Monday, July 26, 2010

The Push for One Hundred Thousand

Alright, so here’s the scoop folks: As a team, we have currently raised $93,965 for Multiple Sclerosis.  Personally, I have brought in $4,145.  We are trying to get as close to $100,000 as possible and we only have five days left to do it.  The bar has been raised and the challenge has been set.  Don has offered a free hotel room for one night in San Francisco at Fisherman’s Wharf for the person that raises the most between now and the 31st.  I know all ten of you that read my blog have already donated, but if you know anyone who sympathizes with the cause and wants to throw five bucks my way, I’d greatly appreciate it.  It would be so great to say we actually raised $100k in a summer to fight this disease.  This bike trip has been SO HARD and I want to make it SO WORTH IT.  Bike the US for MS is going to completely explode in the next few years.  2011 will already have multiple routes and support vehicles and hopefully some big name corporate sponsors!  We are making this happen right now.  I get so excited thinking about how the kids next year are going to feel starting out from Yorktown or Maine on their journeys west.  I am envious already. 

I got ahead of myself.  There is a link to donate below if you haven’t already.  Also, some people, namely my mom and other family, have complimented my writing style.  If anyone out there would like to pay me to write and go on trips like this all the time, please contact me immediately.  Ha, I’d love to do this forever.  I’d also love to treat my friends Amber and Mike to a hotel room in San Francisco.  They are flying all the way from Virginia Beach and Durham, respectively, to cheer us on as we dip our tires in the Pacific.  I love you guys and can’t wait to see you.  Team Pacecloud rides together and stays together, and they’d all like it if I won the hotel room too!


Planet Nevada

I could tell that Nevada was going to be strange.  Utah ended with a lot of nothing unless you count dust and sagebrush.  This wasn’t Las Vegas Nevada, this was mid-Nevada, land of the Pony Express.  Anywhere you look it seems like a cowboy should be riding on the horizon.  Maybe us and our bikes are all that’s left of that sort of thing.  Perhaps I’m romanticizing too much.

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I’d rate this sign high on the list of welcome signs we’ve encountered.  Like the Utah sign, the image on the Nevada sign turned out to paint an accurate picture of what the state is actually like.  I think the Virginia sign just has a cardinal or a dogwood tree or something like that on it.  Lame, Virginia. 

End of Utah 159Our whiteboard usually denotes the day’s supply stops, temperatures, and wind; etc.  Beginning in Nevada we seem to have given up.  It’s hot in the desert and very windy in the valleys.  Hot and Windy.  No need to provide specifics.  It’s not like it matters anyways how hot and windy it gets, we still have to ride our bikes through it.     

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I think for my next entry I’m going to go in-depth about what it’s like to ride in Nevada.  Generally, it goes like this: it’s flat for a long time, then you ride over a mountain range, then down it, then it’s flat, then another mountain range.  Aptly called basin and range country, the landscape is predictable and repetitive.  In this picture above, that climb is probably 15 or more miles away. 

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After discovering that the campground in Baker was sub-par and expensive (even for our standards) Don was nice enough to give us rides up a mountain in the 4-Runner gondola to a better place to camp.  Can you spot Seth in this picture?  We decided to set up our tents on the other side of this mountain stream and we had to walk across a fallen log to get there.  Dirty Dancing style.  I love camping up in the mountains, minus the freezing cold temperatures at night and the swarms of mosquitoes.  Also, due to my fear of heights I was unable to cross the log in the cool fashion of Jennifer Grey and instead had to crawl across the way a turtle might. 

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For no reason whatsoever, halfway up a mountain, there was a bar.  There was no town, gas station, or houses… just a bar.  It was a total dive, my favorite.  For some reason my siblings and I have an affinity towards crappy bars that smell like stale cigarettes and fryer grease.  I blame my dad.  Anyways, the bar at Majors Junction was welcome break from climbing and Bridget and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy some Miller Lite.  Because before he won the Tour, Alberto Contador probably stopped in a bar and downed a couple brewdogs. 

