Day 31, Guffey, CO – Breckenridge, CO 68 miles (2225 total)
July 11, 2008
Time on bike: 6:30:40
Daily Ascent: 4476 ft (66 ft/mi)
Max: 36.5 mph
Brrrrrrrrr. It’s COLD in the Rockies in the morning!! The temperature when we woke up at 5am were in the upper 30s! I put on my long tights for the first time along with my long sleeve riding jersey as well as my fleece. All I wanted to do was to jump on my bike and climb the biggest hill around to get my body temperature up. Normally climbing isn’t a pleasant thing, but in this case it would be well welcomed.
We had camped the night before in Guffey in the yard of a restaurant that was out of business and for sale. It looked more like a big house than a restaurant. Maybe a bed and breakfast. Pat said that ¾ of the town was for sale and he wasn’t far off. After listening to the morning wise-cracks that Mark and Pat make every morning about how big of a tent Mark is sleeping in (it’s my tent and it’s a 3 man tent), which take place every morning without avail, Mark and I finally set out at around 6am. I always like to coast downhill into camp or the city the night before. It’s just a great way to end a long cycling day. Yesterday, however, we cycled up a mile to get into Guffey, which isn’t such a big deal until you have to go downhill with the brisk, cold morning winds for that same mile. It made for a VERY cold start to say the least.
About 5 miles into our ride we came across a couple of bikers off the side of the road. Mark was ahead of me and pulled over. It was a couple we had heard about before but hadn’t yet met. A man and his 12 year old son. They were shedding layers of clothing as the temperature was going up. John and Jonathan were from Virginia Beech. John, the father, had done a cross country bike trip years ago and promised Jonathan that when he was old enough they’d do it together. Apparently 12 is old enough. It must be. They started June 13th, 2 day after I began, and they also began from Yorktown, VA, same as me. Jonathan seemed little even for a 12 year old. How cool for a father to take his son on such an epic adventure. John explained how he had just arrived at a new engineering job and wasn’t sure what they’d say when he told them that this trip had been planned for some time and it was essential that he and his son do this, but to his surprise they were thrilled about it and told him he’d still have a job waiting when he returned. Jonathan said the idea came to him one day to ask if he could do the bike trip and that he also wants to hike the Appalachian Trail some day. The other 2 members of the family, mom and their 10 year old daughter, track them in their car and meet them in the towns up ahead with a warm meal cooking. They were very cool.
We stopped and had breakfast in a tiny mountain town. The views from every side were gorgeous! Colorado has been a different experience in regards to meeting people here. The people we’ve met, though generally friendly when they warm up to us, are cautious at first. As if they just see so many tourists that we’re just more of the same and they kind of wish that we’d just do our thing and move on.
For lunch we ate at Alma, CO which was just about 8 miles from Hoosier Pass, the highest point in elevation (11,542 ft) along the entire Transamerica Trail. Going inot Alma was weird. The town looked as if it were down hill, but checking the altimeter on my GPS as well as consulting my legs, we were actually going up hill. The headwinds didn’t help much, but it was the strangest optical illusion. We ate lunch at “The Highest Saloon in America” which was right across the street from “The highest boutique in America”. I kind of got the feeling that at 10,578 feet, Alma might be the highest town in America. Wikipedia confirmed that it was the highest developed municipality in the US.
Up ahead lay Hoosier Pass. Mark, Pat and I decided to climb it together and then Pat would cycle back down to pick up Mark’s car and meet us in Breckenridge. We cycled across some rolling hills before we hit the final climb, a 4 mile climb to the top. The Rockies to this point haven’t been nearly as steep or as treacherous as the Appalachians. The 4 mile ascent took us about an hour, moving at around 5mph. We climbed and climbed. The beauty of slowly climbing mountains is that it gives you a chance to enjoy the scenery. You have to find some positive about it. The surrounding mountains had patches of snow and were covered up to a point with pine trees. The surrounding scenery was so incredible. Traffic was buzzing by us and there were a fair share of trucks and RVs. The climb was tough, but enjoyable. We reached Hoosier Pass with great joy and much whooping! We posed for our pictures, hoisting our bikes high above our heads in triumph. And then we descended for the next 8 miles into Breckenridge, CO, a great little ski town with a ton of shops and restaurants.
In Breckenridge I met up with my good friend Shelly and her boyfriend Mike. Shelly and I met in Uganda where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer and she was doing a summer internship with Africare. Shelly, myself and Jacob (another PCV in the town), were like peas in a pod for those 3 months. Shelly became an Honorary PCV and we have a number of great stories that we share from our experiences in Africa. We hit up an Irish Pub for supper and talked late into the evening. Shelly has more knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm for developmental work regarding HIV/AIDS in Africa than anyone I’ve ever met. We had several great laughs and stories.