Sunday, December 20, 2009

the most wonderful time of the year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
When the bike tours are rolling
And friends are extolling you
Get it in gear
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s the hap, happiest season of all
For winter’s too chilly
For a ride that’s this hilly
Late spring until fall
Is the hap, happiest season of all

There’ll be familiar faces
And lots of new places
For anyone wanting to ride
There’ll be pictures for taking
And new friends for making
Here’s hoping the shoulders are wide

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
When you ride in the Rockies
You shouldn’t be cocky
But nothing to fear
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Thursday, December 17, 2009

my favorite ride of 2009 (interdigitate)

Mike at The adventures of Mike and his Bike bike issued a challenge last week for any and all to write about their favorite ride/challenge of 2009. I had a lot of great days on a bike this year and had to give some thought as to what would be my “favorite”. I have already written about both tours I rode this summer, and while each had numerous high points, there were also a few things I might change.

On those tours I had some wonderful days, including riding through the Colorado National Monument, over the Grand Mesa, Slumgullion and Wolf Creek Passes. But for a day that had multiple challenges, spectacular scenery, beautiful weather, and an ending in a picturesque town surrounded by mountains, it would have to be Durango to Ouray, day 6 of the 2009 Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour.

Seventy miles and almost 7000 feet of climbing! We started the day in the cool morning air, fog rolling off the Animas River as we rolled out of Durango. Gentle rollers were the trend for the first 10 miles, then the climbing started. A couple thousand feet over 10 miles before it leveled out. And we hadn’t reached a mountain pass yet! This was just the first rest stop of the day, near the Purgatory ski area at Mt Durango.

Next, we headed up Coal Bank Pass at 10,640’, gaining another 2000 feet in less than 5 miles. What goes up must come down, and our first descent of the day gave back about 1000 feet in a couple of miles before climbing again to Molas Divide at 10.902’. The next 5 miles was a screaming descent down to Silverton at 9,308’.

The final climb of the day was over Red Mountain Pass at 11,100’ gaining about 1800 feet over 12 miles. This was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen from a bike seat. There were numerous places that you could look back and see where you had come from, and it was breathtaking. Getting to the top of the third pass, and fourth climb of the day was a great feeling of accomplishment. But there was still some fun left to be had.

A 3300’ drop from the top of Red Mountain Pass into Ouray, which tour organizers had described as “very steep, narrow and technical”. This stretch is called the Million Dollar Highway, and the views are easily worth that. After a day full of climbing, the last 13 miles was all downhill, literally. I spent much more time braking than pedaling, navigating one hairpin turn after another, needing to slow further as I entered Ouray coasting at 30mph past the 25 mph speed limit sign.

Ouray is known as the “Switzerland of America” and we spent our last night of the tour enjoying its charm and hospitality. A couple good meals, a nice cigar, and camping in the cool mountain air were a perfect ending to a great day on the bike.

Monday, December 14, 2009

new heights

Day 3 of the 2010 Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour
When riding in the mountains it is recommended that you start early enough to be up and off the summit of a high pass before noon to lessen the chance of hitting, or being hit by, inclement weather. I’ll have my lights on for this ride because I will want to get an early start. This day could be epic. You can’t ride any higher than Mt Evans, and this is one I really want to do. The ride from Idaho Springs to Echo Lake is a pretty good climb in itself, gaining 3000 feet in 14 miles, on roads curving through alpine forests.

When we reach Echo Lake we’ll want to stop for pictures. There’s a spectacular park with trails around the lake. Echo Lake Lodge offers souvenirs and cold drinks. And just past the lodge is the fee station for Highway 5, Mt Evans Road. The cost is $3.00 for a bicycle, and that gives you the privilege of another 14 miles of climbing, and about 3500 feet of elevation gain. I had hoped to ride up Evans last June, but was totally unprepared for the sheer magnitude of this ride. Kind of like going to Nepal and thinking, “while I’m there I think I’ll climb Everest”. This time I know what to expect.

