Adventures in life and photography out West

Walt Out West

These are my musings about photography, cycling and life and their intersection. I used to write about politics quite a bit, but I'm trying to get away from that, as it only frustrates me, and often anyone who reads my views. Real life is much more entertaining than politics, anyway.
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  • Riders roll into the Missouri Heights aid station on the first day of Ride the Rockies.
  • Copper Flowers
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  • New friends from California and Texas.
  • Dr. Allen Lim looks happy! The founder of Skratch Labs spoke to the RTR riders as well as providing a food truck with food from Lim's cookbooks.

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The rest of the story

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When we left our heroes, they were being buffeted and blown all over Trail Ridge Road’s highest points by gale-force winds . . .

We were never so happy to get down and back into trees. And while the wind persisted all the way into Estes Park, it was never so bad as on the alpine tundra.

Riders arrived just in time to see one of my favorite weekly events, the Estes Valley Farmers Market, as the market was closing for the day. The town wanted to make room for the riders events later in the evening.

Local bands, including Amplified Soul, performed for the riders as local venders offered their wares. It was fun but it was a brief night, as most riders were tired from the short but challenging day through the park.

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Donald at the Estes Valley Farmers Market.

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Amplified Soul plays at the RTR event in Estes Park.

This particular stop was the whole reason I could not resist the pull of RTR this year. This was the chance to show off my little town. I have lived in Estes Park for 16 years and love promoting it. I also got to sleep in my own bed, and offer Donald a spare bed. It made for a wonderful night’s sleep ahead of the Grand Arrival, the final day of riding.

The last day of RTR2016 was a relatively short 51 miles. Starting in Estes Park, we rolled down the Big Thompson Canyon. The long line of riders snaked and plunged through the canyon, tracing the Big Thompson River until the famous and popular Masonville ride. Riders ambled through the countryside west of Loveland toward Horsetooth Reservoir. Then, the final climbs.

Horsetooth consists of four hard, steep, short climbs. All of them between 6-10 percent. A bit of a sting in the legs. After the last descent around the north end of the reservoir, riders enjoyed a sort of precession through the beautiful neighborhood on Mountain Avenue, eastward into Old Town Fort Collins. We rolled into O’Dell Brewery for food, entertainment and closing festivities.

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Donald Lewis and the author pose at the finish in Fort Collins.

After a week of riding and more than 400 miles, we had arrived; tired, short on sleep and as happy as we could be. The arrival is always bitter-sweet.

We see each other for one week, once a year. We share stories, we catch up on lives outside of the tour, and for a week, we are a large, rolling family reunion. When we roll into the final stop, we have to say our good-byes.

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Betsy, the Tour Assistant.

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Renee, Community Relations Manager.

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Liz, the Event Coordinator.

One good-bye was going to be a bit more permanent. Tour Director Chandler Smith was stepping down after eight years. Chandler challenged riders and adapted to last-minute challenges, himself. Just in my five additions, Chandler had to change two tour routes due to wildfires, and had to sag riders all along the Berthoud Pass climb on the first day of the 2014 RTR. He has served us well and advanced the RTR, improving the event and, hopefully, improving relations with the beautiful little towns in this amazing state.

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Ride the Rockies has been a great tour for a long time. Each rout, even when closely paralleling previous routs, offer a new adventure. Chandler, Renee, Liz, Betsy and the army of volunteers, once again, gave riders a week to remember, about which to reminisce, and stories to retell.What more could we want. Thanks for the memories, and may luck smile on you, Chandler.

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Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

Wow, that was fast!

Riders roll into the Missouri Heights aid station on the first day of Ride the Rockies.

Riders roll into the Missouri Heights aid station on the first day of Ride the Rockies.

Well, The Giro is behind us, The Tour is ahead and my favorite ride, Ride the Rockies, is a pleasant memory. It is becoming more pleasant the further away I get. But, wow has this summer gone by quickly.

