Today will go down as the most grueling, challenging, and difficult day of cycling I have ever encountered!
We slept in just a bit to give our legs a little longer to get ready for the massive mountain we were about to climb. We got up, slowly packed, had breakfast and hit the road. We had about 26 miles till our first big town so we planned on riding into Salida and having lunch.
It was a beautiful ride as we peddled right through a canyon along the Arkansas river. Fisherman and campers lined its banks as its waters roared downstream. Several outpost were in full swing as people came in to go rafting. The skies were bright blue with a cluster of clouds here and there and the small creatures that inhabit the area scattered as we passed by. The morning was all around great.
We got into Salida around 11 and were immediately impressed, it is an absolutely amazing town with bikes everywhere! One of the most bike friendly towns I have ever been too. Cam has been having some issues with his rear wheel the past few days so we found a bike store, Absolute Bikes, to see if they could take a glance at it. Everything checked out fine. Great staff! Very knowledgable and friendly. They also hooked me up with a bar end plug since we noticed this morning that mine had fallen out at some point.
We found a really neat cafe called, Laughing Ladies, that was serving brunch so we loaded up on food in hopes it would get us up the mountain.
Salida happens to have a hospital. I think I can see some travel nursing to Salida in my future! I fell in love with this town. Population of 5,500 and nestled right at the base of the mountains in a valley. Who wouldn’t love a place like that.
After lunch it was all about getting up and over the Monarch Pass, an 11,312 foot mountain that was also the continental divide. We had heard lots of stories from people that we had run into that it really wasn’t that bad a climb, but I think we would both disagree with those statements! Ten miles of climbing and roughly 4000 feet vertically. I am not sure which hurt worse as we climbed…the steepness of the climb or thinner air at higher elevations. Every couple hundreds of feet your lungs hurt and your legs ached. It didn’t matter how many times you pulled over to catch your breath, once you started peddling again you were right back were you before. Needless to say it was the thoughest hill I have ever had to climb.
The only benefit to climbing up over the continental divide is the decent! Nine miles of road reaching speeds of over 40 mph on a bike down into the valley below. It was spectacular. Given the elevation and the winds from our speed it was a bit chilly on the decent.
Once at the bottom we ran into a town called Sargents. We took a quick breather and realized that is was getting pretty late in the evening again. The plan was to make it to Gunnison tonight and that was still 34 miles away. So once again we buckled down and rode as hard as we could.
It was a grueling 37 miles to our campsite but the 94 miles was well worth it. We were greeted to a bluegrass band, fire, cookout, and all around just a fun party. The temperature has dropped drastically at night. Last night was the first night I have actually gotten to sleep in my sleeping bag and tonight is not going to be any different. I had to pull out the long pants and jacket.
Tomorrow we are hoping to ride to Montrose and celebrate our nations independence!