Ride The Rockies 2021 – Day 3 What!?! No Breakfast?!?

October 20, 2021 § 3 Comments

I am going to start this post with an out-of-timeline explanation, as the timeline in which I learned this is later than this story telling moment. It is in the best interest of the story to tell it now.

Morning, Cortez Co. It isn’t a morning unlike Monday morning. The sun rose at about the same time, and it was maybe a wee bit warmer. We were in Cortez, and as you may recall from my last post, there was a bit of a dinner issue the night before. In summary, 100+ degrees, people waiting hours to get dinner, lines slow, food delivered in short spurts with long waits in between.

I awoke like the last two mornings. About the same time, and learning my lesson from yesterday, I waited until the last minute to hydrate my breakfast granola. It turns out, that crunchier is better. I followed my procedures, and I was ready for tent breakdown the first time I stepped out of the tent. With that taken care of, I set off for coffee, and it was on this excursion that I heard the first rumblings of “an issue”. The issue was, that the caterer did not show up for breakfast, and since that was the only food source, there was no breakfast at the beginning of the longest ride of the tour. I, was okay, but really, you can complain all you want, but if you want to get to Norwood, hop on your bike and get going. Don’t sit around and think that breakfast will somehow materialize out of the ether.

This was the longest ride of the tour, AND the organization had offered, or at least socialized an alternative for those people who were hoteling, which if you have been reading these posts, includes all my friends. A logistics issue built into the route selection from the very beginning was that the destination town of Norwood lacked the hotels needed to accommodate the usual hotel-seeking riders, and so the hotels for this days terminus were actually in Telluride. Telluride sits at the end of a box canyon, and is 30 miles from Norwood, the actual terminus of the ride. Think about it this way, the organization has hired shuttles to take people from the ride end point to and from their hotels. A 30 mile one way distance makes for few actual shuttle runs, so what the organization proposed, and socialized with the hotel folks is that the last aid station, which is only 2-3 miles from Telluride, would be setup secure as an alternate terminus for the hotel folks. The idea being that they ride to mile 81 and their day would be done. The shuttles would operate from there, and everyone else would continue to Norwood. This sounded pretty decent to all the hotel folks, my hotel folks included. They all bought into that idea, except Ken, but that is a different story.

So, I am looking at 101 mile day, and my friends are looking at an 81 mile day, and so I tell them right away, that it is going to be a long hard day, and on this day, I am not going to stay with the general group, as I believe it will take everything I have to make the 101 miles in 100+ heat, that includes an initial 61 mile climb. They all indicated an understanding, and with that understanding we all set out from Cortez.

Before I go any further, let’s talk about breakfast. So here is what went down, after I left the night before to get my second dinner rather than spend another minute in line. Maybe we need a little background here, maybe we don’t. I told you all what I went through, and being a patient person, I kept my issues to myself. Well, apparently that wasn’t the norm the previous evening, and to understand what happened, you have to first understand the arrangement. The caterer was contracted to provide two staff people at each of the meals: breakfast and dinner. That is right, two. The organization contracted to provide volunteers to the staff to help the staff feed the riders. I believe the organization provided 10-12 additional volunteers. The key word in that last statement is “Volunteer”. If you are having trouble, that means these are people who signed up to help the organization facilitate the experience at no charge. As in, they were just happy to help. Now this is a formula that has worked well for RTR for nearly 30-40 years, but let’s look at what happened the previous night.

People are waiting hours in 100+F heat, standing in the sun, with no shade, and started to harsh to the people that were caring for them. Those would be the volunteers. Add to this, that though the caterer tasked two people for breakfast and two for dinner, and they weren’t the same people, it became clear to them early on that they were under-personned for the event, and the breakfast people worked dinner, and the dinner people worked breakfast. Think about just how much sleep you think those 4 people got in the last two days? So, here is what happened. The volunteers, remember that is 12 people who were assigned dinner and breakfast, so the same people, were bearing the brunt of the anger from the cyclists who where hungry, and tired from an 85 mile ride in 100F heat, but people who had a 101 mile day ahead of them, and at some point the camel’s back broke. The volunteers, said, “Hey! We are volunteers, and we didn’t sign up to be yelled at.” and they walked out. The four staffers seeing that realized they couldn’t provide the service without the volunteers, and were themselves exhausted, said “We’re Done!” and walked out as well, and so dinner ended BEFORE everyone was fed, and that is why there was no breakfast the next morning.

