Monday, July 28, 2008

Europe Tour: Clue #3

Day 308

We have just about a week to go until we leave for Europe. It’s probably time for another clue. I think we should narrow it down to the country.

Geography: largest country in Central (Eastern) Europe, bordered by 7 countries, the Baltic Sea and the Carpathian Mountains
Population\Culture: over 38 million, very few minorities
History: land and population severely affected by WWII, became Eastern Europe’s first free-trade union, assisted the US military in the Middle East by taking control of south central Iraq in September 2003.
Currency: Zloty

Follow this link to the answer (if you want to know):

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tour de France: Stage 17

Day 303

They’ve been calling it the “Queen Stage” of Le Tour. Over a distance of 210 kilometers, it has 15,000 feet of climbing and three historic cols; the Galibier, the Col de la Croix Fer, and the Alpe d’Huez. Each climb is rated HC, beyond category. It is THE day in the Tour de France.

Chris and I have been up since 4:30am watching today’s stage. As the riders approach each climb, the commentators review the grade. We’ve seen numbers like 5.9%, 5.2% and 8.6% and we sit and watch in amazement as these cyclists dance on the pedals like they’re floating.
In a few months we hope to ride some of these same climbs over a few days. We’ve been trying to get our minds around the steepness of the hills. I broke out some maps and we did a little simple math to compare a few Colorado passes to the ones in France. We’re in for it, that’s for sure. Our grind up Cottonwood Pass (2,700+ feet over 14 miles) is about ½ the steepness of what we’ll pedal in the Alps.

Here’s to granny gear,

Friday, July 18, 2008

Europa Tour: Clue #2

Day 298

We’re in the midst of getting ready for Europe. Today we drug out the panniers and did a “practice pack”. Somehow, I didn’t fill all the bags up like I usually do. I must be getting good at this or I forgot a lot of things. We’ll soon find out soon.

I ran across a quote yesterday that I saved as part of our trip preparation. I’d like to share it because I think it fits some of the reflections I have toward our tour so far:
“The more you fail, the more you succeed. It is only when everything is lost
and – instead of giving up – you go on, that you experience the momentary
prospect of some slight progress. Suddenly you have the feeling – be it an
illusion or not – thatsomething new has opened up.” – Alberto Giacometti (1901- 1966)

And now for clue #2

I’ve been told that the first clue we gave about our European tour was pretty lame. I guess I’ll make the second one a little more interesting.

Let’s narrow it down to the region. We’ll be starting “behind the Iron Curtain”, an area where the boundaries were historically defined by the Cold War. The region has changed dramatically since 1989 and always challenges us to keep up with our geography.

If you think you know, follow this link to find out more.

Take care,

Monday, July 14, 2008

All Over the Map

Day 294
Time: An Hour or So
Avg Speed: Single
Terrain: Dry Plains of Denver

About two months ago we published a blog entitled, “Ready or Not China, Here We Come”. Now after protests, an earthquake, major flooding, and the Olympics, we’ve decided that China is ready and we’re not. We can give you the list of reasons, but it basically boils down to one thing; we just didn’t have a good feeling about it.

So, where does that leave us? Well, it gives us more time in Europe. We have new tickets booked and we leave on August 5th. Where are we going? Well, we decided to have a little fun with you all on that one. In the spirit of the Today Show and their “Where in the World is Matt Lauer” segment, we will be keeping our destination a secret until we arrive. We’ll be sure to drop some hints and clues in upcoming blogs.
Here’s the first clue: we plan to ride from east to west.

Happy Monday,

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Colorado Tour: The Map

Here's the cartographic version of the Colorado Tour...

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Colorado Tour in Review

Day 291
Location: Littleton Homestead

We’ve returned to our home base in Littleton. We’ve got most of the laundry done and we’re getting ready to detail the bikes. The Colorado Tour was awesome and we’re so thankful to all of our friends and family who helped us along the way. A home-cooked meal, a bed, a shuttle, or a honk and wave can make all the difference.

