Current Status

Current Status: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - Stage 32: High Rollers Highway - from St George, UT to Las Vegas, NV - 105 miles

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Blazing Heat for Grand Canyon ride!

Today's ride is from Bryce Canyon, Utah to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Temperatures over 100 are forecast for that area!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Stage 24 Report: Independence Pass

Monday, June 19, 2017
Start: Twin Lakes, CO
Finish: Snowmass, CO
Total Bike Mileage: 47.6 mi
Cumulative Bike Mileage: 1750.9 mi

Once again, as we have enjoyed every day in the Rockies, a beautiful blue-skies crisp-air day broke our sleep. I arose early and took a stroll outside the Inn and then wrote a bit in the comfortable foyer. My colleagues arrived and we enjoyed a relaxing tasty breakfast chatting with the Twin Lakes Inn proprietors, husband and wife, Doug and Maggie along with the very kind and helpful manager, Andy. Turns out Doug has finished a number of the Leadville Man 100mi runs in the past number of years. He was proud to show off his earned belt buckle as he should be. Quite a feat! And multiple times for good measure. Peter chuckled how crazy Americans are, pushing themselves to the limits. He feels a bit the same about us Blaze Brothers on this journey tackling Continental Divide climbs like they were rock candy to chomp and savor, and then pop another, of course. Endorphin inebriation?! What else can explain the unceasing desire to conquer mountains, to capture the clouds in one's nostrils, to taste the salty secretions from one's brow, to hear every echo, chirp, screech, or snap in the forest, to feel the texture of the winds from every angle on one's torso and whistling through one's helmeted hair.

Cycling is both microscopic and macroscopic introversion into the sensory world that abounds. A fluttering butterfly or songbird accompanies you playfully and you experience and study the precise magical nuances of flight. A vast view of the snow-capped peaks, or lush pine-covered slopes, or verdant valleys where odiferous pastures lay quietly in the sunshine, or grains growing in unison swaying like massive schools of fish darting through the seas.

We depart Twin Lakes. Refreshed. Happy. Excited for the Independent Pass climb ahead. A steady grade upward begins shortly after. Other cyclists soon join the march upwards. Absolutely beautiful concerto sings forth from Lake Creek, musical lyrics of water and boulders, as it rushes down the mountain beside me to its encore in Twin Lakes. This unsullen  territory seems to be a secret. Not heavily traversed by motorized engines this time of day.

I feel both heart and leg-strong this morning. I decide to set a personal goal - a persistent non-stop climb to the apex. It will be an 18 mile challenge  (there's that Kabbalistic number 18 again, numerological equivalent for 'Life' force) and, to some degree, a way for me to feel as if I can conquer Goliath (of Mt Evans of days gone by) on any given other day. The churning thigh-march continues. Switchbacks begin as the degree of difficulty increases with the pitch of the mountain road. A breathtaking view arises of the valley from which we traversed, green grass palates dotted with aspens and creek waters. Spectacular! Steady, onward, no stopping now. I ascend further and can see the snowy apex approaching. Steady in the saddle. No need to get bucked. I give a full throttle sprint for the final ascent. Endorphins abound. Zen has returned to me. I have no pain. I am very happy and I laugh well. The continuous climb is done. The apex and fifth consecutive Continental Divide has been devoured in these milk-chocolate covered Rockies.

Brief rest and photos and celebration as my friends complete the climb. Along comes three older gentlemen driving classy British Morgan Roadster cars. Hmm. Three cars aligned at the summit, three Blaze Brothers... I kindly swagger over, my cool sunglasses and Blaze jacket on, and ask one gentlemen, "Sir, that's a beautiful car. My son Jonah, who loves cars and probably knows all about these, would envy a photo of me sitting in the driver's seat. Can I?" And so a memorable photo is born as the contagion spreads to my friends. We delight in the musketeer moment. Someday, perhaps when the legs won't quite peddle as we ask, a classy Roadster will be my way to other life adventures! Or a real nice Harley with my biking babe holding on!

