My wife asked, incredulously, “So you’re actually PAYING to do this crazy ride?” I’ve been married 26 years and have known my high school sweetheart 37 years, so I’m used to her candor. “Well, I might ride again with somebody like Lance Armstrong”, I say (pre-scandal, and you’ll have to read the whole post to get that story.)

So why DO I ride? And especially, in Colorado? They have mountains, don’t they? I polled Reverend Roberts on this morning’s training ride – and he agrees with me on several of my Top Five Reasons:

1. Because I can. I’m fortunate to be healthy in my mid-fifties. I’m going to fight old age as long as I can, and cycling is my strategy.

2. I enjoy the fellowship. Join in on a ride, and you can talk to others. Golf in a cart, and you can talk to one person for four hours. But ride and you can speed up or slow down, and visit with several or even dozens in the same ride.

3. Hey – it’s Colorado in summertime. I’ve been skiing, but I prefer summers there. Back in Alabama, it’s often 90 degrees at 10 pm in June. In the high country, we’ve got nightly band parties, and I get to wear the occasional jacket to ward off the chill.

4. I can climb 14,000 foot mountains on paved roads. On another tour I summited Mount Evans from Idaho Springs – 28 miles of climbing. I was the last to arrive and left in a sleet storm and fog so thick I could barely see the yellow lines between my feet on the descent.

5. What Forrest Gump Said: “Momma always said that riding in Colorado is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”. And that leads me to the Lance story.

Gasper Taking a "Clarity Break" near Breckenridge.

Gasper Taking a “Clarity Break” near Breckenridge.

I first did RTR in 2009 when I turned fifty – everybody remembers that The Great Recession had been underway a year or two. But I felt secure, so I registered and got in. Later that spring, business took a turn for the worse, and I told Pam that I should cancel the ride, and my then-planned SAG Wagon support.

“No – you need to go, without us – and climb those mountains, look down, and figure out what you want to be when you grow up.” She was uncharacteristically being gentle. What she really meant was “Take a ‘Clarity Break’ – go figure out how you’re going to feed our family”.

So I did – and I’ve been fairly successful, but suddenly I was back in my youth – poor and pinching pennies, making peanut-butter & jelly sandwiches, hitching rides around Denver. I’d never done a week-long big ride, so I was fairly intimidated.

By the end of the week, I’d had a blast, and had done a lot of thinking. That last morning coming out of Aspen headed to Glenwood Springs, I was late leaving because I was moving luggage to stay an extra two nights in Snowmass (GREAT bargains there in the summer!).

I came up behind a large black SUV moving slowly down valley. Strangely, there was a man leaning out the window with a camera filming the rider. Before I knew it, I was alone on the wheel of Lance Armstrong and I think Levi Leipheimer as they readied for the 2009 Tour de France.

Gasper captured on Versus TV wearing a Crimson Tide Flag with Diablo, Tour de France

Gasper captured on Versus TV wearing a Crimson Tide Flag with Diablo, Tour de France

I was too star-struck to even talk to them. Maybe I was embarrassed because I had a backpack with a pair of Clogs strapped on the back. At any rate, I rode with them for a few miles, then reasoned that I was missing a beer fest at the finish line, so I’d best be going.

So I passed Lance and Levi quickly and left them behind, and pedaled on. It was downhill, and after all, I’m the MAG Downhill Racer.