Tour04 Day 32 La Veta to Springfield, CO

Heading out of La Veta between the Spanish Peaks and the San Juan de Christo range

No, I didn't ride from La Veta to Springfield - about 190 miles - in one day. I didn't ride to Springfield at all, instead, my friend Al from Fort Collins met me on my way to Trinidad, and drove me to Trinidad, after spending the night in Trinidad, Al and I drove to Springfield. We visited and rode around Springfield and then Al headed back to Fort Collins.

I was very happy to see Al yesterday as I cranked on down the road into a headwind about 15 miles from Trinidad. I was looking forward to seeing Al in Trinidad, but not to the riding I still needed to do to get there. That part of the ride wasn't fun, or pretty, or much of anything except something to push my tired body through. Al had arrived in Trinidad about 3 PM and decided to check out the end of my route. When he saw that it was hard climbing after a boring stretch of road, he decided to rescue me from it. I was, at that point in my ride, hoping he would do just that <grin > .

The ride from La Veta to Trinidad is hard, but superb, for the first 15 miles. Then it is hard, but pretty, for the next 20 miles to Stonewall. Then it is just boring for about 25 miles. The final five miles has several long, hard, climbs before a final descent into Trindad. The lady at the 1899 Inn said there are big rides starting from Stonewall and going to La Veta. That would be a nice ride starting with a lot of climbing on the way to Cucharas pass and finishing with great ride down into the Cucharas valley afterwards. Going the other way isn't as nice in terms of riding, but does give you a lot more time to enjoy the great beauty of the valley and the mountians around it.

CO 12 sort of follows the Curcharas River up the valley for the first dozen miles

The slope varies from gentle to pretty steep as the road climbs to Cucharas

The Spanish Peaks are on your left and the San Juan de Christos are ahead of you

The 12 mile ride from La Veta to Cucharas must be one the prettiest rides in the Rockies. The valley is beautiful, the Spanish Peaks are on your left and the gorgeous San Juan de Christos are ahead of you as you ride. CO 12 starts flat and the slope varies from gentle to about 10% grade and back again as it climbs over 1500 feet to the tourist town of Cucharas. The most unique things on this section is the "spoke rocks." The are vertical rock formations that radiate outward, like spokes on a bicycle wheel, from the Spanish Peaks. The Spanish peaks themselves are odd in they they look like volcanos without craters. The process that formed them was like the process that creates volcanos, but it stopped short of eruption. The spoke rocks were formed as part of that processs.

Part of a spoke rock formation

Another spoke rock formation from the side

And looking back along it from its end

I stopped for lunch at The Timbers in Cucharas. This is a fancy resort with linen napkins and that sort of thing. I didn't want a big lunch since I still had a lot of climbing to do, so I ordered a BLT. The young waitress asked "do you want fries or fruit with that?" I asked for fruit and what I got looked like a fruit plate with a BLT. It was very good and a very good lunch while climbing. After lunch, I resumed climbing. The views were not as spectacular after Cucharas and, about three miles later, the climbing got more serious. The last part - several miles - of the climb is through an aspen and fir forest. It would be stunning in the fall, but it is just pretty in the summer.

Climbing after Cucharas
The summit is on that ridge directly ahead

Climbing about two miles before the summit

At the summit it was chilly and windy

It wasn't a hard climb like Wolf Creek Pass, but it was long climb like most of the passes in Colorado. The clouds built up while I was climbing and the last few miles to the to the summit were cool which made the climbing easier. When I got to the top of the climb at almost 10000 feet - I started from close to 7000 feet - my legs were tired and I was ready for a good downhill. I hit 49 mph within a few minutes of starting down hill, and was back to climbing at 4 mph a few minutes later!

I should have learned that when my book on Colorado rides says rolling hills, it means really hilly riding! The road after the summit was long downhills alternating with short, but steep, uphills. My legs were not happy and I was getting grumpy too! This went on for about ten miles. Pretty country, mostly downhill road, but interrupted by steep climbs. The clouds continued to build and it started sprinkling on and off in this section, so I took my camera off my handlebars and put it in a pannier. I stopped for a second lunch at Monument Lake. That lunch was not as fancy as the one at The Timbers, but it was good Mexican food.

After Monument Lake, the road climbs briefly but then starts a long descent down to the Purgatoire River. It passes Stonewall a few miles later, and, four mile later, reaches the river. The road continues to descend, but much more gently, down the river valley. Since this is Colorado, I had a moderate up-slope headwind that slowed my riding down the river valley and caused me to do most of my riding on the drops with my head down and my attention focused on the road rather than the view. The view was boring ahead, but still spectacular looking back.

The long downhill to the river

Part of a coal mine ahead on the river

And the mountains behind at the same spot

I stopped for a snack at Weston, the only town on the river with services. The services, a country store, were closed, but I got a coke out of a coke machine. Then I cranked on down the road into the wind.

Al, when he passed me going the other way, said I was focused on the road about 20 feet ahead of the bike. I didn't even see him. He turned around, passed me again and pulled over. Then I noticed his van and, when he got out, I was most pleased to see him! With the big hills at the end, it would have taken me at least another hour and a half of frankly unpleasant riding to get to Trinidad. It was much more fun in Al's van!

When were were driving to Trinidad, I asked Al if he would drive me to Kim this morning. It is 122 miles to Springfield and about 60 to Kim. I knew there wouldn't be any services till Kim and, since today was Sunday, I wasn't sure if there would be anything open in Kim. Al and I talked and he suggest that I needed a rest day and he should drive me to Springfield instead of Kim. I agreed easily.

This morning, the first open services were at Pritchard, 15 miles from Springfield and over 100 miles from Trinidad. The wind was OK - starting as a tailwind, but changing to a 20 mph crosswind during the day - so I think I could have made it to Pritchard for supper and into Springfield for the night - but it would have been a really hard day just when I needed a rest day. I'm very glad I didn't have to do it.

Now I have two 75 mile days to ride to get to Cimarron, which is 20 miles east of Dodge. I'll be visiting my friend Bernie there on Tuesday and my wife will drive over from Dodge to get me on Wednesday. Despite the expected 15 to 20 mph cross/headwinds in the forecast, I'm looking forward to riding on the plains for the next two days. Al and I rode around Springfeld today and I really enjoyed riding with Al and being on the plains. It took me a couple of years to get used to living out here more than 30 years ago, but, having lived in western Kansas for close to a decade, now it feels like coming home.

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