24 And There’s So Much More

I did the first training ride of my life this weekend. I biked from Longmont, Colorado, to Denver. It was a success, in that I’m still alive, but a learning opportunity, as well. Which mostly means that technicality it was a fail, but that seems too pessimistic.

I learned a lot, to say the least. I need to be in much better shape than I am currently in. I am hoping to buy my panniers soon and start riding with them, because with no gear I still cursed any hill I enc ountered. At one point I had come to the top of a second mesa in a row, looked north at the road I was supposed to turn onto, saw the insane hill it involved, and decided not worth it. This leads me to the second thing I learned. I am horrible at following directions. Instead of looking at a map or having an understanding of where I needed to go, I turned on my phone’s GPS and blindly followed it. Which worked out well, until I stopped and took a 10-mile detour to Boulder. Even that wasn’t too bad, it was when my phone started to die leaving Boulder that I encountered trouble. I got so lost. My 40-mile ride ended up being something between 60 and 70 miles, an educated guess I’m making because the amount I got lost, I couldn’t retrace my route if I tried.

I told my roommates all this once I was finally home, and they all had the same reaction: Duh. Apparently it was obvious to them that I would get lost. In my mind, however, it could not have been avoided and none of it was my fault.

I got about ten miles out of Boulder and turned off my GPS to save phone battery. I then ended up on a dirt road that turned out to be a mountain bike trail, which I found out when asking a man for directions.

“You should catch a bus to Denver from here, it’s far,” he said.

“It’s like a thing, I’m biking to Denver,” I said.

He helped me figure out how to get off the dirt road, and I ended up at a Whole Foods, where my exhaustion led me to a horrible conversation with a delightful woman. After she told me where she used to live in Denver, I said, “Oh, there is a Trader Joes there now… which you probably don’t want to hear, seeing how they are your rival and all… I don’t even like Trader Joes. Everyone loves it, I don’t get the hype…” I spat out. I was delirious.

She helped me figure out how to get closer to Denver, and after a few more miles I could see the skyline in the distance. I ebbed and flowed from one road to the next for an hour or so before I came across a movie theater.

Maybe I’ll go see a movie, I said to myself. I walked in, then realized that the only money I brought was two dollars, and after finding a quarter I was still eight dollars short because it was no longer matinee time. I tried to sneak in, but my bike is not conspicuous at all. Not even close.

I sulked out and sat at a bus stop and called my mom. My phone was at 8% battery at this point. She was shockingly cool with me biking alone. This is surprising because the woman didn’t let me drive at night until, well… I’m still not allowed to drive at night while visiting.

I hung up with my mom, 5% battery. I called my roommate, Nicole.

“I want to make it to Denver, at least,” I said.

“Just name a place, and I’ll be there,” she said. She is a saint.

I told her to meet me at 72d and Federal, which is about 10 miles from my house. Relatively, I should have just biked home. Especially because once I got to the intersection, I knew where I was. But I couldn’t do it. I biked for twenty minutes thinking I was getting close, only to end up back at the movie theater. The last seven miles were actually at least ten.

Nicole picked me up at a gas station, to which point I just started laughing.

“I’m so unprepared,” I said, relative to where I should be a month before the trip.

“How do you feel?” she said.

“Like I want to cry, or drink, or cry and drink,” I said.

I got home with 3% battery left on my phone, and did not move for a long time. I played Neil Young’s Old Man on repeat. I have wanted to be 24 years old my entire life because of this song, and on my birthday all I wanted to do was go for a bike ride and listen to it, so that I did.


Rest Easy, Mom

Because we have a boy on the trip.

I approached Kyle the way I have approached everyone I have spoken to in the last few months, by asking him to be a driver. He instead expressed interest in riding, and yada yada yada, now there are three road rascals.

I told Kyle that I’d having to talk with Kloe about it before giving him an answer, and after weighing the pros and cons, we realized that there were not really any cons, and the pros are huge. Kyle was ahead of Kloe and I in school, but we had mutual friends so I got to know him by the end of it. I dragged Kloe to a few parties at his house, so they have met before, but don’t know each other that well. This was the biggest pro when deciding.

“So he will become one of our best friends,” Kloe said.

“Is that awkward?” I asked.

“I mean, kind of, but we are also on the cusp of a life changing adventure so we might as well add a new best friend,” she said.

It took more than that conversation to make the decision, but in the end we can’t turn down someone that will add a lot to the team and help us raise more money for The Bridge School.


Mountain Passes

I have no idea what Kloe and I are getting ourselves into. I drove to Telluride, Colorado, last weekend, for a bluegrass festival. It was 300 miles of mountains. In my mind, you go up a mountain, go down the mountain, and then are over the Rockies. This is not the case. Within 100 miles you can go over more than one “pass.” A pass, I found out, is insane. Monarch Pass, which we will be riding, is seven miles up at a six percent incline, then the same down.

“How do you do that,” I asked my friend who has biked it.

“Don’t brake, you’ll fly off your bike,” he said, nonchalantly.

“But there is no shoulder on the road,” I said.

“You are faster than the cars,” he shrugged.

The road shoulders are what Kloe told me to keep an eye on, so every few miles I would get excited if one was over four feet.

“Look at this one, it’s great,” I pointed out to Becky.

“And look at this one,” she said, as the shoulder all but disappeared around a sharp curve.

Pretty much our entire route from Colorado Springs to Ridgway, a town 30 miles from Telluride, is the same route that Bike and Build takes, which I kept reminding myself every time the car had trouble getting up a hill—are they even called hills when they are literally mountains?

It is amazing what the human body is capable of when pushed to extremes. This is what I told myself before the two centuries I did, when I realized that I had not trained at all for either. And this is what I am telling myself now, as I sit in my bed, having not worked out in days. I am glad we are biking for The Bridge School, an amazing organization where students are pushed everyday to work towards better communication, and an organization that pushes the boundaries on technology. Each time we entered another town and I saw the elevation sign increase by another few hundred feet, I reminded myself of how impressive The Bridge School is, and how I can’t complain about how sore my butt will be or my legs will be, because we will be biking for something so amazing. Or at least I’ll try and remember that on my way up—and down—Monarch Pass.