Rest Days are for Mountain Biking!

Another fabulous week has passed since I was online last, and I’ve drawn near the end of this fabulous trip. Each day continues to bring new wonders and one moment of joy after another. Even the days I’m exhausted and sore I am constantly in awe of the beauty which surrounds me and the pleasures of the day to day routines we have developed.

Leaving towns is always a bit slow as we typically go out for breakfast and drag our feet before getting on the road. Rawlins was no exception. We had a great breakfast at Penny’s for which John and Roger arrived wearing fake mustaches! This led to much hilarity and an unsuccessful attempt to get the waitress to wear one!

As we climbed up out of the valley Rawlins is in (it seems every town is down in a valley!), we were following a house on a trailer headed up the gravel road we were on. It was traveling quite slow and I thought for a while we might even catch it by the top of the hill, but alas even a house is faster than us!

Our ride brought us back up into tree covered mountainsides and the groves of Aspen provided much appreciated shade. Mid day we came upon a road closed sign hanging on a fairly serious looking barricade. As usual, we ignored it, assuming whatever we came upon would be surmountable. We were rewarded with a long steep climb through a very bumpy construction zone, but that was far preferable than the 45 mile detour alternative! Many miles later (still on a closed road) we came upon a culvert out with a detour down through the sage brush. I road it first and barely made the climb back to the road. I circled around hoping to get a picture of the others riding through the field but cut the corner too tight and ended up with a classic Lateral Dismount! All’s well that ends well, but I did bend a clip on my pannier which will eventually need replacing.

The 53 mile day ended at the Little Sandstone Creek, which appeared to be bone dry! We were a bit worried about water as water sources are still few and far behind and we’d been depending on this one. We discovered that if we walked upstream a half mile or so there was some standing water, which got us through the night and into the next day. Luckily my Steripen, which I trust a lot more than our filter was working again so we didn’t need to worry too much about the safety of the water.

From Little Sandstone Creek we rode 46 miles to just shy of Meaden Peak. The ride was great and not stressful since we found water 10 miles into the day at a national forest service work station. Just after the station there was road construction and a woman in a truck offered us a ride through it. She said it was a mile of 9.9% grade and that even the divide racers had taken a ride over it! We asked if we would be allowed to ride it and she said sure but why would you want to! We basically just wanted to ride a section the racers hadn’t ridden, so we opted to ride it! We ended up being glad we did as it was only like a quarter mile and didn’t feel that steep since it was paved! I would have felt silly in the truck for such a short fairly easy section!! Ended up not even being the hardest climb of the day!

After that climb we had a 20-25 mile downhill to the Colorado border which was paved and super fun! Leslie and I got way ahead and at one point worried we’d missed a turn so we rode back up a mile or so until we found the boys.

Riding into Colorado we noticed a distinct change in environment! The sagebrush got taller and suddenly there were groves of aspen and other trees providing much needed shade. We saw the first distant green pastures we’ve seen in weeks, and saw several herds of happily grazing sheep.

15 miles before camp it began thundering and raining. Though it was the first day we’d really ridden in the rain, we were all very cold and wet by the time we decided to call it a day and set up camp. We once again were camping without a water source, but the folks who belonged to the RV nearby offered to fill our bottle from their stash do we’d be Ok for the next day.

Once the rain let up I spent a whole standing at the banks edge looking out over the valley below just feeling happy. Lightening danced along the far ridge while the sheep called to one another on the slopes below us. I was cold and tired and everything was wet, but I was simply so content and happy. In that moment There truly wasn’t anywhere in the world I would have rather been!

The next morning was clear and bright and we set off for the quick and easy 40 mile ride to Steamboat Springs. The ride began with a grueling 8 mild climb described on our maps as “a walker”. While I walked a few steep sections I focused deeply and plowed through most of it remaining on two wheels. It felt wonderful to feel the difference in how I’ve grown as a mountain biker over these last 6 weeks. I was able to pick my way up over the jagged rocks and large chunks of protruding ledge over insanely steep terrain without too much fear of falling. I went so slow my odometer read zero and Leslie could keep up even on the sections she walked!

After the climb we had a buckin bronco of an 8 mile descent, lurching this way and that and honestly not able to go much faster than we had in the climb! It was perhaps the rockiest, bumpiest road we’ve ridden so far, and it just kept going forever!

The road finally improved and eventually turned to pavement and was smooth sailing all the way to Steamboat Springs. There is mo camp ground right in town so once we rolled in we inquired at the bike shop if they knew anyone who might let us crash on their lawn. They hooked us up with Marc and Gretchen, a fabulous couple who have been intrigue to the massive expansion of mountain bike trails in town.

Meeting this couple led to two fabulous days of mountain biking here in Steamboat Springs. The first day all for of us spent the morning trail riding in a bike park known as the Emerald Park. It is a gorgeous hillside with miles of trails maintained by the local (volunteer) mountain bike association. Marc and Gretchen had suggested a half day loop that avoided the advanced terrain but would be a good tour of what the park has to offer. It reminded me a bit of the park I’ve ridden in in Rutland, but perhaps a bit rougher and not quite as well signed. They are working on grants to install signs at all the intersections, but these things take time!

We were hoping to be off the mountain by 330 to go tubing, but didn’t quite make it, we were having to much fun. We hung out for a while with our friends Kevin and Susan who also took a rest day here, and went out for a fabulous dinner. We’d skipped lunch and were very hungry, I some how managed to consume an 18 inch pizza with cheesecake and ice cream for dessert, just what I needed!

During dinner Leslie casually mentioned that she was sad we hadn’t gone tubing and maybe we should take another rest day. She was mostly just kidding but roger, John and I were all quite easily convinced, the decision was made, and another round was ordered!

Rest day number two clearly needed to involve more mountain biking so Leslie and I rose early, ran a few errands, and headed for the ski slopes. We picked up a trail map and began the five mile climb up the service road. As we climbed the top of the gondola gradually grew larger and the town of Steamboat shrank behind us. 90 minutes later we ordered margaritas at the summit and enjoyed the view. All other cyclists up there had lift tickets on their seat posts…. But we’re too hard core for that!

As a storm blew in they announced the closing of the gondola and we momentarily debated taking the lift back down! We couldn’t bare to miss the downhill so we jumped on the trails instead. Technically you needed a lift pass to ride the “good” trails but we quickly realized the trail we were allowed to ride down for free was a black diamond and not particularly well maintained. So we jumped on a blue square, an intermediate run, and rolled down around the steeply banked turns and over the stomach churning jumps and divots. By the bottom of the run i was hooked. I fell in love with downhilling yesterday! Can’t wait to investigate what mountains have the best deals and trails back home!

Once again we’d ridden all day and not left time for tubing…but I had no regrets! I’m one happy kid:-). Today we ride out for real, but I have plans to ride the lifts in Breckenridge!

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