Thursday, April 19, 2012

VGV (Vail - Glenwood Springs - Vail) - 200k of Tailwinds?

Last week I got to try out Catherine Shenk's VGV 200k Permanent.  Though a mountain route, it can be ridden most of the year, depending on road conditions.  You are surrounded by mountains but protected from higher, exposed terrain.

Sign of a warmer-than-usual spring on the Vail ski pistes:

From Vail, we take US route 6 past sage and red cliffs.

A tranquil scene, with a cabin along the Eagle River:


After a bit of traffic through Avon and Edwards, the road is quiet and serene through Walcott, and in places seems out in the midst of nowhere.

There are recurring hints that you are going downhill. 
(Vail is at 8,150 ft.; Glenwood Springs at 5,761 ft.)

And the occasional diversion, such as Eagle County's "Rare Duck" Open Space:

These typical geological formations ...
suggest Parachute, CO, further down the road.

At Dotsero, the Colorado River joins the Eagle River, and we're about to enter a "narrower" landscape.

In addition to a Kingfisher and a Great Blue Heron pair, I saw quite large hawks soaring on thermals west of Dotsero.  Here's one.

The treat of Glenwood Canyon is the great canyon scenery combined with a quiet trail to bike down (watching out for casual users, of course). 

The engineering achievement of the I-70 transit of the canyon - the last piece, nationwide, of I-70 to be completed - is impressive.  Kind of a canyon version of the elevated engineering of the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway - the Parkway's final segment.

Eastbound lanes, westbound lanes, and the path intertwine, and occasionally I-70 disappears in tunnels:

Across the river, some locomotives in the midst of a sizable coal train.  The rightmost engine shows the historic Southern Pacific livery preserved by Union Pacific after acquiring the SP.

As the remnants of US-6 trail off near Glenwood Springs, rockslides have encroached, leaving it bikepath-wide.

These Canada Geese were sitting in this relaxed position as I swept around the curve.  Clearly not much traffic on this segment!

Lots to crane your neck to see on the VGV.

Mt. Sopris beckons in the distance at the turnaround point on the Roaring Fork path.

Catherine's prospectus says you may enjoy tailwinds homeward bound.  In fact if you're lucky, as I was, you'll get tailwinds both going and coming back.

I thoroughly enjoyed the VGV and imagine you will, too!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Las Vegas Populaire!

On March 31, the Las Vegas area saw its first RUSA event, the "Bike Shop Brief Brevet" 103km Populaire. Organizer Nanette Hilton had expressed the desire to RUSA to introduce randonneuring to the area, and I agreed to help her out with the RUSA side of things.

Nanette Hilton (center) with her riding buddy Monique at the San Francisco Bread Company, which served as a checkpoint and also provided treats.

26 riders did the Populaire, with another 63 riding shorter-distance options - a good turnout.

As Populaires tend to be, this one offered more fun than adversity, with a festive atmosphere and secret checkpoints with snacks and other goodies.

Happy finishers review their ride while munching finish-line comestibles.

Finishers even got medals - quite the deluxe event!

Publicity and organization were first rate.  Nanette writes, "We offered 2 emergency bike mechanics classes in prep for the ride. We had 2 nights of packet-pick-up.  The weather started out great & then got blustery as the day went on.  I partnered with a charitable foundation on this ride, using their volunteers to man the checkpoints. 

"Over all, I heard only good things.  People liked the nature of the ride and were excited about the brevet aspect.  A few asked for a 200k next year."

So, a very promising start - commendations and best of luck for future events!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Surprisingly Pleasant Drake Doubleback 200k!

A good turnout of 28 riders for this season's first brevet, especially given the soggy p.m. forecast.  That forecast seemed to incentivize riders to keep a move on ... but things started out bright and clear!

Tailwinds gave riders a push up Big Thompson Canyon.  Leaves and blossoms are two to three weeks ahead of normal, making for an especially scenic ride.

JLE, Bradford Towne, and Dan McDonald pause at the Drake info control.

It's clear sailing through the Big Thompson Narrows.

But just behind, a cloudbank is already building.

Fortunately, it was sunny even to Platteville, and though the winds picked up, sprinkles held off until late afternoon.

Dan McDonald, Peter Hoff, and John Mangin nice and dry at the finish.

Tim Foon Feldman sails over to greet everyone.

Henry Snavely, Todd LeBlanc (in his Colorado High Country jersey), and Jeff Hillis bask in the chilly but non-soggy conditions.

Thanks to everyone who came out, and hopefully you'll enjoy the Falcon and Stove Prairie 200k's later this month.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Michelle Launches the Carter Lake Casual 101k Perm!

New RUSA Permanent Owner Michelle Grainger launched her perm owner career by riding her Carter Lake Casual 101km Permanent Populaire with some friends on Easter Sunday.  

