So, for a while now I have been planning the move to Southern California. I decided that I needed a change of pace and to be closer to my family. I heavy heartedly pulled the trigger and took a job with Topanga Creek Bicycles in Topanga, California. I had only heard of these guys but their reputation was top notch and I had heard nothing but good from everyone that had ever visited or met the owner Chris. We set my move date for mid May of 2014. So, very rapidly the day came and I had my final day at Wheel Werks. We were just getting things rolling at the shop for the season and had made friends with some of the new employees so I was kind of bummed to leave. Bob has a top notch shop and fitting business and taught me a lot about bikes and the bicycle industry...and life in general....in my time at the shop. I enjoyed every minute of it and loved my time at Wheel Werks.
My friends in the Slender Fungus and the Baggio household put together a "surprise" going away party for me and it was so much fun. I honestly didn't know how to feel with so many emotions creating a whirl wind in my head. I was excited to move, sad to leave my friends, happy to be seeing everyone in the same room having fun together.....I couldn't help but smile, and cry, and laugh. What a night....my friends in the midwest are amazing people. Our group will stand the tests of time and we will always be friends no matter what. There are some people you just know you will always have a relationship with and go to visit and that is the case with our Slender Fungus. Thick as blood. Thanks again to the Baggios for everything and for everyone that showed up...it meant the world to me. There is so much more to say about this evening but I don't want to get too sappy or emotional....blah blah
So, I packed up with the help of my friends Ryan, Ray, and Joe....thanks so much guys! We had some beers and food and I hit the road on a beautiful Sunday in May.......boy was I in for a trip....
As soon as I left IL the rain started. Pitch black clouds and thunderstorms rolled in. Winds overtook the 16' truck with car carrier and my Honda Element on the back. If I wasn't comfortable driving the truck already.... As soon as I made it to Iowa the weather got great, the sun came out and it was warm out again. How strange....another Iowa miracle....but not for much longer. As I fueled up in Grinnell and kept heading west the storms were back. I heard tornado warnings on the radio and the rain turned to a torrential downpour with lightening all around and winds gusting to 60mph. I pulled over at a gas station to wait out the storm with several other motorists. I waited for a good hour and then hit the road again....only to stop another half hour down the road for round two.... I had gotten a hold of my buddy Jonathon in Omaha to crash on his couch. I knew it was going to be a late night so I appreciate him waiting up. I finally made it to Omaha at 1:30 am after being on the road for 10 hours.....way way way longer than it shouldve taken. But we stayed up and chatted and then I got 4 hours of sleep and hit the road again.
Heading straight across Nebraska I drove straight into a 25-35mph wind that diminished my gas mileage down to 4.7mpg. It was awful. As soon as I hit Colorado I had a tailwind and cruised down a very remote route 71. It had some great views and was a nice drive. I figured I had to make a good push at Durango that evening to meet up with my buddy Craig and stay with him for a couple days to mountain bike and see the town. (I have been telling Craig I was coming to visit Durango for years....it was finally happening!). As soon as I passed Walsenburg, CO it began to snow as I was on North La Veta Pass. The snow was coming down in blankets and there was inches on the ground already. I pulled over onto a turnout on a steep hilll behind a semi parked towards the bottom. The semi started to pull away so I tried to drive up the hill and could not do it. The truck was not powerful enough to make it up the hill in the snow. I panicked. I had never been in this situation before. I put the car in park and it started to slide into the ditch....I had to keep the car in drive. I put it in a lower gear and gradually had to weave side to side inbetween the ditch and guardrail, climbing the hill inch by inch until I made it to the top.
I was at the top. Semis were still trying to make it over the pass. I was halfway out onto the highway and couldn't move the truck anymore. I was starting to slide back down onto the guardrail I was trying to turn around and head back to town. I kept trying to maneuver the truck and trailer. It kept slipping farther and farther towards the guardrail until if finally wedged against the back of the truck behind the rear wheel. At this point I thought I was really screwed and I was going to have to get towed out of there. Craig had been on the phone calling the police and towing companies for me just in case. By some miracle after giving up all hope.....the car inched forward one time and the trailer just barely missed the guard rail. To this day I play the situation over and over and there is no way possible that this ever could have happened. For whatever reason I was free and headed back into Walsenburg to the nearest motel.
The motel was creepy but I was glad to have a warm place to stay and some internet to check the weather. The snow kept falling overnight and there were at least 4-5 inches overnight. The following morning I asked the clerk how the roads were and he said that it should be do-able. I gased up the truck and gave it another go....only to find it still snowing and the roads in just of bad conditions. The only plus side to this was that it was day time. So, I cruised nice and slow and made it over La Veta with white knuckles on the wheel and a foot on the brake. I was worried about the next pass wolf creek which was 2000 feet higher than the pass I had just been over.
I had heard stories of Wolf Creek from Jill Homer's book on the tour divide that I had just read. Craig also warned me that it was nothing to fool around with and told me that the weather should be fine. I was nervous but made the plunge into the pass and it turned out perfectly fine. The national forest was stunning with its views and the pass was amazing. I stopped at the divide crossing to take a few photos....hopefully I will be seeing that sign again in two years or so for the tour.... Anyhow, after that it was all good and I cruised into Durango safe and sound to meet up with Craig
Part II: Durango Adventures. Stay tuned