Ride the Rockies 2010 – Day 7

Alamosa to Villa Grove via CO 17, over (the last!) Poncha Pass and into Salida – 84 miles

Camp start moving well before dawn

Ahhhh.  The last day of Ride the Rockies.

As usual, we are up before dawn.  I’m moving more slowly than the first day, yet I along with the other wind and pain hardened riders seem to exude a sense of jubilation with the knowledge that we are nearing the end of the longest, hardest-ever, 25th anniversary Ride the Rockies.

Typical breakfast food line

Our morning routines are becoming patterned like a worn out work glove .  I remember before the Ride when my parents said that would typically wake up at 4:30am, at that time it didn’t make any sense.  After participating in one, it all now makes sense.  Typically in the morning after identifying where the food sources are, one goes over and waits in line.  After eating, then one waits in line for the porta-potties.  If I had some sort of system of eating at the tent, for example, if I ate dry oats for breakfast, I would be able to sleep in until 5am…

My Barracuda mountain bike

Riding a mountain bike is a good source of conversation, although people are somewhat surprised at my mode of transportation.  (Most people, probably around 97% of riders are on racing or touring bicycles.)  At a stop light, one guy said, “Wow.  You’re on a mountain bike.  That’s really bad ass.”  I could tell he was thinking, “What’s wrong with you?”  He then said, “Why are you on a mountain bike?”

A solar farm in the San Luis Valley

I was tired of explaining the previous bicycle mechanical, that the shifters didn’t work, that it was too small… so I switched to, “Yeah, I’m doing penitence.”

At another stop, a different person asked how much single track I had been riding.  That comment, I didn’t care for that much.  But at that point, it didn’t really bother me.  I was glad it was the last day.

This cyclist seemed to really be enjoying the swings

On this ride, I noticed that there were a few people in alien masks standing by the side of the road.  I think we passed some sort of alien roadside attraction.

We also passed a solar energy farm.  By then I could take pictures while riding.

There were also sights that gave me joy.  At one of the rest stops, one cyclist really seemed to be enjoying the swings.  (He was pumping his legs perfectly!) I’m pretty sure the doll on the ground belongs to the girl on the swing next to him.

We had a tailwind on this day as well!

We had a rest stop in Villa Grove and (small world) my Dad and I saw a friend that we hadn’t seen in years.

My Dad and I - Yes!

After going over the last pass, Poncha Pass, which was mercifully easy in comparison to previous passes, we descended into Salida and to this year’s finish.

Thanks to everyone for a great 25th Ride the Rockies!


06 2010

The Amazing People that Make Ride the Rockies Happen

A sag vehicle making sure that riders are okay

Ride the Rockies could not have occurred without the highly devoted, caring and efficient staff, most of whom are volunteers.  They worked incredibly hard, long hours to make Ride the Rockies happen safely and efficiently as possible.

It’s hard to imagine what would have happened if the volunteer staff did not carry out or do what many riders, myself included, often took for granted.

Yet every aid station was set up and taken down by volunteers.  The water and Gatorade in the dispensers were hauled there and continually filled so that 2,000 riders could stay hydrated.

Volunteers were continually busy keeping the juicy slices of oranges, bananas, and grapes stocked so that bicycle riders could grab nourishment and keep going.

The grapes that may have been dropped, along with the stems, were actually being picked up by someone long after the rider that dropped them had departed. (After all, if these are picked up, there’s less of a chance that a deer, raccoon, or some other animal will find the delicacy and stand in the road for a vehicle to hit.) All these things were then hauled to another destination.

Volunteers put up, then cleaned out all the recyclables in the little brown tents.  Volunteers cleaned up each evening’s camp after the riders left.  I had a mechanical mishap and drove back over part of the route (to pick up a functional bike, although it was my mountain bike) and was surprised to see that Fellin Park in Ouray was back to a normal, clean park.  It was amazing.

