Celebrations in the park: Twin Lakes to Salida
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 54 miles (86 km) – Total so far: 4,452 miles (7,165 km)
The sun wafts through the trees, gently waking me from a peaceful sleep. The air is cool. The birds chirp and sing a happy melody. I lie in my sleeping bag and ease into the day, the quiet of the morning washing a sense of well-being over me.
Well, that’s what I’d like to write. I’d like to describe the perfect morning for the perfect last day on the road. But life is not like that.
I do sleep in. No need to be up at first light today. But right on 7 am, an RV a few sites down starts up its motor so its owners can do their morning routines. A few seconds later, some folks in the campground below, who are tent camping next to their semi prime mover, start up the semi’s diesel engine. Then, from somewhere else, a dog (most likely small, white and fluffy) starts yapping incessantly.
Sheesh. There is no gentle and peaceful introduction to the day. I thought that I might hang out here for a bit before heading out, but not with all that ruckus. I’ve been thinking for awhile now about how my favourite nights on the road were when I was just camped out alone on public land somewhere off the road. I want to incorporate more of that in future tours. This morning solidifies that thought!
And so we pack up and then pedal off to end the tour.
In Buena Vista I meet a couple about my age who stop to ask me about my tour. They live in the Vail area and are getting out of town for the long weekend. They think my ride sounds awesome. The woman in particular loves that I’ve been out there on my own tackling a whole bunch of mountain passes.
I also meet a guy who’s riding/touring the Colorado Trail. He’s cycle toured in Central America and done the Great Divide Trail, but they don’t hold a candle to the difficulty of riding the Colorado Trail.
It feels so odd to answer the standard six questions: Where ya’ headed? ‘Salida. My tour ends today’. Where’d you start? ‘Back on the IL/IN border four and a half months ago’. And so forth. It seems like just yesterday I was telling people I was heading out to Wyoming to meet my mom in Yellowstone. Time flies when you are having fun.
All too soon we are heading down the final hill before the turn-off to Salida. I just really can’t get my head around this being the end of the ride. What am I going to do with myself if I don’t have a pass to climb each day?
Of course, in keeping with the rest of the tour, I do have a headwind today. And I get yet another flat. This one comes from a bunch of broken glass we had to ride through back by the county landfill. I am only six miles from the end of the ride! Oh, Murphy, you are a funny fellow! I pull off the road, hoping I can just pump the tube up enough to get me to the end. But, oh no, I can hear the air hissing out when I pump it up. I’ll have to actually fix the darn thing.
Once I get to Salida, I stop at a gas station to get a soft drink. Some guys on enduro motorbikes with panniers stop to talk to me. When they say, “where you going”, I just pause. It’s the weirdest thing to say: ‘Here. I’m done. This is the end of a 4500-mile tour’. They pat me on the back. One guy lets out a whoop and says, “Well done, young lady”! It is fitting. Nearly every one of the guys on off-road or touring motorbikes with panniers that I’ve seen on this tour have given me huge waves, thumbs-ups, and fist-pumps. And here they are, right at the end, to give me that same great sense of being road comrades. Thanks, guys!
Then it’s off for the final three blocks to the park. My mom is not expecting me to arrive for a while yet, so I just relax in the shade and talk to two different groups of touring cyclists. Salida is an awesome little bike town, and it gets a lot of cycle tourists since it is on the Western Express, the Great Divide Route and the Colorado Trail.
My mom’s neighbour shows up at the park and comes over to talk with me. All the while, behind me, my mom is setting up a surprise gathering to celebrate the end of my ride. When everyone is there, she yells out, “EM”!!. I turn. There she is dressed in a cycling jersey with a huge poster detailing my ride. Several of her friends are waving balloons and ringing cowbells as I push my bike over. This, too, is such a fitting ending.
Without all of the love and support of my wonderful family and friends, it would be so much harder to do a tour. Knowing that everyone is behind you, and quite a few of them living vicariously through you, makes you truly appreciate how fortunate you are to live a dream. I am truly one of the luckiest chicks in the whole world. What an awesome ending to such an awesome tour!