Washington, D.C. Bike Commute Scrapbook

Morning ride to American University. Many nice plants here.

Morning ride to American University. Many nice plants here.

What a week. Four sparkling summer days, top notch training, and a ride along with a friend on a couple of days, too. I celebrated the end of my Bike Friday Tikit field trips to Northwest D.C. with a photo safari on today’s ride home, in part to stretch out my time in the afternoon sun and also to remind me why I should travel this way again soon.

Graffiti near the Russian Embassy on Tunlaw

Graffiti near the Russian Embassy on Tunlaw

Is this on R? I don't recall. I liked the symmetry here, and the pop of pink from the flowers in the planters.

Is this on R? I don’t recall. I liked the symmetry here, and the pop of pink from the flowers in the planters.

Cobbles near Georgetown! I cannot get enough of these. I don't want to ride on them every day, but they have a great aesthetic.

Cobbles near Georgetown! I cannot get enough of these. I don’t want to ride on them every day, but they have a great aesthetic.

This staircase kept catching my eye as I passed it this week. Finally, I could not resist pausing for a photo.

This staircase kept catching my eye as I passed it this week. Finally, I paused for a photo.

Small-wheeled bike at the Big Wheel Bikes mural. An irresistible photo op.

Small-wheeled bike at the Big Wheel Bikes mural. An irresistible photo op.

I can only find Blues Alley when I'm not looking for it. This alley is a known, yet off the main path, spot. I could hear people playing music, and when someone opened the door the odor of cigar smoke wafted out along with the music.

I can only find Blues Alley when I’m not looking for it. This alley is a known, yet off the main path, spot. I could hear people playing, and when someone opened the door the odor of cigar smoke wafted out along with the music.

This is also part of Blues Alley. The textures here compelled me to stop for a shot with the Tikit.

This is also part of Blues Alley. The textures here compelled me to stop for a shot with the Tikit.

Private-No Parking. The Tikit takes a risk.

Private-No Parking. The Tikit takes a risk.

Looking down the Potomac toward the Kennedy Center.

Looking down the Potomac toward the Kennedy Center.

Kennedy Center close up. And, not visible, SO MANY CARS on Rock Creek.

Kennedy Center close up. And, not visible, SO MANY CARS on Rock Creek.

The Tikit wants its picture taken with the Lincoln Memorial. This is as close as we got today.

The Tikit wants its picture taken with the Lincoln Memorial. This is as close as we got today.

The Memorial Bridge is so striking. It looks even better in the warm morning light.

The Memorial Bridge is so striking. It looks even better in the warm morning light. Sorry for the debris, but the Potomac washes up some ugly stuff.

Hey, there's a new sign near the Jefferson. It means get off the sidewalk and onto the road or you will fall down the steps on the other side of the footbridge.

Hey, there’s a new sign near the Jefferson. It means get off the sidewalk and onto the road or you will fall down the steps on the other side of the footbridge.

Do you know what this is? It is the second hairpin on the double hairpin after the Francis Case Bridge. Another day, another victory on this segment.

Do you know what this is? It is the second hairpin on the double hairpin after the Francis Case Bridge. Another day, another victory on this segment.

Sometimes the city is not so bad.

 

 

@SharrowsDC Ride Along in #BikeDC

Photo by Felkerino

Photo by Felkerino

As a child, I spent part of my summer days taking swimming lessons. My sister and I would walk with Jeff, the neighbor boy, to the bus that would take us to our swimming lessons in the town seven miles down the road.

I did not like swimming lessons, but I enjoyed the walk to and from the bus. Jeff, Middle Gersemalina, and I would chat about the things little kids do and there was no hurry to get home, except that nagging hunger that often comes post-swimming.

The past two days Brian, aka @sharrowsDC, and I have commuted home together because I happen to be spending a few days in his neck of the work woods. Our rides reminded me of those walks home after swimming lessons. Relaxed and easy, a time to unwind after hours of doing something more structured.

Brian @sharrowsDC

It’s also interesting to compare our commuting ways. On a surface level, Brian is riding a Surly Ogre with 700C tires more than two inches wide, while I’m currently commuting on a small-wheeled folder, my Bike Friday Tikit.

