Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Day Five

The Great Sand Dunes were just that--Great! Huge, and weird in that they are at the base of mountains. They are pretty amazing, sand dunes hundreds of feet high in the middle of the mountains.

We left and headed north, towards Pike's Peak. Along the way, on Hwy 17, we had to stop riding to wait on a cattle drive on the highway. There were 2 drovers and one dog driving maybe 200 cattle up the road! While the delay was short, the uniqueness of such was quite a treat. I don't believe you'll see that very often in North Carolina.

Along the way, we had to decide what route(s) to take to get to Pike's Peak. There was one long route that was certain, and another that appeared to have some unpaved road, but much shorter. After some debate, we opted for the adventurous route. A good choice indeed.

The scenery was fabulous along the way. No traffic, just winding 2 lane roads through the forests and farms and ranches. In the end, the maps were wrong--there were no unpaved roads (although we truly used a combination of maps and GPS devices). But we had a great ride.

Pike's Peak was a dream I've had as a kid. I've watched the hillclimbs held there every chance I had, being awed watching the racers fly up the mountain. I've wanted to ride up that mountain all my life. Today I realized that dream.

The fee was $10 to go to the top--a small fee to realize a lifelong dream. We paid and started up the mountain. The road is 19 miles long. I knew some of the road was paved, and some unpaved, but I didn't know how much of either or how difficult the unpaved sections might be.

I don't' particularly enjoy gravel roads. Dirt is fine. But gravel tends to roll under the tires, and the bike is already very top-heavy with me and my gear on it. So, while I do gravel, I don't get a thrill out of it.

All my fears were unfounded. The roads were fairly easy. Fairly steep, too. But no problem. Almost a disappointment--I was thinking it would be more of a challenge, but it was fairly easy.

We rode to the first tourist stop and put on our dry-liners because we knew it would be cold at 14,110 feet. Then we rode on to the top.

About 1/3 of the road is unpaved, but there are several stretches of paved and unpaved surface along the way. AND very few guardrails along the way.

At the top, it was blowing pretty hard, and pretty cold. About 45 degrees! And the air is THIN! The air at 14,000 feet holds 1/2 the ozygen as air at sea level. So, walking across a parking lot made me out of breath and a little light-headed. Not sick. Not in any trouble, but the old hear was beating pretty fast just standing still! A unique experience.

After taking some pics, we rode back down the mountain. Just after leaving the summit, we heard a loud thunderbolt. A few minutes later, I felt the first drop of rain. Great, it is 45 degrees, and it's raining. Then the first ice ball hit my windshield! In another minute, it's hailing on us. I can say that heated grips are great for times like this. Just turn them on and the hands are okay. They were today.

The further we went, the rain and hail ebbed and flowed, but never really bad at any time. The road didn't get slippery, so otherwise the ride down was uneventful.

We rode on into Colorado Springs and jumped on the slab north. Rode to Castle Rock and found a motel with Internet. Had a steak dinner and now finishing the day.

All the gear is in chargers, so bedtime is here.

Oh, 323 miles today, and I think I'm over the gastrointestinal issue!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having been to the Great Sand Dunes and Pike's Peak several times, I can appreciate your feeling of awe. Sounds like you didn't climb to the top of the Dunes.(quite a hike)

I had the same experience on the Peak; an awesome view, a very special place where you better move slowly and take deep breaths. Although this shouldn't bother that old mountain goat that you're riding with. Hey Gary.

Glad you got to realize one of your dreams.

Be safe.