Pedaling Through the Snow and 11,300 Feet Elevation: Day 27
05/16 (Day 27)
Minutes after I hit the road snow covered mounds thousands of feet above me presented themselves in a daunting manner. Rather than feeling fear I saw them as a right of passage to my freedom. Simply by pedaling one pedal at a time I would find myself climbing the snow covered mountains and I would reach the epic summit where my freedom would lay before me. From there I knew I would be seeing many miles of downhill and the great plains of the Midwest would open up to me in the near future. My challenges of frigid cold, snow, and mountain passes would be over in just a few more hours of hard pedaling. Freedom was awaiting me. I would shed my long underwear, bulky sleeping bag, and gear that would not serve a purpose on the populated eastern side of the country. Flat lands would yield easy pedaling and they were on my mind. Cities full of welcoming friends and family were in my imagination. The hardest work would be over. I felt nothing but excitement for what was to come and appreciation for the challenge that stood before me.
I casually climbed the mountain, switchback after switchback, taking in the natural beauty. The hardy green pine trees and the dazzling white snow provided a back drop for astonishing photo opportunities. 9,000, 10,000, 10,500, and then the elevation began to take its toll on me. Pedaling became forced, breathing became a challenge, and it was obvious I was over two miles above sea level. And then before I knew it I reached Berthoud Pass, 11,306 feet up and the climbing was over. I was cold, short of breath, and fatigued. Miles of down hill awaited me and with little hesitation I bombed down the mountainside, eager to loose a mile of elevation where I knew my body would be warmed by the heat of the sun. It became warmer by the minute and in great admiration I whizzed past beautiful cliffs, roaring snowmelt rivers, and a bountiful forest. The beauty was not quite enough to stop me from moving on but I am certain there will be days in the flat lands of Kansas when I yearn for the Colorado Rockies.
The warmth I was awaiting for did indeed present itself and I continued to descend for the entire afternoon. Fifteen miles on service roads weaving north and south of Interstate 70 eventually led me to Highway 6, which cut through to Golden, Colorado. It was twenty miles more down hill through Clear Creek Canyon. The shoulder was narrow which made the beautiful road quite perilous and hard to fully take in. At one point a snow plow pulled me off to the side of the road and told me bikes were not aloud on this route. I felt I had no choice but to continue on since the only other way would have taken me hours out of the way so I continued on after he drove off. I passed through tunnels carved into the mountains and continued along the riverside. Ten miles down the road another snow plow, or was it the same one, gave me quite the shock. He hovered behind me as a traveled at about twenty-five MPH either trying to run me off the road or protect me from traffic behind him. I’ll never be certain of his intentions but the rush of adrenaline kept me pedaling as fast as my legs could manage. Once at Golden I took a short break and then continued north along highway 93 to Boulder, Colorado.
In Boulder I cleaned up in a river and was greeted by new friends at a party put on by Bobby Noyes at his shop, RockyMounts. Rich Points from Community Cycles, the bike advocacy 1% for the Planet non-profit that I am supporting on this ride welcomed me to Boulder and is hosting me at his home. What a feeling it is to not only be back in civilization but to be in the world renowned city of Boulder, Colorado where bikes are as welcome on the roads as cars and there is a booming local food movement.
Each day on the road is unique and the scenery changes constantly. Each day you must adapt to a new surroundings full of different challenges and different stimulations. The challenges make the rewards even greater and the lonely roads make the cities all the more welcoming.