Adventures in life and photography out West

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Enrichment

I restarted my life writing about the emotional connections we make with food. I was a sophomore in college and was forced by the university to take a composition class. I wrote about my maternal grandmother’s funeral and my best friends wedding and all of the food, friends and family. It’s funny to look back and continue making the connections. 

I met my wife years later, though we both attended my buddy’s wedding. My wife’s family is Jewish and explained early on the basis of all Jewish holidays: they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat! Now cooking is something we do with our teenage daughter. 

This morning, my little girl and I made Liegé waffles from the Feed Zone Portables cookbook by Allen Lim and Biju Thomas. We made cowboy cookies from the Skratch Labs web page last night. Now the kitchen is full of sweet goodies in celebration of the “cobbled classics.”

Food is a big deal, to me. My early memories involve dad cooking oatmeal and mom making monkey bread. I remember my dad’s mom, Gramma Marge, cooking bacon. Her whole house had the familiar, savory smell on early Sunday mornings. 

I irritated the day lights out of my step-dad when I made banana, egg white, protein powder shakes as a teen. I irritated my step-mom when I ate dozens of her chocolate chip cookies, leaving none for the rest of the family. My wife now buys chocolate . . . and hides it from me. I can’t really blame her. 

I love cooking for my family and friends. I would occasionally make lasagna for friends. I loved collaborating with friends in the kitchen. I truly enjoy making treats for my Courage Classic teammates and, every so often, for random strangers on group rides. It’s how I bond. It’s how I create memories. 


The side benefit is I know what’s going into my jersey pocket and what, precisely, is fueling my ride. I recommend finding a cookbook or web page for your own ride treats. You know what you like. Find a recipe and customize it. You will enjoy the snack all the more. If it gives you a chance to connect with a loved-one, it’s all the more sweet . . . or savory. Whichever you prefer. 

Have fun. Be safe. I’m going riding . . . With homemade cookies. 

I Have Issues

So there are two, diametrically opposed trains of thought within cycling, these days. These are the stealthy fitness and the showy fitness. The first has been around for a while, and the second, a …

Source: I Have Issues

I Have Issues

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So there are two, diametrically opposed trains of thought within cycling, these days. These are the stealthy fitness and the showy fitness. The first has been around for a while, and the second, a more recent event linked to our modern, mobile, social media age.

For as long as there has been competitive cycling, there has been stealth fitness. This is best illustrated by an e-mail that was circulated about a decade ago, and attributed to one of Chris Carmichael’s CTS coaches. The old e-mail stated that cyclists were the biggest fitness liars and stealth trainers. We say one thing, but it quickly becomes evident that we mean something completely opposite.

We say “This is a no-drop ride.”

We mean “As soon as the first hill comes, I will grind you into dust. I will attack every hill, I will contest every town-limit sign until you are left in a weeping heap on the side of the road.”

We say “I’m not in race-shape.”

We mean “I’ve been spending every waking moment on the trainer/rollers. I have more miles in my legs than the Interstate System.”

We say “I’m not feeling it, today.”

We mean “Hope you have your race wheels on, cause this is going down.”

My personal favorite, “This is my beater bike.”

We mean “This bike was made of Unobtainium. The frame was blessed by the Pope. It is lighter than a fart and more expensive than a divorce.”

This has been the prevailing attitude for generations of cyclists. Everything is very secret. Every play is close to the chest. Sunglasses on cyclists were not to protect one’s eyes, there were to hide any tells, hide anything that might indicate fatigue. Or, possibly, hide just the opposite. Exhibit A: Lance fakes being tired during the ’01 TdF stage of Alpe D’Huez. Lance and the Posties pretend The Boss is suffering, prompting Jan Ulrich’s Team Telecom to drive the pace to the base of the storied climb, basically tricking the German team into doing all the heavy lifting for the day, before the Texan’s famous “Look” and the trademark  attack to grind Ulrich down and eventually win that Tour.

But these days, there is another cycling saying. It makes secret training much more difficult. “If it didn’t happen on Strava, it didn’t happen.”

I want to keep track of my miles and my workouts, but now there is no hiding from my sea-level buddies who will join me on Ride the Rockies this year. My California friends ride every chance they get. One commutes through Orange County, while the other trains for marathon rides, like the Breck Epic and Leadville 100. Our friend from Texas is an Ironman. I’m a giant track sprinter who happens to live at 7,500 feet.

I can’t let these guys embarrass me in my home state, in spite of the fact that I out weigh each of them, some by significant margins. I’m Altitude Man. But I can’t hide the training, either.