The ride began in beautiful Carbondale, just down the Roaring Fork Valley from Aspen. Carbondale was a wonderful host, with Mount Sopris looming over the headquarters. Weather started out mild and mostly pleasant. Many of the faces I’ve seen in years past returned, like a sort of traveling homecoming.
Renee, Betsy, Liz and, of course, Chandler, the RTR staff, all worked like mad to keep the tour progressing smoothly. It’s amazing the amount of work they do, most of which we, as the riders, never see. They coordinate supplies for the aid stations, make sure venders have places to set up, and get there on time, help keep track of luggage trucks and shuttles to get riders in and out of the HQ and to the food and entertainment. And that’s just for the one week of the ride. Imagine the work involved just to get the rides organized and going.
The first day was relatively short, from Carbondale to Aspen. The 50-mile rout took us through Missouri Heights, a steep little climb on the east side of the valley. Lance Armstrong, the speaker in Aspen that afternoon, stated he hates the climb. I understand. The day, however, was beautiful and the skies remained clear almost to the end of the day. My riding buddy, Donald, and I made the turn into Aspen High School as the wind came up and the rain began.

Donald was one of three guys I rode with last year. The other two had work and training conflicts that did not allow them to make this ride. Donald, from Marin County California,  had his wife and mother-in-law along, as well. The new arrangement allowed me to enjoy more of Aspen.

A sculpture greets RTR riders at the Aspen Art Museum.

A sculpture greets RTR riders at the Aspen Art Museum.

Donald Lewis leads up the climbs on the way to Aspen

Donald Lewis leads up the climbs on the way to Aspen

Aspen, tucked into the head of the Roaring Fork Valley and the foot of Independence Pass, was a quirky, artsy ski town many years ago when it attracted the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Edward Abby. Now, while some of the art scene remains, you are much more likely to bump into movie stars, rock stars or even the occasional star athlete. One such athlete put himself squarely in the RTR cross-hairs when the tour settled in: Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong has maintained a home in Aspen, along with girlfriend Anna Hansen and the couple’s children, since the cyclist’s glory days. Armstrong was instrumental in creating the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and advocated for cyclists in Colorado. Now, with the cloud of the doping era hanging over him, Armstrong, in his typical fashion, put himself infant of the crowd without flinching, to face the questions of sometimes adoring, sometimes resentful cycling fans.

Armstrong was calm and inviting. He took all of the slings and arrows, did not argue but even offered an apology for his part in the EPO era. Questions and critiques went on and on, but Armstrong seemed perfectly comfortable, never dodging a question or diverting blame.

The most disheartening thing the one-time world road champion told the crowd had an impact that resinated through much of the following day.

“If the pro peloton were to climb Independence Pass, they would all go over the top together. It’s not really that hard a climb.” Ouch. Another delusion of grandeur smashed.

Independence Pass was the first challenge facing Ride the Rockies on Day Two. From Aspen, the climb rises 4,193 feet over 20 miles. Riders pass waterfalls, aspen stands and, eventually, alpine tundra before topping out. Cruelly, the steepest pitches of the climb seem to be in the last 1.5 miles. But it’s all worth the effort.

The author shows off at the top of Independence Pass.

The author shows off at the top of Independence Pass.

The remanents of the cool, wet spring covered the mountain tops in every direction. Lots of riders took the opportunity to photograph themselves with their bikes on the tundra.

“Can you believe there’s still snow in June?”

Donald Lewis takes in the snowy view on Independence Pass.

Donald Lewis takes in the snowy view on Independence Pass.

When riders started down the pass toward Twin Lakes, they were merely a quarter of the way into an 80-mile day. The next twenty miles were a twisty thrill ride for those of us who enjoy descending. Back down through aspens and evergreens, past little shacks, former mine sites and tiny towns into the valley. Overtime we looked around we thought, wow, could this get any prettier? Then we took another curve, made another turn, and it was.

View of the Scratch Labs food truck with the "Backbone of the Rockies" looming behind.

View of the Scratch Labs food truck with the “Backbone of the Rockies” looming behind.

