Ride The Rockies 2021 – Day 2, Hot as Fuck

October 7, 2021 § Leave a comment

This day began exactly like the previous day. After a fitful night of trying to sleep, but getting some rest in between at least two porta-john excursions, it was time to make haste and get this day rolling. Yesterday, I hadn’t soaked my granola long enough, so today, the first thing I did was to measure out the needed water, and get that started. I’d eat it when I was ready, but in the mean time, I had a kit to don, and a camp to break. The older I get the harder it is to get dressed lying down in a tent. My tent isn’t large enough for me to stand in, and there is very limited space to even sit up. Add to that, my aging muscles and some times I can only just get an operation completed before I begin to feel a cramp coming on. Fortunately I catch it before any damage is done.

This is the first morning I have to break camp, but I make pretty good time at it. The night prior I select my kit for the day, and I pack my day pack with those things I will want as soon as the ride is over. Also the daypack gets all my lights, my helmet, gloves, sun glasses and anything else that I will carry with me. All that is left, is to stuff my sleeping bag, deflate my air pad and stuff it, and add my undies to my laundry bag. Everything then gets thrown out the tent door where my duffle lies (no rain so I just leave it outside my tent), and after extricating myself, I break down the tent, and stuff everything into my duffle. I am ready to roll, but I still needed my coffee drinks and I still needed to munch my granola. I rolled my duffer over to the early truck and a nice volunteer took that from me, then I went for coffee (as mentioned yesterday, with card in hand I bypassed the line and was served quickly) and soon found my friends. With coffee, and dug into my granola finding quickly that letting it soak longer was definitely NOT better. It was edible, but my palate prefers the crunchy texture to the soft wet tissue mush texture.

With breakfast taken care of, I attached all my lights, filled my water bottles, loaded my carry-ons into my seat bag, and swapped sun glasses for my regular glasses, and then dropped off my day bag at the early truck as well. The rest of the crew was almost ready to go and were hanging out near the port-a-johns so I knew what that meant. The morning was a little warmer than the day before, and projected high was 103. Cortez sits a little lower in elevation than Durango, so it might be even hotter there. Look, Durango is in SW Colorado. That is near three other states (think four corners), and those three other states are all desert states, so why wouldn’t SW Colorado also be desert? Well, it is. We saw it the day before that when you get out into the open country, it is desert scrub. So, this is the desert. It’s just not supposed to be this hot at the end of Spring.

The route on this day starts much the same as the day prior. Out to the bikeway, and South, the difference being we hang a right off the bikeway and scoot across 550 onto County Route 210 which climbs immediately, taking us up to one of Durango’s surrounding reservoirs, Lake Nighthorse. The road surface was excellent, and after an initial crest, the road turned Southwest toward Breen. We would enjoy paved roads for at least the next hour as we lost elevation. It was farming country out here, and as it was early in the farming season, I hadn’t a clue what they grew around here, maybe wheat. The first aid station was in the small time of Kline where we found a breakfast food truck, inundated with riders. I stuck to my banana diet, and topped off with water we resumed our route. Still all riding together, I don’t think there was to be any major obstacles on this route and we should all stay together, but the day was still early.

We were losing elevation, and combine that with the sun getting higher in the sky, and on this day, the heat was already making itself felt. Wide open roads at this point, there was no where to hide. Not until the route turns due North would there be anything resembling shade. After Kline we continued SW on 140, a fairly significant road, but that didn’t last long before we cut W on a short section which bridged us over to the dirt section for the day. Dirt, gravel, clay, what do you call it? It shows on the map as 105, and what the surface was like depended on what part of the road you rode on. Closer to the middle, it was smooth clay, where your tires make no noise what so ever. All you hear are the paddles inside the freewheel when you coast, but when you are pedaling it is almost quiet. Towards the edge of the road is where all the debris resides, so with this being a very off the beaten path road, there was little to no traffic, so we rode the center of the road until a vehicle came upon us and needed to get through.

This road follows a creek, and where there is a creek, there is water, and where there is water, there are trees, and where there are trees there is shade. That shade was heavier near the edge of the road, so if you wanted protection from the sun, you rode in the debris. Trade-offs. Where the dirt road began, also began our recovery of elevation gain. We were to gain elevation over the next 22 miles, most of which was on this dirt road at a fairly ridable big gear grade, but we would top out at almost 8000′ before we dropped down into Cortez. There was an aid station somewhere up the road, where lunch bags would be available, and an opportunity to top off on the fluids again. This was already a day when you poured water over your neck just to gain a wee bit of relief.

