Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 24: Garden City to Dodge City -- Short Days are nice too

Photos are here.
Miles Today:54
Total Miles: 1778
Avg Speed: 15/1
Max Speed: 26.5
Total Time: 3:33
Flats Today: 0; Total flats:8
Weather: Sunny & about 90 with mild head wind
Body: Tired from yesterday's push, but feeling good

Leisurely describes the ride today. Knowing we had only 54 miles to ride made it easy to come along side Bob and Carole for the first half and chat a while. Great fun talking to Bob about past trips. At 73 he is has lots of gumption and energy. Bob lives in Virginia, but got to know Jack and his brother Rick (who left day 2 with shoulder and collar bone damage) and the three of them went in on a triple together.) Bob is fondly known as "young Bob", so dubbed by the other Bob who is just short of 40 and dubbed himself "younger Bob".
Bob shared that he did a self contained camping trip last year with 4 friends from norther FL to the keys. Pretty impressive in my book. He said he very much enjoyed the freedom and independence that brought. Young Bob also did a cross country trip a few years back, and is now back for more. Day after day he has hung back with Carole who is doing her first trip so she always has someone to ride with. Great guy, that Young Bob.

After a rather brief SAG stop at mile 22 we shoved off for the Malt Shop in downtown Cimmaraon. Great place! The pictures show it much better than words ever could for what it is.

While at the Malt Shop, I called my now departed roomie, Jim on his cell phone. We had gotten very hopeful news at route rap last evening that it looked like it was indeed Jim's pacemaker that was malfunctioning and that by "rebooting and resetting" it Jim's slow heartbeat could be remedied. He was now hoping to rejoin the ride in Indy, 2 weeks from today. Wouldn't that be great!!! His test of the new settings and his heart's response to that was to climb up Diablo, which apparently is a steep long climb in the Sierras, close to Jim's home with a heart rate monitor and see what his heart does. If that goes well, the way should be clear for him to rejoin the trip.

On another note, tomorrow is Sean the wrench's last day with us before he leaves on his round the world by plane jumps excursion. He starts in Europe and will be gone for two months or so. Great ride, Sean! You've been a huge asset to te group and you will very much be missed!!! All the best to you on your travels.

Tonight its Montana Mike for dinner and then for any that wish, a wild west sort of honky tonk show for any that want to take that in.

I also want to especially thank the amazing Thursday lunch team at C.R.A.C.K House ministries. I have heard nothing but glowing reports of what you have all been doing in fixing and feeding close to 100 hungry folks the past number of weeks. Thanks so much Ron, Les and Tom for the leadership and for each of you who have faithfully come to help! Terry, Alene, Deb, JohnM, Katie, Myrt & John, Sandra and others I know I have missed. My heart is often in Columbus, though my legs are on the bike and my brain occassionaly becomes mildly mushed.
Those of you who know me, know I easily lose track of stuff and this trip has been no exception. So far I have managed to lighten my baggage by leaving behind my dental floss and losing a pair of riding socks. My riding windbreaker that conveniently converts to a vest has also come up missing. I dropped it in the drop box on a warming morning recently. When I checked the box the next morning it was gone. I still wonder if it blew out of the box in the high winds from the day before or if someone unintentionally or otherwise removed it from the drop box. I'll probably never know.
More Kansas tomorrow as we roll on eastward.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 23: Lamar to Garden City -- Flying along in the flatlands

Pictures are here
Miles Today: 105
Total Miles: 1724
Avg Speed: 19.7
Max Speed: 31.5
Total Time: 5:20
Flats Today: 0; Total flats so far: 8
Weather: Cool and little wind in the morning, adding heat and southwesterly 10-15 mph (tailwind) as the day wore on. Altitude change: 800' drop to 2800' Garden City. Body condition: Feeling the ride for sure, but overall still good to go.

Second of our back to back centuries today and official entry into Kansas and central time zone. Ever eastward we go! Colorado and Kansas were FLAT today until we got toward the end of the ride when we did get a few gradual biggie sized rollers to change things up a bit. There was a bit of competitive racing type drama on today's ride -- these flats will bring some of that out, especially among our Floridian friends who feel right at home in this terrain and weather.