You take what the road gives you. You make lemonade from life's lemons or, in this case, you squeeze every drop of pure joy from the long winding downhill traverse into Aspen. Cool air, Aspen groves, angel-crafted massive boulder walls, river creating marshlands, sculpted homes tucked around rushing waters.

Arrive into center of Aspen. A visit to one of my spiritual kin, John Denver's Sanctuary. Here is an urban garden like none other I have seen. Marsh ponds and boulders meandering through, solitude, John's songs chiseled into stones that line the path beside a natural amphitheater of a grassy knoll overlooking rushing waters. Nature in harmony at this very spot. I intently read the lyrics on the stones - Rocky Mountain High, Sunshine On My Shoulders, Windsong, Perhaps Love, The Eagle and the Hawk...

Here are a few selected verses I'd like to share etched from his "Poems, Prayers, and Promises":

I've been lately thinking
About my life's time
All the things I've done
And how it's been
I can't help believing
In my own mind
I'm going to hate to see it end...

And talk of poems, and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it's been since yesterday
What about tomorrow
And what about our dreams
And all the memories we share

We have lunch at a Deli in Aspen. Filling. Ride-on as we exit town westward. Climb steadily through beautiful horse country estates and arrive at Snowmass Resort. A cushy stopover at the Westin hotel (a fantastic summer room rate for us booking 6mo earlier). Thank you to registration clerk, Lindelwa from South Africa - very curteous and helpful at check-in. Warm jetted hot tub soak at the outside pool. Water not muscle-jelly hot as in Idaho Springs, CO or Hot Springs, AR. Just right. Short Gondola ride to dinner at Snowmass village. Life is very good among friends in the mountain setting on a pleasant evening.

Restful sleep after a wonderful day!

Blaze Stage 24 Photos & Video


Weather: (10)

Terrain: (10)

Scenic: (10)

Endurance: (11)

Medical Report:

Bike Report:

Still Having Fun: (11)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Stage 23 Report: Leadville Legs

Sunday, June 18, 2017
Start: Dillon, CO
Finish: Twin Lakes, CO
Total Bike Mileage: 53.3 mi
Cumulative Bike Mileage: 1703.3 mi

A new day. I awoke feeling refreshed and reflective. Absolutely beautiful blue sky, cool mountain air. Took advantage of an early awakening to take a quiet walk along Lake Dillon's path before breakfast, stretch out the legs and mind from yesterday's challenges. Surrounded by mountains, Dillon, elevation 9,100ft, is a relaxed high-altitude town, has a nice outdoor amphitheater for free concerts by the huge lake with views of Keystone and Breckenridge ski slopes as well as Copper Mountain.

Called my dad to wish him a happy Father's Day. Hopefully he's been peddling on his exercise bicycle at home to keep those 91 yo legs in shape! Received calls/texts from my three kids. Love you all. Hopefully this journey will make me a better son and father.

I chatted with a sprightly retiree who was walking his dog. He and his wife split their time between Tucson, AZ (winter) and Dillon, CO (summer). He had crossed the US on bicycle on two separate occasions when younger so we had a lot in common to share. All one needs to do to make a new friend is to just be willing to say "Hi, how are you this morning?" You never know what magic can occur.

Enjoyed usual breakfast at the hotel. We decided to van over about 30 mi west along I-70 to Vail, CO to stretch out the legs and check out the ski town and its first farmer's market of the summer. Beautiful stretch of road over Vail Pass and through a long tunnel. Adjacent to the highway was a paved meandering biking/walking path that stretched for miles beside a creek. 'We should be on that,' I thought.

Vail center is just off I-70. Ski town with usual nice layout of hotels, condos, and town homes lining the manicured streets and beautiful stream under a covered bridge. Bustling with a high-end farmer's market of tents with food stalls and other sundries. Maple syrup made in aged liquor barrels, jewelry, photography, handcrafted goods, sweets, etc. No farmer here selling fresh corn or tomatoes in overalls. This was boutique-land. Fit the location. The Blaze "chain gang" enjoyed the clean-hands ambiance. Had some delicious fish tacos from one of the stands. Got advice about best bike route to Twin Lakes from Vail from the lady at the Vail Information Center in town.