We’re both carrying luggage, but we don’t haul anything on our backs. He uses an Ortlieb pannier, and I have my Carradice trunk bag.

Brian is very attuned to bike lanes and infrastructure, more so than I. I’m aware of these things, but I don’t always feel like I’m paying enough attention to them. Maybe I should? I don’t know. The bottom line is we both seek out quiet roads, whether or not they have sharrows or a bike lane.

We also have identified some of the same headache spots. We notice similar issues about the Rock Creek Trail as we pass by the Kennedy Center. Lots of people, both cyclists and runners, and bumpy, too.

We talk about the crosswalks along the National Mall, and how some of the buttons one has to push to make the lights change are not located in a spot convenient to pedestrians or cyclists. One of them is behind a fence. Not helpful.

@sharrowsDC leads the way to Rock Creek

@sharrowsDC leads the way to Rock Creek

Like yesterday, we hit the double hairpin on the eastern side of the Francis Case Bridge. Both of us repeat our descents through both hairpins without putting a foot down. That makes it a true skill and not a fluke. Victory!

As I ride with Brian, or anyone who commutes regularly for that matter, I notice we all have our preferred ways for getting places. Both ways are good, but I like mine best. Why? Because they are what I’m used to, I suppose. I’ve memorized every blind corner, bend, stoplight, and pothole. It feels comfortable.

I told Brian today that riding back into downtown D.C. with him the past two days has been a simple pleasure. Yes, our bicycling is a result of our transportation choices and needs, but it’s been wonderful to combine my transportation time with a bike ride and some miles around town with a good #bikeDC friend.

Switching It Up: Bike Friday Tikit Commutes

Photo courtesty of @sharrowsDC

Photo courtesty of @sharrowsDC

Last week someone asked me how many bikes I own. I generally deflect this question because anyone who is surrounded by bad influences (I’m looking at you, Felkerino) and has the money can purchase multiple bikes. So I have more than one bike, but do not consider it any sort of accomplishment.

That said, the question was a good prompt to look in the Dining Room Bike Shop and switch up my commute steed. If a person owns multiple bikes I do think they should, you know, ride them.

I’ve been riding my Rivendell Quickbeam almost exclusively because it’s the best bike– shhh, please don’t tell– but that doesn’t mean the other bikes don’t need love, too.

Riding the Tikit up through Glover Park. Time out for a photo.

Riding the Tikit up through Glover Park. Time out for a photo.

I’m in a local training this week, but it is an eight-mile ride across town. The way to training is a steady uphill, making the return a nice swoopy downhill glide. The idea of having gears for the week also held great appeal.

I saw the Bike Friday Tikit resting quietly in a corner. I pulled it out, dusted it off, pumped up the tires (stupid Schrader valves), and put a Carradice trunk rack. “I choose you, Tikit!”

“Fine,” the Tikit seemed to say. “But don’t rush me and don’t take me beyond the Beltway.” This bike has a personality of the what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind.

Bike Friday Tikit

Don’t mind me

The Tikit’s ride is definitely unique to the other bikes I own. My position is more upright than my other bikes and the reach is fairly short. If I try to push on the pedals to make the bike go beyond its preferred speed of what I estimate is 12 miles per hour the bike resists me.

Carrying capacity is low, right above the little wheel in the rear. If I stand up to pedal the bike dances strangely with me. It takes a couple of miles to adjust to the additional weight on that part of the bike as opposed to being in a Carradice bag hooked directly to the saddle.

Finding the beauty in the Bike Friday Tikit

Finding the beauty in the Bike Friday Tikit

Once I accept the Tikit for what it is or, as Felkerino says, I stop fighting the bike, the ride becomes quite pleasant. I settle into the Tikit’s optimal rolling speed, I do the uphill dance on the pedals, and the bike begins to feel like a great commuter.

I did make an unfortunate turn onto one of the old cobblestone streets in Georgetown and I will tell you that a stiff, little-wheeled bike is NOT a good match for that surface. Luckily, all my teeth are still intact.

On the up-side I rode home via the double hairpin and the Tikit passed the double hairpin test. “I may not be speedy, but I am somewhat dextrous, you hapless human,” the bike said.