Three of our foursome started out together, though Chuck was missing. His bike was out front but no CHuck so we pushed off without himj thinking he would come along. Gerard and Judy alos pulled out about the same time so Bob, Leigh and I rode with them for some time in the early morning cool on very smooth roads with very little wind. We moseyed along at about 17-18 mph for the first 33 miles to the SAG stop.

Not long before we reached the SAG stop we saw a flash of blue and white roar by at what seemed twice the speed we were moving. Chuck was a man with a mission! He was down on his aerobars and cranking smoothly and efficiently. By the time we got to the SAG stop, Chuck was well on his way out already, having stayed only long enough to sign in and rest fluid levels.

We took our time at the SAG. I was approached by a couple in a car who asked me about our ride -- usual stuff. At the end the 30's something guy gave me a round of applause. The rest of the group questioned me pretty closely about my little exchange, wondering what I had told him that would elicit that kind of response. I told them I had paid him a buck for the standing ovation. -- but it was worth it.

Eventually the Gerard, Leigh, Bob and I motored out of the SAG stop back up to the highway. As we ere leaving I got to thinking. This is a rare century that was flat with a nicley growing tail wind of 10 mph on very smooth pavement with little traffic and no turns. Should I try for a sub 5 hour century on this day? After weighing the possibilities I decided I would go for it and so I took off form the group at a good clip hoveing between 23 & 25 mph down Rt 50. Mostly I stayed on the road surface, though I would have to dive over the rumblers and onto the wide berm to get out of the way of the occasional semis that roared up and by using all of the road.

I had good energy and the miles clicked by. I knew I would have to really crank to overcome the those first 33 slow miles so that is what I did. After about 15 miles of this, I saw Rose, one of our two new adds to the trip at the side of the road with a flat. I stopped to help her out. My pump is a sought after item for roadside flats and this one was no exception. Gerard rolled up in the middle of all this and took over the fix while Leigh and Bob motored on. We eventually got the thing put together and Rose was on her way and Gerard and I took off as well to catch up to Leigh and Bob. Gerard began to hammer and I tried to stay with him. Fortunately we soon came to a town with a traffic light where I could regain his rear wheel. Pretty soon Gerard had it up to 28-30 mph and I was hanging on for dear life. I think he kept thinking I was going to drop because I told him to go on earlier. When I was still there after about 2 miles he looked around and gave me the elbow flap signaling : "It's your turn to pull for a while, buddy" I looked at him with a "You've got to be kidding me" look. He pulled over and I pulled out into the air stream and cranked it up as best I could to 26-27, which was all I could muster. After Gerard had had a chance to recover a bit he again he pulled in front and raised the level a mile or two. We soon caught Leigh and Bob.

Once back the pace slowed down to about 20, but since I had to make up time if I was going to get that 5 hour century I began to crank it again and pulled away. Our next stop was SAG 2 in front of the heavily advertised DQ at 78 miles. Visions of a rootbeer float kept the legs churning, made the bathwater warm liquid in my bottle drinkable and kept me churning at 20 plus miles to raise the average to that magic 20mph mark. By mile 68 I was really feeling it, had no water and was questioning my sanity for trying this. The midday temperature had risen to well over 90 degrees.

Just about the time I was passing Dan, who was on the road ahead of me, Michelle and the white SAG drove by. Hand to helmet signaling STOP! Dan and I were out of water and Michelle rescued us. We drank and filled and chatted a bit. Then the bad news from Michelle. The DQ was shut down. Out of business. Closed! What to do? Dan adn I gamely pushed on. THe next 10 miles were tough ones, with the advertised late ride rollers starting to appear. I kept it over 20 as much as I coudl but was still below that magic 20mh average I needed to have.

When we got to SAG 2 we got several interesting pieces of news. There was a Subway in town even if the DQ had closed. Lunch in air conditioning never sounded so good. And, Chuck had come through right after Tom. Chuck's mission was to leave last and still be first to the motel! He was on target to do just that. Go Chuck!

Dan and I and ALex, Michelle's son ate our sbuways and several refills of softt drinks together. Soon Gerard, Bob and Leigh rolled in and joined us. We left together wondering how Chuck, our teammate was faring on his mission. As we rolled out I invited the others to join me in trying to get the next 22 miles in at over 20mph, but they all declined. Too hot and too much work. So I struck out on my own, again trying to stay over 20mph. I soon reached the magic point where my average was right at 20, so now I had to keep it there for the last 20 miles.