Enough pampering. Another "RITA" spot, I catalogued, to return to with my loving wife, Judy, who has been increasingly in my mind through the Rockies.

My dearest Judy, my loving wife, has a laughing smile and Moab stony colored eyes and natural hair color of Kansas winter red wheat. Her freckles are the speckled Nebraska Sandhills dunes. And her persistent twenty-something petite figure curves just like the switchbacks of the Rockies.

"RITA" spots are my acronym for 'Romance In The Air' and I've been collecting at least a few hundred along this journey. Yes, I would honestly say I like romance. What I really like is to share a wonderful inspiring spot, preferably with beautiful nature surrounds, with the woman I love, my life partner, who knows me so well and believes in my abilities and has been nourishing my confidence for over the past twenty five years together (soon to be twenty four in marriage) to pursue my youthful dreams. How do I shout loud enough from the windswept mountain tops so that Judy, you can hear how much I love you?! Let the winds carry my voice and love to you. You are my love, mother to my children, spiritual spark. Thank you for being you-always honest, giving, tough-minded, witty, ever beautiful on a rainwalk, roadtrip, or romantic evening.

Where was I? Oh yes, RITA stops. Back to Vail. So we got back to cycling. Vail restroom  transformation back to cool cyclist attire. Road warriors once again. We drove a short way west to the junction of I-70W and Rt24 (known as Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway) and put in alongside the road near the town of Minturn.

The road headed southeast from Minturn as we then climbed a thigh-awakening 5 mi switchback climb, passing a ghost mining town and crossing a beautiful high gorge span known as Eagle River Bridge. Wonderful descent through the mountains followed by a flat passage adjacent to a WWII army training center, known as Camp Hale, whose battalion fought a significant battle in Italy.  4-5 mi climb now to Tennessee Pass, elevation 10,424 ft, another Continental Divide achieved!, our fourth in four days (why is this pass called 'Tennessee'?, strange I thought; memories, flashbacks surging suddenly into my sensory neurons, dancing in my mind like fireflies, of my long distance Southern Appalachian Trail hikes with my family and friends, dancing in my mind as I surge to the apex, elevation ........, salivating for the next Zen downhill stream.

Yes! Cool air, sizzling wheel-spinning squeals as I rapidly approach warp speed. What pleasure! A wide open valley greets me at the base. Usual eye-spoiling expanse of inspiring snow covered mountains layered behind the lower hills. Grazing land. I ascend a curve and we meet up again to ride through the historic mining town of Leadville, CO. Old western saloon but no time or desire for a sip now. We continue south on Rt24, leaving town quickly like bank robbers on horseback.

It is early evening, cooling, gentle warmth to my cheeks. Another beautiful valley, this one wetlands for miles. Mountains beside us. Road gently spinning downhill for miles. Streams coalescing, churning through grasses. A river is born. Here is the infant crawling of the mighty Arkansas River. Oh my! How many times earlier in our ride through Arkansas and the Midwest had we crossed this endless river and all the humans, cattle, horses, wildlife of all kinds, insects, trees and plants who utilize its vital Colorado snowfall for their nourishing waters. Right here, in this valley, between Leadville and Twin Lakes this river is created. I see it happen. If flies narrowly at first, only a mere 5-10 feet across, easy to traversed, but in just a few miles its velocity streams forward, incessant towards the Mississippi, its own journey's end. Why the rush, I ask.

I am enjoying the evening ride. I have no lead in my legs from the shortened Mt Evans climb of yesterday. I am over my trials now. I am Bikeoo Buddha once again. I am in love with nature and all its wonders. I have seen the water's origins that sustain life. I am at peace and very happy in my soul.

I travel onward. Arkansas beside me. She is beautiful rushing faster now than my legs can peddle this man-made machine. A turn on Rt82 to head west. Last climb to test the stalky legs into the sundown. A massive lake appears to my left. Then its smaller twin. We are near. Further ascent to a crest then a final descent. Two mountain peaks invaginated at their center core. Snow-covered. They will be our breakfast to engorge on tomorrow.

