Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gran Fondo Fun

Because 450 miles was not enough miles for Biking Guy, Houston participated in another grueling ride on Saturday. The Gran Fondo is one of the hardest rides in the country. You may choose your torture, a mere 25 miles, a 44 mile (4800' of climbing), the Masochistic Metric (62 miles/8000' climb), Savage Century (102 miles/12,700' climb), or the Diabolical Double (125 miles, 16,500' climb). These mountains are steep, even steeper than the Rockies with some being 20% grade. Yikes! 
Above is some of the Western Wheelman, a bike group that Houston and I are a part of in Cumberland.   Most of them did the Masochistic Metric and came in smiling. What an accomplishment! If you could see the final 3-mile climb, you would be impressed. 1200 bicyclists rode their hearts out (not literally, thank goodness) and it was amazing to see them crank it out to the finish.

 They were all happy to see the finish line. Houston did the ride last year and I was hoping I would be able to at least do the 25 miler. But no way Jose. My knees, quads and my entire body are not in shape for this abuse. A few of us non-riders met them at the end and cheered them on. 

Sylvester and Donna pedaling into the finish line. This ride is a fundraiser for the Melanoma Foundation. Each rider pays an entrance fee and raises money on their own. Houston put the word out on Facebook and raised $4200!!! One of our close friends is going through treatment for melanoma, so plenty of folks we know gave for this cause. A surprise amount of $2100 came in on Friday and brought tears to many people's eyes. Our friend's firm matched the $2100 that others had raised. Wow!

Poor Mandela. He fell off his bike at the end due to extreme cramping. He had just completed the Savage Century and his legs said, NO MORE! 

But this awaited him at the end of the day. Well deserved. To all the riders, great job! And to all the volunteers, kudos to you. Another well organized vent. On Friday, there was a 'microburst' storm that tore through Garrett County, throwing debris onto the roads. The road crews worked through the night clearing the roads so they would be safe for those skinny tires and the riders on those bikes.
So now I hope Houston can relax a bit (well not really relax....I have a long list of chores!), but at least not ride miles and miles and miles every day. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

"The Rockies Rode Me!"

 That's the quote that Houston said after the day of biking over Independence  Pass! Tough day for him. But while Biking Guy, his team and the other 2495 other riders were pumping over mountains, I was meandering through mountain towns, drinking java in coffee shops and acquiring cute clothes in boutiques. Yea, sucks to be me! I had 4 knitting projects, a good book and my lap top so I wasn't hurting for things to do. I stopped in Grand Lake early in the morning, grabbing a mug of coffee and walking down to the lake. What is pictured above is the drastic devastation the pine bark beetle has wrought. The mountainsides are turning brown, with many dead trees still standing, but not for long. I sometimes traveled the driving route and other times, drove the way the bikers were going. The driving route was sometimes a hundred or more miles out of the way. But after driving the two hardest biking days, over Independence Pass and over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, I can see why they encouraged us to use alternative routes. 

An old home in Grand Lake. Not your typical house here, but one that needed just a little TLC.

I thought this was a cute way to hang bluejeans, from old rakes.

 I went to Aspen and the only photo I took was one of an iron grid on the street. Aspen is a pretty city, but I liked Basalt and Carbondale so much better. I walked all over downtown Aspen and was only lured into two stores. One was a funky, artsy shop selling coffee (score!), local artists' wares and homegrown veggies. The other was a Ralph Lauren store. I loved their window displays, very prairie oriented with old metal washtubs, chippy barn wood and models sporting long prairie skirts and lacy tops. I was taken by a lace vest and went inside to check it out. I thought that it would be expensive, like around $250 even though it was a skimpy little doily vest. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the price tag and saw $925!!!! I would put those numbers in caps if there were such a thing, so bold will just have to do. Have they really ever sold one?! Whoa buddy.

 One of our overnights was spent in Carbondale. They blocked off the downtown streets and had a party for us. This artist was painting and I really did like his loose style.

Many types of bikes were around. This type was not ridden over the mountains, but was crusin' around the town.

 This is what every evening looked like to Houston. I don't usually drink beer, but I did have a couple on this trip cuz the microbrews are just so damn good!

There was an entire market devoted to fresh organic beef, raised right outside of town.

