While part of me was itching to hit the trail again, equally we were in no great rush to leave Salida Wednesday morning and after our, if I may say so, well-deserved first full day off. The town is fascinating and probably the first more populated spot with a sense of real character.
We had breakfast in the hotel/motel – it was the first place we stayed where this was included – which was simple but satisfying in terms of caloric value. I was even more happy when I realised my jersey back pockets most perfectly fit two cinnamon bagels to keep for later…
We headed out through downtown and with a last pit stop at Absolute Bikes for some more chain oil and use of their track pump. With such an amazing selection of stuff some amount of discipline was needed not to keep spending money. (I had sadly lost my Oakley Jawbreaker sunglasses on a particularly rocky descent some 40 miles north of Cuba and replaced them with some Smith ‘Parallele Max’ there the day before, they’re fab but let’s not talk about the $$$ involved 😬.)
‘S is for Salida’ we thought as we started our 10 mile dusty climb out of town. There’s a prominent white S on the red-sanded hill just across the Arkansas River, the sight of which accompanied us for a couple of miles.
The day’s target was a tiny place called Hartsel just under 50 miles away. We knew from chatting to Nathan the night before and the guys in the bike shop that not much would be there but surely we didn’t need much, just a little convenience store and a place to camp would do.
The first was covered (and exceeded even by featuring a saloon and a cafe too) but the second wasn’t all that straight forward or rather, the suggested campground was the most sketchy looking place yet.
Still we decided to stay as we knew we were ‘in the land of private property’ as the bar tender pointed out.
With people having been so overwhelmingly welcoming and generous it came as a bit of a shock (yet no surprise considering where we were) to overhear some saddening political views about gun laws and foreigners. Perhaps we shouldn’t have let them hear us laugh about/dismiss the Trump stickers in the store…
Anyway, Rich managed to eat the world’s biggest plate of food – ‘Nachos Supreme’ which may not have made him feel that great but certainly helped to get an early night. My plate was more managable and I could indeed still move but I was tired and ready for bed also by 9pm.
In the end we actually slept OK in our own private litte junkyard including two old Ford trucks, an entire kitchen and two deckchairs.
The next morning (thankfully) started with yet more food – omelettes with brown (sugared?) bread and hash brown (which is served loosely on the side here) and of course black coffee (on refill). Sorry to bore you with our nutritional escapades but it’s hard not to constantly think about it when you burn so many extra calories a day..
With our long awaited stay-over with Sean (one of Rich’s friends from back home who recently emigrated to Vail, Colorado which happens to be just 30 miles off route) coming up at the end of day 17 and perfectly coinciding with Rich’s 31st birthday, we decided on a slightly different route for the day: from Hartsel we took the State Highway 9 through Fairplay and then Alma, apparently ‘North America’s highest incorporated town’ at 3158 metres. It appears ‘highest’ doesn’t only relate to its altitude though judging by the prominently advertised legal cannabis shops.
From there we soon got to the climb up Hoosier Pass once more crossing the Continental Divide which was steep but relatively short with 4 miles. A nice downhill stretch towards Breckenridge was subsequently awaiting us.
Breckenridge, I have to admit, felt a bit too busy and touristy for me. It’s funny saying that when we’ve spent hundreds of miles dreaming about cafes, restaurants and bars but it was almost too polished to be part of the route.
Certainly beautiful though with the snowy peaks in the background (there’s 53 fourteeners – mountains with an elevation of over 14000 feet in Colorado!) and just before Frisco – our agreed meeting point with Sean and his wife Chelsey – this kitschy panorama was enhanced even more with Lake Dillon. Bliss!
The drive (!) to Vail lead us through Leadville and more stunning scenery. My Austrian pals will probably have heard of the place together with the neighbouring Beaver Creek through the skiing World Cup.
Well, unsurprisingly, it’s very much focused around sports and the great outdoors in the summer too – from rafting to fly-fishing and of course mountain biking – it’s all there. And oh, Sean tells us it’s got some of the county’s best A & E surgeons..I wonder why…
We’ve had the laziest but best day. Enjoying yet another enourmous breakfast, sugary snacks and beer by the (apartment’s own) pool and desperately trying to level out some ridiculous cyclist’s tan lines.