We arrive at the historic Twin Lakes Inn. A quiet secretive gem in the Rockies along this great scenic roadway. Hard to not feel romantic with the cozy appointed unique rooms. We shower and settle into a delicious dinner. I enjoy the very generous portion of eggplant parmigiana and know instinctively that I have refilled my energy stores. The Inn is a genuine RITA stop making me long all the more for my wife to return here with me someday to walk along the lakes and enjoy each other's being in the mountains. For Doug, Maggie, and Andy - who own and manage the Inn with a relaxed demeanor, ever seeming to make their guests comfortable - let's just say that I really hope to see you again soon! (next time, of course, with my wife!).

A wonderful day. No lead in my Leadville legs. I have recovered. I sleep well. RITA on my mind... Famed cyclist's climbing lore - Independence Pass - awaits us tomorrow morning.



Weather: (10)

Terrain: (9)

Scenic: (8)

Wildlife and Roadkill:
R-raccoon, skunk, birds

Medical Report:

Bike Report:

Still Having Fun: (10)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Stage 22 Report: Top of the World

Saturday, June 17, 2017
Start: Idaho Springs, CO
Finish: Dillon, CO
Total Bike Mileage: 37.8 mi
Cumulative Bike Mileage: 1650 mi

Awoke to another beautiful clear forever sky in the Rockies. We gathered our bags and drove to Bergen Park about 8mi east along I-70 at exit 247. Had a enjoyable french toast breakfast at Dandelion's Cafe near the put-in spot. Started cycling from the junction of Squaw Pass Rd and Evergreen Parkway (Rt74).

Immediately our gradual persistent thigh-tiring ascent began. Our goal for the day: to reach the pinnacle of the highest paved road in North America, the apex of Mt Evans standing tall at an elevation of 14,130ft. There are 56 mountains in CO over 14,000ft high (known among climbers as the "Fourteeners"). Yet only Mt Evans is accessible by a road. The 56 are separated by a mere total of about 400ft in elevation from 1-56 with Mt Elbert as the king at 14,433ft.

Why a road was built to Mt Evans Peak I do not know. Our lowlands climb passed a beautiful sloping green valley; one could see for mikes further east as I e hours the beauty of the morning.from my bike seat, the steady cadence of a continuous 4-5% graded climb  settling into my legs.

Elevation meant further views as we enter the Arapaho National Forest and past the Arapaho Springs Campground. Snow starting to line the roadway, Aspen trees giving way to only pine. Over Chief Mountain and then Warrior Mountain. Climb, climb, incessant climb. Legs tired. Breathing heavier.

We arrive at the Echo Lake Campground junction at about climbing mile 18. There is a gift shop/restaurant and campground. Snow, high winds, chilly. I am shivering and put on my North Face sister and Blaze jacket. A brief rest. The entrance to the Mt Evans Byway. About 14.5mi further to reach the apex. Where is my energy? I worry about the hot soak in Idaho Springs the night prior. Nutrition-bread with peanut butter and honey. Fluids.

We start our ascent of Mt Evans. 1mi later I am sweating profusely with too many layers on my torso. Sun gives a brief reprieve from the crisp air. I strip off the upper layers, Peter reprieves, and continue upwards around switchbacks with my Blaze Brothers. I am beginning the sense of exhaustion, the looming "bonk" of energy draining from my whole body. It is done. Mt Evans has won this battle. I turned off at the next parking area. Peter was there with the van. I cannot go on. "Go," I said to my brothers. "I need rest. Today is not my day." Vik and Mike continued. I sat despondent on the side bar of the van door. A few exhausted tears in my eyes. It is not easy to accept defeat.

A few minutes rest. I contemplate my situation. Fluids. Stand and try to enjoy the snow swept bowl of a mountain pass at the parking area. A sign. Mount Goliath, it says. You have reached Mount Goliath! I start laughing sardonically from my core. Goliath defeats David?! But that's not how the ancient Biblical story ends! Why here? Why at this cursed cold mountain of drudgery and wind-chilled exhaustion. Goliath, you cannot win this battle. It is not in the prophecy.

I rest and add layers of warmth. I leave my bike shoes on. Peter and I are now the support crew tracking Vik and Mike as they continue to ascend. The narrow road hangs by cliff edges. One mistake and death awaits bicyclist or car driver.

