Getting to the Welcome sign is not good enough. We had to climb 4 miles uphill to the campground. It was a serious climb with our gear. Here I am with a mesa in the distance.
Here's the road that we climbed so far. Four miles never seemed so long.
Taking a photo op break from climbing.
Finally at the top, we reached a psuedo-visitor center type store. We registered for a campground. When we came out, this professional photographer asked if he could take a picture of our bikes with the Indian paintings on the wall. Photographer Ken noticed that it looked like the Indians were riding our bikes when Ed and I just unknowingly parked our bikes against the wall. When we told Ken we were riding our bikes cross country, it was the coolest thing he had ever heard in life!
Here I am after I set up my tent all by myself. Dave was setting up his tent and Ed was paying for the camp site. Don't know what took him so long, but look how this city girl set up a tent all by herself. I was very excited I was able to do such a thing. Looks like Hai taught me well back on my trial run of camping months ago.
Photographer Ken tracked us down again and took some more pictures of us. He was very excited to have met people who were doing something out of the ordinary.
After we set up camp, it was time to explore. We opted to hitch a ride to the visitor center because it would have taken us all late afternoon to ride to the visitor center (11 miles uphill) and give us no time to explore because then we'd have to ride back to camp again before dark. So, I volunteered my innocent non-threatening looks (because you know, Ed and Dave look dangerous) to try to hitch a ride to the visitor center. I just stood in the parking lot of the information center stalking people with a car that could fit 3 additional bums. Eventually this couple in a minivan from Chicago gave us a lift. Sitting in a car, we were just relieved to not have to had ridden our bike up to the visitor center. It was just pure uphill - I was a little intimidated for tomorrow's ride since tomorrow, we will be doing this exact ride but on our bikes. We were so high up that it looked like we could touch heaven. Once we reached the visitor center, we got out. The couple told us if we couldn't get a ride back down to our campsite by 7pm, to just wait exactly where they dropped us off at 7pm and they'd come by and pick us up for the ride down again. So nice!
When we got to the visitor center, we found out that in order to take some ranger lead tours for some of the sites, we had to actually get to the site (as opposed to a bus taking us there, as we mislead from the information center 11 miles below). Dammit. That means we had to hitch hike again. After buying our tickets for an hour from then (because we didn't know how long it would take us to pursuade a driver to take us and then actually drive to the site), we headed back out into the parking lot to look for unsuspecting drivers. After what seemed like a really long time of trying to flag down cars and asking people walking to their cars, we found a man with a big back seat. We moved the contents of his backseat into the trunk and we were on our way to the cave dwellings. It started raining a bit as we approached a Y intersection where the man wanted to go one direction but we needed to go the other direction. I think I tried to offer that we could get out and hitch again (or walk) and I think Dave and Ed just tried to stall until the man felt our pathetic-ness and drove us to our site before going back on track to his siteseeing route. Hehe.
Here is the Cliff Palace cave dwelling from a vantage point. It's really just a housing community built on the side of a mountain, beneath large overhanging rocks for rain protection. It's amazing that the Anasazi built this back in 600-1300 A.D. with no modern tools and equipment.
Dave and me from above.
Ed and me next to the ruins.
As we were leaving the ranger-lead tour, we befriended a lady and her daughter to give us a ride back to the campsite, 11 miles down the hill. No problem, they took us right in. I'd have to say it was a bit out of their way because they wanted to just drive around and stop and take pictures, but they volunteered, notheless. People are just so kind to us, it's unbelievable.
And in true Colorado form, it poured in the late afternoon as we were driving. Here's what the skies looked like.
While we were driving back to the campsite, we went through this tunnel that was completely pitch dark. The lady continued to drive and I think I had to say, "stop" before she decided to stop. She fumbled around to find the headlight switch for what seemed a lifetime. I was so scared a car was going to come up on our ass and just rear end us because they couldn't see us in time.
As the mother/daughter combo dropped us off at our campsite, it continued to rain. We waited out the rain as we had a few slices of pizza for dinner from the snack bar. When we went back to our tents, everything not inside the tent was soaking wet. Luckily I erected the tent perfectly and the inside of our tent was nice and dry. My panniers were still on my bike, obviously outside, but since I have the Mercedes of panniers, all my stuff was nice and dry as well.
After taking our showers, we packed on the layers to go to an amphitheater for a ranger talk. It was freezing outside. Freezing I say! At the talk, we saw the couple who gave us a ride up to the visitor center earlier. I was less than impressed with the ranger talk. She was telling stories and I just hated her style. The way she talked, you had to wait to hear the next thing out of her mouth because she paused so much. It's like she was trying to tell the stories like how the Anasazi would have but I wanted to smack her around and make her end her sentences faster. I didn't feel there was a point or closure to her stories at all. Not to mention, I was freezing so if the stories weren't exciting, I was just thinking in my head, "Why the hell am I here? I'm freezing."
When my pain was finally over, we went back to the campsite for a lovely night of sleeping on the ground in freezing weather. So delightful. It was so cold at night, I had on 5 layers on top and 2 layers on the bottom - that was basically all the layers I owned that I could comfortably wear without stopping my blood circulation because the clothes were too tight. I also had my ski hat on, and possibly my balaclava (ski mask), too. In addition, I had a sleeping bag liner and a sleeping bag. I really don't see what the thrill about camping in Colorado is. A few people told me I had to camp in Colorado before I left on my trip. I don't see anything fun about freezing my ass off on a cold Colorado evening. Anyhow, I survived being a popsicle that evening.