A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Cycle Oregon 2017 Cancelled Due to Wildfires

Forecasts call for more hot, dry, windy weather and an increase in smoke from new and existing fires along the Cycle Oregon 2017 route.
With all the media attention focused on Houston this week I completely missed the fact that Oregon is on fire. That is until I received an email announcing the cancellation of Cycle Oregon 2017, set to begin one week from today. "Oregon is in crisis," began Cycle Oregon Executive Director Steve Schultz in the email, citing these alarmng facts:
  • 44% of the acres burning nationally are in Oregon,
  • 50% of the firefighters nationally are in Oregon and Washington, and
  • 8 of the highest trained wildfire teams in the U.S. are in Oregon. 
According to the email, the heaviest fires are in South Central Oregon, essentially encompassing the 2017 route. At this five of the seven days are impacted by fires and smoke with air quality levels ranging from unhealthy to hazardous. As a result, Steve and his team, along with the Oregon Department of Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service, and others, were forced to cancel the ride.

I can't image the disappointment Steve and his team must be feeling. The years of planning, all the moving parts coming into place, hundreds of volunteers, food vendors, port-a-potty purveyors, etc., seemingly all for naught. But clearly they were left no choice.

I also sympathize with the riders who have been training for months, many planning to travel from around the world next week to Oregon. I am not one of them, choosing to do Ride the Rockies as my big ride this year, but I know the feeling of anticipation leading up the the big event of the year. Hard to imagine getting the news one week out. But the decision was made with everyone's safety in mind, especially the riders.

Smoke from a small fire near Glenwood Springs on RTR 2007.
I have experienced much less severe conditions on Ride the Rockies, encountering a small fire on my first RTR in 2007 and circumventing the Royal Gorge fire on the 2013 ride (making it the longest in RTR history)! 

Smoke from the Royal Gorge fire in 2013, seen from Canon City.
But neither of those situations threatened the safety of the riders. They were able to reroute us around the Royal Gorge fire. But in this case, even alternate routes are affected, according to Schultz. 

I hope the disappoint fades quickly and look forward to next year's route announcement!

Ride on...

Daren

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ride the Rockies 2017 Days 6-7: Montrose to Gunnison to Salida and the finish line!

The final two days of Ride the Rockies 2017 were a mix of easy cruising and tough climbing. The final day's climb over Monarch Pass (elev. 11,312') was the longest (and highest) of the ride, climbing nearly 3,000 feet in nine miles, but the 23 mile descent into Salida was truly all downhill and flew by. Just like that, my 10th RTR was over.

From left: me, Hankster, Jonny Rocker and Flip Flop Jenny.
Crossing the finish line is always bittersweet. The feeling of accomplishment is fulfilling. Then suddenly it sinks in. The ride is over. No more pain and suffering through long climbs. No more adrenaline rush screaming down the backside of a mountain pass at 45 mph. No more sitting at the local brewery telling tall tales of the day's ride. I will miss it all.

No more camp to set up or tear down, backpacks to carry to the truck, smelly port-a-potties or shower trucks. OK, some things I won't miss!
I met this guy on RTR a few years back and always look forward to seeing his smiling face. Somehow I managed to catch him here looking serious but you can still see the famous Hankster grin trying to some out!

Day 6: Montrose to Gunnison

The ride out of Montrose towards Cerro and Blue Mesa Summits was very typical. I have ridden this stretch of road three times and all I remember is the headwind blowing down the mountain. But my legs felt fresh from the recovery day ride from Ridgeway to Montrose and after we dropped into the Curecanti National Recreation Area we were greeted by a nice tailwind that blew us around Blue Mesa and up the Gunnison River to our destination.
At Blue Mesa Summit. From left: me, Jenny, Woody and Jonny.

Woody and I at the Bay of Chickens on Blue Mesa Reservoir -- an RTR tradition!

At an aid station. From left: Jenny, Kevin, Lea Anne, Jon, Julia, Don, Woody and me.

Enjoying some local brews at High Alpine Brewing Company. From left: Dennis, Lea Anne, Hankster, Woody and Jonny.

The Hankster at High Alpine Brewery. Best sign on the ride!

Jonny Rocker pours from the growler at the final campdown.

