Colorado Tour Day 4: Paonia & Crested Butte

Two days later in our Colorado tandem tour, MG and I are seeing two different types of summer experiences in this unique state.

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Yesterday our 75-mile route had the high point right in the middle: McClure Pass, between Glenwood Springs and Paonia. It was a gentle uphill grade until a not-too-steep three-mile switchback climb to 8,762 feet, then downhill to Paonia for 35 miles.

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The downhill was fast at first but became less easy with some rises and a hot headwind. That’s normal on Colorado afternoons, when warm valley air rushes up the mountains.

We heard that Paonia has become something of a destination for the organic food movement in addition to it’s roots in ranching and coal mining.
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This made for an eclectic mix of new and traditional. We rode past the big coal operation north of town, then entered past orchards to a main street featuring organic stores and restaurants.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Living Farm cafe after walking in from the Fresh & Wyld organic farm on the edge of town.

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This morning we started the day too early for breakfast at the b&b so we ate at the local diner on Main Street followed by lovely espresso at Backcountry Coffee & Espresso.

The owner had only been in town two years. She told us people were moving to Paonia to get away from the city; but also that it wasn’t a way to get rich either.

Today we rode 52 miles to the tony ski and mountain bike mecca of Crested Butte, over the mostly-dirt Kebler Pass at 9,990 feet. A short day, but with 41 miles of ascent, no cakewalk.

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Kebler is just stunning with magnificent peaks, soaring aspen and flowering meadows. Cool clean air pushed us from behind. Never was extended climbing so enjoyable.

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CB was alive with tourists and locals when we arrived at 2 p.m. We had pizza and then hung out at the bike shop where the owner and staff gave us excellent info about our route to Leadville tomorrow.
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Tomorrow we will have espresso at one cool artsy coffee shop and breakfast at another neat joint. Crested Butte is funky and sports oriented, which is cool, but I think Paonia is the place worth watching.

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