• Franklin Zhang

Day 53: A Break for Our Brakes

Blackhawk to Silverthorne

55 miles and 7,055 ft of elevation gain

July 23, 2022

Last night we stayed with our hosts in their house near Blackhawk. I got to spend the night in their RV, which was the perfect way to experience the Rocky Mountain wilderness. A glimpse out the window and I could see a beautiful night sky with little light pollution. While I was stargazing, I noticed an interesting constellation of stars. A line of 15 or so lights appeared in the corner of the sky and started slowly making its way across the sky like a line of ants. Hmmm… it couldn’t be stars, maybe they were satellites. Wait, it was a satellite train! I saw that night likely one of SpaceX’s satellite trains passing through, providing service to parts of the country that otherwise wouldn’t have access. Our host said that their service isn’t great, sometimes they wouldn’t get internet for an entire week!

The Starlink Satellite Train. My camera isn't great at night photography so here is a video from youtube instead

Another exciting thing about this area was that there were a lot of bears. We had to keep all of our food indoors because the bears in the area were known to open car doors to grab the food inside. We left the car unlocked because we would rather have the bear open the door rather than break it to try to get to the goods inside. Luckily we have no unwelcome visitors (that we know of) that night.

In the morning we woke up to a breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and sausages! The daughter took us outside and gave us some turmeric treats to feed their horse and let us taste some of the wild strawberries growing in the back of the house.

After breakfast, we thanked our hosts and headed out. Today was our second day of biking through the Rockies. I didn’t get to take part in the over 1-mile climb on the first day since I was driving so I was stocked (spoked?) for today’s bike, which also was over 1 mile in elevation.

We ended up climbing two peaks today!

Mastering the art of bicycle selfies on our way up the mountain

The first climb up was a nice challenge. We definitely felt the effects of the altitude, but we took frequent breaks and trudged our way up. Our descent into Idaho Springs also was a challenge. We were going down a -6% grade over unpaved gravel roads. We used our legs to help absorb the impact of riding over rocks but our hands still felt the brunt of the shocks. Our hands were firmly pressed onto our brakes in order to control our speed on the descent, but that also means that our hands felt every bump that we passed over. We took a couple of breaks during our ride down to give both our hands and our disc breaks a break.

Sophia on a mountainside

With sore hands, we finally made it down the mountain only to start our ascent of the next one. We followed the Clear Creek River for a while and stopped by the Whitewater Park for lunch! As the name suggests, this place seemed like a great spot for white water rafting.

The Rocky Mountain area is known for consistent rain and thunderstorms every day around known, so like clockwork, it started to pour right after lunch.

We waited for it to stop and then started biking again. After only a couple of miles, it started raining again, then thunder came, followed by some hail. We found cover under some apartment buildings and did some storm photography. We looked at the forecast for the week on our weather app and it showed the thunderstorm icon every single day. We promised ourselves that next time we will bring cards to keep ourselves busy whenever we have to wait out storms. Soon the storm cleared up enough for us to start riding again.

Storm Photography

We got on a bike path that weaved through the spruce forests along the side of the mountain. It felt like we were out in the mountains all by ourselves because both sides of the narrow bike path were full of green foliage and flowers and we did not see a single soul besides us. Closer to the bike path was where the younger trees were growing, some barely a foot tall and they were towered over by the mature trees growing further from the path. Our friendly neighborhood plant mom, Simone keeps getting distracted. I’d look behind myself using my bike mirror and find that Simone was missing, probably picking some wild strawberries.

Huddling under a tree to stay warm while it was raining.

Simone getting distracted and stopping to look at some plants.

Our lovely bike path that we had all to ourselves.

We exited the forest path and started our steep climb up to Loveland Pass. Both the views and the biking took my breath away. We got to the top of Loveland Pass which has an elevation of almost 12,000 feet. Then we took some pictures until it started raining… a very cold rain. I had to keep moving to stay warm because I didn’t bring any extra layers! I was only prepared for the 100-degree heat that we’ve been experiencing before the Rockies and was completely caught off guard when we started getting hit by ice-cold rain in 50-degree weather. So we started biking again, hoping that the moving around would warm me up, but instead it just meant that it felt windier! We cut our descent short, found some shelter, and huddled together to stay warm. We used various warming techniques, including breathing our hot breath on each other, huddling, impromptu dancing, and squats. Once again it started to hail. So we hailed our sag wagon, (which we have now named Dora the Ford Explora). Robert and our host Stephen came to our rescue!

Views of Loveland Pass on our climb up.

Here is a picture of us on the top of Loveland Pass.

Here is a picture without Simone blocking half of the sign.

It looks like it's about to rain again!

We stopped to find shelter to escape the rain and hail.

We were cheated of our descent down Loveland pass but at least we were out of the cold. Stephen invited his neighbors and friends over together for a homemade spaghetti dinner with bread (our third day in a row having spaghetti paired with bread). The homemade spaghetti sauce and the pies were delicious. We were all tired from the long day of riding but at the same time, we were looking forwards to the next day because we were about to bike Vail Pass! Our hosts have been hyping up this ride so we were looking forwards to this ride for many days. Unfortunately, we took a look at the weather forecast and we saw that rain was scheduled from 10 AM until 9 PM. We went to bed hoping that the weather tomorrow will be as fickle as it always has been.

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