Sunday, August 22, 2010

2nd Riding Vacation.

My second riding vacation actually included two races: the Metamora 4x50 on-road and the Leadville 100 offroad bike races. I'll post about those seperately. This post will just be related to the travels and travails of the last two weeks.

Trisha, Katelyn and I took off for Metamora, IL in the hairless mammoth pulling the bike trailer on Thursday morning, August 5th. This would be Katelyn's last trip for the summer as she had to start school down in Natchitoches on the 14th. Allen and Rachel were burned out on traveling on the last road trip to NY. Their loss.

The first day we drove up to Perryville, MO. There is a nice RV Park right near the interstate on the way to St. Louis. We stopped in and got a great spot that allowed us to power both the van and trailer which meant Katy had the trailer to herself and didn't have to use the small bed in the van. It also meant Trish and I got the camper all to ourselves.

The next morning I got in a little ride on the frontage road on the interstate and we jumped in the RV so we could get to Van City RV when they opened. The new RV had a couple of warranty issues and they were able to knock them out quickly. Then we went to Walmart to get some last minute items and emerged a half hour later after spending well over $200. We had decided to pickup a small portable printer to hook up to the computer and some movies to watch in the RV along with other spur of the moment items.

We headed out toward Metamora around 10:00. It was a nice day (first day below 100 in a month) so we stopped at a wayside to eat some lunch then finished the drive up to Peoria and checked into the hotel. After getting everything situated at the hotel we drove over to Metamora to find the race site and to predrive the course. This turned out to be more of a challenge than I had hoped. After getting to the race site we headed north on the course. Less than 1/2 mile into the race - fresh chip seal. I mean, put down that mornng fresh. So we continued on, but missed the first turn. There is no place for turning the hairless mammoth with trailer around on IL farming roads, so it was up to the next interestion then back to the route, almost. We missed the turn back onto the route because the road was called something different. So we went back almost to the start and did it again.

By the time we got back on route we decided that we should try to find the 2nd support location which was supposed to be on road 1800. So we continued on 1800 road east. Oops, Road Closed. We drove a mile south to 1700 road. Road Closed. Down to 1600 Road. Same thing, but now we head to 1600 west and it was only gravel. Oh well, so much for preriding the course and finding the support location. It was time to drive to the host hotel and register. At least this went well. No roads were closed and the hotel had a good parking spot for the beast.

Registration started at 5 and was quick and painless. Joe got Trisha a route around the construction so she could get to the 2nd support location. We cooled our heels in the lobby chatting with racers as they came and went, waiting for the pre race dinner at a chain Italian restaurant and pizzaria. The food was much better than we were led to believe and the conversation was excellent.

Saturday, August 7th, Race Day - Finished 5th overall. Larry Ide didn't race but came down after the race and Trish and I went with Larry and John and Jay for dinner and talked about long races and how to finish them - something that I was very interested in with the Tejas 500 looming in the back of my mind.

Sunday was a travel day and was pretty much an unevenful crossing of Iowa and 1/2 of Nebraska as we came to rest at Ft Kearny State Park around 4 in the afternoon. Once we got to camp things got more interesting. Trish and Katy took off shoping while I stayed back at the site and did some bike maintenance.

My bike maintenance consisted of lubing up the the chain and cleaning off all of the road grime from the road bike and putting on a new chain on my mountain bike. Cleaning and lubing the road bike went fine. Then I removed the old chain from the mtn bike and cut the new chain to the same length and put in on the MTB. This process went fine, but the bike had a tremendous amount of chainsuck. I shifted into BIG/BIG and oops - it wouldn't shift back out. The chain was too small. The only way to fix the problem was to break a link and put the old chain back on. After putting the chain back on I did some spinning around the campsite and down a local trail and waited for the women to return.

Their shopping experience wasn't as smooth as the wanted it to be, but they returned with the essentials for camping in the park. Beer, Burgers, Buns, Bug Spray, Charcoal, and Lighter Fluid? Nope, no lighter fluid. This posed a small problem - how to light charcoal without lighter fluid. We gather some small twigs and paper to try to get the fire going, but no luck. Then Katy said - "Dad, the bug spray says its extremely flamable". Don't try this at home, but Off bug spray pretty much works like a torch. We got the paper and sticks to light and then applied THE TORCH. After awhile we had the charcoal lit and were grilling some burgers.

Our goal for Monday was to get to Oscar's home around 6 in the evening so that meant we had a little time to kill in Kearny. I woke up and did a quiet 20 mile road ride to the south of the park and then came back and cooked up some breakfast for everyone. We had a slight problem at the campsite. The showers took quarters and we only had enough for Katy to get a shower. After Katy was all cleaned up we headed to a mountain bike trail on the northwest side of the city, where Trish dropped me off at the trail head and took Katy to the washateria to start a couple loads of laundry and pickup quarters so we could go back and shower. I rode for about an hour then Trish and I headed back to the campsite and cleaned up, packed up and picked up Katelyn and headed for Denver.

