I shoulda realised that there'd be days like this.....
Well, after watching The Weather Channel at the Pagosa Bar on the night of Day Eleven, and being advised by the weathergirl wearing the vacant stare that there was supposed to be a shit-kicker blizzard tomorrow night, putting more than ten inches of snow at Wolf Creek Pass, I had decided that I'd best get to my cabin-ette and TRY to get a SOMEWHAT early start tomorrow morning on Day Twelve.
After a luxurious brekker (French toast with whipped cream and strawberries), hit the road at 12:15pm. Sunny, slightly chilly, but not a bad day to ride. Wolf Creek Pass.....all 10,500-plus feet of it.......was approaching quickly. Saw the sign "Wolf Creek Pass Summit - 8 miles" and gulped nervously. I really had zero idea HOW well the Helix would take this.......
Turns out.....the Helix blew up to the top fairly easily.......but Christ, was it cold!!! GLAD that I had thought better of the idea I had had where I was gonna mail my Carhartt onward to Buffalo once I hit L.A. - figuring that I'm cruising the South, thus, I'd no longer need it and it'd take some weight offa my bike.
GOOD thing I hung on to it...... almost became a Goddamm popsicle at the summit!!
And THAT, dearest reader(s), is about as good as it would get for Day Twelve.
Entered the San Luis Valley at Del Norte (which, in English, translates to "Norte of the Del"). Now, being a Geographer (don't ask me what a Geographer actually does, but I think that they drift around aimlessly and look at shit.....an' stuff like that), I have the San Luis Valley on my ten most stunning places on Earth list. Problem being, all the times I have experienced it, it was in an automobile......
So, there's this little, teensy, eensy issue called "psychotic-asskicker-killer-wind-from-hell" that tends to waft gentle breezes over the San Juan Mountains and into the San Luis Valley. So pleasant.
....boy, did THAT suck. Especially factoring that, on a GOOD day, the Helix actually weighs 350lbs....factoring MY fat-ass on top of it, we then go to 550lbs.....then, adding all my gear, we is looking at MAYBE 600 lbs. Still ain't enough to fend off the winds of the San Luis Valley. Try it sometime.,...it's really a lot of fun.....ESPECIALLY on a two-lane highway when a 18-wheeler blows by you going the other direction.
I had never openly and verbally cursed at wind before.....until now.
Allright......soooo.....eventually made it through to Salida, and stopped and asked directions to Fairplay, where I'd then continue on Route 285 into the SouthEast part of Denver. Cool......
Well, when you're on a two-wheeled vehicle cruising down the highway, you really tend to spend a LOT of time staring carefully at the pavement in front of you. This is in case you might run into any hazards, such as weird cracks in the asphalt (just LOVELY for your balance), animals running out into the road, Republicans, and so forth. HOWEVER, I happened to be looking a BIT too intently at the road, and thus.....kept going straight at Buena Vista, Colorado, where I shoulda turned right (marked by a sign as large and noticeable as a gnat's ass) to continue on 285 to Fairplay.
Soooo, after cruising about fiddy miles and seeing NOTHING familiar (I'd been to and through Fairplay quite a few times before), I stop at a petrol station dead in the middle of absolute fucking NOWHERE......
"Errrmm.......how do I get to Fairplay.....and.....uhhhh......WHERE am I?"
"Oooooh......Fairplay's back down the road a spell.....go back about fifty miles to Buena Vista, and then make a left onto 285, then go thrity miles, and you'll be there."
"Errmm.....wait: So, I'm NOT on 285 now????"
"Noooooo.....you are on highway 24, about ten miles South of Leadville."
"WHERE the fuck's THAT???"
"Where ya goin' to again, son?"
"Well, I'm TRYING to find my way to Denver, and....."
"OOOOOOOH.....OK. Well, for THAT, ya gotta go North up to Leadville, look for highway 91, then take a left, then go slight right, and follow that road, and it'll take you to Copper Mountain."
"Excuse me?? You mean Copper Mountain the SKI RESORT?"
It was at this exact moment that I really wanted to let out a literal scream of rage at 170 decibels.....but I didn't wish to scare the hell out of the kind elderly folks who gave me these directions, so I literally bit my tongue.....
Got my handheld back-country GPS out, saw the main roads in the area, and used it to get my ass to Leadville, where I see a sign that says "Highest incorporated city in the U.S.A.". THEN, found Highway 91 using my GPS, then I saw a sign:
"Fremont Pass Summit - 5 miles"
Waaaaaai a minute here! I'm already AT 10,210 feet here in Leadville!!!! Uhhhh......how high can this summit actually BE???
I'd find out - 11,600 feet or so.
So, whilst trying to actually crawl up this thing, the Helix is barely managing 45 M.P.H. and coughing and sputtering. Finally, the carburetor says:
"E.....Dude....listen - pull the fuck over.....we gotta have a speak."
"NOT now, Carb....gotta make it up this summit....."
"No, no.....it isn't an option, E, pull this shit over NOW, or I WILL!!!"
"I don't think so, carb......"
"Oooooh? Jes' fuckin' wait......"
Well, the carburetor was all bluster and no action....as I DID make it over Fremont Pass (snow EVERYWHERE, about 31 degrees and, thank Christ, bone dry roads) got to Copper Mountain, hopped onto I-70 East and headed to Denver. Carb REFUSED to push the Helix over 55 MPH, and I made it to Idaho Springs, about 30 miles West of Denver. WAS gonna just say "Fuck it!!!" and call it quits here and grab a motel, but I called my friend in Denver, agreed to meet at Govnr's Park (a local pub) and he told me about some really nasty-ass looking fronts looking to the West.
I looked up and around: Scary looking clouds both in FRONT of and BEHIND me.
I wanted to go home.....back to Portlandia!
I reeeaaaallllly did NOT need this shit........
Gritted my teeth, slapped my helmet back on and gunned the Helix towards I-70 and down the huge-ass hill into the City of Denver......
Blew straight through the first frontal system (a rainstorm) and, as soon as I got down to around 5700 feet elevation, the Helix SCREAMED to life: "VRRRROOOOOOM!!!!"
Shit......GOTTA remember to do that rich-lean/air-fuel idle mixture adjustment next time I do something as stoooopid as this..,....
Met friends at Govnr's Park for pints and great conversation.
Just been doing nothing but meeting up with close friends here in The Mile-High City for the last couple of days........and Tomorrow (the 15th), I'm off towards Albuquerque, New Mexico
Now, to recap on the ride thus far, click on the map below -
More in a couple days......