Both literally and figuratively this is a high moment in our trip. At an elevation of 9,300ft this will be our highest and likely coldest night yet (winds are gusting over 30 as I write this). As well the mood is jubilant having conquered every mountain to our west and only downhills to the east ( for now).
The morning started a little slow as it was hard to leave amenities such as beds and expresso makers behind. Yet once we hit the road we pushed a little harder then usual sensing the elusive town of Pueblo to finally be within our grasps. Pueblo represents a serious milestone for us as it is on the other side of the rocky mountains and we will enjoy a rest day with our friends Casey and Zach as well as my sister Alexa who has flown out here!
After cruising down a fast windy valley we found ourselves on a remote country road with a serious climb ahead of us through gorgeous ranch land. Halfway through the ascent I started pushing hard my rationalization being I might as well put my climbing muscles to good use when I still need them!
Indications of some serious rain forced us to take shelter at a local bakery in Westcliff and devour all of their day old cinnamon buns and loafs of bread. The rain never came and when we left an hour later the sky was more ominous then pre break. Yet somehow we managed to dodge every storm in our final climb. I had the idea to sprint every steep section as any of them could have been our last. Four false summits later I was still (mostly) having fun. As we pedaled across the upper pastures our mood was exuberant feeling as though we were at the edge of the world and very content with how far we have come. This mood almost caused us to shoot down the 40 miles to Pueblo on the spot but then we figured we should enjoy the mountains for one last night! -Lucas

The day started off a little slow. It was an easy up hill, climbing only about 500 feet over 30 miles. Lucas and I were both so anxious to get to Monarch Pass, however, that it went by really slow. Once we got to the foot of the climb we stopped for a quick lunch, then we started the climb. It was only about 10 miles of climbing that rose 3,500 feet to an 11,300 foot pass. And we were lucky enough to have a stiff tail wind the whole way. It's amazing how the wind can make or break your day, and in this case a push up our highest climb of the trip was really appreciated. It went by way quicker than we both imagined. I think we had built it up to this huge climax of our trip and in reality it wasn't even the most climbing we have done, although it was at the greatest altitude. It may also have been the tail wind, but either way we made it to the top in little over two hours. We took a gondola ride to one peak on the side of the pass and the view was pretty incredible. Afterwards, we flew down the back side of the mountain and ended up in Salida, CO. We had heard, about a week back, from a few passing cyclists, that there was a guy here that offered up his vacation house to passing cyclists, so we contacted him and he set us up with his nephew who showed us the house. It's pretty epic. Great view of the mountains, hot showers, laundry, and a local beer on tap, right in the house. Not such a bad reward for a solid day of climbing! - Joe
I guess it shouldn't be much of a surprise that today and tomorrow revolve around climbing as we began the morning at 5,800 ft and will be at 11,300 ft tomorrow afternoon. Sadly that isn't one gradual climb I am describing but rather there are lots of ups and downs. The initial climb was in my opinion harder then necessary due to a headwind. As well our first destination of Cimmaron was not nearly as charming as the the mental picture we had created. It was a town of 4 people and it might better be described as downright desolate. If the reader is starting to fear for our day do not despair, the headwind disappeared on the next harder climb and an animated conversation carried us to the summit. The third climb was on a road the could only be described as harry as it lacked a guard rail, shoulder and was one hairpin turn after the next. This summit gave us the gift of a gorgeous lake as well as a ripping tailwind. The remainder of the 70 miles to Gunnison flew by allowing us time to stop at a river and for Joe to try white water kayaking. His first attempt was more akin to sticking your head in a washing machine more then anything else but apparently it was just the rush he needed and he was hooked (at least for the moment). We are carb loading at 8,000 ft in preparation for Monarch Pass. - Lucas

It's amazing how routine this all has become. What's nice is that we have gotten really good at making the milage each day. Some are a bit harder than others and some are really easy, but I just know I'm gonna be on my bike all day, and it's gotten really enjoyable to just ride, once you get past that. Today was one of the easy days. Got up in Telluride and took our time. I was hesitant to leave such a cool place with a free gondola to what could have been some awesome down-hilling mountain biking (at least I imagine). We also put some new grips on our bikes since the old ones were starting to wear. Once we got going we had a long down hill that led to a 1500 ft climb. Not so bad. And then it was steep down hill from there. I looked down and was surprised I was going 52.2 mph. Little fast. We stopped for a leisurely lunch at the bottom of the steep incline and then realized a stiff head wind just built up. So instead of killing ourselves again working against the wind we checked out a local train museum. Once the wind subsided we got going again, now with what must have been light tail winds and a slight downhill because we flew to the next town. We decided to stay the night a bit short of our planned destination to make it sort of an easy day in anticipation of the climbs ahead. Got a deal on a cabin too at the local KOA, as cheap as a tent site! 73 miles down. Seems like just the other day that 73 miles, even downhill, would have been a long day. Up hill all day tomorrow. - Joe.
