On the Road: Around the bend
July 24, 2006
Spur-of-the-moment decisions can result in unexpected delights or disasters at every turn. A Sunday morning outing on my road bike produced a bit of both in moderate measure.
A friend and I jumped onto the bike path behind Willits shortly after 9 a.m., more or less intending to ride from El Jebel to Basalt and then up Frying Pan Road, turning back toward home in time to avoid frying in the afternoon heat. Then, on a whim, we bailed on that plan when we reached Emma, turning instead onto West Sopris Creek Road to explore a route neither of us had ever ridden. Almost immediately, we were enmeshed in rural tranquility ” old ranch homes, sunflowers and pastures ringed by tired fences. The road climbed deceptively. The grade didn’t look like much, but my legs and downshifting told me otherwise.
We came quickly to a T-intersection and another impromptu decision ” turn left onto East Sopris Creek or take a right, continuing on West Sopris? We chose the latter, riding in the general direction of Carbondale with no real clue as to whether this road could take us there. The pavement began climbing in earnest and the day grew warmer, but, much like anyplace I’ve never been before, each bend in the road beckoned me onward. We found ourselves entertaining thoughts of a far more grandiose ride than we’d initially envisioned, lured by the scenic vistas and massive Mount Sopris dominating the view out front of the handlebars.
And the traffic! There was hardly any to speak of on a Sunday morning, allowing us to ride side by side much of the time.
Nearly 9 miles after I left my El Jebel driveway, the road turned to dirt ” sort of. It appeared it had been a chip-and-seal surface at one time, but was slowly disintegrating. Still, it was rideable with our road bikes and we continued on, unsure where exactly we’d emerge (Carbondale, we hoped), how long it would take to get there or whether it was even prudent to keep going. We both wanted to finish what we’d begun, but neither of us was anxious to wind up on some torturously long ride in sweltering heat.
Right about then, in front of the sprawling Sopris Mountain Ranch, fate played a hand. We encountered a mountain biker headed in the opposite direction who informed us we’d only covered about two-thirds of the climb and that, while the road would drop us into Carbondale, the descent would be on a far rougher dirt road than the one we’d been riding. Turning around sounded like a good idea, but to solidify that decision, my companion got a flat.
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One new tube later, we were coasting back down the way we’d come, gripping the brakes to avoid a spill on the loose surface. Judging from the steep descent, I’d say we got a far better workout than we’d intended.
I’d like to say it was all downhill from there, but a bee flew up my mountainbike-style shorts on the ride home and stung the back of my thigh, which garnered me far less in the way of sympathy than the flat tire had for my riding partner. I was more or less labeled a big wuss and told to tough it out.
So I did.
And next time, I’ll tough out the entire loop from Emma to Carbondale and back up the bike path to El Jebel. I’m looking forward to an earlier start on the right sort of bike and finding out what’s around the next bend.