Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 41: High Plains Drifter

Day #41) July 23, 2011. Steamboat Springs, CO to Maybell, CO: 72 miles in 5:04 hrs.

Wow, my legs are just dead, dead, dead.

Well, I got up this morning and kind of did a recon of the map again, and figured that I just might want to try to make it past Craig if the weather was good today. So I had that planted in my mind after I’d decided last night to just go for a 42-miler to Craig. Figured that I’d just see how the ride goes, the time, and the legs. If I was good to go then I was going to make the next segment and shoot over to Maybell. The people at the motel last night had given me some yogurt and fruit for this morning since I was leaving way before their complimentary breakfast – pretty nice of them. So had some motel room coffee and yogurt, cherries and grapes. Then got on the road at around 6:30 am, with the temp at 46 degrees. Yes, 46! This time though I was ready with my gloves and earwamer to add to the long sleeved top and vest. Pedaled out of Steamboat into a just completely clear morning. Not a cloud in the sky and the wind was dead calm. The first 10 miles of road were flat as could be, and I was instantly in the big ring and just humming along at 15-17 mph.

Then I hit just a few whoop-tee’s as I got along the Yampa River, but I was still able to stay in the big ring. Within an hour the wind kind of picked up, but to my delight it was out of the NE, which brought my speed up even more. This was a great section of highway and terrain, with a solid shoulder and some really cool bluffs up along the river. Before long I was just screaming down the road at 17+ mph. And believe you me I was putting some definite pressure on those puppies to get the job done today. By then I was dead set on making Maybell today, come hell or high water – or should I say: come a change in the wind direction or heat and hills. I mean it was just silly at some point the speed I was carrying, like 20 mph, and I laughed out loud at time in disbelief.

I’d estimated last night that I’d be able to make Craig, 42 miles from Steamboat, in like 3 hrs if the terrain and wind conditions were really good – 3.5 hrs if things were slow. But like 1.5 hrs into the ride today I found that I’d be blowing that 3 hour number away. I mean I never shifted out of the big ring – doing all the climbing in the biggie. Now this segment was just desolate, and I figure that this is my future for the next week at least, going through these little specks of towns with zero amenities, and then every 30 or 50 miles hit a town or city with amenities. Such was the case today.

About 8 miles outside of Craig I removed my gloves, earwarms, poly pro and vest. Hell, my base layer was just dripping wet, not from humidity or anything, but just from riding so darned hard. By the time I made Craig that soaking wet base layer was totally dry. TG for the arid climate. Made Craig in 2.5 freaking hours, by 9 am. And at that point it was a complete game on to Maybell. Hell, maybe even Dinosaure which is even further up the road. Yup the greed thing kind of got me with all the speed and furry of the first segment. Didn’t even stop in Craig what with Maybell being just another 31 miles down the road. Now Craig was a pretty big place, with a ton of motels and eateries, and I’m sure great cell and wifi service. But I was willing to take a chance on getting a bit further down the road for the day. In the back of my mind I was kind of wondering if Maybell was going to be as far flung as the cabins that Brad and I had up in the mts, but I couldn’t stop cycling at 9 am, so onward. Well, I got to the western edge of the city and looked off into the distance and saw this massive, monster, giant of a climb, a bloody wall looming off to the west on highway 40. THAT was my future.

Time to suck it up! And I kind of thought that my second segment was not going to be so blazing as the first. Could very well be a ton of climbing if the road did not follow the Yampa River. So I get to the initial part of the climb, the approach, and shift into the middle cookie. At that point I really thought that it might have looked pretty bad from a distance but once I get right up on it, it wouldn’t be that bad. It WAS bad! Hello little cookie. And I was just working like hell on this thing, in and out of the saddle every couple of min. It was a total grunt. And as I was climbing it I had to believe that I’d be doing a good deal of climbing to come – could very well be that that pup would be the welcome climb to the rest of the day!

And wouldn’t you know it, got to the top and there was another, and another, and another, like a rollercoaster, going off into the distance. Ok, from a 15 mph average to a 10 in one fell swoop! After the third little cookie climb my legs were really beginning to feel the effort, having just mashed the pedals for 42 miles from Steamboat to Craig. And again, this was a very remote, lonely stretch of road, with nothing but high plains on all sides. Now how about we add one more twist to the mix…the wind changed direction and began to blow out of the west. That wind and hill scenario continued for about 10 miles, just putting the hurt on my quads.

After that hour the terrain transformed into a flatter, almost false descent kind of landscape with negligible climbing, but still with that slight W headwind. It was a TG moment for sure, but the damage was done, the legs by that time were just feeling dead. And let me tell you, by then there were absolutely NO thoughts about going even further to the town of Dinosaur. Nope, greed had been replaced by “I just want to get this done.” I was on autopilot, and made an effort not to look at any mileage signs or anything just so I wouldn’t have to play mindgames with myself. Now from a riding standpoint, it was a really great ride what with the miles and miles of desolation and the wonderfuls temp and blue sky. And even the traffic in this section was just so light that I could go for 10 min without anything passing me.

