Well, we made it to Denver, into our buddy Hans’s warm, loving embrace, but the journey was not without peril.
Soon after we made that last post, the sunny skies quickly darkened. The winds picked up and started pushing us down the road at 30 mph, which was fun until the lighting started getting close. Really close. We just barely had time to duck under someones awning when the skies opened up – there was a crack of lightning that must have been less than a mile away – i probably jumped 3 feet into the air. And then, after about 10 minutes, it stopped and the skies cleared up again, back to a beautiful sunny day. Fickle mountain weather.
When we got Rocky Mountain, we found out that they don’t have hiker-biker sites, and that the campground we were heading to was closed for repairs. We called a private campground just outside the park, and I guess megan’s doe-eyes work over the phone, cuz they gave us their last RV site at a tent rate.
The ascent over Rocky Mountain park wasn’t terrible, just very long. The hardest thing about it, as you might imagine, was the lack of oxygen at 12000 feet. I’m sure I made several tourists at turn-outs uneasy as I stood there gasping like a goldfish on the bathroom floor trying to catch my breath. Oh yeah, we had the unfortunate luck to come through the park not only on a sunday, but during “Free Parks Weekend”, so there was quite a lot of traffic in the park. Anyway, things were going pretty well until we got to the visitors center near the top. And then it started snowing. It was just a few flurries at first, but as we rode up the grueling final 500 feet, the wind increased and the temperature dropped. Soon after the first summit, we looked out over the valley and saw some nasty stuff approaching, so we took shelter at some bathrooms at a pull-out. At one point it was snowing so hard, it was pretty much white-out conditions. Once it calmed down a bit, we started out 3000 foot drop onto the other side, but it was COLD! We we both wearing pretty much all the warm clothing we had, but it doesn’t take much for the wind to work through your gloves and numb your fingers. We stopped after the first mile to reassess our situation, and luckily a kind soul offered us a ride down the mountain. Megan, being more intelligent than I, accepted. I opted to bundle up and keep rolling. Between getting snowflakes in my eyes, the numbness crawling up my fingers to the rest of my body, and the gusts of crosswinds threatening to blow me over the chasm to my death, I didn’t really enjoy my hard-earned decent, but at least I survived it! Megan was apparently only waiting 15 minutes or so at the campsite before I arrived.
The next day the weather was much nicer – still a bit chilly, but sunny and clear. We had another great downhill run from Estes Park to Lyons, and from there we headed to Boulder, encountering tons of lycra-clad racer-type cyclists along the way, many of whom seemed stunned at the site of our gear-laden packhorses. Unfortunately, no one in Boulder knew a good way to bike the 30 miles from there into Denver. Someone at a bike shop gave us the “least bad” way. It was pretty awful – no shoulder, tons of traffic (much of which was not very friendly), and construction to boot! Halfway there, we found another bike shop that had a metro denver cycling map, and we found a much better route for the rest of the way. (I also noticed much more sane routes we could have taken from boulder, and that the route we took was not designated for cycling at all). We made it to Hans’s place just ahead of the lightning storm that had been chasing us, and just in time for Megan to have delicious vegan birthday dinner at Watercourse. Now we’re spending the day dawdling about, getting ready to catch our train back to Oakland tomorrow morning.