Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Colorado Is Gorges (Apologies, Ithaca)


I followed my low-key rest day in Pueblo with an action-packed day today. Several people told me not to expect too much from Pueblo. With a population over 100,000, Pueblo is one of the largest cities, if not the largest, on the Transamerica Trail. Like a lot of cities out West that means a considerable amount of sprawl with strip malls containing just about every restaurant, retail, and motel chain that I could name in five minutes and a few that I couldn't. But it also had a historic downtown, at least one good coffee shop with wifi, and a bike path along the Arkansas River, which provided views like this:


I spent the day riding around town and taking care of a few errands, including replacing my worn brake pads. After 2600 miles, I was concerned that those pads might not stop me from careening over a cliffside during a descent in the Rockies. Unfortunately, I failed miserably in my attempt to try Pueblo's Mexican food -- the recommended restaurants were closed, one for the day and the other permanently.

Rest days can be somewhat of a mixed blessing. I always look forward to the break, but it does make the next morning more difficult. It's akin to returning to work on Monday morning. But it usually only takes about fifteen minutes back on the bike before I pick up the old rhythm.

At the bike shop yesterday, the mechanic suggested that I ignore the Transamerica maps and take a different road to Canon City because the recommended route was circuitous and he had ridden one of the roads and it "spooked" him. I took his suggestion, shaving about 18 miles off my morning ride. The road, a four-lane, divided highway, was busier than the ideal but it had a wide shoulder. As I rode west the Rockies became more distinct and prairie dogs popped their heads out of holes by the roadside and squeaked.

I didn't plan to ride too many miles today because I wanted to spend a few hours at the Royal Gorge, which was only four miles off route. So when I saw a sign for the Holy Cross Abbey and Winery in Canon City, I decided it wouldn't hurt to sample a few wines. Not expecting good local wine before I hit Oregon, I was pleasantly surprised by the Abbey's selection.

Outside of Canon City, the climbing began anew. Although the plains seemed flat, their gradual grade put me at a higher elevation in Pueblo than at any point in the Appalachians. I started the day at about 4500 feet and ended it at 6200. Over the next few days I'll climb to the highest point on the Transamerica, Hoosiers Pass at 11,500 feet.

The four miles to Royal Gorge provided a tough climb as well, but it was worth it.


The gorge was an impressive natural sight and the man-made features lacked the tacky kitsch that often mars these attractions. An impressive suspension bridge spans the canyon. Despite the loose boards and regular gaps, cars are allowed to cross the bridge, but most people walk.

A cable car also takes visitors across the gorge and two railcars take them down to the Arkansas rapids running through the gorge.


Tonight I have a great view from my tent window.

4 comments:

mav said...

that camping spot is AMAZING!! hugs!

Anonymous said...

can't beat that view! wow!

-e

Anonymous said...

Brian,

What a gorgeous view! Also, loved the sign about the St. Patick's parade! Reminded me of all the fun times at Irish Fest in Milwaukee! Obama was in Michigan the last couple of days and drew very large crowds!!!

Love, Aunt Maureen

Anonymous said...

We are envious of the blue skies in Colorado! It has been gray up north for so long, we have forgotten what sun looks like. Happy pedaling & safe journey!

L & J