Firecracker 5k

Ride The Rockies is about Comfort Zones – being YANKED out of them, if I did not make myself initially clear. I had my first post RTR ride today in my comfortable 30 mile loop around the Lake Tuscaloosa area. It felt really good being back on the bike, and being in familiar surroundings.

The Three Amigos - Gasper, Country Boy & Reverend, after surviving Winter Park.

The Three Amigos – Gasper, Country Boy & Reverend, after surviving Winter Park.

Oh, I know many of you hardcore and super-fit hammerheads are snickering at the Ole Gasper now. Yeah, it’s my fault I weigh 237 pounds, and did not train as hard as I should have. But have some pity. Well, if not that, then some understanding. There were a bunch of us on RTR 2014. It was easy to spot us — we had that “deer in the headlights” look.

On my regular route, it’s predictable. I know the hills. I know a rest in terms of a slight downhill is coming up around the next bend. I know when to press hard, when to coast. And training in that environment for five years, no matter how hard you do it, cannot match what Colorado can bring you in a single day.

Colorado is a downright unpredictable when it comes to bicycle riding. Stretches of rolling valleys followed by sun-baked and sheep-bleating brutal climbs. Long-screaming downhills followed by rollers the size of whole other states. Canyon climbs with so many turns and “false summits” that your legs just scream as you round yet another turn and look uphill: “Crap.J ust kill me now!”

So why do I love it so much? Why do I endure 18 degree nights (even in a Sherpaville tent), followed by 90 degree sunstroke the very next day? It’s because I’m yanked so far out of my comfort zone, and it feels good not knowing what is going to happen next. Kinda like a roller coaster and you  don’t know how long the ride is.

And there are small wonders, too: An evening ride in Steamboat Springs, and the thrill of seeing the moonrise over the Yampa River, and swallows darting down for the flies; riding the riverside trail, getting my bike (and dry feet) into 18 inches of icy water, and coming up on the backside of a sign that says “Caution: Trail Closed Due to Flooding”; getting to draft behind the school bus “TaTonka” to a clanking cowbell and tempted by a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer held out the door for me; making the rest stop only to find world-famous peanut butter pie with chunks of Reese’s Cups on top.

In Alabama, we tell lots of stories, many of them actually true. In Colorado, it’s all true — you just can’t make this stuff up.  It only happens in a place like Colorado.

My wife said, “Well maybe now you’ve learned your lesson.”  Oh, after 37 years of knowing me, maybe she doesn’t yet. No, I don’t think so. Comfort zones will get too comfortable one day again soon. And I’ll need me a dose of Colorado to cure that.