Sag wagon picking up riders

The sag vehicles were staffed by dependable, competent drivers who picked up riders, put their bicycles on the roof, drove to the next aid station and took all the bicycles back down.  Then they drove back to pick up other riders.  This was done in an efficient, coordinated manner so that as riders progressed through the ride, the previous sections of the Ride were still being covered.  Communication between the watchful State Patrol and the sag vehicles was continuous.  Some of these volunteers are principals, distribution managers or from other professional segments of society.

Many of these volunteers use their vacation time to do a grueling week of volunteer work on Ride the Rockies.  It’s really incredible. Every volunteer worked incredibly hard and sacrificed for the riders.  I heard one volunteer directing traffic say that she would wait to eat a potato so that riders would be able to have them before her.  At some intersections, both officers and volunteers stopped traffic so that riders could continue on their way.  All these things were much appreciated.

Please keep the contributions of volunteers in mind when participating in Ride the Rockies.  Yes.  It was a long, hard ride.  But we all knew this before signing up for the lottery.  We knew that there weren’t any rest days and we knew that there were 4 long days that had about 90 miles in them.  I realize that pushing one’s body to one’s physical limits can also challenge a person’s emotional psychology, but that is something that every person needs to work on.  I witnessed behavior that made me embarrassed to be a rider in the form of rude comments to volunteers that were uncalled for and should not have been made.  Just something to keep in mind for future activities.

Come to think of it, volunteers likely put up the little signs for where riders were to camp indoors.  Then there were also the volunteers that worked with Ride the Rockies from the different communities. I’m sure that there are many other aspects of volunteerism that I’m missing, however, I am thankful for all the efforts that were put forth by the volunteers and staff.  Thank you.

A community volunteer in Pagosa

I’m also thankful for the other people on the ride.  Not only the medics within the riders, but also the everyday, normal, courteous, fun-loving, nice, cool people that were riding.

I think we all do these activities for the joy and challenge within a tough ride.  I enjoyed talking with people at different rest stops.  A certain camaraderie develops as one sees the same people day after day.  I like that people look out for one another.   Thank you for the experience.


06 2010

Ride the Rockies 2010 – Day 6

Pagosa Springs, over Wolf Creek Pass, through South Fork, Monte Vista (with the most delicious potato I’ve ever eaten!) to Alamosa – 91.5 miles

Riding past fields of sunflowers

At this point, riding over mountain passes is starting to take its toll.  I realize that it is called Ride the Rockies, and we have definitely ridden over many roads in the Rocky Mountains. I’m fairly exhausted. My butt hurts. I forgot to put on sunblock one morning (it was dark outside when we started) and now have intense sun burn lines on some parts of my limbs which makes for strange blotchy cycling tan lines. Everyone that knows I’m riding a mountain bike has asked if I have slicks on it. I don’t, but figure that it’s only a few days left of riding, so it’s not a problem, but it kind of does make the Ride a much longer, tougher riding experience. My Dad lent me a backpack, which I’ve been wearing as I ride, and now both my hands are numb.

Yet amazingly, I and a couple thousand other people, that also likely have their own aches and pains, push onward. We are riding through really beautiful country.

Switchbacks up Wolf Creek Pass

After a rolling start of about 16 miles, we soon hit Wolf Creek Pass.  The Pass was brutally switch-backed and continuous for about 10 miles. As I climbed, I appreciated the extra granny gears that are on the mountain bike. (Actually, I shouldn’t call them that, because I do recall being passed by many strong, older women in the flats after descending down Wolf Creek Pass.)

The orange spray paint - "What were you thinking?"

All along the route, somebody has sprayed painted messages that have been a source of great amusement for me. One that I found particularly amusing was the one that said “Indian Jones does not carry a purse, he carries a satchel.” Probably not that funny now, but at the time, I thought it was really funny. On the climb up Wolf Creek Pass was the message, “What were you thinking?”

