Here is an article I just got from Chet Rideout who has been a long time fan of the NBG and who I had the good fortune to meet when I spoke in Fort Collins. CO in 1999 as a part of that city's bicentennial celebration. Often on the two wheel road, Chet was in between tours when we met. In his well written piece below, I think you will get a small taste of how formidable the Rocky Mtns that Jim and Greg are working through really are. THX Chet: ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Martin: I was interested in the article about climbing Trail Ridge Road - I'm attaching an article I published about a similar climb my friends and I did last year, which appeared in Tandem and Recumbent Rider Magazine: Regards, Chet Rideout Crossing 12,000 Three Times Chet Rideout 1204 Aspen Dr. Berthoud, CO 80513 I've done several self contained bike tours, many of them with my Italian friend Piero Tassinari, but this summer it looked like he was going to tour with his Italian friends in Asia. After 9/11 his destination - Islamabad - no longer looked like a wise option, and I asked him again if we could tour here in Colorado. He finally said yes, but limited himself to two weeks, so I got planning. We had the worst drought imaginable this summer, making the state a tinderbox for forest fires, and the lowlands (below 6,000 feet) were hot and dry. As a result I decided the higher the better, and planned a tour which included several high passes. My research showed that the highest continuous passes in the United States, both paved and unpaved, are right here in Colorado; my developing plan was to cross all three of those that are paved and over 12,000 feet in one tour. Our success at this would involve a little luck, since a huge wildfire southwest of Denver was burning during the time I set my plans, and this was near our starting point. I scheduled the crossings of the highest passes on weekdays, and also gave us three days of riding before tackling our first big climb. I figured it would take thirteen days, two of which were rest days that we could use when needed, and we would finish up at my house. It also occurred to me that Ken McKee from Edmonton, Alberta, who rode for several days with Piero and me on our tour from Jasper to Grand Teton two years ago, might be interested in joining us. It didn't take much convincing; he wrote back immediately to say he would like to join us, making it a truly international group of three. I always tour on a LWB recumbent, currently on a Vision R40 with underseat steering. Piero was riding his Speed Ross SWB recumbent with above seat steering, and both of us were pulling trailers. Piero used my BOB one wheel trailer, whereas I used my new two wheel Quik-Pak trailer. Ken was a little more traditional on his mountain bike with front and back panniers. Ken talked us into leaving our stove and pots behind in the interests of climbing lighter. He didn't have much trouble persuading us on this matter. After attending the Loveland fireworks on the 4th of July, we packed up to leave the next morning. My wife, Lynn, drove us in my well packed car (three bikes, two trailers, and four people and gear) through Denver to Grant, a small town on Highway 285, where we had breakfast and made our start at about 8,800 feet altitude. I had remembered Grant as a place where the road became a little more bike friendly, and this proved to be the case when a good shoulder appeared just 100 yards out of town. We had stiff climbs that first day, crossing Kenosha and Red Hill passes, both at 10,000 feet. Our biggest concern resulted from a conversation with a tourist, who informed us that Colorado's National Forests had just been closed to all camping. "It's been in all the papers, haven't you heard about it?" We hadn't, and now we wondered about our plans to use Colorado campgrounds. When we rolled into Fairplay we found she had badly overstated the case; only the campgrounds in the Pike National Forest were affected. We stayed at a trailer park in Fairplay, enjoying breakfast at the Brown Burro, and made great time the next day on mostly level roads. We climbed to Trout Creek Pass (9,350 feet) and enjoyed a wonderful downhill at speeds of around 30 mph for eight miles into Buena Vista. Here we were at less than 8,000 feet, so we looked forward to a lot of climbing in the next few days. The climb out of Buena Vista is a steady one, and we camped a few miles above Twin Lakes at 9,370 ft. By this time we had fallen into a rhythm of going to bed with the sun, rising early for a solid breakfast, and biking our entire day by 1:00 or 2:00. In our campground, which was right near Lake Creek, we were visited by hummingbirds and pigmy nuthatches. We were dismayed when we rode back to Twin