Bicycle Tour of Colorado, July 19-25, 1999

The Bicycle Tour of Colorado is a 468 mile, 7 day bicycle tour in the San Juan Mountains of  southwestern Colorado. During the week there is a 10,000 foot elevation gain; some serious climbing. Kerie and I decided we wanted to ride in some different areas this year, and in particular wanted to ride in the Rockies, and this tour best fit our schedule. Approximately 1500 riders signed up for the tour, 1000 of which, including us, chose the camping option. The tour is a fund raiser for Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting. The minimum pledge was a reasonable $50. Registration was $260. before April 30, which included trucks that carry all luggage, transportation during the day in case one cannot finish the ride, snacks and drinks at all of the rest stops, emergency first aid staff, and camping and shower facilities each night. The following are some notes that we took during the week using the Sharp TM-20 email computer.

July 16, 1999, Friday

Waiting at Denver International Airport for Kerie's bags to arrive from Dulles, as they didn't get on our flight. We checked in about 30 minutes before the flight, not enough time with an oversize bag. If both bags are lost, she can only claim the maximum for one, $1200. In the coffee shop we noticed three middle aged guys in bike tour attire, shorts and T-shirts, you could tell them a mile away. Luckily we arrived at 9 am and the bus to Telluride didn't leave until noon, so we had plenty of time to wait for the next flight that contained her bags. I was going to ride my foldable Bike Friday, which fits into a suitcase and can be checked as regular baggage, avoiding the surcharge, usually $50., that is charged for oversize bags.

The bus left on time at around noon, with 10 bikes stored below and a recumbent (mid length wheel base Lightening) in the back. About 5 rows of seats were removed on this Gray Line bus. There are about 26 or so people aboard. Taking I-70 to Grand Junction and then down through Montrose to Telluride.

10 pm - Rained off and on while riding the bus down from Denver. The cyclists we noticed in the coffee shop at DIA are part of a group from Baltimore. They rode the cross Pennsylvania ride,Pedal PA, and were among the more hard-core riders who we rarely saw as they generally left early and would arrive long before us. There appear to be a lot of these "animals" on this trip; lots of expensive Litespeed titanium and other high end bikes. We are staying at the not-so-Victorian Victorian Inn, just off Main St. We had some time to wander the streets of Telluride, and Kerie bought a new rain jacket which proved to be a wise purchase, and we later split an over-priced pizza. Tomorrow we'll have to put our bikes together and move our bags over to the high school by 10:00 checkout time.

July 17, Saturday

Camped at Telluride high school, on one of the only high areas, in anticipation of soaking rain.  Checked out of the inn around 10:30. After putting the bikes together, rode them down to the school, then walked back to retrieve our bags and catch the shuttle bus back to the high school, a process that took some discussion at dinner last night.

Once we had the tent set up, we took the free gondola to the top of the south flanking mountain that is covered with ski trails.  We continued on to the other side, Mountain Village, which consists of new condos and shops awaiting winter and the influx of skiers. Then we returned to the top of the mountain where we walked along one of the trails and had a beautiful view of Telluride and the facing mountains.

Had a good but fatty dinner of quesadillas (bw) and pasta (kjh) at Floradora's, where we watched a bit of the Tour de France. Being so crowded, we ate with a couple of guys from Denver who told Kerie about all the terrible things that could happen on the tour, as well as some good advice about avoiding rumble strips on the shoulder. It was an early night that required ear plugs to tune out the first night partying.

July 18, Sunday

Camped along Rt. 550 about a mile N of Ouray, next to the road; another night for ear plugs to block out traffic noise. These live up to the primitive billing in the route/information booklet. 2 flush toilets, and a shower truck with 5 stalls or the 1000 campers. Many of us opted for the public hot springs pool. For $6 we had showers, individual 25 cent lockers, and 3 pools; a cold swimming pool, a warmer wading pool, and a hot pool at around 106 degrees. It felt great to soak for as long as we could stand it. Talked to a local who lives near Ridgeway and said he'd been wasting his summer basking in the pool. Dinner at the community center of vegetarian lasagna, good bread and ice cream. Bus back to camp after a walk through town and a stop to write postcards.

There were some beautiful red sandstone hills on the way down from Telluride.  The ride from Telluride to Ouray included a couple of screaming descents this morning: On one of the steeper slopes headed  into Ridgeway a  women bikers crashed and was lying in the middle of the road, with road rash on her face and legs and probably worse. An ambulance raced past us as we descended. The Bike Friday fared well on the down hills. I was worried that the loaded front panniers wouldn't respond well, but they were as good or better than not having them, keeping the front wheel online and steady.

