Ride The Rockies 2022 – Day 4
July 13, 2022 § Leave a comment
You might think that after 3 days of Ride The Rockies 2022 the body might have it’s own built in escape mechanism where it simply shuts down and like a little kid with its mind set, just simply refuses to do any more. Well, you would be wrong. We all awoke and the RV camp was astir with anticipation for the coming day. Our route would take us back North on 285 to Buena Vista (Remember Jeremy had his room there in yesterdays post. Smart cookie that Jeremy was) where we continued on 285 North, where we would cross Trout Pass, a minor pass that simply separates the head waters of the Arkansas from the headwaters of the South Platte rivers, to Fairplay Colorado where we would leave 285 on Route 9 and climb over the beast, Hoosier Pass to take us back into the Pacific drainage and Breckenridge. There is a lot of Colorado where I haven’t been, but one place I did want to see was this town. I am not a skier, but the town name just exudes ski when you hear it. Kind of like Aspen and Vail, but better. That was my impression at least.
I told “The Crew” I was with them today. I had no timetable, no place to be (other than Breckenridge), and if I could assist them in any, my wheel was theirs. “The Crew” included Po, Paul, and Rick and anyone else who wanted to try and hold our wheel. I had ridden with Rick already and seen him in action as noted here and here, and I knew from last year that Paul was a pretty strong rider, so I suspected that unless people wanted to ride in the pain cave, it would be us four and Ken and/or Andy when they showed up as well. That would be a decent train to ride, with plenty of time to sit in and follow wheel.
Ken showed up, so that was indeed one more, and we were set to roll out at 6:30. I texted Andy to see where he was, but didn’t get a response, and I didn’t have a text from him other than maybe an acknowledgement that we would be rolling out around 6:30. There weren’t any food trucks or food options at the Camping area in Salida, so we rolled out with whatever coffee drinks, and snacks we could jamb into our bellies. The first Aid Station was 18 miles into the ride, just between the “bump” and Buena Vista, so we would load up on whatever they had there before tackling the rest of the ride.
Getting out of Salida was a lot easier than getting in which left me with the question “What was the point of bringing us into Salida the way they did?” We rolled out of the camping area right onto the road that intersected 285 without all the drama we had the day prior. Before long we were rolling along 285 North which at this point in the ride had a nice wide shoulder that had more than enough room for us and the fast moving traffic. At times, and extra lane would appear as an access lane to branch roads on our right, which would give us an extra buffer, however when those branch roads were to our left, then the traffic moved a little closer to us as a left turn lane opened for Northbound traffic. Leaving early worked to our advantage, as Route 285 wasn’t at its normal volume yet.
We rotated often and successfully together. Whoever was on front set a tempo they were comfortable with, and that allowed us to roll into the first Aid Station after about an hour. As was par for the course Ken pointed out to me that when I was on the front and we were climbing the “bump”, he had to push more watts to keep up than if he were on the front and reminded me that “There is still a long way to go.” I took his advice, and promised to play nicer when we continued.
We all got what we needed regarding food and water, though that didn’t include anything like a real breakfast, but we were sated enough to get to the next Aid Station. We did not find Andy at this station, and we all set out again where we went right with 285 and began the ascent to Trout Creek Pass. It was a pretty easy grade all the way to the top where at mile 31, and an elevation 1900′ higher than Salida, we reached the second Aid Station. It was on this climb that two things happened though. The first was I started playing some opera, the second was a little more serious. I was feeling tired. Besides the fatigue, I started to have a bad taste in the back of my throat. Remember, I was in an RV with two confirmed positives, and now I was starting to wonder what was going on. I rode the previous day pretty hard at the end, so I think I can understand the fatigue, but I was worried about the taste. I ate a banana, and it tasted like a banana, and the blueberry fig bar tasted like what it was, so I used that logic to temper my fears that I was going to be positive. There wasn’t anything I could do about it there, so back on the bike.
