30 June 2015

Stardate 2015.496

Gunnison, Colorado

Day Three RtR
The Abyss

Day Three of Ride the Rockies found us reconnoitering the western and southern flanks of the West Elk Mountains, a sparsely traveled range thanks to minimal vehicle access to the West Elk Wilderness Boundary. The day's route started with an easy pedal from Hotchkiss to Crawford, where we feasted on pancakes at the first water stop. Crawford, a small ranching and farming community, also was home to the late Joe Cocker (the 60s rock singer). If you hike around to the north side of Needle Rock, you can get a view of Cocker's English-style mansion and Mad Dog Ranch. Moreover, Joe Cocker owned and ran Crawford's Mad Dog Café for years.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

From Crawford, we continued south to the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The weather also went south, entertaining riders with severe thunderstorms. At one point, the lightning was bad enough that I took shelter in the barrow pit until most of the lightning had moved east. Storm cells plagued us all morning, yet cleared by early afternoon. Nonetheless, 50 miles of our 79-mile day was in wet shorts, which quickly contributed to saddle sores. I had rain pants, but they were packed in my transport duffel-bag en route to Gunnison.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

I didn't take too many pictures this day; mainly because I was wet and didn't want to stop. Secondly, I didn't want to stand on the edge of an exposed canyon wall, hoping to not get electrocuted. The north rim is a nice place to visit. It's much more remote and less crowded than the south rim. There are unimproved routes to the canyon floor that are very much worth hiking. The rangers monitor the hiking routes, so you need to ask them which routes they're using. If you plunge into the abyss, know how to identify poison oak.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Thanks to Snowcatcher, you can see what the Canyon looks like from above. Snowcatcher took this shot during the 2012 RtR.

After descending from the Black Canyon's north rim, the ride continued east to Gunnison, some 30-plus miles away and probably my favorite town in Colorado, except for maybe Crested Butte. About 20 of the final miles parallel Blue Mesa Reservoir, which is quite scenic in itself.

Gunnison, Colorado

Next stop – Crested Butte


26 June 2015

Stardate 2015.485

The view west from Skyway, Grand Mesa, Colorado.

Day Two RtR
The Mesa

Day Two took us from the arid, ancient seafloor of the Grand Valley up 6,000 feet into the clouds and volcanic terrain of the Grand Mesa. The huge lava-capped summit area averages 10,000 feet in elevation and sprawls over 800 square miles. Several hundred trout-filled lakes dot the top. Geologic rocks are Cretaceous and Tertiary sediments capped by up to 400-feet of basaltic lava flows. The lava cap is of probable Pliocene age. If I recall my Colorado Geology correctly, there was a shield volcano in the vicinity of the Grand Mesa and another shield volcano more easterly resulting in the Battlement Mesa volcanic features. The highest point of the Grand Mesa is Leon Peak at 11,234 feet.

Grand Mesa, Colorado

The Grand Mesa is one of the hardest high passes to bike over in Colorado – pure and simple! I think it's one of the three most difficult climbs alongside 14ers Mount Evans and Pikes Peak. It's a bear! It's no surprise that Day Two was my hardest day of Ride the Rockies. After approximately 35 miles and 600 feet of elevation gain, the road ramps up (understatement) and gains 5,430 feet of elevation over the next 20 miles to the Nordic ski center of Skyway at 10,614 feet. Several miles later, the "official" pass is crossed at 10,839-feet. The grade is consistent, except for one small flat area not far from the top. If you're still alive, you've earned a fine downhill into the town of Cedaredge at 6,200 feet.

I'm about 2/3 of the climb to the top of the Grand Mesa.  The Powderhorn Ski Resort is in the back top center

This is the view west from about 9,500 feet. Some of the dwellings seen in the distance are the Powderhorn Ski Resort, the approximate halfway point of the climb proper.

Looking across the the Grand Valley, Colorado

In zoom mode, the far horizon is the northern terminus of the Colorado Plateau, home to Day One's Colorado National Monument route. The middle ridgeline is the backside of the Bookcliffs, which provide the northern border of the Grand Valley, the home of Grand Junction and the vineyards and orchards of Palisade. A herd of wild horses often may be observed foraging throughout the Bookcliffs. The closest ridgeline is the Grand Mesa's northwest shoulder.

