North to South Tour - From Edmonton, Alberta to Durango, Colorado

North to South Tour - Day 42

08/05/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Fairplay, Colorado
To: Poncha Springs, Colorado
Today: 59 miles - 2291 miles total

If Rte 285 was less busy, this would be a GREAT cycling route....however we can only give it a nine.

We cycled through many different climate zones and landscapes today, and we had a mountain pass to boot! It was an overcast day, which allowed the sun to paint the valley floor and mountains different shades of greens, golds, tans, and yellows. We saw many western mountain bluebirds, raptors, jays, hummingbirds, and two Rocky Mountain Sheep (near the road...but not for long after seeing SeeMore). From Fairplay, it was down hill and tail winds until we came to the beginning of Trout Creek Pass (elevation 9,346). Since we were at 9,000 feet already, only the map can really call this a pass. After the pass we continued to go down hill into the Arkansas River Valley and the small town of Johnson Village.

Johnson Village's next door neighbor is Buena Vista, we were going to make a side trip into this town to explore...but a HUGE state prison and the large volume of traffic on Rte 24 kept us on Rte 285. We stopped for snacks and Gatorade at a gas station outside the town of Nathrop. Nathrop is famous for white water rafting, and the amount of rafts being launched into the Arkansas river was quite amazing. We were wondering if there wouldn't be a huge traffic jam down river!

We are in Poncha Springs in preparation of tomorrows mountain pass of 11,312 feet (Monarch Pass). Since we are currently at 7500 feet elevation, we can really call this a pass. It is 18 miles to the top, and the rest of the 65 miles will be down hill or rolling tomorrow into the town of Gunnison. The weather man is predicting liquid sunshine all day....we will just have to see if he is right!

North to South Tour - Day 43

08/06/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Poncha Springs, Colorado
To: Gunnison, Colorado
Today: 63 miles - 2354 miles total

Another pass and Continental Divide crossing (our 16th for this adventure) - Monarch Pass elevation 11,312 feet, mastered by the orange mountain goat!

As you can tell from the above photo, it was over cast all day today. We had periods of sunshine, but our pedaling was done mostly in the clouds. Some of the those clouds were very dark and mean looking. However, we got "spit" on only twice, briefly both times. We feel very lucky to have the overcast skies because they really keep us much cooler than we would be if the "Southwest" sun was beating down on us. We cycled up the pass, at a very steady rate. We stopped in Maysville to sneak into the restrooms of the RV park (thanks to the two very nice ladies from central Texas who let Mary in) then we stopped for a Gatorade/gorp break in front of the Monarch Lodge in Garfield. For those cyclist wanting to break this pass up into two, we recommend stopping here. Rte 50 was ok, there was a little shoulder on the way up and down...but the traffic was minimal. We made it up, and took a break, with phots...then it was down, down, down. The pass loses 3000 feet in 10 miles, and is very curvy (which I love, and the Rear Admiral is not too thrilled with). We did get into a little trouble near the town of Sargents (10 miles down). There were 4 trucks (one of which was a wide load), huge wind gusts, SeeMore, and 8 inches of shoulder which all decided to meet at the same time. Luck for us, a patch of gravel shoulder, 2 feet wide, magically appeared. Unlucky for us, it was soft sand...and the Rear Admiral made a command decision to use her drum brake.

We have an open communication going on, when we decend a pass. When to use what brake, who is coming up from behind, what is ahead, road condition, etc.; trying to make the trip down a pass the safest possible. Putting on the drum brake, without telling the captain (who is trying to pedal out of a situation) is not part of the plan! The left leg of the captain got a unexpected jolt, when trying to push forward...SeeMore wobbled...but did not go down...and we made it through...but not smoothly. Less then a quarter of a Mile, the Tomichi Bar and Cafe appeared, and we hustle SeeMore under the covered porch as the sky opened up! Once again we remain dry! I don't know why we have such great luck staying dry, but we thank the powers that be. We had an enjoyable lunch of hamburgers, and finished as the rain finished! The rest of our ride today was mostly down hill into Gunnison. sneaking through the rain clouds. At one point we did put on all of our rain gear which was totally unnecessary. We can claim that this journey is more complete, today a bee flew up my shorts and decided to use his stinger. So the Rear Admiral has lost one pair of sunglasses, and I had my bee sting!

