Del Norte, Colorado
The hell with Beowulf.
Here I sit in Del Norte, Colorado. Named after the first white settler in the region, Del and his wife Gwyneth McHitchen Norte became famous, if not wealthy, by establishing a trade route through the southern Colorado mountains for the fur trappers and native tribes in the region. Legend has it that Del met an untimely death when he was unable to dislodge himself from a large mud pit en route to Wyoming during an unseasonably wet June. Starved to death while shaking his fists at the heavens. And if you believe that crap, have I got a great used mountain bike to sell you.
Anybody a Star Trek fan out there? Not Galaxy #736 or the X Generation, but the great ones where Kirk and Sulu lean hard left during turbulence on the Enterprise? Yeah, I thought so. So this update is subtitled "I Mudd". Classic episode, good fun. Less fun was my personal I Mudd experience in northern New Mexico.
Allow me to elaborate.
Leaving the clay soils behind, I ventured into some of the first truly challenging terrain of the trip so far. Steep climbs on rough roads featuring their own micro-topography. Troughs, ruts, erosion channels, blah blahs and hoo hoos (just checking to see if you're paying attention). Tough riding like nobody's business (I adore that saying, so shut up.).
My first day in this terrain was hard. I think that was Monday. Sixty five miles with over a vertical mile of tough climbing (masochism is my middle name). Towards the end of the day that silly rain set in, slowly, teasing. Just enough to make the roads spongy but not soupy. Kinda like riding a bike over a large partially-inflated balloon (use your imagination here). Tuesday...a mix of balloon and stew as the moisture (moystyah for those of you in Jersey) drained from the heavens above. It took all I could muster (mister) to crawl 50 miles through this malarky. Was the worst over? Could it get worse? Gotta know, gotta know.....ahhhh....what happened?
Rain.....all night long, ya bastard. The following morning, like chocolate pudding (think Bill Cosby here), the dirt roads clogged and bogged and sucked my bike in like nobody's business(2 times....oh yeah). Now what you need to do is wade back up to the surface of this posting and check out the photos from the bottom up (sorry, but this weird blog makes it hard to format photo positioning. yeah yeah).
The bottom photo is without a doubt the last cool shot of me ever (again, shut it. gimme a break, i'm alone out here). Second up is the chocolate pudding and what it looks like after I wove my 2 wheeled teenager through. #3 is what a front fork looks like when it doesn't allow a wheel to rotate anymore. And the top one, of course, is what's left of the last fellow who rode through. Luckily I was able to scavenge some parts from his bike.
Through an act of divine intervention, I still managed to ride 55 miles in the rain that day (roads did get better), and even crossed the border into Colorado (theme song to "Greatest American Hero" playing in your head right now). That was wednesday. Rained all night again (sopping wet everything at this point), and I had one 17 mile climb and then a 24 mile, 4000 ft decent into Del Norte. On the way down I crossed paths with the leader of a race that is ridden North to South on the same route I'm on. These folks are total animals. The leader is doing over 150 miles/day, solo, unsupported on roads of mud and soup and yuckity yuck. Truly amazing, if not a bit mental (as they say in Yorkshire).
Anyway, like Pie Town, Del Norte is a place of magic. You wouldn't understand, so don't ask. So I took the rest of Thursday off here, staying with a couple who put up Great Divide cyclists passing through town (these folks are known as trail angels, and somewhere in heaven there are really comfy sofas and hot cocoa waiting for them).
And today I decided to take a rest day. After 14 straight days of riding the trail, I thought it was both deserved and necessary. What did I do on my rest day, you ask. I went mountain biking of course. Look, smarty pants, two local women/goddess/mountain-bikers asked me to join the on some of the best single track trails in the country. What would you do? Yeah, but you're both lazy and in the closet, so gimme a break. Indeed, the riding was outrageous. Super technical cycling through crazy canyons and goblin-rock formations. Stunning country. Wow.
So tonight, for the icing on my vacation from my vacation cake, we're gonna have a little cook out and camp fire up at some property my hosts have up in the mountains. I plan on bingeing hard, sleeping harder, then pointing my bike North in the morning and turning my legs around and around for the next month or so. The weather forecast is not sounding too good. Wish me luck and sun.
Until next time, Kirk out.