Crashes, Beers, Cougars and What Not

Laramie was pretty uneventful.  We took a rest day and mostly hung out in the hotel.  The next day we found some railroad tracks leading out of town and followed them off and on for the whole day.  Railroads with a nice access road are a really great bikepacking tool.  We never ran into any issues with the railroad employees.  We did hit a few spots where the road stopped and we had to improvise either riding on the rocks supporting the tracks or detours on some ranch roads.

We had proper food now and finally found a groove with eating healthy on the road.  Nuts, jerky, and dried fruit are an awesome combo.  Also we took some fresh produce that lasted a day or two.  One of the big goals of this trip was a shakedown of our gear to see what we needed and didn’t need.  Also trying to figue out food etc. along the way.  We learned that rice and canned meat is ok, but cleaning burnt rice off of a stainless steel pot is a giant pain in the ass and uses a lot of water.  Our MSR Whisperlite stove is awesome, but it has one heat setting… Really frickin hot!  It’s awesome for boiling water, but actual cooking can be a challenge.  I’ll do a full post on gear and cooking in the near future and hopefully remember to link it to this post.

Anyway, we found a pulloff on the railroad and set up the tent.  Dinner was beef jerkey and raw broccoli.  As we waited for it to get dark, a train decided to stop on the tracks which were about 20 yards away from us behind some trees.  It just hung out there for about 40 minutes while we tried to figure out what it was doing and if someone saw us.  Our best guess was that it was waiting for another train that was utilizing one of the many switches up ahead.

The train moved on and we set up camp.  Right before bed as Lauren was getting her toothbrush out of her bags, I spotted a set of eyes in the bushes and said, “Oh look honey a critter.”  Lauren replied, “Umm that’s not a critter that looks like a cat!”  We both started staring at the two giant glowing dots with our headlamps trying to see what it was.  Being the adventurous (idiotic) folks that we are, we moved a bit closer to get a better look.  A silouhette soon emerged and started doing a telltale horizontal move like a cat following a laser pointer.  Holy shit, it’s a mountain lion!  We stopped, but the cat started creeping forward.  We spoke loudly and backed away slowly.  I had the Ruger LCP .380 in my hand and backed right into a tree.  We shuffled quickly into the tent and hoped like hell that the thin layer of nylon would protect us.  After sitting there indian style looking at each other with a gun on my lap for half an hour, we had to get out to pee before bed.  We carefully climbed out of the tent and covered one another Navy SEAL style while we took care of business then scrambled back inside the relative safety of the tent.

Aside from the trains coming by every few hours 20 yards from our heads, we slept surprisingly well and did not see anymore of our feline friend.  In the morning, I stood where the cat was and Lauren paced out the distance.  It was 10 yards away from us!  We’ve always wanted to see a mountain lion, but I imagined it from a few hundred yards away, not right in front of us!

See video below for an artist’s interpretation of the event.

The next day included more than a few verses from “The guy on a buffalo”.  And lot’s of “Geet outta here KittyKat!”

We started riding in the morning and a few miles in the day got interesting yet again.  I was cruising down a hill on the access road and my side of the road started to get a bit rutted.  I moved towards the center but there was a giant baby-head sized rock sitting in the middle of the road.  Like an idiot I stared at it going about 20-25 MPH and BAM!  The next thing I new I was laying in the dirt with the wind knocked out of me and pain all up my left side.  Lauren ran back and tried to help.  I bruised my left hip and right knee pretty badly and burped all the air out of my front tire.  Luckily my pride was hurt the most and I was able to ride the rest of the day.  Somehow some rocks managed to get into the bead of my front tire and it wouldn’t hold air for more than 30 minutes.  The rest of the trip included a lot of stopping to pump up the tire and went pretty slow due to my hip.

We pressed on and picked our way down the mountain roads.  We hit a new top speed of 37 MPH and eventually hit Colorado Route 287, also known as the deathtrap with a 70 MPH speed limit and limited shoulder.  We rode it for about 10 miles and found some respite on back roads for the rest of the way to Fort Collins.  The last part of the ride was mostly downhill and fast pavement which made for a nice break.

From the beginning, we had a glorious plan to head straight to a brewery when we got back to town which worked out perfectly.  We booked a tour at New Belgium right as we rolled into town and took a great bikepath to the brewery.  If you are in Northern Colorado and even remotely interested in beer, go to New Belgium and take the tour!  It is 90 minutes of history/science and it’s free.  Oh and free beer…  like a lot of free beer.  We were actually pretty tuned up when it was over with.  The best part was the sour beer room which had giant 15 foot tall oak casks where the sour beer aged.  Our tour guide was great and we had a good group who didn’t seem to mind that we smelled awful and were covered in dirt and blood.

