Sunday, August 17, 2014

crmbt day 4 - gunnison to buena vista

Wednesday, 8-6

The plan originally called for us to ride to Crested Butte yesterday, but the school where we were going to camp backed out. So Sherpa Ville and the rest of the campers stopped in Gunnison, and those who already had hotel reservations rode another 30 miles to Crested Butte. I had opined to some that it wasn't a bad ride, very slightly uphill, nice scenery. Later I was told that, while that was true, the headwind made it tougher, and finding out on arrival that their rooms were actually in Mt.  Crested Butte, another few miles uphill, made it miserable.
(view of Mt. Crested Butte from the ski lift, BTC 2009)

Chatter on the forum before the ride included lamenting the fact that we'd miss Crested Butte. Some had never been, and some only during ski season. A few folks talked about including an up and back as part of day 3 or 4, but I was among the group that didn't feel the need to stretch either almost 70 mile, high-climbing day into a century of pain. That would come later. Glenn, however thought it was worth pursuing. During dinner at Sherpa Cafe he said he was thinking about getting up really early, riding to Crested Butte, having breakfast, and riding back to Almont where we would all make the turn to the east. Sure enough, when I crawled out of my tent at 5:00am, his bike was gone. He later told us of some great coffee and a magnificent breakfast burrito.He really is a tough guy.
The rest of us left Gunnison in the early dawn, still in the '30s, but not as cold as some mornings in Gunnison. The sun was up, but still behind the ridge, so we rode in shadow half the way to our turn. As we neared Almont another rider asked if I knew where the turn was, and I told him it was just ahead. We rode together for a while and I learned he was a Nurse Practitioner in the US Army, based in Oklahoma, but on his way soon to North Carolina. He stopped by some other cyclists to see a cat at the end of the driveway and I kept riding before I could learn his name.
When you get off of CO135 in Almont, you head in an easterly direction, but County Road 742 meanders quite a bit as it follows the Taylor River past ranches, campgrounds, and fantastic scenery all the way up to the Taylor Reservoir. Once you reach that you have a few miles to go around the reservoir to County Road 209, Cottonwood Pass Road.
The ride along the river through the valley is one that just begs you to stop and take pictures, or at least look around an enjoy the view. But, in the back of my mind I remembered that spending too much time enjoying the view can let the weather move in on the mountain, which can lead to riding Cottonwood Pass to Buena Vista in the back of a Ryder truck.
 There were a lot of clouds in the vicinity of the mountain, but still plenty of sunshine, and hope.
 When we made the turn onto Cottonwood Pass Road we had about 14 miles of unpaved climbing to the top. Stretches of it were pretty good, hard-packed and smooth. Mixed in with that were sections of ruts that got you all shook up. Luckily traffic was light, so you found a line to ride, even if it was on the far left side, and kept going.
 Norm gave me some good advice when we rode this pass a few years ago. As you get above tree-line, but not quite to the top, it's good to look back at where you came from. The views are spectacular; the switchbacks you just climbed, and the reservoir off in the distance. I was riding with Ken, visiting and helping to make the last couple miles go by faster when I reached the point to start looking back.
 There was an aid station at the top, and unlike Monarch Pass the day before, the mood was celebratory. There was lots of picture taking, taking turns with tourists who got up there in cars or on motorcycles. Whatever! Sometimes you have your hands full of 2 phones and a camera while you get a few shots of a group, then it's your turn.
 I bundled up for the descent. I was really looking forward to this because I remembered that there are a few tight hairpins near the top, and a couple not quite so tight on the way down, but also long stretches of relatively straight road pouring you off the mountain at grades up to 10%! I had my GoPro mounted on my headset, only trying to capture a couple of decent descents. See what I did there? It's not a great video, but it gives you some idea of what it's like to roll down a mountain. I spent a lot of time pumping my brakes. As a matter of fact, when a group of us congregated behind a Winebago, I was a little concerned that my rims might get too hot. So, when a couple went around him, I followed suit and did the same.
After the video ends, the real descent is mostly over, but you're still going downhill enough that with a little effort you're flying into Buena Vista (Bewna Vista to locals) at 25 or 30 mph. I had to hit the brakes to take a picture of the city limit. This would be home for the next 2 nights as we would enjoy a rest day in Buena Vista. I've eaten some great Mexican food here before, so Bill and I walked over to the main drag and ate on the back patio. It was a nice end to a very nice day!

Click the black bars under "road tunes" to hear the music with the video


  1. Beautiful views, Jeff! Great going!!
    Peace :)

  2. Another great one Jeff! I have spent some time around Buena Vista. Love that area.

  3. If you ever get to Crested Butte . . . make time for a visit to Camp4Coffee. Now THAT is some good Rocket Fuel for biking!

    p.s. I've heard that if Jason Statham grew a beard, he'd actually be considered handsome.

    1. I'll look for a picture with a beard. And I'll definitely look for Camp4Coffe if I make it back to crested Butte.