After the pass, the shoulders on Rte 50 are WIDE, and it was a great ride into Gunnison. We are in Gunnison, living large in a hotel room. We plan to do laundry and go to the Safeway for some dinner. Tomorrow we cycle towards Montrose, where my parents are staying in their motor home. We heard from Dustin and Lauren and they are headed our way. Hopefully they will catch up with us either tonight or tomorrow.

North to South Tour - Day 44

08/07/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Gunnison, Colorado
To: Montrose, Colorado
Today: 70 miles - 2424 miles total

Big day, great ride.

Last night our son Dustin and his girlfriend Lauren caught up with us in Gunnison. They flew into Denver on Tuesday and spent Wednesday in Colorado Springs visiting the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Air Force Academy. After sharing breakfast this morning with the kids in the a.m. SeeMore, the Rear Admiral, and I cycled off on Rte 50 and they drove their rental car in the same direction.....just going a little bit (ok a LOT ) faster than SeeMore. Just up the road from Gunnison you enter the Curecanti National Recreation Area. You start off cycling through a beautiful canyon until you start riding along the Blue Mesa Reservoir. There were many places for picnic/rest areas, which means that we didn't have to look hard to find a Little Admiral Room. Rte 50 had a wide shoulder, and the vehicle traffic was not bad ALL day! About 12 miles outside the town of Gunnison, I reached behind my seat for my water bottle....and realized that we left our water bottles in the hotel room's refrigerator! No big deal, a quick cell phone call...and Dustin and Lauren to the rescue. They were just a couple miles up the road. So they turn around and drove back to give us 4 bottles of water.

We stopped at the Elk Creek Visitor Center to ask questions about the park - Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We found out that you can view the beginning of the canyon (from the bottom) by visiting the Morrow Point Dam. We then cycled until we crossed the Reservoir twice on bridges, we had a snack break at the Pine Creek Visitor Center, overlooking the reservoir and then cycled up to the top of the Blue Mesa Summit,. The mesa has two peaks so after the first climb you descend a couple hundred feet then climb again before heading down through a spectacular canyon. For a couple of magical miles we pedaled through the canyon (this was the only place on Rte 50 that had NO shoulder!), and zero vehicles passed us! Unfortunately there was no where to pull over to take photos, so we will have to save it in our minds. We met up with my parents who drove up from Montrose AND Dustin and Lauren and decided to have a picnic lunch at the Morrow Point Dam. After a short 1/2 mile drive from the Cimarron Visitor Center down to the Dam, you are at the start of the Black Canyon. It was spectacular. The rail road used to go through this canyon and a portion of the old rail road trestle rises up out of the canyon with a train perched on top. There are hiking trails down into the canyon. If only we had more time, it would have been a nice to check a trail out.

After lunch, Mom and Dad headed back to Montrose, Dustin and Lauren headed to the National Park, and SeeMore headed up the 5 mile climb to the the top of Cerro Summit. The climb up was a little wet (liquid Sunshine) but very mild cycling. The rain was not even enough to make it worth while for us to put on our rain coats. From the summit to downtown Montrose is 15 miles....and we did not have to pedal, it was all down hill. We sailed into Montrose just as the skies were about to open up. Mom helped Mary secure accommodations at the hotel located just behind the campground that Mom and Dad are staying at for the month of August. We had hoped to camp at the campground but the storm is here to stay for the evening.

We are here in Montrose, living large at the Best Western. We are going to give SeeMore a well deserved rest until Wednesday. We will head down to Mesa Verde and Durango with Dustin and Lauren in the car and be back in Montrose Sunday night.

