Winter Riding and Summer Planning

Ah, a three-day weekend. Better yet, on Sunday and Monday the weather was mild and dry. This is the time of year I find myself of multiple minds: trying to keep up the miles on the bike to get ready for the upcoming spring randonneuring brevets, and fretting over our summer tandem tour. A long weekend let me indulge both.

Friday morning started out pleasantly as always at the weekly Friday Coffee Club commuter cyclists gathering. The pre-work meetup is nearing its five-year anniversary, which we’ll celebrate later this month.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for the reopening of our original FCC location at Swing’s Coffee on 17th & G NW by the White House. It now looks like July or later according to the Swing’s site. A Baked Joint at 440 K St. NW has been a welcome temporary spot and we’ll continue there.

Friday Coffee Club Jan. 14

Friday Coffee Club Jan. 14

 

Saturday

A typical cold and rainy January day met us. I got out for a nice midday Freezing Saddles ride for a coffee visit with Jerry and Carolyn at Chinatown Coffee.

Rainy Day in DC

Rainy Day in D.C.

 

The rest of the day I worked on our summer tour. This year we’re returning to Colorado, but starting in Albuquerque and finishing in Boulder! The route is here – we start for Santa Fe on July 1 and finish on the 13th, about 950 miles later.  We haven’t ridden in New Mexico before, and in both states we’ll see some new terrain and towns, notably:

  • Santa Fe, Taos and Chama in New Mexico;
  • the Black Canyon of the Gunnison;
  • Monarch Pass to Gunnison;
  • Independence Pass;
  • Aspen and the Rio Grande Trail to Carbondale.

We’ll also return to some favorites: Durango, Silverton, and Kremmling, and another go at hauling the tandem over the wild & wooly Rollins Pass from Winter Park on the final day. This time, big tires are going on the tandem for that doozy.

The route was already drafted – the real work was making hotel reservations and buying our airline tickets. I always feel a little nervous locking down our July trip in mid-January, but it’s also nice to have everything lined up. I’ll make up cue sheets in the coming weeks and figure out the coffee places, bike shops and restaurants in the new towns.

Sunday

The skies cleared and we rode the Spectrum tandem to Frederick, Md. to one of our favorite area shops, the enchanting Gravel & Grind. Mel and James have created something really special and we always enjoy ourselves there. Everything is good (the coffee, food, bikes, stuff, and scene), but especially their welcoming vibe.

James, Mel and Mary

James, Mel and Mary

 

Books for Sale at Gravel & Grind

Books for Sale at Gravel & Grind

 

Mary, James and Me

Mary, James and Me

 

A randonneuring friend of ours has been talking to James about staging a fall randonneur brevet from the shop, so everybody could get some food and drinks and hang out afterwards. I hope it comes true.

The ride was a good one for us, at 117 miles without any extended climbs – perfect for winter when the wind isn’t blowing. Here’s the route on Garmin Connect or you can check it out at Strava.

The ride home was uneventful except for this very cool hawk on the side of River Road, near dusk. It calmly let us take photos. Thanks hawk!

A Hawk Surveys Its Domain

Hawk Surveys Its Domain

 

Monday

Mary and I each had dentist appointments and the skies were gray. I rode my Rivendell Bleriot, which sees far too little use these days, up to Clarendon in Arlington to turn in a very old Mac Mini for recycling (the PowerPC generation, if that rings a bell). The bike, unlike that old Mac, is just as good as ever, though it needs better fenders.

My coupled and repainted Rivendell Bleriot, still in 2007 PBP trim

My coupled and repainted Rivendell Bleriot, still in 2007 PBP trim

 

From there I rode down to the Mall and went to the Martin Luther King Jr. monument, which was busy with visitors — appropriately so on this day.

Twilight at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Twilight at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

 

Advertisements

Our 2013 Colorado Tandem Tour: Part 2

I started writing this post Saturday at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, waiting for a flight back to Washington with MG and daughter DF after a week of visiting family and hiking around Sedona.

We like to take one trip a year together without bikes, instead choosing to hit the trails for day hikes. I was struck by the beauty of Sedona; it was reminiscent of Colorado and took me back to our trip last month.

I posted the first part of our tour recap here, covering our start from Boulder and segments to Kremmling, Glenwood Springs and Paonia.

