Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ride the Rockies 2009 - Day 1

Greetings Readers

Day One - Ride the Rockies -

I woke up at the same time I usually do everyday – about 5 AM. I was cold, but not that cold - really. It was cold, because I have not slept outside for a while.

Today was the first day of bike riding in the 2009 Ride the Rockies.

I decided not to leave early for my first day of riding. I wanted to see the opening announcements (ceremonies) and then I would start after the precession goes that morning. Also, I was cold and wanted the Sun to be out and shining in all her glory.

I spent some time in the school cafeteria since the morning festivities did not start until 7:30 A.M. or so. During that time I was able to just sit and enjoy the morning. Enjoy the time sitting in a chair and not on a bike seat for the next 6 days. Oh yes Readers, I have been on a bike seat for six days, but never required to be in the bike seat for a bike tour for six days. Three days, but not six days.

Late last night I looked at the elevation profile and I saw that we riders were going to climb our first Mountain Pass on the first day of the Ride the Rockies. At 37 miles we riders will peak McClure Pass and then basically it is all-downhill from the summit Pass. Today’s route will be Glenwood Springs to Hotchkiss, Colorado. Hotchkiss?! Where in the fuck is Hotchkiss, Colorado?

80 miles away, but technically only 43 miles away. Meaning, that I only had 37 miles of riding up to McClure Pass. The rest of the bike route would be cake, in a manner of speaking. My worry yet to be seen was coming off McClure Pass.

I had no idea which direction Hotchkiss was from Glenwood Springs, except South. Again Readers, I did not download the tour manual nor did I do any research on the day’s route of the Ride the Rockies at all. I was blind on the bike route and I was not worried. Not at all was I worried.

I sported the Southpark Bike Jersey with the word’s of Cartman of “Oh Man You Guys Suck” on the back of my bike jersey.

To me this first day of 80 miles was my training ride. Shit, I can do 60 miles in my sleep. An extra 20 miles is nothing on my regular training of years past.

I biked steadily and just enjoyed the first day of being on the Ride the Rockies. I was in no mood to bike fast. But, I was in the mood to take some pictures of the bike route. After all, this may be the last time I bike this particular route in the Colorado Rockies.

For the first 12 miles or so I tried to find my biking, but I could not. I tried following some bikers, but they were to slow or too inexperience. I had quite of few riders pass me, but I was no mood to try and keep up with them, nor was I that much of a hurry to bike to the finish.

I saw a mountain in the distance, but knew that we were not going to be climbing that beast. Although, I knew that was the direction that we riders had to bike in.

I reached the first official aid station and decided to stop. I leaned my bike up against a bush and then headed towards the table that held the Gatorade. On the way to the Gatorade table I saw my first vendor selling food. Peanut butter & Jelly sandwiches for $ x.xx amount of dollars. I filled up my water bottles with Limeade Gatorade and headed back to my bike. I did grab a “free” banana before going back to my bike.

On the way to my bike I decided to take a few pictures of my bike and that one Mountain I saw earlier in the morning from a distance.

“Excuse me?”

I was not listening to what was just said since I knew it was not I.

“Excuse me?” I felt a finger on my back

I turned around.

“Could I please take a picture of your bike jersey? My son loves Southpark and I know that he would love to see this”

“Sure.” And smiled internally, but on the outside I agreed politely acting as if this nothing to me.

I turned South meanwhile she took a couple pictures of the back of my bike jersey. And that was that. I decided to take the first official picture of Andrea in the Colorado Rockies. She looked fucking good.

About a half an hour later I saw that we riders were entering a channel of mountains. Not necessarily mountain mountains, but mountains. Now, the question was where was I going to climb a fucking Colorado Rocky Mountain today? Which direction was I going to be biking in?

Readers, I knew the elevation climb, but I did not know the bike route of the course.

I soon rode upon the second aid station of the Ride the Rockies.

That second aid station was no different from any other aid station from any bike tour in the United States. The aid station was crowded with riders and bikes. Not to mention causing some traffic issues either way. Riders not moving out of the road nor the personal support vehicles giving way to the right of way traffic on the road.

I am not going to say it was sad to see, but it did fuel my feelings of being pissed off at other Ride the Rockies riders not giving way to the right of way traffic on a Colorado Highway. I do understand this is an aid station, but this aid station is located on a Colorado Highway and all laws pertain to motorized vehicles having the right of way. Period.

Once more I saw a few vendors selling Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches and other assorted food items.

After 29 miles I finally at ease and started to get into biking the Colorado Rockies. Yet, I think the main reason I was finally at ease was that I had the first mountain pass to climb this morning. Well, within 8 miles and I needed to be in the mood to climb a fucking mountain.

As I rode further south I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a road going up the side of the mountain. Damn. There she is. The road appeared to go downhill a bit, but then she rose up and that was the beginning of the first Mountain climb on the Ride the Rockies.

At the beginning of the climb there was an unofficial aid station selling cookies and smoothies, I think.

As much as I wanted to stay in my big ring gear on my crank, I downshifted to the third gear ring. Dang, I have not been in the third gear ring for years. Years baby! Wow, I could not believe I was in the third gear ring.