None of this was really known in the early am hours. Maybe, what I mean, is that for those people that did eat and then went to bed, they were quite shocked to find there was no breakfast. Those people that found themselves with no dinner, were probably well in the know as to what their breakfast plans would entail. As mentioned, I was breakfast independent, but my friends were not. They were amongst the ignorant, because they didn’t hang out for dinner the night before. As I found out, they didn’t really have a great dinner either, as their hotel accommodations wasn’t near anything but a Denny’s, and that Denny’s was over-whelmed with activity. They managed something, but that something was enough, and now with no breakfast, they were anxious about the day ahead. At least, at that point, they only had an 81 mile day ahead of them, whereas I was in it till the end.

So, off we set out, in the cool morning temps, with the sun just now above the horizon. At least the starting temperature was nice and cool, and even though we were looking at a 61 mile climb, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that 3500 feet over 61 miles results in an average grade of 1% which is 1 foot every 100 feet. That isn’t really all that much and is quite ridable, even for 61 miles, but that is at least 4 hours of climbing, and that in itself will be taxing. For now, though, it was pleasant, and the sun was still low. Just outside of Cortez the agri-business gets going, so the giant water systems were delivering the much needed, but ground water draining supply of H20 that a healthy crop of whatever they were growing needed to live. The route today would take us North-North East for most of the climb before hanging a 90 and heading mostly North West towards Norwood. I think we understood that the day would be a long climb (61 miles), then a lot of downhill, and at some point, we would hit what is known to all the locals as “The Norwood Hill”.

I believe I mentioned this in the first post, but it was evident all along this long climb, and that is, when everything you can see is in the same plane, you can’t really tell that that plane is angled upward at 1% grade. It all looks flat. Now, the entire 61 miles wasn’t like that, and there were small bumps here and there, but a majority of the ride, followed the Delores River, and it was only the river that told you that you were gaining elevation, as the direction of travel was against the flow of the river, though as stated, the brain couldn’t quite reckon what it felt with what it could see.

The first aid station was in the town of Delores, and as you might imagine, a thousand breakfast starved cyclists descended upon Delores like a locust swarm, and consumed every edible scrap of food the town had. The present supply chain issues are still struggling to restock the shelves for the locals, but the swarm swept in and then swept out leaving desolate wasteland behind it. Officials called ahead to Rico, the next stop, to warn of the impending disaster heading their way. Officials there had just enough time to find the main breakers for the town, and simulated a power outage. When the swarm arrived, with no power, business could not be transacted, so the swarm was forced to feed at the provided aid station. Somewhat sated from Delores, the riders were able to gain enough needed nutrients and electrolytes before setting off for the next station at the summit of the climb. Residents hid within their homes, and few ventured out until the swarm had mostly moved through. Disaster averted.

An interesting thing happened to me in the next section. I kind of bonked. Ken and I had paired up again, and as said earlier I left my friends behind in pursuit of getting this day over with and behind me. Ken and I had hooked up with an unknown 3rd rider who was definitely younger than we were, and certainly stronger. We took turns pulling for a while, and it was during one of these cycles that Ken raised his hand and said “All right! Hold the fort! When I am on the front, so that I can get to then end of the day, I figure I need to stay below 190 watts, and that is what I push when I am on the front. Then I float to the back and Eric takes over and just to hold his wheel it takes 225 watts. Something has to change.” The other guy and I looked at Ken like he had three heads, and each head spoke a different language. “Huh?!?” Ken had made his point, and I tried to keep it around 200 watts, but the main point of this little recollection is that I thought I felt pretty damn good, and feeling good, I spent a lot of time on the front thinking I had an unending supply of energy. Well, I did not, and when we lost our third person in Rico, it was just Ken and I, and from Rico, that 1% average grade picked up a little bit. Add to that the sun was higher which meant it was getting warmer. All that added up to a little bit of fatigue, which required a stop, so we pulled off, and I was glad to be carrying some energy supplies in my pocket. The first time we stopped, it was just a slight light headedness, and I don’t recall whether it was a goo pack, or maybe it was a energy bar, but it gave me something. We were still quite a few miles from the top, and even though I felt better, it was going to be a slog to get to the top. I had to stop one more time and finish what little I had left, so by the time we reached Lizard Pass, I was pretty cooked. Lucky for me, and for a lot of people that day, there was a food truck with plenty of supplies. After grabbing something quick, Ken stood in line and picked up a couple of hot Tacos, or Burritos, whatever they had, and he also bought the last two Pepsis, which we both consumed.

