My peoples, this may be my last entry, as I've now entered my 42nd year. The situation is grim. I am bedded down here in the HABC, and dawn is just arriving as the Colorado sun burns through the morning haze.
Some intrepid bloggers have recently risked their lives travelling to the tops of mountain peaks, in countries far far away, yours truly is going to risk his life today -- yes, Bold will be climbing his bike from Boulder's elevation of 5,430 feet to Ward -- elevation 9,450!
What makes the situation dire is the weather is shifting. Thunderstorms threaten. Which at almost 10,000 feet can be hazardous. Equipment is suspect, experiencing chain slippage on my Trek, and supplies are limited given the hours involved in the climb. But, my peoples, you have to read the description of Ward below, to fully realize what resupply in Ward means. The truth is between the altitude, the weather, the locals in Ward, and a fast descent -- this may be the beginning, or the end of my Ironman journey
Ward (elevation 9,450 ft / 2880 m) is a town located in Boulder County, Colorado. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 169. The town is a former mining settlement founded in 1860 in the wake of the discovery of gold at nearby Gold Hill. Once one of the richest towns in the state during the Colorado Gold Rush, it is located on a mountainside at the top of Left Hand Canyon, near Colorado State Highway 7 northwest of Boulder.
The town is well-known in the region for its rustic feel as an anti-establishment counterculture mountain community, with residents forming an enclosed community wary of outsiders. The town is likewise often viewed with suspicion and puzzlement even by many citizens of liberal-leaning Boulder. The town has received both admiration for its acceptance of outcasts and social misfits, as well as criticism as being a lawless haven for drug users, criminals, and the mentally ill. It also boasts the highest concentration of Ph.D. degree holders in the U.S.
Its high elevation renders it snowbound in heavy snows, with snow lingering throughout much of the springtime. Its abundance of dilapidated buildings from the 19th century heyday, including two churches that date from the 1890s, has made it an off-beat tourist attraction in recent decades, and is sometimes erroneously described as a ghost town. In addition to the many decaying buildings, the town is filled with rusted out and broken down cars, giving it the feeling of a large junkyard. Its location at the top of Left Hand Canyon also makes it a frequent destination for recreational bicyclists from nearby Boulder. A persistent popular rumor has circulated for many years that the town is located atop a rich vein of gold, and that it should be evacuated and razed to extract the ore.
May 6, 2006. 7:12am MDT.
No longer able to endure the hunger from not having eaten in almost 9 hours, I'm going to get up out of my large king-size bed, and high thread count sheets, and descend to the kitchen below, to prepare my morning meal, grind and brew some milk coffee, and read the Boulder paper.
The adventure begins at 11am MDT.
May 6, 2006. 8:30am MDT.
Finally rousing myself from the comfort of my sleeping bag on the floor, err, I mean bed, I made my way down the 24 steps to the kitchen. After milk coffee, and an extremely larger bowl of spoon-size mini-wheats, with milk, I joked with the sherpas as the prepared my gear.
May 6, 2006. 9:45 MDT.
1 Trek 2200 with Bontrager race wheels, tuned.
1 Saddle bag with spare tube, and two cartridges, rim bars, multi-tool
1 Bento box, empty
2 water bottles filled with Endurox R4 Fruit punch (www.excelsports.com)
1 Pearl Izumi Red Label 'go-lite' outer layer
1 Pearl Izumi Cycling Jersey
1 UnderArmour base layer top
1 pair Peformance gel cycling shorts
1 pair Shimano road shoes
1 pair Maple Leaf cycling socks
1 pair Pearl Izumi cycling gloves (short)
1 pair Pearl Izumi cycling gloves (long)
1 Giro Atmos Helmet
1 pair Oakley Pro M Frames (on helmet)
1 pair Adidas Leg Warmers/1 par Adidas Arm Warmers
1 cycling cap (Pro Peleton)
1 Garmina (Forerunner 305) with polar handlebar mount
2 Clif Bars (Oatmeal raisin & Cool Mint)
2 bags Jelly Bean Sport Beans (Lime)
1 front door key
1 US $20 bill
1 United Healthcare Card
May 6, 2006. 10:00am MDT.
One hour prior to departure, I sign off on the gear, and am handed a bowl of yogurt and apple pecan granola by the tall sherpa who looks very much my age, and height, and weight, and even has my mannerisms. Although, this alone seems odd. I feel something is wrong.
May 6, 2006. 10:03am MDT.
I receive a call from my guide, he's having passport issues, and will be delayed an hour. The question is posed whether I would like to summit Ward alone. Given my unfamiliarity with the area, the lack of a map, and what is possibly waiting for me in Ward. I decide to risk brushing up against the weather envelope as thunderstorms are to develop in the late afternoon. I focus on the abundant sunshine we have now, and think about how my guide is 6'2" and looks like Floyd Landis.
May 6, 2006. 10:05am MDT.
I now know how the peanut felt, prior to being boiled. I feel the pressure of the weather envelope, and the risk of thunderstorms, or avalanche, at the summit of Ward. I fear a man pulling out his weee, and spinning it like a helicopter.
But, I try to calm myself by laying off the high-octane coffee I've, I mean my sherpa has brewed for me. And concentrating on how this climb, will bring me one step closer to Iron.
