Sunday, June 29, 2008

There be mountains here (COMPLETED)


I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life.  3 days ago it was: "I've never seen anything so scary in my life."  I can now say that, in one day, I biked from 8,000 ft. above sea level up to 12,000 and back down.  It was hands down the hardest thing I have ever put myself through physically, and arguably the best day of my life.

I have to start from the beginning, though.  Leaving Boulder was a very nerve racking.  We would climb about 3,000 ft. in about 30 miles.  It would be the hardest day of my life, but only for a few short hours.  I would have to bike about a mile or a mile and a half then stop catch my breath, eat something, and keep going.  The uphill biking was challenging, but even more difficult was dealing with the climate changes in the higher altitude.  I thought our lunch stop was going to be near 24 miles in.  This is where I ran out of water, only to find that, around the corner, the grade of the road increased for about 3 more miles.  I would literally ride 100 feet and stop, over and over again.  I finally made it into the small mountain town of Ward and lunch.  After lunch, I experienced a few miles of rolling hills across the ridge line.  I then reached my first big downhill.  AWESOME.  I flew down the mountain.  Going 35-45 mph, I was slowly gaining on the traffic in front of me.  I went 5 mile in about a minute and a half.  I stopped after the long downhill and Gabe, riding sweep, caught up to me.  We rode the last few miles into Eagle Rock School and our home for the evening.

Eagle Rock School was a cool place.  This alternative high school, sponsored by Honda, is a place for kids who did not succeed in conventional school to go for free.  It was a really neat place with a good mission and a unique approach.  Leaving Eagle Rock School the next morning would kick off the hardest and best day of my young life.  The school has a pretty steep, mile and a half driveway that peaks in the middle.  Every morning, the entire student body, which ranges from 60 to 100+ students, runs/walks down the driveway and back.  On our way out, we were met cheers and well-wishes from the exercizing students, as we headed off to tackle Trail Ridge.

     It took us 10 miles to reach the gates of Rocky Mountain National Park.  We stopped before entering the park at a small coffee shop.  The coffee shop had lots of cool wildlife around.  We were nearly swarmed with tiny Colorado Hummingbirds, which we learned weigh up to the same as a penny.



Entering the park, I stopped at the ranger station to learn a little bit about the park.  I picked up a brochure/map and perused the literature on the parks attractions.  the first few miles in the park were slightly flat, as the last few would be.  Then it began.  The hardest thing I have ever put my body through.  Up and up.... and up... and up.  Then I biked uphill some more.  The park gate had been just above 8000 feet.  It seemed like for every mile I went forward, I also went up a mile.  The stark beauty of the landscape, the majesty of the great bull elk, and the ever thinner air combined to take my breath away.  As I climbed higher it felt as if my lungs were not working, and in turn my entire body fought my mind to stop moving.  Trail Ridge Road peaked about 20 miles from the park gate at 12,053 feet.  It was the highest I've ever been on Earth and on life.  I did it: the hardest thing I've ever done, and I've been cycling every day for the past month and a half.

The trip down, oh, the trip down.  What took 8 hours to climb, took only 45 minutes to descend down from.  If you haven't seen the video, you should watch it (that is Nate in front of me and Beau is close behind.)  We flew down the mountain, stopping only 2wice to shed layers of clothes.  We zipped around 15 mph switchbacks at 30-35 mph.  We met or exceeded the speed limit for 20 miles.  I hit my top speed of the day after we had left the park and continued to descend into Grand Lake, CO.  I think it was about 49.  I even missed my last turn by about 300 yards, as I was trying to go faster.  After realizing I had missed the turn, I slammed on the brakes and turned out into the lane a bit to look back at Nate and Beau.  At this moment I hear Nate scream.  I had not signaled that I was slowing down.  Nate nearly missed hitting me at a dead stop when he was going 45 mph. Close call.  We rolled into Grand Lake Elementary School with cold tacos and hot showers awaiting our arrival.  What a day!

I can now say that I have been in a snowball fight in the middle of June.  I have eaten Elk sausage.  I've seen a wild moose in person.  I can be relatively comfortable in tight spandex shorts all day.  I've been to Colorado, and now Utah.  I have ridden an Alpine Slide.  I will soon go on my first white water rafting adventure.  I hope to exceed 60 mph on my bike, which have named Shadowfax for all you Lord of the Rings geeks.  My current top speed is 51 mph.


Mom said...

Hi Cory, this is a test

Mom said...

OK, now I have the right password so I can leave you a real message...WOW, what a fabulous past few days you've had. The exhilaration of the mountains by bicycle is hard to even imagine, and yet you got to live it! Thank you for this wonderful blog and for keeping so close in touch. I can't tell you how much we all miss you here at home. I'm praying you all have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July and enjoy that rafting trip! Love always, Mom