The big mountains were gone but I still had plenty of backcountry left to cover before getting to Oklahoma.
There was a sense of relief after passing those mountains; they’d felt like the big test for both the bike and myself. All of the suspense and all of the lingering questions were bottled up in those passes. In a way crossing them felt like I’d finally entered the last hour of the long drive home from the beach I remembered from when I was a kid. I guess I’d just expected that I’d be back in Pittsburgh in no time.
However, just as it was on those long drives, I again, was obviously wrong.
It was 32 degrees when I woke up so I took my good old time getting everything on the bike and leaving the Airbnb studio apartment with the tiny space heaters.
I’d started making a habit out of fueling up the night before, but I’d gotten in late the previous night and just wanted to settle in. The first order of business would be to get gas, except I’d noticed my chain was quite loose. The demand of the last two weeks and the rough terrain of mountain passes seemed to have stretched it out pretty well. I made the adjustment and went off to find gas.
The closest gas station was in the opposite direction of the trail so once I finished fueling up I needed to work my way back across town. On my way back two guys are Harley’s pulled right out in front of me. I stopped with plenty of room to spare but the one guy almost dumped his hog.
I was heading to Westcliffe, Colorado; another small, cool little mountain town that was unfortunately having a festival that weekend. I knew lodging was going to be sort of expensive. I found a hotel that looked cool with reasonable rates for a festival weekend; The Golden Corner Inn.
I got out of town a little ways and gave them a call. No answer. We would play phone tag the rest of the day until somewhere around Salida, Colorado. The view made for a nice place to place a missed call.
The road wound on through the backcountry and it was again spectacular. I realize I’m starting to wear that word out.
It turned out to be TAT crossing day. Everyone attempting the TAT east to west was passing me going the other direction. I passed about 15 riders heading west. As much as I’d truly enjoyed and appreciated everything I’d gone through already I was happy it was behind me instead of in front of me. My theory was proving correct; I’d much prefer to lead with the difficult stuff than spend two weeks on the road wearing myself down and then tackling it.
The twisty backcountry roads opened up into a major vein and everyone was really moving. Bikes and pickup trucks alike were pushing 60 mph on this dirt road. It was wide without much loose material and the turns were quite gradual.
I made a wrong turn off the track to follow the main road I’d been on. I noticed it about half way up a hill and turned around to catch the GPS track again. The GPS track lead right onto private property again. Surprise! Unfortunately, by the time I’d realized this I was already committed and there was no place to turn around so I slowed way down as well rode right down the driveway of this ranch. I looked around for the owners and prepared my apology but luckily I never saw them.
When I popped out of the driveway I noticed that the main road I was riding on intersected about 300 yards up from the ranch’s driveway. The conclusion was now very obvious. GPSKevin will send you right through private property if it means he can save 300 yards of tarmac…
Thanks for that Kevin you (insert four letter word(s) of your choice here)…
Let’s pause for a second here: Is it a big deal to accidentally stumble onto someone’s property out here in this not so well marked area of the country? Well, yes and no. If you’re the only person riding through; then the answer is probably no. Think about this though, I’d already passed 15 TAT riders that day; 15 people on dirt bikes plus now me had just passed through their driveway and it was only about Noon. What was I going to say to make it seem ok? “Sorry, I was just following these GPS tracks…” They’d already heard that one; probably everyday, multiple times per day, all summer long.
Anyway, I carried on down the tracks and into Sargents, Colorado. Which was made to look like a major stopping point per the GPS tracks but really wasn’t much more than a truck stop. I filled up and moved on. I noticed about six adventure bikes sitting outside the diner. Oh yeah, guess who’s property they were heading towards?
The scenery began to change again after leaving Sargents. I was heading north through Salida before turning south again and to head toward Westcliffe. I started to gain elevation again and fall was back. Beautiful.
Outside of Salida I noticed I had a voicemail. It was the hotel I’d called earlier that morning. I hadn’t left a message but the lady said she saw my number as a missed call and figured she’d call it back.
I tried to call again and again no answer. This time I did leave a message and rode off down the road. Salida isn’t a complicated town to navigate but for whatever reason I couldn’t find the street the track was referencing. It turned out to be a positive because I was lost long enough for the lady at the hotel to call me back and I had a room booked. Fantastic.
I had about 80 miles left to Westcliffe and they went by pretty quick; it was a pretty scenic ride.
The sunset in Westcliffe was pretty amazing too.
I had a shower then went on the prowl for some tacos. I scored these bad boys:
Finally, the most unusually placed outlet ever…