On the Road: Lure of McClure
July 22, 2005
I tried to go as fast as I could up Highway 133 to the top of McClure Pass, but something kept slowing me down.The idea was to get up early, throw the bike on the car, drive down to Carbondale and ride from Sopris Park to the top of the 8,755-foot pass. Then head back, get an oil change, pick up some food, shower and head into work.It started out pretty good, waking up around 7 a.m., heading out the door by 7:30, and getting to Carbondale a little after 8.The temperature was cool and so was the view of that downvalley monarch Mount Sopris. The early morning road was wide open and fast.Then several miles up Highway 133, there was a glimpse of midnight black that could only mean new asphalt. The road was going to be smooth and easy.But the blacktop actually was too new and hadn’t yet been compacted or something. I hit it expecting to feel like a skate on ice. Instead, the bike reacted like it was rolling across a field of chewed gum. Sticky, but not that big a deal – it was only in a few places.The road hugs the wild Crystal River past Sopris and into the White River National Forest, and then climbs through the interesting-looking town of Redstone, which I plan on revisiting when I have more time.The way is nearly all uphill, though at a very low grade, until the part when 133 heads up McClure Pass in earnest. The steep part is only about three miles, but it seems brutal after more than 20 miles of mellowness. Again it felt like slogging through brand-new asphalt. Sadly, I wasn’t.The way back down, as it always is, is a blur. Until the Crystal gets the better of your curiosity. It happened to me below Redstone on the section of river paddlers call Meatgrinder. I had heard it roaring on the way up and had seen the massive, jagged boulders littering the area. But I couldn’t see the water from that side of the road.On the way back, it just had to be checked out. And it didn’t disappoint – one of the most beautiful rapids I’ve seen in a long time.What a ride. I’m going to have to do it again soon when I don’t have to work and get an oil change (which I never got anyway) and can mosey along to check out everything along the way.