Ride the Rockies, 2016
June 19, 2016
Day 4: Copper Mt. to Grand Lake, 85 miles, 3,939’ elevation gain
Day 5: Grand Lake to Estes Park, 49 miles, 4,636’ elevation gain
Day 6: Estes Park to Ft. Collins, 52 miles, 2,291’ elevation gain
Early morning leaving Frisco, CO
Day 4 was a long transition day, going from I 70 ski resorts over to Rocky Mountain National Park. The started out cold and frosty – just like I like it. We hammered the whole way up and over Ute Pass before the mid-day sun began to cook us.
Frozen Bike Seats to start the day at Copper Mt.
Day 4 Map
Day 4 profile
The climb up Ute Pass offered some nice views of the Gore Range, which I had never seen before. Coming over the pass we hit about 15 miles of unpaved roads on the descent. While the roads were good by dirt standards, they produced a lot of distress in the pants department (high speed bumps and shakes = bruises and saddle sores) which stayed with us for the rest of the ride.
The lowland portions of this ride offered both elk and buffalo sightings – very cool. The afternoon heat and dirt road contributed to a three-star rating for this segment.
Wes & Steve headed to Grand Lake
Dillon Reservoir looking toward Copper Mountain
Gore Range from Ute Pass
Climbing Ute Pass
Day 5 Map
Day 5 Profile
Day 5 started with a breakfast with an old friend, John Murray, who taught me what little I know about elk hunting. John and his wife treated us to a terrific breakfast in a log home that he built himself in town. We were going to need every bit of that breakfast to get up over the Trail Ridge Summit Road – a WPA marvel. Trail Ridge runs through the Rocky Mountain National Park, and consequently has a lot of traffic. The road (closed in winter) is spectacular, and has huge snowbanks late into the season.
The wind on the top was blowing a full gale (55+ mph), and reportedly had gusts at the low end of hurricane force (74 mph). I don’t know the exact wind speed, but it was adequate to pick up Steve and his bike, and slam them into a passing automobile. Fortunately, bike, rider and automobile were all unscathed, but it was still pretty unnerving.
The gift shop and restaurant near the top provide an interesting juxtaposition of very fit bicyclists with some not-so-fit motorists – and the motorists were out-eating the bikers 2:1.
Climbing Trail Ridge
Pond on Trail Ridge
Trail Ridge Visitors Center (wooden poles to find Center under the snow)
Motorists and bicyclists on Trail Ridge
False Summit on Trail Ridge
Vanished glaciers above Forrest Canyon on Trail Ridge
Day 6 map
Day 6 profile
By day 6, we were both really quite tired, sore and ready for a good night sleep in a clean bed. Unfortunately, I had made the mistake of choosing the Econo-lodge (succumbing to Yankee parsimony), instead of the fabulous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park – the inspiration for The Shining. This was the dirtiest place that I have ever paid to stay, and may have been the inspiration for Hitchcock’s thriller, Pschyo. We slept with one eye open for Anthony Perkins, and the other for bedbugs.
We escaped at first light for a blast down Devils Gulch, and a melancholy tour down to Horsetooth Reservoir. The traverse across Horsetooth included 3 climbs which were, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish and short” – contributing to the 3-star rating on this day.
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park
View from the Wonderful Stanley Hotel
A forlorn swimming pool at the Econo-lodge
Nasty, brutish and short hills on Horsetooth Reservoir
Training for this year’s ride consisted of about 1,100 miles of biking and three months’ worth of morning stair master sessions. If I do this again, I’ll try to get another 400 miles on the road, and 20 fewer pounds around the middle. RTR is a terrific ride, but involves quite a bit of climbing at altitude, and training/fitness does make a big difference.
In contrast, the first time that I did the ride, in 1988, I had trained on my new bicycle for 32 miles, and my training regimen consisted of at least 1 six-pack of beer and 3 Cuban cigars per day. I may have done this because kale salads had not yet been invented, but probably was a simple matter of consumer preference. In any event, I find my current training regimen to be more beneficial for the ride, if considerably less entertaining.
The closing ceremonies were at a local brewery in Ft. Collins, and it was the typical crazy and exhausted fun of 2,100 tired but happy bikers. Because beer is no longer one of my training staples, we reluctantly said goodbye to CO, and headed home – until next year?
Adios, from Ride the Rockies, 2016