03 March 2010

South Rim

RtR Tent City22 June 2005
Ride the Rockies, Day 4
Montrose to Gunnison via Black Canyon
18.5 miles

I got to see Ride the Rockies from the inside today. I sagged.

Initially, I thought I might sag the entire day because my back was so sore last night. But I felt pretty good this morning. I slept better than I have in at least a week. I decided to take on Cerro Summit so I could tell my railroader dad I made it up the hill trains in the late 1800s had to have helper engines pull them up.

I was tired toward the top, but I pushed on, just thinking about my next conversation with Dad. The headwind was as promised, but it wasn't as debilitating as it was in 2003 on the North Rim.

I made it to the top, fully intending to SAG, but no SAG vehicles were in sight. It was too hot to just sit there and wait. So I started the downhill. I went slow, braking frequently, because I could feel strain in the right side of my lower back.

It wasn't very far before the pavement ended and the modified "bike path" forced me off my bike. CDOT had been promising RtR for four months they would have the Cimarron portion of the project complete in time for the tour. It was still dirt last week, so they promised they would lay the foundation coat and the oil for adhesiveness by the day of the ride. The day before the ride, the highway was still dirt, so CDOT said they would lay a 14-foot bike path alongside the highway to give us a safe riding surface and to keep us apart from vehicles that likely would be spewing rocks and dirt as they sped along.

So much for firm. So much for adhesiveness. So much for bike path. Some riders braved it on the dirt road, which was barely wide enough for two cars, much less two cars, cones on either side and bikes, too. It was an absolute mess.

As expected, the surface was much too bumpy for my already stiff back. I dismounted and began walking the bike off to the side of the "path." The black of the fresh oil intensified the day's explosive heat. The smell of the oil turned my stomach. And sometimes my ankles sank in the muck. Yuck!

So much for new bike shoes. And this would be the day I wore white socks. Of course.

What a mess.

One SAG wagon came by. It was full of people who didn't want to ride in what was now being unaffectionately called "The Oil Pit."

I cried because I wasn't sagging for vanity or ease. It didn't seem fair.

If I had brought my cell phone along, I would have called The Lizard’s mom and asked her to pick me up. I would have driven back to Gunnison, then done just a few miles with the Lizard each day, then returned for the car and driven on to the next town for the remainder of the ride.

I decided I would call her from Gunnison and ask her to pick me up. I didn't want to ride anymore. I didn't want to walk anymore. I didn't want any more oil seeping into my new shoes or any more gravel working its way between my heel and the sole of my new shoes. I didn't want to be in The Oil Pit anymore.

Sleepin' in the GymI chided myself for being such a big baby. "You're tougher than this, Girl!" I scolded out loud as riders trickled by at 5 or 6 bumpy miles per hour, groaning, being sarcastic, complaining or worse. "Besides, you're a hiker. You can do 18 of these miles if you need to. Even in your condition."

With that, I started thinking about what cycling guru Fred Matheny had talked about last night in the seminar. He said to have a high VO2, you have to pick strong grandmothers. I thought about my grandmothers.

Maternal Grandma wasn’t artsy like me. She played cards and bowled. I don't know much about her predecessors, but I don't think they had much interest in athletics.

Paternal Grandma did no sports, although she did climb Mount Timpanogos once. She was highly creative, which probably is where I got it. She did crafts all the time, and she played the piano. No athleticism trickled in her veins. But her ancestors were pioneers. I thought about the handcarts, and I looked down at my oil-splattered, gravel-tired bike. I could be a pioneer. It's in my heritage. I'm a survivor.

Then I noticed my speedometer. My 3.4 mph walking pace was better than my daughter’s 2.4 mph on the Buena Vista Century. No, I don't have a drop of competitive blood in me. :)

I walked about 2.5 of the three miles of Oil Pit before the next SAG wagon came, and it was full. I had to sit on the medical supplies in the trunk to the next rest stop, where I was passed off to another SAG wagon. On this one, I became high priority, and I got to lay across the back seat all the way to Gunnison.

During the SAG process, I got to talk to a couple on a tandem. The husband is a mailman who had two disks removed. Not knowing my procedure wasn’t anything like his, he said my back will take a long time to completely heal, but that in a couple of years, I will be so glad I had surgery because I will have pain-free mobility.

Light at the end of the endless tunnel!

In the SAG wagon, I got to witness how close the volunteers watch the riders, the traffic and the road conditions. They know where all their handicapped riders are at all times. The volunteers are right on top of oversized trailers or bikes taking up too much roadway.

RtR has 73 volunteers this year. Only seven of them are new. They take their vacation to help run this ride. They care about the riders. They enjoy meeting people and working together. They enjoy helping riders and making sure everyone has as great a trip as possible. They are as frustrated as the riders when CDOT doesn't finish a project on time.

They keep coming back to volunteer again the next year. And the next, and the next...

Penny said this is her 18th RtR. She's a Colorado native who moved to Hawaii five years ago. She still keeps coming back to Colorado to help with RtR.

Ride the Rockies is the best organized ride because the people running it care so much about the end result.
RtR bike parking


  1. You are one strong woman! Even in my best shape I'm not sure I could have Rode the Rockies... I'm stubborn and might have just in spite but ooo.... So now five years later one has to ask if you have done another Ride the Rockies tour.

  2. This is absolutely awesome! It sounds like an exciting adventure and you did great! I'm sorry your back was bothering you so much of it, but way to plunge on - I walk about 3.5 too, lol. I love that first shot!! Looks like there's a portapotty for every tent, lol.

  3. Thanks Brooke and Lisa! We have entered the RtR lottery every year but one since 2005, and haven't been drawn again yet. We're very anxiously waiting on pins and needles for next week's drawing for this year's event. Fingers and toes crossed, shooting stars wished upon, shiny pennies tossed in wishing wells... :)

  4. I've got fingers and toes crossed for you! I hope you get another shot at it.

  5. I sometimes wonder at the pioneer spirit which drives us past making a rational decision. Pain is normally thought to be a signal to stop you are hurting yourself rather than keep going girl LOL. I have that problem too. I don't listen to my pain. I won't even take pain meds and keep up way past the point that I should.

  6. Wowowowow! What an adventure! I don't know nuthin' 'bout no cyclin', but them sure is good photographs ya got there! :)

    (Really...I LOVE the Tent City one!)

    You are clearly a woman of many talents...! :)


Dusty words lying under carpets,
seldom heard, well must you keep your secrets
locked inside, hidden deep from view?
You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

All spam is promptly and cheerfully deleted without ever appearing in print.

If you are unable to leave a comment and need to contact me, please use the email address in the sidebar. Thank you!

Related Posts with Thumbnails