Friday Group Ride #354

Friday Group Ride #354

Snacks asked if I was up for riding bikes. He knew the answer, so I just said, “What time?” That settled, I left him and the boys to figure out where we were going.

My work requires me to travel, which I like. My destinations are mostly bike shops or bike companies, and I like that, too. What ends up happening is that I find myself in cool places with people who like to ride. Lots of work happens, too, for sure, clinics, sales meetings, events, and at the end of most days I end up on the scratchy comforter at a hotel by the highway eating take-out from a styrofoam container.

But sometimes I get to ride.

Snacks suggested we meet at the Coolers, which sounds like a thing but is actually a place. You drive up out of Denver, past Golden, into the steeper places, snake down into a valley and past some small, run-down looking communities. You turn off on a dirt road that feeds a mud swamped parking lot where there are two shockingly clean portable toilets and three or four coolers on picnic tables. The coolers are stocked with food and drink for riders (and presumably hikers) in need. They operate on the honor system. A few of the area’s iconic rides start here.

We rolled a wide, sandy road that climbed slowly and steadily, passing trailheads right and left. Eventually, we chose one and began to climb in earnest. I felt good, strong even, which was a shock given how early it was in my season, and I hung with the lead guys pretty well until about halfway to the top. It was then that I became aware that my heart rate was not settling.

Normally, on a long climb, my hear rate will climb up past 150bpm, and then, after sending a series of recognizable warning signs to my legs and lungs, settle into a zone I call the “pink.” It’s not quite red, but it belongs to that hue.

If you have been up in the Rockies, you will know that they don’t keep sufficient oxygen there. Everyone knows that. I knew that. But somehow I had forgotten in the hour leading up to this point and so was very confused by the fact that I was blowing up, watching my companions disappear up the trail in front of me.

I rode on alone for a bit, my legs ticking over just fast enough to keep me upright. Things settled down deep inside of me then. I lifted my head and looked around. Tall pines jutted to the sky. Boulders perched lazily on high promontories, left there eons ago by forces far greater than myself. In short, I began to enjoy myself.

This area of the country is beyond beautiful. It is humbling. It overwhelms you with its drama, its rawness. And I was overcome by it, and surrendered to it, and by the time I worked my way back up to my friends I was in a trancelike state.

Words won’t capture what the downhill was like from there. I rode close to as hard as I could, but mostly let the bike ride itself. I pointed the front wheel down and followed behind it. Somewhere, deep in my soul, a tight knot came untied.

At the bottom, we ate cookies from one of the coolers and re-racked the bikes.

I love to travel, but I hate being a tourist, a word that conjures images of inappropriately attired humans huddled on trollies with loudspeakers, cameras pointing, a guide’s deadpan patter occasioning sardonic chuckles. There is nothing like being shown a place by a local.

This week’s Group Ride asks, where have you been that a local shared something like this with you? Was it on the road? On the trail? Both? Have you ever given anyone this gift where you live

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    I live in a resort area in Western North Carolina. Like most places in this part of the world there is a lot of hidden poverty. It is there but you have to take the roads behind the golf courses to see it. This last year I took at friend to L.A., or Lower Avery County. It was a cultural tour for him. It was an opportunity for me to show him the rest of the place he had ridden in for the better part of two decades. I ended up seeing it again as well. The interesting twist was that he was reading Hillbilly Elegy at the time, words on the page came to life on the bike.

  2. Scott M

    A few years back, I helped a group of cross country riders navigate through Sacramento and Folsom. I introduced them to the American River trail, where they experienced bike trail envy. “It’s my regular commute,” I said, with no small amount of pride.

    Along the way we passed our local prison. At the next turn, my riders were nowhere to be found. A short back track revealed that they had stopped to shoot pictures in front of Folsom State Prison – where Johnny Cash recorded Folsom Prison Blues live in concert.

    To me, it’s a driveway and light that breaks up an otherwise perfectly good sprint point. To them it was an iconic photo. Who knew?

  3. MikeG

    Not bike specific, but in 1993 I traveled with a group to Kauai, HI to assist with clean up after hurricane Iniki. We hooked up with a local from one of the Bingo Boards in Lihue, and she showed us all the wonderful local hidden gems. We even swam in a wet cave where you went under water, swam for about 10-15′, and popped up in the “Blue Room”. Simply stunning stuff. That little detour cost me a bout with Leptospirosis, but would not have missed it for the world…

    Gotta love those locals!

  4. Andrew

    Gosh, too many to recall. I always try to “bribe” a local into showing me around.

    A sick road ride around Zurich, bombing the hills and narrowly avoiding a Fiat 500.

    Riding from Belgrade to a war memorial on a mountain outside of town and drinking beer up there.

    Being taken up Tennessee pass from Vail, in total oxygen debt.

    Riding up the Douro with a bunch of old Portuguese guys with iron calves.

    Paddling surf skis through mats of jellyfish off the coast near Brisbane, and then drinking beers, eating chicken and watching Aussie auto racing.

    Paddling kayaks up the Bosporus, stopping to eat borek in the shadow of a Byzantine castle, and hearing the call to prayer from Asia and Europe at the same time from the water.

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