Tuesday, February 22, 2011

crmbt 2011 - grand mesa

We can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way. And the fun way! The route on the final day of CRMBT for 2011 is 62 miles from Hotchkiss back to Grand Junction. The exact same route as the first day, in reverse. Or, when you get to Austin, CO you can cut over to CO 65 and head north. By the time you reach Cedaredge you'll have ridden 25 miles and gained a couple thousand feet. Now the real fun starts.
You will already be at about 6,000 feet, leaving only a little less than 5,000 feet to the high point of the Grand Mesa. Oh yeah, you'll be climbing for the next 20 miles! The grades are often in the 3% range, occasionally ramping up to 6-7%, but you're climbing for 20 miles! And it's awesome! You ride out of the desert to an alpine flat-top mountain, the largest in the world. You will be treated to views of the valley below as you make your way up.
As you near the high point the views aren't the same because of the forest, but the lakes and aspens and pines seem endless and the scenery is still beautiful. After 20 miles and a few hours one of the most beautiful sights is the elevation marker at the top.
There are still some awesome views as you head off the mesa, but before long you'll be treated to a great descent. Twenty-plus miles of downhill on good roads is your reward for one of the toughest climbs in Colorado. Make sure your bottles are full. When the grades back off you still have 25-30 miles to get into Grand Junction. And in August it will be hot. You'll end up with your second century of the week, and will be able to add Independence Pass and Cottonwood Pass, as well as Grand Mesa to your cycling resume.Every cyclist should ride the Grand Mesa once. Maybe twice.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I just got back from a few days in Arizona with my parents, and both sisters. We were visiting my brother and my nephew and his wife who live in Phoenix. On Saturday we made a pilgrimage, one we've made for the last five or six years.
Several years ago, I joined my folks while they were visiting my brother, and we took a side-trip to San Diego. On the way we stopped in Chiriaco Summit, CA to visit the General George S Patton Memorial Museum. My father had trained under Patton during WWII. Patton oversaw a large area including parts of CA, NV, and AZ. Dad had trained in the desert outside of Bouse, AZ with 9th and 10th Armored Tank Group.

Twenty miles east of Bouse in the remote Butler Valley, a group of young men trained in secrecy with a new weapon planned for use in North Africa. They trained in secret, mainly at night, on the Canal Defense Light Project. This tank had a bright light with enormous candlepower to temporarily blind the enemy. When the war in Africa was over before the affectionately called "gizmo" was ready, it was rarely used in the terrain of Europe.
A few years ago my Dad, brother, nephew and I drove to Bouse, and out into the desert to look for remnants of the base. While in Bouse we visited the small museum, where they were thrilled to be able to ask questions of one of the soldiers who had trained there. They also informed us of an annual dedication ceremony in Bouse's "monument row". We've gone back with Dad every year to visit the museum, the monuments, and take part in the ceremony honoring veterans, specifically WWII veterans, and especially those who trained at Camp Bouse.

I love that this little town, in the middle of nowhere, realizes the importance of preserving our history, and remembering the young men who came here "where heroes trained", and saying thank you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

crmbt - glenwood springs to hotchkiss

Today you'll ride out of Glenwood Springs to Carbondale where you'll head south on CO 133, the northern leg of the West Elk Loop. It's a scenic 80 miles today with a short, but steep climb over McClure Pass roughly half way. But, before you get there, enjoy some spectacular scenery along the way.

You could stop for a visit in Redstone, or check out the coke ovens near Cardiff. At the very least, take some time to admire the Crystal River and the canyon it flows through as you make your way towards the summit.
Once the real climbing starts the grades can hit 9%, but the climb is less than four miles, and the altitude is nothing for Colorado at 8755 feet.
The grades aren't quite as steep on the other side, but it's still a nice descent. And the scenery as you pass Paonia Reservoir and Paonia State Park is beautiful.
As you ride on towards Hotchkiss, the scenery changes from alpine to high desert. You're definitely on the western slope. You'll ride past ranches and mines, farms and vineyards. Chances are it will be hot later in the day, so a cool drink will really hit the spot when you roll into town. There's a descent barbecue place not far from the high school called Zack's, but get there early to beat the crowd. And get to bed early for a big final day tomorrow.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

glenwood springs

Ready for a rest day? This is a good place for it. Glenwood Springs sits at 5761 feet at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers. Established in 1883 it was originally known as Defiance, CO. It is home to the Yampah Hot Springs vapor caves, underground steam baths used by the Ute tribe more than 100 years ago for their healing properties.

Relax in the mineral caves, swim in the pool, or if you still have some energy you could check out the hiking and biking trails around town. You can check out Glenwood Canyon on paved trails, or get on the dirt and hike up to Hanging Lake . Enjoy a little of what Colorado has to offer. Tomorrow it's back on the bike and some more beautiful riding.