Every summer, Pie’s company treats their employees to a weekend retreat in the mountains at the YMCA of the Rockies, located in Estes Park. My idea of a retreat certainly doesn’t involves kids or cafeteria food, but there is always one thing to look forward to during this summer trip — our tradition of sneaking away to do a long, tough, scenic bike ride in the mountains while everyone else is busy making birdhouses and friendship bracelets.
Actually, there are two things I look forward to! Pie also has a co-worker who is not only an engineer, but also an incredible musician! Hubba-hubba! Hopefully my hubby isn’t reading this.
Almost every summer retreat we have attended, Pie’s co-worker, John Runnels, has serenaded the group, fireside, with his guitar and amazing voice. My favorite kind of music is the “raw” kind with just vocals and a guitar, so one can imagine how easily I turn into an instant groupie when we get treated to this intimate musical show, complete with s’mores!
But I digress. Back to the bike ride.
Hubby and I decided to leave much earlier than we had in the past for this year’s bike ride because we were hoping to get back in time for the exciting zip line activity at 10 am. That was going to be a hard time to beat!
We knew from past rides that we were in for an approximately 3-hour, 35-mile, 3,500 ft elevation gain, round-trip bike ride from the YMCA camp to Allenspark, so we set our alarms for 5:30 am and hit the road by 6:30 am.
My usual choice of biking footwear for rides long and short is flips flops, but if you look closely enough, you can see that I had goose bumps from hip to glitter toe nail because starting out so early in the morning also meant dealing with colder temps than what we were used to for this ride. Usually we are hot as heck!
There are signs at the start of the ride that illustrate that vehicles should share the road with cyclists and it’s for good reason! Much of the ride includes absolutely no shoulder. It’s a bit daunting, to say the least! Every year, this ride scares me a little more and more and it’s not necessarily because of the hills or headwinds; it’s because it would only take one distracted driver to ruin our ride and possibly our lives. Eek!
This year, the same mountainous backdrop that we usually look back on after turning south on Colorado State Highway 7 had hardly any snow compared to the previous years.
After climbing the first big hill outside Estes Park, we get to one of my favorite sections; a part of the road that cuts through a rocky section of the mountain.
After hills, hills, and more hills, and passing a lake called Lily Lake, we finally reach my absolute favorite stop of the whole ride, the panoramic view of Long’s Peak. Long’s Peak was clearly lacking snow during this year’s ride, which was such a bummer!
I still insisted on snapping several pics of the snow-less Long’s Peak view, but the ride had to go on because Allenspark is still many hills, curves, and bumpy miles away from the Long’s Peak viewing stop.
Luckily, some parts of Highway 7 to Allenspark are actually smooth sailing…. literally; there is a wide shoulder on a brand new road.
Reaching Allenspark 17.3 miles later after the start of the ride is somewhat anti-climatic. There isn’t much in Allenspark but a small cafe with weak coffee (read: no fancy lattes for this girl). It’s a shame because I imagine we aren’t the only cyclists that often make this trek and need a refueling stop.
We flipped a bitch at Allenspark because we had a deadline to make and before we knew it, we were almost back to camp!
Okay, it actually didn’t happen that quickly. There was a lot of swearing and pouting from one of us (me!) the whole way back when we realized that we weren’t getting any break from the headwinds on our return trip.
But alas, we were rewarded with this amazing view on our final stretch.