Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 1 - Telluride to Cortez

June 9th 2013 - Day 1 - RTR - Telluride to Cortez

Day 1 - I awoke at 5 am and was surprised at the number of people getting ready to go.  The temperature was a brisk 38 degrees, but it was toasty in my bag.  I was the first of the group out of the gate at about 0620 am with  a 15 mile climb out of Telluride to Lizard Head pass at 10,222 feet.  It was absolutlely gorgeous, sun was up on the peaks, but the valley still shadowed.  Sunshine and Wilson peaks were my early morning adversaries, towering in the distance as we climbed.
Another great view:

The first rest stop was  hoot - at the top of lizard head pass.  The DJ was egging cyclists to play games, such rolling oranges.
But the treat was skipping breakfast to experience Flipping Flapjacks.  All you can carb load for $5.
This guy is a master, flipping 4 pancakes at a time onto your plate.  

The ascent was listed at 2200, but my friend Bill logged 2600 on his bike computer.  

I only had a bit of drama.  On the 60 mile downhill, I rode in several pace lines and we were hauling.  Putting your wheel a few inches behind a strangers can be nerve wracking.  At one point I was alone, still moving about 25 MPH and had my head down following the white line.  I am not sure what made me look up, but a silver Porsche was passing a 5th wheeler and headed right at me.  Took a while for my heart to slow down after that near miss.  A rider caught me a few minutes later who witnessed and we pace lined together into Delores.  These guys guided us to the Cortez recreation center where we are staying tonight.  

Showers - Have you ever showered in a semi truck?  More on that next time.  I showered, had a massage and now at the afternoon cycling seminar.

The final word.  Today was one of the most beautiful rides I have been fortunate  enough to have ridden.  Please take the time in your life to experience Telluride and the ride south.  It's a gorgeous 75 miles.

Be safe and share the road!

Steve

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 7 - Canon City to Colorado Springs - 47 miles

June 15th 2013, RTR Day 7, Canon City to Colorado Springs

Wow!  It's hard to believe we have reached the last day.  It seems so fast now, but I remember the times when the light at the end of the tunnel was nowhere to be found.

Today's ride, 47 miles, was a walk in the park compared to the last 4 days.  Jody headed out early and the rest of us packed and moseyed over to the Waffle Wagon - what a great fuel up!  We backtracked to Florence and on to Penrose, mostly downhill.  No flap jacks for me today.  A rider was down just before rest stop #1 and the RTR paramedics were on the scene.  I am not sure what happened, but sad to see so close to the finish.

The climbing continued through the rolling hills and heat to rest stop #2, Ft Carson, about an hours ride to the finish!  The DJ was in full swing and lots smiles, laughing and games at this rest stop.  I ran into Kelly, whom I met in Telluride on Day 0 in the RTR check in line.  I started early and I passed Kelly each morning, but usually 5-10 miles into the ride along with 3-4 other  riders.  I can't imagine what time they started each day.  Kelly and her friends rode RTR using hand cycles. What a challenge these riders undertook and conquered!

I saw another rider down with medical help a few miles from the finish.  I also do not know the outcome of that accident, but glad they had the support needed.  Flat tires were the bane of the day as I passed at least 10 riders with flats along the way.  I rode more cautiously and I know many drivers wonder why cyclist sometimes don't hold as far right as possible - it's due to gravel and debris which can cause falls or blow outs or both.

I pedaled through the finish line with arms raised in victory.  I had left my car at the house of Tina and Paul, about 9 miles away.  I was going to get a ride there, but just kept pedaling up the hill and to their house for a fabulous indoor shower and drove back the to after party, which had a fantastic finish as all of the sag vehicles, police, ambulances and volunteers drove in after the last rider!
State Patrol, paramedics, 85 volunteers and RTR staff receiving a standing ovation for their RTR support
This adventure was also in social media and I found it challenging to keep my phone powered as well as the time to write up the day's adventure.  I used Google Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, email and text to keep everyone up to date, but the long rides finished later than the first few days and I found myself jotting down notes in my phone to write up the day's journey later.

The Colorado Springs community has been hit two years in a row by wildfires.  Please reach out, be it time or money, to help someone in need.

