Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Highest Paved Elevation in North America

Idaho Springs / Mt. Evans - July

I took a quick stop in an aged western city called Georgetown. There was an old fashion main street filled with little boutiques, antique shops, and mom and pop restaurants. The town's people that I met were kind and soft spoken. I had a bite to eat before I eagerly hit the road, but perhaps I should have waited and spent the night in Georgetown. About five minutes into the ride it started to poor. I pushed on through the rain and found myself flying down the wet street. As the rain beat down harder to went faster and faster. It was completely flat on the frontage road that ran next to the freeway and I felt like I could go on forever. Made it to the hotel in Idaho Springs way ahead of schedule and I chatted with the receptionist in the lobby as I checked in. It was then that I found out about Mt. Adams, the highest paved elevation in North America. I toyed with the idea of cycling up this great mountain and I fantasized about how I would work it into my trip. That night I even had a dream about cycling to the top of Mt. Evans. In my dream I was high above the tree tops and at the peak of the mountain I had a fried baloney sandwich. Probably insignificant. Anyways, the next morning I woke up invigorated and I looked into adjusting my itinerary so that I could ride to the top of Mt. Evans. I saw this as an opportunity to complete one of the most memorable rides of the entire trip and I imagined it would provide good points for discussing as I continued met with other organizations across the country. So after a quick breakfast, and a baloney sandwich to-go order for the road, I set out on my 28 mile climb. The the first 14 miles had a manageable incline, but there was deep fog which only dissipated after another heavy rain. I reached the base of the mountain and spoke with some strangers while I dried my wet jackets in the sun. One man told me that a few other cyclists had attempted to climb Mt. Adams earlier that day but they where forced to turn back due to the heavy fog. Another woman told me that another cyclist had fallen off his bike and had been carted away to the hospital just a few minutes before I had arrived. So the last three cyclists had not fared well with this climb, but I took the stories of the other riders with a grain of salt and optimistically began my own ride to the summit. It was a tough start and my stomach began to ache as I mad my way past mile marker 2. I wondered if I would have the strength to make it to the top, and I told myself that I would turn back if the pain became to serious. I couldn't afford to injury myself on this ride and jeopardize the rest of the trip so I cautiously proceeded up the mountain. I focused deeply on my breathing and worked on a steady cadence. I progressed slowly, 6 maybe 7 miles per hour, but with an elevation of over 14,000 ft I was happy to keep up a steady pace. The road was winding and it was easy to loose track of where I was. The cliffs where sharp and the view off the side seemed to be endless. I was completely consumed by the clouds that met the side of the mountain, and yet I continued to climb. After nearly 3 hours I reached the top of Mt. Adams! It was a spectacular view but I didn't celebrate as I had on the tops of other passes. I was overwhelmed now that the ride was over and I was shocked with idea of that being my last great climb of the trip. The best part of the ride was not reaching the top, but instead it was the entire climb to get there. Just being on the road and slowly ascending up the mountain I felt as if I had already reached my final destination.