Colorado Springs

Date: March 28th, 2017

From/To: Pueblo, CO/Colorado Springs, CO

Daily Mileage: 55 miles

Total Mileage: 1710 miles

Current Elevation: 6380 feet

Conditions: Overcast, headwinds from the northwest around 15 to 20mph and a chilly 45 degrees.

For 55 miles on the road, it wasn’t a bike through the park. Not by any means. Today I earned all 55 miles on the road the hard way, and yet I’ve grown a tolerance for days like these. I can’t expect every day to be a cake walk. If I didn’t have hard days, I wouldn’t have easy days. Besides, mom decided to surprise me in Colorado Springs so that was a great way to finish the ride!

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Todays trek from Pueblo, CO to Colorado Springs, CO.

I woke up around 7AM, packed up my gear, and planned to leave Mike’s house around 7:45. I had everything loaded up and I was saying goodbye to Mike when I turned back to my bike to roll it down his walkway, only to notice the back tire was flat. Great. Mike saw it was flat just as I noticed, and we both sighed realizing I’d now have to disassemble the rig once again to replace the tire. I took the wheel off, removed the tube and started searching the inner layer of the tire for the culprit. I wasn’t having too much luck so I handed the tire to Mike, who then started to slowly move this thumbs around the wheel in search of the object that had pierced the tire. I started taking out my repair kit, grabbing the replacement tube. “Aha!” He shouted. He found the object that pierced the tube. He handed it to me and I examined the area he was pointing to. I could barley see anything, it was a microscopic piece of metal wire, likely from a truck tire. When I ran my fingers across it, I suddenly realized there was no doubt this little piece of metal was responsible. Now I had to pull it out of there. It proved to be a challenge, but I finally broke out the tweezers and worked at it enough finally getting it to give.

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The piece of metal wire I pulled out of the tire.

I reassembled my bike once more, said goodbye to Mike once more, and set off towards Colorado Springs. It was chilly this morning, really chilly. I made my way from the south part of town up north. I stopped at The Hanging Tree Cafe on the way out of town to grab a bagel and coffee. I also needed to warm up already and put on some heavier layers for todays ride. After my 20 minute breakfast stop I was back on the road. It really wasn’t a nice day to see much of the mountains, or much or anything for that matter. The overcast painted the sky in several shades of gray and white, and the Rockies were definitely visible at the base, but vanished anywhere beyond that point. I kept thinking to myself I only had 45 miles to go, by that point I hadn’t known my mom was meeting me at a hotel on the northern side of Colorado Springs, adding on another 10 miles.

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So maybe there was a little blue, but that was it.
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I’m guessing this was a horse jaw I came across on the side of the road. It was overwhelming to see in person.

Most of the ride was too bland to talk details. I enjoyed the views and occasionally stopped for some pictures, but I don’t know what else to say. It was pretty desolate leaving Pueblo for about 25 miles until I started hitting the suburbs south of Colorado Springs. I passed through some small towns and developments along the way, but I didn’t stop. Today was a day to be done with, it wasn’t a leisurely ride by any means. I was racing the bad weather that was expected in the late afternoon and I needed to make it there before the rain picked up. Luckily I did. I arrived around a quarter after 2 walking into the Marriot Hotel soaked in sweat with the bike by my side. I was greeted by two employees who struck up a conversation with me as soon as I arrived. I entertained them with a few of my stories and got into some FAQs, mentioning after that I was waiting for my mom to arrive for check in. As soon as I said that, she walked in the entrance. Perfect timing. She had flown into Denver and was originally meeting me there, but she decided to make the hour drive south to Colorado Springs. Lucky me! Now I had a hotel, food, and of course my mom. I cleaned up and let mom put her feet up for an hour or so before we did anything. After that we made out way to Manitou Springs, a place recommended to us by the concierge. It was a 15 minute drive west of Colorado Springs, mom drove while I looked up some cool places to explore. The first place that struck my attention was called Cave of the Winds. On my map it showed a winding road leading up a mountain, with a large building at the peak. Interesting. We drove up this winding road until we reached the summit, to then find a large building constructed on the mountain side. We made our way towards the building, walking onto the observation deck overlooking the canyons below.

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Mom and I, happy as can be.
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I couldn’t be happier to have some company today.

We made our way inside to see the gift shop and other attractions. The building serves as the main entrance into the Cave of the Winds for tourists. By the time we arrived, the tours were finished for the day unfortunately, and most people were clearing out by that time. I saw a group of employees standing near the cave entrance and approached them. I had no intentions of asking for a private tour, I simply wanted to hear the history and general information regarding the caves. One of them went on to tell me:

In 1869, a Colorado settler named Arthur B. Love noticed a thin cleft in the western wall of Williams Canyon. Upon further inspection, he discovered a dramatic limestone archway and cave entrance to what we know as Cave of the Winds Mountain Park. Fast forward to 1881, two brothers went exploring for new caves in the Williams Canyon area. As they were searching, the brothers found a small shelter cave near the same limestone archway that Love had discovered. As they approached the mouth of the limestone entrance, legend has it that their candles flickered mysteriously in the wind blowing from a nearby crevice. This signaled them to explore further, and when they crawled through the limestone archway, they discovered a large chamber unlike anything ever seen before. This discovery promised the brothers an amazing and dramatic new underground world to explore, unlike anything ever experienced! History books might show Cave of the Winds as being discovered 147 years ago, but the caves are millions of years old. As early legends of over a thousand years ago tell, the Jicarilla Apaches told of a cave near Manitou Springs where the Great Spirit of the Wind resided. They believed this due to sounds they heard in the caves from wind blowing though small passages, emitting a whining sound. Legend has it they even used the caves as a place of refuge during times of war.

