Georgetown

IDAHO SPRINGS, COLORADO

This was my last day to ride in Colorado before flying back home tomorrow. I drove to Boulder and picked up Ki Young Kim. We followed the suggested GPS route to Idaho Springs until we reached US 6. I told Ki Young I wanted to follow that road. We did and it was beautiful. Canyons. Tunnels. We took it slow and enjoyed the ride, even pulling over at one point to let faster traffic past.

Once in Idaho Springs we parked in the municipal lot and rode west towards Georgetown and Loveland Pass.  This was three parts knowledge and two parts “feel.” I had ridden this route in the opposite direction last year as part of Ride the Rockies. But everything looks different when you ride backward and there are no people to follow.

Georgetown
Georgetown

We made it to Georgetown and through the parking lot of the Georgetown Loop Railroad. We followed the trail and I immediately was shocked at the steepness. We climbed to the upper section of the trail, not knowing how far the trail head was. One picks up the trail in the railroad parking lot to the top of the railroad line then gets back on a road that parallels I-70. I remembered riding the road last year but not the length of it.

Georgetown Loop Railroad
Georgetown Loop Railroad

I had planned to visit my grandmother’s cousin, Dale States, in the afternoon. I figured we had time for 40 miles total. We found the entrance to the wooded trail alongside I-70 and started up it. But I did not know how far it was until it ended at the Loveland Ski Aura. I knew I could not ride much longer – as in another 5-6 miles uphill. But another mile I could handle. Then we turned around.

Clear Creek
Clear Creek

This wasn’t the best day for Colorado hospitality. In Georgetown some driver yelled at us and on the upper road a 15-passenger van honked at and buzzed me. Love the roads but you can keep your drivers, Colorado.

Trail
Trail

On our climb we had battled tremendous headwinds and were to enjoy some temporary tailwinds. We rolled, both hitting 49 mph. I can’t believe I couldn’t squeeze out one more mile per hour.

At Georgetown I was almost blown off my bike by a cross wind. And then the tailwinds turned into massive headwinds. We took turns rotating at the front but we both worked hard. It was probably the hardest I had worked going downhill.

Barry, Ki Young
Barry, Ki Young

It was a beautiful day and a great ride. I wish I had time to get at least to Loveland Ski Area. It looked like we were still about four miles short. Maybe next time.


Estes Park

LOVELAND, COLORADO

It was a beautiful morning as I rolled out. I parked in Loveland and decided to head up US 34 towards Estes Park. I knew the Texas 4000 was there and headed to Fort Collins but knew nothing else. If I ran into them I would say hello.

Carved tree
Carved tree

US 34 is not a good cycling road. There usually is a small shoulder but at times that disappears. I had gone about six miles when I entered Big Thompson Canyon. It is very beautiful and while narrow, cars have to go slow through there too so it wasn’t bad at all. While in the canyon.

Memorial
Memorial

I came to a roadside monument to 144* people who lost their lives on July 31, 1976, when rains inundated the river and canyon. My thoughts went to the names of rose people and their ages. The 9 year old would now be 48.

Warning Sign
Warning Sign

The road climbed. Period. I came to an intersection and both directions had a mileage sign for Estes Park. However, in one direction it warned cyclists against using that road. Hard to believe I was on the better route.

Big Thompson Canyon
Big Thompson Canyon

Nearing Estes Park I saw what I thought was a fox cross the road and scamper into the hill hillside. But it was larger than a fox. I’m thinking now it must have been a coyote.

Not much of a shoulder

As I reached Estes Park I saw no signs of the Texas 4000. I looked at a welcome map and plotted my turnaround point in town. I had gone 200 meters farther when three women of the Texas 4000 went rolling by. I turned around and followed. I introduced myself and all we’re welcoming.

Canyon
Canyon

After riding six miles I turned around and went back towards Estes Park until the next group went by. I turned around and jumped in.

Dam on Big Thompson River
Dam on Big Thompson River

The only negative of the day was a country deputy sheriff decided to harass some cyclists. Other than his county his laws, he was wrong on so many counts. But best to play along so I did.

Barney Fife had mentioned he had seen the Texas 4000 yesterday and I suspected that he was out to send them a message. But I wasn’t the college coed he was expecting. He asked for ID, told me that they believe in “sharing the road and all that but not when there’s traffic.” He then told me I had a challenge to catch up to them, as if flying through his 35 mph road would be OK. What a jerk.

