So, I’m a little wiped out and getting pretty inconsistent with my posts. Sorry. It’s hard for me when I don’t have an editor asking me where the hell my column is. I still hold out hope that I will work into some consistency as I go.
I headed up Lookout Mountain outside of Golden, Colorado, last week. The climb has long been a yardstick for locals. Tommy Danielson is credited with the fastest ascent of the five-mile climb from the pillars just west of US Hwy 6 to the gates at Buffalo Bill’s grave; I believe it’s something ridiculous, like 15 MINUTES. For mere mortals like me, the 32 minutes it took me was blazing fast.
Generally speaking, locals like to time “Pillars to Post” from the stone pillars at the bottom to the sign announcing the grave at the top. Officially, it’s 4.55 miles. It averages 5.4% with a maximum grade of 6.8%. Riders like to cut it into thirds – pillars to where the road curves under the big School of Mines “M”, “M” to the Windy Saddle and the steepest section from the saddle to nearly the sign at the top. The ride is nearly always windy and the views are nearly always spectacular.
The descent is fast and technical. Be careful when riding in spring. I carry scars from misjudging gravel in the tight curves. Once back in Golden, refreshment options are plentiful. It’s worth the suffering.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!
The view from the Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum Gift Shop at the top. You can see the entire Denver metro area.
I got my occasional screed out last week. I want to be much more positive this week. I love riding. I love getting out. I enjoy watching this month’s Grande Boucle. It’s fun to watch the superheroes push the limits of human performance, but it is much better, for me, to do it myself.
Bicycling has given my freedom to ponder, think and reflect. Many spiritual traditions include a sort of moving or walking meditation. I find I can meditate on my bike. I can sort out whatever has been gnawing at me throughout the day. When I’m alone on a long stretch of road, or grinding up an endless climb, my mind is able to clear a bit. I first discovered this years ago. It took a while to sink in, but it has been a valuable tool.
When I lived in Denver, I found that riding gave me freedom from anger. When I commuted by car, I spent a lot of time yelling at fellow drivers. I found myself angry at stoplights, heavy traffic and time in general. On my bike, I was much more relaxed. I didn’t get angry at traffic lights. I enjoyed the view and took the time to look around. I arrived at school or work with a smile.
When I first got a bike, I would race the school bus home. Most of the time, I won. I had a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was beginning to reshape myself. I was gaining freedom from the fat kid that I was. At the time, all I knew was it was fun to go fast.
I developed some bad habits as a teen. I got a big car and sold the bike. This was by no means the worst of it. In fact, the bad habits of early adulthood led me back to a bike.
In my early 20s, I could not afford either a car or insurance. I could put a mountain bike on layaway. It was a big, heavy, rigid, steel Schwinn. I didn’t have to depend on bus schedules. I would get rained on occasionally, but it was worth the trade. It was the beginning of where I am today.
When I moved to Colorado, the first thing I did was break out my bike and rode Lookout Mountain outside of Golden. I found maps of all of the paved trails all over Denver. I could explore my new city relatively inexpensively. I also discovered real trail riding. I found the Chimney Gulch, Mount Falcon, the Apex Trail, and many more. I raced cross country and downhill for a couple of seasons. As a result, I discovered more towns.
I found Moab, Utah. Anyone with a bike had heard of Moab at that point, but I was finally able to visit. I also found, quite by accident, Fruita, Colo., now considered a mountain biking Mecca, itself. Eventually, I rediscovered Estes Park.
There are so many different ways to ride. I found a couple more after moving here. I competed in a cyclocross race. I had been using the ‘cross bike as a commuter, but felt I should race it at least once.
I started participating in triathlons. It was very fast and I seemed to have at least a little aptitude. It was fast and fun. I also began riding organized road rides. I found riding long distances with friends added another aspect of pleasure to riding. Sharing stories, goofing off, admiring the scenery, testing each other is all fun. During Ride the Rockies, I met a whole bunch of brand new friends. What better reason to get out?
Now I have seen the bike turn into a political symbol, both positive and negative, sometimes ridiculously so, and possibly for the same reasons. I don’t ride as a political statement. I ride because it’s fun. I ride because I found freedom on my bike. I can see that being political. I don’t burn $3.30 per gallon gas. I take no oil, other than that of the olive, or for my chain. I don’t put out too much pollution in the air, depending on what I ate before heading out. I could see that as a sort of political stand. If it were all about the politics, however, I wouldn’t do it. It has to be enjoyable.
This is why I will be out again this week. If you saw me Wednesday, I was probably in my Stars and Stripes jersey, smiling big as our great country. I was enjoying the freedom of my bike, freedom on two wheels.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.