A Grand Mesa lake

This is one of hundreds of idyllic settings higher on the Mesa. At this point, I was about 4 miles from the top.

Skyway, Grand Mesa, Colorado

Welcome to the top and the Skyway area.

What goes up must come down. This video includes the first 6 minutes of the descent from the top. This is one descent that definitely is earned.

Top of the Grand Mesa, Colorado

Subalpine meadows quilt-square the top of the Grand Mesa.

North Fork Gunnison River and the West Elk Mountains, Colorado

The drop into Cedaredge and the North Fork of the Gunnison River can be scenic. The West Elk Mountains rise in the distance.

Hotchkiss High School camp

Our campsite location at Hotchkiss High School was fairly hidden.

Approximate stats:
96 miles
7:39:49 ride time (add another 1.5 hours for stops)
6,255 feet of total elevation gain (excluding rollers into Hotchkiss)
5,430 feet of elevation gain on the Grand Mesa proper

See ya on Day Three


25 June 2015

Stardate 2015.482

Monument Canyon is home to Independence Monument (a monolith or tower), Colorado National Monument.  In the upper  background, the Bookcliffs rise above the Grand Valley.

Day One RtR
Ancient Stone

Hi girls and boys! Snowcatcher and I just returned from a 7-day, 464-mile bike ride across Colorado. This was the 30th anniversary of Ride the Rockies (RtR); a fully supported tour through mountainous regions of the state. This was my 5th and Snowcatcher’s 6th RtR. This year’s west to east route snaked through central and south central Colorado; visiting the cities and towns of Grand Junction, Hotchkiss, Gunnison, Crested Butte, Salida, Cañon City and Westcliffe.

Sunrise brings a smile to the faces of stone comprising Colorado National Monument.

The Tour began with a classic loop ride out of Grand Junction. The route scaled the beautiful sandstone cliffs of Colorado National Monument and returned via the fertile farmlands connecting the hamlet of Fruita (the mountain biking mecca) with Grand Junction. The steep but not overly long climb up to the Monument's Rim Rock Drive gave riders a chance to get their legs under them before a grueling Day Two. Grand Junction being my home town, I was excited to tackle the Monument again. Bias aside, I think it’s one of the best road rides around. Enjoy!

Our Ride the Rockies Day One campsite next to Wubben Hall, Colorado Mesa University.

Our day began nestled on the grass outside of Wubben Hall, Colorado Mesa University. Growing like an endearing weed, the school was formerly known as Mesa State College.

Columbus Canyon, Colorado National Monument

The first water station was on top of the Monument at Cold Shivers Point, adjacent to Columbus Canyon. At this point, most of the hard climbing is finished.

Head of Red Canyon, Colorado National Monument

It’s been a cool, wet spring and many wildflowers are still in bloom. It’s not uncommon to have triple-digit temperatures by now.

Above is a 6-minute video of riding through a piñon juniper forest adjacent to Ute Canyon during Ride the Rockies.

I bet you can guess who this is!

Snowcatcher refuels at the Liberty Cap aid station.

Independence Monument (a monolith or tower), Colorado National Monument

Monument Canyon pulls at the senses.

Above video features a 6-minute segment of Rim Rock Drive adjacent to Monument Canyon during Ride the Rockies.

Sinuous Rim Rock Drive, Colorado National Monument

Sinuous Rim Rock Drive is about as good as it gets. It's a hoot!!

49.8 miles
4:18:05 ride time
2,120 feet total ride elevation gain
1,200 feet elevation gain Monument entrance to Cold Shivers Point

See ya on Day Two!


21 June 2015

Stardate 2015.471

South Platte River, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

Another Waterton Post

Spring is finally here. Snowcatcher and I got an evening ride in several days ago. Here are several pics.

South Platte River, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

Dieter and Wolfgang rode along and showed their tree skills whenever they had an audience.

The South Platte still runs high. We've had a bunch of rain this spring.

South Platte River, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

Waterton Canyon gets nice displays of light, especially in between thunderstorms.

Well, that was short and sweet; stay tuned.


