Today we were at a watershed in our ride. Literally and figuratively.
We made it to the Continental Divide on Day 18 of the Finish Well Ride during our 57-mile trek from Walden to Steamboat Springs. That’s the literal watershed dividing what drains into the Atlantic side and what drains into the Pacific side of North America.
But more importantly, or more dramatically, we came to a watershed moment in our resolve. We were running a day behind in the itinerary because of all the mountains we’ve had to climb. It took us two days from Greely to climb over the Front Range (I can now speak Colorado-ese) and drop down into the wide and WINDY valley in which Walden is located.
The Ute Indians apparently called it the “cow pen” because it was spacious and grassy enough for a million cattle (that’s my calculation, not theirs).
The first pass over the Front Range was at 10,270 feet. If you consider that we started at elevation 1,200 feet in Oklahoma City, that’s something, but if you consider we started at a campground at 5,900 feet elevation and climbed some 4,400 feet over 52.6 miles to reach Cameron Pass on Day 16, that’s something completely different.
We were tired enough from the climb the next day to just ride the 22 miles from our campsite near Gould, CO and check into the West Side Motel, whose chatty and lovable owner, Carol, ended up writing a check in support of the Finish Well Ride.
Did I mention we hadn’t had a shower since Denver.
I felt a little like a trapper coming into town after months in the mountains. It had only been two days, but all of a sudden I had a new appreciation for restaurants, cell phone service, showers and beds.
A flushing toilet suddenly seemed pretty amazing too.
So we hung out in Walden – the moose capital of Colorado – for a day. We did laundry. I ate a French Dip and drank gallons of iced tea and fell asleep before I could finish a blog.
One conversation I did want to mention in that blog was one I overheard in the Moose Creek Cafe.
The waitress told a foreign worker: “One thing you need to do before you go home is shoot a gun and ride a motorcycle.”
Then today happened.
We knew we needed to be on the road early to beat the infamous crosswinds in the cow pen, but 8 a.m. wasn’t quite early enough to beat some headwinds and not quite late enough to give us the rest we were craving.
None of us were too excited about the ride. I’m glad I’m not alone on this trip. I probably would have called in sick today…sick and tired of riding.
But we started… and the first 10 miles rolled by at a snail’s pace. My thighs felt like a couple of heavy bricks.
The second 10 miles I slowed down and just enjoyed the creation and working on Psalm 119. That was better. Everybody was doing their own thing today.
Cynthia was suffering. We were climbing again. I think she sent a text to her adopted family telling them she was about to give up, and to please pray.
We went slowly, slowly up through the foothills, then up the mountain toward Rabbit Ears Pass.
Then after about 40 miles of climbing, there it was – the Continental Divide.
We were so thankful, so excited and exultant that we put our bikes on our shoulders and flexed our muscles. At that moment, I was thinking the drivers starting the descent were probably pretty impressed.
We were in such a celebratory mood that we even had a PB&J at the CD. We were even laughing again. Cynthia had made it. Paul had made it. I had made it.
But they lied!
I was under the impression that the Continental Divide is the high point and everything’s downhill on the other side. Whoever drew the line was terribly mistaken. There were some five more miles of promising declines then disheartening ascents.
Now I know that those motorists passing us while we posed for our picture at the Continental Divide were only pitying our ignorance.
Five miles later when I saw the sign that said “Check Brakes” I knew the work was over.
We did it!
Somehow we did it and we survived that watershed choice between chucking it all and hanging in there.
I know we’re only on Day 18 and we’ve ridden only 952 miles and have more than 1,600 to go, but I think we just passed one important test. Maybe the most important test.
Now we need to go find some food.