2005 RTR – PERSONAL REPORT
I started the training for the 2005 RTR in the first week of February even though I saw the ride profile only about a week later. The route looked challenging but was very much doable. After last year’s unsatisfactory ride, I was determined to redeem myself this year. Shankar, Gopi and Chellappa also readily agreed to participate. I sent in the application by DHL and put together a demanding training schedule for the next four months. The goals were to complete the ride comfortably and also without the aid of aspirin or advil.
By first week in June, I had put in more than 2,300 training miles. The training had been intense during the weeks of May 21, May 28 and June 4 with the last week accounting for more than 240 miles. I believed that the quality of my training was very good. I still had about 90 miles to be put in during the taper off week. By then, it would be about 2,400 miles against the suggested plan of 1,400 miles. Hopefully, this would have put me in a position to meet my ride objectives.
In 2004, I had put in marginally more training miles than this year. The quality of my training was also equally good. Yet, I had struggled through the 2004 RTR. I had to take aspirin and advil at the end of the first century day as I had terrible lower back pain and was totally beat. Those memories and the fall I suffered on the last day reminded me to take the ride very seriously.
CHENNAI THURSDAY JUNE 9, 2005
This morning I finished the last ride of the week- 28.31 miles. This week’s total was 241.79 miles. This was the week in which I was supposed to peak. My driver Mathar had been driving the SAG van for the last about 8 rides. I went both to the Uthandi and Thiruvidanthai temples and was back at home by 7:30 A.M. Did some minor cleaning of the bike and lubed it. We would be taking the 1:30 A.M. Lufthansa flight and had to complete the packing of the three bikes as well as our suitcases. Shankar had more stuff than any of us since he was moving to the U.S. It practically took us all day to finish the packing, weigh the suitcases, and get ready for the flight.
My friend Lakshmi had just got married and was on a pilgrimage. She called me long distance and said that she would pray for our success. Another one, Priya Balakrishnan called and said that she would meet me at the airport. We left for the airport at 9:30 P.M. A few friends of Shankar were also coming to see him off. Everybody showed up at around the same time, and the surprise visitor was K. Ganesan, my ex colleague who came with Priya. They had come to express their best wishes. We spent a few minutes, took leave of them, and went inside the airport.
Checking in was smooth. I requested bulkhead seats for all of us and got that. Chellappa was incensed when some one barged ahead of him in the line - not something unusual in India. Shankar nearly had a heart attack looking at the unfolding scene. Flight took off about 30 minutes late, but landed in Frankfurt on time. We went to the lounge and spruced up.
FRANKFURT, DENVER & BOULDER FRIDAY JUNE 10, 2005
We had about 4 hours to kill in Frankfurt, and we generally wandered around. The queue for the U.S. flights was long due to extra security. We went through that, and with his computer bag, Shankar took a few more minutes. At the boarding point, Shankar again had a few extra minutes with the ticketing agent. His passport photo was not exactly calculated to inspire confidence in any body, leave alone a border patrol. We all got into the plane, and it was a full flight. Flight took off after a delay of more than 90 minutes. Most of the flight was uneventful. We had air turbulence while approaching Denver, but it was overshadowed by the roughest landing I had ever experienced. I thought the plane was going to split into two. We landed at 3:45 P.M. and I resolved never to get on another plane.
Immigration was smooth. It took a bit longer than usual for our bags and bikes to arrive, but they were all intact. At the customs point, we were asked to go to the agricultural section. It was not for any food we were carrying – and we were carrying chutneys, but they were declared in the form -, but were asked whether we were carrying currency in excess of $10,000. Answered in the negative, we were cheerfully waved off.
I asked Chellappa to look after the luggage, while Shankar and I went to the Budget counter for the rental of the van. We were told to take the shuttle and go to the rental center to get the van. It was not easy to take the 3 bikes, 3 large suitcases and our hand bags, cross the road and get into the Budget shuttle. The shuttle driver helped us in loading, and during the ride my wheeled suitcase was sliding across the bus during each turn. We reached the Budget rental area, unloaded all pieces of luggage and went in to get our van.
I had a freshly issued Tamil Nadu driver’s license, an expired Ohio license, and a credit card. Shankar had a valid Texas license but no credit card. Chellappa had no license and no credit card. My plan was to get the van in Shankar’s name using my credit card, and pick up my license later. The Budget guy, a trainee, refused to give the van to Shankar saying that every driver of the vehicle had to have his/her own credit card. I had no U.S. license, and suddenly I had visions of being stranded in the Denver area. I handed my Tamil Nadu license and my expired Ohio license, and told him that since I was driving in India with my Ohio license (true), the U.S. should accept my India license. The guy accepted the logic, happily rented the van to me, and took my credit card.
I signed the rental agreement but declined the insurance since my platinum visa was supposed to provide full coverage, and took possession of the van. We folded all the seats, put in the three suitcases, piled the three bikes on top and some how found space for all the hand luggage. With me in the driver’s seat and Chellappa next to me, Shankar had to squeeze himself among the luggage. My next tense moment was at the exit point of the Budget rental center where I had to show my Indian license and get out. The guy glanced at my India license and sent me on my way. I was relieved.
After taking care of the transportation for the entire trip, my next worry was about hotel accommodation. While in India, I had taken care of the hotel bookings for every day except Monday, June 20th at Delta and Friday, June 24th at Leadville. Both were small towns with very limited facilities and way back in March itself I was categorically told that there were no rooms for those nights. My plan was to visit those towns, check out each and every motel, and look for any last minute cancellations. My alternative was to camp out during those nights, but I was basically relying on my luck to snare some comfortable lodgings.
Since Leadville was on the way to Grand Junction, my plan was to immediately drive to Leadville and scout around for a hotel room for the night of June 24th. Chellappa suggested that instead we go to Boulder for the night since Performance Bike had a store there and there was a sale. He was particularly interested in a wireless bike computer with heart rate monitor. We could leave Boulder by noon and still have time for Leadville before reaching Grand Junction in the night. That appeared to be a sound plan. Chellappa accepted the role of the navigator as he knew the place very well, and I settled down to drive.
Driving proved to be fairly difficult with no visibility for changing lanes due to all the luggage. Shankar had to watch out when I was switching lanes. In addition, we came across thick fog in some sections. With all these, we some how lost our way and were going away from Boulder. Chellappa looked at the map, gave a course correction via Golden and we took one of the secondary roads. By then, I was very hungry, and decided to eat one of the parottas that we brought from India. We pulled over, and parked next to a stream. After sitting like cheese for 24 hours, it was really bad, but was a godsend at that time. We were in a canyon and the scenery was gorgeous. Night was falling fast and so we did not linger long. As we approached Boulder, the road was very unfamiliar to me, but Chellappa had a very good sense of direction and guided me properly. We reached Boulder by about 9:00 P.M.
We went to the familiar Super 8 and were told that it was full. Next door was the Best Western, and that too was full. We were also told that the town was having a convention, and that most motels/hotels were fully booked. We went to the Lazy L which was next to the Super 8 and got a room with kitchen. It was a nice suite with a living room, bed room and kitchen area, and was not at all expensive. After unloading all the stuff, Chellappa and Shankar wanted to go to Taco Bell for dinner. Shankar and I drove there, picked up some food, and went to the grocery store for some cereal, milk, fruits and yogurt. I had no feel for the town layout, where as Shankar remembered every turn perfectly.
We came back to the motel, and I had some fruits and milk for dinner. The parotta was sitting heavily in my stomach. Chellappa and Shankar had the Mexican food. We then assembled the bikes and discarded the boxes. By the time we went to bed, it was almost 11:00 P.M.
BOULDER, LEADVILLE & GRAND JUNCTION
SATURDAY JUNE 11, 2005
We got up around 6:00 A.M. brushed and shaved. We wanted to get some biking done and decided to take the Canyon road (next to the library) that we took in 2004. All of us had breakfast of cereal, banana and yogurt. We got on the bike and there was a slight slope from the motel parking lot to the road. As I approached the road, I could not take my foot off the cleats in time to stop for the traffic. I had an ignonimous fall. What a start.
I remembered perfectly the Canyon route as we started our ride and we had a nice stiff tail wind. I rode up to the water fall, and recognized most of the land marks. The climb was not as bad as I experienced last year. I averaged 7.3mph for the ascent. Turned around, and found that the tail wind was now a strong head wind, and it was quite bracing. Pushed hard and completed the ride of 21.16 mile at an average speed of 10.5 mph. Actual ride time was 1:59:58 and elapsed time was 2:10:28
We all showered, and decided to leave the bikes at the motel and check out before the stipulated 11:00A.M. We first went to the UPS store, (again Chellappa and Shankar remembered the precise location), sent Shankar’s two suitcases, his computer and miscellaneous stuff to Austin. We also mailed Radha’s stuff to her son Kannan. Chellappa and Shankar went to Taco Bell for lunch. I finished the balance of the cereal, banana and yogurt, and joined them for some nachos. We drove to the Lazy L motel, reclaimed our bikes, and went to Performance Bike. We bought a helmet for Chellappa, frame pump for my bike, jerseys and some miscellaneous stuff.
