Day 49: July 21: Delta to Paonia

I left the RV park hoping that today would be better than yesterday. After going by the hardware store and the auto parts store, I had the bike back together with a new steering linkage. Actually, this one is better than the last one, which was worn out.

I took route 92 out of Delta, having an easy ride over slightly rolling hills along the Gunnison River with mesas on both sides. Ahead of me were the West Elk mountains, including several peaks of over 10000 feet. I rode past lots of agricultural land; all of it irrigated by water taken from the North Fork of the Gunnison River. The road lost its shoulders after about 7 miles, but most of the traffic was patient. I did have a few people beep their horns at me.

At Hotchkiss, I turned off the highway onto a back road that went to Paonia. This had some more hills than the prior part of the route. Just before Paonia, I slid out my front wheel and went over. This was my first accident. Luckily, I was wearing gloves and socks with my sandals (one of my socks got torn by the front sprocket).

I watched the sky darken as I approached Paonia. I didn't see any campgrounds marked on my map for another 16 miles, so I had to get creative about camping if I didn't want to get rained out. I stopped by the town offices to ask if camping was allowed in the town park (it wasn't). So I stopped by the Whole Foods Market, hoping to meet some more relaxed people who would let me camp in their yard.

I struck up a conversation with Michael and Lea, who have just moved back to Paonia. They invited me to stay at their place, a few miles out of town. They even offered me a shower and the opportunity to stay in their tipi. Michael told me of a bicycle trip he had made from New Jersey to Colorado years ago.

Sure enough, it started to rain as we were talking. I went out to my bike to start the ride to their house in the rain when Michael came out and said that Cindy, who works in the store, had offered me a place to pitch my tent. She said that she would have offered me a spot in their house, but they were already hosting a family with four kids.

I rode the few blocks to her house, and found a nicely fixed up green bus as well as a tipi and a house. I met Robert, who lives with Cindy, and we had a talk about mushrooms (apparently the mushroom season is just beginning here!). He said that he was getting into the Kabbalah and was taking reishi extract (from a Chinese bracket fungus) to prevent sickness as well as to extend his life.

After chatting with him and pitching my tent, I rode back in the light rain to a restaurant a few blocks away, where I had a good seafood enchilada meal.

Back at the house, I met Scotty, who's living in a bus, staying with Robert and Cindy for a while. I also met two women and their kids, who refer to themselves as a "tribal group". Scotty pulled out a guitar and I got a chance to play guitar and harmonica for a while (though we weren't too good at remembering songs to do).