Well, when Dad first asked if I wanted to Ride the Rockies, I thought “Sure, we can try the lottery. We likely will not get in.” But we did get in. Then I thought, “Well, it will be a good, cleansing, borderline – religious experience. I’ll have good deep thoughts and can work out certain design principles.” But no, I don’t seem to be capable of complex thought processes during this week. Instead, when I ride, I think about how close or far I am from an aid station, I think about how much time it might take to get there, I look around at rocks, plants and other riders, and think about how long it has been since I last drank from the water bottle. I think about pulling up on my pedals as I ride, and I wonder if I’m doing permanent damage to my body by riding so much at once without properly training. (I did ride at least 100 miles before Ride the Rockies as friends warned me about how much I would hurt if I did not at least try to train. Duly noted.)

Back to the climb up Wolf Creek Pass.  There was a semi that had overturned on the first switchback on the climb. Amazingly, we had a tail wind up most of Wolf Creek Pass!

At the top of Wolf Creek Pass

Ride the Rockies is a tough, extreme thing to do. A person rides up passes where snow has not yet melted and it’s quite cold, then after descending down a pass, is back in temperatures around 90 degrees. I highly recommend it as a challenging and humbling exercise in humility.

The descent coming off of Wolf Creek Pass was a lot of fun.  My old Barracuda mountain bike is actually more stable than my Mom’s bike (that’s too small for me).  Then we hit the flats and luckily, for yet another day, we had a tailwind.    Yet for all its great stability, for about a 25 mile section, everyone – everyone passed me as I toiled away on the knobby tires.  I passed no one.  It was quite humbling.  I was really, really tired of hearing, “On your left.”

Everyone passed me. So I thought I would at least rest and take a picture.


“Coming on your left.”

“Hello.  On your left.”

“Do you realize you’re on a mountain bike?”

“Passing on your left.”

But then I started thinking about a Monte Vista potato!  The thought of a delicious steamy baked potato dominated my thoughts for miles.  The Colorado Potato Growers Association helped to sponsor an aid station in Monte Vista.  I almost ran over to them, thanked them profusely and told them about how I had been thinking about it for the past 15 miles.  I even got a Colorado potato sticker.  There were topping choices of butter, sour cream, cheese and green chile.  I had cheese and green chile on top of my potato, and instantly devoured it.  It was delicious.  The potato itself had a buttery, creamy texture, and I didn’t even have butter on mine.  (Sorry, no picture. It totally slipped my mind as my concentration was focused on eating a delectable potato.  Since getting home I went to the grocery store and purchased a sack of Monte Vista, Colorado, organic potatoes.)

Alamosa's evening entertainment

I somehow made it to Alamosa.  Gene, a guy from Salida helped to pull me in part of the way to Alamosa, but eventually dropped me.  Upon arrival, there was good music, as there almost always is music in the beer garden, but this evening’s music was particularly good.

Oh, it’s been so humbling, but I really have a deep appreciation for a majority of the people that have surrounded me, and for all of the staff and volunteers during Ride the Rockies.

One more day!  Alamosa to Salida!

Ride the Rockies 2010 – Day 5

Climb out of Durango to Bayfield via Vallecito Reservoir road, to Ignacio, Arboles and toward Junction 160 to Pagosa Springs – 87 miles

Feature Below: The Mobile Showers

There were beautiful sites like old barns along the route

After yesterday’s mechanical, today I’ve switched over to ride my mountain bike. The day started with about 14 miles of climbing out of Durango. During that climb, my knees felt like the knee caps were being pushed over and out of my leg. Besides my physical pain, the air smelled of clean pines, which soon gave way to the rolling countryside.

A super efficient pancake making system

All along the tour I had heard about the pancakes that were at Aid Station #1.

Getting tired of eating the standard breakfast burrito, I thought I’d try some flapjacks.

What an amazing system! This guy had created an efficient pancake griddle, such that, the pancake batter dispenser was on a rolling system that seemed to dispense batter with the flick of a wrist. Thus, about 30 to 50 or so – pancakes could be made at once.


They were absolutely deliciously divine. I sliced some banana pieces on top and proceeded to eat 7 pancakes. (It’s all you can eat.) There was a long day ahead after all.

After the climb a wonderful, pleasant, very welcome descent began, and continued for about 35 miles after.