I played all sorts of games, breaking up the remaining distance into pieces, figuring time left if I could keep this pace, seeing how many minutes each mile took etc. The temperature kept rising -- 95 per weatherman, 105 measured on several Garmins. Hot by any measure. My ice filled water bottles from Subway were soon bathwater again. The remaining miles clicked by ever so slowly but that magic 100.00 finally arrived not far outside of Garden City. I stopped the bike and clicked the Cateye over to time. Four hours and 57 minutes. I had completed my first sub 5 hour century. Having done that, I crawled in the last 5 miles to the motel. Thankfully the Gerard, Leigh and Bob threesome showed up at the very end to keep me from a wrong turn off the highway that would have sent me off in the wrong direction just when I least needed it.

When we arrived at the motel, Tom, Sean and Chuck had already checked in. But who had checked in first? Turned out it was Chuck. He had completed his century in 4:37 at 22+mph and had overtaken Sean and Tom both in the process coming from dead last in the process. GREAT JOB, Chuck!

Others straggled in over the course of the afternoon, which was timezone change shortened to begin with. And it was an especially long and arduous day for both the Jacks and Steve who missed the rides only real turn right out of the gate and put in 20 additional miles. Two back to back double metric centuries for them.

Dinner was at the Golden Corral which was an excellent choice for this crew. Should be an easy day tomorrow with what we hope will be a quick 51 to Dodge City with plans for a bicycle rodeo and a visit to Miss Kitty's wild west show. Not to mention the excitement of laundry.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 22: Pueblo to Lamar -- Trading "Purple Mountains Majesty" for the "Fruited Plain"

Pictures are here.
Miles Today: 124
Total Miles: 1619
Avg Speed: 17.8
Max Speed: 32
Total Time: 6:57
Flats Today: 0; Total flats so far: 8
Weather: Nice in the morning with little wind. Warming to 95 or more in the afternoon with 15 mph wind varying between 1:00 and 5:00 off our right side (wind from South)
Altitude change: Drop from 4900 to 3900 feet over the course of the day.
Body condition: tired after long day of riding.
With 120+ miles ahead of us and a day of rest behind us; 2 new folks joining us (Joe and Rose are a very nice brother & sister combo from around Norfolk OH) and 12 folks leaving us; the mountains a wonderful memory and the great plains a soon to be experienced reality we were definitely entering the next phase of this adventure. Gerard had noted at supper a couple of nights ago that this is when folks can tend to get grumpy. It's Kansas where the shine wears off and the grind begins. The novelty is fading rapidly, the scenery can't carry you along and the relationships can go from forming to storming.
I had had pretty much of a do-nothing day wanting to get all in order in again. Like doing the wash, cleaning the rear sprocket and chain on the bike and catching up on blog and pictures. Having done that, I did very little else besides relax, watch some Wimbledon and catch up a little on sleep. I also discovered that I did not have my trusty windbreaker that can be converted to a vest. Wear that all the time as you can tell in the pictures. I had dropped it in the drop box at SAG stop 1 and when I went to the lobby the next day (yesterday) to get it, it was gone and has not showed up since. After some sluething and asking and reviewing pictures to verify when I wore it last, I came to the conclusion that it either got blown out of the drop box by the 40+ mph winds that kicked up at SAG2 OR, someone helped themselves to it from drop box between 4:00 pm Thursday and 10:00 am Friday. I loved that very versatile jacket and will have to replace it with a windbreaker of some sort somewhere along the line. No rush since I don't expect riding temps under 60 for quite some time and if it rains, it will likely be warm.

Load this morning was at 5:45 and breakfast at 6:00. That was as early as this day could begin. We rolled out through a very quiet Sunday morning Pueblo and were soon rolling along in a pace line just under 20. The mountains faded fast and the road led us into the flat of the plains. We added some to the line along the way and some dropped off. When we got to SAG 2 Leigh's front tire had a nasty bulge growing out the side and she had to dip into her spare tire for Gerard to fix that one. 50 yards out of the rest stop, her rear tire flatted and she walked back to get Gerard to fix that one and waved us on. So the 4 of us worked together to move us along to SAG2 and then to the DQ in Las Animas where we chilled out and I got to call home to catch up with everyone enjoying Marcia's Sunday dinner. Really enjoyed that.

