Between the Mountains (and the two Parkers)

The towns of Montrose and Gunnison sit along the Gunnison river West of the Rockies and North of the San Juans.

Day 27: Telluride to Montrose
67 miles, – 3500 ft

This part of the country is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world. Telluride rivals Yosemite for sheer boxed in, steep rock mountain awesomeness. The rest of the are is pretty amazing as well. Many years ago, when I was 15, I went on vacation with Wayne and his family to Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. There was this one town called Ouray that I thought was heaven on earth. Whenever I was going to run away to escape whatever it is that teenagers want to escape from, that was where I was going to run to. Ouray, Colorado. Pronounced ooooo-ray, like hooray without the H.

Well, Ouray is just the other side of the mountains from Telluride and while our route didn’t go through Ouray itself, it went about 10 miles from there through a sweet little town called Ridgway (it really is spelled that way). We could see the Ouray valley that the town sits in very clearly. It turns out that The Sound of Music was filmed just outside Ouray. I always thought they filmed it in Austria.

Ridgway is another little town that we fell in love with. It is really small but seems to have just about everything you need in a small town. A library, a health food store, a couple of bookstores, Yoga classes, a guitar maker, saddle shop, hot springs, a park in the town center, you name it, they have it. We looked over Real Estate magazines over lunch in the True Grit café and were just about to start looking for property when we came to our senses and realized that as beautiful as it is, it is still a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and we kind of like having a home base in the middle of somewhere.

On the other hand, the neighbors are pretty shi-shi. On the way from Telluride to Ridgway we passed by Ralph Lauren’s little ranch, the Double RL. 14000 acres nestled in one of the most beautiful mountain passes in the world. The property goes from fertile valleys to alpine peaks and the entire spread in fenced with a post and beam fence. The fence stretches as far as you can see and disappears into the horizon. Local legend has it that the fence cost 4 million dollars and that Mrs. Lauren wasn’t happy with the way it was initially built and had it redone. That is some serious money but don’t get me started on better uses for four million dollars!

After Ridgway, you descend out of the San Juans into the valley near Montrose. It is a straight shot through ranch and farmland and after the beauty of the high country seems a bit monotonous. Montrose itself seems a pleasant town but not too remarkable. It is a good access point for the mountains and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison though.

Day 28: Montrose to Gunnison
65 miles

Today’s ride had a few noteworthy events. First there was a quick skinny-dip in a mountain stream and then the meeting of two Parkers and our first semi-major bike work.

The climb out of Montrose is a long one and about 4-5 miles from the summit a group of cyclists were coming down the hill. They were obviously (to us) cycling across country from West to East. One of them pealed off and rode with us for a while and chatted. This was the first Parker, Parker Snyder, a very affable young man who probably would have made a great traveling companion. Since Parker was in his third day in the mountains and we had been riding in them for weeks, we passed along some of our tips and recommendations: carry extra food and water in Nevada, take a rest day in Tropic and hike into Bryce, stop at TDs in Baker and say hi!

Just before it got steep he turned around to join his group and said so long.

Just at the summit, we decided to pull over for a quick stretch break. Right next to the road behind some trees and a cattle fence there was a gurgling mountain stream beckoning. I went over to cool my feet and before I knew it my clothes were off and I was in the creek. Ahhhhh. There is nothing quite as refreshing as freshly melted snow. I tried to get Gabi to join me but there was no way she was going in that icy water.

A couple of minutes later we were back on the bike and barreling down toward the reservoir on the Gunnison River. That is where we met the second Parker. This Parker, Parker Thompson is seven months old and cycling across the country from West to East with his parents Mike and Karen. You can read more about themhere.

We had been following the Thompson family for weeks. We first heard about them in Nevada in a hotel where we stayed and kept hearing about them as we went. Each time they were a bit closer: three days, two days, just yesterday they passed through. We finally caught them at the Marina at the reservoir where we stopped for lunch (the sorriest excuse for a chef salad I ever had). After chatting a while, we decided to hook up in Gunnison.

Unfortunately in Gunnison we needed to find a bike shop and do some bike maintenance. We replaced the tires, washed the chain at the auto wash and tightened the chain. By the time we did all that it was getting late and we were starved so we decided to hook up with the Thompson’s in Salida the next day.


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