Also at the aid stations, along with food, liquids and the porta-potties, is sometimes an announcer that plays music and gives away limited addition Ride the Rockies tee-shirts in various contests. At one such aid station, during one of the contests, if a state patrolman would get sprayed with water, all the patrolmen would win tee-shirts.

The highway patrolmen were all very cool, this one especially

One did it! All the state patrolmen were really good guys. They went back and forth, back and forth… making sure that everything was okay, as we cyclists slooowly made our way to the day’s destination. I’m curious as to how many miles they put on their motor bikes.

The old farm houses and ranches soon gave way to sagebrush hills around Chimney Rock. The joy of descent was followed by rolling hills and a punishing gradual climb. During the ride to Arboles to Pagosa, there were times when I felt like I was totally alone because I didn’t see anyone ahead of me or behind me.

Chimney Rock - And someone with a road bike getting a sag!

I wanted to take a picture of Chimney Rock, but not at a time when I had a lot of inertia, so I took this shot (not that good of one) near the crest of a hill and caught someone getting a personal sag!   We even had a tail wind during this day! I think the only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that last final push into Pagosa was a nice descent.

A welcome sign along RTR

This was one of my most favorite sites during the tour: Aid Station. The other was my sleeping bag.

A note: In my younger days, I was a bicycle racer. I like the shelter that can be awarded in a draft (behind another bicycle) but Ride the Rockies is first and foremost a bicycle tour. I think that most people have not ridden in pelotons and typically do not ride in that type of manner. Some riders ride a straighter line than others, but the common established courtesies of the peloton are different than on a tour. There definitely were operational pacelines in Ride the Rockies, but more typically, it is a tour, and I found myself and many others pushing forward alone. But that’s okay, because there were glorious showers at the day’s destination.

The Mobile Showers

After arriving in the evening’s camp, one needed to figure out where all the amenities were located.

The mobile showers above the tent village

The mobile showers in Pagosa Springs were located at the top of the hill in the two semis.

Unfortunately, yet another hill needed to be climbed in order to shower. On that particular day, I hoofed it up the hill and after getting to a shower stall, I realized that I had forgotten to bring a towel. This almost made me cry, but as I went through my clothes (cycling clothes were really stinky and were out of the question) I found an extra tee-shirt that could be used in the place of a towel.

I love these shower trucks

There are two sections of showers in each semi truck. Each section seemed to have about 8 shower stalls.

Notice the row of sinks off to the side

On the other side of the semis, are two doors with steps that lead to the shower stalls. A nice thing about being a woman is that there were rarely lines to take a shower as there are less females than males that participate in Ride the Rockies.

There are also 6 sinks, with hot and cold running water, located between the two shower doors.

Every shower that I took had hot running water! This was really fabulous, and it was a hard working crew along with an amazingly efficient system that made this happen.

Hot water tanks in the back of the truck

The hot water heaters are located at the back of the trailer. Thanks goodness for these!

The amazing crew for the showers tapped into the existing resources, going into the draining systems and getting water from the street hydrants.

Water from the hydrant

The water went into the sewer system

The crew sometimes took the whole system apart the same evening and drove to the next destination the same night.

Thank you to the hardworking mobile shower crew!


06 2010

Ride the Rockies 2010 – Day 4

From Ouray, over Red Mountain Pass to Silverton, over Molas Divide and Coal Bank Pass to Durango – then up to Fort Lewis, the “Campus in the Sky” – 75 miles

The ascent up Red Mountain Pass

With 3 passes ahead, the morning alarm was set for 4:30am. All riders had received the warning that this would be a long day, and if we weren’t past Box Canyon Falls by 8am, we would be sagged to the first aid station.

I think most people were wanting to ride this part of the ride and got up early. This created long lines at the porta potties, but I have come to realize that this is part of the experience. My hope is that I have pleasant people around me while I wait in line.

The Million Dollar Highway, without guardrails

This was the part of the Ride that I was most excited about riding. We started in a beautiful, still morning. Cyclists were on the road in massive numbers while was still pretty dark. Because I was expecting a long climb, it wasn’t so bad. I also had a bit of adrenalin, simply because there was a big drop off on the side of the road that we were riding on.