Also, our photos and routes can be seen at Flickr: mine here and MG’s here.

All of our routes are at my Garmin GPS page here and all but the first day at Ridewithgps here.

In this post I cover two of the most incredible and remote days of the tour in the central high mountains, to Crested Butte and Leadville.

Day Four: Paonia to Crested Butte via Kebler Pass
Mileage: 51.2
Road Surface: Paved, hardpack gravel
Difficulty: Medium
Conditions: Sunny, hot — low 90s.
Route and elevation profile: here at Garmin Connect, and here at Ridewithgps.

MG and I left the Fresh and Wyld B&B at 7 a.m., early enough that we missed the gourmet breakfast included with the stay that started at 8:30.

I felt like we were giving up one of the benefits that contributed to the somwehat costly room price, but we wanted to get to Crested Butte early in the afternoon to take advantage of our short day.

The overall loop we chose for this tour made it impossible to take a full day off the bike, which we find is good after three or four days. We compromised by taking Gunnison out of the route to stop in Crested Butte, for a 51-mile day over wooded Kebler Pass.

Leaving Paonia.

Leaving Paonia.

After breakfast at the downtown diner — accompanied by Neil Diamond’s greatest hits playing on the jukebox, we ambled over to the fancy and friendly Backcountry Coffee for morning espresso and treats.

The owners told us of the newcomers, like them, who had moved there for the organic food lifestyle. The dynamic was not without its tensions, but the influx had kept Paonia vibrant, unlike so many other small towns in America.

A local woman whose husband was away on a traveling forest fire crew gave us the lowdown on the construction of new homes in remote wooded locations in the West that were being consumed by the summer’s fires. She remarked how they couldn’t expect those structures to be saved from fires if they chose to live amidst so much dry timber.

We extricated ourselves from that conversation and pointed the tandem north, back the way we came the previous day, past the coal mine in Somerset. We then turned right at Paonia State Park (which had very nice restroom facilites) to begin the climb up Kebler.

Kebler Pass Awaits.

Kebler Pass Awaits.

The day beckoned, clear and bright, as the pavement gave way to smooth hardpacked dirt. The pass was not the highest of the trip, at 9,992 feet, but it may have been the prettiest.

County Road 12 rose over a set of switchbacks to join snowy peaks and grazing lands to an initial summit of 9,029, then dropped somewhat over rolling hills through woodlands. A second climb brought us to a high point 10 miles before rolling down into Crested Butte.

Was this one of those tour moments — where we become fully immersed, thinking only of our companionship, the clear sky, the soaring mountains and the miles ahead? Indeed. This is why we tour.

On the way up to the first high point.

On the way up to the first high point.

MG and I stopped often for photos on the way up, and again to capture the trees and meadows. A couple on mountain bikes appeared on a rise as we neared the top of the pass and we rode up to them just as they stopped to admire the view back toward the west.

The top of the pass is nothing more than a sign on the side of the road. We put the tandem into a downhill gear and swooped down the final miles into CB, arriving under hot sun just after 1 p.m.

Over the top of Kebler Pass, now down into Crested Butte.

Over the top of Kebler Pass, now down into Crested Butte.

CB is a ski resort town that has made itself into a rocking summer destination. The main street was humming with tourists.

After pizza and a coffee stop, we paid a visit to the strip’s bike shop, Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven, where we got some helpful local knowledge about the next day’s route and suggestions for dinner.

We found bike shops made for good information sources and the people were very nice in all of them, which made it easy to spend a few dollars on something small.

That evening we walked back into town from our room at the value-oriented Old Town Inn for Mexican food and a stop at the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. The hall is just an exhibit tucked into the old gas station/general store that serves now as a tourist gift shop and local history museum.

It wasn’t much, but we learned about some well-known MTB pioneers and racers and checked out interesting old bikes.

CB is known as a summer MTB mecca, and we saw a few full-suspension bikes being ridden about. But what we really noticed more was the ubiquitous townie cruisers that everybody rode around and parked unlocked. Hotels would have a few leaning outside for guest use, and we’d see families soft-pedaling around town. The original bikeshare, in a way.

We had been told CB was something of a special summer place. They were right.

Day Five: Crested Butte to Leadville via Cottonwood Pass
Mileage: 100.7
Road Surface: Paved, hardpack gravel
Difficulty: Hard
Conditions: Sunny, hot, low 90s.
Route and elevation profile: here at Garmin Connect, and here at Ridewithgps.

