Wednesday, June 29

It's All Training...

This morning I briefly overcame gravity and summited Genesee Mountain on the Cannonball. It was a good trek up out of the plains, especially considering my ambitious plans for the weekend.

As I toiled up Mount Vernon Canyon on US 40, the sound of semis groaing up I-70 below and smaller, nimbler vehicles whining at high RPMs past them, I hashed out more of a plan for my tour up to Guanella.

I had planned on doing Evans, but something made me decide to abandon the Evans plans for something else. So I bumped up Guanella for the weekend of the 4th of July and the next weekend is still wide open. I'm waiting to see what happens with the weather and other circumstances as Sun Tzu has advised me from The Art of War.

The dry run up Genesee was good prep for my next push up Mount Vernon Canyon when I will be loaded for touring. It took me two and a half hours to travel the 20 miles from home to the summit and it took another fifteen minutes to head back down the canyon and to work which was another 10 miles. Yeah, I did average 40 mph on the return trip.

I like making these out of the ordinary rides. I was out of my cvomfort zone a bit, even though I'm familiar with the ride. But Genesee is one of those I typically only do once or twice a year. I had forgotten how it was hard. And how hard it was. My body isn't as conditioned to a 2-3 hour ride as I expected it to be. I'll be resting lots on my upcoming bike tour.

Sunday, June 26

Bicycle Dreaming

This past weekend I took Mandy on her first backpacking trip. I had been many times in Boy Scouts and a handful of times as an adult. But in the 12 years we've been together I've never put forth the effort to give her that experience.

When we first got together we climbed so much there was very little time for other outdoor recreational pursuits. And then Boone came along and there has been little opportunity for the two of us to get away and do something like backpacking.

This month without the kids has offered us many kidless opportunities. While trying to pin down something to do over the weekend I came up with the idea of backpacking in to Bison Peak in the Tarryall Mountains within the Lost Creek Wilderness. I had attempted Bison on New Year's Day, 2009 as a day trip from Denver. I was thwarted by altitude and a false summit and had never been back.

The 12.2 mile round trip seemed to lend itself to an "easy" introductory backpacking trip. The elevation gain and elevation in general made for a bit more of a challenge than I had planned for. But all in all it ended up being a good trip. We camped at Bison Pass and then summitted Bison Peak on Saturday morning. We returned to the car in the early afternoon and was home in time for an early dinner.

What does all of this have to do with cycling? Well, other than the fact that after we reached the trailhead we were engaging in human powered transportation, the trip was good prep for me for my upcoming bike-packing trips.

Evans, then Guanella. From Guanella I think I will hike out to Squaretop Mountain, a 13er. I still think I'm being overly ambitious. I still think I may be biting off more than I can chew. But the adventure will be worth it.

I forgot how enjoyable camping can be, especially going beyond car camping. Last fall I got a slight taste when the kids and I bikepacked a part of the Medicine Bow Trail. It was a lot of work with two kids and hauling bikes and gear and whatnot. But that trip was fairly successful too. We didn't bike the entire Medicine Bow Trail, but we did pull off an overnight trip on the bikes.

The kids were bummed that we weren't waiting for them to come home to go "camping" this past weekend so I guess once they get back we'll do another fun family outing.

But where? Will we bikepack? Car-camp? Rock climb? All of the above?

We'll see.

In the meantime I will be riding a lot while Mandy is gone with them to New York. If I had more vacation time...well, I'd be going to New York with them, but if I had a little more I'd do a long bike tour while the rest of my family is out of town. But I will get some miles touring with the Xtracycle. I think the experience will be valuable for future cycling endeavors.

I'm thinking next summer we plan a long ride. I'm thinking we make it count.

Wednesday, June 22

Bike to Work Day Shenanigans

Mandy and I helped out at the breakfast station at Memorial Park in Arvada. The City supplied all the stuff and we manned a satellite table right on the Ralston Creek Trail to pull in more riders. Seems in years past many missed the station because it was hidden at the pavilion behind some trees.

We got to meet some great folks from the City and a lot of nice folks riding to work. We also talked up Bike Arvada and I think we may have made some good progress and met some future members.

