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Day 51: Possibly Our First Legitimate Pro-Tip

There are all sorts of tastes, preferences, expectations one might have on a cycling trip across the country. But on Day 51 we've come across a little tidbit that probably any sane cyclist would be happy to know.

But first! On the night of Day 50, Sara got a haircut! Beau gave it to her. Don't panic… this was all planned: it's a celebration of our making it halfway. Oh, you're panicking anyways? Maybe have some whiskey? How about wine?

But it came out pretty well!

Which we went out to celebrate, at the tail end of our two-day rest in Pueblo. We checked out the riverwalk, drifted through neon alley, and caught a little dessert.

But we still hit the hay pretty early — we're back on the bikes in the morning!

Enjoying our pastries by Pueblo's Artemis statue

But not, like, the early morning — we set out on Day 51 with the goal of camping near Royal Gorge, which is about a 60-mile ride. Not so much that we need to get up at the crack of dawn, so we didn't. In fact, we waited until the Hopscotch Bakery opened at 8 — Saturdays are the one day of the week that they make crescents, and Beau's favorite pastry in the world is a croissant. Even better if it's chocolate, but even just a plain butter croissant will do. But…

Is this the pro-tip? Maybe for some people, but, like, there's cyclists who don't eat gluten, right? But seriously, for the rest of you: Hopscotch doesn't only make croissants on Saturdays; they make Orange Beasts. Which are, I mean… they're like big upside down muffins, made with croissant dough, and infused with orange marmalade. We almost didn't get one, but one of the other customers said we had to. Then we went back and got a second for the road. They're soooo friggin good. I want one right now.

And then we set out! Then Beau got a flat, which we fixed pretty quickly. Then we set out again. And immediately, ya'll, we aren't in Kansas anymore. Yes, we left Kansas days ago, but the essence of Kansas bleeds right up to Pueblo's borders. Or at least the landscape. But when we headed west again, we hit, you'll never believe it: a hill!

It's been so long since we really climbed, that the sheer novelty of it was almost appealing. No — it definitely was appealing. And then we reached the top of the hill and just coasted down? You mean, there was this long section where we didn't have to pedal? We'd forgotten… 

Then, suddenly: Mountains.

In normal years, we'd have seen the Rockies for a while already. But, with the wildfire smoke haze, this is our first day of actually taking in the grandeur (and all the climbing we're about to do). It was fucking exciting.

Not that we've gotten to any serious uphills yet — it was mostly a long, gradual incline today. We spent our last 28 miles on highway 96 (which makes for 362 miles, ya'll, on one road: Great Bend, KS, to Wetmore, CO). We started making jokes about breaking up with 96: "It's just been too bumpy, 96." "I think we're in a rut." "It's time to see other highways…"

Then we turned north onto 67 and immediately missed 96. Not that 96 was always good to us, but 67's shoulders were barely there, and it felt like there was more traffic. Greener pastures, right?

It wasn't so long before we ended that relationship, too — in Florence we stopped for a beer, then left 67, headed northwest to Cañon City.

And this is our pro-tip: there's a bike trail that leads into Cañon City. It's a beauty, a joy, a car-free paradise, and it ain't on the trail map. But we found it. You should find it, too. You're welcome.

We got to Cañon City with the intent of shipping some extra shtuff home (more on this endeavor later), but ended up getting ice cream first. From the ice cream shop, we saw that there was a coffee shop / bike shop. What? So we ventured over there. Of course.

It was only about 10 miles to where we planned to camp, so we decided to hang out in town for a bit. There was a book store by the coffee shop. Then we wandered across the street to a brewery. And then we had a revelation: the campsites in Royal Gorge were pricey enough that a motel room wasn't that much more. And we were enjoying Cañon City. And there was an Indian restaurant that looked good, but we weren't sure the food would travel well to the camp site.

Even still, we were about to just bike out to Royal Gorge when we saw this message from the gods:

We booked a hotel room from the sidewalk, then went into this promised land.

From here we called in a takeout order at the Indian place, then had one of the trip's many excellent bed picnics. We'll get to Royal Gorge in the morning.

Day 51 stats: Pueblo to Cañon City, CO, 54.8 miles, 3150' of elevation, MOUNTAINS (in the distance), some excellent diversions, our FIRST LEGITIMATE PRO-TIP. YEAH.

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