Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 24: Indiana Pass and Rain

            As we ate breakfast the morning of July 8th, I mentally went over the elevation profiles for the upcoming ride. We would climb for nearly 20 miles and would eventually crest Indiana Pass at an elevation of 11,900 ft., the highest of the trip. With this in mind I ate everything I could get my hands on, which unfortunately wasn’t much. Since we had stayed at the B&B we ate breakfast there and were a little disappointed with the portions. It seems that the proprietors were more used to feeding people who didn’t need any excess calories so everything was served in portions that would leave room on doll plates. Don’t get me wrong, we were grateful. It’s just that minuscule servings don’t replace many calories when you are burning in excess of 6,000 per day.
Good Company but not enough food :)

            Just as we were preparing to leave, one of the couples that had also stayed the night at the B&B offered to pray for us. We all stood in a circle holding hands while they asked for God to look over us and to keep us safe throughout the rest of our trip. Even thousands of miles from home it is amazing to connect with total strangers though the shared bond of a belief in Christ.
Couple who prayed for us
            We turned off the main road and headed toward what would be at least three hours of pedaling till we got to the top of the pass. As we slowly climbed we soon realized that the weather in the higher elevations could be problematic. At the valley floor the weather was a balmy 70 plus degrees but as we climbed the sun hid behind storm clouds. About halfway up the climb we starting feeling small drops of rain on our skin so we stopped to put on our rain gear. The rain steadily intensified as we ground uphill in our granny gears. I was feeling pretty good but Joseph seemed to be suffering. I don’t know if it was the mental drain of riding in the rain or just simple physical exhaustion but I soon had to start holding back so I wouldn’t leave him behind. To add insult to injury it started hailing. If you have never been outside in a hailstorm, don’t try it! Even through my rain jacket and jersey it really hurt. Every couple seconds a hailstone would go straight down through the vents in my helmet and smack me in the head. After a few minutes of this you could even see hail drifts in the ditches on either side of the road. While this was all happening the temperature was falling. By the time we reached the top we estimated it was just less than 50 degrees and we were soaked to the skin. At the top we snapped a few pictures and talked to a group of cyclists that were north-bound on the GDMBR. Putting on all our clothes to guard against wind chill on the descent, we headed downhill.
Joseph in full rain gear

Indian Paintbrush

Still Climbing

Columbines, Colorado's state flower

Still Climbing!

Chatting with other cyclists

Highest point of the GDMBR
            Since we had just reached the highest point on our trip we figured that it would be almost all downhill to the lodge in Platoro, boy were we wrong! We were slowly losing elevation but after every revitalizing downhill we would then climb back up almost to where we started. The whole time it kept raining just enough that we couldn’t take off our clammy rain gear. We finally got to the bottom of the last climb into Platoro in the shadow of a huge red mountain. It was red because of the large amount of iron oxide or rust in the soil. In fact the maps said that around Platoro that you shouldn’t drink the surface water because of the naturally high levels of heavy metals and other pollution. So much for drinking out of crystal clear mountain streams! We climbed up the steep grade until the road thankfully turned downhill for the last couple miles into town. With reckless abandon I let go of the brakes and let gravity propel me toward food and warmth.

High alpine panorama soaked in rain

A mountain of rust

            The lodge at Platoro did not disappoint. Joseph and I both ordered huge burgers, as many fries as we could eat, and several refills of sugary soda. Feeling much better after the meal, we bought more supplies at the little store inside the lodge then set off toward Horca, the last stop in Colorado, with rain clouds chasing us once again. A mere mile or so down the road the heavens opened up with a vengeance. Rain pelted down for the next twenty miles as we prayed for the misery to end. Luckily we were following a river so it was mostly downhill with the occasional climb thrown in to wake up our aching legs.
More storm clouds on the way to Horca

            By this time it was late afternoon and it was high time to be looking for a place to stay for the night and something to eat. The restaurant in Horca was closed and the store there had almost nothing but we grabbed some trail mix and Ramen noodles and got directions to the nearest campground. They said it was only a mile off route, but almost two miles later we were making muttered comments on the distance estimating abilities of people that ride everywhere in cars. Finally the promised campground did reveal itself. The lady that we talked to was unbelievably nice and even offered to let us sleep under a carport for the night. Even though that doesn’t sound like it would be much better than sleeping outside, it is amazing what having a roof over your head will do for your state of mind. After eating some piping hot noodles, doing some much needed laundry, and getting some showers, we felt like new men. Just as I was drifting to sleep I thought, “You know, I think I’m starting to get the hang of this bike touring thing.”

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