What a difference two days can make, Colorado is absolutely beautiful. Don't get me wrong Utah was amazing in it's own right, but there is something charming about a climate that is actually hospitable.
We started the day a little late as our hosts last night were less then concerned about the sleeping schedules of cross country cyclists and kept us up a little late with their raucous. Luckily they made up for this by pointing us in the direction of an amazing breakfast spot where for $4.95 we ate an immense dish known as the hill, fitting as we soon planned on climbing a hill. We snaked up through evergreen valleys making steady progress for 40 miles until we arrived in lovely Rico, one of the coolest towns we have yet seen.
We lunched with professional skier Felix Snow and when he heard we intended to stay in Placerville he exclaimed "to hell with that, to hell you ride (Telluride)". He felt it was just plain foolish to cycle within 4 miles of the best place on earth without paying a visit, we appeased him and promised we would spend the night.
After leaving town we decided that life is pretty good when you can cycle to nine and a half thousand feet, stash your bikes in a bush and hop in a 102 degree F natural hot spring to loosen up your muscles. We particularly enjoyed walking the 20 steps to the snow melt runoff and thus alternating between hot and cold. We were pretty excited about the rest of the days ride as a seventh generation Rico citizen told us that every single day he is repeatedly blown away by his days commute along that path. He was right as it was the most stunning part of the trip yet. We soon found ourselves above tree line enjoying insane views of 14,000 ft sheers. We are now enjoying a free gondola ride above Telluride taking in the sunset, this may just be my favorite place yet. -Lucas

Welcome to Colorado! Fourth state of the trip! Colorado brought us a much better day then yesterday. We started the day quite late, getting on the road at 10 am. The route today was broken up by a small town every 20 or so miles, and we set out with the intention of taking it easy, one town at a time. After getting into Colorado we had rolling hills ahead of us, through farm lands and fields that extended right up to the mountains we could see off in the distance. The day was incredibly easy compared to yesterday, along with the scattered breaks, today brought our spirits up quite a bit. We got into Dolores at around 7, and got really lucky on a place to stay for the night. We happen to ask a girl at the gas station for directions to the local camping, and she offered to let us stay in her front yard. Great to meet some locals and have them show us around a bit. Tomorrow into the Rockys. Can't believe were here already. - Joe

I apologize but there is no way to skirt around the fact that today was bad. The temperature last night never dropped below 90 and a dust storm kicked up after dark. Joe and I hardly slept as we were soaked in sweat and covered in grim. In an effort to avoid the heat we woke at 3:45 and starting riding in the dark (not to worry, plenty of safety lights). Progress was slow as we had a 55 mile uphill with 20+ knot winds. Normally it would have just been a long 80 mile day but the heat (100+) took it to a different level. We were seriously struggling within the first 20 miles. No service for the entire distance meant I was carrying 12 liters of water and with ten miles to go we were struggling with thirst. I flagged down a car and thankfully they gave us some ice water. Even more amazingly they returned 20 minutes later with another 4 liters of water, apparently we must have looked pretty rough. The day had been so hard that this gesture very nearly brought tears to my eyes. Joe claims if he knew today was going to happen he would not have done the trip.