With most of the luggage out of the way, we had comfortable seats in the van for every body. We left at around 1:30 P.M. for Leadville and arrived there at 4:00 P.M. The idea was to get a room for the 24th night. The first hotel said that RTR had taken all the rooms. We went to try our luck at the second one, the Silver King Inn, which was right across. It looked like a new one, but the lady at the front desk said that they had just dropped 3 million bucks on renovating an old hotel. With some polite conversation, I managed to get a room with 2 queen size beds. I immediately confirmed it with my credit card.
We drove from there to Grand Junction via the Fremont Pass, the final day’s route, for Chellappa to get a feel for that terrain. Around 7:30 P.M. we stopped at Rifle, CO for a miserable Dominos Pizza. And it cost $23. It was becoming cold as we started our drive to Grand Junction. The scenery was outstanding. Took the proper exit for Grand Junction and reached the down town area. Wandered a bit looking for Hawthorne Suites, and Chellappa suggested that we phone them and get directions. Excellent suggestion. It was fairly close, and we found it easy enough. We reached the hotel at 9:30 P.M.
Chellappa suggested that we get a smaller place since it was meant for 8 people and we were only 3 people. It did not work out that way, and we ended up taking this very nice suite with two bed rooms, two bath rooms, a living room, one large kitchen and one small kitchenette.
We unloaded all the stuff. Chellappa took the bed room with one bed. Shankar and I took the second bed room which had two beds. We unpacked our stuff and put the wheels on the bikes. I felt pretty good about the day. The next big challenge was to get a room in Delta, which I wanted to do the next day. We went to bed around 11:00 P.M.
GRAND JUNCTION SUNDAY JUNE 12, 2005
It was raining in the morning and by our various actions we collectively decided not to ride. I was up, gazing out of the window and looking at the cold rain with dismay. Chellappa was in his room, door closed and watching the TV. Shankar was fast asleep.
Had breakfast in the hotel. Shankar and I decided to drive to Delta and try our luck for hotel accommodation for the night of Monday, June 20, 2005. Chellappa elected to stay at the hotel. The distance was 39 miles from Grand Junction, and treeless. It had small hills, frequent enough to test a bicyclist. It was a hot day with clear blue sky. Saw the motel El D Rado, where I stayed in 2003, but then saw the upscale the Best Western, and decided to try my luck with the Best Western. Asked for a room for the night of June 20th, and the lady said that the hotel was full that night and that she had a foot long waiting list. I just hung around telling her that I didn’t fancy sleeping in the car or in a tent after a grueling 91 miles of mountain biking. She insisted that she had no room, but then suddenly said that she just might have one. Sure enough, she had one, and she let me have it. I guess it was the one that motels always keep in case the President (of the U.S.) unexpectedly showed up at their door steps and demanded a room. She obviously took a great risk on my behalf in assuming that George Bush won’t show up for the RTR. Paid for it immediately and took the confirmation sheet, which I did not check. Later I found out that it had the wrong date, but over the phone got it corrected.
Shankar was hungry and wanted to eat something, then changed his mind and wanted to come back to Grand Junction. Drove back, and found that Chellappa was up and about. Made a salad sandwich for myself and Chellappa. Shankar and I went to explore the Main St which was closed for all vehicular traffic. Local people had set up small shops and turned a few of the blocks in to a pedestrian mall. Wandered around. Local band was playing. Shankar had a burrito or something like that. Started to drizzle. Found Brown’s Bicycle shop which was open. The guys obviously loved bikes to be hanging around the shop on a Sunday. Liked their attitude and decided to do the tune up of all three bikes with them. They were not the cheapest guys, I found out later.
Went back to the hotel, found Chellappa ready for the trip to Wal-Mart. Bought some groceries there. We all needed duffle bags for our stuff since we were going to leave our suitcases at Breckenridge in Gopi’s car. That plus some sun glasses and miscellaneous things added up to a pretty penny.
Got back to the hotel. Cooked rice and mixed vegetable curry. Had yogurt and the chutney from India, and all these made it into a good dinner. Went to bed with a resolution to bike the next day.
GRAND JUNCTION MONDAY JUNE 13, 2005
Got up fairly early, brushed and shaved. Woke up Chellappa and Shankar. We all trooped down at 7:00 AM for breakfast. Had a really nice one. It was another cloudless day and we knew it was going to be hot. Decided to take the Monument route and check out the grades. We all started out together but after a while Chellappa fell back. The first 4 miles were ok and once we entered the park, the grades became steep. I was doing about 4 mph and having frequent stops. Shankar simply charged ahead, but he also stopped occasionally to catch his breath. After the 8th mile, the grade moderated, and after the 16th it was easy. We were riding together, keeping an eye for each other. The scenery was spectacular, but the task of climbing did not allow us to enjoy the same. The visitor center was at the 24th mile and by that time I thought Shankar was a bit winded. From there we had about 4 or 5 miles of steep down hill, and I was quite terrified of the momentum. I stopped a few times to get back my courage. When we reached the other end of the park we had to pay $3 each for the bikes.
The sun was hot, and we had some wind. Instead of going towards Fruita, as the RTR route would take us, we decided to take the route towards Grand Junction. Shankar was feeling the heat and the ride. I stopped often for him to catch up with me. He did not have his own water bottle, and had taken one of mine. We both had only one, and we were running low on water. At last, we reached the hotel. Statistics: 8 @ 6.6 16 @ 7.6 24 @ 8.6. & 38.01 @ 10.0 Computer time: 3:44:48 and elapsed time: 4:30:08 Odometer: 7299.0 Surprisingly, in spite of his fatigue, Shankar’s overall average was better than mine.
Chellappa did about 7 miles one way and decided to go back since he did not want to trust his bike on the mountain grade. His bike was not yet fixed since his last fall in Chennai.
Came back around 12:00 noon and showered. Made the usual salad sandwich and ate that. Since I possessed no valid license at that time, decided to go and get a Colorado one giving the hotel address as my home address. Took Shankar with me, and found out that it was painless. Except, they would only mail the license, and it could take up to 10 days for delivery. Planned to request the hotel to forward it to Mony’s address.
Came back and drove to Wal-Mart for groceries. Primarily, fruits and frozen vegetables. Shankar did the laundry. Went to Target for some performance tees (read expensive under wear). Came home, and cooked rice and broccoli. I was getting the hang of cooking rice in the microwave. Yesterday was under cooked, and to day it was a shade better. The trick was to ignore the instructions and increase the water amount by about 75%. Shankar said he would go and get the water bottle from the bike shop and went to the Main St.
GRAND JUNCTION TUESDAY JUNE 14, 2005
Scrubbed the intention of a ride due to last night’s lack of sleep. Brushed, shaved and showered. I wanted to systematically look at the hotel reservations and confirm every one of them. First shock was that the Best Western at Delta had me confirmed on the wrong date. It was 5:30 A.M., but I anyway called them. The receptionist told me that she would talk to the day person and have it corrected. I was not convinced and asked her to send me an email confirming the correct date.
Went down and had a hearty breakfast. Went to the corner bike shop and got a water bottle for Shankar. Gave Chellappa’s and Shankar’s bike for tune up at the Brown’s Bicycle shop.
Since it was decent hour, I started calling the other hotels to confirm. Second shock was when Holiday Inn at Montrose said they had no reservations for me. I gave them the confirmation number but they said it was for Chicago area and not for Colorado. They simply said that there were no rooms for me. Later, I found out that they had charged me for two rooms way back in April itself, but at that time I had no recourse. Fortunately, I had another set of reservation at the Blue Sky Inn which I earlier wanted to cancel but somehow did not get around to doing it. Restored my faith in miracles. I speedily confirmed that.
This had happened to me earlier. During the 2003 RTR, it was at Ouray, where they swore that they had no reservation, but later charged for 2 rooms as no shows.
Went to the library to check e-mail since the one at the hotel was deadly slow. Came back and called the Best Western at Delta and spoke to the very same lady who originally gave me the room. She acknowledged the mistake and immediately sent me an email with the correct date of arrival.
Went looking for continental tires for the bike. Found a shop and bought one set of tires, a few tubes and patch kits. Shankar wanted to return the Wal-Mart duffle and get an REI one. Did that. Got some groceries, mostly yogurt, fruits and frozen vegetables. Mailed Venkatesh’s 20K to Raja for Airbee stock. Went and picked up the bikes. Hopefully, Chellappa should be able to ride on Wednesday.
GRAND JUNCTION WEDNESDAY JUNE 15, 2005
All of us agreed to leave early, do only about 20 miles and come back for breakfast. We started riding at 6:30 AM. We had a very strong tail wind going out from the hotel. Biked straight through CO 340 towards Fruita rather than through the Monument drive. A few up hills and down hills but it was quite enjoyable. Turned around after about 10 miles and found that the head wind was fierce. Battled the way back. Shankar rode strongly. Chellappa did about 15 miles in total. All of us reached the hotel at about the same time, 8:30 A.M. and were told that breakfast will be closed by 9:00 AM. Statistics: ½ @ 12.4 23.21 @ 11.2 2:03:57 & 2:05:38 Felt very strong through out the ride and felt very good at the end. Again, Shankar was the fastest among the three of us.
