Thirty-Seven: Collusion with a Chance of Hail (Pueblo to Royal Gorge)
While I saw my first glimpse of the Rockies just outside Sugar City, this morning’s ride was flat all the way to Cañon City, which was just fine, because I was feeling a little sluggish after averaging more than 100 miles over the past four days. Outside Wetmore, I climbed a most un-Rockies-like half-mile, 10-percent grade, but my reward was an honest-to-goodness cowgirl, riding a horse down the road. She told me about Wetmore’s community center, where I filled up my water bottles and ran into two mountain bike tourists. Dan and Darren were working on a broken rack. Dan’d flipped a rear rack around, and using brackets and clamps, attached it to his front axle and brake bosses. Clever, especially considering the suspension fork. Unfortunately, the rack split, and not near a weld. Hauling 120 pounds makes him a strong rider, but it also shortens equipment lifespan.
It was all downhill to Florence, which is a great town of 3,800 and host of ADX Florence, a federal prison known as the Alcatraz of the Rockies. Notable residents include Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui. Stupendous coffee at The Pour House and then some time at the public library killed most of my morning. I wanted to stay the night in Guffey — a shell of a mining town, home to 16 and Guffey Garage, where Bill Soux hosts cyclists in a $10 hostel. I gave Bill a ring to see about a bunk, and he wasn’t sure I’d make it all the way from Florence today, but to give him a call when I came off Highway 50 and headed north on Highway 9. He’s been under the weather, and told me to come right to the garage when I got in, and not to stop at any bars, because the locals wouldn’t let me leave. I hustled through Lincoln Park, Cañon City (home to another prison — Colorado has its share of reprobates, it seems) and uphill toward Royal Gorge Bridge, the tallest suspension bridge in the U.S., at 955′ over the Arkansas River. Sadly, the park burned badly in 2013 and only offers weekend tours.
No rain, but the skies were dark to the north, with thunder and lightening. I called Bill, and he told me in pretty certain terms to stay at the bottom (bottom being 6,300′), because it was coming down in Guffey and he didn’t want me to be struck by lightning during the slow 25-mile climb. It looked pretty good down here at the bottom, and I was bummed to be told to stay away, but started to call campgrounds around the Royal Gorge area. There are seven listed on the ACA map, all within a one-mile radius of Highways 50 and 9. With that many options, I was hoping for a good deal, but every campground wanted between $29 and $34 for an overnight at a primitive, no-hookups site. I settled on Prospectors RV Resort — at least they sell beer — and laid down the extortionate sum. The weather never came down the mountain, so I spent an afternoon catching up with friends and family on the phone and drinking in the view. On a long trip, you need to roll with the punches, and this was a good reminder for me to slow down slightly.