21. Climbing

We’ve been climbing since our last post on June 23, which Shelly wrote when we were in eastern Colorado, in Eads, elevation 4,219 feet above sea level.  Our rides since then have taken us from Eads to Ordway (62 miles; 4,311’ elevation); to Pueblo (50 mi.; 4,692’ el.); to Canyon City (42 mi.; 5,331’ el.); to Guffey (32 mi; 8,891’ el.); to Fairplay (46 mi.; 9,954’ el.) and finally 39 miles over the Continental Divide at Hoosier Pass (11,539’ el.) and down to Dillon ( 9,111’ el.).

We took the last of three rest days for the month of June in Pueblo.  Our motel was located downtown, close to the Riverwalk (www.puebloriverwalk.org).  We had not eaten many decent meals in the 600 miles between Pittsburg, Kansas, and Pueblo, so eating healthy food was our focus in Pueblo.  And Pueblo delivered, big time – we enjoyed three fabulous meals (including much needed fresh fruit and vegetables) at three different restaurants along the Riverwalk, and we twice spent time leisurely sipping delicious coffee drinks at a local coffee roaster.

Riding into Pueblo was a bit of a shock for me.  After almost two weeks of riding in relatively unpopulated areas of Kansas and eastern Colorado, and seeing few businesses, people and vehicles along the way, all of a sudden we were riding past an airport and industrial businesses on a busy state highway, and into the downtown larger town.   I had, and still have, mixed emotions about re-entering this world of busy-ness and noise.  Yes, the wind, heat and isolation of the Great Plains were a challenge, but  I find myself already wanting to return to the peace and quiet I found there at times.

We needed the rest day in Pueblo before beginning our climb into the Rocky Mountains (a climb that, in reality, began when we crossed the border from Missouri into Kansas). 

The shortest of the rides listed above was the hardest for me, the 32-miler from Canyon City to Guffey.  Our cumulative climbing during that ride (not the net elevation gain, but the cumulative gain of all the uphills we rode that day) was 4,100 feet.  Most of that climbing occurred in three climbs with long or relatively steep grades.  Those challenging  climbs, coupled with the ever-decreasing oxygen levels in the atmosphere as we climbed, left me completely gassed by the time we reached Guffey.  Shouldn’t these rides be easier after 2,000 miles?

Staying in the biker hostel in Guffey is a rite of passage for most riders on the TransAmerica Route.  The hostel was founded by a man named Bill in 1976, the year the Route was established, and he still runs the place.  Guffey is essentially a mining ghost town, but with a working post office, a library, a restaurant (closed, of course, the day we were there), and rural fire house, and a sprinkling of private residences.

Bill seems to manage most of the “ghost” part of the town.  He houses cyclists for $15 each per night in some of the deteriorating ghost buildings there.  No water and no power, but lots of dirt and dust.  I knew the “chow hall” where we and our friends Mark and Pat would spend the night would be rustic (putting it mildly), when Bill pointed it out to me, and then said, “And over there to the left, in between the two old Studebakers, is the outhouse you’ll be using.”  Shelly and I slept in the top bunks above Mark and Pat, with about two feet of clearance above our heads, a few nails poking downward to deter us from lifting our heads too high.

As we continued to climb towards Hoosier Pass, the world around us became more and more spectacular, the mountains growing increasingly bigger and taller and capped with snow.  With  much of the rest of the West suffering from stifling hot temperatures, we had the good fortune of riding for days in crisp, cool mornings and comfortable afternoons, when the daily thunderstorm clouds developed and protected us from the sun.

The climb up and over Hoosier Pass was beautiful. We had  several of Colorado’s “Fourteeners” (mountains 14,000 feet or higher) in sight as we climbed the pass.

Both Shelly and I were nervous about the impact of the elevation on our ability to ride over the pass.  The elevation didn’t seem to effect me, and I actually enjoyed the ride up to  Hoosier Pass, the last four miles of which were pretty tough.  Shelly did not enjoy the climb. 

When I reached the top of the pass, a couple approached me and exclaimed, “Hey, you made it!  We saw you yesterday!  Way to go!”  They were a couple who had sat near us at lunch the day before in a small cafe back down the road in Hartsel (population 800). 