 I lived in Colorado as a wee child and visited there every summer until I was thirteen, staying with my grandparents and seeing many aunts and uncles. I moved back to Colorado right after college, before migrating down to Florida. Being raised in South Dakota, I was used to the arid climate and absence of greenery. Colorado is very dry too, but has trees in the mountains. Not lush by any means though. 

One of my all time favorite trees is the quaking aspen. I do love their white bark and bright green leaves and the music they make when the breeze blows through their leaves. If I had never moved east, I would know no different and would be satisfied with the dryness and vast open spaces. But I have come to love the soft comfort of the mountains here and lushness that our area offers. The west is a nice place to visit, but been there, done that and I like my green now.

 Some of the roadside stops were fun and I was hoping this place would be offering cherries, my favorite fruit.

They had cherry pie, cherry jam, cherry syrup and cherry juice, but no cherries. I didn't hold it against them though.

OK. Enough about my fun. I was here to provide sag for Bicycle Guy. We camped at 6 different places, which meant we had to pack up the tent and gear each night and set it up the following day. I was a bit tired of blowing up Big Aggie (my 'mattress') after a few nights but I sure did sleep better because of her. This was sunset one evening. The views were amazing and sleeping with 1500 others wasn't so bad. Some chose to sleep indoors, in the gyms. But it was packed in there and with folks snoring and all the lights, I'm happy we cozied up in our tent outside. One night was really chilly, with frost on the tent but I had worn layers of clothing and burrowed deep into my sleeping bag so was pretty warm.

Highway patrol were a constant presence (thankfully) and one early morn, a herd of bicyclists asked one of them to take their photo before they headed out. 

 I sometimes traveled the driving route and other times, drove the way the bikers were going. The driving route was sometimes a hundred or more miles out of the way. But after driving the two hardest biking days, over Independence Pass and over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, I can see why they encouraged us to use alternative routes. Going up, up, up wasn't so bad (for me anyway) because I could go just a bit faster than the bikes, 5 - 6 miles an hour and was very careful not to knock any bikers over. 

I straddled the yellow line or when the coast was clear, I drove in the left hand lane. But coming downhill was a whole different story. The bikers could go faster than me, sometimes over 45 mph! and they'd be right on my tail. Far be it from me to slow down a biker wanting to propel him/herself down the mountain. I love going as fast as the next guy, and it was difficult to move my bigass metal vehicle fast enough. But no one careened on the edge and no one got hit. 

I was able to pull over at a viewpoint, got out of the car and walked by a biker. I looked back and thought it was my friend, Steve. And it was! Out of 2500 bikers that I had passed, what were the chances that I'd see one of my bike friends on Trail Ridge Road? It appears that I'm telling him to get back on that bike and ride to the top, scolding him to move a bit faster....

 ...but is actually the beginning of an encouraging hug. Go Steve!

The view was worth the stop.

 When they all made it to the way top, it was a bit chaotic as there were all the bikers, plenty of tourists and lots of cars. It was a bit dicey as the road was only so wide and the road just drops off steeply to nothingness.

 But the park rangers closed off one side of the road temporarily so the bicyclists could make their way around the blind curves at the summit.

 Steve and Houston at the end of the day. Still smiling....a good sign. Our group had only one little misstep. At one of the bike stops (where there are hundreds and hundreds of bikers) our friend was done for the day and had to get out of his wet spandex shorts. It appeared that the cafe that he was in front of was closed and seeing no one in the big front picture window, he slid out of his biking shorts and put on his dry shorts. Good to go. Everyone in the car and let's blow this popsicle stand! The other sag for our team was Patty, a much better sag than me, with having to run 5 of the riders around, from motel to starting point, to restaurants and even chaperoning someone on a date. Anyway, she was driving and about 5 minutes down the road, she said that she thought that cop behind her wanted to pull over. Indeed he did. Sauntering up to the car, he asked them if anyone had changed shorts in front of the restaurant at the last stop. "Well yes, Officer", our friend said. ?They were wet and I wanted to be dry." Well, a woman inside complained about indecent exposure and the policeman told him if the woman pressed charges that he would have to enroll as a sex offender! Jeesh! Yes, I guess he could have been more discreet but just look the other way woman! 

After 6 days of riding, the finish was at the Odell Brewing Company, one of the sponsors of the ride. They had brought their beer truck to every stop along the way, offering 16 oz of really good beer for $4. The ride ended at Ft. Collins, after a reroute because of the big fire that was raging in the hillsides nearby. We were concerned about the riders breathing smoke, but it wasn't that bad.