Here are the numbers for the last seven weeks:

Days on the Bike/Road: 42/49
Total Bicycle Miles: 960 (includes singletrack days)
Total Bicycle Time: 100 hours, 10 minutes
Average Speed: 9.6 mph

Biggest Day: No Name to Paonia Reservoir (over McClure Pass), 6 hours, 59 miles
Highest Elevation: Cottonwood Pass (12,126 ft/Continental Divide)

Counties: 14
Mountain Passes: 7
Continental Divide Crossings: 2

Stay tuned for maps…


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Day 289: Buena Vista to Fairplay

Time: 3:54:45
Distance: 37.05 miles
Avg Speed: 9.4 mph
Terrain: hillier than expected

We got up early in Buena Vista this morning. Our goal was to get rolling early so we could load up on calories at the local café on the way out of town. Bongo Billy’s café didn’t disappoint with a good breakfast burrito, great scone and strong coffee. We slowly got out of town and decided to stop right by the prison for a photo op of Mt. Princeton. We then got on the road for the 14 mile climb up Trout Creek Pass. The climb went by quite smoothly and it was only disrupted by some conversion van that decided to buzz us. If I had written the plate numbers down they would be getting a visit from the Highway Patrol (yes it was that bad). I don’t think that people realize what would happen if they actually made contact with a cyclist (picture bug on a windshield). Leslie and I both have a deal with each other that if either one of us get hit, the other is to sue, sue, sue.
On a happier note, we finished up our Colorado tour today and Leslie’s dad was kind enough to meet us in Fairplay for a celebratory Subway sandwich before hauling our sore butts back down to Denver. It was nice to not have to run the gauntlet on Hwy. 285 any further. Leslie and I were both a little melancholy as we rolled the last mile to the meeting place. We were both excited to have done a tour like we did, but were sad that we had to move on to other things. We all piled in the truck after mowing down a couple of $5 foot longs. The ride to Denver went quickly since there wasn’t any traffic to speak of. We even made a pit stop at Coney Island for an ice cream on our way through Bailey. If you haven’t seen Coney Island, it is the giant hot dog shaped stand on the side of the road. It had resided in Aspen Park for 40 years before being loaded on a truck and hauled to its existing resting place further up the road. It was a nice way to cap off the trip with a little bit of old school Colorado.
We can now unwind our bodies and dry and unpack our camping gear before wrapping our minds around the next step.
Did I mention that Colorado is the best place out there? It is.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Interview with a Guest Cyclist

Day 288
San Isabel NF camp to Buena Vista
Time: 1:01:00
Distance: 17.3 miles
Avg Speed: 16.9 mph
Terrain: Downhill
Location: N 38 50' 33.3", W 106 7' 56.8"

We finished the last part of our tour in less than an hour today. A 15 mile downhill will help with that. There was no “wet tent put away” this morning as we woke to a brilliant blue sky and were able to pack up camp in a timely fashion. After some oatmeal and coffee we bombed our way down to the Cottonwood Hot Springs. Scott knew the place well and we really enjoyed a good soak to sooth our tired legs.
The rest of the ride to “Buenie” was a breeze and we arrived in town around lunch. Food was the first order of business (as usual). Scott has been pretty amazed at the amount of groceries consumed on a bicycle tour. After lunch we found ourselves a nice, local motel and got cleaned up. We’ve been without a shower for over a week…
The afternoon was spent relaxing and reliving different parts of the last three days. We thoroughly enjoyed having Scott tour with us. To get a feel for what he thought of traveling by bicycle, we asked him a few questions over a very tasty steak dinner. Here’s what we found out:

LK&CK: What were your most favorite and least favorite parts of the tour?
Most Favorite: - Cottonwood Pass, Larry and Darian and their hospitality
Least favorite: the rain

LK&CK: What was the most exciting experience?
SF: The hail storm after descending the pass (luckily we were sitting under a tarp)

LK&CK: What gear did you find yourself wishing you had? What gear could you have done without?
Gear needed: heavier coat
Gear not needed: 75% of the rest of my clothes

LK&CK: What was your favorite thing to eat in the last three days?
SF: Huevos Rancheros ala Darien

SF on the Cottonwood Pass Experience: “it is like climbing a 14er – you have to put your mind in that far away place and just decide to go to the top”

LK&CK: What song got stuck on your head on the 14 mile climb?
SF: The Flobots – “Handlebars”

LK&CK: Now that you’ve done your first bicycle tour, where would you go on your own tour?
SF: Grand Tetons and Yellowstone

Here’s to sharing life experiences with good friends,

Roof of the Rockies

Day 287
Lottis Creek Campground to San Isabel National Forest
Time: 3:51:00
Distance:26.8 miles
Avg Speed: 6.9 mph
Terrain: High Mountain Pass
Location: N 38 48 28.3, W 106 23 33.1

Today we climbed the highest pass yet on our trip. In fact, it’s the highest we’ve toured over. It was extra special since we have our latest guest cyclist, Scott, with us. We always enjoy having someone along for the ride.

