Sunday, January 31, 2010

'tis the season

As many of us labor on the trainer in anticipation of a new riding season, various tour organizers have announced, or will shortly, their routes for 2010. If you live in or near mid-America here are some rides to consider:

-BAK, Bike Across Kansas has announced their route, which visits different towns each year on the way from the Colorado border to the Missouri border. The tour runs from June 5-12, with an "official" early start on the 4th to ride the 18 miles from the border to the start community of Goodland.

-TdK, Tour de Kota runs from June 6-11. It's not a loop this year, but does offer riders the chance to ride from Nebraska to North Dakota. Very nice!

-BRAN, Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska is the same week as the previous 2 tours. From June 6-12 riders will travel from the northwest corner to the southeast. The start and finish locations appear to be no more than 10-20 miles from the borders of Wyoming and Iowa. I think I would have to find a way to get in those extra miles.

-RTR, Ride the Rockies is tentatively scheduled for June 12-19. They will unveil the route and open their lottery for applications on February 7.

-Oklahoma Freewheel is scheduled for June 13-19. They've named the overnight cities but don't have a map up yet.

-Border Raiders, which starts in Lawrence, KS and visits Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri before returning to Lawrence, is scheduled for June 19-26.

-BTC, Bicycle Tour of Colorado, has a Gunnison/Pagosa Springs loop scheduled for June 20-26. Parts of the ride mirror sections of last year's CRMBT route, and promise plentiful challenges and scenery.

-RRIBT, Red River International Bike Tour is scheduled for June 21-25. No route announced yet, but their site hints that they're heading south. It could be a really nice ride through North Dakota and Minnesota, but this year it won't be international.

-RAGBRAI, Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa just announced their route for July 25-31. Their lottery is now open for what is said to be the 3rd easiest route ever, based on mileage and hills.

-CANDISC, Cycling Around North Dakota In Sakakawea Country runs from July 31 to August 7.

-CRMBT, Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour is slated for August 1-7, covering 439 miles in their fourth year. This will be my third year joining this tour and their spectacular route will give me the chance to visit some places I've had the pleasure of riding more than once, as well as some new challenges to conquer. I'm going to blow up a picture of Mt Evans and hang it in front of me while I'm on the trainer.

I love riding bike tours. I think everyone who loves riding should try one. Short or long, easy or hard, camping or motels, just get on your bike and ride. I got an America by Bicycle calendar in the mail yesterday. Someday I would love to spend several weeks riding cross-country. In the meantime, I'll try to keep riding across, around, over and through as many places as I can.

Monday, January 25, 2010

where am I?

As you know if you've read almost any post on this blog, I love bike touring in Colorado. Other than the spectacular scenery and incredible challenges that riding in the mountains offers, I've visited several corners of the state and learned of the immense diversity that Colorado has to offer. Before riding the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour in 2008, I hadn't been to Colorado for 20 years. And that had been flying into Denver and never straying farther than the suburbs. I had seen some of the areas around Denver and Colorado Springs, and I thought it was a beautiful place, but I had no idea! That got me thinking how we can be so ignorant of our geography, even where we live.

I'm originally from Fargo, North Dakota. People I've known for years will hear of something from that part of the world and ask me, "You're from South Dakota, right?". Or even worse, just Dakota. I know all about the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, and the Corn Palace, but North Dakota is a whole other state! As different as South Dakota is from the east to the west, so too is North Dakota.

Fargo is on the border with Minnesota, in the heart of the Red River Valley. The topography is a remnant of the glacier that used to occupy much of the north central part of the continent, and the lake it left behind when it melted, Lake Agassiz. The land in that part of the state is fertile farmland, and for the most part, flat. Really, really flat. But if you venture west you'll find many other sides to the state: rolling hills, the Missouri River, and the Badlands. You'll gain a little elevation, from Fargo at about 900 feet to Medora at 2267 feet, at the southern end of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, south unit.

Besides affording me the opportunity to learn more of Colorado's diversity, the trips across Kansas have shown me more of the state where I've lived for the last 22 years. The town where I live is just more than 1000' in elevation. I had no idea that the the western plains of Kansas were included in what's referred to as the "high plains." When you reach Kanorado, KS, on the border between, you guessed it, Kansas and Colorado, you've already climbed to 3900'. That means you drive almost halfway across Colorado to Denver, and you're only about 1400 feet higher than you were in Kanorado! Mile High City, hah!