July 19, Monday

It was supposed to be the long day with 2 steep climbs and 74 miles. It was slightly raining when we left to get breakfast at the community center. When we started climbing it was still raining. The climb was steep and long and the rain continued and the temperature dropped as we ascended. We both felt good, although cold at the top. People were standing around shivering at the top and were being sagged to Silverton at the base of the mountain. We decided to continue and descended in the cold rain, our hands with a death grip on the breaks. We made it into Silverton OK and were told that there was a warming hut at the carriage house/fire station, filled with shivering people wrapped in blankets. We got warm with a cocoa and were prepared to ride the rest of the way when we heard that the ride had been cancelled due to cold and rain on the next two summits. As an alternative to having our bikes thrown into a truck, and riding a school bus 2 hours in to Durango we decided to take the famous Silverton-Durango railroad.

July 20, Tuesday

Waiting for the one washing machine to become free at The Springs Inn, Pagosa Springs. Rode 55 miles over rolling terrain with a couple of decent climbs. One highlight of the day was coming across Chimney Rock that juts up out of the foothills. It was sacred to the Utes, believing that it was built rock by rock with a dirt filled kiva at the top. The rest stop was nearby at the base of the rock. Good breakfast of eggs and pancakes. Spent a good part of the morning cleaning our bikes after the rain and grit from yesterday. Luckily I found a cast off T-shirt on the shower room floor that was great for cleaning the freewheel, chain and the rest of the bike. Left our bikes at the Middle school and caught the school bus shuttle to here. Plan to ride back over, maybe for dinner, then ride them back afterwards. There were some beautiful spots on the road to Pagosa Springs.

July 21, Wednesday

Creede, CO listening to the rain on our tent once again. Camped in the justice of the peace's backyard after he realized that it would be difficult to keep us out. Initially set up on the concrete tennis court during the fierce rain right after we arrived from our 65 mile day which included a 24 mile climb up Wolf Creek Pass. Good dinner in the mining museum, talked to guy who rides tubular tires that must be glued to the rims. They aren't very common these days now that the tires with tubes are higher performance. He had a flat and had to glue the tire back onto the rim after fixing it. He chose not to wait the recommended 8 hours for the glue to dry and continued down the hill at 50 mph. Tomorrow is century day. Hummingbirds are buzzing the tent. Art gallery with scarredy cat pin.

July 22, Thursday (Kerie's birthday)

Kerie's birthday, that we celebrated by riding 106 miles, including up Slumgullion Pass, for a total of 4500 feet of elevation gain. It was a brutal day and we were thankful to make to the Gunnison High School. There was a rumor that someone had a heart attack on a descent, but haven't heard anything more. We also saw an ambulance earlier in the day headed to part of the route that included a very steep descent, down from Slumgullion pass. Lunch was late, at 2:30, at mile 68, set up by the side of the road with no shade, and barely room to get off the road. It seemed to take forever to get there. Then right after lunch we had the second hardest climb of the day, then another one right after that. I was in my lowest gear a couple of times, and we both stopped for water and a break several times. The last aid station, atop the final climb, was a muddy pit, and everyone's cleats were caked with mud. The final 20 miles were great; a 10 mile descent, and a nearly level run into Gunnison on a freshly paved asphalt road that was like glass and had a huge shoulder, the best road I think I've ever been on. Now I'm sitting in the tent waiting for the rain to stop again, and ready to give Kerie her birthday gifts. Freezing cold, boiling hot, in the same day.

July 23, Friday

Sitting in Centennial Park in downtown Montrose after a 65 mi. ride that included a couple of difficult climbs, but was a much easier day than yesterday. Cool morning out of Gunnison on the same route that we came in yesterday at the end of the century; smooth new asphalt and relatively flat. We encountered the foot wide rumble strips along the shoulder much of time. most people seemed to ride hard and fast. Early in the day the sun came out, and it was a beautiful ride along Rt. 50. Stopped and took several pictures, many of Kerie. We arrived in Montrose around 1:30, set the tent up to dry and grabbed another spaghetti lunch. Then we showered and came downtown, first for a cold sweet drink at the coffee shop, then strolled along the Main St. and chatted with the friendly shopkeepers. Dinner reservations
are at 6:00 at the Main St. Cafe.

July 24, Saturday

July 25, Sunday

Aboard a Gray Lines bus to Denver International airport. The bus was supposed to leave at 6:30 am but didn't arrive in Telluride until 8:00. We were up at 5:00 to haul our bags to the nearby school and to retrieve our bike cases from the overnight storage garage. We froze while waiting outside the school for 2 hours. The church people using the school for services took pity on us and gave us coffee and use of the
school.  Yesterday's ride was a long 65 miles that included 2 long climbs; up Dallas Divide
and to Telluride, with a brief downpour before the end, enough to get us and our
bags that were waiting in the school parking lot, soaked.