End of Utah 147 A shot of the front porch of the bar.  Ways you can tell Planet Nevada exists in America:

  • American flag
  • Nascar themed Budweiser banner
  • Plethora of deer antlers used as decorations
  • Christmas lights still hung up in July

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You can see some classic Nevada scenery behind this classic “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!” sign.  Only in Planet Nevada is shooting things from the road such a huge problem that the state spends tax money erecting signs and funding a specific hotline to curb the activity.  I don’t know why people would shoot things from the road anyways, given there is seemingly no wildlife here and no trees or rivers to prevent you from simply driving your car off the road. 

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This is the biggest thing that has passed us on the road so far.  It took up both lanes and shoulders.  It’s the back of what must be the biggest mining truck ever.  Not sure why I included this on the blog.  It was pretty cool at the time.  You sure see some weird things out on the road.

On another note, I’d like to inform everyone that my fingers have officially stopped functioning properly due to all the hours I’ve spent leaning on them while riding.  They used to just fall asleep, then they’d go numb, and now they are only semi-functional.  It’s hard to type, open food wrappers, apply chapstick; etc.  We call it “claw hands” and I’d say about 40% of the group has it in some form.  So in case you were on the fence about donating, think of poor us, in the prime of our youth, temporarily unable to open Snickers wrappers with our disgusting claw hands.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Off of Mars

Utah, like every other state I’ve ridden through so far, is hard.  It’s hot and hilly.  Thank goodness it’s beautiful or I might hate it. I’m at the point physically where I thought that by now I’d be super-strong and a really fast cyclist,  but I’m not.  It frustrates me.  I know I’ll get there, I just have to fight my way up through these canyons first.  That which does not kill me…

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A breakfast menu from a local place in Escalante.  I think the Number 10 was invented for cyclists?   End of Utah 012

We skirted the outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.  I just had to Google search “Bryce” to figure out the actual name of the park and, in doing so, I came across some pictures of what the cool part of the park looks like.  We apparently did not get to ride our bikes through the cool part of the park.  Formations like this were spectacular to look at but I can’t understand why the map didn’t just take us twenty miles off route to see more.  Sometimes I wish we had more time or that I was out here alone (or in a car?) so I could see every attraction that is a few miles off the road.  One day earlier in Utah we went to try to see Natural Bridges National Monument.  That was a hilarious mistake.  We rode our bikes 5 miles downhill to the visitors center only to find out that we’d have to ride another 10 miles to see the bridges.  We didn’t care to see them THAT much, so then we had to get back on our bikes and climb up 5 miles to get back to the main road.  It was so frustrating.  Bridget about had a mental breakdown at the thought of doing additional mileage and we had to talk her down from her giggle fit.  That incident marks the first and the last time we try to see something off route.  On a bicycle it’s hardly worth it.  We need to save every ounce of strength from every Snickers bar for our real journey. 

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After getting a good nights sleep at a swanky KOA in Panguitch, we woke up and immediately started a huge, long, thirty or forty mile climb up to Cedar Breaks National Monument.  For you “car people” out there, that is a very long way.  Even though I now climb at 6 or 7mph, that’s still several hours in the saddle, panting, thighs burning, cursing the hill.  Once we got to the top, Liza and I turned into crazy people and decided it was wise to go on a half hour hike to see an alpine lake and some wildflowers.  We wanted to work out more, I guess.  It was worth it, as evidenced by the picture above.  In going this slowly across the country, I think I have developed a newfound appreciation for things like wildflowers.  And maybe roadkill.

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After all that climbing, the potentially awesome downhill side of the mountain ended up disappointing us due to high winds and lots of traffic.  We’d been looking forward to that descent for days.  I hate it when that happens.  So we finally arrived in Cedar City where we all painted a fence Tom Sawyer style.  In return for our hard work in the midday sun, the local Lion’s Club made us a spaghetti dinner in the local town park.  I love pasta and I don’t mind painting a few pieces of wood to get it for free. 