It was about this time when something unexpected happened to Ken. His left crank are came off the axle. Judging by his reaction to this, it had never happened before, whereas I am quite familiar with it, though I didn’t carry all of the tools needed to repair properly, but I could get him back on the road. The issue is getting the arm fully restored before tightening the bolts back down. There is a specialized tool that engages a screw cap which helps with that, but as we weren’t far from lunch, I just needed to get him that far. There would be bike maintenance van there, and he could get proper help then.

By the time we reached lunch, the temperature on the dirt was well over 100, and it was exhausting. Ken’s crank arm was coming loose again, so he took his bike right over and got in line. I went to retrieve his lunch bag, and then set about trying to find water and snacks. For those of us not on the lunch plan, it was the same ole same old, however the pickle juice was getting a lot of attention. There was also an issue with the water truck, a pick up towing a large plastic container of water. It ran out of water. Fortunately for all, the aid station was setup on someone’s property and there was access to single hose, so there were long lines at the drink coolers where there about 8 coolers dispensing either water or some kind of electrolyte energy drink, and hardly anyone noticed the short line at the hose. I quickly dispatched to the hose line and topped off my bottles.

It took Ken a LONG time to get his bike worked on. There were people in front of him, and one of those people required both their front and rear brakes be bled. if “Huh?” is on your mind right now, think disc brakes, and hydraulics, and those kinds of brakes get soft and spongy if there is air in the line. Maybe not so bad when you are going up hill, but no so good on the down hill. Anyway, that is not a quick fix, and there was only 1 mechanic. Ken waited, so we waited.

By the time we got moving again, I think it had gotten a little hotter. Maybe because we had been gaining elevation, the creek got smaller, and then the trees thinned out, and so there was less protection from the sun. Though dry, the air was still stifling hot. With the thinning of the trees the ability to see way up the road allowed us to eventually see where the route was taking us. We could see a sharp right bend, and behind that we could see a more trafficked road with a lot of slow moving cyclists, and that road had a significant ramp to it. I guess that was where we would reach our 8K.

That road was Route 160, and we turned left onto it and rode West for the final leg to Cortez. The grade to the top was never all that bad, but it was still hot AF, and there was no protection from the sun. Maybe it could be said that with all the traffic going by, we benefitted from the breeze they created. It’s hard to say. The dryness means you never really feel the sweat as it evaporates immediately, also a slight cooling effect. The good news here was that by the time we turned onto 160 we were already at 7500′ so we only had about 400+ feet to go to summit this rise. I got there first and found a nice place to wait and take pictures as my friends came through. I waited on all of them, and then had to go into chase mode to catch back on. I caught back on in Mancos where there was another aid station. We still had the Diane aid station somewhere ahead of us, but the need to keep as much fluid moving through us as possible meant stopping at every station. This station sat just shy of the final uptick of the day to Mesa Verde. I think it is a place with rock art from the civilization that used to inhabit the area, but I don’t know for sure. I will have to look it up. I do remember that Diane and her Sons said they would look for a place to setup just past Mesa Verde, so we would be on the lookout then.

Something that is vague in my recollection, is that I ended up off the back of our group. Maybe I stopped to pee, maybe I stopped to help someone, but I was by myself when I came to the last aid station. I am not sure this was needed, but it was only a water stop. Some people go through way more water than I do, and for them this was needed, but for me, I pulled in, so that non of my compatriots were there, and immediately left, however it wasn’t too much further along, I saw a group pull out of a driveway, and I almost missed it as I was thinking about getting back on with them, but then I remembered that Diane and her Sons made the effort to come out here for us, and the least I could do was to make sure I took advantage of their kindness and efforts. So I braked and walked back to where they were where I enjoyed a melting fruit pop. The coolness felt great, and we exchanged niceties for ten minutes before I bid my fare-thee-wells and headed off to Cortez.

Cortez is a fair sized little city, and they set us up in Parque de Vida, a huge recreation complex in Cortez. The tennis courts were used for the bicycle corral, and all the gear and shower trucks were set up in the parking lot. Over by a large pond is where they setup the tents and all the refreshment places, including the Eddyline beers. Diane and her boys drove over, and we all found some seats in the shade and enjoyed a couple of beers before the hotel crew departed for their rooms, and I needed to setup my tent, so we said goodbye to them for the last time on this trip, and then this is where a major turn in the events of RTR 2021 went down. At this point I will simply describe it from my point of view.

