May 2nd, 2013
After a long night of waking up to the sound of my own teeth chattering, finally at 5 am I come up with a great idea to keep warm, better late than never. I create a cocoon over my whole body with motorcycle cover that had just been sitting in my tent being put to no use. Within minutes I am toasty. Living a minimalist lifestyle forces me to be resourceful, another aspect of this trip I like.
I finally talk myself into getting up even though I’m tired and it is still cold out. I have some difficult terrain to cover and I want to get it over with. I don’t want to have to spend another night at this altitude nor a higher one. I’m getting the hang of where everything goes by now so I pack up camp pretty quick and am on the road by 8:30am.
Its chilly and beautiful. Towering snow-capped mountain ridges above green forests on either side of the curvy roads for hours. I’m getting used to this and even though this is probably the coldest I’ve been so far, it is not so bad. Mental preparation has a lot do with being able to handle warmth as well as getting better at utilizing clothing properly and making frequent stops to maintain core heat. Once the core of the body gets cold it takes a very long time in a warm setting to reset so not letting my bones get chilled is key.
The first few hours have been up and down but now I find myself on a slow steady climb and it is getting colder by each foot of elevation. My engine is getting weaker and weaker; I go from climbing hills in 5th gear back in Arizona, to 4th gear starting in Utah and now I’m putting up this mountain in 3rd. Snow is all around me, above and below, I want to stop and go play in it but I’m thinking about my core heat and covering enough distance to get out of here. I’m so afraid of getting a flat tire or any engine trouble, imagining how frozen my hands would be trying to fix it, not to mention the complete loss of core heat that would assuredly ensue.
In what seems like no time I make it over the pass reaching an altitude of 10,550 feet. It is downhill from here and I’m ecstatic. I am screaming and talking shit to the mountain, teasing it for being weak sauce; I don’t want it to have the pride of intimidating the pants off me. Being on the road all day with nobody to talk to, I find myself doing a lot talking out loud, whether it is poking fun at mountains, giving myself pep talks or making up silly characters. In this particular moment it is helping me to take my mind off of the core heat that the high mountain pass took away from me.
I finally get to a little town with a gas station and find it amusing that I am relieved to read a sign saying “elevation: 8,000ft.”. I see another motorcyclist, the first all day which is abnormal, and chat with him about the weather, what else? He is wearing all leather with electric heated inner linings in his pants, jacket and gloves. He knows all about maintaining core heat I’m sure. I didn’t quite fit those luxuries into my budget, all the more adventurous…
I ride the next few hours wondering when the altitude will start to drop only to find that, after all that, there is another high pass I must cross. I am discouraged after having celebrated conquering the first pass but am glad to have enough time in the day to get it behind me. This next pass is much more difficult even though it is actually a lower elevation. It is mostly in my head. I didn’t wait for the fat lady to sing and I metaphorically kicked off my shoes and began to relax. Its much harder to get back in the zone. Its interesting how powerful the mind is. I love being challenged in this way and hope after many experiences like this I can have better mental control.
I make it over the pass but not without angrily belittling the mountain out loud. I’m hesitant to celebrate quite yet and press on. The next couple of hours of driving get lower but no warmer. I finally pull into a wildlife refuge area that I’m sure is forbidden to camp in just before sunset. It is still freezing but I made it, I’m in eastern Colorado not far from the Kansas border and the worst is behind me.