The air was cold and damp at 9,000 feet as we woke up in a national park surrounded by trees, a river and sweeping mountains crested with the illumination of the rising morning sun. Before I left the tent, Greg sprinted out to the bikes to bring me some extra layers of wool clothes that I’d forgotten to bring into the tent the night before. We needed to keep warm for the 15 mile ride into town in search of more food to replenish our raided rations.
We had a slice of the Rocky Mountains all to ourselves as we sailed down the empty road through the lavender mist. Although our hopes of seeing a buffalo along the way were unfulfilled, we spotted a lone park ranger on foot in the wild, so we stopped to chat about available services on our route ahead. “Now don’t take what I’m about to say to you the wrong way,” he said with a good-natured smile, “but if you need a shower I can suggest a couple of places in town.”
The ranger also recommended a really nice and “not too outrageously priced” breakfast buffet that he said had a “nice view” of the lake. We went to check it out and couldn’t believe our good luck that the resort with the breakfast buffet was indeed open, not crowded, and had an amazing panoramic view of Grand Lake.
We pretty much destroyed that breakfast buffet by inhaling multiple plates of eggs, breakfast meat, pancakes, fruit, granola, yogurt, pastries, coffee, and even Tunes ended up with a good helping of bacon and sausage. After we dragged our bloated bodies out, lots of people wanted to stop and talk to us and ask about Petunia. It was a gorgeous place to spend some time and we got to avoid a little rain again.
We pedaled on in the afternoon around the scenic lake and toward Hot Sulphur Springs, CO, connecting us back to the Adventure Cycling Association TransAm official route. I ran into a cowboy and cowgirl giving horseback riding tours who told us about a free campground right next to the Colorado River where we could set up and then take a dip in the hot springs to relax our muscles after the previous day’s Big Climb.
We met an older man with white straw-straight hair shooting out from under his worn cowboy hat who was camped out in his small van in a site across from ours. He said he’d been living there for a several days and wasn’t sure where he was planning on going next. He smiled earnestly at us, his kind mouth betraying yellowed and missing teeth, and he proudly showed off his colorful dollar-store solar lanterns that hung from the back of his home, “so I can see my way around at night and not walk into stuff.” After many years of living in the harsh climate on Colorado mountainsides, he said “most of my friends are either dead or dragging around an oxygen tank, and neither of those options sounded very good to me.”
The next morning, after a decadent french toast breakfast at The Glory Hole, we were off and uphill again on the virtually barren route 125 toward Walden, CO!