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It was rather warm when we cycled up to the rustic little diner/mercantile at La Garita. Since we had already ridden 45 miles over a pass, we were in the market for a cold soda. The locals were curious about two bicyle-riding sexagenarians and we spent a good while filling them in on the details of our cross-continent ride. As it turned out, it was time that would have been better spent riding because when we started pedaling toward Del Norte, we were alarmed to see that an enormous dark cloud had moved into position in the direction we were heading:

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HEADING INTO THE STORM

“Holy sh*t!” I yelled to Mary. “Look at that cloud!”

One option would have been to surrender then and there and wait in the shelter of the mercantile for the storm to pass. The option we chose was to put up a fight and race the cloud to Del Norte.

We had fifteen miles between us and Del Norte about which we knew little. I was counting on level ground and a slow-moving storm cloud. If the route included a climb there was no way we were going to win the race.

I could see on our map that even though County Road 38A initially took us westward, directly toward the storm, it would turn to the south within a mile. Moving south, we had a chance to outrun the cloud.

38A is a deserted gravel road. Mary and I pedaled hard, side by side, stealing glances every few seconds at the black cloud. When the road turned south we seemed to be keeping just ahead of it – not putting any distance between. While the road wasn’t steep, it did have a slight incline and our speed was a discouraging 7 mph. Finally after about eight miles of heart-pounding effort, the road ahead appeared to reach an apex – followed by a descent?

It did! Our speed was now in the low twenties and I had reason to be optimistic. But just as our speed increased, so too, did the storm’s appear to. Worse yet, we could see that the storm had a southern tentacle that obscured Del Norte behind a veil of rain. So now we were racing toward the rain? It seemed our only hope was to find shelter along the road.

Still five miles out of Del Norte and in contradiction to our map, 38A ended and became Road 33. We flagged down an oncoming pickup truck and asked the driver if the Road 33 would take us into Del Norte. He assured us that it would. At that point I was ready to resume our hurried progress. But the man proceeded to tell us that he ran a hostel for bikers in town and encouraged us to stay there. Then he went on to describe dining opportunities in Del Norte. Thinking he might launch into a dissertation on the state of the nation, I pointed to the hovering cloud and said “We’re trying to get away from that cloud.”

Released from his clutches, we sped off. I gotta hand it to Mary. I was putting everything I had into that ride and she was keeping close behind me. We came to the highway into Del Norte, turned right and were confronted by a fierce side wind and occasional rain drops. I stopped to put on my rain coat. Mary took the lead. It was all I could do to keep up with her. We both expected the full force of the storm to hit at any moment.

But it didn’t. We rode into Del Norte, exhausted, elated to have made it with only minimal sprinkling on our coats. That day’s 60-mile ride with its furious conclusion had taken its toll, however. The 4000-ft climb to Indiana Pass would require more than a night’s rest. It looks like we’ll spend a day of recuperation in bare-bones Del Norte.

We have been treated to a technicolor display of Colorado’s autumn foliage over the last three days, riding from Salida to Del Norte.

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We stayed at the prettiest campground ever last night near Cochetopa Pass and had it all to ourselves until an elderly couple (older than us!) pulled in near dusk in their RV.

P1030543.JPGOUR CAMPSITE NEAR COCHETOPA PASS

Next up is a climb to the highest point on the Great Divide – 11,910-ft Indiana Pass followed by four days without resupply.

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