The two longest commutes: One guy lives in Arvada and works in Aurora. 20 miles one way. He rides every day. The other guy lives in Aurora and works in Arvada. 23 miles one way. He rides once a week. The first guy works in a bike shop. The second guy rides a department store mountain bike. Both impressed me with their commitment and mileage.

I saw a Surly Big Dummy blast past our table on the RCT. There were tons of cyclists of all shapes and sizes, ages and abilities.

The day was a success. I made it to work and I was on my bike.

Tuesday, June 21


Evans was blanketed in shining white snow this morning. That does not bode well for my Fourth of July attempt. No more snow please! It's summer now. No more snow.

Genesee Mountain was going to fall this morning. My mind was ready and would be ready to push my body if it was not. But then near disaster last night…

I left work behind the rain. It had rained all day but there was a lull as I pushed out the lower doors of the Taj.

And then, just before Illinoising I crashed in a mud puddle. Suffice it to say I was cold, wet and muddy. Bonus: I landed on the elbow and knee I had scuffed up last week while riding the Big Dry Creek Trail.

For a few pedal strokes on Illinoising, after composing myself to continue my commute home, I conisdered calling Mandy to have her come pick me up. I was wussing. I was sore and cold.

I persevered. I rode on home as the mud dried on my wounded pride and appendages. But in my mind I was a bit shaken.

I'm fine. There was no permanent damage, either physical or mental. And after deciding this morning to drive to work I changed my mind and told my lovely wife that I would not let a little crash stop me from riding. Over the winter I had many such crashes and got up from each one, dusted off the snow and continued on my merry way. I was shaken mostly because of the mud, and cold water and the previous injury to my elbow which throbbed and stung in the shower as I peeled off handfuls of dried mud.

So I rode this morning. I was slow. I was reserved. But I rode. Needless to say I didn't have it in me to tackle Genesee this morning. I was sore, tired and not so motivated to impress the world with my cycling prowess.

Tomorrow is Bike to Work Day. We'll see you at the Arvada City Hall breakfast station. And then on a morning not far hence…Genesee goes down.

Monday, June 20

Yeah, This Ain't About Cycling

This past Saturday Mandy and I visited Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins to boulder. A little background on myself: I used to boulder. A lot. No. A LOT. A little background on Horsetooth: Birthplace of American bouldering.

When I considered myself a "boulderer" I climbed (bouldered) as much as possible. I defied common sense and climbed day after day after day without taking rest days. I loved bouldering that much. I remember one long stretch of non-stop bouldering I had to tape up my fingertips which had essentially become open sores. But I kept on climbing.

Eventually my self-destructive course resulted in catastrophic tendonitis. I quit bouldering more than once. I'd go back, thinking I could work through my pain and get in shape. I talked to my doctor once about physical therapy. But in the end I decided I just needed to lay off. For good.

I sold my two crash pads. It was then that I knew I was serious about quitting. I was sad. Bouldering had been for me the therapy that kept me sane for a few years. It was the proprioceptive stimulus my body craved and it was the solitude I escaped to to cope with my radical immaturity.

Horsetooth was one of the bouldering Meccas I wanted to visit back in those days. Horsetooth because it had been the stomping ground of Gill when Gill was the man. There are classic boulder problems from early in American bouldering history. My heroes were Gill, Murray and Sherman. I wanted to make my pilgrimages to Horsetooth and Hueco. On a road trip with a non-bouldering friend I whimpered like a lost puppy as we barrelled past the Fort Collins exit on I-25. I consoled myself on that trip by beating around on the Jenny Lake boulders in the Tetons. It wasn't the same.

I have kept the issue of Climbing magazine that has a photo of Mike Auldridge doing the sick dyno on Pinch Overhang. On Saturday I tickled the brick sized pinch with my own hands. I scoped the hideous sloping mantle. I drooled and felt a smidge of that old feeling. I'm not a boulderer anymore.

I asked for and received a new crashpad this past Christmas. But a shiny new crashpad a boulderer does not make. I had a good time playing around Saturday. I looked at Eliminator Right and I have decided I need to do it before I die. I just do.

