On Thursday, July 17th we woke up at 4:30 AM, giddy with anticipation for the promise of an epic ride. Annie made us eggs and we packed quickly and were on the road and in Rocky Mountain National Park by six o’clock. In recent weeks, the lightning storms that descend over the mountains in the afternoons had twice proven to be lethal at or above the tree line, so we wanted to reach the summit before the dangerous weather. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and even though we had a 20+ mile steady climb to the 12,183′ peak, we stopped to take lots of pictures. It isn’t every day that we attempt to pedal up the highest bike ride in the USA.
As we climbed through the morning fog, there was fortunately little traffic and we continued on ever higher. The vistas were indescribable.
At one outlook, a park ranger had echoed our concerns about the afternoon storms, so we climbed almost without stopping until we were a mile or less from the peak, when the thin air plus some asthmatic breathing caused me to pull over suddenly and almost fall, dropping my bike for the first time. Petunia was unharmed and mostly unfazed, and Greg leapt into action, handing me my inhaler, got me to unhook my helmet, and helped Petunia get righted. A scary moment, but soon after, everything was calm again.
As we sat on the side of the road, we saw a familiar face waking towards us- Annie had driven up to cheer us on! She made sure we were okay (we were), took some groovy film photos, and offered the encouraging promise that we were almost at the top where the visitors center and hot chocolate awaited. It was noon, we were soaked from sweat and needed dry clothes and lunch. The exhilaration of the ride and reaching the amazing apex of Trail Ridge Road was overwhelming.
After a well-deserved lunch, costume change, and some resting, we ran into a couple we’d met in Estes Park and they cheered us on as well. So many people stopped and talked to us, minds blown that we’d pedaled fully loaded bikes and an adorable dog to the summit on roads without guardrails with steep
cliffs on both sides and tourist drivers in rented RV’s. We were both proud and humbled, elated and exhausted. It felt like the best part of the trip so far.
The ~5 hour ride up was of course followed by a 30-45 minute downhill that was an ecstatic blur of unparalleled scenic awesomeness. Lots of great shots made it onto the GoPro and I’m looking forward to editing and reviewing it all when I get home. We turned off the road at the end of the park and found a quiet space to camp and made a small fire to fend off the mountain’s chill before curling up for sleep. What an incredible day.