Archive for August, 2010

Day 30- Glenwood Springs, CO

Posted: August 31, 2010 in Colorado

Luck was not on our side the morning we left Silverthorne. Gray, drizzly, and cold, we just held out hope that Vail Pass wouldn’t be too slick on the way down- at least we had a bike path, and could stay away from traffic if anything went wrong. We left Silverthorne and headed for Copper, where we would begin the climb up the pass. Copper is just up the way, and we passed through Frisco before getting there. All of the little resort towns are nestled together in a small cluster, so it was just a hop and a skip from one town to the next. Once in town we changed into rain gear and flipped our wheels before heading out, and encountered an older couple from Texas that was out in Colorado for the summer. They were doing the pass as well, and we talked on and off with them during the way. From the Copper side, it's only about 5 miles to the summit of the pass, which sits at 10,600+. It was still sprinkling off and on as we made our way up, but it felt much easier than other places we had biked through (for me at least), due to the bike path. Most of the area on either side of the trail is off-limits, as it's a wildlife protected area. It was very pretty, even though we missed the wildflower bloom for the summer. We made it to the top after a little, and took a small breather before switching our wheels back around to the 15t. At the very top of the pass I convinced Jon to take a break with me for some Colorado relaxation, since it was going to be one of the last times we would be at such a high altitude (I had wanted to do it at the top of Loveland, which obviously did not happen). About 15 minutes into the descent the sun finally made its appearance. About 5 minutes after that I realized I was having more fun than I had ever had doing anything, ever. I’ve been mulling over how I would describe the experience of coming down the pass, but I am still mostly at a loss for the right words. There are moments where you feel suspended in space- the mountainside instantly disappears downwards to the left, the path stretches out before you, and with breakneck swiftness you approach what feels like the edge of the earth. I could feel my strength coming back as the elevation dropped rapidly and the air warmed and thickened. Trucks were crawling up the mountain on the highway to my right, and with a maniacal smile I laughed and waved and sped downwards, skidding as the trail wove in and out of forest areas with hairpin turns and sharp drops. As we approached the base we started seeing other cyclists, mountain bikers and roadies making the long, hard ride up to the top. They, too, wished to be rewarded with the thrill of speeding back down the mountain. It started to depress me though, as I knew we were getting close to the bottom. I never wanted it to end, it was just so damn pretty and amazing. I will say this- having down the descent brakeless, if I ever have the chance to do it again, I will choose to do it the same way. It was absolutely too much fun.

Getting towards the bottom of the pass, right before we started seeing other cyclists.

We finally came to the end of the pass, and rode into Vail. A mountain biker passed us while we were stripping out of our rain gear, and he led us to a bike shop so that we could get our bikes cleaned up and our chains lubed. It was here that we changed our first tire- between Mt. Evans and the pass, Jon had finally worn through his rear tire. Being considerably lighter and carrying less stuff, as well as not having done Evans, my tire was still going strong. As Murphy’s Law would have it, as soon as we got our stuff cleaned up and got ready to go, it started raining again. It wasn’t bad, and as the rain hadn’t lasted very long earlier we just decided to push on through. We made it about as far as Gypsum when all of the sudden the weather turned incredibly nasty. the rain started pelting us, and it was cold, tiny, needle-like drops being propelled into our bodies at incredibly high speeds. It was definitely the most painful storm I have ever been in, and all we could do was try to push our way out of the valley into the lighter skies we could see further down the road. Finally, we made it out of the rain, and approached the trail head for the Glenwood Canyon bike trail.

Beginning of the canyon

It was our good fortune that we would get to see two incredibly beautiful stretches of Colorado in one day, and it made up for the butt-kicking we received from the storm. The Glenwood Canyon is described often as one of the most scenic and beautiful stretches of highway in the US, but that definition seems to come from people who mostly drive through it. Scenic and beautiful are not strong enough words to describe the experience of watching cliff walls shoot straight up and towards a thousand feet over you on both sides and you ride along the Colorado River.

Jon took lots of pictures of the canyon, it kind of made up for not getting very many on the pass.

Picking up speed on some of the more obvious downhills.