I've had a pretty amazing life. I get bogged down sometimes in the things I've wanted to do that have gone undone. But when I look back at all of the things I wanted to do, or didn't know I wanted to do, that I've gotten to do I realize that I've been very fortunate and blessed to have gotten to live my dreams for the most part. I tried to cram a whole lot into my twenties. Now that I'm approaching forty I can look back on my thirties and see that I have no real regrets. I chose to leave the life of leisure that allowed me eight days a week of bouldering, climbing and other sundry recreations so I could have a family. The family was what I really wanted.

Will I ever do a one-armed front lever like Gill? Absolutely not! Will I still dream that it might eventually be possible? Oh yeah!

Thursday, June 16

Look Out! It's a Mountain!

I have always kind of compared Lookout Mountain, just west of Golden, to the initial climb of Furnace Mountain just south of Stanton. Truly, there is no comparison, other than in my own mind. Both climbs have represented challenges in my past cycling exploits and those challenges are equal their individual contexts.

The first time I attempted Furnace Mountain I walked a considerable portion. I believe it was my third attempt before I made it in one continuous push to the last curve before the little rollers at the top. The Furnace Mountain climb is three quarters of a mile in length and gains 700 feet in elevation. It is wicked steep. In summer the sweat explodes out of you and your body could possibly burst into flames before you reach the top.

The first time I attempted Lookout Mountain I struggled to Windy Saddle and retreated. Windy Saddle is 4 miles and 1,100 feet above the low point in Golden. A few years had passed since I struggled up Furnace Mountain successfully and hooted in victory into the muggy air above my hometown. I managed to summit the Lookout Mountain climb on my bike on the second attempt, but I was riding a lot more than back when I was wrestling with a Kentucky backroad.

Lookout Mountain is the quinessential metro Denver area bike ride. On a Saturday it is easier to ride a bike up Lookout Mountain Road than to drive. The curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum publicly expresses his annoyance at the congestion created by cyclists as they "inhibit" visitors to the museum as they crawl up the twisting, winding road to the summit parking lot.

I don't ride it as often as most. Typically I hit it twice a year or so. When we lived in Lakewood I rode it a few times on my mountain bike, expressly so I could descend the Chimney Gulch Trail and also the trails down through Apex Open Space. I probably climbed Lookout half a dozen times in late 2009.

I've been wanting to head back up since the repaving project was completed recently. The surface is smooth as butter. The downfall (pun intended) is that there is a lot of loose gravel all the way up (and more importantly DOWN) the road.

From my house to work with a side trip to the top of the Lookout Mountain climb it is 21 miles and change with well over 1,600 feet in elevation gain. I've put it off for the past couple of weeks because I needed to get up early to make my ride and then get to work on time at 9am. This morning when I reached the Buffalo Bill entrance I glanced at the time on my phone: 8:30am!

I pointed the Cannonball downhill and hung on for the ride. I only touched the brakes when absolutely necessary. I had to watch for puddles of gravel in some of the nastier curves, but otherwise it was an enjoyable ride. I reached work at 8:55am. Seven miles from the top to the door. 25 minutes. Not bad!

Next week: Genesee Mountain.

Racing a Slow Leak or Two

I love riding with other people. I particularly love riding with my lovely wife.

When it rains (which is rarely on the Front Range) it pours. Tonight as Mandy and I rode home after church we discovered that we each had a leaking tube. Mandy's rear tire was spewing goo and the offending object was clacking on the pavement. My front tire went drastically low a few minutes later and I had to stop and put some air in it.

We raced toward home. I was uncharacteristically unprepared. We didn't have a spare tube for either bike. I found out later I only had two patches with me. We were trying to make it before either of us went completely flat.

We made it to the Tabor bridge over I-70. Mandy's tire finally went flat. She had been talking about riding on ahead if my tire kept going flat, but in the end it was me that blasted on as she continued by walking her bike.

I made it home, amazingly, without going flat again. Forester Gump carried me back west and I found Mandy walking along Ridge Road.

So we spent some time bonding tonight as we sat in the living room floor changing tubes and putting a new tire on her wheel.

We agree doing bike maintenance together is enjoyable.

Mandy had something big in the center of her tire which punctured her Goo tube. I had a gash in the sidewall of my tube, but no damage to my tire. It was a total coincidence.

Sunday, June 12

Denver Century Ride and My Own Tour de Westminster

We volunteered at the Golden aid station (first) for the Denver Century Ride this morning. I got some great pics of the steep hill on Illinoising on the north side of Mines.