The day started out with rain and we were a little worried about our chances of getting over Cottonwood Pass. We had a breakfast date with our campsite neighbors around 8:30 and decided to wait and see what the weather had in store. We soon forgot about the rain as hot plates of huevos rancheros came out rv door. We enjoyed more time with our new friends as we filled our bellies with the delicious meal. After the third cup of coffee, the sun started to poke through the clouds and we headed back to our tents to start packing.
By 10:30 we said goodbye to Larry and Darian and started the ride towards Taylor Reservoir. We gave them hugs and felt so thankful for the quality time we had spent with them.
After thirty minutes in the cool, crisp air we had made our way to the dam at Taylor Reservoir. The Sawatch Range and the Colligiate Peaks lay before us. Man, I love Colorado!
After a quick stop to refill our water, we made our way to the bottom of Cottonwood Pass – 14 miles to the top. Scott sprinted ahead and after the first couple of miles we figured he was already having lunch on top. A little bit later we caught up with him as he was having a gel. We all needed that kind of “go juice” today as we climbed to over 12,000 ft. A few more miles through the pine forest brought us to a much needed lunch break. I’m sure all of us were looking at our cycle computers trying to calculate how much time it would take to make the pass. We probably should have been thinking of other things. The mozzies kept lunch to the bare minimum and we started out again at the 4 mph pace. As the calories kicked in, I started to feel really good. The views of the pass opened up and I felt like I was dancing on the pedals. I stopped below the pass to wait for Chris and Scott. The big guy rolled up first and we discussed our options. We’d leave it up to Scott as to whether we’d stop for the day or continue on. When we posed the question he said – “ No way, we’re going to the top!”
The final 30 minutes of the long haul brought us to the roof of the Rockies. I was so excited for Scott and rode behind him to get as many pictures as possible. I wanted to have some good documentation of his first ascent to the Continental Divide.
The clouds held off for some family photos at the pass. We lingered just long enough to soak in the accomplishment and then donned rain gear for the descent. We found a great bush camp about 1,500 ft below the summit and quickly configured the bikes so that we could set up the tarp. Hail started to pelt down and we rushed to huddle under the shelter. The hail lasted for almost an hour and when it was all said and done it looked like Christmas in July. Chris and I had the pleasure of setting our tent up on two inches of frozen rain pebbles.
We are now snuggled down in our bags with thoughts of hot springs and steaks tomorrow…

Here’s to crossing the Divide,

Three for the Road

Day 286
Lake Irwin CG to Lottis Creek CG
Time: 3:23:00
Distance: 37.0 miles
Avg Speed: 10.9 mph
Terrain: Flat/Rolling
Location: N 38 46 28.5, W 106 37 39.8

Guest cyclist #3 has joined us for the last few days of our Colorado tour. He probably picked the hardest part of the trip. Luckily, he probably also picked the most scenic.

We said goodbye to Scott’s fiancé after breakfast. Heather was a bit emotional and it was almost like he was going off to war. Hopefully, riding with us isn’t like doing battle. We had a downhill, but very bumpy ride into Crested Butte. The Kebler Pass road is notorious for washboards and this year is no different. It was such a rough ride for Scott that his little yellow B.O.B flag wiggled out and is lost somewhere on the side of the road.
As we hit town we took a right and headed down Highway 135. It was a beautiful morning and Mt Crested Butte was awash in the early sunlight. The gradient was in our favor as we headed down towards the Jacks Cabin Cutoff, a short cut to the Taylor River Valley. The bonanza of wildflowers kept us occupied as we pedaled the hardest climb of the day.
By taking the Jacks cutoff we found ourselves 8 miles up the Taylor River. We saved ourselves a few miles and more time on a busy highway. I had never been up this valley and really enjoyed riding along the river. The granite rock formations reminded me of being in the Poudre Canyon. It’s amazing how diverse the landscapes can be in such a small area. Just an hour before, we were gawking at the volcanic peaks around Crested Butte.
Around hour three we decided to wrap it up for the day. We wanted to save our legs for the big grind up Cottonwood Pass tomorrow. We cruised into Lottis Creek CG about 1:30. We must have sensed something about the weather because it started to rain about ten minutes after we had camp set up. As we crawled into our tents, the woman from the next camp over offered up the awning on their RV. They were headed out for a few hours and didn’t mind if we hung out on their “porch”. It was a really kind gesture and little did we know that it was just the beginning of the generosity to come.
After a short nap, Chris and I headed over to the RV. Chris cooked up the usual post-ride meal while a light rain sifted down. We roused Scott out of the “biv” and warmed ourselves with soup and hot tea. We lingered on into the afternoon and the hosts returned to find us still occupying their chairs. They were more than happy to share their campsite and we talked for quite awhile. As we thanked them and started to go back to our camp, they insisted that we cook dinner with their equipment and stay for s’mores. It was so easy to be around Larry and Darian, they had wonderful stories and were really interested in our travels.
After we ate our dinner, Larry built a fire and the weather allowed us to enjoy the evening. The stories lasted well past dark and it was hard for Chris to tear himself away. I can’t blame him, our little campsite just didn’t have the same atmosphere. Before we left, Darian invited us for huevos rancheros in the morning. I stuttered a little, but Chris said “we’ll be over between 8:15 and 8:30…”.
As we walked to our tent I was just overwhelmed with the hospitality of our camp neighbors. I think our new friend Larry was right – people are basically good, you just have to give them the opportunity.

