Tuesday, November 8, 2016

what's next

This was supposed to be a farewell letter to CRMBT. After 10 years 2016 was going to be the final version of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour. I was writing about how we first came to entertain the idea of riding a bike tour in the mountains of Colorado. About driving to Gunnison in 2008 and spending the week being hot, cold, stiff, sore, scared and exhilarated! About all the places this tour had allowed me to ride including Trail Ridge Road and Independence Pass, Mount Evans and Pikes Peak. All the mountain towns and ski areas I would have never visited if not for this tour.

I wanted to thank everyone who had anything to do with this tour for making it so special. I've gotten to know, consider friends, the organizers and volunteers, the boys of SherpaVille, Scott the mechanic, and the members of Rocky Mountain Sports Massage. And riders from Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Wisconsin, Texas, as well as Berkshire, England, and many more places.

But, you know what? We're not ready to let go. Glenn got a few of us together to discuss what we could do to get this tour going again. It's early, but we're trying to help grow the numbers enough to make this a viable thing. I'll keep you updated, but if you've ever wanted to do a bike tour in Colorado, I think you should do this one. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

evergreen to idaho springs

A large group of us headed out by about 7:00am on this Saturday morning, the last day of this apparent last Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour. Almost across the street from where we camped we were on Squaw Pass Road and climbing. It was a cool but sunny, very pleasant start to the day. The road was good, the shoulder wide, and the views pleasant, though once in the forest, you couldn't see very far. I didn't even take my camera or phone out for pictures. These are some shots from a few years ago:
By the time I reached the top of Squaw Pass, descended for a bit, and climbed again to the high point on CO 103, Juniper Pass, the weather had changed. Clouds had moved in, winds had increased, and the temperature had dropped quite a bit. The forecast had stated rain and thunderstorms were on tap for Mount Evans, and when I reached the aid station in the campground parking lot across from Echo Lake Lodge, you couldn't see the mountain for the clouds.

Having done the climb up Evans in 2010, I wasn't as motivated to suffer the weather as I would have been. I could have climbed as far as I wanted to, and turned back at any time to coast back down.  But my heart wasn't in it. I really wanted to warm up, so I walked over to the lodge and joined Thom for coffee and pancakes. We had a nice visit, leisurely breakfast, and when we were sufficiently warm, we layered up and headed down toward Idaho Springs.

Was it prudent judgement of the weather and my abilities? Or had the week beat me down into a tired old man? Probably a little of both. Other than passing on Evans I rode all the miles of the tour. And it was hard! It was apparent that as I get older, doing these kinds of rides will require even more training to get myself into shape. But it was also fun! Great people, great tour, and great scenery to be seen all over Colorado!

 My next ride in CO might be  a one day affair, like the Copper Triangle or Triple Bypass. I still need to do RAGBRAI. I would like to do BAK again, or ride across Nebraska. But eventually I'll have to get back to Colorado. It's been a great ride!

Friday, September 9, 2016

estes park to evergreen

We woke to a cool, cloudy morning in Estes Park. Then we climbed. Right out of town we climbed. Then we went down, then we went up. The highway south out of Estes Park is called the Peak-to-Peak Highway. And we spent the day riding from peak to peak.
Lily Lake is right off the road.
The clouds remained all day but never led to precipitation, so we were able to enjoy all of the sections of the road that had been resurfaced. There were a few rough sections, but they weren't too bad, or too long.
And there are many spots like this, that just look like the highway falls away from you like a ride at Worlds of Fun. This is my kind of roller-coaster.
A group of us had decided to find a place for lunch along the way. Black Hawk and Central City seemed like the right location. They are small casino towns just north of I-70. I had read about Black Hawk several years ago when they banned bicycles from their streets. In Colorado! Several groups sued, and the law was thrown out, but it was obvious that there was no love for cyclists in that area. The city had routed the tour around town as much as possible, adding a couple miles and a short, brutal climb, just because they could.

But we stopped and ate in the casino restaurant anyway, because it was there. Then we fought debris in the shoulder on the Central City Parkway. We battled gravity on the bike path and frontage road that got us to US6, and wrestled with too much traffic on US6 until some nicer, quieter roads got us to Bergen Park and Evergreen. It was a cool evening that passed too quickly, then it was off to the tent for a last night in the cool mountain air, on the last night of CRMBT 2016.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

rest day

After getting cleaned up, finding some lunch, and relaxing after the ride through the park, a few of us rode the shuttle down to the river-walk and found a Nepalese restaurant for dinner. The next morning I walked back down there to check out Kind Coffee and see if they had anything I would want for breakfast. As I neared the coffee shop I ran into Kathy from the tour. She had purchased a book about RMNP for all of us to sign and give to Norm to wish him well in his recovery, and let him know we missed him.

Kathy also told me two things. One, there's a great breakfast place called Notch Top, not too far from where we were. When I checked on Yelp, it turns out they have some vegan options. I walked there and enjoyed a terrific breakfast burrito with tofu in place of eggs. But first I checked out the second thing Kathy told me about. There were two elk bedded down in the grass just down from the footbridge I had just walked over. I didn't even notice them there. She told me that they had been in the middle of the road munching on flower beds before the police came and shooed them away.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing, napping during a light rain shower, and getting ready for the next day's ride. We did make it to Mama Rose's for some Italian for dinner that night.

