Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer Tour - part two

It is pretty easy to get up and moving in the morning when camping, there is busy work to do. I packed up my stuff, it was a wet rain fly and ground fly because of last nights storm. Brewed up a typical camp breakfast of oatmeal with sliced bananas. I am already thinking about 2nd breakfast and I know just the place to ride to get it!!! I have a Jet-Boil stove and those little suckers boil up a pot of water very quick and efficiently. I give it a strong A-plus review on the Jim scale of bicycle camping.

Nice morning out, warm and a few rain clouds scuttling about.
I cross over the Colorado River a few times back and forth. The headwaters are just a few miles away up in the National Park. The beginnings of a great western waterway!
I was hoping to get to Hot Sulpher Springs and the Glory Hole Cafe before the rain, but, it begins and I am required to pull over and gear up in rain suit and put the rain covers on the panniers. Isn't it always the way that after you get all the gear on and then the need to head out to the bushes for nature's call?!?!?!?
A nice soft rain that I know the countryside needs even though it is a minor inconvenience for me.

A few miles and then in for 2nd breakfast!!!
While enjoying my meal I see on my phone that a friend was in the area on his motorcycle and wanted to meet up. I had no service to respond so I hope we can luck out with a meeting. It rained the whole time I was in the cafe while eating and charging up the phone. I head back out into the rain and after going through Byers Canyon I pop out on the west side and get service again. Sure enough my friend catches up with me and there are three of us!! Elementary, Junior High and High school classmates and we arrange to meet in Kremmling for a beer. I make good time getting there and they have lunch while I am riding. I get there just as they are ordering dessert (pie!) and we have the best time and conversation and catching up on life!! What a treat for me!! The time gets away from me a bit and after saying our goodbyes I head on up out of Kremmling on US 40 to Colorado 134 and Gore Pass.  It is already almost 3:30 and I am looking at about 3 hours of climbing up to the top of Gore pass and my campground.
I am shocked at the road and its lack of shoulder. US 40 between Granby and Kremmling is a cyclist dream with a huge paved shoulder except for the last four miles. The no shoulder thing continued going north. An uphill grade, but not steep, had me going slow and suddenly I was feeling very vulnerable on my bike. Sure enough in about a ten minute time I had four big semi-trucks pass me. The first one had no oncoming traffic and he pulled into the other lane. I see the next one coming and I pull off into the dirt shoulder to let him by and the dirt was soft and the ties catch and I almost go down. The next one I stay up on the pavement but there is a car coming the other way...and ROAR!!! I can reach out and practically touch the trailer. I pull off because I am FREAKED OUT. This is crazy. not only is it unsafe for me, but also the truckers and any cars that might be rolling past. Now, I have nothing against truckers, they are doing their jobs which is very important to our way of life in this country. They are not looking to hurt me or anyone else. My beef is with the infrastructure of our highways and why we let this happen. This is US federal highway with a 65 MPH speed limit and this is the condition.
Whether there is a cyclist present or not, this is not a safe road for trucks and cars to be traveling at a high rate of speed. We can build trillion dollar fighter jet programs and their only purpose is to kill people but we can not do the infrastructure work in our country that would save lives.
Alright, that is my soap box, I'll climb down. This is supposed to be a fluffy little piece about bike travel!!!
First time I have been nervous about the place I am riding so I beat a retreat back to Kremmling. My confidence might have been shot because it was the end of the day and I had had a beer, so I decide to stay in Kremmling Monday night.
Talked on the phone with my family and decided to wrap up the trip early. My son Matthew was staying an extra day before he headed back to KC and I have some maintenance projects that need some attention at home.
I get up and packed up and on the road back to Grand Lake where Debbie and Matthew will meet me at Grand Lake Lodge for a late lunch!!
I am in a much better frame of mind and the four miles back towards Hot Sulpher Springs does not bother me as much, although I keep a very defensive style of riding until my nice shoulder appears again.


Back to this!!
This is beautiful hay ranching country out here and I am enjoying a pretty Colorado Morning!!
This is a nice little Saw Mill operation going here. Looks like they are milling studs. Busy. Trucks heading in with logs and heading out with units of lumber.

Now just some views of this valley before you get to Byers Canyon.

Back into Byers Canyon
I was really enjoying myself today. Just me turning the pedals, a nice day, at peace with my thoughts. On this third day I was very comfortable on the bike and was used to the weight and handling. The Surly LHT is a very capable machine for this kind of touring.
Here a few of the things that caught my fancy as I pedaled along towards Granby.

Pretty soon I turn off on US 34 and head back up to Grand Lake and my late lunch date.
Heading back towards my mountains!!
A few cows for my friend Richard to look at!!
This fellow has built a little pitch and putt holes on his land. Not sure if he lets people play on it or it is just his little personal course . Looks like two or three hole through the willows.
And, just like that it is over. After a nice lunch I pile everything back into the truck and head for home. What originally started out to be a six day loop around Northern Colorado was only three days. It is OK though, it was great to be out on the fully loaded Trucker. I know I can still travel this way for future trips and I had fun except for that ten minute stretch north of Kremmling.
The house chores were calling and I'll brew up another trip ('s) for next summer.