Texas 4000
Texas 4000

I apparently almost caught them at their rest break. I met some riders, especially Olivia and Landon, and was interviewed for their documentary. I did not mention douchebag cops.

Texas 4000
Texas 4000

We rolled out, this time I was with the third group, until we got to Loveland. I wished them well and rode back for the fourth group. I also rode with them until Loveland, wished them Godspeed then went on my way.

Not much of a shoulder

US 34 is a beautiful ride but somewhat scary headed up to Estes Park. Unless they controlled traffic during an event like Ride the Rockies, it is not one that I will likely return to.

___
*Since updated to 143 because one of the victims that was missing and presumed drowned was living in Oklahoma


Hardscrabble Pass

CAÑON CITY

It was a beautiful morning as I rolled out of Cañon City. I really couldn’t wait to get out of the room I stayed in last night. I went and ate at the McDonalds up the street – the same as I had done two years ago with my roommate, Scott Olson, when we stayed here.

Old train station in Florence
Old train station in Florence

It was an easy roll to Florence – just 10 miles. Flat. And the home of the first aid station.

Horses
Horses

On the stretch to Wetmore, I was passed on a two-lane road by a pickup truck pulling a trailer. The trailer was about two feet wider than the truck and barely missed clipping me. I love Colorado roads but from a road rage incident the first day in Grand Junction to cars passing when it’s not safe, I would not rank Colorado as one of the safer places to ride.

RTR Jerseys
RTR Jerseys

I got to the second rest stop and it was packed. So I left. I hadn’t been drinking yet so my bottles were full. I allocated two hours to climb Hardscrabble Pass. We rode down this pass two years ago and I remember it being steep enough that I hit 48 mph and two riders went over the guardrail. I knew it would be a climb.

These guys passed me until I passed them
These guys passed me until I passed them

It was hard but not Grand Mesa hard. I thought for a while I was getting passed by two riders for everyone that I passed. But I think in the end it was about even.

Three guys went by me and I stayed with them for a while. I deliberately did not sit on the wheel of the last rider, instead allowing about 15 feet or so but stayed there. Then they pulled away but three to four miles later I caught them and I eventually blew by them. It’s strange how that can happen.

Wounded Warriors
Wounded Warriors

I believed that Ride the Rockies ended with a 12 mile downhill. So when I saw a sign for Westcliffe at 16 miles I started passing people. Lots of people. My legs were energized. And as I passed I loudly announced “12 of the next 16 miles are downhill.” At least for some it lifted their spirits.

I got to thinking about this Livestrong Bracelet. Other than I one on my wrist, I hadn’t seen any the entire trip. Ten years ago that would have been the fad, especially among cyclists. “Lance (who rode Monday, by the way) hates cancer and so do I. I will wear a bracelet.” But that fad is over. “Oh, he doped? I don’t hate cancer anymore.”

Livestrong
Livestrong

There is a DJ on course every day at one rest stop. He is always giving away T-shirts for people who will give themselves an egg shampoo or eat insects or answer trivial questions. One contest was first person to bring a hunting or fishing license. Another was for the first person to bring him a one dollar bill with three sixes in the serial number.

I made it to the top of the climb in 1:45. And went to the last aid station on course. I saw the DJ.

I envisioned him to be a little like Wolfman Jack. Big booming personality behind the mike but maybe a little distant with people. At the final aid station I told him that I had an idea for a “contest.” He barely acknowledged me. I told him I wouldn’t claim the prize but that he should offer a shirt to the first person who comes forward wearing a Livestrong bracelet. The music stopped and he said “OK, it’s time to give away another T-shirt. It’s time for an egg shampoo.” I left.

Amish Westcliffe
Amish Westcliffe

It was mostly a 12 mile descent to Westcliffe. The main street was lined with people cheering. Last year finished in Golden and before that in Colorado Springs. I am sure that in both places people didn’t know about RTR or they wanted them out of their town. Not so in Westcliffe.

Martin, Barry, Andrew
Martin, Barry, Andrew

It seemed that the entire town came out just to cheer. Even the Amish. It was really pretty amazing. I saw two Amish boys and stopped to talk to them. Martin and Andrew. They lifted my bike and said it was OK to take their picture.

Roadside Art
Roadside Art

I continued on to the finish line. More people cheering.

