20 July 2005

Tour de Great Lakes - July 13-23

Tour de Great Lakes Trip Report
From July 13 to 23rd I rode from New York City to Milwaukee, Wisconsin via a route that went initially straight northward into Ontario, Canada and then westward over the top of Lake Huron before re-entering the US at Sault Ste. Marie to proceed west through the upper peninsula of Michigan and finishing by proceeding south along the western shores of Lake Michigan to end in Milwaukee. The total distance was 1,255 miles which I rode over an 11 day period.

Why this ride?
I wanted to see if I could do a longer solo trip. Also I liked the idea of demonstrating to myself that the bike was a viable form of transportation for long distance travel, the Queen Mary of land travel, both more costly and slower but still offering an intrinsically rewarding and different experience. Also I liked the unstructured nature of the ride and going very light with minimal gear. My bike was hardly slowed down versus doing say a club ride. Also I like the idea of just riding away from NYC without knowing exactly where I would be going or staying overnight. I felt a need to confront directly and in a small way the fear of the unknown. Additionally I wanted to prove the possibility of riding and doing overnight loops. If overnight rides become candidates, NYCC club rides could cover much greater territory. So, for example, one could take the train to Poughkeepsie, ride 100 miles, say into the Adirondacks, or 1/3 of the way into Vermont, and then return by a different route back to the end of the Harlem line. That's alot of range and you would not need a sag car. A car would add an extra measure of insurance against breakdown of course.

The first 4 days were been really hot, the next 2 quite rainy, followed by 2 cooler but windy days and finally the last 3 were warm with variable wind. I just barely missed getting caught by a severe thunderstorm on the last day by about 15 minutes. It was a severe enough storm that the tornado sirens were turned on!

My Feeling
I generally felt strong but was worried about my knees holding up on day 3 and 4. They had become a little tender by the end of each of those days. I decided to take more breaks to give them a rest which seemed to solve the problem. After the half way point, I felt like I was getting into a groove as it became easier to put the mileage in. Thus on the second to last day with the help of a mild tailwind I packed on the mileage and did 151. Also that helped to space things out so that the very last day was not so long. On a long tour, after 5 days of breakin, I think I could have averaged a bit more, maybe around 125 or 130. If there had been more tailwinds instead of headwinds that would add another 10 to 20 on what could be done. I focused on different parts of riding. Often I thought about keeping my shoulders down (I have this bad habit of scrunching them up) and keeping my elbows in. Also I tried to focus on not pushing the pedals, spinning them instead but not in too low a gear. I basically tried to time trial all the time, although at a lower energy level, one maintainable all day long. In still air, I tended to be in either a 39x15 or a 53x21 one up or down. I averaged about 18 to 19 in still air but I would estimate that I was riding into the wind about 60% of the time, during which my speed and gearing would both be lower. I also tried to pedal in circles by pulling up and back as well as pushing down. During the first week, by the end of a day, my feet really began to hurt alot. All said, my feet getting sore was the biggest limitation on my riding speed. The heat aggravated that I am sure.

The riding was often quite remote with the towns few and far betweeen and very small. I was concerned about the possibility of bike breakdown as I had a stretch at one point of perhaps 300 miles, I estimate, between towns having bike shops.

I went into many taverns for food as I found them to be better and more interesting stops than the countless convenience stores. Invariably I would get asked either where I was going or where I had come from. People were very surprised when I said New York City.

I went as light as possible and wanted to avoid panniers. So all I used were a handlebar bag and a mid-size seat bag. One pair of bike shorts meant I washed them every night. I'd recommend two jerseys since keeping these fresh smelling is pretty important for obvious reasons. For 'normal' clothing I had shorts and a tee shirt, that was all. I also carried bike tights and a yellow rain jacket. Next time around, for a summer time ride, I would skip the bike tights. I never used them. Most evenings I hand washed the riding clothes. Twice I managed to machine wash them which did a much better job. Amazingly, I had no flats at all. I did start the ride with brand new tires which I am sure helped. Generally the rural roads are much cleaner than those of the city. I did break a rear spoke on day two which fortunately I had brought extras and so I replaced it immediately.

