Tuesday, July 21, 2009

35 mph

Day 47 - July 20, 11:55pm
87 miles. Frisco, CO to Salida, CO

Today was just one of those days. You can feel it within the first few pedal strokes of your bike. You're pedaling but just not moving. That was the story for the first ten miles and it just sucks and is so demoralizing. Especially on such a long day. Fortunately other people expressed the same frustration, which was a big comfort for my sanity.

Picked up a brake cable from a bike shop which is good since my back one is really short. Going downhill for dozens of miles with a short brake cable hasn't been the most comforting thought.

We did have one decent 4 mile climb that started around mile 16. I started going at a solid 6 or 7 mph and just kept going and kept passing people. My breathing was good and i felt awesome for being able to push it like that. I decided that i was going "No Stop to the Top" and made it! Accomplishment is a big theme of this trip and that was the first time i had done a climb without a break. And yes, it is hard not to think you're the man after doing that.

After a lunch break there I experienced the best cycling of my life.(i know i say that a lot) We were on a continuous downhill for 26 straight miles which we covered in only ONE HOUR. I was going along at twenty something in the back of the group taking in the beautiful fields and mountains when something in me snapped and gave me this uncontrollable urge to just pump it so hard. I pulled left and tore through the rode at 35 mph for a solid five minutes. I was talking the other day of how the reason i like cycling so much is because it kinda makes me feel like some sort of superhero, with all of that speed, agility, and of course spandex. Going so fast and pumping like that all by myself through amazing terrain was just euphoric.

Unfortunately when we stopped a little while later i realized how much i had burnt myself out and how tired i really was. I got really sleepy and drained for the rest of the ride. I had a pretty bad headache by second lunch and tried desperately to find a shady spot to nap. I still hate how little I sleep on this trip because of how much stuff there is to do all time when we get into hosts, when it really should just be me time after such a long day. But i guess balancing my own priorities with the group logistics is something to work towards and should be something i view as a way to grow rather than just a hassle.

After lunch was another super long downhill that all of a sudden unveiled these humongous mountains abruptly jutting out of nowhere. I mean it was plains, plains, plains, whoa huge mountains! They were so incredible I could barely keep my eyes on the road

Was smooth riding until my sixth flat of the trip. Though it was my first time that a nail had actually gone completely through, both in and out of my tire. Later thought about what crazy chain of events must have led to my 2 inch tire running over that single nail on a 10 foot shoulder. Coincidence? I mean what does "random" really mean anyway.

Got a big climb tomorrow, and apparently very little sleep coming tonight. But i am in charge of tomorrow's morning playlist, the first rider to do so, and i think it'll be good. I have very strong feelings on the line between sharing and imposing music and really hope my taste jives with everyone else. I could talk for hours about music selection and philosophy but probably not now. I still need to actually wake up and play it...

Camping Time!

Day 46 - July 19, 1 day late
80 miles. Granby, CO to Frisco, CO

After a day like yesterday its hard to have a great follow up. Fortunately for us, today was our first ever Camping Day!

The ride itself didn't particularly excite me today. The scenery was still pretty but all the riding on the same highway did start to get monotonous. It didn't help that it was super trafficky and without much of a shoulder - such a major cause of stress and unhappiness while riding.

These days have really been a crash course in layering. The weather is so fickle and its so hard to predict how you'll feel when riding. The result is lots of stops to change usually followed by immediate regret followed by confidence in your original decision. Unfortunately the only constant has been the freezing mornings. I've stuffed my camelbak with so many layers that I ripped off two zipper strings. I've carried several pieces of warm clothing in my bag all trip just for these cold mountains.

One cool thing today was meeting this solo cross country cyclist at lunch who ate with us. He was going from Virginia to Oregon kinda just because. I laugh when people call us crazy but for real, this guy had to be crazy. His bike carried all his stuff and was 80 pounds. He was basically summitting the rockies in a tank. Its funny how we were asking him questions about his trip which he's clearly answered a million times. The same thing happens to us and its hard not to lose excitement after answering them the first 257 times. Thats why it was interesting to have the tables turned on us like that.While i may have considered a solo trip like that previously, there's no way i would even consider it after what i've learned about cross country travel. I mean seriously, not having friends to take silly pictures with along the way?

Was riding with a fun group and we took a break to brainstorm a new pitch for the group and the organization. I must say that the girls were critical in "etching out" our idea. Body language was definitely a big focus for this one...

A little bit later we saw a real cowboy! He was actually riding a horse in full gear in a field and, no joke, was taking a bite out of a stick of jerky. It is unconfirmed whether he was smoking a Marlboro cigarette. Oh Colorado....

After stopping at a Good Times for some food and filling myself up with way too much chocolate shake, we headed on a bike path for the campground. Unfortunately for my stomach we immediately hit these crazy switchbacks to climb this massive hill. We all gave a Tour de France simulation as we shouted in fake French and sprinted up, but lets just say that all that food didn't quite help me win the polka dot jersey...

By now clouds were moving in and the weather was getting threatening. At the top of the hill the path continued along a dam and reservoir that was crazy windy and then led into some great forest twists and turns. The slight drizzle along with the awesome path along with the dozen or so of us winding up and down made for really exhilirating riding.

It soon became clear that we didn't actually know how to get to the campsite and lots of wrong turns and confusion ensued. The ominous weather only made things more intense. This is what i like to call Bike and Build crisis mode. There were some differing opinions and growing frustration over how to get to camp. I really love just chilling out in situations like this and seeing how the dynamics play out, who tries to take control, who just chills out, etc.

Its amazing how much you learn about people when seeing them under pressure. I didn't really care since we were so close anyway and was just loving the riding. Trying to assert your opinion in such a large, stressed group just isnt really worth it most of the time. In general, knowing when to chill out and when to step in has been a very interesting learning experience with such a large, varied group.

When we finally got into camp, Meryl, Dan M, and I immediately ran to the lakefront. There i saw the most intense sky ever. It was dark and rainy, the lake was tossing, but the sun was glowing brilliantly through the clouds in the distance with the most magnificent mountains rising below it. Surreal is the only way to describe it. Even moreso when we turned around and found two rainbows in the sky!

Of course I got my trunks on and jumped right into the lake with some others. And of course, my jumping in was followed by wild shrieking and shivering. It was most definitely "refreshing." Even better was the fire that we had started! Standing next to it after running freezing from the lake was unbelievable. Like a tall glass of milk after syrupy pancakes. The smores we made over it while drying only made things more ridiculously happy.

It was so awesome to be actually camping. It really got me so nostalgic and pumped up for FOP, the outdoor orientation trips that i lead. I was kinda upset at how softcore the campsite was actually. I mean the outhouse had actual plumbing and a urinal. I didn't even get to poop in the woods! In general i had a hard time wrapping my head around how people just roll up in their cars, pitch a tent in one spot, and then leave a few days later. For me at least, the wilderness is all about isolation, and this just seemed very odd i guess. But backpacking isn't exactly the easiest thing to set up i suppose. Either way, it was definitely a fun break though a definite logistical nightmare. I can't wait for our next time.