Two Tales of the Unexpected

First things first; congratulations to Scotland on making the right decision last night.  It would have been extremely odd to have returned to a completely different country to the one I left…

I’m having a day off in the nice little town of Del Norte today.  And pondering some oddities over my huevos rancheros and coffee this morning.

If I’d had to identify before I left home where the flattest day’s ride of the trip would be, the Rockies would not have been high on the list of candidates.  The French coast, maybe.  The plains of Kansas, maybe.  But not the Rockies.

And yet yesterday was the flattest day so far, with less than 100m (300ft) of climbing.  Very bizarre.

I climbed La Veta pass the day before, which took me to a height of 9413ft (just under 3000m), and then dropped into the valley beyond; a lovely 20 mile downhill, which was only slightly marred by being pursued relentlessly by a storm.  It never quite caught me, but meant I had to cut the day short at Fort Garland.  This left the whole of the flat valley bottom for yesterday.

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The Holland-like flatness was a nice change of pace.  I seem to be fully adjusted to the altitude now, and the gentle 58-mile roll across the valley was a nice prelude to a day off.  There’s a bigger and steeper pass to come tomorrow, which is supposed to be stunning, so the rest day is well worthwhile.

I rolled into Del Norte and found another cyclists’ hostel.  This one is part of a fantastic little complex called Organic Peddler on the Edge, including a shop and cafe.  It was recommended by Debbie, who I met back in Newton, Kansas, about a hundred years ago.  The hostel has been set up mainly to cater for bikers doing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which runs nearly 2800 miles down the Rockies from Banff in Canada to the Mexican border.  Offroad.  If you think I’m doing a tough ride, think again…

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I settled into the hostel, and was told that another biker would be arriving later.  Nobody seemed sure exactly when, but he was apparently a 70-year-old guy who was riding the Great Divide (again putting me to shame; 2000-odd miles offroad at 70?!?), and had decided to abandon as he couldn’t keep up with the rest of his group.  Some of this was true.

After a pizza and a couple of beers in town, I returned to an empty hostel.  I guessed maybe he hadn’t made it after all.

At about ten-thirty, there was a crunching of gravel outside, followed by a knock at the door.  A guy who looked to be in his late 50s stood in the doorway.  Dressed in a hospital gown, complete with wrist-tag and multiple wound dressings.

Clearly, he’d not had a good day.

It turned out that this was the 70-year-old I’d been waiting for, and that he was abandoning his Great Divide ride.  Not because he couldn’t keep up, but because he’d somehow (and he was no clearer on how than I was; I suspect alcohol may have been involved) managed to fall into his campfire, setting himself alight.  Thankfully, he’d been rescued by one of his companions, but not before sustaining severe burns.  He’d just got back to Del Norte after an air-ambulance trip to Denver.  Hope he’s got decent insurance…

So, the Rockies are being interesting already, and I’ve still got several days more to go.  Big climbs, hot springs, and beautiful scenery are what I’m expecting.  But who knows what other oddness may be on the way too?

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