As we approached the tunnel in the canyon and got routed around it, we noticed signs saying that the tunnel was closed, despite the long line of cars waiting to get through. On the other side we realized why- there had been a rock/mudslide from the rain and the highway department had snowplows out trying to clear the way. People were milling around, hanging out on the interstate, as traffic was at a standstill. It was cool knowing that our way into town was completely unimpeded, and that we were doing distances that were comparable to what most of the stranded motorists had been driving that day.

Still flooded in some parts from the rain.

We met a couple of mountainbikers around here, towards the last fourth of the trail.

We finally rolled into town right as it started getting dark, and made a beeline for the liquor store before heading down to the secret hot springs. After the cold, wet, tiring day, soaking in a private, secluded hot spring while drinking a beer was exactly what my body wanted from me. We were also waiting to hear back from a couple that we had contacted via, which is a website that puts tourers and hosts in touch with each other.

Guerrilla hot springs

We hung out at the springs for a long time, watching the sun come down and the moon rise. The Colorado was extremely high and rushing by at tremendous speed, and the bright moon glittered off the water while we soaked and lounged in the hot springs. Right as we were thinking it was time to get a hold of our hosts, threatening clouds appeared again and we saw lightening coming from downstream. We got out and headed back to the main street for some food, right as the rain came down on us once again. We rode up to our hosts’ house and crashed out fairly quickly, as 92 miles had made it a long day, even without the rain.


Day 29- Silverthorne, CO

Posted: August 31, 2010 in Colorado

Today was the day we had been worrying about, the day we would finally be facing the Loveland Pass. There is a bike path out of town, that goes up to the frontage road right before the pass. The climb starts as soon as you leave Georgetown, winding through the thickly and beautifully forested path. The trail finally let us out at the base of the pass, putting us at 10,800 ft. We saw the sign marking the start of the pass, reading “Summit 4 miles”. This was decision time. Do we attempt the pass, which has barely a shoulder either up or down, grades up to 10%, and a plethora of large tanker trucks that are not allowed in the Eisenhower Tunnel? For probably the first time in the entire trip, we ran straight to the side of caution. Jon’s legs could barely carry him from the climb up Mt. Evans the day before, and I am barely functional above 10,00 ft. And I was terrified of getting run off the road by a tanker truck. We flagged down a ride at the base, and ended up getting to talk to a Colorado native named Kevin (who turned out to be a professional mountain bike/downhill racer) about extreme physical exertion in places of high elevation. It helped to ease our wounded pride from not doing the pass, and also helped give us a bit more rest. There was still the Vail Pass to attempt, after all. Kevin dropped us off at the Arapahoe Basin, and we rode the rest of the way into Keystone.

Descending the last half of the pass.

We hung around the resort for a little bit, did a little maintenance on our bikes, and looked into winter jobs. Jon wanted to take me to the <a href=”“>Dillon Dam Brewery</a> the next town over in Silverthorne, so we took off in that direction for a late lunch. We ended up staying that night in Silverthorne instead of pressing on to Copper, and found another playground to camp at. Clouds were looking threatening overhead, and we hoped that they would pass over and drop the rain somewhere else. We weren’t that lucky, although the playground equipment did a very good job of protecting us from most of it. Our main hope was that we could make it out the next morning without too much rain, and, thinking of what we would have to face the next morning, fell asleep for the night.

Day 28- Georgetown, CO

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Colorado

While Jon was off conquering Mt. Evans, I spent the day in Idaho Springs hanging out with Brian at the hot dog stand.

For some reason I can't find the picture I took, so here's one from his Facebook.

