This day was super! It made all the rocky roads earlier in the week worth riding just to get here! Campfire coffee and instant oatmeal for breakfast as usual--we are so tired of oatmeal! We started with a climb out of the campground--seems we always start with a climb, but then the campgrounds are usually down by rivers and streams so I guess that makes sense.
There was no real map today--we are off the official Great Divide Mountain Bike Route now, so Ray drew a map on a plastic cutting board that Steve had picked up at one of our campgrounds. We climbed up to the highway and then had a spectacular 4 mile coast. I reached 45 miles per hour, a new record for me on a bike! It feels safer going that fast on fat tires than it does on the road bike... I was always afraid to go over 40 MPH... Fortunately for me, Brian from Texas was waiting at the turnoff for Red Canyon, or I would have missed the turn as many riders did. We turned left off the highway into the Red Canyon Wildlife Habitat Area, and entered a different world.
The bright red canyon walls were ahead of us, all variations of color and texture. It was mostly downhill, and on a hard packed red dirt road (with the exception of the very beginning and the last mile, which were that awful loose gravel and stones that I have been whining about this whole ride). The descent was gentle and I stopped many times to take photos of this wonderful place, a National Designated Landmark. there were a few cattle grazing, several lean-to shelters that I assume they (the cattle) use to hide from the snow when it is that long winter season here.
When we (Steve, Brian from Texas, Eli and I) came up out of the canyon and got back on the highway we met up with some of the other riders who had ridden the highway. They had terrible crosswinds on their ride and were a bit sorry they had missed the grandeur of the Red Canyon (where their crosswinds were our tailwinds).
We rode into town, mostly downhill, and the chosen campground had motel rooms as well--most of us opted for rooms; there were only 4 tents pitched that night. Dianne and I checked in and took showers, then walked around town. Later we went for a ride in the van to Sinks Canyon State Park, where the Popo Agie River descends underground ("sinks") through the rocks reappearing (at the "rise") in a trout pond 1/4 mile later. It was a wonderful place, and we could see rock climbers way up on the canyon wall. We hiked down the rocky path to see where the river sinks and took photos of each other there. There is real value in having a local person for a tour leader (Ray)!
We went to Cowfish Restaurant for a farewell dinner where everyone got an award. Judy's was the "Rookie-no-more" award, since this was her first ever bike tour; Dianne's was "Welcome to Mountain biking", though she swears she will never do another mountain bike tour. My award was the "toughing it out award" for riding through the pain of the bad knee (thank you to those who helped with various massages and advice through the ride). John received the "Bedouin award" for his whole body coverup (remember him from the photo at the side of the road in Pinedale?). Eli was "Mr. Congeniality" and Brian from Texas got an award for the great food he prepared. Brian from Kansas got the "Stevie Ray Vaughn" award for the great guitar playing at the campfire I missed when my knee was too sore to hike up the hill at night. Joe's award was for the bike least likely to make it through the tour (it did not make it!) and Mike's award was for the biggest bag (not everyone followed the 25 pounds per bag rule--you know who you are). Steve received an award for "Stove Wrangler" for being the only one who could consistently get the gas stoves to work properly. I suggested a "Magellan" award for Lynn (who drove the van to the wrong campground). We all chose our awards from an array of Cowfish merchandise provided by Ray.
If any of you can photo shop Judy into the group photo, please send it to me--this photo was taken before she arrived. I meant to take another after she got there... the end to a beautiful day and a wonderful trip!