2011 Adventure, Phase II – The High Country

The fun starts again tomorrow (8/8/2011). I’m flying to Salt Lake City to be re-united with my new motorcycle and the Tour of Utah. The bike is all serviced, repaired and has a set of new sneakers. My bags are packed and I’m ready.

We’ll be staying in the Sheraton Salt Lake City through next Sunday; the Tour of Utah runs Tuesday through Sunday. You can follow this event at http://www.tourofutah.com/.

Bright and early on Monday morning (8/15), Ed, Bob, David, Jeff and I will head out following the path outlined in the attachment. We’ll stretch the trip from Salt Lake to Colorado Springs to about 1700 miles. I’ll try to send updates during that run if I can find Internet connections.

Colorado Springs is the start of the final full week and the US Pro Cycling Challenge on 8/22. Check out their website to follow the event — http://www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com/. This event has a star-studded field ready to tackle a very tough race, especially Wednesday as the race from Gunnison to Aspin including almost 10,000 feet of climbing!

The current plan is to leave Denver for a three day ride to the Right Coast on Monday, 8/29.

I’m excited about this second big adventure of 2011!

ToU Prologue is History

I arrived in SLC pretty much on time. Chris Monroe, one my riding buddies from North Carolina, was kind enough to pick me up so that I didn’t need to worry the shuttle stuff. I snapped the first picture on the way into Salt Lake — must be hard working in a downtown with views like those. Chris had also gotten the bike out of storage and had all my gear stored in his room. All this was quickly sorted before we had a quick team meeting the Ed.

I spent the evening and early morning (early here, not on my body clock) solving problems with some of our GPS files — all fixed. After a great breakfast, we stopped by the BMW dealer to pick up Ed’s motorcycle and got ready for the afternoon Prologue. The venue was the on the grounds of the 2002 Park City Olympic Games. The second picture shows the weather (PERFECT) and the start area. The riders climbed to the top of that hill in 1.3 miles.

ToU First Two Road Stages Done!

Wednesday’s circuit race was three laps on a 38.5 mile course with a short climb. On paper it looked like a typical day at the office. However, it seems that there is a VERY wide range of talent in the field — the “haves” didn’t find issue with the day’s ride, the “have nots” flirted with the 8% time cut finishing as much as 22+ minutes after the leaders. This did give us a great opportunity to train some of the marshals who hadn’t worked with our system in the past. Some of the training appeared to take, some, not so much.

We finished the day by joining the officials at Cindy Yorganson’s house for dinner — great time in the cool, dry evening air of Ogden.

Speaking of dinner, on Monday night I did a little search looking for someplace for dinner. I stumbled onto the Devil’s Daughter, a new (opened in May) BBQ place with fantastic reviews. We walked up to the place and discovered that the reviews were accurate. If Uncle Nickie’s was a 10, this place makes it to about 9.8! It was so good that we went back again tonight. Tuesday there weren’t many people there. The words spread through the race staff and they had pretty close to a full house tonight.

Today’s stage was flat and HOT. And yes, even with a dry heat, 95 is HOT. The route went down the west side of Utah Lake and finished in Provo (and no repeat of the weather when Kirk and Dave were out here). Utah has some great scenery, but not around Utah Lake. The good part about today’s event was that the boys raced at 28 mph for 100 miles, so it was over pretty quickly. The stage also proved again that our training isn’t being too effect — this herding cats stuff gets hard after a couple days of it. I’m thinking that some these folks won’t be with us if we do this again.

Tomorrow is a late day — first rider off at 5 pm. The event is about 50 miles away at Miller Motorsports Park, the big car/motorcycle racetrack out near the Great Salt Lake. We take over the track for the Time Trial — lots of loops on the track. My job will probably be the same as with all similar events — organizing the team cars so that they end up behind their riders.

ToU is History – On the Road Again!

Some of you heard about my morning wake-up at 06:00 AM that my bike had been tipped over in the parking garage. Mine was selected from the big line of machines. It appears that someone rolled it off the center stand with the front wheel locked and it feel on the right side. The garage was only open to motorcycles and two legged vandals, so… Damage is all cosmetic, but will cost a bunch to get fully fixed; perhaps I can convince USAA Insurance to help. Gorilla tape is holding the mirror parts together.

