June 23rd, 2016 – Pueblo, Colorado to Laramie, Wyoming: ~375 miles.
In which we are surprised by the majesty of the Rockies.
I’ve always wanted to ride to the top of Pike’s Peak, but I had failed in two previous attempts due to circumstances out of my control. Would the third time be the charm? Spoiler Alert: no.
Riding up the 25, we encountered our first true traffic of the trip. Why don’t other states allow lane splitting?!
A fire crew was practicing in a parking lot with an impressive stream:
At one point we stopped by a building with an interesting logo. Vy thought it was adorable so we snapped a photo – but even after checking out their website, I’m still not entirely sure what Upadowna does.
A quick ride through Colorado Springs provided a reminder that this is the home of the US Olympics Committee:
Soon we were riding right by Pikes Peak – unfortunately, the third time was not the charm, as we happened to be in town as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was in full swing. Because of that, if you wanted to get to the top of the mountain, you had to do it around 4am and you’d be stuck up there for hours. Fine if you’re there for the event, not feasible if you just wanted to stop, check out the sights, and continue on with travel. So yet again, I was foiled by Zebulon Pike. That jerk.
Once we got into Denver, our first top was Confluence Park. You’ve got murals…
…dogs who are having a great time…
…dogs who are struggling….
…and trolleys – sort of. The Plate Valley Trolley is a replica of former “Seeing Denver” cars but they were temporarily shut down when we were there.
The park itself is gorgeous, and it’s just turned 140 years old:
The key feature is probably the South Platte River:
Somewhere upstream, the public can rent kayaks and paddle away to their heart’s content. At one point we saw someone get stuck in the rock outcroppings but my photo did not do it justice.
Before we left Los Angeles, Vy wanted to check out a traveling art show called Intrude. I assumed the point was that bunnies are cute, so big bunnies are…cuter? Turns out it’s actually about how they’re “a big problem in spite of their cuteness“, which is now how I’ll start describing Vy to people. HA. The artist says that rabbits are “an out of control pest, leaving a trail of ecological destruction wherever they go and defying attempts at eradication.”
It was in LA for 5 days but we weren’t able to check it out, which was a disappointment for Vy – probably how she’ll start describing me to people. Oddly enough, the last stop on this traveling tour of bunny art was Denver, and our timing could not have been better:
We got lunch at a fantastic place called Steuben’s. I didn’t get enough photos in here, but it’s well worth a visit. Get the pimento cheese and pretzel bites appetizer!
Leaving town, Vy snapped what might be my favorite photo of the trip so far. I’m immature.
We detoured off the main road so we could head towards Rocky Mountain National Park. Right next to a gas stop in Lyons is Spirit Hound Distillers – they’ve got a clever sign that plays off the normal welcome to Colorado sign – here’s a side by side for you:
We couldn’t find Goldilocks:
Rocky Mountain National Park was a surprise highlight of the trip. I think I was so excited about Yellowstone that I never bothered to fully investigate what one could see in the Rockies. The scenery was majestic, which means my GS looked majestic, too:
This is the first time we had seen snow in a while, so Vy thought it’d be a good time for a Baby Jack portrait:
She also took the opportunity to make a snow angel:
There’s one road that sinews through the park, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.
Along the way you’ll see marmots…
The road tops 12,000 feet, which is as high as we were going to be able reach considering we had to skip Pikes Peak:
This snowbank was just about as tall as me on the bike:
This was about the 15th time we crossed the Continental Divide, but it was the first time the moment was marked with an educational sign:
Just because you leave the park, it doesn’t mean the wildlife spottings end. A few miles out, we had to slow down for several parked cars and people with their cameras out. We joined to see what the commotion was and were rewarded with the sight of this moose:
Near Granby, Vy noticed this Caterpillar tractor. We got a photo but I didn’t think much of it at the time. Turns out Tillotson’s 50-50 Ranch (named because when Bill Tillotson bought it, he split ownership 50/50 with the previous owner) hosts a collection of vintage trucks, construction equipment, and tractors. I really should have gone in there. For more info, check out this article on Grand Country Living. For more photos, check out this set on Flickr by Patricia Henschen.
As we prepared to enter Wyoming, many thanks were due to reader Russ A, who emailed me a suggested route and a whole bunch of recommended stops. We were excited to try out his suggestions, but the sun was setting behind an impending storm.
Turns out the ominous sunset was a bit of foreshadowing – at the next gas station, the attendant came out to chat with us. She asked where we were going, and my casual response of “Laramie” was met with an abrupt “No, you’re not.” Vy and I were taken aback for a moment, waiting for some sort of clarification that didn’t come until we had to prompt her. According to her, there was an out of control fire that had closed Route 125, the direct route north. This posed a problem, as the only other road to Laramie added 110 miles to the 120 we still had to ride – and it was about to get dark. I was both surprised and annoyed by this news, but most of all, I was confused. I hopped on my phone and looked up the Colorado DOT website, where there was no mention of a road closure. I didn’t think this lady was right, but I wasn’t excited about getting halfway to the destination before being turned around. After about 10 minutes of deliberation, an EMS truck pulled up to the gas station, so we asked the driver if he knew anything about the road closure. He wasn’t sure, but he went above and beyond by calling it into his dispatch, and they confirmed the road was clear. Vy and I were very appreciative of his help and asked if he’d let us take a photo of him by the bike. Thank you very much, Captain Erich Barber of the Grand County EMS!
A few minutes in, it was clear that we’d also be dealing with some lightning. To be frank, I started to wuss out and asked Vy over our Sena headsets if she wanted to turn back and just get a motel in Granby instead. I figured if she said to turn back, I could pretend like I was planning on riding through the storm anyway! To her credit, she simply pointed out that we couldn’t hear the lightning yet so it had to be far away. Photo without lightning:
Lightning in the distance:
Buoyed by her confidence, I headed into the storm. I’ve ridden near/through thunderstorms before (and I’m never excited about it), but this time I was treated to the new experience of riding through hail. It all felt a bit comical, but we made it through just fine and the lightning never got too close. Once the rain finally ended, we pulled over to get this shot: what it doesn’t convey is that this is nearly an hour after sunset. I was impressed by how light the sky still was:
I was hoping to meet Russ in Laramie but our schedules didn’t line up. So – Russ, while we didn’t get to meet you, thank you so much for the excellent suggestions that we ended up using the next day! Tired and hungry, Vy and I decided to get a bite before calling it a night, and we ended up at the Crowbar and Grill, which is the kind of place where you see this. If you made it this far through the story, I think you’re neat, too:
It was too late for the full dinner menu, which included gems like these:
Some pad thai fries and a beer or two later and I was back in a good place. We got some rest, ready to tackle the state of Wyoming the next day.
Missed Day 5? Vy and I have a minor issue and then check out some ladybugs. Albuquerque, New Mexico to Pueblo, Colorado: ~400 miles.