Apparently since I was close to home, I decided not to take pictures. Doh!
I had two major fears waking up in the Ice Rink parking lot. The first was that I'd discover that I had an old GPS track loaded on my bike that wouldn't contain the Gold Dust trail on the backside of Boreas Pass and the second that I wouldn't make the 90 miles to Salida in order to get a new tire, a new bottom bracket, and some new brakepads. I was hoping to make the distance in time to catch the post office, but the shop was crucial. I've climbed Boreas Pass countless times under racing conditions, under riding conditions, in fact, the coldest I've ever been on a bike was during a ride of the Gold Dust Trail where we were caught on the wrong side of the pass as a Colorado afternoon thunderstorm rolled through. I remember descending the Bakers Tank singletrack to Chris' cousin's house with zero feeling in my hands. Zilch. I couldn't feel my brake levers, but apparently they were working as my bike would slow down.
The climb was easy, railroad grade. On the backside I started down Gold Dust, which was on my GPS, just as it had been when I loaded the track onto the machine weeks prior, and I said a little prayer for my sidewalls especially my rear one which was starting to build up a nice layer of dirt stuck to leaked Stans. The trail was fun, just as rocky as I'd remembered but much less shreddable with a loaded bike compared to normal racing conditions. I flinched at every rock that I kicked up or sideswiped. Once back out on the road, I saw a car with a bike driving up. The driver hopped out trying to flag me down. 'I gotta boogie' I thought to myself, 'I can't miss Absolute.' I yelled something along those lines to the guy, who I think in retrospect was probably the owner of the Como Depot, one of the safe havens for TD racers with good meals. I felt bad but the idea of losing 13+ hours because I missed the shop terrified me.
Initially the miles went quickly. The sunrise lit up the wide open plains and I relished being close to home. The roads were less flat than I had hoped, but my average speed stayed up, the washboards were tolerable, and I was looking forward to seeing my friends who inhabited Absolute Bikes, one of the bestest shops out there.
When I hit the pavement, the reality of the situation hit: it was going to be windy. It was the first time that I'd experienced the full brunt of the wind in Colorado and it stopped me in my tracks. Downhills required as much effort as the uphills, and the wind, coming from the south east, never wavered. I watched the minutes and hours tick by effortlessly as the miles refused to rack up. I had nearly eight hours to cover those 40 miles from Hartsel to Salida, I pedaled hard out of fear of failing.
Eventually I crested the final pass, I could see the familiar sights of the Collegiate Peaks, the Arkansas Valley, Salida down below. I smiled. A giant smile. I'd made it. I dropped and dropped and dropped and eventually started to recognize the road as one that I'd ridden up plenty of times to ride trails in the valley. I'd never ridden down the road and was impressed with how steep it was. 'I pedal up this? Willingly? Dang!'
Passing the North Backbone trailhead, I saw a group of riders that I waved at. 'Eszter!' was the response. It was Scotty, mechanic at Absolute heading out to ride. 'You're not working?!' I asked. Scotty's been my first line of defense in keeping my bikes functional in the past. He wasn't, but he assured me I'd be well taken care of, he had singletrack to ride.
Sure enough, I rolled in with my laundry list of complaints about my bike and they immediately took her to the back to begin work. Meanwhile, I bought myself a new jersey, arm coolers, some electrolytes because people say you need electrolytes when it gets hot, and a brand new tube of chamois cream. Then I borrowed the most comfortable cruiser in the world, pedaled to the post office, and finally sent my winter gear home. Finally!
I came back to a new chain, cassette, bottom bracket, and brakepads and a frame that was a solid pound lighter with all the water drained out. I asked not to see the bill and I signed on the dotted line of the credit card receipt.
The next stop was Safeway and a quick meal before heading up Marshall Pass. I was sad leaving Salida and the climb was steeped in melancholy. I had seen friends in Salida, I wanted to sit at Cafe Dawn and drink coffee, I wanted to take the guy who worked at the hostel that I met in the grocery store up on his offer of a room, I didn't want to be cold in the morning. It was a completely new emotional state on the Divide for me and I didn't know what to do with it.
Near the top of the pass, the sleepies started to invade. I had made the mistake of not bringing enough light and when the sleepies hit in the dark, I had very little defense against them. I knew I didn't want to sleep up high but as I struggled up the road, I pondered the safety of trying to descend 11 miles while falling asleep. At the top, I gave in and pulled over to the outhouse. It had a nice awning, was a perfect location for my morning duties, and 11,000 feet wasn't that high.
Then a light came out of the woods. A backpacker approached as I pulled my sleeping bag out. 'There's a cabin around here somewhere' he informed me. 'Yeah, I know, but I don't' know where it is,' I replied. For the CTR, I'd put the GPS point in, but I hadn't for the TD, because really, what were the chances I'd be at the top of Marshall Pass, too tired to ride down the other side. He lamented about not having a good enough light to find it in the dark and asked if he minded if he set his tent up nearby. I told him he was more than welcome to. He ended up wandering around for a while longer, continually coming back to inform me that he still hadn't found the cabin. I ate quickly and killed my lights, welcoming the quiet when the guy must have decided that I was asleep and of no use. I wanted to be helpful, but I was sad, tired, and sleeping next to an outhouse. Luckily, falling asleep was not an issue.