There were barbeque grills set up near the tent. These were at least two, but maybe three oil drum sized units, that were cut in half, hinged, and sitting on legs. The caterer was just now getting the grills going, charcoals I believe. There was enough time for me to get camp setup, grab a shower, and then get in line for food. I found a nice piece of ground to setup my tent, again not terribly far from the port-a-johns. There was no protection from the sun, so it was a very hot endeavor, and brutal whenever I had to get in the tent to take care chores in close quarters. There are a couple of tent poles to set, and I have to inflate the mattress (manually!) and lay out the sleeping bag. All that gets done before I shower, otherwise I would need another shower. With that out of the way, I found a shower truck that had capacity. They have chairs (steel) set out with an astroturf carpet where you get rid of your shoes, and dis-robe enough before entering. The main dude handling the showers did a fantastic job of regulating the crowd so there were never too many people in one unit at a time. I am a quick-get-er-done shower guy, and so I was in an out quickly, and took my wet things back to my tent where I laid them out to dry, and now it was time to get another beer, and maybe they were ready to serve dinner.

I got back to the main tent, and a small line had formed, which I quickly took my place in. However, the line didn’t move very quickly. What I saw was that about every 10 minutes, someone would bring a few burgers from the grill to the prep area, and those would quickly disappear, and then the waiting began anew. This repeated over and over. Never a lot of burgers arrived at any one time. Fortunately for me, I had gotten there early, but my time in line was still almost 45 minutes before I got a garden burger. That wasn’t 45 minutes in the shade, but 45 minutes in the sun, and while I was standing there I could see the line getting longer and longer behind me. So, I got my burger, and extras, and sat down, and within a couple of minutes, my plate was empty, and I was still starving. I looked at the line, and decided right there I was not getting back into it, and I got out my phone and looked to see where I was and how far it was to anything else that could sustain me. A couple of big blocks away was a main drag, and there were a few food options along it, including a Mexican Style place. That was my next destination! And as I walked away, I could see others making the same decision.

So, I found out the next day, that there was a huge misunderstanding. The burgers were supposed to arrive “grill-ready” as in de-thawed, however they were like liquid nitrogen cold bricks, and because they had limited grilling surface, and were using charcoals (which eventually have to be replenished), it took four times as long to cook a burger than if they had been “grill-ready”, and so people sat in those lines for more than two hours to get their food. Keep in mind, it was a hard day this day, and tomorrow was 101 miles, with a 61 mile climb. And it was supposed to be just as hot! More on this later.

The Mexican place was packed! Windows were open, and huge fans were in the door trying to move air around inside. Every table was occupied, but as I stood there I spied an empty seat at the small bar where 3 other people were dining. The only issue I could see was the bar had a load of clean glasses where the empty seat was, so I asked the hostess if I could sit at the bar and take that seat, and they found another place for the glasses, and soon I was ordering my second dinner, and a beer.

While I was sitting there I picked up a few bits and pieces of the conversation going on amongst the gentlemen to my left. I heard things that resembled good solid progressive thoughts, so these were definitely not Trumpers. I also noticed that the dude immediately to my left had the same band on his wrist as I did, so I turned to them and asked how they were doing, and so that is how I came to me Paul Doherty and the Samaritan House Cycling Club. We had seen their jerseys, and they always made it a big point to start together with great fanfare, and so now I had an opportunity to find out what they were all about. They were associated with The Catholic Charities of Denver which ran support houses in Denver and some of the other front range cities for battered women, as well as most people who are in distressed conditions. While that includes families and women trying to set out independently, it also includes veterans and other families. So, Team Samaritan solicits donations, and they ride many of the cycling events held throughout Colorado, and probably other events as well. Paul has been with the group for a long time, and was one of their bigger fund raisers. His two friends where not riding, but were driving the RVs that some of the Samaritan folks had chipped into rent, so they were more self-supported, and didn’t rely on the tenting or the hotel services. We chatted for a bit, they at the end of their meal, and me getting ready for my second dinner. Something a little more substantial, and sure to fuel me up for the next day. They finished up, we said our fare thee wells, and promised to keep an eye out for each other on the road.

By the time I finished, and walked back, the outside air had cooled down into the high 70’s. Still a little to warm to crawl into a tent, but more than comfortable enough to walk around in. When I returned to our staging area, music was in high swing, and the Eddyline folks were still trading beer tickets for beer, so I grabbed a few more carbohydrates, and sat down in the tent where I found a couple of dudes from the bus, (The Denver to Durango bus :)) and we chatted about how the day went, and what we were expecting tomorrow. If I remember, and I don’t recall their names, one was from Houston, and the other was from Michigan, and they’ve been friends a long time, and have been doing RTR for a number of years. Their opinion, so far, was this RTR isn’t running as smoothly as past events. An observation that would prove quite revealing the next morning. These two were using the elevated camping services and like me, were just waiting for it to cool down a wee bit more before turning in.

I took care of last minute business, made sure I had some water to drink at night, and turned in. With my nightly routine complete, I was ready for an early start, and now all I had to do was get some sleep.

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