Salida to Canon City
3,087-foot elevation gain
Boy, is it ever hot!
We tried to sleep indoors last night in Salida, thinking we might get more sleep. Worked fine until the lights came on at about midnight, then went off while we were trying to pack to leave in the dark. Grrr!
No song of the day today because The Lizard rode with me almost the entire day. I'm writing this entry in my paper journal just past dusk, and that likely will affect everything I write, as well as my penmanship. Which reminds me, yesterday one in a group of men passing me on Cottonwood Pass was telling the others, "Never trust anything I say between 10,051 feet and 12,051 feet."
I thought that was classic, but I was too tired to write it last night. Probably a lot of things I was too tired to write last night.
We had about 45 miles of mostly downhill until we hit "The Wall," the south entrance to Royal Gorge Bridge. Some say sections of "The Wall" are nearly 15%. It's definitely steep. I sent The Lizard ahead at his own pace because he's a great climber, and it would be excellent training for him.
Today was special for me because I didn't get to ride across Royal Gorge the last time the MS-150 traversed it. The Lizard and I, on our way to our overnight accommodations, were the first on the scene of a motor vehicle/pedestrian fatality. We stayed to help and give statements, and I just couldn't ride after that harrowing experience.
Then I didn't get to ride across two years ago during Ride the Rockies because forest fires closed the park.
Third time's a charm!
At the base of The Wall, I stopped to hydrate well. An older man pulled up behind me and asked with a strong accent if I could spare any water. He'd lost one water bottle, and his second was empty. I could tell he was absolutely parched.
I'd stashed a protein drink in my pack the night before, hoping the fast descent would prevent it from spoiling before I needed it. I'd sipped half of one water bottle since the last rest stop, and my second water bottle was full.
The Wall is about two miles of continual climb. I took a chance I might have enough fluids between the half-full bottle and the protein drink to get up the hill. I poured all the water in my second bottle into the man's empty bottle. He thanked me and immediately began guzzling. I took off, praying both of us would have enough water to get us to the next rest stop on top.
The steep section was indeed steep, the kind of steep that takes your breath away. Literally. Some riders launched and tried to get as far up as they could without stopping. Some, including me, took it slow and easy. Some got off their bikes and walked.
By the first half of the first steep, many were walking. I was not one of them.
I had to stop many times, but I rode my bike all the way up The Wall. I wove back and forth when I could, and I just climbed straight up when that was the only option. Each time I stopped, I'd take a swig from the protein drink and then a swallow of water.
I did not walk at all.
When I got to the top of the first steep, five or six guys who had just pedaled all the way up it, straight up, and who had stopped to breathe, clapped for me. All I could do was collapse over my handlebars and gasp for air.
A little more than halfway up The Wall, one of the volunteers was stationed with a water buffalo, a huge water tank in the back of a truck. I had run completely out of water and was rationing sips of the protein drink. I joyously filled both water bottles and continued onward and upward. The older man later passed me, his water bottle filled again. I knew we'd both make it to the top.
The Lizard met me at the top with a huge smile. He said he'd had to stop three times on The Wall. We finished off the protein drink together, and then we pedaled across the bridge together, stopping along the way to take pictures for us as well as for others. I got to use several iPhone 6s along the way!
We'd planned to eat lunch together on the other side of the bridge, but there was no food except for the rest stop fruit, pretzels and animal crackers. Both of us were famished after the climb, so we ate my last foil packet of spicy tuna. Then we headed down for Canon City.
When I saw the string of riders climbing up, up, up steep Skyline Drive, all I could gasp was, "Holy crap! I can't do that!"
The Lizard insisted I could and took off. I went to the conveniently located sag wagon at the base of the climb and told the driver, "I can't do that."
"You don't have to," she replied. "You can go down on the highway. There is an alternate route, and you can do whichever you like, although they say Skyline has great views and a significant drop off on both sides, sort of like the Great Wall of China."
I looked up at the road again and felt faint. It was very hot, probably the high of 93 that had been predicted. (Some riders said it was even hotter than that, but I didn't look at my phone to see the real temperature.) It took about two seconds to decide I could not go up that hill. I decided to take the alternate route.
I knew there was no way I could ever catch The Lizard to let him know not to wait for me at the top, so I called (and yes, I had signal!) but had to leave a message. I worried he might not have signal as I headed down the highway behind the group of riders who also opted for the alternate route.
As it turned out, he did get the message but didn't answer his phone while he was climbing.
Neither of us had signal in Canon City proper. Go figure.
I beat The Lizard into town by about 15 minutes, and I rode 1.5 more miles than he did. I waited for him at the bike corral. I wasn't sure I had enough time to go buy an icy cold pop for him like I did last time we were here two years ago. I thought it would be more fun to go to Dairy Queen together anyway.
Once he arrived, we didn't go find our bags. We didn't shower or put our phones in the charging station. We went directly to Dairy Queen. We did not pass Go; we didn't collect $200. The Lizard got an Oreo Blizzard, and I got a premium mango pineapple smoothie with a banana. Aaahhh!
We set up our tent on the concrete slab between two buildings, same place as two years ago, completely separated from all other campers. I showered first, then I watched a small segment of the cycling seminar, featuring Chris Carmichael, while The Lizard showered. It was the only seminar I got to take in all week.
When The Lizard returned, I went into the air-conditioned band building (other buildings on the campus are in economy mode during the summer) to make use of the facilities. The yoga class was in progress.
The teacher, who'd asked me earlier in the week which years I'd ridden because she thought I looked familiar, teased that I'd have to join the class, now that I was in the building. I slipped off my shoes and did some of the stretches she was leading. After a few minutes, I was glad I did. I actually felt better!
I'd forgotten how good yoga can feel after a hard day.
The teacher later apologized for putting me on the spot. She said she'd only been teasing and that I didn't have to join the class. I told her I was thankful I had because her class was a healthy reminder to take care of my body.
The Lizard and I took the shuttle to Centennial Park, right along the overflowing Arkansas River, where many riders were dipping their feet into the rushing water. A band was playing, and food choices were quite impressive.
We both wanted the brick-oven pizza, but the wait was about an hour. All the garden salads and quinoa salads were sold out. So we had barbecue beans and pasta salad. The Lizard also had pulled pork.
We returned to camp much earlier than most of the other riders, and we were out cold but uncomfortably hot within minutes. Nevertheless, we both got some sleep for the first time in three nights. A police officer walked through the campus in the middle of the night. It was good to know someone was watching over all the riders.
The coffee truck around the corner of the building from our tent came loudly on at about 3 a.m. and woke up just about everyone in the tent city. I'd set my alarm for 4 so we could hit the road by 5 and hopefully avoid too much heat. I didn't get back to sleep until right before the alarm went off.
Even though it was another short night, I was ready to ride again. I was nervous about the climb, but this would be our last night in a tent. We'd be back in our own bed after dark!
Steve Connolly's Skyline Drive