After the descent, we’ll head east on Squaw Pass Road going over Juniper Pass and Squaw Pass. I can’t find a lot of information on these passes except that they’re not really passes. At least not the way we will be riding them. Apparently they are mountain passes going north and south, but the road going east and west rides on the ridges of these mountains. Anyway, not too much climbing from Echo Lake, already over 10,000 feet, then down into Golden. There will still be some awesome, challenging rides over the next few days, but if I can ride all the miles on this day, I'll be talking about it for a while.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

down the highway

Day2 of the CRMBT 2010 will depart from Frisco around the south end of Lake Dillon, also called Dillon Reservoir. This was originally a natural finger lake on the Blue River. In 1961 the city of Denver, needing a reservoir in the high country, built the dam to create the lake as it stands today. The original town of Dillon was located on the banks of the Blue River, and it’s said that remnants of the town are still visible from the Dam road and Swan Mountain Road. I’ll keep my eyes open as we head north over Swan Mountain. The road only reaches an elevation of 9455’, and having started at 9100’ in Frisco, this shouldn't’t be much of a climb.

Then we’ll jump on Highway 6 and roll into Keystone. Then the real climbing begins. In the same area where you can cross the continental divide on I-70 by driving through the Eisenhower and Johnson tunnels, you can choose Highway 6 and cross over Loveland Pass. From Keystone it’s about 10 miles and 2700’ of elevation gain to the top of Loveland Pass. The road is well maintained and the traffic is light, although this road is used by tanker trucks that are not allowed through the tunnel on I-70. The descent on the east side is shorter than the west side, but fast as it drops about 1000 feet over three miles.
I borrowed a couple pictures of Loveland Pass. I hope it looks like this:

Not this:

From the Loveland Ski Area near I-70 the route heads east on I-70 for about 5 miles. Riding on the shoulder of the Interstate wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s the same stretch of road used each year for the Triple Bypass, an annual 120 mile ride from Bergen Park to Avon, over Squaw/Juniper, Loveland, and Vail Passes. Two things in our favor: CRMBT is capped at 500 riders, considerably less than the 3500 who ride the Triple Bypass. And, we will be heading east, mostly downhill. After a stretch on a frontage road, it’s back on I-70 for a few more miles into Georgetown, then rolling on down towards Idaho Springs at 7615’.

Friday, December 4, 2009

happy birthday

Happy Birthday Mom!

I have an older brother, two older sisters, and two younger brothers. When I was young my Mom was a foster Mom for babies waiting to be adopted. Actually that's how we got my two younger brothers; they were too good to give up. And in the midst of all these children, my Mom had, and still has, a way of making you feel special.

I hope you have a great day, and we'll see you soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

a,b,c's of cycling colorado

These are some places I've visited, or plan to, and would recommend to anyone who wants to get to know Colorado up-close and personal:
A- riding through Aspen on the way to Independence Pass
B- Battle Hill Summit, a beautiful part of the Copper Triangle
C- Colorado National Monument "tour of the moon"

D- Durango, a great western town, and good starting point for some great rides
E- Mt Evans and Echo Lake, still waiting for me

F- Frisco- bike, hike, kayak, sail, ski- you can do it all here
G- The Grand Mesa- the world's largest flat-top mountain

H- Hoosier Pass- south of Breckenridge
I- Independence Pass- my first really big climb

J- Juanita Junction- a wide spot in the road between Hotchkiss and the Paonia Reservoir on the West Elk  
    Loop Scenic Byway
K- K's Drive-In in Buena Vista
L- Leadville, the highest incorporated city in America
M- Monarch Pass- drove it, then rode it
N- North La Veta Pass, southwest of Pueblo
O- Ouray, the "Switzerland of America"
P- Pagosa Springs, great vacation spot
Q- Quincy's-If you're in Leadville, eat at Quincy's
R- Red Mountain Pass-breathtaking views

S- Slumgullion Pass- one of the hardest climbs in Colorado

T- Trail Ridge Road-I can hardly wait
U- Uncompaghre National Forest, beautiful part of southwest Colorado
V- Vail Pass- I love the west side, hate the east side
W- Wolf Creek Pass- good climb, great descent

X- the X-Games are held each winter in Aspen
Y- Yellowjacket Pass- not too tough, but nice ride to Durango
Z- I'll need to catch some to get ready to ride