Ride The Rockies 2022 – Day 6

July 25, 2022 § Leave a comment

And we have reached the last day of a tremendous ride in the Rockies. Of course there is still the ride, and that ride includes first getting up and over Loveland Pass, but once that is completed, then it is generally a simple task of losing elevation all the way to Golden. Getting over Loveland would not be a simple task though we all start the day with at least 340 miles in our legs already, and having lifted ourselves up and over the Continental Divide four times already. This is another front-ended climb day that has nothing but downhill afterwards, and on this day there is no forecast for high headwinds. We might hit some weather, but at least we don’t have to fight the wind to get to Golden.

Today’s route takes us down the same bike path as yesterday, though we got started a lot earlier. This made for light against the backdrop of the mountains that was less harsh, thus presenting us with what was left of the last quarter of the Moon. It was a cool start as well, so I started in my long-sleeved compression top which would probably get me all the way to the top of Loveland. Ken arrived, and when 6:30 rolled around I tried to text Andy to see if he was coming, but with no response, we headed out with Susan. Even though we had just ridden this same bike path less than 24 hours earlier, in the “nicer” light of early morn, it seemed like a different ride. All the turns were the same, sure, but the scenery seemed “nicer”. Against the backdrop of deep blue, and the mountains, the Moon was setting, and framed by the firs I had to snap1 an image.

Before I knew it we were navigating along the Northern edge of the Dillon Reservoir, and left the bike path to pick up the shoulder on Route 6 East, our road of choice to get up and over Loveland. We had to stop at a traffic control, and Ken noticed that the screen on my phone lit up and said to me “Looks like John Pittas is trying to reach you”. My first response was “Fuck! Shit! Damn!” as I knew before Ken even got to the ‘Pittas’ part of his alert that I had forgotten to take care of my time sheet for this entire week. They are sticklers about it, and usually I pre-submit a vacation week, but I forgot, so I had to find a place off the road to access the online timesheet system at work safely and not obstruct any cyclists. I told Ken to ride ahead, I might catch up, and I took care of that responsibility.

Back on the road I overtook Roger, captured in an image, and then another Team Samaritan rider whose name I didn’t know at the time, learned it at the end, but have since forgotten 😦 (Reggie?). At some point as I approached the Keystone resort area, the shoulder narrowed, and some ignoramus in a white pickup flew past me with little buffer room, only to pull off the road at the next controlled intersection. What is wrong with some of you people?!? Do you have absolutely zero regard for our safety? What is your point?

Keystone is where the ascent to Loveland begins, and I was pleasantly surprised to see ahead that they were diverting all Eastbound vehicular traffic OFF route 6. We would have the Eastbound lane to ourselves! If only they could have done that on Route 285 North! What a relief! Westbound was still open, but traffic was extremely light, and in fact until I saw a westbound vehicle, I wasn’t entirely sure they hadn’t closed that as well. Remember, on 285 one of the hazards was South bounders overtaking other South bounders in a two lane passing section. Of course there is a difference between the wide open 285 and the mountain descent, but the danger is still there.

Similar to the first day, we do start this climb near 9,400 feet already, so over the course of 8 miles we only have to gain another 2500 feet, so I don’t know why I was told this was the hard side, but maybe it’s all relative. I have climbed the other side, and maybe that approach is considered in two stages: getting to the ski basin, and then getting over Loveland. Of course that was 19 years ago, and this is the present, but I never felt like the ascent was too much. Again, I misread the map, thinking the first Aid Station was at the summit, whereas in fact it was located halfway up at Arapahoe Ski Basin where I found Ken. As it also turned out it is where I found Tommy Dea and John, where they were engaged in a bit Tom foolery by doing head stands with their helmets on for the general entertainment of the surrounding crowd. Having done what we usually do at these stations, Ken and I remounted our bikes, said fare-thee-well to John and Tommy and set off for the rest of the climb.

From the ski basin, the terrain opened up, and for the first time you got to “see” where our overall destination was. This is where the ascent hugs the contours of two giant basins and where the most elevation is gained. Arapahoe sits at about 10,900′ so the last 1000′ in the last 3 miles means a consistent 6-8% grade all the way to the top. As we climbed, the remains of last season’s snow was sculpted in the shadows on the side of the road. The air was getting cooler, and the wind picked up a bit as well. Around every chicane sat another chicane in the distance until eventually the road bent to the North, and hit the summit. For those that are interested, the option to hike further up a trail is there, however for me, I don’t consider that. I wanted an image with the last crossing of the Continental Divide, and since it was quite cool up top, I didn’t really want to linger very long. Ken and I got our individual pictures, where Tim Jackson was atop when I was there, and he kindly snapped my images, getting down low for a different perspective. Thanks Tim!

On the descent, I found myself a little more cautious. How do I know? Well either I became more cautious, or Ken became more aggressive, because I spent the entire descent trying to keep up with Ken, which is not how any of our previous descents played out. Maybe, because this descent didn’t have those gusting killer winds of our previous descents, Ken felt more comfortable going fast, and that was faster than me, so though I closed the gap a couple of times, I was never able to overtake him, and didn’t catch up to him until we pulled into the next Aid Station.

