Days 54 & 55: Resting and reassessing in Denver

I “woke up” under the bench very early due to trail walkers and groggily got myself together enough to ride over to Mary’s place to get all my gear. I packed it all up and for the first time I started to not care for the load I’m bringing – I don’t know if it’s still getting used to the altitude or the exhaustion from two days without a bed in Deadland (both, probably), but I wasn’t feeling it. Also, I had ridden the bike unloaded quite a bit in the previous two days and it took a few minutes to remember the load and how it totally shifts the momentum and balance of the bike. All was well soon enough, and after breakfast I headed south on the US -36 bike path towards Denver:

It’s the first time I backtracked on this tour. When I started I said I never would do it, but I have no real reason why that’s the case. I could have ridden northwest through the mountains to start heading into Wyoming but that ain’t happening yet – I’ve worked so hard to make it to these mountains, and I’m absolutely not going to plow through them. The Rockies were the second most anticipated part of the tour other than making those Dead shows (which I’m so, so glad I did for a multitude of reasons), and I want to really experience them. 

And that started with the climb out of Boulder and a much clearer view of the scenery from the bike path compared to when I came in to town a few days before:

At the top of the hill there was a repair stand that just begged for a bike portrait:

It was just a stand for me there; I haven’t had one mechanical problem with the bike yet other than hitting that pavement canyon in Philadelphia. Not even one flat tire. The panniers have given me the occasional fits but the bike itself is just fine.

And then I was up and out. It was a little strange riding 30 of the exact same miles I had just ridden days before. I haven’t done that since I was in Cincinnati. But going back gives you a different perspective on the route, and I was all for it. 

Before long I could just make out the Denver skyline:

 

And kept riding along rushing creeks:

 

And giant, plastic, RV-slingin’ Cowboys:

Until I was back at Hostel Fish for a couple of nights.

I decided to come back for some restoration and reflection on what to do next. Making the big deadline of the Dead shows was huge for me as a cyclist and especially as a fan, but I had made it, and now the road was opening up to me all over again. I wanted time off the bike to consider everything, and I wanted to check out Denver a bit more. I’ve flown into the city and driven through it multiple times but never really spent any time here. 

I went down to the 16th Street Mall:

Kinda reminded me of the Ramblas in Barcelona without the living statues.

I checkout out the Denver Pavilion:

I wanted to see the new Independence Day movie. I’m constantly thinking and evaluating everything in my mind while out here and sometimes a really stupid movie is just the trick to shut out for a little bit. The problem is I slept through the whole thing pretty much, which is alright I guess, I just wish I didn’t pay for it. The theater had the reclining chairs. I should have known then I’d be a goner with the lack of sleep I’ve gotten recently.

I rode back to the hostel after and was out yet again, thanks to the wonderful beds there. I was able to see some Fourth of July lighting on one of the buildings downtown though:

*** *** ***

I woke up this morning already thinking about what I want to do next. I tried to not think too much about it yesterday but today was all about figuring out my next move.

I’ve come to realize I like going slower and really experiencing the landscape with the occasional long hard push every week or so. I want to continue in that vain. It’s not an aspiration with roots in laziness: I’m happier going slower, taking lots of breaks at cool places, talking to people, and finishing the day early with plenty of time to decompress and remember the day’s travels. Those are the days I remember most. What makes wanting to ride this way a good decision at this point is I’m about to ride right up the spine of the Rockies through Jackson Hole and Yellowstone and there’s plenty to take in.

But the thing is, I need money to do that. This has been in my head all along and I knew that there would be some kind of summer work gig in Colorado somewhere I could find. Well, I’m kinda at that point. 

Friends are hiking the Colorado trail and invited me to meet them in Breckenridge. I’ve thought about it for weeks – if I left out of Boulder I could get to the ski town in three very challenging days climbing the mountains with little air. My heart wanted to go but my body and mind didn’t. I’m still getting used to the air, still exhausted all day, and still mentally craving a go-slow approach, especially now that I’m out here. I didn’t feel meeting them would happen, but if it did, I’d need to be in Denver to start the climb. 

Another option I considered was to try to do a work/stay deal at the hostel and look for temporary work in Denver. I decided I’d feel it out a bit when I got there and go from there. 

Finally, there was the other option – keep going the same route I planned, head down to Manitou Springs, take a day to join the TransAm Trail in Cañon City, then start riding north into the Rockies. 

And that’s what I’m going to do. I think it’s the smart move all the way around. I’m going to sniff out work opportunities along the way. The trail will take me through Breckenridge in a few days and I have a feeling I could get some kind of gig there. If not, just keep going.

And with all that figured out, I hit the town. I headed down to the Denver Art Museum:

To check out their special exhibit on women abstract expeessionists:

Awesome exhibit! I can be touch and go with the abstract expressionists but I really enjoyed seeing the rarely seen, more feminine side of the movement. I liked this black and white peice:

And a goofy plaque:

That first sentence… Ya think?

The highlights were this giant from Lee Krasner:

And this portrait of Willem de Kooning by his wife Elaine:


The Denver Art Museum has a huge collection of Natice American art, which was great:

And then I was off to Trader Joe’s for pannier staples. Leaving gave me a wonderful view of my new sticker from the Dead shows. I like the American flag being combined with the Steal Your Face logo, given the good ol’ American nature of my ride:

YUP! The seat tube being covered in memories from riding makes me very happy to see when I walk up to it locked up somewhere. Time to move on to the down tube next!

I then went to the flagship REI to get a couple things and to talk about routes with the staff. The first worked out, the second didn’t. I had to get some fuel for my stove and a couple meal packs. I had wanted to talk to someone with experience riding and touring in the Rockies but no one seemed to have done it. Oh well. 

Then it was back to the hostel to relax. It’s amazing how much different it feels to not be moving compared to when I’m riding. In a lot of ways I feel like I’m on a different planet playing by different rules. But the foreign feeling will only last so long. Tomorrow morning the push to Manitou Springs begins, with a stop tomorrow night at a place I’ve always been curious about…

-J

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