Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tour de Colorado Part VII: Steamboat Springs to FC

Leaving Steamboat on the 4th of July was another scorcher. I had intentions of going over Buffalo Pass (10300ft) by dirt road, but it was still closed due to snow. So I simply started grinding up and over Rabbit Ears Pass (9426ft).

Of all the passes that I went over, I would always place a Road34 sticker on the elevation sign. I knew that I was getting close to home when I hit the Rabbit Ears Pass sign and there were 2 Road34 stickers already on it. I'm assuming that was Mitch & Schuyler, who had done this ride before me. I still threw one more up there!

Pretty much after leaving Steamboat, things started getting rougher out on the road. I had enjoyed sunny afternoons and great (although hot) weather for the last 3 weeks and had taken it for granted as the norm. I don't know if it was the area I was in or the time of year, but the rest of the days after Steamboat were barraged with afternoon thunder/lightning storms and for the first time I experienced rabid mosquitoes. After Rabbit Ears was a lot of hot dusty grassland and farmland and the mosquitoes were UNBEARABLE. Giant swarms of them would descend upon me while I was still moving on my bike and bite every inch of exposed skin. They were even biting through my shirt. It was a nasty, nasty surprise and almost drove me to insanity. What was I going to do? I had no spray. I had been fine up to now. This fucking sucked. Bad. When the little bastards landed on my forearm I would mindlessly slap them and kill 4 or 5 of them in one slap, leaving little smears of blood all over my skin. I was getting PISSED. Also, I could see off in the high country black/grey clouds coming over the mountains to meet me. I dealt with this shit like I dealt with everything else on this trip. I pedaled harder. If I was climbing, I was moving to slow to do anything about the mosquitoes. If I was on flat or descending, I could pretty much outrun them.

Next as I was out in the middle of nowhere, the lightning started raking across the sky and striking on the mountains very close to me. I had all my rain gear, but I didn't have the balls to pedal through lightning. I pedaled down a dusty old road to a ranch that I saw in the distance. There was a ranch hand there who let me check the radar on the weather channel and even gave me an entire can of bugspray. It turned out that this storm was going to last all night long. I ended up opting to go out by his horse barn and set up my camp under a log shelter that they had built to park snowmobiles under. As I sat in my tent eating apples and clif bars, just listening to rain, thunder, and wind I drifted off to sleep around 7pm.

I awoke in the early morning chill around 3am. So cold I could see my breath. I opened my tent door and looked out into the blackness at millions of stars. It was stunning. I was rested and just decided to get rolling. Riding under the stars in the early morning was the BEST. No mosquitos. No heat. No storms. Just beautiful stars, cool conditions, and the implicit promise of a sunrise to come. As the waning blackness began to indicate hints of turquoise, the temperature would slowly rise and I would remove layers of clothes. Soon the sun was beginning to show itself from behind the snowy eastern peaks and all of the wet cattle ground I was surrounded by began to steam. I still think about how this scene repeats itself up there every single day of our lives regardless of us being there to witness it.

Once the sun broke and the morning was upon me, it almost felt like a whole new day from when I started out. This is a great time of day for viewing wildlife. I saw elk, deer, and this moose out enjoying the morning. I even got a huge shot of adrenaline for breakfast when an aggressive farm dog came ripping out of a driveway in full stride ready to tear my ankles off. I outran the little shit though.

At this point, I knew it was all downhill to my house. I just stood up straight on my pedals, leaned my head back and started gliding down Cameron Pass (10276ft). Such a FUN ride. I was hooting and laughing and going fast as fuck. I even let my eyes drift to the surrounding canyon walls for extended periods of time. It was a weekday morning, and I had the entire road to myself.

I've driven this canyon so many times I thought I knew it all. But I was wrong. Biking it, I felt like I was learning every nook and cranny. The most impressive of all was Poudre Falls. It was mind boggling. The Poudre River was at one of its highest flows of the year and it was RAGING through the falls. For those of you that saw the river this year, you can imagine how much water was barreling through there. The awe inspiring power was really demonstrated in a section of the falls where the ENTIRE RIVER goes through 2 canyon walls about 10 feet apart. THE ENTIRE RIVER GOING THROUGH A TEN FOOT GAP! It was unreal. It was loud. It was violent. I laid flat on my stomach on the rock above this section and hung my head and arms down as the water was exploding below me. I can't believe I didn't even know it was there for all these years!

Anyone who mountain bikes with me knows how I must've felt when I passed Dadd Gulch.

Instead of taking the easy downhill route to my house, I decided to add about another 1000ft of climbing and take Old Flowers up to the top of Rist Canyon. Anyone who's driven this road knows that the west side is a nasty climb. The 90lbs bike made it a real kick in the crotch. Ugh.
On the bright side, when I hit the top, there was physically not a damn INCH of climbing between there and my house!

