Pueblo to Boulder and Back

WARNING: Very long post with numerous photos, click on links for more.

Many people spend their Spring Break partying on a beach in Florida.  We opted for a more adventurous way to pass the week.  We decided to combine public transportation, bicycle touring, and meeting strangers into a wonderful 5 day vacation.
Navigating our way out of Pueblo was easy, using the very familiar Fountain Creek Trail, but we quickly entered uncharted territory.  First the bike trail ended, then the pavement ended, and we spent 13 bumpy miles wondering if a different route would have been better. 


Luckily the weather was beautiful and the views of Pikes Peak and the Spanish Peaks were spectacular.  Strip malls soon gave way to farm houses, solar panels, cows, and irrigation structures.  Some of the gravel Overton Road is hard packed and in spots almost like asphalt, but there are also spots of thick loose gravel that expend plenty of energy and slow the pace.


Traffic was minimal, maybe 4 or 5 cars total, most of which slowed down as they passed so they wouldn't kick up gravel and dirt, but not everyone was so considerate.


After a couple of gravel dustings, we were thankful to be back on pavement and heading towards Fountain.  We came across interesting art pieces and made other junk into art pieces of our own.  We stopped for a break along Fountain Creek, which is still just as smelly as it is in Pueblo, but I had to stop and do some work at one of my field sites along the way.


We then hooked up with the southern portion of the Pikes Peak Greenway, which is a nice gravel bicycle and pedestrian path that follows Fountain Creek.  Yes, it's still stinky, but there are some nice fountains, views, and the elusive prairie dog to keep your mind off the smell.


When we got closer to Colorado Springs, the gravel trail turned into a nice paved trail, but we didn't stay on it for long.  We had about an hour to kill before catching the FREX, just enough time to find a cafe and take in a coffee and a sandwich.


For those of you that don't know, the FREX is awesome.  For $11 you can take it from Colorado Springs all the way to Denver.  We detached our panniers and loaded our bicycles on the front rack and boarded the bus.  They also have a convenient bike locker at the bus stop, if you want to leave your bike safely overnight.


 I don't get the opportunity to travel by bus much anymore living in Pueblo, but I was reminded why I love it so much.  Someone else drives, I get to relax, read the paper, kick my feet up, and don't have to worry about directions.  When we reached Denver, the traffic was insane, and all I could think about was how many single drivers were on the road and wondered what was going through their minds.


 We made a quick transfer at the Market Street station and bordered another bus towards Boulder.  Our bicycles weren't so lucky this time, they didn't get the cool ride up front, but did get their own separate compartment underneath the bus.


On the bus ride to Boulder, I remembered that I forgot to call my cousin who lives there so I pulled out my phone to give him a call.  I was literally searching through my phone contacts when I noticed someone 4 rows up that looked very similar to him.  I spent the next few minutes trying to convince myself that there was no possible way that the one person I knew in Boulder, would be sitting 4 rows ahead of us on the bus.  I was wrong.  Conveniently, I didn't have to use my cell phone to make plans to meet up with him and his wife later.


That evening, we went out for dinner with Rita's relatives at the Boulder Tea House then met up with my cousin and his wife for dessert afterward.  It seemed like we had done an awful lot in one day and were basically exhausted and ready to sleep.


The next day was exciting as it was my first time riding a bicycle in Boulder, one of the premier bicycle cities in the U.S.   For the most part, I was not disappointed.  Definitely a lot of  people riding and walking everywhere.  The amount of bicycle infrastructure was mind blowing, which almost made things more complicated for getting around.  The biggest thing I noticed was drivers being comfortable and courteous around cyclists.   In my opinion, Boulder earned it's platinum ranking.


Denver on the other hand was far more disappointing.   I know it's not fair to judge some place after only riding there once, but being an out of town cyclist in Denver is not easy.  We spent a good portion of our day looking for routes, trail heads and connectors that were suppose to be somewhere according to our bike map.  Signage was horrible.


Once we made it onto the South Platte trail, things were a little easier.  I always thought Fountain Creek in Pueblo was pretty gross, but relative to the South Platte and Fountain Creek in Colorado Springs, the Pueblo reach of the Creek is sparkling clean.