Monday, August 29, 2016

granby to estes park

We were asked to be through the gates of RMNP by 7:00am to ensure we would be off the highest points before afternoon rains moved in. Arrangements had been made for our group, but anyone can roll up to the gates at any time, pay a $10 entrance fee, and ride their bike into the park. There was some talk about sleeping in a little after our century day, but riding past Lake Granby in the early morning light was beautiful.
 It was also cold. I had underestimated how cold it would be for most of the morning. Temps in Granby were cold to start the day. And as the morning went on we were climbing to cooler zones, so I wasn't really warm all morning. I went back and forth between taking my jacket off from working on the climb, and putting it back on when the temps got to me. I was sorry I hadn't planned a little better, but the views that the ride afforded more than made up for any discomfort.
 On Trail Ridge Road the climb takes you through lots of twists and turns, switchback after switchback until you break out of the trees
 At this aid station I liked the visual of lots of bikes, and people, lined up on the wall.
 And in case you forgot that you were in the middle of a climb, this handy sign reminded you.
 Once you're above treeline you still have some climbing to do. You can look up and see where the road is cut into the side of the mountain.
 Although the road itself fascinated me, there were still spectacular views to be had in every direction.
 The last aid station was near the high point for the day. It was almost all downhill from there. I asked Scotty to take my picture, put on my jacket and headed down. Before too long I caught up to a pickup and RV and didn't see a safe place to pass. So, for about 20 miles I pumped my brakes and rolled toward Estes park at 25-30 mph.
 It was good to get into Estes Park, get to the middle school, clean up and find something to eat. The following day was a rest day, and Estes Park was a great place to spend it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

edwards to granby

I left early with lights blazing on this century day, (103 miles to be exact). Shortly after I left US 6 for CO 131 I saw these guys in the early light. They sure seemed comfortable on the rocky terrain.
In the first 35 miles I faced a couple of tough climbs, but was rewarded with some nice descents, and really nice views. Today's route would offer glimpses of the Colorado River, and lots of wide open spaces until we got to the only real pass of the day.
The climb up Gore Pass isn't too long, or too hard. A lot of it is through the forest so it doesn't offer great views, but it's very pleasant, and you're in Colorado! We had an aid station at the summit across from the elevation sign.
There was a rumor of a cafe in Kremmling, about 75 miles into the ride. When I rolled into town I saw no sign of it, but I did see several bikes outside the Subway shop, so that was lunch. Afterward I hung on to a pace line for 5-10 miles before they slowly pulled away and I was left to finish on my own. I enjoyed a tailwind for most of that time, except for when I passed through the canyon that's named "Windy Gap". I felt a few raindrops, but it never amounted to anything, and I rolled into Granby in good shape. There are a couple of short hills to get from the main drag to the high school that almost made me cry, but I managed to get there with 102.5 miles on my odometer. I don't know where I took the half-mile shortcut.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

breckenridge to edwards

The on and off rain from the night before was gone, and we left Breckenridge on wet roads, bike path to be precise, under mostly sunny skies. We jumped onto the bike path right behind the Rec Center and headed towards Frisco. We worked our way around some repair crews outside of Frisco and stayed on the bike path towards Copper Mountain. We would learn later that somewhere in that stretch the oldest and longest-tenured rider on the tour would have an accident. Glenn was on the tail end of a pace-line rolling along at a moderate speed when he realized that Norm, 78 years old and a 10-time CRMBT rider, was just ahead. He thought he would slow down and ride with Norm for a while, have a little visit. Glenn saw a dog wander onto the path and stop in front of Norm. When Norm tried to avoid the dog, he went down hard. He cracked his helmet and hit his shoulder hard.

As unfortunate as this accident was, there was a silver lining. The dog's owner was a woman who lived close to the bike path. She had an ATV to get Norm up to her house, where she and Glenn got him loaded into her pickup to go to the hospital in Frisco, just a few miles away. And, she was on her way to work, as a surgeon at that hospital! Glenn rode to the hospital until someone from the tour could meet him there, and Norm's daughter from Denver was there as well before too long. Norm's injury turned out not to be a head injury, or a shoulder injury. Getting Norm from the ground to the ATV to the truck, it became obvious that his hip was what was really hurting. We found out later that he had broken his femur, and it was decided to do a total hip replacement as that would heal faster than trying to reset the leg. Norm seems to be doing fine and I'm sure he'll be back on the bike by next spring.

Before most of us knew anything about this, we had gotten to the point of the bike path where we would exit. Near Copper Mountain there was an aid station before we began our climb up Fremont Pass.
The climb up Fremont has never struck me as an overly difficult climb. I was still glad to reach the top. We had another aid station to refill bottles and grab a snack. The descent down the south side is basically one big sweeping switchback, followed by a gradual descent for 10 or 12 miles. You can still go pretty fast if you put it in a big gear and pedal hard. You don't lose a lot of altitude between the summit at 11,318 feet and Leadville, 10,152 feet. As you turn back towards the northwest outside of Leadville you still go down a little.
Then, after a few miles, you climb a little more to get to the top of Tennessee Pass. Your reward for the short climb is a nice, long descent.
Then you face a nasty little climb up Battle Hill Summit. Two things help to ease the pain of this climb: the scenery is incredible, and you know you have another, even longer descent awaiting you on the other side.
After the descent several of us stopped in Minturn for lunch at Sticky Fingers Cafe & Bakery. I ordered the "Minturn Hippie" without cheese or mayo. My waitress said that made me a real hippie. I've been called worse. Then we worked together to make it the last 12 miles down the road to the Battle Mountain High School. It would be a pretty quiet, early night. We had a big day ahead of us.