We arrived at Oscar and Hala's place around 5:30 and proceeded to dinner at Pappadeaux Restaurant. The have some of the best canjun foods in or out of Louisiana. After dinner we headed back to the house to smoke a hookah. The hookah, or what I would have called an extremely fancy bong back in college, was from Lebanon where Hala was born. We had some apple flavored concoction which was ok but??? Then it was off to bed.

The goal for Tuesday was to preride the first section of the Leadville course and get a feel for riding at about 10,000 ft elevation. After Oscar and Hala headed off to work we made the two hour drive up the mountain to Leadville. I broke out my bike and headed off for a 3 hour tour, while Katy and Trisha explored the city. The ride was ok, missed a turned and had to climb back up the mountain on the road but all was good. I got back to the van and the girls were napping inside so we packed up and headed back down the mountain. I think Trish was suffering a little from the altitude and maybe some bad chili, but we made it back down to Oscars at around 5.

My BIL (Brother-In-Law) Ralph, or Skip as he is also known, met us at about 5:30 with Trisha's Car. Trish and Katy were headed home on Wednesday and Skip was going to be my crew for Leadville and then we were going to do some riding on the way back. We moved stuff between the car and van and got ready to out to Hala's brother's Lebanese restaurant. I couldn't tell you anything that I ate, but it was all delicious.

Wednesday morning saw Trisha and Katy heading home and Skip and I on a bike tour of southern Denver. Denver has one of the greatest bike trail systems I've ever seen - only rivalled by Anchorage, AK. We started out our exploration by picking up the trail about 1/2 mile from Oscars house in Centennial and heading north. We rode the Canal trail in Cherry Creek until it dead ended at a golf course. If you ever want to go on a tour of homes by bike this would be the way to go. Many multi-million dollar properties along the route. Once the trail dead eneded, we back tracked to Quincy Avenue and rode the bike path east.

We stopped around 10:00 in the morning at Subway for some breakfast and then continued east to Cherry Creek state park and rode there until noonish. We started our trek back and found the bar that was in the same shopping center as Subway. It was good for a couple of pints and burger and fries. Then it was time for the ride home. Ralph was pretty much done - we had gotten in 44 miles which was about 10 miles further than he had ever ridden so it was a good day for him and fun day for me. We had about 5 hours until Oscar was going to be home so we started sampling the beers that were in the cooler and chilaxing at the house. We celebrated Ralph's long ride by going out for sushi. Lava Rolls are a spicy shrimp, cream cheese deep fried sushi and they are the best sushi ever.

Thursday morning was the day we headed up to Dillon to stage for the Leadville race, but first Oscar wanted us to try a Denver Delicacy. Santiagos breakfast burritos. So we drove with Oscar to Santiago on our way out of town and his way to work. We picked up a couple of burritos and some coffee. The burritos were good, but a little spicy.

We arrived in Dillon at about 10:30 and parked at the hotel and broke out the bikes. Today we were going to be riding the bike path around Lake Dillon. We found that this was not an easy ride. It starts off nice and easy in Dillon at around 9000', but once you make your way to the south side of the lake you must climb over a pretty good mountain at about 9600' to get to the west side and Frisco.

Frisco is a great place and has a nice brew pub called the Back Country Brewery which has an awesome beer called Switchback Amber. I know this because after we climbed over the mountain and started making our way back to Dillon we decided to stop for lunch. The BCB is on the 2nd story and has a back deck that looks out over the mountains. Since the temp was in the 70's it was definitely the place to be. We sat outside and enjoyed the cuisine and brew and talked with a couple of frisbee golfers from Illinois that were out for the week. Ask me later about one guy's stories about Amsterdam. After lunch we spun back to the hotel.

Friday was Leadville check in and racer briefing. The check in was at 8 and went smoothly and the racer briefing wasn't until 11:00 so we had time to drive out to the two aid stations so that Ralph could figure out where he would park and do hands-ups. There wasn't very good information or markings for either but I had a general idea of where he would be so we were set and headed back for the briefing. This was both a joke and pain in the ass. The briefing was set to begin at 11:00 so, after wandering the town, we meandered over to the location at 10:40 and found a line 3 blocks long. We walked to the end of the line and ran into Mike F from Little Rock. The line got longer and finally started moving at about 11. I finally got to the door at about 11:10 and they said that the auditorium was full, but it didn't matter because they weren't taking attendance. Afterward I was told it was nothing but a pep rally. It annoyed me to stand around for nothing, so Skip and I headed down to a local watering hole for some lunch and beverages.

