To Durango 109km
Since before I cycled out of Hanmer Springs in 2014, there have been only a few "must do" places I wanted to cycle to.
Kathmandu was the first, and an added bonus was to find that Belinda and Nick were living there.
I had been promising to visit my cousins in North Carolina for close to thirty years. They never really expected me to turn up on their doorstep in Winston Salem on my bicycle.
Visiting my fantastic friends Sarah and Scott in Denver was always going to be part of this amazing journey.
Dvoraks Expeditions just out of Salida, have been a big part of my life for twenty years, and to be able to cycle there via Leadville, has been a long time dream.
In 2013, Juliet and I drove over the road from Durango to Montrose. We had been chased out of Durango by a massive storm, and drove through some stunning snow covered scenery. I had to come back.
Ju and I met Ted and Moira while mtbing at Phil's World, between Durango and Cortez. They invited us to spend an evening with them. Great food, an amazing "pallet bonfire" and great company. Ju must have impressed them , because I was invited back. They are looking after me now.
Visiting Annie in San Diego has also been a goal. The only one yet to achieve.
The Million Dollar Highway, between Montrose and Durango must be one of the most beautiful highways in the world. I'd been warned repeatedly that it was dangerous, steep, no roadside railings, crazy, incapable tourist driving unsafely while looking at the views..... but I disregarded all the warnings.... and survived. I only had one close call, a concrete mixer truck, claiming more road than necessary, just out of Montrose. During the rest of the ride I met only lovely people. At the summits of the passes, many came to chat.
The senior lady mountain biker at a cafe, who told me she had just bought her 80 year old husband an E Bike, so he could keep up with her.
The two guys from the Congo, who were driving a yellow school bus to Texas, that had overheated. "We should have stayed on the Freeway, but decided to take a short cut. New Zealand? Is that in Europe? Near Austria?"
The Harley riders who were aghast at my ability to cycle up the hills. "How the hell do you do that?" My answer...."Slowly."
The guy who played in the Tauranga Boys High School 2nd XV when he was an exchange student. I forgot to ask him whether he knew my mate BSN.
The other guy who cycled NZ with his wife "many years ago", and loved it.
Another guy who had cycled the South Island, chaining his bike to a tree so as he could hike the trails in Arthurs Pass.
The Firefighter/EMT from Fairplay, who passed through Christchurch, and loved it, on her way to McMurdo, near Scott Base. She's promising to visit again, next year.
The Texan's who had just spent the weekend quad biking on the Alpine Loop. I talked to them at a roadworks traffic light. The traffic controller sent me through the roadworks first. I beat the Texans to a breakfast Cafe 25km downhill..... it was very very cold. They came into the cafe really surprised to see me and we chatted some more, while they ordered. When their order arrived, they all took off their caps, thanked the Lord, in a very long prayer, for their food, put their caps back on and scoffed. They just didn't seem the type to "give thanks".
I didn't see one other cyclist going over the highway, except a couple of road bikers in the foothills. Perhaps they've been scared off by the warnings. It was tough. Three passes, all around 11,000 foot. It was steep. There was plenty of traffic, but mostly it was friendly. I rested frequently. I took small steps. And I'm really glad I did it. But it was stunning. Absolutely stunning. The Million Dollar Highway. Tick.