When we went to leave, Jack discovered he had flatted and it took him 2 attempts (exploded the first tube with CO2 cartridge before Judy showed up in the van with a real pump.) A nmber of riders passed by during this little 45 minute hiatus including Leigh on her aero bars meaning business. I thought the DQ would be the siren that pulled her in, but she was on a mission to get done.

Not far down Rt. 50 beyond the DQ we came upon Joy who was running across the USA with 30 miles per day, and planning for 120 days from LA to NYC. She was doing it to raise funds and awareness for heart disease cure and prevention.
After a third SAG stop and some more photo stops, we had dawdled our way to a close to a 4:00 arrival time. Longest day in every way and one that sucked the fluid and energy out of all of us. Dinner was somewhat subdued in view of the day behind us and the one ahead of us tomorrow -- another century in the heat as we leave Colorado and mountain time for Kansas and central time. We will then be only one hour behind everyone back home.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 20: Salida to Pueblo -- Moseying down the Arkansas River Canyon

Pictures are here.
Miles Today:97
Total Miles: 1494
Avg Speed: 18.8
Max Speed: 44
Total Time: 5:08
Flats Today: 0; Total flats so far: 8
Weather: Gorgeious clouds early, then sunshine followed by thundershowers late. Steady then strong tailwind.
Altitude change: Drop 2500' from 7100 to 4600 with one 700' climb thrown in for good measure.
Body condition: aching back -- used magnet all day. Backache substantially gone this evening!

The morning light and cloud show was absolutely gorgeous when we stepped out of the motel room with packed bags. And so it went for the first 60 miles -- gorgeous mountains in the background crowned with mist, fog and clouds. We paralleled the Arkansas river all day which ran quite high with the runoff and recent rains. Made for excellent rafting form the looks of it along the way. The road wound its way beside the river and at spots, squeezed through the narrowing canyon with it.

Everyone was absolutley loving the ride that took us steadily down, pushed along by a gentle tailwind making 22 mph an easy cruising speed. Some of the riders normally towards the back of the procession could cruise along easily and love every revolution.

Most folks were stopping regularly to take pictures or just enjoy the scenes, leapfrogging each other and waving as they went by. A few were cranking through just for the sheer enjoyment of being able to go so fast so effortlessly. I rode and chatted with a number of folks, passing and getting passed.

The first SAG stop came at about 38 miles. Jim was there so I talked to him for some time about this and that. Marilyn, whom I'd just passed for at lesat the 3d time rolled in a while later with a large scraped bruise on her thigh, the result of having to bail into the rocky off berm strip when a truck came way to close to her. Leigh and Judy showed up eventually as well, having gotten a late start from being the last table served at breakfast. I joined them when all of us were finally ready to roll and we rode together at a leisurely pace to Canyon City at 56 miles out where they had huge milkshakes at the mom and pop shake shop and I had a Subway and a Dr. Pepper mixed with lemonade -- one of my favorite lunch drinks. Several other of the riders were there as well so we enjoyed lunch together.

Since Judy was called to help Michelle, Leigh and I rolled out together. The scenery changed drastically as we rolled out of Canyon CIty. Dry, flat, barren -- actually a lot like Kansas before we even get to Kansas. We got out to the second SAG at about 70 miles where AbB had set up a canopy at the side of the road. Jim was there -- bless him -- making tuna or egg salad sandwiches from stuff he had picked up in Canyon City.

Sean and Jack were still at that SAG stop -- big surprise since they usually make short work of these flat routes. Turns out that while in Canyon City, Sean did a sudden turn for a hair dresser to get a hair cut and Jack ran over Sean's rear wheel in the process, bending the thing. Sean had to finish the day on the AbB rear wheel until Sean the wrench could true it. Pretty funny story.

The wind kicked up, first coming from the south as a strong cross wind and then shifting to push us in at monstor speeds, allowing us to beat the storm the winds brought as well. We turned into the Holiday Inn Express with strong winds blowing in our face and thr rain threatening imminently. Our four riders who went to see Royal Gorge, had an interesting time of it, having to hole up in a dust storm and then a rain storm. They made it back fine eventually, riding a huge tailwind in. I was glad not to have gone, already seeing the very commercial and glitz-rich character of this thing in the signs leading up to the turnoff. Plenty of natural Colorado beauty to take in.

