Saturday, July 13, 2019

Charlie and the Texans Ride the SR 600!

On July 1, Jeff Newberry, Rob Tulloh, Russell Dorobek, Amy Russell, and Byron Welch from Texas, and Charlie Martin from the Bay Area set out on the Colorado Front Range SR 600. Here is Rob's story with links to his photo galleries. Rob also posted the story on Facebook, if you'd like to see it there.

Colorado SR 600 Day 1 - Niwot to Evergreen

We started our ride at 7AM with a send off from John Lee Ellis at the Niwot control. The ride began in the cool of the morning and we pedaled about 14 miles to Lyons where we encountered the first photo control. Just after this, we started our first ascent of the day climbing up 4200 feet. We stopped in Raymond for water and to regroup. We then continued our way to Nederland and Eldora (Eldora was the next photo control). After this, we followed the detour on dirt roads around Central City and then continued our way toward Idaho Springs which was the last services stop before beginning the climb to Echo Lake. We climbed with concern for Amy Russell who was struggling mightily with asthma and breathing issues at the high elevation. We did get to enjoy a beautiful sunset at the top of the mountain. We also found the descent to be dry and my concern for Witter Gulch was unfounded as the road was dry. I followed Jeff Newberry down to Bear Creek Road. Our only challenge was the darkness as the sun had gone down by the time we began descending into the gulch. We finished the day tired. Byron Welch had successfully reached the restaurant by phone to order us pizza. We ate, showered, and then slept to get ourselves ready for day 2.

Day 1 Photos

Up the Riverside - Raymond Road

Day 2 - Evergreen to Woodland Park and back

An epic day. We rolled out at 5:30 AM to try and reach Subway in Conifer when it opened at 7:00 AM. We climbed up to the photo control at Sandy and waited a bit for Amy Russell to appear. I had no signal on my phone so Charles Martin and I descended down to the Subway in Conifer and found a message from Amy saying she was having more trouble breathing today and she was headed back to the hotel. We had left Jeff Newberry behind to wait and we were faced with a 'what do we do since we cannot reach Jeff. As we were talking about it, Jeff and Russell Dorobek rolled up. Thankfully, Russ got the message and so they rolled down to Conifer to join us. The rest of the day was more epic climbs and incredible descents. We descended quite a bit from Conifer and were thinking how miserable the afternoon was going to be when we returned. One bright spot was the store at Deckers. We had milkshakes outbound and a cold beverage on the return. Woodland Park was misery. The drivers were rude, the Wendy's we used for services was jam packed. Fortunately, I had a Subway sandwich in my bag so I just got a soda and ice water to use for filling my bottle at Wendy's. As we departed, Russ got a flat and pulled out a piece of glass from his tire. The tubeless sealed it well enough. The rain drops were falling sparsely so I put on my rain jacket and helmet cover. As we got to the edge of town it started hailing and we all dodged for cover to escape the pummeling. Russ used the time to patch his tire. Charlie also got a flat and we changed his tire and tube. The temperature had dropped 30 degrees so I put on all my warm clothes as we shivered our way down the road. A few miles along, we hit sun and we stopped to take everything off. We then ht the big descent back to Deckers and I attacked the descent and arrived to Deckers just as Jeff was ordering some food. We fixed ourselves up here and then climbed out of Deckers on the steep mountain roads. It was hot, hot, hot and we just made our best time up the climbs. Russ was ahead of us so it was me, Jeff, and Charlie together until the end. I rode well until the climb into Conifer. I bonked and it was all I could do to reach the C-store control. As we waited at the store, it rained briefly and then cleared. A double rainbow appeared in the sky. We climbed back to the photo control with the sun blazing into our eyes. We finished the ride before it got dark and now are plotting our Day 3 plans to ensure we finish before the time expires.