I found my first bike climb was going okay. I was going my own pace and ignoring the few people passing and I was ignoring the many riders I was passing on my climb. I heard a lot of gasping, heavy breathing and saw quite of few riders on the side of the road sitting or standing.

Me, I did not want to stop on my first hill climb. So, I just kept a nice pedaling pace and just enjoyed the climb to the top of this Mountain. When I made my first turn in the first hairpin turn of the Ride the Rockies I could not help to think of Forrest Gump. Crazy, I know. But I somehow got to thinking of when Forrest started running for three years in the movie. Gump was running up a mountain and made a turn in a hairpin turn on the mountain. Somehow I saw that almost same exact scene in my mind. This has nothing to with nothing, except that I just thought of that moment from the movie.

I made the mistake of looking further ahead in the distance to see if I could a road further ahead. Meaning, if I could see where I had to bike to up this mountain. Silly to some, stupid to others, or bring it on to the elite few. Readers, guess which one I was thinking. I saw some pretty colors on the trees – yellow, green and light green. Not to mention pine green.

Soon, we riders came to the first photo shot station. I was ready, but not ready. I did not have on a jacket so I was more than 50% ready, but looking like I wanted in the picture I was not.

A few minutes later I reached the aid station, which was just station off the summit of the road. I decided to stop and see the world from the top of McClure Pass. I parked my bike against a guardrail across the highway and walked towards the aid station. I saw a lot more riders and people at this aid station. There was even a DJ, playing music and having trivia or games to win a limited edition Ride the Rockies T-shirt.

I walked around a bit and then saw that the shortest line at a vendor was a vendor called Tracy’s Tasties. I saw Cheeseburgers, pop, brats and chips for a price. The Peanut butter and & Jelly line was long as well as other vendors offering food for us Ride the Rockies riders. I stood in the short line and a few minutes later I had a nice hamburger and Coca-Cola for lunch. Hell why not, I climbed the mountain and technically the bike route was all-downhill from here. The food will be okay and no issue of any more mountain climbing with a full stomach of food.

Oh the Hamburger was delicious. As I was eating it was so ironic that of all songs to be playing was a song from the movie Forrest Gump when he was running up a mountain. I started to listen to the music and of all songs to be playing on McClure Mountain pass was Jackson Brown singing – “Running on Empty.”

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels

Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields…

Readers, I started to get a bit teary eyed behind my Oakley lens and a bit choked up (lump in my throat) listening to Jackson Brown singing. Granted, it was only for a moment, but that moment has forever been burned in my mind. I managed to get the rest of my hamburger down and then enjoy my icy Coca-Cola.

I took a few more pictures at the top and then headed off to get off this mountain. I then saw the summit sign and knew I had to get a picture of me at the sign. There were not a lot of riders, but I had to get someone to take my picture. A few minutes later I got my picture taken and then I took a group of rider’s picture together. With that done it was time for the descent.

Readers, this was something that I was not looking forward to on my HED. rims. Not at all. At 8,700 feet going down the steeper side of McClure pass with my 90 rims I had to be very, I mean very careful, going down the mountain with no guardrails and with the winds blow every direction perhaps. I held on tightly to my handlebars and kept two fingers on each brake lever. I was not scared of speed, but scared of the wind, particularly the crosswinds.

I descended about 21 to 28 mph while others blew right passed me. Sure, I wanted to go fast, but I could not risk the wind blowing me and perhaps not reacting to a sudden wind gust and me riding off the road. I could not. There was a headwind, but the wind was also blowing across the road every now and then. So, I was right in a manner of speaking by just keeping my speed under 30 mph most of the time. I managed a speed of 32 mph for probably a few seconds, but braked to get my speed back down to the mid 20’s

Pretty soon I was at the next aid station 20 miles from McClure Pass. I did have a hard time coming off the summit mountain pass road, but once the steep part was over I was able to ride fast again.

According to the elevation map I looked at last night the bike route was all-downhill to our next stop. Well, it may be all-downhill, but as you know Readers there are always hills regardless of a map. And that was true. Overall, the route was a gradual downhill, with the occasional hill thrown in for good measure.

80 Miles was the destination, but topographically I had no fucking clue which direction our destination was in this part of the state of Colorado. As we Ride the Rockies riders biked through this part of the state I could not help to see two coalmines, which actually loaded up those freight trains with coal that I see every now and then. Kind of neat seeing an actually coal train being loaded up.

With my odometer finally getting into the seventy miles range we riders were directed to a side road. This side road was terrible and soon got worse. As we headed into a 180 curve there was a sign indicating wine tasting. I did not know what to make of it, but continued on.

As I continued on two other riders rode along me. We talked to each other and soon we were a trio heading onto our final destination. With the three of us together we kept a pretty good speed. No pace line, but a trio almost riding side by side. I had no desire to draft nor did they draft me. We passed rider after rider and soon I sped up.

I heard a train horn, but had no clue where that train was coming from. I rode over a set of railroad tracks and then thought to myself at least I made it across the train tracks without a train coming. Always a nice feeling. I do not know if the other two riders made it or not. I never looked back and did not know how far behind they were.

