Well they’ve been on the horizon for days now, their presence looming ever closer, but today we finally reached the spectacular Rocky Mountains. It feels like a key moment. We are now more than halfway across the US and it would take longer to go back east than carry on west. But we’ve still got around 2,000 miles to cycle and with an entire mountain range looming, there no chance of getting complacent.
For quite a while now we’ve been riding with other cyclists – and particularly through storm-hit Kansas it made a lot of sense. After resting for a day in Pueblo we had thought we would see the parting of ways, but this morning after our usual large breakfast, we found ourselves cycling out of town alongside the Arkansas River with three other cyclists – Mike on his recumbent, his friend Chuck who is riding with us for a week and young Keenan who stayed with Terry and I at the Marriott in Pueblo and will ride with us for a while before heading south to San Francisco on the Western Express route.
As we head into the mountains, a key concern is carrying enough water, made more worrying when so many of the stores and restaurants marked on the route maps have closed down, or are only open for very limited times. Twenty miles in we reached Wetmore to find everything closed. But the morning service at the church had just finished and the parishioners were happy to let us into their caravan, which served as the church hall, for water. As we left we spotted another rider – travelling fast. He was taking part in the inaugural TransAmerica Race – in which they cover the same route to ours in little more than twenty days. Incredible.
Any worries that Chuck might have difficulty keeping up with us were quickly thrown aside. With his ultra-marathon training he was quickly leaving us all standing. We can blame the miles and tired legs but the truth is he is extraordinarily fit, often getting up at four in the morning to go running.
In Florence we stopped for lunch and then headed through Lincoln Park, Brookside and Canon City. At one point we all took a double take as the sound of a barking dog drew us to the sight of a bear in a suburban garden. We still have absolutely no idea what it was doing there – but it was a strange place to get our first sighting.
A ten mile climb took us to our overnight stop, the Starlite campsite just four miles from the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. So after putting up our tents and dumping the panniers we went cycling again and climbed high into the mountains to be rewarded with spectacular views of the Bridge (currently closed due to a large fire) and the Arkansas river deep in the valley below. It was a hard climb after a days riding but well worth the effort.
Meanwhile the Starlite proved a great introduction to our time in the Rockies. While the owner whizzes around the site on her Segway, the campground is peppered with examples of classic camper vans and cars which look great against the spectacular natural backdrop. We cooked outside for the first time tonight – Terry has carried the camp stove since Virginia Beach so it’s about time we used it! So after a gourmet dinner of Ramen noodles and tinned peaches we chatted to Esther and Warren, who were also camping, then sat for a while by the campfire with Chuck and Mike, contemplating the mountains that lay ahead.
Today’s miles: 70
Miles since First Landing: 2344