Thursday, September 17, 2015

Manitou Springs, Colorado

Rather than continuing east to Salida and its Carnegie Library after crossing the 11,317 foot Monarch Pass as I ordinarily do on my ride home from Telluride, I turned north towards Buena Vista so I could descend upon Colorado Spriings from the west instead of climbing back up to it from the south as I did two years ago when I was caught by a millennial deluge that wiped out bridges and roads all along the Western Front.

I had some unfinished business in Colorado Springs.  I had visited its two Carnegie Libraries between downpours two years ago, but not the one in Manitou Springs on its western fringe.  Though I had to do some extra climbing by approaching Colorado Springs from the west, it was a much more lightly traveled route and allowed me to pass by Pike's Peak.  By the time I reached the Carnegie in Manitou Springs, I had cycled nearly three hundred miles from Tellluride and crossed seven passes, three before Monarch and three after.  Not one of Colorado's thirty-six Carnegies had been on my route.  There had been other libraries, including the large modern library in Montrose and barebones libraries in the small communities of Hartsel and Lake George.  None came close to the grandeur and majesty of a Carnegie.  

The 105-year old Carnegie in Manitou Springs resided on a hillside overlooking the town's central street lined with motels and boutiques catering to tourists headed to Pike's Peak and the ski resorts and all the other outdoor activities deeper into the state.  The simple, stately brick building was partially covered with vines.

Nothing on its exterior identified it as a Carnegie, but the standard Carnegie portrait hung in its foyer gazing down upon all who entered.  It was just above a plaque celebrating its heritage.

Not only were my miles to Mamitou Springs bereft of Carneigies, they were equally free of touring cyclists.  I was the lone traveling cyclist enjoying the magnificent scenery and roads.  And there was little evidence that others had preceded me.  I found two water bottles laying in the weeds from the Jelly Belly racing team on Trout Creek Pass, unclaimed from the world-class week-long USA Pro Cycling Challenge Race a month ago. It was shocking that no other cyclist or other passerby had happened upon them in all that time.  I was delighted to add them to my collection, especially since Danny Van Haute of Chicago, someone I raced against decades ago, is the team director.

The climb over Trout Creek Pass on route 24 was part of a seventy mile stretch between highway 285 and the town of Divide with such minimal traffic that I could lapse into reveries imagining that I was an early explorer being among the first of the white-skinned to lay eyes on the stunning scenery.  Until then the roads had been abuzz with a steady stream of RVs and trucks and pick-ups that kept my thought in the present allowing me little time to reflect on another fine dose of cinema at Telluride.  

As usual it was a superlative mix of films I'd seen at Cannes that I was happy to see again and new films and old, rarely screened films.  The very first film screened was a five-hour silent film from 1924 by Fritz Lang that had never been shown in its entirety in the US---"Die Nibelungen."  Beer and brats were offered for free during the intermission--a typical Telluride touch.  The Guest Director, novelist Rachel Kushner, included two rarely screened films among her six choices--"Cocksucker Blues" on the Rolling Stones from 1979 and "The Mother and the Whore" from 1973 by Jean Eustache.  Seeing any of these would have made the festival an extraordinary experience.  

Meryl Streep was in attendance with "Suffragettes"'about women fighting to gain the right to vote in Great Britain.  Michael Keaton was on hand with "Spotlight," playing a reporter for the "Boston Globe" who was part of a team that exposed the Catholic Church's complicity in covering up sexual abuse by priests.  Laurie Anderson was there with a documentary reflecting on her life.  Her hour-long converation with Peter Sellars in the Courthouse was as extraordinary as her film.  So too was the Courthouse conversation among novelists Kushner, Michael Ondaatje and Don DiLillo.  Janina will have a lengthy discourse on all these events and more at her website in the near future.

Though I passed through a few National Forests and cycled along an extended man-made lake, barbed-wire fences lined most of the road, making the camping a challenge. Several of my campsites hugged a fence where I had the shelter of trees.

I was biking right up to dark at 7:30 and then taking my chances of finding a place to pitch my tent.  One night I camped behind a bank of solar panels on the grounds of a river-running company whose season had ended.  Such panels are not uncommon in Colorado, though one rarely sees wind turbines.  They await me in Iowa, where they provide a remarkable thirty per cent of the state's energy needs.

More than ever people seem to regard me with a wary eye and a degree of pity, not recognizing my ride as an adventure and an affirmation of the bicycle's ability to transport one to wherever one might care to go.  After I told a woman that I was bicycling to Chicago, she asked if I were doing it out of necessity.  In a sense I was, but not in the context of her perception. Rather than trying to explain that I'd had a life long compulsion to ride my bike and if I didn't I might fall to pieces and that I had spent a good portion of my life pedaling all over the world and this was my fifth such excursion in the past year, I simply replied in the negative, saying I was doing it for the fun of it.  

She seemed relieved and agreed that it sounded like a fun thing to do.  It wasn't quite fun yet though, as I hadn't done much cycling during my month in Telluride looking after the shipping department for the film festival and my bicycling muscles had gone slightly dormant.  I certainly got my exercise unloading UPS and FedEx deliveries and shuffling heavy boxes, but I had ended my first few days back on the road quite exhausted, needing ten hours or more of sleep a night to recoup.  I know that once I leave the mountains and hit the Plains, my muscles will be back and, rather than looking forward to my campsite, won't want my days of pedaling to end.


Rick Oberle said...

"After I told a woman that I was bicycling to Chicago, she asked if I were doing it out of necessity."

This sort of person disturbs me too. They have no clue what they are missing or already missed. My guess is that this was an overweight 3X year old blonde driving a red pickup truck or a black SUV. Rather than appreciate another person's passion, they judge it from their own point of view (certainly narrow at best...). It seems to be the American Way. That's why I am sticking to Canada for my expeditions. People I met along the way universally appreciated my drive and desire and perhaps felt a pang of envy. Plus it is safer, the people are nicer, the roads are better and they have poutine!

I have written a bunch more and there will be more yet on that trip.

Thanks for being my inspiration to go out and do it!

george christensen said...

Rick: The woman was actually a sympathetic soul who may have been struggling to make ends meet and felt I was down on my luck. She was taking a cigarette break from her cash register job at the supermarket where I had just bought a liter of chocolate milk, ramen and baked beans.

Glad to hear you've written more on your recent trip. I'll check it out.

Regards, g