The northern section of the South Platte trail rolls through some heavy industrial areas.  Not that appealing, but fairly interesting just because I wasn't aware of the dirty side of Denver.  The further south we rode, we started to notice a few more yuppy joggers and fixed gear bicyclists here and there and were soon in the LoDo neighborhood.


We were a bit behind schedule from looking at maps most of the morning, so made a quick stop at a hipster coffee shop for lunch, and continued on our way.   We did come across a section of the South Platte trail that was closed for construction, but a nice detour was prepared and very thoroughly marked and easy to navigate around  A+ for that.. 


Our destination for the evening was in Littleton with our host Cathy from Couchsurfing.  Her friend Don came over, we had a beer or two, Rita cooked a great curry, we sampled chocolates for dessert and topped off the night with a relaxing soak in the hot tub

The next morning we set out early, but not before a prepared breakfast of waffles and homemade yogurt. 
We were back on the road, and the southern section of the South Platte trail was by far the prettiest.  That section is named the Mary Carter Greenway...I'm not sure who Mary Carter is, but she sure knows how to make an urban trail.


 We followed the Mary Carter Greenway and 470 trail as long as we could but said our goodbyes to urban trails and hello to suburban sprawl neighborhoods as we rode through Highlands Ranch and Castle Pines.  We also said hello to very steep grades and very strong headwinds. We were also introduced to the suburban buffalo.


After a lunch break, we continued the grind into the wind and uphill towards Palmer Lake.  The scenery was spectacular, but it was difficult to enjoy while being blown around by the wind.   Our original plan was to ride all the way to Colorado Springs, but I was developing some hefty right knee pain due to wrestling with the wind, so we opted to spend the night in Palmer Lake. 

   
Spending the night in Palmer Lake was a nice treat.  We were the only guests at a bed and breakfast, so we lounged around in bathrobes all night watching television and reading outdated magazines. 


We woke up the next morning to beautiful blue skies, people were out walking, riding and washing their cars.  We decided to ride only 30-35 miles, take a day to rest my knee, explore Colorado Springs, go rock climbing, and still be able to meet up with our Warmshowers host Liz who was gracious enough to reschedule our visit after our wind/injury delay.


The ride along the New Santa Fe trail from Palmer Lake to Colorado Springs through the Air Force Academy along upper Monument Creek was excellent.   The ride was a little slow because the trail is gravel, but we were in no hurry, so we could enjoy the views.


In Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Greenway is mostly paved, with the same great views.   We rode into old Colorado City and had a great cup of coffee and read the morning news while marinating in the warm sun. While Rita was in the library looking for directions to City Rock so we could do some bouldering, there was an interesting scene outside that involved a lost girl, a delusional grandfather, and a few police officers. 


We met up with Liz and Larry from Warmshowers and they welcomed us with snacks, wine to soothe our injuries, a great dinner, and many great laughs.   We're hoping that they will ride down to Pueblo this spring, so we can return the favor and give them a comfortable place to stay while they take in what Pueblo has to offer.  


The next morning we woke up to a slight dusting of snow on the ground in Colorado Springs.  We planned our Colorado Springs exit strategy over a couple of cups of hot coffee and decided to bypass the Fountain Creek trail for a more direct street route, hoping that the Sunday church goers would be off the roads.  The direct route was definately easier, but our feet were frozen by the time we arrived in Fountain so we stopped again for more coffee.  


We took our time over the last 15 miles, stopping a few times to soak in the last bit of our trip and reflect on the good and the bad and also to think about planning our next mini-tour. 



Bicycles, Bluegrass, and Rivers


Bicycles, bluegrass and rivers might be 3 of my favorite things, saving money might be my 4th.  This weekend, you can partake in all of those activities. 
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday is the 22nd Annual Bluegrass on the River music festival at the Nature Center in Pueblo.  Enjoy 3 days of great music along the beautiful and scenic Arkansas River.  Show the folks at the ticket booth that you rode your bicycle there, and receive $5 off your gate admission for Saturday or Sunday.  The river trail is now finished with concrete or pavement from Main Street all the way to the Reservoir, so pack a lunch, ride out to the festival, listen to some great music, and play all day along the river.