By the time I felt ready enough to set out again, Aaron rode in, with Cliff, Alex, and Gerry not too far behind. For them, the hard part was over. It was downhill to the next aid station, and supposedly that was where the hotel folks would be able to end their day and get shuttled to the hotels. So, Ken and I bade our farewells, and we moved out to enjoy an exhilarating downhill. The fun didn’t last though, as the route detoured off the main road and onto a red clay downhill section for 5 miles. Red Clay, I believe is actually hotter than asphalt, but that may just be how I remember it. One problem was you can’t really descend all that fast on clay, and we weren’t descending any faster than the wind was blowing, from behind us. What does do you think it means when you move at the same speed and in the same direction as the wind? That is right. That isn’t wind, and so we sat in a pocket of hot air for the next 5 miles. At some point I was burning up, as I had been wearing my arm covers the whole trip. They aren’t arm warmers, so much as they offer UV protection, but they are warm when you are sitting in a pocket of 95+ air with no breeze, so I stopped in some shade and took them off before re-joining Ken. We hooked back up with an asphalt roadway, and soon pulled into the last aid station.

This was a sports field, and I think the idea was that the hotel folks would leave their bikes in the baseball diamond, and security would watch them, but there was no sign of security, and there were people who wanted to end their ride there that were uncomfortable with simply leaving their bikes and getting on a shuttle. It didn’t look like there was anyone there in charge, and all they had were the volunteers. Now, Ken had been planning on ending his day, and to be honest, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to steal his old bike, but he wasn’t comfortable leaving it, and so he decided he was going to finish the 101. Gerry and the gang showed up just as we were leaving, but I lost Ken. I went to use a port-a-john, and when I came out I didn’t see Ken’s bike anywhere, so I jumped on to catch up. He was in front of me.

I wasn’t feeling great, but I was moving along fine. The minor uphill sections weren’t very hard, but my tired legs could feel every erg of potential energy that my legs worked to put back into my body. I never saw Ken again, but I did some shiny metal ahead, and when I got to the base of the Norwood Hill, I found a Volunteer Fire Company had setup a pumper truck, and they were handing out water, and cheering for some dude named “Eric”, to which I claimed to be an “Eric” though not the one they wanted, but they cheered me on anyway. Also, they had the fire house in spray mode, and if desired, they could wet you down. I consented, and was sprayed enough to start the climb with a nice evaporation effect. That really helped a lot.

Though I wasn’t going to see Ken again, I did climb pretty well, and soon I came upon a young gentleman that seemed like he was struggling. He was close to the end of his rope, so I slowed down and say behind him and gave him words of encouragement. This hill had a lot of small turns to it, so once you reached one bend, you could see the next. “Let’s just get to that next bend up there, and from there we can see the next one”. A few of those, and pretty soon I could see the gap in the ridge where the climb would enter, and soon it would be over, so I told the person I was escorting what I thought about that gap, and he came to life. It was exactly as I had expected, and after entering the gap, it was another quarter mile to the top, where there was an unofficial water stop, so this guy thanked my for the help, and pulled off to rest and get some water. For me it was still another 5 miles to Norwood, but at least it was a slight downhill.