Michelle did an inspiring job orienting the start/finish control staff as to what to expect as Perm riders show up asking them to sign their cards. 

At Lyons, Steve Le Goff demonstrates that it's old hat for them, as the Diamond Shamrock is a control for multiple permanents and brevets, and store staff pleasantly greet our arrival and purchase of calorific fare.

After a tailwind-buoyed climb up the Carter Lake switchbacks, Steve and I enjoy the smooth pavement and maritime views above the reservoir.

Surprisingly, the Marina Store was open, and offered a friendly welcome.

This a great time of year - winter and spring - for a Carter Lake ride, as it's very quiet, only a couple of sailboats, and the climbs are in the sun.

Easter wouldn't be complete without a farmyard display of farmer bunnies and giant colored eggs!

Michelle provided her own Easter treat to each rider, in the form of sugar-laden edible creatures.

Michelle says: "Yay to the group that came on my inaugural Easter day Carter Lake Casual Populaire.  I have to say, I had no idea what went into becoming a Permanent Route Owner. There is a certain amount of attention to detail that needs to go into a new route, as it is very easy to leave out things that someone not familiar with the area would miss. I have a great amount of respect for Permanent route owners and for the overseer-of all-things-perfect RUSA Permanents Coordinator Crista Borras (aka The Permanista). Thank you to Catherine, John Lee and Crista for all of your help!"

And thank you, Michelle, for putting together a new route for riders.  Michelle may just have a few other perms up her sleeve, so stay tuned!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Full Moon Ride on the AZ Round the Bend 400K

by Tammie Nakamura

Tammie, Eric Simmons, and Susan Plonsky pre-rode Susan's 400k, and then volunteered on the actual event.  -jle

I had the pleasure of pre-riding the inaugural offering of the Round the Bend 400K with Susan Plonsky and Eric Simmons in Arizona.  I remembered last year’s crushing defeat last year in the Arivaca 400K where I was introduced to an Anvil storm.  These devil storms go off like a bomb with enough energy to lift tons of desert dirt and gravel hundreds of feet into the air and crash down with a punishing ice storm in their wake.    I had a score to settle with the desert.  The pre-ride chit-chat heightened the sense of adventure for the ride.  Susan was matter of fact: “… nobody knows anything about Gila…Arizonians don’t go there because it’s so… OUT there.

 The desert in bloom near the Gila River Indian Reservation

The start was chilly- may be even chillier than the early morning temps in Denver.  The sense of remoteness was driven home when I stopped at a convenience store and the clerk uttered a startled yell when she saw me.  I wondered if I had taken the hooded super-villain cyclist thing too far.  True to the other brevets that I’ve enjoyed in Arizona, the RTB travels through Tribal lands, national and state parks offering surprisingly beautiful vistas of the desert.  And the desert was in bloom: a rainbow of wild flowers that seemed even more special when set against the harshness of the landscape.  We rode with a massive full moon in front of us morning and night and the sun at our backs.  And no storms to hammer us into the desert!  It was perfect and one of those special memories of a lifetime.

Susan rides across the Sonoran Desert

We rode through agricultural areas with crops that fluoresced with that unnatural green of plants on drugs.  And shrimp farms in the desert?  Susan suggested it was a conspiracy to unload black-market Costco shrimp.  The control at Gila Bend was an odd combination of a border town containing an all out invasion of retirees.   The seniors firmly controlled the lines at McDonalds, each customer requiring the third retelling of the terms of the 2-for-1 special in complete detail.  I felt sorry for the clerk. 

But every ride must have its comical relief.  Eric and Susan puzzled why I kept disappearing down the road out of sight yelling at the top of my lungs.  They don’t know about a peculiar and annoying feature which JLE calls my ‘animal magnetism’.  Benign lapdogs who wouldn’t bother a woof with a cyclist are sparked into crazed action with full primal instinct intact to bring down the weakest member of the herd when they see me. I had a full introduction to what seemed like the entire population of trailer dogs of Arizona - each one channeling Kujo as it chased me down the road.  Two such dogs exploded out of the dark near Coolidge.  Rattled, I missed a turn.  To my alarm I discovered the Garmin was drained and dead and dual backup batteries oddly were also dead.  I had a cue sheet but no map to reorient. After wandering vaguely in circles I tried to wave down drivers - politely explaining that I was lost and simply wanting directions.   But no drivers would stop or even offer a sidewise twitch of eye contact.  A truck gunned through a stop sign rather than talk to me.  One motorist stopped, responding to my inquires by rolling down his window a sliver and silently jabbing the tip of his finger vaguely down the road.  That motorist also sped away at top speed. Clearly, the local residents thought I had taken the hooded super-villain cyclist thing too far.  A cyclist wandering around at 3AM - very shifty.   Fortunately, by first light - and with great gratitude - I could tell I was on the route and headed for the finish line.

Randonneuring superheroes!
Susan, Eric, and Tammie