It’s finally here! Ride the Rockies is upon us, and the start in Gunnison could not be better as far as I concerned. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Gunnison Valley, growing up on the western slope I spent many summer days riding the Gunnison River through Black Canyon, my folks went to college at Western State and when I was still was stationed in Colorado, Gunnison and Crested Butte were among my favorite towns in which to spend time. The low-key vibe in Gunnison is hardly rare in Colorado mountain towns, but because it’s not really a resort town (Crested Butte is a half hour up the road and you have to go just outside of town for fishing and whitewater) it has a lived in comfort that many of the more well known Colorado mountain towns tend to lack.
Since I have such an affinity for Gunny, I wanted to roll into town a little early to relax and catch up with some friends and of course enjoy a beer or two. I arrived in Gunnison Friday night, and the ordeal of getting to the start of the ride may almost equal the hill climbs. I left Minnesota very early Thursday morning, and drove straight through to Fort Collins, my traveling companion, my dog Regina was agreeable enough, but not the greatest conversationalist. Thus the thirteen and a half hour drive felt very long indeed, I would now have to judge it as my absolute limit for traveling by car. I might be able to stomach a longer haul if I was not the only driver, but for me, sitting for 12 or more hours is what the CIA might call euphemistically a, “Stress Position.” After I arrived in Colorado, I was able to catch up with some friends, including a few folks from Minnesota that were coincidentally in Fort Collins. Friday was an additional 5 hours from Fort Collins to Gunnison, once I rolled into town though, I was able to immediately forget about my intense dislike of extended windshield time. My first stop was the Gunnison Brewery, the local brewpub and one of my favorite places to enjoy a beer in town. The Gunnison Brewery also has a Minnesota connection; one of their brewing alumni is now brewing at Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth. As per usual the Gunnison Brewery provided a springboard for a great evening of catching up with Odell co-workers, old friends and meeting new ones, well worth the effort to arrive early.
The weather Saturday could not have been better; the 2012 Ride the Rockies kick off was exactly what you’d want it to be. The registration was easy and the party downtown was fantastic. 80 degrees, an ice-cold beer, (those with discerning taste were of course enjoying our own Pedal Push, the pilot batch beer we brewed exclusively for this year’s ride.) and 2,000 riders meeting each other swapping stories and making predictions for the week made for a great evening in the mountains. Of course the abundance of great food and music didn’t hurt much either. The only challenge was to not indulge too much, since after all, a big bike ride on Sunday was looming, I can say that I was just on the edge of imprudence, adjusting to the higher altitude is necessary for not only for climbing the passes.
So now the hard part begins, Sunday’s ride will take us from Gunnison to Hotchkiss, a great little town at the southern base of Mt Sopris. We’ll head past Blue Mesa Reservoir through the Black Canyon and then north to our destination. It’s about an 80-mile ride with a small (relatively) elevation gain. I fear that I’m not going to be quite ready, but this should be mild ride compared to what is to come over the course of the week; it will no doubt prove a good intro day for the tour. Check in this space over the week to find out how it goes. Cheers!
Todd Ewing is the Odell Brewing Company representative in Minnesota. He is extremely worried that living at low altitude and have no hills to climb during training has left him ill prepared for 6 days of climbing mountain passes. Tweet at him: @OdellMN