Friday, June 22, 2007

Monarch Pass @ 11,312 feet! Day 19

All the riders felt a special sense of accomplishment today. We crossed the high point of our ride, at 11,312 feet above sea level. After 30 miles of gradual, almost gentle, climbing, we arrived at the base of Monarch Pass. For the next 9 miles we climbed an additional 3000 + feet to the summit. It was beautiful and challenging. The air was progressively thinner, but all our cyclists made it to the top!

At the top of the pass, there was a tram (like an enclosed ski lift) that rose an additional 500 feet. From there, you could see high, snow covered mountains in all directions. We were on top of the Continental Divide--until now, all water had flowed (eventually) into the Pacific Ocean (except the water in the Great Basin which simply returned underground (see prior posts)). After crossing the Divide, water flows (ultimately) into the Atlantic Ocean (for the next several weeks, the route we travel will be in the Mississippi watershed, flowing into the Gulf of Mexico).

I had a special visitor last night, who took the photo on top of the tramline at Monarch Pass today (who insisted I use this photo--sorry for the mis-aligned "do wrap", but I had been working hard!). My wife, Carol, flew to Denver, then drove to Gunnison yesterday. Today she was fantastic, bringing peaches to the first SAG stop, then offering water and encouragement to the riders as we climbed. Her rent-a-car was a welcome sight going up (and occasionally back down) the mountain, stopping to offer aid. She will be with us four days, before flying home. It's her first trip to Colorado, and, like me, she is enjoying the sights.

After an hours stay at the top of Monarch Pass, we rode 23 more miles into Salida, Colorado. It was all down hill (the first 9 miles steep and fast, fairly similar to what we had climbed). It was fun to go fast without having to work any more! We have a long ride tomorrow to Pueblo, then another day off the bike to rest and relax

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