We left SLC after a great breakfast at the Park Cafe — it is good that I don’t live close to the Park Cafe, it is way too good. We slabbed down south of Provo and hopped onto the Nebo loop, complete with cows wandering the road. We have used this for earlier Utah races, fun road.

Next stop was Salina, UT and Mom’s Cafe for a light lunch; then on south to the unbelievable southern Utah Mountains. Utah 12 is a wonderful road down to Escalante. It is so good that we’ll do it again tomorrow morning :) . I’ve attached pictures of my cabin — Yes, I’m staying in a single room log cabin.

All the way to Montrose

We left the little cabins in Escalante and rolled up the road 10 miles to a Kiva Koffee shop. I had called the night before and asked, “what time are you open tomorrow morning” — simple enough question. The answer was 8 AM. The missing information was that they’re closed on Tuesday. We continued to roll back north toward the Capital Reef and Castle Rock parks until we found an outstanding little coffee in Torrey, UT. Just a little gas station looking place, but really good coffee and hot cereal.

The ride to Colorado was characterized by incredible scenery that was constantly changing around every high-speed sweeper. I did get some video before the battery went dead on my new camera (it would have been really good to remember to pack the charger — oh well). The rocks are all part of the same Colorado Plateau. The only constant is that these giant formations are all different. There are even areas that look they could have been transplanted from a lunar landscape. Then toss in Lake Powell and hop across the Colorado River — what a day.

Late in the day, as we approached the turn to the east, just south of Moab, UT, Ed started having trouble with his bike. He finally rolled to a stop on a little gravel road with oil pouring out if the final drive — another one bites the dust. And you guessed it, no cell coverage, not a single bar. I went a little over a mile up the road and contacted the towing dudes. An hour later, the group was down to four and Ed was in a pickup cab taking his bike to Grand Junction. Latest reports are that he may have it fixed by tomorrow, or Friday morning at the latest.

We stayed in a little in western Colorado last night. I think it was really someplace beyond the middle of nowhere. I’d never even heard of Naturita until I reserved three rooms in the Ray Motel. Now we’ve done the Ray; Motel 6 would probably have been an improvement, but it was only one night.

We rode north to Gateway’s Canyon Resort for breakfast this morning — really neat place. They have a great car museum, but it didn’t open until 10, so we didn’t get to play with the cars. The route took us south through Telluride, Deloris and on to Durango. I met some old bike race friends from New Jersey about 2 PM and drank tee and water for a bit while the other guys headed north to Montrose and our Hampton Inn rooms :) .

One of the big differences was that most of the Colorado hills are green with trees. Sure there are the big rocks, but the base of the rocks are all covered with trees. Not so many trees out on the Colorado Plateau. The attached pictures show the amazing contrast.

The trip out of Durango was on US550, known as the Million Dollar Highway. Rumor has it that the original pavement had some gold dust in it — not real any gold anymore. The section of road between Silverton and Ouray, about 23 miles, is pretty spectacular with lots of technical turns and DEEP, vertical drops.

On to Boulder

Two days in the high mountains. Yesterday we climbed up the Stage #2 race route, on a dirt road, to Cottonwood Pass. The road was interesting going up and I’m glad we don’t need to go down that way. Weather was great — chilly a 12,126 feet. Bob, Jeff and I did the ride while Ed continued to work issues on his bike in Grand Junction.

Ed arrived a in Vail, just in time for dinner. BUT he discovered that there was oil all over the new final drive, which would be the $1800 final drive. We cleaned things up and sent an email to Bob’s requesting an early morning consult. We got up and decided to ride 25 miles to Frisco where there were some great breakfast places. Close inspection in Frisco showed that the leakage was around the ABS sensor. It seems that the mechanic forgot to install two o-rings. Ed left us and headed for Foothills BMW in Denver just so that he could spend most of his third day this week sitting in a BMW waiting room. Jeff decided to join him since his front tire really needed a new one.

Bob and I headed for Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge Road, US34 headed across a 12,200 foot plain. This was a common trip when Elaine, Scott and I lived in Boulder — it was the thing to do when you had visitors, similar to taking people to the Capital Mall in DC. We always started on the Estes Park side, this time we did it backwards. It is still fantastic! I think I saw more cars up there today than I saw on all our previous visits! We came down off the mountain at 15 mph! The trip also included a late afternoon thunderstorm — typical in this area. I’m including the best picture of the day.

