Thursday, 23 July 2015


I departed Golden, on the outskirts of Denver, early morning on Friday 17 July. My goal for the first day was a small town just 39 miles away called Empire.

But not before I hauled my 40lb load, me and the bike (which I've nicknamed Yogi by the way) up a relentlessly steep six miles to visit the grave of Buffalo Bill. Apparently, not long after he was interred in 1917, residents of Cody, a town he founded, planned to steal the body. So the townsfolk of Golden poured tons of concrete on top of him!

Down the other side of Lookout Mountain Road I hit a major problem. I was at a junction of Interstate 70 (i70) and I needed to get to a point two miles on. But bicycles are not allowed on the Interstate and there were no other roads. I stood for almost an hour scratching my three-day facial hair growth, pondering what on earth to do, when Bob, in his pickup truck, arrived. Unbelievably he was an engineer about to start construction on a bike path to fill the gap!  Four months too late for me he says, then puts all my gear and bike into the back of his truck and takes me the two miles!

This, in my experience, is what I love about the American people.

I didn't make it to Empire. The altitude of 8,000 feet was already taking it's toll, and it was near to 95 degrees and almost the same humidity. At Idaho Springs I threw in the towel and took a motel room.

The following day was short and I just finished the 13 miles to Empire. All the way there I was treated to the old and abandoned gold mine works, now long since closed down. However, I was constantly distracted by the chaos of heavy traffic, at times just two feet from me! At Empire I decided to stay put and acclimatise a little. I'm glad I did, as I met the local town character Rob Morris. What he didn't know about Empire wasn't worth knowing. He was once married to the grand daughter of one of the founders of Harley Davidson. I could have listened to his stories all day, especially about the local Hard Rock Cafe. This is the original, by name, and it was hotly contested when the chain started up. But Rob and Empire won the day.

An overcast, and actually cold, day greeted me for the ascent over Berthoud Pass, at 11,307 feet. With inclines as steep as 6% it took me four hours to haul everything up the 12 miles to the top. Once there I posed for a photo on the Continental Divide. If I poured water on one side of the sign it would flow to the Atlantic. On the other, the Pacific. Down the other side it was freezing as I whizzed along at between 25 and at times 35mph. I was actually shaking on the bike form the cold.

I scooted through the ski town of Winter Park, a purpose built town with no charm, and clocked a few more miles to stay in Grandby, a town that the Colorado River runs by on the edge of town. As I chatted to a local policeman about my journey he asked if there had been any "No Bicycles" sign at the problem i70 junction. There hadn't been. In that case then, he said, no one could have stopped you using the shoulder!

Another pass beckoned, Willow Creek, with it's approach through a stereo typical picturesque North American wooded valley. Arapahoe county. This pass  was only at 9,683 feet, but when the sun comes out and beats down it makes it just as difficult as the day before. Beyond the pass the temperature rose rapidly and I struggled onto Walden, running out of water before I got there. I rewarded myself that night with pizza. The local police had no problem letting me camp in the city park. They told me the sprinklers came on around 5am on the south side, so camp on the north. But that was not what happened. They came on at 5am alright, but both north and south! Nothing like a morning cold shower to get you going!

I had hoped yesterdays ride would be under 50 miles, but in the end I clocked up 68, again in searing heat, to camp at Saratoga. My intention had been to stop at Riverside, the 50 mile point, and have a day off to use wifi. Unfortunately, at the local diner, they said their wifi (the only one in town) was down, but it would probably be back in five days or so! Five days?! As I was chasing wifi to be able to post this blog I pushed on, so that today I could reach Rawlins, where I knew I would get reliable wifi, which I did, obviously. The most exciting part of yesterday though was crossing the state line out of Colorado and into Wyoming.

Long roads disappearing into the distance in a straight line from the Colorado/Wyoming state line, took me through a tree-less, yet amazing landscape of rolling plains, and eventually led me to Rawlins. Not before I had to endure 13 miles of craziness on Interstate 80 though! Phew! Sadly, on arrival, the police in Rawlins were unwillingly to let me use the city park, which is becoming the norm, and annoying, and a local campground, called KOA, said they were full. When I explained I just had a bicycle, not a super-massive RV, and a wee tent, they weren't interested in helping me. Eventually I stayed the night in a motel and tomorrow night in another, further away campground. It's all part of the adventure and daily challenges; sleep, get up, cycle, buy food, find somewhere to camp, repeat.

When I look at the photographs and recall the magnificent views on the plains, all the problems seem not to matter.

Overall every day is pretty tough. Occasionally the boredom of cycling solo is broken by meeting fellow touring cyclists going the other way, having as tough a time as you, and a fun exchange takes place of tips of the places each has yet to encounter. Always it starts with, where are you heading, where did you start from.

Every day always entails climbing of hills, and it regularly hits 85 degrees. Throw in an 18 to 24 mph head wind and 40 miles can feel like 80. But the bike, sorry, Yogi, is running well, and I'm acclimatised and getting stronger, slowly.

The next section takes me through areas of little services so I'll have extra weight on the bike in the way of additional food. 250 miles done, 280 miles to mighty Yellowstone National Park!

All the photos so far on Flickr.


Minionaire said...

Hi Graham, fantastic blog post. Sounds like you're enjoying the ride! I'm rather jealous of you visiting Yellowstone - looking forward to some nice photos :-)

Graham Kitchener said...

No pressure then? They wont be a patch on your work Dave but I'll do my best. Unfortunately it's going to be the busiest time of year when I get there!

Al Scott said...

Good work Graham! Presume Yogi is coming back to Edinburgh? How does he/she compare to your old steed? Best of luck for the next leg. Al

Graham Kitchener said...

Much lighter bike and the 700 wheels are fast. Yes, Yogi is coming back but since this blog now on his own :-(