There was something to be said for having a small town as a finish town. It’s great to be appreciated. In all, I rode 520 miles on route plus an additional 24 the day before in Grand Junction. It was a great week.

The End
The End

 


Royal Gorge

CAÑON CITY, COLORADO

The day began with meeting the Ride the Rockies bus at 6:00 a.m. for transport to Salida. I stayed in the Super 8 in Buena Vista and was surprised the hotel had the breakfast nook open for us so that we could grab something to eat.

After retrieving my bike from the bike corral and pumping the tires (my rear tire, setup as a tubeless, has been losing 40 psi per day but that’s another story as we continue to dial it in), I followed five riders out to the street- US 50. I thought the five were a group.

We began so slowly I thought of passing them but decided this would be a day to relax. Soon were rolling along in a pace line. A woman sat on my wheel and we had seven riders rolling along as one. It was cool with temperatures around 50 degrees.

Arkansas River
Arkansas River

After a few miles I saw a gap opening between the third and fourth riders. If the gap opened up, the front three, my free ride, would be gone. In an instant I took off and passed the two riders, bringing the woman with me. Just like that we were five riders. And two of the original seven riders were dropped.

This was a perfect stretch to ride. It trended downhill and followed the beautiful Arkansas River. It was this segment we were supposed to do two years ago but missed due to the Royal Gorge Fire.

Recycle Tent at Aid Station
Recycle Tent at Aid Station

We rolled past the first rest stop although the woman stopped at that point. And we kept rolling. The front three were rotating and we picked up two more. I finally told them to let us do some work too. I moved to the front. By the time we reached the second stop we had covered 22 miles in 53 minutes. We flew.

It was OPEN today to cyclists
It was OPEN today to cyclists

I had eaten a Brat on top of Cottonwood Pass yesterday and it just seemed like a good thing to do at Aid Station #3. Here I met Lori the Medic and rode with her. At one point we lost contact as I had stopped for a photo op but I caught her on the slopes to the Royal Gorge.

Royal Gorge Bridge
Royal Gorge Bridge

This was a steep climb. They called it “The Wall.” Colorado doesn’t have many steep climbs, just long and gradual, but this road was as though it was lifted from the Appalachians and dropped here.  The road turned up quickly and lots of people were walking. It really wasn’t very hard although many people struggled with it. You all are invited with me to ride back East.

Royal Gorge Bridge
Royal Gorge Bridge

We got to the Royal Gorge. I rode across the deck – it is 1000′ down to the Arkansas River. I took a few photos and then left. The Medic had disappeared and I never saw her again.

Royal Gorge Bridge
Royal Gorge

After a little climbing out of the gorge it was a seven mile descent to Cañon City. I know because I rode this last year on my own. Three miles out of town the riders turned onto a road called Skyline Drive. I kept going straight on US 50. Not only was this an official alternate route I thought I might take a train ride if I got to town early enough.

Royal Gorge Bridge
Royal Gorge Bridge

I went to the train station looking for bike parking but didn’t see any. I wasn’t just going to leave my bike so I headed to Sonic. There I met Michelle Hancock, a rider with the “Naked” (sponsor) team. My friend, Lisa Smith, rides for them and said to tell them all hello. Michelle stared at me. She must have been thinking “worst pickup line ever.”

Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive

We were both feeling pretty good about finding the alternate way to town but when I had passed Skyline Drive I thought I might regret not turning on it. Before the turn I pictured it as a parallel frontage access road. Gratification that I made the right choice soon turned to regret as I saw these riders climbing next to the road where I was descending.

I could see them climbing this hillside as I rolled down the road – they going up and me going down. US 50 is a divided highway and there really wasn’t a safe turnaround option or I would have.

Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive – Credit: Facebook Page of Ride the Rockies

After lunch at Sonic and checking into America’s Best Value Inn, I decided I would ride back out on course and ride Skyline Drive. I did not regret it. What a hidden gem. It was about a three mile uphill ride from the prison in Cañon City to the turn onto Skyline Drive. But from the top one could see valleys on either side. It is a one way road and today was closed to traffic.

After riding it I went back and rode it again. It was that fun. People were astonished to learn this was my third trip into town. My regret was not that I didn’t ride it the first time but that I didn’t go back for a third time.

