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
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.
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.
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.)
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.