From Woodland Park to Colorado Springs is a quick, 20-mile, mostly downhill ride on the ever busier US Highway 24. Even with the last couple climbs in town to get back to the high school, this ride should take no more than a couple hours. Oh, right, we had a little detour planned for 20-miles up, 20-miles back. Pikes Peak, baby!
A handful of us, including Steve and Paul, left the high school at 5:00am with all of our front and rear lights blazing and blinking. We got off of US24 onto Green Mountain Falls Road and followed it as it changed names a few time over the next few miles. Then a right onto Chipita Park Road for a mile or so. When we came to where I knew we would have to make a sharp right turn and immediately start climbing toward the toll booth, we came upon the surreal sight of dozens of bikes rolling through the dark, their blinking lights announcing their presence.
Peter greeted us as we went through the entrance; our tolls had been paid by CRMBT as part of our registration. And we continued to climb. Those responsible for Pikes Peak had requested riders be through the gates between 5:30 and 6:00am, to give us a chance to spread out and be a good way up the mountain before cars are allowed through starting at 7:30am. And, as we climbed, spread out we did!
I don't think that there are a lot of cars waiting to go through the gates right at 7:30am. But there are at least a few. We had the mountain to ourselves for over 2 hours. Then at 7:51 we were over halfway to the top when I realized: "We are not alone". A minivan with Illinois plates rolled by followed by a few other vehicles. There would be stretches of no cars, followed by a group going by us, but the traffic wasn't bad for a Saturday in August.
I stopped at both aid stations again to refill bottles and let my brakes cool. I also stopped and helped change a flat tire, of which I, fortunately, had none all week. Back on US24 we had much more traffic to contend with, but we were still going downhill at a good rate. Back in town I tried to stay on the cleanest part of the shoulder. It wasn't always easy. I was relieved to see Dale, one of the incredible volunteers, to tell us where we needed to turn. The rest of the way to the high school was on much more low-traffic streets, but they still held a couple of climbs to get there. After 160+ miles and 4 summits the last 2 days, those hills were almost my demise.
I finally did make it to the high school to find the showers were ice cold. I washed my hair and thought the rest of the shower could wait until I got to my motel. I found a Qdoba for lunch, checked in at the Radisson Airport, showered and took a 2 hour nap. I was so tired! When I woke, I watched TV for a while and didn't even have the energy to go looking for dinner. I ordered a pizza, and was back in bed shortly after dinner.
When I woke in the middle of the night I got up, made coffee and headed for home. One nap at a rest area, a few stops to walk around the car and do some stretches, and I made it home to my wife and puppies early Sunday afternoon. It was good to get unpacked and wash some bike clothes. It was great that I also had taken Monday off and had one more day to recover from one of the hardest, and most satisfying, things I'd ever done.