Saturday, July 4, 2009

back in the saddle

Wednesday morning I was on the road before 7:00 with another near 100 mile day ahead of me. The route followed highway 50 again, but the ride between Montrose and Gunnison is once again part of the West Elk Loop of the scenic byway. Once I reached Gunnison it would be a north turn for the last 25 miles to Crested Butte and a welcome rest day. First there were climbs from Montrose at 5794 feet over Cerro Summit at 7950' and Blue Mesa Summit at 8704' before a final 1300' climb from Gunnison to Crested Butte.

There were so many places visited by the BTC this year that had me thinking "this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen". Somewhere near Cimarron there were cabins for rent with fishing spots nearby, horseback riding available, and views that seem to stretch out forever.
I've got to bring Beth here and spend some time soaking this up.

The climbs were challenging, but not nearly so as the rides already behind us. The roads were good, shoulders pretty clean, and not too much traffic to contend with mid-week. And the sun was shining all of the morning and most of the afternoon. We actually made it into Crested Butte without rain, though the clouds gathered and threatened for the last 20 miles.

Early in the morning we were near Morrow Point Reservoir and after the 2 summits we rode along Blue Mesa Reservoir for the rest of the morning. As we passed the small town of Sapinero there was a hand-painted sign at the foot of a driveway for "fajitas". If that driveway hadn't been straight up a hill, I would have been there. At this point in the day, with 3-4 hours of riding ahead of me, I was ready for a real meal. The aid stations offerings of pb&j, fruit, cookies and crackers are great for a quick pick-me-up, and just what you need to keep you going most days, I needed something more to re-fuel. I knew that if I could get to Gunnison I would be able to find a Subway, Dairy Queen, or McDonalds to satisfy my hunger. I kind of hoped I wouldn't have to go too far out of the way, though. As luck would have it, before our turn to the north, I saw a Pizza Hut advertising the lunch buffet, AND 4 bikes sitting right by the door. Three riders from BTC were already enjoying lunch, as well as an America by Bicycle rider. (Their tour mirrored ours for the morning. ) Five or six slices and a couple of sodas later, I was back on the road to Crested Butte.

Highway 135 runs northerly from Gunnison through Almont to Crested Butte, along the Gunnison River. The route is lined with resorts offering trout fishing and rafting. Stopping for pictures I saw one group of rafters resting, either by choice, or stuck in an eddy. Still, a pretty good place for a rest.

The peaks around Crested Butte are visible from quite a distance. It gives you a glimpse of what awaits you when you arrive. It's a gradual incline from Gunnison, but climbing nonetheless, especially after 70 miles, including 2 early summits. Crested Butte was a welcome sight, and the school that would be our home for a couple days was right on the edge of town, so the tent city was right there like a welcome mat. Crested Butte is a small town, easy to walk around. Tonight I would worry only about finding something good to eat, maybe getting a massage, and getting a good night's sleep. Tomorrow I could see more of what Crested Butte has to offer.

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