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Day 54: Crawling to Kremmling

There's two kinds of crawling. There's crawling like in a pub crawl, where you stop a lot and check things out and generally have a good time. And then there's the kind where you crawl because you can't really stand. Today was a little bit of both.

Day 54 began in the once and future tourist-ski-paradise of Breckenridge. After yesterday's 6am-to-6pm riding day, we started out a little slow; we hung around the inn for a great breakfast, then I (Beau) finally sent off the package we'd been meaning to ship since Pueblo, after carrying it up a mere 12,575 feet of mountainous terrain… Thanks, 3-day weekend.

But it was nice to start slow — it was cold out, and we were exhausted still.

10am saw us on the bikes, headed north on an actual bike trail from Breckenridge to Frisco (Frisco, CO; not San Fran), then around the Dillon Reservoir and across the Dillon Dam, with Dillon's REI as our early-day target. And we need to take a moment for this bit of the trail — not only was it really nice not being on the shoulder of some damn highway for fifteen whole miles, but these trails were trés picturesque. This is riding as it could be, as it would be if we all lived in beautiful places that supported and invested in transportation alternatives. It was idyllic, dreamy. We took it slow. We stopped a lot. We took pictures. We tried to take it in.

When at last we made it to REI, we donned our masks and gathered in a few of the last warm-weather items we still lacked, most notably biking-shoe covers for Sara. She's been battling to keep her toes warm since mid-Missouri, and the weather ain't getting better. We hope they help!

By the time we left REI we were ravenous — last night's dinner and this morning's breakfast, apparently, had barely put a dent in the calories we'd burned through yesterday. So we went into the grocery store next door and feasted on a picnic bench out front. Then we set off again!

There's a bit more bike trail running up out of Dillon, but pretty soon it petered out and we were riding shoulder again, again on Highway 9 (another multi-day highway relationship blooming). At least it was a big shoulder, and the views were still pretty epic — it was good riding.

About 15 miles north of Dillon we split off from Hwy 9 for an 11-mile jaunt along the west side of the draught-marked Blue River before rejoining the highway. This little stretch of unpainted road is reminiscent of the bike-lane roads we came across in Kentucky: it's small, modestly scenic, relatively untrafficked. You cross another dam near the end, and run along some cliffs, and you get a few good views of the stretch of Hwy 9 you're happily avoiding.

But it was along this 11-miles that we struggled. Without the constant cars to keep you pushing, you might dawdle a bit, and it's hard to dawdle up a hill. And there were a good amount of uphills in this section. And we're probably still beat from yesterday's battle with the wind and the Continental Divide.

And yet… it was more than just physical fatigue, at least for me. I think I've managed to stay largely sanguine for most of this trip, with a few dips from injury or exhaustion. But today I met with a whole constellation of things, all of which hit me as I idled alongside the Blue River.

First off, and easiest to grasp, is that we've hit so many milestones lately: we've crossed halfway, we've reached the Rockies, we've passed the highest elevation-point in the whole trip. There's a little bit of a feeling that we've hit the requisite amount of accomplishment. But there's so much left. Does this thing just go on forever? But why though?

And leaving Breckenridge was hard, too — not because I'd actually like to stay there, but because there's this ideal of a place like Breckenridge (a good bit less touristy), where it would be nice to stay. To actually just be for a while. We haven't been many places on this trip where it would be nice to spend much time (sorry, places), but to have a cabin somewhere in these gorgeous mountains, a warm place to live, with grocery stores around that actually sell vegetables, and then to be able to write…

And I miss writing; this blog is something I'm doing, but it isn't what I do. I write fiction. And I think most people with a sense of a calling can get melancholy or anxious after too long away… Well, that hit me today, too. And with the idea of the end in mind—if not in sight—I'm starting to think about what I want to do and to write when we're done with all this. And I still have a novel I need to be sending out, and shouldn't I be spending more time on that on this trip? But when exactly?

And the trip's been getting unavoidably expensive (we need so many calories, and we've got to sleep insides sometimes), which is a mounting and amplifying unease. And all that's a lot to ride around with, but it's also the 18th anniversary of my mother's death, which, of course, is probably the root of all the unsettledness.

So it's a long day. And if I had the time to turn all this stuff into narrative, it might have a sense of pathos. But today it's just a list of shit that's on my mind, making the pedaling a bit tougher than it might otherwise be. Well, we all have these days. And after we hit Hwy 9 again, the traffic gives a sense of impetus; it's a quick 13 miles into Kremmling. We pass under a couple land bridges which seem built for animals to cross the otherwise-fenced-off highway. We check in at the Hotel Eastin, which is both heavily Western-themed and extremely excited for Halloween. We walk next door and grab a few more-needed-than-usual beers. We have Subway sandwiches for dinner. And we get ready to ride again tomorrow. Sometimes that's what there is to do: just keep riding.

Day 54 stats: Breckenridge to Kremmling, CO, 57.7 miles, 1400' climbing, some coming down from the mountains, some coming down on the mountains, pushing on.

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