Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ride the Rockies Desktop Pictures

The following images have been cropped for use as desktop pictures (I guess PC users call it "wallpaper"). You can download them from my website in cinema format (1920 x 1200, optimized for Apple Cinema 23) or standard 17" (1280 x 960). These are free for personal use. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ratings and Favorites

Ride the Rockies Report Card:

Route & planning:

First of all, RTR gets an A+ for safety. The route markings were excellent and included signs and road paint indicating road hazards from RR crossings to manhole covers over the whole 422 miles. This is so above and beyond the call. It must have taken them a lot of time and manpower to do this and we really appreciated it. In addition, they had a tremendous police presence on the course to keep motorists in line. The only day we felt threatened was the first day — a few motor-home drivers passed us way too close where there was no shoulder.

I've already mentioned the map book. That gets an A+ from a map-maker. It was really beautifully done.

The actual route had some components that I could do without. First of all, I recognize the tour's value to the Chambers of Commerce in the small towns. And while I would have preferred to stay in the "Rockies" I'm familiar with, it was interesting to see this part of Colorado. The thing I did not enjoy was that the only roadway options we seemed to have between these frontier towns were highways. I don't mind a short stretch of highway, but I do not enjoy spending 5 or 6 hours on a narrow shoulder in the hot sun being buffeted by the wind and the wakes and noise of truck traffic. I also don't want to feel pressured to get up at 5 a.m. to start bee-lining down an unscenic highway in order to avoid oil rig traffic later in the day. Cycle touring should be relaxing, you shouldn't have to work it like a job. My desire was for a relaxed and scenic adventure, some challenging climbs, plenty of opportunity for photos and visits to points of interest. We had a few days of that, and those days get an A. The other days get a C-.


The RTR staff gets and A+ for friendliness and a B+ for having the information you needed on the spot - for such a huge organization, they were pretty well informed.

The nurses at the St Anthony's medical tent were fantastic! They were caring and knew their stuff. And they were right about Lisa needing a longer nebulizer treatment and that she would have a lot of trouble during the night. A+


The shuttle bus transportation definitely rates an A+!

Food service:

The food situation was a different experience for me. Sierra to the Sea (STTS) is all inclusive, the food is excellent and there is always enough. But that's not hard to do for 150 participants. Cycle North Carolina (CNC) had a meal plan which contained a menu. Participants chose and paid for the meals they wanted in advance, or went out to dinner in town. The pre-planning allowed CNC food services to know how many people were eating. They never ran out of food (though the food was not very good). At RTR the options are a community meal, private vendors on site, or restaurants in town. All of it you choose and pay as you go.

We never ate a single community meal, the line was always long and by the time we were ready for either breakfast or dinner, they were either out of food or most of the choices were gone. Most painfully, the first day when I was sick and it took so long to make the ride - all of the vendors were closed and the community food was gone, we were exhausted and had to go into town and wait for a table in an overwhelmed restaurant.

Some of the vendors were good. Hub Grub was excellent, and they were usually at the first rest stop with egg burritos (I'm going to miss the egg & sausage burrito with salsa verde). Some of the vendors were awful - like the one with the $10 hamburger combo. At first I didn't like having to pay for food at rest stops, but I eventually decided that I do like the option of having real food - a burrito, a fajita, a smoothie - better than typical sag food.

Restaurants could be a problem in small towns and we sometimes found long waits and overwhelmed servers. Several people who had done this ride in the past said the community food service problems were unique to this year.

We give the food situation a C.


Most of the facilities where we camped were good. High schools are good places for events like this - there is clean indoor camping, restroom alternatives to the port-a-potties and flat ground with soft grass to pitch tents on. One of the problems I had with CNC was that it is held in October, during the school year, so high schools were only available on the weekends. Some of the mid-week campsites CNC chose were, well, indescribably disgusting.