Thanks for riding along!!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Summer Touring

I itch for many months to get out on a tour that is self-contained and solo. This is finally the week to use up some of the stacked up vacation time and just roll away. There is a plan that started out as a six day ride but things change and shit happens and even before I leave I am down to four days. All good, lets just head out!!

As usual I head west into the Park and on over Trail Ridge. It is a Sunday and a lot of people in cars are up here, but, everybody is very kind to this slow moving dude pedaling on up the mountain. The bike and gear always looks so neat and organized at the start of a tour.

It is a nice morning up on the tundra. 60's and very little breeze. Here we go with the obligatory picture of Longs Peak!!

About my set up here. I originally was going to take Ogre because my original ride had some dirt roads involved up above Steamboat over Buffalo Pass. That was nixed so I geared up the LHT since it was all going to be on pavement. I put on my front rack which creates a whole different ride to get used to. Wow!! that first morning with panniers on the front was a crazy feeling to master again. I was all over the road wobbling!! Last time I had those on was when I rolled down through Teesie's neighborhood, What was that Teesie?? Four, five, summers ago??
Here I am past Forest Canyon overlook looking forward to getting to Rock Cut where there is a bit of some downhill to get you to the last push to the high point.

Just some pictures of what you get to see as you pedal over the rooftop of Colorado.

Right before I get to Rock Cut there is a big herd of Elk taking their time crossing the road blocking traffic. I ride up to the front of the line and zip on through and then have about 30 minutes of traffic free full lane to myself riding!!! Thank You Mr. and Mrs Elk!! I got a lot of encouragement from the cars that were parked in the downhill lane waiting.
Coming up on Rock Cut and the nice down hill break

The last push going up past Lava Cliffs and then the high point.
Lava Cliffs

Looking west to The Never Summer Mountains

Looking back to the east

Looking back to the high point, 12,000 some feet of elevation

Whew!! Time to head down, down, down. Rode my brakes a bit to begin as I had to get a feel for the bike  again with that weight on the front wheel.
I got to Grand Lake and stopped at a deli for sandwich and got another one for dinner at my campsite. I tried a different campground than last year and it was very nice with my site being right on the lakeside of Lake Granby.
The family that were in the site in the background were so nice when I first pulled in. They came over and said they had seen me go by when they were stuck in the the great Elk jam and asked if I would like a cold beer?? Hell yes!!! We enjoyed a nice talk. You can see the storm brewing there and they had to retreat to their car for a bit about 10 PM when their tent blew over. I was fine in my little REI house!!
Good first day, I slept pretty well after the storm blew through.
Thanks for reading, We'll pick it up again tomorrow

Thursday, July 7, 2016

More Mickelson

When we last left our heroes they were hanging about the camp. Then another member of our group, Wendy showed up from Montana to join with this epic adventure. It is always so much fun and rewarding to meet face to face the people that you have shared with an online friendship. She even brought craft beer instead of the on sale Coors light that was had at the store at the bottom of our hill!!! My kind of cycling friend!!!

DAY 2 

We packed up camp and drove vehicles back to Rochford, our end point yesterday. Rob mentioned that we were going to have Betsy whip us up some breakfast burritos........he got the stink eye from the group. Funny guy!!!  Today's plan with vehicles was, Teesie and Janiece planned on riding an out and back to the top of the grade out of Mystic and then drive up to Hill City to meet for lunch and where our next campground is. Turns out Ruth and Gary did the out and back and drove up to Hill City for lunch and gave Teesie and Janiece a chance to ride the full ride and then a shuttle back to vehicles at Rochford.
Getting ready to ride

The trail out of Rochford continued on the long downhill grade 8 more miles into Mystic. Fantastic way to start a ride in the morning.
By the time we got to Mystic we were all feeling the heat of the day. We stuck our heads under the cistern pump to get ready for the climb out of Mystic up a grade that is almost to Hill City. Wendy had a flat just before Mystic, a reoccurring theme for her this day.
The trail was so scenic today with bridges and tunnels through the mountains. It was a long uphill grind for riding but so many things to look at the time went by very pleasantly.

None of these tunnels are very long but still, it sure gets dark in there!! After the long uphill there was about 4 or 5 miles down into Hill City where we had a great lunch at Desperado Cafe. They even iced up our water bottles for the ride back. Now it was Hot and I was feeling like my riding was finished for the day, but, Rob, Kelley, Kyle, and Wendy all wanted to ride back because they wanted to roll that long downhill back into Mystic. So.....peer pressure got the best of me and armed with iced water bottles off we go, back the way we came. The kicker for me was a bailout thanks to Janiece again. When her and Teesie got to their vehicle in Rochford they moved my truck up to Mystic so after enjoying the long downhill to Mystic there was my truck waiting for us so we did not have to ride the uphill 8 miles back to Rochford. SCORE!!!
 I liked the geology of this area with the stacked shale rock formations. The pieces would come off these cliffs in big slabs before breaking up into smaller flat pieces.

