CO Tour Day 6: Hot Hot Rollers to Pagosa Springs

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

CO Tour Day 4: Everything Weighs Something, Even Ambition: 100 Miles to Ouray

When bike touring, you become keenly aware of how much your stuff weighs. This weighs “x” amount. Do I really need to take it up every hill and mountain?

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If yes, the item goes on the bike. If no, set it aside. I am pleased with how Felkerino and I packed. The only potential surplus I’ve identified is a small notebook I deemed essential. I have a problem leaving home without at least a few sheets of real paper.

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Felkerino and I left the comfortable town of Paonia today, meandered through farm country to Hotchkiss, and over dry and somewhat desolate territory to Delta.

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From Delta, we climbed steadily to Montrose, and then kicked it into high gear to reach the town of Ridgway, and ultimately, Ouray. 100 miles. Where’s my t-shirt?

When we’re sitting at home in January, scrutinizing the map, it’s easy to concoct ambitious plans. 100 miles on tour? Let’s go for it.

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But today was tough. I did not consider the dry bowl of summer heat in the first 60 miles of our ride.

After leaving Montrose the temperatures dipped, but the wind picked up to batter us around like paper dolls. Thwack! Thwack! All the while it beat us up as we ascended to Ridgway, and ominous clouds swirled over the mountains.

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Despite the wind we continued. We are credit card touring, and needed to make Ouray for our overnight stop.

After a battle to Ridgway, we took a break to gather ourselves for the final miles and to see if the clouds might dissipate.

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I looked at our route and thought about how Felkerino’s and my tour ambitions had contributed to making this an intense day on the bike.

We know that by day three or four, our legs are getting weary. Tour legs, we call them. We know that when we average over 85 miles per day on challenging terrain that we can’t pause to enjoy the little towns or sights we intersect. We know our dispositions suffer.

Yet our desire to ride as much as we could with our limited time was too much to resist, and we ended up plotting out a big day.

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We did cover a lot of interesting ground over today’s 100 miles, and we managed to skirt some of the winds from Ridgeway to Ouray by taking a sweet little gravel back road. Gorgeous, and it helped us climb in peace and end our ride on a high note.

Ambition weighs more than I realized. I’m looking forward to a rest day tomorrow. Ambition reset day.

And by the way, thanks for reading along as our trip unfolds.

CO Tour Day 3: What Goes Up from Carbondale Must Come Down to Paonia

Greetings from Paonia! We wish you were here. Then the mosquitoes wouldn’t just be gnawing on Felkerino and me.

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Another great day on the bike, tempered with looming saddle sores. Haven’t had one of those in a few years so maybe it was time. I blame Trail Ridge.

This day, which was essentially a 30-mile ascent up McClure Pass at 8,762 feet and a 30-plus descent into Paonia, had less of an “out there” feel compared to yesterday, but was still awesome.
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Gathering clouds and thunder paced us much of the way up, but except for a few big drops we scampered away safely until arriving in town, where we watched the rain fall from underneath a store awning.

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For our entry into Paonia, we took a side road that skirts a coal mine and crosses the worst railroad tracks I have ever seen. I can’t help but admire these ridiculous dangerous tracks. They’re awful!
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Paonia is a lovely spot to overnight.
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Tasty espresso, ice cream, farm to table food, and mellow residents. World class mosquitoes. Wish you were here.

CO Tour Day 2: 90 Miles From Kremmling to Carbondale

Riding through the big mountains of the west can be so cathartic. Their presence envelops me and I become– no, I realize– that I am so small.

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Felkerino’s and my efforts to clamber over the mountains is almost laughable. We take so long to go up and over their every bump that I suspect we amuse the land with our hours-long pedaling antics.

But the mountains don’t seem to mind us. They were here long before we were and they will exist on this earth long after we depart.

Today’s route was so picturesque with plentiful 360 degree views. With the exception of feeling like we were in a soup bowl of dry heat at various points, it was a perfect day.

We rode away from Kremmling on the stunning CO-1 to State Bridge Landing, over to Eagle River, with a final memorable and sometimes other-worldly climb over Cottonwood Pass Road to Carbondale. (Guard rails? Who needs guard rails? Not Cottonwood Pass Road, I said, as my life flashed before my eyes.)

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In the early miles of our ride my thoughts wandered to my “non-vacation” life. My mind grew cluttered with what-if talk. What if things were different? Am I living my life the way I should? This is a conversation I often have with myself, as those who know me will attest.

The mountains answered in their unexpected mysterious way. I had money in my pocket for a pop and potato chips. I had a beautiful bike to ride. I had a loving partner by my side (or in front of me, if you want to be literal). There was no need to contemplate what-ifs. They did not matter.

Content with my life and in my smallness, I kept pushing the pedals through the big Colorado mountains.

CO Tour Day 1: Facing My Inner Fraidy Cat: 150 Miles From Boulder to Kremmling

Nothing kicks off a bike tour like a 150-mile day that includes a front-loaded first half climb fest, including the ever-daunting Trail Ridge Road.