We met up with Team Bar2Bar members at High Alpine Brewing Company and enjoyed some artisanal pizza and local brews before heading to the school to set up camp. After cleaning up we headed back into town for dinner and ended up the night drinking buckets of PBR tall boys playing corn hole on the patio at Timbers (with a private band all to ourselves!).

Day 7: Gunnison to the Salida (and the finish line!)

The final day began with a nice, steady 1-2% grade climb up Tomichi Creek for 34 miles before beginning the climb over Monarch Pass. I did this climb on my first RTR in 2005. I remember being terrified by the elevation profile of this day. The climb is a steady, relentless 4-7% grade for nine miles. I struggled a little on the steepest parts. At 40+ pounds fully loaded, the Beef Bike is a beast!

Team Beef at the first aid station on the final day! From left: Kevin, Jonny, Dennis, Lea Anne and me.

At the summit on the final day. It's all downhill from here! From left: me, Woody, Jonny and Jenny.

This speed and elevation profile overlay tells the story of the final day's ride!

Dropping into my granny gear for tough sections I spun my way up the mountain. Reaching the summit of Monarch Pass marked the end of the climbing. Though we often say "it's downhill from here," I truly think we could have coasted without peddling the entire way. But peddling along at 30+ mph isn't hard work!

We made our final unofficial pit stop at Elevation Brewery in Poncha Springs, about 4 miles from the finish line. Grouping up there, our team coasted across the finish line. We hung around for the closing ceremony to thank the volunteers, staff and Colorado State Police for keeping us safe throughout the ride and making it possible to tour the rugged Rocky Mountains on a bicycle.

Then came the hugs and goodbyes and the end of another adventure. So now the inevitable question. What's next? Jonny Rocker and I plan to check out other weeklong rides around the country. Please leave a comment with your favorites!

With that, I will leave you with our team motto: Ride fast and take chances!

Daren

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rides the Rockies 2017 Days 4-5: Durango to Ridgeway to Montrose

We are waking up in Montrose, Colorado, after a great afternoon/evening street party. The ride yesterday -- Day 5 of Ride the Rockies 2017 and day six of riding for Team Beef/Bar2Bar -- was a short, 34-mile, mostly downhill cruise. It felt great and my legs definitely needed the opportunity to recover the epic Day 4 ride over three mountain passes covering 84 miles and more than 8,000 feet of elevation gain!
The official Team Bar2Bar stop in Montrose.

The locals were out in force at the street party in Montrose -- including my long time friend Jeri!
The Day 4 ride from Durango to Ridgeway was one of the toughest and most beautiful rides I have done in Colorado. The scenery was as breathtaking as the altitude!

Climbing three passes on one day, two over 10,000 feet and one over 11,000, took it out of me. Actually, I don't think I ever had it. Starting out in the morning it was freezing cold and I feel like my legs simply never warmed up.

45 Miles of winding roads, steep drop-offs and three passes!

The summit of Coal Bank Pass (1 of 3)

The summit of Molars Pass (2 of 3)

Overlooking Silverton, Colorado.

From whence we came!
Too many times on the climbs over Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain Passes I had to drop into the ultra granny gear I had the guys at YAWP Cyclery put on the Beef Bike for long, steep climbs. That made for a very long day. But I was able to slowly make my way over all three passes and enjoy the ultimate payoff, the descent down Red Mountain Pass into Ouray (you-ray), Colorado. It was so worth it!
Finally! After hours of climbing we reached the summit of Red Mountain Pass (3 of 3)

Glad we stopped at the Bear Creek Falls overlook on the descent of Red Mountain!

This is a screen grab of the video I took on the descent. I will post it when I have more bandwidth!
My assumption is this is why it is called Red Mountain Pass :)

It pays to remember to look back every once in a while on RTR! According to my friend Jeri this is Mt. Abrams.
Today's ride also features three climbs, although must less imposing nature, reaching a max altitude of 8,717 feet on Blue Mesa Summit before a long flat stretch around Blue Mesa Reservoir into Gunnison.

Hard to believe tonight will be the final night of the ride. First it feels like RTR will never get here. At times on the ride it feels like it will never end. Then suddenly it's over. But not yet! TIme to saddle up.

Ride on!