RTR used mostly high schools, one middle school and a park (in Glenwood Springs where many people took a break from camping and stayed in hotels). The middle school in Rifle was a little small and the grounds lacked ample space for the tents, and the high school in Leadville was small, run down and had that vertical challenge. I think they deserve a B+ overall, though final impressions are often more lasting than first impressions and the Leadville situation did not leave us feeling warm and fuzzy.

The Best and Worst:

Favorite town:
We loved the people of Rifle, they did leave us feeling warm and fuzzy. Rifle is not a place I'd visit on purpose, but I'm happy to have had the experience. The best day we had was in Aspen, for sure. We had a great ride there and a fun afternoon. The 85° temperature was pleasant after several days of brutally hot temps. Sure, I couldn't really afford to spend more than an afternoon in a town like Aspen, but it was definitely my favorite stop on the trip.
Least favorite town:
Leadville. No disrespect to the people. They were, as in all the towns, very pleasant. It just doesn't seem like a good idea to take 2000 people to in a town with a harsh climate, limited motels and a small school facility, drastically reducing the options for campers who did not want to brave the cold. It was quite a letdown after Aspen.

Best ride day: The ride from Glenwood Springs to Aspen was perfect. I have to pick that as the overall best. There was little to no traffic, we had that great stretch of trail, our legs felt fantastic and the scenery was beautiful. I loved the climb up Independence Pass and that would be my pick if not for the hideous other side of the mountain. I'll go back out there someday soon and climb it again, but ride back down to Aspen afterward.
Worst ride day: Day one was brutal for me because of my chest cold, but it had some beautiful scenery. Day 2 was not very scenic but it was down hill and I was playing with a demo bike. Day 3 is my pick for worst day. It started out so cold that it took 17 miles to get our legs moving, then it got so brutally hot, people were laying under vehicles at the rest stops to get out of the sun. The oil rig traffic was, as promised, no fun (though the state troopers did keep them in line), then the nasty, hot headwind coming into Rifle was a final cruelty. 90 miles on a hot highway is really not my idea of a fun bike ride.

Best meal: our most delicious meal by far was at Gusto in Aspen. But our most fun meal was the chicken we bought at City Market in Rifle. When we settled down in a hallway with our spread, a gentleman (Doug from Boston) walked by and asked where we got the food. When we told him, he sighed with a combination of exhaustion and disappointment. He had come in from the road and found the community food depleted, he was hungry and tired. We had more than enough food for the two of us, so we invited him to join us. He was a little shy about it at first, but the three of us enjoyed a perfect, healthy meal and a nice conversation.
Worst meal:
The $10 hamburger combo. McDonalds would have been a luxury.

Favorite experience: Climbing to 12,000 ft. The view, the sense of accomplishment and the camaraderie and encouragement among the cyclists on the way up.
Least favorite experience: Lines. Two thousand people means you have to stand in line for everything - to shower, to eat, to get coffee, to pee. As exhausting as it was to get up this morning at 4:30 AM for our early flight, it sure was nice to have no lines at the airport (except, of course the Southwest boarding cattle call).

Rating the Sherpa

Sherpa Packers is the second service I've used on a tour. At CNC, I used Bubba's Pampered Peddlers.

Like Bubba, Theo is a fun character. He's cheerful and he likes people. For this event he used a crew of high school kids who were raising money for their ski team. He made a point of telling us this was not his regular team. Perhaps as a result, some of the promised services were not quite delivered. Our bags were delivered to the tent only one day. There was no complimentary coffee — or if there was it was not presented in such a way that we knew it was there. We didn't discover the cell phone charging until the last day. There was always a table full of food and drinks, but it appeared to be for the kids and their supervisors. Somewhere nearby would be a pile or bag of towels and washcloths. The promised amenities could have been presented and delivered better.

"Better bike pumps for 2007" were promised. The only bike pump I was able to find was a real dog!

