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The Herald June 9, 1989
Last miles of bicycle journey most desolate
On April 14, Rusty Forrest embarked on a cross-country bicycle trip from Rock Hill to Salt Lake City, Utah. These are the last days he recorded along the road.
Wednesday, May 10, 47 miles from Fort Collins to Indian Meadow, Colo.
Rolling out of Fort Collins, I was amazed at how abruptly the Rockies begin. At the base, you could go back and forth in the road, saying, "Now I'm in the Rockies, now I'm not." Only a mile or two past the base the scenery is far more dramatic than the most rugged part of the Smokies.
Highway 14 follows the banks of the Poudre (pronounced "Pooder") River, and the river valley produced a wonderfully gradual climb up to 7,200 feet. The river valley is a sharp cut through the mountains, and there is always a 500 or 600-hundred-foot cliff looming upwards on both sides of the river.
Everybody here drives slow thanks to an intimidating lack of guardrails. A two-foot shoulder separates the pavement from a 40-foot drop to the river on one side, and there's a solid rock cliff on the other side of the road, equally close. This mountain road would be no place to manhandle a Porsche.
The locals say the climb up to Cameron Pass (elev. 10,276) is a killer. I hope it's not actually that, but the air in Indian Meadow seems thin, and I'm only two-thirds of the way up. Tomorrow will tell.
Assessment: Kansas was beautiful, but this is heaven. Fort Collins has more bicycles than cars. Forgive me if I decide to never come home.
Thursday, May 11, 60 miles from Indian Meadow to Walden, Colo.
The 30-mile climb from Indian Meadow to Cameron Pass proved to be the hardest thing I have ever done. In increasingly thin air, the grade was continually steeper for the last 10 miles. Near the summit it began to snow, a result of the low temperatures and wildly changing conditions at this altitude.
I pushed myself harder than I ever have to see the sign, Cameron Pass-Summit-10,276 Feet. The summit was only a few hundred feet below the tree line, the elevation where trees refuse to grow. The surrounding peaks were bald on top and covered with snow.
The descent down the back side into Walden was made more interesting by a huge thunderstorm that stayed glued to my tail. Without a tailwind and a downhill, I would have fallen dead before reaching Walden.
Assessment: My body is thoroughly trashed. The climb over Cameron Pass has forced a day off for recuperation. As bad as I feel right now, I don't care if I reach Salt Lake City or not. Rest is imperative.
Friday, May 12, Rest Day, Walden, Colo.
Walden is situated in a wide valley between two ranges of snow-capped mountains. The weather in the valley is chaotic. Today I watched rain, lightning, sleet, snow and hail, along with wild temperature swings.
Saturday, May 13, 64 miles from Walden to Steamboat Springs, Colo.
I was thankful for yesterday's rest as I climbed 40 miles to Rabbit Ears Pass, a major hill but no contest for Cameron. Near the Continental Divide, I saw a herd of mule deer and a huge golden eagle. Over the pass and down into the beautiful Yampa Valley, I was going 40 mph when I ran through a large area of missing pavement. The jolt knocked the water bottle out of my front rack, and more bad spots called for the use of brakes the rest of the way. A long dreamed-of 60 mph descent out of the Rockies would not materialize.
Assessment: Steamboat Springs is a gorgeous ski resort. I'd like to stay a while and soak in the atmosphere.
Sunday, May 14, 43 miles from Steamboat Springs to Craig, Colo.
I was six miles out of Steamboat when the 40-degree sky began to rain. A few minutes later there was some sleet mixed in and a headwind drove this concoction into my face with authority. I rode 15 miles in this mess. When the precipitation stopped, the temperature fell even further. I was wet and miserable, and my feet and hands may never thaw out.
Assessment: I'll gladly take 43 miles on a day that was a scrub.
Monday, May 15, 88 miles from Craig to Dinosaur, Colo.
This day set a new record for empty landscape. If there had been no motel at Dinosaur, I could not have reached Vernal, Utah, (the next town) before dark. I faced tough headwind and grueling hills all day. I rode through two rain showers, and got stranded in a full-scale hailstorm. I huddled behind a forest service sign as the pea-sized hailstones pelted my helmet and piled up on the ground. Such is the nature of grand adventure.
Assessment: This trip could be called Tour de Desolation. I find it hard to imagine just how far from home I really am.
Tuesday, May 16, 35 miles from Dinosaur to Vernal, Utah.
More headwinds, more hills, and more unstable weather cut this day short. It took me all morning to grind it to Vernal, and I arrived just ahead of some awesome thunderstorms that were forming in the mountains. Over lunch, I met a local biker who described the hills and desolation that awaits between Vernal and Salt Lake City, 175 miles away.
If I am to pedal into Salt Lake, a Friday arrival is a logistical must. The weather, the terrain and my overall condition add up to make this a dangerous trip to try. If I get hung out in the wind, I'll miss my non-changeable flight home.
At 2,216 miles from Rock Hill, I decide that I'm through riding with apparent days left over. Vernal is the last chance I have to comfortably and predictably end this trip on my own terms. From here I can ship my bike home and ride a bus over the mountains to meet the plane. I can only thank the Lord at the end of a safe and epic journey.
Wednesday, May 17, Vernal, Utah.
On the tail end of a 10-mile recreational ride with some local guys, my rear derailleur self-destructed. My decision to stop in Vernal was even better than I knew.
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