Lakes for Sunday supper to find everything closed - we had to settle for warmed up burritos and ham and cheese at the convenience store, but did our best to scrounge enough calories for the big climb coming up. Independence Pass is quite a workout, and we got an early start after a banana and granola bar breakfast. It really is a pleasant climb, since the pitch isn't absolutely constant. We hit it on a sunny weekday, and the road was in great condition with spectacular scenery. The last four miles comprised the majority of the climbing. Up top at 12,095 feet we enjoyed a snack and photos. Then we got the payoff for our efforts - miles of glorious downhill to roll into Aspen on a warm day. Here we found a great room at the St. Moritz, and opted to stay for two nights. The man behind the counter expressed disbelief that we had ridden over the pass with loaded touring bikes. He informed us that minor offences in Aspen are frequently reduced if the offender agrees to bicycle up the pass! The rest day gave us time to enjoy Aspen's ambience and try several of its great restaurants. On our "rest day" we biked with cameras up to Maroon Lake. This memorable spot costs money by car (during crowded times drivers must park and take a shuttle bus), but bicycle riders get through the entry gate for free. The three of us were in complete agreement that the National Parks should adopt this same philosophy! The weather had cooled a little that day, and in the afternoon we enjoyed floating in the hotel's swimming pool and having a chance to catch up on the laundry. Heading out of Aspen we found the Santa Fe bike trail, and had a leisurely ride down to a very hot Glenwood Springs. We stayed at the Hideout Campground, which for the first time in its history did not have a stream flowing through it due to the drought. Although we didn't try soaking at the hot springs in town we did find a delicious Italian meal with red wine, and attended "Jazz in the Park." Here I was given some advice on our route for the next day by a native, but I should have noticed the warning flag - this man who had never been on the road with anything but his car raved of the scenery and said the road was "flat." We returned content and tired to our campground. We found that Glenwood Springs was at around 6,800 feet altitude, so we realized that we had some action packed days on our way back to 12,000 feet again. We got an early start after a great breakfast, and rode up the bike trail through Glenwood Canyon. This is an amazing trail which follows the river for some 12 miles, passing below and next to the incredibly engineered canyon section of I 70. We then turned northeast up the old road that follows the Colorado River for an incredibly difficult day. I had heard that some towns on the map (like Burns) really did not exist, and that we had to make it all the way to Toponas (a total ride of 66 miles). After our first fifteen miles, as expected, this road changed from very rough pavement to packed dirt, increasing our rolling resistance and slowing us down. What we didn't know is that this "flat road" really involved several excursions up to the plateau tops and back to riverside whenever narrow canyons prevented road construction near the water. Add to this the daily vertical gain of perhaps 1,500 feet, together with the rough road, and you have the makings for a workout. The entire ride involved a temperature of perhaps 95 degrees, and we kept running out of water, getting restocked at homesteads and passing cars along the way. When we finally reached Toponas we were totally spent, and had sandwiches and drinks at the gas station in town, the town's only watering hole. That night by way of compensation we were treated to the most fantastic view of the skies I've ever seen. Stars were visible to perhaps the 8th magnitude, and the milky way was a brilliant river of white crossing the sky. Constellations took on completely new shapes with all of the extra stars within their borders! After a great sleep, waking occasionally to listen to the coyote chorus, we found ice on our trailers and panniers as we packed our bikes. We seemed to be fully recovered as we headed up to Gore Pass. This is a great road with a varied pitch and minimal traffic, topping out at 9,527 feet. We passed mule deer on the way up, a few of which bounded across the road just ahead of us. The downhill was smooth and pretty continuous to Kremmling, and the traffic was light. We continued on to Hot Sulfur Springs where we set up camp in the park near the river. After enjoying some cooling in the big pool at the hot springs we visited a mountain man rendezvous at the park, where we learned of the frontier history of the 19th century, and we decided to stay put for the