Day 79-82 • May 19-24, 2012 • Conifer to Thornton, CO • 62 miles
Mark and Katie, my brother and sister in law, met us around dusk last night and camped with us at Conifer Community Park at Beaver Ranch. They brought with them beer, of course, and Chipotle burritos—the first good meal we’d had in a while. The idea was to ride with us on our triumphant arrival in Denver. They’d arranged for my mom and her trike to join us in Golden for the trip to her home in Thornton, along Denver’s bike trails. We even had hopes that other trikers and cyclists would join us. But that fantasy was dashed in so many ways. First, Katie was so busy that day that she couldn’t do the ride with us. But she did have time to camp, cook us breakfast, and shuttle my mom to Golden—Katie definitely took one for the team on this one.
Then there was the weather, one the worst days we’d seen the whole trip. We woke up to a gentle rain pattering the tents which conveniently stopped long enough for Katie to fix some awesome breakfast burritos and for us all to tear down camp. Kind of pleasant, really. But as Mark, Zoe and I began the ride to Denver we encountered a worse problem than rain— really poor visibility due to heavy fog. This was as bad as the foggy days on the coast that ended our day a couple of times. The temperature was still in the upper thirties as we ducked into a convenience store to wait out the fog and warm up with some hot chocolate. Eventually the fog was cleared by heavy rain. We plummeted down the mountain to Morrison at speeds and temperatures in the low 40’s with heavy rain, sleet, and hail. Zoe was barely recognizable under every piece of clothing we had plus some extras that Mark offered up. She spent the descent with her gloved hands in front of her face to block the sting of the ice crystals that were peppering us. She wasn’t having much fun.
When we reached Morrison we were dripping wet on the outside and frozen solid inside. We grabbed a table at a local restaurant and formed a small lake from the drippings of our wet clothes. No one joined us for the ride from Golden—no sane person would choose to spend their Saturday riding in this muck. Even my mom, who had been training for months and was hell bent to join us, opted out today. We weren’t feeling particularly triumphant when we stuffed Zoe and most of our gear in a car and Mark and I began the remainder of the ride to Thornton.
In a welcome turn of events, the ride to Thornton was awesome! The rain had stopped, temperatures risen, and a cool overcast day made for perfect riding conditions. Plus we were riding through the heart of Denver on smooth, wide, car-free paths. The Denver area trail network is impressive in both its extent and condition– it connects many important urban centers and you will rarely encounter a crack or root heave along the way. Hopefully other communities are looking to Denver for guidance on how to construct a useful bike transportation system.
While this tale was unfolding, my sister Gretchen and her partner Daniel were desperately trying to complete their drive from Eureka, CA in time to join us for the ride. The crazy weather caught them too with heavy snow slowing them down on one of the passes. They skipped the original rendezvous point and proceeded directly to Thornton in time to backtrack and meet Mark and I on our way in. Alas, we never saw them on the trail. We speculated over beers that night that we had passed within a block of each other in a portion of the route that passes through a residential development. Ah well, at least the beer was good.
Zoe and I spent the next five days hanging out with family and generally taking a much-needed break from the road. Still, we did a lot of things including a couple of trips to the Denver Art Museum, goofy golf and the squirt boats at Boondocks, beer tasting at New Belgium, a tour of my brother’s cool new digs at the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, some group trike rides. Zoe and I even got pampered with spa treatment!
Our departure was delayed for a day when I discovered a broken spoke while replacing my rear tire for the second time. Upon closer inspection at Chip’s Recumbent Trike Store the next day I realized nearly every spoke on the drive side was mangled and close to breaking. It looked like I had dropped the chain at some point, probably while we were having transmission problems in California. It was a little disconcerting that I didn’t remember an event like that and that it had taken this long to discover it. But at least I knew the reason my spoke broke and could fix it completely. I chose to do this repair at Chip’s, possibly the only place in town likely to have a box of spokes the size I needed lying around. Without Chip I would have had Lisa ship my spoke stash overnight from Boise, costing us more money and another day. With Chip’s help, by noon I’d essentially rebuilt the rear wheel one spoke at a time. We decided not to push things today and waited for an earlier departure in the morning.