Adventures in life and photography out West

Archive for February, 2016

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!


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.


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.


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.


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


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