The descent down the north side of the Hoosier Pass was steep and exhilarating. We felt fortunate to have disc brakes, front and rear.  A bike loaded with gear accelerates fast. 

After stopping for a delicious lunch at a BBQ restaurant in the resort town of Breckinridge, we continued to our destination of Dillon. There, we met Shelly’s brother Dean.  We loaded everything into his truck, and he drove us down to Denver, where we will stay with him and his family for four days.

First stop in Denver was a bike shop, where we had scheduled a tune-up for our bikes before we left Charleston, South Carolina.  Each of our bikes needed  a new chain, a new cassette (the cluster of gears at the rear of the bike), a  new set of  brake pads, and a new bottom bracket (essentially the  part of the  bike that connects the pedal cranks to the drivetrain).

And finally, here are some statistics through June 30:

Total Miles: 2,274

Avg. Miles Per Riding Day: 44

Shortest Ride: 28 miles

Longest Ride: 66 miles

Flat Tires: 0

States Finished: 7

Time Zones: 3

Dog Chases in Kansas: 0

Overnight Accommodations: Motels (40);  Camping (10); Church Hostels (3); City or Private Hostels (3); Warmshowers (3); Family (2). 

Most Bicyclist-Friendly Motorists: Kansans

Favorite State for Bicycling: Jens – Kentucky; Shelly – Kansas

Turtles Saved: 15

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Janne Helen

    It is so interesting reading about your journey (have seen all your posts).
    I wish you a safe and wonderful bike-ride, and hope that the weather will be kind to you.
    Best wishes from Janne Helen (Norway)

  2. Jane

    LOVE THIS!!!! You are looking pretty buff Shelly. Wow, going over the Continental Divide. It’s all downhill from here. Keep the updates coming, this is the best bicycle trip I’ve ever taken 🙂

    1. Jens

      Hi Jane!

      I wish it was all downhill from here. I think we cross the Continental Divide nine times as we ride through Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming. The highest of those crossings, though, is behind us. Thanks for your encouraging comments! They fuel us.


      1. Jane

        Wait a minute – 9 times? There’s something wrong with that picture Jens. I’m glad the big one is over, but doing this 8 more times may be more than I can handle. Remember you’re not the only ones on this trip! You might need to recalculate………

  3. Kari Wiant

    I’m just thoroughly enjoying reading your posts. You two are amazing. And happy anniversary by the way !!!

  4. Brian Stine

    Great to hear an update. I’ve been wondering how you’re doing. Congrats on the first trip across the continental divide. Looks like a beautiful ride!

  5. Gail

    Happy 4th…glad you’re getting some R & R! You missed our 110 degree day here but sounds like you had several of them on your ride…that had to be brutal. Praying you both keep well and safe and enjoying your big adventure.

  6. Diane Schilling

    Happy 4th! Glad you will be able to spend time with Dean and his family. A good place to rest and recharge those batteries. Staying in a ghost town sounds fun, though your accommodations, perhaps not. I would be afraid of waking up too quickly and hitting my head! You will be passing through some beautiful areas, looking forward to hearing about the continued adventures of Shelly and Jens!

  7. Pam

    Simply amazing, you two. Thanks for your wonderful, detailed posts and photos and bringing us all along on your amazing adventure.

  8. Bob P.

    Happy belated 4th you two! You’re looking great. CO peaks must be beautiful and glad you had a chance to rest and regroup. Keeping an eye on you. Godspeed.

  9. Bruce

    I think I will look forward to maybe riding this stretch of CO on my motorcycle! Can’t imagine the “burn” that you must feel when you’re cranking up those kinds of elevations. So glad that neither of your ever complains. About anything. Nada. I can imagine you happily humming a favorite tune as you sail up the highway toward the peak.

    Seriously, you are killing it!

    Thanks for these updates! Blessings!

  10. Linda Hill

    I have so enjoyed reading about your journey… it is inspiring to say the least! Colorado is one of our favorite states with spectacular beauty. We toured (geocached) the state a year ago and would definitely go back. You two are impressive to be going up those hills. I won’t complain again as we drive up and over in the Jeep! Stay safe and enjoy!

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