Riding Tips
I started to carry in a jersey pocket an extra small water bottle that fits under the bathroom sink faucet so I might use it to fill up my larger bottles when they would not fit. I made sure the smaller one had a top which was easy to drink from so that I effectively had 2 1/3 big bottles of carrying capacity. The weather was so hot I got tired of buying water all the time at $2 or sometimes $3. A few times I did run out forcing me to ride dehydrated until the next source.

I watched Lance and the Tour in many of the motel rooms as about half of them have OLN. Prices varied but were particularly inexpensive in rural Ontario and the upper peninsula of Michigan. I had one place right on Lake Michigan, Garden Corners, which cost only $35 a night. The problem of making reservations is a bit of a challenge when biking because you really don't want to commit to a certain location much in advance. What I found to work best is at about 3:00 to 4:30 or so stopping in a town and then calling ahead for a reservation so you have confidence before taking the next step that there is a motel with a vacancy. The second night, Watertown, I made the mistake of arriving at the location at 6:30 only to find there was no place to stay. To be in a position of having to ride looking for a vacancy is not good especially after 100 miles and with dusk approaching. The tourist information booths, usually located when you enter a state or province, were very helpful at providing information on small motels by town.

Border Crossings
As they are wont to do, the crossing guards try to ask questions which will reveal some inconsistency in your story or if you really have the knowledge that would come with doing a bike trip. Upon re-entry into the US, he asked me my average speed, how many days I had been in Canada, and what my average mileage per day was. I did bring a passport which may now be required although I am not sure of that.

Day Mileage Overnight Location
1 ... 80 ... Cooperstown, NY
2 ... 131 ... Watertown, NY
3 ... 102 ... Westport, Ont
4 ... 130 ... Whitney, Ont
5 ... 101 ... Parry Sound, Ont
6 ... 115 ... Sudbury, Ont
7 ... 110 ... Blind River, Ont
8 ... 120 ... Kinross, MI
9 ... 110 ... Garden Corners, MI
10... 151 ... Green Bay, WI
11... 105 ... Waukesha, WI
Total 1,255

Accompanying Riders
John Zenkus was kind enough to ride with me the first day from Phoenicia, NY to Cooperstown. Chris Teager drove a sag car and at the end of the day transported John back to NYC. On the very last day, my friend Keith Lauritsen, who lives in Green Bay, gave me shelter and then rode with me (and 2 other friends as well) from Neenah, WI down the west side of Lake Winnebago to Fond du Lac, a distance of about 35 miles. That was much appreciated also.

I saw only 5 other bike tourers, far fewer than I expected. Some of the motels were quite used to seeing bikers, but others were not. It seems the route around Lake Michigan gets a fair amount of traffic. The motel operators of the first three nights were not so familiar with bikers.

Highlights just in a list
Thousand Island Border Crosssing - very picturesque islands many with cabins
Algonquin Park - I'd go back there canoing some day
Huntsville, Ont - nice surprisingly touristy town.
Rosseau, Ont - also a little gem surrounded by lakes
Blind River, Ont - scenic and directly on Huron's Georgia Bay
Sault Ste. Marie - a nice touristy place as well
Upper Peninsula, MI - quite desolate so the cycling was almost traffic-free. Lots of forests.

Biggest disappointment - Sudbury, Ont. - a heavy industrial lead smelter town.
I actually did not see that much of Lake Huron.

All of these places must be so cold in winter!

All in all a great trip with special emphasis on the conditioning aspects of it.

02 July 2005

Eric's "Ride The Rockies" Report 6/17-18

Fri. June 17th & Sat. June 18th. New York/Denver/Grand Junction Co.

Whopee! I’ve arrived in Denver at 11:30am on Fri. and take the shuttle straight to my hotel in Downtown. ..The Magnolia. It’s right around the corner from happenin’ 16th Mall. A street with tons of shops restaurants…and bars. Love the hotel. I splurged, but I was only in Denver one night, so why not. The plan was to meet a couple people who were very helpful to my trip. I met Nicole Zaremba in New York where she and I attended her sister Tina’s one woman show. Tina is a client at Atlas Talent Agency where I work (http://www.atlastalent.com/). Tina introduced us and told me Nicole lived in Denver. I replied excitedly that I would be in Colorado in a couple of months as I had fortunately been one of the 2,000 cyclists picked randomly to do “Ride The Rockies” this year. I registered for “Ride the Rockies” because frankly, Europe was gonna be too expensive and I had never been to Colorado in my life and I heard the climbs and the scenery were first rate. So here I was blabbering to Nicole about attending the 20th edition of the tour. She and her boyfriend were happy to hear this and then she told me she had a friend and work colleague named Terri Porter who had gone last year with her father who was a big time cyclist and multiple “Ride The Rockies” veteran. She suggested I get in touch with Terri to help me better prepare for this trip. Nicole was also instrumental in steering me toward Frontier Airlines which had by far the cheapest airfare.