End of Utah 081Dan and I saw these beehive houses in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t resist riding a mile or so on a gravel road to check them out.  Apparently they are actually charcoal kilns that were used for the town of Frisco when it existed.  Frisco was a mining town located at the terminus of the local railroad.  A gas station cashier told us that it was a dangerous place; saloons were plentiful and murder was commonplace.  However, after the mine collapsed in the late 1800’s the population migrated elsewhere and eventually Frisco fell into ruin.  There’s not really even enough left (that we could see) for it to be called a ghost town, but it was eerie nonetheless.  I had more fun off-road cycling to get to these kilns than I did mountain biking for an hour in Telluride.  Go figure. 

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After Milford, Utah sure started to look like Nevada mighty fast.  We had entered “the middle of nowhere.”  On this particular day, we rode 84 miles without any services.  This means no towns, gas stations, stores, houses, or people.  Just the road and some sagebrush.  Thank goodness we have a support vehicle to supply us every twenty miles or we’d have to carry several milk jugs worth of water each.  And I thought carrying three water bottles at a time was pretty difficult. 

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Alex and Liza looking pretty badass after just having ridden through a dust storm.  I get the feeling that Nevada is going to also be like another planet.  Utah was either Mars or Tatooine.  Who knows what real and/or fictional place we are traveling to next. 

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More evidence that Nevada was going to be really strange: right before the “Welcome to Nevada” sign, the pavement turned red.  See you on the other side, friends.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Throw away your preconceived notions about Utah

Goodbye Rockies, goodbye Colorado.  We were moving on.  It was slow at first, but now it seems like we’re plowing through states like it’s our business.  Which seems about right because I quit my job for two months to do this.  Riding my bike to new states IS my business.  I was better at bartending.

Start of Utah 100 Utah: Life Elevated. 

Welcome sign: Also Elevated.

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Utah didn’t hold anything back (I’m looking at you, part of Colorado that looks like Kansas) and impressed us right from the start with this huge slit cut out in the rock that led to an impressive valley and a fast downhill.  Colorado was supposed to be “colorful,” but Utah seems to have the best colors: deep reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and bright blue skies.  Start of Utah 155

Bridget and Dan in their downhill tucks.  The beauty and strangeness of the landscape was literally jaw dropping for me.  We’d be riding at “road level” next to huge, tortured rock formations and mountains that jutted out of the landscape abruptly and rose several thousand feet higher than us.  Criss-crossing the valleys were immense canyons that were just as deep as the mountains were high.  They were too deep to see to the rivers that created them, but the shade created by the canyon walls and the giant trees on their floor made me jealous that I was up in the road level desert and not down in their oasis.  So many environments visible from just one spot.  It was daunting to think of how long it had taken the elements to create a place like Utah.  Millions of years.  Even riding through at 15mph was too fast to examine and appreciate it.  It was like you could see Time itself.

On a lighter note, here’s a rock I thought looked like Jabba the Hutt.

Start of Utah 124jabbathehut

See any resemblance?  No, not really?  It’s ok, I was bored.  Every rock in Utah looks like something when you’re exhausted and dehydrated and going up a hill at 4mph.  I remember when I took this picture I was going so slowly uphill I almost fell over taking my camera out of my back pocket to snap a shot of the Jabba rock.  I hope you appreciate it.  Ben Chidester, I did it for you. 