North to South Tour - On Hold

08/08/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Montrose, Colorado
To: Montrose, Colorado
Today: 0 miles - 2424 miles total

SeeMore is resting comfortably in the hotel, while we take a couple of days off to visit family....We think we will begin again on Wednesday.

North to South Tour - Day 45

08/13/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Montrose, Colorado
To: Dutch and Charlie State Park, near Ridgway Colorado
Today: 28 miles - 2452 miles total

The top photo is our home sweet home, while staying in Montrose.

We had a GREAT time the last 5 days with Dustin and Lauren, and Mom and Dad. We climbed ancient indian ruins, in Mesa Verde, with Dustin and Lauren...rode the Gondola in Telluride .... and explored the towns of Cortez, Telluride, Durango, and Silverton. We spent the next two days with Mom and Dad exploring Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Thank you all!!!

What about SeeMore?, he spent most of his days inside, comfortable and cozy. Now it's back to work/play. We started out today in Montrose, heading to Ridgway on Route 550. Some of Rte 550 is wide shoulders, and some is NO shoulders (with 60 mph traffic). 550 is a cycling route and bicycles are a common site; still, no shoulders and fast traffic is not ideal conditions. We are setting up to do half of the San Juan Skyway route. This is a very scenic, very famous route in Colorado. There are a lot of cyclist and motorcyclist who take to this route. Basically, going counter clockwise, it starts in Ridgeway and rides past Telluride (just 3 miles east off route), down to Cortez, and then over to Durango...before returning back to Ridgway (going through the towns of Silverton and Ouray). If you ride the whole 233 miles by auto, plan to take a couple of days. You pass through old mining towns, ride along mountain creeks and rivers, and have 12,000 and 14,000 foot mountains to the left and right. You will climb and descend 4 mountain passes, and one divide. There is no way that I can to justice with my poor writing skills, but everyone should be allowed to travel this least their lifetime (it is one of the most scenic by-ways in the world). Hopefully you can go by bike and leave the car behind!

Least we forget, a few words about Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We are on Adventures Cycling's Great Parks Tour.....and Black Canyon might be lesser known than Yellowstone and Jasper, but it is truly a GREAT PARK. You can see this massive granite canyon from both the top, and the bottom from a bicycle. We suggest you visit the bottom of the Canyon by the Morrow Point Dam, and we also suggest you access the top rim of the canyon from just outside of Montrose. There is a 5 mile climb up to the canyon rim, and there is a campground just past the main gate. From the main gate, you pedal along the rim road. The road is curvy, and goes up and down, but is quiet and doable. It is an amazing park, and again, we are very thankful to be able to spend two days exploring the park with Mom and Dad.

We are here at a beautiful Colorado state park, the Prince of Wales II is up....and we just finished saying goodbye to Mom and Dad who drove down from Montrose to take us to dinner.

North to South Tour - Day 46

08/14/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Dutch and Charlie State Park, near Ridgway Colorado
To: Sunshine Campground (USFS), near Telluride Colorado
Today: 50 miles - 2502 miles total

The San Juan Skyway is just plain in-your-face ...... BEAUTIFUL! Find time to enjoy it!

The Prince of Wales II was down, and we were packed up by 7:30. Both of us had a great night sleep, it was good to be back under his roof! We cycled down off of the mesa, of the state park (a very nice place to set up camp!), and down into Ridgway. We had breakfast in Ridgway and then began cycling the San Juan Skyway. Route 64 up and out of Ridgway, to Placerville, has wide shoulders. You pedal through fields of cattle ranches with mountains in the background. This 23 miles of the San Juan Skyway, alone, would make it a great cycling ride. You go up and over Dallas Divide (elevation 8,970), which is just a steady pedal. From Placerville you cycle on Route 145, which DOES NOT have a shoulder until after Telluride. However, this is a very popular cycling the motor vehicles take great care.

