Monday, June 23
Estes Park to Granby ...continued
He makes me as surefooted as a deer, leading me safely along the mountain heights.
It wasn’t long (OK, so it wasn’t FAR) to the water stop at Rainbow Curve and I was glad for the chance to officially get off the bike and relax. Nothing special here, just another vista to take your breath away. Not that I had much breath left to give to the cause. And what breath was left was assaulted by the fragrance wafting from the truck pumping out the restrooms. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the truck had pulled up right next to the water coolers set out by Cycle America. Odors apparently do not rely on oxygen for transport from source to olfactory receptors as that process seemed to be working just fine here in the thin air of Rocky Mountain National Park.
After about 15 minutes I decided that I was as rested as I was going to get, save for just setting up camp and spending the night, so I mounted up and took off, continuing the search for the high point on Trail Ridge Road. The view changed suddenly and dramatically, like the appearance of a new slide in a PowerPoint presentation with the transition effects set to "appear". The tall trees were gone and what vegetation there was to be seen was of the hale and hearty type, hunkered down against the cold, gray, rocky surface.It was hard riding and more than a little tense. I kept one eye on the storm looming ahead, the other on my mirror. Cars would come by and I would need to drift back to the white line, just a bit too close to the edge; not just the edge of the road, but THE edge. You know the one, like in this picture showing a closeup of a typical Colorado guardrail...A few times I would have the thought that if the sag wagon came by I might just raise my fist in the air, the signal for it to stop. Then I would tell myself, “No, it’s too close. Months of training before the tour. Yesterday’s climb to Estes Park. Hours of climbing today. Just a little farther.” I talked to myself a lot. The test of endurance had become mental as well.
Eventually the road wound around so that I wasn’t next to the edge nor riding towards the storm anymore. There was a great view of said storm, parked on the next mountain over, from a pull-off so I did. Pull off. As I was taking a picture, a lady came up (there were a large number of cars in the parking lot and a lot of people at the overlook) and asked about the ride. I told her that we had started in Estes Park and were riding to Granby. She then inquired, “Are you going to turn around and come back this afternoon?” What I said was, “No, that’s not in the plan today.” What I was thinking was, “There is no universe, known or unknown, in which I could imagine riding from Estes Park to Granby and back in the same day.” She might have sensed that was the case. I’ll never know.
During this part of the ride, I was actually starting to feel better. I continued on to a rest area where I put on my heavy jacket and tights. It was getting colder. I was really close now, my altimeter showing almost 12,000 feet. But there was this hitch. Trail Ridge Road teases with TWO peaks, this being the first (in the direction we are riding) and the lower of the two. I began the mini-descent right after the rest area and very quickly gave up maybe 300 feet. As the climb started again, I could see the road above me. It looked daunting, but turned out not to be so bad. Up to a sharp hairpin to the left, up some more to a sweeping right hand curve and then, there it was. Just ahead. No pull off. No sign. Just a point on the road where, when you get there, it is downhill. In both directions. My biggest climb ever was over.To be continued...