching country with the Grand Mesa in the distance.  It was only 10 miles to Hotchkiss so I was there in no time.  When I saw a Bank of Colorado I stopped to replenish my cash at an ATM.  Then I pulled out my smartphone and a miracle happened - I had phone service.

 

I called the Sunset Valley RV Ranch, where I stayed last year, hoping to get one of their 2 cabins for the day but, as expected, they were already booked for this Saturday.  So I called the Value Lodge and the owner said he thought there would be an availability but wouldnít know for sure until about 11 to see who had checked out by their 10:30 checkout time.

 

I was advised not to ride CO92 to Delta because there was no shoulder leaving Hotchkiss.  I took a backroad out of town but that only saved me a mile or two and then I was back on shoulderless CO92.  However, CO92 remained shoulderless for only about 3 miles.  During that time there was a fair amount of traffic on a Saturday morning.  I just kept an eye on oncoming traffic so I would know when to check traffic behind me to decide if there would be any simultaneous 2-way traffic that could cause an issue.  I bailed out one time because there was an easy bail out to a driveway entrance but that was more a courteous bail out than a necessary one.  After the few miles of no shoulder the shoulder was fine the rest of the way.

 

The road was mostly a gradual downhill from Hotchkiss to Delta.  The scenery was reasonably good with wide open vistas.  I reached town at 11 am and stopped at a Maverik convenience store where I called the Value Lodge and got a reservation.  Then I got a little snack at the store.

 

I couldnít check into the motel until around 3 pm so I had to kill time.  I stopped at Clydeís Cafe which google called a coffee shop but was really a cafe that served coffee.  The waitress wasnít even sure they had WiFi but they did so I hung out there until they closed just after 2:30.  To make it worthwhile for the cafe I ordered their huge iced cinnamon roll which was sinful.

 

Closing time was just right for me to ride to the motel, which was 2 miles south of town, a location that was perplexing.  The only reason for the location seemed to be that it was next to a state park.  Unfortunately, I arrived a few minutes too late and I had to wait behind a group of 6 workers who were checking in.  Eventually I got my room on the second floor so I had to carry my stuff up the outside stairs.

 

The room was okay but as seems to have been the case outside of the major motels the WiFi was very weak.  A couple of times I had to carry my chromebook to just above the office on the second floor before I could get a WiFi connection.  Then I could move back to my room and maintain the connection for a while.  

 

One of the lamps in the room had a failed light bulb.  I reported it to the office but the woman was skeptical, not realizing I had degrees in electrical engineering and was a wiz at checking out light bulbs.  Turns out the couple who owned the motel were Polish.  Eventually my light bulb diagnosis was confirmed and I got a new light bulb.  No ďhow many Poles does it take to change a light bulbĒ jokes were made.

 

The room also had a nice desk.  However, the chair had seen better days and I nearly sank to the floor when I sat in the chair.  Fortunately, there were two other chairs in the room and they worked fine.

 

The closest food was a convenience store almost a mile away except for a nearby ritzy restaurant.  But I didnít want a ritzy restaurant nor did I need much food after my sinful cinnamon roll.  So I snacked from my food supply and that was good enough.

 

An easy cycling day with a relaxing afternoon.

 

Day 21:Sun,Sep 25 - Grand Junction, CO [46.7, 4:21:28, 10.7 mph, 37.4 max, +1,401', -1,677']

There was only one place in town that was open for breakfast before 8 am so I headed for Starvin Arvinís at the other end of town.  It was 2.5 miles from my motel and I got there just after 7. I was tempted by their Endless Pancakes breakfast and I would have gone for that if I was facing a hard day.  Since I was expecting a relatively easy day I went with the pancake special which included 2 pancakes that were very good.  Service was very quick and I was on the road by 7:45.

 

It was just a little over 40 miles to Grand Junction on US50 that didnít involve any major climbs.  Much of the way the scenery was the Grand Mesa on my right.  A few miles outside of Delta I almost rode by a pronghorn (antelope) just on the other side of the fence but I happened to catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye.  Then I noticed it was a herd of about a dozen pronghorns.  They turned skittish when I stopped for a photo and started running away.  They stopped long enough that I was able to capture them with my zoom lens.  Then they continued bounding away.

