22 June 2012

End of the Road

Day Six
Estes Park to Fort Collins
47 miles
15 June 2012

Longs Peak

It felt so good to NOT get up at 4:30 this morning! We slept until a whopping 5 a.m. How's that for sleeping in?!?

The smoke didn't seem as bad this morning, and lightning was dancing over the hills to the east.

Today's ride was re-routed to feature minimal climbing to protect the health of the riders, to minimize taxing of law enforcement resources in the county beleaguered by wildfire and to keep firefighter road access open and uncongested.

The route originally would have taken us down Devil's Gulch and Big Thompson Canyon, down, down, down, high speed descent, then via Masonville up Horsetooth Reservoir, a whale of a low-elevation climb also featured in the MS-150, which ride also may be re-routed if smoke and fire are still dire next weekend. The Ride the Rockies climb of Horsetooth was eliminated, and we took a direct and straightforward route into Fort Collins via Loveland instead. The plains ripple and wave, so the new route wasn't entirely flat and climb-free, but much faster, especially given the tailwind aiding us whenever we headed north.

That friendly, helpful tailwind, cherished by all cyclists, however, is an angry enemy to firefighters. Any wind at all serves only to hinder firefighters and whip fires into renewed frenzy. I think all of us would rather have had no wind at all and drenching rain sans lightning over High Park to aid the firefighters and prevent further loss of lives, homes and forest.

But this is Colorado. It seems we're stuck with the wind.

fire-enhanced sunrise

The Lizard offered to ride with me today, which thrilled me beyond measure. He could have easily bombed down into Fort Collins in less than two hours but instead spent more than four hours riding alongside me most of the way. I insisted he rocket down the Gulch and the Canyon at his speed because he planned to film the descents with his helmet cam, and to go my speed would have been boring on film and completely drained the battery as well. He waited for me at the end of each downhill and then pedaled all the way through Loveland and Fort Collins with me, watching me ride and cooking up some new training plans to hopefully strengthen me on climbs. My coach is already getting creative with his training plans for next year!

Estes Park was a bowl of memories for me, my neck of the woods for eight years prior to abandoning my chosen field of journalism. I had secretly hoped my adopted son might be among the roadside cowbellers welcoming us to Estes Park, but I'm not even sure he lives there, so it wasn't too much of a disappointment when I didn't see him.

Pedaling through McGregor Ranch to Devil's Gulch reminded me of the day my son and I visited a cabin at the top of Devil's Gulch to adopt three long-haired Siamese kittens: Banzai, Kamikaze and Abu. We had to find a family to adopt our three grown loveable and cuddly cats years later when I moved to the metro area into a no-pet apartment. It was like giving away three members of my family, and I'm not sure I ever fully recovered, even though the new farm family loved my kitties as much as I did and provided the perfect home for them.

maybe next time

I'd told The Lizard we had to stop in Glen Haven for cinnamon rolls, the best in the world, and he waited for me in front of the Glen Haven store, which, sadly, wouldn't be open for another hour and a half, so I will have to take him back up there one day to find out why those cinnamon rolls would have been worth waiting for.

Volunteer firefighters in Glen Haven were up early with boots in the hopes of collecting donations from passing cyclists to help build their new fire station. With the fire in Fort Collins heavily on everyone's mind, I had no problem stopping in the middle of a steep downhill to contribute, and was doubly delighted when the firefighters recognized me as the wildlife photographer from their newspaper nearly two decades ago!

The high winds at Drake, where we rejoined the Big Thompson Canyon highway, once again put the Fort Collins fire in our minds. The pancake guy couldn't keep his grill lit, and the firefighters below can't extinguish flames due to the very same wind putting the kibosh on breakfast here.

time for a new pin quilt

The ride through Loveland and Fort Collins went quickly, too quickly. Every time I finish a Ride the Rockies tour, I can't believe it is over so quickly, and I'm sad to be finished, even when I'm sore. As we pedaled along the foothills, The Lizard was reminded of "amber waves of grain" at the very same time I began singing it because I was enjoying watching the tall grass dance in unison in the wind.

Inside Fort Collins, I realized what a great route choice the revised route was because we were in designated bike lanes nearly the entire way. This relieved law enforcement personnel of having to monitor every single intersection and freed them up for more important battles.

At one intersection, The Lizard, who had been riding behind me so he would know where I was (because he frequently loses me when I'm behind him), got into the right turn lane with a car behind him. I was watching him, watching the car behind him and watching the light, all while moving pretty darned fast due to flat road and tailwind, when the light suddenly changed. All I could think was, "Don't squeeze the brakes too tight! Don't squeeze the brakes too tight! Don't squeeze the brakes too tight!" Because that's exactly how I broke my wrist in March. I didn't want a repeat performance, and not just because we were surrounded by cyclists and motorists who would witness my folly!!!

I laid rubber. I didn't go over the handlebars, and I was able to stop in the nick of time, but I left my very noticeable skinny tire signature in the bike lane!

The Lizard grabbed my hand as we crossed the finish line together, first time ever, and I think the official photographer even captured it! That's one photo I'm sure I'm going to end up buying.

Minutes later, a former co-worker and current stairclimbing buddy called out to us; she was there to see her brother-in-law cross the finish line!

394 total miles for me. 443 miles for The Lizard. His four-year-old bike hit 11,000 miles ten miles into today's ride!

securing the wheels

After a very satisfying chicken sandwich and sweet potato fries at Smashburger, we headed home to see how many of my plants survived the week without being watered. We lost about half of my garden, but one of three still hearty tomato plants has its first blossoms!!!

The cycling kits (shorts, jersey and socks) we'd packed in Ziploc bags for each day of the ride and repacked in the same bags each night to keep them separate from our street clothes nearly bowled me over as I unpacked and prepared to do laundry. The idea of keeping kits together in plastic bags so you don't have to dig around to find socks each day WAS truly a great idea from RBR magazine, but they forgot to mention extreme caution should be exercised when opening those bags after a week of fermentation. PPPPPPP-UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!

stinky, stinky

how to dry and air out your tent


  1. You two are just awesome - smelly bags and all. :)

  2. Congratulations! Great week! You two are very sweet! Brazilian kisses...

  3. Congratualations!
    As always your photos are so amazing :)
    The pony is probably over sensitive to sunlight or bugbites, that is why it was so covered up.
    The pretty horse I was riding on was an old lady who is now grassing on the forever green fields :( She died a few days after I rode her.

  4. What a ride, and what a week indeed! I hope the fires can be brought safely under control.

    Thanks so much for letting us share the fun, the sweat, the fatigue, the beauty, the thrills. That helmet-cam is worth every penny. Hope we get to see more of those descents.

    P.S. That's a mighty nice bike in the truckbed.... :)

  5. You just better live up to that cinnamon rolls promise. ;')

    Hope and prayers to all involved in the fires


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