I got to learn a bit about the town, and see a lot of the local color. I spent most of the day working on pictures, and thinking about how awesome it would be to move to Colorado. After a few hours Jon returned, and he rested up a bit so that we could do the 13 miles into Georgetown, the last stop before we would have to try and face the Loveland Pass. Brian treated us both to his gourmet hot dogs (I had the Southwest Buffalo, Jon got the Bratwurst), and hooked us up with snacks and goodies for the road. Since he had to head out to his second job that night, he even gave us a lift to the edge of town.
At first we were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to take the frontage road out, as the heavy rains had washed out the exit we needed to hop on. It turned out to be all clear for cyclists, however, and as we were headed out one of the workers said to Jon, “The road’s all yours”.
The ride out was pretty uneventful, and we made it into town a little before the sun started going down. We tried to stop by Canyon Wind Cellars for a tasting, but they had just closed about 10 minutes before. As Georgetown is pretty small, there wasn’t a lot open other than the gas station, a restaurant, and the grocery store. The older, “historic” section of town is pretty neat, however, and we rode around there for a little bit before grabbing some groceries and having a meal on some picnic benches next to the entrance for the historic district. Finally, the sun went down the entire way, and we made our back to the city park to find a spot to camp out for the night.
The city park is very pretty, from a touristy standpoint. The gazebo in the middle had electrical outlets underneath, so we plugged in our stuff and set up camp on the soft, bouncy, rubberized ground under the massive playground structures.
The night was very uneventful, except for the animals that crept up on us while sleeping. I’m pretty sure it was a skunk family, but they were friendly and just sniffed around at some wrappers on the ground. Peaceful night and a short day (for me at least).

Mt. Evans – 14,130 Ft.

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Colorado

I don’t remember the date but it was the morning of what would be our 28th day since we left Austin. I woke up early, knowing we still had to leave Idaho Springs that afternoon after I finished my solo adventure. Nikol had a hard time getting up as usual. She was planning using Brian’s computer to work on the website while I was out. We ate breakfast, had a little coffee and got our stuff packed up. Brian had to go down into town to open his hot dog stand, so Nikol decided to go with him and I would just head straight back down to Idaho Springs after climbing Evans. I left most of my gear with them and headed out carrying my tool pouch, water bladder, and jacket in my bag.

The road up Mt. Evans starts near Echo Lake at 10,600 feet. From there it is 15 miles and a 3,530 foot climb to the summit. From the entrance station the climb starts with steep switchbacks through an alpine forest. I started to worry I was in over my head as I started getting winded so early on. At about 3 miles you start to break out above the the tree line and see some of the road ahead.The road turns back north around a large mound and opens up a view of the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park off in the distance.From here there is about another mile of steep grades before it starts to relax a little.Each of the first five miles average between 5% and 6% grade. By this point I had already climbed 1500 feet and I felt a real loss of breath. The next 4 miles smooth out a bit with the average grade ranging from as little as 1.2% up to 4.8%. As you approach Summit Lake there is even a slight dip in elevation. I stopped here to catch my breath (as best one can at just under 13,000 feet) before the final push to the top.I had less than 6 miles left to the end of the road. The first mile past the lake averages only 2.4% and I’m felt pretty good about finishing the climb. However, each mile after that gets steeper and steeper. I had been fighting the wind since I got out of the trees but now it really starts to pick up. My best estimate would be that they were holding steady above 20mph with frequent gusts of 30-35. With 2 more miles to go you come around the back side of the peak and an amazing view south opens up.From here you have to climb a series of steep switchbacks up the southern face. The winds, blowing from the West, are even stronger now. My muscles were getting sore and my lungs could not get enough oxygen for them to recover. Then I come around the first switchback and the headwind turned to a tailwind and practically swooped me right up to the next turn. And then more headwinds. At moments it felt as if I was pushing and not going anywhere. Back and forth like this several more times and I am almost at the top. A young roadie who passed me back when I was taking the previous picture is now on his descent. He screamed down the mountain and said, “Thats fucking incredible man,” as I feebly tried to finish the climb. With just a few hundred feet to the end of the road, I looked back down on all the hairpin turns I just came up and started thinking about the brakeless descent.One last push and I was finally in the parking lot at 14,130 feet above sea level (The actual peak is another 134 feet up on a trail.) I asked a stranger to take a picture of me.I was exhausted and it is freezing at the top of that mountain. I threw on my rain jacket to block the wind and warm myself up a bit. I was also hoping it would have somewhat of a parachute effect on the way back down. I flipped my wheel around from the 18t cog I use for climbing back to the 15t on the other side. I ate carrot I had packed for a snack. I wish I could have stayed up there longer but the wind was brutal and I couldn’t feel my hands or feet because it’s so cold. I looked over everything on my bike to make sure it was safe. It looked good so I thought to myself,  “Here goes nothing.” You can try to resist as you descend but your pedals will start to spin out so you have to do a lot of skidding to control your speed. As I’m bombing down the side of the peak I passed another roadie on his way up. He smiled cordially, then did a double-take, realizing I was riding fixed, and gives a real drawn out “God damn!” I was pretty scared after I got around a couple sharp turns. I knew I had the skill to handle this descent, but I was freaking out thinking, “What if my chain were to pop off or my shoe unclipped right before a big turn?” Then I got distracted by something up a head. A deer was stopped right in front of a car begging for food. It was the most mangy, pitiful deer I have ever seen and I was able to slow down enough to snap a photo as I rode by.Alas, I made It down off the mountain alive and with a lot less rubber on my tires. I met up with Nikol and Brian down in Idaho Springs and we got ready to head down the road a bit before the day was done.