I don’t recall hanging out here too long. Top off the bottles, maybe grabbed a banana, but the route ahead was basically downhill all the way to Georgetown, so I think with minimal time wasted, we were back on the bikes. Now, since my last visit here in 2003, they added a bike path to get us off the Rt 70 shoulder. So much better. It’s not terribly wide, and you have to realize that occasionally you come across riders going the other direction, so you can’t really bomb down it like it was frontage road. We found ourselves bunched up with a group, and so we simply sat in and didn’t attempt to get around. That is until I could see a “bump” in the profile ahead, and when the other riders hesitated, I jumped to the left and powered up quickly to clear the group. I felt like I gave the others plenty of opportunity to jump as well, so one rider was a little miffed at me when he suddenly decided to do the same thing. I probably should have announced myself, but it was too late. Because of that move I didn’t see Ken again until the path ended and we were back on frontage road, and then we traded strong turns until suddenly we were in Georgetown and another Aid Station. That came quickly. Whoever I pissed off decided not to pursue, and so once again, it was another station where we simply took care of the basics, and re-launched, the next stop being the Aid Station on the other side of Idaho Springs.

Something I forgot to mention in the last post. It seems that there was an issue with this day’s route that I was ignorant of because, as Ken so kindly pointed out to me “What !?! You don’t read the daily e-mail updates ?!?”. Had I paid attention to those updates, I would know that the frontage road, or the bike path East of Idaho Springs was inaccessible, and therefore the organization had arranged shuttles to shuttle us around the obstruction/work/don’t ride here/stay the fuck out/verbotten/don’t you dare part of the route. What I further ignored was that my Teammates had been discussing the night before, and feared that the shuttles would be “burdened” with the load of the portage, and arranged for our drivers, Bob, John, and Deacon Marty (as well as Tom’s brother Dan), to park the RV’s (Caddy) somewhere prior to Idaho Springs, intercept us and they would shuttle us across. In case you missed something in all that the key take away was, I wasn’t paying attention.

Ken and I continued our loss of elevation time trial, which maybe I am generous in granting Ken the illusion that he spent any time on the front, as now that I think about it, I was constantly looking back thinking “Why isn’t that wheel sucker sucking my wheel?” when we came to the end of the bike path, and there was a course marshal diligently trying to indicate that I/we should slow the fuck down. I complied and then the discussion about shuttles came back to me as we had reached the shuttles. Now, to be fair, I didn’t see our RVs anywhere. It’s not like there was some hidden corner they could hide, as there was nowhere to hide, so I would like to think that maybe they just weren’t there when we were there, but that wish is a wish that only appeases my mind. But seriously, I didn’t see any RVs, but here we were at the Shuttles, and we just missed getting on a big shuttle, but they put 10 of us on a little shuttle, and we were on our way.

The “Portage” was maybe 6 or 7 miles, about the distance between exits on 70, but then we doubled back on frontage road, and when they let us out who should we run into but Andy and Betsy who had just gotten out of the larger shuttle. Now we were four!! I would like to note here that when our shuttle started to double back, I noticed that in the not doubled back direction, cyclists were going up a hill, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that that is exactly what we would be doing shortly. Not wanting to be a party pooper, I kept that info to myself, and simply sucked it up when it came time to gear up, and simply spin the cranks until we reached the top. These local options to Rt 70 are hear for a reason, so while you think “Why aren’t these people on 70?”, in many cases that just doesn’t fit, and the climb had more traffic than I would have liked. Single file we rode, and eventually we eased over the top and came to the next Aid Station where I quickly found the Smoothie Ladies and ordered up my usual. But this point they knew who I was, and all I had to do was give them that “I’m dying” look and a mixed Strawberry Mango Protein Smoothie was being poured into a non-environmentally friendly cup.

While I was sipping that, Andy asked me to “Keep myself under control” so we wouldn’t drop Betsy, and then I spent the next 30 miles monitoring my speed and effort so we didn’t gap Betsy, and in that group of four, Andy, Ken, Betsy and myself we rode on. Now, it should be fair to state that this section of the ride, while it had its moments, was not one of the “prettier” sections. It’s not that it was built up or anything like that, but between frontage road, highway, and strip malls, it was not all that appealing, and then we got onto a bike path which took us away from 70. Yay! It even took us up hill a little, but just being away from the 70 noise was joy enough. The path dumped us onto a road where we came across a Team Samaritan tent, wo&man ned by a husband wife team with cold drinks, beer, and an any sixed shot of Jim Beam you wanted. We stopped to chat, I think Betsy knew these fine folks, we were not the Jim Beam shot downing TS members, so we bid fare-thee-well and off we rode over the last, and I mean last bump of RTR 2022.

