Adventures on bikes tend to lead to conversation about other adventures on bikes. So it was on a mountain biking hut trip, while I was pedaling along the dusty Forest Service roads of the Uncompaghre Plateau in southwestern Colorado, when I first learned of the “credit card tour.”
As we rolled along, shoulders sore and sweaty from fully-loaded hydration packs and bikes sluggish with the weight of frame bags, my friend described a multi-day bike trip where you tote nothing but a change of clothes in a tiny backpack and spend the night in hostels or motels you find along the way. This, I thought–while still fully enjoying the more masochistic experience of the current trip–sounded like a very good idea. Without needing to know much more, I recruited an up-for-anything partner-in-crime, mapped out a route I’d always wanted to ride, and my first credit card tour was born. The formula is as follows:
First, you choose a route. In Colorado, we’ve got 26 “Scenic and Historic” byways, most of which include as much fascinating human history as they do jaw-dropping scenery. I chose the West Elk Loop for a few reasons: one, Mimi’s (partner-in-crime) friend was rehabbing a place in Crested Butte and said we could sleep there the night before the ride if we didn’t mind camping in a minefield of nails, screws, and off-cuts under a glimmering sky of asbestos (we didn’t). Two, the route was a loop–which is always awesome–and the distance was just right for two big days of riding (around 100 miles one day and 80 the next). Finally, there was a place to stay roughly in the middle of the route, and we’d be passing through two quaint Colorado towns, Gunnison and Paonia, were we to need any “supplies” (ie. fun socks, espresso, jewelry, booze, pastries, etc.) along the way.