Tuesday brought a decision that needed to be made. The route for the day was from Grand Junction to Montrose, following highway 50 through farm and ranch land, gaining about 1000 feet over 63 miles. Some riders got up early and rode to Montrose, in time to pick out the best spots for their tents. A few hardy souls and really strong riders rode the optional loop through the Colorado National Monument, AND rode the 63 miles to Montrose, making for a day of 100+ miles.
And then there was the SAG. If you've never done a supported ride, SAG stands for Support And Gear. Someones following you in a vehicle, meeting you at random or planned stops along the way, carrying anything you might need. SAG has also come to be know as catching a ride part, or all of the way to your destination if you are mechanically or physically unable to ride. Some BTC riders had private SAGs for a group, and decided climbing and riding in the monument was by far the best part of the day. If they then chose to catch a lift to Montrose they wouldn't be missing much, other than the miles. And some, like me, started out to ride the optional loop and figure the rest out later.
Once in the park we rode on Rim Rock Drive, nicknamed the "Tour of the Moon". This is the part of the Coors Classic Bicycle Race featured in the 1985 Kevin Costner movie, American Flyers. The route offered over 3000 feet of climbing, mostly just inside the entrance to the park, and spectacular views at every turn. We enjoyed a cool sunny morning full of climbs and descents, oohs and aahs, and many, many pictures snapped.
Rim Rock Drive also has 3 tunnels that cars and bikes pass through. We were well-advised that front and rear lights were necessary, and even required by law to make for a safe passage. The last 2 tunnels were very short but the first one went on for maybe 50 yards. Signs were posted as you approached to remind you to use your lights. What the signs didn't say was to remove your sunglasses. It's a weird feeling to suddenly enter darkness, and see only the light from the front of your bike, and the blinking of taillights on other bikes. For a fleeting moment it seemed difficult to keep my balance, but I made it through without incident.
As we were snapping pictures, someone familiar with the area pointed out to us the mesa off in the distance across a broad valley. That was the Grand Mesa that we had ridden over the previous day. It was interesting to be able to see a high point where you had been, from a high point where you were today, and everything in between.
Between the climbing, picture taking, and general enjoyment of the morning, by the time I completed the loop and got back on the planned route to Montrose, it was early afternoon. It was hot and windy and we were riding a boring stretch of highway through land of a stark beauty at best. The timing also meant that the first aid station was closed and the second would be by the time many of us reached it. With that in mind, the Tour had SAGs out encouraging riders to hop on and be delivered on down the road, or all the way to our destination. After the near 100 miles the prior day, I was more than happy to take my memories, and pictures, from the monument, and catch a ride for the rest of the day. If a choice had to be made between the ride from Grand Junction to Montrose, or the ride on Rim Rock Drive, I felt good that I had made the right choice.