Riders headed north from Twin Lakes toward the highest incorporated town in North America, Leadville. While the tour stopped here for the night four years ago, this time around, riders pushed on to Fremont Pass, past the Climax Mine and down another fast descent into Copper Mountain Resort. The arrival was none too soon, as the weather that had threatened on smartphone apps began to appear in the little ski village.

Rain and cool temperatures descended on the tour late on day two. Many riders had already made their way to tents, gym floors or condos. Though the weather arrived about 12 hours earlier than expected, boosting moral for Day Three: the Copper Loop.

Rider awoke with frost on bikes. The air was cool, but the rain had stopped. After getting coffeed-up, riders immediately began climbing. The second of three nearly-80-mile days came out of Copper, turned right and began climbing back up Fremont Pass. The north side of the pass is relatively steep, with stretches of up to 7.5 percent over the first nine miles. But this is about as bad as it gets for most of the day. Riders then plunge back down the south side of the pass, back to Leadville.

Riders skirt the north edge of Leadville, while headed west. The views of the states highest peaks made the content headwind a bit more bearable.

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Riders toiled on through the wind-blown scrub brush, past the ranches to Tennessee Pass, the Camp Hale Memorial and the lovely and famous Red Cliff Bridge, where many cyclists, including myself, took the opportunity to stop and take a shot.

The author at the overlook to the Red Cliff Bridge.

The author at the overlook to the Red Cliff Bridge.

From there, We climbed Battle Mountain and plunged down through Minturn. We soon found the bicycle path that links Eagle and Summit counties. This brought rider through Vail and up the infamous Vail Pass path. The path had been used many times over the years to test fitness. The Coors Classic, Teva Outdoor Games and several times for the USA Pro Challenge. The Pro Challenge liked to use it as a mountain time trial, sending riders up one at a time. Beyond a certain point, this seemed only logical, as the path gets pretty narrow in the steepest sections.

The climb take riders about 9 miles through beautiful scenery up nearly 2,000 feet. The old Shrine Pass Road no longer allows cars, which is great as riders try to focus on not blowing up through the steeper sections. The road takes riders to the bike path, which can be tricky. While taken as a whole, the climb averages 4 percent, once on the path, rider dive under I-70, then face a 300 foot section at 8 percent. If you’re not looking for it, you will be walking this stretch.

The trees and peaks are the main attraction throughout the climb, with both sides of the valley slowly closing in as riders grind out this category 2 ascent. After another short, sharp section, riders come to a false flat, signaling the end of the real climbing. Riders wheel past a small lake and on to the parking lot of the pass.

Th east side of Vail Pass is only about five miles of asphalt bike trail, with twists, turns, wooden bridges and amazing scenery. The trail is built between the east-bound and west-bound sections of I-70. It can be tricky if you don’t watch your speed, as many riders soon found out.

Riders are held up by the State Patrol on Vail Pass after riders went down on the east-side trail.

Riders are held up by the State Patrol on Vail Pass after riders went down on the east-side trail.

The fast descent brought riders back to Copper Mountain resort for entertainment and the resort’s many eateries.

All along the way, Chandler, Renee, Liz and Betsy organized great entertainment, venders and aid stations. Many local venders, as well as many tour favorites, like the Flipping’ Flapjacks, Revolution Smoothies and Allen Lim’s Scratch Labs food truck.

Revolution Smoothy.

Revolution Smoothy.

Dr. Allen Lim doing what he loves, feeding cyclists real food!

Dr. Allen Lim doing what he loves, feeding cyclists real food!

Day Four was a re-ride of much of the route used four years ago. Rider headed east from Copper, down the I-70 trail to Frisco and the Lake Dillon Dam, then north out of Silverthorn to Ute Pass.

A rider rides the bike path over the Lake Dillon Dam.

A rider rides the bike path over the Lake Dillon Dam.

The route along Colorado Hwy 9 was a gentle descent until the base of the day’s only sustained climb. Ute Pass is about 5.2 miles at 5 percent grade, or a cat 2 climb. The summit offers views of the mountains to the west.

With a view like this, selfies are only expected.