The Million Dollar Highway is named as such because it is said that it took about one million dollars per mile to construct the highway on the precipitous edge of the mountain. There aren’t guardrails on a lot of the route because in order for the narrow roads to be snow plowed to create passable roads in the winter, there simply can not be guard rails. It was a little freaky and I didn’t look down over the edge while riding.

The back shifter stopped working

I made it up and over Red Mountain Pass. During the descent, the back shifter stopped working. During the climb, the back cassette was in the largest cog and during the descent, I could not shift into a smaller one. As I pushed the shifters inward, the shifters simply stayed in an inward position – stuck, but no shifting occurred. The wind was gusting, and while it was nice not to have to pedal, it was also somewhat frustrating since I couldn’t shift, and couldn’t pedal to get any purchase or momentum, thus, my top speed was 12 mph – going down Red Mountain Pass. I pulled over and a sag wagon stopped to pick me up. Let me be clear that this was a mechanical sag – going downhill. (Although I must also admit that was somewhat ecstatic to be off of the bike and in a motorized vehicle.)

Purgatory, with Engineer Mountain in the background

The good bike mechanics looked at it and sprayed stuff inside of it to try and clean it out, but it didn’t help. I felt like I was receiving a doctor’s note to (skip school) and ride the sag wagon. (“Yes!” I wanted to shout out and dance.) I got sagged to Coal Bank, then checked the shifters with different mechanics who even took it all apart to see if it was gummed up and instead determined that it was shot, worn out, and needed to be replaced. I could, however, use the front chain ring to shift (3 in front) and if I kept the back one in a gear in the middle, I would be able to make it okay. Feeling lame using the sag wagon when I was pretty much able, I rode down from Coal Bank using only the front chainring shifter.

Wondering what I was going to do to finish out the ride, since there were still 3 long days left, I rationalized that if I could get my mountain bike (in Montrose) it would be better since it fit me better than my Mom’s small bike. I called my good friend Gunnar, who picked me up and drove me back to Montrose that evening to get my Barracuda mountain bike.  We returned to a quiet, sleepy camp at Fort Lewis College a little after midnight.

Ride the Rockies 2010 – Day 3

Delta, through the backroads west of Olathe to Montrose, then onto Ouray – 67 miles

Feature Below: Different Sleeping Possibilities

On route to Ouray, San Juan Mountains

Waking up from a deliciously wonderful rest, thinking that it would be an easy day, we slept in – to 5:30am.

The day was a gradual climb from Delta, at about 4,700 feet in elevation, to Ouray, which is located at just under 8,000 feet.  The elevation gain occurred over 67 miles, so I didn’t think that it would a hard or long day.  It was, however, both. The rough roads added seemingly longer miles to the overall distance.  There were cattle trucks that were either moving cattle to another location or perhaps taking them to a slaughter house.  About 3 of these trucks passed us.  On one of the passes, I was shat upon!  I think that this was the first time that it had ever happened.  It wasn’t bad, but splatters were on the bike, and on my arms and legs.  I stopped, as it was slightly gross to have this stinky semi-liquid matter on me and started squirting it off with water from the water bottle.  It then ran into my shoes.

The rolling green countryside was bordered by canyon country to the west.   The rough roads could have been compared to riding the cobblestones of Europe, I suppose.  Since I live in Montrose, I stopped at the house to water the plants.  I was starving, so I warmed some chicken soup on the stove and got back on the bike.  After about 15 minutes on the bike and getting back onto the RTR route, I had the nagging thought that perhaps I left the stove on.  So I backtracked and went back to find the stove – off.

We had a headwind and a cross wind that added time to the day.  Today we were near the back of the pack.  At this place, the sag wagons circulate to help move cyclists to the destination of the day.  One approached us and this made me immensely happy.  As the kind man driving the sag wagon asked if we were okay, I gave him a huge smile, but to my dismay, Dad said that we were fine.  And so, the riding continued.

A roadside stand selling muffins and cookies

Often, there are small stands that people set up to sell homemade muffins or fresh squeezed lemonade.  We thankfully stopped at one near Ouray.

