Day 50: Gunnison, CO to Montrose, CO
July 5, 2011

Despite waking up early, we didn’t get on the road until 7 and had a chilly first hour or two of riding. It was nice and flat as we rode along the Blue Mesa Reservoir. The landscape looked a little like southern Utah–there were brown pinnacles that looked like the hoodoos from Bryce Canyon. In Sapinero we started the first of two climbs. Neither was too steep and the surroundings were really beautiful–streams, distant snow-capped mountains, and green hills and mesas with funny names (Poverty Mesa, Coal Hill). What wasn’t so nice was the narrow road with no bike lane, a soft shoulder (basically a pile of sand and rocks), and extremely discourteous / oblivious RV drivers. One particularly clueless RV driver (note: it was one of those huge RVs that is the size of a double decker bus) actually drove us off the road and into the shoulder. Hillary’s front wheel stalled in the pile of sand and we had our first fall of the trip. No injuries other than a slightly scraped knee and a feeling of extreme frustration. The RV didn’t even slow down but the car behind it stopped immediately and two people flew out and offered to help us. We told them we were fine and they still waited a few minutes to make sure. After a picnic lunch in Cimmaron (the town is a gas station) we did our third climb of the day and then literally coasted all the way into Montrose. It was a nice end to the day, especially with more storms looming to the south. Despite three hills, we lost almost 2,000 feet of elevation since leaving Gunnison. In Montrose we showered, made and ate some ‘dillas, and went to sleep.

  • Start: Gunnison, CO
  • End: Montrose, CO
  • Slept: motel
  • Miles: 64.3
  • Avg: 10.5

Day 51: Montrose, CO to Placerville, CO
July 6, 2011

We hit up the motel breakfast before setting off. It’s always funny when the other guests stare at us in the motel lobby as we make ourselves 4 packets of oatmeal. Each. We had a nice morning of riding; gradual uphill all the way to Ridgway. Big snow-capped mountains all around, green hills, wildflowers, streams. Ridgway had a really nice bike path along the river leading into the middle of town from a few miles out. We stopped at a bike shop and were assured that the climb up to Dallas Divide wasn’t too bad so we decided to press on. We swung by the grocery store and a woman out front told us all about Ridgway. Fun facts: the original movie True Grit was filmed here, they’ve left many roads unpaved in an effort to retail the cowboy feel, and Ralph Lauren’s ranch is outside of town. We didn’t see him, but did see the Double RL Ranch. As reported, Dallas Divide was not a bad climb. 2,000 feet over 11 miles with a nice wide shoulder. The bonus was that the ride down the other side was a delightful downhill for 13 miles all the way to Placerville. We had talked to Carrie, a warmshowers person in Telluride, about possibly staying with her tonight but decided to stop in Placerville for the night. We stopped in town for sandwiches and asked the cashier about camping nearby. She told us about some BLM sites but also mentioned that her landlord lets cyclists camp on her land in exchange for some help around the property. We found Angela’s place easily and she offered us the choice of camping or sleeping inside her garage / cabin. She didn’t ask for help with anything but Andrew offered to shovel a bunch of dirt back into a hole. She has a funky house on 3 acres of land right along the river and two pretty dogs who like to chase river rafters. After shoveling, showering, and talking with Angela for a while, we retired to the garage / cabin for dinner and bed.

  • Start: Montrose, CO
  • End: Placerville, CO
  • Slept: “camped” in Angela’s garage / cabin
  • Miles: 52.2
  • Avg: 10.5

Day 52: Placerville, CO to Rico, CO
July 7, 2011

We left Angela’s before she was up and stopped at the town park to use the bathrooms and eat some brex before heading toward Telluride. It was a slow gradual uphill most of the 14 miles to the turnoff. We weren’t sure whether we should go into the town of Telluride or not. It’s 4 miles off route and we weren’t really due for a short / rest day. We were standing at the turnoff for Telluride debating what to do when a car pulled over and yelled “are you Andrew?” It was Carrie, the warmshowers person we didn’t stay with and she gave us some great advice. We took the bike path into Telluride, discovered that it is as beautiful as everyone claims, hung out for a bit, and then took the free gondola (with our bikes) up to Mountain Village. This cut off about 2 miles and the steepest part of the afternoon climb–excellent advice from Carrie! From the top of the gondola, we rode another 10 miles up to Lizard Head Pass (elev: 10,222 feet). About 2 miles from the summit it started to rain. The hail started just as we reached the top and pulled into the tiny covered picnic area. We put on all of our cold weather gear – arm and leg warmers, long sleeve jerseys, windbreakers, long sleeved gloves – and watched the rain, hail, and lightning from the tiny shelter. We waited almost an hour for the worst of the storm to pass before heading down. It looked like there was more rain ahead but sitting in wet clothes at 10,000+ feet was just making us colder and colder. The 12 miles down from Lizard Head were freezing. Probably not the coldest we’ve ever been, but close. Our fingers and feet were completely numb and Hillary was shivering a ton. It rained or hailed all the way down. Our body temperatures and the rain made us decide to stop in Rico, 10 miles short of what we’d planned. Turns out, we couldn’t have gone on if we’d wanted to. The fire department and police were closing the road when we pulled in and it’s still closed now (3.5 hours later). Apparently a local blew off his hand building homemade fireworks / bombs and then drove himself to the gas station for help. He was airlifted out but his car and house are blocked off until the bomb squad arrives from somewhere in New Mexico. The whole town is out in the middle of the highway watching, and there is a line or cars and semis all the way through town. We got a room at a nice, rustic lodge, took the greatest hot showers ever, and went to a restaurant down the street for bison burgers and chili. We talked to a BMW mechanic from Oklahoma for an hour before heading to bed.

  • Start: Placerville, CO
  • End: Rico, CO
  • Slept: lodge
  • Miles: 41.8
  • Avg: 8.5

Photos: on the bike path into Ridgway, heading up Dallas Divide, gondola in Telluride, Lizard Head Pass and all it’s glory, bomb scare!