Had an enormous breakfast at the hotel. The garbage can liner at the hotel was clear plastic. I thought it would be ideal to pack clothes in, and distribute them in the bike box . The maid obliged me by giving me a roll. Tipped her 10 bucks. Got scared that the Budget van was being driven without Budget’s insurance although my Platinum Visa was supposed to cover it. Got cold feet. Went to Budget at Grand Junction, and Holly there helped me to close out the contract and issue a new one with insurance. Also made sure that Shankar could drive the car the next Friday on my credit card. Holly was super, and went out of the way to help us.
Shankar wanted to get the next big size duffle at REI (this would repeat a few times), and I picked up a shirt with all sorts of pockets. Spent money, that is. Came home, cooked the usual stuff (rice was almost normal this time), ate, and went to bed.
GRAND JUNCTION THURSDAY JUNE 16, 2005
Got up very early in the morning (around 4:00 AM). Brushed and shaved. Looked out and found a real nice day for bike riding. Decided not to bike. Woke up Shankar and Chellappa, showered and all three of us went down at about 7:30 AM for a very big breakfast. All this week the routine was the same. 2 glasses of orange juice, 4 slices of bread with butter and jam, 2 bowls of raisin bran cereal with skim milk, a glass of skim milk on the side, fruits and two cartons of fruit yogurt. Some times, I also had in addition, two pancakes with syrup and butter. I couldn’t believe the amount of food I was putting away. Then I looked around, and saw two other bikers putting away even more food, mostly the greasy stuff. While I was discreetly putting away my dirty plates, those guys had piles of them just in front of them.
We all went back to the room, took my bicycle and gave it to the Brown Bicycles for the tune up. Asked him to change anything that needed to be changed without waiting for my approval (license to print money, I guess). Chellappa by now had come up with his own strategic plan to lick the RTR. First day was a loop, so it did not matter whether he completed it or turned back after a while and come back to the town. The second day, instead of the 91 mile ride and 19 miles of unrelenting climb of 5,000 feet, he would bike to Delta via route CO 50 which had no mountains and the distance was only about 40 miles. He figured that the Delta to Montrose distance of 34 miles on the third day was very doable. He might sag on day 4 (Montrose to Gunnison) and day 5 (Gunnison to Salida) using up his 2 sags. He would do Salida to Leadville which was a steady but gentle climb and comfortably do the mostly down hill final day 45 mile stretch of Leadville to Breckenridge. He wanted to personally check out the Grand Junction to Delta route – CO 50.
We all got into the van and drove the route. From the van, it looked like gentle hills with none of the climbs more than a mile or so in length. It looked easy enough. Went to Delta and checked out the RTR finish line at the local school. Chellappa had remarkable memory and showed me exactly where and how to go. From there, we went to Montrose, made sure about our reservations in the Blue Sky Inn and had lunch at the local Taco Bell. Turned back and came to Grand Junction.
Went to pick up my bike. He had to change the cassette and the chain. The bike had 2,500 miles since the last replacement. Put in a few minor parts and had it in perfect running condition. Brought the bike back to the hotel. I went and picked up a bike box from one of the bike stores for me to take to Breckenridge.
I called Holly of Budget to confirm that we would pick up the car at 7:00 AM in the morning. We all went to the Mesa Mall, bought a head band to soak up the sweat (never used it), and went to the Wal-Mart at the other end of the town to buy a digital camera and memory cards for Shankar. Came to the motel, cooked rice (today it was just perfect), and some vegetables. Had dinner and went to bed. We had to get up early and leave for Denver to return the van, pick up Gopi at Breckenridge, and drive back to Grand Junction by the evening.
GRAND JUNCTION & BRECKENRIDGE
FRIDAY JUNE 17, 2005
Got up at 4:00 AM, brushed, shaved and showered. Woke up Chellappa and Shankar and they got ready by about 6:30. Called Gopi and told him that we should be in Breckenridge at around 3:00 PM and asked him to meet us at the Tailings Parking Lot. We all went down for breakfast. Loaded the van with my bike box and my suitcase. We also packed all the other stuff that we did not need for the next 7 days of ride to be left in the Saab at Breckenridge. Packed sandwiches for three of us and one for Gopi. By the time we finished, it was more like 7:15 A.M. and we reached the Budget office at 7:40 A.M. Holly suggested that we return the van at the city drop off instead of going all the way to the airport. We had a Chevy Impala waiting for us. Chellappa was riding with me in the van, and Shankar gave one walkie talkie to us and he kept the other in his car. We started driving towards Denver.
We kept each other’s car in sight. When we temporarily could not see each other, the walkie talkie kept us in communication. Spectacular scenery all the way. Some of the canyons were breath taking. One has to see to believe the beauty of this place. Near Vail, we stopped by a rest area. Chellappa was very happy to see a bunch of bikers who were doing their stuff courtesy of “Down Hill Biking”. Apparently, they drive you to the top of a pass, and all you have to do is coast down in your bike to the next town. All the climbs were done in the van and all the down hills were tackled by the bikers. Chellappa thought of it as the best way of doing cycling. Got back on the high way, and by about noon reached the Budget location in the city area (West Colfax, Lakewood). Topped the fuel tank at the local gas station. Transferred all the stuff from the van to the car and returned the van. Chellappa suggested that we buy some phone cards, which we did at the local Wal-Mart along with some packing material for the bike.
Called Gopi and found out that he was already in Denver and having lunch. We estimated that we could meet him at Breckenridge at 2:30 PM itself and started driving. Shankar was at the wheel. And Chellappa was squashed at the back seat. We all ate our sandwiches while driving. At the local gas station, we bought some milk and coke and reached the Tailings lot at 2:30 as planned. Found the Saab easy enough since there were very few cars in the lot. Phoned Gopi and pretty soon he wandered in. Transferred all the stuff from the car to the Saab. Picked up Gopi’s duffle and bike and put them in the Impala. From another biker who came in a car, we learnt that city hall was issuing parking permits for the RTR riders. Picked up the parking permit for $15, came back, displayed it prominently in the Saab, and by about 4:00 PM started driving towards Grand Junction.
About 10 miles before town, we filled the fuel tank of the Impala and picked up some milk and coke. Reached Grand Junction by about 7:00 PM and immediately started cooking. What else, rice and vegetables. All of us had dinner and went to bed. The next day was the Registration day, and we also had to return the Impala.
GRAND JUNCTION SATURDAY JUNE 18, 2005
All of us got up fairly early brushed, shaved and showered. Went down and had an excellent breakfast. Registration was scheduled to start at 11:00 AM. Went there by about 9:30 AM anyway, and found that people were just setting up their stuff. Chellappa wanted some batteries and we went to Wal-Mart and picked up some. Came back, and found that Registration was beginning. We all got our stuff. Went to Alpine Bicycle and gave them the hotel changes at Delta, Montrose, and Leadville. Bought the RTR wind breaker, and Chellappa bought a Tshirt for Lakshmi. Went back to the hotel. Gopi made some very nice sandwiches for all of us. I then went to the post office, bought some stamps, and bought an envelope on the way. Wrote Mony’s address and stamped the envelope. Requested the front desk to mail the drivers license as and when it arrived there, and left the envelope with them.
Chellappa listed the hotel name, address and telephone number of each town where we would be staying and gave a copy to every one.
Went to Wal-Mart and exchanged my duffle for a larger one. Bought locks for our bags, and some sun screens. One last time, Shankar went and exchanged his duffle at REI for a larger one. Shankar and Gopi wanted to camp that night. All four bikes were in the hotel. Took their bags, went to the campground, and they started setting up their tent. While they were doing it, Chellappa and I went to the Budget location, topped the fuel tank, and returned the Impala. Holly asked one of her assistants to drop us back at the school campground. The driver apparently knew about cars and was talking about his exploits to Chellappa.
At the campground, all four of us decided to walk to the hotel (there was no other way) and eat at the only Indian restaurant of the town – Nepal. It was a good mile and a half. We reached the restaurant, ordered our meal and it turned out to be just mediocre. Yet, we licked the plate clean. From there, it was a short walk to the hotel. Shankar and Gopi took their bikes and we all agreed to meet at the campsite at 6:30 A.M. the next day, which was the first day of the RTR.
