1999 Bicycling Season
Dorothy and I started the 1999 cycling season by buying a co-motion co-pilot bicycle. We had finally come to the decision that tandeming on the road is really our calling. Consequently the co-pilot is a top-of-the-line road bike by Co-Motion from our friends at Tandem Cycle Works of Colorado . One of the best features of the co-pilot is that the frame has couplers on it. These couplers allow the frame to be taken apart and packed into two suitcase size boxes for easy travelling. This feature will allow us to tour in tandem all over the world.
Since this is our third tandem we decided that we'd go all out and get all the toys on the bike. Things that make bicyclist drool!. We got Shimano DX componentry. Phil Wood high performance hubs, and ultra lightweight RacePace cranks. We also added a feature that anyone who rides in the Colorado Rockies can appreciate - a drag break. This little gem is a drum brake like on a car with a huge heat sink attached to it. Dorothy gets to control this break since I've already got all the other controls on the bike. We've heard that these things are more than worth their weight on big descents like down Wolf Creek pass. Of course Dorothy's insisted on a soft-ride seat again. The first time Dorothy rode on a soft-ride she decided she would never go back 10 years later she still won't ride anything else! We also configured the new bike with some of the little touches from our old bike. We added a Vetta split seat up front so no one can call me numb-nuts after an eight-hour ride. We added aero bars, on the front to give me more options to rest my shoulders on real long rides. And we outfitted it with SPD pedals all the way around. The edition of the new panniers and Bob trailer completed the package so we're all set for some heavy-duty traveling.
Spring Training With RMCC
Gear is fine but let's get back to what is really important in bicycling and that's bicycling itself. We started the year riding with the RMCC again. The club has some of the best cycling routes around the Denver area, and they take some big rides up into the mountains near Denver. These guys are really animals. In 1998 we road their recreational rides which start out at about 35 miles add mileage each week. These rides start off in February riding in the flats to avoid the cold and unpredictable weather of the mountains. However before you know it the RMCC crowd is headed for the hills, climbing the hills of Douglas County or the canyons of Jefferson County. Not long after that you're making 60-mile rides up Coal Creek Canyon and then you realize it's only March.
Early Trip To Arizona
In March we had put 500 miles on the new bike, and we decided to take it out for a traveling excursion. We have discovered by firsthand experience and through written accounts that the best way to travel on a bicycle is to follow the weather patterns. So like the migratory snowbirds, we headed south to Phoenix in search of warm predictable weather. Coming from Denver, Phoenix in March is wonderful. The temperature is about 85 degrees while Denver has yet to break out of the 60s. This trip was only a moderate adventure, we decided to stay with our old friend Judi Samuleson and her new husband Dimitri. The adventure part really revolved around traveling with new bike. The first job was to break down the bike and pack it up in its two suitcase sized boxes. This first packing took about an hour, and when we got the Phoenix it took a little less than an hour to put it all back together. While in Phoenix we made a couple of 40 to 50 mile rides. One of first rides was really fun. We went north into the real rich area of Scottsdale. We also made another 40 mile ride to the south table mountain area. This area is very beautiful it is full of cactus and wide-open desert.
Early in the year Sadie our Chesapeake Bay retriever managed to twist her knee and really mess herself up. As it turns out she had torn her cruciate ligament which in humans is similar to the ACL. Unfortunately this led to an April surgery and several months of rehabilitation, and no swimming for the rest of the year. Following the surgery there were five weeks that the dog couldn't go up and down the stairs and was basically incapacitated. Then came nine more weeks of careful rehabilitation. Unfortunately rehabilitating our "baby" ended up costing us most of the cycling season. We had planned to on Ride-The-Rockies again, but we stayed home and spend the summer making sort day trips instead. Fortunately Sadie made a perfect recovery and is now doing just fine except for a little bit of a decreased stamina.
Brunch Rides To Evergreen.
