Alaska Adventure Machine!

Alaska Adventure Machine!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


Day 3 dawned with more rain and forecasted 'doom and gloom' on the motel TV. The low pressure system wasn't going to let up at all. In fact it was beginning to look like we'd be experiencing it into New Mexico now. This lingering winter weather was beginning to ruin my dreams of a sunny cycle South.

We quickly downed the burritos we had purchased the night before from a roadside food truck. We had a 107 mile ride ahead of us, beginning with a 2,000' climb up Poncha Pass. The sooner we hit the road the better. In the pre-dawn drizzle, and with low cloud ceiling, we cycled upwards in full rain gear, neoprene booties and a flashing tail light blinking our presence.
The grade up Poncha Pass was reasonable, in fact one I found my perfect rhythm on. Some climbs are so steep one really strains on the pedals. This one seemed ideal for me; a nice 90 rpm cadence and I quickly gained elevation on the 2,000' climb. Dan seemed to be dragging a bit, the cumulative exertions digging him deeper into his illness. Today would be another test for him.

We had a quick descent down Poncha Pass into the San Luis Valley. Now we were at the northern limits of the conquistadors explorations of 1599. This is the oldest area of Spanish influence in Colorado. It is full of rich history and worthy of a visit by both history buffs and nature lovers. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is certainly unique, consisting of thirty square miles of sand dunes nestled at the base of the 14,000' tall snow capped San de Cristo Range. But there would be no viewing of the cloud shrouded peaks today, as we were chased by frequent rain squalls across the  hundred mile long valley floor. Nor was there time in our demanding schedule to detour to the dunes. We were factory workers slaving away, turning the bicycle cranks round and round.
We took a short break in Alamosa, CO. Dan's energy was really slipping. We had another 27 miles to go. A strong wind was really picking up. For 17 miles we struggled to even stay upright, as we were slammed sideways frequently by the gusty blasts. We were punch drunk as we fought our way past Jack Dempsey's birthplace, Manassa CO.
By mile 107 Dan was beaten down. His bronchitis had won. His normally cheerful spirit was crushed. With just fumes in his tank, he said his last cycling prayer for this trip at the oldest church in Colorado. Just 6 miles from the NM state line, here in Antonito, CO, was the end for him. I couldn't blame him. He had started the trip sick and run down. This was a predictable conclusion. However he had battled mightily and we had grown closer over the days and rugged miles of this trip. It had been trench warfare for him. The weather had been wet, windy and not pleasant most of the way. These hadn't been conditions suitable for any sort of recuperation by him at all. So we enjoyed our last evening together over a tasty green chili New Mexican style dinner. It had been a memorable ride all in all, but now I would have to push on alone. A friend of Dan's from Santa Fe would drive up tomorrow and take him back home to Albuquerque. He was quite disappointed.

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