@sharrowsDC and the Surly Ogre

@sharrowsDC and the Surly Ogre

I would also like to thank my friend Brian, aka @sharrowsDC, for the fine company and creative route choice for the ride home. Brian also made the tricky double hairpin without putting a foot down. Skillz and small victoreez.

Bike Tourist Encounters

Since I started bike touring, I’ve trained myself to keep an eye open for others who might be on an adventure. Bike riders can blend into the landscape, but if you pay attention they will jump out at you.

During the two weeks that Felkerino and I pedaled our bicycle around Colorado, we crossed paths with several other bike tourists. It was exciting to meet fellow travelers and learn more about their riding.

We talked with people who had been on the road for months and others who, like us, had planned shorter tours.

Tour Divide, father and son.

Riding the Tour Divide, father and son.

Outside Kremmling

Outside Kremmling

Outside Kremmling, heading to Silver Thorn

Outside Kremmling, heading to Silverthorne

The first couple of tourists we encountered were a father and son who were riding the Tour Divide route. I think they were from Maine. They had started in Banff, Canada (in the cold and snow, we were told).

Columbine touring bike

Columbine touring bike

Columbine lugs

Columbine. This lug!

Columbine. This lug!

We next met a group of three who lived in Colorado and were taking time out to do a shorter tour like ours. Unlike us, they were camping each day so naturally they carried more gear.

I don’t have any photos of the group, but I did take a few photos of one of the riders’ bikes. It is a Columbine custom, made in California. I was quite taken by the lugs as well as the overall look of this bike.

Terri and Stu

Terri and Stu

Not long after we arrived in Silverton, we met Terri and Stu, a couple from California. They were part of a group exploring the state on a multi-day guided mountain bike tour. I think they had gone over Monarch Pass, either that day or the day before.

They had brought their own bikes, and their tour arranged for a van to carry their stuff from town to town. We hung out at the Hardrock 100 start together and Stu even let Felkerino check out his bike.

Felkerino test rides the mountain bike

Felkerino test rides the mountain bike

As you know, we laid over in Leadville to rest and take care of our broken crankarm. During one of our many strolls down Main Street, we saw these two bike tourists walking with their bikes down the street.

California to Canada

California to Canada

California to Canada bike tour

California to Canada bike tour

They looked to be on a big bicycling adventure and a lively chat with them confirmed our suspicions. They began riding in California and were gradually working their way up to Canada. I was impressed with how much these guys carried, including the skull one of them had acquired in Arizona. One of them was on a Bianchi Volpe, and I don’t recall what the other guy was riding.

Touring the Divide Trail

Touring the Divide Trail

The day we traveled from Leadville to Winter Park, we saw a few touring cyclists going over Ute Pass. At the summit, we stopped to talk with a pair of cyclists and asked them if they were traveling with a group. It turned out that they, along with a few of their friends who we had seen pass by earlier, were touring parts of the Divide Trail together. That was so cool. We had seen hardly any women touring cyclists, let alone a group.

Bikepacking

Bikepacking

I thought we were the only people riding along Rollins Pass on our final day, but as we neared the old tunnel, we spotted a rider coming our way on a beautiful Waltworks mountain bike. His bike was loaded for a weekend of bikepacking, and he was heading to some “sweet single track” somewhere over the ridge on the Winter Park side. Unlike us, he totally looked like he knew what he was doing up there and rode along making it look easy.

All the days we rode, I felt as though Felkerino and I were on a significant journey. It was vacation, but it was also a physical challenge. At the same time, there were many moments on the road where we faded into the background and became one more feature of the landscape. That’s not a bad thing at all, but it made these meetings with other bicyclists extra special. We had moments to talk with others who were riding around the state by bike and revel in each others’ adventures.

10 Things I Learned on Our Colorado Bike Tour

Trail Ridge Road

Bike touring. Yes

Remember me? It’s been a few days, but I’m mostly free of my post bike tour fog and thought I’d rip off a quick top 10 list of what I learned on our tour.

1. Time changes when: a. you are on vacation, and b. riding your bicycle in the Colorado mountains. Vacation removed my get-there-itis and that was a good thing because if it had not, the climbs would have pedaled it out of me. 10-mile climbs. 15-mile climbs. Some even longer. Riding over these passes requires a different mentality than climbs out east.

