During our nearly week-long layover in Denver, we gathered enough intelligence and tips from local cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts, including Jay from Turin Bicycles to continue our cross-country adventure. Armed with new maps and a plan to reconnect with the official route, we set out for Boulder by way of some highways and even an interesting set of bike paths that paralleled some interesting canals reminiscent of the race scene from Grease… with my terrible singing included. (Cha Cha for reference.)
At an intersection, a friendly woman in an SUV waved to us, and we asked her for some additional local route advice. Tracy pulled over and gave us her take on the safest way to Boulder, and after we pedaled on for several miles, she intercepted us on her own bicycle and actually led us toward our destination.
In Boulder, our Warmshowers host Ed greeted us at his beautiful home and let us stay on a futon in a snazzy garage/game-room adjacent to his house. He and his partner Wendy dined with us at The Sink, a popular local hangout, and to my great excitement, I learned Wendy was also an evaluator!
So, a short digression… people often ask what it is that we do professionally that allows us to travel this way, or just outright asked, “how can you possibly afford this?” For me, the truth is I probably can’t! 😉 Searching for free camping sites and limiting my expenses to food (as much as possible) have helped to stretch the budget. That said, this trip has been sponsored in part by the wonderful opportunity to work with Anita Baker at Evaluation Services, doing work I love– helping not-for-profit and social service organizations evaluate their programs and building the capacity of those agencies to conduct their own evaluations. End of /shamelessplug. But in all seriousness, I have the best boss and a rewarding career, and I’ve been able to live my cross-country-touring dreams with her support and generosity. And that was how I came to find myself in Boulder, enjoying a fun meal and discussing the American Evaluation Association’s annual conferences with Ed and Wendy.
The next day, we got a great start at Village Coffee Shop, and even Tunes was a fan of their bacon.
Nourished and rested, we began the climb toward Estes Park. Up, up and away.
There was a bit of a hail storm, but it didn’t last long. When we stopped in the ghost town of Ward, elevation 9,450′ and population 150, we stopped into the general store for a legendary homemade chocolate chip cookie and luckily dodged another intense hail storm.
The drizzly rain continued and we had on our warm layers as the high altitude chill set in. That evening, we set up camp on the covered front porch of an unused rental cabin behind an abandoned grocery store in Allenspark. It was a good way to dodge the rain and lightning that persisted throughout the night.
The next morning, we filled our many water bottles at a spring station and were treated to another day of long views of the Rocky Mountains that we were eager to traverse.
An ominous sign for cyclists was not a deterrent, and we pushed onward.
A glorious descent into Estes Park, complete with breathtaking views and the rainy wind in our faces, led us to our warm and winsome WS host Annie. As it turns out, last year, she’d cycled the TransAm, and rode part of the way with our Irish inspiration, Garry. We met Garry last year as he was riding from NY to VA to OR, and chatting with him was one of the catalysts for our own undertaking of this journey. It’s a small cycling world afterall.
Annie baked us a plate full of chocolate chip cookies that were instantly inhaled, and in our fun conversation, she shared that she’d buzzed her head and it had been liberating. Having a long-standing desire to be low-“mane”tenance myself, we were off in search of her coworker’s barber tools. Finding none, we settled for a borrowed and cleaned beard trimmer, made a coif-cutting playlist including india.arie’s powerful “I Am Not My Hair,” and began to lighten the load on my head.
We were eager to get an early start to begin our ascent through Rocky Mountain National Park’s legendary Trail Ridge Road. Now I was more aerodynamic and wouldn’t have to carry shampoo and conditioner.