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We left the brewery and headed to the hotel with just enough time to get cleaned up and hit up B-Dubs (Not our normal kind of place but they had the boxing match) for the big Mayweather/Macgregor fight.  It was a cool experience.  We got lucky and a nice guy named Mack let us sit at one of his reserved tables because some friends didn’t show up.  We bought them a round of shots and watched a great fight.

It was a great ending to an amazing trip.  There were a lot of ups and downs (pun intended).  The wind was a bitch in Wyoming but the scenery was fantastic.  What never fails though is the people.  We met some amazing souls who didn’t even think about hesitating to help a couple of strangers on bikes.  I’m convinced that bicycle travel is the best way to travel for this reason.  There is just something about a bike loaded up with camping gear that makes people want to talk to you.  Free food, offers for rides, a quick “You guys ok?” or even just a smile and a thumbs up, give you the energy to keep going when you are facing 30 MPH headwinds on a washboard road, running out of food and just wishing for some shelter.  Hopefully we changed at least one person’s mind about cyclists and they will think twice and slow down the next time they pass some crazy couple on bicycles.

 

Wyoming!

P8130664.JPGAfter the run in with the Ranger, we were not in the highest spirits.  The singletrack at red canyon was HARD!  We climbed literally the entire way which included a deep sand arroyo for over a mile and several miles of switchbacks going straight up the side of a mountain.  It was amazing scenery but challenging riding (walking).

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Eventually we made it to some railroad tracks which had an access road running next to them.  We did have to jump a fence that was locked but it was locked to keep people out of where we were so we figured it was ok.  Lauren started talking about hamburgers and we decided a detour to Cheyenne was in order.  We started heading east and discovered what rolling hills in Wyoming really means.

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We learned that railroad tracks are a great option for bikepacking and were not worried about getting yelled at because all of the train engineers tooted the horn and waved at us.  We saw tons of pronghorn and wondered what the hell these giant random 8 foot tall fences were for miles.

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There were ant attacks and debates about the route and it eventually ended with a glorious 8 mile downhill on a calm pavement road straight into Cheyenne. For the first time we spun out our highest gear.  We stopped at a hotel and took a Lyft into town to Sanford’s which had phenominal burgers and some well deserved beers.  We met a nice guy from Ohio who was travelling to Utah to help his son move into his dorm at college and proceeded to solve all the worlds problems right there at the bar.

One rest day turned into two due to an 80% chance of severe thunderstorms and we layed around and watched bad TV, ate at chain restaurants, and lived the American Dream for 48 hours.

Fort Collins to Red Canyon

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In true Orlosky Fashion we were late getting started.  We planned to leave the day before, but weather delayed us.  We spent the afternoon prior in a parking garage packing the bikes for 4 hours and had crap spread everywhere trying to decide what to take and not to take.  When it was all said and done, it was wet and cold and we decided to get a good nights sleep in a hotel and leave in the morning.  Also, great bikepacking and general travel hack – you can leave your car at a hotel for several weeks and no one seems to care.  I’m a fan of asking forgiveness not permission and it hasn’t failed us yet.

So we left the hotel and rode through Fort Collins to the trailhead where we were to begin…  and it was closed due to wet condions.  We took it in stride though and quickly made a detour which turned out to be pretty fun as it led us to a river walk path along a creek.  During route planning, I tried to stick to dirt/gravel roads which inevitably leads to locked gates and no trespassing signs.  We decided on a policy of if it’s not locked, we will go through a gate and try not to jump any fences unless absolutely necessary.  We hit a few roadblocks and had to backtrack, but that is half the fun.

We could do an entire blog post (and probably will) on all the incredibly generous and friendly people we met.  Our favorite thing about bicycle travel is probably the way strangers treat you along the way.  Something about bicycles is non-threatening and interesting to people because everyone used to ride a bike when they were a kid.  Also, having big tires and 30ish pounds of gear strapped to your ride is a great conversation starter.

We planned to do about 30-40 miles a day but had the openness in our schedule to allow for random stops.  On the very first day, after the third detour due to closed gates, we passed a guy and his son riding up a hill on a dirt road.  The boy was picking wild plums on the side of the road and they were going about the same speed as us even though the kid was about 7 years old.  After an impromptu drag race with his brother on a quad, we passed a sign with a bear on it which caught our attention.  We looked at each other and said, “Is this a winery?!?!”