I rode my first century (100 miles) on May 19th and these last 4 days (Tuesday-Friday) were almost centuries.  My 5 longest rides have also been in the last 30 days, 4 on RTR.  This RTR, due to the re-route, was a record breaker.  This was the longest RTR ever at 547 miles and over 22,000 ft of ascent.  It was fun, challenging, difficult, painful, hot, cold, sleepless and absolutely gorgeous!  Yep, i loved it!  It was a great experience and a great way to see Colorado!  Day 7 What is RTR?

Chandler, the RTR director, ended the celebration with the quote of the week and so shall I.  A young rider, probably around 12, commenting to his father after using the porta-pottie "Dad, someone pee'd in the helmet holder."

Taking a couple days off riding,

-Steve

PS.  Today had a great outcome no matter how RTR went.  I picked up an 8 week old GSP puppy, my new BFF!







Day 6 - Salida to Canon City Re-Route

June 14th, Day 6, RTR Salida to Canon City

So...good night's sleep in Salida.  Great place and I will be back to stay and explore.  Salida has fantastic views of the Collegiate Peaks and the Arkansas river is right there.

The drama!  We received the new route last night and it caused a pretty big fervor among riders.  Angst is a better word.  Some were considering ending their tour simply due to the new distance.  Others were just unhappy with the new route - added 33 miles and 35 miles of uphill.  I wasn't too happy as we had just completed 3 high mileage days of 86, 91 and 84 miles.  Now we were adding 94 miles and 4400+ feet of climb.  Friday was to be a wind down day and instead, it now was the longest and also the most feet of climb on the ride.   Day 6 Re-route map

Heading uphill at Cotopaxi
On most mornings, there is a lot of banter among the riders.  It was pretty quiet this morning, everyone seemed to have their game faces on, a grim determination to survive this day.  As we departed Salida, there was a marquee road sign alerting everyone that highway 50 was now open.  Believe me, it crossed many of our minds to stay on highway 50, unsupported, to Canon City.  However, at Cotopaxi, I didn't see a single rider head on down, but rather we all turned and geared up for the 35 mile climb.  I took a break around Hillside and looked back the way we came and had a great view of the collegiate peaks. Priceless.

We headed up toward Hillside, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff.  The day was quiet (no trucks), cool and overcast, and we were heading south, the Sangre de Cristos stretching out again, only this time from the east side.  The valley was green and the ride simply beautiful.  Also to my wonderment, my tail end was happy with the new seat location - I rarely had to stand to give my butt a break.  Amazing!
On the way to Westcliffe - Sangre de Cristos in the background

As we rolled into Westcliffe, several riders turned into the Stage Stop Ice Cream and Smoothie Shoppe in Westcliffe.  Westcliffe also sports the tallest stop sign I have seen in my life!  I was stopped with several riders and we all were laughing.  On the map, it looked like Silver Cliff was separate from Westcliffe, but it was only a mile or so to the Silver Cliff RTR rest stop at Club America.  After a PBJ and refills, I took off for the final ascent up Hardscrabble Pass.  The climb, while steadily upward, also had downhills instead of a sustained climb like Wolf Creek pass.

The downhill to Florence was a blast!  However, there were several very tight hairpin turns which had state troopers and volunteers ahead of them warning to slow.  I was right on the tail of a Suburu, so I couldn't just let it fly, but I heard later at the first aid station that 5 riders didn't stay in control and went over the guard rail.  All were ok!  After getting by the Suburu, I enjoyed the next 20+ miles of downhill.  But as we came out of the mountains, we hit a plateau and it was like an easy bake oven as we approached Florence.  The Smoothie people were another partner that traveled along with us and I had made it a daily ritual to consume a protein smoothie at the last rest stop each day to speed recovery.  The shade seemed 20 degrees cooler than the sun.  8-9 miles to Canon City!

As I left the rest stop, along the way was the fire camp for the Royal Gorge fire.  The firefighters had tents and large food tent.  I certainly take my hat off to those who fight fires for 12-14 hours a day and sleep in a tent only to get up and do it again!
Royal Gorge Fire Camp
About 6 miles out, I was riding along a guard rail - very narrow shoulder - and a woman was passing me at just a slightly higher speed when a loud "POW" just like a firearm just went off in my ear....and a warm blow of air on my leg.  The woman yelled "what the _____" and swerved.  Yup, my rear tire just blew out.  I had a spare tube, but not a spare tire...and neither did those passing who offered to help.  I was so close to a beer and now was stranded.  No sag wagon or teh Mavic car in sight.  But McGyver stopped and told me to fold a dollar bill and put it over the blow out slit...I did just that, replaced with my spare tube, and was on my way.  The beer was apparently only delayed 30 minutes.  Until my front tire went flat two miles later.  I pumped it up and it seemed to hold air and on I rode.  I pumped it up again a couple of miles later, but finally about a half mile away, the front tire just wouldn't hold air.  I made it in and the guys at the Bicycle DR tech tent fixed me up and  WD-40 washed the bike again to rid it of the ash from the Salida downpour the night before.  Bicycle DR is worth a mentioned - they were great too and are located in downtown Denver.