With a view like this, selfies are to be expected.

After the descent down the east side, the ride spent the next several miles on dirt roads that, this time around, were just packed dirt. In 2012, the road was a scary-deep gravel. The packed dirt was a pleasant surprise.

The dirt ended east of Kremmling, on US40. The highway took us through Byers Canyon, to a rest stop in Hot Sulfur Springs, and into Granby; a town the RTR has passed through or stopped in two other times in the last five tours. Riders headed north from there, along US34 toward the day’s end in Grand Lake. Riders, or I should say, my buddy Donald and I, wished for the end as the road began to roll with short, steep climbs and the temperature climbed to it’s warmest so far in this tour. But Grand Lake is idillic and friendly, making for a quick recovery and an eagerness to experience the isolated mountain town.

Paddle boats invite visitors to bob across the lake.

Paddle boats invite visitors to bob across the lake.

Donald Lewis enjoys attention from rodeo Queens in Grand Lake.

Donald Lewis enjoys attention from rodeo Queens in Grand Lake.

Day Five was marked on my calendar from the day the route was announced, back in February. The classic ascent of Trail Ridge Road from the West Gate is only about 22 miles at about 4 percent, but it is through some of the most spectacular landscape in the state. We started in sage brush meadows for about 9.5 miles, to the first aid station. From there, the road climbs for 17 miles at 4 percent, which counts as “HC,” or Beyond Category. This would have been challenging enough. When riders got past Milner Pass and above the treeline, the epic battle of will began.

A rider climbs toward Medicine Bow Curve on Trail Ridge Road.

A rider climbs toward Medicine Bow Curve on Trail Ridge Road.

Rider stop briefly to recover from the long climb, but start up again quickly, due to high winds and chilly temperatures on Trail Ridge Road.

Rider stop briefly to recover from the long climb, but start up again quickly, due to high winds and chilly temperatures on Trail Ridge Road.

Rider roll past snow banks at the high point of Trail Ridge Road, about 12,200 feet.

Rider roll past snow banks at the high point of Trail Ridge Road, about 12,200 feet.

As riders came over the highest continuous highway in North America, they faced horrible crosswinds, some clocked at 50 miles per hour. Over the 11-miles from the Gore Range Overlook to Rainbow Curve, no trees, no brush, nothing shelter the cyclists from the winds. While riders got a bit of a break from the howling winds after getting back down into the trees, the winds pushed riders all the way into Estes Park, where the town was awaiting their arrival.

The second half will post tomorrow.

Why not be happy?

Why not? Why not look for the good, for the beautiful, for the awe-inspiring? Why not appropriate the clouds, the rain, the snow? Why not be grateful for time with friends and family instead of dreading the time apart? Why not appreciate what we have right now?


I write this because, when I was in my teens and early twenties, I never imagined this life could be so good. I never thought that I would be married to this beautiful, loyal, loving woman. I never thought I could have a hand in raising such a thoughtful, smart, confident daughter. I never considered that I could work a dream job for more than a decade, fall into another career that allowed me to make a positive mark on so many lives. I never considered that I could be so healthy that I could ride the spine of the continent on a bicycle and enjoy it so much.  All of this is amazing and today I am very grateful for it. What a life. 


This weekend, I get to ride a short “Media Pass” ride ahead of the annual Ride the Rockies. It will be about 25 miles from downtown Denver, out along the Cherry Creek Trail to the reservoir of the same name, and back again. I get to see many of the great people who organize the event, whom I only see a few times a year, and there will be coffee. I love coffee. 


This is all ahead of my favorite week of the year, when I tour Colorado with 2,000 like-minded people, including several cycling luminaries and a lot of amazing scenery. What could be bad?


I’m not suggesting that there are not real problems in the world. I’m just focusing on how good I have it today. No one is bombing my home, my work or my town. No one is kidnapping my child in a misplaced fit of religious fervor. I am not fleeing deplorable living conditions. As a dear friend once pointed out, if we all put our problems on a table and compared them to those of others, most of us would be happy just taking our own problems back. My problems are pretty small, today. I hope yours are, as well. 