Traveling via a bicycle can be humbling – in a good way.  One notices different things and has a different experience than one has while traveling in a car.  When one sees birds in flight, with only air separating the experience, it somehow makes the beauty more intense. I have driven this route countless times and had no appreciation for how much of an incline there is in the approach to Ouray.

Ride the Rockies, tents in Ouray

Upon finally reaching Ouray, the Ride the Rockies tent tour entourage was in its glory.  A colorful tent village fills to inhabit all available grassy areas, often ringed in by porta potties.

Tomorrow, the Ride takes us from Ouray, over the Million Dollar Highway and over three passes to Durango.

There are different choices for rest in the evening.

A Ride the Rockies rider has three main choices.  A rider could sleep in a hotel, camp in a tent, or opt for indoor camping.

Indoor camping in gyms

Some people get hotels. If this route is chosen, usually a bus shuttle (provided by RTR for most towns) is needed to get to the hotel.  Upon arrival, you pick up your luggage that has been hauled by the RTR baggage truck, then find your way to a hotel. (I heard that some people who had gotten the hotel booking service actually were bused from Ouray back to Delta since there weren’t enough accommodations available in Ouray.  The next morning, they were bused back from Delta to Ouray for the next day’s ride.)

Another possibility is to sleep inside a gym for indoor camping.  There are different sections or rooms for people who want to get up earlier or later to start in the morning.  I think this would be a nice place to sleep if it were to rain or snow, but in talking to different people about this experience, one explained that loud snoring sounds can sometimes echo off of the hardwood floors.  People sleep next to one another, one after another, so it’s sort of like summer camp.

My broken tent

Many people sleep in tents.  I was sleeping in my own tent, but a tent pole snapped (it’s supposed to be a domed tent) so I left it up to dry and joined my Dad in the Sherpa village.

The Sherpa village is a situation where a company puts up the tents and hauls your baggage for you.  Upon arrival, you simply need to find your tent number and your luggage is already inside the tent.  Also included is a fresh towel service, so that after each day of riding, a  clean, dry towel could be ‘checked out’.  This can be nice as towels tend to get stinky after being used, then stuffed into a duffel bag in the early morning.

The nights, however, tend to be really short, as riders are up before dawn and on bicycles once again.

The Sherpa village tent service


06 2010

Ride the Rockies 2010 Photo Gallery

Here are some snapshots of this year’s 25th Anniversary Ride the Rockies bicycle tour. Click on a picture to enter the slideshow. Clicking on the right side of the picture will take you to the next one, while clicking on the left side of the picture will take you to the previous one. Click anywhere outside of the picture to exit the slideshow.

Speedy recovery to all!

Thanks to everyone for a great Ride the Rockies.


06 2010

Ride the Rockies 2010 – Day 2

Grand Junction, through Palisade, over Grand Mesa (31 mile climb) and into Delta – 94 miles

Grand Mesa loomed in the distance

This was a punishing day with a gradual 12 mile climb, followed by a much steeper 19 miles climb that brutalized my legs and lungs.

Everyone started fairly early as it was a long day. Our day began at 4:30am. It’s really quite dark as this time, but amazingly, there were a lot of other people who were also getting up at this time. The day’s ride began with a nice rolling spin through the orchards and vineyards of Palisade.  This section of the morning ride reminded my one experience riding through the vineyards of Napa Valley, CA, except that the fog wasn’t as heavy as it was there at that time.  The newly planted grape vines were nice and neat in their rows and some of the orchard trees were just starting to bear fruit.  Cherries, just coming into season, could be seen almost dripping off of the trees.  Our major climb for the day, Grand Mesa, loomed in the distance, shrouded in the clouds during the approach.

As everyone started at about the same time, we all seemed to arrive at the first rest stop at about the same time. In orderly fashion, we wait for the porta potties, refuel, and get back on the road.

After Palisade, our route briefly joined I-70, although a lane (amazing!) had been blocked off for cyclists.  We soon exited the interstate onto the smaller 2-lane Highway 65.  The climb began gradually, but kept going and going, and going.  I heard people say that it was a 6 – 8 percent grade.  The best part of the day happened when I thought I was in my lowest gear, but realized that I had one more to go.

