The plan was a 50 mile out and back ride that would have me head west into the mountains, through Wetmore and up to McKenzie Junction. From there I would turn left onto Highway 165 and continue climbing to about 9500 feet, before a descent and another climb that would put me a few miles short of Bishop's Castle. To get to my starting point, I had to drive about 15-20 miles west of town, to Sloam Road. As it turns out, Sloam is named after an abandoned town of about 100 people, that lived there a long time ago. It's so obscure, that when I tried to Google it, there wasn''t any information about it that I could find (you know it's obscure if it can't be googled)! At any rate, there's good place to park out there, and it's only about 3-4 miles before you start up into the mountains. This makes for a good warm-up for riding. Unfortunately, the road out at Sloam is pretty bad, a lot of patches, potholes, and broken asphalt. After about 4 miles though, it smooths out and is better the rest of the way. Twenty minutes in, I started my first climb up to the town of Wetmore. The few times I've driven this route, this climb has seemed daunting, but in reality, it was probably the easiest climb I did all day. It was steep for sure, but my legs were fresh, and I reached the top feeling no worse for the wear. I've learned that the best approach on hills is to take my time and not red-line trying to get to the top (On rides like these, the top is still 15 miles away). I wore my heart rate monitor this morning, and I don't think I cracked 150bpm the whole time.
Passing through Wetmore, the road turns south for a while, and I began a steady climb over the next 10 miles or so. The most challenging part of the ride occurs here. The last 2-3 miles to the junction involve some steep climbs with a grade of about 8%. Passing through this portion of the ride, I noticed several cars pulled over to the side of the road. Looking up to my right, I noticed a family of Mountain goats (about 4-5 of them), picking their way along the cliff wall. It's truly amazing how they can traverse such a spot so easily.
Finally, after 16.5 miles (95% of it uphill), I reached McKenzie Junction. If I continued west, I would travel fourteen miles into the town of Westcliffe. Instead, I went left and, you guessed it, continued to climb for another 5 miles along Highway 165. It was definitely fatiguing, but also quite beautiful, and temperate (the computer on my bike estimated about 65 degrees). Cresting the next hill, I was surprised to find a steep downhill in front of me. I started down somewhat hesitantly, since I knew however far I descended, I would have to climb back up again. Fortunately, after two short miles, I bottomed out again, but now faced a decision. My distance was about 22.5 miles at this point, but I was getting close to two and half hours on the bike. I knew the ride back down wouldn't take long, but I also knew that I was climbing so slowly that even a three mile ascent could take me close to a half an hour. I decided at this point, to turn around and climb back up the hill I had come down. This would shorten my total ride by about five miles, so I promised myself that when I got back down to level ground short of my fifty miles, I would make it up on the flats instead. So, I wheeled around and up I went again for the next two miles. The climb back out wasn't as bad as I thought, but I was pretty tired by the top. I paused for a moment to eat, drink, and snap a photo of myself:
|I'm on top of the world, Ma!|
|Looking down to the east at McKenzie Junction, 8% grade ahead!|
Today I'm postponing my ten mile run so that my legs can get a little rest. I'm headed to the pool now, to get in a brief Father's Day workout!