Thursday, August 6, 2009

Day 37: Guffey, CO to Frisco, CO (76.5 Miles)

Waking up in Guffey is like waking up after a long night of drinking. Now, I'm not an advocate for alcoholic binges; conversely, I'm an advocate against such self-destructive behavior. But the disorientation of waking up in a creaky cabin, using an outhouse, and passing small cabins filled with all sorts of rarities can only resemble the feeling of waking up after your own bachelor party. With that said, sleeping next to a stuttering Scotsman can only make for a more interesting morning...

To make things even more disorienting, it was cold... very cold. I wasn't used to riding in 40 degree temperature, thus my fragile skin needed extra layers of clothing protection. Feeling somewhat chipper after a restful spell, I rode back onto the route and headed North towards Hartsel. The majority of the morning was filled with panoramic views of mountains. I didn't realize it, but I was slowly climbing up a high valley that would culminate with the climb over Hoosier Pass. With the exception of a few steep inclines, the morning went along at an easy pace. I stopped in at a local diner for breakfast in Hartsel and struck up some conversations with the locals. A biker (of the motor variety) came in and asked if the bar was open... it was 10:00 in the morning. After eating a very filling mushroom omelet, I set onward into the wind to Fairplay.

Along the way, I saw majestic views and wildlife that one could expect to see watching BBC's "Planet Earth." I saw elk running in packs and a distant brown animal wading through a river, which I suspect was a bear... or a very fat beaver. Riding along a ridge line, I could see the far off town of Fairplay. Within an hour, I arrived into town and found a very hippy-esque Cafe/Deli run by an all-early-40's-female staff. I ordered a delicious panini and an iced mocha. An older man saw my bike and talked me up for a good hour about his "hay-days" in cycling and warned me about riders passing out when climbing up Hoosier Pass. The mountain pass, at an elevation of 11,542 feet, is the highest point on the Trans-Am. At that elevation, the air is very thin and an non-acclimated rider could very well get horrible migraines, shortness of breath, or... just pass the hell out. I didn't mind the man sharing his stories... I wanted to rest a bit before attempting this ascent.

After the old man left, I checked some emails and then headed towards the base of the pass, Alma. A thin, bumpy bike path led the way between the two towns. The elevation chart shows a decent climb up to Alma from Fairplay, but it either felt flat or downhill to me... because I made it there very quickly. Not stopping in Alma, I pressed on to find the sign noting "4 Miles To Hoosier Pass." This marked the beginning of my climb. Now, just like in the movies, a horrific thunder storm came rolling as I rode up the mountain. What started as a sprinkle and distant thunder, soon grew into a rain that flew in from my side and visible lightening strikes... too close for comfort. The rain cooled me down, but almost too much. At this elevation, it was an uncomfortable 50 degrees. When wet, I really began to feel the chill of air around me. As time grew on, I felt the rain starting to dissipate and the clouds began to thin. And, again, just like in the movies... the sky opened when I reached the summit.

When I reached the top, I quickly changed out of my wet clothes and into some warmer gear. I found the sign that signified my accomplishment and waited for a nice family to take some pictures. The father offered to take my photo and I told them about my trip. They were very nice and talkative. Apparently, they were on vacation from Wales and wanted to see the majestic Rockies. Hoosier Pass was a good vantage point for such views. Albeit windy and cold, it was a very wonderful place to be. This space marked the highest point in my journey and also promised a good continous 60 miles of downhill grades. The most aggressive of the descents was right infront of me. After taking more photos and enjoying the view, I headed down a series of switchbacks that would lead me into Breckenridge.

The ride down was less enjoyable due to the slick roads due to the recent downpour. My hands held firmly onto the brakes, so much so that they began to ache with each passing switchback. Nevertheless, I made into the ski resort town of Breckinridge within 30 minutes. It felt like a good stopping point for the day, but the hotels were too expensive for my liking. So I called ahead to the town of Frisco and asked around for rates. The "Snow Shoe Motel" had rates more to my liking, so I pushed on to the next town.

Also to my liking, the areas between Breckenridge and Silverthorne are connected with a series of bike/recreational pathways. I found these to be the most maintained and enjoyable paths I've ever had the pleasure to ride. I rode at a good pace and slowed down to smile and greet local riders. Everyone on the path had a huge smile and were either commuting back from work or just enjoying an afternoon's ride. It was a lovely experience and I'm sad that only the richer tourist-driven towns can afford such "luxuries."

From time to time, the path would break away into the woods and one led into the town of Frisco. There I asked directions to the motel and found it conveniently located on Main Street. I walked into the lobby, looking like dirt, and the man said he could only get me a 2nd floor room. Also, the rate was 10 dollars more than the other guy told me on the phone. Knowing it would be fruitless to argue, I paid up and grunted my way up the steps with a 125 pound bike on my shoulder. I subsquently took a long, hot bath and made a few phone calls informing relatives and friends of my living status. Afterwards, I headed down the street to find a place to eat.

The first restaurant I walked into was too posh for my taste. In fact, the hostess seemed to ignore me and gave me a look saying: "Really? You're going to walk into here, looking like that???" I asked to look at the menu, instantly saw some egregiously high prices and handed it back over with a smile and left. I found a more moderately priced place and sat down to speak with a very flirtatious waitress. She recommended a pasta dish with both Marinara and Alfredo sauces... which sounded perfect after a long day of riding. I sat on the patio overlooking a nearby mountain, enjoying a wonderful dinner. It was the perfect ending to an arduous day of riding.


Momma said...

Beautiful pictures Blake!! Hope you got some peaceful sleep last night! Thanks for the phone call. Love ya, Momma

may said...

Stunning photos. I especially like the one with the single tree..

Grandma said...

You've biked yourself right off my maps! Had to go pull out seldom-looked-at "Western States and Provinces," and I can now see your final destination in relation to where you are. You're getting there!! Ride on in good health and good weather. Love, Grandma & Gramps

Anne said...

I, too, love the photos. I've always wanted to see the Rockies myself. Safe travels the rest of the way!

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