For only the second time in my life, I’m on a cycling team. I joined as part of my track racing certification. A buddy of mine is on the team and he invited me to join and to get on the track. That counts as a win-win. I hope to actually race on Memorial Day weekend. It should be lots of fun. I hope to have some images from the event to show off in about two weeks. 

Lots of pro racing going on, if you didn’t already know. The first of the season’s Grand Tours is about halfway through. The Giro d’Italia started in the Netherlands on May 6. Sounds funny, I know. The pros raced for three days before heading down to Italy. Bob Jungels of the Etixx-Quickstep team currently where’s the pink jersey of the race’s leader. 

Meanwhile, in the US, French rider   Julian Alaphilippe, also of the Etixx-Quickstep team, took over the lead of the Amgen Tour of California. World Champ Peter Sagan won the race’s opening stage in a sprint into downtown San Diego. American Ben King won stage two, then relinquished the race lead on The Queen Stage on Tuesday. 

That’s about it, for now. Hope you get a chance to get out and enjoy a ride, and all of your days!

Have fun. Be safe. I’m going riding. 

New, again

  As I ready for bed and prepare for another week of work, parenting and training, I consider myself lucky. What a life. 

On Friday, I start a new direction in my cycling. I start on the Velodrome. A friend told me nearly 20 years ago that track racing would probably suite my well. I’m built much more like a powerlifter, as I once was, versus the relatively slight road cyclist. I have arms that can actually support me, unlike elite roadies. The trade off is real roadies easily distance me in climbs. But, that is fine. I am embracing my build and trying to make the best if it. 

This won’t change much of my summer. I will still Ride the Rockies in about eight weeks. I will ride the Courage Classic in July. In between, I will voluntarily be tortured over Trail Ridge Road by my cycling buddies. I will just spend Saturday mornings at the Boulder Valley Velodrome. 

Fixed gears and a banked track will be new and exciting. It may even be something at which I can excel. We shall see. It’s never too late to pick up a new cycling discipline. 

Within this new and fun exploit, I’m also trying to get help paying for my lifestyle. The web site and app Hookit helps athletes find sponsors and producers find athletic representatives. I get discounts on stuff I need and use, they get a little more exposure. I get Honey Stinger and Ryno Power supplements and, in turn, tell all of you what I think of them. It’s a win-win, as far as I’m concerned. 

  
I have raved on about Honey Stinger products for a while.  The Steamboat Springs-based endurance food producer makes energy gels, bars, chews and the like. I am particularly fond of their waffles, a sweet treat and very different product than any energy bar out there. I like the flavor and the energy kick of any of their waffles, but I’m a chocolate addict, so that’s what I enjoy most. The company has also started producing a gluten-free version of these treats, if that is something you are looking for. 

My new favorite, however, is their protein bar. Having been a lifter for most of my life, I have had a lot of protein bars. Some are tasty, but way over the top in terms of sugar and calories. Others taste like cardboard. The Honey Stinger Dark Chocolate Mocha Cherry Pro protein bar is the best-tasting, best nutrition bar I’ve had the pleasure of eating. 

The Honey Stinger bars offer 10 grams of protein per bar. While that might seem modest to the powerlifting crowd, it is great for cyclists trying to repair muscles in-ride without getting gastrointestinal distress that overly sugary products can produce. 

Most of the sweetness of these products comes from, one guess, HONEY! And the Cherry Mocha also offers a bit of caffeine from real coffee. It’s a beautiful thing. 

Still being, more or less, a power athlete, I like to get a bit more protein in my recovery products. Branch chain amino acids are the go-to product for such recovery. Ryno Power Recovery is just such a product. 

It’s not cheap, but it is worth every penny. While my legs are still sore, they are able to perform. I can spend my morning doing high-intensity sprints, then turn around three hours later to do a heavy squat routine. The Ryno Power Recovery BCAAs allow me to keep pushing and keep getting results. For more details, visit rynopower.com. 

