Tuesday was the day that Mt. Evans was to be conquered. The route would take them 27 miles, up nearly 7,000 feet of elevation gain, to an elevation of 14,130 feet at the top of Mt. Evans. Dave had been talking back and forth with Mark about this ride even before we all arrived in Colorado. So at 8:00AM, Dave, Luke, and Alex met Mark, James, and Annette at a parking lot in Idaho Springs. Our friends had a house rented in Buena Vista, so they had a much earlier start to the day since they to to drive two hours to meet us.
Mark is the reason we wound up getting into road biking. Almost three years ago, when Alex and Dave were visiting with her former co-worker, Annette, and her husband Mark, somehow the question of wanting to go biking came up. Alex and Dave had ridden her brother and sister-in-laws road bikes during summers when visiting them in Madison, WI, but nothing more than casual rides. Alex and Dave didn’t even own road bikes, and at that point they only had one mountain bike between the two of them. Dave bit on Mark’s offer and planned to ride a Bestwick Ride with Mark that fall.
We arrived in State College on a Friday evening, and on Saturday Dave and Mark headed out for a 30-mile training ride over the Bellefonte side of Purdue Mountain to get Dave acquainted with Mark’s second road bike. Dave brought his clip in mountain bike shoes along, and Mark asked “Do you really want use clips on your first ride? A lot of people fall…” and of course Dave still wanted to wear them and had no problems adjusting. Dave was pretty excited about his first ride and climbing up mountains on a road bike. The Bestwick ride the next day should have been a metric century (about 62 miles), but due to a wrong turn or two they wound up clocking 83 miles. OOPS! Dave was exhausted and STOKED! He was hooked. Alex took a bit longer to get into road biking… cars scared her.
Now nearly three years later, they were getting ready to ride up the highest paved road in North America.
Alex and Annette would follow the guys along the route providing support if and when needed, as well as taking pictures. Alex had been contemplating whether or not she was going to ride Evans since the idea first came up a few months ago, but now sitting in the car, driving up the narrow road, with lots of cars, steep drop offs and crazy wind (at points their bikes were barely moving), she was very happy with the choice she made. She was even more happy with her choice when she saw, and felt, the road near Summit Lake with its bike eating potholes and gaps in the road. Mark said he could have lost his bike in one of them…. He couldn’t see the bottom.
Another hazard of the road was goats. Yes, goats! Towards the top of the mountain, goats became a frequent site, eating small pants along the switchbacks, and meandering along the road. At his first sighting of one, Dave actually stopped to take a picture. As he tried to take out his phone, his credit card fell to the ground a blew down the road a bit. At this point he saw Mark making his descent, and asked him if he thought Alex and Annette got pictures of the goats. When Mark told him they did, Dave shoved his phone back in his pack, retrieved his credit card from the road, and continued up to the summit. Alex particularly enjoyed watching a goat turn its head to follow Mark as he road around one of the switchbacks to the summit.
The day went incredibly well, with the weather holding out and the guys doing absolutely awesome. They all made it to the top and enjoyed the glory of a picture with the summit sign, despite the fact that the wind was trying to blow their bikes away. It was a brutal ride for sure and they were all very glad to have it completed. Now there was only the descent.
The descent would prove to be more tiring than normal as they made their way down from the summit due to the rough road conditions. James, who happens to come from Texas, with its lack of big mountains, chose to hop in the car and ride down, like many of the Colorado locals said they do when they ride this mountain. After riding down, group decided James was the smart one. The whole crew reconvened near Echo Lake, before continuing down the last 13 miles to the cars. Dave and Luke particularly enjoyed drafting Mark and following his expert lines down the sharp curves and turns on excellent road.
Once the bikes and people were loaded in and on the cars, we all headed into Idaho Springs for a late lunch at Azteca, a Mexican restaurant. Despite a few mixups with our orders, the food was quite good. We headed out that day with plans to meet again on Friday for a pasta dinner in preparation for the Triple Bypass on Saturday.
It was about 5:00 when we finally made it back to Evergreen, and spent a lazy evening relaxing. Dave might have been a little bit tired from his ride today and the 63 mile ride of Vail the day before… he fell asleep and 7:00PM and did not wake up until 5:30 the next morning when his phone that had been forgotten in the living room began playing “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. Apparently the previous days alarm was still set!