Snowcovered mountains & stormy desert: in Utah now

What has happened in the last couple of days?

After my restday in Montrose, I rode to Ridgway which is a nice little town in a valley between a lot of 14000er mountains. I stayed with Wyndham there and got amazing views on the snowcovered mountain-peaks from his house. Ridgway also has hot springs and Wyndham offered to take me there, but I was too lazy. The thing on a bike trip is that as soon as I step off my bike for the day, I don’t want to move anymore – it’s not necessarily about being tired, but it’s just such a good feeling to have arrived for the day that I don’t want to get up anymore. That’s what I really like about my situation now: I can take my time and actually just stay at a place for a day or two without having the pressure to bike again. Of course, I still keep going, but it’s at a slower pace than before and it’s more relaxing. Nevertheless, I did leave the house to get a pot for the stove I had bought in Montrose. So far, I haven’t been carrying a stove with me, because I usually just made sandwiches or stayed at people’s houses where I was able to cook and I didn’t want to carry a stove around without using it. But since I probably don’t have a lot of places to stay in the coming week(s) and will be camping a lot, I decided it was time to get one. In Ridgway, I found a light pot for 1$ at the local thrift-shop – a pretty good deal and now I can cook up some pasta while camping in the desert and I’m looking forward to that experience.

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Ridgway, Colorado

The next day offered another scenic pass for me to cross – the Dallas Divide. It’s about 9000ft (2800m) and was a nice climb towards the snow. A lot of people from Colorado had been telling me that the fall is one of the best times to be in the mountains, because you get to see snowcovered peaks, it’s not that cold yet and also the trees turn into bright orange/yellow colours. I think I might have been a week or so too early for that, but some trees did have these colours already and it was a nice contrast to the white of the snow and the blue sky. On my way up to the pass, a racing cyclist was passing me and started talking to me. I took the opportunity to ask her if she would mind taking a picture of me climbing the mountain – it’s one of my favorite pictures so far, because I obviously cannot take pictures of myself riding and the background is just really cool. The rest of the day was pretty tough with a constant and steep climb up to the little ski-town of Telluride. It’s a really expensive ski area and I would compare it to St. Moritz or Aspen – just not as big. I went there, because I did have a warmshowers-host, but when I got there he told me he couldn’t host me, because his wife said they have had to many cylcists stay there in the past – it wouldn’t have been a problem if he would have told me earlier, but now I had done a 8km detour to get to town and the only option was a pretty expensive campground (my first bad warmshowers experience!). It was still fairly early and I decided to try my luck with couchsurfing since I had seen that there were a few couchsurfers in town. Usually, the reply-rate with couchsurfing is really bad and you either never hear back from them or pretty late. But I got really lucky and had a positive reply from Cameron within 5 minutes of sending my request. He let me stay in his condo, I got my own bedroom with a nice view on the mountains and we had interesting conversations. He told me about the free gondola up the mountain and although I was pretty tired I decided to go and it was a good decision! Cameron also told me I should stay more than one night in Telluride because it’s such a nice hiking spot, but I had to keep moving! It was Wednesday and by the end of the week they were expecting heavy snowfall and I still had to cross one big pass coming out of Telluride.

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Climbing up to Dallas Divide

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Made it 🙂

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Impressions from the climb to Telluride – the rocks now started having a bright red to them

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Nice view from the top of the mountain after the gondola-ride

That pass, called the Lizard Head Pass and 10222ft (3115m) high, was waiting for me the next morning. It was probably the hardest climb so far, since it was not only high up, but it did have a lot of steep grades in it (up to 8%), was long (20km) and there were really strong winds. I managed to get up there in a good time though and as usual: reaching the summit of a pass is one of the best feelings! Usually one of the reasons is because you have a long and nice downhill ahead, but this time the downhill was actually really tough. Because of a cold-front moving in from the Pacific, there were severe winds blowing from south-westerly directions – right in my face. I actually had to pedal going downhill to even go a little over 16km/h. That was pretty frustrating and it ended up being a long day to get to my destination in Dolores. On my descent from Lizard Head Pass, I ran into two cyclists from Arizona – Mark and Sandy. They are on their way from San Diego to the East Coast and we exchanged tips about the upcoming routes for each direction. I got some really valuable information about where to get water in the desert in Utah and since I had been worried about that for the past couple of days, I am more relaxed now and feel good about it. As I was finally getting into Dolores, I was pretty determined to ask my warmshowers-host there if I could take a day off, because I was just really tired. When I got to David and Belinda’s house a little outside of town, they had two friends from California, Bill and John, over and we spent a great evening talking about politics in Germany and the US while having some local beer. I decided that I’d push on one more day before having a restday since although there was a wind-warning in effect I was hoping to have tailwinds and it was at least supposed to be sunny.

