6/12/13 - 6/17/13
The trip's itinerary was to hit up most all the 14ers in the path between Denver, CO and Alma, CO, taking the I-70 corridor to Breckenridge, and then HW 9 to Alma. Ambitious, as the routes picked weren't the easiest, or shortest: Bierdtstat from the East Ridge, then over the Sawtooth to Evans, Torreys via Kelso Ridge - and then to Grays, Quandary via the West Ridge - and then a final push to do Democrat, Lincoln, and Bross. All in five days - all ridden to on a bicycle.
It's getting warmer and I'm getting a little more comfortable with this sort of travel. This next trip is without trailer, or racks/panniers: as close to ultralight as I can in this dual-mode type of trip (cycling to, climbing from).
Mountains can be easy to climb, or they can be hard. It usually has nothing to do with the rock and snow found on them. Only sometimes.
Step, step, PULL, Step, step, PULL. Step, step -
I'm not saying I'm always on the verge of feeling sick, but today - Monday, I'm there.
And I'm not ready, anyways. This surprisingly happens quite a bit: underestimating the time it takes to get gear together to make a trip happen. Even with my style of cobbling things together that, if you would talk to someone with bike know-how would raise an eyebrow, and let out an audible, "eeeehh...?", I think I got things straight:
Next week, I'm off starting Monday, schlepping along all the gear I'll need to make it from Denver, to Salida by Saturday, where the Dirty Double Fondo race will take place - 200km of Gravel Grinding, with some nice elevation gain/loss built-in. My kind of race!
The course follows half of the GDMBR, so I'll already be intimately familiar with Part #1, and I'll be pre-riding Part #2, just to make sure there aren't any surprises. Wind will pay a BIG factor in this race - if it's windy, we'll be at a standstill in the middle of South Park, all going 4mph. Hopefully. My race strategy, as always, will be to destroy the hills, and not stop for a resupply, although there'll be TWO towns in the course. Unheard of. My guess is that I'll be a lot less than fresh for the race, but I'll grit it out and after being basically fully loaded for the first part of the week, the race will feel absolutely heavenly.
I'll also be bringing along some winter climbing gear, as there's about a dozen 14er's between here and Salida, and I aim to get up to the top of at least a few of them, before the race, and then afterwards, before I need to get back home for - of all things, band practice. The day after the race, there's plans to go mountain biking in the Gunnison area, as my teammate is thankfully, bringing my Kona with her, when she meets up with me to do the Dirty Double. Killer week, no?
I'll even be bringing along my laptop, so when I'm not cycling, or climbing, I'll be working! We'll see how well this works out, because it if works out well, this'll be me for the next couple of months.
Rough Draft of my plan is to take a late start on Monday, and take dinner in Georgetown, find a place to tuck in for the night, right before the Loveland Pass climb and climb up that in the wee hours of the early morning. Stop at the top and... hike the ridgeline that makes up the Continental Divide to Torreys, then Grays (if I have time) and make it back to the pass, and fly down to Summit County - regroup and figure out the next move. The next move may be to tuck into Frisco and get up early to do another climb - maybe Peak 1/2/3, or ride to the base of Decalbron and do that the next day. Then, get to Harstel, and do Part #2 of the Dirty Double, to Salida and find a place to spend the night and have a nice off day, waiting for my teammate and eating all the food. We'll see how it goes - the weather may finally start cooperating.
I'm on mile #162 of - on paper at least, a 150 mile race. In other words, pretty near to the end of the ordeal. The clock is ticking off hour number 11 on riding these long forgotten gravel roads south of Denver - and when I say, "South", I mean, a good 60 miles south. Better sounding then, "20 miles North of Colorado Springs", I guess - because who knows really where Colorado Springs is, relative to anything, except Pikes Peak?
I'm staring down a small, one-lane slot that makes up the overpass below I-25. Bleary-eyed, a little sunburned. My crotch is something akin to being on fire, as my pair of bibs are very well over their guaranteed freshness date, having seen thousands upon thousands of ill-cared for miles in the (only) 9 months I've had them: the stitches in extremely important places are now only memories, stripped out like the fillings in my teeth from today's ride, the only evidence of both being the holes left behind. My bottles are empty - I've been eating roadside snow for the better part of 3 hours. stomach is full of nothing but rocks as well.
I've picked up quite a bit of speed, as the last few miles have been downhill - the last 75 miles before that have been achingly undulating - but the direction has been mostly up - 7,000 feet of, "up?" Much to my chagrin and complete blubbering of basic chart reading. At present, I'm going about 25 mph, racing directly towards this hole in the wall. On the other side, going a little faster, but a little farther off, is a giant, F-250 red pickup truck. We're both approaching this slot, not wide enough for both of us - barely wide enough for the truck at a reasonable speed! - and one of us is going to have to give way.
"Christ", I think, "I'm playing a game of Chicken with a local in a 3-ton full-cab.".
Surely, the truck will give way to the bike. A head-on in the center would render the cyclist (ME), dead and the truck - well, a quick sweep of the wipers and I'm just a little bump in the road. "Perhaps like last week" (I imagine the driver thinking out loud) "when that errant alpaca got loose on S. Spring Valley Road - and, well the speed limit is 50 mph and those undulations of the grade can be gradual - but they can also be pretty abrupt! biff. Unfortunate - and worthy of some 'plainin', but certainly the fault of the lesser object in the way."
I do my best impression of this sometimes stubborn, vicugna pacos, opening my eyes just a little more than seems normal and careening my neck to center in with the slot.
I do a cost/benefit analysis.
Squeezing my tiny little brakes weighed in grams with the force of forearms cross-trained at the bouldering crags, little nibblets of rear tire tear off and join in the surface texture, joined by the sound of the skitching tires. The truck continues hauling through. I give them a thumbs up as dust kicks up around me. "Good job!", I yell. The driver neglects to give a second glance.
Welcome to the end of the 2013 AntiEpic Gravel Grinder. You have just earned 6th place. Now, go home.