Thursday, July 2, 2009

a really grand mesa

One of the things the Bicycle Tour of Colorado did a good job with is marking the route. Not just "left turn ahead" or "stay right", but marking road damage, warning of upcoming cattle guards, and sometimes just painting encouragement into the pavement. One of my favorite sayings was on the climb over McClure Pass, which Ride the Rockies claimed had grades from 8-12% near the top. It said "pain is weakness leaving your body". If that's true I think my bike seat was covered in weakness by week's end.

On Monday we climbed out of the valley and Hotchkiss, doubling our altitude at the top of the Grand Mesa, the worlds largest flat-top mountain. The grades weren't as severe as the previous day, but we climbed a little for 20 miles, then we climbed a lot for 20 more! (Just keep pedaling!) At least I didn't have to contend with any moose.

As we rode on it became more and more obvious the direction we were going. Partly because it slowed everyone down, some more than others. And when you stopped for a rest, the photo ops got better and better as we could see the valley that had been our terrain a few hours prior. I don't know why the riders at the Tour de France don't get off their bikes every once in a while, drink some water, look around. It's really refreshing! OK, I do know, I'm just saying...

Occasionally, nearer to the top of the climb, the views didn't stretch as far, but they were spectacular in their own right. Green trees, blue sky, and enough mosquitoes to make a native North Dakotan feel at home, if not for the bumps in the flatness of the earth.

My Trek did a fine job of helping me overcome most of my shortcomings. She deserved an occasional rest too. The peaks in the distance are the San Juan mountains. One of the problems with a climb this long is the odometer moving too slowly. I would try to play games with myself, like scheduling the next rest for 5 miles down the road. Several minutes later my cycle computer seems like I've made no progress. Could it be broken? Am I in a time warp? No, just keep pedaling, and don't look at it for as long as possible.

It was warm in the valley as we began our ride. It was hot by the time we had made 20-30 miles. But, by the time we reached the summit it had cooled considerably. Our aid station was set up right across from the elevation sign. I got one of the sign, and there were plenty of folks who were taking pictures of each other in front of the sign that would've taken my picture, but I settled for one of this young man with cerebral palsy who had made the climb. If you keep your eyes open you can always see someone amazing!

As we neared Grand Junction it became hot and windy. We actually rode about 4 miles on the shoulder of I-70. Not something I want to do everyday, but if you stayed to the right of the rumble strip and tried not to think of what was flying by at 70 mph, it wasn't too bad. By the time our mileage was in the mid-90s I was ready to stop, and not overly impressed with Grand Junction's clever street names: (122 1/4 st?) ( E 3/4 ave?) Oh well, it was still a good day. A long, hard, hot, good day!


  1. A long hill here is maybe 3/8 of a mile. But 20 miles? Makes for some awesome photos though. Another great post!

  2. I am sure I would be turning a lot of revolutions. Looks like great fun. Keep up the good work.

  3. Was the high elevation tough on the lungs and if so did you get used to if after a while? Just curious if it made a difference. When I ride really long rides I actually turn the mileage to different screen because I look at it too much.

  4. I know the elevation affects people differently. I wasn't really bothered by it until we were really high, and I was working really hard. And, btw, I would change to a different screen too, like the time, but then I'd tell myself that I could check miles again in say...30 minutes.