Buena Vista to Twin Lakes: Now that’s a good view!
Tuesday June 15, 2010, 27 miles (43 km) – Total so far: 1,659 miles (2,670 km)
It’s a short ride today to set me up to climb Independence Pass tomorrow. As you leave Buena Vista, the view of the Collegiate Peaks range to the left shows snow-capped peaks rising steeply out of the flat valley against a clear blue sky. It’s cool and crisp and dry this morning – my favourite type of weather.
There is a great shoulder to start and a moderate amount of traffic. The grade is just barely up. Later the road twists and turns and takes you back to the Arkansas river, and there are a few ups and downs when you climb away from the water before meeting back up with it again upstream. You eventually ride through a beautiful canyon where there is little shoulder and traffic passing every couple of minutes. It doesn’t feel too stressful, though, and everyone is pretty patient. There are fantastic views of Mt Elbert toward the end of the canyon.
There’s a short steep climb to get out of Granite, and jaw-dropping views straight ahead. The shoulder is huge between here and Twin Lakes, but the rough chip-seal takes away a bit of that joy. I laugh when I see a sign for ‘Mountain view lookout’ – as if you need to pull over when there are gorgeous mountain views 270 degrees around you.
I stop for a moment to check out a map on a wooden sign-board and a Spanish couple that had passed me earlier stop. They’ve been all over the US checking out national parks. The guy is an amateur photographer and they’ve probably seen more of America in 6 months than many Americans do in their life-time. His favourite places in the world to visit: Moscow and southeast Asia. He thinks Australia is too hot and flat. I laugh and say I agree. They ask how I’m able to ride my bike at such an elevation (only around 9000 ft here). They feel puffed just walking around. I just say, ‘well, I gained elevation pretty slowly, and I’ve been riding long enough now, I’m in really good shape, so it’s not too bad’. Which is true. And that has been an awesome surprise. I’m in awe how quickly my heart rate returns to normal when I stop riding and how easy it has been to breathe. I often have some trouble breathing, at any elevation, if my asthma is aggravated. However, if I put aside asthma-related chest tightness and mucous – my body has really surprised me at how well it’s responded to the physical challenges I keep giving it. I can definitely tell I’m not 20 anymore, but I’m very pleased with how my physical self has stepped up to the challenge after the complete neglect over the past three years.
My biggest concern at the moment is the large number of CDOT trucks that have been passing me all day. They are heading up toward the pass and I have visions of long delays, sticky tar and climbing my first big pass with heaps of impatient drivers held up by roadworks. I go in the general store in Twin Lakes, buy a soft drink and ask the elderly proprietor if she knows what’s going on. She doesn’t, but says they haven’t been working up there for too long. She asks if I’m Australian. No, but I live there. It amuses me that when I’m in Australia people can’t believe I haven’t lost my American accent after 10 years. When I’m in America, people think I’ve picked up a bit of an Australian accent. I haven’t tried to do either – I just know that now I apparently sound funny everywhere. So as the elderly lady tries to remember the capital of Australia (based on her out-loud thinking she’s trying to come up with Sydney, but the correct answer is Canberra), a local resident comes in and she knows where the CDOT crew is working. The road was washed out in the ‘wetlands section’ and they’ve got half the road re-done and the other half stripped back to the road base. She says it’s not really that bad.
I have a while to wait on Mom so I go across the street to a park area and find a spot in the sun, out of the wind, and away from the fragrant pit toilets. I’m napping when she gets there and we have a picnic on the bench I’m sitting on.
We eventually find the hike Mom wants to do (no thanks to my map-reading or lack of patience) and spend the clear, blue sky afternoon on the trail. Our accommodation tonight is at the black Cat B&B – great accommodation with a fabulous view.
Ave speed: 10.1mph Max speed: 23.1mph
Elevation start: 7965 ft. Elevation end: 9210 ft.