Tomorrow is a rest day here in Pueblo. Yeah!!! We all need one. Especially since the day following will be a 120 mile monstor day -- the longest of the tour. Hoping for moderate temps and tail wind that day. We'll see soon enough.

Day 19: Gunnison to Salida on the Alp de Monarch stage climb

Miles Today:67.5
Total Miles: 1397 (1/3 of the way to the Atlantic!)
Avg Speed: 15.6
Max Speed: 40
Total Time: 4:19
Flats Today: 0; Total flats so far: 8
Weather: Overcast and 50's in the morning warming later. Little wind to deal with.
Ibuprofen: 3 for aching morning back.
Pictures are here.
Note: Posted a day late because Internet Access in Salida was not working so posted from Pueblo.

This was the last real mountain stage of our ride. For the most part, I have been doing pictures, experiencing the country, the people and all that goes with it. Hammering has been limited to pace line work pulling or occasional late in the day pushes to get to where we are staying to end the day's riding. Donner pass was one exception where I worked hard and was able to crest first on that day . I was able to out climb Tom who is always first to the hotel. And by a stroke of good fortune (for me :-) ) Sean from UK lost a chain on the last mile or two so I beat him up too.

My goal today was to see if I could crest Monarch second behind UK Sean today. Things were going to have to work just so if that would happen. This stage had a classic TdF profile over about half the TdF stage distances. Leaving Gunnison, Rt 50 had a slight incline to it for the first 33 miles out and then the 9 mile 3000' plus climb to Monarch would begin cresting at 43 miles before the last 20 miles down to Salida. Our SAG stop was at the 28 mile mark, about 5 miles before the climb.

As expected, Tom left first this morning as most mornings and he wasted no time cranking down the road. I was able to get off earlier than usual because I was intent on doing that AND, I had no hotel flat for the first time in 4 days. Going through Salida I passed most of the riders that had left before I did by keeping a steady 17-18 mph pace. I rode with Sean UK for a bit and then he picked it up more than I cared to go just then. Jack caught up with me and the two of us worked together changing lead until he peeled off at 20 miles for a pit stop -- which I did not have to make because I was careful to drink only decaf that morning for just that reason. :-)

A couple of miles before the mandatory SAG stop at 28 miles, I noticed another rider way behind me. Periodic rear view mirror checks showed that he was steadily gaining ground. Jack this fast? No, it was Sean our mechanic who got his turn to ride today. Sean is 25, races and weighs about $1.50 and goes at whatever speed he wishes. He passed me and rolled into the SAG stop before I did. Sean UK was already there bantering with Gerard and Tom was on his way out as I pulled in, making only a cursory stop. He knew that with Sean UK behind him, the only chance was to get going asap. I did the routine of taking gloves off, pit stip, cleanse hands, sign in, down a Clif bar and some water. I did not refill to minimize the weight I had to carry up the climb.

Then I pushed off just ahead of the Seans. They soon passed me with Sean the wrench leading and UK Sean close on his wheel bent on catching Tom asap so they could honk at him as they passed. Since it was still flat, I thought perhaps I could hang on for a while and conserve some energy I would need for the hill while making up time on Tom at the same time. Sean kept it at about 19-20 into a mild wind and grade up for 5 miles to the place the road began to tilt up noticably. Tom was well within range now having started the climb, which fueled the Sean's pace on the grade.
I dropped off at that point, resolving to ride within myself at my pace. It's all to easy to overextend, break and then take forever to recover back to equilibrium -- especially with the thinning air. The rythm for me on this 6% average grade was to ride about 8mph in my lowest gear (34x27) and then shift up 2 or 3 gears every quarter mile or so to stand for 10 or 15 strokes. This helps the back, stretches the legs and keeps the speed up. The signal to sit is when the wind starts running out. The Seans soon caught Tom and just stayed there with him. Not sure what the conversation was as I was still 300 yeards back. I figured that I could gradually gain on Tom if I just stuck with my plan and sure enough, the gap began to close.
Before long, the Seans continued up the hill beyond Tom. About 2 miles into the 9 mile climb my gap to Tom had closed and I was passing him. I asked him why he climbed standing in his high gears and he told me it was what he always did -- easier on the knees. The Seans and I continued up at about the same pace for a while. Then Sean the wrench begain opening some distance and my distance to Sean UK began to narrow until we were riding in tandem for some time. At about 5 miles in, Sean noted that his legs were no longer responding to his brain so he stopped for a break. I continued to trudge up, now at closer to 6 mph than the 7.5 I had been. But now I had a gap between Sean and me and if I could keep up what I'd been doing, maybe, just maybe I could hope to crest ahead of him. I continued to do my sit in the 27 and then stand for 10 strokes 3 gears up. WIth 2.5 miles left, Sean was about 200 yards behind me but I was starting to lose enerrgy. The Clif bar had worn off and I was running low on fuel.