We stopped in for a glass, which turned into three with the owner’s brother David.  We talked to Bill (the owner) and him for hours and ended up staying there all night.  They generously let us sample the good stuff and cracked open some champagne at the end of the evening.  We ended up accepting Bill’s offer to crash in their barn (The nicest barn I’ve ever been in) and slept like babies.  Mileage for the day was a grand total of 11, but we met amazing folks and learned alot about Colorado Wines.  Check out Ten Bears Winery if you are in Norther Colorado.  I promise it is worth the short drive into the hills.

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The next day we navigated our way through beautiful Colorado plains heading towards the Red Mountain Open Space.  We got caught by a few thunderstorms and learned that the middle of the plains of Colorado are not the best place to be during a storm.  We were going to stop, but had nothing better to do so like Forrest Gump, we just kept right on going.  Eventually at nightfall we hit the Red Mountain Open Space which apparently does not allow camping despite no signs or warnings notifying you.  The night was beautiful and we watched for a meteor shower that my dad told us about.  We caught a couple shooting stars, filled up our water bottles from the creek and hit the sack.  The next moring we got a late start and were greeted while packing up by a ranger who informed us we weren’t allowed to camp.  We said we were sorry and continued packing until her asshat of a partner came along and decided to give us a $50 citation for camping too close to a stream.  (The stream we were drinking out of.)  I’ll keep the ranting to a minimum, but we were pissed!  We were on bicycles and left not a speck of trash or evidence we were ever there.  I understand there are rules, but part of being a reasonable enforcer of the rules is understanding why the rules exist.  Needless to say we are not paying the ticket and will be fighting it to the bitter end.  Even if we lose, at least we can waste some of this idiot’s time.  

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ARISE

P8040543.JPGWe spontaneously bought tickets for the “Arise” music festival while having our amazing burgers and beers in Boulder when we first showed up.  It wasn’t exactly cheap, but it was worth it.  This was Lauren’s first ever festival and my first in probably 12 years or so.  We packed up camp late as usual and got off to a late start.  We stopped at a wal-mart which was not unintentionally about 100 yards across the county border for Boulder.  We “Rented” an EZ-Up shelter and a few camping chairs and got some supplies for the weekend.  After the festival, the shelter was a mess of twisted metal which we conveniently returned for full price with no questions asked.  I have no guilt taking advantage of wal-mart.

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The festival was a blast, we had great neighbors on both sides.  Chad, Brenda, Rachel and friends were a riot.  On the other side, we had Tom, Laura, Jay and Steph.  We had great times just sitting around talking at the campsites.  The music was initially a bit of a disappointment.  Maybe festivals have changed a lot, or maybe this was more of a hip-hop oriented show, but there was an awful lot of rap and rave music the first two days.  Sunday was outstanding though with The Travelling McCourys and Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band ultimately getting together for “The Grateful Ball” which was hours of bluegrass Dead covers…  Awesome!

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On Saturday afternoon, a huge storm came through the festival and a microburst basically levelled the campground.  There were coleman tents scattered all over the place and we were thankful to have the MSR and have staked it down well.  Our rented EZ-Up on the other hand did not fare so well.  We spent the storm trying to hold it down and lost.  The cheap aluminum bent and broke and it was all but destroyed.  During the storm, Chad was next to us holding his shelter in similar fashion… Laughing maniacally throughout the whole ordeal like Lt. Dan during the Hurricane!

Gorilla tape and ingenuity allowed us to use the shelter for the rest of the weekend and we were able to return it no questions asked.

Another highlight was spending the evening with Rachael who lost her shoes and we started about 50 people chanting for Rachael to put her shoes on.  (She was having a rough time that evening).

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We also met Roxy and Ben at a tent promoting Elevation Outdoors magazine.  We hung out and chatted for an hour about hiking, biking and life.  There was also Summer who was a Pre-K teacher making a little money on the side at the festival.

It continued to rain throughout the weekend, but we had an awesome time.  After packing out of Monday morning, the truck battery was dead and a good Samaritan gave us a jump.  We got back to civilization and spent a few days in a hotel to wait out some weather and get ready for the bikepacking trip.  We planned to leave Thursday but in true Orlosky fashion, we spent 4 hours packing the bikes in a parking garage to get out of the rain.  Then we decided instead of being miserable we’d just get another hotel and leave in the morning.  We decided to celebrate the selling of the kayaks with some steaks and wine/beer which was a good decision.  The next morning, the trip really started.

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