There really isn’t much to say about Norwood. There isn’t much there, but there is a there there. There is also a school, and that is where they set us up. It was over 100 when I arrived, and all our bags were sitting out on the pavement. There were volunteers to help us find our bags, and they had coolers filled with cold water, and other drinks. Many many riders stopped right there and simply took 30 minutes to rest, and collect themselves. Me, I took a few minutes, because I wanted to get my tent set up, and then go off to figure out whether the organization had come up with a dinner solution. My bags, still untagged were in the pile of untagged bags, so with them in hand I wheeled my stuff over to the tent field, which was dry and hard, and quite a challenge to sink stakes into, but through persistence I erected my tent, and got myself setup.

Eventually I found Ken, he had just showered, but he looked tired, and wasn’t going to hang out there long, and wanted to get on a shuttle and get to Telluride before the main crowd showed up. First thing I did was to find the smoothie guy, and get a large protein smoothie, which I downed quickly. Then I found the shower trucks and took care of that business. I think I was coming out of my shower truck when I ran into Paul Doherty, then person I had met the previous night at the Mexican Restaurant, and we said our “hello”s, and our “How’d you do today?”s, and that we would see each other later that night or in the next days on the road. At that moment I was ready for an Eddyline or two. I had pre-purchased 15 tickets, thinking that I would be sitting around having a couple with Cliff after our long days, but that had happened at all, and if there is one thing I have learned in life, if you were expecting something to happen, and it hadn’t happened, it was unlikely to happen, so I had beer tickets to drink. Now, it isn’t that there wasn’t any desire to sit down together and relax, but Cliff was in the hotels, and I was tenting, and after a day in 100F, you really just want to go and get comfortable, and these guys were usually quick to get to their hotels. That is just the way it was. So, I grabbed an Eddyline, and found a seat in the tent where I found some folks to talk to. It could have been a Father/Daughter pair I had been chatting up, or it could have been the two friends from the Bus, or it could have been some new folks, but it was me without my friends.

At about 5PM something interesting happened. Apparently the organization got their asses in gear, and they managed to get in touch with the only food establishments in Norwood, and they got them to shut their doors, and together to prepare a bunch of box sandwich dinners. They went and cleared the local market of all their easy food supplies, and they made a lot of sandwiches, and salads, and extras, and the riders of the 2021 RTR did not go hungry that night. With food in their tummies, everyone was very civil, and it was at this time when I personally learned what had happened the previous night. There wasn’t a formal announcement, but the organization did tell everyone that with the next day being such a short day, the morning would be coffee only, though there might be someone doing pancakes, but really, if you wanted breakfast, the food truck that had been at the summit of Lizard Pass would be at the first aid station in the morning, and everyone could get food from there. Their breakfast tickets would be honored, and there would be food in Ridgway, as well as a number of eating establishments. So, everyone was quite content. I personally didn’t witness any people that had any issues. I was good. All I needed was for the ambient temperature to drop below 70, and then I could think about finding my tent.

While I was walking around, who did I run into but Cliff, Gerry, Aaron and Alex. There was no security at the last aid station, and there was no one in charge who could definitively tell anyone “Yes, it is safe to leave your bikes here, and shuttle to Telluride”, so people got back on their bikes and finished the 101 miles. These guys just pulled in and were toast. I offered to get them beers, but all they wanted was their day bag, and to get on the shuttle and get to Telluride where their hell would come to an end this day. I helped them get their bags, and we found the shuttles, and soon I was alone again :).

I used the spare time to go through and delete my duplicate images. I shoot in HDR mode which when it is used, produces a duplicate image, so I have to go through and decide which of the two images to keep. 99 times out of 100 I keep the HDR image, but occasionally its the non-HDR version which is better. I examine each one. If there is bandwidth, I might make an Instagram post, but most of the time, I am just killing time. It might have been a three Eddyline night that night before it was cool enough to enter my tent for the night. I didn’t say this earlier, but of course I was setup within a short distance to the port-a-johns, as it was just as certain as the sun would rise the next day, that I would have to get up 2 or 3 times that night to take care of business.

I watched the sun set, and then it was time to retire. Sure it is early, but if I stayed up, I would just want to have another beer, and 3 was enough. Besides, it was a long long day, and everyone was tired, and everyone was turning in. It would not be a long day tomorrow, but we still had a pass to climb, and a good rest on this night would make that possible. With that thought, I turned in.

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