I didn't know if I could do it....
I went to Big Bend National Park with my brother and some friends recently. During the planning stages of the trip I decided to ride by bike from Rio Grande Village on the river to the Chisos Basin Lodge, this is uphill all the way and climbs from about 1800' to about 5800' over 29 miles. The worst is near the end where the grade exceeds 11% in some places. The idea was for me to drive to the end at the river and park my truck there, ride back up the mountain and meet my brother and some kids. Then we would all ride back downhill to the river, where I left my truck. Then we could all load up and drive back to the Basin Lodge.
It was 45 F when I started out, uphill right from the beginning. The first 23 miles were a grind as it was a steady climb all the way to about 4100'. Then I turned left on the Basin road and the fun really started. The next 5 miles climbs to about 5800' and it gets steeper the further you go. By the time I got on this slope my legs were already burning. I was happy I had a triple chain ring on my bike. I would sit and grind away until my legs would feel like it was all I could take, then I would stand and climb until that too was all I could bear. Twice, I stopped to rest about 1 or 2 minutes. But, I did make it all the way!
The ride down was certainly much easier. I did hit 44 mph on the downhill run. I was a little concerned about my companions going down the hill, but they all survived. Then the gentle part of the downhill went smooth and we stopped a lot to examine the desert plants, view the scenery, and take pictures.
It may not be much for the bikers on this forum, but I felt pretty good to accomplish this at 50. Especially when I consider that most of the guys that I know that are near my age would not even attempt it.
This park is a great place to ride a bike, the traffic is light and the roads are good. There are plenty of challenging climbs to make, especially this one!