Saturday, November 16, 2013

why vegan?

It's been roughly a year since I began this journey. It began as an exploration of a healthier way of eating. A suggestion to check out Forks Over Knives led to trying to eat more of a plant-based, whole food diet. Searching for recipes and tips opened my eyes to the inefficiencies in our food chain. Estimates are that every pound of beef we consume requires sixteen pounds of grain for feed, and 2500 gallons of water. It became clear that I could have a smaller adverse effect on the planet by eating a vegan diet. If a person is willing to go that far, it's a short step to learn more about the way we treat the animals we raise for food and myriad other products.

For me, that sealed the deal. I'm a vegan, and expect to be for the rest of my life. Paul McCartney once said that "if slaughterhouses has glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian". Peta is promoting a video featuring Paul called "Glass Walls". Fair warning; it's hard to watch. But I think it's important. If we're not willing to look through the "glass walls" to see where our food comes from, we're living in denial.

If you can't, or don't want to watch this, I understand. But if we can do anything to reduce demand, or encourage more humane practices, we should. The way we treat all creatures, great and small, reflects on us as a society. I want my voice, and my actions, to lead towards less suffering in the world.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

pikes peak or bust

About a week ago I found this blog post about climbing Pikes Peak. At the time I shared it on Facebook and the forum on the CRMBT  website. It served to confirm my brilliant deduction that attempting such a thing would be hard. I mean, the author has climbed all the big climbs in Colorado, including Mt Evans, and he writes that this is the hardest climb he's ever done.

That doesn't bother me. Obviously, after I've done this next year, I'll tell anyone who will listen how hard it is, and I'll make it sound worse than he did. I imagine my written account of the ride will read something like a movie review: "I laughed, I cried...". No, what bothers me is what the author has to say about when to ride it.

I was so glad that our attempt to summit Pikes Peak would not come on our first day out of Colorado Springs, but rather on our last day. Five days of riding, acclimatizing, and enjoying the heights would get me ready to give it a go. And I still think that adding this to my climbing resume will be a perfect way to end the tour, as well as a reason to celebrate. But being reminded of how many tourists are driving up, and down, Pikes Peak highway, especially on a Saturday, makes me wonder what else I'll write about the experience. "I laughed, I cried, I cursed a minivan from Alabama".....

Header photo from Michael Seeberg's blog, Road Cycling Colorado

Saturday, October 12, 2013

crmbt 2014 route

The Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour has officially announced their route for 2014. As the tour takes shape it's apparent that I jumped the gun on the Royal Gorge. We will be close, but not in, Royal Gorge. But the route still looks absolutely fantastic!

Days 3 and 4 will be familiar territory for CRMBT, although Monarch Pass between Salida and Gunnison hasn't been featured since the first two editions of the tour. Days 1 and 2, and days 5 and 6 will be all new, and promise to be memorable.

The first day is relatively short at 46 miles, and calls for only 1300 feet of climbing. Day 2 will take us on a 94 mile ride through the Sangre de Cristo mountains and along the Arkansas River to Salida. On the third day we'll be on US 50 to Gunnison, with a stop at the top of Monarch Pass.
We'll hang a right in Gunnison and head up to Crested Butte for the night with 92 miles and 5500 feet of climbing under our belts.
Many will be heading out early on day 4 to backtrack to Almont and head east along the Taylor River and around Taylor Park Reservoir.
Waiting on the other side of the lake is a nice dirt rode that takes you past 12,000 feet. I've descended Cottonwood Pass into Buena Vista twice, once on my bike during CRMBT '11, and once in the back of a Ryder truck on the 2009 Bicycle Tour of Colorado due to rain and fog. It's more fun on a bike, and that's why I advocate an early start on this 76 mile day with 4500 beautiful feet of climbing.
After a rest day in Buena Vista it's back to new territory for this tour as we head to Woodland Park, with stops in South Park and Cripple Creek. This century day takes us 102 miles with 5900 feet of climbing, so they probably won't be lengthy stops.

The last day of the tour could be an 18 mile ride back to Colorado Springs, or it could be an epic adventure! All you have to do is get off of US 24 at Cascade, pay your toll, and ride up the Pikes Peak Highway to the summit at over 14,000 feet. This 19 mile climb, by all accounts, is hard! But if you train hard enough, long enough, you may be rewarded with a view such as this:




I think it might be worth it!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

long time, no post

It's been a while since I've posted anything on this blog. After returning from Colorado I haven't been on my bike all that much. Too few rides that were too short. I can place blame on circumstances, but truthfully I just haven't pushed myself to ride as much as I should if I want to keep riding in amazing places.

