And so, the climb began. Well, maybe it's more appropriate to say that the climbs began. Climbing will be a regular part of almost every ride between here and Portland. I can no longer count on the flatlands of Illinois or the farmlands of Kansas. What I can count on is the clashing of tectonic plates as well as underground volcanic activity making for a rollercoaster of an experience.
The ride commenced in Pueblo at an elevation from sea level of 4,750 feet. We rode about 45 miles through desert scenery and Rocky Mountain foothills to arrive at Cañon City. This first segment of the journey aroused great anticipation. Each minute the great Rocky Mountains came to occupy a larger portion of my view. The days were long gone when the mountains were a small silhouette in the horizon. We were really close to them. Not only were we close, but we were becoming surrounded. Little by little the plains to the East occupied a smaller and smaller portion of the horizon. The mountains were becoming inevitable.
We arrived in Cañon City, about 5,300 feet above sea level. Here we had to make a decision. Cañon City was the last stop before the big climbs commenced. We could either sleep here for the night, leaving us 35 miles of climbs the following day to reach our destination, or we could put on an additional eight miles to lighten our load for the next day. Despite some rambling old man at the bike shop who tried to scare us out of the ride, we decided to go for it.
We spent the next hour and a half climbing over 1,000 feet to arrive at the Royal Gorge campsites. Moderate headwinds afforded us no assistance. We had to work...hard...for every foot. Was it worth it? Well, that night we slept on a campsite by the Royal Gorge, completely surrounded by mountains. I watched the sun creep behind the jagged horizon, making way for a brilliant night sky. Lying on top of a picnic table that night I saw two shooting stars while gazing into the Milky Way. So, going back to my question about the climb being worth it or not, I think it's safe to say that it was.