I suppose it will keep me honest. They can see what I’m doing, and I see the miles they are putting in. It’s more positive, even inspiring. We can cheer each other on. Give each other kudos. We can recognize the efforts and the KOMs. We can act like teammates.

Of course, there are still the rollers . . .

Have fun. Be safe. I’m going riding!

Stoke the Fire

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So, I love food. Just in general. I have a sweet tooth, but I also love Mexican, Mediterranean and Italian. I love French pastries and cowboy cookies. I love breakfast.

I once dated a wonderful, beautiful, smart young woman, but knew it was ultimately doomed. It was getting to be late in the day and I asked what she wanted for dinner, thinking that we could go out that evening. She showed absolutely no preference. I started quizzing her on her favorite cuisine. She said, “I’m just not that in to food.”

What?!?

By contrast, the first big family function I attended with the woman to whom I am now married, was Passover. It’s a big, really big, meal commemorating the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt depicted in the Torah, or Old Testament. I think it was her mother who informed me that the basis for all Jewish holidays was “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.”

Amen.

So it should be no surprise that a major part of my Instagram feed is the stuff I get to make in my kitchen. I spend a fair amount of time finding yummy stuff in uniquely athletic places. I made egg cups of two varieties today. One was based on a recipe from the fantastic Scratch Labs cookbook, Feed Zone Portables, the other I stumbled across on line. Both are easy, both are tasty, both recipes are great for active, age-group athletes.

Eggie goodness in a muffin cup.

Eggie goodness in a muffin cup.

I typically spend Sundays cooking. I get up early to make breakfast for my family. Today I made baked oatmeal with bananas and berries. I took the extra step of adding a scoop of vanilla protein powder, just so it wasn’t all carbs. I cooked up some uncured turkey bacon, as well. It was filling, tasty, and made my family happy.

Next, we usually get started on lunches for the week. Egg cups for me, and we usually make a batch of chocolaty fiber muffins for our daughter.

The first, a variation from Allen Lim and Biju Thomas, the minds behind Scratch Labs. I change the recipe slightly, so If you want the original, go to SkratchLabs.com, or go out and get ahold of the Feed Zone Portables cookbook.

Pre-heat oven to 350

Chop desired vegetables for a dozen cups

I will also find some lean meat, like a turkey kielbasa, left-over turkey bacon, if I’m lucky we’ll have some ground bison

Distribute these evenly into a dozen muffin cups. We happen to have the silicone muffin “tins”

Then add one egg-worth of liquid egg whites into each cup

Put in oven, middle rack

Bake for about 20-30 minutes, turning every 5-8 minutes

For a sweeter option, pre-heat oven to 390

Mash three ripe bananas

Add two whole eggs, three more egg-worth of liquid egg whites and mix

In the muffin tins, place berries

Pour in egg/banana mixture

Bake, again, for 20-30 minutes, turning the tin every 5-8 minutes

I honestly don’t remember where that recipe came from, other than my Facebook feed. I look for great food everywhere. I read Peloton magazine knowing that they will have some great meal they discovered somewhere on their travels. I have a small sleeve on my book shelf of recipes I’ve found in Bicycling or Triathlon magazines.

Chocolate, date energy balls from Bicycling magazine.

Chocolate, date energy balls from Bicycling magazine.

When I travel, whether on vacation or on my bike, I try to find some local gem, like Pandor, a French pastry and breakfast place in New Port Beach, California. If you don’t know, there is a little pastry and coffee shop in the La Fonda Inn in Santa Fe. Some of the best cookies I have ever enjoyed were from the little breakfast restaurant in Hygiene, Colorado.

I suppose that the point of this post, more than anything, is to enjoy. The vast majority of us will not get to be pro roadies. We don’t have to season stone soup in order to be happy skeletons and climb ridiculous European roads like mountain goats. Most of us have jobs and families. While I want to drop some holiday weight, I won’t do it at the expense of enjoying my family and my life. I exercise lots, and very hard. I will stoke my engine. I will taste the flavors that this short, wonderful life has to offer.

I hope you will, too.

Skratch Labs chocolate-chocolate chip cookie!

Skratch Labs chocolate-chocolate chip cookie!

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . right after this cookie!

 

Get Ready for the Ride!

New friends from California and Texas.

New friends from California and Texas enjoy dinner in Gunnison, one of this year’s RTR host towns.

Ride the Rockies has announced the route for their 2017 tour, and it’s a grand one. RTR will travel 447 miles and climb 37,337 feet in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado. The route includes some of the most stunning and legendary terrain the state has to offer, including the famous Iron Horse race route, Million Dollar Highway, Wolf Creek and Monarch passes.