The Co-Motion tandem and overlook on Wolf Creek Pass

The overlook on Wolf Creek Pass

2. It takes Felkerino and me 11 pedal strokes to ride 1/100 of a mile when we ascend between five and six miles per hour. I learned this as we rode up Wolf Creek Pass.

3. Do something that intimidates you, but doesn’t scare you (too much). The last day of our tour, Felkerino and I had to choose between the shorter harder route over Rollins Pass and the longer paved route over Berthoud Pass. We chose Rollins and I’m so glad. We were able to use all we had learned riding off-road and put our teamwork skills to the task to climb over Rollins Pass. Like I wrote before, it was a fantastic experience.

Byers Canyon. Do not stop here or the mosquitoes will eat you.

Byers Canyon. Do not stop here or the mosquitoes will eat you.

4. Properly adjust your helmet so that you are not memorialized forever with crooked helmet syndrome in your vacation photos. This also ruins your self-image of bada$$ bike rider who has topped a mighty pass.

Crooked helmet photo on Trail Ridge Road.

Crooked helmet photo on Trail Ridge Road.

5. Stop for espresso. You might get lucky. Many Colorado towns have coffee shops. Some pulled what we started calling a “country shot,” which was essentially a small Americano, and some used old beans. Others, like Fardog in Creede and City on a Hill in Leadville, took their espresso seriously and the coffee they served made it hard to leave town.

Fardog espresso. With lemon zest

Fardog espresso. With lemon zest

6. Flies and mosquitoes love bike tourists, especially when you have paused or are on an uphill. I thought the mosquitoes were bad in Iowa, but they have nothing on their Colorado brethren. And the flies! Big and biting. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the flies swirling around us– the worst photobombers.

As a subpart to this, do not stop for a nature break at dusk in a grassy area near a river. The mosquitoes will love you for it, but you will regret it!

En route to Winter Park. There are flies everywhere in this photo.

En route to Winter Park. There are flies everywhere in this photo.

7. It pays to travel light, in so many ways. Felkerino and I took one jersey, a pair of sunsleeves, and two pairs of cycling shorts each. We both had one pair of shorts and a shirt for evenings and non-cycling days. We carried our rainjackets and helmet covers, as well as our tools, tubes, patch kit, a spare tire, and a couple of wrenches. Toiletries were minimal, but did the job. I indulged and brought knee warmers, which I used a couple of mornings and during a rainy descent. Keeping our gear light meant we had less to carry over the big passes, and this really helped us out for our hike over Rollins Pass.

Hiking the bike over Rollins Pass

Hiking the bike over Rollins Pass

8. One bike is just as nice as two, most days. When tandem touring with another person, you travel intimately and you are a perpetually interconnected team. People are fascinated by tandems so it makes a good conversation starter. You only have one bike to worry about and you can share every pedal stroke of the journey together. Tandeming is wonderful in many ways and I would not want to tour with Felkerino any differently, but as a person who also likes riding alone it can make you a little lonely for the single bikes you left at home. Just a little.

9. Trust that things will work out. When we arrived in Leadville with a broken crankarm, I was consumed with worry, even though the circumstances of our mechanical could not have been much better. However, when the bike shop did not immediately have the part we needed, my anxiety rose. Fortunately, Community Threads had the right crankarm in his random bike parts box to keep us going. Wow.

Cycles of Life and Felkerino with our backwards crankarm tandem.

Cycles of Life and Felkerino with our backwards crankarm tandem.

10. Good friends help great tours happen. A million thanks to Tim and Donna in Colorado. They let us stay with them as we readied for our days on the road, welcomed us when we returned, prepared delicious meals during our time with them, and indulged our pre-tour nerves and post-tour stories. Thank you.

CO Tour Day 11: Rollins Pass on Tandem

Second trestle on Rollins Pass

Second trestle on Rollins Pass

Felkerino called our day going over Rollins Pass an immersive experience. It’s definitely one of the most intense things I’ve done on a tandem.

Close to the summit

Close to the summit

The quick version– 37 miles from Winter Park to Rollinsville. Smooth 15 miles of road up from Winter Park. Ascent topping out at 11,700 feet. Intense two-mile haul of the tandem over the Needle’s Eye of the pass, and a raggedy bumpy 10-mile descent until intersecting with a smooth gravel road that feels like a magic carpet and zips you right to Rollinsville. 31 additional miles downhill to Boulder and The End.