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A couple of bright yellow trees on the way to Lizard Head

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Great views climbing up the pass

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Mark and Sandy from Arizona on their way to the East Coast

The next morning started with a trip to the local bike-shop. Dolores has the last bike-shop for a few hundred miles and after getting only my front-tire replaced in Pueblo, I wanted a new rear tire aswell. Nicolas, the owner, was a really cool guy and actually fixed a lot of things on my bike – the only bad experience on this trip so far have been the bike shops and I have the feeling that after each visit, my bike was in worse shape than before (I’m excluding the Newton Bike Shop, the bike shop in Summit and in Dolores from this generalization!). The downside of this repair session friday morning was the fact that I didn’t get to leave Dolores until 1PM and I had 100km ahead and the winds only got stronger during the day. The first 60km were not bad – I mostly had strong tailwinds and the change in scenery was really cool. To my right, I could still see the high mountains in the east and to my left, where I was eventually heading I started seeing bushes and red sand – the first signs that I was entering Utah and the desert! About 40km before Monticello, my destination for the day, things changed since I was turning west and the winds with gusts of up to 80km/h were coming at me from the front and side. I had never biked in such strong winds and it was definitely not a pleasure. Every truck that was passing me pulled me to the side and when it was gone, I got hit by another gust and almost fell off my bike. Also, the barometric-future of my bike-computer was not working properly due to the strong winds and was showing -15% grades when I was going uphill – or at least I think I was going uphill…maybe it was just the wind. It was crazy! 13km into this 40km odyssey, I had one highlight coming up: I crossed the Utah state border. I tried to do my usual routine of taking a picture of myself and the bike infront of the state-sign, but it was pretty complicated since my camera got blown away all the time. Finally, I got it secured with some heavy rocks and got a decent picture. And I’m actually sad I only got two more of these state-sign pictures left – it’s always great to cross into a new state. Somehow, I managed to get the last 27km done which took me a long time and the only thing that kept me going was knowing that I would have a nice place to stay and take a restday. Sandstorms were all around me and I was so glad to arrive at Brian’s place in Monticello at about 6pm. Brian is an amazing warmshowers host and one of the very few in this area of the country. He cooked a delicious dinner, we had great conversations and I got to rest after a couple of really hard days. I also had the feeling I was getting a little bit sick, so now I’m recovered and ready to tackle the next tasks. On my restday, I didn’t do anything but chill and eat – the usual! In the evening, two other cyclists, Tony and Tim, came by and we had a good evening sharing stories and tips. Tony lives in Canada and has many years of cycling experience all over the world and it was fun to listen to his crazy lion- and elephant stories from Africa. Tim is 63 and has just discovered his love for touring cycling last year and said he wants to do as many trips as he can while he is still able to do it. This time, he came down from his hometown in Seattle and is actually going the same way as I am for the next week or so and I hope we’ll meet up again since it was really fun talking to him.

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Sandstorms covering up the sky and sun

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Utah!

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Cyclist get-togethet at Brian’s place in Monticello

I think that’s all there is to say about the last couple of days, but I do have two more funny/random encounters from the way:
1. The stop-sign holders have become my best friends on this journey. I always feel so bad for them, because it seems like the most boring job in the world, but it also fascinates me that they are in a good mood and excited to talk to me about my trip. These guys stand at a construction site in the middle of nowhere all day holding a sign in there hand – one side is a ‘stop’-sign, the other one says “slow”. They just have to turn it every couple of minutes for the one-lane-road that’s coming up. Since I’ve been cycling on about 5000km I’ve talked to probably 20 or more of those guys. This week, there was a lady holding a stop-sign close to Telluride and we talked for a bit when I noticed her pretty thick accent which appeared to be German. And it was indeed. She was from Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany and has been living in Colorado for 27 years now. It was a nice change to talk to someone in German again and it turned out that she had actually crossed the US on her bike before. It could have been a nice conversation, but then she got the order to turn her sign around and that meant I had to ‘slowly’ move on.

2. On my way up the Lizard Head Pass, I took a break about 5km from the summit. My map told me to do so in order to get some water and snacks before hitting the final stage of the climb. As I was standing there eating a sandwich and drinking some water, a huge truck stopped behind me and the guy stepped outside and came towards me. It was Tucker the Trucker (if the little name-tag saying “Tucker” on his shirt wasn’t a joke). He was a big old guy and was interested in what I was doing, but also worried about me not having enough to eat for my trip. Although I told him I had plenty of food with me, he insisted on giving me some of his food. He disappeared in the his truck-cabin for a little bit and came out with about 5 small packages of smoked oysters and some smoked salami-sausage. What a nice gesture and I still have them in my bag for bad times – then I’ll be thankful for Tucker the Trucker! Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture with him, only of his truck.

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Tucker taking off after donating a bunch of food

Alright, that was it for the week. I usually would have waited another day or two with another blog, but I don’t know when I will have internet again to write on here and upload pictures.
A short outlook: today I’m just going about 35km to the last town there is before the desert. After that, I’ll have a stretch of about 200km without any towns. There are two opportunities to fill up water and one little gas station to get some food on the way though and since the temperatures are really nice right now (almost freezing at night, but about 15 degrees C during the day), it shouldn’t be a problem and I’m looking forward to what’s coming next!

Take care and don’t forget to donate if you are reading this blog and enjoying it – Click here 😉 ,

Freddy

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