The only time I’ve gotten truly annoyed with Travis on this trip so far has been when he gets started talking to people about taking the Cimarrons. People are very curious about our trip— they want to know where we’ve come from and where we’re going, and even more importantly how we’re getting there. I have the basic rundown: we started in Moab and we’re ending up at Great Sand Dunes National Park, then getting a ride up to Denver. In between that, I have no clue where the fuck we’re going.
Travis, however, has been planning this trip for months. Literally months. He sat down with Google Maps, a Colorado atlas, two maps from Adventure Cycling, and a cycling map that Colorado DOT sent him. It was escapist for him— instead of thinking about work, he planned extravagant routes and alternate routes and alternate alternate routes. He even looked at Google street view to make sure that the roads looked epic. So when people ask how we’re getting there, boy does Travis have an answer. A long, long answer.
When we were at the potluck that Farmer Michelle from Song Haven took us to, this hippie guy told Travis about a route through the Cimarron Mountains that cuts through the Uncompahgre National Forest. A gravel road. Which summits at Owl Creek Pass, at over 10,000 ft. But we would avoid a lot of traffic and see one of the most beautiful parts of Colorado. Hippie dude showed us the route in the atlas, and from that moment on Travis told everyone he met about the Cimarrons, except he couldn’t remember what they were called or where they were or how to get there.
"Yeah, instead of taking 50 up to Montrose we’re thinking about taking this other road… It’s called… it’s called…" At which point I roll my eyes and say " Cimarron. It’s called Cimarron Road." He apparently just wanted everyone’s opinion on the matter.
So Cimarron Road. It was a nice change from the highway. Hardly any cars, beautiful scenery, blankets of wildflowers. Since we left Orvis pretty late in the evening, we were on the lookout for the National Forest land ASAP so we could camp legally. The climb was tough. The gravel was rough. We had bought beer for Orvis but they had no alcohol rules, so poor Travis was hauling this six-pack and it was killing him. I took the beer backpack from him and the incline was so steep that I lost my balance almost immediately. Couldn’t clip out of my pedals and fell right over.
And of course right after I fell, the forest started right at the top of the next hill.
Camping was uneventful, we carved out a little nook in the woods and set up the tent. Foolishly, we used a bunch of our water cooking that night, thinking that we would reach the Silver Jack reservoir soon enough. Well this is where the suffering started. Because we embarked on a 3000 ft climb with just a half a water bottle each.
I got mad. This road was dusty. Every time a car passed it kicked up a cloud that I inhaled and made my parched throat even drier. I saw wild raspberries growing but they were covered in dust and I was too mad to pick them. It was sunny and warm and I was thirsty, dammit. Then that steep incline came and I lost balance and fell over while clipped in again. WAY PISSED.
Travis is a good-natured dude. Even when he’s pissed off it still seems like he’s pissed with a smile on his face. When he was growing up, his mom would shame him relentlessly if he ever complained— making him feel bad about how many other people in the world had it worse than him. So now he doesn’t really complain; however he puts up with my complaining, but only to a point.
"We’re just climbing a mountain, Claire."
So what do you say to that? Nothing. You flag down a car and beg for water. I did that, and as soon as I had filled my water bottle with this good Samaritan’s Dasani bottle, my bike fell over AGAIN and half the water spilled. It was like a movie. It was terrible.
Somehow, we made it to the summit.
And I am slightly exaggerating— it was a beautiful ride, with the tallest ponderosa pines I’ve seen of yet, and these supernatural quaking aspen groves.
Also, the road started following a stream, so we chlorinated some water and drank it THANK GOD. Then the descent started and everything seemed like it was going to work out fine. Except. EXCEPT. We had the exact opposite water problem of the ascent. It started to rain.
Everywhere we’ve been on this trip has been arid to semi-arid. It only rains during a few months of the year here. In Colorado there are “monsoons”, which are really just afternoon thunderstorms in July and August. We figured this sprinkle would be a fickle mountain shower. We were in no rush. We stopped to pick some wild alpine strawberries as a downhill treat. The Silver Jack reservoir was only a few miles away, we had plenty of time to set up camp and we were sure this drizzle would end soon anyway.
Well it didn’t end. Travis was more confident in his weather casting abilities and went for a bird hike while I set up the tent and got lunch together. He got soaked while I curled up and took a nap after reading a few chapters of Jane Eyre (you wouldn’t BELIEVE what that madwoman in the attic was up to!). It didn’t stop raining, even after it got dark. I cooked lentils under the shelter of the rainfly. TO BE CONTINUED…