This is where the insanity of Route 285 hit us hard. Up till this point we had a nice wide shoulder that allowed plenty of room for us to rotate without needed the northbound lane, however when we went over the crest after the Aid Station, the nature of that should changed dramatically. Besides shrinking down to about 24″, rumble “Wake the fuck up!” strips were milled into the shoulder to alert anyone who was about to veer off the road. There is NO speed on a bike where “Wake the fuck up!” rumble strips feel okay on a bike. While we could manage our pace line in that small shoulder, you have to remember that we aren’t the only ones on the road. Riders moving faster than us passed in the lane of traffic, as we had to do when we were passing riders slower than us. The speed limit on 285 at this point is 65 mph, and very few drivers (trucks included) slowed their progress when they were overtaking riders. Worse still were the sections without an extra passing lane where passing was allowed. I wasn’t paying attention to that, and I don’t think anyone else was either, and then a passing car went past us in excess of 80 mph in the other direction that scared the “brown stuff” almost right out of me. That was absolutely crazy, but there was nowhere else to ride. The “wake the fuck up!” rumble strips did not end when the descent was over but continued with us. Remember also that those same rumble strips exist in the middle of the road too, and some drivers are nervous about crossing those. Fortunately some trucks did their best to give room, but they were still passing us very quickly. This is where the Route designers, and organization failed us. I get that there wasn’t an alternative route, so maybe until there is an alternative route, they shouldn’t use that road, but if they do, then they need to control it. North and Southbound traffic should have been limited to 30 mph speed limit with NO passing unless an additional lane existed, AND there should have been a heavy state trooper presence “slowing” the traffic while there were any RTR riders on that segment of road. Basically what was demonstrated to us, the riders, was that people basically didn’t give two shits about our safety. That goes for all those drivers, and some of that responsibility is on the organization as well.
I just looked at the map for that area, and I see what they should have done. They should could have limited the speed limit on 285 between Buena Vista and Antero Junction (Route 24), as well as between Fairplay and Route 9 and they should have closed 285 between Antero Junction and Route 9 and routed all traffic around near Hartsel CO. It could be argued that they only had to divert 285 N, but with Northbound riders in the lane of traffic, that meant danger when Southbound traffic passed in valid passing lanes. Of course, more signage alerting Southbound traffic that NO PASSING was allowed could have worked as well.
So, 285 was a shit show, and I wasn’t feeling myself. In fact whenever the road slanted up slightly, I started to slide out the back and eventually the gap grew and I was by myself, though I could always see my friends ahead of me. Not terribly far ahead either. Sometimes when the road leveled out for a spell, (remember we are gaining elevation as we ride North on our way to Hoosier Pass) I could make an effort and bridge back across. Po would tell me later that “It was just us, and the wind, and then I heard something that was different. At first I just thought I was hearing things, but then it got stronger and I could hear the opera arias above the noise of the wind. It was beautiful thing”. Of course, the next time the road went up again, I slid out the back again until they got ahead of some other riders and it was awhile before I saw them again. They had become dislodged from Ken as well. Maybe Ken just felt safer on that road on his own.
It stayed this way all the way into Fairplay where we finally egressed from 285 onto 9 which would mark the real climb to Hoosier, and our drop into Breckenridge. I was still moving, and to be honest I don’t think I got any worse as the day wore on. I was fatigued still, and the bad taste was still there. I spotted some Samaritan Cycling jerseys at a small shop in amongst an array of other various jerseys, and Ken was there, so I pulled in. He had downed a drink, and told me “the wait for food was looong”, and then checked to see how I felt and if I was going to stay or go. I chose to stay, and he went, but I didn’t stay long. The wait was indeed long, but that was for something cooked, so I bought a drink, and an energy bar and say outside talking to Roger while I refreshed. Again, I could taste the bar, so I am feeling like the whole day is just fatigue, and when I was done, I got back on and rode another mile when I ran into the 3rd Aid Station where I didn’t hesitate to get off the bike again. I found some pickle juice, topped off my water, used the facilities, and then set out.
