Day 42: Such Great Heights

Start/End: Denver/Idaho Springs, CO
Mileage: 59.8 +
Weather: Pretty good! Sunny and warm, but as we climbed it was a lot cooler and even rained a little, but not too much.

Denver. It has been a great couple of rest days that I think were very well deserved. The team did a variety of things while in Denver, including visiting family and friends in the area, visiting the botanical gardens, going out to eat, hiking and of course a little bit of bike riding. Additionally, we spent time in the mile-high city acclimating our bodies to altitude.

This morning we woke up ready to tackle a new day, with new heights and new challenges ahead. The mountains that we saw from 70 miles out from Denver? We would start crossing them today, something that most members of our team have not had experience with. With some excitement and maybe a little bit of hesitation, we prepared for the day.

Today our ride was dedicated to the father-in-law of someone whom we had met while in Palmyra, NY. The man who told us the story of his father in law had mentioned that this ride dedication would be very special. His father in law had lost his battle with cancer so today we remember him.

We rolled out this morning in groups of 3 or 4 so that we had a better chance of staying close together during the climbing. Leaving Denver was really not too difficult. We are realizing that most drivers in Colorado are very friendly to cyclists. It has just been awesome to ride here, because in addition to the friendly motorists, many of the roads have great bike lanes and/or shoulders for us to ride in. So all in all, loving Colorado so far!

Today’s ride was a big one, during which we would climb about 6,400 feet. We would literally be climbing a mountain. After leaving Denver, we entered into the Red Rocks State Park. There was a gradual incline that was not too bad at all, but there were beautiful rock formations all around us. It was really remarkable. But that was nowhere near what was still to come in our day.

We passed through Evergreen, CO, which seemed like a nice mountain town with plenty of shops. It was hopping during this holiday weekend. Despite all of the traffic, there were still very kind drivers who were very courteous to cyclists. Speaking of cyclists, there were so many cyclists out on the mountains and most of them were very friendly. After passing many groups, some would ask us what we were all about. There were a lot of really friendly people who were glad to see us and hear about our organization. After Everygreen, we began our climb which would last several miles and take much longer than we were used to biking. There were switchbacks and very steep parts, but as we got further along, we got on a road that was not as steep and this was very nice. During the steeper portions, sometimes we might be cycling 4 mph, which is ridiculously slow (or so it seems if you were cycling on flat land), but it really was as fast as we could go at points and was definitely challenging.

It was all worth it though, and not as hard as it may seem because when you are surrounded by beautiful mountains with great pine trees or the aspen trees, well known throughout the Rockies for their glimmering nature, it is not hard to get distracted. As we climbed higher and were able to see further, we saw mountains that still had a decent amount of snow cover on them. It was a magnificent experience to reach the top. There was the view but there was also just a huge sense of accomplishment. We are so thrilled that everyone who rode today made it to the top in great time. It is crazy to think of where we started as cyclists and how far we have come in terms of our physical and emotional strength.

After reaching the summit, for most of us, the ride was literally all downhill from there. All except for Sean, Kevin and Diego who took up the challenge of climbing Mt. Evans, reaching 12,500 ft. What an awesome accomplishment to do that after the rest of the climbing! They had a lot of fun and enjoyed some really awesome views.

During the day, some groups saw some crazy wildlife, including seeing a yak and a baby bear. Thankfully we did not see a momma bear anywhere… Most groups were not as fortunate, which others are probably just fine without seeing them.

It was cool to come into Idaho Springs through their main road. There were lots of shops and it had a very western feel to it. In addition to the shops, there were several restaurants, including Beaujo’s Pizza, who generously donated some gift cards, which we used to order some pizza t compliment our pasta and lentils at dinnertime. Thank you so much for your generosity! The pizza was amazing. There were tons of places to go river rafting and along our ride to our stayover, we actually saw several river rafting tours! Looked fun, but most of us were definitely very tired at the end of the day.

Today was fun and it was just so beautiful. Looking forward to tomorrow’s ride and of course a good nights sleep before that.

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