Wednesday, August 31, 2011

thank you!

Peter and Hillary, Kevin and Ann, Theo, Scott, The gang from Rocky Mountain Sports Massage, all the volunteers, and all the other riders who made this a great week on the roads of Colorado:   Thanks!
It was amazing! Headwinds to Hotchkiss, beautiful Black Canyon on the way to Gunnison, and an epic two days over Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass before a well deserved rest day were all wonderful.
Norm at the summit of Cottonwood Pass.
It was great day off in Glenwood Springs, a beautiful ride over McClure Pass back to Hotchkiss, and another memorable day over the Grand Mesa back to Grand Junction. A huge thank you to all of you who make it possible for us to do the ride, enjoy almost every mile, and want to come back and do it again! And to all the riders I rode with, ate with, visited with: It was great to meet you, or see you again. What a great group! Let's do it again next year!

Monday, August 29, 2011

crmbr '11 hotchkiss to grand junction

Saturday, the last day of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour, had us going from Hotchkiss back to the starting point at Grand Junction, with a twist. Instead of staying on CO 92 all the way to Delta, where we had gotten off of US 50 a week ago, we hung a right on CO 65 and headed for Cedaredge, and the Grand Mesa beyond it. If you're only going to ride up one mesa, it should be a grand one.
The route for the day would take us over the Grand Mesa, down a great descent, through a stunning canyon, onto the shoulder I-70 for about 5 miles before a long, hot ride through the outskirts of Grand Junction. And, everyone was deciding on what, if anything, they would do about heading for home after the ride. With that in mind I was up early for breakfast and to get packed one last time. I said my goodbyes to Theo, who was going to put our bags on the Penske truck to be picked up at the finish, and Scott, the bike mechanic who had taken care of us all week.
The ride was downhill for the first 20+ miles. Riding with Bud, and Dan and Janie we were making good time. We were working well together and picked up some help along the way. John from Austin, and Paul and Steve from Pittsburgh joined our little paceline, and we made it to our first aid station quickly, without having worked all that hard. Great way to start a long day!
Then, we were climbing. Just going slightly up hill in a straight line at first. Then the road turned and rose, which it would do several more times for about 20 miles. I don't think the pictures can do justice to the breathtaking views. As we rode higher and higher, we could see more and more of the valley below us.
When you get near to the top, the road takes you away from the rim of the mesa and onto rolling hills through forests and over 200 natural lakes. You can't see as far as you could on the climb up, but there's still plenty to see.
When I saw this sign, I knew I was near the high point. Pictures at the top, nice descent, and a long, hot ride to Grand Junction were all that was left.                                                                                                      
 The descent was longer, faster, and better than I had remembered. With the exception of a couple miles that had been repaired with chip-seal that felt kind of loose, you could get some good speed and maintain it for a long time. Before we knew it we were rolling through the canyon to the last aid station. One more snack and a refill of our water bottles and we were touring once more.
Mercifully, the 5 miles on I-70 is downhill and if you stayed to the right of the rumble strips, not that bad. But, it was still good to get it over with. By the time we hit Grand Junction the remaining water in my bottles was hot, so when Dan suggested stopping at a convenience store for a cold drink, I was on board. Another couple miles to the school and the four of us who rode in asked Hillary to take our picture. Then it was time to clean up, pack up, and hit the road towards Kansas. Another great CRMBT in the books.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

crmbt '11 glenwood springs to hotchkiss

Friday's route was 80 miles over McClure Pass at 8,755 feet. It's a ride I've done before , from both sides, but I was looking for ward to it anyway, because it's beautiful. I was up at 6:00am, and after breakfast and a little organization was on my way.
 We got back on the bike path parallel to CO 82, with a terrific view of Mt Sopris on the horizon. When we reached Carbondale, we headed in a southwesterly direction on CO 133 towards McClure Pass, Paonia, and Hotchkiss.
We were riding through the Crystal River Canyon and the river ran alongside the road for a while. The road doesn't have a very wide shoulder, but the traffic's not too bad. And the scenery is postcard worthy.
As we climbed towards McClure Pass the views back at the road we were on, and the valley below, were spectacular! And I find that a climb is easier if you stop for pictures once in a while. This climb is not long, but it gets just a little bit steep near the top.
Mt Sopris had been with us all morning. It's a twin summit mountain named after a former mayor of Denver. It's 2 peaks are 1/2 mile apart and are both 12,953 feet above sea level.
Then, we're at the top and the second aid station. Time for pictures of my two favorite signs: summit elevation,  and steep grades ahead. Fill the water bottles, have a snack and head on down.
From the summit of McClure Pass to Hotchkiss is roughly 43 miles and 3400+ feet of elevation loss. It's a nice descent with wide sweeping turns that allow you go as fast as you can. You can really fly almost all the way to the Paonia Sate Park and reservoir. Even after the real descent you're still trending downhill and can make pretty good time.
 As you near the reservoir you know you're getting closer to the valley below. It's soon going to be hotter, dryer, and a lot less alpine looking, so enjoy the green views while you can. There's one aid station left before the last 22 mile leg to Hotchkiss, and the terrain will reflect the mining, farming and ranching that takes place there. You'll also pass some vineyards and wineries.
The area around Hotchkiss has it's own distinct kind of beauty. As the sun was setting the moon was already in the sky and this was the view from where we were camped at the high school. Everyone found a bit of shade to escape the heat, and then it was early to bed because we had another 100 mile day, and the Grand Mesa to look forward to tomorrow. Some were planning on spending the night in Grand Jumction before heading home, while others of us were planning to get some miles in towards home after the ride. Either way, it would be a long day. But, a good day!