Monday, June 16, 2014

Royal Gorge



Last year the Day 6 route on Ride the Rockies was to be Salida to Cañon City across Royal Gorge. However, there was a major fire burning and we were rerouted.  

I extended my stay this year for a day to ride the missing portion from last year. Ideally, I could ride point to point from Colotaxi to Cañon City.  But I couldn't pull that off logistically so I did the next best thing. I rode backward to the gorge loop. 

Royal Gorge Train
Last year we were looking at a mostly downhill ride to Cañon City from Salida so I knew I'd be riding uphill today until I turned around. And I started with a seven mile climb. 

Arkansas River from US 50

I passed one entrance for the Royal Gorge Bridge. I kept riding and crossed the Arkansas River. There I saw the second entrance with the sign "Bridge Closed Will Reopen." I stopped at a rafting company and asked if the sign was real. The young lady assured me it was and directed me back three miles, uphill, to the visitor center. 

Sorry Folks. America's Favorite Family Bridge is Closed for Maintenance

Arriving at the visitor center it appeared to be a restaurant. I saw a waitress. I didn't ask anyone for help. I just decided to ride as far as to the gorge as I could ride. 

Fire Damage from 2013 Fire

It's a gorge. My first thought was that I would ride downhill from the summit I had just crested. And the road went downhill at first. But then I was climbing again. A lot. And it made sense. The bridge is at the top of the gorge. 

I saw a closed Gorge Railroad. Also a couple of other boarded up businesses. At the end of pavement was a dirt road to a picnic area. Straight ahead the road looked like it might go to a bridge. But it was fenced off. So I rode on dirt. 

Dirt Leading to Picnic Area and Overlook

Arriving at the picnic area I saw rocks and dirt and a 1,000' cliff. I carefully maneuvered my way down the rocks to a vantage point to see the gorge and bridge. We were high up. We were far away. It was windy. I was wearing cycling cleats.

The Bridge and Gorge from Far Far Away

Today was important to honor Jamie Roberts. Her name was on my calf and I made sure I would get here. No matter what.

Overlooking the Gorge and Honoring Jamie

It was windy. Again. There was a headwind out and a tailwind back. The bike rolled back towards Cañon City. I hit 49 mph but was very uncomfortable trying to push it higher. It was three days since I checked or added air to my tires and I did not have a pump. I thought the tires felt low and I wasn't sure if an under-inflated tire was in danger of overheating and popping. The wind shifted and I was really afraid of pushing it. Riding is fun but I must keep it safe. (Like 49 mph is safe but 50 mph is dangerous.)

Looking Downstream at the Arkansas River

I didn't ride across the Royal Gorge Bridge, and now probably never will, but I saw it from afar. Most importantly, I honored Jamie. 

Royal Gorge Bridge in Background

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