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The Rollins Pass road was originally an old railroad so the grade was not as steep as we expected. The road from Winter Park up to the summit was in good condition and incredibly quiet. We saw only a couple of cars. The 15-mile climb up seemed to go fairly quickly.

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Both Felkerino and I wondered what sort of terrain and difficulty awaited us at the top. We had seen videos and listened to people’s stories of the pass, but those are not the same as being there on your tandem.

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We planned to avoid the old trestle bridges at the top of the pass by taking the high road. People told us we couldn’t miss it. Our eyesight must be poor because we never saw this “obvious” high road and soon we were crossing the first of the two trestles.

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The trestle felt solid and, with eyes straight ahead, we had no issues getting to the other side.

Snow on the pass

Snow on the pass

Prior to the first trestle, a snowbank appeared along the slope. We hefted the tandem and ourselves through. It wasn’t pretty, but the snow was sticky and Felkerino and I managed our way without much issue. I had an abstract image of me rolling down the snow slope– it would be a soft fall, though terrifying.

 

Trestle number two. Don't look right.

Trestle number two. Don’t look left.

The snowbank push made the trestles seem easy. Relatively smooth, they held our weight with no issues and only required walking in a straight line. No pushing. No problem. Clip clip clip and easy peasy.

Second trestle. Almost there.

Second trestle. Almost there.

I shot a few photos here, and looking them over afterwards I note I was more nervous than I knew. Almost all my photos were crooked.

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Making it look easy

During this section we encountered another rider heading up from the other side of the Needle’s Eye. He pointed us to the next hike-a-bike section and advised us not to freak out when we saw the descent on the other side.

 

Hiking the bike over the top

Hiking the bike over the top

We walk/pushed the bike until the slope required us to do some controlled dragging down the steep to the other side of the pass.

 

Felkerino and I eased the bike through the second stone-ridden barrier bordering the Needle’s Eye. There had been one on the other side, but we had rolled the bike over it no problem. This one took more careful lifting.

Time out to empty rocks from the shoes.

Time out to empty rocks from the shoes.

By this time I was totally invigorated. This was the life. The best day ever. Riding and pushing our bike in the quiet immense beauty of the mountains.

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Unfortunately the road on the Rollinsville side was not nearly was smooth as the one from Winter Park. Bumps and rocks for close to ten miles. Our Co-Motion Java’s setup was minimally suitable for this section, mainly due to our 35mm tires. Ideally, something wider would have been better.

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No matter. Ride the bike you got, right?

Felkerino was dispirited by the rough road and our snail’s pace. I, on the other hand, had entered a state of bliss that nothing could intrude upon. I didn’t care how many hours it took us to return to smooth road. I wanted to soak in every view, every step, every pedal stroke.

Rocks and snow

Rocks and snow

Bump thud thud. We walked and rode our way down, weaving in between the rocks. We pushed our way through another two snowy sections. Brwang! The occasional rock struck the rims.

It was crazy. Crazy slow. Crazy gorgeous. Crazy rough.

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Our sturdy Co-Motion with its 35mm Clement USH tires carried us down down down. Ten miles of rough descent and we reached smooth gravel road.

We ripped down the mountain into Rollinsville. I held back tears until we stopped. We had gone somewhere by bike that I thought was impossible. We had climbed Rollins Pass together on our tandem, and it was incredible. What a way to end our Colorado tour.

Rollins Pass. Felkerino and me

 

Hard, intense, immersive. Who knew an Iowa girl from flat farm country could love the mountains so much? I love our bike. I love bike touring.

Rollins Pass: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

But if you try sometimes
You just might find
You get what you need.
–The Rolling Stones

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More to come.

CO Tour Day 10: Another Day, Another Mountain Pass in Colorado

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Touring cyclist descending Ute Pass

The short story is this–

82 miles from Leadville to Winter Park.

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Top of gravel climb to Fraser

Our bike is still in one piece. Thanks to everyone who complimented our pure power and torque after the broken crankarm incident. This also provides solid evidence that Felkerino is indeed pedaling.