I take solace, that if I don't return from this trip, Kona Shelley will be able to find my parents, and leave them this message:
'Parental unit, you raised me well, I love you, and basically all of my net worth is yours... good luck trying to get it from the US Government, but you know where I live -- come and loot it before the folks from Ward do'.
forward for entry 3, the third and last update in this three parter, from the Hemmingway of Down Under:
'He came:–a bright-eyed, brown-haired mountaineer about forty; a mighty chamois hunter; an ex-soldier in the Canadian army, and now a custode of forests, and local inspector of roads; an active, eager fellow, brown as a berry, with honesty written in his face, and an open vivacious manner that won our liking at first sight.'
May 6, 2006. 11:55am MDT.
The sun 27.5% stronger here in Boulder's high altitude then at sea-level, burns holes through my helmet, as I wait for my guide at the appointed location. No, wait! My Giros Atmos is the world's finest cycling helmet, and is vented with holes that funnel the wind onto your noggin' like a wind tunnel. The holes were already there. I slowly click out of my pedals and peer into the horizon anxiously.
May 6, 2006. 12:01pm MDT.
Off in the distance, I see a form appear, an apparition per chance, but lo, it is my trusty guide! We will soon depart, and climb the 19 miles and 4,000 ft of elevation to the edge of the earth -- destination Ward!
May 6, 2006. 1:11pm MDT.
Oddly, at 1:11, we arrive at the half-way point of our ascent. Although the terrain is steep, my guide insists we have seen nothing yet of the grade, and regales me with tales of what to expect, specifically in the last mile into Ward. My eyes cast upwards towards the sky, and I note the thickening of the clouds, and the temperature drop as we are now at 7,500ft of altitude -- I think about the storm warnings, the risk of avalanche, and the locals in Ward -- I grip my handlebars tighter, and pedal on.
May 6, 2006. 1:45pm MDT
Clouds loom overhead, I am about two miles from destination Ward, and I'm still in the big chain ring on my compact crankset. My guide slows down the cadence, and explains to me that he will not accompany me on these last two miles. He points in the distance at a hard right hand turn. That's the steepness he says, and tells me of the pain he dreads. He tells me of the last mile into Ward -- it will get the steepest he says, when you see the first abandoned car, a hollowed out, and abandoned carcass of what was once a living thing. My hands drift to the brake hoods, and I increase my cadence, I give the guide 'The Look' as I leave him in the distance.
May 6, 2006. 2:00pm MDT
I am close to the hard right hand turn, the steepness, and with a quick flick of the wrist, I drop to the small chain ring, another flick of the other wrist, and I am in the smallest cog. And, I start to hammer.
May 6, 2006. 2:07pm MDT
All of the warnings, and tales of the guide, do not prepare me for what I am about to witness, as I pass by the first abandoned car, and enter Ward-proper. The sky clouds over, rusted vehicles line the sides of the street. There is a smell in the air, of travellers who have tried to summit this steepness in their vehicles, only to have to abandon them by the side of the road, to rot in winter's gloom, to rust in the ages, and to leave them behind as markers for those to follow -- beware the grade! I see a local filling cannisters out of the only public water supply. She does not look at me directly, wary of the outsider, I gaze at her with friendship, but she does not look at me until I am directly opposite her. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her head swivel towards me, and slightly bow to the intrepid biker, and she looks me directly in the eye, and says 'Namaste'. Although breathless from the steepness, and the sites that have beholded me, I nod to her a slight bow, and whisper back breathlessly 'Namaste'.
May 6, 2006. 2:11 MDT
Looking down at Garmina, I see her registering grades of 20-23%, although she is a bit of a liar in the shelter of the canyons, so like Tanita, I can feel in my legs the steepness, and wonder if I will slowly lose momentum and fall over. In a moment of despair, I look at the houses ahead of me, high up the mountain side, and wonder if they are the General Store the guide told me to stop at. I think to myself, 'Self, you'll never climb THAT mothefucker'... out of the saddle now for the last two miles, hands molding into the brakehoods, I slowly turn the cranks over like a long, slow metronome ticking away the timing, I think of cold Gatorade, I think of biker chicks in spandex, I think of anything but the relentless burning in my thighs, and I pedal on.
May 6, 2006. 2:21 MDT
I spot a sign around the corner, sweat rolls down my cheeks, or is it tears, as I mouth out the words 'Ward General Store'. I think I'm hallucinating, as I see a strange-looking man on a skateboard slaloming down the grade towards me, and then around me, and as I pull up to the general store. As I look at the side of the road, I see what I think is a dead dog recently hit by a car. My head spins as I click out of the pedals.
May 6, 2006. 2:22pm MDT
Ward. Elevation 9, 450 ft.
My peoples, I have recorded some photographs of Ward. Some of you may find them disturbing, but I ask you to glance through them, to fully understand the trek, and to read my closing statements after them (and, oh by the way, the dog was the 'store pit bull' and was just sleeping -- i repeat, the dog is not dead, the dog is not dead)
May 6, 2006 3:30 MDT
After a fast descent, and adding the climb at Magnolia as the 'cherry on top', my guide returns me to the HABC. Before saying our goodbyes, he implores me to join him and his family at his mountain home, to celebrate the 42nd year of Bold.
As always in life, I take what is put in front of me. I would have rather climbed in Nepal, and fought off Maoists, rather than the citizens of Ward, and hot biker chicks at the General Store, but upon reflection, I would not have wanted to spend my day, any other way. With a friend, and then his family, in my beloved home of Boulder, doing what I do best -- living my bold life.
Do you want to read more by Bolder? Just visit his blog by clicking HERE.