Utah-land

(June 2 – 4)

Coming down off the plateau, I descended gravel roads for hours in the early morning light, pulled in for breakfast at Naturita, ordering the deliciously gut-churning, mouth-watering, appetite for breakfast lunch and dinner rolled into one: gravy and green chili hash & egg omelet.

After checking my elevations and schedule, I set my gear to the side hoping to hitch a ride, and catch some precious time, locked into my San Francisco July 10th arrival. My highway after the turn off was the most sparsely vehicled of any paved stretch I had yet met. I passed my friend the ambling hitch-hiker who I had spotted twice before in Colorado, very introverted, indicating he was good on water. After a few miles I saw a pickup drive by with him in the back, and it stopped ahead of me.

In the cab, what looked like a clown car of attractive teenage girls all jumped out, and a couple of lads in the vehicle behind them, offering me Swedish fish, and helping load my gear to the truck bed. I was extremely grateful for the ride, and climbed in next to my quiet hitch-hiking buddy. Turns out he was from San Francisco, and was happily spending the summer roaming the mountains by hitch hike, no particular destination or goal in mind.

We raced past a couple gorgeous desert ridges, and climbed 5,000 feet over 50 miles, would have taken me two days. They dropped me off at Dove Creek, CO where almost to the highway, I was approached my a very fit looking 40-something dude, who was very happy to meet a cycle tourist, and when I asked, told me he had made the Maine-Los Angeles ride, and the continental divide (Canada to Mexico) twice. Cheerful beyond words, I shouldered my camelback and set my face into the wind for the ride to Monticello.

The miles really took it out of me, and I was a hobbling wraith of strength by the time I got to Monticello. Just one block from the RV park I intended to pitch camp, an old bearded mountain man on a bike pulled up along side and asked me if I was familiar with Warm Showers, the hosting community for bicycle tourists. Having just setup my profile in Montrose, I informed him I was, and gladly accepted his spontaneous offer of hospitality.

After showering up and unrolling my sleeping bag on his guest room floor, I wandered into the kitchen, and listened to his stories about a lifetime of working in the forest service while he made some shrimp curry with rice. We had a great chat about wishes to tour Europe and Asia by bicycle, as we ate. He told me to my shock the who’s who of Monticello had no interest in tourism and the business it would bring. The heavily Mormon town was quite happy with its middle of nowhere, us three and no more feel.

Well fed and tired, I stretched my aching hamstrings and called it an early night. After a good rest, I awoke bright and early to coffee and a nutritious mix of oats, flax, blueberries and yogurt.

I packed my bags and hit the road uneventfully for Blanding, pulling in for an early 11am stop at the Prospector Motor Lodge for a day of rest and attempting to explore options my next career move at the end of the tour.

Hours of brainstorming, and a particularly grad-school-required-ahead path charted, I lumbered out the next day around 11:30, with all the water I could carry, for the second time since Montrose.

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Pardox No. 7

Night and day on the mountain of paradox #7 (May 29th-June 2nd)

I appreciate a good road name, having been down a few. Another favorite is Parameter street. That one resides in Lamar, Colorado.

Uncompahgre National forest is home to Uncompahgre plateau, rising 4,000 feet above the Uncompahgre river where Montrose, Colorado sits deep in the valley floor.

Montrose was a favorite of mine. Perhaps it was the cute girl who worked at the KOA, or the friendly camping neighbor who told me all about motorcycling the country with his pet spaniel in a crate behind him, or the local movie theater where I saw both Tomorrowland and Mad Max Fury Road, but I tend to think it was all of these mixed with complete cell service, and very soft grass, and the friendliest coffee shop in the whole state.

The day I rode out I stopped at the local first Methodist and met an avid cyclist who told me about riding with 18,000 others all the way across Iowa. He donated to my cause, the first acquaintance on the road to do so.

Highway 90 quickly dwindled to hard-pack dirt road climbing up the plateau. I was grateful for the slower and more intermittent traffic. As I climbed from burnt orange dirt desert to flowering vegetation, I started to ride by sheep farm after sheep farm. Sheep unlike cows seemed caught up in their own noisy conversation like a bunch of drunk buddies at the bar, and hardly notices me. Eventually the climbing did me in, and I pulled of the road into the trees to setup tent, slept and rested almost 20 hours, and started again my ascent. After making it to the edge of the forest, I took a nap, waking an hour before sunset, and decided to strike off, daylight or no.

It turned out to be the most beautiful night on the mountain of Paradox No. 7. I have never had a night like it before or since. The moon rose just a few minutes after the sun set, and glowed off the Aspen groves like distant car lights. The views of the moonlight valleys and the 14,000 foot peaks in the distance took my breath away.

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Video Log Chapter 4: Pueblo – Montrose | Colorado

Music from Mahler’s 5th Symphony in honor of my late friend and music appreciation mastermind Seth Leach.

Stats for the ride: (Howard – Monarch, CO gap, where I took the car ride)

Day 26 | Day 27 | Day 28 | Day 30 | Day 31 pt 1 Day 31 pt 2 | Day 33 | Day 34

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Mountains

Viscerally, I learned why mountain is often a metaphor for difficulty. In my imagination, the mechanics of a gracefully constructed bicycle would leverage my energy to overcome the difficulty of mountain climbing.