“Welcome to Golden” a giant sign proclaimed, and then somewhere we missed a marshal which only became apparent when we found ourselves navigating along a path through Golden that was loaded with pedestrians, and few if any , cyclists. Fortunately for us we were paralleling the actual path, so that when i stopped to ascertain our error, I found that we were less than 200 yards from the end, though our error actually denied us entry under the official blow-up finish line. I don’t think any of us minded. I simply wanted to get my shoes off my feet, find my free beer, and drain it. Andy and Ken both felt a need to almost immediately find out where they needed to be to break down their respective bikes for transport home, and Betsy had someone or some people to find, so I found myself alone very quickly. By some cruel twist of fate, at that exact moment was when they ran out of food in the finish area and while more was on order, I was left wanting. I got my free beer, and found a table with some Team Samaritan’s whom I had seen, but hadn’t really chatted up before. Now, I already wrote I forgot this dude’s name, so I will call him Reggie, and he and his daughter rode the RTR together. She is actually pretty strong on the bike. Anyway, Reggie said I took a picture of the two of us earlier, and I verified that, and then we all got down to talking. His daughter will start Boston U this Fall. There was a friend who I think was also going somewhere non-local, but I can’t recall, and I am not going to make something up here. Anyway, they were excited with their futures, and I stayed with them until it was time to seek out the RVs and get myself together. We bid farewells to each other, and I put my damn shoes back on and mounted my bike and actually rode through the finish line in the wrong direction.

On the way to the general “Bag Area”, I spotted Deacon Marty driving Tim’s RV in the opposite direction. Failing to catch Deacon Marty’s eye (He was focused on what he was doing), I stopped and watched him proceed down the block another two blocks before turning right. I knew from the night before, when I WAS paying attention, that there wasn’t a lot of room for the RVs at the end, so they were going to forge their own final destination, and so since I witnessed only Tim’s RV, I surmised that he was driving to meet the other two, and they were in the general area where he had turned, which was only a few blocks from where I was. I could have chased him down, but I figured I would search for the shower truck, and then I would search for them. I found the baggage area, which included not only the shower truck, but Ken and Andy as well, and they were both breaking down their bikes. In the full sun, as there was no shade what so ever. I stopped and chatted each, we bade each other our endearing thanks for a great time, and then I went off to actually find the RVs.

It wasn’t hard. I guessed, and that guess was rewarded, and there they were, parked only a block or two from the festivities. They were just settling in to wait for us when I pulled up and we greeted each other warmly. They all asked about the shuttles, because I clearly didn’t use our shuttle, and when I told them my experience with the “Official” shuttles, they all expressed frustration with the internal plan, as that seemed like a lot of wasted time/work for them, and put them in Golden late. I apologized profusely for not paying attention the night before, because if they wasted time on me, then that was my fault. They tried to assure me I wasn’t the real problem, but I was a part of the problem. Anyway, all was good, and I sat with them for a spell, drank another beer, before I grabbed my bag and rode back to the showers to clean up. By the time I returned to the showers, both Ken and Andy were gone, never to be seen again.

Clean, I returned to the RVs, and about an hour after I had first found the RVs, I got a ring up from Paul asking if I wanted to cross the finish line with everyone who was left. My bike was already on the rack, I was showered and dressed, and had more than a few beers in me, so I told him to go through without me. My bad. Next time I will play the last day out differently. Look, I have spent a week with these folks, and all that were strangers a week ago, were now my friends, and it would be much more satisfying to cross the finish line amongst friends, finishing, than to cross the finish line alone. An opportunity lost.

It wasn’t long after that before the general tone of everything changed to “Let’s get this operation moving”. I think the general idea was that Paul wanted to get both of these RVs returned that evening, so no dawdling, let’s get a move on. Peppered in there was my anxiety, that while I was pretty sure I could spend the night at Paul and Beth Anne’s place, I didn’t actually have an invitation to do that, and Tommy Dea had extended an invitation a generous invite to me. To take TD up on his invite seemed like it would involve a lot of extra effort, and when PD told me that of course I was welcome to stay another night in Centennial, I politely declined TD’s offer. The logistics of my situation simply favored staying with Paul and Beth Anne. I needed to break down my bike, pack it up, and adding a move into the mix just seemed like extra stress where stress didn’t need to be added.

It all worked out. They couldn’t return one of the RVs that night and as it so happened it was the RV that was picked up near the airport, so I simply tagged along on that the next morning, and got shuttled to DIA without an Uber. My only regret in all that is I couldn’t get together with a dear/former UUCMC/Metro UU Youth Group member that lived in the Denver area. I did learn that there is such a thing as arriving too early for a flight. So, I could not actually check my luggage for nearly two hours, and so I had to find a seat where I could relax for that amount of time. That seat was amongst all the supportive folks who help all the disabled travelers, and they congregated in a section where I found a spare seat to occupy. After enough time passed, I tried to check my luggage again, and it was accepted, and this glorious trip came to and end.

Thank you Team Samaritan House for allowing me to ride along in your adventure. Thank you Paul and Beth Anne for your hospitality welcoming me into your home and putting up with “He wants to sleep on the patio”. Thank you Paul for extending an invite to join TSH for this year’s edition of RTR 2022. We met as strangers we parted as friends. What more do you need in life?

1 I grew up in the retail photography business, and I can hear my Dad telling a customer “While it’s advertised as a snapshot camera, it should be called the squeeze shot camera because you will take better pictures if you squeeze the shutter release, rather than snap it”

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