In the end we made it to town and as we sit here cooking dinner having rehydrated and showered our spirits are greatly improving. We may take it easier tomorrow morning and thankfully there are plenty of towns along the way (picture multiple coffee and pastry breaks). I also apologize for not highlighting the scenery, I imagine it was amazing unfortunately all I saw today was the road. -Lucas
The majority of today was a breeze. We woke up from our first nights rest in a real bed, and slowly enjoyed our free continental breakfast. The days ride started with slowly coasting down hills broken up by a few steeper descents, all the while surrounded by sheer rock walls on both sides. We followed the river that cut the canyon for about 30 miles, barley having to pedal and just trying to take in all of the massive scenery around us. After we got out of the canyon we stopped at a small bakery in the middle of nowhere and had fresh goat milk melon smoothies, made by the local farmer, and a few miles of flats later had lunch. Then we started on what we thought was our only major hill climb of the day. It was only about 600 feet of climbing over about 20 miles and we spent the time talking making the climb go by really quick. Then another slow decent, and again through some of the most massive sheer walls and canyons. This one lasted about 30 miles. Although the riding was easy we could feel the days heat beginning to set in. By the time we reached the end of the canyon we thought we were within a few miles of our destination (Lake Powell) and we were, but we had a few really steep, unexpected climbs ahead of us. By this time, all of our water was almost too hot to drink and didn't help the fact that we were both a bit dehydrated and over heating. We finally made it to the top, both thoroughly exhausted, and made it to the small shop at the campground 10 minutes before they closed, to get cold drinks. Longest day yet 100 miles! And almost 8 hours on the bike. Not so bad! Tomorrow is another long one and the temps aren't falling. - Joe
Today was very long, and that is meant as a mostly positive description. The morning seems so distant that it is hard to comprehend it as part of this day. It seems we almost had as much excitement as the east coast.
We enjoyed an amazing Utah sunrise as the backdrop for an early morning climb. We then descended into a massive network of canyons; the road was so steep and windy that an extra effort was needed to properly corner. We then briefly rode beside a river with red walls rising up all around us. Soon we unexpectedly ran into the steepest climbs of the trip yet (14% grade) as we clawed our way out of the canyon. This led into a road that followed a ridge line, meaning there was the road and then nothing at all to either side. Four false summits later we stumbled into the town of Boulder agreeing that we were utterly shot. This was bad news as we had yet to even begin the day's main climb.
We took an hour respite to mentally and physically regroup, facilitated by coffee, oatmeal, pancakes and homemade molasses oatmeal toast. It did the trick and we spent the next three hours pushing our rubbery legs up to 10,000 feet. From the summit we could just made out the spot from which we had begun the day. We had to take shelter at the top as a line of thunderstorms rapidly intensified. They passed but the ride down was wet and freezing cold. We dodged storms for the next twenty miles to town, at times buffeted by strong gusts.
The combination of the rain and an offer we couldn't refuse at the Days Inn has us now living in the lap of luxury (beds, hot tub, free breakfast!) In fact the receptionist was so nice and interested in our ride that she insisted on treating us to dinner as well. We could not be happier and our extremely grateful to her generosity. 68 miles and lots and lots of vertical sums up the day's ride. -Lucas

Man Utah is cool. Really glad we picked the long way. Today we saw some of the most epic landscape I think we have seen yet. It's hard to even choose the right pictures to put into this post. Everything about today was pretty awesome. Got up early had a nice leisurely down hill from our camp in the mountains. Then we rolled into Red Canyon and had a nice bike trail to follow through some amazing rock pillars and outcroppings. Around every corner we found ourselves stoping to take photos, to the point it was a bit annoying to stop, but too good to pass up the picture. We made it a pretty relaxing day, and stopped in every little town along the way for either coffee, lunch, or a snack, and even though we took our time we ended up making it a 90 mile day, our longest yet. We even kept a 12 mph average. Not so bad. The riding seemed pretty easy, we must be getting used to it. Everything seemed easy but our last climb. We climbed for about an hour and I was sure that it would be over around the next corner, but it wasn't. The last mile was our steepest climb yet. I contemplated walking the bike up, but managed to push through. Luc felt the need to pose (as seen below) when we reached the top. After the climb we had only 18 miles to go, with one catch there was a massive thunderstorm following us. We decided to make a run for it and all out sprinted the downhill to town. We just made it. As we walked inside it started to pour and the wind was gusting to about 35 knots. Tonight we are in Escalante, Utah, staying at a really cool outdoor outfitter with camping in the back. Another 10,000 ft peak to take on tomorrow. - Joe
Let me say it again, I love mountains. We rose before the sun and were out of town and winding through the first canyons within a mile. A cruel headwind choose to tease us for a bit but must have sensed our determination and wandered off before it became too bothersome. I asked a passing cyclist if he wanted to trade bikes, he laughed, said no and warned us that the lack of oxygen was going to be our worse enemy. I replied, "not to worry I've been breathing through a straw for the past week, enjoy your 17pound bike."
