Tuesday, June 30, 2009

easing into an adventure

When I woke up at Echo Lake campground on Friday morning it was 40 degrees, and I decided to drive up the mountain once more before I left. The wind was howling which made it feel a lot cooler than the 25 degrees my car showed.

A cyclist warming up to ride up the mountain with her husband offered to take my picture with the lodge and Echo Lake in the background.

Having assured myself that I made the right call not trying to ride up Evans, I headed west to one of my favorite towns from last year's trip to Colorado. Frisco sits at about 9000 feet on I-70 on Dillon Lake. There are ski resorts all around, including Copper Mountain and Breckenridge within 10 miles. Both of those are accessible by bike trails too.
I got to town in time to have breakfast at Butterhorn Bakery & Cafe before wandering around town enjoying live music and vendors that were part of a BBQ contest on Main Street. I found a bench near the lake and spent the afternoon in the sun with a good book. Then a nice ride on the paved trail over to Copper Mountain and back.

On Saturday I took my time getting to Glenwood Springs. I went a little out of the way to drive to Leadville and back to I-70 via Minturn, covering 2/3 of the Copper Triangle, a ride that my brother-in-law, Bruce, and I are planning for the day before our next Colorado tour in August. Then onto the start. The afternoon was spent checking in for the Bicycle Tour of Colorado, attaching wrist bands, meal bands, bike numbers, and luggage tags. The tent city grew as people from 43 states and 30 some countries arrived for the adventure. Many riders do stay in motels or B&Bs, but many also sleep in the cool mountain air either in their own tents, or a separate tent city set up by ShuttleGuy. This is a service that for a handsome price will have a tent, air mattress, chair, towel, and refreshments waiting for you as you ride into camp. Some nights that looks pretty good, but I like my tent, the orange MSR Hubba Hubba down the foul line.

This picture is not very clear, but it shows some information on rider demographics. In addition to the states and countries represented, it breaks down the ages of the participants. I was mildly surprised to see that 32% of the riders were between the ages of 40 and 49, and 42% were from 50 -59. I was right at home.
Tomorrow we ride!

Monday, June 29, 2009

what I didn't do on my summer vacation

I was up and on the road by 4:00am on Thursday, June 18. Due to my early departure, few stops, and entering the Mountain time zone, I made it to Idaho Springs by early afternoon. I found the road to Mt. Evans and headed towards the Echo Lake campground. Beautiful rolling roads curved through thick pine forests until I saw a sign announcing Echo Lake Park. The road then curved to show this small lake with Mt. Evans looking over her shoulder.

Just past the lake is the Echo Lake Lodge which features a gift shop and restaurant. It's a great place to pick up a souvenir, or to enjoy a meal in the rustic dining room. After a drive to the summit I stopped here for buffalo chili and cornbread, with peach pie for desert.

The lodge is located at the start of Mt. Evans road, across from the entrance to the campground. There's a parking lot next to the campground where cyclists can park for the ride to the summit if they aren't up to the ride from Idaho Springs.

There's a fee for a car or bike to go up the road. Once you pass the fee station you have nine miles to Summit Lake, and fourteen miles to the parking lot at the top.

The ranger at the fee station gives you some information as you head up the mountain about the flora and fauna to be found on the mountain. I saw some birds but couldn't tell you what they were. But, I saw lots of mountain goats, several marmots, and one flock? of bighorn sheep. This is one of several gatherings of goats across the mountain, near and on the road.

I believe this is Pike's Peak, far to the southwest, visible from the summit of Evans.

Here's what is left of a restaurant called Crest House which was completed in 1942. It was hit by lightning in 1979 and never rebuilt.

If you're patient and don't try to get too close you can spot the yellow-bellied marmot all over the summit.

Here's a view of the road that I drove to reach the summit. A bike ride up here now would be cold, with no protection from the wind, over roads that are narrow and winding, and not always in great shape. I'm sure you can imagine some expansion and contraction going on. It was 78 degrees in Idaho Springs on that day, 58 at Echo Lake, and 38 with a wind chill of 8 degrees at the summit.

Did I mention that it's 14, 258 feet in the air?

I pulled over at one of a handful of places to get a picture of how much snow is still guarding the road to the top.

These are the bighorn sheep who were not nearly as interested in getting close to vehicles as the goats. The big one at the front looked for alternate routes past me over the edge and up the snow wall. But with some young ones in tow he kept inching closer. I pulled way over to the left and when they were close they hurried on past me.

