Cortez

CORTEZ, COLORADO

The day was to begin with a 15 mile climb up over the 10,200′ Lizard Head Pass. But actually it began with a $10 pancake breakfast at the Elks club in the town of Telluride.

It was a chilly 48 degrees, or less, as we rolled out of town. I went by the high school and could hear the P.A. announcer and, just as I passed by, I heard the playing of the National Anthem begin. It was the opening ceremony for Ride the Rockies and I was just out of distance.

The first five miles, downhill, were cold. I looked on with envy at every rider with a jacket, full-fingered gloves, and leg warmers. I was cold.

At five miles in we turned on CO-145 and the road immediately turned up. The profile showed a 10-mile climb but there were some descents built into this climb. Not many, including myself, were prepared for the road to turn up this steeply this quick. But no problem.

People were soon pulled over removing those warm layers. Turns out I dressed perfectly for the day.

We were on the climb to Lizard Head Pass at 10,222′. I wore my Cyclists Combating Cancer kit and forgot that it is also in honor and memory of Jake — I have written on the back In Memory of Jake the Hero 2004-2012. One guy came beside me and said “Good job for Jake” which caught me completely by surprise. Then I remembered, Jake was with me.

At the top of the climb, which was long but not hard, I pulled over for some pictures. It was here the tour D.J. was set up and he played some music and talked a lot. I saw some broken eggs but he was sponsoring a race for a t-shirt. The t-shirt was perhaps 200 yards up a hill at the rest stop on a branch of the tree. Only a somewhat barren, somewhat grassy steep hillside stood between anyone who wanted to race to be first to touch the t-shirt.

I wondered why anyone in cycling shoes would run on that surface. But a woman took off. And after 50 yards or so with no competition, a man and a woman also pursued. Around 100 yards the man passed her and she sat down, completely out of breath. This was the 10,000′ level after all. He won a shirt.

The profile showed a 60-mile descent to Cortez, which was a lie. The first 15 miles after the pass was a real downhill though. I got in a tuck and soon started flying past people. But the road was a chip and tar or chip and seal road with a couple sweeping curves which didn’t seem too safe to just let it roll. Still, I hit 50 mph before bringing the speed back down.

The road trended down after that but one had to work the pedals. It was not a 60-mile coast.

Yesterday in Telluride, Chris told me about a natural hot tub in Rico which I realized after I passed through, I missed. But Rico is a neat little town.

Rico, CO

At Dolores, 64 miles, I skipped the aid stop and rolled out with a number of cyclists. There was an uphill facing us and I felt good when I hit it, passing everyone then just cruising the rest of the way to Cortez.

When I got in I saw Wayne Stetina who told me his speed for the day was 23.1 Pretty impressive (mine was still 18.1) but he told me he had to shepherd a rider over Lizard Head Pass. 

My roommate, Scott Olson, and I, made our way back to the school for the cycling seminar which featured George Hincapie. I was able to meet George and Connie Carpenter Phinney

George Hincapie

George spoke about his career but offered the same excuse as most cyclists of the era that they were caught up in the era. He said the guys that finished second or third or fourth never complained about the winner because they knew everyone was doing it. Sad. But he did offer hope for the future racers, specifically Tejay van Garderen and Taylor Phinney. And his picks for the Tour: Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, and Cadel Evans.


Connie Carpenter

In Cortez I had the worst experience in a motel. Ever. The room reeked so badly of smoke that no amount of spraying could correct. It made for a very miserable night. I’ve never been happier not to be in a motel room. We stayed out of the room as much as possible and would leave at the crack of dawn.

We can ignore the first mile of this trip as it looks like I was hitting the ski slopes. I wasn’t. 

Telluride

TELLURIDE, COLORADO

I began the day in Colorado Springs where I parked at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort and boarded a bus along with other riders for Ride the Rockies. We were transported to Telluride for check in.

As a rookie, the first day was a little daunting. Grab the luggage from the bus, check in with Ride the Rockies, check in with Alpine Cycle Connection, check in with Alpine Lodging. Take a bus to the Riverside Condo. Drop luggage. Go back to check in. Find bike. Remove it from crate. Build it. Take box to High Country Shipping and pay to have it shipped to Colorado Springs. Relax.

Once I could relax I decided to explore a little. I took a bike path out of town until it ended. There I met Chris and Erin, two locals from Telluride who had paddle down the river. I meet a lot of fun folks and they were the most fun of the day. “Carbon neutral” or zero as Chris described it. They paddled down and would hitch a ride back in a passing pickup truck. And they did.

Telluride is a former silver mining town. Victorian homes are ever present. The scenery is stunning.

Don’t Be the Bunny

Just eight blocks wide and 12 blocks long I felt I didn’t have enough time to really explore. Light was fading. 