Thankful for the charmed life we lead,

Rest in the High Alpine Air

Days 283-285
Lake Irwin CG

Day 283 – A day of soaking up the sun and watching the clouds go by. Chris summed up the mood of the day by wishing that we could have gathered all of our friends and family and shared the beauty of our surroundings. We ended the day sharing bicycle touring stories with Dennis and Karen – very wonderful people.

Day 284 – We fulfilled our singletrack goal by riding the Snodgrass loop from camp. We stopped in town to enjoy the 4th of July Parade. Our favorite group was the crew from Gothic. Who else can make clothes out of skunk cabbage leaves?

Day 285 – Shared the day with our good friends, Scott and Heather. We loved having them join us for the holiday weekend. Good food and lots of laughs.


Day 282
Gunnison to Lake Irwin CG (Above Crested Butte)
Time: 4:32:00
Distance: 33.2 miles
Avg Speed: 7.3 mph
Terrain: Rolling with a pass
Location: N 38 52 51.7, W 107 06 28.3

Recap: Today we made our way up to Crested Butte. We decide to go the way of the Ohio Creek Valley and Ohio Pass. The views were absolutely gorgeous. The traffic was light and I’m guessing that most people bypass this route for the direct shot on Hwy 135.
The pass was pretty steep and I felt very humbled as our speed dropped below 3 mph at various points. We were rolling a bit heavy with a few days worth of food.
We made it to camp before the rain and while we set up the tent we chatted with a couple who had passed us on the road. Interestingly, they had racked up over 50,000 miles over several years of bicycle touring!


Chain Break

Day 281
Hartman Rocks
Time: 3:08:00
Distance: 29.97 miles
Avg Speed: 9.5 mph
Terrain: Crushed granite and sagebrush

Recap: We started out to ride Hartman Rocks and Chris’ chain broke with five minutes on the first climb. After a quick trip to town to get a new chain and cassette (at Tune-Up), we enjoyed a multi-hour ride in one of the most unique mountain biking areas in the state.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Day 280
Blue Mesa Lake (west end) to Gunnison
Time: 2:52:00
Distance: 31.2 miles
Avg Speed: 11.0 mph
Terrain: Rolling Along a Large Body of Water
Location: 38˚ 31’ 45.67” N, 106˚ 56’ 47.33” W

The ride to Gunnison today gave me cause for celebration. In honor of Colorado Bike Month, I have ridden my bicycle everyday in June. Yehaw – it was definitely a challenge.

