Day 59: Looping the Front Range through Cañon City and positioning myself for the big climb north

It was another big day – out of Colorado’s bigger cities and down around the Front Range to Cañon City, where I’ll join the TranAm Trail all the way up to Missoula, MT. And it was another day to joyfully cruise downhill for dozens of miles before the big hard push up to Hoosier Pass in the next few days. But before I could start the day I packed up while watching the Tour de France. 

There was a time professional cycling captivated me the way football does for some, but I’m more unaware of goings on in the sport than I have been in years. I’m on my own tour, and the more I go slow, the more weight I carry, the more miles I grind out, I feel like pro cycling misses something. The tour will always be the most spectacular sporting event in the world but with the $15,000 bikes, support vehicles, and endless advertising, it almost seems like being on the bike is an afterthought. 

But then I was out on Route 115 to Cañon City, seen here with NORAD to the right:

NORAD creeps me out. 

I was to be going down a whole lot on the day, but I had to go up first:

My climbing was much more controlled than in days past. It’s almost impossible to do at first, but you have to develop the mindset that you’re just going to go up and keep pedaling until you get to the top, no matter how slow you move. I was in the right headspace today so it was smooth cruising. Tiring, but still smooth cruising. 

There was some sort of nature museum along the road. I didn’t stop, but giant plastic animals on highways in the middle of nowhere are ALWAYS to be celebrated.


But after that… Downhill!

So fun to ride. I had to have approached 40mph going down at parts, with a big smile hidden beneath the shaggy beard while I listened to Dead & Company’s shows from Boulder. Gotta love the tapers that record the shows and make them available online for free, all with the band’s blessing. I’ve listened to at least one of the shows every day and am still learning from them, still so happy I made it to them the way I did. 

And then a first in the never ending smorgasbord of random crap on the side of the road:

On the back it said “Gwen table 1”. I hope Gwen isn’t too mad her art homework is gone. 

The Front Range was to my right all day. If you look at a map of Colorado and find Route 115, you can see it traces the outline of the earthen uplift, and riding alongside it was another tour highlight. 

This was very satisfying. The best part of the tour, by a long shot, is seeing the landscape transition. This mountain range is a massive peice of land, and clearly seeing how I was gradually working my way around it through the day felt awesome. 

And more downhills!

I could have gone almost as fast as the car traffic on this stretch if it wasn’t for the wind. Very strong out of the south and riding through it was like riding into a wall of air… not the first time I’ve used that phrase but I can’t think of a better one. I was still having an absolute blast though.

But occasionally I would go up again. It just makes the downhills all the more sweet. 

Whenever they come…

But the downhills always come eventually. Sometimes they just scream “BIKE PORTRAIT”:

Going downhill again I could see Eastern Colorado and the flat nothing of it for the last time:

And then I pedaled on, thinking of all the varied terrain I’ve been over in the last 60 days. 

The mountains in the distance… Aww yeah:

And then I saw it… What I considered the southern extent of the Front Range, right when the road veered west towards Cañon City…

And another prison! 

What number is this…4? 5? Prisons all over the place. 

I stopped in Cañon City to recharge, knowing that the campground for the night wasn’t far. I took my time, just hung out and people watched for a while. But then I checked the map, and the campground I was headed to was at least 90 minutes away. I looked for the wrong one. Whoops. 

I considered staying in Cañon City but remembered what the tourist I met at lunch yesterday said – better to push on towards Royal View Campground right where 50 meets Route 9 so you can start the climb through the mountains early the next morning with fresh legs. I climbed back on the bike and started pedaling. 

But not before seeing another prison!

This was actually a prison museum. Cañon City is crazy about prisons. I saw several correctional officers getting snacks at gas stations while in town. 

The thing about pushing on out of town is that I had to do some climbing. But whatever climbing I did today, it’s climbing I don’t have to do tomorrow. Plus it was gorgeous:

And then there were a lot of rafting outfitters around Royal Gorge, and the plastic roadside animal circle of the day was complete with this dinosaur:

I got to the campground and locked in my tent spot for the night and heard about an awful lot of rules from the powers that be (this always annoys me, which I realize isn’t news to you), then saw some fun punny souvenir tchotchkes:

A little pot from Colorado. Hehe. 

I then cooled off from the 98 degree heat in the pool. I ended up chatting with Taylor and Kylie, two Texas college students who travel as much as they can. They came up here to go skydiving and whitewater rafting and it seems like the trip was a good one for them. They asked a lot of questions about my tour and I was happy to chat about it, especially in the pool with the breathtaking scenery around me. Eventually it was time to get out of the pool and they were sweet enough to give me some leftovers and some granola bars that will be eaten as soon as I hit “post” here. Very sweet ladies. I haven’t been given anything from strangers on the road in a bit and this was a welcome surprise. 

I think I have a new winner for most scenic camping spot yet:

These pictures can’t do justice to how magnificent and massive these mountains are. It’s such a thrill to ride through. 

I’m nervous about tomorrow. I begin the climb up to Hoosier Pass, elevation 11,542ft, in the morning. It’ll be a two-day push over roughly 100 miles…all of which will be uphill with gradually thinning air. I’m excited, but nervous. Of course that’s been the trend all along and I always seem to make it. No reason to think it won’t happen again. I’m still just very aware of how much the thin air is effecting me and I hope I don’t get altitude sickness or anything stopping me from riding the bike up the mountain. I’ll just go real slow and pace myself. Not much of another option at this point. Onward!


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