Ride West: Day 19 To Basalt

Cloudy skies loomed overhead as we packed this morning and prepared for  a 250 mile jaunt through Colorado’s bike-friendly mountainous terrain.  But the ride would have to wait until we first visited the Glory Hole.  Few things could possibly start a day off with greater promise than an early visit to the Glory Hole.  From the outside, the Glory Hole may not look like much, but once you’re in the Glory Hole it’s a different story.

Twisted patrons of the Glory Hole

The Glory Hole, as some of you have guessed (and the rest of you have dirty minds) is a restaurant in Hot Sulfur Springs with great food, better service and a fascinating fishing/outdoors motif.  Everyone filled up on omelets, biscuits and gravy and “really good” French Toast.  Now we were ready to ride.

We headed west along gently twisting US 40 to Kremmling at a solid but not overly aggressive pace.  Soon after passing Kremmling, we had our first splatter of moisture as a cold, misty rain began falling lightly, a condition that dogged us for most of the rest of the day. Whether the temperatures were in the upper 50s or, more often, in the mid to low 40s,  we ascended and descended various mountains roads along our path.

After a brief sprint east on a rainy I-70, we shot south on US 24 and climbed steeply to Leadville whose lofty position at more than 10,000 feet makes it the highest incorporated municipality in the United States.  Lunch at Leadville at a cafe was good, but the highlight was being served by a waitress from Nebraska whose previous job had been as a police officer in Leadville, a job which lasted until she got her face smashed in breaking up a bar fight and then found little solace or support from her colleagues on the force.  We’re glad she left law enforcement because she was a great waitress.

From Leadville to Aspen and then to Basalt, our cold and soggy route took us up the precipitous incline to Independence Pass at slightly more than 12,000 feet.  The trip to the top was breathtaking, for those who cared to take their eyes off the slick and winding road and look over the side to the stream-carved valley several thousand feet below.  It was raining at the top and we didn’t pause for pictures, but during a near-break in the constant drizzle that was only about 10 degrees shy of solidity we  paused long enough to take in the rain-soaked beauty that surrounded us on today’s ride.

Passing through Aspen the clouds finally parted–hallelujah–and by the time we got to Basalt, about 15 miles west of Aspen, we were under blue skies and more than ready to shed our rain gear and cold weather gear in the 80 degree heat.  Much superior to last night’s lodging, the Aspenalt Lodge in Basalt was an excellent choice for ending the day.  With a cliche-like babbling brook flowing just outside our doors and picnic tables which held a variety of  libations, we settled in for an affable evening of camaraderie.

Today’s entry wouldn’t be complete without mention of our lobster-fest.  Curt, scouting the area near our hotel, discovered a hidden culinary treasure in an outdoor seafood take-away stand that tendered a Monday night half-price special on lobster.  Like a shepherd gathering wayward sheep, Curt herded us to the peculiar and apparently nameless stand where we dined on $10 lobsters and other assorted seafood offerings at outdoor tables that presented views of downtown Basalt framed by the the Rockies above.  The proprietor, overwhelmed by our eagerness to enjoy discounted crustaceans, was nevertheless thrilled that the Twisted Riders apparently eliminated his lobster stock.

Tomorrow:  Off to Grand Junction and the Colorado National Monument (which Jon and I thoroughly enjoyed a week ago)

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