After espresso and breakfast sandwiches at Camp Four coffee on Elk Avenue (excellent!) our second-longest day began with the brief descent of 10 miles south from CB. We turned on Jacks Cabin Cutoff to begin the 48-mile ascent over Cottonwood Pass via Taylor Park Reservoir at Almont.

Camp Four in CB. Good stuff.

Camp Four in CB. Good stuff.

Jacks Cabin turned to gravel and MG urgently informed me that one of the couplers was loose — as in, completely unscrewed. Not good!

I immediately halted the bike and got out the S&S coupler wrench. Besides the loose one, three or four of the other five were less than fully tight, and I gave them all a good turn.

Back on the go, we got back on pavement near Harmel’s Ranch Resort, a dude ranch/fly fishing desination on the Taylor River. We stopped at the ranch store for Gatorade to take up the hill, and had a nice conversation with the fishing concierge (is there such a thing?) who lives in the offseason off the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.

He noticed my AT bandana that I wore to protect my neck from the sun and we talked a little about the West and the East.

Taylor Park Reservoir

Taylor Park Reservoir

The road was paved all the way up to Taylor Reservoir and we enjoyed a fairly easy climb through the forested canyon. At the Taylor Park Trading Post MG and I decided we better eat something solid and had a full breakfast at the Nugget Cafe.

The reservoir is a haven for ATV riders and there were signed trails for the little four-wheelers that zoomed around like Tazmanian devils, traveling in their own whirling dust clouds.

Second breakfast at the Nugget Cafe, Taylor Reservoir.

Second breakfast at the Nugget Cafe, Taylor Reservoir.

Next stop was Cottonwood Pass, a 13-mile climb on dirt among forests to 12,119 feet. As a well-used road between CB and Buena Vista/Breckenridge and Interstate 70, the grade was quite pleasant without any steep sections. We had acclimated to the elevation by this day and rode up to the top without any drama.

Nearing treeline on Cottonwood Pass.

Nearing treeline on Cottonwood Pass.

A nice woman from northwest Arkansas took our photo and talked about the nearby cabin she owned with her late husband. They spent summer vacations there with the now-grown kids, and she talked a little sadly about how she planned to sell it as there wasn’t the same appeal for their grandkids.

12,119 ft. elevation, summit of Cottonwood Pass.

12,119 ft. elevation, summit of Cottonwood Pass.

After photos and snacks, I was looking forward to the 19-mile paved descent to Buena Vista. It started out fantastic — including a sighting of a touring cyclist — nearing the summit on his way up. The switchbacks came fast, indicating the grade was steep on the east side of the Cottonwood.

Soon the headwinds picked up, some quite violent, and the riding became a challenge. Cars started backing up behind and we pulled over at trailhead parking lot to take a break. We’d been lucky with updrafts so far, but today they were a handful.

Buena Vista was a bustling town, hot and windy, as we arrived around 3 p.m. They had a worthy local coffee shop, Buena Vista Roastery, a friendly bike shop, Boneshaker Cycles, and a handy brewpub, Eddyline Brewery, where we ate pizza and salads.

The folks at the welcoming Boneshaker did us a big favor by getting into the unpacked stock to find some Chomois Butt’r lotion. We liked their whole deal, very laid back, and MG bought a little T-shirt to take home as a souvenir.

After all that we had a 30-mile gradual ascent to Leadville, which we began under threatening skies, with distant thunder booming. A little rainsquall came over us north of town and we put on jackets, but it stopped in a few miles and off they came.

The shoulder was wide enough on US24 to make the trip comfortable and a gentle tailwind negated the ascending grade. We made good time north, with views of the Arkansas River to the east side of the road and the Sawatch Range to the west, which features a number of 14,000 ft. peaks. This range includes the highest elevation in Colorado, the 14,433 ft. Mt. Elbert. Read more about this range at 14ers.com.

Headed to Leadville. Courtesy MG.

Headed to Leadville. Courtesy MG.

Imperceptably the road steepened as we neared town. MG and I slowed to a fast crawl over the last 10 miles and rolled hungry and spent up to the shabby Super 8 on the south side of town.

