The High Point of the Trip...
Riding from Telluride to Salida has been a series of long climbs followed by fast descents. But the big one was today. Monarch Pass (at 11,312 ft) is where I crossed the Continental Divide. From here, it's all down hill!
Over the last few days, I seemed to be alternating between reasonably sized towns with real hotels and cabins in the middle of nowhere. Montrose was the biggest of the towns and accordingly had the least personality. Gunnison was an interesting small college town with a funky cowboy-meets-hippy vibe. I just arrived in Salida, but I can already tell it is one of my favorite stopover spots of the trip so far. It reminds me of Flagstaff with even more mountains nearby and a bigger historic town center filled with restaurants, art galleries and shops. The Arkansas River flows through downtown and it's full of kayakers doing tricks on the waves.
In between Montrose, Gunnison and Salida, I stayed in Cimarron and Sargents. To call them towns would be a gross exaggeration. I stayed in cabins attached to RV parks that also included a small grocery/café... and that was the extent of the places. I used these stops as a good excuse to whittle down my food supply rather than carry it over the pass. If that's the most exciting thing I can think to write about those nights, you have a good idea of what the places were like. J
Leaving Sargents this morning, it was 10 miles to the top of Monarch Pass and almost 3000 ft of elevation change. My riding time to the top was just under two hours which was better than I thought it might be. Riding at 5 mph, the miles tick by slowly. To entertain myself, I started yelling out the miles as each one passed - one, two, three! Any wildlife in the area was sure to leave me alone as I'm sure they thought I was crazy. The only thing on the road more crazy than me was the four guys I saw at a pullout who were throwing big rocks down the steep side of the mountain slope and video taping them as they tumbled. As I got closer to the top, I started adding any other languages I could think of - eight, huit, ocho, acht. At the top, the only screaming was from legs and lungs. But after a short stop for a picture and a hot chocolate, it was time to pile on the clothes for the descent. The next 25 miles to Salida only took 50 minutes. And, I hardly needed to turn a pedal the whole way.