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Friday May 20: Monticello, UT to Dolores, CO

Warm and sunny is the weather forecast for the next five days. Today we did 61 miles over rolling hills, ending at nearly the same altitude that we started, approximately 7,200 feet. Almost immediately after leaving Monticello, we noticed the farms. This area seems to support agriculture much better than Utah, as we saw large ploughed fields of red dirt, ready for planting. Many of the fields did not have the big irrigation systems we saw in Utah and Nevada, so there must be sufficient rain here for some of the crops. We passed many bean farms, mills, cooperatives and silos, so that must be the primary product of this region. We also passed through about 3 little towns between Monticello and Dolores, which is quite new to us, as Utah had no towns between our endpoints in most cases.

Dolores is a fine little town with a good German resturant across the street, where we will sample both the beer and the food tonight.

We stop for a picture at the border, showing we are crossing into Colorado
The ancients were a bit confused about their trail?
We rode towards these snowy peaks for much of the day, over rolling terrain
The Anasazi Museum, just a few miles before we came into Dolores

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Saturday May 21: Dolores to Telluride, CO

Yesterday, Karl & Doris had driven into Durango and picked up a rental car. Today Nick was again not feeling well, so he took the SAG wagon towards Telluride, and Karl & Doris drove south to Farmington, NM, to pick up Sally & Cory at the airport. We all plan to meet in Telluride at the end of the day.

The 3 bikers left Dolores at about 8:15, and headed up Rt. 145 towards Lizard Head Pass. The Dolores river was really full due to the sudden heat, and the snow melt it produces. We followed the Dolores river almost to the top of Lizard Head Pass, and it was a ripping river most of the way.

Midway up the hill we came to one of those zones where they warn about falling rocks. Well I guess so! Two big rocks had fallen on the highway between the time Nick passed through, and the time we got there. Two passerbys stopped to help us move them off the road, and one of them went back down to Rico (about 3 miles) to let some authority know about the hazard.

We then made our way up to the pass and down the far side, over one more 500 foot climb, down to the Telluride turnout, and then about 3 miles up into Telluride. We have a great condo for the night, with 3 separate bedrooms. We have a gang of 8 tonight, so it will be a busy spot.

Eric putting ice on his sorest spot
Annie's latest version of the softest bike seat. Sheepskin found on the road
The Dolores River was nine feet deep here, and moving very fast. Locals said it crests at midnight, so this was not its highest level!
Eric on the climb to Lizard Head Pass. A number of day bikers were out today, one just coming downhill here.
Then we found some rocks in the road. These jumped from some high point to land here. They were not here when Nick drove
through an hour earlier. Four guys in two trucks stopped to help us move them off the road
The further rock Eric and John rolled off the road. The big rock we towed, first breaking the rope
But eventually we dragged it into the pullout. One truck went down to Rico to report its presence
John then drove off with his dry-bag on top of the panniers, and only discovered it at the next stop!
John points out a river shot he wants for the 2nd graders page
The top of Lizard Head Pass (10,222 ft), and the boundary between two national forests.
Waiting at a construction light, Annie compares her rig with a local guys motorcycle.
Annie pulling up the annoying 500 foot climb between Lizard Head Pass and Telluride
Eric & John on the bike trail spur into Telluride
The bike trail has a tippy-cycle!
View of Telluride, and the ridiculous road up the far side that Arlen rode!

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Sunday May 22: Telluride to Montrose, CO

Nick continues to not feel up to riding, so rather than drag him along with the SAG wagon, we arranged for him to go today with the Bittenbenders first to Buena Vista, and then Tuesday to fly home from Denver. We are sorry he has gone, we thoroughly enjoyed his company. His plan was to leave next Saturday, so he has only missed about a week of the riding we anticipated he would do.

With all the transitions, we left a bit late today at 9:00. We had a long and fast ride downhill from Telluride to Placerville (CO), where we turned northeast on Rt. 62. We then had to climb back up the altitude we had lost, and cross the Dallas Divide at about 8,200 feet. Then down again for perhaps the longest downhill ride of the trip to date, to Ridgeway. After lunch and connecting with Sally and Cory in the SAG wagon, we then pedaled the remaining 30 miles, mostly downhill but mostly into the wind, to get to Montrose. We are investigating resturants at this very time!

