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Monday, August 11, 2008

Coming Back Down to Earth

Monday, June 23
Estes Park to Granby ...conclusion

…there was a powerful thunder and lightning storm, and a dense cloud came down upon the mountain.

Having made the peak and stopped to reflect, I think we’d best pick up the pace here. There is still a long way to go.

After coming down from the top of Trail Ridge Road and stopping for a few minutes at the Alpine Visitor Center, I started the long descent. The road dropped to the Medicine Bow Curve switchback then straightened out, more or less, taking me through Milner pass, by Lake Irene and down to Fairview Curve where the track changed suddenly to a series of five switchbacks.

Continental Divide at Milner Pass
It was a great descent. EXCEPT. After all of the climbing in the last two days it was on this descent that my back started to act up. After a few minutes racing downhill in the drops, the ache would set in. So, I’d stop, take in the sights then move on. This actually worked out OK as the road, in spite of all of the cars at Alpine, was quiet and I could just sit and listen to the water and the wind rustling the trees. In fact, I only encountered two vehicles on the descent to Fairview, a car coming up and a motorcycle going down. Flying down is more like it. My guess is the rider can feel free to dine on double bacon cheeseburgers all he wants. It isn’t his cholesterol he needs to worry about.

I reached the lower levels of Trail Ridge Road at the same time as a vicious crack of thunder. It would seem that I had found the back of the storm I had been worried about riding into up on the mountain just a couple of hours earlier. I figured I would ride on a bit before stopping to re-configure my outfit for rain riding. And as I was figuring, it started to sleet. I think. Not quite snow, definitely not hail, just big chunks of slushy ice. With this was a considerable amount of rain, making for a suddenly cold, wet environment. Remember the sign in the Saturday, July 19 posting? The one that read “Be prepared for rapidly changing weather…conditions?” This was why they put that sign up. I stopped the bike, jumped off and got out my helmet and shoe covers, glove liners and full finger gloves. I already had on my heavy jacket and tights. Even though I got the extra protection on quickly, I got pretty well soaked. It hadn’t thundered again so I mounted up and rode on. The sleet-rain mix turned pretty quickly to a steady soaking rain. I have had more fun on a bike than this.

After about 10 minutes and one more thunderclap, the rain subsided. I pulled in at a trailhead with restroom facilities. There were no paper towels, so I stuffed my shoes with toilet paper, wrung out my socks, dried off my glasses and otherwise tried to shed some of the water I’d accumulated. Accomplishing as much as I could, I got back on the bike and headed towards Granby, still some 30 miles away. I was concentrating on maintaining a fairly quick pace, as the storm seemed to be moving in my direction. It looked as if I would have to keep moving to avoid a reprise of the soaking I’d just experienced.

As I as clipping along on the flat road leading out to the west entrance of the park, I did a double take at the Cycle America sign I saw on the roadside up ahead. There had already been two water stops. What was... Oh, lunch! I had forgotten all about lunch. I decided it just might be a good idea to stop and get something to eat. Christine was there, sitting on a chair shivering, her heavy jacket collar up around her neck, a wool cap on her head and a cup of soup in her hands. Yes, it was cold and damp. And yes, there was hot soup! Really good, hot soup. It started to rain just as I finished eating, so I took off again for Granby. I got ahead of the rain for good after about 30 minutes and rode with a very helpful tailwind the rest of the way.

Trail Ridge Road
I came to the intersection with US Highway 40 just outside of town, turned left and rode down Granby’s main street, W. Agate Avenue. I was just about there. One more left turn at the stop light and there it was. What? It wasn't the school I saw up ahead. No, it was the road going vertical. Well, OK, maybe 12%. But it LOOKED like a wall. I was not about to let the last two blocks get me off the bike, so I pedaled up, huffing and puffing more than I had all day. Then I really was there. I found my bags and dragged them into the gym. I was sleeping in tonight. Oh. My. Goodness. What a day.

To sleep, perchance to dream (in the Granby school gym)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Soup for the soul,
You reached your goal -
Didn't contemplate defeat
With rain and sleet!