Monday, June 30, 2014

Colorado: My Long Lost Love

Rocky Mountain National Park

Just some more mountains in the distance on my way to Leadville, Co

As I’m riding to Boulder, Colorado, I’m a bit frustrated. Google maps said it was ALL downhill, but here I am again on the Colorado roller coaster,……Up, down, up, down, up, up, up….downnnnnn, up, upppppp, dowwwwwnn!  The terrain is a killer.  You get tired and you want to scream and get frustrated, but you lift your head and look around in any direction and there are mountains everywhere.  Anywhere you turn you have a cluster of snow-covered peaks surrounding you, a 360 degree breathtaking panorama!  You pedal 5 min. and see the same peaks from a different perspective and a new cluster comes into view.  I think to myself, as I have thought many times in Colorado, why doesn’t everyone in America live in Colorado?  I just don’t get it?!??!  Ok, not everyone is as obsessed, like me, but how can you go wrong in Colorado with all there is to do and see.

One of 53 14,000ft. plus mountains in Colorado

Crossing Hossier Pass by Breckenridge, Co


When almost all the roads are designated scenic byways, you can't go wrong with any itinerary through the Rockies

Planning my ride that day to Boulder, I took the direct route, not the scenic route, but even that way was beautiful.  You look at a map of Colorado and more than half the roads are designated scenic byways and the ones that aren’t should be, because even they are gorgeous.  I went out of my way here on the western side of the state looking for mountain passes to go over, just to take in even more breathtaking scenery.  Colorado has the highest continuous road in North America, Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, rising to 12,183ft. at the summit. There are only two national parks in Colorado, but in reality the whole western half of the state ought to be a national park.   Did you know Colorado has 53 peaks over 14,000 ft?  The highest being Mt. Elbert, 14, 433ft. and there are 800 peaks between 13,000 and 13,999 ft.  Kid you not.  If you aren’t sold yet and love hiking, almost all of these peaks are possible to summit, in fact is a whole group of people who make it their lifetime goal to compete in hiking to the summit of most of these.  I’m afraid I’m off to a late start.


At the visitor center in Rocky Mountain National Park

I would love to come back and climb this pass, (without all the weight on my bike)

The other day at a concert in Estes Park, I heard a Brad Fitch, a local folk singer sing John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” song and all of a sudden it rung a bell.  I always knew about the Rocky Mountains, of course, and I knew they were high, as in elevation, but I think his song is more about being high on the Rocky Mountains, at least that is how I feel, and I have yet to check out the legal marijuana scene here.  Natural beauty is enough to leave me completely in awe, “stoned” with my mouth hanging open, marveling at the rugged outdoors.  How many times did I yell and scream, “Oh, MY GOD!!! It’s sooooo beautiful!!” or “I LOVE IT!”  How many times did I say, “I want to move here?”…..I lost count! 

"Foothills" in Colorado


My hike up to Emerald Lake in the park

To think, I’ve never been to Colorado before except to the Denver airport; I’m embarrassed.  This place is heaven on earth for someone like me who can never get enough of being in the mountains.  There are a lot of pick-up trucks here, and a good number of those have bikes in the back.  The other cars, well, I’d say every third car that passed me had multiple bikes on top.  There are bike stores galore in every town, and most bike stores have a cafe next door with easy bike parking, or a brewpub attached.  Nothing like getting your bike worked on or picking up some parts and having a cup of coffee or a beer.  There is a true understanding of the biking culture here.

This coffee shop knows how to get the bikes parked in the most efficient manner, triathlon racks


Road 34, a great bike +brewpub in Fort Collins, CO

I was pretty much already sold on Colorado as a place I’d add to my list where I could easily live, and then I met Ian.  Ian is a boy scout, going be a sophomore this year at school, a public school with an International Baccalaureate program, one of many in Fort Collins.  He was coming home on the bike path I was using, after being out on his mountain bike all day in the foothills of Fort Collins with his friends.  He was telling me about all the cool things in Fort Collins from the 13 or 14 different breweries to the coffee shops, to summer festivals, bike paths and running trails, the new tram, part of Fort Collins extensive public transportation system, the bilingual schools, and different neighborhoods around the city.  I was all ears as he led me to the bike shop in town I had contacted for some maintenance.  I was so impressed by him; I asked to the guys at the shop to take my picture with Ian, he of course wanted to do the same.  What a neat kid!  The guys at the shop were pretty excited about their city and while I got my bike tuned, they shared their opinion of Fort Collins, similar to Ian’s, kept me drooling.