I think we’re going to shorten ride tomorrow and get down to the Springs to do some bike cleaning. Pre-race meetings start on Sunday, race starts on Monday. The new motorcycle now has more than 9,200 miles on the clock. I’ll be about ready for my 12K service when I get home :)

USA Pro Cycling Challenge has started – back to work!

Based on the reception we got today in Colorado Springs, this race is going to redefine professional cycling in the USA! The crowds were AWESOME! Chuck was being asked for good places to set up chairs to watch at 04:30 this morning. The speeds were fast, even for a down hill course. Top 10 are within 11 seconds — this will change.

The final two hours of each day is being broadcast LIVE to 161 countries. USA feed is on Versus until Sunday when it shifts over to NBC. Since most of the stages are scheduled to end between 3:30 and 4:00, you can plan on tuning in about 4 PM back east to catch the action, but please check your local listings.

We head out to Monarch Pass tomorrow, this is a baby for this week at about 11,312 feet and only a Cat 2 climb by Colorado standards — only a 10.3 mile climb. Once we’re off the decent, then the road climbs gradually all the way to Crested Butte, where we’ll finish and spend the night.

Wednesday is the monster day where we are either going up or down all the way to the finish — going to be hard work for us marshal dudes.

USPCC – The Queen Stage and Vail

The high mountains are here! Stage 2 has two awesome climbs – in fact the riders are either going up or down for the entire day. First up is Cottonwood Pass. The road to Cottonwood winds along a great little river before kicking up on a dirt road. The weather wasn’t great – a little morning rain produced a little mud on the dirt that made it pretty slick. The crowd at the top of Cottonwood was really big with many fans camping on very small ledges. Virtually every place where a car could be parked, there was a car parked!

The run down to Buena Vista was super technical near the top and then settled into to a solid 60 mph run to the valley. The valley gradient was just a few percent up until we made the left turn headed to Independence Pass. We started getting reports on the summit crowds about 30 minutes before we got to the top. I can’t estimate crowds, but all possible parking spots were taken the final 10 km of the climb! My job was to try to determine where resources would be required for the run into Aspin – we knew the race would break up on the climb. I jammed my bike into a slot just beyond the KOM line and waited – I was there for a LONG time. Before I headed down, the weather turned complete with rain and sleet – I was not looking forward to the run into Aspin on wet roads. Everyone made it to Aspin safely!

Vail’s little 10 mile, up hill Time Trial was attended by more people than I’ve ever seen at a TT – the crowd surpassed the excellent bunch at the Colorado Springs Prologue! The race organization has to be happy with the response to this event.

USPCC wraps

The next three stages are all sort of a blur. We stayed in the finish towns each night and ran off to the start towns each morning. Each venue seemed to set new records for crowd sizes. We even had a big start crowd when we started in a monster parking lot in Steamboat Springs. And finish crowds always outnumber start crowds. The crowd on the final climb before Breckenridge was the first time that I remember being truly afraid of hitting spectators as they closed in on us.

The crowd in Golden for the Stage 6 start was the biggest of the week. The route actually looped back through Golden twice after the start and they ALL stayed for the show. Then there was Denver – I couldn’t believe the people, especially near the finish.

The Final Phase – the run home

Ed and I left Denver early Monday morning. Our goal was to ride for a while and grab some breakfast as we ran across Kansas on US36. We didn’t totally understand how empty northern Kansas really was. US36 is a two-lane highway with 65mph speed limits and almost zero traffic – we were near Saint Joseph, MO, before we actually saw anything that resembled traffic.

We stopped for a coffee break in Shelly Ann’s in Phillipsburg, KS (with a name like Shelly Ann’s, we just had to stop). Ed and I felt like invaders in their little town. We wanted to snap a picture, but everyone in Shelly’s was staring at us getting back on the bikes and we decided that taking the shot might not be appreciated.
Traveling east sucks – they take an hour away from you every day! We stayed in Saint Joseph, MO, and Huber Heights, OH (near Dayton).

My new motorcycle now has more than 12,000 miles on the clock. The Salt Lake City damages are going to be fully covered by USAA as a comprehensive claim – parts are on order.

The 24 days on the road was a fantastic experience and will certainly be hard to top, but I’m willing to try! Three full weeks over a mile high!

I’ll post pictures in Facebook album so that you can experience some of the sights.

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