Not all that glitters is gold

October 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm

After sucking up civilisation in Salida we were ready to go. There were some big, big passes between Salida and Del Norte. However, the grades in Colorado so far have proven to be quite agreeable. It’s just that the climbs seem to last forever sometimes.

Riding out of Salida, Marshall Pass came first. I think this was the most beautiful pass of the entire trip so far. We rode amidst billowing oceans of green, gold and red. I will let the pictures speak for themselves (warning: a whopping 53 of them!). Just click on “Read More”…

Phineas the cycling parrot in Salida.

Wooden bike, Salida.

You could get your hair cut for just $ 10…

… and after, you could get it fixed!

Nice ride.

Heading out. Salida is ringed on all sides by huge mountains.

Familiar views along the highway.

Looking back…

On the dirt road again. Twice as slow and twice as happy.

The road goes ever on and on…

Imagine living in such a place (on the downside — hard to find work around here).

A lake. Forgot which.

The higher we came, the more colour we saw.

On the road up.

Oceans of green and gold.

Set ablaze by the aspen.

And another one, I couldn’t get enough of it.

Hard candy.

Almost there…

Made it. Beautiful pass. Great ride.

During the descent of Marshall Pass, disaster struck for Mat: a spectacular failure of his rear rack. A small metal plate on the right side just snapped in half. And the one on the left side seemed ready to go… this meant that the rack was ready to fall off. A makeshift reparation with tie wraps & duct tape followed. What to do now?
We descended to Sargents where, after some gentle coercion, the proprietor of the Tomichi Creek Trading Post lent Mat his landline phone to call the manufacturer, Old Man Mountain.

Now, Old Man Mountain racks have VERY good reputation. Their service was pretty good too, they were going to send a new rack to the post office in Del Norte. Because all the OMM guys were at a trade show, it remained to be seen whether Mat’s rack would arrive in time. Meanwhile, he was of the opinion that the tie wraps & duct tape would last until Del Norte at the very least.
After bidding a heartfelt goodbye to the noisy, engine-revving weekend warriors at the restaurant/pub in Sargents we were on our way again. It is amazing how the country changes from densely forested hills to barren, wide-open country and back again.

The views didn’t stop when we went downhill. I love how the aspen look like flames licking at the pine trees.

And there’s more where that came from.

Cold night at Tomichi Creek Trading Post in Sargents. 24 Fahrenheit or about minus 5 degrees Celcius. The white stuff is probably just my nocturnal breath, frosted and all.

This sign cracked us up. Especially because the ditch looked nowhere near the playing-in kind.

Wide-open ranching country.

Cochetopa Dome.

We went up, up, up Cochetopa Pass and stopped right underneath it at Luder’s Creek campground. We rode into the campground and saw a big group of people sitting around a fire. “Just in time!!” they shouted to us. Turns out this crowd was a group of friends who had their  yearly get-together-weekend, right at that campground, right when we were there! They generously welcomed us and invited us to their “pot luck” evening, where everyone brings their own dish. We had nothing to offer but some tortilla chips and tales about our antics along the trail, but we were welcome to partake in the smattering of food… Green chili, red chili, elk brisket, chicken fajita’s, mashed spiced potatoes, greek salad, chocolate cake, several kinds of pie, and I’m forgetting more than half of it… AWESOME. Thank you guys!!

The next day, they shared their huge breakfast with us, too. It didn’t stop. Fried eggs, sausage, leftover chili, leftover pies, coffee, etc. etc. just lovely. That was a good way to start the day, for sure!

Climbing up to Cochetopa Pass.

Breakfast with the Sideways crowd.

On we went, to Carnero Pass.

Guardians of the canyon.

Grandma’s attic in La Garita.

Dead rattlesnake.

Like a ship’s prow, thrusting through the earth’s crust.

As we approached New Mexico, more and more pieces of the underlying layers of earth showed itself.

Singletrack towards Del Norte.

It became abundantly clear that we were approaching (New) Mexico. More and more names of places sounded Spanish. Mexican restaurants became prevalent. We saw more Latino’s. Forests became less boreal and we saw more and more erosion, fascinating in and of itself — the earth has a lot of interesting things going on down beneath your feet.
A singletrack road wound its way through the badlands around Del Norte. It was very sandy, going up and down, twisting and turning everywhere. It was one of the most technical parts of the route. It lasted just a few kilometers, but it was great fun to ride it, even fully loaded.

Looking back.

Badlands.

Pffff….

Del Norte airport. You’re looking at it.

This was taken during the rest day, looking in the direction of Indiana Pass. Glad I didn’t take off.

The last part, riding along Del Norte “airport”, was excruciatingly boring. Finally we were there. We took a room in the Country Family Inn. Now I don’t like to complain, but suffice to say that hotel was a dive. Very depressing. Weird stains in the bathtub, spigots nearly coming off, that kind of thing.
Mat had to wait at least one day for his rack, and I was having some knee issues so I decided to wait for one day, as well. Not in this hotel however!!

It turned out that Del Norte is a weird place. It might look a bit like a hillbilly sh*thole but then there’s this weird hippie place called the Peace of Art cafe, combined with the Organic Peddler store and the La Casita Bonita Inn. The smell of incense was everywhere, scented candles all over the place, ointments, soaps, buddha’s, bright colours, etc. They served up a MEAN breakfast. I had the “huevos rancheros” for the first time in my life (fried eggs with red or green chili, refried beans & cheese, served on a tortilla) and I am totally going to import that one. Too bad the place is for sale. I imagine it’s hard to run a place like that in hillbilly town Del Norte.
Then there was the Windsor hotel. An absolutely posh place, run by an experienced hotelier and her husband who is an experienced Swiss chef! She told us most locals would rather have a Burger King than their place. I asked why they decided to run such a place in Del Norte, and she replied “because we’re crazy”. Suffice to say, we took a room for the night, after the utterly depressing Country Family Inn experience.
THEN there is this microbrewery with all sorts of local brews. I had a few of the “Thrashy Blonde”, very nice. THEN there is this hippie-like pizza van every week with their humongous pizza’s. And then there’s the run-down homes, the boarded-up storefronts, the seedy-looking arms dealers… Weird place, Del Norte.

The Organic Peddler.

The big suite in the Windsor Hotel. I didn’t hire this one, but I was allowed to use its bathroom to soak my knee (my own room just had a shower).

Lovely, isn’t it?

My own room. Still very, very comfortable.

Pizza!

 

Day 45 (September 21st): Simple Hostel, Salida – Tomichi Creek Trading Post, Sargents
Riding time: 4:32:51
Distance: 66,79 km
Amount climbed: 1147 m

Day 46 (September 22nd): Tomichi Creek Trading Post, Sargents – Luder’s Creek Campground
Riding time: 4:39:46
Distance: 78,05 km
Amount climbed: 920 m

Day 47 (September 23rd): Luder’s Creek Campground – Country Family Dump, Del Norte
Riding time: 6:00:38
Distance: 104,02 km
Amount climbed: 986 m

Day 48: Country Family Dump – Windsor Hotel
No riding, just waiting for a rack and soaking my knee…