Day 27- Idaho Springs, CO

Posted: August 24, 2010 in Colorado

Leaving Denver was hard after a week of relaxation, fun, and riding around a real city. But the road was calling and our budget was getting stretched from all of the indulging, so it was time to carry on.
The rain that had been following us since entering New Mexico had abated during our stay in Denver, but started up again the day we left. Typical. It was gray and drizzly, and made for a very annoying climb out of town. The winds were the real culprit in slowing down the ride- if there’s one thing I absolutely can not stand, it’s a strong crosswind when there is no real shoulder to ride on.
There were some wonderful downhills once we started getting further from the city though, including a marked 6% grade.

The sign over the highway showed the grade and length, we were on the frontage road.

As soon as we finished up the most awesome of the downhills we encountered that day, we got to jump onto a bike path that would take us all the way into the next town. The path was awesome- it was the beautiful, unruly cousin of the Platte River Trail that we took on the way into Denver. Slightly less maintained, more overgrown, but completely empty the entire way.

We made it into the outskirts of Idaho Springs right as the first few raindrops started to hit us. We ducked into a gas station and Jon asked where we could find some good, cheap, local food. This would be the question that would lead us to meeting one of the coolest people I have ever met, Brian. He told us to hit up Mangia!, the Italian restaurant where he works as a cook. We headed down that way, but detoured to a bike shop before eating. The shop was closed, so we hung out for a minute before going back to the restaurant.

While hanging out, Brian popped up again and we talked more in depth with him about the trip and what we were up to. He offered us a place to crash for the night, which ended up carrying another hidden benefit- it would give Jon the chance to climb Mt. Evans (which is the highest paved road in America, leading to the top of a 14,000 ft. peak). Brian’s house was just up the road from Echo Lake, the entrance to Mt. Evans Rd. We thought that he had missed the chance once we left Denver, and here it was, literally falling in his lap. We accepted, and Brian told us to hurry up and get down to Mangia! for happy hour, and that he would see us in a bit.

Full, happy tummy.

Our meal was delicious, and right as we finished up, there was Brian again, ready to escort us to his mountainside house- he lives somewhere over 10,000 ft. in elevation, so high up that you can see Denver at night when the city is lit up. Riding up the mountain to get to his place was a blast. The mountains rise up rapidly on all sides, and there’s even evidence of old mining shafts in certain places. We also got to see this:

Up at the house we got to meet his wife, Jackie, and the three dogs: Andrew, Berkman, and Chloe. We hung out for awhile, and then the neighbor came over so we headed over to his place, which was even further up on the mountain. Once we got up there we got to meet Beaker, a very vocal (and old) parrot. Unfortunately none of my pictures came out, but let me tell ya, he is a hoot. I hung out with him for a long time, having a blast listening to him talk. Somewhere in the midst of hanging out pictures were taken, but they have disappeared for some reason.
The hospitality and drastic rise in elevation really did a number on me, and Jon needed rest if he was going to conquer the hill the following day. We wrapped it up and went back down to Brian and Jackie’s, and crashed out on the couch. It had been an unexpectedly awesome day.

Denver, CO

Posted: August 21, 2010 in Colorado

Before I get into this entry Jon and I would like to give a big thanks to Bike Snob NYC for his snarky comments, I’m sure our sponsors and friends we’ve linked are extremely happy about the increase in site traffic we are experiencing.

