It always takes a day or two to decompress from Ride The Rockies. My body’s a little beat up, my brain’s a little scrambled, and I usually spend a day or two wedged into the couch in a semi-coma, watching bad TV and waiting for feeling to return to my lower body. Then, I’ll look back through my pictures and sift through memories and realize again how amazing it was.

After eight of these tours, this year is no different. And as always, there are plenty of highlights and very few low points — or at least all the low points have nothing to do with the Tour itself, but more to do with the external stuff, like dicey eating and temperamental hotel appliances.

To name a few:

The people, the people, the people. From volunteers like Gloria, Don and Frog, to returning familiar faces among the riders, I’m always amazed at the strength and kindness of the people around me. It’s what keeps me coming back, period. To see strangers helping each other out — whether it’s changing a tire, lending food between aid stations, or helping someone who’s fallen to dust themselves off and get back on the road, I wish I saw more of that generosity outside of the tour.

It’s also becoming like family for me. I’m recognizing (and being recognized by) more and more people on the road, and the constant greetings, fist-bumps and hugs are so indescribably wonderful, especially on tough stretches. I get to meet people from all over the world, and hearing their admiration for Colorado and RTR makes me feel blessed to live here.

The scenery. From vibrant green farmlands to snow-capped peaks to the sweet little towns we pass through on the tour, it never gets old. I kept hearing the same exclamations from my ride buddies: “Isn’t this FABULOUS?” And it always is. Descriptions don’t do it justice, so I’ll let the pictures below cover some of it.

The fires. Whether it was the soot and ash raining down in Salida, or the charred cliffs of the Royal Gorge, it’s heartbreaking to see so much fire damage once again. But as I’ve seen from the fires around Boulder, this state has a way of renewing itself in the most beautiful — and astonishingly rapid — ways, and I’m sure I’ll see evidence of that during future RTR tours.

The disappearing bike. My 9-year-old Jamis Quest, which has taken me through every Ride The Rockies Tour, was snatched off our car in Colorado Springs. I got so much joy, therapy and strength from that bike that it left me a little heartbroken. I doubt that the person who took it will ever come close to seeing the amazing things from that bike seat that I did. And that’s the way it should be.

And for what I can’t articulate, the photos hopefully can. Click on any of them to enlarge.

Wokf Creek Pass: A perfect backdrop for photos.

Wokf Creek Pass: A perfect backdrop for photos.

Waterfall along Wolf Creek Pass.

Waterfall along Wolf Creek Pass.

Pacelines out of Alamosa

Pacelines out of Alamosa.

An old-style bike corral.

An old-style bike corral.

Working their way up Hesperus Hill

Working their way up Hesperus Hill.

Wildflowers in abundance.

Wildflowers in abundance.

A happy climber

A happy climber.

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Cyclists make their way up Mancos Hill.

Early morning outside Telluride.

Early morning outside Telluride.

Team Cortez cheers on RTR riders -- from a stationary bike.

Team Cortez cheers on RTR riders — from a stationary bike.

Tent City in Telluride: The beginning of a fabulous week.

Tent City in Telluride: The beginning of a fabulous week.

Death Ride, left; RTR, straight...

Death Ride, left; RTR, straight…

Shadow climbers.

Shadow climbers.

A line of cylists make their way toward Lizard Head Pass.

A line of cylists make their way toward Lizard Head Pass.

A colorful morning outside of Durango.

A colorful morning outside of Durango.

Carefree in Tent City, Telluride

Carefree in Tent City, Telluride.

Wildflowers along the climb up Lizard Head Pass

Wildflowers along the climb up Lizard Head Pass

Zigzag

Zigzagging through the farmlands around Durango.

Happy to be on the road.

Happy to be on the road.

Cycling through farmlands outside of Durango.

Cycling through farmlands outside of Durango.

Getting it done.

Getting it done.

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Climbing out of the valley near Ignacio.

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Happy on Highway 151.

Racing a teammate up a hill...

Racing a teammate up a hill…

... and winning

… and winning.

Morning ride

Morning ride.

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View from atop an RV on Wolf Creek Pass.

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Leaving Pagosa Springs.

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A line of cyclists make their way up Wolf Creek Pass.

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Slow, steady climb.

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Filling the road up Wolf Creek Pass.

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Solo effort.

Coffee break.

Coffee break at Villa Grove.

Leaving Alamosa.

Leaving Alamosa.

A beautiful sky outside of Salida

A beautiful sky outside of Salida.

Approaching the first aid station on US 50

Approaching the first aid station on US 50.

Winding through the canyons on US50

Winding through the canyons on US50.

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Post-storm skies outside of Salida.

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Heading toward the pancakes of aid station 1.

An aid station stop

An aid station stop.

Beautiful vistas.

Beautiful vistas.