Monday, August 03, 2009

A Rocky Mountain Preview


It was an early get up at around 3:00 a.m. to catch the 6:30 a.m. flight from Las Vegas to Denver. Blurry eyed and coffee craving we start our journey. To our delight, it is 91 ˚F at 3:30 a.m. Yeah baby! Love the desert!

It is amazing how many Vegas cops we saw this morning, 5 in all, and all with someone pulled over for some reason. They even had a Cabi pulled over for some reason. Now why would you pull over a Cab driver at this hour of the morning anyway? Curious for sure.

Travel tip number one: never trust the little cart rental machines. Aaaah, only 4 dollars to rent one. So, in goes 4 dollars, machine thanks me very much, and says, “that will be 4 dollars please.” “I just gave you 4 dollars you low-life piece of shit, now give me my cart.” “No can do, that will be 4 dollars please.” So, I look around for someone to give me a refund and guess what? Nobody in sight at 4:45 a.m. Who woulda thought? So, I spie another cart-offering machine and try again, but this time with a 5 dollar bill. Well, I think. I’m gonna get suckered into this again. Much to my surprise and satisfaction, the machine coughs up a cart. Not bad.

We arrive into Denver without incident and are marveled at the size of this place. I would describe this place as, “one big-ass airport.” Anyway, we finally collect all our bags and load them onto another 4-dollar cart; scurry over to the shuttle area, and eagerly await the Enterprise Rental Car shuttle. Man, what a long ride to the rental counter…this is a big ass place! Turns out the attendant is a bike freak, kinda like me. I guess it was the Specialized, “Ride First, Work Later” t-shirt that gave me away. We talk bikes a lot and very little about the rental car. I think he forgot what upgrade I had asked for because he gave me a full-sized SUV for the same price that I was quoted for a smaller version. A nice little prize for us after all the early morning expenses we incurred.

Our first day at altitude was spent visiting Bobbie’s sister, Jean and brother in-law, Dave. It is monsoon season here in Colorado so the weather has been a bit on the stormy side. However, this day was perfect, scattered clouds, temps in the 70s, and the air had that cool, soothing, sleepy feeling to hit that you might expect from being in a Midwest forest in the early fall. Anyway, We all talked while they watched intently while I used their front porch as my personal bike shop. Since neither of them ride bikes per se, we struck common ground and decided to take up fly-fishing together sometime in the near future and plan a trip either here in Colorado or some place along the Snake River in Idaho. All in all, it was a great visit, but I was ready to get some miles in the legs at altitude.

Bikes packed and good-byes exchanged, we headed off to Ft. Collins for some riding and a visit with some Bike Journal virtual buddies we’ve made on-line. The weather wasn’t cooperating very nicely as the front range was covered with cloud adding the additional threat of rain. This didn’t look too good for our “mountain” training that we so desperately needed. As we cruised what looked like western Kansas for most of the drive, we finally arrived in Ft. Collins. We contacted our virtual friend Howard as the pitter patter of rain drops hit our hotel window. He assured us this rain spell would pass and that we could get in a couple of miles around Ft. Collins. Skeptical, we agreed to meet and give it a go. Well, the mountains were outta there for sure. So, we parked the car along the side of a road out in the country and hit the flat lands for a quick 18 miles or so. I gotta tellya, after living in 100+ temperatures and then riding in 53 degree temperatures takes a little getting used to.


Bobbie Getting Ready for the Horse Tooth Epic

Howard was so pumped up to ride, he said we had to go over and do the Wednesday night Hypoxian ride and take advantage of the situation to meet the other Hypoxians. Again, we were skeptical about the weather, and could have just sat around the room after a good dinner and some wine. But, we were glad we decided to join everyone.

