Right now, the sun is shining hot and bright and it’s also raining. The air smells clean, like heaven did its laundry. But that’s the kind of unconventional weather we get around here. Tyler and I experienced our fair share of inclement weather on our recent bike tour — but also plenty of adventure, time outdoors and time together (aw). We intended to ride from our doorstep in Dillon to Carbondale, rest a day, then ride to Gunnison, rest another day and catch a ride to Weston Pass (southwest of Fairplay, Co.). From there, we’d cruise into Fairplay, stay the night and then hit up our doorstep again. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience the last bit — but more on that later. Let’s start at the beginning…
Tuesday, May 22: Dillon – Leadville – Hagerman Pass, 49 miles
The fact that we were going on bike tour for the next 8 days meant we weren’t working; we weren’t working, which meant we didn’t get up early. We didn’t get up early, which meant we didn’t start riding until noon. Or was it 1? At any rate, the sun was high and warm and our third bike tour member had joined us: Mr. Wind. Although not expressly invited, Mr. Wind would tag along for the entire trip.
On the bike path to Copper, we amused ourselves attempting to wring salutations out of snobby Summit cyclists. Whenever we didn’t manage to acquire a hello, we would guffaw obnoxiously within earshot of the offending party. The river managed to drown out some of Mr. Wind’s incessant chatter and the treed path shielded us from some of his force.
The bike path spit us out on Highway 91 and up another 1500 feet or so to Fremont Pass. On the way we would pass beautiful bowls and valleys to our left and the desecrated valley of Climax mine on our right. By the time we reached Climax mine, we could see Mr. Wind — who we were thoroughly sick of already — blowing sheets of nasty Climax dirt straight across the highway. Luckily, our buddy Steve met us part way up on his motorcycle and gave our morale a boost.
And then it was off to the proverbial wind-battered races again. After a brief descent from Fremont Pass — where we experienced the curious phenomenon of being blown sideways while remaining upright — we were on rolling flats to Leadville.
Unfortunately, Mr. Wind was at his perkiest on this stretch of highway. What may have been a pleasant journey following a meandering river, past willows and the odd, rambling, hillbilly Leadville dwellings became a battle.
It was as if we were Froto and Samwise and Mr. Wind was the All Seeing Eye. We had The Ring, sure, but we were mere mortals. We fought for Middle Earth. We fought for Elvenkind. We fought for the Shire, the dwarves and for Gandalf, too.
But despite all our efforts — the ring, our strength and our huge, hairy, Hobbit feet — we were not destined to win this battle. Because that Eye… he’s got orcs.
But eventually, we cruised into the vintage mining town streets of Leadville. Downtown, we cruised past buildings reminiscent of bar fights and swinging doors, cowboy spurs, miner’s picks and bawdy singing bar wenches. Crusty Leadevillians stared at us through smudged bubba truck windows as we rolled past tarnished windows displaying clothing and advertising coffee or beer.
Our wheels rolled us straight over to High Mountain Pies and a pizza we had ordered 20 minutes earlier on the side of the highway. We couldn’t have been happier, refueling on one of those delectable ‘zas, this one painted thick with blue cheese, thinly sliced sirloin, dried cherries, carmelized onions and fresh arugula.
Properly juiced with carbohydrates and fats, we felt ready for the rest of our day. The slightly cracked pavement took us past quaint, old houses with turrets and eclectic colors. Then, down —
“Monti?” A voice called out.
“Monti?” A man working in his yard pulled up his sunglasses.”That you?”
“No, sorry, just another skinny white boy,” said Tyler.
“Ha, yeah, we all look the same,” The man laughed, as he was also skinny.
Anyway, we descended through a forest of widely spaced, skinny lodgepoles down to the flat valley below. On our left, Mt. Massive stood tall and remarkably snow-free. The road continued, paved and pleasantly consistent in grade up into green forests and eventually up to and around manmade Turquoise Lake. We —
“Monti? Monti! Get over here!” A woman yelled to her dog. Said dog did not appear to recognize the name “Monti.”
Tyler and I had a good chuckle about the weird ‘Monti’ coincidence, as we found Steve along the bank, fishing in the shadows of the pines. He hopped back on his motorcycle, scouting ahead.
Up went the road, and up went we. Dirt replaced pavement as we left the lake behind, stopped to filter water and made one wide arc around the head of the canyon.
Night fell and so did my energy, so we made camp near a babbling brook alongside the deserted road. Just when thought Steve had bailed, the bee hum of his cycle announced his return. We sat outside on the ground drinking Merlot from a mason jar while the stars preened brightly overhead.
These 26″ wheels keep on turning… but not until tomorrow! Stay tuned for a second day of the mischief and mayhem we call bike touring.