07 June 2012



About 7,000 cyclists of all ages make the pilgrimage to Castle Rock the first weekend of June each year to officially kick off the cycling season. Few organized rides are scheduled before Memorial Day Weekend, and none are bigger or offer the variety of Elephant Rock.

Elephant Rock hit the quarter century mark this year. This was the third 25th anniversary ride each for The Lizard and me. Hopefully, he'll be able to do the Triple Bypass silver anniversary ride next year. Then he'll have a full century of a different kind beneath his belt!

aiming for Pikes Peak, long-term goal

Elephant Rock weekend begins with 24 Hours of ERock, a round-the-clock mountain bike race looping an 8-mile course over and over and over. Trophies and a host of sponsor-donated prizes await the individual and team completing the most laps in a 24-hour period. The Lizard has always wanted to do a 24-Hour race, just to see if he can, but has not found the opportunity yet. One day, you may read a trip report right here about his plunge into the world of 24-hour racing.

Before the 24-hour mountain bike race finishes up, a second race, a criterium, gets underway. Road racers go round and round and round a one-mile course in downtown Castle Rock, and the riders in a plethora of different categories, including a citizens' race for non-pros, who finish the most laps in 45 minutes win prizes. I lose access to oxygen just thinking about such an event.

stretch, part V

Sunday's events include a century road ride (100 miles), a metric century road ride (62 miles), a 34-mile road ride, a 25-mile mountain bike ride, and a 7-mile family ride on whatever human-powered wheels participants choose. The Lizard has been doing the century ride for seven years, and I've been doing the metric century ride for ten years. The metric century features more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain. The biggest challenge of this ride for me is finishing in time to clean up and get to church. (Mission accomplished again this year!)

After the rest of the riders return, kids race all kinds of bikes in the grass outside the Douglas County Fairgrounds headquarters.

Elephant Rock has the widest variety of options and participants and the most participants of any organized ride in which I've ever participated. The Starlight Spectacular, a 25-mile night family ride in Colorado Springs, caters to families and all kinds of bikes (with a bicycle lighting contest to boot!!!), too, but that ride is significantly smaller, and it's almost always during Ride the Rockies, so I don't get to do it often.

dedicated volunteers

Elephant Rock riders support incredible charities including Colorado Neurological Institute Center for Brain & Spinal Tumors; Rise School for children with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy and other similar conditions; American Transplant Association; Zimbabwe Mission Partnership; Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children; and 26 non-profit organizations in Douglas County such as Boy Scouts, Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department and Douglas County Sheriff Explorers. Volunteers from these organizations staff the ride. Last year, Elephant Rock brought in more than $130,000 for these worthy causes, and yet, riders don't have to raise pledge money unless they opt to.

If you have the time and an internet connection that accommodates, please enjoy the 30-minute Elephant Rock 25th anniversary video and enjoy treasured footage and stills from the early days of cycling in Colorado, as well as interviews with cycling enthusiasts, including Davis Phinney, former professional road bicycle racer. A Colorado native, Phinney is married to Olympic gold medal cyclist Connie Carpenter, and they are parents of Kelsey and Taylor. Taylor is a young world champion racing cyclist currently following in his father's tire tracks. Dad Davis Phinney was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1999 and is the namesake behind the Davis Phinney Foundation.

The Lizard and I may get the choice opportunity to meet Phinney and his wife next week in person when we attend one of the nightly Ride the Rockies seminars. I'm two-for-two so far, meeting Olympic silver medalist Nelson Vails in 2003 and meeting Olympian Alison Dunlap in 2010. Keep your fingers crossed for this year!

Nelson Vails and friend and Curecanti

me and someone else with Olympian Alison Dunlap!!!

My final appointment with the hand specialist came just two days before Elephant Rock. He said kneading homemade noodles was the perfect therapy and released me to participate in Ride the Rockies. If you felt any earthquake tremors that day, it likely was me jumping for joy.

I worried about Elephant Rock because my previous climb of Deer Creek Canyon had not been as strong as I would have liked. I did half of Deer Creek Canyon again the day before Elephant Rock, and I made it without stopping this time. That gave me E-Rock courage.

This year's Elephant Rock was the first ride of my year I didn't have to start a predawn ride in layers. The temperature when we rolled at 5:30 a.m. was a whopping 62 degrees! This ride also extended my 60-mile-day-per-month streak to 16. For that, it will always be special. But we also received our first of three new jerseys this year, and I LOVE this year's design!

subliminal message

Dirty Rock Sock

I added a few new tunes to the arsenal this year, and I delighted the thousands of riders who passed me with such classics as the Turtles' "Happy Together," the Zombies' "Time of the Season," Tommy James & the Shondells' "Draggin' the Line" and "Crimson and Clover," Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Indian Nation," and Tommy Roe's "Dizzy."

Early in the ride, on one of the biggest hills, one of the riding paramedics sped by me, and he called out over his shoulder what sounded like, "Do you want a berry?"

If he had strawberries, I certainly wanted some! But surely that wasn't what he said. Our heads were in the wind, there was a bit of traffic, the iPhone was playing, and the cyclist was riding away from me, so sound didn't carry well. I replied with as much volume as I could that I couldn't hear him.

He pointed to his ear and again said something, something, "berry."

The only way I'd receive an answer to my strawberry question was if I stood on the pedals and caught up to him. Yeah, right! But he slowed just enough to make it possible.

"I'm sorry," I said, out of breath, "I can't hear you."

"Is that Steve Perry?" he asked.

What about my strawberries?!? Yes, Steve Perry and Kenny Loggins were crooning "Don't Fight it," and I was doing my best to make it up that hill without stopping. (Again, mission accomplished!)

for real, Roller Coaster Road

Later, after the sun had come up, I was traversing the ups and downs of Roller Coaster Road when the theme song from Pirates of the Caribbean began. Yet another cyclist spun by me, but slow enough for me to hear and digest his words:

"There's something so triumphant about climbing a big hill while listening to that song!"

Somewhere along the home stretch, Ozzy Osborne was encouraging me, "No More Tears," and passing riders would give the standard rock salute often seen in live concerts, some dancing in the pedals as they cruised by.

One of the best comments, though, came from a fellow rider as a pack of us made our way back into Douglas County Fairgrounds.

"I'm so glad you're not wearing earbuds."

Yes, no earbuds for me. I don't need to carry the extra weight... ha ha ha ha ha!

Believe it or not, I wasn't in the mood.  I ate grapes instead.

stretch, part IV

Palmer Lake rest stop

Can you imagine how Lisa must have felt when she topped this hill and found this greeting?


  1. Oh yeah, the perfect peanut butter I enjoy as a midnight snack, and a cold glass of milk! What great pictures of an amazing ride, and what a cool way to live!

  2. Your bike rides and photos are always such an inspiration, Snowcatcher. And how awesome that mountain bike racers are supporting so many great causes! You always inspire me to spend more time outdoors in our amazingly beautiful Colorado! :) Deb @ RaisingFigureSkaters.com

  3. Gosh, that sounds like fun.

    Love the Davis Phinney/Connie Carpenter photo. Two cycling heroes.

  4. it is good you don´t have to bring your lunch in a backpack. :) Nice shots, look good.

  5. Looks like an intense, but fun event! Awesome job!


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