Colorado 2010 – Day 39

Manitou Springs to Lake George: The first Pass

Sunday June 13, 2010, 23 miles (38 km) – Total so far: 1,576 miles (2,537 km)

Today is my first day of riding in the mountains and the weather is still crap. If I didn’t have Mom along, I would just sit this out. 42 degrees and intermittent rain is no fun. But with her along, I can always get in the car and warm up, or just toss it in for the day. We do have to stick to a schedule, though. Because Mom is not into camping, we need to stay in motels. We were worried about these getting booked out, so I figured out a route and the distance I thought I could do each day, and then she booked motels for each night.

We’ve been staying in Manitou Springs and I head off at 7 am but have to backtrack a block to get onto the Bypass. They’re holding a running event and the downtown is blocked off. The climbing starts immediately on the bypass. At one point, you ride through a canyon (beautiful, of course), and the shoulder disappears. There are ‘Share the Road’ signs and it’s a four lane divided highway, so it’s not too bad this early in the morning. Once beyond this the road has a huge shoulder and gently climbs. There are a few steeper climbs and descents thrown in as you pass through Green Mountain Falls and Cascade. There is a bike path in sections of this, but it’s not continuous so I don’t bother with looking for it and just stick to the highway. I’ve planned to meet my Mom at the Donut Mill (awesome, huge donuts and a long-time institution here) in Woodland Park in a couple hours. However, she passes me only about 30 minutes into the ride – even though it will only take her 15 minutes to get there. She’s got some nervous energy to burn. She’s not been a SAG driver before and she’s taking her job very seriously. As I’m closing in on Woodland Park, she passes me once again, this time rolling down the window and saying ‘you’re almost there’.

I’m wet and cold and sweaty (a delightful combo) by the time I get to Woodland Park, but my Tiger Tail Twist donut is as good as I remember from my first one back in 1993. I knead my legs to get some feeling back into them. I’ve been riding in some light rain, so things have started to go numb.

After a short break, Mom agrees to meet me at the top of my first pass – Ute Pass. There is plenty of traffic on the road, but I can climb the hills uninterrupted in the shoulder. The driving rain and the grapple (like tiny bits of hail) I encounter in a couple of different places is no fun, so I just keep my head down and push onward. There should have been awesome views of Pikes Peak throughout the ride today, but there’s nothing but low cloud. It’s a bit of a surprise when I get to the pass. It’s just to the west of the intersection with Hwy 67. You could ride past this one without even knowing it. I’ve gotten there before my Mom, so I put my bike up against a pole near the road and get ready to flag her down. Finally, I see her and she agrees that she would have missed it if I hadn’t been waving at her. It’s not that impressive of a climb, but it sounds a teeny bit better when you realise you climbed 2800 ft in a morning to get there.

Ute Pass – there is a long, steady climb to this from Manitou Springs, but you could easy ride right past without even knowing this one is there.

We assess the situation. The road ahead has no shoulder, the traffic is still heavy, the visibility is poor, it’s raining, and there’s more rain coming. It’s 41 degrees. I’m wet and cold. I throw in the towel for the day – or rather I call it quits and reach for a towel to end the day. I’d planned to ride to Lake George today and then get a ride to our accommodation with Mom, but I’m not a purist, so I catch a ride the final 12 miles and don’t count those miles. The pannier balloons have worked well so far.

It’s not even quite lunchtime so we take some time to figure out our accommodation for tonight. We’re not quite sure where it is, or even if the guy remembers we have a reservation for a fishing cabin near Elevenmile Reservoir. We finally find the place – ‘rustic’ would be a kind description – get our stuff unloaded then head back to the Florrisant Fossil Beds.

Our 1840 cabin. There’s plenty of camping near Lake George, but finding other accommodation can be difficult.
Rustic is a kind description for this old fishing cabin. For the price we paid, it could have done with a good clean, new furnishings and manchester without grape juice stains!
The cabin did have a nice view, though. Too bad it was behind the clouds much of the time we were there.
The sun broke through long enough to get one hike in at the Florrisant Fossil Beds. That’s the back side of Pikes Peak in the background. This monument is really worth a visit if you’re in the area. It has huge petrified tree stumps and displays on fossil insects and such. They’ve invested some money upgrading things here in recent years.

*distance does NOT include 12 miles from Ute Pass to Lake George by car

Ave speed: 8.5 mph Max speed: 25.2 mph

Elevation start: 6320 ft. Elevation end: 9165 ft.

Ute Pass: 9165 ft. Max grade: 5.6% Ave grade: don’t know

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