Days 17 & 18 - King of the World

Day 17 had no remarkable scenery, or people (sorry randoms that I met) to speak of.  I camped at night just outside Cimarron, CO, at a small RV park near a rapidly flowing river (in hindsight, perhaps not the wisest choice - isn't it colder near water?).  At 7,000 it was a bit chilly, but all the better, as Day 18 was anticipated to be a big day, and deserved my 5:30 wake up.

There is one thing to mention regarding Day 17.  I realized, about halfway up a 1700ft climb, that I am really beginning to enjoy this tour.  Not that I wasn't before, but I caught myself grinning way too many times on Day 17 - it can't be passed off as anything but glee any longer.  At the beginning of the trip, I was bumbling along a bit, without some of the modifications to my ride that have made it significantly more comfortable.  Further, the people who have impacted my trip positively have really done a number for my morale.

I did make some new friends at my campground in Cimarron!  Bye guys.

I did make some new friends at my campground in Cimarron!  Bye guys.

"Hello Darkness, My Old Friend":

The Crone is back!  I have returned to US Hwy 50.  I guess I couldn't get away from this mystical, magical, transamerican beast.  Please be gentle, Crone.

The Crone is back!  I have returned to US Hwy 50.  I guess I couldn't get away from this mystical, magical, transamerican beast.  Please be gentle, Crone.

 

Day 18: 

Today was the day that I go for the Monarch Pass.  This pass scraped the sky at over 11,000 feet, and is the largest mountain that I have or will summit on my journey.   Nothing to be trifled with!  To top it off, Monarch Mountain straddled the continental divide, meaning that after I passed the summit, I would be on the "Atlantic-side" of America.  Significantly imposing physically and figuratively.

Beginning in Cimarron and breakfasting in Gunnison, CO (at a great joint: W Cafe) , I made my way to Sargents.  Sargents sat at the foot of Monarch Mountain, 17kms from the summit, and 3000 feet below it.  A snickers bar and a gatorade later, and I began my jaunt up to the heavens.  It was 2:48pm.

No doubt about it, the climb was steep.  It began to noticeably get colder.  I had to stop and throw on extra layers during my breaks for water and snacks (fuel for the Mule).  Many pedal grindings later, I arrived at the summit.  It was 4:38. 

I wish I could say that it was a more beautiful sight, but today just wasn't the day for it.  The skies were cloudy, and the peaks of nearby mountains mingled with the grey rain-bearers to obscure the landscape.  I was the only one at the summit.  No other cyclists to congratulate, no motorists to ask to snap a picture of me. 

 

My last view of the Pacific side of the Continental Divide.

My last view of the Pacific side of the Continental Divide.

However gloomy and desolate the atmosphere was, I can't help but be happy with the picture below.  Simple and unornamented by a smiling Alex, but significant.  The metaphorical halfway mark of my journey.  

For this brief instant, I am the Monarch, the king of the world, looking across the expanse of America from the territory I conquered to the trails and trials to come.  Just for an instant.

For this brief instant, I am the Monarch, the king of the world, looking across the expanse of America from the territory I conquered to the trails and trials to come.  Just for an instant.

Day 18 ends in Salida, CO.  A neat little town that has a very well preserved historic district.  I'm going to take Day 19 off (my first rest day!), explore and rest my legs.