Tundra now, no trees. Marmot scurrying on the rocks. Pass mostly frozen Summit Lake where a family of hesitant mountain goats are seeking minerals near a rest area. Onward. 3miles of peak climbing remain. My Brothers are doing it, slowly but steadily. I want to try again. Goliath lingers in my mind. Perhaps it was only the final battle that history records between the future king and Philistine giant.

I exit the van, bike shoes still on my feet. Clipping into my peddles I ask for strength from the mountain creator. I join my Brothers with a surge forward. More switchbacks. Snow drifts high alongside. Views for hundreds of miles off the cliffs beside us. The nearby mountain peaks now below us. Switchback after switchback. Where is the top?

I see cars parked. Ever more narrow roadway. People scurrying up a pile of rocks and boulders. The apex is now in view. "Not today Goliath, not today!" as I slingshot up the final switchback. We reach the summit! Elation and joy and exhaustion, for certain. There will be no more climbing for today. Time for celebration. I feel pride for my Blaze Brothers for what they accomplished. I feel somewhat despondent for my earlier exhaustion. Today, I and the mountain struggled to a draw.

The pile of rocks extended another 50-100ft higher than the signage. We stood and took our memorable photos. The rocks, to me, signified the top of the world, the burdens of life lived all below them. Only sky and heavens above us. Hawk's spirit was soaring anew.

Late afternoon now. Danger lurks around every bend. We descend gingerly by van back to the Echo Lake junction. Awesome views of the Rockies and chasms along the way. A piece of blueberry pie awaits me at the junction restaurant. Hummingbirds taking sweet sugar from feeders. I purchase commemorative Mt Evans shot glasses for my Brothers to gift at dinner later that night. They accomplished a great and memorable feat.

Return to bikes. A 16mi fast descent of the mountain on Rt103. Early evening now. Sun low in the sky. Joy again. I fly down the mountain swishing switchbacks and planing straightaways. We collect just before the junction of I-70. Pack the van and head west on I-70 to the town of Dillon, CO to for spend the night at the Best Western hotel beside the beautiful lake. Pasta and salmon - vital carbs and protein. I smuggled in a bottle of Bourbon (I rarely drink alcohol). Present Mt Evans glasses  to Vik and Mike. Chai glasses for Peter and me. A toast to a successful and safe and very memorable day.



Weather: (10)

Terrain: (8)
Almost constant climbing, good road

Scenic: (15)
Highest views from a mountaintop byway I may ever see

Endurance: (7)
Difficult end, stay away from Hot Springs when climbing mountains

Wildlife and Roadkill:
W-mountain goats, marmot, quail

Medical Report:
Fatigue, sore quads

Bike Report:
No concerns

Still Having Fun: (8)
Goliath stole a few points

From the Top of the World

Summited Mt. Evans today! 14,130 feet

Top of the world!

There's a pile of rocks there. No pot of gold.
Exhausting climb.

55 to go?!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Stage 21 Report: Hot Springs Haze

Friday, June 16, 2017
Start: YMCA of the Rockies/Spring Mountain Ranch, Granby, CO
Finish: Idaho Springs, CO
Total Bike Mileage: 50.5 mi
Cumulative Bike Mileage: 1612.2

Awoke feeling refreshed and invigorated. An awesome 360 degree view of the Rocky Mountains from this massive YMCA ranch property dotted with cabins, hotel blocks, swimming pool, archery, horseback riding, cafeteria, play areas, walking trails, etc. This would be an ideal spot for a family vacation, especially for younger elementary-middle school age children. Just the view itself from the well-appointed spacious room is majestic (see photo). We enjoyed a hearty breakfast variety, cleaned our bikes, and planned the day's ride.

Another beautiful sunny day. Cool morning air as we have enjoyed daily in the Rockies. We cycled from the YMCA heading east along Rt40, through Tabernash and then a relaxing long flat stretch along the Fraser Valley with mountains on each side and ahead. Some grazing cattle enjoying verdant grasses underneath snow covered mountains. Any direction you turn to is a postcard image of stone-crafted mountains and dark green pines dabbed with vanilla snow drizzle down their slopes.