I ripped down Rist Canyon's last 3000 feet of vertical dangerously fast knowing at the mouth of the canyon sat Vern's diner, and inside Vern's diner was breakfast. Breakfast which consisted of a stack of pancakes, chicken fried steak & eggs, coffee, water, toast, and 3 delicious Budweisers. I could barely handle the anticipation, let alone when I sat down to eat it. I almost burst with joy!

I rolled the rest of the way to Fort Collins and grinning ear-to-ear I turned down my street. My Street! My "Little Colorado Loop" was over. I was so excited to get back to the creature comforts of home (easy chair, showers, netflix, WATER). I raised my arms like a Tour de France rider crossing the finish line and pumped my fists toward the sky. Serenely happy. And then I did what I had always set out to do and ceremoniously made the final right hand turn into my driveway. Sick.

As I straddled my bike in my driveway and thought about the "little loop" I had just completed, I was amazed I did it with no mechanical failures of ANY kind. Not a flat. Not a chain skip. Nothing. That's unbelievable considering I could get a flat simply riding downtown. The Surly Long Haul Trucker is the real deal. Love it.

Before doing anything else, I immediately turned my bike around and pulled out of the driveway. Without changing a thing, I biked straight over to see my buddy Woody and grab a 12 pack. I was going to relax like no one had relaxed before.

Once home, I didn't bother to unpack. I cracked a few beers, took a long shower, and with a swirling beer buzz I shouldered up my golf clubs, got back on my trusty bicycle, and headed to the golf course. Hell, it's still summertime, ain't it?

Thanks for riding along. See you on the trails!
Zness da Pness

Tour de Colorado Part VI: Woody Creek to Steamboat Springs

Pulling out of George's house and just down the street, I turned onto the Carbondale to Aspen bike path. It is such a great ride. No cars. No people. Just a beautiful spin through farmlands and mountains. I was on my way to give homage to the one of America's greatest citizens. This homage consisted of rolling into the Woody Creek Tavern around 10:30 for breakfast. This breakfast consisted of 3 glasses of Wild Turkey (rocks), 3 Tecate cans (limes), 2 cups of coffee (black), and an apple (granny smith). All this was after a decent bike ride from Carbondale on an empty stomach. Needless to say when I left at 12:30, I was pretty damn drunk. Luckily it was downhill to the El Jebel exit where it was time to start cranking up again.

George's future father-in-law and a good buddy of mine Darrell was nice enough to store my pannier bags in his garage on top of the hill past El Jebel. Which is a good thing considering the alcohol was wearing off resulting in a hazy mid-afternoon hangover. Also, the heat was working against me that day and this was a climbing day. So brutal. I loved the liquor when I was drinking it, but was hating it now. It was stomach turning climbing the back hills of Cattle Creek to Gypsum. But I made it. Thanks Darrell!

That night I camped along the Colorado River just north of the Dotsero exit. My buddy Willy Warren keyed me onto this route and it was a great way to go. The next morning I closed up my camp, jumped into the river, and then got rolling. It was another BRUTALLY hot day, and I had no idea that I was in for it. The road from Dotsero to Burns is amazing. It follows the Colorado River so close that you can dip your toes in right from the road! But it was hot that day. I used up all my food and water just getting to Burns, where I planned on at least being able to fill up my water bottles...

... but I was dead-ass wrong. There is no running water in Burns. Just a post office with no facilities. Nothing. I was truly in the middle of nowhere with no water. Luckily one of the ladies from the post office happened to stop by. She kept a few gallons of water in the trunk of her car and let me have one. I could've chugged the whole thing right there, but after looking at my map, I realized that I had to conserve water because it was still a long way to Yampa.

This was it. This was hands down the most BRUTAL, EXCRUCIATING day of biking in my life. I had already gone from Dotsero to Burns which was wonderful. But from Burns to Yampa via Sunny-Side road and Co Rd. 3B felt like a torture chamber. Remember that my bike was upwards of 100 lbs, and I was out of supplies. I pedaled for what seemed like hours of jeep road double-track. Loose and full of sharp boulders. This was complimented by direct sun with no wind. Blast furnace conditions. Followed by loose spins through smelly, black-fly populated, sandy cattle fields. This was truly dick-in-the-dirt stuff. There was not another soul for miles, which was fine. But I was reaching my physical limits out there and could do nothing except keep spinning. Oh the humanity! It might've hurt less just to take a kick in the dick. I ate and drank every molecule of food and water left on this section of road. I don't know how many miles this day was (google won't tell me...) but it was an all day affair. A new high-water mark of pain.

I stopped by the Colorado fish hatchery near Yampa because there was a slice of daylight left and then rolled into Penny's Diner nearly ready to pass out. Luckily they have a MONSTER breakfast burrito, biscuits and gravy, milkshakes, and coke 24/7. I devoured it while a rain storm approached quickly. I went behind the bar near a junk heap and set up my campsite before the rains came pouring down. Everything was packed away in my tent when it started to rain, so I moseyed on over to the hotel bar where they were cranking the classic country station. I sat down on bar stool. Opened a tab and ordered 1 water, 1 beam, and 1 beer. For the next 6 hours I drank repeated rounds of water, beam, and beer until I was completely and totally shit faced. Free popcorn, too.

