Ride the Rockies, Day 7 – Alamosa to Salida

Ride the Rockies Day Seven
84 Miles, 2,000 Vertical
Max. Speed 50.0 mph
Max. Headwind 0 mph
Alamosa to Salida via the puny Poncha Pass
The Author on Poncha Pass

The day started out in a particularly mellow fashion, appropriate for a day of little climbing and steady tailwinds. Stan and I had breakfast with a municipal sanitation engineer from Milwaukee that we met with his wife in the hot tub the night before. At his suggestion we caught the early bus back to Alamosa for an early start to a hot and windy day. The day promised some entertainment, as we were going by Colorado’s own alligator farm and alien (think outer space, not illegal) visitors greeting center, equally seemingly misplaced in this cold high desert. Both are apparently drawn to and facilitated by the hot springs in the area, and the local’s wild imaginations.

The most interesting geology in the area is the peculiar hydrology. The San Luis Valley is about 60 miles long, and is surrounded by very high mountains that receive over 100 inches of precipitation per year. The valley floor is dead flat, well sorted, sub-glacial sediments, which are amazingly porous and permeable, and absorb 100% of this runoff. There are no surface streams and the resulting aquifer is several thousand feet deep, and lies just below the surface. Perhaps the Aliens are attracted to this water for cooling their anti-matter propulsion units. It’s as good an explanation as any.

The morning started out at 32 degrees, and we were bundled up. The first seventy one miles of the trip were quite monotonous, and I spent most of the time standing to pedal, as after 500 miles in seven day my butt was simply bruised meat. At least that is how it felt to me. The only pass-time we had was guessing the distance of notable features in the distance and then measuring as we rode. Pretty dull.
We crested the summit at 11:30 into, what we used to call on Wall St., a relief rally. There a palpable sense of relief, and people were getting about as raucous as tired bicyclists get, which is to say smiling and hugging people known to them. The DJ was on top giving away free T-shirts, and struck up the ubiquitous Colorado Rocky Mt. High and we saddled up for the descent. I couldn’t listen to that even one more time, without being moved to unkind thoughts about the untimely drunken demise of John Denver in his ultra-light aircraft.

The descent was fast, fun and straight. We both beat out a couple of young and beautiful bicyclists who clearly did not understand the physics behind sectional density. Stan and I are old and heavy, but unbeatable going downhill. Revenge was ours at the end. We were very glad that the ride did not end on a climb where physics favors the light.

The scene in Salida was great, and I’ve always liked this little town on the Arkansas River. We went up to Buena Vista for a little rafting on the way home, where we encountered the comic highlight of the day. The River here is pretty mellow, and people use little 3-4 man rafts with canoe paddles. A group of 5-6 rafts came by and pulled into the landing that we were using. The last raft had two guys in it, with an inflatable love doll strapped to the stern as the third passenger. This strange juxtaposition of the sublime and the ridiculous reduced Stan and me to laughing fits. The ladies on the shore were mortified.

So ended the great 25th Anniversary Ride the Rockies Tour for us. Stay tuned for Mt. Rainier in July.

Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

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