This afternoon Mandy wanted to rest, so I headed out to explore Westminster. I rode up to Mandy and Boone's school and then launched out on the Big Dry Creek Trail. My goal was to do a loop combining the BDCT and the Farmers Highline Canal Trail. I sort of did. I had a lot of trouble making the connection, but I ended up riding some of the FHCT as well. I managed 35 miles and felt pretty good.

Here are a few pics from the day:


Saturday, June 11

2011 Rocky Mountain Bicycle Festival

Oh, there was longtail love! Oh, there was Salvagetti love! Oh, there was bicycle love at the 2011 Rocky Mountain Bicycle Festival at Invesco Field today!

By the time we arrived early on Kona Lisa and the Cannonball X at Invesco we had already purchased a picnic table. I'd like to say we lashed it to the back of the Cannonball and headed on to the festival, but we didn't. It's an 8' metal frame with wood decking picnic table that we scored for $10 at a yardsale in Wheat Ridge. We paid the ten and told them we'd be back in the afternoon to pick it up. We had no plan, but we wanted a table and we couldn't pass it up for the price.

We entrusted our longtails to the parking attendants and wandered into the early morning festival site. Few people had arrived, other than vendors and organizations as they set up their booths.

We found the ACT booth and deposited our stuff. Some wandering, some oogling, some chatting and some swag followed. There were lots of samples of energy boosting concotions. There were drawings for free stuff. There were swagloads of stickers, flyers, business cards and sales pitches.

I drooled over a custom Mosaic (out of Boulder) commuter bike with a belt drive. I told the guy to break my heart and tell me how much it would cost. You don't want to know.

Cargo bikes abounded. There was a fleet of Yubas. There was an Atlas. When we went to pick up our bikes we saw an older Ute.

Noon came and went and we had met a lot of people and saw a lot of cool bikes. I visited the Angletech booth again (first time was at the Front Range Cyclist show) and rode another recumbent trike. But this time I wasn't in a crowded event center, I pedaled out behind the booth area and opened the Greenspeed trike up. Wow! It corners like its on rails, accelerates and brakes perfectly and is just a dream on wheels.

I had worn my Salvagetti t-shirt that has Boone's drawing on it and most people assumed I worked for them. I had to respond: Alas! No, we're just big fans, and by the way, my son drew the shirt. But many, many people commented and knew the shop and thought highly of Salvagetti. If I ever own a bike shop I hope people love mine as much as they do Salvagetti.

We rolled our longtails back over to the ACT booth to pick up our swag and as we walked out the Yuba rep stopped us and he chatted us up about our bikes. We gave the truncated history of our longtail conversion and our involvement in ACT and Bike Arvada and he suddenly whipped out a business card and offered us an interesting deal, the details of which we are not at liberty to share. We're still amazed at that and we may try to work it out so we can add a third cargo bike to the family fleet.

Anyway, we decided to head on home and we hauled our swag back through Edgewater, Wheat Ridge and Arvada. After returning home we called a friend with a truck and offered a free dinner in exchange for portaging the picnic table home for us. Long story short (TOO LATE!) we got the picnic table home, the friend took a rain check on dinner and Boone's old 20" BMX for his girlfriend's 9 year old son.

It has been a good day and a good weekend so far. Tomorrow moring we're going to help setup the ACT aid station for the Denver Century Ride in Golden before church and then get into some more cycling trouble as the day progresses. I hope to have some good photos from the Denver Century tomorrow.

Friday, June 10

Cruising Speed Friday: Upgrades and Headwinds

I forgot it could have been a Ramming Speed Friday until I was almost out of Golden this afternoon. But by then I was groaning against a weird headwind and dragging what felt like a low back tire.

I didn't try to crank at that point. Ratcheting up the effort halfway into the ride won't knock out an impressive time or average speed anyway. And I was portaging two new wheels home!

A coworker (thanks Shaun!) sold me a 26" wheelset including tubes, tires and tireliners. Tonight I'll be swapping out wheels on the Cannonball and putting knobbies back on the OBS! We'll be mountain biking again soon and I'm okay with that.

I've got some other fleet maintenance to do, including some work to Mandy's road bike. It'll be a biketastic weekend.


