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Saturday, July 5, 2008

So it Begins

Sunday, June 22
Loveland to Estes Park

I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it.

You might say it began last June when I pulled in to the University of Montana campus in Missoula. Finishing that tour, I knew I would do it again. Or perhaps it began on January 5 when I started with the faux rides on the trainer to get ready for this tour. But then again, there was that first real ride of the year on February 24. But after all of these not-so-real starts, my ride through the Rockies began in earnest this morning in Loveland, Colorado as we got on the bikes for the 6.2 mile ride to Dorothy's Catering and breakfast. After that, destination: Estes Park.

It is 30.3 miles as the crow (using MapQuest) flies to Estes Park from Loveland. However, Cycle America's apparently directionally challenged crows managed to extend this to a 52 mile bicycle ride by following two diversional paths along the way. First, we rode around Carter Lake, this requiring a short but relatively intense climb. Upon reaching the top, I was struck by what seemed to me to be an odd contrast of mountain lake and a marina full of large, white sailboats.

Finishing the loop, it was back to Highway 34 and the start of the real climb up to Estes Park. It isn't long before I enter Big Thompson Canyon. Towering rock walls on either side as I pedal under the steel viaduct 20 feet above my head. A sign on the way up asks travelers to be on the lookout for bighorn sheep. I was. As was the case last year when similar signs offered the hope of seeing the bighorn in their native habitat, there was not a one to be seen.

The Big Thompson flood of 1976 wreaked havoc in the canyon, killing 144 people; the water had actually risen above the level of the large pipe I had ridden under at the canyon entrance. The Coloradoan newspaper online has a presentation about the flood ~ click here. The second water stop is at the 31.9 mile point in the ride and is located at a pullout where there is a plaque commemorating two Colorado policemen who died trying to save others.

Hugh Purdy & Michael Conley ~ Heroes of the Big Thompson Canyon Flood

Riding up isn't too bad as the road in the canyon is not all that steep. [It was like that a lot during the week; long climbs, but for the most part not so steep. I decided later in the week that when I got back to La Crosse, I would ride up and give the climb at the top of County FO a big hug!] As the day progressed, I developed a not-so-bad headache and felt like the road was a little steeper than my computer was reporting it to be ~ "Altitude," I speculated. The headache wasn't hard to keep in the background, being occupied as I was with the scenery in this part of the country which I not seen until this tour. My climbs are, by most measures, slow, and I was passed a few times by local cyclists on their Sunday rides. I stopped fairly often to take pictures and to stretch my back. It was not giving me any problems and I wanted to keep it that way.

Riding up Highway 34 in Big Thompson Canyon

At 33 miles, we take the second diversion away from the direct route to Estes Park. This brings us up along a narrower, but quieter road through the town of Glenn Haven. It is a good choice of routes.

Just before the picnic stop at 43.5 miles into the ride, I reach the "* steep climb 10%+ with switchbacks 1 mile" as noted on the route sheet. This WAS steep. As I started this part of the ride, I decided I would not stop for fear of not being able to get started again. I had to remind myself of this decision a couple of times along the way. The sweeping left hand turns entering the switchbacks gave opportunity for a short respite, as the road flattens here a bit (flatten being used in a very relative sense). But, the sharp right hand reversals leaving the switchbacks were altogether another story. Short but steep. Not relatively steep. Absolutely steep. Just as I was coming through the second (and last) of these, a motorcycle went by. Nothing unusual about this. Then, another. And another. Two more. Then three. About this time, one goes by and the young lady on the back hollers out as they go by, "Go, Jack. Go!" Cycle America gives us name tags to hang on the back of our bikes, by the way. Duly encouraged, I pedal upwards, the top of the hill and the picnic stop now in sight. And the motorcycles just keep coming and coming. And coming. They give me plenty of room, but the constant varoom, varoom as they whizzed by did get to be disconcerting. Shortly after the last one passes, I gain the high point of the ride and stop for lunch. We are ABOVE Estes Park, our final destination. One of the little tricks routers like to play on us from time to time. I'd like to route a ride for them, sometime. Actually, it was quite nice. We could look down on the town and would have a nice descent to finish the day’s ride. However, we were also looking out at a smallish but intense looking thunderstorm, so a quick lunch seemed in order.

Estes Park, Colorado

A little rain on the way down, but we are soon at the school. Tents set up and rain still a threat, we decide to get back on the bikes in search of refreshment. We go to the local brewery where the beer is good, the d├ęcor uninspired, the atmosphere noisy and the food so-so at best.

The Storm we didn't get at Estes Park

Estes Park seems a touristy place, very busy on this Sunday afternoon, and I am not impressed with what I see of it [this would change tomorrow as we ride out of town and see the cabins and B&B's in the forested hills]. Lest you think otherwise from the narrative above, I'll say that today was a hard day. I am tired and becoming aware of a part of my head that I missed with the sun block. Definitely harder than the first day of the Seattle to Missoula ride last year. [But not to be the hardest day of THIS tour.]

Today’s totals
51.8 miles
4,320 feet of climbing
4 hours 21 minutes ride time

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Estes Park IS touristy - but in beautiful Colorado!