Rocky Mountain High

20110716-082101.jpg Tentatively, Colorado is my favorite state. I can say I've truly been to 21 states (not just driven through). I'll be adding four more by the time I hit the Pacific, meaning by the age of 21 I've been to half of the Union, all in the lower 48. I have been to 15 of those states under my own volition (don't get the idea that my family goes on wild vacations. I Manifest Destiny).

I hear good things about Oregon and Utah, so I'll wait until the end of the trip to decide which one is really worth it's weight in gold to me. I won't be experiencing Utah though, that meeting is TBA.

I witnessed two sides of mountain life today. On my ascent, scattered ranches, vast openness, and endless beauty. On my descent, the wealth of America, with a backdrop fit for any movie's green screen.

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It was somewhere around 9,000 ft that I broke over a hill crest, exposing the snow capped mountains for the first time. There was an immediate dip. I don't know if it was the wind in my face from the speed, or I was just overcome with I deep happiness. There was a tear or two.

It wasn't just the view. It was a culmination of those 2,000+ miles that got me there. Rainy days in the Appalachians, riding for miles in the heat without water, messing around with flat tires and detours, were all in the past. At that moment, I really felt like I accomplished something. There's still much more to come.

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Reaching the Continental Divide at Hoosier Pass, I had hit the literal high point of my tour, 11,539 ft. The air was thin, but the only time I felt light headed was when I bent over and started messing with my chain. I've heard of people getting altitude sickness, so I'm glad I dodged that bullet.

Coming down the mountain today, I didn't give the pedals more than a couple spins on my way to Breckenridge. It was the easiest 10 miles of the trip so far. The resort town was jam packed. Even though it's a ski town, it's also a scenic getaway to enjoy the mountain air. It's funny, I've developed a method of determining what I can expect based on the size of the town. One thousand people means a gas station, three thousand, a nationally recognizable fast food chain, five thousand, a Walmart and most of your favorite fast food joints. Breckenridge did not fit the mold. There was no fast food, not because it wasn't big enough, but because it was frowned upon. It wasn't until I reached the outskirts of town that I found a Subway, and even then a sign was posted, "We do not participate in the $5 footlong promotion." (coupons must not be in vogue).

Breckenridge, Frisco, and Silverthorne are a string of small towns with big money. The area might very well be one the most beautiful places to live while still having all of the conveniences of the modern world. If I had to pick I'd chose Frisco. The ski slopes in Breckenridge really scrape the mountain; it looks like someone took a steel rake to a sports car. All three were connected by a first rate bike path, maybe fifteen miles or so. The ride took me through the neighborhoods, some wooded areas, the shopping district, and alongside their dam. It's definitely heaven on Earth for those who can afford to pay St. Peter.

I stopped in Silverthorne for the night. I'm staying at the Riverside Hostel. For twenty bucks I get to shower, but more importantly have a roof to keep me out of the rain. It gets real cold out here at night, and I do not want to get wet.

In the summer it houses gypsies like me. In the winter, it hosts athletes, both professional and collegiate who plan to train in the mountains. I'm booked in a room with four Ecuadorians here on some sort of exchange program.

Steve manages the place. Man the guy's a warrior. He told me all about the car accident that ruined his swimming career, the gunshot he took to the head, and the time he had to hit a guest until his hand broke in an attempt to sedate him (it didn't work, and Steve's a big guy). He's got at least two scars for every story. Steve has earned his Citizen of the Day Award on enthusiasm alone.

Steve got the award on the same day I met Mr. Epic (Charles Alexander). This past winter he set the Guinness World record for the most vertical climbing while skiing in a one year period. He's spent up to 56 hours a week skiing out here in Colorado. He's staying at the hostel, 9 months at Riverside, attacking the former record. The man's got jokes for days. He needs to keep himself entertained somehow.

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." - Martin Luther (not the King Jr.)

P.S. Driving a Subaru in Colorado is like wearing cowboy boots to a rodeo. Today alone I've seen every type of Subaru made in the last ten years. A Subaru is like driving a two ton bumper sticker that says "I like to do stuff outdoors". To each their own I guess.

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