Now I have an Xtracycle that looks like a proper road bike. I'm set for some upcoming touring with new wheels and tires. And the OBS is back together and rideable. I need to swap tires and give it a good tuneup, but it rides like the OBS I remember from a couple of months ago. I'm stoked to hit some summer trails!

The ole Travel Contacts are looking rough:

Commuting Adventures

In May I had a little singing companion each morning as I rode in to work. I thoroughly enjoyed riding with Silly Bean.

On our visit to Kentucky I had a great ride with my father-in-law despite his ugly crash.

And this past week Mandy has been meeting me in Golden in the evenings and we've been taking long routes home.

I've discovered, me the perpetual soloist, that I enjoy riding with other people.

Speaking of riding with other people...

This morning I found myself smack in the middle of a bicycle traffic jam on Denver West Parkway. As I came out of Applewood I saw another cyclist ahead of me on an older mountain bike with pannier racks and the obligatory single pannier of a commuter. It became quickly apparent that I was going to overtake him.

As I got closer I saw another cyclist stopped on the side of the road astride a Moots road bike ahead of the first. The Moots was the second I had seen, the other had been subjected to the indignity of being hauled on a trunk rack of a Volvo.

As the first commuter over took the Moots rider I overtook them both. But just a few short moments before I had been overtaken myself by a young buck on a slick carbon road bike standing up on his pedals. He passed the Moots rider first, then the MTB commuter, then me.

I had to laugh and I said to the MTB commuter and the Moots rider as he stepped onto his pedals: "It looks like we've taken over the road!" They both agreed and we all continued down the road.

Approaching NREL I was still ahead of the two riders I had passed, but I saw the young roadie pass another mountain bike commuter entering NREL. I hung left down to Isabell and a few short minutes later reached South Golden Road where I found myself overtaking another vintage MTB commuter. He was putzing along with a climbing haulbag on his back riding a 90s era MTB.

I easily overtook him, not making an effort to drop him. I got well ove rin the lane to go around and made sure to get well ahead of him so as not to cut him off with my long tail. Then I settled into the drops to cruise on to work.

But a few seconds later I hear the rattled of a chain switching gears and he comes past me within a few inches, pumping hard on his pedals. He cuts me off to get back over the righht edge of the lane and then starts making his way left and giving a left turn signal. He never looked back or acknowledged my presence, but the gesture seemed pretty distinct: you're not going to pass me!

I saw a couple more bikes before I got to work. At least a dozen shared the road with me this morning. Let the commuting adventures begin!

Thursday, June 9

Carless Summer

Since we pulled Forester Gump into the bikeport at 1am this past Saturday, returning from our trip to Kentucky, we have not moved the car again. So far its been four full days since either of us drove.

This weekend is up in the air. Saturday and Sunday two bike events are going on, but we had talked about hiking. In my mind hiking translates to driving into the mountains, though eventually I'd like to make most of those trips by bike as well. I need to do a scouting trip to Idaho Springs one day to ascertain the feasibility of that idea.

There is a bike festival at Invesco on Saturday in conjunction with the Denver Century Ride and we could ride down to check it out. Surely it will be worthwhile. And then the Denver Century is on Sunday. We're going to help ACT set up the first aid station early, then after church we may hike around the foothills somewhere or spectate the ride. The ride begins and ends at Invesco so it could be fun to go back to Denver.

So we might snag a hike in somewhere, but I think its going to be a bike community weekend. And into next week there will still be no reason to haul Forester out for a few more days.

Pics to follow.

Sunday, June 5

Year of the Longtails: Greening of the Thumbs

Four tomato plants, two pepper plants and a bag of potting soil

The Cannonball has pulled extra duty today making up for a week off. First we rode down to Echter's to get some plants and sundries for the garden. I hauled some plants and a bag of soil back. Then we worked for a bit getting seeds in the ground. I planted the blackberry plants and then we struggled not to lapse into a coma/nap.

Finally I wrestled my lovely wife onto her Ute and we pedaled to town to get some lunch. From Arby's we headed on up to Sunflower to get groceries so we wouldn't have to go back to Arby's for subsequent meals.

On the way home we swung by King Soopers and then Safeway. By the time we were cranking up Garrison home I had a four pack of root beer, a watermelon, two bags of groceries and some fruit. And Mandy was loaded down too.