Before we knew it the canyon walls had closed in around us with sheer faces rising 400+ feet on either side. If I was the claustrophobic type I probably would have enjoyed the ride a lot less. As it was I soon found myself sprinting across stretches of pavement that were severely pitted from falling rocks. The next stage had us ascending through evergreen forests, it was at about this time that I had the epiphany that I love mountains. The smell of the air alone had me pushing harder to get higher. It was a relief to be making steady and tangible progress away from the heat of Nevada. All of a sudden we were climbing seriously steep switch backs and before we could really comprehend it we were being treated to unreal views. A mere 4 hours of climbing had gained us 5000+ feet and brought us to an elevation of 10,400. The meadows around the summit fell away to immense orange canyons, below that evergreen forests stretched back to the desert. The views made the morning unquestionably worth it, although I'm not sure whether Joe "sweet tooth" Ruscito enjoyed this or the free cake at the top more.
After lunching on peanut butter bananas we coasted down through the meadows passing a Native American camp. We discovered that they enjoy their summers at this higher elevation to escape the heat below. By 2:30pm we had arrived at Panguitch Lake and I made my best $2.27 purchase of the trip thus far, (large order of sweet potato fries and a large coffee). We have now set up our tents and I am overjoyed that we will be sleeping at a cozy 8,000 feet. -Lucas
Today we did everything we could to avoid getting on the bikes. Even hitchhiking into town just to avoid a few mile ride. I wasn't even that tired or sick of riding but we figured it was best to just take a full day totally away from riding. We spend the day hanging in a coffee shop reading, and I'm loving my new Kindle. I think it will be nice thing to have along on the trip even though it adds 9 ounces. We met a few more bikers today that pulled into our camp site. Both were riding Surlys and riding our same route backwards. Nice to see two guys like us finishing up. Over dinner we started to look at our route and I'm amazed at how far we've come, lots more to go though. As we get east the routing might get a bit more interesting because we will be making our own route as we head up to CT, we will see how it goes. Tomorrow back to the ride. About 57 miles a head of us, with just one 4.5 thousand foot climb. -Joe
Let me preface this entry by saying we expected today to be one of the easiest days yet, due to a low mileage (58 miles) and no serious climbs. Such was not the case, I now know why other cross country cyclists will stare you dead in the eyes and tell you not to give up when there are headwinds, demoralizing hardly describes the day we had. Small climbs were epic battles and downhill coasts turned into full exertion pace lines. The stiff breeze was always in your face and regardless of the pace you set it was never comfortable. I could go on in much more detail but it should suffice to say we suffered. At the end we stumbled into an outpost of town which happened to be an ice cream parlor and enjoyed large milkshakes. In the shop some children were staring at me, I assumed the cause was my outfit but upon looking in the mirror I realized my face was caked in dry salt.
We now find ourselves in lovely Cedar City for our first rest day (tomorrow), very exciting! Although I secretly fear we may not know what to do with ourselves as we have become so accustomed to this cycle. Also the mountains loom over the city, a constant reminder of what is ahead. -Lucas
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Joe and Lucas

Just want to start by saying that I'm laying in grassy field in Milford, Utah, after an 85 mile day, and I'm realizing how lucky I am to be on a trip like this. And thanks to everyone who contributed. If you haven't already made a donation get on Simply Smiles or CT Challenge and donate!