The traffic was a lot lighter and there was less of it than 285, but the road wasn’t exactly inviting, however there was a bike lane. This actually became my second big gripe of the day, as the organizer could have, and maybe they did try, enlisted the help of the DOT to get out there and clean the debris from the bike lane. It was littered with everything that a bike rider doesn’t want to ride in, and a lot of the riders were out on the road. I was done with the road if there was an alternative, but the bike lane wasn’t really suitable for travel. Even when the lane split off from simply being a large shoulder to the road, it was littered in debris and there all the bone jarring expansion/contraction joints. B’dunk! … B’dunk! … B’Dunk! It was very annoying. I was actually happy when the bike lane ended and I was forced back onto the road.
It was still about 8 miles to the top (I think I saw a sign), and I soon passed a mile marker along the highway, though I wasn’t sure whether the next mile marker would be 1 greater than, or 1 less than the one I just saw, so until I reached another, I was shooting for either of two numbers ascending or descending. Then I passed a sign that said 4 miles to the top and I decided I would stop every mile after that on way up. Take a drink, stretch the legs and then proceed. It was after starting again than who should I ride by but Paul, Po and Rick as they were doing the same thing. After pulling over again later they passed me again and I eventually found them at the top where we all took a break. It was downhill from here all the way into Breckenridge, so no real work left to get there. It was simply a matter of how fast you descend determining when you get in.
Here I was a top Hoosier Pass, 11,400′ in elevation and I started to reason that if I was positive, I don’t think I would have made it this far, and I started to feel a wee bit better about my condition. I would still need to find a test and test negative, but at least my despair was eroding away. Though we all set out together, I soon found again, that my gravity well is deeper than their gravity wells, and I was soon past my companions and on my own shooting down the mountain as fast as I felt safe on the bike. Last year, as I was re-assembling my bike after 2021 RTR, I found what looked like a crack in my front fork, which scared the diddlies (have no idea what those are) out of me when I looked back at how fast I was descending those roads. I went through my photographs and found that it appeared on the 4th day of the ride, so I have been examining my fork every day this year, and so far no repeat. Battaglin sent me a new fork, and I returned the old one, but haven’t heard yet anything about it. I didn’t have the tools necessary to determine, but I did the “ping test”, and there wasn’t anything different in the sounds, and I did take some steel wool to the area, and it smoothed out and didn’t appear to go much deeper. I surmised that it was a defect in the paint, and so far this year I was in the clear, but that was always at the back of my mind, causing me to take quick glances at my fork on the way down just looking for anything disturbing.
“Welcome to Breckenridge” slid past me as I entered the outskirts of town. Course marshals guided me well into town, and then a left up to a large parking area where HQ was setup. I wanted to get cleaned up and find a pharmacy as quickly as possible, so I determined that the camping area was a little further North of HQ and jumped on the bike path where I saw other riders heading. A couple of underpasses and a course marshal sent me left and into the general camping zone where I found the RVs. Tom Schwein and others were there, and I asked Tom if he didn’t mind going into my RV to get my bag and sandals at the back so that I could stay out of the RV while I still feared myself positive. With my things, I retreated to the showers where I was assured that each stall is rinsed out afterwards with a disinfectant, and I got myself cleaned up and dressed.
There was only one pharmacy in the whole of Breckenridge and it was just a short walk away hidden in the City Market. I bid my friends farewell, they wished me luck and I walked over. To my utter disappointment, the City Markey Pharmacy didn’t have any tests! The only pharmacy in town and no tests. Hungry, I picked up some slices and a beer at a neighboring pizzeria, and sat outside and googled pharmacies to see how far the next one was. There were 3 about 8 miles up/down the road in the Frisco/Silverthorne/Dillon area, but I didn’t feel like riding my bike down there. I thought about asking Dan Dea if he could drive me down, but then I thought maybe the first aid tent at HQ has tests, and besides, I could pick up my “free beer” ticket as well.
I walked up to HQ and found the first aid tent and they were not equipped with tests however they said there was another tent at Camp that might have some. Before heading back there I went for my beer ticket and since it is also the general information tent as well, I told the woman I feared I might be positive, and can’t find a test. “Would you like a test?” was her response, and I really wasn’t entirely convinced I had heard her correctly. “Do you have some tests?” I asked. As it turns out she did. She just happened to have a bunch of them, “Courtesy of the US Government” and she gave me one and wouldn’t take anything as compensation except my sincere “Thank You”.