GRAND JUNCTION LOOP SUNDAY JUNE 19, 2005
Got up fairly early, and brushed and shaved. Chellappa also woke up around the same time. Both of us went down at 6:00 AM for breakfast. Finished the breakfast and left for the starting point at 6:30 AM. Gopi and Shankar were just then getting ready. We did not want to wait for them, and we had also seen quite a few riders already on their way. We also knew that it was going to be a very hot day. Took a few pictures, and Chellappa and I started our rides. It was 7:00 AM
We knew the route, and it was easy going with the flow. After about a mile and a half the monument road began. Initially, for the next 2 ½ miles it was a manageable climb. Nothing strenuous. The park entrance was at the 4th mile. Immediately, the road took a cruel grade. I had done it a few days ago, and hence knew what to expect. I was down to one higher than the lowest gear and was grinding it out. At this point, I lost sight of Chellappa. I did stop a few times to catch my breath, especially in sections where the grade was fairly steep. At the first rest stop at the 9th mile marker, I ate some bananas and bought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So far, my average had been 6.9 mph, a shade better than my ride a few days back in that same route. I also had pedaled with one gear to spare.
The really tough part was over by then. We still climbed, but the grade slightly moderated. It was becoming hot. We had a mild wind, neither friendly nor hostile. It seemed to be blowing all over the place. I did not stop on the way, but it was slow going. Although the scenery was fabulous, I paid very little attention to it, keeping my focus only on pedaling. Reached the 2nd rest area. My average had been 7.8 mph for the 17 miles I had covered so far. Gopi and Shankar came a bit later and both were in very good spirits. We took some photos together.
By now, the serious climb was over. We had some minor ups and downs. The heat was intense. The scenery continued to be breath taking. There was now a steady crosswind. Pedaled as best as I could, and reached the Visitor Center at the 24th mile. There was no official rest stop here, and hence decided to ride on towards Fruita where RTR had the 3rd and final rest stop.
From the 24th mile, there was a steep descent for the next 4 miles. I was scared. I was riding the brakes occasionally, but mostly feathering it. Couple of switch backs were pretty steep. Once, I completely stopped and got down from the bike to control the momentum. Took a few pictures, got back on the bike, and before I knew the descent was over. At CO340, we took a left and went towards the city of Fruita. It was very hot and I was baking. At the 31st mile, we sighted the third and final rest stop of the day. A band was playing. Again ate some bananas. Gopi and Shankar caught up with me. 31 @ 9.8
Did not linger long. Got back on the bike and started pushing it. The roads had quite a few ups and downs. The heat was taking the toll, and I stopped mainly to drink some Gatorade. At one place, I saw a stand offering free water melons to riders. Though tempted, I did not stop but continued to ride on. I later learnt that Shankar stopped by to have some. Last few miles had series of ups and downs. Soon I was in familiar territory, and was approaching the finish line. Saw that the total distance was less than 44 miles. Decided to do a couple of loops around the neighborhood and pushed the mileage to 45.16 miles averaging 10.9 mph. Total elapsed time was 5:45:20 and the ride time was 4:06:10 Local time was 12:45 P.M. It was a good comfortable ride. I did not want to push too hard since the next day was going to be a very tough day. I needed to conserve my energies. At the end, I felt very good.
Waited for Shankar and Gopi. Shankar arrived and he went to fetch Gopi. Hung around for a while, picked up a tour copy with elevation profiles for $3, and then we all left for the hotel. Chellappa was already there. He biked a bit further to the park entrance and decided to turn back. We had our showers. I was about to make some sandwiches, when Shankar said that what we needed was a lot of carbohydrates and fat and that he was the person for it. He made this awesome pasta with the right amount of zing in it. It was one of the best I had eaten and was absolutely out of this world. In the mean while we decided to have some sandwiches made for the next day’s ride. I was going to take two, and Chellappa wanted one. Gopi and Shankar said they would fend for themselves in the rest stops. Gopi started making the sandwiches, and he did a very professional job. Thinly sliced tomato, etc.
Gopi had a head ache. I went to get some advil for him, and some fruits as well from the grocery store (City Market) right across from the hotel. It was hot, and even the short distance of crossing the road and going to the other side was an effort. Found a few bikers sitting outside soaking up the sun. Went to City Market, picked up advil, fruits and yogurt. On the way out, a pan handler stopped me asking for 60 cents to make a phone call to his grand ma to come and give him a ride. He added that he was just released from the prison, and that he had no money. I was taken aback by this original story and gave him a buck.
Back at the hotel, Shankar and Gopi watched TV for a while and decided to go back to the campground. They said they would find dinner in the city. There was left over pasta, but Chellappa did not want it. I thought I would make some rice and eat curd rice. So I chucked the remaining pasta, put the rice in the microwave oven. Something happened, and the plastic pot melted, with rice all blackened and a foul burnt smell coming out of the oven. It was a chore to clean it up, and I threw the pot away. In the end, I had some fruits and milk for dinner. I practically went to bed hungry that night. That was the night before the big ride day.
In the mean while, we could not find the luggage drop point for Alpine Cycle. Calls to their cell phone went to voice mail only. We were very nervous. I went down to the lobby a few times, checked with the hotel clerk as well as at the hotel next door, but had no luck. Chellappa had some ideas, but I wanted to see whether they would put the sign late in the night, which was exactly what they did. By the time it was all over, it was past mid night. So, here we were, the day before the toughest ride, with no dinner and inadequate sleep.
GRAND JUNCTION TO DELTA MONDAY JUNE 20, 2005
Got up at 4:00 AM. Brushed and shaved. Did the final packing for drop off of the bags for Alpine Cycle. Had a quick breakfast of cereal and banana. Came to the lobby and found Alpine Cycle had indeed had signs for bag drop off at curb side. Settled the bill with Hawthorne Suites. Chellappa wanted to start only around 7:30 AM after a good breakfast. Left the hotel at 6:10 AM and went to the campsite. Could not locate Gopi or Shankar. Decided to start pedaling. Started the ride at 6:30 AM against the original plan of 5:30 AM departure.
The first few miles were unimpressive scenery, looked more like small town industrial area. Had a fairly stiff head wind or unfavorable crosswind. The ups and downs were not that easy. Reached the first rest stop at the 14th mile marker and had some bananas. I had two sandwiches in my jersey pocket and was saving it for the climb. Left the area fairly quickly.
The scenery changed for the better, but the head wind persisted. It was not easy pedaling. As we approached the mesa and entered the high way, the scenery became dramatic. I looked at the massive mountains, and became very apprehensive. I had no idea whether the 20 miles of climb was a feasible one. Reached the 2nd rest area at the 26th mile. It was around 9:30 A.M. We were in a valley surrounded by tall mountains. A stream was running by the side. It was just enchanting. Hung around for a few minutes, and ate some bananas. Bought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and left immediately.
We entered the canyon, and the wind first moderated and then slowly died down. It was hot and clear. We had the brook running on our right side and the canyon wall on the left side. It was beautiful. It was not difficult for the next 10 miles, but at around the 36th mile came the first climb. It was very steep, and the mile long climb to the next rest area was one of the toughest I had so far experienced. Took some time at the 3rd rest area (38th mile marker), and got back on the bike with a grim and at the same time sinking feeling.
From the 38th mile to the 47th mile it was an unrelenting climb, which I just ground out. I stopped every ½ mile or so to catch my breath and drink some Gatorade. It took 3 hours for me to cover the 9 miles. I do not much remember the ride except for the despair I felt. It was terribly hot. I was dressed for the cold at the top and for the wind during the descent, but right then I was just baking. A fellow rider also commented on my head to foot sartorial coverage, but, I had no place to put them if I decided to take them off. All my jersey pockets were full. We did have a mild tail wind, but its help was not noticed at all. Reached the 4th rest area and ate one of my sandwiches. It was vile. No offense to Gopi. It was just the more than a week old chutney that grossed me out. But I finished the darn sandwich.
The next 3 miles took an hour and it was practically the same as the previous climb. I did not see Gopi or Shankar. Later I heard that Shankar kind of wobbled on his bike and fell down. When the para medics came, he passed out while talking to them. They gave him something to eat (since he and Gopi had eaten no breakfast in the morning), and sagged both of them to the top. Reached the 5th aid station and left shortly afterwards.
The next 7 miles to the top was supposed to be relatively easy. I did not see much easy parts. In fact, I pushed the bike twice each for about 20 yards or so, and then remembered the slogan “Bury me with my bike before I sag’. Overcame by shame, I got on the bike, and just ground it out. The last two miles were of moderate grade, but by that time it did not make any difference to my tired body, and finally heard the band and reached the summit.
Shankar and Gopi were waiting for me there. We took some pictures. There was an offer of a T shirt to the rider who had traveled the farthest for the RTR. I claimed it having come from India and Paul confirmed that none had come from farther. Shankar was happy to have the T shirt. I threw away the sandwich I was saving and wanted a smoothie. Shankar got it for me, but I could not stand any food or drink. The representative of the DFL team wanted a picture of three of us and we obliged. Then all three of us left for the downward roll towards Delta.
It was a steep descent, and as usual I was petrified. Feathered the brakes often, and also stopped a few times to get back my courage. Reached aid station 7 at Cedaredge, and just pushed on. Although, it was all down hill, I could see that I was not having any energy. The last three miles into Delta was flat and yet it was very difficult for me. I was beat and just wanted the ride to end. I rolled into Delta practically half dead. 91.32 miles @ 9.4 9:40:33 & 13:00:40 Odometer read 7464.1 Local time was 7:30 P.M.