 

I reached the outskirts of Grand Junction at 11:30 when I stopped at a convenience store for a milkshake.  It was warm enough by that time that I stripped down to just my cycling shorts and short sleeve jersey.  I stayed on US50 until I got downtown where I located the Amtrak station so I would be sure where to go on Wednesday morning.

 

Then I rode down Main Street until I found a coffee shop to kill time until I could get in my room at the Super 8, around 3 pm.  I found the Kiln Coffee Bar and that looked like a good place to kill time.  This place only sold coffee, no food.  But I walked across the street and got a slice of pizza to go with my coffee.  I grabbed a spot by the window where I could both watch my bike and watch people.  It was great having good WiFi and phone service.  I hung out there until about 2:30 when I rode to the Super 8 that was about 4 miles away at a junction with I70.  I was somewhat familiar with this area because I stayed at a Travelodge last year in this same location.

 

My room was on the 2nd floor but that wasnít a problem since the motel had an elevator.  I was disappointed with the poor lighting in the room.   Even more so, there was a table/desk for my chromebook but no place to plug it in.  So I went down to the office and got an extension cord that was just barely long enough to plug in, but it was a bit hazardous because I had to run the cord on a straight line to the table rather than thread it along the baseline.

 

The next disappointment was the shower.  There was no hot water.  I let the water run for 5-10 minutes with no sign of warming water.  I resigned myself to a cold shower.  Then about half way through my shower the water started warming up. A big waste of water when Colorado is in a drought.

 

There were a number of eating places in the area.  I ate at a Subway across the street.

 

An easy riding day.

 

Day 22:Mon,Sep 26 - Grand Junction, CO [51.5, 5:31:14, 9.3 mph, 28.7 max, +2,533', -1,827']

For whatever reason, I didnít sleep well.  So I was ready to eat breakfast as soon as it opened at 6 am.  It was a typical motel breakfast - waffles, pastries, oatmeal, etc.  There were, however, 2 waffle machines so I had 2 waffles.  Seemed to make sense.  I loaded up since I was riding the Colorado National Monument Rim Rock Drive and would need energy.

 

I left shortly after 7.  It was 8 miles to the Ranger Station at the East Entrance.  Rim Rock Drive was a 23-mile drive along a series of red rock canyons that open on to the Grand Valley below.  The canyons frame a picture of the valley with the Book Cliffs, a long line of cliffs extending from left to right when viewed from the canyons.  The high walls of the canyon extend 1500-2000 feet above the canyon floors.  All very dramatic scenery.

 

This is the third time I have ridden the Monument but this is the first time Iíve ridden it east to west and with an unloaded bike.  It is much easier on an unloaded bike where most of the climbing is at the east and west entrances to get up to the plateau.  Both entrances switchback to attain their elevation but the east entrance more so than the west with the east entrance averaging about a 7% slope.  

 

The east entrance has one tunnel and the west has 2 tunnels.  Lights are required for the tunnels and I knew that.  However, I had forgotten to check my headlight until I got near the east entrance.  Then I was dismayed to see a weak battery.  Dismayed because I had AA batteries in my panniers at the motel.  I could just envision getting turned away.  However, check-in was self check-in so there was no one to enforce lights.  Realistically, the tunnels were short and the most important was the tail light and my tail light was fine.

 

Climbing starting at the entrance was slow but so much better on an unloaded bicycle.  It would have been a struggle with a loaded bicycle.  The struggle for the day was making the tradeoff between riding and stopping for photos.  With the scenery on my right and riding on the edge of the canyons it was a challenge to not stop for a photo at every opportunity.

 

Descending to the west entrance was a glorious descent, losing 1,000 feet over 4 miles.  From there it was another 2 mile downhill to Fruita where I stopped for a sandwich and a cold drink at a convenience store.