Ian, my guide into Fort Collins, one cool teenager!


That evening I met Deb and John, who are international teachers in Germany, friends of a friend of mine who teaches with them. They’ve lived out of the states for the past 10 or 12 years and want to retire in the next few years, which is why they bought a house in Fort Collins.  From the moment I arrived, until the next morning when I departed, we were talking non-stop about either, teaching and living abroad or marveling at Colorado.  They gave me a great “snap shot” tour of Fort Collins that evening. Deb and Ian drove me into the foothills to see the rugged scenery and awesome roads for biking.   We toured campus, downtown, and ended the evening with ice cream at a local dairy/ice cream shop in town.  By then, I was officially sold! 

Colorado, you are my long lost love!  My soul mate, I WILL be back!


Deb and John, great hosts and international teachers




Saturday, June 28, 2014

I Cherish My Days Off

One of my favorite things to do on a day off, drink coffee, route plan, and chat (especially in a motor home)


Would you believe me if I told you I enjoy doing "nothing" on my days off?   To me, taking refuge inside, cut off from the outside world sounds like a real treat!  It sounds absolutely delightful to sit down at a kitchen counter, catch up on emails, blog.  I can spend hours researching and exploring on the internet the ideas and thoughts I’ve had whirling around in my head after riding my bike for hours and days on end.  I love to take refuge indoors, hidden, and completely barricaded from my outside environment.  Of course, "nothing" is all pretty relative, but in comparison to biking 70 miles or 100kms a day, nothing usually means starting out with a nice long run in the morning after trying my hardest to sleep in, and then I might make a huge pancake breakfast.  But after that little bit of activity, I love to veg out and stay put, relaxing on the sofa or at a breakfast bar.

You see, day-after-day, I’m constantly outside, sightseeing, and exposed to the world.  Others don’t realize it, but in reality, my life at the moment allows for very little privacy.  The road belongs to everyone, and almost everyone out there feels compelled to interact with me.  I’m not complaining by any means because I do enjoy conversing with others and meeting new people, but I don’t have the option to go home at the end of the day, and take refuge in a private, intimate environment.  As much as I enjoy being hosted, it’s challenging to balance me time and social interaction. In fact, many times, my hosts feel like they need to entertain me, or they feel obligated to interact with me.  But to tell you the truth, I feel right at home with the hosts who respect the fact that I need my down time and space and they themselves carry on with their normal day.

The Fleck family welcomed me to their wilderness paradise on the outskirts of Denver

In the Denver area, I had some delightful days off!  First I stayed with the family of my neighbors from Eugene.  They were a neat family of four who lived about 30 miles east of the city in a woodsy area.  In the morning we all had breakfast together and then some of us went for a walk.  After that, it was great to see that each family member had their own interest and desire to do different things.  Everyone respected each other and the fact that they needed some time and space, even if we were in the vicinity, we were all lost in our own worlds.  Mom and daughter were baking while the son explored what it might be like to create his own website (I think I might have inspired him there) while dad went off for a bike ride.  For a moment, it was like I was right at home with my family, and it felt like I fit right in, as if I’d been with them for a good long time.  But as my trip goes, I had to hit the road later that afternoon and was off to visit some other friends in the Denver area.

Here is a guy, Sean, who is just as enthusiastic about pancake breakfasts!!!

Boy did I luck out, Jess and Greta wanted to bake muffins and guess who got to sample them?


On several occasions on this trip, I’ve been able to visit with friends who I haven’t seen for years and years.  I hadn’t seen Linsy really since I graduated from high School although we met in Spain briefly when I first went over. Linsy and I go way back, we went to preschool and high school together and ran cross-country together for one season where we bonded immediately, although I’m not sure how much running we did in comparison to talking.  Since then, Linsy has a new last name, now married to Randy, who I got to meet and they just had their second kid.  Randy, is an amazing chef, they have a four year old daughter, Hadley, and a newborn boy, Hayes.  Remember, I love hanging out at a home, and this was just what Linsy does with a newborn.  We talked, and talked, sharing about our family, friends from high school, and life events from the past 15 years!  I got to hold Hayes, Randy cooked for us, and it was like we’d just seen each other yesterday, not much had changed, as far as values, beliefs, and interests.  After my pleasant afternoon with Linsy and family, I had the most wonderful dinner date waiting for me in Boulder where I was staying with a family I met in Barcelona. 


Sheldon High School Cross Country running partners meet again

Holding little Hayes, a great alternative to pedaling......Dare I saw my arms were sore afterwards?