We passed through the town of Fraser, then on to the resort town of Winter Park, bustling with mountain bikers this time of year. Climbing soon began as we approached the first turn of many high-pitched switchbacks ahead to reach another Continental Divide.

To succeed at a long grinding challenging climb for many miles is not easy. A number of variables are at play as a cyclist - what is your general energy level and aerobic fitness, did you rest well the night prior, have you eaten properly to store sufficient energy, do you have a positive mental state or are you brooding or ruminating over frustrations - these and others influence one's climb. Sometimes you conquer the mountain, other times the mountain defeats you, and occasionally it is a draw - both you and the mountain suffered but each provided the other with a sufficient and balanced challenge.

Balance truly is the key to be a successful long distance cyclist. Yes, there is the more fundamental balance mastered at perhaps 4-5yo when the tricycle wheels are removed as you fearfully but excitedly experience that first need to right oneself like a keel in a ship as you race faster and twist right and left and believe there is no stopping point after that first rush of two-wheeled mastery. I am sure young gymnasts and acrobats also experience that initial thrill of physical balance on the beams and bars. As do painters in perspective balancing a developing dimensional work on canvas.

But while a mature cyclist's balance involves these more primitive right-left brained autonomic tasks, the real balance of an extended climb to a mountain top involves the art of managing gear changes, occasional out of seat peddling, body positioning into a headwind or with a tailwind, nutritional needs and fluid intake, and proper breathing, especially if at a higher altitude. Having a buddy along for the climb never hurts either as additional motivation to "get 'er done!" together.

These dynamics change by the minute, of course, and so as we climbed and climbed for the next many miles, quads burning, it was not easy or a whole lot of fun. Take a sip from water bottle, gasp for air from immediate oxygen debt, pause periodically to regain strength but also suffer the consequence of having the vital blood drained from your leg muscles in the pause period, needing a minute or so to return to its proper place as you peddle once again.

Some enjoy a grinding multi-mile climb in a sadistic way. Pain and suffering can also elicit endorphin rushes that compare to other elated highs from achievements. Sometimes I will erupt in laughter, the giggles consuming me, when challenged in this way. After all, the fresh mountain air and chef d'oeuvre views surrounding me cold not possibly deflate an inspired soul. And so it was the case today. Laughter in the midst of pain and suffering, all stewing in the same pot.

We suffered together, us Blaze Brothers, with Peter diligently setting mileage markers and offering needed nutrition and fluids between gasps. We reached the apex of the Continental Divide at Berthoud Pass (elevation 11,307ft)! Sherpa far ahead as expected of our lithe friend with admittedly superior cycling DNA.

Breathe. Steady Peddle. Nutrition. Fluids. Brief Rests.

What goes up must come down! I've suffered enough. The mountain now needs to suffer my weight on its downward spine! I smile and laugh, this time not from pain and suffering but because if ever there was a man blessed with the right ratio of body proportion, weight for height and center of gravity, for taking a downhill swiftly and possessing a seemingly unlimited endorphin storage pool I must confess it would be myself.

"Engage!" I shift to the highest gear ratio on my Shimano Ultegra cassette. The cranking follows swiftly - faster and faster I peddle, squeezing out the lactic acid from my quadriceps. Wind rushing on my cheeks and st my chest. I position as aerodynamically as Zi can on the bike frame. Extended firearms grasping my aero bars, my elbows on the aero rests.

Ah yes, fresh mountain pine air in my nostrils as I inhale like Tyrannosaurus Rex salivating over a meal. Round the bends, switchbacks, straightaways I go ever faster. 42, 46, 50, 53.3mph! I hold on tight. I am in the cyclist's downhill Zen stream. Body and Bike working together in unity. Scanning for any road imperfections, dips, gravel or wildlife that could impede my path. Fourteen miles of exhilarating downhill speed and technical prowess! I am one with the mountain. The mountain was kind, after all, to me. We made our amends and time to move on.