We arrived in “Gunny” around noon today and it was h-o-t-t. It was quite a contrast from the average January temperatures of -7. The town is known for very cold winters and it’s never surprising to see -40 on the news. Western State College has nickname of “Wasted State” for a reason.
After setting up camp at the KOA we pedaled into town for some lunch. To our surprise we spotted a few streets with dedicated bike lanes! I guess it just caught us off guard. Cycling is very much part of the culture in this part of Colorado. The town boasts three awesome bike shops – we visited two of them after lunch. Rock and Roll had a decent section dedicated to climbing – I’m guessing it was Chris’ personal favorite.
Gunnison is the county seat for its namesake county and is located 200 miles from Denver. It lies at the confluence of the Gunnison and Tomichi Rivers and sits at an elevation of 7,700 ft. Sagebrush covered hills surround the town and you can’t miss the big white “W” to the southeast. Gunnison is the largest town in a county that is comprised of 78% federal land. Tourism, education, and ranching provide the economic bases for the area. Crested Butte is next in line according to population and provides a whole pile of snow in the winter for skiers and snowboarders. The resort also provides a lot of tax revenue in terms of real estate with a (2005) median home price of $830,000 – wow! As in most resort towns in Colorado, Gunnison is at or above the national average when it comes to cost of living. As we know, it’s usually more about quality of life than dollars and cents.
Tomorrow we’re off to Hartman Rocks and another round of sweet singletrack. We’re looking forward to crossing another great place to ride off the list. Stay tuned for details.
Hope everything is well and good in your part of the world,

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

Day: 279
Cedaredge to Blue Mesa Reservoir
Time: 3:21
Distance: 33.8 miles
Avg Speed: 10.1 mph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: 38 27' 16.26" N, 107 19' 40.25" W

We left Cedaredge early this morning. Leslie and I had been staying at my grandmother’s for a few days and had a great visit. We had very nice stay with her. She is always such an inspiration to me since she doesn’t get around very well any more. Does she let that stop her? No way, in fact she surprised Leslie and I with rice krispie treats and made us spaghetti and sauce one night. She always would get after me if I would try and help her with something while she was doing it.
I ran to the store before we left to get Leslie and I some groceries. I offered to get grandma some donuts while I was there (she loves donuts) so I grabbed some for Leslie and I as well (I love donuts too). After our donut break and few photos we rolled on down to my brother’s, a whole 5 blocks away. We loaded our bikes into his car and piled the whole family in so he could run us on the gauntlet of a highway to Hotchkiss. He actually dropped us off past Crawford which cut out a lot of boring highway riding. After a quick goodbye we pedaled off towards Blue Mesa Reservoir. I thought the road we were on would be a lot busier since it is the biggest body of water in the state of Colorado, but we had very few cars to interrupt our rubber necking of the nice scenery. After a couple of hours riding we rode past the view point for the Curecanti Needle. It is a large rock pyramid that rises up from the middle of the Black Canyon. One of my favorite pictures is of my Grandpa Jack climbing the needle while he was a student at Western State in Gunnison. After snapping a few photos we headed on to our campsite for the night near the western dam of the reservoir. We were supposed to call Leslie’s cousin to come and meet us when we got here. He and his wife live in Montrose which is nearby, and he has been a real positive force for us while we have been traveling. He regularly emails us, so we were looking forward to seeing him. I had never met him and when a red car pulled up not too long after we arrived, I asked Leslie if that was him. Sure enough he timed it perfect and we had a nice chat with him and his wife. A little bit later their son and his girlfriend showed up and our little campsite became the place to be. After an hour or so of talking I asked if it would be alright if I made some soup for Leslie and me. Why make soup when there is a cooler full of fruit, cookies and hot dogs in the car? I couldn’t argue with that so we set up our picnic table and built a fire to roast some weenies. We had a nice meal and great chat with everyone before they left to get back to the city.
I love the touring in Colorado. It has been more about riding from friend to friend and family to family rather than the actual touring. Don’t get me wrong, we love the touring, but seeing all of our people has been an added bonus that makes us feel at home on the road.

A Bike Ride

Day 278
Time: 10 minutes
Distance: 5 laps
Avg Speed: Kid speed

There are many ways to go on a bike ride. It can be with skinny tires on the blacktop or knobby tires on the dirt. It can vary in length. Some go quickly after work while others set off for hours. A ride can be solitary or a group affair. It can be a chance to escape or a time to catch up.
My life has been full of bike rides. My first adventures were done by linking driveways in the cul-de-sac where my house sat. My sister and I would ride for hours back and forth, and somehow, we never got bored. As the years have passed my legs have gotten longer, but my love for bicycles has always remained.
Tonight I went for a bike ride with my niece. We decided on five laps in a counter-clockwise direction around the block. We cruised for about ten minutes and enjoyed the quietness of the evening; me in my red shoes and she with her purple tassels. As we parked the bikes and headed inside, I smiled as I remembered those days when I was young. One thing hasn’t changed – it always feels good to go for a bike ride.