Although our surgery dog slowed our ability to travel this year we did get several opportunities to continue our tradition of riding to brunch in Evergreen Colorado. This ride is a hilly trip from our house in Englewood to the Evergreen Inn in Evergreen Colorado. The Evergreen Inn serves a very nice champagne brunch every Sunday which only costs about $10 per person. This ends up being a nice reward for climbing the 25 miles of hills of to Evergreen. For those not familiar with the Denver area, Evergreen sits nestled in the mountains at 8500 feet. By contrast our house sits at beginning of the great-plains at 5200 feet. The trip is a bit strange, it takes 2 1/2 hours to get to Evergreen but only 45 minutes to get home.
In addition to a hill training opportunity, we use the Evergreen trip as an opportunity train for riding in traffic. Yes, I said training to ride in traffic. Just like anything else if you don't train to ride in traffic when you actually get yourself in a high traffic situation you've got a potential for big trouble. The road Evergreen is a two-lane twisting road that carries a fair amount of traffic. Fortunately most of this traffic is aware of cyclists because it's a popular cycling route. One of the biggest tricks of this ride is to time your entry into blind corners to make sure that you're not on a blind spot as car are passing you.
If you want to ride the ride, you have to pay Mr. Newton.
The trip up the Evergreen can be a bit of a bear because it's 25 miles with 3000 feet of elevation gain. But no matter how hard trip up is, the trip down is equally as fun - 25 miles of downhill. As Lewis my brother says, "if you want to ride the ride, you have to pay Mr. Newton". In addition to the long steep hill, the twisty and curvy road adds to the fun. With two of us pedaling and leaning into the curves on the tandem we can easily attain speeds not possible in a car. Only motorcycles and animals on single bikes can keep up with us as we rocket down this hill. On several occasions this summer we found ourselves blazing the curves at 40 mph leading a line of cars that could not catch up us. In the straightaway the cars would start to catch up to us, but as we leaned into the hair-pin corners at full speed they fall away as Dorothy and I grin.
With the addition of our good friend Mark Goddard we started to make brunch in Evergreen a regular Sunday tradition.
Riding With Chuck and Cheryl On Their New Tandem
1999 solidified the union between two wonderful people - my nephew Chuck, and his new wife Sheryl. Since the two of them had established households, they asked that everyone contribute to a Tandem Bicycle fund for their wedding present. In August they purchased a very tight and responsive Cannondale tandem. Of course this was a great day for Dorothy and I. Chuck and Sheryl are both very active and this gives us a very close pair of riding companions that understand the special issues of Tandeming. We celebrated by joining them as the rode their new bike 30 miles home. As the summer wound down, we managed to make several rides usually with Chuck and Sheryls entire family. We must have been quite a site as we cruise around Arvada, with Chuck and Mathew on the Cannondale with baby Brittany in a Trailer, Sheryl and Monty on our old Burly, and Dorothy and I on the Co-Motion. Hopefully this will be a fun family activity that we will be able to enjoy for the next 50 years!
The Solo Trip To Stowe Vermont
As fall approached and the dog recovered from her surgery, Dorothy and I got the itch to go traveling again. Fortunately early in the year I won two round-trip tickets any where United Airlines flies in north America from Carlson Wagonlit travel in Castle Rock. We decided the best use of these tickets would be to see the fall foliage in Vermont via the bicycle. With a little bit of research we discovered that Presidents' Day weekend is the height of the season to watch the leaves turn. We decided this trip was going to be our first try at an unsupported ride. We flew into Burlington Vermont with our bicycle and caught a taxi to our hotel in Stowe, which we used as a base for the next five days as we bicycled around northern Vermont. For someone who lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Stowe Vermont is a wonderful place. The fall the colors are unbelievable! The mountains in Colorado have lots of green scattered with the yellows of aspen trees. But Vermont has amazing reds and yellows and varying shades of orange from the maple trees.
