Monday, August 17, 2009

crmbt - gunnison to creede

This was a big day. The tour organizers referred to this as the "queen stage". We were up by 4:30am to get organized, pack up our tents, get our bags to the luggage truck and have breakfast. We were on the road by 6:00. We doubled back on highway 50 for less than 10 miles to the reservoir, where we turned south on highway 149 to Lake City. After a slight climb for about 9 miles to the top of the aptly named 9-mile hill, we reached the first aid station. It was another beautiful, sunny morning. Cool, but comfortable. From 9,000' at 9-mile hill there was a nice descent of about 1,200' before climbing back to 8,900' and No Name Hill. This was a shorter, but slightly steeper climb, rewarded with another nice descent. The next 18 miles were trending upward, gaining less than 1,000' on the ride to the 2nd aid station a few miles before Lake City. There were a lot of photo opportunities as we alternated between riding past private ranches and public land, sometimes along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.

We had joked the day before that instead of doing a hundred mile ride the next day, we would do two fifty-mile rides. With that in mind, the plan was to stop in Lake City for lunch, and have a good rest before the "2nd ride". We made it to Lake City by 11:30 and found a small store. There were a few other riders who had purchased made-to-order sandwiches inside, and were sitting on the porch out front. I was hoping to find the miracle food for cyclists; pie. While some of our group were waiting for their sandwich, picking up Gatorade and Fig Newtons, and waiting in a long line for the crabby cashier to check them out, I went across the road to the bakery. I think I hit the jackpot. While the only pies they sold were whole, they had warm cases with pizza, quiche, and an array of sweets. I chose a hunk of pepperoni pizza and a slice of apple coffee cake. When Pat came out of the store empty handed I asked if he was getting lunch and was told that he had eaten it while in line. Mine was more relaxing.

Fully fueled we began the ride out of Lake City toward what we had begun to call " the pass that shall not be named", Slumgullion. My Merriam Webster word-of-the-day had taught me that slumgullion was a word for a thin stew of meat and vegetables, perhaps of Gaelic origins. I have no idea why it's also the name for this pass, but there it was. A few miles up the climb I pointed to a line on the mountain and joked that it was the road we were on. Don't make jokes when climbing! Sure enough, an hour or so later we were on that stretch of road. The climb did afford some spectacular views back at where you had been, and down on Lake San Cristobal. The climb was high enough, steep enough, and contained enough switchbacks that when we all stopped to rest and take pictures at a guardrail, I couldn't help but laugh. What the hell was I thinking! I like this shot of the road, where we came from, and where we're headed:

After we began climbing again we got stretched out pretty good. Pat was out of sight in front of me, and the rest of the group was somewhere behind me. You need to find a pace you're comfortable with and just keep spinning the pedals. And by spinning, I mean barely turning. Sundance Images was on the tour taking pictures of cyclists in action available for purchase later. When I approached him short of the summit he slowly strolled out into the road, squatted down and focused his lens on me. I told him to not hurry, he had all day, he could set up a tripod if he wanted. The mileage in the route book was off by a couple miles and when I was certain that the summit was only 2 miles away I saw this sign:

Finally, I saw the sign for Slumgullion Pass at 11,530 feet. I was unaware that there was another sign 1/4 mile down the road, which was also the sight for the 3rd aid station. I snapped shots of the sign, tried to take a self-portrait, and waited to see if anyone else would arrive soon. I didn't have a cowbell with me, (I really should) but I found a rock and an empty plastic bottle to use as a noisemaker when they arrived. Before long Teri, Rick, and Bruce all arrived. I made noise, we all whooped and hollered, took lots of pictures and eventually Pat came back from the aid station to inform us that water was near. We asked Hillary to snap pictures of all of us at the other sign at the aid station. With filled water bottles and some energy bars in our pockets we headed down.

It was a pretty good descent, the road was a little rough but it felt good to not have to pedal for a while. We lost a couple thousand feet before we had to go up again, a short, steep climb to Spring Creek Pass at 10,901' and then it was downhill the rest of the way. Pat wanted to be sure that everyone made it the end safely, so he brought up the rear. We rode through beautiful, wide-open spaces of the Weminuche Wilderness Area which is home to the headwaters of the Rio Grande. I waited for everyone to catch up and we rode together to the last aid station at mile 88. When we arrived they had stayed past the posted time, and we were able to get water and have a snack. Kevin informed us that the volunteers all needed to get to Creede and their other responsibilities and it would be best if we Sagged in. It was 6:00pm and we'd been riding on and off for 12 hours, so that didn't sound like the worst thing in the world. But, we only had 18 miles, all downhill to Creede and some of us wanted to go for it. Pat pointed out that it would be a real hassle if someone had mechanical difficulties. For a number of reasons, including not having Kevin worry about us out on the road, we agreed to SAG in. Teri, on her first multi-day tour, really wanting to ride every mile, refused and started out on her own. When we caught up to her on the road Kevin convinced her to join us. I think she did it as much for our peace-of-mind as much as anything, but we were glad that she relented. We all made it to Creede tired and crabby, but hopeful that tomorrow would be better.

Too tired to go off in search of local fare, we asked Alison, the caterer and owner of Durango's Cyprus Cafe, if she could serve a few walk-ups for dinner. She had some white curry sauce over rice, and because most of the "meat" was gone from the sauce, she said we could tip her whatever we wanted and help ourselves. The sauce was so good that I didn't care what was in it. There weren't many good places to set up a tent in the rocky soil of this mining town. Pat and Rick put their tents on the pea-gravel of the playground. I tried that, but wind made it too difficult. Bruce and I opted for the sidewalk next to the playground. It was under an overhang, and we threw our pads and sleeping bags down and made the best of it. I think I need to go back to Creede and give it a second chance, because that night I only wanted to get out of there and on to the next town. I was a little disappointed that we had needed a ride in, but felt good that we had done all the hard climbing, and enjoyed all the good descents. Pretty good day.


  1. Looks like you hooked up with some nice people...there is a lot to be said for that. Enjoyed the pics, as usual, very nice.

  2. Nothing wrong with SAGing on a hard day of it, Jeff. You guys did great - please tell Teri that. You enjoyed the day and made it as far as you did - that's what matters (although, I understand her disappointment all too well). That white sauce curry over rice sounds delicious! I love curry.
    Beautiful photos as usual, sir. You do have an eye.

  3. wow, 11,530 feet above sea level. My lungs are hurting just looking at your pictures. Nice pictures by the way.

  4. Enjoyed your post, beautiful area, I've been thru it in a vehicle but not on a bike, lucky you.

  5. Jeff, I am drooling to ride there, but I think I would need personal sag support for my fly fishing gear. Some stretches of water just beg to be fished, besides that would cool of my buns in a hurry :)
    Another wonderful blog entry - thank you