Some people are better organised than others … having brought Paul a much appreciated early morning cuppa, Warren and Esther were already up, fed, packed and off before we even got to the diner at 7am. Today was our first full day of cycling at any sort of altitude … and in the Rockies too. They were formed by the Laramide Orogeny about 85 million years ago, if I remember rightly.
In the poor soil of the open plains, with a ridge of the mountains as a distant border, the sparse grasses supported only a few ranches, each with only a few head of cattle. I can’t imagine this scene has changed much in the recent past … there’s no gold or minerals that would have brought an influx of people in the 1860s as in other places nearby.
As we climbed and the road steepened, the hills closed in around us with granite outcrops and things took on a more dramatic outlook. Our breathing got quite dramatic too at some points. The air was noticeably thinner up here … why else would we be making more ‘old man noises’ than ever before? It was drier too. That was a welcome relief from the humidity of the eastern states, but it had its drawbacks … split lips for one. They’re a real drag and hurt out of all proportion to their medical significance. Nose bleeds are another plus point. The only other issue we have is no feeling along the length of our little fingers due to pressure from the handlebars. Did I mention that the going was tough?
Guffrey was the only dot on our map for food and water all day… but it was Monday, so it was shut. Not that there was much to shut really. Hunting around, we ran into Bill – a real larger than life character, outside his ‘workshop’.
He’d been there for over 40 years and was the town mechanic/sculptor/tourist officer/museum curator/junk collector and general mine of information about the history of the place.
Evidently, when it gets too cold to do his paperwork in his workshop in the winter, he decamps to his hearse, starts the engine and works there! Why wouldn’t you?
Refreshed after gifts of water and beer from Bill, we tackled the last thousand feet or so pull up to Currant Creek Pass at 9400ft. As we reached the top, a whole range of distant snow capped peaks broke into view … it was worth the day’s
grunts and groans just for that view. Lots of ‘Wow’s, ‘OMG’s and photos later, we ploughed on downwards towards Hartsel into a completely uncalled for strong gusty sidewind.
A sign held up by a woman on the roadside proclaiming ‘Way to Go, Mike, Chris and the Brits’ was very encouraging, if not downright confusing. It was Connie, a friend of Mike’s, who lived nearby and had come to greet us. What a Sweetie.
Just before town we spotted our first bison … or were they buffalo? We were dead excited whatever. Sadly though, there were only a few small groups of them dotted across the plain and we spent the rest of the day’s ride reflecting on the plight of the bison and by extension the demise of the Native American and man’s selfish inability to think beyond ‘today’.
Connie joined us for a meal in the local diner (which proudly served up buffalo burgers) before we pitched up our tents on the other side of the street on a bit of wasteland behind some long abandoned trucks. Restroom? Showers? I think not! Hartsel may have bison but they don’t have a basin!
Today’s miles: 50
Miles since a First Landing: 2394