Waited for Gopi and Shankar for a while and then left for the Best Western Hotel. Chellappa was already there. His ride was rough, even though it was only 40 miles, since there were absolutely no support or aid stations. The hills were not that easy when he was tired and thirsty. I requested him to get me some muffin or donut (for immediate energy) and a carton of milk. While he went out for them, I stretched a bit and had my shower. Amazingly, my recovery was very fast. I started feeling very good and felt no effect of the strain of having biked 91 miles. In a while Gopi and Shankar came in and they had their showers. We ordered some pizza from the local pizza hut. Gopi and Shankar decided to camp. Chellappa and I called it a day at around 10 P.M.
DELTA TO MONTROSE TUESDAY JUNE 21, 2005
Got up around 5:00 AM. Brushed and shaved. Packed up all the stuff for Alpine Bicycle and Chellappa and I went for breakfast at the restaurant attached to the hotel. Met Richard whose daughter apparently was getting married to an Indian and he and his family were planning to visit India. He wanted to meet some Tabla players while in India and I offered to help. We exchanged email addresses.
Reached the starting point and started the ride at about 8:00 AM. I was looking forward to a relatively easy day, but one mile into the ride, the first hill nearly took the starch out of me. I was with Chellappa and at this point he just waved me away saying that he would find his own pace. Started pedaling. It was a clear day and getting hotter as the day progressed. There was a mild wind, but it was kind of neutral. The road surface was very poor.
The first aid station came quickly at the 8th mile. I just ate a banana and left immediately. Some of the hills were not that easy. From the 13th mile onwards, the road was really bad. In down hill sections, I was so scared of a fall, I hardly exceeded 10 mph. It was just bone jarring. I was also afraid of getting a flat. I rode very conservatively and very slowly.
Some where around the 20th mile, a horse had given birth to a foal, and there were a bunch of cyclists taking pictures. I also stopped, took some pictures and then left. The road continued to be bad, and the hills though short, nasty. There was a particularly long section with a very steep climb. I had to stop for a while to catch my breath. The ride was not as easy as it appeared in the route map.
Around the 25th mile, the road surface improved, but marginally. It looked like that I could go a bit faster. Then we sighted the 2nd aid station. I had some oranges. Decided to try the veggie burger, and found it to be unspeakably foul. Just threw it away. Bought some banana nut and pumpkin breads. They were very good. Just then Chellappa rolled in. Some where in this rest stop, I lost my little notebook and pen in which I had notes of my previous rides.
Started the final ride towards Montrose. Pushed it a bit. Although it was a mild descent, we had a few small hills, enough to make you to sweat it out. Pushed it hard during the last few miles and finally reached the finish line at Montrose at 2:15 P.M. local time. 34.31 @ 10.8 3:09:03 & 4:15:23 Odometer: 7498.9
Waited for Chellappa. He came in shortly. Took a picture of him at the finish line. Went looking for Shankar and Gopi but in vain. Started biking towards our motel, the Blue Sky Inn. Chellappa had the correct coordinates, and after biking for about a mile and half reached the motel. We had two rooms, each with a queen size bed. Quickly showered, and pretty soon Gopi and Shankar came in.
Nigel, the Brit who owned the motel wanted 5 bucks for the use of the washing machine. Chellappa and I went to the nearest store and bought some detergent. Shankar started the laundry. We decided to buy two small duffle bags, put some unneeded stuff in them and let the RTR carry it for us. We any way had two luggage tags between the two of us. We went back to the same store and bought the duffle bags.
Came back. Shankar had finished the laundry and we repacked every thing. Decided to go to the town for dinner. I wanted all of us to have a nice dinner in a nice restaurant after all those days of fast food, PBJ sandwiches and hotel cooking, but it proved to be big time fiasco. Walked a mile to the center of the town, went to the first Italian restaurant, and were told of a 90 minute wait. The waitress suggested another restaurant, which according to her was just 4 blocks away. In reality it was a mile and a half away. Went there, and they also had a 90 minute waiting time. Walked to the nearest pub and had an excellent salad and pizza. In fact, the salad was so good I was almost tempted to order another plate of the same. Finished the dinner and then came the walk back to the motel.
Gopi and I started walking towards the hotel. He wanted me to buy and read one more time the King James version of the bible. I had read it long ago, but he said that I probably would now enjoy it more as pure literature. The bookstores were closed by then. I mentally made a note to get it at the first opportunity. We reached the motel at around 10:00 P.M. and called it a day.
MONTROSE TO GUNNISON WEDNESDAY JUNE 22, 2005
Shankar and Gopi stayed with us at the Blue Sky motel. Got up in the morning, brushed and shaved. Packed the bags and dropped them for the Alpine Cycle at 7:15 AM for pick up. All of us cycled to the RTR Stop. Gopi and Shankar went to drop their bags in the RTR truck. Chellappa and I had community breakfast at the school. Pancakes and orange juice. I had three glasses of the juice, although they said only one glass per person. My excuse, I did not eat their sausage or drink their coffee. Anyway, nobody minded. The breakfast cost us $12. The RTR advisory was to leave as late as possible because of the prevailing wind patterns, Their suggested time was 9:00 AM or later. We left at 8:05 AM. It turned out to be a good decision since, later at the blue mesa, we had a strong tail wind. The afternoon in the mesa usually has strong favorable winds, and this year was no exception.
As we left Montrose, we had a fierce head wind. And it was a moderate climb to boot. Most of the time, my speed was just about 5 miles per hour. It was very hard work for me. The day was beautiful with clear blue sky but the wind was the killer. The first rest stop was at 10.19 miles. Ate some bananas and packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Statistics: 00:00:00 – 01:24:20 10.19 miles @ 7.3 Computer time: 01:22:41
Left the rest stop at 1:44:30. From here the climb to Cero summit was just 4 miles. The wind at this point died down, but the climb was there. It was not too bad. The summit was exactly at the 14th mile. My average speed up to the Cero summit was 6 mph. From the summit, I was hoping to pick up some speed, but because of construction we had very rough road surface. I could hardly maintain 10 mph speed in spite of the descent. I was afraid of getting a flat and the poor condition of the road also increased the risk of a fall. It continued to be a beautiful day, with clear blue sky, but it was becoming hot. Reached the second rest stop at the 22 mile marker. Statistics: 1:44:30 – 3:30:00 22.09 @ 7.4
This rest stop was one of the most beautiful rest stops I had seen. Lots of trees. A small brook was running along side. I was taking some pictures when Gopi showed up. Bought two apple pies a la mode for me and Gopi and sat down to eat. Because of all the muck we had picked up during our descent in the construction area, Gopi and I started cleaning our bikes. Shortly, Shankar came in and I got him a strawberry rhubarb pie. We waited for Shankar to finish cleaning his bike, hung around for a while, took some pictures and all three of us left at 4:20:20. I had been there for about 50 minutes.
The second climb was tough. Shankar just zoomed away while Gopi stayed with me throughout the climb. We had a mild tail wind and I took only 3 stops or so, each lasting not more than 30 seconds before climbing back on the bike. Shankar continued to pull ahead. Reached the blue mesa summit, and did not stop but continued to pedal. The third climb was short but was not easy. Once we went over that, I got a strong tail wind. Decided to make the best of it and really pushed it. The scenery was enchanting. Reached the third aid station and saw that Gopi was waiting for some food. I wanted my bike to be checked, but found that there was a long queue. I asked Gopi to get me some food but changed my mind twice. Decided to leave as the wind became stronger, but it was tail wind most of the time. Pushed it hard. Ate the PBJ sandwich on the way, and got on the bike quickly. Saw the fourth rest stop, stopped briefly to find absolutely no food, and pushed on. Even though I had done this route in 2003, the dramatic scenery continued to enthrall me. The tail wind persisted, and I took advantage of it. I arrived at the destination at 4:57 PM local time. Felt very good at the end.
Statistics: elapsed time: 8:50:58 computer time: 6:40:46 64.59 @ 9.5 odometer: 7566.1
Waited for Shankar and Gopi. Saw them after about 45 minutes. Both in good shape. Chellappa had sagged at the first rest stop and went up to the third. From there he had pedaled to the finish. He had gone to the hotel and took the rooms. Saw him coming from the shuttle, and he gave me directions to the hotel.
All three of us decided to bike to the motel. Shankar and Gopi did not want to ride with their over night bags and requested Chellappa to bring the bags in the shuttle. They went to put their large duffle in the early RTR truck. I started biking and after a mile came to the motel. It was an old fashioned house converted into a really nice non-air conditioned motel room. Nice large kitchen. Rags for cleaning bikes. Very nice shower. Shankar and Gopi came shortly afterwards.
Chellappa and Shankar went for Mexican dinner. After the fiasco at Montrose, I left it to Chellappa to decide on our eating places. Gopi and I had a foot long subway sandwich followed by a taco salad at the Mexican restaurant right across the hotel. Bought some milk at the gas station and drank it. Went to the hotel room and crashed. It was about 10:00 P.M.
