Day 18 - June 24th
33.9 miles (plus 3.8 slacker miles)
Total: 708.5 miles
Here we sit in a hail storm at 11,300 feet, four miles from the highest point on the Great Divide, Indiana Pass.
How did we get here?
Today has been, in my opinion, the most beautiful day of our ride thus far. We woke a touch later than we usual do, but we only planned to do about 30 miles.
Our ride started with a gradual ascent through the Conejos River Valley, where cabins and lodges nestled themselves in the green valley in an idyllic setting that have only existed in puzzles, postcards, and calenders until now. As we climbed up the valley, we would bend each new curve to find new delights to photograph.
Sixteen miles later, we rolled into Platoro, CO. This tiny town should have been our destination yesterday, but we fell short and tired. It is a cute little town nestled in between the striking hills which make the Conejos river valley. We stopped in at the Gold Nugget Cafe for a breakfast of french toast and cheeseburgers.
Deliciousness consumed, we moved along. The weather report told us thundershowers would head our way around 4pm. We had high ambitions of making it over the pass by then. I didn't think it was likely, but maybe we could pull it off.
Yesterday we spoke with a Tour Divide Racer (he was around eighth place at the time, out of about 200). We talked about how hard it was for us, but that we felt we may be getting stronger. He said, "That's the difference between tour biking, and race biking. As a tour biker, you start off weak and build up your strength. As a race biker, you start off strong and quickly deplete yourself until you are just a shell of a human."
Maybe he was right, maybe the cheeseburger, french toast, and coffee, did it, but Apricots and I killed it climbing out of Platoro. We kept a solid pace, and rode the whole first climb without walking our bikes. A couple hours later, we were seeing the potential of hitting Indiana Pass. The clouds hadn't really started forming, and we were maintaining a decent pace.
....did I mention everything was beautiful....
We made our way to the top of the difficult climb for the day. We had some wobbles up and down to do, and then a six hundred foot climb to the top of Indiana Pass. Then it started raining.
Then it cleared up.
Then we started rolling our way to Summitville. We didn't want to get caught in a lightening storm, so we were hoping to find decent shelter in the abandoned mining town. On our way in the rain, we flagged a passing ATV type vehicle, and asked if Summitville had any shelter. They said they didn't know, but they would be happy to throw our bikes on the back and drive us there.
Since it was raining, and mostly downhill, we decided to take them up on the 3.8 mile ride. Once we got to Summitville, the only shelter was a metal picnic shelter, perched in the open space. We decided that may not be the best place to hang out during the passing lightening storm, so we ducked behind some derelict miners huts, and set up a tent by the trees.
Shortly afterward, the rain came. Then the thunder, and lightening, and the hail. It was then that we learned our tent was also no longer water proof, as drops fall on us, while I write this.
Sixty minutes later, the thundershowers passed. We decided to pack it up and make a last ditch dive for Del Norte. Since we were in a mining community, there was an abundance of roads to confuse us on our way out. I flagged a car down and asked for directions. The gentleman was fairly certain we were moving in the right direction, but by that time, new thunder clouds were looming overhead.
We asked if more lightening was likely, as we are still adjusting to the afternoon Colorado storms. He didn't know, but invited us to take shelter in the Water Treatment plant. We took him up on the offer.
Years ago, Summitville was a gold and silver mining town with over 700 residents. Now it is abandoned. A break in one of the mining systems caused unhealthy amounts of cyanide, copper, and other heavy metals to enter the water runoff, all the way down the system. The EPA stepped in and built the water treatment facility to clean the water before it runs down hill.
Every year, the treatment plant collects water runoff from the winter melt, treats it, and then sends it on its way. All of this snazzy information came because the car I flagged is the boss of the water treatment facility. He invited us to spend the night in a board room, and gave us a grand tour of the process. It was pretty cool, and we are grateful to have a dry flat surface to sleep.
Tomorrow, we gotta wake up early and make it to Del Norte before the post office closes, or we will be trapped in town until Monday...which Apricots might like due to the tasty brewery we have now been informed of.
Live life at a slower place.