To get from Leadville to Dillon you travel on CO 91 which is about 20 miles long and crosses the continental divide at the headwaters of the Arkansas River. It meets I70 at Cooper Mountain which is about 7 miles west of Frisco and it's all downhill. There is a bike trail that runs along I70 from Vail to Dillon. I jumped on the trail at Cooper Mountain and raced Ralph down to Back Country Brewery. He won, but only by a couple of minutes. We grabbed another Switchback Amber at the bar. We were going to buy a pig of it (mini keg) but they wanted a 16 dollar deposit so we just bought a 12 pack of 22 ouncers for the rest of trip.

I rode back into Dillon and met Skip at the hotel where we got on the bikes and headed out to find another pub. This might not have been the greatest race prep but it was fun. We stopped and played a game of pool and drank a beer at a hole-in-the-wall bar then meandered back to the hotel to clean up for dinner. We stopped at the Araphoe Cafe. I ordered a full rack of ribs because I thought I was hungry and I thought I knew how big a full rack of ribs was. I was wrong. I was hungry, but their full rack of ribs was cut in half and both halves covered the plate. I've been getting ripped off at most rib places, especially at Chili's. Speaking of Chili's, skip it unless it the only restaurant in town. Most everything is over priced, undersized and accompanied with poor service. Okay. that's just Chili's in North Little Rock.

Saturday was Leadville: 10:36 minutes. 3rd Arkansan to Finish and 474th out of 1022 that actually finished out of 1600+ that started. Details in the Leadville Blog.

Sunday was Leadville Adwards Ceremony. This was another cluster like the pre-race breifing. It was held in the same auditorium so you know there wasn't room for everyone. It started at 8:30 and was nothing but an over-priced waste of time (much like most Ironman Awards Breakfasts). But they have you captive if you want to pickup your finishers belt buckle and sweatshirt - both of which are cool. Levi Leipheimer scored big with the fans by being too lazy to show up for the ceremonies. Nice - win the race, but snub everyone by being an hour late to the ceremony. Problem was the promoter made a big deal of him showing up and gave him the mike to speak. Solution to everyone that does Leadville. If you want to claim your awards, skip the first hour of the ceremony then divide your position by 10 to figure out when to show to collect your award. Since I was 474th, I could have been an hour and 47 minute late and still been there in time. Enough bitching about the awards.

After the award ceremony we went back Frisco to hook up the trailer and drive to Grand Junction for the next couple of days. We had a coupon for Smash Burger so we stopped in - they are goooood. The drive put us in Grand Junction around 5:00 with the temps back around 100 degrees... so long to the mountains and 70's for highs. We hit the grocery store and bought burgers, other stuff and lighter fluid so that we could cook us some good burgers and have a great meal.

Monday was Moab. Skip had been mountain biking in WY during the summer and somebody told him Moab was the place to go. While we were at Smash Burger a rider said that if we were there for a day we need to hit Slick Rock because it was like noplace else on earth so we got up at 4:30 on Monday and made the 2 hour drive to Moab and Slick Rock.

We unloaded the bikes and away we went. Slick Rock really is like no place I've ever ridden before. It's nothing but barren rock with a white dotted line painted on the ground to tell you where to ride. Sometimes it up the side of big rock, in which case I dismount and push, and sometimes it's down the same rock which is much more fun. After two miles of the trail Ralph decided that he had bit off a little more that he could chew so we turned around and headed back to the trail head.

I told Ralph "No worries". I know there is much better riding than Moab and that's Fruita, CO which was only 30 minutes from where we were camping. So we drove back to the Kokopeli trail head in Fruita and got in some good riding before the T-Storm hit. We drove into Fruita for lunch then came back out and put in some more time on the trails until another storm hit. It was only about two oclock so we headed up to the Colorado National Monument for some site seeing.

Coming back off the mountain into Grand Junction we could tell that there had been some significant rain for the area and some of the roads were closed due to flash floods. We meandered back to the RV Park, picking up some steaks to cook on the grill for dinner. Only problem was we had to cook in the rain. The steaks kept the charcoal dry enough once we got it started.

Tuesday morning we began our drive home. We decided to take the scenic route to Colorado Springs using US50 via Gunnison. This was a cool drive back over the continental divide. We got into Colorado Springs around 2 in the afternoon and rode up Red Rocks Canyon for our last MTB session of the Trip. This was by far Skip's favorite place to ride and I have always liked it. After the ride we continued driving thru Southeast Colorado. This is one of the most desolate places on earth. We got gas just outside of CO Springs and it's a good thing we did because we didn't see another gas station for over 100 miles. We ended up spending the night in Garden City, KS.

The reason we stopped in Garden City was that the bike map we had for KS showed a good route starting there, running south and turning east on US160. I got up in the morning and the place was fogged in so Skip and I caught some breakfast and loaded up and drove till about 7:15. The fog had finally lifted so I jumped out on 160 and got my century training ride in by 12:00. It was a fast ride.

The rest is just a drive home and I'm tired of typing so bye.

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