West of the summit, Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

Fifteen miles from the destination of my 585-mile solo bike trip from Salt Lake City, the rear derailleur cable snapped. Seconds after I diagnosed the problem but before I could take out my spare cable, a car pulled over. “Need help?” It was after 7 p.m., the skies were gray, and my host, Laurie Duncan, would be wondering. And so a young couple headed for Boulder delivered me to Laurie’s doorstep.

It was an apt end to an arduous Fourth of July in the saddle. I began at Lake Granby, on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, and climbed from 8,300 to 12,183 feet in the first 34 miles. Just short of the summit on Trail Ridge Road, I stopped for lunch, famished, at the Alpine Visitor Center. As I sat down with a pile of food, a hale storm struck. By the time I finished my lunch, the sun had returned. The week passed like that: gracious assistance from strangers and gods.

Trail Ridge summit, 12,183 feet

For seven days I rode my trusty Cannondale hybrid up and down the mountains of the Wasatch, Uintas and Rockies; crossed the Continental Dividethree times; coursed through countless river valleys – among them the Green, White, Yampa and Colorado; and passed open ranges, irrigated farms, small towns, oil fields, and vast empty stretches of the American West. I followed my itinerary with few deviations based on locals redirecting me. Cool mountain mornings gave way to bright summer afternoons and on two days pelting rains. Every minute of it was a joy and a wonder: joy in the trek, and wonder in the landscape.

The pics: Salt Lake > Boulder

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