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Fremont Pass at 11,308. Then a descent into Frisco. No photos of that, but it was a pleasant climb out of Leadville, fueled by double espressos.

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Ute Pass summit

Ute Pass at 9,584 feet = wow! We were once again running away from dark grumbling sky so I don’t have as many photos as I wish of this pass, which ascends on quiet pavement with a gravel descent.

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Ute Pass

We criss-crossed with a couple of women who were touring part of the Divide route. It lifted our spirits to see other touring cyclists and share stories about our travels. Hopefully the rain cleared for their descent.

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Touring cyclists!

More gravel road carried us up and over to Fraser and Winter Park.

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Gravel descent to Fraser. Lots of flies here

In before dark and the rain.

One more day. 

CO Tour Rest Day: Backwards Pedal and Crankarm Day

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When we last saw our two intrepid bike tourists, they were stranded in Leadville with a broken crankarm…

It was Leadville layover day and bike shop stop on our Colorado odyssey. Nervously we awaited the 10 a.m. opening of Cycles of Life to see if Brian could repair our broken crankarm.

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We watched him dig through all of his spare parts boxes, in search of a crankarm that might work on the captain’s non-drive side. No luck.

Brian sent us to Community Threads, where Smokey went back into a closet that contained “random bike s#@$.” In it, we found a Shimano 175 mm XT arm from the 1990s. Success!

We walked back to Cycles of Life with crankarm in hand and Brian quickly repurposed the left arm to the right side, and installed it with a new Shimano pedal.

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Felkerino clipped in to give the new setup a test ride around the parking lot and his shoe lodged into the pedal. Because we had to use a left crankarm on the right side, the pedal is backwards. Darn freak bikes.

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Back into the bike shop we went, with the shoe still stuck on the bike. Brian helpfully dislodged it and Felkerino turned his SPD cleat around so that he could clip in and out. It’s not totally smooth, but it effectively does the job.

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I wasn’t sure how this day would work out, but we now have four functioning crankarms.

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Isn’t that beautiful?

Many thanks to Cycles of Life and Community Threads for fixing us up. Phew! On we ride, backwards crankarm and all.

CO Tour Day 9: Las Cosas Se Arreglan: Cottonwood Pass and a Broken Crankarm

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“Las cosas se arreglan. La gente no.” Things can be fixed. People can’t. Someone I used to work with told me that, after I had been in a fender bender.

That phrase keeps running through my mind as I reflect on our day from Gunnison to Leadville, 105 miles via the big meandering Cottonwood Pass and another intersection with the Continental Divide at 12,000-plus feet.

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Even though I think Felkerino and I tour in a rather posh way– traveling light, hotel stays, dinners out, espresso stops whenever we can– this day still challenged my sense of humor.

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Until we reached the base of Cottonwood Pass, I was feeling crabby about tandem touring and my vacation. “You know what this vacation needs,” I thought to myself. “More single bikes and downhill segments!”

Cottonwood Pass took me away from my troubles and I fell back in love with tandem touring. A helpful shout out of “You’re amazing!” from two motorcyclists helped, too.

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By the time we reached Leadville, a little grumpiness returned. It takes some slogging to reach Leadville. Felkerino and I had lost some of our unison and I was hungry.

Two miles from the hotel the bike jerked. I thought Felkerino had slipped out of his pedal. We looked down and saw that a pedal was still attached to his foot and we now had a stub of a crankarm.

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We couldn’t believe it. This is not an ideal situation, but we are so fortunate this happened in a town that has a bike shop. We were going slowly on a side street, we didn’t fall, and nobody was hurt. We were two miles from our hotel, an easily walkable distance. And tomorrow is a planned rest day for us.

We strolled to the end of town and saw a man out working on his mountain bike. He asked us why we weren’t riding our tandem and we showed him our orphan pedal. We chatted bikes and then learned we were talking to Ken Chlouber, who started the Leadville 100. No kidding. We never would have talked with him if not for our broken crankarm.

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I’m not happy about this mechanical, but we are relieved tomorrow is a rest day and optimistic about being in Leadville, a town with what looks like a well-stocked bike shop. Like I said in the beginning, “Las cosas see arreglan” so we will figure out some sort of plan.

Good night, all, and thanks to everyone who’s been following and leaving comments. It propels us forward.