Climbing: 5732 ft
Well, unsurprisingly, I did NOT sleep super well last night. Couldn’t get my brain to calm down. I woke up sleepy and made coffee in the hostel, and ate Lucky Charms for bfast (I had bought a whole box yesterday and it was almost gone.) Gaelan got up and made pancakes, amazingly NOT jealous of the climb I had ahead. We said goodbye (😢 I’m back to solo cycling!) and I headed out, still filled with lots of emotions about the rest of my trip: nervous about this big climb, WAY MORE NERVOUS that my wheel wouldn’t make it, frustrated to have to detour onto roads, and honestly just ready to be done.
I left the hills of Del Norte, and started…..up….and up……and up…….making my way up the highest elevation of the entire trip.
And you know what? It wasn’t that awful bad! My legs are used to climbing, at this point. I mean, it was hard and I was slow, but it was never so steep I had to walk, and while it was a challenge, it wasn’t the same challenge it would have been a month ago. Plus, I had just downloaded 60-odd hours of high fantasy audiobook to keep my mind busy as I made switchback after switchback. As usual, I was rewarded with really beautiful views, making me mourn the fact that this was probably my last big “remote” gravel pass. The top was as awe-inspiring as ever, and I could feel the difference in the air at nearly 12,000 ft!
In the back of my mind, I was hearing Pete’s warnings, of the impassable roads after the rain, and as I arrived at the alpine meadows of the top of the pass, I saw ominous clouds ahead………it began raining almost immediately once I reached the top. I stopped and took shelter in trees (at least there were trees!!) twice during the day, waiting for the showers to pass. Once it was almost 20 minutes.
I just ate snacks and kept listening to my audiobook. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I couldn’t wait all day, though. Suited up in full rain gear, I headed out into the sprinkles (which at one point turned to tiny hail) and made my way down the MUDDY, but thankfully still passable, road. All the while I was going as easily and gently as possible, to avoid any undue stress on my rim.
Though today was my second largest climbing day of the trip (and the largest day was over 30 miles longer, for perspective), it was filled with beautiful views of misty mountains and green flower-covered valleys.
I eventually wound my way down into Platoro, a cute little vacation town with NO cell service or WiFi. Though the rain had let up for the last few miles of riding, it was just beginning again when I pulled into the Skyline Lodge. I had fully intended on camping at an RV park in the tiny riverside town, but wanted to check on the hours at the restaurant, to make sure I didn’t miss dinner. I asked the owner about cabins, and she said they had an Airstream camper for cyclists, but it cost $50. I said that was more than I wanted to spend on my own, and began to head to the other RV park, and she offered me the camper for $30! Well, okay!!!! I was cold and wet from the day’s ride, and really not looking forward to setting up my tent in the rain again. Also, the Airstream was cute as heck and had a full bathroom and space heater!
I was super pleased, especially when it began POURING heavy sideways rain, and I imagined another cold yucky night in my tent, with rain beating down and all my stuff being perpetually damp.
Tomorrow morning will ostensibly be my last day technically on the GDMBR, as I’ll be off route for 2 days, then take the paved ACA alternate to Grants. It’ll also be my last days on gravel. I’m feeling sad about it, to be honest, but even a couple hours of moderate passable mud already had me dreading anything worse. And with a forecast of more and more rain, I’m not gonna risk it.
So, now I’m snuggled up my camper, clean and happy and full! Plus, no WiFi or cell phone service gave me a chance to catch up on this blog! 5 or 6 more days of riding, depending how I chop it up, and whether I decide to do a super long desert day. I don’t know whether my saddle sore would prefer more shorter days or fewer longer days. We’ll see.
Oh, I also turned over 2000 miles today—-my total is 2005.2 miles 😮