GUNNISON TO SALIDA THURSDAY JUNE 23, 2005
Got up at 5:00 AM, brushed and shaved. Packed all the stuff and dropped our bags for the Alpine Cycle guys by 7:15 AM. All four of us walked across to the breakfast place (recommended by the front desk), and I had oat meal, pancakes, toast and orange juice. Good hearty breakfast. Everybody filled up real well. Went back to the hotel and found that the Alpine guys were not there after all. Shankar wanted some wind breaker and foundation stuff, which I pulled from the bags and gave to him. Then we all biked to the starting point to drop the two bags into the RTR stop and found that we were the last. There was no body left in the camp ground, and the biker’s area was also empty. We were truly the last people to depart.
Important lesson: Always plan on leaving by 6:00 AM. That is every day. That way, we would have people with us throughout, and the rest stops would also have food.
I was tired and sore. My bums were hurting, and there was general lethargy. Generally felt miserable. Just got on the bike and left at 8:33 AM. It was drizzling when we started, but within 15 minutes, became very sunny, clear and bright. It turned out to be another beautiful day. So far the ride had excellent weather. The first rest stop was at 17.83 miles and my average speed was 11.7 mph. Statistics: 00:00:00 – 1:32:42 Computer time: 1:30:58
Left at 1:46:00. Just had a 14 minute break. There was a mild wind. It was all over the place. Some time, it was head wind, some time cross wind and other time tail wind. Beautiful scenery. The pain went away, and after a while started feeling very strong. There was an urge to eat something. Came to the second rest stop. Statistics: 1:46:00 – 3:01:28 33.09 @ 11.9 Computer time: 2:45:32 Ate oranges, and bought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the ride. There was a small restaurant and they had nothing vegetarian. There was no other food vendor. I saw Gopi wheeling in. Apparently, it had rained earlier. There were puddles of water. I had my bike checked by the repair van. He just cleaned and lubed it. I left at 3:25:00 with Gopi, and we decided to bike together for the mountain pass.
Gopi rode with me, and the next climb was for 10 miles and it was tough. Half way through, we saw the RTR guys with Gatorade and bananas. Nice gesture. Sag wagon was there too. Shankar also pulled up. Amazing guy. He had not stopped pedaling, and was doing better than 6 mph even in the toughest climbs. Here I was struggling at 4 mph and Gopi was even slower. Both of us were near bonking. I ate a banana, and asked the RTR guy to take a picture of the three of us. Shankar immediately got on the bike and pedaled away. Gopi and I got on our bikes and began our climb. The scenery was unbelievable. We were very hungry. Shared the PBJ sandwich with Gopi, and started pedaling again. I started to ride ahead of Gopi who was taking longer breaks on shorter distances. Stopped every ½ mile or so and at last reached the Monarch Pass. It was a tough climb even with a mild tail wind helping us. Felt very strong after the climb. There was not a cloud, and it was a beautiful day. Gorgeous scenery. Shankar was there already, and we waited for Gopi. Took some pictures. Not much food at the rest station. Filled the water bottles. Statistics: 3:25:00 – 6:07:42 Computer time: 5:00:40 43.09 @ 8.6
Left at 6:33:00. The descent was very fast and very scary. After breakfast I had eaten only some bananas, oranges and half of a PBJ sandwich. I was getting a bit disoriented due to hunger. I stopped a few times during the descent to recover my balance and fight the giddiness. Met a lady rider by name Kay, who had been to India a few times and was disappointed by the creeping materialism. She was also scared of the descent. Got back on the bike and pedaled and reached the destination half dead with hunger. Gopi met me at the finish line and got me a veggie burrito, and it hit the right spot. Felt good, but was sore all over and tired. Talked to Lisa of RTR about the bus at 12:00 Noon to DIA from Breckenridge. She promised to help. Statistics: 6:33:00 – 7:48:38 66.12 @ 10.7 Computer time: 6:07:01. Odometer: 7634.9 Local time was 4:22 P.M.
Got directions to the Back Road Motel. About a mile away; pedaled there. Looked like a dump, but was beautiful inside. (Mexican owned). Both rooms were suites, newly decorated, with very nice bedroom, kitchen, living room and bath room. Kitchen had utensils. Nice large refrigerator. Gopi and Shankar soon joined. Had our showers. Ordered Pizza and Salad, but salad had bacon bits. Shankar (or was it Gopi ?) got me some milk from the local restaurant. Went to bed while Shankar stayed up watching some basket ball game in the TV.
SALIDA TO LEADVILLE FRIDAY JUNE 24, 2005
We had packed most of our stuff the previous evening, and so when I got up at 4:00 A.M. it was a quick thing to get cleaned and dressed for the ride. Gopi was with me and Shankar was with Chellappa in his room. Woke both of them up at around 5:30 A.M. and they also got ready fairly quickly. Dropped the bags for Alpine Cycle, and we left the hotel at 6:30 A.M. to get some breakfast, drop the bags in the RTR truck, and begin the day’s ride.
Breakfast in the town was quickly ruled out. Salida was a one horse town, and no place was open at that time. Near the Main street, we found a café that was open, but they had some muffins and coffee only. Decided to try the community breakfast at the RTR stop and just then saw a lady with some coffee and muffins. She had come from the café and after taking one look at me, asked me whether I was the guy from India who fainted in the Grand Mesa. I was flattered that she mistook me for a much younger person (Shankar) and amazed that the news had spread so much.
Rode to the RTR stop and found an enormous queue for breakfast. Decided to ride to the Main street café and try their muffin. All four of us rode down there and found this chocolate covered muffin and sickly sweet hot chocolate as the only available sustenance. The saving grace was bottled orange juice of unknown vintage. I ate about a third of the muffin and drank a couple of sips of the syrupy hot chocolate and dumped the rest. Shared the orange juice with Shankar. That summed up the miserable breakfast. The owner lady told us that she took over the place from a dentist and had it converted into a café. Chellappa commented that it would have been more appropriate if the dentist took over from her.
We left the café at 7:05 A.M. Again, it was a beautiful day. Clear blue sky with a mild head wind. The route was supposed to be a gentle 1% climb but that was the average. It had enough sharp ups and downs to make it interesting. Some portions were hard, and I found the ride taxing. I saw Gopi off and on and he was riding strongly. Interestingly, I did keep up with him and after some time over took him. Reached the first rest stop at the 9.73 mile marker. Statistics: 9.73 @ 11.2 Elapsed time 00:53:42 and computer time: 00:51:24.
Left the place at 1:08:20 after eating some bananas, and filling the bottle with water. The rest area was a road side one and unremarkable. Started riding and pushed hard. The head wind persisted, but it was mild, enough to notice it and having an impact on the speed. There were a couple of more sharp climbs, but I felt strong. The day continued to be a beautiful day, the sky blue and cloudless. Entered the city of Buena Vista and saw breakfast places all over. I started feeling the pangs of hunger. I was very tempted to stop and have a proper breakfast but decided against it. The second rest area was at the 25th mile marker. Statistics: 1:08:20 to 2:21:58 25.01 @ 11.9 Computer time: 2:05:11
We had to swing away from the main road and take a side road to reach this rest area. This was a beautiful site, with tall trees and park like ambiance. I propped my bike against a tree and went in search of some food. There was a long queue for PBJ sandwich and I joined the line. While at the line, I saw Gopi coming in. He wanted a sandwich too. I bought two sandwiches and a muffin for the road. Both of us sat down and started eating. At that time, I thought I saw Shankar and told Gopi that I would go and fetch him. I searched for him but could not find him. In the mean while, apparently Gopi had left too. After that, I saw both of them only at the hotel at Leadville. I got on the bike and left the place at 2:53:25
The road continued its gentle climb, but it was noticeable. I had to pedal hard and I could also feel the wind and the altitude. At around the 33rd mile, the sky became clouded, and it was a welcome relief from the sun at the high altitude. The paved road by then became packed gravel road, and it really slowed me. The loose gravel was flying around and the ride itself was bone jarring. The cars that were passing us let loose small stones, and it was unnerving. Reached the next rest area at the 34.64 mile marker. Statistics: 2:53:25 – 3:49:00 34.64 @ 11.4 Computer time: 2:59:52
Did not find much to eat. Had a banana. Hung around for a while and decided to leave at 4:02:00 I was feeling strong in spite of the poor breakfast. May be the PBJ sandwich was helping. The gravel road continued and the moderate climb also continued. It was gorgeous scenery all around us. The head wind continued and the ride continued to tax. The gravel road ended at around the 43rd mile. The next rest area came at 44.88th mile. Statistics: 4:02:00 – 5:08:14 44.88 @ 10.8 Computer time: 3:59:37
Ate the muffin that I was saving and had a few oranges. Washed all of that down with water. Walked around a bit. Kids from the neighborhood were there and couple of them were looking for small ant colonies and stomping on them. By now we were above the tree line, and the vastness of the area was striking. Got back on the bike at 5:26:20 for the final push towards Leadville.