At the overnights, part of the whole deal was a fun afternoon/night at the local city park or fairgrounds. Local vendors would offer food or the Lion's Club or Rodeo Club would cook up some lasagna or something. Some vendors followed along to every site. Odell's would pick a club and wholesale their beer to them and they'd sell the beer for a moneymaker. What made me happier was the smoothie/coffee vendor. They'd open at about 5:30 a.m., sell coffee for a few hours, pack it up, haul it all to the next stop, set up and sell protein smoothies in the afternoon. 

The finish was a grand event. A Victory Aisle was cordoned off, lined with people like me, (non-riders) cheering on the bicyclists.

When all the bikers had come through it was time for the volunteers. The cheering really began in earnest. These folks put on a helluva event. I have never seen this amount of organization before. It's hard enough to do a one or two day event, but an 8 day event in 8 different locations, took crazy mad skills. 

There were 'professional' sag wagons, transporting riders and their gear to tops of mountains if they didn't want to climb that day, picking up folks who were too tired or injured to complete the day, and kept all the bikers safe on the roads. A very hard job, but very well executed.

Of course the first responders were invaluable. I'm not sure if anyone was severely injured, but I know folks were treated for dehydration, over heating and road rash. Only one person died on the trip and that was after the hardest day of climbing. He died in his sleep, a heart attack took him peacefully at only 52. He died what 

The state police were alongside the riders the entire 464 miles. I think they got the biggest cheers. They directed traffic, made sure crazy drivers gave the riders their space and overall did a superb job. 

This is our friend, Taldi, who depicts the emotion of the day. Yahoooooo for completing this grueling, fun filled adventure.

 Team Maryland/Virginia....job well done Guys and Girls!

And to Bicycle Guy.....what a stud! Proud of you! Maybe I can do it next year!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ride the Rockies Still

As it turns out, we have a few friends out west. When I found out that the driving part of Ride the Rockies (Drive the Rockies for me) was a different route than the riders take (to decrease traffic for the bicyclists), I saw that I was going to go right through Montrose, which is where my mom's friend, Verna Jean, lives. She lives in Arizona most of the time, but comes back to Colorado for 4 months in the summer. 

Verna Jean (isn't that just the best old fashioned out west name?!) is a real sweetheart, 
salt of the earth type. 

She was born and raised in this agricultural area, marrying her husband (who was her school bus driver) and raising 4 kids in this two bedroom house. Her parents and her husbands parents and various aunts and uncles worked the land their entire lives. 

We took a driving tour of her life in the valley. This was her one room school house two miles from her home where she either walked or rode her horse. It is now someone's home and the horse tie up is gone.

This was her first house, tucked away in the fields of grain. This valley is irrigated and is where most of the veggies, grain and hay come from in the area. 

 Back at her homestead, I was smitten with the outbuildings and their contents. American Pickers would love it!

 I could see so many possibilities with the 'junque' in here. 

 All this old rusty, industrial stuff is hot right now. I've always loved it and now it's being incorporated into home decor. 

 I told Verna Jean I'll be back with my pick up truck!

 We've known Tom for decades but had not met his wife, Susan, as we hadn't seen Tom in years. We spent a few days in Boulder, visiting them and some other friends, Megan, Kris and Kirsten. We got to bike, went out to eat at some of Boulder's best restaurants and I shopped at the cool boutiques and thrift stores that Boulder seems to have plant of.

Susan and Tom live right near downtown Boulder, a tree-lined neighborhood consisting of older homes. This is what the house used to look like, when a designer scooped it up and his contractors had their way with it.

Entering into the dining room, I'm struck by the wall colors. They're all different in each room, bold yet cohesive.

The entire house was gutted and a big addition was put on the back. The house looks to be the same size from the front, (historic restrictions prohibit homes from changing too much from the street side), but out back is a different story. It is all to scale though, thoughtfully planned out and executed.

A dream kitchen, for sure.

And a place to relax looking out towards the back yard.

 A garage with a bonus rental apartment close in the back yard space to make it private. The grounds are professionally landscaped (and watered!).

 This is looking up towards the back of the house.

 I couldn't get a good pic of the front of the house, as the landscaping shielded the architecture. But it was truly a job well done. Kudos to the architect for making a very livable home and not overbuilding the lot.