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One of our first camps in Utah was on the banks of Lake Powell.  The lake was created in the sixties when the Glen Canyon Dam was built on the Colorado River.  Dale says that the shoreline of Lake Powell is longer than that of the Pacific Coast of the US.  And Dale is always right.  I took a geography class in college where we had to read a lot of books about Powell, his journey, and the dam.  John Wesley Powell was a one-armed Civil War veteran who took three wooden boats down the length of the raging Colorado River in the late 1860’s.  He makes people who ride their bikes across the country look like wimps.  The Colorado no longer exists in the capacity it used to; only a hundred years after Powell’s surveying trip it was dammed in several places and entire ecosystems (and towns) were destroyed.  Environmentalists are still pissed.  Let me say I’m totally on their side; however, since the dam is already there and there’s nothing I can do about it, I don’t feel guilty in saying that Lake Powell is SO COOL.  After riding my bike through the arid desert all day it was so nice and unexpected to find out that we were camping on a beautiful, clear lake.  I even had to get out because it was too cold.  I was too cold in the desert!  Sounds about right.  I want to come back to Lake Powell one day with a huge RV, a sweet boat, and some water skis.  It’s on the bucket list.

 Utah 2 001

I included this picture of Bridget, laying in a parking lot, using her tent as a pillow, drinking “teabag” coffee, and looking generally unhappy because I think her expression conveys how we all feel in the mornings. 

Utah 2 003What we put on our bacon and egg morning sandwiches.  It’s not cheese.  It’s not even American cheese.  It’s imitation pasteurized process cheese food.  We long for actual cheese food.  Imitation cheese food is no good. 

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Me posing on a cliff overlooking Lake Powell.  We camped right down there on the shoreline and had to wake up and climb the giant bluff you saw in the sunset picture earlier.  It was a gorgeous but hard climb and totally worth it once we saw the view from the top.  I’d like to note that everyone else stood directly on the edge with their bikes and got sweet pictures where it looked like they were floating above the landscape.  I was too scared to get within five feet of the ledge.  If you learn anything about me from these blogs, I hope it’s that a) I hate the cold and complain about it a lot and b) heights terrify me.  I even have a bike that’s a full six inches shorter than anyone else’s in the whole group.  That’s six inches closer to the ground, if you ask me!

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No, it didn’t cook.  Although my skin did, in fact, feel like it was on fire.  Perhaps the desert of Utah is more comparable to an oven than a skillet. 

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Cutest, happiest picture ever.  Left to right: Seth, me, Bridget, Alex, Liza, Dan.  We were riding along in the desert and happened upon a waterfall.  It seemed strange to even see trees and a stream, but a waterfall was just too much and made it impossible to cruise on by without stopping.  Swimming that day was one of the best decisions I’ve made all trip.  FYI, our clothes dried in literally ten or fifteen minutes.

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Petroglyphs drawn by the Fremont Indians a thousand (!) years ago.  They look like alien people.  They make me think of my sister, Allie.  She works in Virginia Beach amongst alien sculptures and legal alien immigrants.  Ha.

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Liza and I taking a stream shower.  We spent all day sweating in the desert and only to spend the last two hours climbing several thousand feet back to the alpine environment.  It’s better to sleep at 9,000 feet where it’s cooler, although it would be even nicer if we didn’t have to get to that altitude on our bicycles.  Campsites up in the mountains never have showers or sinks but seem to always have freezing cold streams.  It’s a trade off. 

Side note about whatever day this was in Utah: We were riding through on a Friday or Saturday and there happened to be an actual cycling road race going on with serious cyclists riding on bikes that cost more than… well, everything I own multiplied by an exponent of five.  I was actually in the Tour for awhile!  Well, they were all pretty fast, but it was fun to pretend that I was so good at cycling that I was racing.  Also, best trail magic of the trip: a lady was standing on the side of the road watching the race in her yard with a garden hose.  She sprayed us down.  It was magnificent.  If anyone reading this lives on the Trans American or Western Express Trails, please spend your summer afternoons shooting cyclists with your hose.  We’ll love you forever for it. 

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Given my aforementioned fear of heights, this road scared me horribly.  There were 1,000 foot+ drops on each side with a very small shoulder and (as pictured) steep downhill grades and sharp curves.  Time to put the camera away and pay attention.  So, of course, I put my camera away and took out the Bike the US for MS video camera to try to film the ridiculousness of this road.  I doubt any of my footage will make the final cut.  It’s hard to film while biking and terrified. 