  

I have to mention one last thing for which I am not receiving any kind of deal, but has still been very helpful. The FitBit, which I’m sure most people have already heard, is a fitness and movement-tracking device that, in the case of my Charge, fits on my wrist like a watch. It tracks my daily steps, calories burned, heart rate, sleep and resting heart rate. It allows me to better track the markers of my fitness of which I have never been able, until now. It all sincs to an app on my phone. The app, in turn, communicates with MyFitnessPal and other apps to help keep track of calories, weight-loss goals and more. It’s the product I never knew that I could live without. 

I look forward to sharing my track exploits soon. I hope to review another app next week, as well. 

Until then, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding. 

Not easy

Today is the last day to sign up for RTR, my family is great and I have been a butthead. Not much of this is related to any of the rest. 

Today, in fact, for only a few more hours, is the last day to enter the Ride the Rockies lottery. Unlike RAGBRI, in Iowa, the Ride the Rockies is limited to only 2,000 riders. It is such a popular event that a lottery had to be created to handle all of the entries. I hope, by the time my readers have received this post, all have had the chance to sign up. If you are one of the folks who read my last post, you know I’m a big fan and have figured out why. Good luck and I hope to see you out there. 

  
I feel strongly that part of my job as an instructor, a generally fit guy and a father, is to set a good example. My friends and my family know I’m not perfect, but that does not excuse me from putting in the effort. So I get extra happy when my wife and daughter come to the gym and even ask for help. It’s fun having them around, even when I’m doing stuff that they would consider a bit crazy. The best example would be today’s workout; the CrossFit Open WOD 16.1 – overhead walking lunges for 25 feet with 95 lbs, eight burpees, another 25 feet of overhead walking lunges and eight chest-to-bar pull-ups. The fun part is that I had 20 minutes to do this over and over as many times as I could. I got through six times, by the way. 

What my daughter sees is a man taking care of himself. What I explain is that it is also so I can be around longer and be able to do more with her and my lovely wife. I have been lucky to have this life. I didn’t realize just how much so until today. 

  
We traveled back to Omaha over the New Year holiday to see my family and one of my oldest and dearest friends. While there, I thoughtlessly made fun of an ad for a gym that promotes itself with the tag line Lunk-free Zone. I had called the gym “Planet Fatness”. My buddy challenged me on this. He pointed out that I don’t know what it’s like to walk into a place and be intimidated by athletes and fitness fanatics, people who look like the people in the fitness magazines. He was right. 

I don’t know what it’s like to truly struggle with weight. When I was young, I was a little chubby. When my father remarried to a very health conscious person, she adjusted our diets and made small tweaks to what we had around the house. Eating healthy was just how we ate, for the most part. 

Meanwhile, my younger sister was living with our mom and her second husband, none of whom put the same sort of thought into what they ate. I actually looked forward to visiting as I got treats that I wouldn’t normally. 

My sister got neither the habits nor the support that I did. Quite honestly, I didn’t think of it as support at the time. Perspectives change. 

So in college, like many, I gained weight. I lost some good habits and explored some very bad ones. After some years of what I euphemistically called competitive drinking, I found myself nearly 50 pounds heavier than when I started college. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my big push to drop that weight took a relatively short time. I suspect, between my genetics and the things I was taught as a kid, it was pretty easy. 

I realized, after watching the outstanding PBS documentary, “Fat,” that the cards were actually in my favor. And worse yet, I didn’t understand or appreciate  how lucky I was and how oblivious I had been to the struggles of others. The irony is that I’m a recovering addict. You’d think I would have some compassion for folks who suffer from a condition from which most can’t recover and society sees as a will-power issue. I did not get it until today. 

I’m going to try to be less judgmental, more compassionate. I’m going to work toward being more supportive and encouraging. I’m going to ask how I can help rather than assuming I know what works. One more thing I need to work on to be a better human. I’m also going to be more appreciative for what I have. 

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding. 

One More Time!