I visited such a place this weekend. For several years I've gone camping at the end of September with a group of friends. "Men's Weekend" is for building fires, playing cards, smoking cigars, and enjoying an adult beverage or two. The last few years it has also included a couple of short bike rides. We moved the location for our camping weekend this year and were able to take a nice 25 mile ride on the Katy Trail. Cameras are frowned upon at Men's Weekend, but here's an idea of the scenery we enjoyed:
Images borrowed from Bing Images.

And now I think I've found the motivation to train through the winter. The Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour has announced the likely route for 2014, and it looks awesome!
This route includes an epic ride over Cottonwood Pass, which we've done before on this tour. And it goes to some places we haven't visited, including Royal Gorge, and, wait for it, Pike's Peak! When I heard some rumors that Pike's Peak may be part of the tour, I wasn't sure how the organizers could arrange the route to give riders a good shot at making it to the top without disrupting the flow of the whole ride. It looks like this could do it. Leaving from Woodland Park after our last night, the final day would feature about 28 miles from the start to the summit, and slightly longer to descend and cruise into Colorado Springs. This could be good.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

weird squirrel?

I got about 40 miles in this morning with a buddy before it got too hot. About a quarter mile from home I was riding through a small park at the corner of our subdivision when I saw something on the path. It was about squirrel sized, but didn't look, or act, like a normal squirrel. As I got closer he turned towards me and I could see that it was a ferret! It had lost most of the hair from his body, and his ribs were clearly visible. He didn't seem afraid, which leads me to believe he had been someone's pet. I can't understand how you could just abandon him, but the question I faced was what I was going to do.

I didn't think either of my dogs, or the one we're sitting for this weekend, would appreciate the addition of a ferret to our household, not to mention my wife. But I couldn't just leave him there. He approached and stood on his hind legs and put his mouth on my leg. He didn't bite, but it still freaked me out just a little. I started walking my bike and he followed. I was not sure how I was going to deal with this but, one step at a time. Eventually before I was out of the park he turned and headed back the way we had come.

I quickly rode home and filled my wife in. While I changed shoes she googled what ferrets eat, and found the phone number for animal control. I called and was assured that they would send someone to the park. I drove back armed with some sliced turkey, provolone cheese, and a can of dog food. I walked down the trail to where I had first seen him, but he wasn't there. As I doubled back towards the car, he came out of the undergrowth onto the path. I put down some turkey, cheese, and a little of the dog food. He wasn't interested at all in the latter two choices, but devoured a slice of turkey. Then he came back for more and took it a slice at a time into the tall grass and set it aside, presumably to save for later.

While he was stockpiling turkey I saw an animal control truck at the other end of the park. I walked halfway to greet the officer and show her where my ferret was. He came very near her when she called although he did nip at her gloved hands when she picked him up. She took some of the turkey to occupy him while she took him back to the truck.

I can't stand the thought of animals suffering needlessly, and wish we could all be more responsible pet owners, wildlife managers, and stewards of this planet. I don't know what will become of this little guy, but I'll hope for the best. By the way, I don't know if he was a boy or girl ferret. Just seemed more like a he, than an it.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