If I seem excited, there’s a reason for it. In the ’90s, I had heard of the Iron Horse, a short and intense ride from Durango to Silverton, paralleling the narrow gauge railroad between the towns. I have dreamt of the climbs and descents for 25 years and so I’m very excited to see the route in person.

The ride begins in the San Luis Valley in Alamosa on June 10. If you can’t wait that long, you can bypass the lottery and sign up for the eighth annual Prologue, which begins with a VIP dinner on Friday, June 9, in Taos, New Mexico. The prologue ride, the next day, takes riders south from Taos, through stunning Southwestern landscapes to Rancho de Chimayo, where participants will enjoy a massage and dinner. It also includes a lift to the start line, back in Alamosa, on Sunday, June 11. Click here  for more on registering and making a donation to the Denver Post Communities Foundation.

Sangre de Cristo Range towers of the highest sand dunes in North America, just northeast of Alamosa.

Sangre de Cristo Range towers of the highest sand dunes in North America, just northeast of Alamosa.

The ride, proper, starts with registration in Alamosa, on Saturday, June 10. Alamosa is surrounded by the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountains, near the border with New Mexico. It features a short rail line that takes visitors into downtown from their community center, south of town. Just to the northeast of town sits the tallest sand dunes in North America in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Show up early and spend some time exploring the contrast of the dunes against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristos. If you are lucky, you may see some of the park’s wildlife, including elk and bison, at Big Spring Creek.

The first day takes riders out of the valley, west over the formidable Wolf Creek Pass. The pass climbs to 10,856 feet, and comes late in the day, at around mile 68 in the 93-mile ride. Total climbing amounts to 4,296 feet, but the pay-off is the 25-mile descent into Pagosa Springs and a dip in the natural hot springs that flow into the San Juan River. The ride came through here, in the opposite direction, in 2013, and will be a welcome stop after the long-day’s ride.

Day Two is a relatively short affair from Pagosa, deeper into the San Juan Mountains to the cycling Mecca of Durango. The route is 68 miles with 4,048 feet of climbing, spread over three bigger climbs, including Yellowjacket Pass at 7,800 feet, and a few smaller challenges. The route takes riders away from the highway at Bayfield for the last stretch through farmland outside of Durango.

Durango resident Bob Roll had the cycling seminar croud in stitches after the second day of riding in 2013. Roll rode for 7-Eleven and is now a cycling commentator for NBC Sports

Durango resident Bob Roll had the cycling seminar crowd in stitches after the second day of riding in 2013. Roll rode for 7-Eleven and is now a cycling commentator for NBC Sports

Durango is home to writer, commentator, former cycling pro and all-round funny guy, Bob Roll. Roll entertained crowds during RTR’s last stop in his hometown back in 2013. He is expected to return again this year, hopefully with some of the same stories and a few new ones about his travels and experiences with the professional peloton.

Day Three is the loop day, this year. Last year’s loop was the decidedly non-relaxing, 78-mile, Copper Triangle loop. This year will be a much shorter 38.7 miles into the Southern Ute reservation with one notable climb, the 8,212 foot Hesperus Hill. It’s relatively steep, with ramps of better than seven percent, but it comes about 11 miles into the ride. The rest is a descending stair step back to Durango.

The short loop day encourages riders to enjoy a little more time in the host city. Durango, founded in 1880 to serve the San Juan mining district, is home to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Fort Lewis College, a cycling powerhouse, in their own right. The town boasts amazing mountain biking and has been home to such legends as 1990 mountain bike world champion, Ned “The Lung” Overhand and Missy “The Missile” Giove, world champion downhill mountain biker in 1994. The town hosted the first mountain bike world championships in 1990.

Durango is also a short drive from UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde is a collection of about 600 cliff dwellings that were stumbled-upon by a pair of brothers who were searching for lost cattle in the area in the late 1880’s. While photographer William Henry Jackson had noted the existence of the cliff dwellings, and the Ute tribe of the area were certainly knowledgeable, it took the Wetherills to bring attention to Cliff Palace, and subsequently the many archeological sites of the park.

The Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park.

The Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park.

Day Four is the beast! Eighty-three miles with 7,792 feet of climbing over three passes; Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes. The day starts with the route of the Iron Horse Classic bike race, following the narrow gauge railroad north to Silverton. Riders will continue over the Million Dollar Highway, through the state’s ice-climbing capitol of Ouray, on to first-time RTR host town, Ridgeway.