But man, when you’re in the hurt locker, every 10 min just seems to feel like forever. Really began to start cranking on my waterbottles. I mean like guzzling them. The heat had begun to crank up a bit, probably by then it was the low 80’s. But still, it was a dry heat, so I was good there.

The road just wound around all these high points, keeping me guessing as to exactly which way I was going. Sometimes it would be in a southerly trend, sometimes due west. But it was winding around down along all these little dry drainage runs and draws such that I just didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. And worse yet, I was always looking for that next big climb right around the corner. So I finally looked at my watch and saw that I should be within 20 min of Maybell, having really picked up the pace after all the climbing. But off in the distance I just couldn’t see any semblance of a town or city. It was just blank landscape. Maybell did indeed come after that twenty min, and it was kind of a shocker, having passed up the city of Craig. I mean from about a mile out Maybell just looked like it was a ranch in the distance – several buildings on the horizon.

Once I got there…it was! This place is capital S for small. There are two motels, a grocery, a diner, and a campground. That’s it. You could ride through it in just over a minute! But I was done and this was home for the rest of the day. Now I checked out the motels, the one looking like a true rat trap, and the other actually looking more like a B&B. Ok, so rat trap or B&B. Had to do it, so I rolled over to the B&B looking one. The other was just way too gnarly looking. What’s more I hadn’t seen a cell tower for that whole 31 miles and there certainly wasn’t in here, so I realized that my only hope with be wifi – and the rat trap didn’t look like they even had electricity. So I knocked and the lady invited me in to what they call a hotel. It’s really a big ranch house with like 8-10 rooms so it’s not really the kind of B&B that gives me the creeps.

Actually it’s a nice little place with very reasonable rates, not those crazy B&B rates. No frills rooms for sure and I don’t have a TV upstairs. There are 2 TV’s downstairs that are satellite – and they have versus so I can watch the second to the last stage of the TDF tonight. Hey, this wasn’t exactly what I go for, but it’s a very clean, neat environment, with some really friendly folks who run it and they have wifi. I’m in! So my cell is a no-go, but the wifi is maginal - it’s not blazing fast but it does the job. Unfortunately I cannot do skype with their wifi. Don’t know why. As you can see that’s my MO when I get to a place….test the cell and wifi signals and strength. That pretty much sets me up the rest of my day.

Showered and washed the kit and then off to the only eatery in town about 200 meters away. They have breakfast all day so I ordered this Chicken fried steak with hashbrowns, toast and two eggs. It was sensational. I mean the piece of steak that I was given, damn it was almost as big as the plate! No need for extras with this meal. I was just packed when I walked out. Next up the grocery for a beer. Ended up getting a six of Miller Genuine Draft – hey gang it was that or Coors Light, or a couple of other rancid choices. Back to the hotel where I sat on the porch with Woody, the owner, and shared several beers with him while he kind of filled me in on this area and how he came to own the hotel. Super nice guy, and it was fun to just chill out completely and have a beer on the shaded porch with Woody as the temps climbed into the low 90’s. We went through all but one beer sitting there jawing. Then he asks me if I like rocks, and I’m like “yea, I have a degree in geology.” So he shows me petrified trees, dinosaur bones and skin, geodes, hot spring mineral deposits, quartz crystals, and then some Indian artifacts. The guy has a small fortune in this stuff.

Woody inherited this place from his folks, and he’s put a ton of time and money into restoring it. It has a western theme, but not in a gaudy kind of way. It’s tasteful and interesting. Now mainly this is a hunter’s hotel, because in the Oct-Jan hunting season Woody tells me they pack em in here like 20 or more at a time. Elk of course in the big game that draws people out here. In the summer he tells me it’s pretty quiet but for the cyclists who come though here. This is a very good route for getting through CO, and I’m not the only one who’s on to it. Right now it’s just me and an older couple of ladies who are staying tonight. So it’s just totally mellow down here in the den.

Right across the street is a campground that costs 25 bucks a night….are you kidding me? Twenty-five bucks to put your tent out in the blazing sun all day? Nope, for 25 more you can do this hotel, and I’m telling you, that sun right now is just blistering at 4:30 pm MST. So anyway, I’m sitting here in the den working and enjoying the large ceiling fans that are keeping the place nice and cool.

Tomorrow I’m going to do Dinosaur, which Woody tells me is a LOT of climbing and 50+ miles away. God am I glad I didn’t buzz through Maybell and shoot for Dinosaur today. I’d be one suffering soul out there right now. Vernal UT is like 90+ miles away, and I highly doubt if I’ll shoot for that what with the hills, and the potential for wind and heat. More than likely I’ve got to do some of these sections in smaller bites. Now if the stars line up perfectly tomorrow, then I may give Vernal a shot. But I highly doubt it what with the butt kicking I got today on those hills.

Too much rambling already. Talk to you tomorrow. PS..I’ll try to put up pictures, but if they’re not there, you know that this wifi just doesn’t have the punch to it that I need to download pics…………Pete

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