Over the last few years, Dorothy and I have discovered that we both enjoy riding our tandem bike, and it seems to bring us closer together. In this time, we have progressively gotten deeper and deeper into cycling.
In 1998, Dorothy and I spent most of our spare time on our tandem. Our season started in mid February and we're finishing the year with just over 2,100 miles on our tandem.
The 1998 cycling season started in February when we started riding with the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club. The RMCC is the sponsor of the annual Denver to Aspen Classic, a one-day ride from Denver to Aspen. Consequently, Dorothy and I spent the entire season riding RMCC's "recreational/sports" rides. Most of these rides took us up the hills just west of Denver that ranged from 40 to 60 miles in distance.
In June of 1998, we ventured out on our first home-spun bicycle tour. For this monumental trip, we chose northern Arizona - Flagstaff, and Sedona. The choice of location was a complicated one. We had to consider weather, terrain, daily distance, elevation change and, of course, scenery. Northern Arizona seemed to be a perfect fit for the time of year we had in mind, half way between the start of cycling season in February, and the 1998 Ride the Rockies.
The adventure began like most; plan, plan, plan. We have two friends who have done quite a bit of touring on their tandem, and they turned us on to the idea of stealing a route from a company called BackRoads, who runs adventure tours all over the globe. So we found a route that makes a triangle from Flagstaff, to a beautiful place called Mormon Lake, to Sedona, and back to Flagstaff. All told, this turned out to be 35 to 40 miles per day through the spectacular scenery of Northern AZ. The next question is, how do you get a 8 foot long 50lb tandem bicycle from Denver to Flagstaff? Again our friends Ken and Cindy had the answer. "The Coffin" - a 3X6 foot case designed to carry a disassembled tandem. They have taken "The Coffin" all around the world with them in their travels. As for contingency plans, we decided to bring my father on the ride just in case things didn't go according to plan.
The first adventure was getting to Flagstaff with "The Coffin". I didn't realize Flagstaff airport is only serviced by little prop planes! Fortunately they got it aboard, but the captain asked who was bringing their piano with them. The ride from Flagstaff to Mormon Lake was lined with trees and long lakes, but the temperature was in the high 30's. Our planned route on forest service roads from Mormon Lake to Sedona ended up being impassible due to unusually heavy 1998 El Niño snow! Just like most of my life, dad was there in a pickup to come to the rescue. The shortest detour was a 130 mile stretch of freeway to Sedona. Fortunately this area of Arizona is full of interesting Indian ruins to explore along the way. On the way into Sedona, we got back on the bike to enjoy the splendor of the spectacular rock lined canyons. Once in Sedona, we discovered the route back to Flagstaff was also impassible, so we decided to take a cycle tour though the rock monuments of Sedona. What the heck, we had Dad and a pickup, no worries.
There's no way to adequately describe the premiere rocky mountain area cycling tour. Ride the Rockies is an annual event that tours different routes across the Colorado Rockies. On this tour you get scenery, brutalizing climbs, exhilarating descents, and more scenery, not to mention the friendliest folks on the planet. This year we were fortunate enough to ride with a great bunch of riders from US West, who we also rode with in the 1996 Ride the Rockies. These folks have been riding the tour for years, and really know how to enjoy it.
The course started in Boulder this year and traveled to Estes Park, through the grandeur of Rocky Mountain National Park to Granby. From Granby we raced along the Colorado river to Kremling before climbing Rabbit Ears Pass for a big descent into Steamboat Springs. After a day of rest, we headed south from Steamboat for the longest day of the tour to Vail, 100 miles away. From Vail, the climbing started as we rode past Camp Hale, the home of the 10th mountain division, to the top of Freemont Pass at 11,318 feet. We hit an all time high speed of 57.6mph on the way down to the finish line in Frisco. The following is an excerpt from my daily log:
Every fall the Leader Group (now BEA Systems, Component Development Center) takes a few days to celebrate the fact that we have a top-notch team by taking a retreat in the mountains. This year we spent three fun days in Vail. When the trip was first mentioned at the office, I knew that this would be my chance to finally break over the Continental Divide the hard way. Although I had climbed over the divide several times, the trip had never started at my house. The plan was to head up through Evergreen, then straight up the I70 corridor and over Loveland Pass, stay the night in Keystone, then head out past Dillon Reservoir and on to Vail.
I knew the trip from Englewood to Keystone via Loveland Pass would take a while, but I had forgotten how early it gets dark in September. We started the trip fairly late (8:15am) and headed through Morrison to Evergreen. After eating lunch, we pulled out of Idaho Springs at 2:00pm. Trouble was starting. We made good time on the easy ride to Georgetown. However the two miles just west of Georgetown was very steep and sharing I-70 with cars going 70mph was not fun. The rest of the way up to the base of Loveland ski area continued steep and hard, but at least we were on the frontage road again. At the base of Loveland Pass, we knew we had 4 miles of steep climbing and not much daylight left. When I asked Dorothy if we should push on and risk finishing the pass in the dark, or call for help, she impressed me by saying we've ridden in the dark before, let's press on. How many wives would say that in this situation! We pressed on and reached the summit of Loveland just before the sun started to set. In the 6 mile race down to Keystone, we topped 50mph several times, and ended up playing tag with a couple of jeeps that were headed our way. Every time we got to a straightaway they would pull away, but every time the road was curvy, we would catch them. What a day, average speed 10.16mph, distance 84.62 miles, high speed 52.5mph.
The next morning, we got an early start and, as we rode along the back side of Dillon reservoir, I wondered who besides cyclists know the echoing creaking noise that metal highway rails make as they warm up in the morning. Copper Mountain Resort felt like a ghost town as we began our trip up Vail Pass. The trip up and over Vail Pass gave us a pleasant surprise. From Copper Mountain to the top of Vail Pass is 6 miles. We expected this section to take a little more than an hour, but it only took us 40 minutes. We put on our jackets for the fast descent down into Vail. Statistics for the day: distance 44.09, average speed 11.84, top speed 36.3.
All in all, 1998 was one heck of a cycling year. What does the future hold? Just before Thanksgiving Dorothy and I decided to buy that new bike we've been wanting. After talking with our friends Lynn and Patrick at Tandem Cycle Works of Colorado who we met on the 1996 Ride the Rockies, we decided to get a Co-Motion Co-Pilot. It has top of the line components, a frame that breaks down for travelling, and a drum brake on the back for the really big hills. We should get it just in time for Christmas, and a new year of riding adventures as we get ready for a summer of 2000 tour of Europe.