 We rolled back to Mystic with a fast ride, down through the tunnels again, almost all coasting. Wendy still had her vehicle in Rochford and wanted to ride the rest of the way back. She is a strong rider!!
We got to the campground and Teesie and Janiece had our spot for us. While we set up in the sun Teesie went and made new best friends with the people next door and their big fifth wheel and an awning so she got to sit in the shade while we set up!!! She kept checking up on us because she waved every ten minutes or so. Good campground up until a big family reunion in the RV's behind us got back from town about 11PM and were pretty noisy. In and out of the RV with the door slamming everytime. A good finish to the day was Wendy found the tiniest of holes in her tube in the sink. Couldn't see it or feel it out on the trail and it would hold air for awhile, but revealed itself under water in the sink. Patched and good to go!!!


This was our short day, about 16 miles to Custer. We decided to not move any vehicles and just ride an out and back. Of the 16 miles the first 12 were an uphill slog up to the entrance to the Crazy Horse Monument. Teesie and Janiece decided to take a day off the bike and go do the tourist thing. Teesie had never been to Mt. Rushmore and wanted to experience that. Once again it was a pretty morning!!

We rode to the outskirts of Custer where the trail turned to paved asphalt, turned around and just went back. The 12 miles downhill back to Hill City was a fun cruise. We went looking for our campground in Custer called Buffalo Ridge. It had new owners of the former Fred Flintstone Bedrock campground. What a hoot!! There were still some old Bedrock cars on property and the bathroom shower houses were still looking right out of the TV show. Plus a big Dino statue out front!!  But the new owners were spending money on the property to improve it all. We upgraded into the little bunk house cabins, they gave us credit for the money already spent for tent sites, so it all worked out good. They had a nice pool and deck so we all settled in there for some cool off time in pool and shade. Richard, we were going to ride up to the stockade fort you recommended but the lure of pool and deck chair and a nice cold beer was too much to pass up!! Found a nice place downtown for a rooftop dinner and then we drove out to Mt. Rushmore for the night time lit up monuments.


This is our last day of riding and we are up early because we shuttle vehicles down to the town of Edgemont this morning before riding. No out and back riding today just one 46 mile ride Custer to Edgemont. Teesie and Janiece decide to drive their vehicle down to Edgemont and ride an out and back for some amount of miles. We head out of Custer on a short uphill grade but know that most of our ride today is a gradual downhill slope to the ride. Very different scenery today as we roll out of the mountains and out onto the high plains. Another great morning to be riding bikes!!

I think that Richard posted a picture of this old car body next to the trail...but here it is again!!

First you see the signs........
and then you see the animals.....
We roll down into the little burg of Pringle and find some interesting old buildings and the bike sculpture which is an interesting thing to look and all the different styles of bikes tossed on there.

Nobody told me I could just pick up my Kings Treasure in Pringle, South Dakota. I been working hard all these years to earn it instead!!

The bike sculpture with bike sculpture models!!

Some kind of mining operation going on here

After Pringle the wind that was either in our faces or a crossing headwind became more of a factor. Yes, we were rolling on a down slope but pedaling was a necessary order of the day.

This big boy got to rolling around creating a big ball of dust!!

The terrain really started to change at this point. Bring up your imagination and think of "Dances With Wolves" It was hot and windy but still plenty of countryside to look at and enjoy being out there on your bike.

Much of the trail out here on the high plains has this double track look to it. I think it gets less use than the mountain sections of the trail around the tourist towns of Deadwood, Hill City, and Custer.

We negotiate our way up and over one last ridge of rocks and drop down into Edgemont.

And Poof!! just like that our ride was over. Teesie and Janiece had eaten their frickels or some thing like that, and left us a dusty message on windshields and were heading back to New Mexico. We said our goodbyes to Rob and Kelley and Wendy, and Kyle and I headed Colorado.
My reflections of the trip are very positive. The trail was a very scenic and at times challenging ride. Never boring, always things to look at and some mining history to soak up. As always it is about the people that you share the time with and I can not think of any better times then these great people that I got to meet and share the ride and camping and dining and some beers and laughs with. The logistics of the trip worked out pretty good and having our vehicles with us every day was a bit of work but made for more comfortable camping and dining options. Doing the out and back riding gave us a chance to double up the fun parts of the trail.
We tossed around some ideas for the next ride. Any thoughts from the group would be great!! Some of the ideas for future Rails to Trails riding included the C&O-GAP trail that is Washington DC to Pittsburgh. Maybe the organized ride that is on the Erie Canal???? Thoughts and suggestions are welcome.

Thanks for reading along!!