542 miles in a week in the bag! Woo hoo!
The last segment of 84 miles was a perfect last day in a lot of ways. For starters I did not freeze in my tent last night! I was also able to get on the road earlier at around 6:30 am which was nice.
Today was a pretty flat ride where we enjoyed a baby tailwind all day. It's normally the type of segment riders would group up and easily average over 20 mph. However, several of us rode together all day at a very comfortable pace and chatted the whole way. We really enjoyed soaking in the sights of a different part and terrain of Colorado. In fact, I rode out front of our group the entire 84 miles thrilled to set the pace and take us to the finish. It was the most enjoyable "recovery/celebration" ride I've done.
The lines for breakfast at camp plus the food they offered was not to my liking. So I hit the road knowing the first rest stop should not be too far away. The tour went to great lengths to provide us with spiral bound que sheets that told us at what
mileage the rest stops were located. All the 1st rest stops had been about 10 miles from the start so I figured it would be pretty easy to do that on a very empty stomach. Uh oh-after getting on the road I learned that the first rest stop was an hour+ away-and I already had that starving for food/stomach caving in feeling. My clan is well known for eating early, plenty and often so this was a challenge of my genetics! At least I was with some others and we chatted a bit which helped to pass the time.
The best news was the all you can eat pancake couple was there-and I got an overflowing plate of fresh off the griddle hot cakes and link sausage. I think this week may have greatly changed my riding motivation. I think I'm now riding to eat!
The biggest issue today was just butt soreness. Some riders had to skip some days due to unpleasant saddle sores. Since today's ride was about as flat as it gets for the first 55 miles, sitting on the saddle and spinning just caused the butt muscles to scream with discomfort. After several years of riding I know I can ride on my saddle for hours. But there is just no way to toughen up the butt muscles enough for a ride of this magnitude.
We found that standing up and riding a lot more frequently than normal helped immensely. It was humorous hearing the folks behind me saying "ahhhhh" after we'd stand up and pedal for a while.
We were treated to very long views of green countryside that had mountains with snow covered peaks off to the sides. Before the first rest stop while the sun was coming up over the mountain ridges, we passed a golf course with brooks where the mist was coming up off the ground and water. My golfing buddy Craig would also be excited about all the deer that were out on the course getting breakfast. How often do you get to see things like that?
We stopped at the last rest stop only 10 miles from the finish not really needing anything other than to just soak up the views and enjoy each other's company. Needless to say the mood there was one of complete joy and elation. We all had ridden the 500+ miles in different ways but everyone was on a high of realizing what we'd done.
They also had a local DJ there on a PA system and offered a Tshirt to anyone who would sing the National Anthem. An older fellow who just finished the last climb was pulling in and took the challenge. He grabbed the microphone and cut loose with an incredible baritone version. Amazingly the hundreds of people at the stop got quiet and paid tribute. Kinda magical.
We earned and were rewarded with a really fast 13 mile descent to the finish. The finish line was surrounded by lots of people cheering and ringing cowbells. It appeared that a lot of locals came out to see the 2000 lunies in spandex.
I guess it's the laws of camping but I cannot figure how both my inflatable mattress and tent keep growing in size this week. The Asian folks are a lot sharper than me because I never could get either of them back in their original bags and just wasted time trying.
I learned that next time my travel bag will have wheels on it. It never failed that the baggage trucks were a long ways from the camping areas. You can only imagine how taxing it is to lug a 50 lb bag a long ways after riding close to 100 miles day after day. My daughter was gracious enough to loan me one of her large travel/duffel bags for the trip and I look forward to giving it back to her! Also, it is important to not put breakables in your bag. The bags are unloaded to head high and close enough together many times you just had to walk on to of the pile of bags to find yours. You should have seen the Lance peanut butter crackers and pretzles I carried in my bag!
I brought a multi-plug receptacle so I could better share the few outlets available at each camp site and still recharge my cycling computer and blackberry. It was a hit with the riders-it's amazing how many of us are plugged in. If I hadn't you would not have been able to enjoy the daily updates!
An EMS vehicle with sirens and lights followed the last rider across the finish to thunderous applause. There were many days I'd be heading to supper only to see riders coming in after being out on the road for 10+ hours, day after day. God Bless 'em!
I went to the closing ceremonies which was very well done-a very celebratory mood. This was the 25th year and I learned it was the hardest RtR they've done. I'm glad I didn't know that ahead of time! RtR is the only tour like this in the US rated in the top 10 in the world. I need to find out what and where the others are!
The oldest rider was 83 (I wasn't the only white headed rider there!) and youngest was 9-I think I saw him on a tandem. I stuck around to see if I was lucky enough to win a Parlee bike but I wasn't so lucky. However I was truly lucky to have experienced an amazing week with a large group of people who went out of their way to be friendly. I'll take away so much from this week including the names and faces of locals along with other riders. I hope to see them out on the road again.
I hope you've enjoyed these messages from "Paradise"!