My lodging was in the Riverside Condos along with my roommate for the week, Scott Olson.
View from the Condo

I did not take the free gondola up to the mountain village. Saving something for next time.

I don’t think I’ve seen a town with so many dogs. Big dogs. Friendly big dogs. 

This is a delightful town.

 

The downtown was closed off for the evening for entertainment. My friends, Chris and Erin asked if I would join them but I was on eastern time. It was bedtime. And a big ride tomorrow awaits.

Ligonier. Almost.

LIGONIER, PENNSYLVANIA

With apologies to Joanna Freeman for borrowing her blog title, Made it to Ligonier (Almost).

This was the day that I really looked forward to. I was meeting a cancer group, Team Portland, and escorting them from Bedford to Ligonier. It was a cold 43 degrees as I rode out of my parents’ house in Friedens for the ride over the mountain to Bedford to meet the 4K.

Out of the box I hit the mile and a half climb on Pompey Hill Road and its 18% grade. Damn it. My legs weren’t ready for that shock. But once that was over it was a matter of getting on US 30 and making my way, mostly down, to Bedford.

I joined the group at the Cannondale plant tour, already in progress. It took me just a few minutes to ask someone if this was a plant or a museum as the guide kept explaining how they used to make bikes there. They still do – just not as many. And it missed how much of the work is now outsourced.

New Cannondale Bikes in Bedford

Although the planned route was listed as 62 miles, I knew with two major climbs it would be a long day. I had hoped to go around the first small climb that goes to Schellsburg on US 30 by going to Manns Choice on PA 31 and over the lake at Shawnee State Park. It would add three miles but avoid the nasty climb. Instead, we did the nasty climb and stayed on 30.

We were joined for the first five miles by some employees from the Cannondale plant. See, they don’t make as much there as they used to, above. It was great having them ride with us.

After leaving Schellsburg and passing the Buffalo farm, it is a six mile climb up Allegheny Mountain. Four miles up we stopped at Lookout Point. I told anyone who listened that there used to be a “Ship Hotel” here years ago. It was hard to explain.

As we rolled out for the final two miles I was delighted that we passed the only building on the route, an antiques barn, and it had a painting of the ship hotel. You don’t see those things when you fly by in a car.

Joanna Freeman

After summiting the climb we continue on the stretch of road known as Seven Mile Stretch or Longview. At the end we descended to the Flight 93 Memorial. I had arranged a visit with the National Park Service on a tight schedule and was a little nervous when only one group entered the park. I rode back up the hill to Longview and saw more riders on the side of the road. At first it appeared they were taking a break. I was not happy as we needed to move the group along. But then I saw they were talking to someone and that made me smile.

On some day schedules, and speed, are important, but the mission is talking with people. And they had met a woman from the Flight 93 Memorial Garden. In fact, after they left I stayed and talked some more.
Eventually we gathered all the riders and the Park Service let us out a back gate onto Buckstown Road. Hoping to make time I also routed the group over a small road called Covered Bridge Road.
Call it my screw up because my local intel failed to mention it was a gravel road and I hadn’t pre-ridden it. And it would get worse.
Gobblers Knob road was also gravel but it was actually closed. The temporary road had heavy gravel on it. We only had 200-300 yards and I powered through it but most riders walked it.

We got through Friedens and over to Beulah Church where Pattie and Margaret Cramer served a full picnic “lunch” even though it was 5:00 p.m. After dinner the team leaders knew some riders could not make the final climb. Some were unsure and some certainly could. But the leaders wanted to have a team meeting as it was only Day 3 and they yet to do that. They decided to shuttle all the riders to Ligonier.

I would take anyone who wanted to go with me, and some did, but the team was all for one and one for all. I went on solo.

I stopped for pictures and kept thinking they would pass me. It was only between Laughlintown and Ligonier that they passed me and I soon arrived in Ligonier as they were unloading their first group.

I had almost 90 miles on the bike while my friends had 40. I got the bragging rights.

Bike the Pike

BREEZEWOOD, PENNSYLVANIA

Since last year I have been intrigued by the route the 4K for Cancer Team Portland took from Waynesboro, Pa. to Breezewood. Before this year’s departure I contacted Team Portland and suggested I could help. They believed me.

I designed a ride that would keep them off US Rte 30 and got them over to the abandoned section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I had hoped to be packed for Ride the Rockies earlier in the day then drive to Ligonier and leave my car while I biked to Somerset in preparation for meeting the 4K in Bedford tomorrow.

My planning did not work out so I was very late getting on the road. But that gave me an opportunity to meet the 4K Team Portland. When I contacted Daniel Gray and he told me they were near Houstontown, Pa. I knew I could get to Breezewood and ride backward and meet them.

