Day 5 was optional, and when I first signed up for this ride, I was convinced I was going to take the day off. The ride in its entirety is very challenging. The final day is possibly the most challenging and the most iconic of the ride, along Million Dollar Highway from Ridgeway to Durango. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a day off and feel well rested. Plenty of people did chose to rest that day, as evidenced by conversations I had with other participants and the number of people I saw out at the brewery the previous evening.
When it came time to decide my instinct told me not to take the full day off. I decided to ride on day 5, but to skip the part of the ride I had already ridden on day 4, up Dallas Divide.
I also determined that, since I was staying in Ouray, I could make day 6 a little easier by riding the first 12 miles of that challenging 85 mile day after looping back to Ridgeway. I’d still get to see all the places included in the ride.
By the fifth day I began to notice…
- Regardless of the circumstance I always woke up around 5:45. On a “normal” weekday I sometimes struggle to get myself out of bed before 7! This was likely because I was getting exercise and sunlight, but could have also been related to the anticipation of each day’s ride.
- I also got in the habit of watching the morning news in the various hotel rooms I stayed in.
Since I was busy most days cycling, with my hands on my handlebars, I was not checking the news on my phone (or a computer) throughout the day. Instead, I watched the news for half an hour or so every morning as I prepared for the day’s ride.
I realized that, with respect to how we consume the news, I had essentially reverted to the way things were three decades ago, when it was common to watch the news in the morning or the evening, but our exposure to the news was confined only to that half hour or hour each day. I determined that I liked it better. 99% of all news stories are not emergencies. They can wait until the end of the day or the following morning.
The ride started on a trail that connected Ridgeway with Ridgeway State Park, a place where a lot of people take part in water sports.
The 17-mile descent went quite fast and before I knew it I was in the tiny town of Colona.
The second half of the loop pretty much embodied what Ride the Rockies is really all about. It was a challenging 2,000 foot (600 m) climb on a dirt road, but, the challenge ended up being worth it!
I spent some time in Ridgeway before tackling the final 12 miles of my day.
It was good to have a nice meal and then relax by the pool for a while.
I was concerned about the heat, which was starting to build in Ridgeway, but luckily was able to take advantage of some clouds that had built in the middle of the afternoon to take on the ride from Ridgeway to Ouray.
From the standpoint of off-roading, this was quite possibly the most challenging part of the ride. Here, highway 550 is fairly heavily trafficked and has no shoulder. The official ride follows parallel gravel roads that were a bit tough for me on the cyclocross bike I ride.
In Ouray, I got more time to relax, as the total ride for the day was still less than 50 miles.
I soaked my legs in the cold water of the Uncompaghre River.
And had a nice meal at the Outlaw Saloon, where I got to meet the man who plays all those old west sounding tunes on the piano.
This piano player makes a living playing old west style tunes at bars in both Ouray and Silverton (both towns with an old west vibe). I loved hearing his story!
Sometimes it feels like everywhere I go I see people that feel trapped in jobs they don’t like and are not passionate about. Some combination of fear and the need for security keeps them there. For the unfortunate ones who end up working long hours and enduring a lot of stress, it does not feel like much of a life, regardless of how much money they are making. Whenever I hear about people who decided to do what they love to do and actually find a way to make it work, I feel happy and encouraged.
The day ended with a gaze to the north and a reminder of the challenge that lied ahead on the following day.
Just looking around town in all directions, it feels like the hardest place in the world to bike. There is no easy way in or out!