Margaret Tennant is also riding RTR.  Margaret has Parkinson's disease and RTR riders helped her off and on her bike at each rest stop.  She is riding with the Davis Phinney team.  Davis was a professional rider who also has Parkinsons and started the Davis Phinney foundation to help make life easier for those with Parkinsons.  Margaret made a video "Better on the Bike"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLK7OHw7J1s



After getting ready for the final day, I met Cindy, Warren, Peter, Rick and Jody at Ortegas on main street. Great mexican food - I had the chorizo burritos!

In the end, most riders I spoke with agreed that the re-route was the best ride day so far and so scenic.  The drama and angst the night before was a lot of wasted energy.  What a treat I would missed if I decided to cut the corner and stayed on US50 or we were not re-routed.  The ride is a series of problems to be solved and the re-route solved the challenge of the fires and provided a better experience than originally planned.  I am so glad I didn't miss it!

Living the dream!

-Steve


Day 5 - Alamosa to Salida

June 13th, 2013 - Day 5 RTR - Alamosa to Salida - 84 Miles

When I reached Alamosa yesterday, I picked up my second demo bike of the week, a $12,000 SRAM.  This bike weighs 15 lbs including wheels, has deep dish wheels and every time I stood up on the pedals, the darn thing wanted to take off from under me.  A sweet ride and I was very interested to see how it rode.  The demo bike also had more of a racing stance, which concerned me as my shoulders were already sore and this stance puts more weight on them, but here goes.

First, I had the best night's sleep on the trip so far!  But  Alamosa was frigid this morning, full gear on to start.  The demo bike didn't have the bags to store my gear, so when I shed the gear, it all went into my rear jersey pockets....does this jersey make my butt look big?

I was a little worried today since the ride was a steady uphill, all the way to the top of Poncha Pass, 71 miles away.  Worry for nothing as I jumped on the SRAM demo and it seemed to pedal itself.  The grade from Alamosa was uphill on the map, but I was tooling along at 16 mph with no effort, it wasn't as steep as it looked...or it had to be the bike.  Warren, Peter and Cindy caught up at rest stop one and we rode together a 19 mph pace line the 20 miles to rest stop #2.  I was able to keep up and pulled a couple of times, dropping back about 2 miles away from then rest stop.  Warren dropped back to pull me in.

The Sangre De Cristos mountains were keeping us company on the right all the way and it was a cool and pretty morning.  If you have been this way, the long straight stretch can seem long in a car, but it was easy to get into a rhythm and I made 71 miles to the top of Poncha pass in about 5 hours.  It was sunny, but fairly cool until the last 14 miles up Poncha Pass.  Considering it took about  5 hours to reach the top of Wolf Creek (24 miles), I was feeling pretty good.

A wild fire appeared to be just starting and it was growing as I rode past so if you hear of something in the news...you can barely see it in the left hand side.
Summitting Poncha pass was pretty much the end of effort.  All that was left was the screaming downhill to Poncha Springs (47 mph) and easy downhill to the Salida Middle School where we are camping.  I did see a couple of banged up people in the first aid tent - one guy had a front flat on the downhill on Poncha pass and was sporting some pretty nasty road rash.

I spent my free time in the afternoon in the bike tech village.  WD-40 provided free bike washes all week and it was yellow wristband day, so my bike is now clean and lubed.  Sports Garage out of Boulder are great and Chris the owner didn't like the way my seat was adjusted, so he fitted me on the spot and adjusted the seat - we'll see if there is a difference tomorrow - he believes my sore tail end days are over!  I do recommend Sports Garage - they are great!