Yes, this is the Pike 2 Bike Entrance

I had never been on the abandoned pike. Although I found the entrance, I mistakenly went down the wrong road before realizing there must be a path to the pike. And there was.

Climbing the path I came to the pike. Ten miles of abandoned turnpike. Two tunnels (very dark — need lights). I rode through the first tunnel and was most of the way to the second tunnel when I came across the 4K coming in my direction. 

Abandoned Pike

I kept going to the second tunnel when I met the last four riders of the 4K. We then explored the tunnel’s maintenance section before riding on through.

Looking out window in Maintenance Room in Tunnel

Once back on the road I followed the 4K on the Pa. Bike Route S between Breezewood and Everett. Although it is about the same distance as US 30, it has some very nasty climbs. I knew the section between Everett and Bedford was the same. 

4K Riders on the Pike
Sarah Robbins

I was able to convince all the riders I found to skip the last bike route section from Everett to Bedford and just ride on Route 30. They did. The US 30 route was two and one half miles shorter than the Pa. Bike Rte S route. Until I mapped both, I thought the bike route had a lot more climbing. It does but spread out over the longer distance it’s about the same gain per mile. Route 30 has one long grade whereas the back roads features a lot of ups and downs. At least I saved them 2 1/2 miles.

Photo Credit: Joanna Freeman

Sendoff

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

I had been looking forward to this day both to meet my Pedal Pal, Anthony Venida, and to see the 2012 alumni who came to help and the alumni of the Key to Keys ride. I arrived the just as the the groups were rolling out to the Inner Harbor for the Sendoff Ceremony. I took my time then gave chase. I caught some riders.

I saw many of the 2012 Team San Francisco who came to make the first day remarkable. And they did.

Before the teams rolled out I met some of Team Portland because I knew I’d be riding with them on Tuesday. Then Team San Fran rolled out to the American Visionary Art Museum where they would form groups.

I rolled out in the first group with alumna, Erin Mack, along with Anthony. I wanted to be in the first group because the Baltimore to D.C. ride seemed to always have problems with cues. I made the cues and rode the route ahead of time although I had to dispel the rumor that I actually had ridden it this morning. Since we rolled out at 8:00 a.m. that would have had to been about 4:00 in the morning. Not happening.

I brought my own chalk to chalk the cues but that would prove hard to do because the alumni beat me to almost every turn. Still, the chalk that Livestrong handed out in 2009 when Lance Armstrong returned to cycling would prove useful.

We were comfortably in the lead until Anthony dropped a chain and Jeff Graves’ group came flying by. And Jeff’s group would lead the way the rest of the day.

After donated Papa Johns pizza in Berwyn Heights, I joined Jeff’s group to chalk some turns on the Anacostia River Trail. Things went perfectly.

Shut Up Legs

When we reached the Washington Monument, Jeff asked if we could do some bonus miles around Hains Point. So we did — which is what I did last year to Jeff’s group — without them knowing. But this group was much more refreshed and ready for it.

We reached the host in Alexandria and waited for the other groups. Erin’s group, which I left, missed a cue and went across the Memorial Bridge instead of 14th Street Bridge but no big deal. I would not call that “lost.”

Anthony, Barry

Rain threatened and we had a few sprinkles but that was all. This is a great group of young people representing the 4K and they will do well. Ride safe my friends!

Illini 4000

VIENNA, VIRGINIA

Some days things work out as a surprise. Today was one of those.

I love the Airport Loop. Early in the morning the summer temperatures are still pleasant, the route shaded, and one sees a lot of cyclists, runners, and walkers along the trail. Some are unusual, like the $4,000 organic transportation pedal car at Gallows Road.

While riding inbound on the Custis Trail I was passed in the opposite direction by four riders wearing the same orange and blue jersey. A few minutes later I was passed again by four riders. And then a third time.

I didn’t catch much except “Trek” was on the jersey and I thought “Illini” may have been on the front of these orange jerseys. I did not think much else about them as I continued my ride.

Yang Song, Je Won Hong, Meiling Liu, Jordan Orr

After completing the loop I caught four of these riders. And so I talked with them. They’re with the Illini for Cancer 4000. The Illini 4000 is much like the 4K for Cancer or Texas 4000. Only their starting location was New York City and their destination this year is San Francisco.

I rode for a while with Yang Song, Je Won Hong, Meiling Liu, and Jordan Orr. I was glad to be their guide for a while. They were riding from Washington, D.C. to Boonsboro, Maryland. This first section was the W&OD out to Purcellville before jumping on real roads.

Je Won, Barry, Meiling, Jordan

What was to be a nothing day turned into something special because I met four cancer fighters.