I got home from spending the day with Linsy and I was spoiled with the best dinner date of my trip, Carter, a student I had in second grade back in Barcelona. When I left Barcelona, they moved on to Thailand, but unfortunately I missed them when traveling through SE Asia, so a visit to their new home of Boulder was imperative!   Carter and I were both nostalgic for Asian food, and enjoyed a delicious meal in town together. As a teacher, a lot of times we forget that the kids we teach grow older just like we do.  Now 10 years old, I was in awe listening to Carter’s interpretation of living abroad.  He shared with me his perspective on Asian culture and religion. I was fascinated by the way he was able to verbalize his experience living abroad in three different continents during the last four years.  I think the waitress was baffled by our relationship, not understanding whether or not he was my son, and hopefully knew I wasn’t into younger men, at least that much younger!  


The last time I saw the Kahns we were all in Barcelona
Hard to believe your 2nd and 5th grade students actually get older!
Our dinner date lasted for a good couple of hours sharing our experiences and stories from SE Asia.  It had been a long times since I had been reminded about some of the perks of being a teacher that we normally don’t think about. I’d like to think that I had some impact on this guy becoming a young adult.  At one point at dinner Carter asked me, “Ms. Melissa, how do you know so much? You are like a dictionary!”  It made me laugh because I actually felt as if we had switched roles; me the student and Carter the teacher.  I was intrigued by his perception of living abroad and the different cultures.  I couldn’t stop asking him questions.  At one point he confessed and said, “Ms. Melissa, sometimes I just want to say to other kids,…hey, I’m not your normal kid.  I’ve lived in so many different countries, but then I think they won’t like me because I’m bragging, but I just want to share with them some of my experiences.”  His comment was truly sincere and modest, and I was astounded by the way he was able to articulate his emotions.  Ironically, at the end of our dinner, the fortune in his cookie couldn’t have been better suited for him as he starts a new life in the United States.

It was eery how "right on" his fortune was for Carter at that moment in time in his life.

Some of most cherished days or mornings off occur when my hosts leave for work and for a few hours, it feels as though it is my house, my space, and my privacy, that can’t be invaded by anyone.  But I do have to admit, that I equally enjoy my active days off, especially if I get to explore an area that means I avoid monstrous climbing on my bike, like I did in Estes Park with my friend Newt.  Northwest of Denver lies The Rocky Mountain National Park, and I was curious to see what this national park was like if western Colorado is already covered with mountains.  I had plans to meet Newt there, my hitchhiking friend from Arches.  This is my third encounter with him and I’m delighted to say it won’t be my last!   I rode to Estes Park at the base of the park and that was enough altitude gain for me!  The sofa in his motor home is the most comfortable bed and I love just chilling in the fifth wheel.  After enjoying a few cups of coffee (while looking at maps and talking about route planning of course) and eating the most nutritious bowl of cereal, we set off to the park to hike up to a few lakes.  It wasn’t a long hike, but we kept a really fast pace and enjoyed some beautiful scenery, including walking on snow.  Afterwards we drove up to the summit on Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in North American and I must say, the road doesn’t seem safe for cyclists, so I was fortunate to be in a car!  We went all the way over to the west side of the park, had lunch in Grand Lake, and headed back to Estes in time for an evening concert in the park.  Again, it is days like these, off the bike that I enjoy, because they totally change my routine and for a moment, I feel like my life resembles that of every other normal and more conventional person in this world. 

In my opinion all of Colorado should be a National Park with the Rocky Mountains

The Keen sandals take on snow in the Rockies, nothing stops us!
In the park, I officially hit my highest elevation although I wasn't cycling.  The summit was at 12,183ft. (3,715ft.) A bit chilly....


As my trip progresses, I find myself craving more and more down time on my trip.  I think this is only natural, considering the nature of my trip, my accumulated exhaustion, and being out of touch with my conventional life. I relish the days when, for a split second, I forget that I live on the road on my two wheels, 4 bags, and 70 pounds of belongings, constantly exposed to the world around me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

That's All Folks!

Listen to this famous line?

