THE 1994 OKLAHOMA BICYCLE SOCIETY GRAND TOUR
COLORADO / WYOMING
Eighty people who believe that true adventure lies not at travel's end but during the journey itself, gathered in Boulder, Colorado to ride their bicycles through some of the most spectacular scenery the Rocky Mountains have to offer. Before their 450-mile odyssey was through, they had crossed the Continental Divide twice, climbed mountains so high that the winter snows never fully melt and soaked their tired muscles in steaming water that bubbles from the bowels of the earth. They traveled through the land of the elusive jackalope, a strange genetic cross of a jack rabbit and a prong horn antelope, an animal so fast that it mates only during lightening flashes. They pedaled past black bears watching from the roadside and dodged rattlesnakes larger than a man's arm. They rode the highest paved highway in the nation, traveling through air so thin that trees cannot grow. Then they celebrated their achievement with a survivor's party against which all future parties will be measured.
Day 1, Boulder to Fort Collins
50 easy miles to work the kinks of a 700-mile drive out of their muscles and get sea level lungs accustomed to the mile high altitude. A get-acquainted dinner was held at Canino's Italian Restaurant. The occasion was also used to celebrate the wedding of two of our members the night before.
Day 2, Fort Collins to Laramie, Wyoming
66 miles of lung-busting climbs and screaming downhills as they crossed the many dry canyons that can suddenly become raging torrents when mountain storms dump their loads of rain, sleet and hail on the dry prairie. Since there is no place to obtain food along this route, a picnic lunch was scheduled at a rest stop on the Wyoming border. Shopping for 80 hungry cyclists is like laying in stores for an army. The shopping basket carried 30 pounds of deli meats, 15 pounds of cheese, 12 loaves of bread, 12 bags of chips, 10 heads of lettuce, a gallon of pickles, a quart of mustard and 15 cases of pop, diet pop and beer to the yellow Ryder sag truck which was already hauling close to two tons of luggage. Resident chipmunks had to do battle over the few remaining scraps when the cyclists finished.
Day 3, Laramie to Saratoga
80 miles today; 40 up to the 11,000 foot crest of Snowy Range and 40 down into Saragoga where geothermal hot springs waited. The Laramie Chamber of Commerce hosted a buffet breakfast to get the cyclists on the road, but most of them were ready for a second session of carbo-loading when they reached the tiny mining town of Centennial, 30 miles west and a thousand feet higher than where they had spent the night. Three thousand feet of climbing in eight miles took its toll with the sag vehicles making several shuttle runs to ferry tired people the last mile or so the top.
Following dinner at Bubba's Bar-B-Q, topped off with a strange dessert called Buttermilk Pie, everyone headed for the Rustic Bar which claims to have more stuffed animals than any other bar in Wyoming. They were thoroughly entertained by a Willie Nelson look-alike and sound-alike who serenaded them with a somewhat off key and totally off color version of "Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Ride Bicycles."
An early morning electrical storm knocked out the power at the motel so we ate breakfast in the dark and set off in the rain. Fortunately, both improved as the day went along.
Day 4, Saratoga to Walden, Colorado
71 miles with nothing along the way except one small cafe with a grouchy owner who didn't like cyclists because he said they filled up his septic system and never bought anything, so another picnic lunch was planned at about mid point. They came riding into town from the north, two and three at a time so they wouldn't raise suspicion. They were hard people, tanned by the sun and parched by the wind. Their water bottles were slung low and their eyes were hidden behind strange glasses. The Oklahoma Bicycle Gang was coming into the small ranching town of Walden. Before they left that town, not a bottle of Gator Aid would be left standing and no plate of pasta would be safe from their appetites.
The arrival of this gang of dusty, saddle-sore riders didn't take this sleepy town of 400 by surprise. The Town Marshall parked in his brown Bronco in the shade of the NAPA Auto Parts Store licked the donut crumbs from his lips, flipped his ticket book open to be sure it was fully loaded and nervously clicked his ball point pen. From his vantage point, he could see to both ends of the four block long main street. He was determined to stop any lawbreaking before it got out of hand. Then he saw it happen, right in front of him, a flagrant violation of one of the town's most cherished ordinances, a bicycle rider making an illegal U-turn. He pounced like a mountain lion, well considering his girth and the weight of the pistol on his hip, it was more like the waddle of a bloated buffalo. He stopped her in mid leg swing as she got off her bike in front of the restaurant. No amount of reasoning had the slightest effect on him, he was determined to give her a ticket for this awful injustice. He attempted to show her the No U-Turn sign plainly posted at the end of the street except that a truck was obscuring both it and the "No Truck Parking" sign on the same post.
