Monarch Pass - The Continental Divide

Trip Start Jun 04, 2011
Trip End Jul 26, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Thursday, June 23, 2011

**The internet in this town is the slowest I've experienced on this whole trip. Hopefully I can post the pictures tomorrow.**

 Today was one of the prettiest days of the trip so far. it was very challenging for a lot of people, but I didn't find it that difficult. We had an easy ride for thirty miles to Monarch Valley where we began a difficult climb for about 10 miles up and over Monarch Pass at 11,300 ft. When we crossed over the summit we also crossed the Great Divide. It was a satisfying experience to know I had ridden my bike all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Divide. I really pushed myself up the climb to see how well I could do it. I wanted to race Scott, but I had a cleat problem in the morning and he left without me while I was getting it fixed. According to his stated climb time, he did it about 10 minutes faster than me, which I have no problem believing. Most of my suffering was because I was trying to exercise hard at 9,10,11 thousand feet and I felt like I just couldn't breathe in enough air to make my body happy. I could fell air coming into my mouth, but it wasn't the same satisfying feeling I've come to know and love as "breathing". I jogged about 30 yards at the summit which would have barely raised my heart-rate at sea level... but up at the top I was almost gasping for air with my hands on my knees. It's beautiful up at that level, but exercising becomes quite difficult. It's no wonder that high-altitude training makes people better athletes. I even feel it down at the hotels at 7000 feet when I stand up too quickly.

When we made it to the top, we spent a long time poking around since the rest of the ride was literally downhill from there (all 25 miles... I may have been able to make it to the hotel without pedaling). There was a gondola that (for a fee) ran up to an observation platform at about 12,000 feet. We rode it, and Dad got a senior citizen discount, his first on the trip since turning 55! 
The view from the top was incredible, but as could be expected, the wind was howling and it was very cold. I got some great pictures which I'll try to upload tomorrow. We could see 360 degrees around the Rocky Mountains. The prettiest and the snowiest were off in the distance to the west, the San Juans. We were able to look down on the Monarch Ski Resort which is something I've never done. I've looked from one ski resort across to a ski resort on another mountain, but I've never been on a neighboring mountain that was even higher and looked down on a resort. Surprisingly, the Sierras had far more snow than the Rockies around Monarch, despite the fact that they were thousands of feet higher

At the summit we also visited the gift shop/visitor center at the top and treated ourselves to ice cream and fudge. I shared a mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate fudge with Scott, both were very good. I'm pretty sure the harder I work, the better food tastes. I also bought a t-shirt at the gift shop that is a little bit dorky, but I found it hidden in the clearance racks, so I felt I should buy it. It says something along the lines of "I made it to the top! Monarch Pass, CO" and it has a picture of a bike on it. I bought it less to celebrate the achievement (it only took an hour and a half to climb to the top) and more to have something that would continually remind me of how beautiful that part of the country is. Maybe when I pull out the shirt years from now I'll reflect on what a great experience this bike ride, and specifically today's ride, have been.

Tomorrow we have a long day, almost 100 miles to Pueblo, but it looks like it's mostly downhill. We will be facing our first real hot weather at 100 degrees by mid-day. I'm just thankful we haven't faced any hot weather yet after almost three weeks of riding. I sweat like crazy when it's 75 degrees outside... I'll probably be swimming tomorrow. I guess that's all a part of the experience.

Distance: 66.19 mi - 1,370.62 total
Time: 4:25:38 - 96:40:12 total
Elevation Gain: 3,999 ft (straight up) - 58,089 total
Av. Speed: 15.0 mph - 14.2 overall
Av. HR: 135 bpm - 130 overall
Calories: 4,715 - 94,985 total

Flat Tire Count:
Scott: 3
Stephen: 3
Mark: 0
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theconcernedmom on

Mark, Mark, Mark, You should have resisted the senior discount. One discount leads to another and before you know it we will be eating the early bird special at MCL. Miss you all so much!

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