August 2008

North to South Tour - Conclusion

08/22/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

This tour's last ride is now a week old, and it is time to summarize and reflect on the journey.

First for those who like statistics, here they are:

Major Climbs Summit
1 Sunwapta Pass 6,676
2 Bow Pass 7,003
3 Vermilion Pass 5,415
4 Sinclair Pass 4,875
5 Crowsnest Pass 4,457
6 Chief Mountain International Highway 5,300
7 Chief Mountain International Highway 5,400
8 Logans Pass 6,680
9 Lost Trail Pass 7,040
10 Chief Joseph Pass 7,241
11 Big Hole Pass 7,360
12 Badger Pass 6,760
13 SeeMore's pass* 7,000
14 Craig Pass 8,261
15 Gary's Pass* 8,391
16 Togwotee Pass 9,658
17 Muddy Gap 6,638
18 Continental Divide 7,174
19 Willow Creek Pass 9,683
20 Rocky Mountain NP Visitor Center 11,796
21 Berthoud Pass 11,315
22 Loveland Pass 11,990
23 Hoosier Pass 11,541
24 Trout Creek Pass 9,346
25 Monarch Pass 11,312
26 Dallas Divide 8,970
27 Lizard Head Pass 10,222
* Our names for the pass
Total Elevation Climbed 79824 Feet
One day - 0 miles
47 Days - 2609 miles 55.5 avg Miles
Total - 48 Days - 2609 miles 54.4 avg Miles
Shortest Day Granby, Colorado to Winter Park 22 Miles
Longest Day Lander, Wyoming to Lamont, Wyoming 101 Miles

The Rear Admiral and I agree, the toughest part of the ride was the section of Wyoming, between Lander and Rawlin. On a tour with a lot of elevation changes, it is funny that the flattest part of the journey was the most challenging; but that is what life is all about...the unexpected.

We trained for about 9 months, going to the gym 3 days a week for 15 to 18 miles of stationary bike workout. However, this really just kept the legs moving. We are still under the opinion that you can not train for a tour. Your body starts getting used to everything after day 5 or so. We are not super athletes, in my case I started the trip at least 30 pounds over weight (I lost 20 on tour). I think we proved that Adventure Cycling' Great Parks Tour can be accomplished (and enjoyed) by two healthy 49 year olds, on a recumbent tandem. SeeMore is a pretty unconventional looking bicycle, and the orange mountain goat handled the climbs very well. The worst part (for us) was going down some of the passes. You need to be careful of road conditions, vehicle traffic, speed, and your brakes. V brakes can get very hot, very fast. You can quickly warp you rims, and make them untrue, by using too much brake. As mentioned several times in the log, we think not having an extra drum brake (on a tandem) would make this tour dangerous. Lack of communication on descents, or a riding partner who has little trust in the captain, also put the long steep downhills in jeopardy. I can not thank Mary enough for her companionship and trust in my cycling ability!

As silly as this sounds, I enjoyed climbing the most. The jury is still out with the Rear Admiral. I enjoyed them because of the lack of speed, it made life slow down and made me see even more. We both agree that Sunwapta Pass was our hardest pass of the trip. We are unsure if it was the first pass, the grade, altitude adjustment, or a combination of all. When we finally arrived at the summit, both of us thought that this tour was in trouble. We were both sucking wind at 6,676 feet of would we do with all of those taller passes ahead?

