The final day… mixed emotions today, glad to have another day on the bike with friends old and new, but also looking forward to getting over the big climbs today and finishing this ride.

A side note: just to add some intrigue to our adventure, after dark last night, a pickup with a trailer circled our tents by the”party barn”. Half of our group had elected to sleep inside the structure. I opted out as it was a spider,mouse, mosquito, you name it habitat.

From the late night truck a couple men opened the barn door and penned on with flashlights to see if they could hang an antelope carcass. They apparently had won the antelope lottery and shot one from 243 yards. It was hanging from the porch of the lodge in the morning. No picture.

Back to the adventure. The ride today was just over 50 miles and took us to Salida, our endpoint. The biggest and toughest climb was right at the end before the steep descent into town.

The rollout was pretty mellow. We turned off of the highway through Hartsel onto the gravel road we would follow most of the day. It was lined with yellow flowers on each side which looked like daisies.

Follow the yellow brick road.

It looked pretty but the road was badly washboarded. We struggled to find a smooth line for most of the day. The constant hammering takes a toll on you.

What surprised me about the ride today was the landscape, it wasn’t high peaks but instead, wide open expanses. I actually liked it a lot. The hills were beautiful and green.

But, we were not alone, there were antelope, free-range horses and cattle, hawks and these guys.

Road block…

We stopped a couple times to snack and rest before the climb started, maybe a mistake in hindsight.

The big climb we were dreading started nice but turned sharply steeper as we ascended into an aspen forest, the grade kicking up to 13% at one point. Ouch!

As we came over the top,we could see dark clouds and rain, oh-oh, a half hour too late.

There was lightning from this cloud and we were at the highest point. We decided to try to outrun the rain into Salida. No such luck. It started to rain and as we stopped to put on rain gear, it started to hail with the lightning strikes now within 2 seconds of the thunder. I’ll let you figure out how close that is but know that sound travels around 1100 feet per second. Yikes.

It was a bone chilling, wet, muddy, scary fast descent for 3 to 4 miles. The rain was cutting channels in the gravel road, the rain was pelting my eyes so I couldn’t see. And to top it off, my brakes wore from the gritty slurry coating everything to the point that my brake levers hit the handlebar and wouldn’t completely stop the heavily laden bike. I was too cold and afraid to to stop and adjust them so I kept on going .

When we got to the bottom, we finally broke from the rain into sun. We stopped and laughed at the crazy end to our weeklong adventure.

Dirty and wet but alive…

I guess we were due to hit some rain, we had escaped it all week. But, what a time to get the full brunt of the Colorado monsoon.

A final group dinner tonight as we van shuttle back to Steamboat in the morning. Then, phase 3 of my two -wheel adventure begins. Stay tuned.


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