At the time, I assumed I was going to camp on the trip, and had already made plans to borrow some camping gear from my racing buddy Matt Purdue who was an avid camper. Then fate stepped in. I spoke to Terri the following week and she told me that even though her father had made plans to go this year he had to cancel. He had even booked motel rooms in each town. “Are those rooms still available?” I asked. “Yeah sure, you want them? We were just gonna give the reservation back”/ “No no no, I’ll take em”, I said. Who was I kidding. I was born on 19th and 1st avenue. What do I know from camping? I have camped a total of two days in the last 10 years and I wasn’t the one who put up the tents. This was a message from God/MotherNature/Allah. Fate had intervened. I was gonna have a bed, a shower and even a roof over my head each and every night!

We had made a tentative plan to meet up somehere in Denver this Friday Night. Soon after I arrive at the hotel, Nicole called me and gave me the address to a restaurant called Racine’s where I finally got to meet Terri and her Fiance (See picture – Sorry it’s bad, blame it on the waitress who took it) and fellow avid cyclist. I had an appetizer and a drink and talked about the trip, but they had to cut out for a pre-father’s day family get-together. Nicole drove me back to the hotel, but I wasn’t ready to turn in yet. I wasn’t riding tomorrow, all I had to do was catch the Coach USA charter that “Ride the Rockies” set up for a 4 hour trip across the state to Grand Junction, Colorado.

I decided to walk around the mall and noticed what looked like a party right on the street. The name of the bar escapes me, but every Friday in the Summer, there’s a huge party. How could I resist. I got myself a beer and took in the fun atmosphere. It wasn’t long before I heard a girl talking about biking. Well if that wasn’t the perfect time to enter stage left and I introduced myself and told her that I was here in Colorado visiting and that I was doing a week long bike trip. Well I guess I said the right thing because they allowed me to hang with them the rest of the evening. They were Cindy (Nickname is Cici), Amy & Nicole (See above) I had a great time and am grateful that they made me feel at home in their presence. I’m looking forward to seeing two of them in New York in November as they are doing the NYC Marathon and I am under strict orders from Cici to find them a nice restaurant on the Upper West side to hang their hat after the run. I promised I would and most certainly will. After hanging with these party animals, I was done. Gotta get ready to bus it to Grand Junction in the am. Hit the hotel and passed out in minutes flat.

Sat. 6/18

Woke up, got out a bed, dragged the comb across my head. To quote Mr. McCartney and caught a cab to the bus and loaded up to Grand Junction. This was the first time I had ever seen mountains of this magnitude. I had never seen river rapids like the one’s I saw as we headed West. This was cool. I put on my MP3 player and took in the wonderful scenery. I arrived around 1:30 to the Carnival atmosphere of “Ride The Rockies” and signed in. Got my free jersey and watter bottle (which is really cool), found my bicycle which I had sent ahead and found my motel and was very happy with the room. I was spending two nights here and it had a pool! Yes! I popped over to the downtown area and grabbed a bite and made it an early night. Tomorrow was day one of my long awaited ride 405 mile ride across Colorado.

Check out the route on the main link at: http://www.ridetherockies.com/

For the elevation profiles to each day as well as reports from the Denver Post of this years ride click this link below:

Eric's "Ride The Rockie's" report Sun. 6/19

Sunday 6/19 Colorado National Monument – Grand Junction, CO. - 45 Miles

First day on the bike at last! I was excited and nervous and asked myself more than once did I ride enough this year? My odomotor that I bought in February said 2,010 Miles and I had done six races. Surely I’m ready for this right? I’d sent my bike off on June 8th and thanks to a business acquaintance, I got a pass to the fancy Equinox gym in my neighborhood. They had great stationary bikes that were compatible with my look pedals. I could clip in and off I went. Just to be ready I took 8 spinning classes in nine days. They encourage wearing the heart rate monitors to check your recovery. My recovery times from the higher plateaus of my HR max and say.. 120 bpm was improving steadily everyday.

