Day 51: Monday, July 8, 2013
Hartsel to Cañon City: 62 miles
No coyotes last night.
Up with the sun, I packed and left my little abode, and headed back to the cafe/bar for breakfast. The aunt of one of my previous evening's companions worked there, and I told her I'd send a link to the Hartsel story, so the girls could see their photo online.
Amazingly, Route 9 out of Hartsel was freshly paved - well, some time in the past year or so. The shoulder wasn't wide, but when traffic is one car every five minutes or so, that's no big deal. Compared to Wyoming, the scenery looked almost park-like: a carpet of green right up to the trees, not much scrub, not so many rock formations.
|Narrow shoulder, good road, looks like a park|
|There sure are a lot of pretty purple flowers.|
|Currant Creek Pass - do I have to go all the way up there?|
Although it went on for miles, the good pavement did not continue down much of the steep grade to Cañon City. The 3500' drop in 35 miles was exhilarating, if a bit rough at times, and the denser air brought easier breathing. But it also brought much warmer temperatures - seemingly exceeding the variation dictated by the adiabatic lapse rate. I'd speed around a descending turn, and whoosh! a blast of hot air rising from canyon walls would rush up.
|Root cellar? Dwelling?|
Cool though the morning was, it did not take long for that oppressive heat to sink in. The park-like scenery I'd previously seen gave way to something more closely resembling the barrens of Wyoming, although the flora was more carpet-like, not so much individual plants. In Wyoming, the sage came in two-foot clumps; here, it was about eight inches tall, more like a tundra-living plant.
|The sage here is short - almost like a tundra plant.|
Cañon City, because of its proximity to the Royal Gorge, is a tourist destination. It's home to the Royal Gorge Line, a first-class dinner train that takes passengers on a 24-mile out-and-back excursion through the gorge. Regular through passenger service ended in 1967 after 87 years, and it was not until 1999 that the dinner train resurrected the experience. The rail line through the gorge is also used by Union Pacific for occasional freight operations.
|The iconic look of the Royal Gorge Line.|
(These cars are now retired.)
|The original Santa Fe depot is now a bank.|
The Royal Gorge Line has a new depot that resembles it.
David, one day ahead of me, recommended the Parkview Inn motel. The owners were quite garrulous, regaling me with stories of past cyclists who had stayed there, including one 80-year-old who was very proud of his cross-country adventure until a 92-year-old cyclist walked in the door. They talked for hours, comparing notes.
Cañon City's main street is one block off the highway. Although the highway is in good shape (state funds), Main Street is very rough. Theaters are closed, and there are empty storefronts. I talked for half an hour with a lady who was cleaning the parking lot at the old depot, which is now a bank. She said it's not a bad place to live, but hard to make a living. She has several degrees, but found it hard to put them to practical use in Cañon City.
|The exterior of this Standard Oil (Indiana) gas station|
has been wonderfully preserved.
|This refractory, now closed,|
serves only as storage and shop for Royal Gorge Line rolling stock.
After dinner at the Sonic Drive-In, I returned to the motel to work on my journal. But - as seems to be the case more often than not - I fell asleep after a few sentences.