You get to the other side of Denver, and it's whole new ballgame. Colorado has plains, desert-like areas, and lots of good farmland. To get there, however, you probably need to go through the mountains. I'm not saying that's a deal breaker.

Monday, January 18, 2010

crmbt 2010 - day 7

By the final day of the tour we will have climbed Tennessee, Fremont, Loveland and Squaw Passes. We'll have ridden up Mt Evans, over the Peak to Peak Highway and Trail Ridge Road. We will have a lot of miles and a lot of climbing under our belts. Say that two times. But, we still have to get back to where we started. And the CRMBT organizers give us a century ride to get there. Day 7 is 102 miles from Granby to Edwards.

We start out on highway 40 to Kremmling. A few miles northwest of there we get off of the road that leads  to Steamboat Springs, and take the road less travelled. County Road 134 will take us over Gore Pass, 9527', gaining a couple thousand feet over 10 miles, and on towards  Toponas. Maybe we'll see some other kinds of bikers on the way.

There we get onto highway 131 and head south. A little more climbing sets us up for a nice descent down to the State Bridge area. One final climb over a summit only referred to as CO 131 Summit, seven miles at 6% or better grade to 8250', and it's pretty much all downhill from there. 102 miles and 5100'  of climbing will be a great way to finish a tour that will take some of us to new heights. Now, back to the trainer.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

crmbt 2010 - day 6

This winter has shown us more snow and cold than I can remember in the 22 years we've lived in Kansas. It has me seriously aching to get out on the road again. I've gotten back on the trainer, but even with the DVD player it is so boring. I bought an exercise ball to help strengthen my core. And I keep thinking about Mt Evans and the rest of the CRMBT that awaits me this August.

photo from:
Following the rest day in Estes Park, day 6 brings Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park.
Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous motorway in the United States and we'll travel more than 8 miles at elevations of more than 11,000 feet. Construction on the road started in 1926, and Trail Ridge Road opened in 1932. To accomplish it's purpose of a drive-able road across the continental divide through the park, the grades are generally less than 5%, and never more than 7%. About 24 miles from Estes Park we'll reach the highest point of the day at 12,183 feet.
From there it's all downhill to Grand Lake and on to our final night of the tour, camping in Granby. We still have a ride ahead of us to get back to where we started, but if I'm able to add Mt Evans and Trail Ridge Road to my cycling resume, I'll be a happy camper!

Friday, January 8, 2010

crmbt 2010 rest day

Most week long bike tours feature a day off during the week. CRMBT offers a rest day on Thursday. Those who cannot take the time to ride the whole tour can do the CRMBT Lite and ride only the first 4 days. The rest of us appreciate a day to recuperate in some wonderful Colorado mountain towns like Frisco, Durango, and this year, Estes Park.

Estes Park is at the entrance to, and home of the headquarters for, Rocky Mountain National Park, and has always been closely tied to the park as a tourist town. RMNP was dedicated in 1915, and Estes Park became a town in 1917. Sitting at 7522 feet makes it a low spot in comparison to Trail Ridge Road through the park, with a high point of 12,183', or Long's Peak at 14,259'. The town was named for Joel Estes, a pioneer who made his fortune as a 49er gold miner, and stayed out west rather than returning to his native Kentucky. One notable resident was F.O. Stanley of the Stanley Steamer automobile company. Beside building his home there, he built the Stanley Hotel, which played the part of the Overlook Hotel in the Stephen King movie, The Shining. Can you say "redrum"?

Estes Park appears to be a great place for a day off with opportunities to go rafting, fishing, hiking or rock climbing. It also might be a good place to find a quiet place by the lake, sit back and relax, and enjoy the surroundings. With the park just to the west a reminder of what's ahead of you, a day to recover from the first four days, and prepare for the last two days, should be just what the doctor ordered.                         

Monday, January 4, 2010

day 4 - crmbt 2010

The fourth day of CRMBT 2010 will take us from Golden up to Golden Gate Canyon, then on north over the Peak to Peak Highway to Estes Park and the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. I found a couple pictures of the Peak to Peak here: sycip bikes

I've read that many pro cyclists live in the Boulder area, not far from the Peak to Peak Highway to the west, and more flat high plains riding to the east. Our ride this day will top out at 9050 feet, with plenty of ups and downs before the final descent into Estes Park for a rest day. The rollers here promise beautiful scenery along the way.