Friday, April 9, 2010
Colorado Springs brought a lot of breathtaking scenery, some great conversations, a lot of good cycling (albeit with more headwinds and hills than I've ever tackled in one day), and another fantastic day on the road. I started my day with an americano and a copy of USA Today at the fanciest hotel in town (they had an appealing little coffeeshop in the lobby, and I felt like putting on the ritz this particular morning), then proceeded to come back to reality and went to the visitor's bureau to wash up in the bathroom sink. After a pleasant conversation with Paul, the clerk at the visitor's center (who, at 64, is still an avid hiker and was beaming with pride while letting me know that his plans for the weekend were to push 7 miles up the Pike's Peak trailhead and 7 miles back), I set out with a map and my bike to do some exploring.
65 miles and 6 or so hours later I had ridden through downtown Colorado Springs, the scenic old capitol city of Old Colorado, the unbelievable Garden of the Gods (my second time!), the quaint Flying W Ranch, the adventurous Greenway Bike Trail (dirt path and all), and the Air Force Academy. I even found the time to stop at 4 area bike shops and oogle their fancy new bikes (I even got to take a 2009 Felt F4 SL out for a spin, which was a blast).
Downtown Colorado Springs is very much a city proper, and has a tremendous amount of cultural variance. There are cyclists aplenty (as expected), but there is also a large contingent of monkeysuit-clad 9-to-5ers and hardhat-toting laborworkers. Street vendors are not uncommon (a la NYC), and there are plenty of chain stores and restaurants to go around. Maybe I wasn't quite ready for this after a winter in Crested Butte...
Old Colorado is place that my mother would love to look at from the car window, but not quite one she'd be chomping at the bit to get out and explore by foot. Despite all of the quaint antique shops, etc., it seems to me that they town sort of deliberately let's sanitation slide a bit here in a vain effort at "authenticity". Just my observation, though. I enjoyed my time there, and almost bought my mother a flower put that was on sale at 65% off before I realized that I have no room for a 4 foot tall flowerpot in my car and moreover that she couldn't possibly get that thing to the Far East. C'est la vie.
The Garden of the Gods: go. Stop whatever you're doing and go. It's worth it. Trust me.
After about 25 miles more of fighting up the infamous Colorado Springs hill climbs (it's evident why so many athletes live and train here), I arrived at the Greenway Bike Trail. I was excited to get on a bike trail, as I am primarily a road rider out of necessity. Much to my dismay, about 1/8 of a mile in the path went to dirt. Unswayed, I charged forward with my sense of adventure being too strong to shelve away. It was an interesting ride, and some loose sand almost claimed victory over me on more than one occasion, but I made it. I had reached the Air Force Academy, and the last stop on my self-planned day tour.
The first obstacle in my path was a stopped train. I waited about 30 seconds before a gentleman in a pickup at the front of the wait said they had been there staring at a stopped railcar for some 40 minutes. As appealing as that sounded, I thought I'd utilize my mobility and solve the problem actively. Sitting in the cab of a pickup chainsmoking Newports didn't seem quite as appealing to me as it did to him, I suppose. I followed the rail line about 1/4 up the road until I reached an endpass - a small tributary of the stream running through the Academy. My thoughts centered around one truism: train + stream = bridge and underpass. I unclipped and carried my bike on my shoulder through some brush past a "Home of the West Nile Virus" sign and carefully crossed the stream using my long-ago honed hopscotch abilities, triumphantly reaching the other side without a scratch. Victory was mine. Only 3 miles of clean, paved road separated me from my day's goal: Falcon Stadium (over 30 miles from my starting point for the day) and the AFA Airfield.
The stadium was a treat to see in person; the backdrop of the Pikes Peak range and the clear Colorado sky was the icing on the cake. After a gratuitous photo op and some self-high-fiving I made my way to the airfield and spent a few minutes watching planes take off and land. Great fun.
A painful ride "home" (dead into the wind for 25+ miles) left me pretty exhausted, so I called it an early night last night. Early to bed, early to rise - and my 7 AM start today will serve me well.
I just had the most pleasant of conversations with an elderly couple traveling from Idaho to Cozumel, Mexico to celebrate their anniversary. How cool is that? The couple and I were forced to sit together at breakfast (the hotel lobby isn't built to accommodate the sort of numbers they had today - perhaps they weren't planning to host vagabonds like me who stumble in from their parking lot chateaux at 7 in the morning), and ended up talking about every little thing for some 45 minutes. The gentleman and I talked football (he's a Boise State University and Seattle Seahawks (!) fan), and his lovely wife and I talked about the gorgeous scenery to be found here in Colorado. I recommended Crested Butte, and if she has her way they'll be seeing that town sooner than later. The gentlemen seems to be a disciple of the golden rule - happy wife, happy life (thanks Dad).
On to Denver, more cycling, and some bike shopping. Sunshine and blue skies.
PS I just used the miracle of Craigslist to score Rockies tickets for tomorrow! The agenda: morning park laps on the snowboard at Arapahoe Basin, then a Denver bike ride to Coors Field and the great American pastime.
Keep the rubber side down, team.