cameron pass and poudre canyon

Mixed emotions. That's what I was feeling on Saturday morning, August 10, the final day of CRMBT 2013. Oh, and cold, that was the other thing I was feeling. Mixed emotions because I would be saying goodbye to some friends I only get to see once a year. Saying goodbye to Colorado and the nomadic lifestyle of a bicycle tourist. But, I would also be heading home to my family, my own bed, and a few comforts that you give up to take part in the tour. The cold I was feeling? That was due to the 36 degree reading I saw at the bank on Main Street as I stopped for a good cup of coffee to warm me up for the ride.
The sun soon warmed us as we rode, stopping to shed layers, and snap photos of the peaks in the distance, some of which were growing ever nearer. By the end of the day I would have experienced a wide spectrum of emotions including suffering for the last 10-20 miles of this 107 mile day. But mostly the feeling that this is what I love about bike tours, especially in Colorado, and especially CRMBT. A long ride, with a challenge in the middle, and a nice descent as payback for completing that challenge. Spectacular scenery and good folks to ride with don't hurt either.
Cameron Pass sits at 10,276 feet about 30 miles southeast of Walden, which is in the middle of nowhere. From this direction, once you've reached the summit you have about 60 miles of downhill. A descent in the 6% range for several miles, followed by about 50 miles of trending downhill. Just 2-3%, but you can really chew up the miles on a ride like that. Of course, if we hadn't had a headwind I could have chewed a little faster. It was a beautiful day with abundant sunshine. There was just enough suffering in the rolling hills and hot afternoon ride into Loveland to make you know you just did a century ride at the end of a long week of riding. This was a great last day, affording us the opportunity to ride this pass that you would not want to do alone. Aid stations and sag wagons are always a comfort during the tour. In a place this remote they become a necessity.
Click the black bars under "road tunes" to stop the music before starting the video. Or go to YouTube and type in Jeff Leintz to see all my videos.                                                                                     

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

crmbt - steamboat springs to walden

The views I didn't stop for on Wednesday were there waiting for me on Friday morning. We had enjoyed a rest day in Steamboat Springs. Rest may be misleading, as I walked the trail from the school to downtown Steamboat at least a dozen times, but I didn't get on my bike once. So I felt good, but still wanted to stop several times on the climb to try to capture the beauty of Rabbit Ears Pass on this side.
The top of the ridge offered some scenic views too, like this guy fishing the creek in his own piece of paradise.
At the 2nd aid station you got a decent view of the Rabbit Ears, then it was off of US40, and onto CO14, heading for Walden.
I left the aid station by myself and with the road trending slightly downward was moving at a pretty good pace, enjoying the views that stretched out in front of me.
I was still stopping for lots of pictures when the skies started growing darker.
I put on a jacket when I felt a few raindrops, and though it never amounted to much while I was on the road, the thunder behind me was encouragement enough to pick up the pace. One more day ahead of us and another CRMBT will be in the books.

Monday, August 19, 2013

the morning after

I had faced Tuesday's defeat like a man, with a foot-long veggie sub, a schvitz (Sopranos reference), and a massage. I didn't set an alarm, but was still up early, feeling much better than the prior day. Our route would have us on Highway 40 again all day, all the way to Steamboat Springs. The stretch from Granby to Kremmling I remembered from a few years back when we got off of 40 at Kremmling to climb Gore Pass. Between aid stations in those towns, we had a slightly downhill run that would have been faster save for the headwind, but fun still the same. I guess when you ride by the Windy Gap Reservoir.....

I stopped often for pictures even though I had been down this road before. It was a beautiful, cool morning, and the road seemed to stretch on forever, over one rise, then the next. Good to be back on the bike.

When we left Kremmling, the views got even better. It's a stark, rough beauty that I would not want to cross in a wagon train, but other than too many trucks, and too little shoulder, a bike was the perfect vehicle.

Eventually Team Pittsburgh rolled by while I was snapping photos. And the FM Light "billboard" was one of hundreds that you see on the way to Steamboat. Endearingly redundant.

We had left the part of the road that trended downward miles ago and were slowly, but surely gaining altitude as we headed for the 2 passes of the day. It was good to see this non-mirage of an aid station in the middle of nowhere.

Don Henley sang in "The End Of The Innocence",  "O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening". That was what I thought as some dark clouds appeared to the west of us. But we seemed to be going around them, and I don't think they ever really affected us.

This was not the toughest climb of the tour, not even close. For one thing we would be climbing the shorter side of Rabbit Ears Pass, with the longer, steeper side saved for later in the week. But it was a little challenging towards the end of the ride because of several summits. First you reach Muddy Pass.
Then a few miles later you reach Rabbit Ears Pass, but wait, there's more. Another 7 miles on there's the "west summit" of Rabbit Ears Pass. What?

But then, finally, there's an honest-to-goodness descent with a runaway truck ramp and everything. And the views as you near Steamboat are spectacular. I spotted a lake off to the left and briefly considered stopping for a photo op. But I didn't want to give up the speed I had earned, and I remembered that I would be back this way on Friday, with plenty of chances to document the scene on my way back up this hill.

Next stop, rest day in Steamboat Springs!