Last Tuesday was scheduled to be a return to Independence Pass, where we would watch the USA Pro Cycling Challenge climb one of the passes of the Queen's Stage for the third consecutive year. Once again, The Lizard didn't know until the night before whether he would be able to get the time off.
The first year of the race, I took the entire week off. We'd planned the entire year to ride to each stop ahead of the pros. It was going to be the vacation of a lifetime. Sort of our own individual, unsupported Ride the Rockies.
As it turns out, other entrepreneurial characters came up with the very same idea, and for a (very high) price, regular everyday citizens can do exactly that in an official sponsored tour. We didn't know that then, and we can't afford those tours anyway.
At the very last minute, The Lizard found out he could take only one day off the whole week, but he was given a choice. So we spent the night at the foot of Cottonwood Pass then rode our bikes to the top of the pass the next morning to watch the first climb of the first-ever Queen's Stage, which also featured Independence Pass. Hundreds of others did the very same thing. It was one of the most exciting cycling days of my life, and it still gives me chills just remembering it.
Last year, we'd planned to independently ride from town to town once again, letting the tour follow us, but I'd seriously injured my back in a March cycling mishap, and the day of the Queen's Stage was my first ride back on the bike after the doctor ordered me to stay out of the saddle all summer long. (I didn't figure out I'd injured my back until after Ride the Rockies, so I did finish that week-long ride, in spite of pain and suffering.) We spent the night at Twin Lakes, and I rode less than a mile up Independence Pass the next day to see Tommy D's motivational climb that went on to win the stage.
We also spent many hours standing at a corner in downtown Denver on a blistering hot day that weekend to watch the individual time trial. My back did not forgive me for several weeks.
This year, I feel the best I've felt in many years. I can ride. I can take time off. I'm not as thrilled by professional cyclists as I was in years past, but I did look forward to the Queen's Stage. It feels like a family tradition. I know how difficult both Independence Pass and Cottonwood Pass are because I've ridden each of them multiple times, but never together on the same day. Whether these guys are doping or not, those are still difficult mountains to climb, and the air is thin. When you're huffing and puffing, air is non-existent. I wanted to see my favorite cyclists take on the very same mountains that challenge me, and I wanted to see them do well. In person. I wanted to see the strain on their faces and the dusty sweat on their skin.
Alas, The Lizard was not able to take even one day off this year. I didn't want to drive to Buena Vista by myself, and it didn't even seem fun without him, especially now that I'm not so star-struck.
And besides, the Queen's Stage has been Independence Pass and Cottonwood Pass. The route to Cottonwood Pass is closed this year due to much-needed reconstruction. This year, it's not called the Queen's Stage. It's Independence Pass and Hoosier Pass in a day. Still formidable, but just not the same. (Phil Ligget gave Hoosier the French pronunciation during coverage of the stage; that was a hoot.) Cottonwood is dirt on one side. Hoosier is paved the whole way. It is fun to be unpredictable and do new things, but Cottonwood Pass offers something no other pro road race does. It feels backwoodsy, I guess, and that is one of the things I love about it.
So I spent the day doing things I haven't had time to do for a long time instead. I could have given up the vacation time and worked, just like The Lizard. But I've spent so much of the last two months retouching photos when I wasn't working, I decided I deserve some me time.
Three solar dye pots are nearly ready, and I wouldn't allow myself to hank yarn for dyeing until all my retouching was done. I finished my retouching the weekend before the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. On my day off, I rewarded myself by hanking nine full skeins of cotton yarn and 12 mini skeins. Now comes the fun part!
On my day off, I gathered wild sunflowers for yet another dye pot, and oh, my, is the color in the jar amazing! I can't even imagine what it's going to look like on the yarn.
I hadn't taken my sewing machine out of the plastic bag it came in after servicing in June, and it missed me as much as I missed it. It's still in the bag now, but I finished cutting out nine leaf squares in each of four colors for my WIP Leaf Me Alone quilt. Next I must cut the two-inch strips from various leftovers, and then that sewing machine is going to get fired up.
As Jean-Luc Picard would say, "Make it Sew!"
We had planned to drive to Fort Collins on Saturday to watch the 6th stage of the race from one of The Lizard's favorite road bike climbs in all of Colorado. He attended college in Fort Collins and rode the Horsetooth circuit often, developing the speed and power than makes him so good on the bike now.
At the last minute, we decided to stay home and ride instead, then watch what we could of the stage on the laptop at our local grocery store. It would be less expensive that way, we'd get to see more than 20 seconds of the race, and we'd get to ride, my second ride since the MS-150 in June.
This was our first time ever watching streaming video on the internet, and I've got to say, it was just as exciting as being there in past years, partially because we got to see most of the race, but also because most of the segment we got to watch is the very same route for the MS-150!!! We got to see these guys in what feels very much like "our" backyard!
Sue, recognize this climb?