Tour04 Day 30 Pagosa Springs to Del Norte, CO

A pretty view looking south from near the start of Wolf Creek Pass

This would have been a hard days ride without all of the construction on Wolf Creek Pass. It was a much harder, and much longer, ride with it. I left Pagosa Srings about 9 AM and got to Del Norte about 6 PM, so I was on the road for nine hours in order to ride 60 miles. During that nine hours, I actually rode less than five and a half hours, but that would have been at least six and a hours and I wouldn't have gotten here till after seven PM, if I hadn't hitched a ride through the last (of three) construction zones. The folks managing traffic flow at the first zones were quite bicycle friendly. The folks doing it at the last zone were very bicycle unfriendly.

Without the help of two good guys in a pickup truck, I would have had to wait an extra 45 minutes or so - on top of the 45 minutes I did wait there - and ride through a dangerous and quite unpleasant - to bicyclists - two miles of road construction. Since they already had my bike, and me, in the back of their truck, they took me another 8 miles to South Fork where I was able, at 5 PM, to get my first meal since breakfast. That saved me at least half an hour of, very hungry, riding.

My day started well with a good, and very large, breakfast at the Victorian place I mentioned in yesterdays report. It wasn't very Victorian, but my breakfast burrito was huge. A woman who came in shortly after I stated eating it commented "That is an enormous breakfast!" I agreed and said that was why I got it <grin>. Given the ten hours between that meal and my next meal, enormous was what I needed.

Heading for Wolf Creek Pass

Nice road with murky mountians ahead

My Colorado cycling guide calls the 14 miles of 160 from Pagosa Springs north to the start of Wolf Creek Pass "an ideal cycling road." It is very nice riding and, with the construction on the pass causing many vehicles to take an alternate route, it was also peaceful riding. Unfortunately, the mountains ahead were very murky today, and that reduced the quality of the ride a little.

The start of Wolf Creek Pass

Looking back while waiting n the middle of the first construction section
Most of the first half of the climb was unpaved

Once I got to the start of the pass, the quality of the ride went for quite nice to "why am I riding this?" Eight miles of 6% grade aren't fun on a loaded bike under the best of conditions, and when the first four miles are on a road under construction, with much of the road single lane dirt and gravel, you don't have the best of conditions. Fortunately, the flagmen on this section where very nice and very helpful, and that made riding it a lot better.

When I rode up to the first flagman, he smiled and asked about my tour. We visited for less than ten minutes and then he sent me on up the hill saying that I'd have to stop and wait at the next flagman. When I got to her, she sent me to the third flagman where I did get to wait for a while. I needed that wait because I was pushing too hard for those first two sections. Because I felt like I was holding up traffic, I was riding at close to 100% of my aerobic capacity. After a mile or two of that, I had to back off to 80% or so if I was going to make it to the top of the pass. My body just won't take that kind of abuse anymore.

Waiting at the third flagman

The fourth flagman

The wait at the third flagman helped, but I was hurting when I got to the fifth and last flagman. She called out "Come on over here and tell me your interesting story," so I did. The flagman at the bottom had asked about my camera and I told him about my web pages. He told the others by radio. The last flagman and I visited for a long time - as I rested, snacked, and recovered somewhat from my over exertion, before I rode on up the pass.

It was very hard riding, even after the construction zone, and I stopped briefly half a dozen times on my way to the top. I had a tail wind which sometimes made me chilly, sometimes made me hot, and sometimes made me chilly in back and hot in front. On those brief stops I would usually take off my glasses and wipe the sweat off my face, then drink some water, take a picture, and start riding again before my legs got stiff.

A mile or so before the summit of Wolf Creek Pass

At the summit

When I reached the top, I put on my liner gloves and my wind vest. It was cold and windy up there at almost 11000 feet!

Heading down Wolf Creek Pass

The ride down the other side was uneventful. Because of the one way traffic in the construction zones, I had the road to myself for at least half a dozen miles. As with the hill coming down to Durango, I hit 45 mph on a "6%" grade. The last flagman had warned me about the two construction zones on the other side of the pass. She said the first one, for a short tunnel, would be no problem, but the last one, down by Fun City, was holding vehicles up for at least an hour.

The tunnel site required me to wait for a pickup truck to carry me through it. The fellow in charge of traffic flow drove the truck and my bike and I rode in the back. He was very nice and very concerned about safety in the messy mix of traffic and construction vehicles around the tunnel. I was glad to be in his truck rather than riding through that mess. After we got my bike down beyond the second zone, he talked about how frustrated he was with the unsafe behavior of the construction vehicles and said he was really worried that someone was going to get killed in a collision between one of them and the regular traffic.

There was a gas station/motel/etc. place two miles further down - and it definitely was still down - the road. The road runs through a narrow valley and right next to a creek in this section, so the riding was enjoyable. I stopped to snack and refill my water bottles. Then I rode on to the final construction zone.

The head of the line of waiting vehicles at the final construction zone
The folks in the small, dark colored, truck in the center of the image gave me a ride

I had heard from flagmen at both the first and second construction zones that the third one was the worst one to ride through. I tried to get the folks in charge of traffic flow there to provide me with a ride, but they were not interested. I waited for more than half an hour with my bike at the front of the line before deciding that, if the people controlling the traffic flow weren't going to do anything to help me get through the zone, I would have to do it myself. So I walked back along the line - which was by now literally hundreds of vehicles - to the first likely candidates.

I struck up a conversation with the two men in the third truck and they were happy to help me get through the construction zone. They worked in construction themselves - we stopped in the construction zone so they could look at a big rock drill - the kind used to drill holes in the rock for dynamite - and then they drove me to South Fork. Their kindness greatly improved my ride today. Thanks guys!

In South Fork, I stopped at a Blimpies - pretty much a Subway clone with some nice variations - and had supper, then I rode to Del Norte in about an hour, and found an inexpensive motel room. I was concerned that the telephone system would let me get on the net, but it worked fine. What didn't work was the computer system I use to read/send mail. It's OS was upgraded this morning and the email program I need wasn't reinstalled. I'll be able to put this web page up in the morning, but I may still not be able to email the ride report or to read my email.

Sixteen miles to go of easy riding to Del Norte

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