Ride The Rockies 2021 – Day 1 Loop

October 1, 2021 § 2 Comments

I slept about as well as any 62 year old male can expect to sleep when you have both your Mother’s bladder, and your Father’s prostate. A detail left out of my last post was the proximity to the port-a-johns. That can be viewed in a positive way, as in it doesn’t take long to get over to them, and perhaps a negative way as well. You might first think “odor”, but that wasn’t it. What you hear all night are the doors slamming shut usually followed by a “Fuck!”

Slept is also a word that is over used with me. Rested is more the proper word. I rest a lot, with periods (short) of sleep peppered in between. How do I know I sleep? If there are any dreams involved I usually know that something crazy was going on in my head that barely made sense while I was dreaming it. As always, they make even less sense when I try to remember them.

It’s the morning of the first day’s ride, and since it’s a loop I don’t have to bother breaking down camp. I selected a kit to wear that day, and quickly set out to find some coffee to have with my breakfast. There are a few “extras” that I signed up for: 1) I signed up for the Vegan dinner option, 2) I pre-purchased about 15 beer tickets, and 3) I bought a coffee card. There was also a battery option I signed up for where I get issued a back-up battery, and then when I need a charge I simply exchange the drained one for a charged one, and when the ride is over, the battery is mine. Anyway, I needed my coffee, and I eventually found the entrepreneurs who ran the coffee corral for the ride. The line wasn’t too bad, and when I mentioned I thought I had purchased a card, they found my name and issued me my card with its first punch, and a cup of joe. I learned also, that with the card, I didn’t need to stand in line in the future.

I mentioned Vegan dinner, so that might have you wondering about breakfast and lunch. I was wary of what the vegan breakfast would be, so I purchased my own backpacking granola breakfasts. Just add cold (cool) water! They were vegan, and they were easy, and I didn’t have to wait in line, and it was just enough food to start on. I figured I didn’t really need lunch, as there were probably enough aid stations along the ride where I could find a banana or two, and munch whatever else was available. That is how I chose to satiate myself on this trip, and there would be opportunity to meet the others for external dinner options when they arose. On this day for example there was a plan to meet for dinner in town that evening.

I found my friends at the breakfast/food tents where they had just finished loading up, and it was time to get our bikes, and get this show on the road. It’s the first day, no one has actually ridden their bike since it was re-assembled, so there are minor tweaks here and there. Everyone has to check their tires, fill their water bottles (Which to facilitate this quicker the organizers setup these home-made setups made of pvc tubing, a lot of Tees and a faucet off each Tee, thus turning one outdoor faucet into 8 faucets), make one last porta-john stop and then we could be on our way.

To my surprise, the way was out the back, not the front. Apparently the fair grounds abut the Animas bikeway, and so after a short parking area of slightly dodgy gravel we were soon among the hundreds of cyclists heading out for the day’s loop. It’s funny now. In my head I remember it as a clockwise loop, but the cue sheet, and my own strava tracks show it was definitely anit-clockwise. It was actually quite pleasant out that morning, the heat of the day still hours off. I was glad that we all got an early start and would get a lot of miles out before the heat really set in. The bikeway eventually dropped us off onto La Posta Rd, an off the beaten path road with little traffic (at least while we were there). It’s a ride, and our early goal was to try and ride together. We signed up for this, and all made the efforts to get here, and if we were just going to ride our own ride, where is the fun in that? Sure it’s fun to meet new people, but it is more fun to meet new people when you are with your friends, so we did our best to keep an eye on each other. When the heat of the day finally came, maybe it will be each rider for themselves, but for now we rode as a team.

The first aid station was located at the SW corner of the loop. There was no shade, and if you stared East you could see a long ramp gouged out of the terrain, and then disappearing into a notch. If you peered really really hard, you began to notice little thingys on the ramp all going the same direction, not even close to the speed that the larger thingys (cars) which were passing them, but persistently on they plodded. “That’s our route over there!” I said pointing East to anyone who might be listening. Cliff was listening. “The shit gets real now Bird”. Until then, we topped off our water, chowed on bananas, and grabbed a few eats for the road. We were off again.