While I wanted to, I didn't see any moose...

I borrowed my Mom’s bicycle, so I’m not even sure of the exact gearing on the bike.  My mom and I are about 5 inches different in height.  Previous to actually riding it, I thought I could simply raise the seat and everything would be fine.  This, however, was not the case as certain muscles in my legs, the ones right above the knee on the inside, started to hurt tremendously.  (This bike saga will continue in following days.)

At some point in the climb, we came upon the ski area Powerhorn, where it started to rain.

At the ski area Powderhorn, it started to rain

Small groups of cyclists huddled under umbrellas meant to shade people from the sun.  This time was spent making small talk with others sharing one’s immediate space, putting on extra layers of clothing, eating, and watching a sag wagon accidentally drive over someone’s bicycle seat.  (The bicycle was kind-of on the road.  While it’s really difficult to be rational and competent when so tired, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that a person on a bike, a person, or a bike alone, will almost always loose out to vehicles.  Be mindful!  Even when dog-tired.)  After what seemed like about 20 minutes,  somewhat dazed and grudgingly, I set out in the light rain.

The road to Mordor

After riding in the rain for what seemed like 30 minutes or so, a gorgeous view presented itself and the sky opened up as the clouds parted to let the sun shine through.    Soon the sun began warming the pavement, it created a steamy riding environment.  It looked cinematic and dramatic.  It was during this time that somehow I got it in my head that I was on a mission to Mordor, (of the famed Lord of the Rings trilogy) which happened to be located at the top of Grand Mesa.  I needed to get to the top to destroy the ring and save the world.

One person rode by and in nice etiquette, said, “Hi, how are you?”

I think I replied, “Good.  I’m going to Mordor.”

“Oh, is that your happy place?”

“Um, no.  It’s Mordor.  I’m trying to save the world.”  But he had already gone by…

I stopped taking pictures, as I was seriously expending mammoth amounts of energy just trying to get to the top of Grand Mesa.  It was also really cold and if I were to stop, I thought I would get hypothermia and risk the mission!

It’s actually quite beautiful up there, with many alpine lakes and patches of snow.  There was another aid station at the top, so I refueled by eating something, I think chicken fajitas, refilled the water bottles and headed down.  It was wicked cold, and I almost stopped since I was shivering so badly that I was almost shaking the bike handlebars during the descent.  Yet I knew that the more that we descended, the warmer the temperature would get, so I continued descending.

Ride the Rockies bike corral

I barely made it into Delta, but did.  It was a humbling day, but the 94 mile mission was accomplished.  The bikes were dropped off in the bike corral, where the host community provides security, and the search for the showers, tent placement and evening food began.


06 2010

Ride the Rockies 2010 – Day 1

The Ride the Rockies started today with a relatively short 45 mile loop around the Colorado Monument.

Dad looking at the day's route

The day started at 5:30am. This is my first Ride the Rockies experience, while I’m riding it with my Dad, age 73, who is participating in his 9th Ride the Rockies. Dad said that it would be okay to sleep in, since today’s ride is relatively short. I seemed to have slept precious little hours and kept waking up when some (very lame) person on a motorbike kept revving his engine and racing through the streets. I and likely many other people in tents next to the street did not send nice thoughts toward him.

Each day after waking up, we find breakfast. We’re currently being hosted by Mesa State College and we made a trek across campus to eat in the Maveriks’ cafeteria. Having food, coffee and after visiting porta-potty-row, we picked up our bicycles from the bicycle corral and started riding.

The Grand Junction police gave great support!

An amazing aspect about the Ride the Rockies bicycle tour is the support infrastructure that is set up to help to aid and support the bicycle riders.  The Grand Junction police has also been stunningly splendid.  This is my first experience with Ride the Rockies, so I’m impressed with the mobile showers, the aid stations, and the overall experience on the road, pedaling a bicycle.  With 2,000 + riders on the road, the GJ police, CO state patrol and the CO Monument Park Service were fabulous in making sure the vehicular traffic wouldn’t run into the riders and were out in full force in their bike friendly manner.