In my simply head, it seemed that the best way to test myself would be to redeem my beer ticket, find a quiet table away from everyone and enjoy a beer while the 15 minutes to test elapsed. That of course depended on the establishment serving up the free beer had a quiet table away from everyone, and when I walked in (Note: I was masked here, in the pharmacy, in the pizzeria, and when the nice lady gave me the test), and found Tommy Dea and some Team Samaritans sitting at a long series of tables. I announced that “I have a test!” and set myself down with a nice IPA at the end of the table far from my friends, and set about the task in front of me. It was the same iHealth test that I was familiar with, and still had the app on my phone, so I opened everything up, and got down to it. The swab in the nose is still quite the itchy sensation even when you think your nose is dry, but there was plenty of “wetness” to be swabbed out of each nostril, and then the swab was inserted into the test solution and a tight squeeze assuring a sufficient test sample. One, two, three drops on the test card, and let the timer begin. Tick Tock; Tick Tock. I am glad I had my beer to sip, and I killed time going through my images for the day and deleting duplicates. As people came in and tried to sit with me, I shooed them away showing them that I was testing and would have a verdict soon. Now, the first time I tested way back in January, the “T” line started to color in almost immediately, and I knew I was doomed, so my eyes were focused on the “T” line as the soaked solution made its way to the “C” line which began to appear. Tick Tock; Tick Tock. The test says “Be sure to wait the entire 15 minutes” so I patiently, sipping my beer, deleting my duplicate images, I waited until the timer expired, and to my tremendous relief “Negative!”. Arms raised, a grin from ear to ear I high fived my friends, and texted everyone I knew “Negative!” The “Thumbs Up” like coming back from everyone I sent a text to, I picked my things up and moved over to join the rest of Team Samaritan that was growing every 10 minutes. Tommy and his brother Dan, Roger was there. Maria and her son Max were in attendance as well. Food was being ordered, and more beer consumed. Relief simply played on my mind the entire time. I wouldn’t have to go home early, I was simply fatigued. In hindsight, my body’s reaction to all those ribs may have also been haunting me. I haven’t processed meat in more than two years, so in that light I filled my gut with poison and then asked my body to perform the next day. Just a thought.
I promised Tommy Dea that I would do whatever he was doing the next day. The talk was simply to do the smaller loop, but to look for a coffee shop or some place to sit outside and have breakfast. There would be no extension out to Ute Pass, and at that point I wasn’t even sure we would take in Swan Mountain, which though it is a minor climb, is where in 2003 riding The Triple By-Pass I realized I had wasted too much energy and I suffered greatly on Swan Mountain. Actually I suffered all the way to Avon, but the true suffering began on Swan. With promises made, and enough beer consumed we broke up and headed back to our respective abodes.
I had a pleasant walk back to the camping area where I found the rest of my Team Samaritan teammates and we high fived my negative result some more. They were sitting out in chairs, and I grabbed a chair to sit among them, after first grabbing another beer. Everyone sounded like they were on the same page for the morrow, though I had some doubts that any place we descended on would actually be able to accommodate us, outside of a Starbucks type of facility. I was pretty sure we weren’t the only ones considering a nice leisurely ride with a potential sit-down breakfast/lunch stop somewhere, but I was keeping an open mind. Also in the discussions was another BBQ at the RVs tomorrow night, and they were taking orders. There would be plenty of time for me to slip over to the City Market the next day and pick up some plant-based burgers, so I didn’t want to burden my friends with my needs, so I kept my mouth shut. Eventually the gathering broke up, and I moved to retire for the night. Take my negative ass to bed and get some much needed rest. It was a hard day, and I had a hard time, but in the end, I was only suffering because I was tired, and not because that damned Covid had gotten into me again. I spent a lot of time with all sorts of Team Samaritans, from the road to the beer hall and back at the RVs. By the close of this day it was almost like I have always known this crew, and this was just another day.