A Return

We rolled in to our bikeport (temporarily used for the Suburbaru, Forester Gump) about 1:00 am last night. Another straight-thru cross country drive. We're getting pretty good at them. Of course this time it was just me and Mandy. The kids stayed in Kentucky. At the end of June she'll hop on the Zephyr and go back to pick them up for a trip to New York and then to bring them home.

As a part of the greening of my thumb I brought back three transplants from my Papaw Chaney's blackberry patch. I'm hoping to get them going here in Colorado. We'll see. Updates to follow.

The yard needs mowing. The bills need paying. The fridge is empty and we've eaten out too much in the past week. Its time to settle back into life here and try to make the most of a month without children in tow.

I had originally planned on much cycling, but I think we want to do a lot of other stuff too. We want to do some peak bagging, hiking, climbing, farmers' marketing, festival attending and the like.

Last night as we stumbled into the dark house I saw the silhouette of the Cannonball against the living room wall and immediately I began considering a ride today. I've got a little work to do on it. Routine stuff, but we'd been riding it hard for a couple of weeks with no attention. Need to give it a good going over. Need to get a 203mm rotor for the back brake. Need to switch out the torn saddle for the original I found in a box in the house in Kentucky. Need to clean and adjust everything for the days ahead.

I felt strong riding last week. I felt good. I'm confident that acclimatization will come quickly and then we'll be off, longtail captains once again.

Friday, June 3

What Might Have Been

For the past year in Colorado we've lived a cyclocentric lifestyle, riding for utility and transportation far more often than for recreation, and over driving as much as possible.

Mandy and I have had access to loaner bikes the entire week we've been in Kentucky visiting. And despite our propensity to choose bikes over cars, to ride even moderate distances for errands, and with the benefits of higher concentrations of oxygen in our blood we've driven far too much.

The majority of my rides this week have been for recreation, not utility. And most of my utility trips have been in the car.

A few things contribute to the change in modes for us:

1) Topography. We're staying on Hatton Creek with my grandmother and to get to town there is a significant climb both going to and returning from town. There are no amenities on our side of the hill(s). Mandy's sister now lives beyond a climb that gains 700 feet in elevation in three quarters of a mile.

2) Climate. 95F and 90+% humidity. 'Nuff Said. Climbing over Steamshovel Hill on a bike in this weather is near suicidal.

3) Longtail separation. We've been on regular, non-cargo bikes with no carrying capacity. Well, the bike Mandy borrowed has small panniers, but our trips have been less for groceries and sundries and more to go visit friends and family with the kids. We have no deck for them to ride on, no trailer, no tow bar.

I think the reason we've evolved into hardcore utility cyclists is because the environment we've found ourselves living in for the past three years has been conducive to a cyclocentric lifestyle. The environment we left is most definitely, hands down, invariably an autocentric realm.

Our choices may have been drastically different had we stayed in Kentucky. We would have chosen the car the majority of the time, and not because we didn't want to choose the bikes, but because the conditions demanded the choice. Being able to compare with some knowledge and experience now, I realize that for the majority of people in this area there will never be a different choice than the single occupancy vehicle for most trips.

When we rode up to Natural Bridge on Sunday we discovered that the powers that be have destroyed the nice wide shoulders (about two to three feet wide) along highway 11 with rumble strips. The road is busy enough, and cars travel fast enough, that having the wide paved shoulder gave cyclists the refuge to get out of the way when traffic peaked. Now there is no place to go and there is no good reason for the entire shoulder to be chopped up in such a way.

Somehow the conditions need to change. I will ponder this, as I have in the past, with hope that my hometown can find its bicycle friendliness.

Thursday, June 2

Peeking at Peak Oil

Just finished reading a good article posted by the Post Carbon Institute on Britain's recent initiative on peak oil and the coming transition.

There's no doubt the US needs to come to the same realization and fast. Until we admit there is a problem, we're never going to be able to work toward a solution or a plan of action to help as many people as possible survive and endure the Transition. But of course the reality is that with any potential apocalyptic event, massive die-offs seem imminent as global food supply chains crumble and our access to cheap and easy energy sources is halted by exorbitant costs and diminishing supplies.