Our first full day in Denver was also the one-year anniversary for Jon and I, so if there was going to be any day that we went out and hit up the town, it would be that one. We started with tea at Saint Marks Cafe. Then went for breakfast at Charlie Brown’s, a really classy bar that is on the ground floor of a Section 8 housing hotel. Kerouac evidently spent a lot of time at the bar and lived in the hotel when he was Denver, as he was having relations with a waitress from CB’s. Anyway, we went in hoping to score the infamous pork chop and egg breakfast, but it’s a weekend special so we were out of luck. Our server was an awesome guy though, and he even went in and checked to see if there was any way the kitchen could swing it for us. Even though he couldn’t get that pig for us, he did tell us about the Friday afternoon happy hour, with free hot wings (DELICIOUS) and pig roast (even more delicious). Scotty joined us after a little while and we sat around for awhile longer until he had to meet up with Lucy.
After breakfast we went down to Track Shack to see if we could run into some more old friends of Jon’s. I got to meet one of the shop proprietors, Jeremy, but the other is currently out on tour as well. We hung around the shop for a bit, met a few more people and talked more about our gear and the trip. Lunchtime and local brews were calling our name though, so we set back out to see more of Denver.
Since Flying Dog doesn’t have a location in town anymore, we headed over to Breckenridge as our first stop. I had the Agave Wheat, Jon tried the pilsner. Both were delicious, and while it was tempting to sit there and indulge in them all, there were still a lot of other places to see. We hit up Falling Rock Tap House (75+ on tap, 130+ bottled) and sat for a little staring at the couple of thousand bottles that line the walls. If there was a place that we could end up lost at for hours, it would definitely be this one, but there was still more to do that day.
When we left Jon wanted to show me Denver’s public skatepark, which is evidently one of the nicest and largest of its kind in the country. It’s also completely free, all you have to do is walk up. We watched some kids screwing around and having fun, but as had been our luck almost every day, a storm was blowing in (at least we weren’t out in the middle of nowhere, for once). Since the skatepark was just a stop on the way to Opal for their killer happy hour and our anniversary dinner we decided to go on down that direction.
We got there right as they were opening for dinner/starting happy hour, and took up a spot by the window to watch the rain while we relaxed. The service was good and the food was awesome, and before we knew it happy hour was over and we were feeling the effects of an indulgent day. Miriam called so we finally got ourselves together to head over to her place, but about halfway there started getting hungry again so we stopped in at Tuk Tuk (Jon had a craving all day, and Thai wraps make better drunk food than sushi).
We got to Miriam’s and kicked it for awhile, until we made him run back out to pick up our stuff from Scotty’s and grab some necessities from 7-11. I passed out while he was gone and when he got back it was lights out in a split second, as we were both tired from a long, wonderful first day in Denver.
Day two was a long, fun, wet one. We went to Elitch Gardens, an amusement/water park right in the middle of town. IT. WAS. AWESOME. The very first thing we did was ride the Minderaser, and my love of rollercoasters came back immediately. After that was the Halfpipe, then the Twister 2. There was some arcade time and lunch, then we headed for the water side, rode some slides, and lounged around in the water.
By then it was getting close to 6 and hunger was setting back in again, so we left the park and went back into town. We got to see Miriam’s studio in Cherry Creek, and then went back to her apartment to recoup from the sun n’ fun. She left to go to dinner with some clients and friends, and Jon and I got hooked up with her Groupon for an 18″ pizza from Abo’s. Absolutely delicious, I highly recommend the Central Park.
Since Elitch Gardens took up so much of our day, time and energy-wise, lethargy took over once we finished up eating and there was nothing else for the day except laying back and watching some Daily Show.
The following day we got a chance to hang out with another of Jon’s old friends, Andrew. We stopped by his work to say hi and made plans to meet up later than night. The coffee shop we met at was kind of busy, so we headed back to Andrew’s place to see the new house and meet some of the new roommates. This was on Wednesday, the first night of the Perseid meteor shower, and while hanging out on his upstairs balcony I tried in vain to see the show but the clouds just wouldn’t go away. After awhile it was getting pretty late and Andrew had to be responsible and wake up in the morning, so we said goodbye and went to check out a couple of bars on the way back to Miriam’s.
We hit up Barracuda’s and Club 404 before calling it a night.
We lounged around until Friday when it was time to hit up the Charlie Brown’s pig roast, the deliciousness that I mentioned earlier.
The heavy food and stiff drinks made for a short night though, and once the food was starting to settle we skipped going out on the town in favor taking it easy at Miriam’s. We made up for it on Saturday though, and took a trek through areas of town I hadn’t been to yet. We headed into the Highlands to look for another of Jon’s old friends, who unfortunately we never found. During the search though we got word from Andrew about an art showing with complimentary wine, so we decided to head over in that direction. On the way we came across a man riding a 36″ unicycle.
The showing, for us at least, was much more about socializing than art, particularly because we arrived shortly before close. Everyone hung out for awhile, then started wandering out to do other things. Andrew and a friend of his invited us to head back to his place to hang out again, but we hadn’t had a chance to really spend time with Miriam yet, so we turned back towards her place again.
On the way back however, we got a message from Scotty saying that if we were in the neighborhood then we should stop by for a few. We figured why not and hung out with him, Lucy, and some of the roommates/friends. Their beer started to run dry a little while after we showed up, so Jon offered to go pick up some more. He and Scotty had been talking about our PAC’s, so Scotty put forth the challenge that if Jon could fit and carry two 30-packs in the PAC, then he would pay for it. The night was already becoming a long one for us and we still needed to spend time with Miriam, so about halfway into the first 30 we had to split. We spent the rest of the night hanging out back at the apartment with Miriam and her friend.
Sunday would be our last full day in Denver, and the day to finally take care of some business. After sleeping off the previous night’s fun, we headed down to Cycle Analyst, the shop where Scotty works. I needed to pick up a new chain before we headed west into the mountains, and Scotty had suggested also that we come in and show his boss our bags. We hung out at the shop for a little past closing, shooting the shit. We went back to the home and had dinner with Miriam, and got ready to hit the road in the morning.

