Cycling from the New Mexico Bootheel to Canada, Day Thirty-Three: Silverthorne, Colorado to Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado
July 3rd, 2016: 45 miles. Total so far: 1,114 miles.
We were up and excited to get started on the “reboot” of our tour. First we had to get out of Silverthorne, and ride 13 miles on busy CO-9, which fortunately has a nice, wide shoulder on this section. It also helped that it was Sunday morning, and we got most of the miles done before the mass of the holiday tourists were on the road.
Not longer after we turned onto the much quieter paved road up to Ute Pass, we realized that we’d left our lunch in the refrigerator in the hotel room back in Silverthorne. Sad, but it was certainly not worth a nearly-30-mile round trip by bike to retrieve three sandwiches.
The ride up to the pass was nice enough, but steep in spots. We saw several people coasting down the mountain on crappy hybrid bikes that looked like rentals. None of them acknowledged my “Hello”, or even looked me in the eye as they flew by. I was pretty sure these people had hired someone to drive them and the bikes up to the pass, since they exhibited no evidence of the exertion that would been required if they’d gotten to the top under their own power. I try not to judge, but it seemed pretty lame to me.
About half a mile from the top, we saw, written on the road, “Fajitas 1/2 mile!”, but when we reached the top there were no fajitas. It was too bad we weren’t riding up to the pass a few days ago, during whatever organized bike ride was supplying the fajitas. I totally would have tried to score some of them.
While I waited for Joy at the pass I talked to a friendly roadie on his morning ride, and then, when Joy arrived, we observed two guys in a Jeep attempting to take selfies (with a mountain in the background) without leaving their vehicle. Their loud, silly conversation irritated me, especially when one of them yelled from the Jeep “I love nature!”
On the way down, we passed through something called the “Henderson Industrial Area”, a mining operation that has hideously scarred the surrounding land. Just outside the boundary of this ugly industrial section, as the road turned from pavement to gravel, we came upon a group of parked RV’s. I was thinking that this was certainly a bleak place to “camp” when Joy asked “Can we come back to the Henderson Industrial Area to celebrate the 4th of July next year?”
Things started looking much prettier as we moved away from the Henderson Industrial Area. The gravel road was mostly traffic-free, and in good condition. At the point where we had to make a final decision about staying on the Great Divide, we found some shade next to a creek, and stopped for a snack, as curious cows walked up to the fence.
A little later we stayed on the county road instead of making a left turn, and were off the Great Divide route. We didn’t feel sad. After a short climb the road turned to pavement, and we started descending. On the way down we met a nice family who were out on a day ride, and talked to them for quite a while. The teenage daughter was riding a 1970's-era ten-speed with a giant front chain ring, and I was very impressed that she was climbing with that thing.
The county road ended at US 40, and we were on the TransAmerica Trail route, which Joy and I had both done ten years ago. The wide shoulder made this part of the ride pleasant, as I remembered it being in 2006. One thing along the road was new since then: A shooting range, where we observed men, women, and children firing powerful weapons. “Fun for the whole family”, cracked Joy.
The nice paved shoulder ended as we entered Byers Canyon, which was very scenic, but unnerving with the holiday traffic. Unlike ten years ago, though, this time we were on bikes that could navigate the dirt shoulder, so we just rode on that most of the time.
After a few miles we exited the canyon and rode into Hot Sulphur Springs (population 639) where we stopped for lunch at a cafe. The men’s restroom was fishing-themed, with, among other things, a toilet seat adorned with pictures of fish, and a rack of fishing magazines to read, while the women’s restroom (I was informed by Joy) had a biblical theme, with bible verses written on the wall. Make of this what you will.
We had dawdled at the restaurant, and as we rode slowly through the small town, Joy mentioned that there was no way any lodging would be available on a holiday weekend, and even the National Forest campground, several miles up the mountain would likely be full, thus requiring us to “rough camp” somewhere, when I glanced across the road at an old mom-and-pop motel, and saw that its “Vacancy” sign was lit up
Thus our plans to “rough camp” 20 miles up the mountain were abandoned. The Canyon Motel was a nice, well-preserved example of the old mom-and-pop motor inns from the middle of the last century. Joy walked down to soak in the hot springs that the town was named for, while I talked to some of our neighbors at the motel. After the Great Divide, where we were often days between towns (or even sources of water), this actually felt like a bike tour. Later we walked to the nearby “Dari-Delite”, where we sat outside at a picnic table, ate delicious, greasy food, and observed a few rambunctious children who, oddly enough, did not annoy me.
This nice day ended well when we retired to our room and slept soundly, our quiet neighbors at the motel apparently being the types who go to bed before 9:00, just like we do.