Cameron Pass is a jewel crowning the peaks along the Wyoming border. At 10, 249 she’s certainly not the highest – but her domain is wild and beautiful. Colorado highway 14 descends from her summit 58 miles down the Cache Poudre canyon. The climb was matter-of-fact in the way that climbing has become on this trip: gear down, find the rhythm and enjoy the scenery. Groups of us lingered at the pull-outs savoring our final glimpse of the high country. With only a handful of miles left to travel, suddenly each one became precious. After so many miles of toil and struggle, the end had come into sight.
Along with climbing I’ve also become quite comfortable with descending during this trip. The fore-mentioned Cache Poudre is an amusement park ride with towering rock walls. The grades are not extreme, so it’s possible to coast at 25 mph for miles at a time. Faster descents are fun, but require so much more focus on braking [don’t overheat those rims!] and position on the bike. And so the miles rolled by with the constant song of the river close at hand. It wasn’t until we crossed a cattle grate at the bottom of the canyon that the mood was broken. We rolled out onto the plains of the Front Range with the press and noise of traffic. Deep blue-green pools of water and fly fisherman practicing their graceful art were replaced by strip malls and gas station convenience stores.
We turned into a hot headwind for the 12 mile run down to Loveland and encountered several sections of chip and seal pavement. This nasty stuff is low budget paving at its worst. First liquid tar is sprayed on the road bed, then sharp gravel is scattered on top. Eventually it hardens into a surface that epitomizes rolling resistance. Even on the downhill you can’t get any decent speed. This was not welcome news on a 108 mile ride, but I found myself laughing from time to time at the ridiculousness of it all. After a last set of hills, a left turn into a residential neighborhood, there was a final left into the parking lot of Lucerne Middle school.
Deb received me with a hug, and I lingered in her arms for a good while. Around us were smiling sunburned riders and open tailgates with coolers of beer and pop. After a brief rest I walked to the showers one last time to wash off the road grit. The words ‘Good ride!’ echoed in the tiled hallways. Two words that summed it all. A two word benediction for an experience larger than life.
431.5 miles and 30,504 feet of climbing.