Pueblo is a turning point in the ride in a few ways. First, I leave the mountains and start crossing the plains. I am unsure how much different it will be to have no climbs and no descents. You just keep pedaling, all the time! Will it be easier or more difficult to ride 80 miles on flats as compared to the up and down of the hills? I will find out and report back.
Second, a complicating factor is the heat. The mountains typically have cooler mornings (50s-60s) and even the heat of the day only meant temperatures in the upper 70s and 80s. And there was no humidity in the mountains. That is all going to change. I am staring down highs in the 90s and 100s in the coming days. I expect to get on the road early.
Third, I am moving from the less traveled Western Express Trail to the more popular TransAmerica Trail. I expect to see more touring cyclists in the weeks ahead. I look forward to hearing their stories.
Finally, the biggest change will be my riding solo. As Bruce, Dave snd I planned the trip, we found we had different ideas about how to do the ride, particularly around schedule and ride support. So before the ride started, we agreed it would be best to part ways after Pueblo and follow our own visions as we proceed to Yorktown, Virginia. I wish them safety, tailwinds, and good weather.
A few more notes. Day 25 got me to 1581 miles and more than 90,000 feet of climbing. I will probably cross the mileage halfway point on Day 26 or 27. I finished The Lincoln Highway, another book by Amor Towles. The book was recommended by two readers I respect--Wynn and Bill Gates. I gave it a listen and was not disappointed. It was cool that the book is titled and describes U.S. Highway 50, the main byway for the ride so far. I highly recommend. I plan to go back to some of my sci-fi next.
Day 25: 108 miles, 4432 elevation (4 wheeees! and 0 arrgghhs)
Wow! What a fun ride this one was. I left Salida at 5:40 a.m. It was cool with little traffic. I wound along an early descent by the Arkansas River. Twenty-four miles in I reached Cotopaxi and took a right turn onto this winding country road. One of the first signs I see shows a horse and buggy and 7 miles (I thought I took a picture but must have missed it). From there I rode 35 miles of gentle climb. Along the way, I stopped at Tumbleweed Coffee Shop in Westcliffe. At 58 miles in I started a winding 25 mile descent. It was awesome. The last 20 miles or so were flat or gentle descent into the wind and into Pueblo. Here my ride connects with the TransAmerica Trail. There was more downhill than uphill and more tailwind than headwind, so the 108 miles didn't feel that hard (or maybe I am getting into better shape?).
Shortly after I arrived in Pueblo, a cyclist named Matt asked me, "Are you Vincent?" Apparently he was on a ride looking for participants in the Trans Am Bike Race, which promotes itself as "the premier self-supported road race across the United States." Matt follows riders online and was expecting to see one ride by. We started chatting and Matt showed me a better route to my hotel, providing a great tour of Pueblo along the way. This town has more than we in Fort Collins thought. Thanks Matt! One of the best things about rides like this is the connection you make with fellow cyclists.
Day 26: 0 miles, 0 elevation
I got a lot done on my Pueblo rest day. Chris drove (about three hours) down from Fort Collins to stay with me for a couple days. Our first night here, we enjoyed dinner at a fine Italian restaurant, La Forchetta da Massi, near the Pueblo Riverwalk. Thanks for the tip Matt.
The next morning I got my bike tuned up by Blane who operates BikePro Mobile, a bike repair shop out of the back of his truck. He drove to my hotel and gave the bike a minor overhaul--changing out tires, checking wheels, checking and cleaning brake pads, and tuning up the derailleurs. Mostly he reassured me the bike was fit and ready for the second half of the ride. I am not much of a bike mechanic, so this was helpful.
Chris and I had lunch on the Riverwalk and did some shopping. We also stopped by the Air Force Academy visitor center. The highlight of the day was diner with my daughters Ally and Mallory, who drove down from Denver and took me out to dinner for Father's Day.
Flat tires or not
One of the banes of cycling is the flat tire. Everyone gets one sometime. If you are lucky, like Elaine (who rode the TransAmerica Trail more than 30 years ago), you don't have a flat for your whole ride across America. Or maybe you ride tubeless tires. Tubeless tires do not use inner tubes. Instead the tires are sealed to the wheels. A liquid sealant is put put into the tire. If the tire is punctured, the sealant fills the whole before the tire flats out.
Dave is riding tubeless and when I was following him a few days ago, I felt this little spray from his bike. It turned out that he had a small puncture (not much more than a pinhole). The sealant was spitting out and hitting me in the face--but it quickly sealed his tire and he lost little pressure. Tubeless tires can also be ridden with lower pressure which can make for a more comfortable ride. Bruce plans to switch bikes in Pueblo and will have tubeless tires for the rest of the ride. Given Bruce's luck so far, that will be good.
For me, I am sticking with what I know, traditional inner tubes. I have only a little experience with tubeless tires and worry about being on the road with tires I don't understand as well. When I rode to Wisconsin 5 years ago, I got 5 flats in 1000 miles. I learned from that experience and do not expect as many on this trip. Fingers crossed.
Stories and pictures
Here are a few more photos and stories from the last couple of days.
Day 25: The road out of the mountains and into Pueblo
More of that beautiful ride out of Salida.
While sitting at the Tumbleweed Coffee Shop in Wesctliffe, the local K-9 Sheriff was practicing having his dog sniff out drugs. I didn't have anything on me. Whew!
Matt was my Pueblo tour guide.
Day 26: Rest day in Pueblo
Blane at BikePro Mobile made sure my bike was ready for the second half of the ride.
We visit the Air Force Academy. Unfortunately, its iconic chapel is being renovated and not open until 2027!
The highlight of the trip so far! Ally (left) and Mallory come down for dinner. Love you girls.
Seeing the girls reinvigorates me for the next phase of the ride. I am going to test my legs on a couple of shorter rides. I am anxious to learn how much different it will be to ride long flat rides in the heat. New challenges, new fun.