The baggage policy was emphasized on the website. To conform, I did not pack the duffel I purchased last year for bike tours. That duffel would have been easier to pack and keep organized because of the compartments and because it would not have been stuffed full. As it turned out, Kristin and Robbin brought the larger bags and the sherpa took them without an issue. Lisa packed the touring duffel, but also brought a small one to throw on the sherpa truck and lugged the big one to the RTR truck every day. That baggage policy was a limiting factor in preparing for the trip and had we known it wasn't enforced, we would have had a much easier time packing.

We also discovered that they were walking on the bags as they loaded them on the trailer. Several people had toiletry bottles broken inside their bags. Fortunately, our laptops were not damaged and when we brought it to their attention, the crew supervisor allowed us to remove the computers and put them inside his truck.

Everyone was friendly and the kids were always prompt and helpful when asked to do something. They also carried customer's bags up the stadium steps in Leadville (starting at 7 a.m. — we left earlier).

The tents were flimsy and made for fair weather. They were not adequate for the coldest nights. By the end of the week it sounded like half the people in Sherpaville were coughing and sniffling. The sleeping bags did have nice fleece liner bags inside them, but they were rated for warmer temps than we experienced in Steamboat and Leadville.

I have to say, Bubba runs a much better service. He buys good equipment. The 2-person tents are huge, you can stand up in them. When you get into camp, there is a cooler of sodas (and beer if you ordered it) and a table of snacks set up with camp chairs around it... in the shade of an EZ up! Oh what I would have given for some shade last week!

The saga continues...

The ride medics were concerned about Lisa's oxygen saturation after giving her a nebulizer treatment. So they sent us off to the ER.

One of the medics drove us around to the ER entrance at St. Vincent Hospital. The admitting nurses didn't seem quite as impressed by Lisa's condition. They checked her saturation and thought it was acceptable. "You have a cold and you're at 10,000 feet, come back if you feel worse." The PA gave us his phone number and said he would drive down and pick us up if she needed to come back.

So we walked back to the school, showered and then hiked down to Sherpaville. The sun had come back out and all the weather had blown over. It was warm again.

The Sherpa staff were discussing the baggage situation. For the final day, we had to use the RTR baggage trucks because Sherpa's equipment was headed to the start of Tour of Colorado. The baggage trucks were up at the high school, making it difficult and potentially dangerous for the campers on the football field to get their bags to the trucks. One of the helpers went to find RTR staff to request a truck be moved down to the level we were on.

We rested, downloaded photos, arranged the tent and our clothes for the next day, then headed back to the school to find an early dinner.

Hub Grub was set up with BBQ beef burritos. Any other food would require a bus ride into town, and who knows how long a wait.

We were bundled up and zipped into our fleece linings & sleeping bags by 8 p.m. and asleep by 8:02. We knew it would be a cold night - everyone had talked about it all week. The nurse at the ER told us she doesn't camp up there anymore because she almost froze to death in July. Nice.

It was as cold as advertised. I burrowed completely under the covers, if any part of my body or head was exposed, I was cold. Lisa couldn't burrow because she couldn't breathe, she had her nose sticking out of her sleeping bag like a seal.

At 2 am the coughing fits began. She tried everything - cough drops, inhaler, water - but when she started wheezing and couldn't catch her breath she finally conceded to go to the ER... but insisted on walking up the hill.

It was FREEZING out! The inside of our tent was covered with frost. We put on as many layers as we could find. Flashlight in hand, we set out for the hospital. The 10 minute walk took 20 because Lisa had to stop every 50 feet to catch her breath.

When we arrived at the hospital the PA said "welcome back," apologized for his wrinkled shirt (he'd been sleeping), ushered us into an exam room and immediately put Lisa on a nebulizer. After 2 treatments, she was feeling much better, but still had a lot of congestion. We stalled in there as long as we could because it was warm and there was clean bathroom!

She was discharged with some meds at 5:40. We walked back to the high school for coffee and found a long line already! Imagine that. We had already decided we weren't going to ride. Lisa couldn't breathe and I didn't feel like bundling up and dealing with the cold. Besides, there were rumors of a 25 mph headwind coming into Frisco. No thanks, I've had enough for one week.

