Day 38: Storm King Campground – Del Norte, CO

Miles: 35

Climbing: 1112 ft

What a frickin’ day. It started out slow, with me actually trying to dry out my tent instead of just packing it wet. . Because we made it so far yesterday, today was a shorter day, so I didn’t feel much rush.

Hall of the Mountain King Campground

After getting packed up and leaving the awesome Storm King Campground, there was a wheeeeeeeee downhill–fun, fast, and beautiful. Coming down the hill, there were tons of beautiful rock formations that reminded me of the statues in Gondor. (Yeah, Tolkien was on the brain for this part of the trip, for some reason.)

Is this Gondor?

After 15 miles of this beautiful fun descent, the landscape abruptly changed, traveling out of a narrow rocky valley into open flat land with mountains in the distance. The first 8 miles of this was AWFUL rattling washboard with hot sun beating down, and I was feeling GRUMPY about it.

Getting into some desert

All of a sudden, the route took a turn onto awesomely fun jeep track through the desert-y landscape, with cacti and sage and rocks and sand. I haven’t actually done nay mildly technical terrain/singletrack in a while, so I was having a blast, using my big ol’ tires to roll over everything. I was feeling pretty dang proud of myself and my progress, remembering in May when I went mountain biking with Arthur and even super basic descents were terrifying. Might I……LIKE mountain biking? Easy mountain biking, at least.

Jeep track! It got rougher than this.
Cacti?? I think?

The day’s ride ended with a weird headwindy thick gravel detour around an airport and I finally got into Del Norte. The 35-mile ride (less than half of yesterday’s) was longer and tougher than I expected.

I met Gaelan at a Mexican restaurant in town and ordered a margarita the size of my head. After lunch, we checked into the funky Divide riders hostel–a sweet place with a full kitchen and bathroom, and bunk beds for cyclists passing through.

Gaelan had officially finished his bike tour, but he is staying the night tonight till his friend picks him up tomorrow. As we were sitting around the hostel, he mentioned offhand that he wanted to replace his wheels when he got back home, since he found an crack in the rim…….huh. Not having thought to do so before, I decided to check my own bike’s rims …..and…….HOLY SHIT! I have like FOUR cracks on my rear rim, tiny cracks around the drive-side spokes, where tension (and presumably a lot of pounding gravely abuse) had caused the spokes to pull out of the rim a bit. AHHHHHHH! I’m 400 miles and 8 days from the end of this trip—OFFICIALLY, now that I have a plane ticket, and…..MY WHEEL IS FAILING?!

Of course the last bike shop was in Salida, where I decided not to go cuz, “nothings wrong with my bike ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”, and there are no more on my route.

I start FREAKING out. Is my trip over? And this the night before I do the biggest climb of the ENTIRE ROUTE?!!! Gaelan seems nonplussed, saying it’ll be fine for the rest of my trip, so I start reaching out to everyone I’ve ever met who has ever worked on a bike… main question: Can I risk another 400 miles, or do I need to figure out a ride to Albuquerque? Ugh.

Arthur does some reaching out to his bike connections as well, while I have a nervous breakdown. Everyone has some little pieces of advice—lower tire pressure, SIGHTLY loosen the spoke nipples (lol yes, that’s what they’re called) without pulling the tires out of true, try using some kind of epoxy to help the cracks in check. However, the general consensus is: yes, it should be replaced ASAP…….but I’ll probably make it if I take it easy. Ok. Hmm. Take it easy on my rims. On a mountain bike tour. Shit.

Luckily, the sorta-solution to this quandary came with a message from Pete, my friend from before my Grand Tetons break who’s now 4 or so days ahead of me on the trail. He (and Heide and Dreux, other friends from before!) had HORROR stories of the mud on the days ahead—completely impassable peanut butter, due to earlier-than-usual monsoon rains in southern CO and NM. He described TWO DAYS with almost no ridable trail—-walking miles and miles through mud. One day they even had to get a ride off the trail!!!!! So, he STRONGLY recommended taking highways when possible—even Diana and Andrew, the super-intrepid New Zealanders, had escaped to paved roads. Wellllllp, there’s my solution—I sat down and reworked my plan for the next week, still hitting on the towns along the route: Abiquiu, Cuba, Grants, but opting for paved roads. It also means I’ll be in ABQ 2 days early….wish I could reschedule my flight, ha!

Man, I’m going to bed with a lot on the brain: Indiana Pass, the scary-ass huge climb tomorrow morning—-up to 11,910 ft, worrying about my rims and PRAYING they hold out, AND the complete reroute/week of highway driving. 

Mine and Gaelan’s energy was hilariously opposite—he was chilling, glad to be finished with his trip, and totally relaxed, while I’m like maniacally stooped over my ACA map and google maps trying to make a new plan and watching YouTube videos about fixing a cracked rim. 

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