Next morning, July 2, we were up early to start on the several thousand foot climb over Trail Ridge Road. Fog and rain followed us the first few miles, obscuring the views somewhat, but also the steep grade of the hill. It began to snow as we neared 12,000 feet at the Alpine Visitor Center where we stopped to refuel on burgers and fries before climbing the last 200 feet or so to 12,183 feet in elevation.
I felt great. At least my legs and lungs did. I’ve had asthma since childhood, and it sometimes affects my cycling. But, I am discovering, contrary to logic, that I breathe better in the thin air of high altitude than at sea level.
Claire found the day taxing, and I could feel her effort coursing through Zippy, powering us up the mountain. The feeling of shared exertion, of shared rhythm, is one of the best things about riding a tandem. It’s hard to describe how it feels to be climbing such a mountain together.
An apt cliché would be a pair of draft horses leaning into the load, feeling each others contribution, working easy in harness together. But, I dislike clichés. I would never use one in a million years.
Claire is very excited about achieving one of her goals, the highest continuously paved road in America. I’m proud of her. Myself too, come to think of it. There was a time when we might have questioned whether we could ride a loaded tandem up a mountain that big, at that elevation. No more. We have become a unified force, efficient and confident we can handle anything the road throws at us. Zippy too. He’s so cocky, he’s disgusting. He shows off his few little nicks and paint scratches like they were major battle scars, and wags his unraveling American flag in the wind with pride. He’s our precocious teenager, and we love him just the way he is.
After a picture at the top, we put on all our winter clothes, for the long descent. It is spectacular, with lots of curves and exposure. Unfortunately some cars caused us to slow. I guess we’ll just have to come back and do it again.
We met a park volunteer on the way out of Rocky Mountain National Park, and she invited us to stay with her and her partner last night. Building thunderheads convinced us to do just that.
Teresa and Ann are interested in buying a tandem in a year or two when they will have more time to tour. They picked our brains about tandem buying and touring. The only problem is they both want to be stoker. They’ll have to work that out first.
We stayed up late talking and lingered over breakfast with Teresa after Ann left for work. It’s so nice how quickly people make us feel comfortable in their homes. We hope they can visit us someday, somewhere.
After a fairly easy ride down to Longmont, we stopped to visit with friends Bob and Edna Zimmerer who lived on the Olympic Peninsula for several years. They came to be with us the night Claire’s mother died and their prayers and support helped us through. They spend winters in Sun City, Arizona near Phoenix, and we hope to stop to see them there this winter, on our way north and west. It’s been good to catch up on old times with them, see the grandchildren’s pictures, and be able to put them in their new place when we think of them.