 

The return to Grand Junction was via the River Front Trail that took me downtown.  There surely was a more efficient way to get back to my motel but I knew how to get there from downtown so I didnít worry about efficiency.  Back at the motel I didnít bother to clean up - hunger was more important.  I walked across the street to a convenience store and ordered a pizza which I promptly inhaled.

 

Later, I discovered that I had lost my Soothe eye drops for my dry eyes.  So I walked to a Safeway that I was sure would have these drops.  As I was walking on the sidewalk, I could see a car was blocking the sidewalk.  At first, I assumed the car was waiting for traffic to clear before pulling out but it was perplexing when it became clear that traffic wasnít an issue. Then when I got closer I could see a woman was just blithely eating pizza while occupying the driveway, paying no attention to whether she was blocking anyone else.  Food comes first.

 

It is always fun to ride the Monument and especially so on an unloaded bicycle.

 

Day 23:Tue,Sep 27 - Grand Junction, CO [23.7, 2:54:20, 8.2 mph, 28.8 max, +1,670', -1,926']

I had a lunch engagement today so I was just going to hang around downtown but then I realized that I would be on the train tomorrow until mid/late afternoon on Thursday and wouldnít be getting any exercise.  So I decided to climb the East Entrance of the Monument again and turn around and enjoy the descent.  Then hang around downtown.

 

Interestingly, it was a bit of a mad house at the motel breakfast yesterday morning but there were only a couple of other people today.  I just had cereal and oatmeal since I didnít have a big outing planned.

 

I left at 7 when it was 55F and still a little dark so I turned on my rear blinkie.  I knew the route to the east entrance from yesterday.  I was surprised there was a ranger at the east entrance since yesterday was self check-in.  I was asked if I had front and rear lights, which I did, but the ranger didnít verify that they worked.  However, today they both worked since I replaced the battery for the front light.

 

I rode most of the way to the top at the east entrance.  There was a tunnel where I stopped to turn on my lights and proceeded to ride through the short tunnel.  However, I started having problems keeping my bike in a straight line and started scarily weaving all over the place.  I finally stopped in the tunnel and then realized I was wearing my sunglasses.  When riding very slow it is difficult to keep the bike in a straight line so you tend to start weaving.  With my sunglasses on I couldnít really see the road surface and I apparently lost road sense and just kept weaving from side-to-side.  I think this is like balancing on one foot where your body can see how to correct any imbalance.  But if you close your eyes you find it hard to maintain balance because your body has no visual feedback.

 

Near the top I turned around and enjoyed the descent back to downtown.  There were several coffee shops downtown.  The other day I visited the Kiln Coffee shop which was fine except it didnít have any kind of food, not even simple pastries.  Another coffee shop I wanted to check out was closed on Tuesdays.  The Java Junction had 2 small tables inside so I figured they wouldnít appreciate someone hanging around for an hour or so.  So I stopped at the Mountain Air Roasters which had plenty of room, some muffins, but not much of a people watching location.

 

Around 11:30 I rode back to the motel and showered.  By that time Kelly, another long-time cycling tourist who is a Coloradoan and has been providing recommendations/suggestions for my tour, was finished with business in town.  So we met at the Aztecas restaurant which was near my motel and a favorite restaurant of Kellyís.  We had a good time discussing various cycle touring subjects.  We spent almost 3 hours discussing this important topic.  Then Kelly had to drive back to her home in Rifle.

 

Back at the motel I started preparing for my Amtrak departure at 10:23 am tomorrow.  This included doing a load of laundry in the motel's guest laundry.

 

A relaxing day with a little cycling and good conversation with Kelly.

 

Day 24:Wed,Sep 28 - Amtrak [4.3, 0:27:34, 9.4 mph, 16.6 max, +223', -456']

My Amtrak was scheduled for 10:23 am so there was no morning rush.  The Amtrak station didnít open until 9 am so there was no point in getting there before then.

 

I had a breakfast of cereal and oatmeal and then packed up and left around 7 am.  I rode downtown to the Kiln Coffee Bar.  I was surprised to see the coffee shop had some pastries after I was told it had no food when I was there on Sunday.  However, the barista said Sunday is a crazy day and so what apparently happened is they were sold out of pastries on Sunday when I stopped there.  When the barista said they had no food I interpreted that to mean they didnít carry any food.

