Monday we had a ride of 78 miles through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River to look forward to. The morning would feature climbing from Hotchkiss at 5331 feet to a high point of 9232 feet near the rim of the canyon. We would give some of that back on a nice descent to the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Then slightly uphill into Gunnison at 7700 feet.
I was up shortly after 5:00am. It was a little chilly, may be 10 degrees cooler than the previous night in Grand Junction, and 30 degrees cooler than several recent nights in eastern Kansas. I had breakfast and hit the road solo, knowing that I would be slow on the climb, and that I would be compelled to stop for pictures often. I rode through the Black Canyon going the other direction on my first bike tour in Colorado and remembered it being simply spectacular.
I didn't think I would need rain gear today, but wore my rain coat, with the vents open, just to stay warm until the sun came up over the ridge. It was warming nicely as I rolled through Crawford and down a nice long hill out of town. I was glad to see riders ahead of me because I didn't want to ride back up that hill if I had missed a turn.
I ended up riding most of the day with Bud, Dan and Janie. A few miles after the summit we had an aid station at Hermit's Rest. A little more up and down with some great views of the canyon and river below led to a great descent. It was tempered by about 8 miles of loose gravel, but still nice. Then it was a long, hot, but very scenic ride past the Blue Mesa Reservoir and into Gunnison.
A hot afternoon led to a pleasant evening, and a seriously cool night. We're getting closer to some serious elevation.