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It’s cool to get to the top of bluffs sometimes and be able to look back and see the road you were just on.  I rode my bike on that?  All the way to here?  Wow. 

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We went to a Mexican restaurant that had weird stuff in it.  Here’s a painting of a cat wearing a sombrero on a dinner plate.   Ron, I included this for you. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

To Telluride and out of the Rockies

Colorado Towns 024

Colorado continues to impress.  Riding in a valley surrounded by peaks like those pictured above is quite the experience.  I am still taking way too many pictures.  Thank God.  Without my hundreds of pictures I don’t think I’d be able to remember all of the spectacular scenery and funny moments of the trip.  

Colorado Towns 039

This shot was from the top of Dallas Divide, which was something like 9k or 10k feet.  It was a bummer to climb to the top and see these storm clouds.  On the half hour descent I was pelted with huge rain drops that felt like BBs when they hit me because I was going so fast.  I didn’t have any rain or warmth gear so I spent the rest of the afternoon freezing cold and complaining about it every chance I got.  My toes turned white.  I get that Colorado is beautiful and all, but I still am curious as to why people chose to live somewhere that summer does not exist. 

Start of Utah 006 Telluride!  This is one of three pictures I took of one of the coolest towns I’ve ever been to.  The town is nestled between giant, gorgeous mountains, and, if that weren’t enough, there is a beautiful waterfall (pictured in the back) that is visible from everywhere in town.  It’s such a progressive, outdoorsy, touristy place.  It's one of those places where everyone has a crappy hybrid with lots of  bumper stickers but mostly rides their $3,000 mountain bike around town.  We camped in the town park at the end of this street closer to the waterfall.   There was some festival going on all weekend with live music we could hear from our tents.  Does it get better than that?  Also, we had a REST DAY!  That means we could have a PARTY NIGHT! We asked some locals where to find the cheapest, least-touristy, most hole-in-the-wall bar in town.  They came through and we spent several hours in a basement establishment with $6 pints of Evan Williams on the rocks.  Classy. 

The next morning everyone rented mountain bikes.  Telluride is home to some of the nations premiere mountain biking trails that people travel to from far and wide to ride on.  This should have been my first clue that perhaps this wasn’t the best place to try to start mountain biking.  Of the six girls that mountain biked, one of us had fun, two were injured, and three were too terrified to have an opinion.  I was scared out of my mind.  I spent more time off the bike, walking it over rocks and trees and 90 degree turns, than I did on it.  And when I was on it, I was white-knuckling the breaks and repeatedly falling over sideways.  The sad things is, I want to like mountain biking.  I still think I could mountain bike.  But riding down a huge mountain on singletrack through the trees was a bit much.  Perhaps I’d prefer some uphill or flatlands mountain biking.  You know, mountain biking minus the mountain part?  Off road cycling? 

Telluride 001

Carmen checking out Telluride’s “free stuff” wall.  What?  Yes, the town of Telluride is so hippie and progressive that people cut out the thrift store middleman and just leave their old things on the side of the road downtown.  There were clothes, shoes, nice DVDs, snowboarding shoes, skis, etc.  Locals we talked to said you can get all of your winter and summer sporting goods at the free wall.  And the clothes weren’t crappy Goodwill clothes either, they were name brand, nice things that had nothing wrong with them.  I got a long sleeve shirt and a scarf at the wall.  I didn’t need the scarf, but I’d like to hope whoever put it there would be happy to know that I tied it to my bike to use to clean my sunglasses.