Breakfast and lunch crew preparing meals for the day
Changing of the SAG guard, Sally takes over from Doris & Karl
The high mountains all around us still have alot of snow as we head down the hill from Telluride
Mountains and bikers
More
and more ...
Lunch in Ridgeway in front of the Subway shop
A 1923 American LaFrance Chemical Truck on display in the WalMart parking lot, Montrose

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Monday May 23: Montrose to Gunnison, CO

Today was about hills and heat. We had a 1500 foot climb first thing in the morning. Then on the downhill ride we ran into about 3 miles of construction, including some pretty rough sections. At one point we were being followed by a big truck, which kept gaining on us until we finally had to ride off into the gravel at the side to avoid being run down. At the bottom we found Cimarron, and in Cimarron we found a country store with picnic tables and a rushing river. So we stopped and had lunch even though it was a bit early.

After lunch we had a longer climb of 2500 feet, followed by a quick down into a beautiful canyon, and then another 500 foot climb. After that the road settled down as we rode alongside the Blue Mesa Resivoir, which went for miles and miles. We had a nice visit at the visitors center midway down the lake, and then were favored by a tail wind which blew us into Gunnison by about 5:00 PM.

Sally found us a cottage for our 2 day stay in Gunnison, with bedrooms for all, a kitchen, and best of all a laundry!

We stopped at this little country store in Cimarron, CO
View out back. See how much water is in the river behind John
This hummingbird feeder on the front porch was very active
Scenery near the top of Cimarron pass
Eric and John entering Big Blue Creek canyon
Eric showing his racing style on a downhill run
Annie exiting the canyon
John making the same turn, pursued by the local constabulary
Blue Mesa Lake, and the bridge where Rt. 50 crosses over
Further up the lake where the Gunnison river flows into it
Another shot of the river
The cabin in Gunnison where we will spend 2 nights

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Tuesday May 24: Day off in Gunnison, CO

Big rest day before our attempt at Monarch Pass. Colorado weather is sunny and warm (78 today), and cool in the evenings as we are over 8000 feet and there is not much atmosphere to hold the heat of the day. We did shopping, resting, laundry, cooking and eating. John got a new middle chain ring since the old one had a chipped tooth and would occasionally skip. Both Eric & John have new mirrors to match Annie's latest mirror invention, for better rear view coverage on the road. Nick made it home, and will be preparing for his summer in Washington DC.

These two pictures demonstrate that Eric is working hard to maintain proper cello form, and keep his calluses during his absence from the Philharmonic.
Tonight we celebrated Cory's birthday (one day early). Cory demonstrates his new tea kettle, and chef's apron.
This is an art series by John, entitled 'Biker in Window'

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Wednesday May 25: Gunnison to Poncha Springs, CO

Today was Monarch Pass, at 11,312 feet of elevation! We left Gunnison at about 8:30, and flew through the first 30 miles of the day. We had a tail wind, and a gentle upward slope as we pedaled up the Tomichi River, which is as flooded as every other river in Colorado just now due to snow melt. At the end of 30 miles we came to a little trading post Eric remembered from his last trip through, where we had a bite to eat and drink, and where Sally & Cory caught up with us. Within a half mile of leaving the trading post, we started to climb, and climb, and climb, and climb! Seven miles of about a 6% grade. The road was quite dramatic, with a big dropoff on our right most of the way up the hill. We reached the top a little after 2:00, and met Sally and Cory again. Then after a break for lunch, we rode down the hill (10 miles at 6% grade, it went quickly!), and then had another 5 miles or so into Poncha Springs. During this last piece we met a strong headwind, and had to fight our way into town. We are hoping the winds die down or reverse by tomorrow, so we can once again have the winds at our back.

SAG Wagoneers Sally & Cory at the Trading Post
Sign about 1/2 mile beyond the trading post lets us know what we are in for
Looking past Eric and down over the edge of the road
Eric & John pumping their way up to Monarch Pass
View of the road ahead, up towards Monarch Pass
Another view down into the canyon beside the road, from a pullout beside the road
John & Annie cranking up the hill
John & Sally trying to demonstrate where the water goes at the Continental Divide
Sally, Cory & Annie at the Continental Divide Visitors Center
Sally & Cory took the gondola to the top of the mountain and took these two shots of the surrounding mountains. The second includes the road east, Rt. 50
Here are the three bikers headed down Rt. 50 towards Poncha Springs (those tiny dots are us!)