As you cycle along rte 145, you pass through many habitats and climate zones. You start out at 7500 feet in elevation, and pedal along the San Miguel River (which is pretty hypnotizing alone). You then start to climb pass red canyons with hoodoos and other interesting weather created shapes and features. Then the red canyons give way to golden covered canyons, with views of mining activity (abandoned). You need to climb more up into Telluride, at 8600 feet elevation. Telluride is um......expensive, so bring plenty of cash if you wish to eat or stay in town. It is a very pretty town with the ski area, and is built into a box canyon. The Gondola is free, so if you are a mountain biker, this is the place if for you.

We had a picnic lunch at the gas station which overlooks the town of llium. Then it was more climbing, this time through an alpine forest of aspen, with 13,000 and 14,000 mountain peaks surrounding us. This has to be among the best rides we have had. So if your doing the Great Parks tour (north and south), you will either end cycling the San Juan Skyway, or Jasper National Park for last.....not bad if you ask us!

We are here at another beautiful (but buggy) campground, A National Forestry Service campground - Sunshine. The Prince of Wales II is up and resting comfortably at 9500 feet elevation. Our campsite is about 50 feet from the ridge trail which takes you up a gentle climb that runs along a ridge overlooking Wilson Peak and Sunshine Mountains. It is breath taking up there. Several campers have brought their folding chairs up to enjoy the sunset. We found some comfortable stones to perch on and enjoyed the sun setting while taking photos of the mountains. Tomorrow will be our last mountain pass on this tour, Lizard Head Pass at 10,222 is 7 miles up the road.

North to South Tour - Day 47

08/15/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Sunshine Campground (USFS), near Telluride Colorado
To: Mancos Colorado
Today: 76 miles - 2578 miles total

Lizard Head Pass, our last mountain pass on this adventure.

Last night, on the rim of the canyon, two coyotes thought it would be cool if they would see how will their voices echoed through the canyon. Since the rim was only about 100 yards from the Prince of Wales II, our sleep was interrupted for 30 minutes.

The Prince of Wales II was down, and we were packed up by 7:30. Hot tea and oatmeal for breakfast, to warm us up on this chilly morning. Our ride started with a short climb then we dropped for about two miles (500 feet down) before we started to climb Lizard Head Pass. Climbing this part of the San Juan Skyway, your ride past 12,000 and 13,000 mountain peaks, along with beautiful mountain lakes and pastures. The climb was steady and we reached the pass around 9:30. After a short break for a kodak moment in front of the pass sign, and to read the tourist information about the old railroad etc. it was time for our 40 mile decent to the town of Dolores. YES that's correct 40 big ones with no pedaling, well....almost....we had a pretty good head wind, and there are a couple of small uphills going around some canyon walls....but as you can imagine, it was very easy cycling. Descending the Dallas divide yesterday and coming down from Lizard head today have to be our all time favorite down hills. Very little brakes needed, just gradual grades. On the way down, in addition to the spectacular scenery we spotted two golden eagles (at very close range!) and a yellow bellied marmot.

Near the town of Stoner the road begins to level out. You descend into the tree covered canyons and foothills of the Rockies. In Dolores we had lunch, and then it was on to Rte 184 towards Mancos. A few words about Mesa Verde National Park. Dustin, Lauren, the Rear Admiral, and I visited Mesa Verde together, in a car. So we did not continue the 11 miles to down Cortez on route 145, and then towards Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde National Park is a must visit, if you are in this area. There is a steep, but doable 4 mile climb into the park, from route 160. We suggest you camp at Morefield (after the 4 mile climb), then take the shuttle to visit the ruins. The park road goes up and down, left and right, over hill and dale and it has no shoulder...well you get my drift. You will be viewing (and climbing in and out of) indian ruins, so taking the shuttle would have been the way we would have explored this World Class Park if we did not go with the kids.

Rte 184 is a 18 mile cut-off towards Mancos, and it rolling. It is not filled with as many spectacular views, as the rest of San Juan Skyway, but it is an enjoyable ride with shoulders and little traffic. We are living large in a hotel in Mancos. The Rear Admiral is very glad that I have taken a shower! Tomorrow we ride into Durango, and end pedaling for this adventure. SeeMore deserves a well deserved rest, don't you think?