Fort Collins to Walden, CO

Al and I at Rustic, just before I started my ride today

I rode from Al and Jane's house in Fort Collins to Walden back in 1998. Al rode with me to Rustic where we had lunch before he headed back down Poudre Canyon and I headed on up it. That was a long, hard, day - 110 miles with 5000 feet of climbing - and, having done it, I didn't really want to do it again ;-}. This time I would have had to do it alone since Al, due to health problems, isn't up to riding to Rustic and back. Al and Don, one of Al's friends who is also a bicyclist, drove me and my bicycle up to Rustic and, after lunch, they headed back down a ways to fish and I headed on up. I thought the ride would be pretty easy since it was only 60 miles instead of 110. I was wrong. That 60 miles was harder on me than the 110 miles had been in '98. Part of that, loath as I am to admit it, may be due to age, but most it was due to flies.

When I rode up in 1998, the flies got me when I stopped and I was quite miserable because I needed to stop and eat but couldn't. In 2007, there were more flies - a wet winter? - and they were more aggressive.

Looking up Poudre Canyon just west of Rustic

Poudre Canyon ascends fairly gently and fairly steadily - mostly 1% to 2% grade - until Poudre Falls, some 45 miles from the bottom of the canyon, and 15 miles from Rustic. Rustic is at about 7000 feet and the bottom of the falls is at about 8000 feet. Then, over the next ten miles or so, the road climbs more steeply, but not as steadily, to the 10,300 foot pass.

The road, CO 14, runs right alongside the river

Nice riding, nice scenery

One of my favorite views in Poudre Canyon

I had a very nice ride from Rustic up to the falls, I rode at 6 to 10 mph in the bigger cogs using my (small) middle ring. I stopped to snack before the steeper section, hoping that I wouldn't need to rest again before the top. Then, when the road became steeper, I used my granny ring and rode as slowly as 3.5 mph. Sometimes I got up to 6 or 7 mph but I probably averaged near 5 mph. That wasn't fast enough.

With 10+ miles to climb, I spent 2 + hours being bitten by flies. I don't react well to being bitten, and it really distracts me from riding so I wasted a lot of energy batting at flies and using my arms like a horses tail to keep them off my butt. I quickly got tired and out of breath from all this activity and I had to stop to rest and snack at about 9000 feet. I stayed on the middle of the road as much as possible while 'resting' and swatted flies as I ate my snack. I only had a few flies to deal with at that time, so I only got a few fly bites, and, although it wasn't an ideal way to rest, I did sort of catch my breath.

One of my least favorite views in Poudre Canyon. The road has started climbing and the flies are biting
All my images from where the grade increases at the falls to the top of the pass were taken while being bitten ;-{

I had to press on. As I rode, flies would zoom past, spot me, come in for a bite and then stay with me, often riding on my panniers between bite attempts. The farther up I went, the more flies went with me. Soon, if I stopped, I had half a dozen flies trying to bite me on each side of my body. I was exhausted and really needed to rest, but I had to keep moving to minimize the number of fly bites. When I rode, they would bite on my butt and thighs and occasionally on my hands. When I stopped they would swarm my feet, biting me through my socks. It was very unpleasant.

The reservoir near the top
Very pretty and with fewer flies because there is a downhill before the reservoir

Finally I got a little relief at about 10000 feet where the road descends to a reservoir. At the top of the descent I banged on all three panniers and moved my hands all over my lower body to get the flies in the air, then sped up down the hill faster than they could follow. I was, briefly, fly free as I rode by the reservoir, so I stopped, sat on the shoulder of the road and put my head between my knees to try to recover enough to get to the top of the pass. I was soon found by two flies who accompanied my the rest of the way to the top. At this point I felt almost friendly towards those flies since there were only two of them.

My favorite place on the climb because that unique peak ahead is past the top of the climb
Soon I will be free of the flies!

When I spotted a peak that I remembered from my previous ride as being past the top, I was very relieved. My altimeter was registering several hundred feet low, so I had expected another mile or so of misery. My flies gave me parting bites at the top and I headed down towards North Park.

Heading down into North Park

I was looking forward to the descent, which is quite pretty and to getting to Gould where there was a good place to eat. The top part of the descent is pretty steep and the road is rough so I didn't mind the, usual for Colorado, head wind going down the mountain which kept my speed down to 25 mph. I did get tired of the wind since it kept up even on after the descent and made me push my, very tired body, to do 10 mph on the flat.

Looking up towards Rocky Mountain National Park

Life got better when I reached the restaurant in Gould. Its name had changed, but it was the same place where I ate the last time I rode through Gould. Actually, it is practically the only thing in Gould. There is a KOA campground on the other side of Gould. I went in the bar - no one was in the restaurant part - and asked for a beer and the dinner menu. They gave me a short list of beers which included Pilsner Urquell (a great Czech beer) so I drank a bottle of that while waiting for supper. It was GOOD and so was supper. Then I rode on down the road, 21 miles, to Walden. That was a little harder ride this time than last time because of the wind, but North Park was really beautiful and, despite the fatigue and the wind, I was having a good time.

Walden and part of North Park
Those are the mountains to the north, but there are mountains in every direction

North Park has about five motels, all, except maybe for the one at the south end of town, pretty basic. I was not pleased with the one at the north end of town where I stayed last time, so I checked out the others on main street and then rode over a block to the Westside Motel which I had seen signs for coming into town. It looked promising, so I stopped. The owner was friendly and open with me and I liked her immediately. My room is comfortable, but not fancy and I got a good nights sleep. It also has wireless internet access from a node in the building across the alley behind my room.

Despite the good night sleep, I was still quite fatigued this morning. The 57 mile ride over Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat Springs shouldn't be hard, but my body wanted a rest day to recover from yesterday so I spent the day in Walden. It was a good day and I enjoyed my meals - all at the Moose Cafe - and getting caught up on my web pages. At lunch I visited with a bicycle tourist from Washington DC who is riding cyclocross bike to Oregon. He headed up to Wyoming after lunch and I came back to my room to work.

This evening I had a long, and good, visit with the owner of The Westside Motel and the Walden Mall. I think that is its name, it is a bright yellow building next to the post office. If you are stopping in Walden, I highly recommend that you turn west at the Moose (statue belonging to the Moose Cafe) and go a block west to find this place. If you have wireless, you might ask for room 14 (12 should also work). I also recommend that you eat at the Moose Cafe. Good food and good service and, if you get the breakfast or lunch special, good value.

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