  So today was a great day. Like I said it was one of our longest and we had two 1500 ft hill climbs, but it wasn't a hard day at all, it all went by really quick it seemed. We started the morning by crossing into Utah and into Mountain time. The last few days we have begun to notice that we have traveled far enough east that the sun is  setting much earlier, crossing the time zone confirmed this. As the day went on, the land scape really began to change, the rock is getting redder and there are massive rock outcroppings around each corner. We also went through a pretty big thunderstorm. We were right on the edge but we waited it out on the side of the road. I think we made the right decision by choosing the long route, and a few people have told us how beautiful our next few hundred miles will be. Tonight we got into town and found this field where we can camp for free and we just had a swim and a shower at the pool across the street. Life isn't so bad! Tomorrow we head a bit south to Cedar City where we are going to take our first break day, before climbing the 10,000 ft peak out of town. And then we head east again to check out some of Utah's parks. - Joe
The day began with a case of "flat tire syndrome" on the first ascent. To elaborate this ailment affects you when you find yourself moving painfully slow, to the extent that you reason a flat has occurred or something is rubbing on your tire. In reality your legs are simply poisoned by lactic acid and are not behaving properly. Luckily we had something to distract us from this. Last night we had met a fellow cyclist (Chris) who explained a shortcut across Utah, we initially ignored the suggestion preferring to stick to our ACA maps. Yet I awoke to my body begging me to consider the 300 mile shortcut, at first Joe was resilient to the temptation but as the day wore on we switched stances with myself favoring the longer route and him the shorter. In the end we opted for the longer more scenic route as the scenery is supposed to be the best of the ride and the shortcut is a dull path that actually follows interstate 70 for a time and thus would be busier and more dangerous. In our minds and hearts we know we made the right choice but I now have to ignore my screaming legs. Since the moment of decision our position has been reaffirmed by people describing the wonders of the days ahead.
After this crux of a moment the day improved as we headed towards our second climb, I should point out that distance is no longer the favored barometer of progress but rather we judge the day based on climbs. We rested near the top and enjoyed an amazing lunch of peanut butter, Nutella, and banana sandwiches on whole wheat bread. After lunch we finished the climb and descended into town.
Feel free to call me spoiled but lately the repetitive nature of the Nevada landscape has become a little irksome, luckily this valley began to reveal some changes. The mountains have become far more abrupt and sheer, as well there is more contrast in the land with foreboding slabs of quartzite jutting through the limestone. This eye candy has improved our mood, also our early arrival in town (3pm) has allowed us some free time. We are now posted at a counter top overlooking the old pony express watching as a car passes through every half hour. Next up on the itinerary is joining Joe to imbibe on a Ruby Mountain Porter. Also the restaurant owner has promised us free camping with the purchase of a meal. In other news the 63 miles we covered today puts our total distance at 724 miles! -Lucas

Both Lucas and I were on our bikes for longer than we ever have been in one ride today. We were traveling for 9 hours and on the saddle for 8. It was a long day with 80 miles ahead of us we hoped for easy slopes and tail winds, however we got headwinds and four massive climbs. Finally though, the Nevada landscape has been giving way to small changes. The valleys are getting greener and the mountain passes not so simply up and down, the change in scenery makes the riding go by way faster. We met some cool people today too. One guy pulled over and asked us if we would go through his town in Utah (which we are) and gave us his card with the promise of taking us out when we got there. We told him we would see him in a few days. We also met a biker from New Jersey where were staying tonight. He gave us some useful tips on places to stay in the up coming days and for later on in our trip.

We started the day early (awake at 5 and on the road before 7) in the hope that we would get the tough climbs over with before the heat set in. The plan worked well enough with the first 1,600 feet of vertical being as enjoyable as could be expected. Unfortunately at the summit we somehow managed to get a total of 3 flats in a span of minutes between the two of us. At this point a sense of paranoia set in, subsequently I spent the next hour examining my tires with a pair of tweezers removing shards of metal and thorns when necessary. We had lost our early start but did enjoy a gorgeous descent into a seemingly endless plain; the view to our left disappeared into a misty haze undoubtedly over 80 miles away. We were also treated to a view of a few snow patches that somehow managed to cling to the uppermost peaks.
