Salida, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico


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September 5th 2015
Published: September 6th 2015
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Lakeside campground near Salida, COLakeside campground near Salida, COLakeside campground near Salida, CO

One of many beautiful campgrounds in Colorado.
Hello folks, from Chama, NM. Although Fi and I haven't covered too much ground since our last post, we've been pretty busy contending with high mountain passes, broken equipment, angry thunder storms, and angrier mice. More on that later.

We left the great little town of Salida several days ago, tackling Marshall Pass, the first of several 10,000+ foot climbs. We had beautiful weather, and spent much of the day riding with Paul and Susan. The day ended with a great 10 mile descent on smooth gravel to our campsite, where we froze our bums off and got zero sleep. Still having fun though. Meandering through the high country of southern Colorado over the next couple of days (most of our riding these days has been between 8-11 thousand feet above sea level), our luck with equipment and weather finally ran out: while traversing another 10,000 foot pass in the Rio Grand national forest, my pannier rack (which I bought for a bargain!) cracked in half, meaning that the load over my rear wheel, about 45 lbs, wedged itself into the wheel so that it wouldn't spin freely. This occurred atop just as the sky opened up in biblical proportions
Marshall PassMarshall PassMarshall Pass

We rode this with Paul and Susan, whom we hope to meet up with again on the trail.
with plenty of thunder and lightning, just to keep us on our toes, as well as a drop in temperature from 75- to 47-degrees F (as we later determined). It pretty much sucked, but with the help of a friendly hunter named Mark, from South Carolina who was camping nearby, we made temporary repairs that allowed us to limp the remaining 30 miles to the next town, Del Norte, CO. We vowed to plan a little better in the future so as not to get caught out like that again. You'll soon see how well that worked out (sarcasm intended).

Anyway, with a broken rack and an additional 30+ miles to the nearest bike shop, my plan was to ride from our motel in Del Norte and back the following morning along a busy highway, a day of riding that I knew would also suck. This was my plan until the locals in the little diner that we ate breakfast in got word of our predicament. Diana, a very kind and easygoing lady who was seated among a rotating gaggle of about 6 local folks that hold court everyday at the same table from the moment the diner opens
Sargent, COSargent, COSargent, CO

Our pretty but extremely cold campsite.
until closing (2 pm), generously offered to drive me there and back - about 60 total miles, and she wouldn't even let me buy her lunch or pay for gasoline! What's that line about relying on the kindness of strangers? While on the ride back, I mentioned that I'd need to stop by the local hardware store to buy a hacksaw (believe it or not, many bicycle racks require the use of a hacksaw). By the time we had arrived back in Del Norte, two local fellas whom Diana had called while we were on the road, were waiting for me in order to lend me theirs! Needless to say, the folks of Del Norte left a very favourable impression on us... although I'm still not sure why no one mentioned the bike shop that was only 5 blocks away from our motel, which would have obviated the need to drive to the next county (?).

The next day we were on our way again, with the monster climb to the top of Indiana Pass - a 4000 foot climb over a nearly 12,000 ft mountain pass and gateway to the San Juan Mountains. Our field guide advised, "get
La Garita, COLa Garita, COLa Garita, CO

Church built by Benedictine clergy in the small hamlet of La Garita.
an early start, as this is a big day... toughest day on the entire Great Divide route," with not only Indiana Pass, but also 10,000+ foot Stunner Pass ahead of us before the end of the day. So, we started rolling bright and early by 10am (more sarcasm), thereby putting us in perfect timing and position to find ourselves atop Stunner Pass in the dark and in yet another torrential thunder and lightning storm. Recalling our plan to not get caught out again, I thought of a quote by the great rhetorical orator, Mike Tyson, who once said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." We finally limped into a hunting and fishing camp in the tiny village of Platoro, CO, bedraggled, cold, and wet, where we were able to stay in one of their 1960s-era, refurbished Airstream trailers, outfitted with a propane heater; it felt like the Ritz Carlton, and we both slept well. The following morning, someone asked us with a look of surprise and horror whether or not we were the ones who had ridden in from the storm the previous evening. When we admitted that we were, in fact, the two idiots in question, he exclaimed something like, "boy, you two are tough!" I replied, "no, not really, we just have poor judgment and are prone to making bad decisions." I think he thought that I was just trying to be modest.

Ths following day, we were still pretty beat from the previous day's ride, so only put in about 15 miles, to where we stayed at a dump called the Rocky Mountain Lodge (we're camping less and less these days as - to quote Fi - we're realizing that camping is an awful lot of effort for a bad night's sleep). Our 'rustic cabin', i.e. dilapidated shed, came complete with a very aggressive mouse that came out from underneath the kitchen cabinets after dark, wondering angrily why we hadn't invited him to dinner. He would dart out, Fi would say, "Eek!" (or something like that) and I would be pressed into action, armed with a flashlight in one hand and a flip flop in the other, like an idiot, in a futile attempt to dispatch our uninvited dinner guest. He would instinctively scamper towards Fi (including one sortie where he shimmied under the bathroom door while Fi was on the
Our hero!Our hero!Our hero!

Diana selflessly offered to drive me to the nearest bike shop (or what I assumed to be the nearest shop) when my pannier rack broke. She's one of the many kind and generous people that we've been fortunate enough to encounter on this trip.
toilet) but then run for cover whenever I sprang up to assume my clownish, mousehunting role. So it was that this moronic little charade went on until the wee hours of the morning. We left the following day with very little sleep and a deep contempt for mice everywhere. As Fi was putting on her shoe, she noticed a mouse dropping inside of it; no doubt one final little taunt from her new nemesis.

So that brings us up to the present day, just about. We finally rode out of Rio Grand national forest and out of Colorado. We're currently in Chama, NM where we've descended from the mountains for a good night's rest while we wait for the heavy rain to let up. When getting our room for the night, I asked our innkeeper, whose caustic wit is matched only by the gravitas inherent in his Navajo ancestry, if we could have a nonsmokimg room. He sternly told me that all of the rooms are nonsmoking. Without a hint of levity or irony in his voice or demeanour, he went on to very calmly say, "I'll kill anyone who smokes in one of my rooms." I was sure to mention that neither of us are smokers.

So we're headed back up to the mountains tomorrow headed further south, once the rain lets up. Hopefully we'll have no more mouse encounters. We thank you for checking up on us and hope that you like the photos.



Additional photos below
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Hello New Mexico!Hello New Mexico!
Hello New Mexico!

Good bye, Colorado, we'll miss you.
Another classic Colorado Rockies landscapeAnother classic Colorado Rockies landscape
Another classic Colorado Rockies landscape

This photo taken from about 11,500 ft elevation, Rio Grand national forest.


11th September 2015
Conejos River Valley, Colorado

I HAVE INTERNET ACCESS AGAIN!
Hi Ken & Fi, great to see you're still traveling and suffering! After two months without internet access in my little studio in Santa Barbara, I finally got wired today. Tried to follow you with my iphone, but not much joy in that. I know it's a little late, and maybe premature for your next outing, but I have some unsolicited advice: Old Man Mountain racks, hand made in Goleta, CA. Keep pedaling and posting, I envy your adventure! ~Scott

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