FIBArk, Salida's annual whitewater festival, starts today and is combined with the  RTR festival.  The park is next to the river, so a quick leg soak, gyro's and rice and settled into the band.  The Arkansas is really high right now and saw a lot of rafters and kayakers.  The band had a good lead singer and when she left the stage to sing in the crowd...I realized she was REALLY young.  I asked the guy next to me how old she was and he replied "12, can you believe it!"  Blew my mind!  It was hard to believe this stage rocker, lead guitarist and lead singer was 12.  She could belt it, but her riffs were amazing.  I couldn't get a clear shot...but here she is!


On the walk back to the school, the thunder was grumbling away.  It had been spitting a bit, and the heavy clouds finally cut loose and we had a little torrential downpour for about an hour or so.  I was soaked, but I didn't melt - its only water.  Luckily we had put all of our stuff inside the tent - all was high and dry.  But some people were not so fortunate, tents in low spots were flooded or luggage left outside.  I was laughing as I looked at my bike and those around it...it seems like it rained dirt.  Perhaps ash from the fires?

Wolf Creek pass was a really tough yesterday for me, but many riders also shared what a challenging ride they had.  I really enjoyed the ride today as well as my body didn't protest like yesterday, it just went out and got the job done.  I am still surprised and how far you can push yourself and still recover and have a good next day.  I am actually feeling pretty good tonight, staying up a little later to catch up on Day 4, which I am having trouble posting (internet in Salida wasn't cooperating and the guest network at the school blocks Facebook and Twitter).

Update on the ride:  Tomorrow was supposed to be a relatively easy day, but the fires have re-routed us.  What was a nice 60ish mile downhill with a climb at the end to Canon City is now a 94 mile ride, turning at Cotapaxi, heading to Westcliffe over Hardscrabble pass and around through Florence to Canon City.  It will be the toughest day of the week instead of a wind down.  Hopefully my tail end makes it!

Hanging tough,

-Steve

Thursday, June 13, 2013

RTR Update - Route Changed due to fires

I haven't had time to enter the Day 5 details, but we have some changes.

Update on the ride:  Tomorrow was supposed to be a relatively easy day, but the fires have re-routed us.  What was a nice 67 mile downhill with a climb at the end to Canon City is now a 94 mile ride, turning at Cotapaxi, heading to Westcliffe and around through Florence to Canon City.  It will be the toughest day of the week instead of a wind down.  Hopefully my tail end makes it!

-Steve

Day 4 - Pagosa Springs to Alamosa 91 miles

Day 4 opened with a gorgeous sunrise over the mountains as we headed east on hwy 550, with granite peaks and a verdant valley.  A lot of early morning pictures help procrastinate the challenging climb on tap for today.

It is amazing to me how you can push yourself beyond where you believe you can go.  Yesterday (Durango to Pagosa Springs) was amazing – I felt the day was going to be challenging and my body responded.  Today’s ride was the opposite.  We started just before 6 AM to a 15 mile uphill to the first rest stop.  After flapjacks, Wolf Creek pass stood tall before us.  I told Warren at the rest stop before I left that I was simply going to think of Deer Creek Canyon in the south Denver metro which is a 9 mile uphill.  

As Warren passed me 3 miles into the climb, he quipped “This Wolf has more teeth than the Deer.”

The switchback picture is roughly 2 miles into the climb, yes, we rode up that.  While I am sharing the fun, make no mistake, the ride is difficult each and everyday.  Even a good day has challenges.  RTR is series of problems to be solved.  For example, getting a good night's sleep is a challenge.  Tuesday night ran into a buzzsaw in the neighboring tent.  Gel ear plugs couldn't drown out the buzzsaw.  I actually started laughing at one point that someone could snore sooooo loudly and rythymic.  Luckily, the sherpas are accomodating and a few key words and that tent is now away for the rest of us.  But I was tired for the challenge of day 4.

The opening 24 mile grind up the 10,850 ft Wolf Creek pass was next challenge, with road grades around 8%.  However, the day quickly became a battle of wits between my body and I.  My quads were screaming during the first 17 miiles, refusing all requests for more power (Scotty we need more power!).  My tail end added to the cry approaching the start of the Wolf Creek climb.  As I ascended Wolf Creek, a twinge started behind my right knee….a few minutes later my left knee complained of the same twinge.  My left ankle wasn’t to be denied and began howling.  "Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling" became the day's mantra.  Slowly, all that my world contained was gorgeous view and a complaining body that just wanted to stop.  The grade varied from 4-8 percent – the Wolf truly had more teeth than the Deer.  But at 11 AM, we breached the summit!  I spent a good 45 minutes at the Wolf Creek pass summit, eating a burger and just sitting letting the body’s cacophony die down.  The map showed downhill all the way to Alamosa, but little did I know what lay in store. 

