Posted by: rustymccain | June 27, 2011

Monarch Pass(ed)!

The rest day in Gunnison was a great day, but we jumped back into things in a big way this morning. The route took us from Gunnison up to Monarch Pass, the highest point on our trip. It tops out at an oxygen-sucking 11,300 feet. The good news is that it also represents the continental divide and means that we are close to the end of the climbing for a while.

Super 8 and Not So Super 2

We started at Gunnison and knew that although the first 30 miles had a slight uphill, it was pretty gentle. We were blessed with another perfect morning. It was a little cold at first, in the 40 degree range, but the sun was brilliant and it warmed up pretty quickly. We rode rolling hills for the first couple of hours. Ray made the comment that he heard his legs say, “Uh Oh, we are doing this again?” I repeat, our rest day was really appreciated.

About halfway to the town Sargents, we spotted some albino mule deer at one of the local ranches.

Rusty Climbing to Monarch

The town of Sargents sits at the bottom of the climb to Monarch Pass. We only noticed one store, though there may be more off the main road. We stopped to get more fluids, but I just couldn’t resist a Snickers. We then headed out for the main work of the day. As soon as we were out of the parking lot, the road headed up. It was a gentle slope at first, but after about only a ½ mile, the slope kicked up and for the next 9 ½ miles, we hit 7% to 8 % slopes. The girls passed us and yelled encouragement on the way up. All I could muster was a ½ cough, ½ grunt. Having them with us has really been a blessing. We kept plugging away. I don’t think Alberto Contador has anything to worry about, but we made it to the top and conquered our highest point! While the climb was very difficult, we are still in the middle of such beautiful country, I have to say, it was fun.

Ray Climbing to Monarch

At the top, it was really chilly and the wind was blowing, so we quickly ducked into the welcome center to warm up, then came back outside for all the photo ops. Then, our reward was 20 miles or so downhill. The downhill was pretty scary because the winds were really swirling. The cycling gods must have gotten the email that we were riding and moved the winds out of the Southeast. This was very unusual for this area, according to someone we talked to after the ride. There was very little shoulder on the road and in places, no guard rails. Once again, Ray disappeared into the distance while I maintained my death grip on my handlebars. We finally made it to Poncha Springs in a pretty quick time of 5 ½ hours after we left Gunnison.

Monarch Pass, CO

We had a nice meal after the ride, then I headed to a nearby stream that is the result of snowmelt. I gave my “bad tendon” foot a natural ice bath. Tomorrow we head to Westcliff and sometime during the day we will go over the 1,500 mile mark. So far, we are well and still having a blast! Life is good!

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Responses

  1. Well done! Lookin a bit “furry” there Rusty.

  2. One question. Now that have your better halves with you, do you and Ray stilli share the same room? 🙂 Good luck with every ride and have fun out there.


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