Today’s ride was a fairly steep climb to the top of Colorado National Monument on a crisp, clear but hot day. Shortly into the ride I chatted with a guy named Tom from Colorado Springs, but was soon moving back to his native, Ontario Canada and was doing his 3rd “Ride The Rockies”. I asked him how many miles he did to prepare and breathing heavily, he sputterd out “uh..only about 500 or so”.. He saw me reach for my little Canon Digital Camera and said to me.. “You don’t want to just take pictures of the sights do you? My father was a photographer and I’ll take some pics with you in them.”

Cool!. As you can see, he did a pretty good job of catching these action shots. (Above) There’s one picture of me doing a bad impersonation of The Satue of Liberty on my New York Cycle Club jersey. If you look closely at the jersey it’s Ms. Liberty wearing her nice red helmet (For safety and yet very stylish) The Jersey got a lot of rave reviews Thanks Tom from Canada for the great shots. I’m forever grateful.

Because he wasn’t quite as in shape, he’d let me pull off the front and then I’d meet up with him again at the aid station. He, like me was motel-ing it, because his wife and daughter had joined him on the trip as a sort of final farewell to Colorado which had been their home for the last 10 years.

Over this week I did an un-scientific pole and can say with pretty good accuracy that atleast 50-60% of the participants in this year’s “Ride The Rockies” were from or resided in Colorado. When riders (looking at my jersey) asked if I was from New York, I said yes. Where in New York was always the follow up.. “The City”, I replied. The reactions from my answer were always of shock. S ome in delight and many with this sour look and inevitably they’d ask, “Well, where do you climb?” I’d then explain that the best climbs locally were in New Jersey and then north out of Jersey to New York again heading upstate to places such as Nyack, Bear Mountain, Harriman State Park and then finally I’d mention.. “you know Central Park is a 6.1 mile Power course with a ¼ mile hill and a 12% + grade. I race there on weekends” Upon hearing this, a group of six guys thought that it must be cool to actually race in Central Park. I told them it was.

I rode with this pack to the top and it was at the downhill that Tom caught up with me. His bike looked like he was carrying a suitcase under his saddle. No wonder he was hyperventilating out there. The downhill was sensational. Beautiful switchbacks with the most stunning views of the canyon. There’s a bike racing film called “American Flyers” starring Kevin Coster, I think from 1982. With many movies of this era, there is something cheesy about it, except for the bike race footage which was shot from races at that time and the footage of Costner on the bike was shot on this very same road. Put it on your Netflix list and get the popcorn.

Once on the flats, the six guys tore off like a bat out of hell and in a split decision, I decided I felt good enough to go and got on their wheel. In about 10 minutes there were just 3 of us and we kept a revolving pace line going for another ten minutes until bike and car traffic back into Grand Junction got out of hand. We all gave each other high-fives to a well done finish to the first day’s ride. Now it was back to the motel and a dip in the pool (Thank you Ramada inn) and then the “Beer Garden” in the center of downtown Grand Junction where “New Belgium Brewery” were this years new proud sponsors. Most years, Coors was the sponsor. They served up a hearty brew called “The Fat Tire”. How appropriate.

A great thing about “Ride The Rockies” was how damn efficient they were. There were always charter buses (at least six of them to take riders to the local High School (where the start/finish was and where the hardy campers would set up camp for the night) or there would be a bus that woud pick up or drop off the motel people to and fro from HS to Beer Garden and back. And there was ALWAYS a beer garden to go to in each town. Beer and biking just go together I guess. I call it my reward.

I was hungry after the beer garden and nothing in the immediate vicinity excited me so I ventured off the beaten path and found a laid back burger joint with a bar and had a terrific burger and met a couple of the most outgoing gals on the ride …Kris & Patricia (see above) They told me they were on “TEAM DFL” short for “Dead Fucking Last” and proceeded to prep me for a water soluable “DFL” tattoo. I was now initiated in a new bike club. Thanks gals. We caught the last buses at 10:00pm happy and full.

