Weekend Wildcard July 26 & 27 - Ride the Rockies
post by David Cohn
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body. But Rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "WOW - What a ride!" - anonymous
Ride the Rockies 2008
It was a dark and stormy night...really, it was, as the bus taking us from the Denver airport snaked its way through the river gorge and aside from the cliffs into Glenwood Springs, Colorado, for day one of Ride the Rockies. In February, the June Ride seemed like a good idea. It was mid-winter and imagining the glory of conquering mountains on a bicycle was romantic and the stuff of spring optimism and joy. But actually on the side of a mountain doing switchbacks, not so much.
So what is Ride The Rockies? It’s a recreational bicycle ride over the Rocky Mountains and the centerpiece of bicycle rides in the recreational world. It is 2000 riders from all over the world who do it for the scenery, excellent support systems, and the Rocky Mountain highs. It is pedaling a bike 437 miles over 6 days up and down mountains that rise 12,000 feet above sea level. Yup, riding a bicycle over mountains of 12,000 feet. Yes, I know, sounds a little crazy; well, ok, a lot crazy.
We Ride Up, Up, Up!
My review of my four Rides is both memorable and filled with wonderment. I did my 4th RTR for my 60th Birthday and was successful, up and over 7 mountain passes including Trail Ridge, a 12,200-foot ascent, through Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park! Rangers closed the Park to the public until noon to give riders space on the narrow mountain road. There are no guardrails so you go off the edge and you are over the edge - tree pizza! Then there was the 43-mile climb up Cottonwood’s 12,100 feet and snow! Yikes, bikes! & snow, really really, really!
The wonderment of this experience for me is not so much the scenery as one might think. It was that voice screaming in my head as I am climbing switchbacks up one of those mountains, yelling “and who thought this was a good idea?!”…are you a %#**>>ing kidding me?!! I would hear that same voice as my legs filled with lactic acid and my lungs burned. When I tell people about this Ride and my experience they ask, “this was a race right?” Nope. “You were raising money on this Ride?” Nope. “It was part of the bet and you lost, cause this is kinda nuts, riding over the Rocky Mountains.” Nope. My answer was, it is a recreational Ride, for fun, for pleasure, for the experience. And they all move away from me when I say that.
I remember in sharp relief a particular segment of one Ride. I was running a pace line with a husband and wife team from Wisconsin, with each of us taking a turn at the front, acting as a wind breaker. As we closed in on the end of the day’s ride, they called to me, “slow down the pace, you’re burning up my legs! Oh, wonderful music to my ears! Be still my racing heart! I was 60 and they were short of 30 and I experienced extreme headiness as we had burned 33 miles in about 80 minutes at an average speed of 25 mph!
As I look back on my four Ride the Rockies I’m at times amazed and most of the time enriched by the experiences of the personal challenge and being outside the lines of life. Ride the Rockies will forever be in a separate place in my heart as a life-altering event of accomplishment, enrichment and benchmarks of discipline and dedication. While not Olympic, it was my Olympics and for all the riders who finished, we got the Gold! We got pins of RTR, a jersey or two from the swag wagon and most importantly, memories that will live on to that day in the nursing home when I turn to someone and say, “I did Ride the Rockies four times. Yup, rode over the Rocky Mountains on a bicycle...” and that look of wonderment comes over their faces and some may say, “are you kidding me? What, once wasn’t enough? Did you lose a bet, or was it a race?? Or what?”