Saturday, 20 August 2011

Greetings From Vail, Colorado

With 950 miles now behind me, it's time to catch up on the last five days. Seems it's getting harder all the time to find a computer and enough time to blog.

Day 9: Had my first leisurely morning, as this was the day I'd been waiting for: a 19 mile day. Donated $20. to Kevin for my room, telling him sorry I didn't have more. Good people helping others. Met with young news reporter Chad Hunt of the Richfield Reaper. He took pictures of me riding through downtown Richfield, then we went to city hall to talk about a gift and card for Warren Buffett. Everyone was friendly and agreed to participate. Had a great home-cooked meal at the Wonder Cafe, leaving late afternoon for another ride through the pleasant Sevier Valley, ending up in Salina, UT. by early evening. Mark had arranged a campground spot, but when I got there the office had closed. I needed some padding under me and a blanket on top, but no dice. Went to a convenience store and got a very light blanket, then slept in the front seat of an antique truck that sat adjacent to the campground. Had to improvise or spend another night in the damp and cold. It was cramped, but tolerable.

Day 10: Started riding at 7:00 a.m. after a large breakfast at Denny's. Mark (and Su) surprised me with a sizable donation, but it had to clear through PayPal to my bank account, which takes 3-4 days. Still, knowing that the money worries will be lifted soon is a great relief, allowing me to focus on just riding. This day promised to be a tough one, with 106 miles to Green River, 6000-7000' feet of vertical, and no water stops for 70 miles. Right off I had a 3000+ foot climb, but the air was cool and clear, and the scenery was beautiful. For the first time I went up a mountain with relative ease, reaching the top with energy to spare. Good thing, because after a nice downhill ride to a rest stop at the 30-mile mark, I had another 1500' climb. Drank all I could hold at the rest stop, and filled four water bottles. Utah chose not to put any drinking water at the four rest stops over the next 70 miles, so I had to conserve. Made very good time across the hot, dry terrain, and was donated one 17-oz. bottle of water by a Native American woman selling jewelry at one of the rest stops. Thank you! That was just enough extra water to get me safely into Green River by 7:00 p.m. Elated to have covered so many miles and climbs in 12 hours. Finally feel like a long-distance biker. Mark had a room reserved at the Robber's Roost Motel, where I talked at length about my mission with the owner, who said he'd be tracking my progress. Had a large spaghetti dinner at the Tamarisk Restaurant, a bath, then straight to bed, where I usually do 15 minutes of rejuvenating legs-up-the-wall, a Chinese exercise for tired legs.

Day 11: Another large breakfast in anticipation of a long, hot day. I'd dropped from 8000' feet to 4500' yesterday in Green River, which meant hotter weather for another 100+ mile day to Grand Junction, CO. Took a shortcut on a frontage road coming out of Green River, and it was a big mistake. Terrible cracked pavement and gravel covering it. Contacted Mark after a few miles to see when it intersected the freeway and he said "14 miles". Stuck. Then I had a flat. Off to a slow, frustrating start. The frontage road even turned to dirt for the last mile! Once on the freeway I made good time, stopping after 20 miles at the last water hole for 46 miles. Relatively flat terrain, so I tore into it while it was still in the 90's, trying to conserve water. Along the way, KPEX-TV in Grand Junction called to see about putting me on the 10 o'clock news. I was still 68 miles out when they first called, so could only guess at my arrival time. Unfortunately, the rest stop I'd raced to had no running water, and I was out. Got two bottles worth of "Minnesota water" from a man who pulled in, but that was all he had. Instead of pouring two bottles over me (it had been 100 or more for hours by then) drinking two, and filling four, I took off again with just two, only to run into a series of fairly lengthy hills. By the time I reached Fruita, CO 22 miles farther, I was pretty dehydrated. Had a Taco Bell meal, a lot of liquid, and raced off to meet Matt of KPEX by 7:00 p.m. The last few miles before reaching the Clarion Hotel Mark had reserved (nice 40% discount) there were strong swirling winds. Checked in with Matt, only to find out that I'd been bumped off the air due to a "severe weather warning". Hilarious. My two toughest days behind me, I relaxed in my comfortable room and dreamed of easier days. Halfway to Omaha!

