Carolynn and I finished up the Ride the Rockies tour yesterday. It was a great ride and we both enjoyed ourselves despite some troubling times along the route.
Day 1: Glenwood Springs, CO to Hotchkiss, CO. Being Carolynn's first time out in Colorado, I did not know what to expect from her and the high altitude. Day 1 started off easy enough with the first 30 miles only rising 1700 feet up to aid station 2. The next 9 miles to the next aid station would be our first big test - the climb up to McClure Pass The last 3 miles of this climb is a real bastard rising from 7500' to 8755'. We just about failed this first test and actually had to stop two times for Carolynn to catch her breath. I was doing fine, but she thought she was going to pass out so we stopped. We finally made it up and after a rather lengthy stay at #3, we got to enjoy a nearly 10 mile descent (actually we dropped from 8755 to 5300 in over 43 miles, but we did have some small climbs along the way). Carolynn was freaking out as we started to plummet down the mountain because all the other tandem teams said things like "I can't believe you don't have a drum/disc brake on your tandem. Those V-brakes are going to burn up...." What they didn't know is I had no plans of using the brakes :-)....well I actually did hit the brakes some. Our top speed was 55 mph. We could have been in the 60's if I did not keep her in check. We were passing riders like they were standing still. Fun stuff for sure.
Needless to say, by the time we finished, setup our tent, showered (after standing in line for over an hour) and ate we were both ready for nice nights sleep. I can tell you this, I was ready for the ride, but not all the snoring folks that camped by us. A little bit of advice for anyone doing this ride. Get a hotel or be sure to bring something to drown out all the noise from the snorers.
Day 2: Hotchkiss, CO to Gunnison, CO. Another 80 miler was in store for us today. Carolynn was not having a good day from the get go. No sleep due to the snorers and this lady who had some serious issues. She was either snoring, farting or coughing all night. Another good climbing day with the first 35 miles being mostly uphill - 5300' to 9000'. After we got some food in us, both Carolynn and I actually started to have a great day. My knee was not hurting that bad today. I have been having some issues with my IT band, but today things were good.
What views we had of the Black Canyon. Truly breathtaking. We both really enjoyed this day the most of all of them. I could have spent all day on the ride with the sites we had. Add in about 20 miles of downhill and rollers and you have a great day. The last 25 miles of the ride to Gunnison was nice due mainly to a mostly tailwind and we hooked up with a couple of tandems and got a nice paceline going.
After not getting much to eat in Hotchkiss due to them running out of food, we decided to take the bus into town for dinner. A very nice dinner with Salmon and pasta. We ate with a interesting fellow that I met while waiting for a shower. He was actually not part of the ride, but was just tagging on with us for a few days as he road across Colorado. When I first saw him I actually thought is was my teammate Garet Steinmetz. I come up to him and start talking to him like he is Garet. Funny thing is I did not realize it until about 20 min later because he acted like he knew me also.
Day 3: Gunnison to Salida. One word describes this day: Shitty. Monarch Pass was in the route for today. A brutal 9 mile climb up to nearly 11,500'. Add the climb, the fact that my knee(s) were really hurting today and that Carolynn was just about as worthless as "tits on a boar hog" and you get a truly shitty day on the bike (yes, sometimes it is better to be at work than riding a bike....). Two 80 mile days in the saddle and no sleep had turned Carolynn into a 130+ pound dead weight that I had to carry for most of the ride. She had nothing in her legs today - the hardest day of the tour by the way. The worst part was that she had mentally given up and wanted to take the SAG wagon. At add station two, which was at the foot of the climb up Monarch Pass, things were not looking good. What do you do when your teammate wants to give up and you want to continue on? Let me tell you that it is very hard to try and "motivate" your spouse to do something that she just does not think she can and stay married at the same time. After a rather long rest stop of over 30 minutes, she finally agreed to attempt the nearly 3000' climb. I am proud to say that she did not give up and did what I asked - Just try it, you never know what you are made of unless you try. It took us about 3 hours, but we made it. Yes, we stopped several times for Carolynn to catch her breath. She was having a really hard time breathing, but she kept going and I am very proud of her. The 23 mile downhill run to Salinda was well worth all the effort. Again the old Duet handled the descent like a champ. We cruised between 45 mph and 58 mph for the first 8 miles until we caught a long train of vehicles and had to slow down some until we worked our way around everyone. It is quite funny to be passing cars on your bike. I wonder what they are thinking when they have a bicycle come flying pass them?
Here are some pictures until I get the energy to recap our adventure.