While my journey is definitely orders of magnatude easier than lugging a pack through the brush up the mountainside, Newtonian physics cannot be bribed away.

Two and a half days, eighty miles and seven thousand five hundred feet into the Rockies, the muscles and tendons in the back of my right knee began to swell in discomfort. I unpacked my bike and got a pickup truck ride from a friendlly Colorado family who drove me a third of the way of Monarch mountain. My parents arrived to visit and drove me another third up to Monarch Mountain Lodge, two thirds up to the pass.

Their visit was a great treat for me, and I was very happy to catch up with them and drive to visit some family friends in Colorado Springs.

Memorial day, I trudged the last five miles and two thousand feet to the 11,300 foot pass, unable to pedal much because of the elevation and racing crankset on my bike.

Down the otherside was like a night stargazing. Riding down a mountain does not provide an adrenalene rush of a steep descent so much as a growth of awe and wonder at the scope of such a great edifice that can rise so high with such magnificence against the straining gravity of the earth.

I camped and ate dinner with a Dutch couple who were bicycle touring the western United States in retirement. Their conversation was a delight with refreshingly European perspectives on politics and lifestyle. Who knows, maybe a bicycle trip to the Netherlands lies in my future…

The next morning my feet and knees ached, but I set out with slow and deliberate pace, knowing my day held only gentle downhill riding. I made it to Gunnison and should have stopped at the first camp, but I remained determined to press on beyond the river canyon to the resivoir. The wind kicked up and slowed me to a crawl, dragging my morale even lower.

As the four O’Clock storm lifted I rolled into Stevens Creek campground, and was greeted by a neighbor who had just caught two trout and invited me to eat with him. I was extremely grateful for this kindness, and an unexpected hot meal after an unexpectly hard day.

I crawled into bed still wired from the 10am coffee earlier in the day and did not drift to sleep until 10pm or later. I awoke to a bright eight O’Clock sun and stillness of wind. My knees and feet still felt weak, so I reluctantly decided to pass my day in camp resting. My neighbor, ever so kind offered to drive me to town for lunch. Hot pizza was irressistalble. His name was Terry, a young retiree from finance work in big pharma. He offered me good advice and perspective on my next career move.

As the cool night air rolls in like the banks of chilled air from a regrigerator door, I am nestling into my warm sleeping bag, and thinking about what I have learned of setbacks and difficulties, about how mountains literal or metaphorical break my pride and change my pace or course, how they are difficult to live with and impossible to live without. I owe who I am to the challenges and hardships of my life. This is where I learn how to really hold dear what I love and how to let go of unessessary wishes and unworkable goals.

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Memorial Day 2015

image

I awoke in a soft bed Memorial day morning in the fabulous Monarch Mountain lodge. As I packed my food and gear for a day out in the cold, Dad flipped through TV stations. After a few minutes of X-men we found a Band of Brothers marathon on HBO.

It was at part 6: Bastonge. Snowy, shelled to pieces and pinned down by machine gun fire, the 101st Airborne slogged through another day of winter. I am grateful for all those boys on the front line who never returned home to their families. Their sacrifice made Europe and the Pacific free and set their American friends back into an era of prosperity and growth.

My brief three hours in the snow, my long nights studying, nothing difficult I have ever done is worth comparing to their sacrifices. Men I never met, many who are now only names on stone, but whose full humanity, whole lives were lost in war.

When I think about my best friends in the Navy and Marines, Ben and Jon, I feel strongly that my duty as an American is to labor politically to ensure that America’s involvement in war is rare, and if armed conflict does arise that the sacrifieces of our Men and Women are honored only with neccessary engagements that make the world a safer and freer place.

War has no honor, it is not noble, kind or brave, Only honoralble men and women who serve, sacrifice, and sometimes die can possess those well earned recognitions.

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The Road Ahead | Stage 2: Pueblo, CO – San Francisco, CA

The real challenge lies ahead… 1,500 miles and approximately 45,000 feet of ascent across some of the most beautiful scenery in America. With revised riding estimates recognizing my energy limit at 3,000 vertical feet/day and allowing time for more writing, photography and hiking, I expect to make the Utah border by June 3rd, and hit the plateaus of Nevada by June 24th, arriving in San Francisco no later than July 10th, to meet my sister and her friends for a week-long Yosemite backpacking trip.

Unless I can beat my expectations, The Connection Tour terminus may be San Francisco, but the ride there is the ride of a lifetime!

The wonderful people at Adventure Cycling Association have charted the course for bicycle tours across the Rockies on their Western Express Route, which I intend to follow religiously and use their excellent commentary on camping, lodging and cafe options along the route.

Excited for the adventure!!!

Course MAP

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Chapter 3 Movie & Stats


Riding from Olustee, OK to Pueblo CO covered 540 miles and 9,500 feet of ascent in 9 days of riding; Days 14 – 23 of the Tour with one day of rest in Lamar, CO

Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 22 | Day 23

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