Thursday, July 21, 2011

Days 37 & 38: Into the Rockies

Day #37 & 38) July 19 & 20, 2011. Ft. Collins, CO for an off-day on 19th and Ft. Collins to West of Rustic, CO in Poudre Canyon: 55 miles in 5:15 hrs.

Ok, so you’re not going to get this blog until at least the 21st of July. No cell and no wifi up here at 7600 ft ele. in our little 25’x25’ cabin. We’re not even in a town, but rather in the last bastion of humanity, a little place called Sportsman’s Lodge, before the 9000+ ft Cameron Pass.

First let me digress real briefly to yesterday’s off day. It was just totally lazy. I worked most all of the morning while Brad went to Greeley for a job interview, and then I walked over to a little bagel shop for breakfast bagels and some espresso. Later in the day when Brad got back we hit the outdoor pool at his apt. complex and just dipped briefly in the water and caught rays. Got to say that the temps have been so much more accommodating than the sweltering I’d endured in KS. Actually felt good to just sit in the sun.

Then came the goof –fest…when my bud Andrew came up from Denver to check in. The three of us used to work together in ROMO – Rocky Mt. Nat. Park – back in the mid-80’s on the park’s trail crew. Well, the fun, the stories, the crazyness, it all came back in this waterfall of inane humor when we went out to dinner. Went back to Coopersmith’s Pub, as it was just too good to risk going elsewhere. Plus…those microbrews are way too tasty. Had a wonderful dinner as usual and then just laughed our asses off at umpteen remembrances from ROMO while drinking up on brews. Finished the day off by hoofing it down through Old Town for a sugar fix, where we ended up at a gormet chocolate shop/ice cream shop. Got some ice-cream and that was the story. Had a great time, and there were points were I was laughing so hard I was crying.

So today Brad joined me for the ride, and our destination was to be this little place way up in the mts called Sportsman’s Lodge. It’s the last camping/cabin/RV place before Cameron Pass. It’s 54 miles from Ft. Collins. His plan was to do the ride with me to the Lodge, stay in a cabin for the night and then ride back to the Fort tomorrow, while I continue on across the Pass and then descend down to Walden, CO. This is probably THE easiest way across all the mts of CO in one fell swoop. The road is Rt 14, and it consists of two passes, Cameron at just over 10K, and Rabbit Ears, just over 9K in elevation. Sign me up for this one. Now having worked in ROMO I’m very familiar one of the other famous crossings – Rt 34/36 up and over Trailridge Rd, at an ele. of over 11K. That is a total grunt of a climb, with a ton of traffic. So I chose 14 because it’s one of the more “inconspicuous” of the traverses of CO.

I was really happy to have some companionship for a whole day, and a day in the mts to boot, and Brad was a great sport to put up with riding with me at such ridiculously slow speeds – me dragging 80 lbs of gear and him on his road bike. So we hit the road at about 6:10 am and got on one of the many bike trails in Ft. Collins. Just a quickie about the Fort – I really liked this place back in the 80’s when lived out here and I would come out of the high mts for a day or so to hit the “big city.” And now, many years later, I still have an affinity for the Fort. Great city, great bike trails, great vibe in the place. To me it far supercedes the pretentiousness of Boulder, CO. Ok, that was my dig at Boulder!

The morning temp was just ideal, and I wore my glow vest not because of wanting to be seen but because there was a hint of cold in the air. Several of the time & temp signs read anywhere from 62-66 degrees. We eventually got on the Poudre Trail, which is concrete and asphalt, and just headed northwest to the jcn with Rt 287. That ride was nearly 8 miles of bike trail and it was just stellar. Had a great time. Then we got off the trail and onto 287 for just a couple of miles. After that the real work began – 45 miles of non-stop climbing up Rt 14 to our destination. And that’s only 2/3 of the climb. Actually, where Rt 14 and 287 jcn, it’s 66 miles of climbing to the pass. So I’ll have 20 more miles of climbing tomorrow. Now the average of this climb is around 4%, but it varies – some places are almost flat, or slightly false flat with about 2% of incline, and then others it rocks up to the 5-7% range.

As soon as we got on Rt. 14 it was up and up. This is long, and it’s a grant to just keep going up and up and up. You have to get the mindset to think about plugging away rather than, “damn, I have so far to go.” Brad, I must commend for his patience and perseverance in kind of being my domestique all the way up this thing today. I mean on one hand I was really working to keep a piddly 8-10 mph pace, while
Brad was really working to go slow to stay with me. I’d told him that he was working just as hard as I – him to go so slow and me to go fast.