Just like Mr. Porky Pig said himself, “Ah.. budeep, budeep, budeep….That’s all folks!” My route through the southwest has sadly come to an end.  Riding through the southwest, the sound of the Looney Tune cartoons echoed in my head. “Beep! Beep!” Roadrunner’s sound was on rewind the entire three weeks I traveled through this area.  I spent a good portion of my childhood watching the Looney Tunes cartoon series on TV.  I’m sure many of you can relate.  Growing up I saw one failed attempt after another by Wile E. Coyote to catch Roadrunner.  No matter how “clever” Wiley was, he could never trap his prey.  It was an entertaining and innocent cartoon, at least compared to what is on TV these days.  I don’t remember all the different episodes, but what remains ingrained in my mind 25 years later is the backdrop in those cartoons, that typical southwest landscape.  The rich pastel color palette, the baby blue sky with white puffy clouds, as if made by a cloud machine.  Also in the background were the rich red earthen rocky cliffs and canyons.

Typical southwest scenery, disregard the signs, although they were quite entertaining spaced 5 feet apart!




I had never been to the southwest before and experienced that landscape first hand, but it has always been an area of the United States that intrigued me.  Which part of the country am I talking about exactly?  I cycled through what people refer to as the “four corners”, the northern part of Arizona, southeast Utah, the southwest portion of Colorado, and New Mexico’s northwest corner.  What some people refer to as “just desert” is absolutely beautiful and thanks to Looney Tunes, it felt surprisingly familiar.

Compare to what I saw below....I would say that is Arches National Park

Arches National Park, Utah

The clouds were the first part of the scenery that caught my attention.  I couldn’t get over how perfectly fluffy and white they were resting low in the sky.  In fact, they looked like they had been painted on the sky, just like the ones I saw in Looney Tunes.  I never got tired of looking at the contrast between the stark white clouds and the baby blue sky. In fact the colors in the sky gave the landscape down below a special glow.  Back in the Grand Canyon, someone asked me if I was headed to the “painted desert”.   At the time, I didn’t really know where that was or what they were talking about.  There is a place in Arizona called, but I didn’t actually go there.  However, painted, is exactly the way I would describe the landscape in the southwest, painted with a careful selection of colors.


I felt like I was in a cartoon following Ian here, my riding buddy in the Paige, AZ area


 The entire color palette changes once you hit the southwest.  Pastels are “in” but they are rich pastel colors that bring the desert alive.  The colors are intense and range from vibrant golden browns to earthen red tones.  The greens are more muted and shrubbery is low growing and sparse making for a unique contrast to the red soil.  Of course all these colors change when the sunrises and sets.  I had my fair share of early rising because of the heat.  As you can imagine, I also got caught riding at dusk a few days, which isn’t the safest, but every time it happens I’m always rewarded with the most amazing colorful sunset.  The night’s sky in the desert is crystal clear.   You can see every constellation and the Milky Way. At times, the stars and moon lit up the sky so intensely I had to wear an eye patch in my tent to sleep in darkness.

Sunsets are the reward for riding too late at night
Everyone warned me about the heat passing through this area.  I wanted to be out of the southwest by the end of May, but that proved to be impossible.  My body, however, withstood the test and survived the heat, faring pretty well.  I drank liter after liter of water, as temperatures soared to 105F.  Mostly they hung around 95F, which wasn’t unbearable if you compare the climate to Malaysia where my days were normally around 100F with 99% humidity.  I never stopped sweating in Malaysia; from the moment I started pedaling to the time I rolled up to my destination, I was constantly drenched.  In the southwest, you never sweat!  Well, you do, but as soon as you sweat it evaporates, which correlates to not having to wash your clothes as frequently.  What a treat!

An example of the earthen red that is everywhere in the southwest

Striped "painted" cliffs and sparse shrubbery

I never saw my roadrunner or coyote, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t see much wildlife.  Snakes were my biggest fear, especially in the desert where they sunbathe on the hot pavement or rocks.  Conditions down here can even be too harsh for rattlesnakes.  The most common wildlife sightings were prairie dogs, some luckier than others to still be alive.  They hang out just off the shoulder of the roads, easily entertained by jetting from one hole to another.  Sometimes they are more entertaining than the scenery.  Farming is virtually non-existent in the southwest, so I wasn’t tempted to go illegal fruit picking, but I must say, I missed the company of cattle grazing. 


video

The true enemy in the southwest is the wind.  I would take rain and even snow flurries over headwinds 20mph and above.  There is nothing more frustrating than going downhill on a steep slope and having to pedal exerting huge effort in order to advance.  The wind is so noisy you can’t hear yourself think!  There is nothing more demoralizing than a relentless headwind, especially when you look at your map and see the road makes no turns for the next 50 to 100 miles.  A headwind along with long days of climbing can get the best of me, but when it becomes a tailwind, I’m the first to take advantage of the speed and distance it allows me to achieve.  I vowed never to repeat a 180km day, but riding through the southwest with a tailwind, pedaling effortlessly yet maintaining a 30mph pace, I had a handful of days of 150 to 200 km days.  Tailwind is basically the only exemption form the saying “You get what you give”.