It didn't matter that there were 24 lawyers, a federal judge, an Oklahoma State Legislator and the administrative assistant to the governor on the tour, the city judge refused to dismiss the ticket. He was equally unimpressed with the fact that we were renting every motel room in town and would be dropping at least another $1500 in their town for food. He did offer to hear the case in 30 days if we wanted to come back or if she would just pay the $20 fine, he would see that it did not go on her driving record. The fine was paid, but we did get a certain amount of satisfaction in letting the owners of the only two service stations in town know that we had seven vehicles on the tour but they would be driving on to Granby and not filling their tanks with their overpriced fuel.
Day 5, Walden to Granby
55 miles over the Continental Divide. The only thing along the route was The Liar's Lair at Rand, Population 14. We needed picnic supplies so I drove back about five miles to a store that was outside the city limits of Walden to keep any sales tax from going to them. We had lunch and fought swarms of mosquitoes at 10,000 feet atop Willow Creek Pass where two drops of water falling only a foot apart, one will flow toward the Atlantic Ocean while the other will make its way to the Pacific. It was downhill all the way to the El Monte Motel where we spent the night in Granby.
The local bike shop just down the street from the motel did a booming business switching bikes to smaller granny gears in anticipation of the climb over Trail Ridge Road the next day.
Day 6, Granby to the YMCA Center at Estes Park
60 Miles and go over the highest paved highway in the nation at 12,183 feet. The first fifteen miles were up a beautiful alpine valley to the resort town of Grand Lake where you enter the Rocky Mountain National Park. The park officials agreed to give us a group rate if we would prepay the entry fee and said that we must be through the gate by 8:00AM to miss the heavy traffic. They didn't bother to tell us that there were no attendants to collect entry fees before 9:00AM and we could have ridden right on into the park without paying.
16 miles and a gradual climb after entering the park brought us to the Continental Divide at Milner Pass at 10,780 feet. Most people would assume that once you go over the Continental Divide, it would be down hill after that. Wrong, that is just where the real climb begins. Eight miles and a thousand feet of climb brings you to the Alpine Visitor's Center and the tree line. At least it's a good place to warm up, get hot food and fill your water bottles for the final two miles and another thousand feet to where you top out at 12,183 feet. The worst part of this last climb is that you can see every foot of it from the visitor's center as it scratches its way up he rocky side of the mountain.
Wind is usually the worst problem as you reach the exposed top of the ridge. It has been known to reach over 100 mph. Fortunately, even though the temperature was only slightly above freezing this day, the winds were blowing only about 20 mph. With the wind chill factor, it felt like almost zero as we rode by the Lava Cliffs. RVs with smoking brakes and terrified drivers creeping down the mountain in front of us. It would have been fun to release the brakes and let the bikes run but that was impossible because of the line of exhaust-belching vehicles clawing their way up in low gear. Many of them would grind to a stop with radiators belching steam.
The Survivor's Party.
One or more people are usually chosen, selected, or coerced into the dubious position of Survivor's Party director. Along with that position is that of Morals Director. They seldom ever have any direction by the tour leader, who is for the most part, afraid of what the result might be. People who began the tour as total strangers have bonded through companionship, sharing of triumph and failure and possibly even an occasional romantic attachment. Mainly they have formed friendships which may last a lifetime. Mostly though they have arrived at a level of tolerance which allows them to skewer one another with good humor at the survivor's party.
Gag gifts are exchanged and special awards are given to those who richly deserved them and others who may not. Mainly it is done in the best of fun and seldom is there ever any lasting hard feelings. Self-depravation is often as common as making others the brunt of the joke.
It's claimed by many that the only reason for going on the Grand Tour is to see what kind of final party is going to take place. They are seldom ever dismayed and that certainly was the case of this year. As the old saying goes, "No tern was left unstoned."
The Final Day, Estes Park back to the hotel in Boulder.
The shortest route was about 35 miles, which would put people back in time to shower, collect their luggage and get an early start home. Since it was on Saturday and some wanted to get in one more day of riding in the mountains, there were two or three other routes of various distances.
The initial cost of the tour was $350 per person which covered all the usual tour costs plus seven nights of lodging, three or four dinners and parties, picnic lunches where needed, Grand Tour T-shirt, a special Tyvek windbreaker and the production costs of having a tour video taped and edited. The tour not only finished under budget, but nearly $25 was refunded to each participant. Only in a club atmosphere with lots of volunteer help and cooperation could a tour of this magnitude ever be staged. This was only one of many OBS Grand Tours but to date, it was not only the longest in distance but also drew the most people.
People on the tour were about evenly split between couples and individuals as well as almost a 50/50 ratio of women to men. Ages ranged from 13 to 72 with almost the same variety of abilities. One lady who rode the entire distance had never ridden further than 30 miles before the tour began.
Membership in the Oklahoma Bicycle Society is required for attendance but it is open to anyone with an interest in bicycling. Checkout other areas of our web page.
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Copyright © 1994 by Jim Foreman