RTR Day 6 – Wolf Creek Pass

Ride the Rockies Day Six
93 Miles, 4,000 Vertical
Max. Speed 52.5 mph
Max. Headwind 20 mph
Pagosa Springs to Alamosa via the mighty Wolf Creek Pass
Stan on Wolf Creek Pass

The day started out in a particularly auspicious fashion. I got on the bus at the hotel at Pagosa Springs and sat across from two attractive young women. It turns out that they were both from Denver, and after a few minutes of riding their talk turned to ladies biking fashion. Both were wearing combination biking shorts/skirts, and they were extolling the virtues of these garments to the lady sitting in front of them. The first one said, “I love the way that they hide the padding in the shorts from behind”. Sticking with the coverage theme, the second said, “Well I love the way they cover up the camel toe in the front”. You have to admire the directness of the women from Denver.

The morning started out at 34 degrees, and we were bundled up. The first sixteen mile was a mellow climb of 500 feet, but with the anticipation of the pass to come. Wolf Creek Pass is the steepest major Pass in Colorado, with steady, relentless climbing in the 7-9% range for 8 miles. There was a wreck of an 18 wheeler (loaded with Dr. Pepper) from the night before near the bottom. The Driver was fine, and sitting on the guard rail looking morose. He was very lucky, as the Jersey barriers prevented a 250 foot drop into the valley below.

We crested the summit at 10:00 into a fairly raucous environment. There is a traveling DJ with the tour who was set up on top, playing an endless stream of rock from the 60’s and 70’s. I think that I’ve heard Colorado Rocky Mt. High and Take it Easy no less than ten times each this week. The descent from Wolf Creek is the best on the Tour this year. They have done a lot of road work since I was last here 20 years ago, and the road is straight, three lanes, wide shoulders and really, really fast. We both hit speeds in excess of 50 mph – it was simply glorious. At the bottom in South Fork we ate BBQ served by a Mexican who told each and every diner, “Jesus loves you, and so do I”. I couldn’t tell if he was preaching or looking for a date – maybe both.

The next 15 miles was some of the fastest and hottest traveling over flat ground that I’ve ever done on a bicycle. A 25 knot tail wind and you can really fly. Unfortunately the road turned, and the wind shifted to a cross/head wind for the remaining 34 miles to the finish. Fortunately, our motel room for the night was in the town of Monte Vista, directly on the route and 15 miles from the finish. The town of Monte Vista is the potato capital of Colorado, and the locals served free baked potatoes to the passing bikers. We ate a baked potato, took a nap, and powered into Alamosa to complete the day.

Tomorrow is the last day of the tour, an 84 mile straight shot north up the San Luis Valley and over Poncha Pass into Salida, one of my favorite places in this part of the world. There we join up with Stan’s son Clifton for a raft trip down the river, or head north to climb a 14er (the term used out here for 14,000 foot mountains).

Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

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