Day 2 Photos 

Five almost flat miles along the South Platte

Colorado SR600 Day 3

Day 3 started at 3:30 AM. We wanted to be sure we had plenty of time to finish and we knew that the climb up to Echo Lake at the start was going to be a challenge. We had debated the option of eating breakfast at the Lodge, but we decided this should wait for another time and we would simply climb and then descend to Idaho Springs for breakfast at McDonald's. Charles Martin and I got to the top of the Witter Gulch climb first. I was breathing heavy and stopped once to catch my breath as I was about to hyperventilate. Charlie seemed like nothing could phase him and he climbed up to the top where we both waited for Russ and then Jeff Newberry. Jeff had a bottle get loose on the climb and had to stop and retrieve his bottle which put him last to finish with a good story to share. We then continued climbing (at a much better grade) up to the summit of the Echo Lake climb. I took photos of the sunrise and my Garmin showing the summit at 11,122 feet. I also saw a fox and some elk as I climbed up to the top. We put on all our cold weather clothing and then visited the photo control. We then descended into Idaho Springs. Before descending, I noted that the Lodge didn't open until 8AM which was 70 minutes later than our arrival. This would have been a deal breaker for breakfast and we were glad to continue on with more time in the bank. I had a terrible descent as I was shivering. The bike was shaking because I was cold so I braked and took the long descent with care to avoid any sort of mishap. I was the last to arrive at McDonald's, but I was only about 2 minutes behind Charlie. We ate breakfast and then started the hilly ride toward Eldora. Jeff fell off the back as we made our way. At the detour on Bald Mountain, Russ and Charlie decided to wait, but I warned them that Jeff might be ill tempered about their decision. I walked my bike up the 18% grade to a safe starting point and then climbed the dirt roads up to the apex (Charlie and Russ passed me on my way up) and enjoyed a long descent following behind Russ and Charlie. We then exited the dirt roads and made our way up the climbs to reach the Taggarts store. We ate and drank and refilled bottles at Taggarts. The temperature had ratcheted up above 95 degrees and we were all feeling the effects of the heat. There was no sign of Jeff and we learned later he got slightly lost in the detour and fell further behind our group. Charlie, Russ and I continued on to Eldora and snapped photos at the photo control. As we rolled back to Nederland, we spotted Jeff on his way toward the Eldora control and cheered the sighting. We stopped briefly in Eldora and then braved more heat and climbing to reach the apex of the 4200 foot descent which would take us down to Lyons and then Niwot. Charlie and I stopped at Raymond on the way down as I had run out of water and was super hot. We ate ice cream on the porch of the store and enjoyed the shade. We then finished the long descent (glorious!), snapped photos at Lyons control, and then pedaled the last 12 miles to Niwot control. I was finally on flat roads and sat in my 50x11 following Charlie the last few miles. He had been sitting on my wheel much of the past 3 days and I told him it was his turn to pull me to the finish line which he did graciously. At the final control, we found Russ waiting for us. I opened up the van to let it air out (it was hot!) and we waited another 40 or so minutes for Jeff to arrive. We then took our photos and celebrated finishing the ride.

Day 3 Photos

Friday, July 5, 2019

Guanella Pass Gambol 100k

In June, 2018, Paul Foley did the inaugural ride of the Guanella Pass Gambol 100k, and wrote a great report for it, which also appeared in RUSA's American Randonneur magazine.

This June, I got around to riding this, my own route, myself!

To recap, this is an out and back over Guanella Pass - from Downieville to Grant and back - climbing Guanella Pass from both sides. The seven miles from Downieville get us up to the minimum distance, but are also a nice warm-up before the big first climb.

My ride report will be complementary to Paul's, although there is some overlap - both of us took photos of our bikes with Dino the Dinosaur at the ride start. But Paul enjoyed a sandwich in Grant at Al's Pits BBQ, which was closed on the day of the week I rode.

Folks at the Starbucks in Downieville were friendly, as they explained I could park in their lot, just not overnight. A chocolate croissant (pain chocolat in French) immediately upped my energy level and bolstered my mood.

The 7 miles from Downieville to Georgetown are slightly uphill and largely quiet. They are  good warmup for the Guanella Pass climb itself, which aims skyward immediately up switchbacks out of Georgetown.

Soon we're getting good views of snowy landscape above the timberline.

This is a well-engineered road with plenty of attractive stonework to bolster the roadside slopes.

The grade is a steady climb, except for a couple of fairly flat stretches along two reservoirs dotting Cabin Creek. Final grade to the pass increases a bit.

Still plenty of remnants of plowing, after our plenteous snowfall this winter.

At the pass, the "Summit Overlook" on the right is the turn you take to the info control.

There are trailheads on the west side of the pass, to trails across the tundra including to Square Top Lakes. Also the Mt. Bierstadt trailhead on the east side of the road.

Looking east.

The descent starts on rough chipseal at a good grade, but after 3-4 miles and a switchback, reaches silky smooth asphalt, from a couple years ago when this part of the road was paved (from being dirt).

Midway down opens out to an almost stretch of meadows and grazing (bounded by cattle guards), and some equestrian trails.

The road proceeds along roaring and churning Geneva Creek.

Grant - Just before reaching downtown Grant, is Al's Pits BBQ on the right. There is a small arrowed sign; otherwise it is easy to miss. Since they are only open Fri.-Sun., if you bike another day, you can ring the bell at the store-like establishment at the junction of US-285, and purchase liquids.

This plus Al's and a motel are about the only establishments in Grant.

Heading back was work for me, even with the (probably prevailing) tailwind, but the scenery provided a nice distraction.

I like the wooden guardrails, and they're handy to lean bikes against.

Nearing the summit from the south.

Back at the summit. There has been lots of cloud today, but making for a comfortable temperature range, and the dry forecast was born out.

Another snowbank rounding a switchback.

Narrow valley heading down to Georgetown.

One of the two small reservoirs

Herd of bighorn sheep placidly grazing or after salt near the roadside

Georgetown in the Clear Creek Valley, I-70 and the climb to Silver Plume on the left

Dino looks on as the trusty Kestrel rests after another great ride!

One thing I especially liked about this ride was the extreme quietude of the Guanella Pass road. There were almost no vehicles on it, but this was during the week. Peak summer hiking season on a weekend might be a different story.

Either way, try and enjoy!