next day to see more. That night Ken and I revisited the hot springs, and found a perfect hot tub soak for our tired legs. The combination of hot springs and a true rest day did the trick, and on the day following we eagerly headed north toward the town of Granby. In the morning I saw the grand sight of two ravens pursuing a huge golden eagle that was flying above us. I was shocked to see the enormous Granby Reservoir, which was this year about a quarter of its normal size. I estimated due to drought that its level was 50 feet lower than usual. The town of Grand Lake was our lunch destination, and afterwards we rested near the boat docks, going in for an occasional swim. After a huge pizza supper (what a mistake!) we struggled the 16 uphill miles to Timber Creek Campground, which is the last campground in Rocky Mountain National Park before climbing Trail Ridge Road. Our breakfast was plenty adequate for the climb on the next morning, but the temperature was around freezing. We started the ride at over 9,000 feet, and found it difficult to keep our hands and feet warm enough despite steady exertion. We climbed to the continental divide at 10,759 feet on Milner Pass, but this is only a preview of coming attractions, not the summit. About a mile further we climbed to above treeline and could see the road stretching ahead in the open. We stopped at the Visitor Center for some lunch, and then biked up to the high point of the road at 12,183 feet. From here Trail Ridge Road works its way across the tundra for six glorious miles, dropping perhaps 500 feet and rising again at Rock Cut to 12,110 feet. In every direction are spectacular mountain peaks, valleys, and lakes, and we saw herds of elk and many playful marmots. I think this is easily the most spectacular pass in Colorado, continuing as it does for miles above the treeline. Most passes, which have roads designed more for utility than display, are quickly crossed by a road which promptly heads back down into the trees. Now we earned our final payoff. For the rest of today and tomorrow we would ride down to my home in Berthoud, so we had 7,000 vertical feet of spectacular downhill riding ahead! We wound our way down to Deer Mountain Pass, and through Horseshoe Park toward the Aspenglen Campground. Piero and I made the sharp turn into the campground, and we were dismayed to see in our rearview mirrors that Ken tipped over on gravel at a pretty good speed at the entrance and slid across the road. We rushed back to find his injuries limited to road rash on one elbow and shoulder, and while he was being cleaned up at the Ranger Station, my wife quite unexpectedly arrived by car. She plied us with a variety of food and drinks, which we devoured in typical touring biker fashion. After soaking our feet in Fall River, Lynn took Ken and his bike back to our house, and Piero and I tented and prepared for our last day. The two of us rolled into nearby Estes Park for a tasty breakfast at the Egg and I, and then turned off past MacGregor Ranch on the Devil's Gulch Road. This scenic route climbs some 500 feet before plunging down through switchbacks to a continuous winding downhill through Glen Haven on the North Fork of the Big Thompson River. It was a spectacular morning, and we enjoyed the shady ride, accompanied by the babbling stream and birdsongs. We joined Highway 34 at Drake, and rolled down along the Big Thompson through Loveland and finally south to my home in Berthoud. As we arrived at my house Piero and I saw puffs of smoke in the mountains to the west from a new forest fire which had begun toward Estes Park. We found that Ken was doing well, and it was great to see Lynn and eat some of her great home cooking again. We kept tabs on the fire, and that night we could see the flames from our front porch. By the next day it had become a raging inferno covering thousands of acres, and huge pillars of smoke were filling the sky; quite a sobering end to our bike adventure. Our tour was quite a success; we rode 450 miles in 12 days, and of the eight passes crossed three were at more than 12,000 feet. Ken's accident did little to dampen his spirits; two days later he drove off with a cheerful wave, and Piero's jet left Denver International Airport for England and then Italy, leaving me with a lonely but contented feeling. All of us were thrilled with all we had seen and done, and we are basking in the memories of this ride. We're now looking forward to our next bike touring adventure. MARTIN KRIEG: "Awake Again" Author c/o BikeRoute.com 79 & 86 TransAms, nonprofit Nat. Bicycle Greenway CEO Ever wanted anything so bad U were willing to die for it? Really die? By moving thru clinical death and reversing paralysis, *I saw God* when I answered that question.