The thing about a climb, is to find your gear, and turn the cranks. Give yourself something to concentrate on, and just keep turning the pedals and before you know it, you’ve gained 500 feet of elevation. Me, I count to myself. A lot! 1,2,3,4 – 2,2,3,4 – 3,2,34 where each whole number is a whole revolution of the front crank. Get to 10 and start over. Pick a spot ahead, and see how many times you count to 10 before you get there. Of course there is also talking to others, if they are around you. I prefer the talking, if we can, but eventually when everyone finds their own gear, it’s a different gear and stroke than the rest of the group, and we begin to gain separation. Those up front will usually slow down and allow the others to regain the group. This climb was an initial wall that lasted nearly 3 miles, before it settled into ups and downs where each down was not as great as the up, so we continued to gain elevation until about 3 miles from Ignacio where it was a stead downward slope. In Ignacio we found the second aid station. Everything described at the first aid station gets duplicated at each aid station with the addition of bathroom breaks.

We didn’t stay long in Ignacio. The heat of the day was setting in, and lunch awaited those that signed up for it in Bayfield. There is another funny thing about climbs. Sometimes you don’t realize you are on one! If the grade is ever so slight, say 1% (or less!) and your entire frame of reference sits at that same 1%, well your brain doesn’t realize that you are gaining elevation. Sure, there are indicators like “why can’t I go faster on this flat road?”. It’s not that you are going slow, especially when you find yourself in a large group and someone, or some folks sit on the front and drive the pace, so you are moving along, but you just don’t register that you are gaining elevation. That is what this day’s ride was like on the Eastern leg from Ignacio all the way to, and for much of the way after, Bayfield. This is a section where Ken and I found ourselves on the tail end of a pack of riders, with a couple of young strong bulls on the front driving the pace. Though we were going uphill (didn’t really notice), we were booking along at 22mph and more at times. So, it was some time after we reached the third aid station that our friends pulled in. The train we rode in on was leaving, but without Ken and myself. Lunch, if you ordered it, was a brown bagger. Ken’s had a sandwich (meat, but there was a vegan option), and chips. There might have been a cooler of cold drinks, maybe sodas, but I don’t recall. You don’t want to stuff your stomach, and then go back out and ride, so Ken ate about half of his sandwich, and shared the chips. For me, it was bananas and whatever else I could grab off the table. I think they had small half pb&j’s, energy bars, and pickle juice. Pickle Juice is one of those fairly new “treats” on organized rides. Sour, and salty, you don’t need much, which is why it is accompanied by small 1-2 oz. Dixie cups. It’s just the spike of electrolytes that your body craves on a hot day, and by this time it was pretty damn hot.

From Bayfield, the route continued North and at the same gradual slope. I think it is here that someone noticed that we had been gaining elevation, and we all looked around our surroundings with that “Really?” look of surprise. But it was true, and soon we reached the NE corner of the route where we turned onto the final leg of the loop, Florida Road, which is where the subtle nature of the elevation gain abruptly ended, and we all found ourselves in our low gears again. It was about this time that my right foot started slipping out of my pedal and when I tried to put it back in, it kind of felt right, but not right. As long as I was pulling back with my foot, it felt fine, but as soon as I tried to power through over the top of the rotation, out my foot shot. So, I called out to my friends that I was stopping for a look, and pulled to the side of the road where I found that the front portion of my right cleat was missing. “This doesn’t look good! Shit!” That’s the part that holds the front of the cleat in the pedal, and then the rest of the cleat “clicks-in” to the back. That explained what was going on, but now I had to finish this climb and get back to Durango. I had the realization that even when I got back to Durango, there was no way that any bike shop would have cleats for these pedals. They were Power Taps, and though the cleat “looks” like the Look Keo it isn’t a Look Keo, and those don’t work with Power Tap pedals. I did have a pair back in NJ, but a lot of good that was going to do me right now. First though I had to finish the ride, and while climbing it is more natural to pull through on the bottom of the rotation, and thus stay engaged with the pedal.

Over the top, it was pretty much downhill all the way to Durango with two little upticks, and one slightly laborious rise, but after that it was smooth sailing all the down. I think I lost touch with my mates as I was now singularly focused on getting back to Durango without the aid of the sag wagon. There might have even been one last aid station, but I blew right past it. What worked on the uphill sections kind of works on the downhill, except it is more natural to want to follow through on the top of the rotation, so I had to concentrate on NOT doing that, AND I had to make sure my gearing was high so that my RPMs were low. The faster you pedal, the harder it is to control what your feet do.