Eric's "Ride The Rockie's" report. Mon. 6/20

Grand Junction to Delta – 92 Miles

Today, the second day of riding was going to be the longest hardest ride of the whole trip. This was GRAND MESA. I made sure to stretch an extra 10 minutes and to have the 30 SPF on-hand. I didn’t sweat it too much because I knew I was in a lot better shape than the alarmingly high rate of older fatter riders on this trip. (There were a lot) On top of that there were seven aid stations along the route to hang at. The ride started at 4,500 ft. elev. Between mile 38 and mile 57 it would climb to 10,839 feet. Yep. Almost 20 miles uphill! There were going to be 4 aid stations in that 20 mile period so how could you fail? Well fail many did. The tally of riders that took the bus up from various points on the climbs rather than make it on their own steam was roughly 500 of the 2,000 registered cyclists. Doh!!!

This day started relatively flat and then we all found ourselves on this one continual incline of a manageable 4 or 5% for about 5 miles. Just as I began to wonder where I might take a nature break, the aid station at the foot of the Grand Mesa appeared.There was now 15 miles of super serious climbing to be done. The next five miles was steeper than the last, but the temperature seemed pretty hot, but the time and miles went by and I settled in. The more I rode the more comfortable I was with the heat. (strange huh) Part of it was probably there was no humidity here.

When I’m feeling good on the bike something special happens. I’ve told my racer buddies this before…. music starts flowing in my ears and it calms me and puts me in to a nice steady rhythm. Today the song du Jour was Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” from “Dark Side of the Moon”. I don’t understand it, but Pink Floyd has a lot of songs that are good to bike to. I think sub-consciously, the line in the song “Up and down and in the end it’s only round and round and round” was heavily on my mind for obvious reasons. The slow relaxing rhythm, yet powerful intermittent bombasts of saxophone and shrieking choral voices seemed to complement this mountain nicely. From there it’s just a short time before I feel this meditative peace. No wonder I saw riders wearing "Dark Side of the Mooon" and "Wish You Were Here" jerseys.

The first time this ever happened was on my New York Cycle Club: http://www.nycc.org/
“graduation’ ride in May 2004. A round trip from Central Park to Bear Mountain. 120 Miles. I was intimidated, cause I had never climbed Bear Mountain. How intimidating the name alone is. Well it wasn’t too bad. I paced myself and found myself getting stronger as the climb progressed. Then it happened. A song I really love.. the Cocteau Twins “Lazy Calm” just eased into to my cortex as I looked over at the stunning view to my left of the valley below. Wow! At that moment in time I was relaxed and at peace just listening to my breathing and the tune in my head and felt for once what it was like to be a satisfied man and content with just being.. No past no future. Just now. I ended of being the 5th rider up the climb, with my future racing team mate Joe Decuiitis reaching the summit first.

I was hoping to get more of this natural drug on this trip and I got it. Pink Floyd was taking me there. I stopped at the aid station with 10 Miles to go for more water and I was back on in no time. I was now passing people like I stole something and was rewarded with a sudden whoosh of cool air and thick patches of snow along both sides of the road. I was getting close, but I was in no rush. At one point I looked up and saw cyclists up above me on another plateau of the same road that I was on and they were continuing up in the opposite direction. I know this was a sight that probably freaked some riders out, but my immediate reaction was cool. I’ll be there soon. I stopped for a minute and took a couple of pictures off the road where other riders were taking pictures near the top ( see above). I didn’t stay long as I was looking forward to closing this deal.

Myself and another guy in a Discovery Channel Jersey were taking a leisurely spin upward when we both heard the DJ’s sound system up the road and we simultaneously got off our saddles and wanted to sprint to the finish which was flattening out nicely. As we reached the top there was a party going on big time and everyone on a bike who got to the finish was treated to rousing applause from the other cyclists, support staff and locals. Very cool! I enjoyed a big juicy bratwurst sandwich with chips and accepted one of the most delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies I had ever eaten. I posed for a picture in my CRCA (Century Road Club Assoc.) jersey at the elevation sign and was ready and eager to fly down the mountain.

