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Colorado Century Ride

102 Miles: Buena Vista to Nathrop; Salida to the Great Sand Dunes - June 18, 2007

Today was my very first cycling century ride and I think the day had everything: Mechanical failure, the prospect of not making it, great Colorado scenery, the anticipation of accomplishment and meeting with two friends at the end.

This might sound as if I won an Oscar, but I have a list of people to thank: Chris for rescuing me while stranded in Nathrop, Keith with The Trailhead Outdoor Store in Buena Vista, who did everything he could to help and drove me home, Scott at Absolute Bikes in Salida for repairing my bike, the many friendly people I encountered, and Derek and Anna for driving to the San Luis Valley to encourage me, celebrate with me and bringing me back home.

Enjoy the photos below! -Steve

First 15 Miles - The Broken Derailer Hanger "Drama"
Mt. Princeton
Broken Derailer Hanger
TOP: Mile 3 - The view of Mt. Princeton south of Buena Vista at 6:45 a.m.

BOTTOM: Mile 14 - South of Nathrop, the derailer hanger on my bike broke off, leaving me unable to pedal. My Buena Vista friend Chris generously shuttled me and the bike to The Trailhead Outdoor Store in Buena Vista, which includes a bike shop. The Trailhead has frequently done good work with my bike, but they did not have that particular part in stock, and so I drove to Absolute Bikes in Salida, where the part was installed. By the time I got my bike back, it was already 10 a.m. and I had lost 2.5 hours of morning riding time. Still, I decided to continue with my ride to Poncha Pass and overcome thoughts of quitting.

Salida To The San Luis Valley
Mt. Ouray and Chipita Peak I was back on the bike! Here's the westerly view of Mt. Ouray and Chipita Peak between Poncha Springs and Salida on Highway 50.
Mt. Shavano and Mt. Princeton Just before beginning the fairly steep seven miles from Poncha Springs to Poncha Pass, I rested and captured the view of Mt. Shavano and Mt. Princeton.
Poncha Pass and Mt. Ouray
Poncha Pass
Sangre De Cristo Mountains
Mile 30 - Upon arriving at Poncha Pass (the highest point of my ride at 9,010 feet), I started to "become a believer" that I could pull off this century ride. The scenery up there is nice!

TOP: The Poncha Pass sign with Mt. Ouray directly behind.

MIDDLE: The view to the north (where I biked from) that includes the Sawatch Range and Mt. Shavano on the right.

BOTTOM: The pretty view of the northern Sangre De Cristo Mountains south of the pass.

Villa Grove, Colorado My top speed was 43 miles per hour as I came down Poncha Pass. I rested for a few minutes in Villa Grove. The Villa Grove General Store and Restaurant is a place I frequently stop at when I'm in this area of Saguache County.
Great Sand Dunes Sign
San Luis Valley
Mile 50 - This is the San Luis Valley at its best: Wide open spaces and grand mountains in the background. At mile 50, I stopped at the junction of Highways 285 and 17 for these photos.
San Luis Valley I would spend the next 40 miles on State Highway 17 going south in the San Luis Valley. The road formerly acted as a railroad grade in another period of Colorado's history. It is a loooooooong and straight road with Kansas-like features. At one point, I stopped and snapped this northerly view of the region I had just come from.
Moffat Post Office
Moffat, Colorado Post Office
I rested in Moffat, Colorado (population 120) and took advantage of the shade from the Moffat Post Office. The conversation with the friendly worker at the Mirage Trading Co. Cafe was greatly appreciated on this lonely stretch of road.
Derek and Anna Mile 70 - Bicycling south of Moffat, I noticed two people oddly pulled over and taking pictures. Ahhhhhh ... they were my friends Derek and Anna who drove from Salida to cheer me on, encourage me, support me and take me home. It was great to see them!
San Luis Valley Derek and Anna left me for awhile and I pretty much had this view (adjacent photo) for the ten miles to Hooper. :p)
UFO Watchtower The U.F.O. Watchtower area is north of Hooper. I recommend visiting this fun and quirky place, even if you don't believe in UFO's. :)
Hooper, Colorado Various junk and farming equipment.
Steve Mile 81 - My rest at the gas station in Hooper.

The Final Twenty Miles Near The Great Sand Dunes
Sangre De Cristo Mountains Mile 92 - Near Mosca, the route to the Great Sand Dunes National Park goes east on a very straight and isolated stretch. (County Lane 6 North) The Sangre De Cristo Mountains stand tall in the background and the dunes can be seen on the left. I was almost done!
For a short while, Derek and Ana drove alongside me and we talked. Then, they sped ahead a few miles on this undertraveled road and played frisbee as I caught up to them.
Crazy Telephone Poles
Go Steve Cattle Guard
Then, I started to see signs! The Crazy Telephone Poles is the name of our small group at our church in Buena Vista. The name has caught fire in our community. Seeing that sign inspired me. During some of the stretches, I spotted various signs like "Go Steve!" and the "Wahoo" sign on the cattle guard near mile 101.
Bike Odometer
Derek and Anna
I stopped at 102 miles and pulled over at the photo below. I didn't officially bike to the Great Sand Dunes entrance, because it was getting late and I wanted Derek and Anna to spend some time at the sand dunes as a reward. Also, the terrain of this spot had all of the sandsheet and grassland features of the dunes, so even if I wasn't technically in the park boundaries, I was clearly in the sand dunes' ecosystem.
Sunset We spent about an hour in the Great Sand Dunes (See frisbee photos), but I wanted to close with this photo of a grand San Luis Valley sunset as we left the park.

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