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Saturday, February 6, was the day of the Ride the Rockies Route Announcement Party. For the second time in five years, Ride the Rockies will traverse the highest paved highway pass road in North America, Trail Ridge Road. I’m excited because, of course, the “Big Road” is in my back yard, almost literally. It’s a relatively short route, at 403 miles over six days, but it’s also going to be beautiful!

The route will closely resemble the one I first rode, five years ago. This one begins in beautiful Carbondale on Sunday, June 12. Day one rolls from Carbondale to the famous ski town of Aspen. Chandler and the crew are easing us into the race as the two towns are only 50 miles apart. Mile for mile, however, it is a stunning ride.

Walt Hester - Maroon Bells

The ride rolls down the Roaring Fork River along a trail that runs from Glenwood Springs to Aspen past the Maroon Bells. Of course, one would need to take a side trip to get the beautiful view.

Day two, Monday, June 13, might be the Queen Stage, beginning in Aspen, riders nearly immediately start the 85-mile day climbing. And this is not just any climb. This is 19 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing. It averages somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%. The last three miles are the worst at around 7% to the top of Independence Pass. After that, it’s a fast dive down to Twin Lakes.

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From the lakes, riders take a left and head to the highest incorporated town in North America, Leadville, at 10,152 feet. This year, the ride passes through on to Fremont Pass, 12 miles averaging 1.5%, maxing out at 7% and 11,318 feet. Riders bomb down the north side of the pass into Copper Mountain Resort.

Copper Flowers

For the past two RTRs, the ride has taken an extra day in one of the towns. Two years ago, we stayed an extra day in Steamboat Springs. Last year, we rode from Grand Junction, through the Colorado National Monument and back. This season, Day 3, June 14, the route takes an extra day in Copper Mountain Resort to tackle the Copper Triangle. The 78-mile route takes riders back over Fremont Pass, past Leadville, over Battle Mountain and Tennessee Pass, over the Red Cliff Bridge, through Minturn and Vail and finally over Vail Pass before returning to Copper.

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On Day 4, June 15, riders descend a snaking bike trail from Copper to Frisco, past Dillon Lake, through Silverthorn and north to Ute Pass. Four years ago, Chandler and the gang took riders over gravel roads into Kremmling. The route is now part of RTR lore. This time around, riders will see some of those same roads, eventually taking riders into the remote resort town of Grand Lake. This is tied with Day Two as the longest-milage day at 85 miles.

Century_for the web

This takes us to Day 5, June 16, and the whole reason that I can’t possibly miss this ride. It’s a short day at only 49 miles, but it’s over the famous Trail Ridge Road; more than 20 miles of climbing at around 4.5% to over 12,100 feet above sea level. The climb takes riders from the shore of Grand Lake, through arid pine meadows, through aspen stands, past the habitat of moose, elk and big horn sheep, eventually out onto the alpine tundra. Riders enjoy views of the Never Summer Range, the Continental Divide, Forest Canyon, Rock Cut, as well as the Alpine Visitor Center, Rainbow Curve and the fast, winding descent into my town, Estes Park.

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Longs From Rock Cut

Home of the world-famous, and slightly creepy Stanley Hotel, Estes Park made a big deal out of hosting the 2012 RTR. My town had a big party with local musicians and great food. My town knows how to entertain.

As luck would have it, the ride comes through Estes Park on a Thursday, which is Farmers’ Market Day, so be sure to swing by Bond Park as you arrive to get some refueling goodies.

Farmers' Market

Come see our town, our fun and my favorite bike shop, the Via Bicycle Cafe! Come get coffee, pie, BBQ, all great in Estes Park. Yes, I’m biased, but I love this town and you will, too.

Amplified Soul

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Riders enjoy Friday, June 17, Day 6’s mostly-downhill ride out Devils Gulch and the Switchbacks, through Glen Haven, through local rider-favorite Masonville, around Horsetooth Reservoir and finally, into Fort Collins.