It only took about 10 seconds from setting off down Grand Mesa when expletives began leaving my mouth. This was gonna be something else. 26 + miles of unadulterated speed. It was gonna be at least a half-hour hunched in an aero position. I have to say the first five minutes were very intimidating. It doesn’t really matter if you crash at 45mph or 30mph, it’s gonna be a world of hurt. I eased into it and let the experienced speed demons pass on the left. I got comfy and then fully let it loose and got it to 43mph before I started getting twitchy. As I was entering the valley below I was hit with a blast of heat that felt like a con-air hair dryer was turned on right in my face!. Guess I’m out of the mountains. At the next aid station I stopped and was dying from the heat. There was a nice lady who had a water hose and was filling up the igloo jugs and I asked her to hose me down and she obliged. Other’s followed suit. From here it was just 15 Miles to the finish. It was a long one. Mostly flat with hot winds blowing in our direction and one of the dullest straightest road I’ve ever been on. Finally a left turn on a shaded street and the carnival of sponsorship tents and campers and charter buses appeared Ahh… Job well done! Hello Delta, Colorado. Hit my motel just a couple of blocks away (thank God!) and was in the mood for Mexican. I asked the jolly motel manager and he showed me the way. Just a five minute walk, Yes!. Got the biggest burrito and as a special reward..one cold Dos Equis Beer. I meandered back to my motel which was a whole bunch of Miniature log cabins. It was definitely the most miniature room of the trip. But it had AC, a bed, a shower and TV. I think those (and possibly water) are the most important things to man. I may be exaggerating a little. Tomorrow is just a 34 miler so, I think I shall sleep an extra half-hour tonight. Good night.

01 July 2005

Eric's "Ride The Rockies" report Tue. 6/21

Tue. 6/21 Delta to Montrose – 34 Miles.

After yesterday’s monster 92 miles with 20 miles uphill and 25 miles straight down, it was a smart move to throw in an easy and relatively flat romp through the farms between the towns of Delta and Montrose. I awoke very well rested and the legs felt great. I had a leisurely breakfast at the comfort in across the street and set off for a nice easy ride. I enjoyed biking past the farms, but I have to say this jaded New Yorker was a bit bored by mile 15. There was an aid station there where I refilled my bottles and chilled under a shaded table near the DJ. This DJ gives away “Ride The Rockies” t-shirts with little contests like, “The first person with an ornament on their helmet gets a free t-shirt!” or “The first person who can show me an expired Colorado license get’s a free t-shirt”. So I’m sitting there and the next contest is this. “The first person who can show me a valid driver’s license from East of the Mississippi get’s a free t-Shirt!”. Well I was up off the chair and my wallet out and in this guy’s face in about 4 seconds. Two seconds ahead of somebody else. I showed my NY state license and was declared the winner! Funny thing about these T-shirts. They actually show the route of the tour on the back (That’s cool), but the dates say June 10-june 25th. (That’s wrong) Oh well, it’s a free t-shirt.

Got on the bike and was finished by 11:30 and hit my motel by 12:00. I showered took a nap, went to the “Red Barn” restaurant and had a surprisingly tough steak with spaghetti and set off on to the center of Montrose. The main street was really quite nice and was bustling with crowds of cyclists and locals. I counted at one point four different bands and two solo musicians performing on various corners within a 5 block radius. 2 rock bands, 2 bluegrass bands and 2 folk singers. Wow!! Surprisingly, I hadn’t seen a cowboy hat until today (see above) cool huh!. It was too late to catch the latest Star Wars film up the block and so I headed back and crashed.

Eric's "Ride The Rockie's" report - Wed. 6/22

Wed. 6/22 – Montrose to Gunnison – 65 Miles

I thinks the best cycling days (for me anyway) are filled with both hardship and glory. Today was one of those days. It was recommended to the riders by the ride organizers to sleep in a bit as the kick off point at Hhy 50 is infamous for heavy early morning easterly gusts of wind. Well I was off at 9:15 as those winds were still bad. I got in a pace line about 50 cyclists long to protect myself from the wind. The route for the next 14 miles would takes us from approx. 5,800 ft. elev. to nearly 8,000 ft. elev. which made the pace of this pace line more like a conga line. At the first aid station I met 3 riders who I would spend most of today with as well as Friday – Doug Lowe, his 20 yr. Old son – Dustin and Doug’s buddy Ken. All from Salt Lake City. This was Doug’s 4th “Ride The Rockies”. Doug’s wife Debbie was a real trooper and acted as the “Directeur Sportif” of “TEAM LOWE”. Once the 3 guys would bike off, Debbbie, assisted by Dustin’s girlfriend would pack off the car and camper and set up camp at the next destination. It was very cute to watch Doug text his wife of their current location and she text him as to how good a spot she found for the night.These guys were a hoot and we took turns singing out loud. I started sing “Octopusses Garden” and the song bounced happily in my head for the next 45 minutes. Once over the Cerro summit the winds were gone and we could enjoy a nice down hill (Not!!!).

