DAY 3 - (Wednesday) Breckenridge to Buena Vista (Cottonwood Hot Springs)
I awoke early and fell back asleep. I awoke again and decided to get out of my tent. After drying the small amount of dew that had accumulated on my rain fly I packed up my gear, wheeled out to the road, and continued south. It was about 8:20.
I had made one large mistake. I didn't get anything to eat for breakfast while I was in Breckenridge. All I had was a slice of bread with some peanut butter on it before I headed for Hoosier pass. Three miles past my campsite I began the 4 mile climb to Hoosier pass. I was at 10,000 feet and the summit is at 11,554. Not too bad a climb, but a bit steep. The empty stomach didn't help much either. While climbing I noticed the pain of inflammation under my knee caps and on the outside tendon of my right knee.
Once at the top of Hoosier pass I donned some warmer clothes and headed for Fairplay at the north end of South Park. Both of my knees were starting to hurt now.
South Park is a huge flat area in the middle of the Colorado Rockies, all at 9,000 to 10,000 feet. I cruised downhill, with a tailwind, for 11 miles into Fairplay. Once in town I met two other cyclists. They were a couple of young dutchmen headed in the opposite direction as I. After a small conference about snow on passes (there is none at this time of year ... usually) we parted. They had asked me, so I had to tell them: they were headed into an 11 mile climb facing a headwind.
On the south end of town, past all the construction, is a restaurant called the Mustard Seed. This is a delightful place, owned and operated by a couple that are smitten by the Lord. The waitress, Mila, was very sweet. She noticed that I looked weak and made sure that I was fed pronto. As I left she reminded me to take care of myself. Climbing that pass with no food had left me nearly delirious. I'll never do that again. The cure was O.J, milk, two fried eggs, a couple of large pancakes, and several glasses of ice water. The smiles and friendly winks from Mila were soothing, as well.
The ride from Fairplay to Buena Vista is a treat. It's downhill for nearly 20 miles. In addition, I had a tailwind. About 18 miles out from Fairplay the road began to rise. At 20 miles out I had to climb what seemed to be about 500 feet over Trout Creek Pass. Once at the top of Trout Creek Pass it's 13 miles of screaming downhill to the intersection with highway 24. The town of Buena Vista is 2 miles north of this intersection. I made it into "Buenie" before 3:00.
There's a bicycle shop at the far north end of town ("The Trailhead") where I got some information on the next day's ride; Cottonwood Pass. I had a regular home cooked dinner at Jan's, half of which I took to the Cottonwood Hot Springs Motel for later consumption. The grocery store didn't have a deli, so I went to a separate deli in town, next to Jan's, and headed up to the Cottonwood Hot Springs Motel.
Five and a half miles west of town, on the way towards Cottonwood Pass, there's a great little motel at the Cottonwood Hot Springs. I had stopped at the Visitor's Center in Buena Vista and called ahead, but it was not necessary. I decided to get a room there since my knees were bothering me and I wanted to be able to ice them down. I'd also been there in 1978 and didn't remember much of it. The private, outdoor, jacuzzi style hot tubs were a nice plus. The room was $39, if memory serves me right.
The hot tubs are outside by the creek and are fed by a natural hot spring. After icing down the old knees and having a beer or two, I went out to the hot tub that I had reserved from 8 - 9:00PM. There weren't many people here, so it was easy to pick a time for soaking. The still darkness, the twinkling stars, and the rushing of the creek below weaved a wondrous spell. The ice, the hot soaks (with cool outdoor air drying between soaks), then more ice, brought some welcome relief to my knees and tired body.
Whether you bicycle to Buena Vista or not, I recommend that you keep this place in mind. Some very nice people are the relatively new owners of the place, and they are trying to turn it into more of a therapeutic spa. Besides helping them stay in business, you will enjoy the peace and comfort of this fine motel. There's no dining there, so be sure to bring your own dinner and breakfast (and lunch, if you plan to cycle over Cottonwood Pass).
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