Day 12: The ride from Grand Junction to Glenwood Springs, CO could not have been more different than the previous two days. Temperatures in the 70's, with the freeway meandering along the Colorado River. Left around 7:30 a.m. after a light breakfast. Felt inspired to do my first time-trial, pathetic by professional biking standards, but progress for me. Rode 16 miles the first hour in gradual uphill and a slight headwind. Was at 28 miles after two hours, and 46 after four hours, including a 20-minute pit stop. The miles melted away, and by 4:00 p.m. I'd covered 87 miles, with a total riding time of 7 hours. Increased elevation about 1100' as well. Glenwood Springs is very picturesque, with an enormous spring-fed pool I looked down upon from a bridge. Must have been 150 yards long, with hundreds of bathers enjoying themselves. Had time to visit city hall, meeting the city manager, who is also an avid biker. He gave me a Colorado biking map and agreed to the gift and card for Warren Buffett. Got a two-for-one deal on organic breakfast burritos at a local cafe, then headed a couple of miles out of town to a campground Mark had reserved, since Glenwood Springs motels start at $70. Well, I have to confess that I won't have ridden the complete 1600 miles: after walking my bike through my first freeway tunnel, a highway maintenance worker was waiting for me at the other end. He insisted on carrying me 1/2 mile to the next exit for my safety. Checked in at the Glenwood Springs Resort office for my outrageously priced $39. tent site, which was only dirt and a picnic table. The girl behind the desk started to give me a couple blankets, but her boss overruled her, so once again I had scant cover and no padding. It was also lightening off in the distance. Improvising again, I slept in one of the buses that ferry rafters back and forth. Good thing, as it rained for awhile. More comfortable than the pickup truck, but much less so than a room. Earlier on today, I finally asked the question of Steve Jordon that dozens of people have asked me: will Warren Buffett even be in Omaha when you arrive? He said he'd be checking this week, but that it appeared he would be. Also talked about the huge reaction to WB's op-ed column in the New York Times last week, where he said the rich should be taxed more. The debate has started and will probably not die down any time soon.

Day 13: Began the day at 6:30 a.m. on a magical 13-mile bike path through the Glenwood Canyon, winding back and forth under the most famous stretch of interstate in the U.S. Walls hundreds of feet high carved by the Colorado River. Chilly morning in the shadows, and strangely flat, with little energy for the first couple of hours. Also had 3300' of climbing to do before arriving in Vail, so the lack of oomph was telling. Took more breaks than usual, and encountered many bikers out for the weekend. Had a pancake breakfast in Gypsum at the 24-mile mark, then a fresh bagel at the Edwards Farmer's Market around 40 miles. A dozen miles more, in perfect weather, and I arrived at a Wal-Mart, where I ate a whole cantaloupe, a plum and a banana. All this food seemed to do the trick, and I arrived in West Vail by 5:00 p.m., having gone 59 miles. Spent most of the day on bike paths or U.S. 6, the first time this much distance was covered off-freeway since L.A. Did laundry, then asked the Holiday Inn if I could pay to use their computer to catch up here. They said "no charge", and even gave me a guest card if I wanted a shower and sauna. Very nice gesture. From there I roamed around Vail in the dark looking for an appropriate camping spot, because there was no way I could afford Vail prices for lodging ($150 on up to the stratosphere). Found a city park that had tents set up for some athletic event, so parked my bike under one with the flaps up and slept under a table. During the night a security guy came around with a walkie-talkie, and when he saw me relayed this message: "That bike there is worth more than my truck." Guess he assumed I was a bike racer waiting for the event, and mistakenly thought I had a $5,000-10,000 bike. Um, not even close, but he at least he let me sleep. At 8000' it got a bit chilly, but nothing too bad.

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