These descents tend to separate us Blaze Brothers temporarily. Each with his own rhythm and desired speed downstream. We collect at the intersection of I-70 just after the town of Empire then continue a very relaxing spin further descending in elevation along Allvarado Rd which parallels I-70 heading east and along the banks of Clear Creek filled with rafters in the afternoon sun. We arrive at the bustling town of Idaho Springs, CO and our night's stay at the historic Indian Hot Springs Inn. I was happy and joyful for yet another full day of challenges and beauty in the Rocky Mountains among friends.

Dinner at Beau Jo's Pizza. We ordered the Mountain Man 5lb pizza! Wow! Delicious thick crust pie. Salad bar on top. Bellies full of refuel! More climbing ahead...

Back to the Inn. Famous for a century for its revitalizing hot springs water from deep within the earth. We descend to the underground natural mountain stone encased grotto where a handful of steaming small pools are our oasis for a hot hazy soak. Hottest elicits an ouch on entry. Time for sore muscles to gelatinate. I worry if their may be consequences tomorrow. Will it soften or seep their energy as a hot soak has deprived from prior experience. But it just feels so good! I linger a bit longer. Mellowed. Soft. On to the milder tropical-like arboretum pool for additional soaking. Pruned. Happy. To hotel room. Sleep time. Big climbing day tomorrow! Mt Evans, 14,130ft high. Soft muscles. Jello. Mellow. Downhill Zen stream. I worry a bit. I sleep fretfully in a Hot Springs Haze.


Blaze Stage 21 Photos


Weather: (10)

Terrain: (9)
Sadistic climb, day #2. Who designed this itinerary, I ask myself rhetorically?!

Scenic: (10)
Rockies continue to inspire...

Endurance: (8.5)
Challenging climb to Continental Divide #2. Legs are starting to feel the burn

Wildlife and Roadkill:
R-songbirds, butterflies

Medical Report:
All good except steady quad soreness

Bike Report:
All good

Still Having Fun: (10)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Stage 20 Report: Rocky Mountain High

Thursday, June 15, 2017
Start: Estes Park, CO
Finish: YMCA of the Rockies, near Granby, CO
Total Bike Mileage: 76.8 mi
Cumulative Bike Mileage: 1561.7 mi

Usual preparations this morning. The tension had not yet evaporated from the still of emotions to be confronted by the climbing task which awaited us.

Some bread and yogurt and fruit for breakfast, cycles cleaned and lubricated, we set off from the hotel and Estes Park. A pleasant clear sky morning as we spun along W Wonderview Ave/Rt34, which became Fall River Rd; following the beautiful river flowing against our trajectory, coolness past cottages and cabins that dotted its banks and hillsides. Past the fish hatchery. The stone jutted cliffs rose steeply to the occasion as we entered the gates of Rocky Mountain National Park. It would be a twenty mile climb to the apex of our day.

Beautiful green valleys with gurgling streams invited us into the park grounds. Ascension began with a series of switchbacks up the mountainside, gaining altitude steadily through pristine forest.

My mood was one of solitude and reflection rather than friendship and comraderie. I just needed some time and space for myself today. A hangover of emotions and ennui and memories coursing through my mind. Nature's beauty would be my salve today. That and my own need to conquer a mountain to uplift my confidence and determination.

I separated from Buffalo and Sherpa early into the initial switchback climbs along Trail Ridge Rd. Past Rainbow Curve and Forest Canyon, steadily advancing upwards, views of grandeur of distant mountains and valleys beyond compare. Tears and joy intermixed today in my catharsis. My heart was strong and my legs wanted to push forward, to separate from anyone and everything. Just me and the mountain today. And so onward and upward, through beautiful vanilla Aspen groves, checkpoints along the way signaled ever closer to the summit. Tundra arrived as the tree line receded. Past Rock Cut and Iceberg Pass, thick crusted snow drifts beside me, temperature cooling markedly and winds howling and battling once again. Not today Zephyrus! I will defeat you boldly if you even attempt to sway my ambitions. Like my namesake, King David of the ancient Israelites, my shield of resiliency and determination was my strength to overcome any obstacle in my path. The ancient cauldron of the Lava Cliffs stood stoically at the entrance to the final climb. Once burning from the core of the earth the mineraled jutting rock face strengthened my own core resolve. Cleats pressing into hardened pedals, bike and biker summited as one. Elevation 12,183 feet above sea level. I had past the great Continental Divide of this mighty range.l and passed this cyclist's first major biking test. The climbs through the rabid dog chases through Alabama and Mississippi, the climbs through the Arkansas Ouachita Mountains, the Nebraska Sandhills winds - all had prepared us well for the Rockies climbs.

