Since we left Loveland, which sits 4,900 feet above sea level, our team has followed the Big Thompson River up to Estes Park, at 7,500 feet. The next day, we took Trail Ridge Road up to Fall River Pass, elevation 12,000 ft. Lunch, and the Alpine Visitor Center, waited for us at the peak. There was also a steep trail that took us to an amazing overlook where you could see the Rocky Mountains’ pristine peaks. This climb is called Huffer’s Hill, aptly named for making its visitors winded. That day, we also crossed paths with the Continental Divide at Milner Pass before reaching Granby. From Granby, we climbed Bertound Pass, at 11,300 feet, and coasted down before climbing Loveland Pass. At Loveland Pass, there was another path that took us to the peak, where we could see the windy road we had taken from the base of the mountain. That night, we stayed in Silverthorne, 9,000 feet, where we were treated to an amazing pasta dinner by St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus, served on real plates and eaten with real silverware.
Some members of our team are reacting to the high altitude better than others. We have had reports of altitude sickness, sleeplessness, and changes in appetite. I have had three nosebleeds upon entering the Rockies. The air up here is definitely thinner, but it’s also crisper and sweeter.
The climb up to Leadville the next day was pretty amazing as well. Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the United States, at 10,200 feet. Once in town, we enjoyed lunch and coffee and took some time to explore.
The rest of the ride was downhill to Salida, but about 30 miles from town, I saw lightening in the sky, and it suddenly started pouring rain. I sprinted to the closest building I could see, a small home on the side of the road, and was welcomed by a couple and their chubby cat, Starlight. Mr. and Mrs. Steele gave me shelter from the storm. Mrs. Steele even took my drenched fleece and popped it in the dryer. We talked about our families and life in Colorado. Mr. Steele told me about his family business of hay farming and the issues they have had with rafters polluting the river. I told them about our cross-country trip and the cause we were riding for. About half an hour later, feeling extremely grateful for the kindness of these strangers I had just met, I hopped back on my bike and headed towards Salida. The United Methodist Church here in town took us in and provided a roof, warm showers, a beautiful dinner, genuine company, and even BOOKS. During dinner, I had an interesting and eye-opening conversation with Pastor Rhonda about her religious and career path.
Today is a build day, and even with the opportunity to sleep in until 6:30, I woke up to a rude alarm at 4, and rolled out of my sleeping bag at 5 AM.