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Know where I went for breakfast this morning? Firebrand, baby! I saw Heidy from last night, the owner of Firebrand… and I totally carbed-up my bod with her delicious egg and bagel sandwich, along with fried potatoes (oh man, that was fab). Now, I was ready for the Mother of all Mothers, “Monarch Pass“, the 9-mile, continuously steep climb to the top of the Great Divide, beginning at an elevation of 7,000ft and killing my quads to the summit of 11,300ft. Thanks to Heidy, and her super positive, generous, fun vibes. She gave me a Firebrand sticker, and it is now on the left front fork of my bike, just where it should be!

I began my ride with a moderate pace, wanting to conserve energy for the Monarch Pass climb in about two hours. Most of the time, there was no shoulder along the road, so I continually peered into the rearview mirror affixed to my helmet. At one point when there was a climb up a smaller pass, my lane became two lanes going in the same direction. Two lanes… awesome!…now cars can pass me with plenty of room. There was even a stretch that also had a wide shoulder, so now it’s as if there are 3 lanes (bring it on baby!). But then I looked into my rear view mirror and saw this huge semi coming my way, and it’s swerving back and forth between the outside/right lane *and the freaking shoulder*. That’s right, the truck is on the freaking shoulder, going back and forth onto the lane. What’s wrong with just staying in the freaking lane — and you actually have *two* lanes to choose from, crackhead? But no, he continues to drive intermittently on the shoulder, getting closer to me. Since I like to live, I turn my head and look straight at him as he’s approaching….I even turn my bike off the shoulder and into the lane, just to make sure Jerky sees me and he wakes up from his catnap. Jerky sees me, I see him seeing me, he sees me seeing him seeing me, and then he blows his horn since I deviated off the shoulder to get his attention. So now I’m the Jerky… because I have this bizarre desire to keep breathing.

So I continue to keep a moderate pace and in about two hours, bam! I see Monarch Pass approaching, and already I begin muttering curse words at it, as if I got some inside information earlier in the day about some punk who is going to try to steal my car. Yes, I see you freaking Monarch Pass… I’m ready for you. Let’s go, biatch. Just to psyche myself up even further, I find a remote/beat-up gas station and throw down some more carbs and re-fill my water bottles. I’m taking you down, Monarch Pass! While I’m sitting outside the station, psyching myself up, I notice a woman on her bike all geared up for a ride. “Going up Monarch Pass too?”, I ask. She answered affirmatively, that she was in training for a race later in the summer. “Hey, wanna go up together? It would be safer partnering up, and provide some moral support as well.” She was up for that. Just then, her husband and two young daughters arrive in a truck and ask the woman if she’s all set. She says yes, and we all introduce ourselves. So it was Angie (the cool biker), her husband Cory, and their two young daughters, Katie (I believe) and Zoey.

Angie and I began the climb and took turns taking the lead, to balance out having to deal with the wind, and getting in some decent drafting. We also began talking about ourselves, and I shared how I had just been released from prison and that biking across the U.S. was the ultimate feeling of being free again. Funny how that somehow became a conversation-stopper (I don’t get it!). Then I told her the truth….no my friend, no jail time, I just decided to leave the Corporate world—and that biking across the U.S. was the ultimate feeling of being free again! 🙂 Having another solid bicyclist with me while going up Monarch was such a great boost…nice not to be alone while ascending up to a serious elevation, and no freaking shoulders on the road. The cars (except just a few) gave plenty of room, and because Angie and I had a similar pace, we were pretty much together the entire climb. When we summited the top, we felt elated and well… bad-ass at the same time. We were atop the Great Divide. Cory took some pictures of our feat, and I shared a Core Power with Angie. She loved it (well, of course!! :).

Angie and I said our goodbyes, and then—what do you know?! I bumped into MIT again! Claire and Titienne were hanging out together at a tourist shop, typing at their computers. When they asked me where I was going next, I said Salida (about 20 more miles) where we were going to check out Moonlight Pizza and Brew pub. I also shared that this was the last stop for Matt and I, as he decided to quit mid-project. I’d be going up to Denver to stay with my nephew Josh, while I searched for a new videographer. We chatted for a few more minutes, then I eagerly got on my bike for the huge descent down the backside of Monarch Pass, to Salida. So I was going so freaking fast that I broke my own speed record on this trip. I hit 49mph (man! so damn close to 50mph!) and since the speed limit was 50mph, I decided, “Screw the shoulder, I’m getting on the road!” Yeah, it was great, until it began to rain… but you know, I just didn’t feel like wussing out, and hey the panniers are waterproof anyway. So I arrived into Salida…at Moonlight Pizza and Brewpub at 3pm.

Matt and I met up with Brian, one of the two Brewmasters at Moonlight. Brian was very accommodating, as he was actually at home when we arrived. However after one of the staff gave him a call, he arrived and gave Matt and I a tour of the brewery. Brian also shared his flagship brews, assembled on a sample platter. MoonLite Cream Ale was quite tasty, as well as the IPA, Stout, Old Ale, Amber, and Indian Brown Ale. Tough call, but my favorite was the Amber, a nice balance between light and dark. Then Brian asked us if we’d like a pizza, so I had the Full Moon…basically it has everything, with lots o’ meat. After Monarch Pass, I decided to order the Large…I devoured it in 15 minutes.

Afterwards, Matt and I drove to Denver — where I met up with Josh at his place in the downtown area. It was over for Matt and I. He downloaded a few more pieces of raw footage on my external hard drive, and then took off to Indianapolis.

Shower, a beer, a little socializing with Josh’s friends, then bed…ah, a nice couch on which to sleep. In the next few days, I need to find a videographer!