Daren

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ride the Rockies 2017 Days 2-3: Pagosa Springs to Durango and Durango Loop



Day Three of Ride the Rockies (the fourth day of riding for Team Beef/Bar2Bar) was a 38-mile roller coaster ride. The first 14 miles were the chug chug chug up the first big climb on the coaster? You know the feeling that it will never end? Yeah, it felt like that. It took two hours.

Remember the feeling of cresting that big climb? Yeah, it felt like that. For the rest of the ride we were either flying down a steep hill or cruising over hills roller coaster style. At times we had to kick it into chug chug gear but it always led to a nice downhill.
Riding with Rocker!

Sporting a USDA CHOICE temporary tattoo on my right calf!
I loved today's route. We rolled back into Durango, stopped at Steamworks to reload the growlers before heading back to out hotel. After a nice shower we headed into town to meet the rest of the team (most of whom skipped the loop day).



Day Two was also a nice ride -- 68 miles from Pagosa Springs to Durango. The wind backed off a bit from our first two days of riding and the three climbs were mild compared to Wolf Creek Pass. We booked a hotel room in Durango and have enjoyed he luxury of sleeping in a bed, showering in private and not having to wait in line to use the bathroom!


Oh yeah, and no sprinklers going off in the middle of the night! Our campground in Pagosa Springs was strafed by sprinklers on the baseball field at 2:00 a.m. Monday morning and we woke to ice crystals on our tent and frozen towels hanging from the fence, as temps dropped below freezing during the night! We had to wait for the sun come up to that the ice and dry off our tents before packing up, which made for a late start, but we survived! 



Last night's rider party was just a couple of blocks from our hotel. It was a beautiful evening of music, beer and hanging out with friends. Maybe a few too many beers judging my the way I feel this morning! No worries, though, today is an easy 84 miles with a meager 7,792 feet of elevation gain!

Ride on!

Daren

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ride the Rockies 2017 Day 1: Wolf Creek Pass (C.W. McCall Got It All Wrong)

I am writing this morning from Durango, Colorado. It's Day Three of Ride the Rockies 2017. Last we checked in Jonny Rocker and I were in Salida getting ready to ride to the start in Alamosa, an idea that sounded good on paper but, in reality, was painful.

After a short climb over Poncha Pass out of Salida we dropped into the San Luis Valley to settle in for the cruise down the valley into Alamosa. That's when we encountered The Wind. Even coming down the pass was work as we headed straight into gusty winds blowing up the valley. On the flat, straight 50-mile stretch on Hwy 17 to Alamosa we struggled to maintain 15 mph, often dropping below 10 mph during a big gust.
At our lunch stop in Hooper, Colorado. Sandwiches at a gas station!

Team Beef does not chicken out when faced with adversity!
We made the best of a bad situation, stopping at a little roadside general store and café in Willow Spring for a piece of homemade cherry pie and bough buns, meat and cheese at the gas station in Hooper. By the time we arrived in Alamosa for the start of the next day -- a 92-mile ride across the valley and over Wolf Creek Pass -- we were wiped out and wondering if we had made a big mistake.
Rejuvenating at San Luis Valley Brewing Co.

Relaxing back at camp.

Woody rolled in from the bar just in time for sunset!

After a few beers and some good food (I had the steak quesadilla -- yum!) at San Luis Valley Brewing Co. things were looking up. A number of fellow riders came up to us and asked about Team Beef. Turns out all of the buses (and many cars) transporting riders to the start passed us along our route. Team Beef got a lot of free publicity (making it worth our while in my book!). 
Jonny Rocker leads the way out of Alamosa.

Woody heads up the pass, Hawaiian shirt flapping in the wind.
 On the official first day of riding (Sunday) we headed northwest toward Monte Vista on Hwy 50 across the San Luis Valley. The wind cooperated for the first 40-miles but turned against us at Del Norte and intensified at South Fork as we headed up Wolf Creek Pass.

Beginning a tough climb like Wolf Creek Pass at mile 50 is tough on the legs. Climbing into a headwind is a mental challenge. There were times I thought about chucking the beef bike in the south fork of the Rio Grande River and giving up. The devil on my shoulder can be very convincing!
Team Beef/Bar2Bar at the Summit of Wolf Creek Pass (way up on the Great Divide).
But Team Beef/Bar2Bar does not quit (Death Before SAG!). As we headed up the pass I queued up C.W. McCall's famous ditty about Wolf Creek Pass on my iPhone (Bluetoothed to my Ivation bike speaker). As I listened to the song I began to question whether McCall had ever driven this stretch of road before he wrote it.