Once again having a bicycle that folds for travel proved to be a real asset. It accompanied us on our flight from Colorado to Vermont, and fit perfectly in the taxi we used to reach our hotel. Our first cycling destination in Vermont was the Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory. Ben and Jerry's is about 20 miles down the road from our hotel in Stowe. Unfortunately the weather sucked. We made trip in 60 degrees and rain so when we got to the ice cream factory we got some pretty strange looks being all bundled up and our winter cycling gear standing at the door of an ice cream factory. Because the weather was cloudy and raining we didn't do any really big ride like we expected. Instead we made several 40-60 mile rides. One of them took us over the highest point in Vermont - Smugglers Notch. Although we didn't have the altitude to slow us down, some of the hills in Vermont are steeper than any paved road in Colorado. Towards the top of the Smugglers Notch the road was amazingly steep. I was standing up peddling as the bike inched forward crank by crank. At one point the rear wheel actually slid out underneath us, like we were on a gravel mountain bike hill - something I didn't think was possible on a paved road on a tandem. This particular ride also reminded us that when cycling in up north in the fall that it gets dark much earlier than it does in Colorado. We ran out of day light about 15 miles from our hotel. These last few miles were really unpleasant, wondering if we're going to run over by a driver who couldn't see us. Fortunately Stowe doesn't get a lot of traffic. Overall five days on a bike in Stowe was a wonderful way to see the Vermont colors and to get to know some of the locals.
Ride To Club BEA
1999 also gave us the ability to continue on tradition of riding our bicycle to Club CDO in the fall. I am very fortunate to work for company that treats it employees like gold. Every year we have a fall event in the Mountains of Colorado. This year we took everyone in our group and their spouses to the Keystone resort. Last year BEA took the entire departments to Vail Colorado for the same sort of event, and Dorothy and I decided that that this would be a great bike trip on our bicycle. This year we continued tradition by taking the day before Club CDO off and riding our bike all the way up to Keystone Colorado. Keystone is 85 miles from Denver and 9000 feet higher. Although this may not seem like fun to most people, Dorothy and I don't mind the climb. We just crank along slowly, and enjoy the scenery and the togetherness and don't let the 8 hours of climbing bother us. One parts of this ride that I really enjoyed, but didn't expect was reaching the 14,000 foot summit of Loveland pass at the same time that everyone from the office passed in their cars. My good friend Dave Leichner pulled up along side us for a quick chat as we crawled out way up the pass. All in all almost half the company drove past and waved witch made the last part of a very hard ride a lot more fun. We also gained some notoriety as the crazy couple who wrote their bike to Key Stone.
Preparations For Europe 2000 Ride
The end of 1999 brought Dorothy and I to interesting pointed our lives. For several years, we have been living a modest life, well below our means with the hope that in the year 2000 we could make a big cycling adventure. Now the time is upon us. So we are planning for a 3-month unsupported cycling excursion exploring Europe at 10 miles an hour.
Through all our years of planning we are fortune enough to be in the position the Dorothy could leave her job at MGMA in October to begin planning for the trip. It's a good thing because planning a 3-month adventure in countries we've never been to is a rather daunting task. Dorothy started by buying every book that she could on traveling in Europe. We also added several books on bicycling touring to our library.
The next step was to find a travel agency to work with us to further develop the adventure. We were very lucky to find Darlene Ravin with Corporate Travel Services. Her detailed knowledge of Europe, and her patients in listening to our special needs has been wonderful. Both Dorothy and I have a working knowledge of Spanish, which will be helpful in Spain and Italy, but neither of us know any French. Since we will be planning on spending the bulk of our time in France, Dorothy is going to take some French lessons so we can at least get by on the back-roads of France.
So far the initial itinerary has a starting in Paris in early May. Taking a trained to Madrid's main after visiting most of the sites in Paris. And then cycling out the Western Coast of Spain through France into Italy down through the down to the boot of Italy. In Italy we will head back north up the western coast of Italy. Then climb our way across parts of Switzerland and Germany and then ending in the Netherlands where we hope to visit with some of my good friends in the BEA Amsterdam office.
If we're able to pull this trip off I plan to bring a laptop and digital camera so I can keep my web site updated with our progress and some of the highlights of the trip. It will be interesting to see how Dorothy and I manage four months on the bicycle. On thing for sure this will be an interesting challenge and will definitely be the adventure of lifetime.