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Last year Felkerino and I climbed Trail Ridge while I howled like a kitten that climbed too high into a tree and needed rescue.

I hated that feeling and vowed that today I would climb with dignity. Overall, I give myself a pretty good score for the day, but I still have room for improvement.

After spending the last week fretting about this first day of our Colorado bike tour, today was largely worry free. I knew we would eventually reach Kremmling.

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We started our ride with a steady climb up Left Hand Canyon outside of Boulder and spent some miles clawing our way on Peak to Peak Highway over to Estes Park for the grand ascent of the day up Trail Ridge.

I faced my inner fraidy cat and told it to scram. Mostly, it did, although six miles from the top I lost patience, emitting a pretty vocal “I hate this” from the stoker zone. Sorry Felkerino. I cannot tell lies over 12,000 feet. I also cannot ride without a crooked helmet, apparently. So not completely the ride with dignity I hoped for.

Despite good conditions today, Trail Ridge has a cold heart and just keeps sidling you along the ridge line until you start thinking you might never get there. It can be maddening.

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You see tourists stopping to take photos and you want to shout that they’re cheating. Driving up the climb is cheating! That is, until they offer encouragement or say they’re happy to take your picture. Then they’re awesome.

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Finally the tip top arrives– finally– and it’s plentiful downhill for the last 60 miles of the day.

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The ride to Kremmling through Byers Canyon is particularly beautiful in the early evening sun.

Can’t wait to shower and sleep.

Bike Commute Hoarder

 

Quickbeam commute

Lifehacker recently posted an article called the Cycling Commuter’s Daily Bag that essentially emptied out a bike commuter’s pannier. Curious, I looked through the items listed and the accompanying photos. The number of items this person carried to her job was shocking.

The article did not go into the mileage of the woman’s daily commute, but during my own review I concluded she was carrying way too much unless she was heading out on a multi-day trip.

Then I started considering my own commute. Taking the short route, it’s two miles one-way. Not far at all. I bring clothes to the office and then leave them there, and have the additional benefit of an on-site dry cleaner’s.

How much stuff could I possibly need, especially on days where I only log four total miles by bike?

I have two main commuter bikes, and currently I’m riding a single-speed Rivendell Quickbeam. It is set up with a Tubus rack in the back, and to the rack I have added a Carradice College.

This particular model of Carradice is designed to hold legal folders and does not have side pockets. I call it my magic hat bag, and originally purchased it with the idea that I would not use a pannier as this bag fits all my stuff.

Over time I fell into using a small Ortlieb pannier along with the Carradice College. Space galore. So ridiculous.

If you were to ask me what I consider my commute essentials I would reply with this list:

1. My purse;
2. Gym clothes;
3. Healthy (or not) snacks;
4. A bike pump;
5. Tools;
6. A patch kit; and
7. My Abus lock.

With all this additional space, however, I’ve just been throwing more stuff until it has exploded into what you see here.

More bag contents

Ortlieb Pannier Contents

I generally stash the items in the photo above in my small Ortlieb pannier. They include:

  1. Lightweight cycling cap
  2. Water bottle for lunch runs
  3. Small taillight. I have an excellent taillight affixed to my Tubus rack, but this light found its way into my bag somehow, and there it has stayed for who knows how long.
  4. Wallet
  5. Sunglasses
  6. Contact lenses
  7. Glasses case for holding my glasses when I put in my contacts.
  8. Mp3 player.

Small Rickshaw

Some of this stuff gets hauled around in my purse which then goes inside the Ortlieb, but in order to give a more comprehensive inventory I also dissected my purse, aka Rickshaw Mini Zero Messenger bag.

My bag contents

Most of what you see in this photo is in my purse/Rickshaw. Are you sleeping yet?! WAKE UP! There’s still more stuff! Okay good.

  1. Neosporin. I’m not sure how it ended up here.
  2. Bicycling “business” cards
  3. Notebook for deep thoughts and revelations
  4. Light & Motion Urban 400
  5. Two lip tints
  6. Travel-size perfume. Also not sure how it ended up in my purse.
  7. RoadID for midday runs
  8. Two pens
  9. Tampons
  10. Sample-size moisturizer from a recent trip to the Aveda store
  11. Travel hair brush
  12. Spare hair tie
  13. Keys

And there’s even more stuff floating around in the Ortlieb!

My bag

I generally tuck my Rickshaw bag into the Ortlieb, and there it travels along with these other items, a few of which I discovered during this inventory.

  1. One remaining Clif Shot Block from a weekend ride (this was in my purse).
  2. The D.C. Public Library’s instructions for how to download and access magazine subscriptions from an eReader.
  3. Healthy snacks (really!) in an insulated lunch bag
  4. Lunch run clothes
  5. Spare plastic bag for ______ (insert purpose here).
  6. Two tea sachets. They are chamomile and lavender. Maybe I should hand them out to angry drivers. This tea is supposed to have a calming effect.