One pedal at a time, is our mantra...and it works well. It happens over and over again, and it still surprises us when it happens. You go around a corner, over a hill, or turn a different direction, and the journey changes (well maybe not as fast in Wyoming). This ride was very challenging, and we list the following reasons for folks considering this tour so they can be better prepared for them: (1) Wind, it's basic earth science. Hot air rises. Most of the time when climbing a pass, you have tailwind...but this is not always the case. Most of the time when going down a pass, you have headwinds...these are much appreciated! While cycling along the mountains, you can experience very fast cross winds. Like the weather in the mountains, the winds are unpredictable. The temperatures are pretty mild in the afternoon, but in the morning it can be quite chilly. When riding along the east side of the mountains, afternoon storms occur daily, around 2:00 p.m.. (2) Traffic, hey we are visiting North America's Great Parks! However, due to the high gas prices this summer, we believe, the vehicle traffic in the parks was way down. This did not mean that the roads leading into the parks...were quiet country roads. Adventure Cycling did it's very best, but the roads on the Northern Tier in 2006 were quieter. Additionally, there are two times when you need to ride on Interstate highways to get from point A to point B. Interstate 80 in Wyoming for 13 miles and Interstate 80 for 5 miles in Colorado. They do have wide shoulders, but we do not believe SeeMore will ever get use to them. (3) This tour also puts more strain on equipment and bodies. SeeMore held up very well, but we did spend more time making sure things were going well. I replaced a chain, we had a tire blow out, my captains seat squeaked, we replaced both tires, we had 3 flats, our front idler bolt is bent, I wore through my cleats twice (probably due to a combination of brass cleats and more hiking), adjusting the transmission (sometimes the front, sometimes the back) was a weekly event, double checking the brakes on every pass before going down hill, and we now can not pedal backwards without wondering if the front chain will stay in the cranks. As you can see nothing major (except the blowout), still a lot more stress on the equipment. As far as my body, I hit my knee on a concrete picnic table in Wyoming...and thought the tour was in trouble for about half a day. My usual bicycling tour bee sting. Other then both of us donating our lungs to Sunwapta Pass, and having our hands frozen by terror (tightly wrapped on the handle bars) on our trip down to Radium Hot Springs... our body adjusted very well, and thanks to SeeMore...very little aches and pains. (4) The very worst part of the trip was the airline flight from Manchester to Edmonton, and from Durango to Manchester.

In conclusion, what a FANTASTIC journey!!! Visiting National Parks (or any land set aside for public use) on a bicycle is a pure joy. We can not recommend it enough. Both the parts (North and South) of Adventure Cycling's Great Parks Tour are well worth it, even if you can only do one part. We strongly believe that Adventure Cycling should put Yellowstone and Tetons National Park (officially on the Transamerica tour) into the Great Parks Tour; so the tour has a more continuous feel to it. In other words, a complete set of maps titled Great Parks (including Yellowstone and Tetons) instead of using the Transamerica tour as a link between the North and South sections. Please, quietly remember that Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a real gem...but please don't tell too many people! We are again indebted to Mom and Dad for being there at the end to help of tie up the loose ends and get us home; Perry and Roberta, thank you for adopting Sammy for the summer and treating her as though she were your own; and a special thanks to Kate for keeping an eye on all the stuff at home between your hikes . We couldn't do these tours with out all of your support!

North to South Tour - Day 48

08/16/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Mancos, Colorado
To: Durango, Colorado
Today: 31 miles - 2609 miles total

We think the State of New Hampshire should buy this piece of Colorado...then they have their state symbol again! (see above photo)

The San Juan Skyway heads towards Durango on route 160, and so we followed along. Some of rte 160 reminded us of our home in New Hampshire as we cycled through the evergreens and foothills. Route 160 is NOT quiet, but has a wide shoulder for most of the way. We had to climb up to 8400 feet (from 7100 in Mancos) into the foothills of the Rockies. We got up early, because we had a lot planned for we rode as the sun rose and peeked in and out of the clouds. After the small town of Hesperus you begin an 8 mile down hill journey that drops you 2000 feet into Durango. You cycle through canyons, eagles, evergreens, and beauty. Not a bad way to finish a tour!

At the intersection of 550 and 160, you have to make a left turn to get to downtown Durango. We made it to 2nd Avenue Sports, where they did remember us from last week...AND saved us a nice wide bicycle box for SeeMore. Now image this: A fully loaded orange tandem recumbent bicycle, walking down main street (and later, the beautiful bicycle path) with a bicycle box perched where the Rear Admiral usual rides....and two cyclist walking along side. (This is the only time this trip we did not ride SeeMore). We had just under 2 miles to walk to get to the UPS store. Unfortunately it was along the Animas River bike trail....because ....... WE WANTED TO RIDE IT! Another time....