We found a staff person and inquired about the transportation to Frisco. We were told to put our bikes on the shuttle bus and our bags on the baggage truck. Ah, the truck. The staffer cheerfully informed us that they moved one truck closer to the ball field. Now we're getting somewhere.

Or not. RTR's idea of being helpful was to move one truck 50 feet down from the school parking lot to the top of the stadium steps! So as we headed back to the tent, we encountered campers lugging 70 lb. bags up the stadium steps... in cleats.

There was no way we could take the bags up the steps, so we rolled them the long way around and up the hill - probably a 1/4 mile walk - with only a little grumbling and cursing.

Back at the school, we met up with Kristin and Robbin. They were dressed and ready to ride, but Kristin decided she had had enough as well. We all decided to hang out on the bus together.

The bus took a longer route to avoid the cyclists and we had the pleasure of seeing a beautiful pass and canyon on US 24 as we headed to I-70 near Vail. There were quite a few cyclists (unrelated to our ride) enjoying an epic climb up that pass. Once in Frisco, I picked up our rental car and we all had an excellent breakfast in town.

The baggage truck situation was another silly mess. They brought the baggage trucks to the Marina where the ride ended, but everyone's cars were parked at the high school. So people took shuttles to get their cars and then - oh yeah, there was NO parking at the Marina - they had to pull up on the side of the highway to load bags into their cars... two thousand people, their families and friends.

Seeing all the cyclists come through the finish, Lisa and I didn't even feel a twinge of disappointment at not riding. We accomplished what we came to do: We rode 370 miles in the mountains and climbed to the top of the world with no fatigue, no sore legs and no problems with the altitude. We got up every morning and rode a steady endurance-paced ride. The only thing that got in our way were the colds.

We were so ready to get out of there, we shoved everything in the car like a couple of gypsies and bolted out of town... to the Hampton - a bath, 2 showers, a comfortable bed and a celebratory bottle of wine!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Day 6: Independence day - the saga

Distance: 58.5 miles
Feet of Climbing: 5,400
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, changing to blustery and rainy

We had a wonderful afternoon in Aspen. We posted our day 5 blog over lunch and Fat Tire draft, explored the town and then had what both of us agreed was the best Italian meal outside of Italy at Gusto Ristorante. We caught the shuttle back to the high school as the sun was setting and the air was getting chilly. We scrambled inside to get warm before making a dash for the tent. It's so easy to forget a jacket when it's 85°.

Aspen's high school is what you might expect — a Taj Mahal. Their fitness room was more equipped than the Winter Park Y. There was ample room for the indoor campers and we secretly wished we could stay there, too. We were warned to bring in all of our toiletries and food items so as not to attract bears to our tents. We stuffed them all in a backpack (Princess has a LOT of toiletries!) and checked it with Bike Security.

The wind blew hard all night, buffeting the tents and knocking over several port-a-potties in the lower camping area. We were in the upper camping area, thank goodness!

The morning was, mercifully, not bitter cold. We were again encouraged to make an early start. There was an 8:30 a.m. time cutoff at the first rest stop because the road up Independence Pass was being one-laned in narrow spots for our safety. We rolled out at 6:40 a.m. and easily made the first rest stop an hour ahead of the cutoff.

The route was stunning — by far the most beautiful climb of the trip and possibly the most beautiful climb I have ever done. The sun was coming over the mountain-side on our left and slicing through the Aspen trees, causing white trunks to glow and leaves to shimmer.

The climb was not hard. There were a few parts that were steep enough for long enough to cause people with heavy gear ratios to struggle, but we never ran out of gears or had to push hard on the pedals. There were plenty of grade breaks and even a few short flats.

I'll never forget the first vista, when the Aspen forest opens up, the road ahead curves around a cliff and the ridge of snowcapped mountains appears. I tried to snap photos from the bike, but the point-n-shoot camera metered on the shady foreground, no matter what I tried. Next tour, I'll fashion a holster for the Rebel.

