The Bikin' Fools


Day Three

Wolcott to Keystone

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It would be a record day; Vail Pass 10,666


Things were wet when we crawled from our tents into the new and first full day of this bikin’ adventure. The sky was cloudy but appeared to be improving. It wasn’t raining. We immediately began to gather our things, stuff it all into tiny spaces, load the bikes and hit the road for what would be one of the greatest days of the trip. We pedaled along the Colorado River into the little burb of Wolcott Junction. We were now at 6000 feet above sea level. There was coffee for dad. We talked briefly to a few locals then started the thirty mile ride towards Vail, one of mankind’s most colossal monuments to inappropriate development, grotesque opulence and conspicuous consumption.

The weather was definitely improving. This was a major plus and a point of serendipity for us. Having spent five winters in Vail, I knew this time of year has the possibility to bring significant, Spring snowfalls. As the clouds dissipated we could see snow at the higher elevations. We would need to climb to 10,500 feet before the day was over. We pedaled through Edwards, a small whistle stop town then towards Avon. This town didn’t exist thirty years ago. It was merely a spot on the map. Now the area was peppered with trailers, housing the low paid workers at the ski slopes and attendant businesses. We stopped at a ski/bike shop and paid an enormous amount of money for a pair of leg warmers. Eighty dollars purchased 75 cents worth of material. However, this piece of equipment is among the most handy for touring in cool places.

As we approached the junction of the Eagle River and Gore Creek we wondered how we would get through the narrows. We had been on old highway 6 riding parallel to I-70. We assumed that we would have to travel on the freeway for a short distance. Again the benevolent nature of this trip unfolded as a bike trail appeared just before we would have to take the Interstate. The bike/jogging trail lasted for a mile or so until it joined the lightly traveled service road that would take us all the way through Vail and beyond. As we came around the corner of the massive terrain we could see the beginnings of the Gore Range of the Colorado Rockies. This spectacular formation of snowcapped, rugged peaks looks down on the Gore Valley.

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The Gore Range towering over the valley

We pedaled with growing anticipation through Vail. There was no reason for us to stop there. It was early in the day, we had everything we needed. We knew that a major climb lay just ahead. We kept an eye to the sky hoping that the weather would hold. Just east of Vail we stopped for a snack and to take a short rest before beginning the long, arduous climb. The Rocky Mountain scenery was breathtaking. We sat on a bridge and looked across the narrow valley at a steep, cascading waterfall. We were at the base of Vail Pass.

We had covered about thirty miles and were feeling great. A sense of great magnitude was present in our feeling. We were a long way from Middletown and two thousand miles from our destination. We began the ascent. I knew that there was a bike path that went over the pass. I couldn’t remember just how steep it was. I had ridden the pass from the other direction one time thirteen years ago. To our great luck the pitch was reasonable. Even though we were now approaching eight thousand feet, we had the lung power to continue. For the next hour and a half we grunted and strained up the hill. We could see that a recent snowstorm had dusted the trees beside our trail. The temperature was cold. We had to adjust our clothing to keep between sweating and freezing.

As we climbed the hill several bikers rocketed past us on the downhill. We knew we would have our reward eventually. It turns out that many people would drive to the summit and coast down the hill. Seemed like cheating to us. We had to not only climb the hill, but we had to manage our energy so as not to become dead wasted. This was just the beginning. We needed to be as clever as possible so that we could maintain our physical resources on a daily basis. It was a tough call. The thrill of being on the road, on a huge mission propelled us to pedal at rates greater than normal.

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Austin still ripping at 10,000 feet

Finally near the top we experienced a steep pitch. Snow was piled along the side of the trail. We passed the #1 and #2 Black lakes. We could see the freeway sign indicating the pass. Finally we crested the hill. We coasted past the parking area and out to a open meadow where we stopped along a bubbling brook to spend a moment to appreciate the enormous views. Spectacular mountain ranges abounded. We had a sense of being on top of the world. After the brief break we began the glorious descent down the east side of Vail Pass. Little did we know that we were about to embark on one of cycling’s nicest theme parks. The bike path was located between the east and west bound lanes of I-70. It snaked down the valley that separated the two lanes. It curved and swooped, banked and dropped, crossed bridges and left the senses massively overloaded. Our here-to-fore slow speeds were replaced with great velocity. The miles clicked off so fast we suddenly found ourselves at the bottom of Copper Mountain Ski area.

Although the bike path continued generally downhill, the slope was more gradual. We made good time to Frisco where we stopped at a bakery to consume some energy. The day was growing long. We had already pedaled over forty miles, most of them uphill. Now we would pedal along Dillon Reservoir on more bike trails. More trails than we would have chosen had I seen the proper way to go. We lost some time on the convoluted shoreline route. A more direct option was available, but it would have to wait for another adventure. We eventually reached the town of Dillon where we sought out a grocery store for dinner items.

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The happy bronze boy at Dillon Reservoir

As we continued the afternoon was growing long. We were still energized but tired. We pedaled another ten miles to the town of Keystone. We had started looking for a place to spend the night. We were hungry and found a nice park-like setting along the river. There were benches and a flat area to rest and take in a well earned meal. As we lingered the sun began to approach the horizon. We were near some condos but just our of sight. We could be seen from the road if someone really looked. As the evening grew darker we simply decided we were at our camp for the night. No one could see our stealth encampment and there were no known ‘official’ campgrounds nearby. The spot was ideal. When darkness descended we set up our tents. By the time we had everything arranged it was nearly bedtime. We spent a restful, very cold night next to a beautiful symphony; the creek that serenaded our night.