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Day 33 Recap; Scenery at it’s best

by EP on July 9, 2010

After collectively refusing full scholarships to the supermax prison in Florence, we said our goodbyes to our great new friends outside its gates, loaded up on the bikes, and headed out for our first full day of cycling in the Rocky Mountains. We met up with our old buddy Highway 50 in Canon City, where we stopped briefly to stock up on water and granola bars and get ready for the day’s work ahead of us. The climb out of Canon City came quickly, and it wasn’t long before we gained nearly 1,000 feet of elevation in just over five miles, which was a nice “how-do-you-do” from Colorado reminding us that we left the Kansas plains several days ago.

Highway 50 isn’t the only other familiar site we’ve had lately. For several hundred miles now, we’ve been crossing and re-crossing the nearly 1,500-mile long Arkansas River as it works it way east-southeast out of the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. After passing over the shelf just north of the Royal Gorge, we descended to meet up with the Arkansas River, which was a welcome sight. River routes have been good to us since we started this trip; they are very scenic, offer some of the best weather, and most importantly, provide the most consistent terrain for ascending or descending. That is important stuff to know if you’re on a bike, but even more important if you’re on foot.

In 1806, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike was sent on an expedition to explore the area south and west of the Louisiana Purchase, including regions of New Spain. Like the Lewis and Clark Expedition happening around the same time, Pike was sent with instructions to chart unknown parts of America, which, apparently, included a working knowledge of winter in the mountains. Searching for the headwaters of the Arkansas River, Pike and his crew worked their way along the stretch of river we followed today, only they did it in several feet of snow. The men traveled the area up which rode today for a week around Christmas of 1806, fighting the terrain, their equipment, and themselves in an effort to stay alive. In correspondence after charting the treacherous route, Pike wrote that, “no animal would ever travel here.”

Our experience today didn’t exactly match of that of good old Zeb. If Pike could see us now, he’d probably wonder 1) what a bicycle is, and 2) what we were thinking taking one up the Arkansas River. In his defense, we had a long, steady grade, 70-degree temperatures, and scores of friendly faces along our route to cheer us on, but our full first day in the Rockies was a success.

We saw fellow bikers, whitewater rafters, and tourists from around the world, making it hard not to be enthusiastic about where we were and what we were doing. What’s more, we’ve got the constant thought of the Wounded Warrior Project to drive us onward. We can’t thank you enough for the support you have shown thus far. Maybe today is the day you email one more person about what the WWP (Wounded Warrior Project) does or empty out that five dollars in change from the sofa and donate it to the cause. However you choose to help, it is greatly appreciated.

Next up, we’ll see the Western Continental Divide and bid farewell to the Arkansas River when we leave Salida, Colorado. With a rest day calling our name in Gunnison, we’re ready to get moving.

- The XC10 Guys


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Joel’s final note
August 6, 2010 at 12:05 pm

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Leah Buckley July 9, 2010 at 10:02 am

You guys have my respect and admiration. I got involved in the WWP last year about this time and continue to support their cause. I have a caring heart and a deep love for our military. My dad served in the Navy during the Korean Conflict and my son is currently serving in the Navy on the flight deck of the Might Ike. Thanks for your service to our great country. Keep peddling and enjoy your day of rest.

Leah Buckley


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