August 30 Mesa Verde NP to Priest Gulch Campground (near Rico)

I am writing this from my campsite on the banks of the Dolores River after covering about 55 miles today – which includes touring around Cortez and Dolores Colorado. That’s about 10 miles further than I planned, but more on that later. First a quick recap of Kathy and my adventures getting to Mesa Verde.

August 26 Austin to Abilene

Left Austin after Kathy got off work and made it to Abilene about 9:30. We stayed at the Hilton Abilene for a Priceline bid of $55 (wahoo!).

One side note – carrying the bike on the roof rack reduces mpg by 3-5 mpg. I had noticed this on other highway trips as well, but it certainly is a convenient and safe way to carry the bike, as long as you avoid low structures….like carports….

August 27 Abilene to Santa Fe

Drove as directly as we could to Santa Fe. We didn’t see much point in making any unnecessary stops until the temperatures became tolerable. We drove through a pretty good thunderstorm as we were getting closer to Santa Fe which accomplished two things – temperatures dropped to near 70 and we saw real rain in who knows how long.

Figuring we wouldn’t want to mess with setting up a camp after driving 500 miles, I had booked us into a funky 50’s motel called the Silver Saddle. It really wasn’t bad (especially for $62 – wahoo) and would recommend it if you’re looking for a cheap place to stay in Santa Fe.

We had dinner at a place we had eaten at a number of years ago (can’t think of the name – it seemed better last time anyway). After dinner we went to the square which included popping in to La Fonda for a drink. We even danced a bit to the covers band than was playing in the hotel bar (how about that Gretchen & Claire!).

August 28 Santa Fe to Mesa Verde NP

On the drive from Santa Fe to Mesa Verde we stopped at a couple of other Anasazi sites, most notably the ruins in Aztec. Fascinating culture and if you’re interested in a good book on the subject, I would recommend “House of Rain” written by Craig Childs. He also wrote another very good book set in the southwest called “The Animal Dialogues”.

We got to MesaVerde in the late afternoon with time to set up our camp and take a short hike just before sundown.

August 29 Mesa Verde N.P.

After a big thunderstorm overnight, we woke early and headed into the park. First we took the tour of Cliff Palace and then went to Spruce Tree House – the most famous sites. A lesser known site that impressed us the most is pictured above but the name (like alot of names) escapes me right now. Incredible park and definitely worth a visit.

We got back to our camp about 2:00 and spent the next hour plus getting my bicycling gear out of the car, breaking down the big tent and other car camping stuff, and setting up my minuscule backpacking tent. Kathy headed out about 3:00 to rendezvous with her book club in Pagosa Springs. The plan is to reunite in Telluride on Thursday.

Back to the Present (August 30th)

As inferred above, this was the first day of my bike ride to Telluride and it was a good one. In fact it was so good it started with about 14 miles of downhill coasting to Cortez, including 4 miles of steep descent from the campground in Mesa Verde to the highway. I would not like to have to ride up to the park. In fact, Mesa Verde is one of the few places I would recommend against cycling because of the distances, grades, traffic, etc. Better to take a tour if you arrive by bike. Just my opinion.

In Cortez I rode down the main drag looking for a real breakfast. I found it in spades at El Grande Cafe. Eggs, sausage, toast, hashbrowns — fuel for the road.

After losing elevation from Mesa Verde to Cortez, I knew I would have to pay for it further up the road. For the most part, the climb from Cortez to Dolores was pretty gradual, but there were a few sections that got my heart rate up.

Since it was still early in the day I took my time in Dolores checking out the town, resting and charging electronics. I found the Dolores Library and had a picnic lunch of the stuff I am packing beside the Dolores River.

Headed out about 1:00 for what I thought would be my campsite in Stoner – about 14 miles up the road. Let’s just say the camp had undergone an apparent change of ownership and was not ready yet. The folks I talked to were very friendly and helpful and mentioned the place I am staying tonight.

The additional 10 miles was really not that difficult, in fact I am amazed that I’ve gained another 1,100 (currently at 8100′) since leaving Dolores.

The high point of the ride to Telluride will be 10,222′ Lizard Pass. Planning to take a leisurely approach to it since I have two days, but we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.


About rlewis5757

After retiring March 18, 2011 from my career of 25 years with the Lower Colorado River Authority, I plan to bicycle from Astoria Oregon to San Francisco in April and May to enjoy an incredible landscape and environment before I take on new challenges. Many thanks to my wife Kathy for indulging me in this adventure.
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