There is a bar next door to the UPS store which has a nice overhang, and lots of room to work. I began taking SeeMore apart, while the Rear Admiral visited Office Depot for bubble wrap and tape. During our "taking apart", we had two hail storms and one big rain storm....we are very lucky to have the protection of the overhang! We worked as a team and had him almost ready to box up, when the bar opened up (1:00 p.m.) and the owner was not very appreciative that we were using the front of her fine establishment (read dump here) as a bicycle repair shop. We assured her that we were almost done, and within 15 minutes we were done. SeeMore, Bertha, and a lot of our stuff is on their way to Milford. We found it cheaper (an we think safer) to trust UPS with SeeMore and Bertha rather than United Airlines.

We are living large at the Comfort Inn. Our plane leaves on Monday out of Durango. The best part is that Mom and Dad will be down tomorrow to visit Durango with us, and then take us to the airport on Monday! We will be writing a conclusion in a bit...but for now the pedaling as stopped, SeeMore is packed up very nicely heading home, and the Rear Admiral and I are truly blessed.

North to South Tour - Day 47

08/15/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Sunshine Campground (USFS), near Telluride Colorado
To: Mancos Colorado
Today: 76 miles - 2578 miles total

Lizard Head Pass, our last mountain pass on this adventure.

Last night, on the rim of the canyon, two coyotes thought it would be cool if they would see how will their voices echoed through the canyon. Since the rim was only about 100 yards from the Prince of Wales II, our sleep was interrupted for 30 minutes.

The Prince of Wales II was down, and we were packed up by 7:30. Hot tea and oatmeal for breakfast, to warm us up on this chilly morning. Our ride started with a short climb then we dropped for about two miles (500 feet down) before we started to climb Lizard Head Pass. Climbing this part of the San Juan Skyway, your ride past 12,000 and 13,000 mountain peaks, along with beautiful mountain lakes and pastures. The climb was steady and we reached the pass around 9:30. After a short break for a kodak moment in front of the pass sign, and to read the tourist information about the old railroad etc. it was time for our 40 mile decent to the town of Dolores. YES that's correct 40 big ones with no pedaling, well....almost....we had a pretty good head wind, and there are a couple of small uphills going around some canyon walls....but as you can imagine, it was very easy cycling. Descending the Dallas divide yesterday and coming down from Lizard head today have to be our all time favorite down hills. Very little brakes needed, just gradual grades. On the way down, in addition to the spectacular scenery we spotted two golden eagles (at very close range!) and a yellow bellied marmot.

Near the town of Stoner the road begins to level out. You descend into the tree covered canyons and foothills of the Rockies. In Dolores we had lunch, and then it was on to Rte 184 towards Mancos. A few words about Mesa Verde National Park. Dustin, Lauren, the Rear Admiral, and I visited Mesa Verde together, in a car. So we did not continue the 11 miles to down Cortez on route 145, and then towards Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde National Park is a must visit, if you are in this area. There is a steep, but doable 4 mile climb into the park, from route 160. We suggest you camp at Morefield (after the 4 mile climb), then take the shuttle to visit the ruins. The park road goes up and down, left and right, over hill and dale and it has no shoulder...well you get my drift. You will be viewing (and climbing in and out of) indian ruins, so taking the shuttle would have been the way we would have explored this World Class Park if we did not go with the kids.

Rte 184 is a 18 mile cut-off towards Mancos, and it rolling. It is not filled with as many spectacular views, as the rest of San Juan Skyway, but it is an enjoyable ride with shoulders and little traffic. We are living large in a hotel in Mancos. The Rear Admiral is very glad that I have taken a shower! Tomorrow we ride into Durango, and end pedaling for this adventure. SeeMore deserves a well deserved rest, don't you think?

North to South Tour - Day 46

08/14/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Dutch and Charlie State Park, near Ridgway Colorado
To: Sunshine Campground (USFS), near Telluride Colorado
Today: 50 miles - 2502 miles total

The San Juan Skyway is just plain in-your-face ...... BEAUTIFUL! Find time to enjoy it!