Watch this video then come back for the rest of the story!


McCall says he and Earl were "hauling chickens on a flat bed outta Wiggins" and had "spent all night on the uphill side of 37 miles of hell called Wolf Creek Pass (which is way up on the Great Divide)." First of all, Wiggins, Colorado, is northeast of Denver, 300 mile away. I'm also not sure why it took them all night to drive 37 miles, but I'll let that slide because he got the "37 miles of hell" part right!

But here is where it gets sketchy. As McCall describes careening down the western side of the pass towards Pagoda Springs with no brakes, he mentions counting phone poles as they whizzed by. Problem is there are no phone poles on this stretch of road. He then describes hitting a tunnel that "took that top row of chickens off slicker than scum off a Louisiana swamp." Problem is there is no tunnel on the western side of the pass!

But the biggest issue I have with McCall's narrative is that he and Earl were unable to stop the truck before ending up crashing into the feed store in downtown Pagosa Springs. The reality is you cannot coast from the summit to downtown Pagosa. Even though we often say "it's all downhill from here" when we sit atop the big climb of the day, the fact is it rarely is. I counted at least for hills we had to climb after the descent that would have easily stopped their truck.

So, yes, this is what I think about when climbing and descending mountain passes. Anything to take my mind off the pain! Ride the Rockies is an endurance event. There is a lot of pain to endure. As Jonny Rocker and I suit up for Day Three there is much moaning and groaning. But today is a short 38-mile loop back to Durango so no packing up our gear today and we should have plenty of time to recover for tomorrow's epic ride over three passes!

Ride on!

Daren

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Today, we ride. Why? Because we can!

Today is Day Zero of Ride the Rockies 2017. This is the day 2,000 riders show up in Alamosa, Colorado, to register and get ready for tomorrow's 92-mile ride from Alamosa to Pagosa Springs. Most people will arrive by car or bus and spend the day getting their gear ready to go. But for Team Beef/Bar2Bar, this will be our first day of riding. You see, we are starting out in Salida, Colorado, where the ride ends next Saturday, and riding 80 miles to the start in Alamosa. Why? Because we can!

Jonny Rocker loads up the bikes for the big ride.

Before heading to Saluda we stopped at YAWP Cyclery for a quick tune up of the BEEFMAN bike that included the addition of a new rear rack! :)

Searching for the perfect trunk bag for the rack proved more challenging than expected. After stopping at 10 bike shops in Denver and Buena Vista, I found the perfect bag at Absolute Bikes in Saluda!

When the RTR route was announced back in February we immediately noticed that the ride ended in Salida, a frequent overnight stop on Ride the Rockies and home of five of our nine team members. It is also home to the Victoria Bar, a popular hangout for locals and tourists visiting this iconic mountain town at the headwaters of the Arkansas River. Soon after somebody floated the idea of starting in Salida and making the ride an 8-day, 520 mile loop. The idea of starting and ending the ride at the Vic was just too tempting to pass up!

Jonny and I hit our first brewpub -- Joyride Brewing -- for a quick beer before our journey.

At our hotel in Saluda -- the last bed until Durango (camping the next two nights).
Jonny Rocker and I drove from Denver yesterday and met up with the rest of the team at the Vic last night. After loading up on some liquid carbs we went out to dinner and began the feeding frenzy that is RTR, Burning around 4,000 calories a day on the bike requires constant refueling! We turned in relatively early and I woke this morning grateful that we made a good choice and avoided the typical first night syndrome (overindulging due to the excitement of seeing each other and anticipation of the week to come).

The Hankster (left) and Jonny Rocker (center) meet for the first time at the Vic in Salida.

Team Beef/Bar2Bar outside the Vic.
Jonny and I are packing up our gear and will meet up with the rest of group and head out around 7:00. We should arrive in Alamosa in the early afternoon, hopefully before the heat and wind pick up. Stay tuned for more updates throughout the week.

Ride on!

Daren