September 15, 2001

9/15/01 Poncha Creek

71.4 / 7708 miles

This old body just is worn out from this trip. Sometimes I just don't sleep well. My body doesn't give me many clear clues, just that it's not 100% well. Last night it was my stomach but it could have been anything or everything.

Monte cooked up some blueberry pancakes while I packed. I confided in him that when he took me in way back in June, I didn't think that I could have done the same thing, bringing a complete stranger into my house. But after almost five months, I can't wait to invite people into my home, where ever that ends up to be.

Leaving Fairplay

As I left Fairplay, I also left the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. From here to El Paso, TX, I'm just winging it as far as my route goes. Although Hwy-285 is pretty busy, I don't mind because I have a good, wide shoulder. As I ride, the surrounding mountains look to be on fire because of all the brilliant yellows and golds of the turning leaves of the aspen groves. Since I was already at a pretty high altitude, the climb up Trout Creek Pass was pretty easy. And I had a good long downhill on the other side.

Trout Creek

Up ahead, I noticed a car pulled over and a girl walking towards me. She had jet-black hair, white blouse, faded blue jeans and red cowboy books. And very beautiful! "My name's Marie," she said, "can I take your picture?" Who am I to refuse the request of a pretty woman. Before she could get away, I told her about my website and she promised to email me the picture {but I never received it}. It was only later that the molasses I call a brain thought I should have found out her reason for taking the picture, and more about herself in general. I always seem to be about ten minutes behind the rest of the world, especially when talking to women. Hope I can get internet access soon because her car had New Mexico plates, so there's still a possibility I could see her again.

Instead of taking the direct route to Poncha Springs, I decided I had time to ride the longer route through Salida. Its downtown was like Breckenridge but without that tourist feeling. I talked with Jeff at Otero Cyclery about camping and he gave me good directions to some free campsites on public land near the next pass. Jeff joked that if I took a day off here, I could enter the Banana Belt Loop Mountain Bike Race tomorrow.

Aspens with their fall colors

I also had a chat with Erin Salisbury, a bike mechanic at the shop. She told me she grew up here and just loves it. "I'm within thirty minutes of everything here. Hiking, biking, skiing, you name it!" She told me that this town of 7,000 has been attracting a lot of retirees because of it's mild winters and summers. Her mom runs the "Home Bakery & Bagel Shop" just down the street.

The shops and galleries of downtown are a sharp contrast to the Walmart and other franchises along Hwy-50 that I passed on my way out of town. It did seem strange that a city of this size with such strong ties to the outdoors has no RV Campground.

The climb up to Poncha Pass is seven miles long. While long, it was pretty gradual and steady. But because I'm in a valley, it was getting dark because the mountains blocked the early evening sun. I was almost ready to pick a spot next to the highway when I found the road that Jeff had told me about. "Cross two cattle-guards and you're on public lands." he instructed. I thought he said it was about five miles off-route but I crossed over in three. Found a nice secluded spot off the road next to Poncha Creek. For a dirt road, it sure seems to have a lot of traffic, but then I keep forgetting it's Saturday.

The creek roars down below while above me I can see the Milky Way even without glasses. Life is good, even if I'm alone.