This mountain in this park yielded to my still youthful strength today. The deed was done. I could laugh again now. I could move on to the other side. I felt reenergized and emboldened but suddenly felt alone and longed for the comraderie of my friends to share the victory. Solitude needed to end. Buffalo and Sherpa were not far behind. They too summited and we celebrated our victory at the Alpine Visitor Center. Coffee and hot chocolate with heavy whipped cream. I was a child reborn. Refreshed. Filled now with happiness and laughter again. This David was 'King of the Mountain' today. And I realized I needed that pat on the back, not to gloat, but to emerge as a more compassionate leader who better understands the human emotional aspects of all our lives.

When I was a child I could remember running downhill through summer camp grassy sloped fields. Perhaps it was down the hill to a lake or playground. If you were in a hurry then even better to air out the youthful legs of summer. The cool winds in my face, wet grass against my calves, I would race the meadow and be happy. As a cyclist the same rapture exists for me from the sweet raw energy and edginess that arrives from a winding mountain road descent. Geared up to the max, I ignite the turbo-charged mitochondrial ignition switch in my quads and hamstrings and calves. A voice in my head times the process just right as the pitch in the road descends. I call out to my mind, "Engage." Rocket ship sore! Pumping pistons on either side of my bike frame exert downward gravitational and centripetal forces as I lean my torso rightward and leftward into every curve, breaking only if the road demands it as the meadow and morning dew of my childhood returns anew. Acceleration multiplied by my physical mass equals force and raw power as my adrenaline-fueled "turbones" discharge their storage pools and vault me forward and down the conquered mountain.

Horses? No, a herd of Elk greet us in the pristine stream-laced meadow towards the end of our descent to the valley floor.  We stop to regroup. Blaze Brothers reunited. Remove cold-weather gear in the warming sunshine. Continuing through the valley of snow covered mountains in our midst, John Denver's mystical song, "Rocky Mountain  High," finds kinship in my ears:

"Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake
Rocky Mountain high, Colorado"

We coast downhill to exit the park at the town of Grand Lake. We take a short hike to visit Adams Falls, its icy waters scrambling powerfully down the mountain scape towards the blue lake below. Return to town for Mexican lunch beside the lake. Then cycle onward along Rt34 past massive Grand Lake and then past sister Lake Granby as we then head southward and eastward along Rt40 through the town of Granby to finally arrive at our evening destination, YMCA of the Rockies/Snow Mountain Ranch. Refreshed and Spring-bear hungry I thoroughly enjoy a cafeteria-style heaping plate of pasta and rice and salad and catfish. The chocolate pudding would wait briefly but be devoured soon enough as I enjoyed the breathtaking view of the snow-covered mountains from the room balcony.

We toasted our day's achievement crossing the Continental Divide, a milestone to be repeated by other climbs in the days ahead. Sherpa was honored by receiving his own colorful Blaze Across America custom jacket. And Peter, ever mindful of our needs, we thank you for your kind efforts on this journey! The mood had shifted positively in our group. We could relax our guard. Tease and joke amiably. Gratitude for friendship and kinship in the lust for adventure among us.

Photos and Video


Weather: (10)

Terrain: (15)
Excellent roads through the park, enjoyable climbing due to scenery

Scenic: (15)
Pristine National Park, ecosystem changes with elevation, just a magnificent day

Endurance: (10)
Legs responded well to my power requests today

Wildlife and Roadkill:
W-Elk, Bighorn sheep, Marmot, colorful butterflies, water fowl at the lakes
R-raccoon upon departing Estes Park

Medical Report:
No concerns

Bike Report:
No concerns

Still Having Fun: (20)