Our country is not in an economic crisis, we're ultimately in an energy crisis. With our population continuing to grow while our supplies of oil fail to do the same...and before you start screaming "Drill, Baby, Drill!" just remember, if we had it we'd have been pumping it a long time ago because we're greedy that way...there is no way to replace fossil fuels with another viable energy source that will meet our current transportation needs in time to avert catastrophe.

Wind and solar power will not allow us to continue commuting from 45 miles out in the suburbs in our cars. What happens to the suburbanites when the gas becomes cost prohibitive or stops flowing altogether?

Unfortunately I don't think the average American is ready to admit the reality that our lifestyles are completely unsustainable, and that whether our president is a Democrat, Republican, or wacko Tea Partier that particular reality isn't going to go away. And a president alone isn't going to fix the fatal flaw of modern society alone. It is going to take all of us.

Wednesday, June 1

Road of Memory

Today I want to move back to Kentucky. No, no, don't expect a big change over at the Pavement's Edge any time soon. I realize my desire to remain here is based in the fact that after a few visits back here from Colorado over the past three years I've come to wax nostalgic, not for the time when we actually lived here, but for the times we've come back on vacation released temporarily from home, work and school obligations.

And today I rode through my beloved Red River Gorge, the place where I spent so much time exploring both the earthen landscape and my own spiritual landscape. I'd forgotten how much I love the place.

I had a great ride despite the swelter. I rode from Hatton Creek where we used to live out through Stanton and into the broad river valley east of town along highway 11. I was planning to ride the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway (The Gorge Loop) and return to Hatton Creek. My plan was to ride the loop counterclockwise to avoid having to climb the hill below Sky Bridge. Until today I had never gone up Sky Bridge hill.

But when I reached highway 77 at Nada I turned toward the tunnel and began a clockwise circuit of the loop along the Gorge Loop.

As I passed through the rural residential area I wondered at the odd new-ish siding and roofing on all of the houses throughout Nada. They were all uniform in color and style. The community of Nada, or "Snakey Holler" as its known to many locals, has long been considered the armpit of the county and the region. As irony would dictate, Nada is also the gateway to the Red River Gorge and people from around the country and around the world have experienced the wonders of the RRG after having tasted the funk of Snakey Holler.

But it seems someone has been making an effort to spruce up the place and that's heartening. I wonder if its just a community initiative or if some organization is funding the upgrades.

I paused at the spring below the tunnel and topped off my water bottle. I carried my camelbak and a single bottle on the bike for today's ride. By the time I reached the spring around 8:45 the heat was ratcheting up.

I enjoyed the cool shade of the green dappled tunnel through the trees and rhododendron beyond the spring. I began to shift back into Gorge mode, looking into the thick undergrowth for tell-tale signs of boulders and cliffline that might hold good climbing.

I reached Nada Tunnel and stopped for a photo and then switched the Lazer on "Deep Fat Fry" and pedaled into the darkness. On the other side of the tunnel I was treated to my first good descent all the way to the Iron (Arn) Bridge at Red River. I seemingly had the road to myself.

I took my time pedaling east along the river. They say scents are the most potent trigger for memory and the overpowering smells of the woods, of the river and of my home stomping grounds unlocked an infinite stream of memories in me.

The roads of the Red River Valley traverse the landscape of my memory as surely as they are draped over the physical geography of Powell, Menifee, Wolfe and Lee Counties.

I rode along with a happy grin on my face, reliving my days of wandering over the rugged landscape of this edge of the Cumberland Plateau. I know the nuances of the Pottsville Escarpment like I know the lines on my own hands.

I continued alone on the road, taking in the smells, the sights and the deluge of memories. The temperature crept upward, but the shade persisted and I sucked on my drinking tube frequently.

I took a quick break at Gladie Creek. There I bumped into an old friend who works with the Forest Service. I believe Rita is the last remaining person of those I have known and worked with from the old Stanton Ranger District over the years who is still around. But then I pushed on. I had many miles with a considerable climb ahead of me.

I kept my energy up by cramming down a Clif Shot every hour. Those things, though nearly unpalatable otherwise, make for a great fuel supply on long rides. They saw me through to the end.