Winding along the cliff, the road narrows but we had the benefit of traffic control. Cars were stopped and directed into the opposite direction lane, while we had a clear lane protected by cones. It was necessary with so many riders trying to climb at different speeds on the same road.

Pretty soon, it was one breathtaking vista after another. This gave us a perfect opportunity to take photo breaks.

Lisa woke up with a heavy chest this morning. Apparently she hadn't kicked the cold she caught a week before our trip. The temperature extremes were taking their toll. It's very hard on the body to go from 30 to 90 to 35 to 97... day after day. And sleep in a tent that was not made for cold weather (more on that later), get ready and moving in icebox temperatures and then be overheated a few hours later. Both of us woke up with sore throats on Thursday (mine is still sore - like swallowing a knife), but Lisa's moved into her chest Thursday night. She c0ughed for hours, took some Expectorant and downed two Excedrins so she could sleep before the big day.

She actually climbed quite well and the photo breaks helped out. She was suffering a little at 12,000 feet, but considering her condition, it's impressive she made the climb to that altitude. Like me, on Sunday, her legs felt great, it was just the congestion getting in the way.

Despite my sore throat, which seems to be much worse in the evenings, I felt fantastic and had probably the best mountain climb I have since climbing Mount Shasta in 2003 (when I had a far better power/weight ratio than I do now).

One thing both of us experienced was other riders envying our gear ratios as they slogged painfully while we spun past them.

We'll post photos below this blog of all the vistas we passed. My favorites were the ones described above, and the big switchback vista where you can look down the valley below and see the road you just climbed.

The top of the pass is a desolate frozen tundra with large patches of snow and a 360° view of planet earth. OK, not really, but the panorama really makes you feel like you're on top of the world.

AID Station 3 was set up on top in the blustery wind. This was the first AID station on the trip where anyone would have considered a hot drink, and we were both grateful for a cup of coffee!

After resting, eating, filling bottles and taking in the panorama, we headed off for a 17-mile drop. The road was, again, single-laned on the narrow spots to keep the motorists out of our way. Most of the motorists were staff cars or personal support vehicles, but there were a few hapless tourists who picked the wrong day to visit the pass.

It doesn't take long to drop out of the sky. Unless you have a headwind, which we did at the bottom. Of course. There's a pattern here. Anyway, the road flattened out a bit and we had to work to maintain speed.

At AID station 4, there were numerous SAG vehicles and staff members practically recruiting people to catch a ride. There were black clouds just over the ridge and knowing how bad Lisa had felt at 12,000 ft, I asked if she wanted to ride in. I would have been happy to climb in a van. Because, honestly, this was clearly the ugly side of the mountain. Of course, the answer was "no." So we shared a smoothie, used the potty and hit the road. Instantly, we were presented with a headwind and then some light showers.

We had a few rolling hills to cover, then a descent and a long shallow climb into Leadville. A few miles after the AID station, we made the turn onto US 24. We had been warned in some of the pre-ride materials that this road would not be fun. There really was no way to overstate that. The wind gusted off our right shoulders threatening to hurl us into traffic... that is, when it wasn't pounding us right in the face. There was a varying width of shoulder between 2 feet and 6 inches and there was plenty of high speed traffic (the speed held somewhat in check - to the 65 mph limit - by state troopers on motorbikes) There was nothing at all visually pleasing about the landscape.

The rain was like ice pellets. When the sun peeked out it was too hot to have a rain jackets on, but as soon as we'd strip them off, more rain would move in again. Oh, and we had to PEE! OMG, did we have to pee. I knew there was another aid station in a few miles, and there was not so much as a man-sized bush in that desolate landscape, but I could not wait. I spotted a cluster of buildings ahead and thought it must be a store. I set my hope upon it, but when we arrived, it was only a cluster of low-rent condos in the middle of nowhere. There was no more time. I thought maybe we could cross the RR tracks (which ran parallel to the road) and take shelter in their berm. We pulled off to the right. Lisa hit loose gravel, which looked like the shoulder, and fell down into the road, cutting her knee.