The downhill was epic, reaching speeds in excess of 50 mph.  And still gorgeous!  But after the stop in South Fork…my biggest fear for this day appeared…headwind.  It was actually a side, head and angled wind as it moved around.  The only way to survive was to join a paceline.  I thought I was solo and looked back and found I collect 6 or so riders, so we took turns pulling into the wind and made it to the Monte Vista rest stop.  It was a tough pull.  But the reward was loaded potatoes.
 
Like the flapjack stop, which travels with us and can always be found at rest stop #1, there are single stop and other traveling vendors.  The loaded potato stop is a one timer and free!

The stats for the day:  91.5 miles, 10 hours total time, 7500 calories (based upon total time, not ride time).  This was an extremely tough day.

We did cruise through Alamosa, similar to Pagosa Springs.  Along the way, a train whistling it's warning, blocked our progress toward a hot shower, naps and food.  We were lucky it was overcast for most of the day, but upon arrival at the tent city, the sun came out and heated tents and people right up.

The great news is that the dinner burritos, beans and chicken were really good and the band, Home Slice, was excellent.  Since we camped at the recreation center, the beer garden was on site, along with a summer carnival.

I am pretty much cut off from television and media in general.  I have even been having trouble keeping up with the blog on a day by day basis.  What takes up my time?  Getting my gear ready for the next day, showering, eating, a few moments of hanging with my team and peeps met along the way and bed time is 9 pm most nights.  I have heard rumors of fires in the Royal Gorge and Black Forest.  RTR told us tonight that we would have an update at the Thursday daily seminar as to whether we can continue our route as planned or deviate.

Of course, thanks for the texts and phone calls - both support and inquiring about the fires.

Stay tuned and stay cool!

-Steve

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day 3 - Durango to Pagosa Springs

I had a great night's sleep in a bed!  Thanks to Marianne for hosting me and getting up at 5 AM and driving me to the start.  Apparently I also missed the drama of a extremely loud snorer near our tents.

I had a lot of concern after yesterday how I would survive today.  My legs were fried, shoulders aching and tail end on fire.  On the road 5 minutes to six today, out of the gate 15 mile climb to Vallecitos, trying to beat the heat.  The start was 48 degrees and saw two elk right in the middle of Durango.  Surprising, the early climb I felt strong and I made it to pancakes ahead of Warren and Peter, whom I thought would catch me on the uphill.  

After the climb and flapjacks at rest stop #1, we had a rolling downhill, which cruised through the pastoral farms near Bayfield, Colorado.  It heated up around 10:30.  We ended up about as far south, Navajo Reservoir, as far as you can get without entering New Mexico.  We had the opposite, a steady rolling climb, for the next 26 miles.  Chimney Rock was the most interesting sight in my opinion.

It was hot at the rest stop about 17 miles from Pagosa with uphill still to climb.  To my relief, all downhill once in Pagosa Springs.  Pagosa Springs seemed like an endless road as it was 4-5 miles from the entry to the other end were the high school was.  Total mileage was 86.5 miles, ascent in the book was around 3400 ft, but I registered 3635 ft.  My max speed today was 46.9 mph.  I rode all day with very little discomfort - to my surprise.

Pagosa put together a sweet little bbq and concert, complete with a beer garden.  The river was alongside and Warren and Peter turned me on to sitting in the chilly Pagosa river to stimulate circulation and get all the toxins out.  It was freezing, but it hurt so good!  I am burning a lot of energy, 6693 today according to Garmin.  I had enchiladas and beans....followed a couple of hours later with a plate of spagetti and meatballs.  Each stand in the park was serving a different local charity.  And I made a new friend!

Tonight, just after showering, it appeared a dust storm hit the tent area, but it was just someone dragging the baseball fields for games tonight.  We are camped in the outfield on one of the fields.

Tomorrow is Wolf Creek pass, about a 4600 ft climb right off the bat (nice reference to baseball games being played tonight eh?).  15 uphill miles to pancakes.

Onward and upward.

-Steve