My night would not go so well. My stay at America’s Best Value Inn two years ago had been nice. This time, my room, 134, smelled of smoke. I have a sensitivity to it – my eyes burn. They would burn all night.


Cottonwood Pass

SALIDA, COLORADO

This was the day I dreaded. My legs failed me on Monday over the Grand Mesa and didn’t do so hot on Tuesday. Today was a planned 102 mile day to Salida over the 12000′ Cottonwood Pass.  On dirt. I watched the pros race this and I wasn’t looking forward to it.

I stayed at Mount Crested Butte which sits at 9,375 feet (2,858 m). It was cold, 41 degrees, when I rolled out of the condo down to Crested Butte. Once on the road after Crested Butte I was passing 10 times more people than passed me. And when one guy did pass me, I jumped on his wheel and said “let’s work.”  A third joined us and we were flying. The first 21 miles I covered in 55 minutes (22 mph).

The beautiful Taylor River
The beautiful Taylor River

At Almont everything broke up at the rest stop. I didn’t stop but kept going. As usual, the lines at the porta-johns were huge as they always are for the first stop of the day. Too huge. I only went a couple of miles before I found my own rest stop in the national forest. Not trees but a park service outhouse. Others soon followed me in my discovery.

I rode my own pace up to the Taylor Park Reservoir. I felt a knot in my left calf. I was worried this may become a full blown cramp. I’ve never sagged but the thought that I might have to weighed on my mind.

I stopped and talked to three fishermen and then to a fourth who had a 10-month old Labrador named Milton. Right after the reservoir and a dreaded descent (because we gave back a lot of our elevation gain) I stopped at the Taylor Park Trading Post aid station. I met a man working on his Smoothie. I asked if it would help and he said he swears by them. I bought a Smoothie.

Taylor River and the climb to the Reservior
Taylor River and the climb to the Reservoir

After the Smoothie headache subsided I began the dreaded climb. There were two miles of pavement then a turn onto Cottonwood Pass. The road was dirt but packed hard in many places. Mostly I could find a line. Four guys passed me and I decided to try and keep count. How bad would this be? I would count how many times I got passed and how few times I passed others.

Climbing Cottonwood Pass
Climbing Cottonwood Pass

I was all over that road, finding a hard pack line where I could, often in the left lane. But traffic was scarce and if one could see a car coming our way they were quick to warn us. I passed a young couple who were moving from Austin to Portland and biking there. Their bikes were loaded down but they had smiles on their faces.

Atop Cottonwood
Atop Cottonwood

I soon realized I was going faster than most riders. The count kept getting higher and when I came to the aid station which was seven miles up this 14 mile climb I kept going without stopping. My legs actually felt great.

Rest stop at Cottonwood Pass
Rest stop at Cottonwood Pass

I was probably 10th wheel coming up on a photo op and I didn’t want to appear to be off the back when I had just made contact with these folks. I powered by them and may have been too fast for the camera. The photographer complimented me on my pace.

Bike rack on Cottonwood
Bike rack on Cottonwood

In all, I passed 228 cyclists while getting passed by 10. I felt great! 228:10. Wow!

The knot in my calf worked itself out for once on the climb I never noticed it again. One must consider that while I rode my own pace getting to Taylor Park that the strongest riders had already passed me by before starting the climb. Whatever. I come to the Rockies not to be measured against others but against myself and I simply felt great and ready to bomb the descent.

My plan since I had seen the route and knew my lodging location was in Buena Vitsa and not Salida was to simply make it over the mountain to Buena Vista. That would make it an 80 mile day. I would add the 26 missing miles from Buena Vista to Salida to tomorrow’s route and turn that 66-mile day into a 92 mile day.

The sweeping curves at the top of Cottonwood Pass
The sweeping curves at the top of Cottonwood Pass

As I approached Buena Vista I did not turn with the RTR route but instead went to the Super 8 and checked in. I offloaded my vest, leg and arm warmers, and gloves and thought “I feel great.” Not that I needed encouragement but my backpack which contained my shoes and glasses was missing at the Super 8 so if I called it a day I had no shoes or reading glasses. I decided to ride to Salida.

I was by myself. The official route cut a little diagonal on the route and had turned off earlier although would later connect. Didn’t matter. I felt great. I caught a couple of riders up the road then rode with them. Their helmets were covered in yellow with a red feather. They looked like chickens “so their support team could find the easier.” This was Maria from San Diego and Melinda from Denver. They told me the next day they would be Angry Birds. I never saw them again.