I continued deeper into the Gorge, headed toward the Concrete Bridge where the Upper Gorge gives way to the Middle Gorge. I miss stomping through the twisted and remote terrain of the Upper Gorge, but today didn't offer an opportunity for a visit. I paused momentarily at the Concrete Bridge, but each time I stopped and the breeze of my passage ceased I felt as if I had burst into flames. I had to continue on.

The Concrete Bridge, just below the mouth of Swift Camp Creek, marks the beginning of the wicked climb from the bottom of the valley up to the ridgetop. In a mile and a half you gain about 250 feet. It doesn't sound like much, but its a steep ride and in 95 degree heat with 90% humidity it feels like you're going to die before the end.

After leaving Gladie I found myself at the top of the steep climb in about 30 minutes. I was shocked I had made it so quickly.

Making it to the top without stopping I felt compelled to celebrate, first with a fist pump and a growl and then by riding out to Sky Bridge. I hopped off the bike at the start of the trail (no really) and walked out to the arch.

I lingered only a couple of minutes before hiking back to the trailhead and slipping back onto the bike for the long bike back.

I love the ride out Sky Bridge Ridge between the arch and the sleepy community of Pine Ridge. I cruised along, enjoying the coolness of the shade combined with the breeze. I had the road to myself. Only a lone motorcycle passed me. As I neared Pine Ridge I thought to myself that I felt good, really good, as if I could ride all day long. I began looking forward to returning to Colorado and striking out for Evans, or on an overnight or three day tour.

And then I exited the dark green tunnel into the full sunlight as I neared Rock Bridge Road. I was almost back to Pine Ridge and the long final leg of my journey.

I didn't even pause as I turned back west onto highway 15 again. Again the smells overwhelmed me as I rode past a few houses toward Slade Hill. Honeysuckle is in bloom and growing wild along most of the roads and the strong fragrance accompanied me for most of the ride. There were some other plants in bloom and the intertwining of the scents sent my synapses into frenzied activity.

And then I was at the top of the three mile descent from the top of Slade Hill down to the small "town" of Slade itself. I pushed hard on the pedals starting to feel the miles behind me for the first time.

After a screaming descent I rolled casually up to the front porch of Porter's, a gas station at the junction of highways 11 and 15. I had two dollar bills, and a Snickers and an Ale-8 rang up to exactly $2.00.

I sat in the shade out front and rested as I took in some sugar for the final push back to Stanton. I had been fantasizing about lunch for at least ten miles. My tank was getting low.

When I checked my phone I saw Mandy had texted me. She was visiting with friends in Clay City and they missed me. Would I come on over when I was done with my ride?

I started planning an alternate end to my route in my mind. I knew how I would traverse through Stanton and continue on to Clay City. I knew it would tack on a few miles to my original ride, but I wondered if the heat and fatigue would get to me before I reached the end of my journey.

I had enjoyed the ride immensely to that point. I think I have only ridden the complete Gorge Loop one other time and that was an unforgettable ride. It was in the late fall a year or so before I met Mandy. I took off on a weekday and rode the Cannonball around the 30+ mile loop in the best autumn weather Kentucky has to offer, on roads that no one else laid claim to that day. It was a wonderful ride.

Today was a great ride as well. I mostly had the roads to myself and despite the heat the weather was fine. I didn't come all this way to sit in the air conditioning after all.

The ride was surreal. I rode Tom's Giant OCR2, which is identical to the Giant I slew almost a year ago. So the ride, the location, the overflow of memory triggered by my senses...all of it put me in a coalescing experience outside of time and space. My mood and thoughts transcended the moment, which is out of the ordinary for me. I am a creature of The Moment, almost unable to live beyond the instant in which I find myself. In some ways today was like a very vivid dream.

I reached our friends' house and there was turkey for sandwiches, chips, a fruit salad, Oreos and sweet tea. Oddly by the time I got to the Oreos I was full and had no room in my belly for them. Alas!

While days like today make me miss my home stomping grounds, I think having moved away I appreciate this place so much more. When we lived here I was always bemoaning the lack of time to do the things I wanted. Family obligations, work, school, chores...all competed for my limited time and I missed my solo rides, climbing, paddling, hiking...I missed it all so much when those things were within arms reach.

I still have to wrangle the time to get to squeeze in a ride of this magnitude, but it was worth it, and I'll remember this ride for a long time.