Winter is coming

October 11, 2012 at 8:45 am

This was it. The big one. The bad mother of the Great Divide. Indiana Pass. Biggest climb. Highest altitude (11.910 feet or 3.630 meters). Mount Doom.
And as an afterthought, Stunner Pass right after. I was going to do it. And I was going to do it by myself, because Mat’s rack didn’t arrive. Bummer…. (click “Read More”)…

I took off. We would probably meet up somewhere further along the trail again. The weather looked good so there I went. The climb lasts for about 23 miles so it’s pretty gently graded. But I was a bit worried about my left knee, which had been giving me some problems for the past week or so. I hoped the soak in Windsor Hotel had helped a bit.

Riding out. Those skies still looked a bit gnarly, but locally, the weather was fine.

Fun house!

After some altitude gain, the now very familiar aspen colours showed up again.

Getting there….

Even above 3.500 meters, there’s still trees.

As you can see, it gets pretty desolate up tops. There was some leftover snow but nothing much. Temperature was about 8 degrees Celcius. After cresting the top (which, by the way, was quite unceremonious — no sign after three hours and fifty minutes of continuous climbing, come on…) I rode into Summitville. Now, “desolate” and “depressing” don’t even come close to describing that place. Apparently there was a gold mine there. The mining company went bankrupt and now the government can clean up the mess. There is a massively poisoned lake, the water is highly acidic and full of metals too. Nasty stuff.

Summitville.

After Summitville, the bad weather rolled in. I suppose it was bound to happen, me being at high altitudes, nearing October. The sky darkened substantially, the wind picked up and I couldn’t see the trees anymore. They were obscured by snow and hail, battering down upon the already muddy road. There was nothing to do but ride. Sure I could take shelter under some trees, but that wouldn’t get me any warmer. So I rode…

The trail went up and down between about 3.300 and 3.500 meters. The wind whipped mercilessly at my raingear, come from all directions. Every time I rounded another turn past a rockface, hailstones blasted in my face, feeling like ripping my skin off. Somehow, I had enough body heat and I still felt my fingers and toes. In fact, I was having fun, in a masochistic kind of way. I was DOING this and nothing was going to stop me!
It didn’t last long anyway, no more than half an hour. I was determined to make it to Platoro and rent a cabin there, to get warm again. Being able to cope with that kind of stuff doesn’t mean I really like it…

After the snow/hailstorm.

The weather was heavily localized. Now you see the sun…

… now you don’t.

Stunner Pass, which I decided to do in one go after Indiana Pass.

Nearing Platoro. Brrrr!

Skyline lodge. There was speakers mounted on both sides of the door, playing sweet country music. First time in my life I liked to hear country music.

My cabin. See that heater? I promptly toasted my cycling shorts on it. Hahaha! Bye bye, cycling shorts! ……..

The Skyline Lodge in Platoro was a great place to warm up after that cold, wet day. They get lots of riders through each year.
It was too bad about my cycling shorts, but fortunately I always carry two pairs. I’d just have to be slightly less squeamish for a while. I was thinking about taking a detour into Santa Fe where there were stores which would carry such an item.

I had had enough of the cold weather. I also knew that the roads on the coming stretch were prone to be very, very muddy if rained upon. And the skies looked like they contained lots of that wet stuff… So I decided to hit the pavement in search of warmer climes. Instead of spending another day high up in the mountains I was headed for Chama (off route) and Abiquiu (on route again), after which I might go for Santa Fe!

Bye-bye, Platoro…

As you can see, the ride still offered many beautiful sights. It crossed the Toltec-Cumbres railroad, a historic railroad with an actual steam-powered train on it. I got lucky because it rode right by when I was there. That horn sounded ear-shattering, echoing through the canyons… and then the chugga-chugga of the engine, working hard to get through the hills… It was all very scenic.

The sound of the horn gave me goose bumps.

Still, threatening skies…

Big animal.

Finally. Final state!

“Land of Enchantment” was an apt title, considering this glowing road (it’s actually the rain getting vaporized in the sunlight).

The layers of earth showing themselves in New Mexico.

This feels properly New-Mexican.

An accurate assessment.

In Chama it felt warmer. However, I had another sleepless night because of bugling elk and other weird noises. I woke up totally wrecked and decided to stay another day in Chama. Back at the Teton Reservoir I had ridden after a sleepless night and it had not gone down well. So I arrived in Abiquiu the same time as… Mat! Turned out his rack was delivered just a few hours after I had set off on Indiana Pass. He had stuck to the route together with another cyclist named Ben. Because of my “sick day”  in Chama we had ended up at the same time in Abiquiu again.

It didn’t take long for me to abandon the Santa Fe scenario, I wanted to ride on with these guys. One turns to three!

Day 49 (September 25th): Windsor Hotel, Del Norte – Skyline Lodge, Platoro
Riding time: 7:08:01
Distance: 77,94 km
Amount climbed: 1848 m

Day 50 (September 26th): Skyline Lodge, Platoro – Rio Chama RV Park, Chama, New Mexico
Riding time: 5:00:46
Distance: 79,64 km
Amount climbed: 820 m

Day 51 (September 27th): Rio Chama RV Park, Chama
“Sick day”!

Day 52 (September 28th): Rio Chama RV Park, Chama – Abiquiu Inn, Abiquiu
Riding time: 4:57:10
Distance: 96,58 km
Amount climbed: 627 m