Ride The Rockies 2021 – Day 5 The Ridgway Loop

October 23, 2021 § 2 Comments

I will try and take it easy on my audience in this one. It was a short day, so let’s see if we can make it a short post.

Rise and shine was early because that is just what your body does to you when you lay down around 9PM. You just can’t stand lying there any longer, and as soon as first light pokes it’s head over the horizon, I am ready to get up and get a move on. On this day, there was no need to break camp as we were spending a second night in the lovely little hamlet of Ridgway. The route for the day was in two parts, as discussed a little bit in the previous post. The first part was a loop ride to the North that included some bike path, followed by some ample 550 shoulder riding, and the a long 12 mile ascent on a dirt road, and eventually back to Ridgway. The second optional part was to climb back up pass, and then take another dirt road, and climb some more up to the ranch that had been used as a set location in the 1969 film True Grit.

Ken and I had talked about this, and here are the ingredients that went into the decision soup.

  1. None of our friends were riding today. Nope. Not one. They were all in Ouray, and there was plenty in Ouray to keep them busy, one activity being the giant community pool which they had access to as hotel guests. Don’t forget, its been 100F+ every single day of this adventure, and to be perfectly honest, if I had a hotel in Ouray, I think I would grab my swim trunks and spend the day in and out of the water.
  2. The next day, while not the longest in distance, was to be the hardest day with 85 miles to cover and three mountain passes.
  3. Add a little when tomorrows ride was finished, I needed to be there early enough so that I could clean-up, and dismantle and pack my bike in order to catch the bus before 5.
  4. 100F By the time we would get to the optional decision point, it would be hotter than this.
  5. I like climbing, however I felt like this is one climb I didn’t need.

The decision was really pretty easy and there was never any doubt. Ken and I may have said “We’ll make the final decision on the road”, but really, the decision had already been made. So, another short day! Besides, once we got back, we could grab a massage, and then that leaves the entire afternoon to spend in Ouray!

Ken arrived fairly early, so we got off to an early start. Though the sun was up, it was still early morning and the air was crisp. We began with a generally downhill ride on 550 heading North. It was fairly gradual, and I don’t think we lost more than 3 or 4 hundred feet, but it was very pleasant. Basically we were following the waterway in the direction of the flow, so mostly downhill until we made a left in Colona. There the road turned immediately to dirt, and the first aid station was abuzz with activity. I ran into Paul Doherty again, and we chatted some more and promised to keep an eye out for each other. I think I got the URL for Samaritan House, and made an online donation to Paul’s collection, and refreshed, Ken and I set out for the 12 mile dirt climb.

The road conditions were fantastic, the grade was fairly easy with some minor steps here and there. The scenery improved with every 100 feet we gained. There were folks who came out from their homes, and set themselves up in chairs by the side of the road to cheer us all on our way. That was very nice. Some riders stopped even to chat the locals up, or maybe they happened to know them already. The terrain was varied, but I recall a lot of ranch land, and not so much agriculture. Maybe even some horse farms here and there, all with the beauty of the San Juan’s in the background. I don’t know what Winter is like, but Summer looks very beautiful!

After 12 miles, the general up and up some more came to an end, though it didn’t completely end until we tackled a couple of big rollers. After that though, the downhill began. Now, it did not really with me just how much elevation we gained in that 12 miles. As I said the grade wasn’t too bad and there were quite a few steeper sections. As I review the route now, I see that we lost 500 feet in 15 miles to get to Colona, and then we gained 1500 feet on this 12 mile climb, so the uphill grade was definitely steeper than the downhill grade into Colona. So, if you have done the math, we have 1000 to lose to get back to Ridgway over about 7-8 miles of roadway. That is a lot, and there was one section where I definitely had to brake a lot to control my speed. There were a lot of other riders on this road with us, so you couldn’t just bomb it, and at 62, my thirst for bombing it just isn’t what it was when I was 52, when I was still pretty thirsty!

For the most part we were in trees on this descent, but as we came around a bend, you could see ahead that the landscape was going to open up. Now we are going probably 40+ mph, some are slower, some are faster, but as soon as we cleared that bend, the view opened completely and the full majesty that is the San Juan’s were right there in our faces, and you could hear the brakes being applied as riders wanted to stop and snap some selfies. There is a skill I have, where I am a decent enough bike handler, that I can ride my bike with one hand, and take iPhone pictures with the other. I can snap off individual shots, or I can move the slider to video, and shoot video as well. As it so happened, I was shooting video at 40 mph through all this and when people started to brake, I had to yell ahead to hold their line, I was coming through. Later I found some of the video quite breathtaking. If you see the video, you could get the idea that I am not looking where I am going, but rest assured, my eyes are forward all the time while descending. It is my arm that is moving around capturing the splendor. Check out the video at the end of this article.