Some facts about stuff:

  • Pairs of sunglasses I’ve destroyed: 4
  • Average price of one of my pairs of sunglasses: $4.50
  • Distance traveled from Yorktown before my first helmet mirror broke: 8 miles
  • Before my bike computer broke: 1,300 miles.
  • Before I removed my rear rack: 100 miles
  • Number of things I use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap for: 6 (body soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, laundry detergent, dish detergent)

 Start of Utah 010I probably shouldn’t  be telling you this, but: we cheated.  Please forgive us.  See, leaving Telluride you could a) ride your bike up a a mountain, or b) take a free gondola with awesome views to the top of the mountain instead.  Not everyone chose to ride the gondola, but Team Pacecloud did and we aren’t ashamed to admit it.  It only cut off two miles and being able to see the valley with the town of Telluride nestled at the bottom was a sight so amazing it erased any guilt.   Start of Utah 020

Soon after getting off the gondola we passed 14,ooo+ ft. Mount Wilson.  Locals in Telluride told us that it was the model for the mountain on the Coors Light can.  I think that we were at the wrong angle to really see any similarity, coorslogobut it was an interesting fact to know nonetheless.



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Team Pacecloud (bottom left) fixing a broken bike, as per usual, at the bottom of a mountain in Colorado.

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The day out of Telluride was one of the best yet of the entire trip.  It was pretty much all downhill.  You just had to pedal once or twice a minute for a few hours.  It was great to not have to exert an insane amount of energy to travel sixty miles.  For one of the first times on the trip, I really felt like I was a good cyclist.  Tour de France quality.  All it took was riding down the western slope of the Rockies to make me feel fast.

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How to tell if Bike the US for MS cyclists have stopped at a gas station.   Not pictured: an empty shelf where the chocolate milk used to be.

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Even small towns we passed through with less than 1,00o people had at least one medical marijuana dispensary.  So let me get this straight- in Colorado you can buy weed at stores, but you cannot buy beer over 3.2% unless you go to a liquor store.  Hm.

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At the end of the day we rode east for a couple of miles off the main road to get to our campsite.  It was odd to turn around and see how tiny the Rockies had gotten already.  In one days ride we had gone from Telluride fantasy-land to the foothills.  And that was it.  We had ridden over the Rockies.  I did it.  Next challenge: the buttes and canyons of Utah.  The Appalachians tried to kill me, the Ozarks almost succeeded, the Rockies made me want to check the classifieds and rent and apartment.  Utah, Nevada, and California…. BRING IT ON.

Also please check out our new video.  In it you can see what mountain biking is supposed to look like.  I didn’t make an appearance in this video, probably due to aforementioned lack of biking skills.  But Joe is AWESOME.  Anyways, if you read the blog but don’t watch the videos, you’re seriously missing out.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Colorado: too cool for me

After starting out sort of flat and boring, Colorado really got interesting and started to live up to its hype.  We were riding through valleys surrounded by huge peaks and going through progressively cuter mountain resort towns.  You get the feeling that everyone is biding their time until the snow falls and they can hit the slopes again.  Restaurants have healthy food and our plates have more colors on them than yellowish orange (Example of yellow/orange meals: biscuits and gravy with hash browns, grilled cheese and fries.)  There were vegetables!  Fruits!  Granola!  Organic things!  Beer that I haven’t even heard of before.  Colorado is full of hippie towns and we are wanna be hippies that wear spandex all day instead of tie-dye.

Monarch Pass 016 A random wall in Salida, Colorado.  I thought this looked artistic?  Can someone please make this into a postcard and send me any royalties?  Thanks. 

We went to a good pizza place in Salida for lunch; it’s weird to order an entire large pizza for yourself and have no doubt that you’ll be able to eat the whole thing in one sitting.  And then strenuously exercise afterwards.  I also bought a skirt from a thrift store because all of my shorts are too big for me to wear.  I have to roll them up several times like they’re soccer shorts for them to fit on my waist.  People assume this is  because I’ve lost weight.  False.  It’s because I haven’t gone clothes shopping in 3 summers and all my clothes are old and stretched out.  I’m riding my bike across the country but I’m generally too lazy to go shopping.  So it goes.