Next day I made it as far as Phippsburg. A total of 7 miles for the day. Epic right? I started off that morning and the sky just opened up. I was thinking of making it to a state park to set up my shit and sit out the storm in my tent. I pulled off of the road to look at my map at the Phippsburg Inn. As I was looking at it, the gal working the counter said I could stay there for $20. She even gave me a couple beers while I sat there. How could I say no? A room? A shower? Laundry? I took the panniers off of my bike, put on my raincoat and biked through the maelstrom to the Oak Creek Liquor store and came back ready for a meal and a hot shower. Boy did we have fun. A barbecue and a goddamn booze fest in a nice dry lodge with a clean bed, clean clothes, and a big meal.

I got to meet "Wiley Jack"! He sure can hold his liquor.

The next morning I took the scenic Co Rd 27 loop around to Steamboat. If you are a road-biker this is YOUR SHIT. It doesn't matter which way you loop this road. It is a really fun road ride. Looping this from Steamboat on a bike is very popular and I can see why. Just take it around through Oak Creek and back for a nice afternoon spin. I pulled into Steamboat just as they were getting set up for the 4th of July Rodeo. Perfect timing. I was ready to party hard. Also, as I went by the Alpine Center, the Olympic Ski Jump team was just starting practice so I stopped and watch them take the Big Jump for an hour or so. Unreal!

Next thing, I went looking for my old friends the Crislips. Don't go wandering onto their property unannounced or you might get more than you bargained for! I know I did.

(who goes there?)

(patty hearst style)

The Crislips let me set up my tent in their back yard over the 4th of July weekend. They were so nice that I can't say enough good things about them. Once again I was showered, fed, and ready to party. Nick and I spent a day racing waterslides, running obstacle courses, and drinking gator-jacks for one of the funnest 4th of Julys that I've had in a long time. We even smoked a rack of ribs for dinner. I was truly spoiled what a killer family and a truly special weekend.

If you ever pass through Steamboat don't forget that it is the goddamn center of our perceivable universe. Here is the exact center.... right... about.... HERE!

After a couple days of rodeoin, and drinking our balls off, I was nearly ready to point my bike east and think about closing the distance back home. Home? What a weird idea. As far as I was concerned though, I was still king of the road until I would take that long awaited right hand turn into my driveway... which was still quite a ways to go.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Triple Towers 1

Ugh. If you haven't ridden Towers Road at Horsetooth Mountain Park yet, it is one of the longest single fire road climbs in the Fort Collins area. It's a great way to gain vertical feet quickly, and once at the top, there are tons of options of single track descents that peel off from the road. I find myself pedaling up this one a couple of times a week and combining different singletrack options. I've done it too many times to count, and still haven't done all the rides yet. This is a great Fort Collins biking asset, but it's rough. I did this one last Tuesday and the thermometer hit 100. A goddamn blast furnace. Thanks to Matt 283 for riding with me. If you're not climbing Towers, you're missing the best trails in Fort Collins! (So try it a few times!)

Highlight of this ride? Halfway through I got to see about a half-inch of my shin bone. Neat! Left some meat out on the trail. By the time I snapped the photo, the hole had filled with goo. Sorry for the gore-fest, but I like showing off my scars. Makes me feel like crashing was worth it. Although it never is. Ouch.

Keep the rubber on the ground!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

One Speed Open 2011

This last weekend was the One Speed Open again here in Fort Collins. It's so much fun and really casual. It's also the only race I do every year. This year was my fourth year doing this race, and I am just coming off my tour of Colorado, so my legs are the strongest they've ever been. The race this year was 35 miles of dirt county roads and farm field double track. Always a grind! I recently had my fixed gear bike stolen though, but was able to build up my new one a couple of days before this race. The only thing I couldn't get was a fixed gear hub so I was forced to ride freewheel. This turned out to be one stroke of good luck as it allowed me to be first place freewheel instead of 2nd place fixed (although I'd be happy with either title!). I'd never won any race before and it was pretty cool. Better lucky than good, I guess. Thanks to Raf for pointing out the way, and thanks to Steve for keeping me in the game. Congrats on the nice finish Ass-Mallet!

(photos by Mark Bowers)

So the way the big board works is the fixed gear finishers have a red dot beside their name while the freewheelers have an orange dot. The other thing to note is that Raf doesn't count his time because he is the one who designs the course and knows it beforehand. All these wonderful facts made this my first biking victory that I've ever had (1st freewheeler, 2nd overall). Neat-O. Really fun race again. See you next year!
Zness da Pness