The ride was becoming difficult primarily because of the altitude. The relentless head wind continued. The climb was also taking the toll. Some times the wind became a cross wind but it was still unfavorable. At around the 50th mile it started raining. Became a drizzle after a while. Twice, I had to get off the bike, put on the rain gear and twice, I had to remove it when the rain stopped. The wind also picked up. I saw signs for various restaurants at Leadville and it was of no help in my famished condition. I saw one for Subway sandwiches and had thoughts of a Veggie Delite. At around the 51st mile, we crossed the Arkansas river and I started feeling hopeful. The ride was becoming very hard.
From the 53rd mile, the grade picked up. Four miles before the finish line, I had to get off the bike and take a breather. People in the houses on either side of the road gave us a curious look. I nonchalantly pushed on, though laboring under the burdens of grade, wind, and altitude. About two miles to the finish line, we veered off from the main road and made a left on to a side road. I could see the main road about 50 feet below on the right side. The road was climbing and my breathing became labored.
The last mile and a half was tough. Narrow road with steady climbs. The road condition was also not so great. The last half mile into the finish line was a good climb, tough and could be seen as a joke by a sick mind. Finished the day’s ride at 7:00:57. I was very tired, and had absolutely no energy. I started thinking and salivating about Subway sandwiches. Statistics: 5:26:20 – 7:00:57 59.08 @ 10.7 Computer time: 5:29:17 Odometer: 7697.0 Local time was 2:02 P.M.
Waited for Shankar and Gopi and found no sign of them. Looked for Lisa to find out about the availability of seats in the 12:00 noon bus from Breckenridge to DIA on Saturday. She was not there, but took her cell number to call her later. Well, Gopi’s cell did not have signal and the hotel had locked the long distance facility. Read the Denver Post, and after a while decided to go to the ‘Silver King Inn’. The local help center assured me that it was just a mile away, but it turned out that it was more like 2 ½ miles.
Started biking towards the hotel and suddenly had a flat in the rear wheel. It was cold and windy and I was too tired to fix it then and there. Started rolling the bike. After a mile, after crossing the ‘downtown’ and after getting directions from local people, I saw the Subway on the way to the hotel. Went inside and had a foot long veggie delite with double cheese. Declined both the beverage and the chips and happily ate the whole stuff (including the crumbs). The hotel was another mile away.
Reached the hotel and while picking up the keys, Chellappa walked in. He had apparently biked up to the 48th mile or so and sagged only the last 10 or 11 miles. The room was one floor above ground, and it was well appointed. It had two queen size beds. Came down and picked up the bags left by Alpine Cycle and it was not easy hauling.
I had pain in my knees and bums. I did a little bit of stretching, and then I found that I was recovering really fast. By about 8:00 P.M. I was perfectly ok and felt very energetic, though tired. The pain was gone.
I had my shower first, and sat down and fixed the flat. Cleaned and lubed the bike. In the process, I soiled the carpet in the room with bike grease. Just around that time Shankar and Gopi showed up. They took their showers. We had to do our laundry. There were a Safeway and a Pizza Hut right across the hotel. Shankar went and got some laundry detergent and ½ gallon of 2% milk. Chellappa ordered Pizzas, salad, and pop from the Pizza Hut and asked them to hold the bacon bits.
Gopi suggested that I use the hotel shampoo (rather than the soap) to remove the carpet stain and it worked wonders. In the mean while, it started raining, a cold steady rain. Shankar and Gopi did the laundry, and we started doing the packing for the final day with the clear plastic bags the Hawthorne Suites maid so obligingly supplied us.
The food arrived. The salad was good although a bit dry. Pizza was standard fare. With the kind of appetite we had, there were no complaints.
The plan was for Gopi and Shankar to go to the RTR stop by shuttle to drop their bags, but the last shuttle was gone. We resolved to get up very early in the morning - 4:00 A.M., eat some breakfast, get ready for the first shuttle at around 5:00 A.M., and start the ride at the earliest. Gopi and Shankar had to drop their bags in the RTR truck and pick up their bikes from there.
With the plans made we all crashed at around 10:30 P.M. It was going to be a short night for me again, since I knew that I would be the first one to get up and get ready.
LEADVILLE TO BRECKENRIDGE SATURDAY JUNE 25, 2005
Our plan was for all of us to leave at 5:30 A.M. since the hotel promised breakfast at 5:00 A.M. I got up at 3:45 A.M. and brushed and shaved. Did the final packing of clothes as most was done the previous night itself. I drank the balance of the milk from the carton and then woke up Chellappa, Shankar and Gopi. I went down and dropped the two large bags for pick up by Alpine Cycle. All of us then trooped down to the restaurant for breakfast. I could not believe what was laid out. It was just miserable. There were some sugary rolls, over ripe bananas, cans of orange juice and some granola bars. Pure sugar bombs. We ate a bit of the roll, threw most of it out. I hunted and found a single good banana, and drank that despicable orange juice. I took an oatmeal bar for emergency sustenance while on the road. Shankar and Gopi left in the shuttle to go and load the bags in the RTR truck and get their bikes from the lot. Both would ride down from the RTR stop to the hotel where I would wait for them to join me. My estimate was that I probably was missing only about 2 miles, but I was wrong. Not only was it more than 5 miles, apparently it was also a very scenic route. Chellappa decided to leave immediately. It was 5:30 A.M. and bitterly cold.
While waiting for Shankar and Gopi, I saw the RTR Sag guy in the parking lot and asked for the use of his bike pump. I needed the air since I used only the frame pump to inflate the tube after I patched it the previous night. The guy refused saying that he was running late.
It was 6:00 A.M. and dawn was breaking. No sign of Gopi and Shankar. Two state troopers came and were tinkering with their motor bikes. One of them looked at me and asked me about Shankar. He said he was there when Shankar fell down and told me that he was keeping an eye for him ever since. Apparently they were riding the entire tour along with the bicyclists.
Shankar and Gopi showed up at 6:30 A.M. They had covered 5.1 miles from the start to the hotel, which I did not cover. In retrospect, I should have gone with them in the shuttle to the starting point, and ridden with them all the way. I did not know that the shuttle would have transported my bike too. Anyway, resolved to make the 5.1 miles up during the ride.
We left immediately. It was cold. Although there was light, it was not bright and the sun was not visible due to the mountains. The night rain had stopped and it was a clear day. The going was slow. The road had a descent and then started to climb with some ups and downs. Very manageable grade. Early in the ride, I lost sight of Shankar and Gopi. I slowly wended my way to the first rest stop after biking 3.5 miles.
There was a bike repair van and the guy was twanging his guitar. He could not care less about anybody’s need. Because of the cold, we could not effect a tight connection between the pump and the tube. Somehow I managed to pump air in both my tires. Gopi was there by then, and he helped me.
Left the place immediately and started pedaling. It was still cold, but the effort in biking provided the warmth. The sun was out by then, but had only marginal effect. Just like the previous days, it was beautiful scenery. I stopped to take some pictures. We were gaining altitude, but it was not a difficult climb at all and the grade was moderate. The lack of oxygen at that height made the effort more strenuous. Two miles before the Fremont Pass, the grade became more pronounced. I remembered all the curves and ascents from my 2003 ride. I had to stop a few times to catch my breath. The scenery was beautiful and the stops afforded me a chance to savor them. It was not a bad grind (after the Grand Mesa nothing was going to be a bad grind). I heard the music and before I knew I was in the summit. The summit was supposed to be on the 17th mile of the day’s ride.
Statistics: 00:00:00 – 1:48:20 11.56 miles @ 7.7 Computer Time: 1:29:23 Gopi and Shankar were there already. Chellappa was there having done the climb on his own but I did not see him. Three of us took pictures and I wanted Chellappa also in the picture.
I left at 2:00:00. The route to Copper Mountain was very familiar having done that in 2003. I relived the moments of terror when the bike went careening down hill with me sitting petrified and fearing total loss of control. Again the scenery was gorgeous, and I remembered practically every bit of the route. Riding on that road with the tall mountains all around was an unforgettable experience. It was truly an outstanding ride, but the best was yet to come. At Copper Mountain, near the free way, we took a turn to the right which put us on a bike path. The bike path was parallel to the free way separated by a fast moving brook. It was tree covered, and we were riding with some giant mountains in front of us. The road surface was flawless. It was the most beautiful ride I had ever done. There were some minor ups and downs, but I was putting some serious speed. It was so perfect and so stunning, I decided to double back once to make up for the 5.1 miles I did not do at the beginning of the ride. I did about 3.5 miles. There were some early strollers with their dogs, but other than them we had the bike path to ourselves. At the end of the bike path, near the town of Frisco, we reached the next aid station which was supposed to be in the 35th mile.