There are better accommodations in Leadville but they were sold out before we could grab a room. I learned later one of them was hosting a Leadville 100 bike race training camp.

We walked to downtown at dusk and everything looked well worn — the houses, the cars and trucks, the businesses. Not all was discouraging: the bike shop, Cycles of Life, looked pretty cool from outside, and there was plenty of Leadville 100 signage around, which made us feel like we were somewhere special.

At the historic Quincy’s Restaurant, one of the few places still open at 8:45 p.m. that was not a gas station, the choices were just two: steaks or lasagna. The lasagna was good enough and we actually got a good night’s sleep at the Super 8, so all ended well.

In Part 3 I’ll wrap up our final two days on the road.

Our 2013 Colorado Tandem Tour: Part 1

MG did such a good job posting on Chasing Mailboxes about our progress during our July 4-12 Colorado tour (see her posts here) that I waited until we got home to put down my own thoughts about our experience.

We had a great time on this tour, and it marked a new step forward for us as a team: it was the first self-contained touring trip we had done far from home.

We have taken the tandem to randonneuring events in other parts of the U.S. (and France) and ridden self-contained in Virginia and surrounding states near home in Washington, D.C.

Going to Colorado to see friends and ride by ourselves was a new experience. Many questions had to be answered: where to stay, where to ride, how to get the bike to and from our start and end point in Boulder.

I’m happy to say all went well. The time we’ve spent randonneuring and touring helped us a lot in terms of determining the right distances and limiting our gear to the essentials. Our new Co-Motion Java tandem performed flawlessly, the weather co-operated and we were treated well throughout by drivers. In sum — a very fun and satisfying trip.

Summer vacation!

Summer vacation!

First off: Photos! Ours are uploaded at Flickr mine here and MG’s here.

You can see our routes at my Garmin GPS page here.

Prologue

This tour started taking shape over the winter. We were inspired to return to the state after seeing the northern parts during the High Country 1200K randonnee with MG last summer. I previously rode the central mountains on the Bicycle Tour of Colorado in 1997, and wanted to see them again with MG on tandem at a more leisurely pace.

I contacted with our randonneur friends Tim Foon Feldman and HC 1200K organizer John Lee Ellis in Louisville, Colo., near Boulder, to talk over possible routes. Tim has drawn up the Haute Route 1200K randonner course, which I used as a template.

One of our goals was to take advantage of Colorado’s well-maintained dirt roads that the Java tandem would allow us to traverse with larger tires.

With their help I whittled the days into shorter versions with hotel stops. I included one of the six 200K-ish rides that Tim has made up from his 1200K: the 134-mile Trail Ridge 200K from Louisville through Rocky Mountain National Park to Kremmling, Colo.

It would be our first and longest day on the bike, going over the highest point on our tour at 12,200 feet of elevation with about 10,000 feet of climbing.

Route drafting led to hotel reservations, then vacation requests from work and airplane tickets. Colorado is a busy place during the summer — it was essential that we get everything locked in by early May.

We like Southwest Air to Denver because they allow two bags free per person and fly direct from Washington Dulles airport. The Java with S&S couplers broke down into suitcases that we could check without an additional fee.

From Denver a regional transit coach bus is available to Boulder, which lets one avoid renting a car.

We arrived late on July 3 after work. Tim would not let us take the bus and instead picked us up at DLA and took us to his and wife Donna’s lovely house in Louisville. They keep two cats, nice bikes, a lovely back yard and have a keen appreciation for good conversation, food and espresso. Tim likes to ride and ski, Donna likes to ski and hike.

We had a lot to discuss about the outdoors life in the Rocky Mountains.

Tim gets the shot on the Lefthand Canyon climb.

Tim gets the shot on the Lefthand Canyon climb.

After assembling the Co-Motion Java Tandem (provisional name: The Big Cat) on July 4 Tim joined us for a 50-mile checkout ride up Lefthand Canyon to the local holiday gathering. The bike came together well — it was our first time traveling with the Java. Later all of us went to a backyard party in Louisville and watched impressive local fireworks.

4th of July at Lefthand Canyon

4th of July at Lefthand Canyon

On Friday MG and I ventured into Boulder to greet our pals at Vecchio’s Bicicletteria on fashionable Pearl Street, enjoyed espresso at Ozo Coffee and at Atlas, and then rode out to Mary’s Market & Deli in Hygeine. This is something of a local cyclist stop and riders came and went often. Rain stopped us briefly on the way back and then dissipated quickly.

A year later, we're back: Vecchio's Bicicletteria.

A year later, we’re back: Vecchio’s Bicicletteria.

Saturday our tour started. Here’s our rundown, in a review format.

Day 1: Boulder to Kremmling via Lyons, Estes Park and Trail Ridge Road.
Mileage: 134
Road Surface: Paved
Difficulty: High
Conditions: Sunny
Route and elevation profile: here.

Day One: Off to Trail Ridge Road!

Day One: Off to Trail Ridge Road!

We rode this segment as a randonneur permanent ride — The Trail Ridge 200 — with a total time of 14:20 to complete the course. The challenge was to get to the Granby control on the other side of Trail Ridge Road, mile 107, in 11 hours 28 minutes. That seems like plenty of time, but we were on the button most of the day as we slowly climbed the first 70 miles from 5,500 feet to 12,200 feet.

We left just before 7:30 a.m. and Tim joked that we should leave Estes Park, mile 45, by noon. He was not kidding. The climbing to that point, at 7,540 feet, got us there at 11:20 a.m.! We found the long uphills on Rt. 36 very tough. After a quick lunch and drinks at the Safeway, we entered Rocky Mountain National Park for the big push to the top.

The ascent up renowned Trail Ridge Road was at once thrilling and nerve-wracking. Holiday weekend car traffic was heavy and with little shoulder, and dropoffs to our right, I kept one eye forward and one on my rear view mirror. I wanted to ride out in the lane but had to give way often as groups of cars would pass. All this made MG nervous about riding off the edge.

A rest stop on the way up Trail Ridge Road.

A rest stop on the way up Trail Ridge Road.

We stopped at turnouts to regain our composure and catch our breath. As we rose above treeline temperatures fell into the low 50s and the wind picked up — vests and jackets came out for each of us.

Air is getting thin up here. Courtesy MG.

Air is getting thin up here. Courtesy MG.

The mountain and valley views were spectacular! We had never gone that far into the sky on the tandem and the payoff was immense. The kind comments we got at the Alpine Visitor Center store just past the summit were very much appreciated.

A mile from the top. Courtesy MG.

A mile from the top. Courtesy MG.

It was all downhill to Granby, but we had to cover the 37 miles in a little over two hours to stay within the ride time limits. We pressed hard all the way down the twisty descent and through Grand Lake, and arrived with about 12 minutes to spare. There’s nothing like a deadline and a descending profile to get one to go fast!

On our way to Kremmling.

On our way to Kremmling.

After a rest stop in Granby, the rest of the 27-mile route to little Kremmling continued trending downhill. After the busy Trail Ridge Road, we had Highway 40 mostly to ourselves. We thought we had to get to Kremmling before 9 p.m. to get food at the local grill, so I called in an order for 8:45 p.m.

MG and I resolved to make it happen. After a day like this, we were going to be famished and did not want to go to bed hungry.

A soft evening sun bathed our faces as we shot west through Byers Canyon and over cattle lands. I got out my camera to photograph the passing freight train and the engineer blew the whistle and waved.

We saw a guy running with a follow van as part of a coast-to-coast cancer fundraising challenge. A car passed once every so often. Hills glowed.

A lovely early Saturday evening ride.

A lovely early Saturday evening ride.

Kremmling appeared in the distance and the clock struck 8:30 p.m. just as we rolled into town. Success!

We got our brevet cards signed at the Rocky Mountain Bar & Grill and they served us dinner. Turns out they did not close until 10 p.m., so we had time to eat there. I ordered dessert too.

Our hotel was the nearby Allington Inn, which was kind of pricey but new and very comfortable. It was a long day for touring, but one of our most memorable ever.

Day Two: Kremmling to Glenwood Springs
Mileage: 89.5
Road Surface: Paved, hardpack gravel, paved bike path
Difficulty: Medium
Conditions: Sunny, hot — low 90s.
Route and elevation profile: here at Garmin Connect, and here at Ridewithgps.

After breakfast and a passable espresso at the Moose Cafe in Kremmling, we tooled over the days only long climbs via the hardpack gravel County Road 1, which runs along the Colorado River. At Mile 27 we descended to the outdoor concert venue and river access point known as State Bridge Landing. After a few miles of paved road we turned onto the hardpack Colorado River Road to the 20-mile bike path into Glenwood Springs.

County Road 1: Next stop State Bridge Landing.

County Road 1: Next stop State Bridge Landing.

Along CR 1 views of the Colorado River and dry scrub land stretched in all directions. Trucks carrying inflatable boats and kayaks made a regular appearance as we mixed in with the river rat and fishing enthusiasts.

State Bridge, a little outdoor entertainment and camping enclave where the party crowd was just stirring at 11:30 a.m., offered the only notable rest stop. We feasted on tasty blackened fish sandwiches and sodas from a vendor truck and took some snacks to eat later.

Overlooking the Colorado River.

Overlooking the Colorado River.

Colorado River Road was hot and dry, but the river’s growing size and strength kept us entertained. There was almost no shade and we stopped to take advantage of the shelter at the Burns post office and then again at a bend in the road with some trees. We left State Bridge with three full water bottles, full 70-oz. Camelbaks, and Cokes for the Burns stop, which got us through this long stretch without services.

The Glenwood path took us into town but was a narrow in places and had occasional foot traffic, so we had to keep our speed in check. At Glenwood we went directly to our Courtyard hotel across the river from the tourist area near the springs and we missed the sights.

That was OK by us. After the big ride Saturday and the heat of Sunday, we were pretty tired. We stayed put in the hotel area for the evening and ate dinner at a chain place nearby. Next time I want to see more of Glenwood.

Day Three: Glenwood Springs to Paonia
Mileage: 77
Road Surface: Paved roads, paved bike path
Difficulty: Medium
Conditions: Sunny, afternoon headwinds.
Route and elevation profile: GPS at Garmin Connect, Route at Ridewithgps.

The first two days caught up with us this morning and we struggled to get in sync about breakfast. We went into Glenwood’s older downtown for espresso and food with a couple of pointers from Yelp.

But, nothing looked right at first and we (really, me, since I was on the espresso mission) u-turned a couple of times trying to decide what to do, while avoiding urgent Monday morning car traffic.

Finally we went into a touristy coffee & lunch place and got truly terrible espresso. This put me in a bad mood.

We found a good breakfast place next door, however, and noticed another coffeenhouse nearby, The Bluebird Cafe. It was the real deal and sold me a very tasty doppio.

A few years of touring has taught us that mornings can be stressful when we’re tired and hungry and have no exact place to alight. This knowledge helped us avoid a tandem team meeting, and it was all behind us soon enough.

The bike trail south of Glenwood Springs.

The bike trail south of Glenwood Springs.

After a few miles south on the bike path with some local roadie cyclists, we stopped in quaint Carbondale at Ajax Bike & Sport. Aaron and gang gave us some excellent local knowledge and encouragement.

A great stop in Carbondale.

A great stop in Carbondale.

Next stop: a second espresso and treat at lovely Bonfire Coffee. Next time we’ll consider overnighting in Carbondale if possible rather than Glenwood — much quieter and easy to navigate.

By this time it was late morning and we still had most of the day’s ride ahead, with 8,762 ft. high McClure Pass at Mile 38. Colorado Rt. 133 gradually ascended to the base of the climb, then pitched up more steeply for three miles to the summit.

"-- Job". We covered the same route today as this year's Bicycle Tour of Colorado.

“– Job”. We covered the same route today as this year’s Bicycle Tour of Colorado.

We hit the climb after one more stop in the little resort community of Redstone for snacks and drinks. One the way up we saw a few touring cyclists headed down, but did not find out their group. This climb was not bad and we enjoyed awe-inspiring views in all directions. After photos at the top we blasted down, convinced we could practically coast all the way to Paonia.

A tour group was coming down McClure Pass as we ascended.

A tour group was coming down McClure Pass as we ascended.

On top of McClure Pass. Big payoff for a relatively pleasant climb.

On top of McClure Pass. Big payoff for a relatively pleasant climb.

Not true, of course. While we had a downhill profile, there were enough hills and a strong southern headwind to keep us working. The big coal mine at Somerset loomed and beyond that was little Paonia, a community based on a mix of coal jobs, farming and the local/organic food movement.

Near Paonia, really bad railroad tracks on Bowie Road.

Near Paonia, really bad railroad tracks on Bowie Road.

Imagine a small town where the local businesses are still thriving and people move there to get away from city life. That’s Paonia. Our B&B Fresh and Wyld Farmhouse Inn was a lovely retreat from chain hotels and we had a terrific local food dinner at The Living Farm Cafe.

After getting an ice cream cone at a nearby parlor, we stopped at the pizza place to chat with some folks watching the Tour de France on TV and drinking beer. MG and I strolled a mostly quiet main drag before heading back for a great night’s quiet sleep. This was one of those touring days where we felt at one with the road, the sky and air, and found a community on the upswing.

Stay tuned: I’ll detail the final four days in Part II.

Colorado Tour Day 4: Paonia & Crested Butte

Two days later in our Colorado tandem tour, MG and I are seeing two different types of summer experiences in this unique state.

image

Yesterday our 75-mile route had the high point right in the middle: McClure Pass, between Glenwood Springs and Paonia. It was a gentle uphill grade until a not-too-steep three-mile switchback climb to 8,762 feet, then downhill to Paonia for 35 miles.

image

The downhill was fast at first but became less easy with some rises and a hot headwind. That’s normal on Colorado afternoons, when warm valley air rushes up the mountains.

We heard that Paonia has become something of a destination for the organic food movement in addition to it’s roots in ranching and coal mining.
image

image

This made for an eclectic mix of new and traditional. We rode past the big coal operation north of town, then entered past orchards to a main street featuring organic stores and restaurants.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Living Farm cafe after walking in from the Fresh & Wyld organic farm on the edge of town.

image

This morning we started the day too early for breakfast at the b&b so we ate at the local diner on Main Street followed by lovely espresso at Backcountry Coffee & Espresso.

The owner had only been in town two years. She told us people were moving to Paonia to get away from the city; but also that it wasn’t a way to get rich either.

Today we rode 52 miles to the tony ski and mountain bike mecca of Crested Butte, over the mostly-dirt Kebler Pass at 9,990 feet. A short day, but with 41 miles of ascent, no cakewalk.

image

image

Kebler is just stunning with magnificent peaks, soaring aspen and flowering meadows. Cool clean air pushed us from behind. Never was extended climbing so enjoyable.

image

image

CB was alive with tourists and locals when we arrived at 2 p.m. We had pizza and then hung out at the bike shop where the owner and staff gave us excellent info about our route to Leadville tomorrow.
image

image

Tomorrow we will have espresso at one cool artsy coffee shop and breakfast at another neat joint. Crested Butte is funky and sports oriented, which is cool, but I think Paonia is the place worth watching.

Colorado Tour: The Ups and the More Ups

MG and I are in Glenwood Springs, Colo. tonight on day two of our weeklong tandem trip around the state’s central mountains.

After 223 miles over the first two days we are feeling like we are getting the full mountains experience. West of Denver this state is never flat.

Yesterday we started with a 134-mile ride from Louisville, near Boulder, over the iconic 12,200-foot Trail Ridge Road. We stayed overnight in the little ranching town of Kremmling.

We rode it as a randonneur permanent — meaning, self guided — with a time limit. Our host in Louisville, Tim Foon Feldman, came up with the route through Lyons, Estes Park, over to Granby and then Kremmling.

image

This meant about 70 miles of ascending to gain nearly 5,000 7,000 feet of elevation and about 10,000 feet overall when you throw in the little dips.

I had always wanted to climb TRR on tandem with MG so it was a huge accomplishment for us to summit at mile 75, more so because this is one stunning and tough climb.

There is no shoulder and we had constant car traffic passing us. We were treated well by drivers but at 5 m.p.h. we were in the way more than I liked.
image

The thin air at the top made it very hard to keep up momentum. And, MG was scared by the dropoffs and would lean left at times which affected the steering.

In sum, it took a real team effort to get the Co-Motion over the top. It was worth it. We felt like we had checked off one of those must-do’s as a tandem couple.

Of course, the views were spectacular.

The payoff for getting up and over came in the evening descending ride to Kremmling with little traffic and a classic western sunset.
image

Today we rolled along the scenic Colorado River on a mix of hard pack gravel and paved roads under hot skies to Glenwood.
image

No mountains but many little hills and tired legs made the 90 miles a solid challenge.
image

Tomorrow we roll south to teeny Paonia.