Look Up! Look Up! (USA Day 61)
It was one of those days that traps you: after you’ve had a slow breakfast with the Tour de France, and packed up your bags, and said your farewells, and found your way onto the bike path, and stopped to take photos of the wildflowers, and stopped at Walmart for provisions, and stopped at REI for a bearproof capsule (because everyone thinks everyone else’s bear advice is dangerous), then it’s half past twelve and you’ve only done twenty miles.
Colorado has 300 days of sun per year, but that’s only five sixths of the story. Every afternoon, particularly this time of year, there’s a storm over the mountains. Now that’s not such a problem if you’re in a cosy town in a valley somewhere, but we had to stride a path north, out from Breckenridge, through Frisco and Silverthorne, to Kremmling, with forty miles of hills and lakes and bumpy scenic nothings between them. As soon as we left Silverthorne’s outlet-store-clad streets, the thunder began to rumble and the skies darkened.
Worse, we found ourselves back on Highway 9, with its minuscule shoulder and impatient cars. With the anxiety of a day started late and the sky throwing its afternoon tantrum, we pushed on without much relish, too busy controlling the road and not being pancaked to enjoy the craggy peaks on all sides.
After another eighteen miles, we stopped for crackers and Nutella by a lake, and awoke as if from an anxious, tooth-grindy dream. The hills, moody and vegetation-thick, more closely resembled Scottish Munros than the snowy peaks from yesterday. The grey lake rippled sullenly under naughty clouds. It was an awful lot of nature to be sat next to.
“Look where we are!” came Amy’s newly-enthusiastic chirp, and while we weren’t utterly happy again, the day had found its feet.
We didn’t tarry long because the storm approached. But as always on these rides, once you start dispatching those miles, things seem to work themselves out. The pathetic gravelly strip of a shoulder became a broad, paved lane guarded by rumble strips; the wind shifted to our favour and blustered us along the undulating road; we met Mike and Riley, an excellent man/dog touring double-act whose genuine friendliness brightened our day; we hid from rain under a gas-station awning and ate a delicious instant teriyaki rice that had been hanging around in our bags since Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; we rode right underneath a soaring bald eagle, then stopped to watch it perch on a phone pylon; we followed the foaming Colorado River through a red-rock chasm, curling against the current until we found our home for the night: Hot Sulphur Springs.
Here we’re camped, in the city park, with the faint background sounds of four men throwing horseshoes (which is clearly a sport here). On all sides climb our mountain pals, who blush pink in the sunset. You’ve got to stop to appreciate these things. There’s so many of them, when you start looking for them. And that’s why we’re here.
Today: 76 Miles
Total: 2823 Miles