Florida Road follows Florida Creek (river?) which flows into the Animas right there in Durango. Back onto the Animas bikeway, and it was just a short hop back to the fair grounds. Though there was a lot to do, there wasn’t much for me to do beyond sucking down an Eddyline Crank Yanker, and finding a bike shop in town. As it turned out there were two (three technically but the third was backcountry outfitter), both on main, both in town, the closer of the two being more of a mountain bike shop, and the further catering to both. Maybe it was wrong to say the closer was more of a MTB shop, as when I got there, they had plenty of road stuff, and though, like I feared, getting replacement Power Tap cleats was out of the question, they were happy to sell me brandy spanking new Shimano Ultegra SPD pedals, which of course come with cleats. Did I want them to show me how they worked, and give them a test ride? No, just set the cleats as far back on the shoes, take my money, and send me on my way pretty please.

They were easy to get used to, and I wound my way North on Main until I intersected Florida Road and jumped back onto the Animas bikeway and retraced the last mile of the day’s journey. Of course my friends had all left and returned to their hotels, and I still needed to clean up. The plan was to go out, but by the time I got back and saw their message, there was no time for me to clean up and catch a ride into town, so I took the vegan dinner from the caterer, and sat down to munch. It was food, so that was good, but it was nothing to write home about. In the past, RTR contracted with a lot of independent food truck owners who would get space at the host sites as well as some of the aid stations, but the Covid restrictions that were still in place up until the event actually began, prevented the organization from repeating that successful model, and instead hired a caterer to handle everything: Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Serendipity Catering. It wasn’t great, but I washed it down with another Eddyline product, and then caught the shuttle into town.

I found my friends just finishing up, and then we walked around town a little bit and then up to visit a Fair Haven transplant who had only just moved out to Durango the year prior. I didn’t know this person, but the others knew her well, and the unfortunate tragedy that befell Diane was that her husband died from a heart attack not long after moving there. They moved to Durango because that was where their kids settled, and like I tell people “Where ever my girls settle down, that’s where you’ll find me”, I can understand the big move. At least she had her family there. Diane welcomed us into her fine home, and there we found her kids and their SOs. One of the sons worked for Osprey, who make the #1 line of backpacks used on the 3 national scenic trails in the US, and we hit off right away. I told him about my plans for the Weminuche in August and I got his number in case there was anything he could help with.

We made arrangements with Diane and her sons to setup a private aid station just before Cortez, our destination the next day, where we would look for them and they would have some cool refreshments. It was going to be another scorcher! With a big day ahead and sleep needed, Diane offered to drive us back to our hotels. As I was up at the fair grounds I said I would just walk. “Pshaw! Get in the truck and I’ll drop you off first.” and that saved me a 30 minute walk.

By the time I got back to the fair grounds, all activity was wrapping up. I didn’t need any more beer, and even if I did, it was too late, as the Eddyline folks had broken down their stand already to move it to Cortez. The only slightly strange event I ran into was walking in the path of a pickup truck carrying the event coordinator who was delivering a LOT of toilet paper to the porta-johns. One thing I didn’t mention was of all the little things that weren’t quite right, the biggest of those was that with us all in Durango for 2 and some were 3 days, the porta-john contractor never came by and “refreshed” the johns. They had all run out of TP, and sanitizer, and the porta-sinks ran dry. It was awful. So, TP to the rescue!!

The tent village was pretty quiet. A lot of people had turned in, and like the night prior, people (many) had their bikes leaning up against their tent, on the ground, the fence, a tree, where ever they could find purchase. Must be get-up-and-go people. The “elevated” campers all had chairs, and there were more than a few people out relaxing and chatting each other up. For me there wasn’t anything to do except get ready for bed. At least the heat of the day fades quickly, and by the time I entered my tent it was down into the 60’s again. I swapped out re-charged items for items that still needed a charge; I did some editing by removing duplicate photos from the day, and then I turned off my headlamp, put my glasses away, and pulled my sleeping bag over me like a quilt, and set down to rest. It was a good first day.

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