On the other side of the RR berm there was swamp. Who knew there could be swamp under such a dry, brown landscape? We managed to get semi shelter under the tumbleweed, but both of us emerged with scratches on our legs and burrs in our socks. Fun. Really, was it just this morning we were in Aspen? Could this be the same day?

Back on our bikes, we pushed on into the wind. In a few minutes, I could see the blue port-a-potties shimmering in the distance, sort-of like a mirage... so close, and yet so far away. It seemed to take an eternity to actually get to them.

Again, the AID station was full of SAG vans. There were a couple medic vans there too. I practically had to collar Lisa to get her to go get that cut cleaned. For a Princess, she's awfully stubborn! With the knee clean and wrapped, I again suggested the SAG van, which looked really good to me as lighting sliced the distant hills and pickup trucks roared by on US 24. We had 9 miles to go, uphill, into the wind on a US highway. But the answer was still no, between labored breaths.

I was there Sunday, so I sure couldn't push the issue.

We struggled on for another 5 miles, then it started to rain again. Enough already. We flagged down a SAG and caught a ride into town. I was so happy to be out of the weather and off the bike!

When we pulled into the Lake County High School in Leadville, the contrast from where we had been the night before was painful. The have's and have not's . What a sad little place. The school was small, old and run down. The lockers in the locker room were rusty, the concrete floor was filthy, the showers were cold.

In fact, Leadville was cold. At 10,000 feet, it is only warm when the sun is shining, unobstructed, upon you. When we arrived, it was cloudy. And if it was that cold at 3 PM, it was going to be a brutal night in a tent and sleeping bags made for summer weather. We went into the school before retrieving our bags to see if there was room for us to drag our sleeping bags inside to join the indoor campers, but every square inch was taken. It is a small school, and parts were cordoned off. The one place on the whole trip that most needed indoor facilities was probably the smallest.

Facing that defeat, it was Lisa's turn to visit the medic tent. I left her there and went to find our campsite. I wandered around for several minutes before relying on the information tent. They pointed me through the labyrinth of vendors and... "you have got to be kidding me!"... the tent city was set up on the football field 200 feet below the high school. How to get there? Stadium steps. At 10,000 feet.

I hiked down, picked up towels, cloths and toiletries and hiked back up. Lisa was still with the medics. They wanted her to go to the hospital, which, fortunately, was right next to the high school. So off we went to the ER.

More on that tomorrow.

Here are more photos:

Lisa in the Aspen forest.

Keri pulls another rider ;-)

Looking back at the road we just climbed.

Incredible vista!

There were 3 men pedaling wheelchair bikes. What you can't see is that this man has only one complete limb, he has lost both legs and part of one arm and he is climbing Independence Pass (almost to the top).

Approaching the frozen tundra.

At the top, looking back on the view.

AID station 3.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Independence Day

We accomplished what we came here for - we climbed Independence Pass.

We crossed the continental divide today and wound up in 1972. I'm posting with the treo - which means I'm typing with my thumbs - so this is going to be short.

We had a great climb. Independence pass was stunningly beautiful - I took so many photos I filled the card by the time we reached the top. We'll upload those tomorrow night and tell our stories from the Airport Hampton.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Day 5: Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Distance: 42 miles
Feet of Climbing: 2,800
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, light breeze

We're at Bentley's Yorkshire Brewery in downtown Aspen, having lunch and Fat Tires and using wireless connection (not sure where it came from, but it'll work).

So, what do you get when you combine blue skies, low humidity, breathtaking views of snowcapped mountains, 15 miles of newly-paved bike trails with no roller bladers or strollers? Answer: The makings for a perfect ride.

