I had been to Colorado a few times before this trip, so in a way I knew what to expect: Possibly the most magnificent views of mountain ranges, paid for with climbs up the highest passes on this tour across the United States. And that is, in a nutshell, what it came down to. I was in and out of Colorado though a bit sooner than I had anticipated. Primarily because of some not so well done planning on my part.
Crossing from Wyoming into Colorado, I breathed a sigh of relief after the emptiness I was confronted with in the least populous US State. Instantly, it seemed, peaks came into view. The day of the border crossing, I had aimed for possibly a 70 to 75 mile day with an overnight stop at Parkview Campground in Routt National Forest. The only problem was: That campground (despite it showing up on Google Maps) does not exist. Maybe it did once, but certainly not any longer. I only found out about this when I stared along a sandy dirt road, veering off Hwy 125. The passengers in the two pickup trucks bolting down the road confirmed this. My only option was to keep going to the summit (another Continental Divide crossing) and then hope to make it down to the next NFS campground before dark. Which I managed, barely, after a total of 90 miles. A really long day that could have been avoided.
The next day I tried to lick my wounds by relaxing a bit at Hot Sulphur Springs before following horrible advice from a fellow cycle tourer (who himself had gotten it from a local cyclist). “There is construction on Hwy 9 all the way to Breckenridge. You should take Country Road 3.” Yeah. Sure.
No, you shouldn’t. Because that made things even worse. Two miles of pavement were followed by 29 miles of gravel in varying condition, mostly oscillating between bad and worst. Even on downhills, doing more than 10 miles per hour seemed reckless and a recipe for a crash. Additionally the road had descended into a valley which, you guessed it, I had to climb out of at the end. The downhill was spectacular, nonetheless, but that led to another long day and I reached a campground way after sunset, but luckily with still enough light to not miss it.
I took a bit of a breather in Frisco before heading to Breckenridge and then to Hoosier Pass, the highest point on this trip with 11,542 feet. Stupidly assuming it would be an easy descent from that point on to Pueblo, Colorado, I decided to not cut this day short and just keep pressing on. I had not anticipated more climbing after this, but there was. And 6 to 7% climbs hurt especially after having already done 70 miles with a touring bike weighing 110 pounds. Again, I made it to a campground, a very unique one, just a tad before sunset, close to Royal Gorge.
From that point on, it could have been an easy days ride into Pueblo, however southerly winds and temperatures in the high 90s turned this again into a tedious undertaking. The county fair in full swing in Pueblo plus arriving there on a weekend made it difficult to find some place to stay, which I eventually did but had to pay for dearly. But that’s a subject for another blog post.
The flatness east of Pueblo gave me a taste of what was about to come next: Kansas.