At that point, I asked that if the Lord would, would He give me the energy to finish this thing for His glory. And that is just what He so graciously did. I literally felt a surge of strength, my pace picked up again to 7.5 as I thanked Him for his provision even in this, the smallest of things. Meanwhile, Michelle drove by in the white SAG van and started yelling out the window cheering me on. I could tell she never would have thunk that I would be the leading rider (apart from the staff) at this stage of the climb. Michelle stopped up the road a bit and so did Sean the wrench, so for a little while I was leading the whole thing. Sean then resumed and soon caught me again and settled in behind encouraging me to keep it up. I told him to get himself and his bike around me which he soon did. But I kept him in view for the last mile or so as he crested and I followed a few hundred yards behind, well ahead of Sean UK who was some good way ahead of Tom.

Dave, Cathy, Tom, Ted and the rest of your group -- thanks for the training miles you let me log with you this Spring to stretch me -- they certainly paid off. Especially some of those long rides into those stiff Ohio winds. And Dan, thanks for the friendly competition on our Monday and Wednesday rides, especially charging up the hills forcing me to try to stay on your wheel.

When I got to Salida and checked in, I found I was going to be in with my doubles roomie, Jim tonight. Jim had very gamely set out to conquer Monarch today but I knew it would be a long hard day for him with the problems he was experiencing with his heart beat and his pacemaker. When he arrived about 3:00 he told me that he had taken his pulse climbing up Monarch and even with the exertion involved, it was 56. Clearly something was seriously off. He planned to head for the nearest medical facility to have things checked. The facility here in Salida had no means with which to test his pacemaker. The best they could do was take an EKG. After checking with the insurance provider etc. Gerard drove Jim to the Salida Hospital ER where he spent the next few hours. Jim called me after supper to let me know that the doctors wanted him to seek immediate medical attention but relented to let him get home first if he did not exert himself.

So, bottom line is, that Jim will be sagging to Pueblo tomorrow and leaving the tour Saturday in Pueblo to fly home. A friend he is meeting there, will drive his bike home and Jim to Denver to catch a flight. Dr. Sean UK thought that it was a pacemaker malfunction when he saw the EKG results. Still a chance that Jim may be able to rejoin before the end. I was very impressed with Jim's view that God had allowed this and knew best -- though it's been his dream to cross the country on a bike since he'd been 12. When he was finished sharing with me I asked him if he minded if we talked to the Lord about and so we prayed together. It was a bittersweet time.
Jim has become a good friend. We shared a number of experiences, have much in common professionally as we grew through the formative years of computing with similar careers and share a love of biking and the outdoors. I have appreciated Jim's connection to God and in the way he lives out his life. Jim also reminded me so much of my good friend in Columbus, Dave Mondiek. Both have such an engineering approach to life, ride Merlin bicycles which they keep fastidiously clean and well maintained, know all about the strengths and weaknesses of all items bike related and both really enjoy those long endurance rides. Jim completed 6 double centuries in one year for example. Right up Dave's alley. I was very much hoping to have them meet each other and ride together for a stretch when the tour goes through central Ohio.

So, tomorrow the beat goes on. It's a 95 mile ride to Pueblo with an optional side trip to Royal Gorge for anyone interested that tacks on 15 or so more miles and a very steep pitched climb. Not sure about that -- we'll see if I go there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 18: Montrose to Gunnison : Rocky Mountain High and going higher

Miles:66 Total trip miles:1330 riding time: 5:11 avg speed: 12.8 max speed: 34 weather: sunny, high in high '70's with stiff headwind at first and then clear sailing. Alt change: 5000' climbing, Flats 1 today for total of 8 -- still one behind Hans but gaining! Pictures are here.