Pro Wmn at Horsetooth

The six-day ride will reward any rider fit enough to make the journey, with vistas, new friends and great stories. I love this ride and would urge any rider to register  the lottery before February 28. The organizers, Chandler Smith, Renee Wheelock, Liz Brown and an army (that’s no exaggeration) of volunteers, work hard to put on a great ride and I have never been disappointed. It will be the most challenging, most enjoyable week of your riding season.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going training!

Ride Organizers

 

New adventures 

I’m working a lot lately. Facing some challenges that I’m happy to have. I haven’t posted in a while. Just tying, as I often do, to find time and just do it.

One new challenge is riding rollers. A friend gave me a set about a year ago, but I never got the technique until this week. I hope to get a bunch of miles on the rollers as the winter snow stubbornly hangs on.

Another project has been recording interviews at my local bike shop. Via Bicycle Cafe is the lone dedicated shop in Estes Park and I really want it to thrive.

The shop not only sells Scott, Salsa and Colnago bikes, Stefano Tomasello, the owner, is a pro wrench and a Cat 2 racer. He hopes to gain enough points this season to move up to Cat 1 before ending his competitive cycling career.

The other side of the shop is a great coffee bar. Stef serves locally-roasted Notch Top coffee, as well as a variety of goodies for riders. Stef takes as much pride in making a great cup of coffee as he does working on bikes. I hope to get plenty of rides in with Stef and the bike community that has quickly sprung up around his shop.

I plan to have more on the shop, but until then, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

 

A trio from Estes Park pedals toward the Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

A trio from Estes Park pedals toward the Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

Stefano Tomasello, foreground, points back toward town on the Old Fall River Road. Stef's idea in opening his shop was to provide a hub for the local cycling community.

Stefano Tomasello, foreground, points back toward town on the Old Fall River Road. Stef’s idea for opening his shop was to provide a hub for the local cycling community.

 

Josh Cramer, left, owner/operator of Notch Top Coffee, and high school cyclist Jeremy Norris, mill about Via Bicycle Cafe last fall. The shop is as much about the cycling community as it is the bikes.

Josh Cramer, left, owner/operator of Notch Top Coffee, and high school cyclist Jeremy Norris, mill about Via Bicycle Cafe last fall. The shop is as much about the cycling community as it is the bikes.

 

Tomasello brews a cup of coffee in what he describes as a giant Keurig machine. Stef, as he is called by much of the community, is as passionate about coffee as he is cycling.

Tomasello brews a cup of coffee in what he describes as a giant Keurig machine. Stef, as he is called by much of the community, is as passionate about coffee as he is cycling.

 

Holiday cookies bare Italian national colors and an approximation of the shop jersey. While Via has been open to the public for less than six months, the local community has embraced the shop.

Holiday cookies bare Italian national colors and an approximation of the shop jersey. While Via has been open to the public for less than six months, the local community has embraced the shop.

 

Jeremy Norris, member of the Estes Park High School mountain bike team, shows off his medal from the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Via has quickly become that spot to celebrate achievement and share stories.

Jeremy Norris, member of the Estes Park High School mountain bike team, shows off his medal from the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Via has quickly become that spot to celebrate achievement and share stories.

 

Steven Wens, Belgian national and Estes Park resident, holds a cookie with the Belgian colors at Via after the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Cyclists of all abilities have embraced Via for it's friendly vibe, as well as great, locally roasted coffee.

Steven Wens, Belgian national and Estes Park resident, holds a cookie with the Belgian colors at Via after the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Cyclists of all abilities have embraced Via for it’s friendly vibe, as well as great, locally roasted coffee.

 

Stef sits on what has become his shop's trade mark pink couch. As his name implies, Tomasello is Italian, by heritage, and loves the iconic hue of the Giro d'Italia.

Stef sits on what has become his shop’s trade mark pink couch. As his name implies, Tomasello is Italian, by heritage, and loves the iconic hue of the Giro d’Italia.

 

Stef pulls an espresso shot for an eager customer. In addition to several bicycle brands, Tomasello also sells high-end espresso machines.

Stef pulls an espresso shot for an eager customer. In addition to several bicycle brands, Tomasello also sells high-end espresso machines.

 

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