The plain proved to be an all day affair with the mountains that held our destination of Eureka an elusive target. Midday did find us at the only rest stop we have thus far come across on highway 50. We were thrilled as this was not your typical rest stop, as it did not have the common rest stop theme of bathrooms, but instead a ten by ten awning offering shade!
After covering the 73 miles we enjoyed coffee and pastries at a Cafe and were then instructed to shower at the local pool and to camp in the town park at no expense, what a lovely town! I just realized that we have not been keeping the reader updated with our total distance, which at this point is 576 miles! -Lucas

Another day in Nevaaaada, and man the scenery is cool. We come across so many things that we want to take pictures of but the landscape is just to large to portray in a picture. We started off a bit slow leaving the biker bar and saying goodbye to all our new friends from the night before. Some really interesting and nice people. Then we set out over a few peaks which all led to huge plains, all with route 50 headed straight out in front of us, showing right where our next 10 miles would lead. The road here is so straight and the scenery almost repeats it self over every hill which at times makes the miles go by a bit slow. A few times we had a decent tail wind which helps, and at others a light head wind is quite discouraging. It's amazing we have been on the road for just over a week now and we have already stayed at so many places it's hard sometimes to keep the days, and where we stayed, in order. Tonight we got into Austin just before a thunderstorm rolled through, but after the rain, found a few other bikes headed west and we will camp with them tonight. 68 miles today. A few more climbs tomorrow. - Joe
I spell it as such due to the fact that if Joe mispronounces it again the bartender claims he will kick us out. I guess I now need to explain that this bar is the only roof within fifty miles so the consequences of that would be dire. Even as I write this at 7:30 pm it is unbearable to be outside standing still. Thankfully we are enjoying an all you can eat dinner and endless amounts of cold water. We have also found ourselves in the middle of a biker festival and the people here could not be nicer.
Today is our seventh day on the road and we are starting to fall into a routine of rising and setting with the sun. Although the full moon has made it eerily bright even at night, to the point that no stars are visible. It is hard to describe the sensation of such gradual travel. You observe everything as it passes and then all of a sudden you are uncomprehendingly far from where you started. Nevada is even more bizarre in terms of time and distance as it is hard to discern whether you are looking five miles out or fifty. I will also find myself struggling on a downhill at 12 mph only to look back a half hour later to discover that I have actually climbed 400 feet. Other then that we have been enjoying the so called loneliest road in the country, the hardest part is getting accustomed to drinking hot water by the end of the day. -Lucas

I doubt a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale has ever tasted better, after spending two days climbing 10,000+ ft in it's namesake mountain range it does the trick. The views in Carson pass at 8,571 feet were surreal, imagine dark blue lakes surrounded by horse pastures framed in by snow fields. The rangers told us that the pass received 874 inches of snow this year and that it was still waist deep on the fourth of July. While resting at the peak some hikers who overheard what we had just accomplished overwhelmed us with cookies, bananas and walnut bread. In preparation for the descent we donned windbreakers to slow us down. Even so it was a struggle to stay around 35mph without overheating the breaks. After 40 minutes of this I had trouble comprehending the fact that we had just climbed this height, and even more shockingly at a current elevation of 5,400 feet we are still higher then we were last night.
> Long day. Up at 5:30, off the road at 7pm. First day really climbing the Sierras, and man was it a climb. We ended up at 5000 feet and it felt like we climbed that twice. We kept a consistent slow pace today and took plenty of rests to get out of the heat (95+), including a stop at a river where some locals were swimming and it was too nice to pass up. Finally we are getting out of the cites and going through some very small but really cool towns. Stopped at one hardware store and talked to the owner for awhile and he let us fill up our water bladders (which add quite a bit of weight on the hill climbs). Two tire changes later, we finally made it to our camp at 7, which isn't much of a camp but the back of a gas station in the woods. Works for us, just hoping we don't have a run in with a bear tonight. More climbing tomorrow and then we should be over the mountains. - Joe