Monday, June 20, 1984
Pueblo to Royal Gorge, Colo.
I’m reprinting the day-to-day journal entries of a cross-country bike tour my friend and I took in 1984. More about the TransAmerica Tour 1984
So there I am posing at the side of US 50 with a horned antelope skull balanced on my helmet. Is it wacky altitude weirdness or just giddiness about being on the road again?
Probably the latter. After killing a day in Pueblo, we early and steadily headed toward a line of blue mountains ahead of us. As the morning wore on the mountains grew and finally enveloped us as we progressed into the Rockies.
We stopped at Penrose at 21 miles, then lunched in Canon City 15 miles later. About a mile outside this town, we both geared down to our grannies and just started climbing. To paraphrase Dorothy, we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Prickly pear and cholla cacti — not wheat — populated the arid hillsides.
We finally reached the top of our first climb where the horizon was filled with snow-covered peaks. We turned off for Royal Gorge and the 1,045-foot suspension bridge over the Arkansas River.
We rode some rollercoaster hills over to the gorge — labeled the “Grand Canyon of the Arkansas River.” (We’d already visited the “Grand Canyon of the South with Clothes On” at the Virginia-Kentucky border.) We took a tram into the 1,000-foot deep gorge and later rode a gondola across the top. In addition to these attractions, there’s a bridge that spans the chasm (it’s closed to most traffic now, though), and a railroad runs along the river. That rail route was a battle zone between the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and the Santa Fe Railroad in the 1800s.
We hung out at some overlooks and felt a big storm blow in from the west. The wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and we could see lightning strikes. We pedaled out and started to pass a picnic ground on the way to the campground. Although the picnic area was clearly marked “no camping,” it was deserted and we walked to the back and pitched our tent anyway. We caught the edge of the storm, and ate dinner.
Later, I walked to an overlook that had a view of the foothills we’d crossed. I could see the dark clouds and lightning flashes as the storm marched eastward toward Kansas. I stood there wondering, remembering those rainstorms in Kansas. Will this one interrupt dinner at the Cactus Patch in Tribune? Will the diners pause to watch the rain falling in the street?
Headline: June 20, 1984 —
Ten ethnic Albanians living in Yugoslavia’s Kosovo Province
received jail terms of 3 to 12 years today for antistate activities
and hostile propaganda… (prelude to the war in Kosovo 1996-99)
Camped near Royal Gorge in primitive setting. No water, no nothing, but we are in the Rockies. They are mammoth and awesome. Tomorrow we will push past Salida, along the Arkansas River Valley, and then Friday over Monarch Pass–more than 11,000 feet.
We saw Pike’s Peak coming out of Pueblo this morning, and many more snow-capped peaks. This range is truly magnificent. Bis couldn’t believe it, having only seen the Rockies once before as a child. I remembered them from my last trip west, but still!
We went through Canon City and then to Royal Gorge. There was a 4- to 5-mile climb, but well-graded road. It was around 90 degrees in the early afternoon.
We took many pictures today, especially at Royal Gorge, a gorge that rises 1,000 feet-plus above the rushing Arkansas River. The world’s largest suspension bridge crosses the gorge. We took an incline to the bottom and rode a tram across the top. It was a great sight, but too many tourists getting herded from gift shop to snack bar to make it a tremendous visit. Man can really abuse nature when he sets his mind to it.
It rained around 7 p.m. as we were cooking and setting up camp. Not a hard rain, though. Bis dropped the pot of noodles he was cooking and started swearing. I was laughing in the tent. He salvaged some, but I wasn’t hungry anyway. I had gorged myself at the gorge.
The sunset was beautiful tonight in the mountains. Off to the right, storm clouds were raining on something. The weather is erratic here, only adding to the power and splendor of the place.
I am still having trouble with my crank, I believe. I think it happened when I wrecked–in my second and third gears (ones which I didn’t use too much in Kansas) I get this friction and grating in the crank and pedal. I really believe it is slowing me down, and this is so frustrating, especially when trying to climb a steep grade.
But there is little that can be done short of trying a different crank and seeing if the grating disappears. And a new triple crank as good as the one I have is probably close to $100. I guess I’ll have to live with it, but it is so aggravating.
Very tired tonight. Even though it was a short cycling day, I am spent. I’m sure I’ll have more energy in the a.m.
Day 38 — Just hanging out