Shortly after heading downhill we ran into a major snafu. The road we were on was getting completely repaved. With the heat, the tar was wet with huge mounds of gravel mixed in and we were in a steep decline so the bike wanted to go! go! go!. You could tell who the experienced mountain bikers were because they were masterful on their road bikes avoiding breaking too hard and going at good speed. I on the other hand was white knuckling it all the way for 3 f%#@!! Miles. I felt my back wheel fish tail at least twice. I looked down and my Michelin tires, which were yellow with black stripes were now all black with tar and with a nice gravel topping. My wheels had turned into granola clusters! Shit!!!! With my forearms beginning to tire from all the breaking we finally reached aid station 2. There must have been at least 500 cyclist at this aid station which was adjacent to a gas station with dozens more coming in every couple of minutes. Everyone with the same problem….how do we get this crap off our tires? Some had it worse…flats and terrible dings from flying rocks that did damage to paint schemes on $5,000 dollar Serotta’s, Trek’s and Orbea’s. Riders took out their tire hinges to scrape the wheels to no avail. At the aid stations there are always bananas and sliced oranges to eat and someone tried the orange peels as a salve and it worked pretty well. An even better solution was gasoline! Another rider (without asking the station owner) squeezed out some gasoline and poured it on a rag and the crap just came right off. I got me some of that and before I knew it, my wheels returned to their wonderful yellow and black striped luster. The owner saw what was happeing and the old guy look like he was about to have a stroke. Fortunately one of the organizers was right there to let him know that he would be compensated for his trouble.

At last I, and my new found friends were off again heading to the summit of Blue Mesa. We got into a nice pace as the climbs began and I was feeling really good and was more than happy to pull our group at any opportunity. In fact I was pulling so hard at one point that I had lost my buddies. Oooops. Man I felt good. I was gonna keep going and hard too! I was just flying past slower riders until my pace matched those of 5 or 6 other riders and we were just pounding the peddles. About ten minutes later a very fit couple had had it and dropped from the pace. I was beginning to feel like Ivan Basso or Floyd Landis or Lance…just keeping a blistering pace and watching others snap around me like overstretched rubber bands. I forgot to mention that I was wearing my heart rate monitor and it was telling me great things. My heart rate stayed between 130 and 145 and whenever the road flattened out I was below 120. As one cyclist told me, if you are below 120 on a ride you’re heart doesn’t even know it’s having a workout! The road got steeper and twistier as we headed for the summit at the beautiful Blue Mesa resevoir. I was still in my middle ring and more gears to spare. It was now me and one other rider who was at my pace. I had to do it….the famous “LOOK” that Lance Armstrong gave to Jan Ullrich on the climb of L’Alpe d’Huez at the 2001 Tour de France… http://www.usatoday.com/sports/cycling/2003-07-11-the-look_x.htm

I pulled in front of the guy without showing any hint of bother, I got off the saddle and looked back and stared hard enough for him to notice and then dropped him like a bad habit. I was such an ass!, but I couldn’t help it. After surviving the “Tar Pits” the cycling gods had shined on me. I continued to float up and around a nasty 180 degree switchback with atleast a 9-10% gradient which led to another ½ mile of gradient of 6-7% before the aid station at the Blue Mesa Summit. (Picture above). I had a satisfying lunch and found my buddies who got there and enjoyed a terrific ride downhill leading to Gunnison. Got to my Motel in Gunnison (The Super 8) It was surprisingly nice and the bathroom was bigger than a lot of NY studio apartments. Best of all the Community dinner was right across the street from the motel. I met up with Doug, Ken & Dustin et al. and had delicious BBQ ribs and a couple Brewskies from the tour sponsor “New Belgium Beer” Their “Fat Tire” brew is quite tasty. I called it a night relatively early around 9:15. I don’t know if it was the beer, but I all of a sudden felt very tired and was getting a sore throat. uh oh…see next day’s report…