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.

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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. 

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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.

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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….

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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.  

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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. 


  1. hi tara - i love the photo essay style of this post; the "sweet table" and your caption cracked me up.

  2. I laughed so hard at so many things in this post that I have tears in my eyes from laughing now. Thanks for providing so much amusement.

    Susan Pearlman

  3. As much as you seem to like the cold weather and high elevations, I don't want you to be the first person to bike Mt Everest. Keep taking pictures, blogging and having fun. love, Mimi

  4. Tara - thanks for the lastest blogs - you have a future as a travel writer.