The Prince of Wales II was down, and we were packed up by 7:30. Both of us had a great night sleep, it was good to be back under his roof! We cycled down off of the mesa, of the state park (a very nice place to set up camp!), and down into Ridgway. We had breakfast in Ridgway and then began cycling the San Juan Skyway. Route 64 up and out of Ridgway, to Placerville, has wide shoulders. You pedal through fields of cattle ranches with mountains in the background. This 23 miles of the San Juan Skyway, alone, would make it a great cycling ride. You go up and over Dallas Divide (elevation 8,970), which is just a steady pedal. From Placerville you cycle on Route 145, which DOES NOT have a shoulder until after Telluride. However, this is a very popular cycling the motor vehicles take great care.

As you cycle along rte 145, you pass through many habitats and climate zones. You start out at 7500 feet in elevation, and pedal along the San Miguel River (which is pretty hypnotizing alone). You then start to climb pass red canyons with hoodoos and other interesting weather created shapes and features. Then the red canyons give way to golden covered canyons, with views of mining activity (abandoned). You need to climb more up into Telluride, at 8600 feet elevation. Telluride is um......expensive, so bring plenty of cash if you wish to eat or stay in town. It is a very pretty town with the ski area, and is built into a box canyon. The Gondola is free, so if you are a mountain biker, this is the place if for you.

We had a picnic lunch at the gas station which overlooks the town of llium. Then it was more climbing, this time through an alpine forest of aspen, with 13,000 and 14,000 mountain peaks surrounding us. This has to be among the best rides we have had. So if your doing the Great Parks tour (north and south), you will either end cycling the San Juan Skyway, or Jasper National Park for last.....not bad if you ask us!

We are here at another beautiful (but buggy) campground, A National Forestry Service campground - Sunshine. The Prince of Wales II is up and resting comfortably at 9500 feet elevation. Our campsite is about 50 feet from the ridge trail which takes you up a gentle climb that runs along a ridge overlooking Wilson Peak and Sunshine Mountains. It is breath taking up there. Several campers have brought their folding chairs up to enjoy the sunset. We found some comfortable stones to perch on and enjoyed the sun setting while taking photos of the mountains. Tomorrow will be our last mountain pass on this tour, Lizard Head Pass at 10,222 is 7 miles up the road.

North to South Tour - Day 45

08/13/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Montrose, Colorado
To: Dutch and Charlie State Park, near Ridgway Colorado
Today: 28 miles - 2452 miles total

The top photo is our home sweet home, while staying in Montrose.

We had a GREAT time the last 5 days with Dustin and Lauren, and Mom and Dad. We climbed ancient indian ruins, in Mesa Verde, with Dustin and Lauren...rode the Gondola in Telluride .... and explored the towns of Cortez, Telluride, Durango, and Silverton. We spent the next two days with Mom and Dad exploring Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Thank you all!!!

What about SeeMore?, he spent most of his days inside, comfortable and cozy. Now it's back to work/play. We started out today in Montrose, heading to Ridgway on Route 550. Some of Rte 550 is wide shoulders, and some is NO shoulders (with 60 mph traffic). 550 is a cycling route and bicycles are a common site; still, no shoulders and fast traffic is not ideal conditions. We are setting up to do half of the San Juan Skyway route. This is a very scenic, very famous route in Colorado. There are a lot of cyclist and motorcyclist who take to this route. Basically, going counter clockwise, it starts in Ridgeway and rides past Telluride (just 3 miles east off route), down to Cortez, and then over to Durango...before returning back to Ridgway (going through the towns of Silverton and Ouray). If you ride the whole 233 miles by auto, plan to take a couple of days. You pass through old mining towns, ride along mountain creeks and rivers, and have 12,000 and 14,000 foot mountains to the left and right. You will climb and descend 4 mountain passes, and one divide. There is no way that I can to justice with my poor writing skills, but everyone should be allowed to travel this least their lifetime (it is one of the most scenic by-ways in the world). Hopefully you can go by bike and leave the car behind!

