My cycling partner weighs 140 pounds wet. I weigh 65 more than that dry. Once again today he’s trashing me in the flats around Boulder. We are essentially the same age. We are not older than dirt, but close to it. We have all the normal Boulder bike gear, that is to say bikes that cost more than our first year of undergraduate tuition, maybe our first two years. This was back when tuition went for facilities, professional, and support staff salaries, not football programs, administrators, advertising budgets, and consultants.
It all starts out innocently enough. I gather all my gear, pump-up my tires, suck down a couple glasses of water and then peddle over to his palatial house in North Boulder.
“What do you want to do today?” I ask.
“You know me, I just follow.”
“Right, until we start climbing and you blast by me.”
“Okay, let’s get to Hygiene and see how we feel.”
Hygiene is this village out on the Boulder County flats with a good restaurant (Crane Hollow Café) and across the street a combination supermarket, butcher shop, and antique store (Mary’s Market). The restaurant has a wonderful green chili and the supermarket gets a grill going on weekend afternoons that you can smell a mile out of town. Some cyclist never make it past Hygiene on a Saturday afternoon.
“Sweetheart, could you pick me up in Hygiene?”
“No, you got there on your bike. Get home on your bike.”
“But I’ve had three brats and I’m feeling a little bloated.”
“Ride through it.”
There is small post office in Hygiene. If I ever start another book publishing company I’m gong to get a PO Box in Hygiene and when the automatons from Amazon call for more discount I’m going to ask them how they could possibly strong-arm a little book publisher from Hygiene, have they no sense of decency?
So we head out of Boulder past billions of ugly condos. These things look like they were designed in the old East Germany by third-rate architects.
“I liked it better when it was a trailer park, junk stores, and a drive-in movie.”
“We called it Dogpatch.”
“Now they call it NoBo.”
“This ain’t New York.”
“Be thankful for small things, Brother.”
He’s behind me on the Foothills Highway. Actually he’s drafting me, that which is about 30% more efficient than tooling along by yourself. I may have mentioned that he’s smart. On the first hill north of town he just blasts by me. My bike is rigged with just two chain rings, one for speed and one for climbing. Given his weight advantage and a similar rig, he’s super fast on the climbs.
“Hey, I’m just limiting the pain.”
“No, you are embarrassing a portly person.”
The Foothills highway rolls for fourteen miles north of Boulder and continues on up to Lyons. We roll with the hills and pick up the remnants of a triathalon that includes State Patrolmen sitting in their cars talking to their girlfriends, and medics on motorcycles. I’m a backcountry ski patroller. I sort of get the medic mentality but I can’t understand medics on motorcycles. My friend the ED doc calls motorcycles “donormobiles.”
The cut-off to Hygiene comes at about 13 miles and is somewhat of a relief because it is a downhill blast for about five miles. We are amazed at how green it still is at the end of July. It’s as if we are living in the Pacific Northwest and not the arid plains east of the Rockies. We pull into Hygiene and discuss the next move.
“Nope, I haven’t got that in the tank,” he says.
“Lyons and the Fruit Loops?
Lyons took a blast from last September’s floods. We weren’t sure that Lyons was going to come back. We were wrong. Some folks just left Lyons but the locals just stood up on their hind legs and started rebuilding. You need to be semi-tough sometimes to live in Colorado. The folks in Lyons are tough.
The Fruit Loops are two back roads out of Lyons through some wonderful houses that all parallel streams, all of which blew out during the flood. The locals seem impervious to the disaster. Sure their environment has been altered somewhat, but they just kept moving, which is sometimes the only option we have in life, and the Fruit Loops look like a place we’ll be cycling for a long time to come.
After one Fruit Loop we stop for coffee at The Stone Cup. This is a great place, but why on God’s Green Earth should it take 10 minutes to queue-up and get a cup of black coffee? It’s the “half-caf, half de-caf iced coffee with cream and sugar in it blended at extremely high speed for Christsake.” Come on folks, it’s a coffee shop. Don’t waste my time with your silly-assed specialty coffee drinks.
Okay, so we have had a hard thirty miles where my partner has done his utmost to trash me. The ride back to Boulder involves the Seven Motherfuckers on 14 miles of roads dominated by pickups, travel trailers, motorcycles, and dump trucks all traveling at warp speed. The Seven Motherfuckers are these hills that have to be climbed to get back to Boulder. None of them are particularly difficult like the last mile into Ward but when you have been out for a while the prospect of the Seven Motherfucker is daunting.
“If we sit here long enough, someone will bring out a guitar and start singing.”
“And then it will be dark and we don’t have lights on our bikes.”
“Still, it’s better than doing the Seven Motherfuckers at noon.”
“You said it Brother.”
He gives that baleful look, picks up his coffee cup and walks back into the shop. I know I’m toast, he’s got that determined look. Sort of a, “I’m riding back to Boulder…I’m riding as fast as I can so that I can limit the pain…stay with me if you can.”
I gather my gear and get back on the bike. What follows is essentially a death march. The temperature on my bike computer is in three digits, my pulse is semi-serious triple digits, sweat is running down my nose and back, and we are still six or seven miles north of Boulder. I notice that for the first time all day he doesn’t blow me out of the saddle on the uphill. I wait around and he catches me at the top of motherfucker four.
“I don’t believe it.”
“Trashed, finished, wasted. Might not make it home.”
Alan Stark is a recovering book publisher and member of Bryan Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol.