Tuesday, September 16, 2008

9-13-08 Paul McDaniel - RIP

This is a bummer blog entry. Last month, I blogged about a fun trip we took to RMNP to climb with Sam and his friend Paul. We'd not met Paul before, nor did we even expect him to be there with Sam. Turns out Paul decided to cancel his return flight to hang out and climb more.

Of course, he was more than welcome. So, off we went into Lumpy Ridge to climb. What a great time it was. Paul smiled non-stop and had such a great time. I remarked how fun it was to climb with someone who said "THAT WAS THE BEST CLIMB OF THE TRIP" after every single time.

The pictures captured his joy for sure.

He was so psyched with the area that he stated he wanted to go to law school here. We talked about plans to climb in Eldo next year. None of that will happen though.

Yesterday I heard from Sam that Paul had passed away a day and a half before. Aneurysm. He was born in 1984 - a kid. It doesn't get much more sad than this guys. It is just another reminder not to take another person, or a single moment, for granted.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

9/07/08 - San Juan Bike Tour - Durango to Ouray - Day 4

We got up early since we had such a big day. We ride from Durango (elevation about 6,600') to past Ouray. This means about 74 miles in distance and some ridiculous amount of elevation gain - maybe 50,000 feet or so. Ha!

Okay. Maybe a bit less. Like 8,000 feet. It was a fun challenge nonetheless.

First up was pretty much nothing but elevation gain to the top of Coal Bank Pass (elevation 10,640'). This involved at least 4,000 feet in gained elevation. It was nice getting this one completed since it seemed it would be the hardest.

Next on the agenda was Molas Pass. This pass sits at about elevation 10,910 feet. Between Coal Bank and Molas, the road drops for about three miles to about elevation 9,700'. It's fun going downhill, but it is also a bummer since that elevation will need to be regained for Molas.

From Molas, we dropped for seven fun miles into the town of Silverton. Sometimes there was even a shoulder! Regardless of the shoulder situation, the drop off from the edge of the road was huge. One mistake and I doubt a body would ever be found. Looks like a bit of a gripper for drivers as well.

In Silverton, we had a bit to eat at the general store. We didn't sit long though - we had 24 more miles of riding and the last mountain pass to get behind us.

This climb starts immediately. Happily it is mild at the beginning as we rode through the valley. It eventually got steeper and steeper. Turning one corner, the switchbacks came into view. Argh! See below for a video of Dave's thoughts at about this time during the ride.

No choice but to just keep moving. We rode until we gained the pass (elevation 11,018'). From here, it was pretty much downhill. We just needed not to fly off the edge or get smushed by a vehicle and we'd be back to Roger's house. Yay!

The downhill portion was fun (even with wicked cross and headwinds). There were many super-tight hair-pin turns. It went on and on and on.

Finally we rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of Ouray from above. It is a neat town in a really amazing setting. I see why so many love it there.

We continued our descent into town, then had about 5 more mile to go on relatively flat roads to get to Roger's.

Dave was waiting for me when I arrived. It was just in time - turns out my back tire when flat after arriving. I'm happy that didn't happen on the road. We went in, got a much needed shower and hung out with Roger for a while.

We finally hit the road. We had a long drive home and we were both tired.
As usual, it was such fun being gone, but we were looking forward to sleeping in our own bed and seeing our critters.

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9/06/08 - San Juan Bike Tour - Dolores to Durango - Day 3

Today we head to Durango. This day involved no mountain passes and only about 49 miles of riding of pretty much rolling hills.

Our friend, headwinds accompanied us much less this day. Happily, we even had some tailwinds. Because it was a relatively short day, we arrived in Durango quite early.

First on our agenda then was to hop in the pool. We didn't take bathing suits, but that presented no problem.

No photos of me since I was in for a very short time - the water was COLD!

After time at the pool and some very relaxing sun napping, we headed back to our room. That is when I spied our little buddy - a bat. He was hanging right outside our door. Very cute!

After changing clothes, we hopped in a cab and headed to the south side of town.

It is now that I will reveal that Dave has been dealing with a pretty serious case of RV fever. We've been looking at them and learning a ton.

In Durango, on the south side of town is an RV dealer. And they had the type of fifth wheel trailers that caught our eye.

Dave was like a kid in a candy store there.

He was here...

Then he was there...

Then He was over there again...

It was great fun! They did have on the lot *THE* trailer we liked the best. It's a beauty.

After getting our fill of trailer fun, the salesperson who helped us (Cathy) dropped us at a restaurant she recommended called Mutus. This Italian restaurant earned the "best meal of the trip" award. It was not only really affordable, but really tasty.

While there, Dave ran into a friend he'd not seen in 15 years as well so there was some fun catching up between them. Small world.

Finally, we rode the trolley back to our hotel and dove into our Temperapedic bed. Those mattresses are the ticket. We then enjoyed our best night of sleep on the trip.

I slept well, but I did spend a lot of time considering the task for tomorrow - Durango to just past Ouray... 74 miles and three mountain passes: Coal Bank Pass, Molas Pass and Red Mountain Pass.

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9/05/08 - San Juan Bike Tour - Telluride to Dolores - Day 2

We got up and enjoyed the best free continental breakfast ever! Real pastries, good food. We highly recommend the Camel's Garden Hotel!

We hopped on our bikes and headed out. Today we would be going from Telluride to Dolores. This involves going over Lizard Head Pass, a gain of about 3,500 feet, and a distance of about 67 miles.

Somehow I got it into my brain that this was not going to be hard day at all. Pffft. It wasn't heinous, but it wasn't a piece of cake. It was long and it had a lot of climbing. It also involved some really beautiful views.

Like all of our rides, Dave is much faster than I am. He's faster uphill. He's faster on flats. Heck, he's even (way) faster downhill. He can coast downhill while I peddle like a fiend to try and keep up with him. It's crazy. (Well, considering he has more muscle in his quadriceps than I have in my entire body, maybe it's not so surprising). Regardless of the reason, in general during our rides he is quite a bit in front of me.

At one point during the day, I pulled into Rico, Colorado. This is a small "town." I pulled up to see a huge LIQUOR sign and Dave sitting beneath it drinking. Drinking a Red Bull! It was quite funny.

The few local drunks hanging outside had several comments about how we were drinking Red Bull. I guess it seemed odd to them since they were already hammered and it wasn't even noon. Oh well.

Although this was suppose to be our easiest day of riding, the head winds made it brutal. Endless rolling hills, and wicked head winds. I was pretty SICK of them as we pulled into Dolores and checked into the Dolores Mountain Inn. Someone needed a nap and some food.

Dave contemplated calling the Wahbulance but decided a pizza would be a better choice.

It was.

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9/04/08 - San Juan Bike Tour - Ouray to Telluride - Day 1

For this bike tour, we decided to do what is known as the "Death Ride". However, unlike the "official" death ride, we weren't going to be doing it in one day. Instead, we opted to take four and enjoy the towns along the way.

This route is located in southwestern Colorado on a loop called the San Juan Skyway. The loop we were taking consisted of about 235 miles and had over 24,000 vertical feet in gain. According to the Roadbiking Colorado guide, there are six major climbs along the way. Four of them are high mountain passes of more than 10,000 feet in elevation. Ow.

Unlike the official death ride, were started near Ouray, not Durango. From here, we planned to ride to Telluride on the first day. The second day would take us from Telluride to Dolores, Colorado. From Dolores, on third day, we would ride to Durango. And finally, on the fourth day, we'd ride from Durango to just past Ouray where we started. It appears that the last leg - from Durango to past Ouray - will be the hardest ride ever for me in terms of vertical gain (not to mention it comes after three days of riding already). My rump is going to ache.

Our home base was to be the home of Dave's long-time friend, Roger. He owns a beautiful home between Ouray and Ridgeway. We drove to his house the evening of the 3rd and all went into Ouray for dinner.

After a good meal, we retired to Roger's home for the evening. After some fun conversation and catching up, we all went to bed.

The following morning, we got up and lolly-gagged a bit waiting for it to warm a little outside. Finally, we got dressed, got the bikes ready, and hit the road. Our first let would be to ride from Roger's home to Telluride. This leg of the trip is about 66 miles and includes going over the Dallas Divide gaining about 2,400 feet in elevation.

Immediately, we were presented with our three almost constant companions of the entire ride: chip-seal, strong head winds, and traffic.

In fact, in the guide book (I looked at after returning home), the author states that within a few miles of this ride, "...the climb starts and gradually steepens. This climb never gets too steep, but it is solid and sustained all the way to the top. The headwinds can be fierce up here and can turn this grind into a gruel, but the scenery never quits."

How is it possible to have head winds regardless of the direction we pointed? It seemed impossible. But it was real. At times, the wind was so strong that slobber flew out of my mouth!


I really am a drooler!

Still, it was a nice ride. We made a few stops to drink and eat a bar. The only little town with any services was Placerville. It was a nice place to sit for a short time.

From Placerville the ride climbs steadily from about 7,300' to 8,700 feet near Telluride.

Finally, we pulled into Telluride. I was happy that the very last section involved a downhill section! It seems so many towns require an uphill section at the end of the day. It didn't escape me that I would have to ride uphill first thing in the morning though. Oh well.

I'd not been to Telluride before. It is a lovely town. We stayed at the Camel's Garden Hotel - a very nice place in a superb location. It was located near restaurants, as well as next to the tram that takes one to Mountain Village.

We showered then headed for the tram. This took us up and over to the Mountain Village. Here, we looked for the 'lost people of Mountain Village.'

True to the mockumentary (a movie worth seeing by the way), there were few people. However, like the movie, there was clear evidence in the way of widely used valuable resources everywhere that the people had once been here.

Is that not a scary photo of me on the tram?

We hopped back on the tram and headed over the mountain to get some dinner. We found a nearby pub and had a nice meal.

Following the meal, we went over to one of Dave's favorite places: Baked in Telluride. A pastry heaven.

After that, we wandered the streets, checked out the park and just relaxed.

Great day! Tomorrow we head to Dolores. Should be fun...

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