Tuesday, June 24
Granby to Steamboat Springs
Quick! Go down the mountain!
Not much to look forward to today. Just three passes and a big hole. The talk at the meeting last night was about the 7 mile, 7% descent into Steamboat Springs to end the 85 mile ride. Speaking of ride distances, for the record: days 1 and 2 of the tour took us 51.8 and 67.1 miles with 4,320 and 5,518 feet of climbing, respectively.
Now the big thing about the long descent was that we were going to need to climb back up the same road the day after tomorrow; we have a REST day in Steamboat Springs tomorrow. So in spite of the fact that we are to climb Muddy Pass then go over both the east and west summits of Rabbit Ears pass, thoughts were on the final descent.
The rock wall lined valley of the early part of the ride gives way to more open country after we get through the small town of Kremmling. Rocky hills abound, but the mountains are out on the horizon and we ride along on rolling roads. The road rises gradually through the morning; the picnic stop is located at a rest area whose restroom is the only building in sight. It is here we get some bad news; one of our riders came out on the short end of an encounter with a rumble strip just a few miles out of Granby. First reports were that she needed stitches in her lip; we were to learn later, however, that she ended up being airlifted to Denver where she had surgery to repair damage to her spleen. Not the kind of news you want to hear. Writing this reminds me that the last bit of news we got on the tour was that she had been released from the ICU. I hope she made it home soon after.
On the Road from Granby
It isn't too long after lunch that the climb up to Muddy Pass begins in earnest. Compared to yesterday, it was an easy climb. But, having made it to the "top," it was still necessary to climb some more. First to the east summit of Rabbit Ears pass, gaining this only to descend for the sake of climbing to the top of the west summit. Here I cross the Continental Divide for the second time in two days.
Another few miles and there it was: the road ahead disappearing over the edge of the hill like the water rushing headlong over the rim of Niagara Falls from whence, as I recall, it proceeds to crash in a frenzy upon the rocks below. Maybe not the best mental image to conjure up when you are at the top. Signs on the approach try to encourage with messages such as, "Trucks Test Brakes," "Trucks use Low Gear, 7% Grade Next 7 Miles," and "Runaway Truck Ramp 4 1/2 Miles." As I was soon to discover, you would need to be a pretty good semi pilot to navigate 4 1/2 miles on a steep, winding road in a runaway truck in order to avail yourself of the ramp's services. Having fortified myself with these thoughts, I roll over the top and start the drop.
Over the Top
A stiff headwind makes it feel like a 45 mph ride, but the tension of the descent prompts me to keep my ground speed below 35 mph. What can I say? Descents are usually an enjoyable part of the ride, but every once in a while one gets to you. This was one of those. My back felt fine and I didn’t feel the need to stop, but I was glad when I reached the bottom.
Bill had talked about this part of the ride quite a bit, the big descent into Steamboat Springs. Well, I did the descent, so where is Steamboat Springs? Four miles farther on it turns out. OK, I can do that. Ride into town ~ NARROWLY avoiding a collision with a car whose driver hasn’t seen me yet ~ go past the Rabbit Ears Hotel and turn right for the school. Or maybe you’ll find one of the Cycle America staff at the corner directing you to ride on three miles out of town to a campground because the school is somehow and suddenly not available. I was not a happy camper as I finally pulled into the campground, well out of town and away from the various attractions we had planned to unwind in. Bill had his tent up in the low, damp area we had been assigned and I followed suit. A piece of news mitigating the disappointment with this location was that there was a free city shuttle bus that stopped at the campground every 20 minutes; we could use it to get to and from town as we pleased. Bill had noticed that there were a few cabins here and after showering I went to the office and inquired as to availability. There were in fact two right on the river that were vacant. We could have one for a mere $54 per night. Sold! We take down the tents and move in.
A Cabin in the Woods
Things are looking up. Beds. Electricity. A swing on the front porch which looks out over the Yampa River. The cabin was shaded by several large trees and was comfortably cool inside. Yes, definitely looking up. We take the bus and, having decided to split from the tour team for our time in Steamboat Springs, enjoy dinner at the fashionable Bistro C.V. No trail food here; hamburgers made with Kobe Beef accompanied by 15-54 Brussels Style Black Ale. Then it was back to the camp, turning in to the white noise of the tumbling Yampa in the background. I woke up once during the night and thought it must be pouring rain, but soon realized it was the sound of the rushing river. Ahh....
The Yampa River at Steamboat Springs Campground
3,692 feet of climbing