Guerilla Maintenance



I hadn't noticed until my friend Wren pointed it out while he was visiting Pueblo, but ever since, I really notice the steep angle of the Union Avenue bike lane between the library and the bridge. The street is basically an arc, so if you're riding on the center line it's flat, but the closer you get to the curb, the steeper the angle. Add a nice layer of gravel left over from winter and screaming down the hill in the bike lane becomes a pretty sketchy task. I didn't expect the city to sweep the bike lanes anytime soon, so I decided to bring my broom with me on my way to work on Friday and do the job myself.  I swept the worst 50 meter section of the reach and in my opinion it's much better now.
Music credit: This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb

Critical Mass Success


Many bicyclists braved the not so springlike day and rode through rain, sleet and snow to show their support for the bicycle community that we all belong to.


 My favorite part of the event was the variety of people that showed up.  Young, old, parents, children, activists, students, teachers, serious cyclists, and people that just like dressing up in costumes. 


The hope is that people will continue to ride their bicycles, not only for fun and social reasons, but also as a replacement for the mainstream mode of transportation...the car.  


It was the first Critical Mass for many people at the event and for many the first time even hearing the words Critical Mass.


Everyone did a pretty darn good job obeying the rules of the road and the response from automobiles on the road was very positive.


 We received a lot of friendly honks, thumbs up, woot-woots and only one car driver asked me if I was dressed as a dildo.  Honestly, my shark costume could have easily been mistaken for a dildo.


The energy of the group was pretty high to begin with and we got a bit spread out, but towards the end of the ride we developed a better rhythm of keeping everyone together as a group...or the Union hill tired everyone out and slowed everyone down.


I think one way to make the ride more kid friendly in the future would be if  we put a few kids in the front and let them lead until they get tired, then the adult group could continue on with another route.


I think the group did an excellent job of getting a message across without being abrasive or negative. 


Whether your reason for riding a bicycle is to make a statement about the environment, your physical health, your mental health, your political views or your financial improvement, we made signs for everything.


Plans to continue a similar event in the future were discussed and people were also informed of all the other fun bicycle related EVENTS that are already planned for bike month.



So if you are a fair-weather bicyclists and happened to miss the inaugural ride you won't have to wait long for the next fun bicycle event.


It was cool to meet a lot of great new people that love having fun, riding a bicycle and doing something unique, healthy, and slightly out of the ordinary.


So whether it's the next Critical Mass, the Bike-In-Movie, the Bicycle Scavenger Hunt, the Bicycle Commuter Cup , the weekly Thursday Costume Cruiser rides, or the Adults on Kid's Bike races be sure to attend and bring as many friends as possible.


 The Pueblo bicycle movement has been inching along for years, I think it's time to take off and flourish!






Under the Bridge


I'm not sure if they've broken a champagne bottle over the trail yet, but in my opinion the Arkansas River Trail below the 4th Street bridge is officially OPEN! The trail is now completely paved.  There is still work being done on the parking lot and trail-head area, and the bouldering and lighting structures still have a ways to go, but you can now ride on smooth pavement between Main Street and City Park.  There is also a really nice pavement and rock seating area at the first hole of the kayak park.  Enjoy! 



Bike-in-movie


It was a perfect summer evening to relax by the river, meet new people, drink a cold beer, snack on some popcorn and take in some indie films, outdoors and under the stars. The best part...the only way to take it all in was if you had a bicycle or were willing to walk.  About 50 people showed up for Pueblo's first ever Bike-in-Movie along the Arkansas River bike trail.

 

Before the show, people mingled, drank a few cold beers, talked about bikes and enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the river.   A few less-outdoorsy types had raised concerns about mosquitoes being a potential issue, but we combated them with citronella, a positive attitude, and laughter.  There were  a few minor temporary technical difficulties with the equipment, but the gap was filled with impromptu shadow puppetry and an erotic stage dance.


Special thanks to Rita, Angie, Kristen, and Abby for making popcorn for everyone, to Travis and Emilie for painting the wall a beautiful shade of pink, to Kane for supplying us with a great stencil to make signs with, to Garrett and Mike for making the dream a reality, to the PULP for advertising it, and to everyone that showed up and made this a great community event! Hopefully there will be another one very soon!
Here is a short video of parts of the night.