 

In any event I got a cup of coffee and a pumpkin chocolate scone.  I hung around until near 9 am.  I was only a few blocks away from the Amtrak station so I got there a few minutes before they opened up with some folks already waiting to get in.  Once in the station I got a checked bag ticket for my bicycle.  Since I have to unload everything before Amtrak will take the bike I emptied the right front pannier and stuffed most of the stuff in my duffel bag including the empty pannier.  Then I put my chromebook, kindle, camera, and toiletries in my left front pannier to carry on into my roommette. That left my 2 rear panniers and duffel bag for carry on.  Since 2 carry-ons are allowed, I usually bundle the 2 rear panniers together with straps but I didnít bother this time.

 

The train was on time.  I pushed my loaded bicycle to the baggage car, unloaded my bike, and handed my unloaded bike to the baggage car handler.  Then I carried my stuff to the sleeping car where I stowed the 2 rear panniers and duffel bag in the carry-on storage area.

 

I had ridden the California Zephyr to Chicago before but only from Glenwood Springs.  So this time I got to see the sights from Grand Junction to Glenwood Springs.  In particular, I got to see the Book Cliffs up close and personal as the train rode right next to the cliffs.

 

At noon I was first in line at the dining car for lunch.  I got paired with 2 sisters on their way to Ohio.  The younger sister had lived in Ridgway previously and knew the history of fire and mud slides in the scenic Glen Canyon which we passed through during lunch.  It was a good time to be in the dining car because it was a good viewing area.

 

The rest of the way was familiar territory but still scenic, especially the section from Kremmling to Denver with numerous tunnels from Winter Park to Denver. In fact, there were 29 tunnels, most of them short tunnels except for the 6.2 mile Moffat Tunnel.  At dinner I was paired with a couple and a retired guy who was a bar-b-que judge.  It wasnít an inspiring group and Iím afraid I wasnít inspiring either..  The BBQ guy was the only real conversationalist in the group.

 

After Denver there really wasnít much to see.  I read my Kindle for a while and then retired to sleep around 9:30 pm.

 

Day 25:Thu,Sep 29 - Naperville, IL [1.9, 0:14:46, 7.8 mph, 17.0 max, +305', -220']

After 2 nights of poor sleep for whatever reason I slept pretty well.  I was first in line for breakfast at 6:30 am, which was really 5:30 am for me with the time change to Central Time.  Service was rather poor as it took 10 minutes or so before I got served.  I was unimpressed.  My omelet was okay.

 

By this time we were about an hour behind schedule.  It looked like we had to stop a couple of times in the night and that was most likely why we were running behind.  I didnít care that much except that we were scheduled to get into Chicago at 2:50 pm.  The more we got delayed the more I would be stuck in rush hour commute on the commuter train back to Naperville.

 

It is always strange that Naperville is the last stop before Chicago but the Naperville station doesnít have baggage service so I had to go all the way to Chicago to get my bike and then take the commuter train back to Naperville.  Thatís about 2 wasted hours of time for me.

 

As it turned out the train got into Chicago around 3:30 pm, about 40 minutes late.  I grabbed my bike from the baggage car and hooked up my panniers.  My left front pannier was empty so it would fit in my duffel bag so I had to load it up again which was easy to do.

 

Then I walked my bike through the station and saw there was a commuter train back to Naperville at 4 pm which gave me 13 minutes to walk my bike to the ticket counter and then walk it back to the train and get on.  Time wasnít an issue but a young woman was a bit of a problem.  She was sitting on the train where the bikes are placed (when the location is not being used for the handicapped).  Eventually she was convinced to move to a regular seat so my bike could be parked where bikes are parked.

 

This train was an express that skipped all the regular stops until it reached the western suburbs.  That made Naperville the 4th stop where I got off and pedaled the 2 miles to my house.  I was home by 5 pm so the late Amtrak was effectively no issue for me.

 


WGbackTWGcontentsTWGnextT

 

 

Copyright Denis Kertz, 2022. All rights reserved.