Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Climbing the Rockies

Our last day off was spent in Boulder, Colorado. If it weren't for the beauty that awaited us in the mountains, I could have stayed much longer...possibly a year or two? The atmosphere is extremely liberal and the plethora of things to do is endless. (above: students from the university parade the streets on Thursday night)

sitting at an outdoor cafe in Boulder with some yummy mint iced tea and a berry scone. I visited this awesome used bookstore, Trident, which was in town (see below)... a key place to go for book and coffee enthusiasts alike.

(above) University Bicycle Shop in Boulder. One of the employees at the shop had done 100 miles of cycling (a century) in each state last summer.

The general store at the top of the Ward Cimb. AMAZING chocolate chip walnut cookies...and coffee.

We've spent the past few days climbing over the Rocky Mountains and through the extremely mountainous state of Colorado. Let me just say, that this state is damn lucky it is so beautiful...otherwise, these climbs would not have been finished by this particular amateur cyclist.
Our first day of climbing was out of Boulder and up the "Ward Climb," into the town of Ward. The climb was approximately 17 miles long (to be honest, I cannot remember the mileage...let's just say it was long enough). We quickly realized that climbing would be a much more individual feat to achieve, rather than teams doing their best to stick together. My team did a pretty descent job of sticking with one another until we hit the steepness of the last couple miles. I lagged behind a bit while the three guys on my team were out of their saddle and hauling along. Luckily, I was able to push through without stopping until the summit.

Despite warnings from a 2008 4K rider who joined us for a few days, we waited a bit too long to make the descent into Estes Park. On our way down we ran into a hail storm! You can wear as many layers as possible, but when hail is the size of peas, it stings whatever skin is definitely found its way to my eyelids and finger tips. The entire time, we were unable to enjoy the beauty of the descent, fearing that if we glanced over the edge of the road for two seconds then we would tumble down the side. Fortunately, we made it to the bottom in time for the downpour and found a restaurant lodge on a sidestreet that gave us some warm towels and good coffee. After the storm let up we continued on our way to a YMCA that was equal to a low-cost family resort.

Outside of the general store there was a fence made of skis...

The pictures following are from the second day while biking up Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the country! The photos really can't do justice to such magnificence...

We reached the tree line of the mountains, where not even trees can grow. It was approximately 40 degrees F. near the this point we still had another 5 miles to climb...

Coffee (above: Conor, aka the Unibomber) at the summit tourist store. This was my last cup of coffee for the entire trip!**

**Note: I've made a wager with my teammate, Chris. I will cease drinking coffee and he will go veggie until one of us breaks. The terms have yet to be laid out, so I'm looking for suggestions from people as to what I should ask for WHEN I win.

Elk! They were at the bottom of the mountain after we carrened through a rain storm as we descended from the summit. I was pumping my breaks like mad the entire way down. During the last few miles we were greeted by a dirt road scattered with pot holes. The only way to get through it was to create a game out of it...we decided on the idea of dodging landmines all the way to Grand Lake, CO.

Hail seems to follow us everywhere we go. On our way into Kremmling, CO we were surprised by a freak hail storm, with a bonus lightening and thunder combination. Stuck in the middle of two fields with a telephone pole lining the road, we realized it would be better to find shelter than duck in the ditch we were in at the time. Braving the weather, we rode back about a quarter mile to a barn. All 27 of us managed to cram inside. As the storm moved on, we slowly walked out and collected our bikes from alongside a fence. Little did we realize that we had only survived half the day's battle...the creek nearby had been disturbed by the storm and flushed out all of the mosquitos from their homes. SWARMS of these suckers were attaching themselves to the entire team as we ran down the dirt road towards the main road. Hopefully, West Nile isn't a huge issue here in Colorado.

Besides the little bumps in the road so far, we're making our way closer to San Fran. We have 3 more riding days until the end of the second leg of the only knows what awaits us in the desert...

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