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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

image

image

image

More to come.

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

image

Touring cyclist descending Ute Pass

The short story is this–

82 miles from Leadville to Winter Park.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

Touring cyclists!

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

image

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

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

image

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

image

“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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

CO Tour Day 8: Creede to Gunnison: 106 Big Bicycling Miles

image

This phone works. Let's call a taxi!

It still surprises me that Felkerino and I can ride a 200k brevet in 10 hours, but when we bike tour a century will take us 11 or more. Is there no escape from bike tour pace?

image

Slumgullion

It was a big day of riding, with the big climbs packed into the first half of our day. The first, Spring Creek Pass, is along the Continental Divide at 10,898 feet. Coming from Creede, this is a meandering, often gentle up with gorgeous views of forest land. Lots of cattle sightings today.

image

Wildflowers on Spring Creek

Slumgullion Pass took us even higher– to 11,530 feet. It felt like we were winding over high mountain land and it was quite pleasant. Roads here were quiet.

The descent into Lake City was a switchback nightmare and we could not carry much speed over the tight turns.

image

Outside Lake City

We left Lake City and the temps turned up. Riding through these changing elevations is a weird experience. We climb and cool off the higher we rise. We may even ascend into rain. We descend and the dry heat reaches out to grab us.

It was slow going to Gunnison after Lake City, difficult to find a rhythm as a headwind whipped at us for several miles. It was a relief to begin gaining altitude again, until we saw the gathering clouds overhead and the ominous rumble of thunder.

image

Skirting the T-storm

Since our route followed the direction of the blue sky, we hustled our tandem up the final big climb of the day, and pedaled ourselves away from the big bad t-storm looming in the distance.

image

Ready to Descend 9-Mile Hill

image

Final miles to Gunnison

image

Gunnison!

We capped off our day with a giant downhill on “9 Mile Hill,” and clomped our way to Gunnison for dinner. I’m pooped!

CO Tour Day 7: Wolf Creek Pass, I Think I Love You

image

As we began the steady ascent up Wolf Creek Pass, I wished that I had known about it years earlier. I wished that I had begun bike touring years earlier. If I had, then maybe I would have basked in the magnificence of this pass years ago. If only, if only.

image

An eight-mile climb that reaches 10,862 feet at its high point, it is spectacular. Evergreens cover imposing rock formations and the big sweep of the road allows you to see where you’ve been, where you’re going, all while giving you that “I am awesome for riding this” vibe.

image

At the summit and most of the way down we endured a hearty rain shower which took away some of the awesome and was also cold, but I felt so satisfied with our Wolf Mountain climb that not even a downpour and soggy socks could take away my joy.

image

The rain also gave Felkerino and me a chance to use our rain jackets and helmet covers. I learned today that my helmet cover had stretched so much that it would not fit tightly to my helmet. Felkerino said I looked like I was wearing a floppy hat with an eye patch. At least it did not fly off and successfully kept my noggin dry.

image

After all that excitement, lunch in South Fork and a dogged slog up to Creede, where we’re overnighting– 68 more tour miles in the bank.

image

Farewell, Wolf Creek Pass. Until next time.

CO Tour Day 6: Hot Hot Rollers to Pagosa Springs

image

Today’s 65 miles reminded me of riding in the Virginia Highlands, only with evergreens and a higher elevation. And more horses. And a dry heat. And the white hot sunshine with rare shade.

image

Okay so it wasn’t alike in all ways. It was the nature of today’s rises that recalled tour days in Virginia Highlands territory. The climbing featured big rollers over 7,000 feet, but no major ascents. We continued to be spoiled by good views and the first part of our ride was particularly peaceful.

image

All along the way, the sun blazed straight down on our bicycling bodies. I drank lots to stay hydrated, but it was a challenge to keep pace with the sun and heat.

image

Felkerino and I used our eagle eyes to scout for rare patches of shade. When the sun shines straight down, they’re tough to come by.

