RTR Day 4 – Ouray to Durango

Ride the Rockies Day Four
75 Miles, 6,500 Vertical
Max. Speed 45.5 mph
Max. Headwind 40 mph
Ouray to Durango – a High and Windy Day

The exit from Ouray goes straight up 3,500 feet with no warm-up. We took off into a brisk headwind that kicked up around 6:00 am, straight down the mountain. The highway was a characteristically funky WPA affair with hand drilled blast holes, lots of skinny tunnels, and no guard rails above some really big drops. This was a three pass day, Red Mountain (11,000-), Molas Pass (10,750), and Coal Bank Pass (10,100). That is a lot of time at altitude, particularly with a stiff headwind. The headwinds prevented the hoped for personal land speed record, as some of the roads were really quite steep. The Sag Wagons were working overtime, and I saw people rolling in as late as 7:15 pm after 13 hours in the saddle – a very long day indeed.

This is old mining country, with works scattered around the countryside where ever the intrusive granite hit shale, a country rock favorable for mineral deposition. Most of the old mines today are going through some environmental remediation. The mountains are the most spectacular in the State, and the attached photos don’t really do them justice.

Most of the characters that I met today were aging hippies, still leading the life of the 60’s, as necessarily modified by 50-60 year old guys. Two in particular merit some comment. The first, Todd, I met while taking a photo near the top of Molas Pass. He had grown up in Wyoming, but found the pressure there too intense, and so moved to one of the outer islands in Hawaii. He was dressed entirely in white and silver – a heavenly apparition from a different time.

The second was an interesting guy named Dan who still dressed in the colorful garb of the 60’s, outlandish even by bicycling standards. He wore rose colored, round, clip-on sun glasses, and, in aggregate, reminded me of what Captain Kangaroo would look like to someone on LSD. “He was a trip man”. I met Dan and his girl friend while having some lunch after the ride. I had seen him on the ride several times, and he was a strong rider and had to figure out who this guy was – it was just too intriguing.

Dan had lived all over the world, but had spent most of the time since college (at CU) in Maine and Australia. He worked in a variety of medical related areas (lung association, heart etc.). We had a couple of good laughs about the ups and downs of life in Maine, and they gave me some organic carrots and snap peas. I guess they must be good for you, because they helped a goofy looking guy like Dan ride a bike like a demon. I thanked them and ate a bunch – it couldn’t hurt.
Tomorrow is a long day with two sub 8,000 foot summits. I hope the wind dies down.

Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

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