Statistics: 2:00:00 – 3:12:56 32.53 miles @ 12.2 It was a small aid station. Not many people were there since the finish line was just about 10 miles away. Except for some really raw bananas, there was no food. Bike repair guys were having an easy time as there was no demand for their services. I met Gopi and Shankar and told them that I would meet them at the finish line. I left for the final push at 3:25:00
The most scenic part of the ride was over. We entered the city roads. There were some sharp climbs and descents. We were also weaving in and out of busy traffic. Then came the steady climb. It was laborious and slow going. There was a bike path that was parallel to the main road we were taking and I saw some cyclists using that. It appeared to be relatively easy and of course had no traffic. But, I stuck to the main road. About six mile to the finish line, I saw Chellappa and I could see that he was tired. Told him that I would wait for him at the finish line and pushed on. It was a clear and beautiful day. And it was also hot. I started praying that I should not be laid low now by either an accident or by a flat tire.
I was approaching the city of Breckenridge. The route took us across the river and towards the city center. I remembered the path having come there a week ago to pick up Gopi. The climb continued and we wended through the city traffic. At last, I heard the music and saw the finish line. Sprinted across and crossed the finish line to the cheers of the on lookers.
Statistics: 3:25:00 – 4:16:07 42.33 miles @ 11.9 Computer time: 3:30:34 Odo: 7741.1 Local Time: 10:45 A.M.
Chellappa came shortly afterwards. I could not take a picture of him crossing the finish line as I was slow with my camera. And finally, Gopi and Shankar arrived. Chellappa wanted me to leave immediately, but I wanted a picture of all four of us with the ‘Finish’ in the background. We took our pictures, but forgot to fill up the questionnaire or pick up our certificates. I was sore all over especially in the bums, and very tired. I could not bear the thought of getting back on the bike and riding towards the parking lot. I started rolling the bike, but Gopi asked me to get on the bike which I some how did and reached the parking lot. It was easy finding the Saab, and I started packing my bike.
Shankar went and got our bags from the RTR truck as well as from the Alpine Cycle drop off area. In the mean while, Chellappa asked me to hustle as otherwise I might miss the 12:00 noon bus to DIA. Since I had no information about the availability of seats, Chellappa went to find out. Apparently, they had only about 7 passengers and the ticket was $35. Chellappa bought the ticket. I packed the bike with biking clothes in plastic bags all around it. I put in the biking shoes, tires, tubes and tools also. It took the total weight to 45 lbs. Big mistake since the cardboard box could barely handle the weight. Although, we had bubble wraps etc, we did not use any of that since we were tired and were afraid of losing time. I asked Shankar to bring my suitcase and the packed bike to the bus and we started walking towards the bus.
We still had about 20 minutes for the departure. Had some anxious moments as we could not find Shankar. He showed up shortly afterwards. We loaded the suit case and the bike in the bus. Suddenly, I felt very hungry and had a raging thirst. I had just dumped all the water from the bottle while packing and realized that I had not had a sip in the last 2 hours. I asked a lady who had a water bottle with her for some water, but she shrank and shied away. The oat meal bar came to the rescue. Got in the bus and we started rolling at 12:00 noon. On the way, I saw bikers streaming towards the finish line. I suddenly remembered that we all had forgotten to take the certificates. Called Gopi on the cell phone and asked him to pick up the certificates for all of us. Reached Denver International Airport in 2 hours, exactly at 2:00 P.M.
DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT & ST. LOUIS
SATURDAY JUNE 25, 2005
The bus dropped me close to the ticketing counter for United. I had an e ticket in United for my trip from Denver to Raleigh via Chicago. I managed to get my bike box, the large suitcase and the duffle inside the airport without the aid of a cart. I had some anxious moments when I was searching for the print out of my e ticket, but finally found it among some other papers. United told me to check in at a counter that was far away since I had an over sized bag . I needed a cart to move my stuff.
I did a stupid thing. And this was the second time I had done this, (2004 was the first time), and that too in the same airport and in the same machine. Both times I was also tired, hungry and incredibly thirsty. Well, this was what happened. I went to get a cart, and instead of putting the $3 in dollar bills (which I did not have), I mistakenly put my credit card in the slot meant for currency. The machine took it, would not give me a cart and neither would it spit out my credit card. I tried every thing I could think of, but the machine wouldn’t budge.
I called one of the skycap for help, and he did what his kindred soul did last year. He pried a bit of the credit card out, and then pulled it out with his teeth. He offered to take my bags to the United counter, which I gratefully accepted.
The ticketing agent at United was very helpful. He said that the flight to Chicago was delayed and that I would certainly miss my connection at Chicago. He offered to book me in a Frontier flight to St. Louis with a connection by American to Raleigh, which would put me at Raleigh an hour earlier. It was too good to be true. And it proved to be so.
I had plans for lunch, and instead I rushed to Frontier since the flight would be taking off in the next one hour. After waiting for a long time in the queue, the ticketing agent of Frontier charged me $50 to transport the bike (none of my arguments had any impact on her), gave me luggage receipts and boarding pass for St. Louise saying that they had no inter line arrangements with American either for baggage transfer or for through boarding. She very sweetly told me that I had to claim my luggage at St. Louis, rebook them through American, get a fresh boarding pass, go through security and board my American flight. She assured me that one hour (that was all I had in St. Louise) was plenty for all of that. I just gaped at her, and she dismissed me with a call to the next lamb in the queue for the slaughter.
There was less than 25 minutes for my flight, and my luggage had already been swallowed up by the system. I went through the security, and boarded the plane. It was the last aisle seat in the last row, a section of the plane I had never seen during my employment days in the consulting field.
The plane took off, and the beverage cart came. I asked for a small bottle of water as I was going mad with thirst. The hostess looked at me as if I asked her to do some unspeakable thing. She curtly told me that she could give me a glass, and later may be another. I mentally cursed the service in the domestic sector and longed for the day when Jet Airways could give all these airlines a run for their money. I looked properly grateful and took the glass of water. I swallowed that in one big gulp and before she could run away, asked for another glass. She relented.
The Frontier flight was delayed by 45 minutes. At St. Louis, it took a proper one hour to get my bike. By that time, not only had the American flight departed, the whole airport had a deserted look. The lone American counter that was open, rebooked me for the next day’s morning flight, and left me to fend for myself. I could see that my cheap ticket did not exactly draw out their enthusiasm or respect.
I went down to the baggage claim area again, and it was interesting experience to navigate with the bike box through the narrow elevators. I called about 10 hotels/motels before I could get a room in one – the Wingate Hotel. The shuttle driver was of Iranian heritage and the bell hop was African American. During the drive to the hotel, I was talking to them about Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the whole civil rights struggle in the fifties and the sixties. I talked about the Pulitzer prize winning book “Pillar of Fire”. The bell hop was very moved, and at the hotel not only did he patch up my battered bike box before delivering it to the room, he also offered to drive me to a restaurant for dinner. As I was very tired I declined his offer and instead walked to the nearest grocery store/burger king and dined on Krispy Cream donuts, French fries, pre packed salad (to still my conscience), and chocolate milk.
ST. LOUIS & RALEIGH SUNDAY JUNE 26, 2005
I was up at 4:30 A.M. and got ready. The cab I had booked the previous night was waiting. I struggled down with my luggage, and went to the airport. American Airlines wanted to charge me $80 for the bike box for their leg of the journey. I gave my side of the story but the ticketing agent was initially unmoved, and then suddenly she said that she would classify my bike as a new one in its original box which apparently was exempt from the bike surcharge, and waved me away. I profusely thanked her and boarded the flight. At the Raleigh-Durham airport I was very hungry. Couldn’t even wait to go home for breakfast. Bought a muffin and a bottle of orange juice and finished them right in the airport. Radhika came and picked me up at the baggage claim area.
I felt much better about this year’s ride than the previous two. For one thing, I did not have to resort to aspirin or advil for relief of body pain. More gratifying, this time I did not experience any lower back pain at all. Period. The rides were hard, no questions about it, but the thought of quitting never entered my mind. The ride to the Grand Mesa was by far the toughest, but even on that day I was focused only on getting to the summit, and riding safe in the descent. The Montrose to Gunnison ride on the fourth day and the Salida to Leadville ride on the sixth day were also very rigorous. The amazing thing was the fast recovery after each day’s ride. I might have been sore all over after the day’s ride, but was as good as new within a couple of hours. One might be tempted to assume that the training had indeed paid off, but it was more due to the saddle time of the last three years than just this year’s training.
The real hero of the 2005 RTR was Shankar. His training prior to the ride was spotty. His bike had only platform pedals and not cleats, and he had just sneakers to ride with. Yet, he rode strong and was easily the fastest among the four of us. Even after fainting in the Grand Mesa climb, he continued the ride to the finish.
Finally, for what ever it is worth, the total cost of this adventure came to more than US $15,000. The amount was practically same for 2003 and 2004.
I am already looking forward to the next year’s ride. I do hope that both Nithya and Karthik will join me. I am sure that Chellappa, Shankar and Gopi will also sign in. It will be the icing on the cake if Ramesh acts as the official photographer, and Sumathy the cheer leader.