Day 19- Denver, CO

Posted: August 15, 2010 in Colorado

When Jon and I left the next morning to head for Denver, we discovered the unfortunate side-effect of our little trek through the pastures the day before. The screen on our camera had broken, and there was no regular viewfinder, which renders each picture we attempted to take a complete shot in the dark. This means two things: what few pictures there are will be coming from the camera on the phone, so obviously expect them to be of lesser quality, and the second is that you will have to deal with that lack of pictures with an increase in dialogue. Sorry in advance.

Anyway, the ride. There were supposedly camels at the ranch closest to the road around where we had stayed the night before, so we looked for them first thing. They didn’t feel like making their presence known when we went by, though. The first ~17 miles were gorgeous, the same perfectly picturesque countryside we had been riding through the day before. Lots of rolling hills, with an overall descent. The road itself, while only two-lane and with no shoulder, contained an extraordinarily large amount of bike traffic, as it was extremely smooth, the motorists were very patient and considerate, and thus it was full of roadies on training rides. Jon and I discussed how it we lived out anywhere along that road, we would be out here all the time because it’s so quiet, such a great ride, and very pretty.

We got onto onto the highway, and took it to the outside area of town where 470 and the South Platte River Trail connects. The trail is awesome- the total length is around 19 miles, all paved, with signs and road markings. We took it for about 13-14 miles, all the way from a Denver suburb to close to downtown. We made it in around 1:30, and headed for the spot Jon had been talking about for the last few days, our reason for trying to be in town by Sunday around noon: bottomless Mimosas at Sputnick! It wasn’t exactly that ($5 carafes, actually) but it was still a good deal. We hung out and Jon talked about all the places we had to visit. When 3:00 rolled around we left to take a small tour of downtown, through the Sixteenth St. open-air mall, and back around to Bocaza, where we got something to eat. It started sprinkling as we finished up, and I was extraordinarily lethargic, so we skipped going to kickball and headed in the direction of Miriam’s apartment, Jon’s friend that we would be staying with for the week.

When we cut through Cheesman Park, we ran into Scotty, and really cool guy that Jon met when he lived in Denver before. We told him what we were up to, and it turns out that Scotty and Lucy (who we meet later) are getting ready for a tour of their own. We grabbed some drinks with Scotty at Wyman’s #5 and hung out for a few hours, until heading back over to his house. The guys hung out and talked while Lucy and I made friends, and after awhile it was so late that they invited us to crash for the night. We took them up on it, chit-chatted a bit more and made plans for breakfa