And today was perfect. After a good night's rest at Hotel Colorado and a jacuzzi bath to loosen the leg muscles, we worked our way back to the campsite, dropped off our luggage, rescued the bikes from the tennis court (overnight security), filled tires and water bottles and hit the road.

The course profile promised 42 miles of climbing to Aspen — 5,800 feet to 8,000 feet. Technically, we did climb all day, but it didn't feel like it. The grades were so easy we were able to maintain 14 - 16 mph and spin easily up the inclines. There were a few steep climbs. At about mile 34, we went vertical. But the 12+ percent grade was no match for our gearing. We both peddled up easily, passing people slogging much larger gears... and walkers. The hardest part about the climb was getting around people who were unstable or trying to tack (not a good idea on a road with 2000 riders).

We were rewarded with a stunning view at the top! We encountered another shorter, steep climb as we came into Aspen. Again, no problem. Our legs felt great and are hopefully ready for Independence Pass tomorrow. (Not sure if you'll hear from us tomorrow night :-)

Relive our spectacular ride with the following photos -- just a selection of the more than 100 shots (really!!) we took during the 42-mile journey.

So nice to get away from traffic!

Self portrait... for you, Mom.

Singing Shimanos - the tech crew at aid station 2. Everybody: "take me home, country roads, to the place where I belong..."

The Rio Grande Trail from Carbondale to Aspen. Quite a bit quieter than I-70...

... and more scenic.

Lisa coming to the top of the steep climb.

The reward.

We came, we saw, we climbed.

Coming into Aspen.

Wildflowers along the trail in Aspen.

The cure for hotfoot.

Waiting to be kicked out of a neighborhood retention pond.

More flowers...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Day 4: From one extreme to the other

Distance: 35 miles
Feet of Climbing: 2,200
Weather Conditions: Sunny and hot, wind gusts of 25mph

Today started later than normal - 8 am. We were encouraged to sleep in today because the route was short and it was best to avoid rush hour traffic on Interstate 70 going into Glenwood Springs. Yes, I said Interstate 70.

When we emerged from the tent this morning the sun was warm. This is the first morning we have woken up rested and warm, it was really pleasant. We took our time, got coffee, prepped our bikes and moseyed out of town.

Leaving Rifle, we were greeted by friendly residents who had come to the roadside to see us off. What a nice town! From the moment we arrived in Rifle, we found friendly people who seemed genuinely pleased to have us there. The chamber of commerce provided detailed maps indicating area restaurants, stores and other services we might need. Police were present to direct traffic in and out of town and they patrolled the campground all night as we slept. This is the first place that did not run out of half the breakfast items by sunrise! A lady from the chamber stood in the parking lot at 8 am letting everyone know that "We still have breakfast: eggs, sausage and toast. We're only out of orange juice!"

Today's ride offered the first opportunity for real tour riding, sight seeing and photo ops. The short distance, relaxed schedule and rural roads made for the most pleasant ride we've had yet. Knowing that we were going to relax today at the Hotel Colorado was an added bonus.

The ride began on scenic rural roads with rough pavement but a welcome lack of traffic and ended with 7 miles on the shoulder of Interstate 70. We left behind the arid ranch land of Western Colorado and got our first glimpse of the snow-capped high mountains we will be entering tomorrow enroute to Aspen.

Climbing out of Rifle

These horses trotted over to the fence to greet the riders as they went by.

Greenery indicated we were entering a different region of the state.

First lake we've seen since Frisco.

Lisa wanted to jump in!

Descent from 6,400 ft.

Loving the rural roads!

Check out the 2-tone tan line on the Coppertone girl.

Scene from the town of New Castle.

Forest fire threatened our route yesterday, but the wind shifted the smoke away from the course.

Taking a break from the interstate - they had to bring us off and back on at the exits for safety.

On ramp to I-70 - it actually felt pretty safe, but the noise was deafening.

Our bikes are spending the night in lock-up.

Lisa couldn't wait to try out the jacuzzi.