Last night's route rap made it plain we would be doing plenty of climbing today and the first of it would be into a hefty headwind so we were prepared for what lay ahead. The "magnificent 7" of us who rode the '06 BCT, rode this stretch in reverse: Gunnison to Montrose. That way it's mostly down hill and with a tailwind as I recall.

The day started very interestingly at breakfast already as I got a chance to talk with Carole from Gettysburg. She told me about her sister's family of 5 kids including Carole's niece Kendra who has severe case of CP. Kendra is in her mid 20's and living at home with her family. Carole's sister has been unable to let Kendra go to live in a home and Carole has been an integral part of the care structure for the family over the years. The challenges of caring for Kendra, who needs to be lifted and fed and is bound to a wheelchair that she can control through a head controlled device are considerable. She also has a head controlled device she uses with a computer to communicate as she is unable to speak. She is very aware and understands. I found it so touching when Carole told me that Kendra was in a relative's wedding. Kendra is fitted with a baclofin pump which helps her considerably -- the kind that was pioneered at Pittsburgh Children's Hospital by Dr. Albright and his team -- funded in part through PwP raised funds! Pete, you and the many volunteers who work so hard to keep this going, should take note and be gratified around your accomplishment!!!

Soon breakfast was over and we were back in the midst of the morning routine. Pack up the suitcases making sure all is in its slot and spot so nothing stays behind and thumpety bump the bags and bike down the stairs from the second floor and out to the front of the motel. Then find a pump and get the pressure in both tires up to 115 lbs -- especially important this morning since I had changed my rear tire the night before with hopes of reducing the flats. My rear tire had been showing signs of wear after the first 1200 miles and had some good nicks in it. I had one spare with me. Then load the luggage when the trailer opens at 6:45 sharp and initial the sign out sheet. Get out the mirror from my front bag along with the sun glasses and clamp them in place and drop the windbreaker into the drop box since it feels plenty warm already. In the midst of all that there's a loud BANG, a little like a gunshot and everyone looks startled for a moment. Someone's tire has blown -- and yes, you guessed it. Mine.

As it turned out, I had pinched the tube with the stiff new tire and when I had pumped it full this morning, it did not take long before this infraction was reported to all within earshot. I realized I should have used the anti monkey butt talcum powder to smooth out the new tire as Jim had when he changed his. But I had not and now paid the price. Sean came to my rescue, both by assuring me this was easy to have done and by very carefully installing a new tube. Great guy in spite of the picture he took of himself. To further soothe my bruised ego, Brian and Bob the younger also had flats so I was not completely alone in this. And I did find a "goats head" (tiny thorn) embedded and barely visible in my front tire which I extracted with the tweezers Michelle always has handy.

Finally I was on the road again -- pretty much the last one to leave. Our little group had decided to leave on our own today since it is very hard to travel together with the wind, the climbs, the heavy flow of bikes and the gorgeous photo ops that awaited us on this route. After only a few miles, I encountered my new friend Chris by the road side with a Motorcycle Trooper marking his place with flashers. Chris was on his cell phone calling for a BCT SAG. He had stopped more times than the miles he'd ridden that morning trying to find relief for his ailing derriere -- to no avail. He does not have the luxury the rest of us have to stand on his bike and take the pressure off and was really hurting and feeling conflicted about what to do. I told hm he'd already accomplished a huge amount and affirmed his decision to add today to tomorrow's already planned tour rest day so he could finish the last two days. I pushed on just before the SAG came.

Chris was definitely not alone in DNFing this day as we saw numerous BCT vehicles laden with bicycles and riders. They had a tougher day than we because our Gunnison end point was only a turn arrow on the road for them. Their destination was Crested Butte which lay 30 miles and a long climb beyond Gunnison.

The ride was gorgeous with green, mountains, buttes, and the beautiful lake along the GUnnison river. The headwind subsided after the first climb just as Michelle said it would and even turned to a bit of a tailwind over the last 2 miles or so. My very heavy legs and tired body found enough energy to pick up the pace from the mid teens to the low twenties when the pace lines started zipping by and I attached myself to one for most of the last 20 miles.
When I passed Chuck and Zero in the last 5 miles before Gunnison, I backed off and rolled in with them. After checking in at the Days Inn, we got back on the bikes and rode in to Gunnison for lunch. Another great day of riding in the Rockies!

Tomorrow it's on to Salida a mere 60-some miles off -- BUT Monarch Pass at 11,200, stand between us and our destination. Climb on!