Todays ride was much longer - more than 90 miles versus 60 miles - and much easier than yesterdays ride. Most - 55 miles - of the ride was across the large, flat, valley where Alamosa is located. In northern Colorado, Walden is in the middle of North Park, a flat valley surrounded by big mountains. The valley I rode across today ought to be called South Park. In some ways it was reminiscent of Nevada, with the flat road stretching straight ahead to till it disappears in the distance, but this valley is bigger and not really desert, and the mountains are higher.
I saw this valley from the air as I was flying to Las Vegas on the first leg of my trip to Portland. It was very impressive and it was neat that, looking at my map on my PDA, I could recognize Alamosa from the roads leading into and out of it. Today I got to ride the roads I first saw in late May.
When I left Del Norte at about 9 AM this morning, I was able to cruise at 18 to 20 mph because of the slight downhill and a tail wind. I had thought to stop in Monte Vista - 16 miles down the road - for a snack, but I ended up riding to Alamosa before I stopped for an early lunch. I averaged 15 mph to Alamosa. After lunch, things were a bit slower, but I still made it across the valley - 55 miles - in about four hours. This was not exciting riding, although the view of Blanca - a 14,300 foot mountain - was very nice and I could see the Great Sand Dunes, for which Alamosa County is famous, in the distance.
When I got to Blanca, the town, about 20 miles after Alamosa, I stopped at a restaurant for dessert. Either service was very slow, or I was being ignored, so I left after waiting about ten minutes. Fort Garland, a slightly bigger town with more services is four miles further on. I stopped a service station there and got two snacks and a liter of coke. I ate one of the snacks and drank half the coke at the station and used the other snack and, diluted with water, the other half of the coke to help me get over La Veta pass.
The road started climbing between Blanca and Fort Garland, and climbed seriously right after Fort Garland. The first three hundred feet of vertical took about six miles and then the road dropped back down 150 feet. It was another dozen or more miles before it was back up to 8300 feet, and, at about 8600 feet, there was a sign saying five miles to the summit. after that the climb was at 5% or so most of the way to the summit. This should have been an easy climb, but the wind, starting about 7 miles from the summit, was a problem.
I could comfortably climb at 6 mph when the wind died down, but was sometimes reduced to 4 mph, and often to 5 mph, but the head/cross wind. There was a fair amount of big truck traffic and that meant some pretty good wind blasts, especially when the wind was a gusty cross wind. La Veta pass is beautiful and not very hard, but I spent too much of it riding head down on the drops fighting the wind.
Climbing to the summit
La Veta Summit
A great downhill
More downhill into La Veta
That is one of the two Spanish Peaks
La Veta is below it to the left
After the pass, the downhill goes on forever (!) - well not quite forever, but for almost 2500 feet vertical and, except for one 50 foot vertical hill, all the way to La Veta. Nice!
When I got to La Veta, I looked for the 1899 B+B recommended in my Colorado bicycling book. It is still here, 25 years later and still delightful. I had supper at a very down home place - part of the RV park - where the waitress served me lukewarm coffee and then topped it up with cold coffee. When the owner realized what she had done, he reprimanded her, very kindly, and gave me a free piece of pie. The meal was good and the quantities were enormous - a good place for a hungry bicyclist. There are several more upscale eating places in La Vetta, including one that looks quite upscale. This is neat community with an obviously thriving art community and a bicycle store. I think it is the smallest place I've ever been that had a real bicycle store. Bikes are obviously very popular here, and, the lady that runs the B+B told me lots of bicyclists come through this town.
Yesterday I was having trouble with mail - it was broken by our system upgrade. Today it seems to be working, but I can't update my website because of changes in the FTP servers. I may figure have figured out a way to work around that, but, for other reasons as well as technical ones - I'm meeting a friend tomorrow in Trinidad - it may be while before I get my new web pages uploaded.
Tomorrow I ride around the Spanish Peaks to Trinidad. The ride isn't easy (4000 feet of climbing in 67 miles) but it is supposed to be excellent.