Day Five continues north out of the former mining town of Ridgeway, on a mercifully short 32.4-mile, 490 feet of climbing ride to Montrose. If the legs are still fresh, riders can opt for the Governor Springs out-and-back challenge, adding 18.9 miles and 1,875 feet of climbing. It’s not mandatory, however.

Montrose is the gateway to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the backdrop to Day Six of this year’s RTR. Sheer cliffs give way to the Blue Mesa Reservoir as riders head east, 65 miles, to Gunnison. The ride will take cyclists over 6,691 feet of climbing, jammed mostly into the first half of the day. At almost exactly halfway, cyclists will be done with the serious climbs and will get a descent and a relatively gentle, rolling ascent into Gunnison.

At 7,703 feet, Gunnison has the reputation as one of the coldest towns in Colorado. The stop will be a welcome cool down on the penultimate day. Gunnison has hosted Ride the Rockies two other times in the last six years, including 2015, most recently.

The final day will seem like a visit to an old friend as RTR heads to Salida, once more. Salida hosted stops in 2013 and 2015. This year the small arts and outdoors community hosts the finale. First, however, riders must negotiate the fearsome Monarch Pass.

While Day Seven is not the longest, at just under 66 miles between Gunnison and Salida, the bulk of the climbing involves the ascent of the highest pass in this year’s ride. Monarch Pass crests at 11,320 feet at around mile 43. The pass is also the jumping-off point of the famous Monarch Crest mountain bike trail.

Salida, the final destination of this year’s Ride the Rockies, is home to white water rafting on the Upper Arkansas River, near-by hot springs and 12 of Colorado’s famous 14’ers. It is a friendly, creative, outdoorsy community and a great little town to host the final party of this year’s RTR.

Entertainment awaited the riders in most towns, like these dancers in Salida.

Entertainment awaited the riders in most towns, like these dancers in Salida.

This year’s Ride the Rockies also marks the beginning of a new era, as Renee Wheelock takes the helm. Renee was an intern with the organization when I met her in Gunnison in 2012. She spent four years as Community Relations Manager, and now takes the job of the tour’s director. Congratulations, Renee! If this year’s Ride the Rockies is any indicator, the tour is in good hands and I look forward to many years of great rides.

Me with the new RTR Tour Director, and all-round great lady, Renee Wheelock.

Me with the new RTR Tour Director, and all-round great lady, Renee Wheelock.

 

To register and find out more about this year’s Ride the Rockies, click here! You will find information about the host towns, maps of the route, information about lodging and other logistics, and information about the sponsors and supporters. I hope to see you on this year’s Ride the Rockies!

 

 

 

Regrouping

It’s the time of year when cyclists are evaluating the season past and attending to injuries, aches and new tech for the bike. I am lifting heavy and paying attention to the aches I have accumulated over a frustratingly truncated season.

I had the chance to test my health insurance, more than once, and the chance to truly appreciate ER doctors. I also have to say that I love good helmets, an ample supply of bandages and positive negotiation within a marriage.

I did get on the track.In July, I found myself sliding across new chip seal on my way to a pancake fundraiser near my town. After an ER visit, many stitches and three chest x-rays, I slowed down for about four weeks.

In August, I found myself bouncing off of the boards on my local velodrome. I won the sprint, patched myself up, then won another match sprint before the race director told me that I was done racing. No new stitches, but an angry rib and an angrier wife, when all was said and done.

It’s been rough, honestly. I’ve never been good at balance. Life balance, that is. After the second crash, my wife declared an end to my season. At the time, it sounded like an end to all racing, and possibly cycling, EVER. This would never stand, and I think she had known it. I understand, to a degree.

I tend to go all-in. If I decide to do something, I want to be immersed. If I actually commit, this is the thing over which I tend to obsess. I’m not really a dabbler. This can cause problems, even neglect, in other areas. Occasionally, my wife feels she and our daughter fall in this category.

It does not help that she does not understand why any middle-aged person would want to compete in anything, much less ride a bike without brakes at break-neck speed in circles. It’s also not helpful, to my point of view, that the nearest place to compete, in any discipline, is more than 20 miles away. The velodrome, one of only two in Colorado, is an hour away. The big, competitive Olympic velodrome, which is covered this time of year, is more than 100 miles, about three hours, from us. I don’t dare to dream of getting there to merely train.

I realize that this is not something that is going to help my family, other than making me smile and satisfing my competition cravings. It will take creativity to pursue racing, of any sort. It will take a bit of thought and planning to strike a balance between the sport I enjoy and the family I love. This will cause bumps, but they are bumps I am willing to suffer. I’m sure that I’m not the first cyclist to have these issues. I will let you know if I figure anything out.

In the mean time, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . on the trainer . . . at home.

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.