This year’s RTR’s starts in Grand Junction, a town that is doing pretty well with an explosion (pun intended) of gas drilling in the area. The base ops is Mesa State College, which is growing like a weed and is full of hundreds of itinerant bicyclists. The campus is full of hundreds of tents, with porta-potties sprouting like mushrooms after the rain.
The weather has been just awful, with snow yesterday, and lightning beginning around noon today. Most of the riders are wet and cold. I’m very glad to be indoors.
I got out early, and enjoyed a cool, but dry ride up the hill and down. The road is a WPA affair, complete with undersized tunnels and spectacular views on roads carved out of the cliff. These cliffs are enormous aqueous sandstone deposits with a limestone cap. It must have been quite a pile of sand – I’m thinking like the Sahara blown into the Atlantic Ocean.
The first day of this ride is always dominated by the self conscious and wildly competitive as they charge ahead, and die about half way up the first hill. It is important to note that the hills out here are about 10 miles long, and average north of 7% grades the whole way. Today’s climb was only 7 miles, but it was more than some could take, judging by the liberal use of the Sag Wagon and wrecked bodies along the way.
The descent was spectacular, and clearly worth the price of admission. On the way back into town, I passed a singing cowgirl at an outside restaurant, and some kid playing the clarinet. She was signing my favorite, the Tennessee Waltz, and I had to stop. It turns out that she was originally from Calais Maine, and had escaped to Colorado with husband number 1. This I found out, as she talked to me over the mike, hoping to embarrass me in front of the assembled diners. Little did she know.
Our discussions led to our mutual appreciation of The Tennessee Waltz, and I offered to sign it in either Spanish or Swahili. She said, “my third husband was Mexican, so I’d love to hear it in Spanish”. This was good, as my command of the Swahili version is fading rapidly. I was glad that she never had a husband from Tanzania.
After my fearless (but probably not flawless) performance of this classic, they offered me a plate of blueberry pancakes on the house, which I took full advantage of. I also clapped with great gusto for her finale performance of John Denver’s, Colorado Rocky Mountain High, and was on my way.
Tomorrow is a very big day, and should produce some interesting stories, assuming survival.