I really enjoyed learning about the caves. They started asking me about where I was from and as you’d probably guess I got into a conversation about my trip. I started talking to one of the tour guides, named Kris, and he told me a little more about the caves and their historical significance. I looked over towards the entrance, looked back at him, and asked if I could walk out there just to take some pictures of the cave entrance. I wasn’t expecting what happened next by any means. He gladly unlocked the door and took me to the entrance so I could take a picture. “You know what, I’ll take you through” he said. I look over at him with a blank expression on my face. Mom and I were ready to head out, and suddenly we were getting a private tour through the half mile long cave system. It couldn’t have worked out better. Kris was around my age, from Boston and exploring the scenes out here in Colorado. He told me he related to what I was doing and he was happy to show me the caves because he was passionate about it. It comes to show what striking up a conversation can do for you. You never know what may happen. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were. Right place, right time I suppose.

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The front entrance to the cave. The only picture I wanted to take.
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Shown here is the gully that was explored by the two brothers in 1881. They climbed up to this point and came across the cave.
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The main entranceway into the cave system. I couldn’t believe the extensive lighting and rock formations that surrounded us. It’s hard to justify through a photo.
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Shown here are some stalactite formations on the cave ceiling. These form over thousands of years, due to water dripping from the ceiling at these points and depositing a limestone sediment known as calcite.

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While much of the cave system is naturally formed, many parts have been excavated and opened up for easier accessibility. Kris told us the original tours in the early 1900s would cost $1.00, and would be purchased mostly by wealthy tourists dressed in suits and formal dress wear. The original tours involved crawling through small crevices, climbing ladders and descending into darkness. It was quite different back then, and most people didn’t come out of the caves as clean as they went in.
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Kris told us this was a special place that most people don’t have the chance to see. For $300, you can get married in the caves right here, and have your picture taken with this background.
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Shown here is a ladder that was once used by tourists long ago. To the left you can make out some black scuff marks. Those marks are from the lanterns. People would put out their lanterns here to prevent the ladder from catching on fire. They would ascend or descend in complete darkness.
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One of Thomas Edison’s original lightbulbs. It dates back to 1907, and remains fully functional to this day. I guess back then he built bulbs to last, even if it took him 10,000 attempts to get it right.
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At one point Kris flipped the light switch off, and we were left in complete darkness. He told us “There’s only two places that are so dark, one is at the bottom of the ocean, the other, deep inside a cave.” That was an awesome experience in itself.

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Sorry for the poor quality. This stalactite stalagmite duo is called Romeo and Juliet. It was once one column, but a land shift broke it into two separate parts, never to be joined again.

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After our tour we ventured around town for a while before finding an Italian restaurant for dinner. I had chicken parmesan, she had eggplant parmesan. After dinner we were both spent from our long days of travel, so we made our way back to the hotel and went to bed around 11. Tomorrow I’ll be riding 80 miles to Denver, battling more headwinds and potential rain showers. I hope I live.

Enjoy The Ride,

-Matt

3 thoughts on “Colorado Springs

  1. Matt:
    Kala forwarded me the link to your blog and I have enjoyed reading every word of it. You are a talented writer with quite a tale to tell. Scott and I toured about 24 years ago from Calgary, to Boulder Colorado following the Continental Divide also with a cause to raise money for the American Cancer Society (total trip just shy of 2,000 miles). I have to admit whenever I see someone touring I stop to hear their story and every time I get goosebumps. You will be able to relate to this, I guarantee it. Part of our inspiration was from a guy we met on internship that did what you’re doing, coast to coast, solo after he graduated from college. With technology things are much different, we didn’t carry a cell phone, only a calling card that we could use at a payphone, we shipped film home to develop after the trip was over, we used actual maps from adventure cycle touring, which I think after reading some of your stories might have given us better info than google maps. They showed us high traffic areas and roads to avoid (such as those awful dirt roads that lead to nothing but trouble). But on the other hand some things never change such as the unpredictable weather or the amazing people that you meet along the way. Since we were in the mountains for the majority of our trip, we learned uphill was just slow and steady but almost always there was a reward once we got to the top and that was riding down the other side. We also hit one of the rainiest summers in history and spent most days in our rain gear, using bread bags to keep our feet warm and dry. We hadn’t invested in those neat little neoprene booties. On the 4th of July in Yellowstone National park we had snow dripping off our tent, next day found us camped in a huge puddle by morning, everything soaked. As you’ve discovered each of these things is a new learning experience and figuring out how to fix it creates the memories that will last a life time. We will never forget the guy that gave us the keys to his truck so we could get to the laundry mat and out for a good meal. While we were out he set us up at a local church where we spent the night, warm and dry. The wind is a whole different beast though. It can literally suck the heat out of you and stop you in your tracks. It was when a duck blew across the road in front of us that I had my one mental breakdown. Again it’s the good people in this world that help you out. I have truly enjoyed reading your blog posts and will continue to follow your adventure. You are doing an amazing thing, definitely life changing!!!

    Safe and Happy Trails,
    Marcia Wilkins

    Like

  2. Matt,
    I love your stories on this amazing adventure.
    I just keep wondering what will be next for you? Climb K-9?
    All our love.

    Like

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