We finished. 106 miles. I felt good enough in the moment to ride another 106 miles. Of course I didn’t. But winds kicked up hard just then so I boarded a bus to take me back to Buena Vista, leaving my bike in the bike corral. What a day to feel great. It was the best I felt over distance in a year. And it left me wondering that maybe there’s something to sleeping at 9000′.


Crested Butte

MT CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO

CB17This was an easy day. Coming on the heels of two pretty difficult days, it was well received.

CB6

As planned, riders would have a 27 mile ride on pavement or a 35 mile ride with 13 miles of dirt and two 10,000′ passes. In the weeks leading up to RTR Colorado had heavy rains and there were forced to abandon the “Dirty Thirty” option.

CB7

It was windy but it seemed everyday we fought the winds. It was a great day to ride.CB1
Passing the Gunnison River, I saw a bike path that went over the river on its own bridge. Just one rider followed me.
CB8
I joined a pace line briefly before dropping off to take pictures. I saw a man with his dog come out of a road/driveway so I stopped and met Elvis, a 10-month old Great Pyrenees Labrador mix. He was a beautiful dog who jumped on me a little. You could tell he was still a puppy. It would be by mantra to always stop and meet the dogs.
CB2
Seeing a sign for Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery I followed the road less traveled. I went over a beautiful plank bridge.

CB13

I took a dirt road to the fishing ponds and talked to an older couple enjoying their day. As I was leaving a car came in. The driver asked if I was riding the Rockies. Then she offered me fishing gear. They had a rider with them who was planning to fish. I declined but wondered if I should have joined him. I don’t know how to fish but why not try something different?CB12

I left the hatchery and returned to the main road.I passed a woman who has stopped with her daughter, Morgan. I would guess that Morgan was 10 or 11 and she was proudly riding the 16 miles from the aid station to Crested Butte.  I complimented her and assured her that I have many friends who can’t ride 16 miles.

CB11

The road today trended uphill, mostly at a 1-2% grade. It was an easy day getting into Crested Butte.

CB15CB16

I got into town and immediately saw their center for the arts.

CB18

The downtown area was being shut off to vehicles, probably for Ride the Rockies although I am not certain. This is another of the beautiful old mining towns in Colorado.

CB22CB5

After exploring the few blocks in town, I decided to go check in to my hotel. It wasn’t a hotel but a condo, and it was uptown. Literally.

CB28

And then I looked up the hillside, the mountainside, and saw the ski village. That is where I would be staying. And it was a steep climb. I would be staying in Mt. Crested Butte, which was the uphill finish last year for Stage 2 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. My condo was on the actual finish line won my Robin Carpenter.

CB26CB27

On my way up I had passed a bike path which was too inviting not to ride up. I decided to go back down to town and ride it again.

CB22

Twice up the hill was enough. I had taken a planned 27 mile day and turned it into 43. With climbing.

CB4
With a big day ahead, that was enough. It would be pizza in tonight. I ordered from Brick Over Pizzeria & Pub. It was very good. Very good.

 


Blue Mesa Reservior

GUNNISON, COLORADO

Days Inn Montrose
Days Inn Montrose

Maybe my legs have a 30-mile climb in them. But not at the start of a rainy day after a big day over Grand Mesa. Not today. My legs were crap.

Raining in Hotchkiss
Raining in Hotchkiss

I boarded a bus at 6:00 a.m. in Montrose for the 40 mile ride to Hotchkiss. Our last stop in Montrose we picked up additional riders who were standing room only. Closer to Hotchkiss, in Delta, the driver teased some riders by pulling over then motioning we were full. They would have to wait for the 7:00 bus. Ouch.

Leaving Hotchkiss
Leaving Hotchkiss

I retrieved my bike from the bike corral and the high school kids that had been watching them were teasing Ron Kiefel about having bike number one. They didn’t he really was number one – the host of the tour. It was the only time all week I saw Ron. I did not attend any of the cycling seminars.

It was cool. I brought a rain jacket. And I would need it for warmth (helped) and to keep dry (didn’t help).

The first aid station was at 10 miles in Crawford. It started raining hard. Around mile 20 it stopped and I removed my jacket. At mile 22 it started raining hard. It was a cold rain, 49 degrees (10C).

