We have been biking every day since we left Jasper on July 13th. There are no easy days on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail. We are becoming a little battleworn. Brian and I are not novices In long distance bicycle journeys. We have been tested before. In our 60’s now, we also know the value and prudence in resting. On this ride the weather has been phenomenal. It’s hard to not continue riding in great conditions. Save the days off for wind or rain. We had gotten in to a good rhythm. A good team. We really didn’t talk about a day off.
However, in some of the days before Salida we started just going through the motions. The fatigue was more a mental thing. Just plain needed to change things up. We also needed to take the time to organize our eventual trip home. So……a day off in Salida it was.
Salida has become a hip town. Located south of Summit County and the big ski areas, Salida nonetheless is in the mountains and with great summers and winter weather in the 50’s, It really has become a touristy Mountain Bike town. Monarch Ski Area is here too with good snow in higher elevations. Still, when you think of this town it’s biking. The Arkansas River also adds water sports and rafting. I like this funky place.
We stayed in a little hostel named Simple Lodging and Hostel. It filled up with bikers like ourselves. We spent our day deciding just how many days were needed to reach Antelope Wells, a border town without the town. Just a border station post and a fence. The end of the southern push to our trip. Lined up a nights stay at Jeffery Sharp’s in Hachita. Jeffery has built a little business shuttling bikers to El Paso, Tucson or the nearest Greyhound Bus station to get to Phoenix. He keeps bike boxes there for people like us to pack their bikes in. He can ship them home for you via Fed-Ex or you can put them on the airplane home with you. He has lodging for us and promises beer for Brian. He is our guy to get from a desolate dusty fence on the border to a big blowtorch home.
Jeffery is affable and efficient on the phone and soon arrangements with him are a done deal. Plane tickets purchased. My friend Jonathon will bring my Toyota Bumblebee to Duluth for our final leg home and pick us up at the airport. It’s now 3 o’clock and time for a drink and some food. We feel pretty good about our day.
A couple hours later as we sat outside our accommodations, here came the four Italian women. There is a swirl of activity where ever they go. Yes, there is room for them and bikes are unloaded. Panniers are noisily marched upstairs and showers taken. Things are happening.
I found out later how they had beaten us to the border of Wyoming and Colorado and the Ladder Ranch. We had cycled two days and about 135 miles past them prior to hearing at the ranch that they had been there the night before. Sylvia explained that they were behind schedule to finish and make their flights. So they had hired a pickup and rode in that beyond us on the highway. They have also ridden some highway sections instead of the Trail to gain time. Regardless, they are a lively foursome and great entertainment.
Brian and I had ridden in to Salida with a Czech woman who had pulled beside me on the bike path through Breckenridge. She merely said, “I haven’t met you yet. My name is Jana.” Of course we bikers know from the amount of gear on a bike who is riding the Great Divide. Jana is in her mid-thirties and is a strong rider. Very independent, we enjoyed her company on the route to Salida. She is blunt, confident, and smokes cigarettes when not on the bike. Jana was looking for a camping spot in town. We will probably run into her again in the two weeks left in our journey.
Brian and I biked over Marshall Pass today at just under 11,000 feet. Availability of water dictated that we stop at only 45 miles. The next water was another 40 miles with climbing between. Too far. Thanks to Brian’s adept work with the map, we have determined the days remaining and each day’s endpoint. There are a number of big passes coming up. I look to enjoy these remaining two weeks.