I awoke well before dawn and had to leave without saying goodbye to my hosts. I had to ride a couple of miles back down into Salida and found my way once I got back to Absolute Bikes. I felt slow along the flats, and after starting the climb up to Marshalls Pass, I realized this would be a long climb. I think it was the mental exhaustion from the ordeals of the previous day, but it took me four hours to warm up. I was not happy until this point, especially when passing the campers cooking breakfast at the beautiful O’Haver Lake, but by the time I had summited a few thousand vertical metres later, I was okay.
A nice long descent and a bunnyhop over this:
and I was in Sargents. It was a tiny town, but had “Burgers & Beer” and a really overpriced grocery store. After the next section along the pavement, there was more than 30 miles of dry and dusty washboard through boring country (Retro- with hindsight, the hardest parts of the race were these stretches of dry washboarded roads through brown, flat countryside- not physically, but mentally. I would often have to stop because I couldn’t take the boredom. Getting off the bike, getting some food, and looking at the maps for a few minutes was the best mental break I could get).Before coming onto the 114 road I am pretty sure I saw a Lynx, but he was way too fast for photos. At the Upper Dome Reservoir the water pump did work, but for some reason I purified water from the lake instead. I would have loved to have cooled off in the water, but sitting down and killing a Snickers had spent enough time. After almost stepping on a snake, I set off with the aim of getting over Carnero Pass by bedtime.
I held reasonably high speed up the easy climb to Cochetopa Pass into the dying afternoon light. On the descent I realized we were entering some different country, with more prominent red rock outcrops. That’s another shame of doing this race, as I would realize the next morning: riding in the dark of night or early morning, you miss some pretty amazing scenery. As it darkened and cooled on the way up to Carnero Pass I would stop and put clothes and lights on, but with a full moon, I enjoyed riding without a front light. The large low moon was partly obscured by the mountain range to the east but the road was good and there was just enough light to see. What I didn’t miss was the meteor that came low over the forest on the summit and looking like it crashed where I imagined my camp would be. With daydreams of fighting off an alien invasion in the middle of nowhere, I crested and made my way down. I passed the rock formations mentioned in the maps, even though I was disappointed, they were still impressive in the moonlight.
There were still cows about, so I crossed some cattleguards into Storm King Campground. I was alone and surprised to find picnic tables and metal fireplaces. I had brought a can of chunky soup, a can of refried beans, and a can of creamed rice, and for some reason I really wanted a hot dinner. I tried to start a fire with my lighter but after 20 minutes I couldn’t get the thing started even though the tinder I had found was dry. I gave up and walked back down to the river to get some water, walking back up I was surprised to see the fire burning well (pesky fire gnomes). I looked around expecting to see some smart arse standing there with a flamethrower, but there was no one (I think?). After popping the lids of the cans and chucking them in the fire, I had a cooked meal.