But anyway what a spectacular way to start my first day in the mts. The temps was just so perfect, with a hard wind blowing from every direction keeping us really ventilated and cool. And the scenery – WOW! God was it good to be back in the mts. Goodbye Great Plains and all that heat and humidity. Hello Rocky Mts with all your majesty, raw beauty and cooler temps. I mean around each and every curve was another stunning scene. And then having the Poudre River on our right or left side the whole time, just rushing like hell down to the plains, gurgling, tumbling, cascading racing. There were times when what with the wind blowing and the river roaring, we just couldn’t hear each other talking out loud. It’s just wild and crazy up here.

So we plugged along, past National Forest Campgrounds, several private campgrounds and a few cabin complexes along the river. The mts were just towering higher and higher above and the Great Plains, which soon just disappeared in my memory. Probably about 30 miles into the day my legs were really beginning to feel the effort. I was in and out of the saddle a gazillion times. Now I wasn’t bonked or anything, but I definitely was feeling all that climbing. Brad would try his best to hang back and give me a draft and a wheel but inevitably we’d hit a little riser and I’d be off the back in a NY minute. Then as the day wore on, the wind got just vicious, and we eventually hit these wide open mt meadows where the wind was just crazy hard and the false flat just kept rolling upwards. I’d do my best to tuck in behind Brad, but that would only last a couple minutes and then I was solo. THAT really took it out of me.

Around 40 miles into the day we stopped in the town of Rustic, CO, at a place called Glen Echo, where they had cabins, camping, RV and a pub, restaurant and grocery. I was definitely ready to stop and take a breather. We used this place as our rest and rehydration stop. Got a coke and some Poweraid. Talked with a local by the name of Drake, and Drake told us that the Sportsman’s was about 10-12 more miles back up the road. By then, with another 10-12 miles to go, I was pretty ready to be done with the day, and having chose NOT to do Cameron Pass today, another 30 miles from Glen Echo, I was very glad to have made a prudent decision. Talked with Drake for a few about some of the monster storms that had come through this area and then we said our goodbyes and Brad and I were back on the bike.

Back on the bikes feeling well sugared up, I worked about twice as hard to churn out those last dozen miles as I had on the first 40. The whole time I was doing my best to tuck in behind Brad to get some relief from the wind. We did manage to hit a couple of really good sections where I could do like 12-14 mph, but these were few and far between. By then I was silently counting down the mile markers to the end of the day’s ride -10, 9, 8, and on and on. Relief would come soon. We hit Sportsman’s Lodge with 55 miles in and 5:15 hrs of riding. That may not be 80-90 miles but I’ll tell you what, my legs were all about stopping by then. Wasn’t wrecked, but was pretty tired.

Go this rustic little cabin that has two beds, a stove, sink, electricity and some dishware and a hot plate. In my book this little place was just right. So we went in and paid for the place, in the grocery store/office, and I noticed that they had no beer. What? Are you kidding me. After climbing for nearly 5 hrs I was jonesing for an icy one. Brad told me that I’ll survive. But I just wasn’t hearing it. I told him that I’d bloody well hitch-hike back down to Glen Echo to buy some beer. He thought I was kidding…I wasn’t! So I got showered, washed and hung out the kit, and then ate some lunchmeat and cheese on burrito skins that Brad had bought at the little store, Then I walked out to Rt 14 and began hitchhiking. Of course Brad came out to goof on me, taking some pictures etc, and then told me to take off my sunglasses so I wouldn’t look so “threatening” to mom and pop tourista.

I told myself that I’d try for one hour outside of the Lodge, and let me tell you – there was so little traffic that I’d stand there for a good 5 min at a crack waiting. Well, 15 min turned into 30, to 45 and I was really beginning to loose hope when this guy in an old green Chevy pick-up stopped. Got in and got rolling and the guy told me he was only going about half way to where I wanted to go, but said he’d drive a half mile further to drop me off by a campground where I might have better luck getting a lift. So suddenly I was like 5 miles down the road and hoping like hell I wouldn’t be walking five miles back to the cabin or five miles down to Glen Echo. About 15 min went by with no luck, and then this guy from NJ stopped. Real nice guy, Craig, and he had two of his kids with him and he was headed to Glen Echo to have lunch at the restaurant. BINGO! Told me if I wanted, I could wait there and then he’d drop me back off at the cabin when they finished lunch. DONE!

So they went to lunch and I went to the pub and had a couple of Newcastle browns while I caught back up with Drake at the bar. BS’ed for a bit and then I did some dinner shopping and got a 6’er to go. Jumped back in the SUV with Craig and his kids and they dropped me off doorside back at the cabins. It worked out just great.

Listening to my little shortwave radio right now with Brad just sitting on his bunk reading every map I have and doing anything to stay busy. No tv, no nothing up here. It’s hot up here now, probably about 85 degrees, so Brad opened all the windows for ventilation. AC up here…..are you kidding me?

Going to sign off now, cook some brauts and have an icy beer. All the best to everyone. Hope to have a wifi and cell connection tomorrow so I can get back in touch with the world…….. Pete

No comments:

Post a Comment