As I headed down the mountain I stopped for a picture of Echo Lake from up Mt. Evans road.

Some of the last trees at tree-line, before you leave the forest for the tundra, are these bristlecone pines. Some of these trees are estimated to be up to 1700 years old.

After getting off the mountain and spending the night at Echo Lake, I headed west to Frisco. I called Beth and told her I had good news and bad news. The bad news was that I didn't ride up Mt Evans. The good news was that it had greatly increased the odds of my surviving the day. I was smart enough to realize my limitations, and know that I would want the weather to be warmer, to have trained more, and to have someone with me in case there was trouble. Even if that just meant pointing to where I fell off the mountain. Besides, I had PLENTY of challenges ahead of me once the Bicycle Tour of Colorado began in Glenwood Springs on Saturday. True story!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

dark side of the moon

I'll be going through a communication blackout for a week and a half. Off to Colorado in the morning, winding up in Glenwood Springs on Saturday to check in for the BTC. I may not ride fast, but I'll keep on riding, and hopefully have some good stories and pictures to share. Here's where I hope to spend some time on the way to the tour:


Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Yesterday it rained, hailed, blew, thundered, and lightninged like crazy. The good news was I had to work anyway. The weather looked slightly better today, and drizzled half the morning. I got in a round of golf with some buddies nonetheless. When I got home I took my Trek to the LBS to have it checked over before the Bicycle Tour of Colorado. When I realized that it still wasn't raining, and early in the afternoon, I got out the Surly for a quick 25 miles.

It turns out that I do have this weekend off, and if the weather cooperates I should get a couple of decent rides in, not pushing too hard as I near BTC. One week from tomorrow I'll get up early and head west. A couple nights at Echo Lake Campground, with a short ride up Mt. Evans in between, then on to Glenwood Springs on Saturday to get checked-in and ready for the tour.
I've already started packing and re-packing to get everything I need in the smallest, lightest bags possible. I can tell I'm not the only one getting excited by the increased number of posts on the BTC rider forum. I can also tell that the 3 days I have to work next week are going to seem longer than they actually are. When I leave work on Wednesday, don't be dawdling in the parking lot.
I'm not taking a laptop, and I probably won't even touch a computer while I'm gone. But I will take lots of pictures along the way, and make lots of notes on what I did and what I saw each evening in camp. After Wednesday I won't post until I'm back home on the 28th, or the next day. But, I promise to share my excellent adventure with you if you'll check back with me. And tell your friends!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I got about 25 miles in after work yesterday, and then spent much of the evening watching various programs commemorating the anniversary of d-day. My Dad is a veteran of WWII and landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944. For years Dad didn't talk a lot about the war, except when he was with his buddies who had shared the experience. It would have been easy to get the wrong idea about war because most of the memories they shared involved a great deal of laughter.

In the last several years he has been more willing to talk about the war, and give us some small idea of what he went through. His stories often still evoke laughter. For example, Dad and another soldier accompanied an officer to pick up a truckload of ice and beer donated by a brewery near Las Vegas to the men training under Patton in the desert around Bouse, Arizona. They were offered a drink at the brewery but the officer said no, and ordered the men to guard the truck while he attended a meeting. While they waited in the heat they noticed water dripping from the melting ice on the truck. So, they caught that with their helmets, drank a few beers, and filled the bottles with the water, and re-capped them. Needless to say, some GI's first beer back at camp was not full-flavored.

Many members of my family have made pilgrimages to Bouse, where he trained, and to the Patton Museum in Chiriaco Summit, California. Patton oversaw desert training for troops planned for North Africa, but by the time they were prepared the fighting there was over, and they were shipped out to Europe instead.

In late May of 1944, Dad drove a load of sub-machine guns to Manchester, England for modification. As the job was nearing completion he received orders to proceed with his load to Swansee, Wales immediately, pulling out all stops. When he arrived, he backed his truck onto the LST, the gate was closed and they headed for sea. After seven days going south around Wales and through the North Atlantic to the English Channel, they landed at Normandy on D-day.

His truck being the last one on, was the first one off, and the water was deep. His unit had to fill in for artillery bearers who were lost and after spraining his ankle and unable to keep up with the rest, he spent the night alone on the beach. He was 23 years old at the time.

Sometimes life is hard. We have to do things we'd rather not do. Occasions like this anniversary serve to remind me how lucky I am that people like my father, and so many others, were willing to do what I can't even imagine, and because of their sacrifice, life is pretty good! Thanks, Dad.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009