 Monarch Pass 057

Here is a really bad picture of our camp up at Monarch Pass, above 10,00o feet.  Some say it’s a “rare opportunity” to get to camp at that altitude; however, I believe that it’s rare to find a person that would call sleeping at 10k feet an “opportunity”.  The climb up was, of course, hard and cold.  It’s very difficult to breathe when you’re up that high, especially having to pedal a steel bicycle a third of your weight up 7% grades for two hours.  Just missing one breath to swallow a squirt of water from my water bottle would leave me breathless for a minute. 

 Monarch Pass 050

We ended up staying about a mile from the top of the 11,300 foot pass.  It was funny to see everyone in their “winter clothes,” which consisted of putting on every item of clothing they packed.  Who needs specific winter clothes when you have six summer outfits you can layer on top of one another?  Despite the cold and the rain, we had a great time up at Monarch.  No one’s phones or computers worked (we didn’t even have running water) so we were forced to all hang out together.  We  jammed ourselves into the tiny, smelly trailer and passed around beers.  I set up my tent a foot away from a trickling mountain stream.  It was like having one of those white noise sound machines people use to fall asleep with, but in real life.  Too cool.  In other news, my sleeping bag, which is supposed to keep a normal person warm in temperatures down to 20 degrees, failed to keep me at all warm even though it only got down to 3o.  I woke up several times because I was unbearably cold.  Then of course I had to go pee in the middle of the night, which meant getting out of my sleeping bag and tent I’d been trying to warm up all night and going outside where it’s freezing cold, possibly infested with bears, and definitely swarming with mosquitoes.  I have never seen an actual cloud of mosquitoes until Monarch Pass.  How can they live in such cold weather?  Better yet, why did the families we were sharing the campground with choose to stay in an environment such as this on their vacation?  Mom, if you ever took me to have fun somewhere in July that was colder than most places are in January, I’d throw a fit.

 Monarch Pass 061

Some of the kids with skinny tires getting a ride up the gravel road.  Super lucky for me that I have fat tires and get to ride my bike even more….

 Monarch Pass 072

After lots of huffing and puffing, I made it to the top.  The Continental Divide!  Up until now the rivers we followed always got smaller.  Now they get bigger.  Weirder than you’d think… probably because we see it happen in such slow motion.  

 Monarch Pass 088

Bridget, Liza and I at the top.  Those are 14,000 foot peaks behind us.  You can see the ski slopes on the left.   Also, judging by the fact that we are not centered and the picture isn’t straight, I’m going to take a wild guess and say a guy took this picture for us. 

Monarch Pass 095Snow in July!  I love July!  I hate snow! 

Monarch Pass 100Bombing down Monarch Pass was awesome.  One lane was closed to car traffic for construction so we rode in it and got to fly without worrying about cars.  Perfect.  It’s always fun riding towards clouds like this; you keep hoping the road will bear right, but it never does.  You have to keep on riding towards the storm.  Maybe you’ll get rained on.  Maybe you’ll get hailed on.  You have absolutely no control over what happens.  You have to accept that you’re cold and wet and there’s nothing you can do about it except keep pedaling to stay warm.  It’s oddly freeing.

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Here’s a brewery we chilled at for awhile in Gunnison, another too-cool mountain resort town.  We sampled the local beers and pretended to care where LeBron is playing next season.  

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I’d hate to stay somewhere with a lame table.

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One of many cool roads in Colorado.  It’s hard for me to go 45mph bombing down hills out here because all I want to do is sit up and look around at the scenery.

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The KOA in Montrose was full but they let all 25 of us set up our tents on the front lawn part by the office.  I just thought it was funny how close we pitch our tents sometimes.  By the way, I’ve really come to appreciate KOAs and RV parks in general.  People that have half million dollar RVs do not want to rough it, they want power outlets, warm showers, and laundry.  It’s so luxury to us.  Women will be in the bathrooms straightening and blow drying their hair while we are washing our underwear and socks in the sink.  We’ll sit in the middle of a sidewalk with our little camp stoves and cook Pasta Sides with Beanie Weenies thrown in for protein.  Times like this make me feel like a dirty hippie.  The best part is that no one dares say anything to us because we’re riding for charity and they’d feel bad.