I started that descent with Ken, but I think he might have actually been one of the folks that braked to take a picture, and so when I continued, we separated for a bit. Once I got to the bottom of that section, the downhill leveled off a bit, and I just noodled along until he caught up, and then we finished the ride together, agreeing of course that the on-the-road decision wasn’t going to be any different than what we had planned already, and the optional climb was ignored.

We pulled back into town, dropped our bikes at the corral, and we both signed up for massages, and then grabbed a shower at the shower trucks. No line existed and we were in and out and on time for our massages. This time I only signed up for a half hour, and I was assigned to Felix. Felix was very generous as 30 minutes felt like 35 or maybe even 40 minutes. Maybe there wasn’t anyone right after me, but Felix did a tremendous job. There was just one problem. Though everyone’s LTE was 5 bars, whatever we were all LTEing to didn’t have actual internet connectivity, and therefore Venmo was out of touch. As it turned out, this affected all the local businesses as well, so even if I went to an ATM to get cash, my efforts would have been fruitless. We established yesterday that I was a digital payer these day, and so, cashless. Felix gave his name, and said when I got to Ouray and better service, I could pay him then. Felix Istomin. That isn’t how I actually wrote his last name down, and that would haunt me later.

We grabbed a shuttle and went to Ouray where after Ken dropped off his things at his hotel, we walked up to the main drag. I will mention here that while I was waiting on Ken, I made my first attempt to find Felix, but the service demands were high in Ouray, and I wasn’t getting too many bytes flowing between me and the world of the internet. We walked up and down the main drag, Ken showing my around Ouray, until we found Cliff and Gerry. Plans were made for dinner that night, and everyone kind of wanted to get some rest before the evening came. Ken retired to his place, and I joined Cliff and Gerry for a walk south of town to their hotel. I wasn’t interested in resting with them, so I grabbed a seat, and again tried to pay Felix, but was still hampered by the slow-to-no internet. I eventually caught the shuttle to get back into downtown Ouray (I could have walked, but a little downpour moved through), and then walked around myself. Ouray, like Telluride is built in a box canyon, though different from Telluride in that it isn’t a dead-end box canyon. The walls of the canyon pretty well surround the town, and those walls are very high. There is a waterfall at one point, and I am told that in the winter months, they actually pump water up there and build out a huge frozen water fall for ice climbers. It’s supposed to be very beautiful. In addition, there is a trail cut into the wall, that encircles the town. A trail, that I will have to try another time!

Prior to dinner, I found a nice jewelry shop run by a Native American family that supports a lot of designers from various reservations in the Southwest. I went in, and looked around, and thought a lot of the stuff was quite nice and texted some photos to my wife to see if she liked anything. Remember the internet issues I was having? Well that affected iPhone to iPhone messaging as well, so all those pictures queued up, and failed to send. It was getting late, and it was time to meet up for dinner, so I would try again later.

Throughout dinner, I kept an eye on that feed, and at some point whatever the issue was, had been solved, and I finally got the images sent out. Problem was that by the time dinner was done, I hadn’t heard anything back, and I had spotted a shuttle that had just come into town, so that gave me less than 10 minutes to transact, so I went in and made a choice, but just as I was finishing up, I saw the shuttle go by again, and that meant another 30 minutes before I could get back to the rodeo. Of course, while I was waiting, Susan did get back to me, but I told her I had made a choice on my own, and she would just have to wait to see what it was.

Big day tomorrow. Three passes and 84 miles. Plus I needed time to shower, and break down and pack my bike to make the bus. Our flight was a 12:50am flight out of Denver, so I didn’t want to be the one to be late for that show, so back to the rodeo, and an early turn in for the evening. My plan was to get up before daybreak, pack up, and get on the road at first light, and to ride up to Ouray to meet my friends. They had made the excursion to Ridgway earlier in the day, and picked up their bikes, and rode them back to Ouray to keep in their hotel rooms, so their trip the next day would be 10 miles shorter. I had to ride that 10 miles first, so that was my plan. With that on my mind, I turned in for the night.

Oh, one thing I forgot to mention. With the internet working again, I tried to find Felix in Venmo, and because I didn’t spell his name even close to correct, I was having a lot of trouble finding him. I tried quite a few variations of what I had written, but none of those variations included the correct spelling. So, it wasn’t until I got back to New Jersey, that I reached out to Ashley who had done my first massage, through Venmo messaging. That took some time, because who uses messaging on Venmo? Exactly! No one. She happened to notice the message marker, and while she didn’t know Felix, she sent me email address of the person who coordinated all the masseurs. I wrote that person, and they got back to me pretty quickly with Felix’s email address, who I was then able to connect with and get the correct spelling. So, I did finally make good on Felix’s faith placed in me to not be a deadbeat. Issue resolved.

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