16 June 2015

Stardate 2015.458

Elephant Rock Cycling Festival 2015

The Elephant Rock Cycling Festival kicks off the summer riding season along Colorado's Front Range. This was the 28th anniversary of the event. With all the spring rain, it also was one of the greenest. The ride offers 100-, 62- and 40-mile road routes. Moreover, there's a 27-mile gravel route, as well as an 8-mile family route.

I normally ride the 100-mile route. However, I bumped down to the 62 this year. The course primarily is nonstop steep rollers that eventually take their toll on your legs deep into the ride.

Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, Castle Rock, Colorado

A wet afternoon was forecast, prompting Snowcatcher and I to leave at 5 in the morning, a half hour earlier than normal. (Snowcatcher also wanted to be able to attend church at 11 a.m.)

Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, Castle Rock, Colorado

After several miles, the sun began its magic.

Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, Castle Rock, Colorado

14,110-foot Pikes Peak (state rank 30) greeted the morning in fine fashion.

Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, Castle Rock, Colorado

The top of a roller just south of Castle Rock, Colorado

Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, Castle Rock, Colorado

Palmer Divide aid station

Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, Castle Rock, Colorado

The long and winding road of the final 25 miles

Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, Castle Rock, Colorado

Festival Expo getting under way

Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, Castle Rock, Colorado

Festival Expo

That's it for now; later gator.


11 June 2015

Stardate 2015.444

United States Air Force Academy, Protestant Chapel

United States Air Force Academy
Cadet Chapel

A visit to the Cadet Chapel was a major part of Snowcatcher's and my day of riding bicycles at the Air Force Academy. The following photos were acquired with a small Olympus point-and-shoot I bicycle with. I didn't use the flash, and I tried to catch the ambient light radiating from the stained glass. Consequently, some shots are a bit on the grainy side. To remedy this, Snowcatcher and I are conjuring up a plan to reshoot with a real camera, in the hands of a real photographer; that being Snowcatcher. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy them!

United States Air Force Academy & Cadet Chapel

Cadet Chapel standing proud

United States Air Force Academy, Protestant Chapel

The Cadet Chapel is an all-faith house of worship. There is a separate chapel for each of the major faiths representative of the cadet student body. The main chapels are Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. In addition, there is a small Buddhist Chapel and an All-Faiths Room. The upper main level is the Protestant Chapel, with other Chapels directly below.

United States Air Force Academy, Cadet Chapel

United States Air Force Academy, Cadet Chapel, Lower Level

The Chapel was designed by Walter A. Netsch, Jr., of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill Architectural Firm. The following entities were enlisted by the Air Force to maintain design approval; the General Commission on Chaplains in the Armed Services represented Protestants; the Roman Catholic Military Ordinariate monitored Catholic interests; and the National Jewish Welfare Board represented the Jewish faith.

United States Air Force Academy, Protestant Chapel

Robert E. McKee, Inc., of Santa Fe, New Mexico, was the contractor. The building took 5 years of planning, followed by 4 years of construction. There is no meaning associated with the 17 spires of aluminum, glass and steel. The number 17 was the result of cost. Construction began 28 August 1959. The chapel was signed-off the summer of 1963. The chapel shell and surrounding grounds cost $3.5 million.

United States Air Force Academy, Protestant Chapel

Stained glass provides ribbons of color throughout the chapels. Ceiling stained glass colors run dark to light to represent coming from darkness into the light of God.

United States Air Force Academy, Protestant Chapel

The Protestant Chapel has 1,200 seats, with a 120-seat choir loft and pipe organ. The Catholic Chapel seats 500, with an 80-seat choir loft and pipe organ. The Jewish Chapel holds 100 worshipers.

United States Air Force Academy, Protestant Chapel, Pipe Organ

Protestant pipe organ

United States Air Force Academy, Protestant  Chapel

United States Air Force Academy, Catholic  Chapel

The Catholic Chapel also was very ornate...

United States Air Force Academy, Catholic Chapel

...with beautiful stained glass and art work.

United States Air Force Academy, Catholic Chapel

Very nice!

United States Air Force Academy, Cadet Chapel, Campus Square, F-15 Eagle

If anyone messes with the Academy, there is a squadron of these bad boys within spitting distance. If you're a bad-guy, good luck!

Up next? How about some Elephant Rock?

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