Montrose to Gunnison
Greetings from Gunnison! We’re on a rest day, which I’m quite happy about. I wish you were here so we could go grab a gluten-free muffin and chat about life over kombucha. Perhaps you could also help me look for my bike tour legs, which seem to have fallen out of the Carradice somewhere.
My spidey sense told me that yesterday’s ride would be a challenge and it was right on. Having ridden this area before, I recalled the searing dry heat that resides at this lower level terrain.
My lips have already blistered because, like Icarus, I tried to fly too close to the sun without adequate lip balm. Okay, maybe not exactly like Icarus, but I did not have enough respect for the New Mexico skies until damage was done.
We departed Montrose by the back roads after a delicious stop at Cimarron Coffee – where coffee is a serious experience and I highly recommend going if you ever find yourself in Montrose.
These otherworldly miles of gravel were less than five miles out of town, but were so dry and desolate. I’d see a house here and there and wonder why someone would choose to set up shop in a desert; the Midwesterner in me could not relate.
Eventually we merged back with US 50 where headwinds and a steady 8-mile climb up Cerro Summit eagerly awaited us. Traffic whizzed by, and while everybody was nice, the climb up was tough going. Constantly watching for cars and trucks over your shoulder while you slowly crawl up a mountain detracts from the overall vacation experience. But we knew what we were getting into when we cued this stretch.
Out east, there are many more back road options to pick from if you want to tour on 32s or 38s. Sometimes you end up on a main highway, but it’s really only as a connector to the next back road. Colorado and parts west just don’t have as many choices when going from Point A to point B, and in order to go all the places we want, we end up on the highway for extended stretches. If I’m wrong on this, please advise.
The theme of the morning was sun and wind. Shade, what shade? I suppose living out here you adjust, but I’m practically moulting from the dry heat!
Felkerino and I took a couple of breaks on our way up Cerro Summit, hoping to find our bike tour legs. But they had truly gone missing for the day so we had to be patient with ourselves and each other. I was so glad a rest day awaited us. It helped me keep my sense of humor about my vacation.
The descent off Cerro was a beautiful swoop into more dryness and we stopped in Cimarron for bananas and postage stamps. Dear Mom and Dad, Hating summer camp, please come get me.
After a rare shade and banana break, we set out on the ascent once again, this time in search of Blue Mesa Summit. Traffic lightened somewhat over the next couple of hours and we scrambled up to the 8700-foot high point without incident, except for all the biting flies that came out to feast on us when we stopped at the top to reapply sunscreen. You win this round, flies!
About a mile after the summit we encountered road work and one of the workers offered us water as we waited in line to pass through a single lane section. The cold water tasted oh so good, and this man’s kind gesture stayed with me over the next miles. It was a sweet bike tour moment.
A couple of stretches on US 50 were single lane due to road work, and it added to the slow going of our day, as did a bad link in our chain that started to make itself known after the second climb.
The bad link would skip through the derailleur and Felkerino and I were getting pretty frustrated. We found a spot of shade near one of the National Park Service restrooms, and that served as a near ideal workspace for fixing the chain, except when the breeze blew just so, and I had to keep my gag reflex intact. Bike touring = so magical!
My mechanically adept partner managed to affix a quick link after removing the bad link and we were on our way again. Around this time, the sky clouded over and the sun said goodbye, silly bike tourists.
The cloud cover was refreshing after the direct sun blast of earlier, but then wind kicked up and drops of rain began to fall. Of course this happened as we were on the final 10 miles and meandering through a canyon, which made the winds blustering through extra exciting on our tandem.
The conditions at this point were uncomfortable but not unmanageable so we pressed on, our bedraggled butts wiggling into Gunnison after 68 miles that felt like more.
We headed into the Double Shot Cyclery for coffee and a new chain, both relieved to be in town and off the bike for a day. I put up a Missing sign for our bike tour legs, and sure hope they show up before we leave town again. If you happen to find our bike tour legs, please send them back to us.