Carbondale to Telluride

So I’m home, a little bit early than I wanted to be. Short story- I got too friendly with some gravel ten miles from the Mexican border. But more about that later.

“Come with me next time, alright?” I say to Colleen. We’re at the top of McClure Pass, I’m about to drop off the south side, and she’s going to turn around and head back the Crystal Valley to Carbondale.

“I will,” she said.

A boot, and other stuff
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Quick hug, then I turn and start to roll down the pass. The headwind hits almost immediately. Perfect. I spin to keep moving downhill. I’m not totally set on the idea of riding the whole way to Tucson. But if I do, to make it in time for the race start I have to cover about 90 miles a day. Since I was doing about 130 on the Divide last year, that seems pretty reasonable.

Highway to Paonia, dry reservoir, backroads through rolling farms to Hotchkiss, back on the highway to Delta. Headwind the whole time, spinning three-inch wide tires at 10 miles an hour. Great to be out here, but all the pavement. So much pavement. Then the sun starts to set. I didn’t plan for that very well. Barely have enough daylight to make those miles.

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I ride into the Sidewinder trailhead just as it starts to get dark. Unroll my sleeping pad in the sage, eat some pepperoni, and go to sleep.

Boil some coffee the next morning, stretch up with the sun. Start climbing the Sidewinder Trail, probably the only dirt I’ll be able to ride in Colorado.

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A full morning of great trail, swooping in and out of washes, down chunky chutes, up rock ledges. Everything feels good. Then back onto flat dirt road into the wind again. Doesn’t feel so good.

040715 Colorado AZT-19Headwind and a wide dirt road. Uncomfortably familiar.

I’ve only made 20 miles, and it’s already past noon. Sunset in seven hours, strong headwind, 70 miles to Telluride. I have a place to stay up there but I’ll need to really pound it out to make it.

Through Montrose, stop for coffee, feel guilty because I stopped for coffee. I gotta make time.

Actually, no I don’t. This is ridiculous. I’m putting way too much pressure on myself to get to Tucson. I’m racing to get to a race. By the time I get there, I’m gonna be totally fried. I order another cup of coffee. I’ll just try to make it to Telluride, then I’ll reasses. Maybe I can just ride to the Picket Post trailhead, that’d save a hundred miles. Or maybe I can find a way to carpool with somebody.

On the highway again, cars buzz by, headwind blasts in my face. After last year I swore I’d never ride roads like this again. But here I am. Never learn.

Ridgeway at 5:00, and a 25 mile climb to Telluride. There’s no way I’ll make it up there before the sun sets. I start riding up the road, sticking my thumb out whenever I hear a car. Half an hour goes by, and no luck. Starting to worry a little.

Then a little beat Nissan pickup slows on the shoulder. Sweet. I sprint up to the truck. An old hippy gets out.

“Hey man, thanks a ton for stopping.”

“No problem, I’ve been on long rides before, I know how it goes,” he says. There’s a big lamp in the bed of the truck. “Think you can fit back there?”

“Oh yeah, I’ll make it work,” I say.

“Ok. You need a puffy jacket or anything? We’re gonna be going not so slow anymore, and it might be cold up there.”

“No, I’ll be fine, thanks though,” I say, and swing my bike into the bed of the truck.

“Alright, well I’m headed up to Telluride, how far do you want to go?”

“Man, the whole way up there would be great.”

He nods, and gets back into the truck. I stand on the bumper and jump into the bed. We’re flying up the pass, man I’m making great time now, wind whipping but not slowing me down anymore, face the tailgate centerline blurs.


The truck turns toward Telluride. Jerky downshift, little engine winds out. Through Sawpit, a town tight in the valley with a couple buildings and a gas station.

Only a few miles to go. The truck drifts onto the shoulder and coasts to a stop engine off. I hop out of the bed. The guy gets out.

“Ah, man, I knew I shoulda stopped for gas back there. I just got this thing a couple weeks ago, and I’m finding out that when the needle hits E, it’s really empty,” he says.

“You want me to ride up to town and grab you a gas tank?” I ask.

“No, you know, I have a car parked down in Sawpit. It’ll be easier for me to just hitch down there, get some gas, and come back. What was your name?”

“Montana.” We shake hands.

“Cool. Mike. Well, almost got you there. Almost got myself there,” he says and laughs.

“Hey, thanks again for the ride man. I guess I’m gonna hit it and finish out this climb.” I pull my bike out of the bed, mount up, and stand to climb the last five miles to town. Turn and wave. I make town right before sunset.

Just before I get onto the bike path Mike buzzes by in the little truck, honks and smiles.

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7 thoughts on “Carbondale to Telluride

  1. For the love of God … Dont put any pressure on yourself out there “on the road” … Its about the flow! Great writing! Killer photos! Pablo

  2. Rolling through my old part of the State. I grew up in Delta. Sidewinder is a gem of a trail; can’t imagine riding it on a loaded, SS rigid, though. You have some serious skills, Montana.

    1. Sidewinder is great- really excellent example of how a trail can work with the terrain instead of being so built up that it rides like a dirt sidewalk. And skill, man I don’t know about that. You might think differently if you would have seen me hit the dirt like a sack of turds by the Mexican border


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