Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 19 Steamboat to Kremmling

            July 3rd dawned damp and cool from the rain the previous night. We packed our gear onto our bikes and lazily pedaled the few miles into town. We dropped our bikes by the shop and decided that a large breakfast was in order. After walking a few blocks down the main street, we ate an amazing breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and bacon at a small restaurant in the renovated downtown district. There was no rush to get on the road, since we knew our bikes would be in the shop till at least noon, so we took full advantage of this knowledge and had a very relaxing morning. We ambled down to the post office where I dropped a postcard I had written to my grandmother in the box. On the way back we stopped in at another bike shop, where we didn’t buy anything, as well as an outdoors shop, where I bought some more fuel for my camp stove. We checked in at the bike shop and they had yet to finish our bikes so we explored the town a little more. One thing that stuck out to me more than anything was the amount of cyclists I saw on the streets. Sure, people seemed to be riding bikes for enjoyment, but many people were using their bicycles for transportation on streets that had dedicated bicycle lanes. Having come from the Shenandoah Valley where almost the only people to use bicycles for transportation are the Old Order Mennonites, it really opened my eyes to the benefits of infrastructure that supports bicycle travel as well as automobiles. After virtually exhausting all of our time-killing options we headed back to the bike shop to check to see if our bikes were done. Unfortunately they weren’t but we were promised they would be done soon. While we waiting I bought a new pair of Assos cycling shorts to replace my ragged Ibex shorts as well as more chamois cream to lessen my ever-present saddle sore pain. The pair of Assos bib shorts I bought was easily the most expensive piece of cycling clothing I had ever bought; but after a few days of wearing them it seemed like “you get what you pay for” became a well­-known saying for a reason. After my suspension fork was serviced, my chain rings, cassette, and chain were replaced, and my wallet’s weight was drastically decreased, we pedaled through downtown Steamboat toward the Yampa River.

            After stopping at a pizza joint to refuel, we rode out of town at around 1 pm on lightly traveled roads, baking in the summer sun.  We left the pavement behind and starting climbing on a rocky dirt road. After winding around for a while we suddenly came upon a reservoir. We followed the route across the dam and soon hit the big climb of the day, a 15 mile grind up to Lynx Pass. The road alternated between wash boarded sections that almost loosened my teeth and choking dust that trailed after passing vehicles.  I failed to find where we were supposed to turn off for a long downhill down to the Colorado River ,  so we kept climbing up to the top of Gore Pass at 9,524 feet. We were then rewarded by mile after mile of glorious downhill, which was welcome after 15-20 miles of climbing.

            You have never lived until you ride a bike down a steep hill. The mixture of endorphins, the sound of wind in your ears, and unbelievable speed, combine until you feel invincible. Moments before you might have been struggling to just turn over the pedals; but now you hammer the pedals with careless abandon as if you don’t know you still have many miles to go before you sleep. Joseph and I chased each other down this seemingly unending descent for the better part of fifteen miles. Eventually, as all downhills do, it flattened out and we were brought back to reality. We had wandered off course because of the missed turn, and we had to orient ourselves once we reached a busy highway. We turned right and shortly after we saw a road sign telling us that Kremmling Colorado was a mere 12 miles to the south. With the euphoria of the descent still fresh and the promise of a meal less than an hour away, we pedaled like madmen against a gusting quartering headwind. We kept our heads down and our legs pumping for the most part, but just as we were getting into town the amber-colored setting sun lit up rock formations to the east. With the last few gasps of sunlight we rode into town and leaned our bikes against the front of a restaurant in the middle of the town of 1,500.

            While waiting for our dinners to come out, Joseph had ordered a steak while I had opted for the fish and chips, we talked about our day. Even with a late start we had been able to ride 65 miles in around 6 hours. With our stomachs full and with the weather starting to look a little less than ideal, we looked around for some lodging. Only a block away we found a motel that looked like it was straight out of the Old West. We talked to the elderly man inside and were able to get hostel rates at only $15 a night each! We had to sleep in the basement in a room with sparse furnishings but that was a small price to pay for such a deal. After taking showers we curled up in our soft beds and dropped off to sleep.

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