Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Refuge in Steamboat

I don't have a whole lot to report to y'all, but I wanted to check in nevertheless since I passed a psychological and physical milepost by riding into Steamboat Springs, CO yesterday.  My uncle, Mark, lives in Steamboat Springs as well as a couple of friends, Kim and Cat.  When leaving my brother's place in Washington D.C. about a month and a half ago, I knew that Steamboat would be the first place I'd come to where I had preexisting friends and family (as I have made many friends in between on this trip).  It sorta boggled my mind and I only half believed that I would actually get here.  But after a 100+ mile day yesterday that included another climb up and over the Continental Divide, here I am.  And as I was approaching town, my trip odometer turned over 3000 miles.  Whoa.

Steamboat looks like it will be the perfect place to take several days off.  My uncle readily offered up his house as a base of operations.  I already have a couple of friends in town and am bound to make more quickly, what with my ravishing good looks and charm.  There's an awesome, funky bike shop, Orange Peel Bicycle, that is going to replace my broken rear shifter that admittedly did hold together admirably for 1000 miles longer.  But I don't want to tempt fate...  There's plenty of free concerts, events like the rodeo, shops, restaurants and a gigantic adjacent national forest to keep me busy.  I think the only problem with the town is that from the moment I got here, everyone started an intense lobbying campaign to convince me that it was inevitable that I would never leave town.  Everyone tells me "I came here X years ago for just a visit and never left".  My uncle was telling me that he picked up two hitchhikers in Kansas who were trying to get to Steamboat Springs.  That's how he arrived here some 30 years ago and never left.  I'm hoping that I can maintain forward momentum after a bit so that I can still visit the west coast.

Almost there!  This was my first crossing of the western Continental Divide by bicycle.  Eric Durante and I biked over the eastern Continental Divide last fall on a rail trail.  It's always very difficult to ascertain the grade of a climb from a photo.  So far, the climbs of the Rockies are quite gentle, they just go on for a really long time.
Look who's sitting on top of the Continental Divide.  Some other cyclists are really disturbed when I show them the laptop I am carrying, or the three books, or my giant bag of trail mix.  It ain't stopping me none.
To go where others have boldly gone before.
Thus begins the descent down into the heart of the Rockies towards Breckenridge, I-70 and really expensive houses.
Yes.  The road actually does what the warning sign is telling you.  That combined with incessant SUV traffic and loose sand on the roadside is why you check your speed down from 40mph occasionally.
I met Geff and Mary Anne in Vesuvius, VA when I was just beginning my ride and they were nearly finished with theirs. When they invited me to stay at their house in Frisco, CO I couldn't comprehend how I would ever actually get there.  They were terrific hosts and welcomed me into their home with a warm shower, warm food and plenty of welcome conversation about our experiences on the road.
Another cyclist passing through, Anna from Sydney, Australia, found their info on and spent the night too.  Here she is next to our identical blue Long Haul Truckers.  She was lamenting about how much stuff she was carrying since she was encountering Hoosier Pass the next day.
So I left Frisco and once in Silverthorne, I checked my phone.  There was a message from Lauren Reed, an old friend, saying she and her friend were arriving in Frisco that night on a thru hike of the Colorado Trail.  So, I turned around and rode back.  Killing a day in Frisco, I spent part of it at a pavilion at the trailhead, looking for Lauren and Brandon.  This photo does not do justice to the afternoon thunderstorms that sweep through with fierce rain, thunder, lightning, hail and a 20-30 degree temperature drop.  I felt bad for the two of them out on the trail.
All throughout the Rockies, I've been seeing the effects of the mountain pine beetle.  They have been killing off massive numbers of trees.  Then the Forest Service is forced to cut down the dead or dying trees.  In this clearcut field, someone went to the trouble of building cairns on most of the resulting stumps.
Here's Brandon running the Low Heat/Tumble Dry cycle  at the deluxe in-room laundromat.  They had been fairly well soaked by the storms that I was able to sit out in town.
I hadn't seen my friend Lauren in about a year or so I think.  She lives in southern Utah.  It was utterly random that we both arrived in Frisco, CO within one day of another- she hiking and me biking.  Awesome!
The Breckenridge/Frisco area is quite bike friendly with many bike paths.  There are also some longer distance paths that parallel I-70 that can get you over to Vail and elsewhere.  This morning (when I left Frisco for real) it was 46 degrees.
You're only riding on bike paths for about 0.1% of the time though.   Out west, I've been finding more instances of 4 or 6 foot wide shoulders, but very often the shoulder will be about the width depicted if you're lucky.  For long stretches though, there's no shoulder whatsoever, which I'm thoroughly used to.  Many other cyclists are not and they would warn me about upcoming sections.  It's certainly a valid concern when traffic is doing 65-70 mph on two lane roads.
F. M. Light & Sons is this awesome Western wear shop in downtown Steamboat Springs which I can't wait to visit again.  I almost forgot about it.  Except for the fact that between Kremmling and Steamboat Springs, there are approximately 100 signs advertising it along US 40.  Keeps things interesting at least.
Another climb up and over the Continental Divide to get to Steamboat Springs.  At this point, I was deviating from the official TransAmerica route.
Another view of the same spot.  Since it was about 2 p.m. the requisite thunderstorm was approaching fast.  Right as I snapped this photo I realized that I was photographing a thunderstorm while I stood on top of the Continental Divide next to a 25 foot tall metal sign.  I guess everyone's concerns about my intelligence level are justified after all.  I quickly got out of there and made the 25 mile screaming descent to Steamboat.

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