About three minutes later those two riders were on the side of me. We came across another set of train tracks and we noticed that there were about five to ten bike riders fixing their bike tires. What the fuck?! I immediately slowed down and analyzed the terrain of the train tracks and the ground. I picked a path across the middle of the road and braced myself. It was a hard crossing; I felt the tires hit the tracks hard. I think that these riders with the flat tires had improper tire inflation so when they rode / hit the train tracks the tubes got squeezed in between the tire and rim and causing the flat tires to happen to all those riders. Not enough air in the tube let the tube get a flat.

The trio rode slow and in the middle of the road across the train tracks and had no problem at all. We looked at each other and then behind us and back at each other and smiled. I smiled because I did not get a flat; who knows why the other two riders smiled.

I saw 79 miles on my odometer, but still could not see a point of stopping. I think we had a few more miles to ride, but to where. We soon exited onto a highway and headed what I thought was South once more.

81 miles and I saw the town of Hotchkiss. Finally, the stopping point. We followed the volunteer’s flags and then there was stopping point. The local high school. I saw the tents, the 18-wheeler’s and bikes.

I rode until I saw the bike corral, which was an enclosed tennis court by chain link fence. Perfect. I walked my bike in and locked up my HED. rims. I know my bike is safe, but not safe from any rider removing my HED. rims and replacing them with their cheap ass rims.

I was done. An easy 81-mile bike ride. A sprinkle of rain, but overall a warm afternoon. Warmer than Glenwood Springs. The Sherpa packer was there, but they were setting up the tents still. I found my bag and then waiting until my tent was set up.

About 40 minutes later my tent was up and time for me get settled. Once settled I got my fresh set of clothes and shower gear and headed for the shower truck. There was a line at the shower truck.

Readers, I never heard so much fucking complaining by men. We men say that women complain a lot, but what I heard waiting for the shower puts the complaining by women to shame. Yes, I too could have complained, but it is a line for the shower and any complaining is basically a waste of breath. Of course this is my humble opinion, but really Readers any vocal complaining made by me would not have any effect of making the line move faster. I waited for about 30 minutes or so. I was not mad, nor impatient. When my turn came around then so be it. I was here in Hotchkiss and I had no immediate plans or dates to abide by. After the shower, who in the fuck knew what I was going to do next.

I soon met up with Nick, the guy who gave me a ride up to Glenwood Springs about an hour later. We headed over to the Beer Garden, which was being held at the local fairgrounds. We both ordered a hamburger from a vendor at the beer garden and found a place near the music stage. I told Nick that this hamburger was nothing compared to the hamburger I had on McClure Pass. He said he didn’t know about that. I told him that hamburger I had was so delicious and worth it.

We ate then we headed to the beer tent and I bought us two beers apiece. My treat since Nick did not take my gas money. We were once more in from of the stage and the local band was trying to tune up. Tried? Well, it took over 30 minutes – Prima donnas. My monitor is not working. My microphone is too loud. Not enough bass. Blah blah blah.

The band then started to play and they were just okay. No covers, but songs with a beat.

An hour later I was ready to leave and told Nick I was leaving.

I headed back to my tent and then got my biking gear ready for tomorrow. At about 9 PM I heard the freight train horn and thought to myself I hope that does not sound off at 1 AM in the morning. I fucking hope not. I looked at my Ride the Rockies map for Day 2 and saw that was another 80-mile day ahead of us riders. The elevation gain looked a bit tougher and the route a bit tougher even after we hit the highest point of bike route. Between Mile 25 and Mile 35 there appeared to be a steep climb for us riders. Yet, I noticed at the end of the bike route there was about 25 miles of flat terrain. Hmmm, that may a point where I will be able to ride like I do when at Cherry Creek Reservoir going all out. Although that will depend on how much energy I will deplete on the climb. According to the elevation map at Mile 35 was when the day’s mountain climbing was going to be over. There are a few steep angles on the route map, but nothing to worry about, in my humble opinion.

I was not tired, so I pulled out my PSP and played some more Lemmings to pass the time.

It was close to 10 PM and I knew I better call it a night. I put in my earphones from the CD player with Tiesto and pushed play. It was light’s out for me until the morning. I was not awaken by either a freight train horn or a rider snoring too loudly.

Quick Update: 06/14/09 at 7:30 PM - I have internet access and I have a limited time. Today was a pretty good day. 81.?? miles today. Starting from Glenwood Springs and riding to Hotchkiss. There was some headwinds after 10 AM and then crosswinds. Overall, I did good. I did not go out to race and try to be the best hill climber. Although McClure Pass - Fucking Climb on my bike and now able to stick a pin on my map at my humble abode on another mountain pass fucking conquered on my bike.

People loved the Southpark jersey and the HED. rims. I even got a few people wanting a picture of the back of my bike jersey. I did take a lot of pictures and even had some thoughts of particular moments on this Day One

By the way Readers - Who in the Fuck won the Stanley Cup?!?! I still do not know nor have looked or asked to see which team one. I hope Pittsburgh.

Until the next time

Daryl Charley
The Fallen Athlete

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