We wouldn't be getting much sleep, but we stuck to our plan of rising with the sun, and packing up before we were seen. Unfortunately, some people like to rise before the sun to walk their dogs or go jogging. Those people (and I know a few) were in full force this morning. Before the alarm had even gone off, we could here a lot of commotion outside.
We packed up our stuff saying hello in embarrassment to the exercisers passing by and headed into town to go to a coffee shop. Landing at Brueger's Bagels, we found ourselves a nice comfortable spot. The shop had wifi, so I was able to track the shipment, while uploading some pictures. We got a completely unsatisfying, yet expensive breakfast, and also rested a bit since the shop wouldn't open until 9:00.
After growing impatient waiting for the shipment status update to read "Delivered", we headed down to the shop. Fortunately, the tires had made it a few minutes before we had arrived, and I immediately went to work. We also bought some tubes since we were fresh out, and headed towards Denver.
We stopped before we left "the Springs" at a Great Harvest to get some food. We tried some delicious free bread samples, and got to talking to the owner as he noticed our bikes out front. They ended up AGAIN, giving us some free food, along with packing our sandwiches extra big for the trip into Denver. Thanks guys.
Denver was under 70 miles to the center and we head planned on taking the light rail earlier than that to get to downtown, so it would not be a long riding day. Shortly after I had gotten rolling on my nice new tire, the tire itself actually popped out of the rim a bit. It did not pop the tube, however I would have to deflate the tube completely and use the hand pump to pump the tire back up, which cannot provide nearly as much pressure as a larger foot pump.
After fixing the tire, we approached the first interstate that we planned on riding. Some of the interstates in Colorado are actually ridable, as opposed to most states where riders are strictly prohibited from riding on them.
Climbing for much of the way out of Denver, we were able to tell a decent difference in the thinness of the air. Each breath was becoming less and less efficient. We peaked out somewhere in the mid 7000 feet above sea level. It was a bit scary as we plan on ascending another 5,000 feet when we head into the Rockies.
After a while of riding, we stopped in a city called Castle Rock. I figured I would call Lauren, the couchsurfer we would be staying with, to let her know our approximate arrival time. Lauren had left two numbers in the email she sent me. First I tried the cell phone. There was some fairly hardcore hip hop playing as a ring-back tone (what you hear on the calling end instead of the traditional ring) and the voicemail said to leave a message for Justin. I figured it probably wasn't her, but left a message in case that was the cell she was using. You never know. The next number I tried was a big brother big sister number and they said no Lauren worked there. Huh. What was going on? Two wrong numbers, had I been scammed on couchsurfing?
We kept faith, and headed for downtown Denver. After about 5 miles, we were pulled over (for the second time of the trip) on I-25. Many resources I had read, and the bike map we were using given to us by the state of Colorado, showed the areas of I-25 that were legal to ride, but the local officer insisted that riding on any interstate in Colorado was against the law. The officer called in one of his younger, lower ranking partners to help us out with a safe route to the light rail transportation to downtown, which was only 4 miles ahead by way of the interstate.
We spent a long time chatting with them, and as we were waiting for the younger officer's GPS to start working, the older officer went to check on a path for us with his car. The path would add about 10-15 miles to our trip. Not fun. While we awaited word from the older officer, the younger one, who was still with us said, paraphrasing a bit "Now I didn't tell you this, but if I were you guys I would wait till the cops cleared out (referring to himself) and jump back on the interstate, (which was plenty safe enough as it had immense shoulders and was the suggested path by the biking maps) head up one more exit to Castle Pines Parkway", which was a scenic route that would get us to the light rail with minimal added distance. As the older officer radioed in, suggesting the path that he had just driven, the younger officer said, "Now I'm telling you to go back east. You guys can do what you want". Appreciating his understanding, we made a break for the interstate as soon as we lost sight of his car. We pedaled as quickly as we could as we didn't want to see the older officer since we meant no disrespect as he was trying to help us out, but we also didn't want to add an unnecessary hour to our ride after we had already lost so much time stopped on the highway.
Checking the map afterwards, it was a much better path than what the senior officer had suggested, but still added some time, distance, and challenge to the trip as we rolled through some hilly developments. When we arrived at the light rail hub, we got some tickets and were relieved to see other bikers getting on and off the train. The ride was quick and painless into downtown, much less crowded than we had both thought.
Once there, we quickly made it to the 16th street mall. It is the the cool downtown section of Denver blocked off from traffic, and has free shuttles running up and down it. We had to walk our bikes. It is a cool spot.
We still were without a place to stay for the evening, so we began trying to figure out where we would stay, before we got any food. When speaking to information, they had suggested a hostel down the road a few blocks. We were a bit uneasy about sharing the room with others, since we had a lot of stuff on us, but headed there to check it out.
I asked to check my email before we signed in, which seemed to be a big production. Eventually, they let me use an old computer they had there to do it. I left a message with Lauren on couchsurfing to call me immediately, as that was my only way to contact here, still harboring hope that she existed. After some pretty inhospitable service, we decided against the hostel right before we were about to check in as we were getting a bad vibe from the workers.
Leaving there, we were running out of options. Paul called a few motels, but even on a Thursday, they were mostly over $100. We had also considered biking over to the address Lauren had left us, but it was already dark, and we weren't sure if it was even real… we didn't know what to think.
Giving her a little more time to respond, we headed back to 16th for a bit to get some food and hopefully jump online to find some cheaper motel options. We stopped at Jamba Juice, and each got massively filling smoothies.
Paul received a call from some family friends from back home who would actually be flying into Denver the next morning, and we were willing to take us to a timeshare they had in the Vail area for a few days to relax. We were in need of a break as we hadn't rested a full day since Oklahoma City, and Vail was close to Breckenridge, a few areas we wanted to see (namely because Aspen scenes in Dumb and Dumber were really shot in Breckenridge). Although we were badly in need of a rest day, after a lot of deliberating, we decided against it, and continued on our path towards Boulder.
I was able to find some cheaper motels a bit outside of the downtown area online, so we headed towards them. Unable to match the prices I had seen online, we shopped around a bit once we arrived at the first motel, as there were 4 others within a 2 block radius. We eventually settled on the cheapest available, and finally unloaded our stuff in the room.
We were definitely a bit frustrated and disappointed as things hadn't turned out smoothly in terms of lodging lately, but we were still of course in high spirits. The following day we had plans to go the country's biggest waterpark, "Water World"! We were excited about that, as it was supposed to be a beautiful day (go figure), but at the same time we felt like we were short changing Denver, a seemingly great place, as we intended on continuing on to Boulder the following night since weekend lodging in Denver would be way out of our price range.
Rolling with the punches, we would do what we had done all trip, and take it a day at a time. Who knows maybe Lauren existed and would call; maybe other couchsurfers would contact me. Either way we were going to an awesome water park, and we were excited.
Life was good.