I occasionally struggle with riding at higher elevations than what we’re used to out east. My mouth regularly feels dry. I have also had several mild headaches during our tour days.

My stomach is tired of digesting food so sometimes it sends me cranky messages while I try to keep making sure I have enough in the tank to keep riding strong.

Felkerino and I stay mindful about our efforts and if we are overheating or otherwise need to pause, we do. One of the many beautiful things about vacation is it takes away much of the pressures of get-there-itis. Our goal is to make it to our daily end point by sundown.

image

In contrast to yesterday, I think we talked to about four people. So a fairly solitary ride in that regard, but the terrain was often gentle enough that Felkerino and I enjoyed rich conversation with each other. Life on the bike. Good stuff.

CO Tour Day 5: Bike Tour Magic: 83 Miles from Ouray to Durango

Felkerino said that today is when the mountains embraced us. I said it was a day of bike tour magic.

image

Part of the reason for that, of course, was the beautiful climbing on the Million Dollar Highway for the first 38 miles. We ascended from Ouray at 7,800 feet to over 10,000 feet and crossed three passes in the first half of our ride: Red Mountain; Molas; and Coal Bank.

The other reason we felt so inspired by our day was the people we had the chance to meet. We were held up at the top of Red Mountain Pass because of road work (blasting!) and chatted with several people touring the area (in their cars, but I guess it’s okay this time).

image

We flew into Silverton, where the town was preparing for the Hardrock 100, which starts tomorrow. It was bustling!
We had excellent espresso at Mobius. We talked to a couple of the ultrarunners and met a couple from California who were out mountain biking the area. We exchanged bike stories and Felkerino even test rode one of their bikes.

image

More steady climbing over Molas and Coal Bank Passes until mile 38, when we began our big drop into Durango. The road was mostly peaceful going up, and all drivers gave us plenty of room when passing.

In town, we stopped at Durango Cyclery (a shop full of bike treasure) and ended up going to dinner with some people there. That’s bike tour magic!

image

I’m tired so I’m not doing the best job of explaining the magic of this day. Weather was good and our bodies seem to be settling into longer climbing efforts. That could also be the payoff from our rest day, too. The grade of the highway was also not as steep as Felkerino and I thought it would be.

image

The vistas were intense, and I wasn’t even freaked out by the sheer dropoffs while leaving Ouray. Progress!

From beginning to end, I felt welcome. Lots of people talked with us about our tour, and we had so much fun chatting about bikes, routes, and touring.

image

I don’t know why this day was so interactive. Maybe it’s the vibe of this area or maybe we’re coming down with the blabs, I’m not sure. It was an awesome day, and I’m attributing it all to bike tour magic.

It’s The Worst Thing In The World…

To be a driver behind a cyclist.

image

Today is a bike tour rest day for Felkerino and me, and it coincided perfectly with an op-ed blowup in the Washington Post, which I am disappointed to admit is also my local paper.

Sadly, I’m sort of used to anti-cyclist, get off my road articles. However, my heart jumped when the writer of this particular piece stated that he could see why drivers would be willing to pay a fine of $500 to hit cyclists. Thanks, Washington Post. Thanks a lot.

It is terrifying to read a writer– in the Post, no less– who suggests that deliberately striking a cyclist in an act of vigilante justice or whatever reason is understandable, if not okay. It is not. This is people’s lives we are talking about here. My life. I am crying in anger and fear as I write this.

I am not cycling around to be taught a lesson by a driver who thinks it is a punishable-by-death crime for me to be on the road. Like drivers, I am just trying to get safely where I need to go, be that work, the grocery store, or dinner with friends. 

I ride my bike in Washington, D.C., almost every day and it scares the s#&! out of me that there are drivers who would want to hit me because I am riding my bicycle on the road that, for many years, many drivers believed belonged to them. But times are changing, at least in the District, and while lots of people are still driving, others are turning to bicycles as their primary form of transportation.

Drivers do not own the road. The roads are ours to somehow find a way to share. We all have to figure it out because our lives depend on it.