The Colorado National Monument with cyclists on the climb

Riding through Grand Junction was a breeze.  The early Sunday morning was temperate at about 60 degrees, with little wind.   Once in the CO Monument, the climbing began, although being surrounded by approximately 2,000 other cyclists made the climb easier.   Perhaps the view also made climbing easier.   The landscape of the Colorado Monument reminds me of a spectacular lunar landscape.  For this ride, lights were mandatory as we went through 3 dark tunnels.

The support for the Ride the Rockies is phenomenal.  There were bananas at the first rest stop, followed by juicy grapes at the second.  As I popped the juicy green grape in my mouth, savoring the mixture of sweet juiciness with a little bit of tart, thunder, accompanied by a rolling dark cloud, started rumbling, alerting us of its ominous presence.   In mere minutes, the sky opened up and began soaking the lycra clad bicycle hordes.  I started getting very cold, as I had just started the descent.

As the rain started, cyclists descended upon the Visitors Center

When the Visitor’s Center was spotted, we all descended upon it.  I have to say, we cyclists are somewhat strange, overall, really nice, but we wear weird riding shoes: cycling cleats that make an opposite sound of stilettos, in that the cleat strikes second and instead of having an elevated heel, the cleat is under the ball of the foot, sort of like backwards high heels.  We have helmets, sometimes adorned with other ornaments, like mirrors, blinking lights, and in some cases, pink feather plumage.  Then we often finish things off with tights and a really bright jacket.  It’s good fun!  But we do look strange.  Overall, it’s quite a good, practical outfit for riding.  We just look strange walking around, loitering in the Visitors Center waiting for the rain to end.

The rest of the ride back to town was cold, but it was also mercifully fast since it was on the downhill side.  Somehow Dad and I got separated, so we both spent minutes standing around in the cold rain waiting for one another.  Finally I dawned on me that I had a cell phone and gave him a call, to find out that he had somehow passed me.  (I think it happened at the 2nd tunnel – I stopped, and he zinged by.)

Finding out that he was ahead, the bicycle racing ‘catch-up’ phased kicked in.  I figured that I was cold and didn’t want hypothermia, so I started cranking to catch up.  Thankfully, another rider passed me and in good cycling fashion, I sucked that wheel.  It has its advantages and disadvantages.  I did catch up fairly quickly tucked into the draft of a stronger male, however, got covered in ‘wheel spit up’ as we powered through puddles.

Getting back to the cycling base camp, I took a nice hot shower in the amazing portable shower trailer – which I will relate later, but now, I must carbo-load, because I hear that tomorrow is a hellish 94 mile day.

Yum. Pasta!


06 2010

Ride the Rockies – Registration 2010

I’d have to say, that I’m somewhat amazed by the organization that occurs in order for the Ride the Rockies to happen. I’m also amazed that my Dad and I, along with 2 thousand people are going to ride a bicycle for 532 miles.

Ride the Rockies - Saturday's Registration

This year’s route goes from Grand Junction to Salida. I’m currently in my tent, next to a main road, hearing a mixture of sounds that includes traffic driving by, and someone’s mooing (like a cow) cell phone ring. I’m getting ready to go to slumber, but first must relate what this is like.  Registration took place on the Mesa State College campus.

Ride the Rockies, Inside the Beer Garden

There is quite a festive mood in the air. Tons of different people have come to participate in this ride. People have come from different states, countries, are of different ages and from different backgrounds. We started off the day by waking up at 5am and doing a shuttle, driving from the Front Range of Colorado to Salida, to drop off one vehicle, then on to Grand Junction where the ride starts.

We didn’t have exact directions, but as soon as you see tents, both for bicycle manufacture booths, and a wide array of camimping tents, we knew that we were close.  We found our way to registration, the toured the place.  In the picture, you can see a band in the background and some people practicing roping in the foreground.  Nice blend.  More picture later.  Really, really tired.  Will sleep to the rumbling river of traffic, but don’t care.


06 2010