The wind and the heat creates one other minor problem,….two actually.  First is dry skin and lips.  I’ve never had such dry skin in my life as I have had while riding through the southwest.  Even if I carried a 50 gallon jug of lotion, it wouldn’t be enough to last me a week.  I had given up on my scaly skin until I found the greatest invention in a Santa Fe boutique: a lotion bar.  Yes, it is lotion in the form of a soap bar that you rub on your skin.  It is amazing and works wonders, cutting down on both weight and space.  The other problem regarding my body in the southwest is my nose.  Snot rockets become torpedo launchers when you pedal in 0% humidity climates.  Crusty boogers and bloody nooses are actually quite painful and unpleasant and a saline nasal spray is pretty much useless. Sorry, that is probably too much information, but it is all part of pedaling through the southwest!

Ghost Ranch by day, New Mexico

Ghost Ranch by night, New Mexico


As an Oregonian, my favorite scenery is lush green pine forests and snow-capped mountains and after living in Barcelona, you’d think I would constantly want to be around the beach. I’ve always said that I’m a mountain girl, but after riding through the southwest, I have to admit, I’d be perfectly happy living in the southwest.  Even if I got tired of the scenery, I’d go try and find Roadrunner. Wile E. Coyote could always use some help!

So long to the southwest

Friday, June 20, 2014

Trivia From The Saddle

Do you know where the most photographed church is in The United States? Did you know that a city was created artificially when the atomic bomb was being developed in the early 1940’s? And that the tallest sand dunes are in a state that doesn’t even have a beach on the west coast of the United States?  In this same area, there is also a stretch of highway that has cow mutilation warnings on highway signs due to sightings of UFO’s, which is next to one of the smallest towns in the entire United States.  Yep, that is right, you better believe it!  The things you learn from the saddle of a bike are fascinating!

The road sign provided a much needed rest climbing up to town.

During the last few days I covered a lot of territory in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado and discovered some interesting and rather unusual facts about the area.  First on the list is Los Alamos, off the beaten track (as are many places I cycle on my route) on a road that leads to nowhere and literally dead ends, it’s a perfect remote location to develop the nation’s powerful weapons of mass destruction.  Back in the early 40’s scientists and researchers were looking for a place to build a bomb laboratory, code named the Manhattan Project.  It needed to be a location that was safe from enemy attack, isolated because of its classified top-secret status, and sparsely populated in case there was a nuclear accident.  Los Alamos, NM fit this description.  Not to mention it is a grueling climb up to the city, discouraging any cyclists from entering the area.  I guess I should say discouraging MOST cyclists from coming to visit.  For me, Los Alamos was relatively close to Bandelier National Monument and since I wanted to see the cliff dwellings here, and there were Warm Showers hosts in the Los Alamos, I made the trip.  It was a hard climb, but it was quite interesting to see the area and learn about the history from my hosts who both used to work at the national lab.

One of the atomic bombs developed in Los Alamos National Lab

In the summer of 1946, scientists successfully achieved their mission at the national laboratory and detonated the first atomic bomb at a test site in southern New Mexico.  A month later, the two other atomic bombs were dropped on Japan during WWII, one of those being on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.  Today, Los Alamos is the primary nuclear weapon research facility…..in theory, we no longer make nuclear weapons.

The front side of the church

Those would be your buttresses, a bit different from Western Europe supports


Due north and east of Los Alamos is home to the San Fransisco de Assisi Mission Church, the most photographed church in the United States.  It is a fine example of Adobe architecture and dates back to 1772.  I went to visit the church with my host and we were both surprised to see it under renovation.  The parishioner working on the church told us renovation is an annual event and quite laborious because of the style of Adobe architecture.  There is a short window of time available to work on the church due to the weather conditions, which explains why it took so long to build it in the first place!  Every year, the exterior walls need to be resurfaced, putting on a new coating to the adobe walls, which are made of sand, straw, and water.  Several coats are applied before the final coat, which is the finest mixture of sand to create an overall smooth surface.  Ideally, if the rain holds off after the walls are resurfaced, the sun will bake them, hardening and strengthening the exterior. 