I’m not through yet, though. Getting there, but not quite. I am now (possibly, definitely?) entering the zone of bike commute hoarder.

Bag contents

Carradice College Contents

With the exception of my cell phone, all of this crap can be found– or excavated– in the Carradice College saddlebag.

  1. Sunblock
  2. Chain lube– Prolink, if you’re interested– and a rag for application
  3. Cell phone
  4. Bike-to-Work Day 2013 ankle band from the CASCADE BICYCLE CLUB, WHAT? It’s still wrapped in plastic and I have NO IDEA how an ankle band from Washington state came to be in my Washington, D.C., bag.
  5. Blackburn tire pump.
  6. Hairclip
  7. Little bag with bike tools, including a wrench for removing fender bolts, tire levers, multitool, and a patch kit for you-know-what.
  8. Spare tube
  9. Abus lock (not pictured)

Conclusion

I never should have scoffed at the commuter featured in Lifehacker! People who live in glass houses and all that.

Because my commute is so short, I don’t worry about weighing myself down like I would if my commute was longer. Throw it in, I say to myself. I’m only hauling it two miles. Even if I extend my commute, it’s generally flat and the weight is no issue. This is a big contrast to my streamlined stuff approach to run-commutes.

The Quickbeam’s gearing is forgiving enough that it will ride well with a load and not strain my knees despite it being a single speed. It’s such a great bike for commutes and rides in and around the city.

Given all the space I have, I’m enticed to fill it with things I don’t really need for days at the office. When the day is done I am lazy about doing a thorough search and removal of what I don’t need on a daily basis. The result is the occasional discovery of random items like ankle bands from cycling clubs in the Pacific Northwest and expired sachets of herbal tea.

I think the most basic conclusion to this post is “My name is Mary. I’m a bike commute hoarder.”

Get Out The Map: Bike Tour Prep

Niagara Falls tour map check

Photo by Felkerino

Get out the map get out the map and lay your finger anywhere down
We’ll leave the figuring to those we pass on our way out of town
Indigo Girls, Get Out The Map

This Indigo Girls song reminds me of long gone days wedded to the school calendar as it simultaneously urges me to hit the road to see what lies beyond the boundaries of Washington, D.C.

If only it was that easy to grab a map and set out. Limited free time and a desire to travel outside of an organized tour group or event mean Felkerino and I get out the map and start drafting our journey. For the past couple of months, we’ve diligently been working toward bike tour liftoff.

On previous trips, Felkerino has been the cue sheet master, but this year I’ve been helping with the routes for our upcoming bike tour of Colorado.

It’s been a good exercise, as I’m not that skilled in orienting myself. Also, Colorado days are somewhat easier to route than trips out east due to the more limited selection of roads.

As I’ve been scrawling out what I hope passes for an acceptable cue sheet, I’ve developed an appreciation for the preparation that goes into our tours. Daily distance, food stops, and overnights (in our case, hotels) take effort and time to coordinate.

We probably don’t absolutely need the cue sheets, but they are handy on the road. I hope to combine them with profiles of our route so I have a sense of the type of climbing we’re in for each day. Felkerino loves the mountains and our tour reflects that.

As we did last year, we’re breaking down our coupled Co-Motion Java tandem and stashing it away into three suitcases along with the minimal clothing and gear necessary for a summer tour (two jerseys or one, two jerseys or one?).

The port o’potty lined sidewalks and expanses of chicken wire extending over the National Mall have convinced me it’s a good time to get out of town. Colorado, here we come.

Suffering

Last look at the Co-Motion Speedster

I recently read a thoughtful post by Double the Speed of Wheels that explored the concept of suffering and how some riders consider it a kind of badge of honor.

In my years of riding and randonneuring, I have also observed this infatuation with suffering.

Generally, I prefer to minimize viewing my rides through the lens of suffering or characterizing them as such. Challenging? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. Frustrating? Sometimes.

Perhaps I define suffering in a narrower way than some. Injuries or illness may prompt suffering, or it may come as a result of losing a person we love. By opening our hearts to people and experiences, we make ourselves vulnerable to the eventuality that we will suffer in some way.

There are only two times I recall coming close to suffering during a ride. The first was during the Cascade 1200K, when my saddle turned on me on the third night and every time I stopped to use the bathroom I cried because of the pain. The second was during the Endless Mountains 1000K, when my knees hurt so much that I could not ride my bike for more than a month after completing it.

I know that those who race exert themselves in a way I do not. They push themselves at a level where there is an ongoing feeling of discomfort. But is it suffering? I like to think not.

I’m not trying to avoid suffering, exactly, and I don’t wish to live in a pain-free bubble. But I don’t think I have to go in search of suffering. I think it knows where I live and will pay me a visit one day. As long as I can help it, though, it won’t be during a bike ride.