Tuesday, August 17, 2010

peak-to-peak highway

Climbing, again, would be the order of the day. The climb started within a block, just to get out of Golden. A few miles north of town we took a left turn onto Golden Gate Canyon Road and went mostly up for about 20 miles. The tour had classified Golden Gate Summit at 9,050 feet as a category 1 climb. The only tougher climb would be an HC, for " hors categorie", a french term meaning beyond classification. The aid station at mile 15 after a brief downhill stretch was a welcome respite on this grueling climb. Getting off my bike to catch my breath did afford some fantastic views.
Shortly after the big climb we turned north onto the Peak-to-Peak Highway. A nice descent from the summit was followed by some beautiful rollers as we cruised down toward Nederland, a funky little town southwest of Boulder. It was about halfway to Estes Park, and there wasn't a lot between those two towns. All the climbing had me in the mood for a real meal, not just snacks at the aid station. And it had taken most of the morning. So I kept my eyes open as I rode through Nederland, and I found the Khatmandu Cafe just off the route. I had a couple trips through their lunch buffet, enjoying basmati rice, curried vegetables and warm nan. Nepalese comfort food?
The afternoon consisted of short, tough climbs, followed by short, fast descents. I stopped briefly at the second aid station about 7 miles outside of Nederland.  A few rollers and a nice downhill section got me to the last aid station at mile 55, twenty miles from Estes Park. By this point I was hurting. My right leg was cramping, and I wasn't sure how much more climbing I could do. I was glad that Estes Park represented a rest day for the tour.

My body felt ready to be off the bike for a while, but I still was enjoying the scenery. The blue sky and white puffy clouds, the evergreen trees and mountains spreading off on the horizon. My wife thinks too many of my pictures are of the road, but that is the name of the blog. And I love having, and sharing, reminders of where I rode from, and where I need to ride.
Nearing mid-afternoon, still with 20 miles between me and Estes Park, those puffy white clouds took on a more threatening appearance. The temperature was dropping and it was starting to rain lightly. I was ill-prepared. Knowing that 9,050 feet would be our high point, I hadn't packed a lot of rain or cold weather gear. I stopped and put on my light windbreaker and rode on. Within five miles I was completely soaked and the temperature continued to drop. To make matters worse, the storm was now producing lightning and thunder.The rain was also turning to hail as I saw the rider in front of me pull into a parking area. There was a closed building with a wooden porch and overhang. I joined about 15 others huddled together to stay warm. We watched as the hail grew bigger, and cars pulled to the side of the road to wait for it to lighten up. The other riders let me know that a full SAG van had stopped earlier and let them know they would return to pick up everyone eventually.
When I caught a ride to Estes Park I learned that the temperature had dipped to 35 degrees. I got my bike to my tent, got clean clothes and headed for a hot shower. After dinner I climbed into a warm sleeping bag to read and relax. I heard someone calling his friend out of his tent and telling him to bring his camera. I grabbed mine and went to investigate. We were camping on a fenced field next to the aquatic center, and in the corner was this elk grazing on a shrub. I knew that I wasn't in Kansas anymore.


  1. That is an impressive trip, Jeff!

    Gosh, you sure wouldn't expect to get that cold this time of year. Poor guy, that part sounds miserable. Well, the biking part does too, actually. But the scenery is great!

  2. It sounds like a beautiful trip, Jeff. Seeing that elk is amazing.