This is a never ending job, renovating Adobe architecture

Why is it the most photographed church in the United States? See for yourself.  The front of the church is extremely picturesque, while the backside also draws the attention of many photographers due to its unconventional buttresses and supports.  The church looks nothing like its contemporaries in other areas of the world.  As you can see, I didn’t waste any time in helping out with its renovation!

National Park #9 in The United States

I rolled up at sunset, not safe for riding, but an amazing sunset


From northern New Mexico, I crossed the border into colorful Colorado, as the sign says.  Fifty miles north of the border against the Rocky Mountains are the tallest sand dunes in the United States.  It is awfully peculiar to see smooth golden orange sand dunes at the base of alpine mountains that have snow lingering on their peaks.  Temperatures on the dunes can reach about 150 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and towering above them are some of Colorado’s14,000ft. mountains.  Why on earth are there 750 ft. (230m) sand dunes in a state that is completely landlocked far from any ocean or beach?  It a natural phenomenon from the result of gusts of wind coming from the west (thankfully a cross wind for me rather than a head wind) that picked up sand and soil from the Rio Grande and its tributaries and carried it through the air in valley until it hit the Rocky Mountains here, where it was deposited. Over hundreds of thousands of years passed with this climatic phenomenon occurring and as a result, the tallest sand dunes in North America have formed. Riding through the area, you see a haze in the air, which is the dust, still depositing more sand on the dunes.  It is quite a fascinating sight to see and explore.

Tough but rewarding hiking on the dunes

I was alone on the dunes in the early morning


On the same area as the dunes, to both the north and south, I encountered some unusual road signs.  I thought I had seen all the crazy roads sings there are passing through SE Asia and Australia where I was warned about rare wild life such as elephants, anteaters, and platypuses, but the road sings I saw in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado topped those in rarity.  On many of the signs cautioning drivers of free-range cows, there is a small UFO image above the head of the cow.  At first I thought it was a joke done by someone with a lot of spare time on their hands, but the signs last for a good 50 miles and  in southern Colorado they are followed by advertisements for “The Cosmic Highway” where you can go to the “UFO Tower”.  What?!?!  UFO’s?!?! Really,…..What is going on here in this barren and remote area of the United States?

Is this a joke? That is what I first thought..... 

People sure know how to make a quick buck these days, getting tourist's attention


It turns out, there have been many cases of cow mutilation, an unexplainable phenomenon where cows have had their eyes and tongues removed, almost as if they were surgically removed and their uterus’ taken out as well.  Farmers claim that the cows were abducted and mutilated before plummeting back to earth dead, without a trace of blood or any other sort of explanation.  Cases of cow abduction and mutilations aren’t a new occurrence; they date back to the early 1960’s.  I know marijuana was recently legalized here, but it seems that people in Colorado have done a fair share of pot smoking over the past years.  However, after asking around at the local cafes and gas stations and doing a bit of research myself, I was quite perplexed by these abductions.  I can tell you one thing, they kept me pedaling at a fast pace through the area!  Crazy, right?!?! Read the articles for yourself and decide.

My last bit of trivia from the saddle comes when I actually ditched the saddle and had to hitch hike at the top of Poncha Pass, just south of Salida, Colorado.  As is characteristic in the high alpine mountains, a storm set in quickly. Gusts of 50 mph headwinds picked up and temperatures dropped drastically in the matter of 5 to 10 minutes.  I was knocked off my bike and walking with it on the shoulder of the highway, hoping to find a house where I could take shelter.  There was nothing around in a mile radius.  Thankfully a pick up truck drove by, took pity on me, stopped, backed up, and asked me if I needed a ride.  Moments prior I had had a total break down, completely demoralized by the brutal weather conditions that had blown in with 80 miles in my legs already that day.  I didn’t think twice about hitching a ride to town.

Mark Perkovich, Bonanza Colorado's only inhabitant
As goes the random events with my travels, the man who picked me up was Mark Perkovich, who happens to be a local and national celebrity.  He is a long time, yet lone full time resident of Bonanza, Colorado, a town in Colorado that is in threat of being disincorporated by the state.  What does that mean? It means that Mark lives in the smallest town in Colorado and one of the smallest towns in the entire United States and that makes him famous.  Interesting, right?  Both local and national news has covered this story as well as local and national newspapers.   In fact, next week, CBS national news is headed to his house to cover the story yet again! If you don’t believe me, read the articles for yourself!

How is it that I always have the most random and fascinating encounters with people.  I’m sure all of you are probably wondering if I went back and rode the mountain pass I hitch hiked…….What do you think?  

Poncha Pass take 2, a piece of cake the following day