Rolling through Crawford
Rolling through Crawford

I passed a young woman from Denver. She would stand, pedal, then coast. Uphill. Her legs were shot. We talked about yesterday’s big effort and nutrition. I thought about riding with her just to distract her but she was too slow. I told her I would wait at the next aid station for her which I did. It was raining hard then. I never saw her after that.

Aid Station - Caught in the rain
Aid Station – Caught in the rain

After the aid station, the climb continued into Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We had 10 miles of rollers before beginning our descent. The sun came out briefly.

Colorado Mesa
Colorado Mesa

As I did on every descent I passed everyone although a 30-something woman got on my wheel and stayed there. And I didn’t try to drop her. I was glad she trusted me enough to read the lines and follow me. I asked her if she enjoyed the free ride and she did. I never saw her after that.

Black Canyon
Black Canyon

The last 30 miles were over and by the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Seventeen miles were on the shoulder of US 50 which is never fun in any state or D.C. I blew past the last aid station as I saw black clouds gathering behind us. I had stopped and changed my jacket six times and did not want to get soaked again.

Blue Mesa Reservior
Blue Mesa Reservior

I pulled into Gunnison and went searching for my motel – the Western Motel. The sun came out and it finally was going to be a nice day. I found a Sonic not far down the street and pedaled back to my room holding a burger in one hand and a milkshake in the other.

Gunnison
Gunnison

Grand Mesa

HOTCHKISS, COLORADO

Pain is relative and this was a painful day.

In 2007 I rented a bike in Idaho Springs and slogged up the 28 miles to the summit of Mt. Evans. By my calculation that gained 6600′ over 28 miles or 4.5%. Today’s ride gained 5800′ over 20 miles or 5.5%. It was hot, it reached 91 degrees and my Trek Domane is not built for climbing.

Leaving Grand Junction
Leaving Grand Junction

The day began riding down to downtown Grand Junction then joining the Ride the Rockies route. We rode along their new River Trail alongside the Colorado River until we were forced to ride on the road. And by on the road I mean a five-mile stretch of Interstate 70.

Interstate-70 just east of Paradise
Interstate-70 just east of Paradise

We were confined to the shoulder separated from traffic by cones. Yet for the impatient I saw a father being trailed by his probably 12 year-old son jump in the traffic lane of I-70. Brilliant! This guy should be nominated for Dad of the Year. He could have taught his son patience, respect for the law, but most of all, respect for life without making risky decisions.

 There were a number of pace lines that formed and I occasionally jumped in one. But when I’m carefully watching the wheel in front of me I’m missing some of the scenery.
Right before Mesa the road turned up. This was the start of the 20 mile climb. It was tough. I cursed my decision to bring the Domane. I can’t get as low gearing on it as I can on my Trek Pilot.

Aid Station
Aid Station

The entire time up the climb I kept looking for another gear. It wasn’t there. It really was a slog.

Looking back from Powderhorn Mountain Resort
Looking back from Powderhorn Mountain Resort
We had already ridden 36 miles, I may have had 40 at that point, when we reached Mesa. There the climb began. It was one pedal after another and not much more. I stopped, without guilt, at the aid station at 11 miles up just to get more water. I drank nine bottles on the day.

Grand Mesa
Grand Mesa
On the climb I passed a few people but I was passed by many more than passed me. One that I did pass was a mother and her son, probably in his late teens, on a tandem. He appeared to have Down Syndrome. Wow. What an inspiration.

Polka-dot jersey. I passed him.
Polka-dot jersey. I passed him.
Even as I reached the top of the Grand Mesa it still had some rollers to tease me with before beginning a 20 mile downhill to Cedaredge. I bombed the descent passing many and not being passed by anyone. Maybe I didn’t enjoy it enough. But I enjoyed it by going fast. I averaged 32 mph for more than 19 miles.
At the rest stop I met Dave, from yesterday, and his friend Jamie. I started to offer Dave a free rooming package since my roommate could not make the trip. But there were two of them, “a team,” Dave explained. They headed off for the last 20+ miles to Hotchkiss.
I left Cedaredge and started climbing again. “What was that?” my legs screamed out. Once over that first climb the route trended downhill with some flat sections. I caught Jamie and asked him what about being a team. Dave had left him. I rode with the big guy for a while before taking off myself.

Island Lake
Island Lake

Arriving Hotchkiss, many in the town came out to greet the riders.  I had ridden 99 miles.