Getting ready to ride, the weather loomed ever so close to the teetering point of misty rain or an outright downpour. It was getting darker by the minute as well, and the whole situation made you feel like crawling inside your now dry cycling clothes, walking inside, and curling up to a fire. But as the Nike slogan says, “We just did it.” All of us enjoyed a nice ride of about 20 miles along the rolling hills of the front-range, and even got to experience a little of that cool rain that returned from earlier in the day. I must say, it was great to meet Deadhead, Bike Princess, and Baltic Tiger. What great folks! Thanks for the hospitality guys, we really enjoyed the New Belgium recovery drinks and our conversations with Bogey the parrot! My only regret was that I didn’t take the camera with me that evening. Live and learn.

Day 2 in Ft. Collins was nothing less than spectacular. Once again, the threat of rain in the mountains curtailed our training plan up in Estes Park so Howard suggested we take a “Tour de Ft. Collins.” I had mentioned earlier that the Horse Tooth Reservoir loop sounded good to us, so unbeknownst to me, that is exactly what Howard had in mind.


Howard, Our Gracious Ft. Collins Tour Guide

Ft. Collins has to be one of the coolest bike cities I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. There are bike routes, parks, bike friendly conveniences all over the place. According to Howard, Ft. Collins is one of the “Platinum” rated bike friendly cities in the United States. I can certain see why. I mean, the bike paths throughout town actually go under the streets around here! That means you don’t have to cross busy intersections anywhere in the city. How cool is that? Well, after down and around, here and there, we end up at the front range where the road turns up. Not just up, but up for a long way. We have now entered the Horse Tooth Epic, as Howard calls it. The first of three stinger climbs up to Horse Tooth reservoir.

Partly cloudy skies and cool temperatures made for perfect climbing conditions and spectacular scenery as we made our way skyward. The vastness of eastern Colorado could be seen to our right and the breathtaking views and depth of the Colorado Rockies was to our left. Cresting the first climb gives one the first peek at Horse Tooth reservoir, and what a peek it is. This reservoir seems to go on forever, both north and south. Words don’t describe the scene adequately so I’ll just provide some pictures. We stopped at the summit of all three climbs just to take it all in. With all big climbs, come bomber downhills and this ride did not disappoint. I watched Howard disappear in front of me on the final descent and came to find out he hit, in his words, “a disappointing 56 mph” on the way down. He said, “my best is 63 mph!” YGBSM.

The Horse Tooth Epic concludes with join up of the Poudre River bike trail system that ultimately leads you back to Old Town Ft. Collins. Old Town Ft. Collins is a must see for anyone traveling here. Folks here have preserved the flavor of the older part of Ft. Collins and the resulting atmosphere is just something to experience.


Looking South on Horse Tooth Reservoir


Taking a Break after Lotsa Climbing!

After a fantastic lunch at Rasta Pasta (I highly recommend the curry chicken dish) we headed over to the New Belgium Brewery to sample a few of cycling’s best ever recovery drinks. Every time I go visit a place where people work, I say, “gee why can’t I work here?” I’m sure people say the same about my place of employment, but I’d be willing to bet they don’t say it as often as they say it about this place. Just to give you an example, if you work for New Belgium for a year, they give you a bicycle! Not just a bicycle, but a Fat Tire bicycle! How cool is that? And, if you work there for 5 years, they give you an all expenses paid trip to Belgium for brewery training. How cool is that again!


The New Belgium Cycling Recovery Center

As guests, we were entitled to select 4 types of recovery drinks. My personal favorite is 1554. I’m not sure what that means, but it sure does taste good and I won’t forget the number, that’s for sure. Satisfied and fully recovered, we made our way back to the bike path and to our hotel for a little recovery nap. What a great day. Thanks Howard. You made our stay in Ft. Collins a memorable one! Now on to the Copper Triangle…

1 comment:

HRLaughed said...

That was one great day we spent riding, climbing, descending, eating, (drinking), and just having fun. Fort Collins is a truly great bicycling town, and it was a pleasure to show it to you (we are a Gold Medal town, BTW, as determined by the League of American Bicyclists. Boulder has the Platinum, darnit.) Any time you and Bobbie can come back, I'll show you more FC epicness, I promise!