Monday, June 30, 2014

Colorado: My Long Lost Love

Rocky Mountain National Park

Just some more mountains in the distance on my way to Leadville, Co

As I’m riding to Boulder, Colorado, I’m a bit frustrated. Google maps said it was ALL downhill, but here I am again on the Colorado roller coaster,……Up, down, up, down, up, up, up….downnnnnn, up, upppppp, dowwwwwnn!  The terrain is a killer.  You get tired and you want to scream and get frustrated, but you lift your head and look around in any direction and there are mountains everywhere.  Anywhere you turn you have a cluster of snow-covered peaks surrounding you, a 360 degree breathtaking panorama!  You pedal 5 min. and see the same peaks from a different perspective and a new cluster comes into view.  I think to myself, as I have thought many times in Colorado, why doesn’t everyone in America live in Colorado?  I just don’t get it?!??!  Ok, not everyone is as obsessed, like me, but how can you go wrong in Colorado with all there is to do and see.

One of 53 14,000ft. plus mountains in Colorado

Crossing Hossier Pass by Breckenridge, Co

When almost all the roads are designated scenic byways, you can't go wrong with any itinerary through the Rockies

Planning my ride that day to Boulder, I took the direct route, not the scenic route, but even that way was beautiful.  You look at a map of Colorado and more than half the roads are designated scenic byways and the ones that aren’t should be, because even they are gorgeous.  I went out of my way here on the western side of the state looking for mountain passes to go over, just to take in even more breathtaking scenery.  Colorado has the highest continuous road in North America, Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, rising to 12,183ft. at the summit. There are only two national parks in Colorado, but in reality the whole western half of the state ought to be a national park.   Did you know Colorado has 53 peaks over 14,000 ft?  The highest being Mt. Elbert, 14, 433ft. and there are 800 peaks between 13,000 and 13,999 ft.  Kid you not.  If you aren’t sold yet and love hiking, almost all of these peaks are possible to summit, in fact is a whole group of people who make it their lifetime goal to compete in hiking to the summit of most of these.  I’m afraid I’m off to a late start.

At the visitor center in Rocky Mountain National Park

I would love to come back and climb this pass, (without all the weight on my bike)

The other day at a concert in Estes Park, I heard a Brad Fitch, a local folk singer sing John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” song and all of a sudden it rung a bell.  I always knew about the Rocky Mountains, of course, and I knew they were high, as in elevation, but I think his song is more about being high on the Rocky Mountains, at least that is how I feel, and I have yet to check out the legal marijuana scene here.  Natural beauty is enough to leave me completely in awe, “stoned” with my mouth hanging open, marveling at the rugged outdoors.  How many times did I yell and scream, “Oh, MY GOD!!! It’s sooooo beautiful!!” or “I LOVE IT!”  How many times did I say, “I want to move here?”…..I lost count! 

"Foothills" in Colorado

My hike up to Emerald Lake in the park

To think, I’ve never been to Colorado before except to the Denver airport; I’m embarrassed.  This place is heaven on earth for someone like me who can never get enough of being in the mountains.  There are a lot of pick-up trucks here, and a good number of those have bikes in the back.  The other cars, well, I’d say every third car that passed me had multiple bikes on top.  There are bike stores galore in every town, and most bike stores have a cafe next door with easy bike parking, or a brewpub attached.  Nothing like getting your bike worked on or picking up some parts and having a cup of coffee or a beer.  There is a true understanding of the biking culture here.

This coffee shop knows how to get the bikes parked in the most efficient manner, triathlon racks

Road 34, a great bike +brewpub in Fort Collins, CO

I was pretty much already sold on Colorado as a place I’d add to my list where I could easily live, and then I met Ian.  Ian is a boy scout, going be a sophomore this year at school, a public school with an International Baccalaureate program, one of many in Fort Collins.  He was coming home on the bike path I was using, after being out on his mountain bike all day in the foothills of Fort Collins with his friends.  He was telling me about all the cool things in Fort Collins from the 13 or 14 different breweries to the coffee shops, to summer festivals, bike paths and running trails, the new tram, part of Fort Collins extensive public transportation system, the bilingual schools, and different neighborhoods around the city.  I was all ears as he led me to the bike shop in town I had contacted for some maintenance.  I was so impressed by him; I asked to the guys at the shop to take my picture with Ian, he of course wanted to do the same.  What a neat kid!  The guys at the shop were pretty excited about their city and while I got my bike tuned, they shared their opinion of Fort Collins, similar to Ian’s, kept me drooling.

Ian, my guide into Fort Collins, one cool teenager!

That evening I met Deb and John, who are international teachers in Germany, friends of a friend of mine who teaches with them. They’ve lived out of the states for the past 10 or 12 years and want to retire in the next few years, which is why they bought a house in Fort Collins.  From the moment I arrived, until the next morning when I departed, we were talking non-stop about either, teaching and living abroad or marveling at Colorado.  They gave me a great “snap shot” tour of Fort Collins that evening. Deb and Ian drove me into the foothills to see the rugged scenery and awesome roads for biking.   We toured campus, downtown, and ended the evening with ice cream at a local dairy/ice cream shop in town.  By then, I was officially sold! 

Colorado, you are my long lost love!  My soul mate, I WILL be back!

Deb and John, great hosts and international teachers

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