When all else fails… – Introduction

Some stories have no distinct beginning or end. They are just passing pieces of context between more major parts of plot. They are merely paragraphs within a chapter. They fill in some details but are not important enough to stand on their own.

And so that is the story of this tour. It’s not really a story. It’s a context-filler, a gap-filler, a few words and days between more major life events. You might think a week-long tour with seven mountain passes/summits might be a story on its own. But it’s not. It’s just what a woman who loves to ride a bike does when everything else in life fails and she’s waiting to turn the page for the next chapter. Read more

When all else fails… – Day 1

Salida to Houselog Creek (FR 690): Like old times… without the fitness

Tuesday August 8, 2017, 65 miles (105 km) – Total so far: 65 miles (105 km)

There was rain overnight. The ground moisture has risen in the still air and fog envelopes the Arkansas River Valley. It is not quite dawn, but it’s beyond first light. It is clear here, but the mountains appear and disappear as the clouds dance up and down the valley below the Sawatch Range.

My parents rise early to see me off. They have confidence in me all these touring miles later, but there is still some trepidation since they are parents, and parents never ever stop being parents. I load up the last of the gear and my dad photographs me leaving the driveway of their home. Their home has spectacular views and my parents never get tired of showing off the beauty. Read more

When all else fails… – Day 2

Houselog Creek to Blue Mesa Reservoir: Two Tertiary calderas in one morning

Wednesday August 9, 2017, 70 miles (113 km) – Total so far: 135 miles (217 km)

Last night, after a nap and a feed and the passing of the afternoon storms, I climbed the adjacent hill for a look around. It was a steep climb of several hundred feet to where ignimbrite sheets (i.e. consolidated pyroclastic flows) capped a long ridge. Where we were camped is on the northeastern edge of the San Juan volcanic field. This volcanic field covered much of the southern Rocky Mountains in the middle Tertiary (about 35-25 million years ago). The field spewed out impressive volumes of volcanic rock – at least 22 major ash sheets (each 150-5,000 cubic kilometres of rock) originating from calderas (10-75 kms in size) after a period of flows from clusters of stratovolcanos. Read more

When all else fails… – Day 3

Blue Mesa Reservoir to Killdeer Creek (FR 788): Just out there in the forest

Thursday August 10, 2017, 46 miles (74 km) – Total so far: 181 miles (291 km)

Nature has timeframes for her plans today that do not exactly match mine. Well, the timing is the same – the plans conflict. At 4.58 am, there is an unmistakable rumble of thunder. At 4.59 am, splats of rain assault the tent simultaneously with tent door-flapping wind. At 5.00 am, my watch alarm goes off. My plans to get going early to beat traffic and afternoon storms are thwarted. Read more

When all else fails… – Day 4

Killdeer Creek to Houselog Creek: What will become an all-time favourite

Friday August 11, 2017, 45 miles (73 km) – Total so far: 226 miles (364 km)

There are some days on tour that stick in your memory for all the right reasons. You might pedal down 130 days, each memorable in its own way, but only a handful will stick in your head as some perfect combination of factors and events and a perfect day. Today is one of those days. It is bookended by ‘wild camping’ in random spots in the forest, so that puts it in a good position to start (and end). Read more

When all else fails… – Day 5

Houselog Creek to Monte Vista: Rough and tough

Saturday August 12, 2017, 55 miles (89 km) – Total so far: 281 miles (453 km)

I cannot pry myself out of bed for an early morning start today either. I try, but two hours of meteor viewing between 1 and 3 am last night after I got up to pee means 5.15am is not happening today. I think of all those many, many mornings in Wyoming when I crawled out of the sleeping bag at 4.45am or earlier. I don’t recall it even being that hard after a while. I guess I’m just all run down and don’t have the mental discipline on this little ride. Read more

When all else fails… – Day 6

Monte Vista to Ft Garland: The rift valley

Sunday August 13, 2017, 45 miles (72 km) – Total so far: 326 miles (525 km)

We are just hopping across the valley today – traversing the basin of the rift. It’s a cool start at 7am but the pedaling warms us up quickly. Highway 160 has a huge shoulder all day, so it’s just a matter of ignoring all the traffic off our left shoulder. There is plenty of it, too, even in the early morning. When we get east of Alamosa, we’ll see strings of 10-15 vehicles at a time. I wonder whether it will be everyone heading home from the mountains, since many schools in different states start tomorrow. But no, it seems like there are just as many cars going the other way. Read more

When all else fails… – Day 7

Ft Garland to Lathrop State Park: Over the old pass

Monday August 14, 2017, 58 miles (93 km) – Total so far: 384 miles (618 km)

A man in one of the old trailers is standing outside soaking up the early morning. He watches me take down the tent. Then he heads over to start up his truck before heading inside. He nods at me. He’s heading to work, I’m heading for the road. It won’t be long now before I head back to work, too. The turn of events means I’m heading home soon and returning to the job I left in March. It’s a topsy turvy world sometimes – let’s go get amongst it. Read more

When all else fails… – The parents

Tuesday August 15, 2017

I head down to Walsenburg in the morning after the guys have had a nice long float at the swim beach. I stake them off and just hang in the sun while they swing back and forth at the extent of the guy line.

My parents show up right on time at the mining museum in town. We load my bike in the car and then go inside and have a look around. This is a great place to get some context if you are going down to see the Ludlow Memorial (a must-see if you want to say you’ve got an understanding of CO history – this is one of the most significant sites in the state). We have lunch in a diner – my parent’s sort of food. Read more

When all else fails… – Epilogue

So I’m back to life in Oz. I managed in two weeks what I could not manage in four months in America: work and a place to live.

I’ve been flat out getting everything set up again – I’ve done more shopping in two weeks than I would normally prefer in five years. I now own a fridge, required homewares, a bookshelf and have started a small herb garden in pots. I’ve registered the car, stocked the pantry and done a million mundane things. I’ve started back to work – there is more work than I’ll ever get done, and there’s six months of stuff to catch up on! No one touched anything while I was away – so it is good to get back to interesting work and plenty of it! Read more