|There is simply no way to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line after riding 466 miles in just over 34 hours of riding over 7 days, while climbing 30,301 feet (the equivalent of riding from sea leavel to the summit of Mt. Everest).|
|Climbing Grand Mesa with Woody, who I met on my first RTR 10 years ago.|
Day Four: Gunnison to Crested Butte (27 miles, 1,391 vertical feet)
The next day was short (but all uphill, "recovery" ride to Crested Butte. I decided to get an early start, hammer out the miles and enjoy the day in CB. I rolled in around 10 a.m. (maybe my earliest arrival ever!), got camp set up and headed to the Team Bar2Bar rally point, The Eldo. With the motto "A sunny place for shady people" we knew it was our spot.
|Team Bar2Bar at The Eldo (from left): Me, Pam the Pilot, Paul the Pilot and Woody.|
Day Five: Crested Butte to Salida (103 miles, 5,689 vertical feet)
Fortunately the Day 5 ride began with a 17-mile downhill. You can practically "cut your chain" (as Woody likes to say) and coast the whole way back to Gunnison. After a big breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy and french toast) to fuel the long ride ahead (102 miles and 5,689 vertical feet), Woody and I met up with Paul the Pilot for the brisk ride down the valley to Almont, where the long climb up Cottonwood Pass began.
|That's Woody on the left, riding in his signature Hawaiian shirt, |
and Paul the Pilot on the right.
|Taylor Park is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in Colorado.|
After a quick descent down the pass (which is paved on the East side) into Buena Vista (pronounce B-you-na by the locals) we finished the day with a tough ascent of Mt. Princeton on tired legs. Thanks to this little detour (there is a much easier and ore direct route into town) we arrived in Salida just in time to catch the tail end of happy hour at The Vic.We have started derisively calling these little detours and tough climbs "Chandler Bonus Miles" in recognition of the current ride director's penchant for inflicting unnecessary pain at exactly the wrong times on the ride.
|The obligatory "summit sign" pic at the summit of Cottonwood Pass.|
Day Six: Salida to Canon City (65 miles, 2,313 vertical feet)
We found a good campsite location at the school in Salida, within walking distance of the Patio Pancake Place, our traditional post-partying at The Vic recovery meal. Even though there wasn't much of a party this year a good breakfast is critical. Since we were so close, Woody suggested we go to breakfast before packing up camp, which worked beautifully.
|Team Bar2Bar mates The Hankster and Jenny Flip Flop|
|Looking down on the Arkansas River from the Royal Gorge Bridge.|
The overnight in Canon City was possibly the most pleasant surprise of the week. Arriving at the Royal Gorge Brewery in the heat of the afternoon (topping 100F) we attempted the usual Team Bar2Bar tactic of waiting for it to cool off before heading to set up camp. It soon became clear, however, that the heat would not dissipate. That's when somehow Paul the Pilot pulled the rabbit out of a hat and found a triple double room (yes, three double beds) at a motel within walking distance of the beer tent. The proprietor even picked us up in his truck and drove us to retrieve out luggage, then back to the hotel.
Aptly named, the Parkview Inn Motel overlooks Veteran's Park, the site of the overnight party. And given that it was the last night of the ride we were ready to party until the band stopped playing and the beer stopped flowing. So we did.
|Woody wears his Keen cycling sandals everywhere. Even to bed!|
The final day of Ride the Rockies 2015 was, in terms of vertical feet to miles, the "steepest" day of the tour. Thank goodness for the good night's sleep because the climb out of Canon City through Florence past the Super Max Prison (home to folks like the Unabomber, the Shoebomber, the Oklahoma City bomber and Sammy "The Bull" Gravano) and into the foothills was tough. But the real challenge was yet to come.
Around mile 25 the grade started to increase and the next 12 miles up Hardscrabble Pass were a grind. Tired legs, heat in the 90s and a two-mile section of 8+ percent grade were about enough to do me in. But there was no stopping here. I mean, people do. Their legs, back, or brain give out. It's tough. The mental games definitely set in.
Slogging along at 4 mph I realized that meant it would take three hours to reach the top. I had told my wife we'd arrive between 12-1 and it was 9:00. At this rate, I'd summit around noon -- if I didn't stop. But I had to stop. Sometimes once every five miles, sometimes every mile. Just to get off the bike. So I pushed harder and got it up to 6 mph. Then it would drop back to four. Then a stop. Sometimes just for a minute or two. In a future post I will talk more about what it takes to tackle an extended climb of 20, 30, even 40 miles climbing 4,000-6,000 vertical feet, like we did on RTR 2015. But it's time to wrap this post up!
|Me and Woody at the final Aid Station of RTR 2015, at the top of Hardscrabble Pass.|
|Leslie once again rescued me from the painful experience of riding home on a bus by meeting me in Westcliffe. Love you, Babe :)|
|The Custer County Cattlewomen provided cowbells |
for spectators at the finish line in Westcliffe!
|Moments after crossing the finish line with the Hankster.|
The ride is over! The ride is over. Time to say goodbye, or a hesitant "until next year" always wondering if there will be a next year.