I never really wanted to ride Monarch Pass, but here we are: Gunnison to Salida
Monday August 5, 2013, 65 miles (105 km) – Total so far: 3,571 miles (5,747 km)
There are a lot of things I don’t like about camping in developed campgrounds: the expense, the large numbers of kiddos and pets, the noise, those few RV campers who talk to me like I’m a homeless tramp, and the fact that the tent sites are usually in the least desirable section of any commercial park.
But the one thing I hate the most about developed campgrounds: CAMPFIRES, particularly campfires that aren’t put out at night and therefore continue to smoke all through the early hours. As an asthmatic, this is worse than sitting around a smoky bar. At least in a smoky bar, you might get to hear some good music or hear some unbelievable story. A smoking campfire just makes my mornings crap. It takes a me a good half hour of riding to clear all the junk from my lungs. So please, from someone with bad lungs, please extinguish your campfire before going to bed. It just may ease a fellow camper’s breathing, or it just may save a forest from preventable fire!
And so here we go. It’s just me and the long-distance motorcyclists packing up in the dark and hitting the road before any pet even nudges its owner to go pee. I’ve got 35 miles of undulating road to cough up all the phlegm before I need my lungs for the pass, though. Cough, hack, spit. Cough, hack, spit.
The miles pass easily. There are some good outcrops of conglomerate rock in the road cuts today. Conglomerates like this are laid down in streams. Cool stuff. The only thing that isn’t cool is the amount of glass and debris in the wide shoulder on US 50. This stretch could do with a hard rain to wash all that away.
So it is no surprise to me when I feel the rear tire going flat. Unfortunately, there is no good place to pull over to fix it, so I just pull over into the weeds at the side of the shoulder. I give the mozzies a good feed, as I pluck the glass out of the tire and replace the tube. It goes okay but still takes me a half hour to get rolling again.
I stop for a break at Sargents, at the base of the climb. The man running the store says I should head over Marshall Pass instead of Monarch because it has an easier grade. I don’t know what sort of a bike he thinks I ride – that road is really rough. I’d do it on a mountain bike but not my touring bike.
The drinks selection is low. I end up with a rootbeer for the water bottle holder and a grape Gatorade to drink outside. I only usually drink “blue”. Grape is a mistake. It gives me heartburn all the way up the pass!
I’ve never had any desire to ride this pass because of the heavy traffic. But here we are. Let’s give it a go. And you know, it goes really well. It’s a weekday morning, so there isn’t too much traffic. Almost all of it moves all the way into the other lane when passing me. There are two lanes all the way to the top from the sign at the bottom.
I just chug along. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be. The grade is fairly constant; it only kicks it up a bit a couple times and only for a short distance each time. I force myself to stop every mile, just so I don’t over-do it and get my lungs too wheezy.
As I near the top, I can see the clouds gathering. The storms are building so early this year. It’s not even noon. It takes me about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Sargents to do the climb. I am very fortunate that I’ve never had any problems with elevation. I never get headaches, I never lose my appetite, I never feel nauseous, I never feel short of breath. Well, I do feel short of breath, but not any worse than my asthma would be at a lower elevation if the air was cool and dry and I was doing this much exertion. So count your blessings, Nerd Em. It’s great to stand around at 11,000+ ft. elevation and not feel ill 🙂
The storms are all around, though, so I don’t linger on top. I’ve been up here a few times before, so I don’t need to check things out. Let’s just get down before it pours.
Down, down we go. Wheeeeee! It’s fun and fast. The cars are spaced just right to get around me in the straight bits or when I can move over into the shoulder. The road is very narrow down by Maysville, though, and I have a cattle truck nearly scrape by me. It’s the closest I’ve been passed in quite a while. I flip him off – we’re in a straight bit and he easily could have moved over a bit!
My mom is down in Salida fretting. She’s looking at the dark clouds over Monarch Pass way. Where’s Em? Shouldn’t she be here by now? She keeps looking out the back door to see if I’m coming. Finally she tells herself to go read a book. She tells herself, “This is stupid. She’s been riding every day for 3 and a half months and I didn’t worry. She’ll be fine. It’s only because I’m expecting her”. I guess mothers never stop worrying.
I roll in less than 5 minutes later. I’ve not gotten wet, but I did pass through a section of wet road. I assure her I would have been here a half hour ago, but I had to fix a flat at about 7.30 this morning. Still, I arrive around 1pm. Not bad!
We head down to Moonlight Pizza to celebrate 3500 miles. I haven’t seen my mom since mid-June, so we’re excited to see each other. In the evening, she spoils me beyond belief. She does my laundry. She fixes me a supper of all of my favourite summer foods. Oh, how I miss her when I’m back in Oz!