 I turned around and went looking for food. I found Subway, which was probably the nicest building in town. I finished the ride, left the bike in the bike corral and boarded a bus to Montrose, the lodging location for this night.

 


Colorado National Monument

GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO

I rolled away from the hotel and towards downtown. Horizon Drive was torn up as a milling and paving operation was going on. I rode this yesterday and knew of a great bike path that went a little out of the way.  I jumped on it and wondered what the other cyclists thoughts of me flying past them all without trashing my bike.

Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument

I arrived at the main location at Colorado Mesa University planning to attend Opening Ceremonies. But riders were already rolling out so I joined them. We rolled out of town and to Colorado National Monument. I started the climb only stopping for a (real) photo op or two.

Bighorn Sheep Crossing
Bighorn Sheep Crossing
I found myself riding beside Dave*, an anesthesiologist from Grand Junction. He was very friendly and good rider. He spoke to me because I was wearing my Stelvio jersey. He had gone to Italy last summer. We also talked about prostate cancer. His older brother had PCa and what chosen brachytherapy as his treatment option. On the descent I pulled over for more pictures.

Tunnel
Tunnel

Down in the valley I rolled to the rest stop at Fruita. Here I ran into Don Sheppard, who was on my Trek Travel last summer in Italy. It was good to see him plus he introduced me to Nelson Vails, a silver medalist in the 1984 Olympics.

On the climb from Grand Junction
On the climb from Grand Junction
It was a flat roll back to Grand Junction. I caught Don then paced him for a while. He eventually said he was going to take a break and we parted ways. It would be the only time all week I saw him on his bike.
Pulled off on the descent towards Fruita
Pulled off on the descent towards Fruita
Riding today was easy and beautiful. Not sure if I figured this out yet but I think RTR tries to choose the easier route when possible. We went clockwise and the Park Service had closed off vehicular traffic from 7:00 to 10:30 am.

Nelson Vails, Don Shepherd, Barry Sherry
Nelson Vails, Don Sheppard, Barry Sherry

As I descended to Fruita I thought that was a steeper grade than we had come up. But I am not sure. Often you don’t realize the steepness until you look back on your work.

Headed towards Fruita
Headed towards Fruita

___
*Maybe Kast, maybe Potter


 

Grand Junction

GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO

That was a long day. Alarm went off at 3:45 and I proudly resisted the urge to ask for 10 more. At 4:15 a.m. I met Dave Fitzgerald who agreed to drive me to the airport.

At DFW
At DFW

The flight left DCA at 5:50 and arrived DFW at 8:20 which was the boarding time for my flight to Grand Junction. I scurried over to Terminal B and made my flight. I didn’t think my bike would.

Looking at Colorado National Monument from Airport
Looking at Colorado National Monument from Airport

But after I settled into my seat I saw the bike sitting on the Tarmac. And it made it.

Information Stand for Ride the Rockies
Information Stand for Ride the Rockies

The check-in day for Ride the Rockies can be a little intimidating. My last schedule change had me flying into Grand Junction and staying at the Clarion Inn.  I called the hotel and they sent a shuttle for me and my bike.

I assembled the bike and had a panic attack as I could not get the rear dérailleur to shift. I thought I could ride it to the main campus and have a bike mechanic look at it.  Out in the parking lot I realized it worked.  In the room I had been shifting down and it was already on the lowest cog – duh!

Backpath on Horizon Drive
Bike path on Horizon Drive

The shuttle driver at Clarion Inn took my bike and me and my empty bike box to the campus at Colorado Mesa University.  I offloaded the box then biked back to the hotel.

In the afternoon I went exploring. I went to the mall in town, after being told the only way there was one exit on I-70. It’s amazing how people only view transportation through a dashboard.

Downtown Grand Junction
Downtown Grand Junction

I found the downtown. It is very nice. Lots of statues or sculptures too.

Downtown
Downtown

I found my way down to the river trail but stopped as I saw a wedding in the botanical gardens. I wonder if they noticed me?

Wedding
Wedding

I followed a river trail next to the Colorado River until I found the trail bridge across the river. Once on the other side I visited my second cousin, Linda Shaver, and her family. We had never met before today.

Crossing the Colorado River
Crossing the Colorado River

I explored a little more of the city on the way back to the hotel. It was a long day and Ride the Rockies start tomorrow.