Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#RTR2015 Day 1 Grand Junction to Grand Junction

Today's ride was though the Colorado National Monument - 47 miles and climbing nearly 3000 feet (2992).

Rolled out about 6:20.  Brad, the founder of Wish For Wheels and I were first out for the team.  A little noisy going to bed the night before.  The Mesa college marching band began practicing at 10 PM, but good sleep and easy start.

We began the climb after about 8 miles and Brad left me at that  point.  I rode the monument a couple of years ago for Tour of the Moon  and the climb was much easier this time, even though I was in better shape for Tour of the Moon.  The views are incredible and a nice starter ride for this years RTR.  Super sunny all day and rolled into Mesa college around 11 AM.

The downhill was fast and somewhat dangerous with the slow riders and some riders going dangerously fast.  Sometimes passers were in oncoming lanes or passing on the right, a recipe for disaster.

Road Conditions were fine, with some farmland rolling hills north of Fruita  You do need a light to ride through the national monument tunnels.

We had a lot free time, but most of the team had lunch together.  As we looked for a place to sit, Casey was already making friends with a woman at a table.  We all decided to crash his party and it turns out she was pretty cool, a doctor, raised in Colorado but an east coaster now.  Did the hour long massage - my shoulders will be the challenge this ride since I didn't have long training rides.

Tomorrow is a long day, Grand Mesa, and already have my massage appointment ready.

-Steve

#RTR2015 Day 2 Grand Junction to Hotchkiss

June 15th, 2015

Wow!  Today was brutal.  Grand Mesa is my toughest climb to date.  The ride was 96 miles and 7631 feet of elevation gain.

I believe I was first out this morning at 5:50 AM.  The first part of the ride was actually on a bike path headed towards Palisade.  In the dawn early light, the vineyards looked lush and green.  Brad and Casey passed me on the west side of Palisade, but I didn't see them until they were a bit ahead of me.  After Palisade we did a stint on I-70 until the Powderhorn turn.  The semis were a bit dicey as they passed.  The ride up to Powderhorn began with a meandering road following the river.  I hooked on the wheel of a pace line, making good time until a rider two ahead of me went down and the rider in front of me went over the top.  Luckily I was able to avoid both of them.  They were both ok, but one was really shook up.  It wasn't the only challenge of the day.

It was hot.  As I neared powerhorn, my legs were screaming and I barely staying upright.  My lack of climb training was showing.  Lance Armstrong was riding that day with a friend and I had a few words with him near Powderhorn.

At Powderhorn, I wasn't far from the top, but I broke down and flagged a sag van.  But my legs aren't the story.  A young woman was riding in her 20th RTR (I think) and her father also had ridden with her each year.  This year, she was riding ahead of her dad and she had received a call on her cell that her dad had an accident on I70 and was in the hospital.  As mentioned, the short jaunt on I70 was dangerous as riders would swerve into the right lane to pass and didn't seem to realize that a semi couldn't react quickly.  She was reasonably distraught and we rode together to the top of Grand Mesa.  On the way she learned he was all right, but would be in the hospital overnight.  She was able to find a ride to Grand Junction when we reached the lunch stop.  As we reached the rest stop, Brad was riding in.  I didn't mention I had sagged to the top, at least at first.  The burger off the grill was great and it was an incredible and fast downhill to CedarEdge and Hotchkiss was a relief.  My massage never felt so good.

Hotchkiss is a great small town, welcoming the riders with an outdoor bbq at the fairgrounds just down the street from the school RTR headquarters.  Its one of those places I might never visit without RTR.  We headed down main street for dinner at a pretty nice restaurant (i have forgotten the name) after which we join the BQ party.  Sitting in the afternoon sun, enjoying a beer, listening to the band, hanging with cool peeps...they even had golf cart transportation for riders around town.

-Steve

RTR in retrospect

Well, tonight I started my post about RTR 2017.  But...as I signed on, I saw the the RTR 2013 and RTR 2015 post and had a little fun down memory lane.  Getting nostalgic with a glass of bullet and my dogs snoring next to me.  I laughed about the very brief posting from the 2015 RTR.

My first RTR experience was back in 1993.  I had planned to ride with my then girlfriend and...well...that really didn't turn out so well.  I was also on my last legs of a very brief insurance sales career.  I guess June of 1993 was a time of change.  The final leg of the '93 RTR was from Frisco to Golden.  I fired up Evinrude, my trusty '92 Ford Ranger (which many of you know lasted 20 years), and spent the night camping at the Frisco high school.

Lake Dillon had steam rising that early Saturday morning and 2000+ riders launched towards Loveland pass.  I was focused on the pass and little did I know the steady grade between Keystone and A-Basin would be the most challenging part and sap me for the day.  Over the top, with no fear at 28, I hit the Loveland ski area on-ramp and the steep grade down I-70 at around 55 MPH on my trusty Diamond back mountain bike.  Yup, RTR was different back then, with roadies and mountain bikers.  I passed a 1970s Pinto with a blaring muffler pipe as I rode the break-down lane towards Bakerville.  Idaho Springs was a planned RTR rest stop and I celebrated that I was almost to Golden...and then we attacked Floyd Hill...and...Floyd won.  Keystone to A-Basin was tough, but I was used up by the time we hit Floyd.  My triple crank and granny gear was perfect, but I was spent.  As I arrived in Golden, my stepdad picked me up.  In case you are worried about Evinrude, we drove back to Frisco...

What happened in '15?  It wasn't pretty.  The lack of training really had a toll on my physically through the week.  But...as I was reading the single posted blog, I saw that the rest of the week was never posted - I had left each post in draft - publishing now

-Steve

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ride The Rockies 2015 Prologue Day -1

Ride the Rockies 2015 starts tomorrow (June 14th) and guess what?  It's raining again.  But, I am hopeful for a dry week and  I am really excited to be riding with the #WishForWheels team.  Wish for Wheels is a non-profit organization and provides new bikes to under-privileged youth.

 #RTR2015 is 473 miles this year, from Grand Junction to Westcliffe Colorado.  Rain is my nemesis this year with many training weeks all rained out.  About 3 weeks ago, I decided to just ride and get drenched.  RTR is about  climbing and I've only had one climb. This year will be challenging physically, but having completed before is the saving grace...I hope.


I dropped my truck in Westcliffe and we headed to Gand Junction.  The fire was burning in the sky when we arrived and it was 94 degrees.  Sherpa is again offering tent setup / breakdown service, so that's for me!  Tomorrow we ride the Colorado National Monument, which is featured  in the Kevin Costner movie American Flyers.  I have ridden the route before and it is gorgeous!  Game on!

-Steve

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