Hello, Colorful Colorado! It's a great feeling to be back in my home state. After crossing the border out of Kansas, we took a quick ride through the Eastern plains of Colorado passing through Lamar, Rocky Ford and Pueblo. As soon as we crossed the state line, a feeling of hometown pride filled my heart. It was especially rewarding to hear from all my fellow Bike & Builders that Colorado is their favorite state on this trip.
We had a great opportunity to build with Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity in Fountain, CO. Although I was a bit disappointed that we would not be staying in Colorado Springs for the build days, it was inspiring to be the first Bike & Build crew to work on the growing Habitat neighborhood in Fountain. For the last few years, Bike & Build has participated in a Blitz Build with Pikes Peak Habitat where our route, NC to SD, lay a foundation for an entire home in two days and a second route, SC to SC, stays for a week to nearly complete the home.
For my sweat equity hours before the trip, I worked with Pikes Peak Habitat and had the pleasure of getting to know site managers Joe and Gary. It was great to work with them again and also to meet Ashley, their Volunteer Coordinator, who took great care of our group throughout our stay. It was also an incredible surprise when I found out my good friends from work at Catholic Charities were hosting a potluck dinner for us! It truly made me happy to have a warm welcome from my hometown!
Riding through Colorado has been the most beautiful and the most challenging. Right out of Colorado Springs, we climbed into the Rocky Mountains. Having been gone so long, the altitude did seem to make breathing a bit harder but I enjoyed the challenge. Of course, every tough climb is rewarded by an incredible descent. Riding into Buena Vista, I hit 45 mph - a new personal record.
As I expected, the unpredictable weather in Colorado has been a serious challenge. Just 10 miles out of Buena Vista, my group was hit a by a thunderstorm and hail. We were not able to find shelter and huddled together under a tree as the hail passed. It continued to rain heavily so we didn't feel safe descending in the rain. WIthout phone service to call the support van, we ended up hitch hiking with a generous mother and son from Buena Vista, Verna and Farin. I'll never forget their kindness. They drove us and our bikes in their pickup truck into town to our host. Since the support van was still miles away with all of our clean, dry clothes, our host wrapped us up in shawls from their lost and found and kept us warm with hot chocolate while we waited. It was definitely a ride I will never forget!
Despite the crazy weather and intense mountain climbing, these last few rides have given me a sincere appreciation for my home state. After a build day in Buena Vista, we visited a volunteer's home where he cares for rescued farm animals.
Just yesterday we climbed three mountain passes along highway 550. This highway is rumored to be the most dangerous highway in the United States with cliff drops right on the edge of curvy switchbacks with no guard rails along a steep two lane road. Not to mention the aggressive drivers that go out of their way to run you off the road. Ironically, HWY 550 is also one of the most beautiful highways in the United States. Despite the dangerous conditions and intense climb (we climbed over 7,000 feet in one day), the breathtaking beauty was definitely worth the struggle. Climbing these mountains at 5 MPH is really the only way to truly take in the incredible scenery. I can't believe I have the privilege of living in this beautiful state!
This last ride took us from Gunnison, CO to Durango, CO where we have our 3rd day off out of 4. Although I missed tons of details over the last few days, I don't want to spend my whole day off sitting inside working on my blog! I'm out to explore the city of Durango!