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Thursday May 26: Poncha Springs to Westcliffe, CO

Five miles of construction (mostly paving) got us to Salida, and then we followed down the beginnings of the Arkansas river. We were going downhill for most of the morning, but we were fighting a headwind, so progress was slow. The scenery was great as usual. We stopped for lunch at the general store in Cotopaxi, then took 1A to cut down to Rt 96. These two roads (1A and 96) were much quieter, and very beautiful, though they did present us with some climbing. We got great views of the Sangre de Christo mountains on our right the whole way to Westcliffe, and here at the hotel we have a fabulous view of the mountains right outside our door.

Eric on Rt. 50 leaving Salida, along the banks of the Arkansas river
Further down the canyon cut by the Arkansas
On the opposite bank of the stream, Annie spotted this big-horned sheep?
Part of the canyon wall
We turned on Rt. 96 and had to climb to get to Westcliffe
View of the Sangre de Christo range we followed for hours
Not too many trucks in this fire department
Some Colorado folks are more welcoming than others ...
Here is the sign for the lake road, just 50 feet down the road ... and more of the mountains.

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Friday May 27: Westcliffe to Pueblo, CO

Another beautiful day in Colorado. We left Westcliffe at about 8:10, and had a good warm-up climb up about 2000 feet to our highest point of the day. We had fabulous views of the Sangre de Christo range behind us as we climbed, especially as we approached the high point. After the top we leveled off and rode through some beautiful country with ranches on each side of the road. Then we dropped quickly down off the plateau towards Wetmore, on our way to Pueblo.

Sandy, a colleague of John's, left Pueblo at about 9:00 and rode up to meet us. She did some serious climbing, and met us just on the East side of Wetmore. We had lunch a few miles below there, and then rode together back into Pueblo, arriving at about 2:30 PM. Sandy then called her friend Linda, who invited us all over for ice tea and a snack (thanks Linda!). Then Sandy headed home and we went in search of our motel.

We found we had booked a terrible hotel, and so we figured out how to bail out, repacked the car, and moved to a Motel 6 instead. We are now safely ensconced in a better situation. Tomorrow Eric will take Sally & Cory to Denver to go home, and pick up Nana, who will be driving SAG for the next section of our trip. Thanks Sally & Cory for your support, and welcome back Nana!

Eric riding up the hill out of Westcliffe first thing this morning
This happens as soon as we start to climb, everyone needs to take off a layer as we heat up
John looking back at the Sangre de Christo range
Another view of the Sangre de Christo's
John & Annie climbing with the Sangre's in the background
Sally & Cory caught up to us at a break about 10:45
Sandy joined the group near Wetmore and rode back to Pueblo
Sandy and John in Pueblo at Linda's house

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Saturday May 28: Day off in Pueblo, CO

Today was a SAG change day. Eric & Annie drove Sally & Cory to the Denver airport, and picked up Nana. John hung out in Pueblo, did laundry, checked out the town, and did a little shopping.

Cory greets Nana in Denver
Sally, Annie, Cory & Nana saying goodbyes in Denver

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Sunday May 29: Pueblo to Ordway, CO

OK Botonists, we saw this plant all along Rt. 96 between Pueblo and Ordway. In some cases they were growing right up onto the highway. We think it is related to squash and pumpins, it has flowers like a squash. Annie found the two dried fruits beside one of the plants. What is it? Post your answer HERE!

OK Botonists, we saw this plant all along Rt. 96 between Pueblo and Ordway. In some cases they were growing right up onto the highway. We think it is related to squash and pumpins, it has flowers like a squash. Annie found the two dried fruits beside one of the plants. What is it? Post your answer HERE!

The most scenic site of the day were the blooming cactus along the road. We found these yellow and red ones in the same spot, and saw many more as we rode along Rt. 96.
John and Annie at our lunch break, the land looks like this everywhere now.
This bunny stayed in back of the hotel by this concrete walkway much of the evening
Annie, Mom & John walking to dinner
Returning from dinner, the sign for Ordway on the main street into town.

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Monday May 30: Ordway to Eads, CO

Today the fog was as thick as pea soup! Not only that, but it was coming at us at 15 to 25 mph all day. We rode 60 miles from Ordway to Eads, and never saw much further than about 100 yards down the road. We are on the eastern plains of Colorado, so there is not all that much to see. There was a now unused railroad track beside us the whole way, with a line of telephone poles that are starting to fall apart. And fog. And wind. And did I mention the wind? A head wind that is?

Foggy stop beside the road
Can you see the Rt 96 sign? It is about 160 feet away ...
Riders and flag demonstrating the wind (head wind that is ...)
Nana chatted up a resturant owner and they donated free chips and salsa for the riders - highlight of the day!

On to Kansas!

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