Least we forget, a few words about Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We are on Adventures Cycling's Great Parks Tour.....and Black Canyon might be lesser known than Yellowstone and Jasper, but it is truly a GREAT PARK. You can see this massive granite canyon from both the top, and the bottom from a bicycle. We suggest you visit the bottom of the Canyon by the Morrow Point Dam, and we also suggest you access the top rim of the canyon from just outside of Montrose. There is a 5 mile climb up to the canyon rim, and there is a campground just past the main gate. From the main gate, you pedal along the rim road. The road is curvy, and goes up and down, but is quiet and doable. It is an amazing park, and again, we are very thankful to be able to spend two days exploring the park with Mom and Dad.

We are here at a beautiful Colorado state park, the Prince of Wales II is up....and we just finished saying goodbye to Mom and Dad who drove down from Montrose to take us to dinner.

North to South Tour - On Hold

08/08/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Montrose, Colorado
To: Montrose, Colorado
Today: 0 miles - 2424 miles total

SeeMore is resting comfortably in the hotel, while we take a couple of days off to visit family....We think we will begin again on Wednesday.

North to South Tour - Day 44

08/07/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Gunnison, Colorado
To: Montrose, Colorado
Today: 70 miles - 2424 miles total

Big day, great ride.

Last night our son Dustin and his girlfriend Lauren caught up with us in Gunnison. They flew into Denver on Tuesday and spent Wednesday in Colorado Springs visiting the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Air Force Academy. After sharing breakfast this morning with the kids in the a.m. SeeMore, the Rear Admiral, and I cycled off on Rte 50 and they drove their rental car in the same direction.....just going a little bit (ok a LOT ) faster than SeeMore. Just up the road from Gunnison you enter the Curecanti National Recreation Area. You start off cycling through a beautiful canyon until you start riding along the Blue Mesa Reservoir. There were many places for picnic/rest areas, which means that we didn't have to look hard to find a Little Admiral Room. Rte 50 had a wide shoulder, and the vehicle traffic was not bad ALL day! About 12 miles outside the town of Gunnison, I reached behind my seat for my water bottle....and realized that we left our water bottles in the hotel room's refrigerator! No big deal, a quick cell phone call...and Dustin and Lauren to the rescue. They were just a couple miles up the road. So they turn around and drove back to give us 4 bottles of water.

We stopped at the Elk Creek Visitor Center to ask questions about the park - Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We found out that you can view the beginning of the canyon (from the bottom) by visiting the Morrow Point Dam. We then cycled until we crossed the Reservoir twice on bridges, we had a snack break at the Pine Creek Visitor Center, overlooking the reservoir and then cycled up to the top of the Blue Mesa Summit,. The mesa has two peaks so after the first climb you descend a couple hundred feet then climb again before heading down through a spectacular canyon. For a couple of magical miles we pedaled through the canyon (this was the only place on Rte 50 that had NO shoulder!), and zero vehicles passed us! Unfortunately there was no where to pull over to take photos, so we will have to save it in our minds. We met up with my parents who drove up from Montrose AND Dustin and Lauren and decided to have a picnic lunch at the Morrow Point Dam. After a short 1/2 mile drive from the Cimarron Visitor Center down to the Dam, you are at the start of the Black Canyon. It was spectacular. The rail road used to go through this canyon and a portion of the old rail road trestle rises up out of the canyon with a train perched on top. There are hiking trails down into the canyon. If only we had more time, it would have been a nice to check a trail out.

After lunch, Mom and Dad headed back to Montrose, Dustin and Lauren headed to the National Park, and SeeMore headed up the 5 mile climb to the the top of Cerro Summit. The climb up was a little wet (liquid Sunshine) but very mild cycling. The rain was not even enough to make it worth while for us to put on our rain coats. From the summit to downtown Montrose is 15 miles....and we did not have to pedal, it was all down hill. We sailed into Montrose just as the skies were about to open up. Mom helped Mary secure accommodations at the hotel located just behind the campground that Mom and Dad are staying at for the month of August. We had hoped to camp at the campground but the storm is here to stay for the evening.

We are here in Montrose, living large at the Best Western. We are going to give SeeMore a well deserved rest until Wednesday. We will head down to Mesa Verde and Durango with Dustin and Lauren in the car and be back in Montrose Sunday night.